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Paying Tribute To Jack Kirby On His 99th Birthday

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On August 28th, 1917  Jacob Kurtzburg, an American artist of Jewish descent, was brought kicking and screaming into the world  – at least I assume he came in kicking and screaming. Jacob Kurtzburg may not be a name you immediately recognize, but I’m sure you’ve heard of Jack Kirby. There’s been so many great things written about Kirby over the years, so this isn’t going to be another piece focusing on retelling his life story – Wikipedia does a decent job of that already – instead, I wanted to explore what Jack Kirby means to somebody who I know is a big fan of the artist’s work.

So, I sat down with Graphic Policy’s own Elana Levin (aka Elanabrooklyn) and we had a bit of a chat about the man who’d be 99 today.

Have you always been a big fan of Jack Kirby?

Elana: When I was first getting into comics in junior high, I felt the art in a lot of the comics I was reading was a little bit hokey. I didn’t immediately connect with Kirby’s art, actually, it took me a little bit of time to appreciate it.

It’s funny you say that – it took me a long time to fully appreciate his art when I was first getting into comics. I honestly don’t know if I give it the full respect it deserves even now.

elana recommendsElana: In high school I was mostly into the kitsch of Silver Age comics art, and only later I came to really realize Kirby’s artistry and visual innovations as a storyteller. I always knew intellectually that this was the guy who created the greatest number of lasting characters and concepts in comics, who had the greatest influence – I knew that.  But just because somebody’s the biggest innovator it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the best. When I first got into comics, I knew he was one of the most important comics creators, but I didn’t have an aesthetic attachment to his art until later on. I saw the connections between modern art and pre-Colombian art and his Silver Age work and I made sense of it through those contexts. I realize that sounds a bit backwards. I came late to realizing that it was beautiful. I wish I could pinpoint when that came, to one particular book and say that’s what it was – honestly, I try and rack my brain and narrow it down, but I can’t.

Aye, sometimes you don’t know when you fall in love with something, but one day you wake up and it’s just there.

kirby tatElana: I have a strong connection to some of his classic Fantastic Four art and stories like “This Man, This Monster” (Fantastic Four #51), but I went from someone who really liked his stuff to becoming obsessed when a friend of mine told me I needed to check out The Fourth World – and that continues to be my favorite work by far. I don’t know what took me so long to see it, I think because I didn’t grow up reading DC, but I love psychedelic art. I love anything that visually or auditorily can be described as trippy, so Kirby’s early 70’s output was really made for me – it just took me awhile to find it, but when I did that really led to me becoming a huge Kirby fan.

It has been more than a decade since I last looked at any of Kirby’s early stuff, but when I did I don’t think it would have stuck with me the same way it probably would if I’d read it now.

Elana: I was so impressed that somebody who had been making comics since the dawn of the medium, who was an older man at that point in the 60’s and 70’s had made something that looked so contemporary and hip. You would’ve thought he was a hippy.

Obviously the dialogue didn’t necessarily use the right slang for the time – he often sounded like an older person trying to make it work – but the visual sensibility, the aesthetics of it, both of the characters and their clothes, and the subjects he was talking about… looking at his stuff from the Fourth World it’s hard to believe it was made by a World War Two veteran. That was something I really respected a lot.  His art was always dynamic and unlike a lot of members of “the Greatest Generation” he genuinely loved “kids these days”. He even said so in correspondence. The youth of the 60’s and 70’s gave him hope for the future.
I’ve always loved 60’s and 70’s popular culture and counter culture and this was a man who was really paying attention to what The Kids were into and then blowing it up to epic proportions. Real life hippies have an underground Be In? Hippies in Kirby’s comic Superman’s Pal Jimmie Olsen have a literal underground society throwing Be Ins every day.
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From Devil Dinosaur #4 from 1978

 


It’s tough, honestly, to do justice to the man’s legacy. Not only is he responsible for at least co-creating so many great comic book characters, he’s for also partly responsible an entire genre of comics – Romance (Graphic Policy’s chief, Brett, is partial to those comics). But there’s something else the man came up with that you may not immediately think of, but if you’ve been reading comics for any length of time you’ve probably seen.

