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Review: Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1

Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1

Writer Larry Hama brings his talents to Marvel’s Iron Fist. Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1 kicks off a new adventure for the character which has him attempting to protect the Heavenly Cities as someone is hunting the dragons that power them.

The debut issue is an interesting one dropping readers mostly into the story and only slightly teasing details out. Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1 feels much like Hama’s G.I. Joe work. There’s lots of focus on action sequences as the issue goes from one beat to another. It works in some ways but the packed in issue that has not one, but two major villains to battle, feels a bit too much like a video game. The first level has been cleared, so lets move on to the next.

In his journey, Iron Fist is joined by Fooh who feels more like a comedic extra and also the inventory screen in this video game like story.

Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1 only slightly works as is. It might have been due to the high expectations from Hama writing but there’s something off overall. The comic is a bit choppy and doesn’t feature a natural flow as much as it does levels. First up is Taskmaster to battle and after is Lady Bullseye. There’s little explanation other than they have a mission to get a dragon’s heart, so it all comes off a bit as a thin plot mostly focused on the action. There’s a lot thrown in there but it’s all very thinly connected.

Dave Wachter‘s art is decent. With colors by Neeraj Menon and letterer Travis Lanham, the art captures the action and the packed in sequences. Iron Fist himself looks a little off with the face a bit too round and feels off. The eyes feel apart and face just looks odd. But, there’s some good action sequences and battles, each having a nice flow to them. As the comic moves along there feels like there’s more packed in which is handled without things being overwhelming and it being pretty clear to follow.

Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1 is a bit mixed overall. It might have helped to have slowed things down a little and give more time to let the story be explained and details filled in. As is, the comic is pretty quick paced with the actual story being a little thin and specifics. There’s potential here with a turn your brain off sort of adventure. While it doesn’t meet of expectations, Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1 still delivers some fun.

Story: Larry Hama Art: David Wachter
Color: Neeraj Menon Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 6.95 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

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Review: M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #2

M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #2

It’s hard to say how much I love M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #2. Much like the first issue, the second delivers action, humor… really a lot of humor. It’s a madcap issue as M.O.D.O.K. turns to Tony Stark to help him figure out what’s going on and it leads to them having to steal a device.

Writers Jordan Blum and Patton Oswalt deliver a belly’s worth of laughs in a second issue that feels like Looney Tunes has come to the Marvel Universe. The laughs are plenty and the concept fantastic. The duo have me excited for more issues and to see their vision come to the television screen in a series that riffs off of similar concepts.

Tony and M.O.D.O.K. head to a villain convention where an auction will be held for the device they need. It has them interacting with so many C and D list villains all of which is pure gold. What’s fantastic is how many memorable moments Blum and Oswalt deliver in the issue. There’s lots to point to and laugh about with friends. There’s lots I want to share here but I don’t want to spoil the good time.

Blum and Oswalt’s insanity is brought to the page by artist Scott Hepburn who is joined by Carlos Lopez on color and Travis Lanham in lettering. The art just nails everything. The situations are funny but it’s how they’re delivered that really drives home the humor. I can describe physical humor but it’s a different level to see it for yourself. Each panel and page will have you looking at the details and the exaggerated style drives home the good-natured comedic aspect of it. Lanham gets a special mention for the block text and the glitches within. Such a fantastic addition that adds so much to the comic.

M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #2 is a fantastic second issue that has me wanting to read the third right now. I laughed out loud multiple times. Really laugh out loud. It’s a comic that put a smile on my face. It’s beyond good and is the exact escape we sometimes need and look for in our comics.

Story: Jordan Blum, Patton Oswalt Art: Scott Hepburn
Color: Carlos Lopez Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Power Pack #2

Power Pack #2

Within a few pages of Power Pack #2, I found myself laughing. The comic delivers a fun spin on the rather serious issue of kids under the age of 21 being superheroes, part of the “Outlawed” storyline running through various series. But, this one does so with intelligence and spin that fits the personality of the team.

Written by Ryan North, Power Pack #2 does a solid job of balancing being a part of an “event” storyline and having its own voice. Like the first issue, it’s folded into the story as opposed to it being an event the characters are plopped into. With the second issue opening, the team has been surrounded by C.R.A.D.L.E. who’s ready to arrest them for breaking the law. While you’d expect the confrontation to turn into a fight and then the kids running, North handles it in a very unique and interesting way. The kids show off their intelligence and attitude delivering what feels like a solid and satisfying end to the situation.

