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Journey Across the Timestream and Beyond in these New Kang the Conqueror #1 Covers

On August 18th, writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing team up with artist Carlos Magno, colors by Espen Grundetjern, and lettering by Joe Caramagna, to bring readers the definitive origin of one of Marvel’s most legendary villains in Kang the Conqueror #1! The new series will unravel Kang’s complex history, tying together all of his greatest stories and reuniting his alternative selves from across the timeline. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Kang is set to begin his biggest era yet. To celebrate the character’s first-ever solo series, some of the industry’s top artists have crafted outstanding covers that showcase the past, present, and future of Kang’s incredible saga. Included in this collection are covers by all eight of Marvel’s Stormbreakers depicting key moments in Kang’s history from his iconic first run-ins with the Fantastic Four and the Avengers to his epic showdown with the Young Avengers.

The man called Kang the Conqueror has been a pharaoh, a villain, a warlord of the space ways, and even—on rare occasions—a hero. Across all timelines, one fact seemed absolute: Time means nothing to Kang the Conqueror. But the truth is more complex. Kang is caught in an endless cycle of creation and destruction dictated by time and previously unseen by any but the Conqueror himself. A cycle that could finally explain the enigma that is Kang. And a cycle that begins and ends with an old and broken Kang sending his younger self down a dark path… Check out all 12 covers now before the release on August 18th!

Review: Sinister War #1

Sinister War #1

When writer Nick Spencer‘s run on Spider-Man began, it was an enjoyable and fun start that felt pretty welcoming to new readers. An impressive amount of issues later, his run is beginning to wrap up and part of that is Sinister War bringing together various groups of villains for something… along with Mephisto… and Dr. Stange. Sinister War #1 isn’t so much an entry into the event and Spencer’s end-run but the continuation of years of continuity that’s almost impenetrable to new readers.

For those that don’t know the general story, there’s multiple groups of “(fill in word) Six” villains. They all seem to not get along. They either want to fight each other or are pissed about a movie made. For those that didn’t read the Mary Jane miniseries, MJ has made a film and the director is a “reformed” Mysterio. Yeah… Then there’s Mephisto doing his thing which seems like a reference to that so loved “One More Day” storyline. I’m not quite sure. There’s so much packed into the issue that not a lot is explained and there’s just a lot of hints. Then there’s the whole Kindred thing… It’s a jumbled mess.

When events kick off with a miniseries first issue like this, there’s an opportunity to ease new readers in as well as move the story along. A successful issue does exactly that. Instead, this issue just continues everything Spencer has been doing as if it’s just another issue of Amazing Spider-Man. If you’re not caught up, tough luck. It’s the exact opposite of what a solid “event” debut should be and by the end of the issue, I was turned off and resigned to wait for the new creative team to take over in a few months.

Mark Bagley‘s art is… decent. There’s a lot packed into the issue and it’s cool to see Bagley’s take on each of the characters but none of it really pops. I know folks love Bagley’s work on Spider-Man but it’s never been a style that has really hooked me. For me, it’s good, not great. Bagle is joined by Andrew Hennessy, John Dell, and Andy Owens in inks, color by Brian Reber, and lettering by Joe Caramagna. The art is really good at times and at others falls a little flat. It doesn’t help the story is choppy, the art doesn’t pick up the slack making a smooth narrative.

Sinister War #1 had me excited going into the comic. The idea of rival villain groups battling it out sounds like it could be fun and entertaining. But, the story is more a continuation of what’s been going on in Amazing Spider-Man. It’s not a jumping-on-point, just a spin-off to pack everything in and check off storylines. It’s definitely a pass for those who haven’t been reading the series already.

Story: Nick Spencer Art: Mark Bagley
Ink: Andrew Hennessy, John Dell, Andy Owens Color: Brian Reber Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 5.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Pass

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Review: Captain America #30

Captain America #30

Captain America #30 wraps up Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run on Captain America. Captain America will (yet again) finally face off with his biggest foe, the Red Skull. After thoroughly thrashing Crossbones, Cap’s plan to defeat his foe lies not in punching him out but in exposing his true intentions to the many internet followers that the Red Skull has.

