Deadpool #11 Review

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‘Deadpool’ has reached the end of its latest arc and it has managed to do so in a very different style than it typically would have done as fans were offered a moment of clarity rather than one of bloodshed. Could such a drastic departure from form still make for a good read?

For the past few months, Deadpool has been at war with Sabretooth due to him mistakenly believing that ‘Tooth killed his parents. It all started back in the 25th anniversary edition of Deadpool and thus marks the longest of Gerry Duggan’s continuous ‘Pool stories. To say that the journey up until this point has been a troubled one would be an understatement as the quality has fluctuated wildly with each passing issue. One week you would get a perfectly good instalment full off off-beat humour and insane violence, the next you would be subjected to the most painfully unfunny jokes and bland action possible. It has to be said though that people do often tend to remember the beginnings and conclusions of arcs without paying a great deal of mind to the murky middle part, so if this issue were to be good then people could realistically look back fondly on this whole story.

That then begs the question, was it good? Well, and this is surprising to write, yes it was. In a move that really broke the series out of its recent slump Duggan brought a great deal to the table. Firstly, there’s the fact that he pumped this issue full of humour and as such it is the truest representation of Deadpool he has put forward so far. There are many moments that can be pointed to from which you will likely get a giggle but this page was a personal favourite.

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Not to rest too heavily on laughs, Duggan also ensured that there was an emotional resonance to his tale and that Deadpool finished the story in a different place to which he started. This Sabretooth arc has always been primarily about Wade’s journey of discovery and self-acceptance and that is exactly what this finale acknowledged. He discovered the truth about who really killed his parents and he didn’t have a breakdown when he realised that it was he who did it. Even Doctor Strange, who popped up for a small role, confirmed for audiences that ‘Pool has gone through tremendous personal growth as he reveals that he has suppressed many of these memories and that Deadpool has rediscovered them before too, only this time is the first that he hasn’t tried to kill Strange upon his remembering.

This almost blissful ending is not without its foreboding though as Madcap popped up once more as a figment of Deadpool’s imagination as served as a signal that the hard times are not over and there is still more baggage for ‘Pool to deal with. The reintroduction of Madcap to the series would be a great move as he is a highly effective villain for ‘Pool to face off with and will switch the tone back to a slightly creepier one, something everyone loves to see.

It appears that Matteo Lolli has really come into his own as an artist as he delivers yet another dynamic issue full off bright images and largely realistic characters. You get a real sense of emotion through his work on facial expressions and even the masked Deadpool conveys feeling with ease. All of this combines with the wonderful colourist, Ruth Redmond, to make a fresh feeling comic.

Between the appearances of Doctor Strange and Magneto, and the massive character progression for Deadpool, this proves to be one of the best issues in this series’ run. It’s not difficult to get hyped for the next arc, although the fact that they’re doing a one issue return to the 2099 arc leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Score: 9.0/10.

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Deadpool #11 Review

Doctor Strange #8 Review

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‘The Last Day of Magic’ rolls on and with it so too does the superb writing of Jason Aaron. With Doctor Strange fighting the losing side of a battle against the crusading Empirikul this represented the tensest entry in the young series. Did it also represent the best?

From the word go this series, led by Aaron, has been a shining star on the Marvel landscape. Where other post-Secret Wars titles have avoided making bold leaps, aside from one recent one from Captain America, this has relished in the opportunity to take its titular hero in an entirely new direction. That direction has seen the good Doctor be stripped of his immense powers and forced into a corner against a, thus far, superior foe. It is in doing this that Aaron has created something truly special for fans across the globe.

