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Review: Empyre #3

Empyre #3

I was down on the debut issue of Empyre. The second issue was a large improvement on the first. Empyre #3 continues that trajectory with a solid story that focuses on the ongoing battle as well as the weight of wearing a crown and the political machinations that come with an empire.

Writer Al Ewing and Dan Slott deliver an issue with a couple of focuses. It feels like an attempt to take a step back a bit and give the wider picture of what’s going on, delivering details of tactics and glimpses of the various fronts.

The Cotati are waging war on multiple fronts on Earth using the planet against its inhabitants. Those battles though are feints for their true mission which relies on Wakanda. The focus on Wakanda, and Black Panther, continues to prop up the character in the Marvel comic Universe befitting his popularity outside of comics. It also tactically makes sense as far as the story. The downside is there are moments that feel directly ripped from Avengers: Infinity War and it’s hard to not be pulled out and distracted due to that.

Ewing and Slott’s story stands out when it comes to the cost of war. There’s a lot of debate around what individuals are willing to sacrifice. Is killing a billion people to save a trillion a worthy trade off? Are the roles of soldiers to sacrifice themselves if they need to? Or, is the goal to minimize casualties while maximizing victories? It’s an interesting debate and makes the issue, and event, stand out from the usual blockbuster battles that result in god knows how many deaths and how much destruction.

Empyre #3 includes a focus on Tony Stark who’s been shaken since the first issue. The above about acceptable losses is about the cost of war, there’s still a focus on the individuals impacts. Stark is having issues focusing on solutions and his time with Reed Richards shows a man no longer cocky and arrogant but one who’s faith in himself has been rocked. Just a few panels adds so much depth to the character.

Valerio Schiti‘s art has grown on me since the first issue. Along with colorist Marte Gracia and letterer Joe Caramagna the art is much tighter than the debut. Issues with individual characters are gone and instead, it feels like there’s more of a focus on groups but fewer characters allowing some tighter detail. Mr. Fantastic’s look is night and day compared to the first issue. The series continues to lack to truly sweeping visuals you’d expect from an event like that instead focusing things on important panels or characters. This isn’t an event overshadowed by two-page spreads.

Empyre #3 is an issue that adds the much-needed depth to the series. It has gone from just a summer popcorn event to one with some brains behind it. There’s some philosophical debates within and political machinations throughout. It also delivers twists and turns because by the end of the issue, it’s clear there’s a lot more to come.

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

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: X-Factor #1

X-Factor #1

X-Factor is a title that has a lot of nostalgia. The series has evolved over the years from its original team and with each iteration, it’s filled a niche left wide open. With “Dawn of X” roaring, this latest X-Factor team fills a gap in the system making it a brilliant addition to the revamped X-Men line but also a breath of fresh air in some ways. X-Factor #1 knocks it out of the park in concept, characters, and its purpose.

Written by Leah Williams, this latest team consists of Northstar, Polaris, Daken, Prodigy, Prestige, and Eye-Boy. It’s focus remains the detective route taken by the team years ago but it’s investigations that are needed for Krakoa to function. With the ability to resurrect Mutants, issues and flaws have arisen in the process. Currently, there’s no way to ensure a Mutant is really dead. There’s also the question as to how they died. That has created a backlog of requests and slowed down the process. Enter X-Factor, whose role is to answer exactly that.

With “Dawn of X” and the new X-status, each team introduced has had a utility to them. They serve as a function and need of society. This X-Factor is no exception and is brought together after Northstar is convinced his sister is dead.

What stands out about the issue is how clearly every detail has been thought out by Williams. The end of the issue lays out the processes of how X-Factor will find out what to investigate, it’s something on paper that might sound boring but in practice is quite fascinating. It’s an element that you don’t see often and adds to the worldbuilding.