My first thought after reading this issue is that Coates wraps up his take on the character with not a bang but a whisper. There have been so many fights between Cap and the Skull and it’s maybe as damaging to expose your enemy to their blindsided followers as it is to beat them unconscious. But, it did feel a tad bit lackluster. This run hasn’t been about establishing power levels or memorable fights; it’s been more thought-provoking. I think there’s some legitimate darkness and evil to some of the rhetoric of the Red Skull that’s been used in this storyline and you can certainly see it reflected in our very real lives. I love that Coates tapped into that to see how damaging it can really be. To some, that’s boring and bland but I have an appreciation for stories driven like this. Cap is in a good place for when the next creative team relaunches the title.

I thought the overall look of Captain America #30 was good but not anything really special. I’ve liked Leonard Kirk’s work more on other books but there was just something about it with Cap that almost felt wasted on this issue. His artistic style really shines on a book with a lot of colorful suits and big action. Matt Milla’s colors work with the art and Joe Caramagna’s letters don’t hide anything but there’s almost a lack of energy to the overall product.

Captain America #30 is a fine end to the Coates era of Captain America. I think there were some important ideals tackled with this particular story and it really puts some thoughts in your head about extremism. It would have been nice to also see someone like the Red Skull get punched out, too. I think if you have passion for what Coates did with Cap or if you are critical of his work on the character, an issue like this is going to do little to sway your opinion. I found it to be a decent end for another memorable run of Captain America.

Story: Ta-Nehisi Coates Art: Leonard Kirk
Colors: Matt Milla Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.0 Art: 6.0 Overall: 6.5

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Review: The United States of Captain America #1

The United States of Captain America #1

The United States of Captain America #1 is a comic I’ve been looking forward to reading for some time. The concept of exploring what Captain America “means” and “stands for” is a comic that interests me. This debut issue lays out some of that as the adventure begins and the result is a bit mixed.

Writer Christopher Cantwell lays things out pretty well as the issue begins. Steve Rogers, relaxing at home as he thinks about what he stands for. Waxing poetically about the American “dream” he thinks about how dreams are fleeting and that this is a nation of two dreams. One dream involves fences and exclusion while the other is shared. The first dream can become a lie and raw deal and the second dream can become a raw deal. Cantwell nails something and in today’s shifting national narrative, there’s a worthy discussion to be had about America and what it stands for and what it’s made up of.

That interesting thought exercise as Steve is attacked and his shield stolen by an unknown assailant. From there it’s a race and a question as to who is behind it. An attack on a train and an attempted assassination later, and it’s a comic that shifts from an interesting discussion to a buddy road trip.

Teaming up with Sam Wilson, Captain America, Steve meets an individual inspired by his actions. Aaron Fischer is a teen runaway who has taken up the mantle of Captain America riding the train rails and protecting travelers. The idea of Captain America inspiring individuals also is an interesting concept. But, the overall concept is a bit fantastic moving beyond a more grounded reality I’d have liked to see. As if putting on a mask you can suddenly take on a group of guards holding you hostage. There’s something that breaks a wall in a way giving us something the reader can no longer connect to. We the reader can no longer connect to Cap ourselves and this new Captain America isn’t a character we can connect to. What was hinted at a trip across America with individuals inspired by Cap that we might see ourselves in feels more like an introduction of the next generation of heroes that has happened in comic annuals over and over.

The art of the two stories within is nice. Dale Eaglesham handles the main story with Jan Bazaldua on the second. The layouts are the most interesting thing about that main story as the pages feel almost like an scrapbook in a way. Panels overlay panels as if pictures are laid over pictures telling the story of a trip. Bazaldua’s art is good with some nice “hero” moments as Aaron’s origin is revealed and he first dons the mask and shield. The visuals are good overall but there isn’t that moment that really pops. They’re joined by Matt Milla on color and Joe Caramagna on lettering and everything together is visually nice.

The United States of Captain America #1 isn’t a bad debut. There’s a lot packed in and there’s a lot that’s fun and enjoyable. The problem is there’s been quite a few deconstruction of heroes stories lately, and there’s quite a few that are just far better. There’s something almost surface-level deep about this start. It feels like it’s attempting to straddle a line of deep look and typical superhero escapism. We’ll see as the series progresses in how it balances those two forces.