Elana: He invented a way of displaying cosmic energy. Now you have to invent a visual symbol for cosmic energy because cosmic energy doesn’t exist. It’s a concept that is in a lot of superhero and fantasy stories, and there are all kinds of unseeable rays that exist (ultra violet, gamma rays both exit) but there’s no such thing as “cosmic rays.” But it’s a necessary thing to have in comics, so the the question became how do you visually represent it?

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Click the image to be taken to the artists Deviant Art page.

So Kirby invented what’s known as Kirby Krackle, which are black spheres in a field of colors. It looks distinct from fire – you can tell that there’s a sort of unreal energy coming out of it. And how do you invent this visual symbol for something that doesn’t exist in the real world? That, to me, is impressive. And the Kirby Krackle has lasted. It’s still being used today to display characters powers; take Lucas Bishop and Havok, from the X-Men, for example. Those characters didn’t exist until the 80’s – Jack Kirby had nothing to do with them… but their power signatures get their cues from Jack Kirby. He invented this visual short hand, and where does it come from? I don’t know.

The earliest known use of the Krackle is from 1940’s Blue Bolt #5 by Kirby and Joe Simon, but I didn’t even realize that he had created that until a few years ago – I’d just known it was a comics thing for cosmic energy because that’s what it looked like… that’s what I got from the pages as I read them, which I guess is exactly the point.

Elana:  One thing I think people miss when looking at his art is that the Kirby Krackle isn’t the black objects hovering in space. The black spheres are actually voids – they’re negative space. What you’re seeing are colors and energy signs and the black circles ARE where the energy isn’t. That’s the void into nothingness, basically. I’ve seen a lot of artists misinterpret that visual cue – although I suppose I’d be willing to have somebody tell me I’m wrong but I’m 90% sure I’m right.

FF49I’m sure that as an early comics’ artist he invented visual short hand for lots of other things we don’t really think about. I don’t know who invented motion lines and movement blurs, for example, but there’s really basic visual grammar that he developed that we take for granted today.

Despite Kirby being hailed as one of the greatest comics creators,  I feel that he’s still very underappreciated. I don’t think he gets half the credit he deserves. 

Elana: Yeah, you name a character, Kirby at a minimum, MINIMUM co-created it. Of the things that were actually created by Stan Lee… I think that the line “with great power there must also come great responsibility” is one of the greatest things ever written in popular culture – and that’s all Stan Lee. But Stan Lee writes dialogue, and Kirby writes the story stories, and the big images and the concepts, y’know?

Like with the introduction of Galactus, and the phrase that essentially created him…

galactus kirbyElana: I love this story, and I really think it shows the kind of thinking he brought to comics, but the whole thing with “have them fight god,” which readers of Graphic Policy will also know is also the name of Richard Jones’ ongoing series of columns about the Fantastic Four. He’s doing this incredibly ambitious series where he writes four things about every comic appearance of the Fantastic Four. Anyway, “have them fight god,” that story was after the success of Dr. Doom,  Kirby and Lee were talking about what they could have the Fantastic Four face next as Doom was such an awesome villain – what could possibly top that?  I believe it was Lee who said “well, have them fight God,” and that’s where Galactus comes in –  and that totally raises the stakes of what characters can face in comics.

According to John Byrne’s introduction in The Fantastic Four: The Trial Of Galactus, that supposedly Stan Lee sent Kirby a plot which consisted of those four words, which implies – to me at least – that Kirby  came up with the rest of the issue minus the dialogue. Take that however you will, readers.

Elana: Right, because Kirby is the one who decided that the god they fight should look like a combination of Samoan and Mesoamerican sculptures of gods except in screaming purple and blue.


Jack Kirby remains one of the best story tellers in comics, but there’s something about Kirby’s early stories you may not be away of. You actually showed me a couple of blogs that have some fantastic insights into the differences between the work of Kirby before and after Stan Lee added on his dialogue. Do you want to talk about those?

Elana: If there’s one thing people take from this, it’s that if they go should go to a blog called Kirby Without Words. It’s run by a really talented graphic designer, and she has gone through some classic Kirby pages and removed the writing so you can just look at the image the story is telling; you’ll be amazed at how often the story Jack is telling is superior to what Stan Lee wrote on the page.