Williams also allows this rather eclectic mix of characters be themselves. This is an interesting mix of personalities and Williams recognizes that. Northstar is a cold, blunt, ass. Daken is an asshole in other ways. Polaris questions her abilities. Rachel feels a bit underutilized. Prodigy is a know it all and wants you to know that. Eye-Boy… he likes sticking things on Crocs. This is a team that wears their queerness on their sleeves and let themselves be themselves. There’s no fronts here and they do what they think is necessary and right to achieve what they need to. The assholes, like Daken, are allowed to be assholes. Each quirky personality shines. It’s a team where every member has moments and every member feels like they’re as much of a star as the next person. This is a series that could potentially make every one of its characters a star.

The art helps deliver the fun tone of Williams’ dialogue and story. David Baldeon‘s style of Israel Silva‘s colors creates a comic whose visuals bleed a positive fun energy. The combination of the two just nails down every scene with a look that has you lingering and feeling more sucked into the story. A bridge and a river with rushing water feels cold while a new headquarters delivers a re-vitalization and rebirth. Joe Caramagna‘s lettering too stands out packing in a hell of a lot of dialogue in panels without hurting the visuals at all. It’s an impressive balance.

X-Factor #1 is a fantastic read. The series plants a flag as to how it fits into the X-Universe and what it’s about. This is a series that has no problem wearing everything on its sleeve for folks to enjoy. It also feels like a truly team book where everyone has their moments and stands out. The creative team has done a fantastic job in every way. The comic is both tragic, humorous, hopeful, and relatable. It’s a damn near perfect start.

Story: Leah Williams Art: David Baldeon
Color: Israel Silva Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: Empyre #2

Empyre #2

I wasn’t a big fan of Empyre #1. It felt like a comic that could have been resolved, a conflict avoided, with just a sentence or two. Empyre #2 is a big improvement on that first issue as the damage is done and the Avengers, Kree, and Skrulls must fight back the initial onslaught.

The Cotati have played their hand and in one move they have destroyed the Kree/Skrull fleet and captured some of the Avengers. It’s a hell of a move and this issue the amount of devastation is clear. Al Ewing and Dan Slott use this issue to give the reader a wider scope that makes the Cotati feel like a real threat. They also allow the heroes to do what they do best, be heroes.

The issues of the debut issue are gone in Empyre #2. Instead those groan worthy moments give way to interactions that make sense. The Avengers have messed up and are on a recovery mission. But, why should the Kree and Skrulls trust them? Instead of continuing a needless fight, they allow Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to prove they have realized their mistakes. The issues where a simple sentence would have changed everything is gone. The trope of the “needless fight” is thrown to the side for actions that make much more sense.

The recovery is actually kind of cool. There’s some solid action and moments where you really do feel like it’s a recovery and not just a needless fight. You really do get a sense the Avengers know they’ve messed up. The issue also drops a lot of hints as to how the X-Men will come into play in this event with some not so subtle hints about Krakoa. This continues a bit of the set up and if this were released with the first issue as an oversized start, it’d feel like a much better beginning.

Part of what helps is Valerio Schiti’s art. Gone are the off panels of Mr. Fantastic. Instead we get some muted but cool moments and wide views of the destruction. Marte Gracia’s colors are key mixing the coldness of technology and space with a warmth of the organic. But, the color is important as that organic also has a sense of foreboding evil about it. Joe Caramagna’s lettering also helps emphasize some point adding to the art. What’s interesting is the lack of use of splash pages to deliver awe inducing visuals. Instead, there is a greater emphasis on interesting perspectives and panels on the page.

Empyre #2 is much improved over the first. It features intelligent aftermath from the attack and also a good explanation of the Cotati’s planning of it all. The issue is still a lot of set up and organizing as the forces of good come together but it feels like it’s a more focused narrative that avoids moments we’ve seen over and over.

Story: Al Ewing, Dan Slott Script: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.05 Art: 8.15 Overall: Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Empyre #1

Empyre #1

After a lot of delays and build-up, the real kick-off to Marvel’s big 2020 event, Empyre is here! Empyre #1 kicks off the event that will run through Marvel’s series this summer. And the issue is just filled with predictable twists and the usual plot issues that lead to moments like this. For those who haven’t been paying attention, the Skrull and Kree empires have unified under one leader. Their first campaign is to wipe out an alien race called the Cotati who they have a history with.