Story: Christopher Cantwell Art: Dale Eaglesham, Jan Bazaldua
Color: Matt Milla Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.25 Art: 7.25 Overall: 7.25 Recommendation: Read

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Exclusive Preview: Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow #3 (of 5)

Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow #3 (of 5)

(W) Chip Zdarsky (A) Pasqual Ferry (C) Matt Hollingsworth (L) Joe Caramagna (CA) Phil Noto
32 PGS./Rated T
In Shops: Jun 09, 2021
SRP: $3.99

WHAT IF PETER PARKER BECAME VENOM?
The greatest enemies of Spider-Man have banned together to take the new version of Spidey down! They must act fast, as their numbers dwindle at the hands of Spider-Man. While some plan for his demise, others like Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four hope to save him, but is it too late to have the old Spider-Man back… or even Peter Parker?

Spider-Man: Spider's Shadow #3 (of 5)

Review: Fantastic Four: Life Story #1

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1

It’s a story that all comic book fans know: Four people go up to space on an experimental rocket where they are bombarded with cosmic rays. When they crash down to Earth, each of the four display a multitude of super abilities. They decide to band together for the betterment of humanity and call themselves the Fantastic Four. Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 kicks off a new take on Marvel’s first family.

The Fantastic Four have such a classic origin story. Why even tinker with it? That’s the question I was left with after reading this. I am not sure if this is meant to be canon within the Marvel U or what. With this latest rehash of Marvel’s first family’s origin, things are expanded in ways that sometimes just feel a bit unnecessary. I don’t want to nitpick everything because it’s not fair to the creative team and, to be honest, I’m a huge fan of the FF, going back to when I was a kid. They were one of the first Marvel books I picked up. Is it a case of me being too much of a fan and not wanting to accept change? Is it just a mediocre attempt at looking at the Fantastic Four in the 1960s?

Mark Russell’s update of the FF sees them being the fourth group to try and reach space. Reed meets with President Kennedy. Also present is Dr. Jones, another big-mind who ends up being passed on time after time due to Reed’s intellect and approach. The entire project shuts down and Reed is left to assemble a team and sneak a rocket up into space. With some minor tweaks, the FF is born from the flight, and Reed is left with a shocking vision from space, one of a devourer of worlds being out there.

So it falls to me to be a fan that can’t get past certain things. I just don’t like quite a few of the retcons thrown into this. It’s still not a bad book and I think someone new to the characters might get enjoyment from it. As a reviewer and a long-time fan, there’s a part of me that wants to chalk it up to not being the best story but I really think it comes down to just being an older fan set in his ways with these characters. And for a team of adventurers who’ve had the stories they’ve had, there’s not a whole lot of action within this book. Maybe one of the biggest problems I had with this is that going through the FF’s 1960 adventures, we got the mole man and a glimpse of Galactus and…that’s kinda it. No Doom, no Namor, no Frightful Four, or even the discovery of the Inhumans.

That said, I think one of Mark Russell’s strength’s is dialogue and there were a few times in this book where I really liked what was said. Reed’s 1967 answer to the question of the existence of aliens really stood out to me. And I did like Dr. Jones and the way he was woven into their history in key moments.

Life Story does have consistent good art throughout the issue. Sean Izaakse and Nolan Woodard do some solid work on this book. I really liked the colors throughout this issue and that can certainly go a long way. Like I said in my critique of the writing, there’s not a lot of action here so there’s not a bunch of cool-looking scenes of the FF’s adventures but Izaakse and Woodard make a lot of pages of people talking look pretty good.

Am I too hard? Am I too much of a fan of the Fantastic Four, unable to budge? Probably that’s the case. That said, I still found some enjoyment in this and it was way better than the Ultimate version from the early 2000s.

Story: Mark Russell Art: Sean Izaakse
Color: Nolan Woodard Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 6.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.5

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Review: Fantastic Four #29

Fantastic Four #29

The Fantastic Four find themselves in the middle of all of the King In Black’s business in Fantastic Four #29. Sue is spying on Johnny and his soulmate, Sky.

Generally, I think crossover issues kinda stink. Characters are thrust into some no-nonsense event, jobbing for someone else’s villain, and nothing that matters ever really happens. Here, as Reed and company are making sure everything is good with Valeria and the gang at the Forever Gate, the black symbiotic dragons of Knull, God of symbiotes, just start raining from the sky.