Ryan peppers the issue with laughs as the kids have to find a mentor so they can continue to do good. The comic is filled with a series of short encounters as they attempt to recruit one, each resulting in laughs. The comic is funny. Very funny. I found myself sporting a smile throughout and literally laughing out loud multiple times. There’s a cute, fun, playful sense of it all and again North has me longing for this to all continue for a long time.

North is helped by Nico Leon who handles the art and Rachelle Rosenberg who does the colors. Travis Lanham handles the lettering. The art helps nail the jokes as many are as much the visuals as they are the dialogue. The body language, the facial expressions, the lingering of a kid, it all comes together to perfect the delivery. The art and lettering as well help convey a youthful enthusiasm that makes it all really fun. That’s the big thing about this issue, it’s just a hell of a lot of fun.

Power Pack #2 is an event tie-in done right. It doesn’t get dragged down by its constraints and instead uses it to really make its characters stand out and just have fun with it. The issue tackled is a potentially serious one, a tone that doesn’t match the team. So, the creative team keeps things in the Power Pack’s court making sure they’re front and center and the event is just another storyline.

Story: Ryan North Art: Nico Leon
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Conan the Barbarian #17

Conan the Barbarian #17

Last time I read Conan, he was escaping the Crucible and cut down the main baddie with a sword called The Tooth Of The Northstar, a stolen weapon. Conan decided he’d return the weapon to whom it belonged. However, nothing can ever be easy for the Cimmerian. The blade has a certain control over those that wield it – Conan is no different, as he falls to the sword’s control and cleaves in twain just about every living thing that is put in front of him and unfortunately for Conan, it’s still hungry.

Jim Zub has been writing Conan The Barbarian for five issues now and I’ve really liked it a lot. I was worried once Jason Aaron left the book that I wouldn’t enjoy it but the Cimmerian is in great hands with a writer who can not only write good fantasy action but thrives in this element. Conan the Barbarian #17, depicting a possessed weapon taking control of Conan, is a pretty brutal issue and we see glimpses of the world of the sword itself. I know Zub knows the world of Dungeons And Dragons well and so often you could come across such an item. I love it. It makes Conan more than just a hack and slash character.

I’m a big fan of Robert Gill. He worked on a bunch of Valiant Entertainment books a few years back and I’d genuinely missed seeing his work. I think his art is well-suited for Conan and he just does a lot of good, violent work throughout Conan the Barbarian #17. When telling the story of a man possessed by a weapon, you are bound to have to illustrate a lot of human demise, and Gill’s work pairs well with Israel Silva’s colors. I’m hoping Gill can stay on the title for a good, long time.

This was an awesome issue and like the “Tooth Of The Northstar”, I hunger for more of this story. Do yourself a favor and get Conan the Barbarian #17.

Story: Jim Zub Art: Robert Gill
Color: Israel Silva Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Savage Avengers #15

Savage Avengers #15

The disciples of Kulan Gath are preparing for Gath to come to Earth and reign supreme. Two different squads of Avengers take him on – one with a direct assault and then the group that takes the focus on this issue head towards a drug cartel taken over by Gath’s disciples. So what happens when you get the Punisher, Wolverine, Black Widow, Elektra, and Hellstrom together? Probably a whole lot of killing in Savage Avengers #15.

There was something enjoyable in Savage Avengers #15 due to just how absurdly, over-the-top silly and violent this book is. They might as well change the name to Murder Avengers because these members are, basically, just murdering anything with a pulse that is in their way. I thought it was a bit on the silly side to see a character like Black Widow reduced to showing off her top assets and then moments like Wolverine putting the Priest Of Sickles (dumb name) in a wood chipper. As wonky as that sounds, there’s also a lot of pure, unadulterated humor and enjoyment to seeing these characters doing some of these actions. Savage Avengers #15 ends up being fun in its excesses. Suffice to say that writer Gerry Duggan puts these characters in an amazing amount of crazy situations.

I haven’t been reading Savage Avengers prior to this issue so there’s some stuff I have questions about. It would have been nice to have seen the team that went up against Kulan Gath, other than the last page reveal. All we really get is a goofy story where is disciples are poisoning cocaine.

I always enjoy Patrick Zircher’s art. He puts a great amount of detail in his pencils. Here, his art is used to showcase a lot of blood and violence and his style works very well here. I do wish that a few of the panel backgrounds had something going on. Java Tartaglia’s colors are a good pairing but I do wish for a bit of a brighter color palette.

