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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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Review: Fantastic Four #25

Fantastic Four #25

In Fantastic Four #25, an otherworldly being of incredible power is looking for an omnipotent power than Reed Richards has locked away many, many years ago (but never mentioned). Separate, none of the Fantastic Four can stop this villain. Combined with the might of the FF and a bunch of their friends and family, they are able to defeat the bad guy and save the day.

Let’s be honest: that’s the synopsis of many Fantastic Four stories. These plot pieces make up your typical FF story. What separates the good and bad stories is how you put those pieces together. The Fantastic Four are not quite the superheroes that many others in the Marvel Universe are. They are adventurers and explorers and the bizarre and unknown are their backyard over most anyone else. So having a story where the plot isn’t exactly original, it helps that the writer puts pieces in place that makes it a bit more interesting.

Writer Dan Slott makes the FF feel like the FF.  In my opinion, there’s a lot that Slott does with these characters. Fantastic Four #25 features a strong family dynamic and the threat is certainly a deadly one. I’ve been a fan of the FF since I was a child and while I haven’t been reading it much in the last two years, the first story in the 25th issue did feel like a classic. That said, the other story in this issue, between a newly-reborn Uatu and the original Nick Fury felt a bit off and unexciting. You can’t win them all, true believers.

For being the Fantastic Four, it’s Fantastic a-whole-lot-of-people. Doom and his servant, another set of jobbers in the Baxter building, Ben’s adopted-ish kids that he has with Alicia. There’s a lot of people in the story so there’s two ways to look at it. Too many moving pieces that take away a bit of focus from Reed and Co. Or, it enhances the family dynamic, another quality of what makes the FF who they are. I personally felt it was maybe too many people for a single issue. Ben and Johnny do not contribute much to this, which was a bummer.

Holy cow! The art in Fantastic Four was pretty…fantastic? I am new to the art team of R.B. Silva and Jesus Abertov but they blew me away. They totally nail the character looks and there were some pages, like the one of Reed and Valeria working in the lab, that stood out. One thing I enjoyed visually was the scene with Reed and Valeria in the lab, totally looking like something out of the Kirby era. The action sequences stand out with both high marks in detail and panel work, not skimping on backgrounds.  Great lettering all around from Joe Caramagna. And I think it makes a huge difference on a book to have an eye-catching cover and I thought the Mark Brooks cover was top-notch.

Dan Slott has been on this book for a few years and from the few issues I’ve read of his FF run, I’ve really enjoyed it and wished that I kept up in a better fashion on it. R.B. Silva and Jesus Abertov crushed the visuals. I think for a new reader, Fantastic Four #25 would not be the most friendly issue to pick up but I do think this was a pretty good issue of Fantastic Four and definitely worth the read.

Story: Dan Slott Art: R.B. Silva, Paco Medina, Will Robson
Color: Jesus Aburtov, Marcio Menyz Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Iron Man #1

Iron Man #1

Tony Stark has been through a lot lately. He died, came back sort of, died again, and is back? Whatever, it’s information that’s not needed to enjoy the brand new Iron Man #1. The newest volume is a flag planted in the ground giving us a clear idea of this latest iteration of the character and what his focus is on.

Written by Christopher Cantwell, Iron Man #1 is the mid-life crisis of a superhero. It’s a fantastic debut that’s new-reader friendly but also should be engaging and interesting for new readers. The issue has Tony Stark going back to basics. He’s divested himself from Stark Unlimited and wants to focus on simpler things. As he states it “machines should be building machines now,” and he wants to remember what it’s like to be “human.”

Tony is trying to find his role and what he should do next. He’s street racing, moved across the country, and attempting to connect with people. I say attempting.

Cantwell does an amazing job at the mid-life crisis of the white male. There’s so many interesting things and small details in this comic. As someone who might be about Tony’s age and in a similar headspace (without the money) I can’t help but connect and relate to where he’s at. There’s a complication in life that has compounded and there’s a want to focus on those things that bring enjoyment and create fulfillment (woe it is to be a while middle-aged man).

Cantwell delivers that very human aspect to the character in a story and direction that’s familiar. Tony has lost his fortune before and gotten “back to basics” multiple times. But, it’s that focus on the individual that makes the issue interesting. This is a very human Tony Stark. Cantwell has been a master of this type of storytelling giving a similar focus on Doctor Doom, one of the best new series to debut recently.

The art by Cafu is fantastic. With color by Frank D’Armata and lettering by Joe Caramagna, the art has a painted style that’s reminiscent of Adi Granov’s work in the modern classic Iron Man: Extremis storyline. Much like Cantwell’s story, there’s a focus on the small details like a look of the eyes and body language. These tell as much as the dialogue being spoken. There’s also an interesting use of social media visually giving us quick hits of information that again layers on the rich worldbuilding of the story. The team does a fantastic job of mixing action and quieter moments. The comic has some great action moments. It also has some very human moments as well.