I’ll give Dan Slott a bit of credit in that I’m surprised at how much he can pull off with such a huge cast of characters in tow. He does make it work and give everyone their space. It’s not the FF is there’s no family drama and the entire Sue-Johnny-Sky situation reeks of typical FF drama. Oddly enough, it’s more interesting to me than when it just became a no-nonsense fight against symbiotic dragons that no one can harm or hurt.

The art was pretty good from Ze Carlos but I’m ready for them to return Reed to his more traditional look and away from looking like John Krasinski. We get it. We’re over it. Besides that, I do like his style, which reminds me a bit of a looser style Mike Wieringo. Also, he illustrates a killer Thing.

One thing you don’t normally see is a bunch of heroes just popping up but this issue had them all over in the backgrounds, which in a way isn’t the norm with event tie-ins. Usually, it’s a more secluded setting for whoever’s book it is and then it brings them in near the end of the main series. Sadly, I felt like the end twist in Fantastic Four #29 happened off-panel and it was a letdown. That said, if you are an event completist, you’ll not want to miss the Fantastic Four’s involvement in King In Black.

Story: Dan Slott Art: Ze Carlos
Color: Jesus Aburtov Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 6.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.5

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Review: King in Black: Namor #1

King in Black: Namor #1

King in Black: Namor #1 is an interesting comic. If it were on its own, without being an event tie-in, it’d be a good start to a mini-series. But, as an event tie-in, its connection to the greater story going on feels tenuous at best. King in Black features Knull, the god of the symbiotes, marching across the universe enveloping it in darkness. This issue is about Namor’s past mostly and is supposed to tie in to current events but we currently don’t know how. It’s that lack of clear connection that makes things frustrating.

Writer Kurt Busiek weaves a story from Namor’s past as Kingdom’s attempt to unite during Namor’s childhood. That, and it’s impact on the present, would make for an interesting story on its own. But, we’re teased with a tie-in to an even that never materializes (yet). That left this reader frustrated.

So far, the tie-ins and main event have shown a world under siege where battles rage. That battle was expected to extend to Namor’s underwater world but we’re not presented with that at all. Instead, it’s a flashback mostly setting up future issues to come. Maybe the connection is there. But as far as King in Black: Namor #1 goes, there’s little to no indication it has anything to do with the current event. And that’s a bit frustrating.

The art by Benjamin Dewey and Jonas Scharf is hit and miss. Scharf’s “present day” artwork is top-notch with an almost Jae Lee quality about it. The few pages are solid to look at using the dark underwater world to its advantage. Dewey handles the majority of the issue taking place in the past. It’s a style that doesn’t quite work for me with some inconsistency in characters and a lack of detail at times. It’s a personal choice thing. But, the biggest issue is that Scharf and Dewey’s styles differ so greatly and the comic doesn’t feel like it takes advantage of those differences enough. One is a bit dourer and the other a bit more bright. Both feature the color of Tríona Farrell and there could have been something there in the storytelling.

King in Black: Namor #1 isn’t a bad comic but it also doesn’t feel like much of a tie-in. That will hopefully come later. As a mini-series on its own, it’s a good start with some interesting aspects to build off of. This will be an event mini-series that we’ll likely have to judge on the whole than individual parts. But, as a single issue it unfortunately falls a bit short.

Story: Kurt Busiek Art: Benjamin Dewey, Jonas Scharf
Color: Tríona Farrell Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 6.75 Art: 6.75 Overall: 6.75 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Iron Man #3

Iron Man #3

The latest volume of Iron Man has been a solid start. For three issues we’ve explored Tony Stark as a person as he attempts to find his place in the world. With Patsy Walker helping to guide him, we get to see different aspects of the character. And, we get to see the start of what’s likely to define him for some time. Iron Man #3 is a fun read and a good chapter in the opening arc but it also isn’t all that memorable. It’s a bit rushed at times getting to its latter half a bit too quickly. It feels compressed in its story.

Writer Christopher Cantwell knocks it out of the park as he explores characters. It’s the dive into the psyche that’s interesting. The first two issues focused on Tony attempting to find his place, a person with unease. Cantwell’s Tony Stark is a Gen-Xer who is at the point in their life they question what they’ve been doing. Did they do what they wanted? What will their legacy be? As someone in that position, it’s something I can relate to.