Savage Avengers is the kind of book where the premise should take me right out of it. I’m an old-school Avengers fan and it’s been a really long time since I liked an issue of any adjective-driven Avengers team. But with how ridiculous some of the stuff in this is, I’m a bit torn on how I felt but I decided to go with the positive. The Murder Avengers won me over but just barely.

Story: Gerry Duggan Art: Patch Zircher
Ink: Patch Zircher Color: Java Tartaglia Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 6.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.0

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Review: The Union #1 is a Half-Baked Attempt at Both a new superhero Team and an Event Tie-In

The Union #1

I was familiar with Paul Grist’s work from his work with Grant Morrison on the underrated (And, at the time, highly controversial) 1989 British indie comic St. Swithin’s Day where a disaffected youngster sets out to assassinate Margaret Thatcher. With the exception of the first page that is both written and drawn by Grist in a cheeky cartoonish style, The Union #1 lacks this book’s satirical edge and dark humor and introduces a fairly generic team of UK-themed superheroes to fight some fairly generic symbiote types connected to the King in Black crossover. The visuals from Andrea Di Vito, Drew Geraci, Le Beau Underwood, and Nolan Woodard are decent and have some decent energy any of The Union members use their abilities like Kelpie masquerading as a puddle in a training session against British soldiers. I also liked the recycled Phonogram: Rue Britannia plot point though.

I’m a big Anglophile and was really looking forward to a new team of British Marvel heroes in The Union #1, but boy, was I disappointed. There are the seeds of some good ideas in the book with Grist and Di Vito establishing from the get-go that the team is a big media stunt complete with making sure that England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland are each represented by a team member. They also establish a media pecking order with everyone wanting to speak to Britannia, and Union Jack, who has appeared in comics for the past four decades and even had his own series several times, getting out and out shooed by the breakfast TV host parodies, Phil and Suzanne. It’s kind of funny because Union Jack is really the only character in the book with any kind of personality even if his narrative captions are pretty basic commentary on being a hero for a long time (Yay sliding timelines!) and the legacy of British imperialism. The other team members, Snakes, Kelpie, and The Choir also get to showcase their unique powers and be generally sassy towards their government handlers. This sounds like a superhero book, I could get into, like Justice League International with a UK flavor.

However, character development and the dynamic between The Union, the British government, and corporate sponsor Steve Darwin is all thrown aside for an editorially mandated King in Black crossover that will last all five issues of the miniseries. Paul Grist and Andrea Di Vito really get into generic superhero team-up beats complete with hapless bystanders falling under some form of mind ,er, symbiote control and a telegraphed taking out of a main character before you have a chance to really get to know them (Again, think Phonogram.). There’s also the ol’ team rallying together in a big team pose instead of a cliffhanger that makes me want to pick up the second issue. (I will because I’m a softie for British superheroes, and with his reputation, Grist deserves another chance.)

As I mentioned earlier, Andrea Di Vito, Drew Geraci, LeBeau Underwood, and Nolan Woodard’s art is probably the less egregious part of The Union #1. For example, Woodard uses deep blacks for the symbiotes against the cloyingly bright palette of the Somerset to show how silly all the media prattle seems against a real threat. In the same scene, Di Vito, Geraci, and Underwood channel medieval compositions when Britannia goes against a symbiote dragon while quipping about St. George not actually being British, which is a nice bit of satire about the emptiness and historical inaccuracy of nationalist symbolism from Paul Grist. If only the rest of the comic could have synthesized wit and action like these pages. However, I didn’t have many complaints about the art. It’s easy to follow, and each team member has a distinct design and power set even if their personalities aren’t as fleshed out yet.

Paul Grist, Andrea Di Vito, Drew Geraci, LeBeau Underwood, and Nolan Woodard introduce a new British superhero team in The Union #1, but the novelty of new characters (and the return of an old one) is soon overwhelmed by one-dimensional characterization, predictable plot beats, and the burden of having to be an origin story and event tie-in. Also, Grist’s script lacks the bite of his U.K. indie work even though he gets a couple of licks in. I’m really curious to see how much of his original vision was “editorialized” out.

Story: Paul Grist Pencils: Andrea Di Vito with Paul Grist
Inks: Drew Geraci, LeBeau Underwood with Paul Grist
Colors: Nolan Woodard Letters: Travis Lanham
Story: 6.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

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Review: The Union #1

The Union #1

I read The Union #1 before King in Black #1 which actually helped the experience in some ways. Focused on a new team bringing together heroes from around the United Kingdom, the story is an introduction as it dives directly into an event tie-in.

