Comic Review: ‘Civil War II’ #1

Written by:  Brian Michael Bendis / pencilled by:  David Marquez

What’s it about?

With the emergence of a new Inhuman with the ability to see future events, Captain Marvel believes that this gift should be used to counter danger before it arises…

In review

The battle lines are drawn once again in the Marvel Comics universe as the opening chapter of the highly anticipated Civil War II event lands with a bang.  Following the prologues of the Free Comic Book Day special and issue #0, the extra sized Civil War II #1 is a promising start for Marvel’s latest event that hopes to repeat the success of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s original Civil War of ten years ago.  Whilst the saga is only just beginning, so far any initial concerns that Civil War II would merely retread what has gone before can be safely put to one side.  Just as Civil War II features a slightly varied and expanded set of players and their respective affiliations (encompassing groups such as the Avengers, New Avengers, the Ultimates and the Inhumans) it also offers a different set of ethical debates and character viewpoints in comparison to the original Civil War.

The central debate in Civil War II concerns new Inhuman Ulysses who is plagued with visions of the future and whether that knowledge should be utilised to prevent catastrophe and safeguard the innocent or that it could in fact alter events in such a way as to create even more danger.  As leader of the Ultimates, Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel firmly believes that future threats should be tackled before they can arise, a case which is supported by the opening battle against a Celestial invasion force which leaves the Marvel heroes victorious.  Somewhat surprisingly, it’s Tony Stark who takes the opposing stance, ever the futurist who now finds those values in question when considering the consequences foreknowledge of a possible future could hold.  Stark’s side of the argument is upheld when the superhero community is hit by a tragedy none of them could see coming and sets the stage for the rest of Civil War II.

With a script packed with drama, emotion and punchy dialogue, Brian Michael Bendis provokes those aforementioned ethical debates without being overly preachy, presenting identifiable viewpoints from both sides, which may make it much harder to choose sides this time around.  Visually, this is a stunning book with Bendis enlisting the talents of former Invincible Iron Man penciller David Marquez and colourist Justin Ponsor.  Marquez provides lavishly detailed layouts with energetic and epic action scenes – accentuated beautifully by Ponsor’s vivid colours – together with dynamic character work that evokes the right level of ‘feeling’ to those moments of emotion and drama.  Marvel’s latest blockbuster comic event is in safe hands.

The bottom line:  As first issues go, Civil War II shows great potential for Marvel’s latest event with excitement and drama delivered by a trusted creative team.

Civil War II #1 is published by Marvel Comics and is available in print and digital formats now.

Marvel's latest event kicks off in 'Civil War II' #1 (cover art by Marko Djurdjevic).

Marvel’s latest event kicks off in ‘Civil War II’ #1 (cover art by Marko Djurdjevic).

Comic Review: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ #12

Written by:  Dan Slott / pencils by:  Giuseppe Gamuncoli / colours by:  Marte Garcia

What’s this issue about?

Power Play Part I: “The Stark Contrast” : as the threat of a new foe rises, Peter Parker must first team up with Tony Stark to grapple with an attack by Ghost…

In review

Following the high stakes and drama of recent issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, writer Dan Slott kicks off a new story arc with a fun and engaging opening chapter that gives our friendly-neighbourhood wall crawler the opportunity to let his hair down a little…just a little.

With Peter Parker’s recent guest appearance in Brian Michael Bendis’s Invincible Iron Man, it seems only fair that Tony Stark would pay a visit to New York City – with new employee Mary Jane in tow – as Peter throws a charity fundraiser for the Uncle Ben Foundation.  It’s as funny and as cringing as you would imagine and Slott makes great use of both characters in making things uneasy for Peter.  The interplay between Peter and Tony is the highlight of this issue, the latter’s ego threatening to deflate the former’s as Slott evokes all of those underdog qualities that have endeared so many to one of Marvel’s most iconic characters for so long.  Peter Parker may now be a billionaire industrialist as head of fledgling company Parker Industries but in the end he’s still the same old Peter Parker, just a little older and maybe even a little wiser.

It’s when the supervillain known as Ghost shows up that this issue’s best moments arise, with Peter and Tony ‘suiting up’ to tackle the threat only for our central heroes to reduce themselves to some high school bickering as they try to outshine one another, leaving Ghost hilariously bewildered in the process.  As the action unfolds and the pair set aside their egos, Slott leaves readers with perhaps the greatest and most memorable team-up since Marvel’s ‘All-New, All-Different’ relaunch and closes the issue with the necessary threads to be woven throughout this latest story arc as the impending threat of new foe ‘Regent’ is revealed.

Guiseppe Gamuncoli’s visuals on The Amazing Spider-Man continue to be a perfect complement to Dan Slott’s scripts, his sharp, detailed pencils and slightly cartoonish character facials (accentuated by Marte Garcia’s vivd, high-def colours) fitting the overall tone of the book.  Although Gamuncoli is not afforded as much opportunity to depict the epic blockbuster set-pieces of prior instalments (readers have been truly spoiled in recent months with Spider-Mobile action, orbital plummets and subway train fights), there’s still plenty of energy and momentum to the action that Slott facilitates in this issue.