Iron Man #1 is a Tony Stark that I can connect to. It’s not for everyone but it delivers a man who was on top of the world and is trying to find purpose. It’s a comic that realizes that there’s a man within the suit and Tony Stark has to be more than just his company and fancy toys. There’s a person that looks to be facing a mid-life crisis. It’s something that’s relatable for many. It also reminds us that many of those that are super are also very much like us underneath.

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

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Review: Empyre #6

Empyre #6

After a condensed number of issues and tie-ins, Empyre #6 wraps up the main story for Marvel’s 2020 comic event. It’s hard to say how it might have read if all of its issues had been released but as is, the comic feels not so much as an event as it’s a way to put focus on the neglected Marvel cosmic universe.

With a story by Al Ewing and Dan Slott with script by Ewing, Empyre #6 isn’t bad in any ways but it also feels a bit rushed. It suffers from Marvel’s propensity to focus more on what comes next when it comes to events before really cementing the end of what’s being read. The issue also feels like it knows things are off the rails a bit with far too much being used to recap and getting new readers up to speed. It’s an odd use of panels and pages as Reed Richards and Tony Stark measure where they’re at and what needs to be resolved in one issue.

The details of everything are condensed again and again as the at times thoughtful event continues to pivot towards splashy images of heroes swooping in to save the day. It’s grand motions and moves that conveniently resolve issues with punching being the general solution. Twists and turns from the series feel a bit too much Soap Opera, not fleshed out, and rather predictable. This is a series that started with thoughtful debates but as it progressed slid to the lowest common denominator of storytelling.

What’s interesting about the comic is the art continues to be condensed. Valerio Schiti keeps the moments that pop to single pages mostly and even at times single panels. Double page spreads feel rare. The art almost reflects the condensed nature of the event. Schiti is joined by Marte Gracia on color and lettering by Joe Caramagna. The images absolutely pop but it’s just an interesting choice where recent events have relied heavily on jaw-dropping images to sell the scale and scope.

Empyre #6 feels like a throwback event in many ways. This is more akin to Avengers events of the 80s and 90s than more recent Marvel stories. It also feels like it’s entire point is to condense shaking up the Marvel Cosmic status quo. There’s numerous references of how things have changed and that it means big things and challenges to come. It expands the playground through which future stories can be told. It’s an event with a goal and the goal isn’t so much the story as to get from point A to point C for future stories.

Empyre #6 wraps things up generally nicely but as far as recent Marvel events, things as a whole feel a bit of a letdown. It’s a story that isn’t exactly memorable and while setting up potentially a lot it also doesn’t feel like an event that’ll have folks talking for years to come. It’s not bad but in evoking a classic feel, it doesn’t become one itself.

Story: Al Ewing, Dan Slott Script: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1

Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1

The combination of Mark Waid and Neal Adams together on a comic alone is something that catches my interest. While Waid has tackled the Fantastic Four before, Fantastic Four: Antithesis is the first time Adams has taken on Marvel’s first family. Unfortunately, Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 doesn’t quite excite enough to match the build up of these two titans teaming up on a series.

Much of Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 is a set up for what and when this take on the Fantastic Four takes place. It’s a “retro” story in that it’s quite some time ago when Franklin and Valeria are young kids. And the fact it takes place some time ago is possibly the most intriguing part of it.

After a battle with Annihilus the team is faced with a threat of an object hurtling to Earth and specifically New York City. The team has to spring to action to save the city and from there, it’s a mystery that gets the series really moving.

There’s nothing terribly bad with Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 but there’s also nothing terribly exciting either. Waid’s writing is reminiscent to his past runs on the series with a “classic” feel to the team. His style for the series has more in common with runs from the 80s and earlier than in recent years.

Adams art, with ink by Mark Farmer and color by Laura Martin, is fine as well. The character features that “Adams” style and he gives some sweeping visuals that bring excitement to Waid’s story. But, like the story itself, the visual again feel a bit like a throwback. The art is a bit better than recent outings from Adams with DC but it’s definitely not the Adams of the past.

Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 is just fine. After the first issue, the comic feels like it’d be a much better read as a graphic novel than monthly release. There’s a throwback quality to it that’s fun and having a story that doesn’t feel like it immediately impacts the modern Marvel continuity is nice. It’s that standalone that’s not quite one. It comes off as a shelved script that Waid didn’t work into his run on the series.

