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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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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

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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

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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man: Red Goblin

The Amazing Spider-Man: Red Goblin collects the end of writer Dan Slott‘s run on Spider-Man and features the showdown between Spider-Man and Red Goblin!

The collection features Amazing Spider-Man #794-801

Story: Dan Slott, Christos Gage
Art: Stuart Immonen, Mike Hawthorne, Nick Bradshaw, Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Marcos Martin
Ink: Wade Von Grawbadger, Terry Pallot, Cam Smith, Nick Bradshaw, Victor Olazaba, Cam Smith, Marcos Martin
Color: Marte Gracia, Erick Arciniega, Edgar Delgado, Java Tartaglia, Muntsa Vincente
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

Get your copy in comic shops now and book stores on November 12! 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.

Amazon Hardcover
Amazon Paperback
Kindle/comiXology
TFAW

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Review: Hit-Monkey: Bullets and Bananas

He’s a monkey. He’s a hitman. He’s an assassin. He’s Hit Monkey!

Hit Monkey: Bullets and Bananas collects Hit-Monkey #1 (2010A), Hit-Money (2010B) #1-3 and Deadpool (2008) #19-21.

Story: Daniel Way
Art: Dalibor Talajić, Carlo Barberi
Color: Matt Hollingsworth, Dalibor Talajić, José Villarrubia, Marte Gracia
Ink: Sandu Florea, Juan Vlasco
Letterer: Jeff Eckleberry, Joe Sabino

Get your copy in comic shops now and in book stores October 29! 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.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IWquzM
Kindle/comiXology: https://amzn.to/2qkHnxI
TFAW: http://shrsl.com/1vvkw

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Review: Powers of X #6

Powers of X #6

With Powers of X #6, writer Jonathan Hickman cements his manifesto. It’s a bold new direction and vision of the X-Universe for years to come. The finale continues his split storytelling focusing on three eras of the Marvel Universe revolving around the X-Men. With some callbacks and some final reveals, the picture is clear.

Hickman has positioned the future of the X-Men not as the allegorical representation of the struggling minority. Instead, Hickman’s X-Men has taken on the role of nationalist. Specifically, the white nationalist raging against their inevitable loss to demographics and the future.

As far as stories go, Powers of X and its sibling series House of X has been top notch science fiction. As far as X-Men stories go, the two have ripped the essence of the characters out from them. It has featured massive shifts in character outlooks and their overall position in the greater narrative.

The X-Men, and specifically Charles Xavier, are no longer the heroes but manipulating the system in an attempt to hold on to dominance. It’s a villainous role that Xavier and Magneto admit to in a pivotal scene involving Moira. While some might still see this as a fight for survival their actions are no longer one of equality. Their statements are those of superiority.

Moira being the deus ex machina that has made this shift possible. Moira is the lynchpin of it all. She is what the narrative, and now the Marvel Universe, revolves around. That becomes clear in the far future as neo-humanity faces the Phalanx and the reveals there.

It’s also clear a future conflict over all of this is on the horizon and years down the road when sales falter and things need to be redone again.

The art for Powers of X #6 by R.B. Silva and Pepe Laraz is amazing as expected. For the insidious nature of it all, the art for everything is beautiful to look at. The colors by Marte Gracia and David Curiel make it all pop. The lettering by Clayton Cowles helps evoke the emotion of dialogue. The X-Men haven’t looked this good in a long time.

While I’m excited as to where this all goes at the same time it feels like the heart of the X-Men has been ripped out from them. They have often reflected the socio-political reality of the time and here they take on the role of the bad guys, nationalists fighting for dominance due to a perceived superiority. And much like those nationalists in all reality they will lose… when Moira dies down the road and this is all rebooted again.

Story: Jonathan Hickman Art: R.B. Silva Pepe Laraz
Color: Marte Gracia, David Curiel Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Design: Tom Muller
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: House of X #6

HOUSE OF X #6

House of X #6 wraps up one of the two series writer Jonathan Hickman has been weaving. It has created a new status quo for Marvel’s X-Universe and shaken up what we’ve know.

The finale begins with a familiar scene of Charles Xavier addressing the world and letting everyone know about the miracle drugs that have been discovered, the establishment of a new mutant nation, and his plans for recognition. But, Hickman cements Xavier as no longer the dreamer looking for peace and equality. Instead, Xavier’s dream is more of Magneto’s. It’s of mutant dominance and inheritance. Xavier has crossed over into nationalism and echoes some of the philosophy of white nationalism in particular. Xavier is no longer the hero (as dubious as that title was based on actions) philosopher. Instead, he is now what he fought against for so many years.

Mutant law now supersedes the “law of man” and the law of other nations. The sharing of medicine comes with strings attached. Xavier is now a cold and calculating tyrant in the making with a corrupted philosophy and outlook.

And philosophy is at the top of Hickman’s to-do list for the issue. House of X #6 is focused on the establishment of law in Krakoa. We see the first meeting of the new council and their passing judgment on Sabretooth. Laws are debated in a watered-down Model UN that feels more idealistic West Wing than gritty reality. It goes through the motions as if it has depth but that depth of thought is only inch deep. It’s Aaron Sorkin for the spandex crowd.

The art for the issue is stunning. Pepe Larraz‘s line are enhanced by the colors of Marte Gracia and David Curiel. Along with lettering by Clayton Cowles, it all comes together for some of the best visuals of the series. There’s something ominous and frightening about this establishment of a nation. Angles and panels are used to throw the reader off a little making it not quite as a clear cut positive. Sabretooth’s judgment is the perfect example of delivering a bit of horror among the debate and process. Tom Muller‘s designs continue to lay out Hickman’s new world order. It feels like a sourcebook to a well thought out roleplaying game.

House of X #6 is an interesting comics. It cements Hickman’s vision but also cements these aren’t the X-Men that we’ve come to know. They no longer fight for equality, they demand dominance. They see themselves as the rightful inheritors of Earth. The X-Men are now what they used to fight against.

Story: Jonathan Hickman Art: Pepe Larraz
Color: Marte Gracia and David Curiel Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Design: Tom Muller
Story: 7.5 Art: 8.7 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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