While the concept on paper sounds interesting, disparate groups uniting to commit genocide, the story by the end is so much different. And, what’s in between that beginning and end is just frustratingly bad in both storytelling and art.

The issues with the story is the conflict itself. The Avengers have been summoned to the moon by the Cotati while the Fantastic Four have stumbled upon the Kree/Skrull fleet. Hulkling, of the Young Avengers, is now in charge of the Kree/Skrull empire. The Avengers and Fantastic Four think he’s flexing his muscles and shedding blood to cement his rule. When in reality, it’s something else. The entire battle that explodes would easily have been avoided if Hulkling just explained why they planned on wiping out the Cotati. But, in superhero story shorthand, that can’t happen and the misunderstanding results in an epic battle. It’s frustrating to read knowing that the whole misunderstanding would be avoided if just a sentence or two would have been spoken. But, that’s too easy and would be too adult for a comic series it feels like. Diplomacy isn’t as exciting as giant battles.

But, it’s not just the conflict of the comic that’s frustrating. Valerio Schiti‘s art too is just odd at times. The Fantastic Four kick off the issue and Schiti’s depiction of Mr. Fantastic is so beyond off. Numerous characters feel like they are getting the short end of the visual depictions while other aspects look great. It’s an inconsistency that runs throughout the issue and is too noticeable to not be frustrating. And that frustration is a shame as there are some truly amazing moments in the comic. There are memorable moments without memorable visuals.

Schiti does have a difficult task of packing a lot into the panels and having a lot of variation of what’s on the page but there’s some key characters that need to be gotten down in style and they fall short. Then there’s the Cotati themselves whose imagery towards the end feels a little off and adds some uncomfortable, and odd, layers to the storytelling. By evoking Native American imagery, the design of the Cotati at the end creates even further complications to the story. The colors by Marte Gracia and lettering by Joe Caramagna though are solid throughout the issue.

Empyre‘s lead up issues generally have been really solid setting up the situation and catching readers up. Empyre #1 though feels like a letdown in a very basic and silly plot and visuals that aren’t up to snuff. Marvel’s cosmic side of things have been getting exciting but Empyre #1 feels like it’s a step back from all the gains that have been made in recent years.

Story: Al Ewing, Dan Slott Script: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 6.0 Art: 6.5 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

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Review: Empyre: Fantastic Four

Empyre: Fantastic Four

Marvel’s anticipated, and delayed event, Empyre draws nearer. Empyre: Fantastic Four is the prelude comic introducing the Fantastic Four into what’s to come. Much like its Avengers counterpart, the comic feels like a nice walk through the history of the key players and teases the upcoming event and its impact.

Stranded in space, the Fantastic Four are given a lift to a gambling planet where they learn of a gladiatorial combat that relives the Kree/Skrull War but the wording indicates the war is officially over. The galactic credit system has collapsed as well leading to a bartering system. It’s all tied together but the Fantastic Four must put the pieces of the puzzle together as well as figure out a way to pay for their ship repair to get home.

Written by Dan Slott, Empyre: Fantastic Four is a decent transition for the team into the event. You get a good sense of the history of the Kree/Skrull War as well as the Fantastic Four’s involvement with both. We’re also introduced to new concepts in Marvel’s cosmic landscape that fit right in and feel at home.

Slott mixes in some comedic elements and action within the pages keeping a nice pace throughout the issue. While it’s not quite as good as the Avengers lead in issue, it does a decent job overall of catching readers up and leaves them on a “what the hell is that?” cliffhanger, though without the dread like the Avengers issue.

Where things get a bit weird is the revelation of who’ battling in the arena. SPOILER: It’s two children who the Fantastic Four liberate from their oppressor. While this is overall a good thing, this, along with the Future Foundation, is making the team feel like they’re collecting wards quicker than Batman. They’re also as questionable when it comes to the kids’ safety. Still that detail provides some humorous and cute moments of interactions between the kids, the Human Torch, and the Thing.