Iron Man #3 gets us to the next phase of that introspection, we question why others aren’t grateful. With Tony attempting to do the hero thing, he’s noticing how the public is reacting more. It’s something he’s focused on and it’s frustrating him. He doesn’t know how to act. Cantwell could easily take it all down a very dark route but he ads in a lot of humor as Iron Man tussles with various villains. There are truly great moments and a few that got me to laugh.

It’s the latter half of the comic that’s the issue as Tony checks on his investment. That all has reveals that are a bit too quick and feels like a segment better suited for the fourth issue (assuming this is a five issue arc). That “rushed” feeling is compounded by a segment with Tony in coach on an airplane. That part is something that could have been mined for comedic gold and also told us more about who Tony is now and who he wants to be. It’s a quick moment that actually should have played out longer.

It’s a comic that feels like it gets from A to D rushing through B and skipping C. By the end, I felt like I missed something in a previous issue but the reality is the main villain is never really set up well to make readers care. He’s a classic villain, and that’s about what we’ve gotten.

The art by Cafu is amazing though. There is truly great art here and it’s helped by Frank D’Armata‘s color. The early parts of the comic and the end fight all look fantastic with some really interesting visuals and color pops. Iron Man has rarely looked better and his villains are the same. There’s just something about this art that really clicks for me.

There’s nothing bad about Iron Man #3 at all. It’s a solid comic with an interesting story and great art. As a chapter of the opening arc, it’s fantastic. But, the arc so far isn’t anything that’s jumping out as an instant classic. It is fantastic storytelling though. It’s also a great exploration of Tony Stark as a person. If you’re a fan of Iron Man, Cantwell, or Cafu, it’s an issue to check out but for new readers, this isn’t one that’ll hook you.

Story: Christopher Cantwell Art: Cafu
Color: Frank D’Armata Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.75 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Taskmaster #1

Taskmaster #1

Taskmaster is one of those characters that deserves such a spotlight and generally has been underused through the years. Whenever he’s be used, he’s stood out and weirdly never became a huge hit. Even as a background character he’s stood out over the years and become even better in recent decades. From a generic villain with some cool powers to a smart-ass super villain with cool powers, it’s his personality that has been the focus. Taskmaster #1 nails the character down, mixing action, humor, and some intrigue.

Written by Jed MacKay, Taskmaster #1 has the character on the run after he’s possibly framed for the murder of Maria Hill. There’s now a price on his head and he’ll have to prove his innocence.

The comic is beyond fun with a great mix of action and humor. It kicks off with Taskmaster as a partner during a golf tournament to raise money for mobsters. It’s the kind of set-up that sets the tone so well. The duo he’s facing features Bullseye promising a gold game even I’d watch. But, what it really does is set the tone. The comments between the two are great and really let you know what type of character Taskmaster is. From there’s action, some more laughs, and a focus on what we can expect going forward.

It’s a solid opening that has such a firm grasp on its voice and tone. There’s little doubt as to what you’re going to get with the issue and now the series. It’s a comic that establishes itself and makes you ask why it’s taken so long to get something like this.

The art by Alessandro Vitti is great. Though Taskmaster features a skull mask, you’re still able to get a full feel as to what’s going on when it comes to emotions. The comic has an exaggerated aspect to it with the action having an almost Looney Tunes aspect of it. It’s just over the top as Taskmaster must deal with his would-be assassin having to use what he can to fire back and ducking the bullets flying at him. Guru-eFX provides colors while Joe Caramagna does the lettering and the art team just nails it all down.

Taskmaster #1 is a hell of a lot of fun. Not sure what else to really say. There’s a mix of action and humor and anyone can pick up the comic and enjoy it. It’s not deep. There’s no deeper themes. It’s a simple frame job that has the main character in the crosshairs of others who want him dead in revenge. It’s a simple concept but executed so well. I was hoping the comic would be entertaining and it exceeded my expectations getting me to laugh out loud and leaving me with a smile.

Story: Jed MacKay Art: Alessandro Vitti
Color: Guru-eFX Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.75 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

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