Such as the pages from 1964’s X-Men #3, which readers can see the before and after dialogue as well, as an analysis from the Kirby Without Words blog, here.

Elana: Now I’m not someone who is a Stan Lee basher on principal (“with great power there must also come–great responsibility” is one of the best lines in anything), but looking at just Kirby’s art made it so clear to me that the way Kirby drew the story it’s clearly Jean rescuing the X-Men from this death trap. When you add the writing over the art, you can see that the words attribute Professor X as telling Jean what to do – but there’s nothing in the art at all to imply that Professor X is directing her actions.Jean 1.PNG

Yeah, after reading the full page I noticed there’s a bit of a difference in how the story works with and without the words, there’s a different story there, eh?

Elana: Now, I’m not saying that Kirby is Mr. Perfect feminist… but for his time he kind of was. When you look at the art, the art is clearly telling the story of Jean Grey rescuing the X-Men, and Stan Lee wrote over it – and awkwardly so  – to have it be the Professor telling Jean how to save the X-Men; Stan Lee had to stretch believability in the sequence in order for it to be Professor X who’s the hero in this situation, and it made me think about all the panels over the years where the narrative just didn’t quite feel right to me, where it seemed overly convoluted, and I’m wondering how much of those were cases of Kirby telling one story with pictures and Lee writing over it and telling another story. And the thing that Lee is writing over Kirby’s story is turning Kirby’s story sexist. Kirby drew a story of a woman rescuing men. Lee wrote over it to make it a sexist story of a man rescuing a woman because she’s too dumb or weak to do it herself. Lee is bringing the narrative backwards. jean 2There’s another great example of Sue Storm breaking out of a bad guy’s hold with judo – and that’s clearly what’s happening – but when you look at the text over the art she says “I only know how to do judo because Reed Richards told me how and he’s an international judo master.” Now if she was talking about a character that actually was  judo master, I can imagine the writer saying that in order to keep things in character we need to explain how she knows how to do throw a guy.

 

Kirby Jones

You can find scans of the judo scene here.

But Reed Richards is never mentioned as a judo master in any other text during the Fantastic Four, so what we can clearly see here is that Sue Storm is shown to be competent, which Lord knows she’d have to be, and meanwhile in the actual writing it’s explained that she’s actually not. That’s insane.

I’d have believed it more if she said that Ben Grimm had taught her judo, because even if Ben didn’t know Judo he’d probably know how to through a guy around But Reed?

Elana:  Yeah, exactly, but by using Reed’s name there clearly Stan was stretching. And that’s unfortunate – so we’ll never really know. We can look to the art and see the story the art tells us, but all of our impressions are pretty much contaminated by what the writing says on the page, and that contradicts the art. I’ve got to thank Richard Jones for helping me put words to this dynamic. Like I said, his comics analysis is completely illuminating.

As an artist, Jack Kirby was far more progressive than he gets credit for.

Elana:  Kirby definitely embodied his comics with progressive ideas for his time; black publishers had created black superheroes but Kirby was the first to introduce one in a story for a white publisher. There’s a lot of moments where he’s racially tone deaf, where he needed to do a better job of talking to people of color, but his intent is so clear.

 


 

Jack Kirby, for all that he has given to the world of comics with his amazing characters and artwork, is often over looked when it comes to his attempt to buck the stereotypes of his time – remember this was the 60’s and 70’s – and his willingness to give characters voices that they hadn’t had before. Something we probably don’t notice as much today because it’s far more commonplace (though arguably not as frequent as it should be).

Elana: Big Barda is a great character, I love her because she’s such a good example of Kirby saying here’s a female character and her personality isn’t just “she’s the girl” – which is still often the case in team stories written by men. Big Barda is allowed to be angry – she has an anger problem but she’s not uncontrollable. She’s super strong and is unapologetic and she loves who she is. There’s a great panel of her carrying a tank over her shoulder talking to her more agile partner which is a great subversion of what the stereotypes were at the time.

His political leanings certainly seem to be far more progressive for his time than you’d probably expect if you haven’t read much of his stuff.

Elana:  I love Kirby’s politics! They’re so important to making comics where no matter how badly current creators fuck things up there’s something just and beautiful in the core of the art that speaks to us no matter how ham-fisted the dialogue can be. It’s telling stories about people who are unique and strange coming together, fighting against bullies and standing up for the little guy. Kirby’s political values are a real thing that are important to his art that I love.