While not bad, Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 is one for the hardcore Waid and Adams fans.

Story: Mark Waid, Neal Adams Art: Neal Adams
Ink: Mark Farmer Color: Laura Martin Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation:
Read

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Review: Empyre #5

Empyre #5

Empyre as an event has been a bit deeper than your usual summer popcorn. There’s been debates on war and what is an acceptable loss and sacrifice. Both sides have experienced this and the philosophies are pretty bleak and far too similar. Empyre #5 though takes the series into soapy drama as the truth about Hulkling is revealed and it’s exactly as expected.

Al Ewing and Dan Slott deliver the story, with Ewing on script in a chapter that is full of reveals but none of them are really all that surprising. The big one is utterly head scratching in the logistics make little sense. Empyre #5 is that expected battle as the Kree/Skrull empire turn on their human allies putting Earth in the middle with no one to help.

Empyre #5 isn’t a bad chapter to the epic. It’s just rather predictable. There’s an almost trope-ish Bond-like villain aspect to it as the timer begins ticking in multiple ways. It’s the moment and issue where the story walks back some of the smarts and depth shown in previous issues. It shifts to a more expected event focus of battles and action.

And that shift is interesting as artist Valerio Schiti continues to forgo splash pages. Instead the art is more at the page and panel level. We don’t get two page spreads with images leaping from it. There is a more interesting use of panels in some parts of the comic. The layouts are more interesting than they’ve been but again, the art isn’t as splashy as one might expect for a bit event. Schiti’s art is enhanced by Marte Gracia’s colors and Joe Caramagna’s lettering. It all comes together to create visuals that are interesting and engaging but at the same time sort of conservative and muted in a way. It’s not over the top where the art becomes the most interesting aspect of the story.

Empyre #5 is a bit of a letdown in that it brings the event down to the level that was expected. It’s an issue that’s about the over the top action in some ways betraying the more insightful previous issues. It is a lowest common denominator in some ways walking back what was an interesting event. Hopefully, as the event wraps up, we’re treated to more of what was and not just more of this issue.

Story: Al Ewing, Dan Slott Script: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.85 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read


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Review: Empyre #4

Empyre #4

Despite a rough first issue, Empyre has turned into one of the most intriguing events from Marvel in some time. Empyre #4 cements that with a further exploration of horrors of war and some reveals that’ll shock and excite.

Al Ewing and Dan Slott have been crafting the story with Ewing handling scripts and the team has really nailed this event. Despite its rather obscure origins, the series has really just used Marvel’s cosmic side of its universe to explore interesting philosophical topics and shake things up.

Things aren’t going all that great on the battlefront which puts Emperor Hulkling in an awkward decision-making spot. Does he sacrifice Earth and its 8 billion residents to save trillions? The issue hints at an answer and raises questions if this is really the Hulkling we know. The question feels a little groan-inducing with Secret Invasion within memory and the idea of “evil replacements” feeling a bit soap opera for an event that has raised some really interesting questions.

That questioning of Hulkling leads to so much though. It’s Ewing and Slott’s focus on the characters in the main story instead of the overall battle that makes the main series stand out and keep getting better. That focus extends to Tony who is having a crisis of confidence which might feel sudden but makes sense concerning his experiences in the first issue. The confident man has been knocked down quite a few pegs leaving himself questioning his decisions and abilities. This isn’t a series of confident brash characters saving the day but one of tough decisions and moments of doubt.

Slott and Ewing also use the issue for some major revelations that will have readers buzzing. Not only is a marriage revealed but another has been revealed to have died on the moon which immediately sets up a new series spinning out of Empyre when it’s over. Both are the shocking highlights within an issue full of contemplative moments and hard decisions.

Valerio Schiti’s art feels like it has gotten to be consistent from the inconsistent first issue. Characters have gotten their design down and there’s a focus on scenes using panels instead of splash pages delivering a big picture. A battle in Wakanda is depicted in chaotic panels instead of a two-page spread which would have worked. Schiti is joined by Marte Gracia and lettering by Joe Caramagna. The trio realize this is a character driven drama as a opposed to a summer visual blockbuster. It doesn’t mean there’s not moments to shine. The lack of splash pages works as a group of heroes confronts the Cotati leader in hopes of talking sense into him which morphs into a big reveal and action sequence.

Empyre #4 continues to improve the series which has decided to shift the big visuals to other series and instead, so far, focus more on the individual impacts of war and the difficult decisions that have to be made. There’s been twists and turns as things have become more complicated. What began as a stereotypical eye-roll of an event has evolved into something far more deep.

Story: Al Ewing, Dan Slott Script: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.10 Art: 7.75 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation:
Buy

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