The bottom line:  The Amazing Spider-Man takes a moment to breath, if only briefly as Dan Slott and Guiseppe Gamuncoli present a fun issue bolstered greatly by a guest appearance from Tony Stark.

The Amazing Spider-Man #12 is published by Marvel Comics and is available in print and digital formats now.

Another superlative cover by Alex Ross for another fun issue of Marvel's 'The Amazing Spider-Man'.

Another superlative cover by Alex Ross for another fun issue of Marvel’s ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’.

Comic Review: ‘Spider-Man’ #1

Written by:  Brian Michael Bendis / pencils by:  Sara Pichelli / colours by:  Justin Ponsor

What’s it about?

It’s a new day as Miles Morales faces the destruction of New York and the defeat of the Avengers against the demonic Blackheart, whilst coping with the everyday turmoil of adolescence…

In review

Following the conclusion of multiverse decimating event, Secret Wars the Ultimate universe Spider-Man, Miles Morales is now a denizen of the main, reborn, Marvel universe.  Spider-Man #1 reunites the Ultimate Spider-Man creative team (and co-creators of Miles Morales) of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli in an enjoyable and fun premiere issue for New York’s newly established webbed wonder.  With Peter Parker’s attentions mostly diverted to the international scene, juggling the concerns of fledgling corporation Parker Industries against global super-heroics and the Spider-Man of 2099, Miguel O’Hara, pursuing a means to return to his own time the protection of the Big Apple’s residents falls on the shoulders of the teenage Miles.  Along with his Avengers credentials, this gives Miles a legitimate purpose in the relaunched Marvel universe already crowded with many a Spider-hero.

Invincible Iron Man writer Brian Michael Bendis provides a script infused with his trademark witty dialogue and helps to establish Miles’ status quo in a manner that’s accessible to readers unfamiliar with his exploits in Ultimate Spider-Man and sets the scene for established fans of the character.  Whilst the struggles of balancing teenage life (whether it be relationships with family, friends or girls) against the call of being a superhero may feel familiar to fans of classic Spider-Man it serves to both reintroduce those ideas into the modern era and to give this particular Spider-Man title its own identity.  Bendis does, however manage to add fresh components to the main elements of the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era – in particular, having both of Miles’ parents alive and his friendly neighbourhood alter ego known only by his father and best friend Ganke allows for some interesting character dynamics.  Whilst the exasperation of Miles’ father carries some dramatic – yet light-hearted – weight, Bendis brings that wit fully to bear in fun exchanges with Ganke and his high school teacher as he makes seemingly futile efforts to escape class in the name of great power and great responsibility.  That Miles rises to the cause with little complaint is a credit to Bendis and only adds to the character’s likeability and the potential for him to become a key player in the new Marvel U.

The world of Spider-Man wouldn’t be complete without a huge threat to counter and Bendis and Pichelli pull no punches with this issue’s opening pages as Miles faces the demonic villain Blackheart, with the apparent destruction of New York and the fall of the Avengers ensuring the stakes are well and truly high.  Sara Pichelli’s pencils are as detailed and energetic as ever, although not quite as sharp as her previous work on the Ultimate Comics titles and crossover mini-series Spider-Men, she brings the pages of Spider-Man to life, the range of expressive character facials aiding the humour nicely and expansive city scapes placing the action on an epic scale.  Together with the paint-like colours of Justin Posnor, Pichelli gives the title its own visual identity that evokes the fun and excitement of Bendis’ script and the overall spirit of a good Spider-Man comic.

The bottom line:  Marvel adds another Spider-hero to the post-Secret Wars world and Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli provide an action packed and fun first issue for the likeable Miles Morales in this promising new series.

Spider-Man #1 is published by Marvel Comics and is available in print and digital formats now.

Cover artwork for Marvel Comics' 'Spider-Man' #1 by Sara Pichelli.

Cover artwork for Marvel Comics’ ‘Spider-Man’ #1 by Sara Pichelli.

Comic Review: ‘Daredevil’ #1

The devil fights again…

Written by:  Charles Soule / pencils by:  Ron Garney / colours by:  Matt Milla

What’s it about?

Blind lawyer Matt Murdock has returned to the streets of New York to fight the criminal underworld as masked vigilante Daredevil…

In review

Daredevil #1 is the latest addition to Marvel Comics’ All-New, All-Different initiative and a relaunch for another of their long established characters.  Taking over the reins from Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, writer Charles Soule and artist Ron Garney reset the world of Matt Murdock post-Secret Wars and return him to New York after relocating to San Francisco during the latter part of the Waid/Samnee run.  Fans of Mark Waid’s (generally) lighter, happy-go-lucky take on the character may find this relaunch a little jarring at first as Soule and Garney bring back the grit and darkness of the days of writers Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker (perhaps partly instigated by the success of the Netflix series launched earlier this year?) and as refreshing and fun as Waid’s approach was, it’s a welcome return to form for the Man Without Fear.