The art by R.B. Silva and Sean Izaakse is solid work. Along with color by Marte Gracia and Marcio Menyz and lettering by Joe Caramagna, the art is really interesting with a lot of small details to tell the story. The art really plays well into the gambling world as we get a sense of the wonder and alien nature of it all but it also feels familiar. There’s a sense of excess without it being over the top and exploitation without it feeling too grimy. It feels like Vegas. Despite some of the weightier aspects of the story, the art helps keep it light too befitting the tone of the Fantastic Four.

While Empyre: Fantastic Four doesn’t quite have the excitement of Empyre: The Avengers, it does add in some more details about the current state of the cosmic Marvel Universe and how things are shifted. It’s a transition to get the team into the action without using up an issue of their main series. But, as is, this is a prelude issue that’s more interesting to read than a must get.

Story: Dan Slott Art: R.B. Silva, Sean Izaakse
Color: Marte Gracia, Marcio Menyz Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Empyre: Avengers #0

Empyre: Avengers #0

Zero comics are always interesting in that they’ve really become recap comics in so many ways. Their goal is to get us introduced to whatever event is coming. It’s also to catch up new readers so that they have an idea as to what’s going on. So, it’s clear they have a goal in mind and something to achieve. Empyre is an event steeped in Marvel history and it wears that on its sleeve. Empyre: Avengers #0 catches readers up with an almost bullet-point coverage of what they really need to know.

Written by Al Ewing, Empyre: Avengers #0 sets up what’s to come in the cosmic event. The Kree and Skrull empires have united and are on a mission of genocide. The Avengers are tasked with standing in the way and stopping a cosmic juggernaut from ravaging and terrorizing others. While the comic itself does a good job catching readers up, those who have read Marvel for decades, especially the cosmic side of things, will absolutely appreciate what’s within more. There’s talks of the history of the Skrulls and Kree and Celestial Madonnas, all referencing past stories and history that hasn’t really felt completely relevant for some time. Ewing though, makes it feel relevant. His writing almost takes the idea that these concepts were put to the side and makes them relevant again much like an empire rising.

Ewing also gives us an interesting perspective in the comic. It’s told mostly from Tony Stark’s perspective. A clearly resurrected Tony Stark which is happening in the “2020” event that’s going on. A case of bad timing for releases. But, what Ewing does is take the characters to the moon where a garden has formed and delivers Tony a religious experience. This is a man stuck in the world of science and we see him for the first time recently really let that go and let faith come in. A man of metal is struck by the beauty of green.

There’s also lots of small details of personality that are touched upon, especially between Tony and Carol Danvers. Marvel has made it a dance of personalities between these two well before Civil War 2 and well after. There’s a new direction for Tony here potentially and where the story takes him might be the most interesting aspect.

The art by Pepe Larraz, colorist Marte Gracia, and letterer Joe Caramagna is fantastic. The team has the task of delivering organic beauty in a space we’d normally consider desolate and cold. And they do so by playing those two aspects off of each other. There’s also some fantastic sequences of action and even the more contemplative quiet moments are engaging. While there’s aspects that could have gone overboard in the visuals, the team holds back and in many ways it’s preferred. It has more of a fin of the shark before seeing the full shark feel to it all. The scale of what’s about to happen is hinted at but the full weight not felt.

Empyre: Avengers #0 has a goal and it achieves that. New readers should be able to understand what’s going on and longtime readers should be reminded as to what stories they should reflect upon. It sets up what’s to come delivering entertaining moments while looking ahead. If you are at all interested in this event, this is a comic to absolutely get.

Story: Al Ewing Art: Pepe Larraz
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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A Wave Blue World Kickstarts Maybe Someday: Stories of Promise, Visions of Hope

Maybe Someday: Stories of Promise, Visions of Hope

A Wave Blue World has announced the launch of its latest anthology, Maybe Someday: Stories of Promise, Visions of Hope which is now raising funds on Kickstarter. The graphic novel anthology is a sequel to All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World which received a Ringo Award nomination for “best anthology.”