Written by Paul Grist, The Union #1 is both good and bad. As far as an introduction to the team and their goal, there’s things that work. The issue revolves a lot around the team being introduced to the nation as an example of its unity. The use of the media and morning television smells of a realism and interesting aspect. The team is being introduced to the nation as well as to the reader. But, it also shows that the team is as much as public relations move as it is one of national security. It forces the reader to question why members have been chosen and if it’s due to their abilities or because they fit some aspect the PR team deemed important.

There’s a lot there to build off of as it shows some cracks already in the team and you wonder how it’ll play to the actual reality Britain and the region is going through. That’s touched upon but not really enough. That’s part of the bad of the issue as well. It touches upon reality and uses it to some extent but it mostly is just a line or two instead of a real discussion.

What really works is the tie-in to King in Black. The team is unaware as to what’s going to happen and if read before the main event issue (also out this week) it acts as a greater surprise to the reader. Like them, we’re surprised at the event unfolding before them and us. Reading the two issues in the reverse order, that surprise and sense of “what the hell” is lost. We the reader are no longer surprised, we have knowledge the comic characters don’t.

The art by Grist and Andrea Di Vito is pretty good. There’s a nice focus on the characters and their interactions that emphasizes the team dynamics. It doesn’t go over the top with the action but still delivers some solid designs and use of panels. Drew Geraci, Le Beau Underwood, and Grist provide the ink while Nolan Woodard handle colors. As the story progresses and the attack begins the art and color shift a bit to better show off the darkness coming. It never fully falls into darkness though and sticks to its lighter visuals.

The Union #1 is a rare debut tie-in that works really well. The issue plays off the attack quite well while building up an interesting dynamic for the team. The building blocks are here for what could potentially be a very entertaining story. It’s just a question to see what it does with the seeds its sown.

Story: Paul Grist Art: Andrea Di Vito, Paul Grist
Ink: Drew Geraci, Le Beau Underwood, Paul Grist Color: Nolan Woodard Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

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Review: M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #1

M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #1

M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #1 had me rolling with laughter. Multiple times. The debut is kinetic, mad, insane, and completely hilarious.

Written by Jordan Blum and Patton Oswalt, the comic has M.O.D.O.K. suffering from visions of a family and life he doesn’t know. All the while, M.O.D.O.K. must also deal with other members of A.I.M. who are having issues with his distractions and wants him decommissioned.

Oswalt and Blum are the duo behind the upcoming Hulu series Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. which takes a similar concept of M.O.D.O.K. with a family. If the comic is any indication, that show will be amazing.

What M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #1 delivers is laughs as he boasts and schemes in his over the top way. The situations are over the top absurd. The comic delivers kinetic energy where everything is exaggerated and to an extreme. A simple battle is done in such a way that it’s hard to not laugh at how over the top everything is. Every situation and detail are laid out in such a way that things are an extreme. While M.O.D.O.K. is being chastized for his failure, he’s also manipulating an over the top plan to raise money for A.I.M. It’s a Rube Goldberg type plan taking 20 steps instead of 4. It’s that sort of thing that helps deliver the laughs.

Scott Hepburn handles the art with Carlos Lopez on color and Travis Lanham on lettering. M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #1 is great to look at with blasts and character designs and movements that match the tone of the writing. Everything is to an extreme. It’s not 5 bad guys, it’s 50. It’s not one or two weapons, it’s two dozen. There’s always been a bit of a joke when it comes to M.O.D.O.K. and his design and the team nails it with the look of the comic.

M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #1 is just funny. It’s hard to not get to the end and smile and want more. It’s a comic that doesn’t take itself seriously and instead takes a goofy concept and villain and works with it. This is a comedy and knows it’s a comedy taking what we love about superhero comics and upping it to 11.

Story: Jordan Blum, Patton Oswalt Art: Scott Hepburn
Color: Carlos Lopez Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Power Pack #1

Power Pack #1

Power Pack is a team that’s always been the “guest stars” to me. I remember reading some of their adventures when I was really young. A “special message” comic stands out, a simple public service announcement in comic form. I think the topic was staying off of drugs. It was the 1980s and that was a pretty common thing then. Then again, brushing my teeth as a topic also feels like a thing. The 80s were weird. Over the decades, my exposure has generally been limited to the characters appearing in other comics. But, after years in that role, the team is back in the spotlight with Power Pack #1. They’ve also stepped into a very different Marvel landscape.