 

That Jack Kirby was, and remains, a great artist in undeniable; his hand can be seen in almost every Marvel character that originated in the 60’s. Do you have a favourite Kirby story, readers? Share your stories, or memories, in the comments below.

The Defenders Get a Team Pack for Dice Masters in March

marvel's_the_defendersIt looks like Team Packs are going to be a big thing going forward for WizkidsDice Masters game. The company will be releasing The Defenders Team Pack  for the Marvel Dice Masters game in March 2016.

The release will feature 24 cards and 16 dice for eight characters, the usual three cards and two dice we find with starter packs. That also means you’ll likely need to Team Packs to fill up the four dice cards can use (generally). The idea is for players to purchase Team Packs along with Starter Sets to give players what they need to play. Team Packs will retail for $9.99.

This pack will feature the Hulk, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones (and more). Luke Cage and Daredevil are likely to be found in the set. The Defenders is a superhero team in the Marvel Universe which has had various line-ups and they will be getting a show on Netflix that brings together the various Marvel live action series that includes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.

Up next for Marvel Dice Masters is the Dr. Strange Team Pack which is scheduled for September, and will be followed by Marvel Dice Masters: Deadpool in October, and Marvel Dice Masters: Iron Man and War Machine Starter Set in January. That’s the first Starter Set not tied to a bigger set release.

Marvel Teases Something from Steve McNiven and Cullen Bunn

We’ll find out more what Marvel has under the sleeve with Steve McNiven and Cullen Bunn and will find out more September 1.

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Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man Vs. The Sinister Six – “Return to the Spider-Verse: Part One” Clip

BIG HEROES! BIG VILLAINS! AND BIGGER ADVENTURES this week, Share Your Universe with a brand new episode of Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man Vs. The Sinister Six this Saturday at 8:00pm/7:00c on Disney XD.

When Spider-Man and Kid Arachnid discover that shards from the broken Siege Perilous are causing universes to slam into one another, they must travel to alternate dimensions in order to gather the shards in the all-new Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man Vs. The Sinister Six airing Saturday, August 27 at 8:00pm/7:00c on Disney XD.

The episode will feature Christopher Daniel Barnes as the voice of Wolf Spider and Ben Diskin as the voice of Blood Spider.

Advance Book Review: Your Favorite Superhero Sucks

you favoriteReading Your Favorite Superhero Sucks by Hooded Utilitarian editor, comic critic, and writer for The Atlantic Noah Berlatsky elicited three main responses from me: laughter, anger, or pondering. I laughed as he savagely took potshots at inept comic book artists Philip Tan and Igor Kordey in essays about Batman and Cable respectively. I was a little angry when he spent an entire essay nitpicking about why Iron Man didn’t save Jessica Jones and “plot holes” in shared universes but smiled a little bit when Berlatsky begrudgingly wrote about some of the reasons he enjoyed her Netflix series

As long as you’re okay with seeing your (super)heroes slung through the mud,  is an entertaining and wide-ranging work of superhero criticism as Noah Berlatsky covers the gamut from Silver Age Wonder Woman comics to recent Marvel blockbusters like Avengers  and Ant-Man and even superhero TV shows. Each chapter is titled “XYZ superhero sucks” and is a short essay critiquing a facet of them. No nook and cranny of the superhero world is spared from his biting wrath as he talks about Joss Whedon‘s inability to craft a believable romance and a strong female character in one narrative (I would counter with Zoe and Wash’s relationship in Firefly even though they don’t fall in love per se during the show.), the fact that Aquaman has always been a supporting player, and that the Hulk is a racist African American caricature. (He’s a character that I’ve never been too fond of. There’s a reason that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was a one-off novel.)

Probably, the most enlightening essays of the bunch for me were Berlatsky’s well-researched piece about why there are no great Wonder Woman stories, an article about how writer Christopher Priest showed how Black Panther didn’t fit the superhero mold in his run on the book, and also how Stan Lee and Jack Kirby‘s X-Men run is racist, sexist, and just plain bad. I also enjoyed the essay about X-Men Days of Future Past that was paired with the Lee/Kirby one that discussed how Bryan Singer showed “genocide without context” in the film. This idea works even better with X-Men Apocalypse  when Magneto (Under the influence of Apocalypse.) destroys Auschwitz as his tragic backstory as a Holocaust survivor that Singer decided to make the first shot of X-Men in service of yet another CGI disaster movie sequence.