Given his experiences as a lawyer, Charles Soule is an ideal fit for Daredevil and seems to have a good handle on the established character of Murdock whilst deftly weaving new elements into the status quo.  Whilst Murdock is now acting as prosecutor for the state, as Daredevil he must contend with the lurking threat of new villain ‘Tenfingers’ but it looks like he won’t have to face this alone as Soule introduces us to Blindspot, DD’s new crime-fighting partner/vigilante-in-training.  Early on, Soule rightly relinquishes much of the narrative focus to this new partnership as Murdock (donning his new, darker Daredevil suit that’s befitting of the title’s overall tone) trains his ‘sidekick’ as they conduct a brutal face off with a street gang that has links to Tenfingers.  With reference to Murdock’s own training by Stick, there’s a pleasing sense that the pupil has now become the teacher with Murdock’s Daredevil playing irascible sensei to Blindspot’s misguided protégé.

Ron Garney’s rough and inkless pencils matches Soule’s writing perfectly and complemented nicely by Matt Manilla’s subdued colour palette that (the odd effective highlight aside) allows only hints of washed-out crimson and cool blues to seep through, bringing the violent, grimy and decaying underbelly of New York to life.  A far cry from the clean lines and vivid colours of Waid/Samnee’s tenure to be sure and a welcome visual refresh that’s more reminiscent of Alex Maleev and Michael Lark whilst establishing a look that’s still of its own.

As with the rest of Marvel’s All-New, All-Different relaunch, a leap of faith is required by the reader as we know nothing of what has transpired in the eight month gap following the conclusion of events in Secret Wars (which still has two issues left to go) but no doubt that in good time the missing details will be fleshed out.

The bottom line:  Marvel’s ‘Man Without Fear’ makes a welcome return to darker and grittier times that only serves for greater dramatic and artistic potential, courtesy of a promising new creative team.

Daredevil #1 is published by Marvel Comics and is available in print and digital formats now.

Cover art for Marvel Comics' 'Daredevil' #1 by Ron Garney.

Cover art for Marvel Comics’ ‘Daredevil’ #1 by Ron Garney.

Comic Review: ‘Invincible Iron Man’ #1

Written by:  Brian Michael Bendis / pencilled by:  David Marquez

What’s it about?

Tony Stark returns to action with a new suit of armour as a new threat from an old face looms…

In review

Marvel’s All-New, All-Different initiative is now underway and the comic book publisher (and overall entertainment behemoth) have teamed up the successfully tried and tested Ultimate Spider-Man creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez to lead the charge for what is intended to be their flagship title, Invincible Iron Man.

With so many corporate minded resets/relaunches within the comic book industry these days, it’s hard for even a writer of Bendis’ calibre to deliver a brand new first issue of a title that feels fresh and innovative – especially when dealing with a character that has now been around for over fifty years.  Despite some feeling of familiarity, Bendis and Marquez deliver an entertaining and tantalising (re)launch issue that brings readers into a post-Secret Wars (Marvel’s multiverse destroying event series which doesn’t actually conclude until December) world where it’s more or less a case of business as usual.  Time is taken to reacquaint readers with Tony Stark as he builds his newest version of the Iron Man armour, established readers will have seen this many times before across numerous Iron Man runs yet with new readers in mind it’s also necessary and at least there’s no elaborate retelling of the modern age Iron Man origin story (see Iron Man: Extremis by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov).

Since Robert Downey Jr’s lighter interpretation of Tony Stark won over the film going masses, Marvel have sought to tweak the persona of the comic book character to match that of his cinematic counterpart.  It’s something that’s been difficult to achieve without Stark coming across as too much an out and out a-hole and Bendis proves more successful here than Kieron Gillen did during his pre-Secret Wars tenure.  Bendis continuously straddles – and spontaneously hops over – the line between the serious, as Stark contemplates futurist ideals, and the humorous, where there’s playful exchanges with holo-A.I. FRIDAY, to decent effect and is sure to build a version of Marvel’s Howard Hughes-inspired industrialist billionaire that will appeal to long term fans and the masses alike.

David Marquez provides some great visuals, his action scenes have a big budget widescreen feel to them (with one particular sequence reminiscent of classic Anime feature film Ghost in the Shell) whilst delivering detailed surroundings and expressive characters.  Most significantly though, Marquez unveils a pleasing new Iron Man suit that is sleek, angular and modern whilst still incorporating the basic design elements of classic armours.  We’re yet to see a full demonstration of the enticing ‘morph’ aspect of the new suit’s design which will allow it to incorporate elements of previous Iron Man armours on command, but this will surely come into play in subsequent issues.

Despite those afore-mentioned elements of familiarity, with an intriguing new threat from (spoiler) iconic Iron Man villain Madame Masque and a tantalising finale there’s plenty to be excited about for the future of Iron Man.

The bottom line:  With snappy dialogue from Brian Michael Bendis and solid visual storytelling provided by artist David Marquez, Invincible Iron Man is off to a promising, if at times familiar, start.

Invincible Iron Man #1 is published by Marvel Comics and is available in print and digital formats now.

Cover art for Marvel Comics' 'Invincible Iron Man' #1 by David Marquez. Image belongs: Marvel Comics.

Cover art for Marvel Comics’ ‘Invincible Iron Man’ #1 by David Marquez. Image belongs: Marvel Comics.