Writer Ryan North delivers a fun start as the team is back together after their various adventures. They’re also struggling with what to do next. While there might be more enjoyment for those who have kept up with the characters, Power Pack #1 does a fantastic job of laying things out so you don’t need to. There’s references to aging up and space adventures but for this comic, those are more explanations for long-time fans than anything that impacts the story.

Instead, the story keeps things focused and simple. Through an amazing comic within a comic, new readers learn the history of the characters and team as the Power Pack struggle with whether they should tell their parents their secret. The interactions, the humor, it all comes together for a first issue that’s fun, funny, adorable, and has me wanting to come back for more and more. This feels like kids being kids at times and North nails their voices down when it comes to that.

What North also does is throw them directly into the frying pan. The “Outlawed” storyline has been a mish-mash of various series and impacts this one too. It doesn’t feel backed in at all but rather organic, something so many event tie-ins do not. “Outlawed” has underage superheroes banned unless they register and get a mentor to be trained. What’s not explained is why the Power Pack is completely unaware of the law but easily can be explained that they just don’t watch television or read the newspaper. But, no matter the reason, it works and works well for this miniseries.

The entertainment value of it all is helped by Nico Leon‘s art. Joined by Rachelle Rosenberg on color and Travis Lanham‘s lettering, the comic has a youthful look to it. There’s an style about it that fits the kids at the center of it all. The colors pop and the excitement of the character’s at times pop off of the page. There’s also an interesting use of panels with the more mundane family life framed in squares and rectangles and the action featuring more angled panels and images that break them. There’s just something very unique in how it’s all presented and the art pops.

Power Pack #1 is a fun start to the series. There’s a youthful energy about it befitting the characters and it’s hard to not smile while reading it. There’s so much to love about this first issue and it already has me hoping for more after this run is up. Power Pack #1 is exactly what comics should be, a hell of a lot of fun.

Story: Ryan North Art: Nico Leon
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 8.4 Art: 8.4 Overall: Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Shang-Chi #2

Shang-Chi #2

The debut issue of Shang-Chi was fantastic. Feeling like a breath of fresh air, the first issue set a new path for the character-building off of his history but at the same time attempted to right the stereotypes and wrongs of the past. Shang-Chi #2 ups the action as Shang-Chi goes after those who attacked him in the first issue but it’s not all fighting, there’s a lot of heart as well.

Written by Gene Luen Yang, Shang-Chi #2 delivers more than the usual foot soldier then boss battle you might expect. Yang adds depth by focusing on the relationship between Shang-Chi and his younger sister Shi-Hua. We learn of their abusive upbringing and the type of child Shang-Chi was. While he might be cool, calm, and focused, now, as a child he was spoiled and troublesome. His actions put his sister in danger and as we learn lead to her current situation. It establishes not just how Shang-Chi has grown but also the friction that exists between the two. The rivalry is more than just a simple jockeying for power, there’s a somewhat relatable past that adds depth to the story.

And that’s part of the brilliance of what Yang has put together. While the series could easily be the expected “kung-fu” story of a bad guy trying to gain power, the focus on the family adds so much. While the world is fantastical, those with siblings can relate to a lot of it. We have gotten our other siblings in trouble. There is probably grudges, even a small one, over incidents from when we were kids. Even those without a sibling can relate to similar situations concerning friends. While the story is fantasy, the grudges are rooted in a reality many of us have experienced and can relate to.

The art is split between Dike Ruan and Philip Tan. One handles the flashbacks while one handles the present. Sebastian Cheng handles the colors and Travis Lanham does lettering. Though the art is split, it flows well between the two. The switch isn’t jarring and not too noticeable. There’s also some beautiful art. It’s hard to say exactly what without spoiling it by the visuals and colors pop on the page with an almost magical element about them. There’s also an interesting use of panels as the “quieter” and “calmer” moments are broken up with standard block styles and the action leans more towards angled panels and spreads. There’s also a clear influence with classic manga visual tropes without leaning in to them too much and overdoing it. It has those elements but is still very much “Marvel” in the presentation.

Shang-Chi #2 is another win for the team updating what could easily fall into stereotypes. The action is solid but it’s the more human moments that really stand out in the issue. This is an issue, and series, that realizes that the main character at the center is what’s interesting, not just action sequences. Shang-Chi matures the character and series and shows that with a little work, classic characters can feel new and fresh while still honoring what has come before.

Story: Gene Luen Yang Art: Dike Ruan, Philip Tan
Color: Sebastian Cheng Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

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