Berlatsky’s thesis for why there are no great Wonder Woman stories is that William Moulton Marston‘s vision for her was so contradictory. (She’s a powerful woman, but also likes to be bound. She is peaceful, but also likes to punch people.) Wonder Woman isn’t like a Spider-Man, Wolverine, or Batman, who Berlatsky says are ciphers and get fit into a bunch of different types of stories. (I think genre jumping is one of Batman’s strengths as a character.) Then, he goes into a deep dive of Denny O’Neil and Mike Sekowsky‘s run on the title starting with Wonder Woman #178, which took a giant dump on Marston’s vision with Wonder Woman saying she is a monster, Steve Trevor acting like a creeper, and plenty of hippy slang and psychedelic art. But unfortunately, O’Neil and Sekowsky couldn’t build up a new vision of Wonder Woman in place of Marston’s, depowered her in the next issue, and gave her a stereotypical Asian martial arts sensei named I-Ching. The rest of the essay is a hilarious chronicle of just how terrible Wonder Woman comics were in the Bronze Age except for some of Diana’s groovy outfits.

Honestly, we as fans of superhero comics often take these brightly colored underwear wearing mostly white men too seriously. I know I’m guilty of going on multi-tweet rants about how Marvel or DC is “misusing” one of the small parts of their intellectual property. Sometimes, we need to sit back and listen to someone, like Berlatsky, who doesn’t give superheroes the benefit of a doubt and isn’t afraid to probe their weaknesses, inadequacies, and utter failure at mirroring reality or being ethical. Because the (non-animated) Justice League is a scrub superhero team, and everyone knows it.

“Your Superhero Sucks” also show the potential of comics criticism to be more than just a mouthpiece/cheering squad for big companies or an exercise in pretentious shelling out the latest Drawn & Quarterly. It can be entertaining, insightful, and provocative just like criticism in any other medium.

Your Favorite Superhero Sucks is set to be released as a self-published e-book on September 19, 2016 and can be preordered here.

Overall Rating: 8.0

Marvel Celebrates “Kirby Week” This Week

He’s the King of Comics! A man who left an indelible mark upon the medium, using his peerless imagination to create some of the greatest stories and characters ever told. If you haven’t heard, Marvel will be honoring the great Jack Kirby all week. Head to Marvel.com for a celebration devoted to all things Kirby with Marvel’s KIRBY WEEK.

Jack “The King” Kirby is one of the founding fathers of the Marvel Universe and from August 22nd to the 28th–what would have been Kirby’s 99th birthday–Marvel will pay homage to the incredible and iconic contributions Kirby has made to the House of Ideas, entertainment, and pop-culture.

During KIRBY WEEK fans will get to explore how Jack Kirby brought his creative genius to the Marvel Universe through several articles devoted to “The King” himself.

Marvel.com will also be releasing several podcasts speaking with Neal Kirby, as well as comic book historian, Peter Sanderson, for exclusive interviews on how Jack Kirby has influenced some of the most iconic creative voices and talent of today. Additionally, Marvel.com will also be sharing some of the most iconic moments from Jack Kirby’s historic catalogue of Marvel milestones all week long.

Whether it was westerns, romance, war, horror, sci-fi, humor or Super Heroes – Jack Kirby could do it all through genre-defining stories, and charted a decade-spanning course for graphic fiction as a whole. Use #KirbyWeek on social media and share your favorite Jack Kirby stories, moments, art, and characters.

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Review: Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #9

Hellcat9CoverPatsy Walker AKA Hellcat #9 reaches new heights of fun, happiness, and queerness in an issue that features Jubilee being the best assistant ever and rocking the cappucinos, Tom Hale singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” at karaoke, and a couple of bad boys from Patsy’s past showing up again. Writer Kate Leth delivers a script full of puns, heartful character moments, and just a touch of sadness as Patsy is still coping with her BFF, She-Hulk, being in a coma thanks to Civil War II. Artist Brittney Williams gets to show off her flare for action as Jubilee and Patsy get to team up against her ex-husbands, Mad Dog and Daimon Hellstrom. She can do misty eyed romance and enthusiastic friendship as well, and her fun, fierce, and cartoonish art style solidifies her as one of Marvel’s best current pencilers. And colorist Megan Wilson gets to add hellfire red to her usual pink, blue, and yellow palette, especially as Daimon ends up being too hot to handle.