Maybe Someday is a new full-color anthology presenting over twenty-five aspirational stories to lift the spirits of readers and instill the hope that a brighter future is possible. Maybe Someday also reunites the publisher with the editorial team of Matt Miner and Eric Palicki.

The Maybe Someday Kickstarter campaign, running through the entire month of June, offers a Kickstarter exclusive cover, which is only available to backers. The cover art is by Max Dunbar with colors by Espen Grundetjern. Logo and cover design are by Tim Daniel. A different cover by this same team will be featured on the direct market edition when the book comes out later this year.

Other rewards include a digital sketchbook, signed bookplates, and combo packs of previously published anthologies.

Check out the full list of creators taking part, it’s a who’s who of comic talent:

Natasha Alterici, Alejandro Aragon, Darren Auck, Max Bemis, Anthony Breznican, Ryan Cady, Mario Candelaria, Joe Caramagna, Tyler Chin-Tanner, Gab Contreras, Shawn Daley, Jono Diener, Jeff Edwards, Greg Anderson Elysee, Mike Feehan, Ryan Ferrier, Joe Glass, Isaac Goodhart, Adam Gorham, Hagai, Ray-Anthony Height, Josh Hood, Daniel Kibblesmith, Konner Knudsen, Michael Kupperman, Alisa Kwitney, Valentine De Landro, Robert Lee, Yasmin Liang, Mauricet, John McFarlane, Matt Miner, Christopher Mitten, Michael Moreci, Steve Niles, Eric Palicki, Emily Pearson, Stephanie Phillips, Curt Pires, Sebastian Piriz, Andy Poole, Nick Pyle, Rod Reis, Renfamous, Marco Rudy, Ethan Sacks, Phillip Sevy, Erica Shultz, Martin Simmonds, Aubrey Sitterson, Stelladia, Sally Jane Thompson, Zoe Thorogood, Bobby Timony, and Rockwell White.

Review: 2020 Ironheart #1

2020 Ironheart #1

2020 Ironheart #1 is an interesting comic. It’s a tie-in miniseries to two different events that appear to be happening at the same time. Focused on Riri Williams, Ironheart, the issue takes on the current “2020” storyline playing out in Iron Man but also the “Outlawed” story impacted Marvel‘s younger heroes.

In “2020” Arno Stark has taken over Tony’s company and decides to wage a ware against Artificial Intelligence. In “Outlawed,” legislation has been passed banning kid superheroes. It’s two very different stories but writers Vita Ayala and Danny Lore brilliantly focus the issue on the morality of both plotlines.

2020 Ironheart #1 isn’t an action comic. Sure, there are some scenes involving out of control AI-powered cars. But, at its core, the comic is Riri debating her artificial intelligence, N.A.T.A.L.I.E. about what they should do. In this debate, the roles are reversed from expectations. Riri is the cold, logical individual, while N.A.T.A.L.I.E. is full of emotion. It’s an interesting thing to read as it plays out and circumvents expectations of a superhero comic where you’d expect them to punch things most of an issue. Instead, comes off more as a thought-provoking play than a blockbuster movie.

The art by David Messina is good. With color by Mattia Iacono and lettering by Joe Caramagna, visually the comic is solid though doesn’t quite suck you in. There’s some solid sequences when it comes to the action but the comic is about the quieter moments. Those quieter moments never quite deliver visually. And, that’s hard to do generally. The comic feels more cerebral than emotional and part of that is the visuals never quite connect emotionally. Still, they do the job in telling the story.

2020 Ironheart #1 is a good comic. But, unless you’re invested in the character or the two storylines that are connected, it’s hard to say this is a must get. Still, there’s some solid moments and debate about the role of superheroes within.

Story: Vita Ayala, Danny Lore Art: David Messina
Color: Mattia Iacono Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.15 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.25 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: The Amazing Mary Jane #6

Mary Jane has wrapped up filming her film and is back on the East Coast… but a promotional interview goes sideways in this brand new arc.

Story: Leah Williams
Art: Carlos Gómez, Zé Carlos, Annapaola Martello
Color: Carlos Lopez
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

Get your copy in comic shops! To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Zeus Comics

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
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