She doesn’t get much panel time in Hellcat #9, but Leth, Williams, and Wilson elevate Hedy Clarke to arch-nemesis in the space of a single page. Most of the time, Hellcat is a slice of life sitcom, a quirky superhero adventure, or a Saturday morning cartoon, but the opening page of this issue is pure film noir. There’s a close-up on a martini glass and a cold blue backdrop from Wilson. Williams gives Daimon Hellstrom a classy suit, and Hedy Clarke, a red and black dress that pairs well with her stone-faced stare Hedy gives him when she lies about Patsy. And Hedy’s evil plan is pretty damn ingenious as she feeds on Daimon and Mad Dog’s negative feelings toward Patsy and lets them cut loose when she isn’t really in superhero mode. Plus Daimon Hellstrom is quite the powerhouse, and Leth and Williams show that as he ends a fight with one wave of his staff and a creepy pentagram.

Luckily, Hellcat #9 isn’t all darkness and evil. There are puns too. Most of the issue (except for the end of comic fight) is concerned with Patsy trying to make ends meet at her temp agency as she must balance paying rent on her building with paying her employees. Combined with her feeling down about She-Hulk’s injury, Patsy is running out of steam. Enter Jubilee, who is a happy ray of vampiric sunshine into the comic’s supporting cast. The spare roomwhere she holds court is super adorable with its mix of typical office trappings, like an espresso machine and mini fridge, and baby stuff for Shogo Lee, like a Wolverine plush, toy dinosaurs, and way too many sets of alphabet letters. Williams’ skill at background jokes comes in handy in this space, especially when Jubilee’s Magneto mug is concerned. “Magneto was old” could sort of be a thesis statement for Hellcat  as its characters are more concerned with helping out their friends and making ends meet than grand ideologies.

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And speaking of adorableness, the karaoke bar sequence is Hellcat #9 at its most queer friendly as Tom Hale and everyone’s favorite bisexual Inhuman Ian Soo aren’t victims, but joyfully singing, drinking, and maybe even falling in love. Tom’s choice of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is kind of perfect, and the play of pink and blue from Megan Wilson creates a warm, tingly romantic feeling. (Full disclosure: I had a boyfriend, who had that as his go-to karaoke song too.) Williams also uses glances, little bits of hearts, and hilarious reaction shots from other characters to slowly craft the romance. Also, Leth writes Jubilee as the perfect wing woman with her slick one-liners about Tom not just being Ian’s boss. They should just kiss already, but this is a superhero comic and the smooching is put on hold for fighting. For now, at least.

Hellcat #9 is a flat out fun read as Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and Megan Wilson put Hellcat and her friends through the wringer while also letting them live a little and enjoy life. There’s action, comedy, romance, plenty of cuteness, and a cliffhanger that is like something out of Stranger Things.

Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Megan Wilson
Story: 8.5  Art: 9.5 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Who’s Mosaic? Find Out in Marvel’s Free Prelude Story

You’ve heard about his new series. You’ve seen his first appearance in the pages of Uncanny Inhumans. Before he explodes onto the scene in his new ongoing series, read the FREE 10 page Mosaic Prelude – available right now! Geoffrey Thorne and artist Khary Randolph introduce the world to the character that will have the world talking!

Mosaic centers on Morris Sackett – professional basketball player and celebrity. Loved by millions, hated by his teammates. Only Morris is secretly something else – something Inhuman. Coming into contact with the transformative Terrigen Mists has given Morris spectacular new abilities. Imbued with the power to jump from person-to-person like a ghost, Morris can control the bodies and memories of those he inhabits. Only these fantastic new abilities come at a grave cost. With his own body destroyed, the one-time superstar athlete must rely on others to survive. But can he?

MOSAIC PRELUDE
Written by GEOFFREY THORNE
Art & Cover by KHARY RANDOLPH
Available Free Digitally

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Marvel’s STEAM Variants this Fall

Marvel’s best and brightest heroes are stepping to the head of the class for a series of special variant covers! Marvel has announced 5 special STEAM Variants coming to some of your favorite Marvel titles this November!

Check out the full list of STEAM Variants by some of Marvel’s great cover artists:

  • S (science) – Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur #13 by Joyce Chin
  • T (technology) – Spider-Man #10 by Pasqual Ferry
  • E (engineering)— Invincible Iron Man #1 by Mike McKone
  • A (art) — Champions #2 by Pascal Campion
  • M (math) – Gwenpool #8 by Will Sliney

Through Marvel’s STEAM Variants, this campaign plans to ignite the spark of creativity and innovation that fuels and empowers the very heroes that have helped inspire generations around the world. Though Marvel hasn’t explained how that’s happening or how these actually benefit this focus on education…

Review: Captain America: Steve Rogers #4

Captain America Steve Rogers #4 CoverWhile Captain America: Steve Rogers #4 is billed as a Civil War II tie-in and Steve attempting to broker a truce between Iron Man and Captain Marvel, the interior is nothing of the sorts and between the teaser text and the interior, I was so confused I actually checked the text in the small print at the beginning to make sure this was issue four.

The comic is really a recap of things, so if you haven’t read the first three issues of this series, then you can catch up here. Even with a recap page, the issue is really devoted to laying where things are out. It’s a bit odd actually.

Now, there is some things that are new. Things involving Steve’s mother as well as Elisa are explored a bit. There’s a moment of Steve where he goes super villian and clearly lays out what his plan and goals are. And there’s lots of foreshadowing of the fact that Steve’s deep cover as a Hydra agent is tenuous and there’s lots of open ended things that can get him caught. Kobik, Jack Flagg, the crashed jet that Zemo died in. All of these things poke holes into Rogers’ plans and actions. The trial of Maria Hill also moves forward.

Basically, this issue feels a lot like a recap issue looking back at events and also setting things in motion with a lot of foreshadowing. It’s a bit frustrating due to that and feels like a wasted issue by writer Nick Spencer. What this has been solicited as is also completely baffling as it’s nothing of the sorts. There’s some mentions of what will be happening/is happening in Civil War II, but that takes up a few panels.

There is some good.

Captain America lays out his philosophy and plan and mixed with what S.H.I.E.L.D. is asking for, it all seems rather original Civil War. Spencer touches upon real world issues like surveillance by the state and increased powers to police, but that also is a bit shallow, an issue that also plagues the writing of the main Civil War II series. There is also an emphasis on Steve’s more brutal take on things, something that’s emphasized by his actions which aren’t very Captain America like. This is a new Captain America who would be ok with Black Sites and torture, not the one who stood up to the Super Human Registration Act. The emphasis is clear with this issue as this fact is stated and shown in various ways throughout the issue. Getting the philosophy and outlook of this new Captain America is a good thing and gives us some more insight than picturing him as a puppet of the Red Skull, but it also doesn’t feel new, just a retread of speeches we’ve heard from the classic character Nuke (in his various forms).

The highlight of the issue really is seeing the new Quasar. Where this character goes and what the plan is, I couldn’t tell you. But, to see something put a smile on my face.

Javier Pina and Miguel Sepulveda handle the art duties and it still holds up. The scenes in the past are what really stand out with their use of limited color, the art looks fantastic. I think the flashback sequences have been the strongest thing of these four issues, and would love to see an entire comic series done this way. The “modern” art is still good, but something is lost. Some of the scenes are brutal really showing off the new Steve, but some of the character art is a bit miss. Still, it’s a good comic to look at during the read and the use of the two distinct styles is a great choice.

The issue continues a rather middling series. Captain America: Steve Rogers #4 isn’t bad, but it’s also not really worth your dollars either. As an issue it feels like its job is to recap everything that has happened in just three issues and do some foreshadowing, it’s just not enough, nor is anything vital that it’s a comic you have to have to understand what’s going on or what’s to come.

Story: Nick Spencer Art: Javier Pina, Miguel Sepulveda
Story: 5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 5.25 Recommendation: Pass

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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