This week’s offering saw Strange continue his efforts to fight back and reclaim the magic that is quickly dying out. For the most part, the action was contained to a mystical cave that housed a few of the last remaining magical weapons that Earth had to offer. It was this claustrophobic setting that allowed for the tension of this story to really shine through. Strange appeared to be trapped in the gloom, shadows closing in on him and danger present at every turn. Chris Bachalo really should be the one receiving the praise for this as he has done some of the best work with colours that you will see anywhere today. In the early issues he made things bright and vibrant whenever magic was involved, which was beautiful at the time but now it is made so much more poignant with the subdued colour palette he is using to signify the complete absence of magic. Such a clever touch is one that must be heralded and shows that this team have had a carefully laid out plan in place for this spectacular tale from the off.

What fans are given here is a more resourceful Strange who is being forced to use what he can find to battle back. He has allies still in the form of Talisman and Scarlet Witch but they are still at a distinct disadvantage yet Strange refuses to call in the likes of Tony Stark to help. The reason? He wishes to clear his own magical debt. To explain that a little better, for the entirety of this series the idea has been firmly implanted in reader’s minds that each magical act takes a toll on the host. This toll can take many forms and is more or less severe depending on the size of the spell at work. In this issue you find out exactly how Strange has been avoiding paying his own debt and it is a reveal that takes a very ugly, but possibly advantageous form.

The story doesn’t get that much closer to its conclusion with this issue but it does provide a great deal of excitement as you join Strange on his journey. Some may dislike the slightly prolonged, meandering narrative but it is something that has made a superhero tale seem far more important and consequential that most other arcs do. It has shown that the bad guys do not pop and get knocked down in a matter of pages but that these incursions are a threat to the heroes, they are fallible and as such this arc has given you a reason to worry for the lead character. It has become all too believable a possibility that he could very well die or at least magic could be irreparably damaged before things are laid to rest.

As mentioned earlier, Bachalo has been on fire for months now. His work her continues to impress for the reasons laid out above but there is one small gripe that others have expressed and that is the lack of detail in some of his panels. It is true that on occasion he can leave things a little lacking but that only adds to the charm of his work. The sense of absence is not all too palpable and his more detailed scenes more than make up for any that are missing a few brush strokes here and there.

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It should be no surprise to hear that Doctor Strange is still going strong as this current creative team are absolutely thriving in their roles. You can expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future as Aaron and Bachalo are showing no signs of stopping any time soon.

Score: 9.0/10.

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Doctor Strange #8 Review

Doctor Strange #7 Review

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The last issue of Doctor Strange was perhaps the best comic to have been released in the last year from either of the two big companies. Everything it did was done to perfection and it crafted a story that could have hooked in even the most cynical of readers. With that in mind it is important to remember not to compare this latest issue to that one as much as is possible. This was never going to be as majestic as its predecessor but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t still soar.

As you will hopefully have seen in last month’s offering, Doctor Strange had just come face to face with the Empirikul in what was one of the finest battle scenes in recent history. Whilst that entire issue was very action oriented, this one settled into a slightly slower pace and proved to be just as pleasing as it brought something new to the story that shed a great deal of light on The Imperator’s motivations.

Up to this point the main villain was simply a shadowy figure who had been operating largely in the background of each of the books. That all changed last time when he finally stepped forth to reach his endgame and in this instalment he became as fully fleshed out as he is ever likely to be. In this little history lesson, Jason Aaron did something quite extraordinary as he managed to create just a tinge of sympathy for this conquering invader.

You see that, long ago, The Imperator lived in a society that championed magic and held it up in a deeply religious manner, shunning science as the greatest form of heresy. As would be expected, The Imperator’s parents did not follow the prescribed path of mysticism and instead took to advancing their scientific knowledge to great heights. This all lead to their brutal murder at the hands of that world’s order keepers but, in a decidedly Superman-esque moment, the little baby Imperator was shot to safety in a rocket. Now, this flashback did two very important things. Firstly, it established a raison d’etre for the villain of the piece, which always makes for a more effective character. In doing this it made audiences stop if just for a moment and consider if it really is as clear cut as they previously thought. Of course that doubt was erased by the later actions of The Imperator (For the sake of brevity he shall be referred to as ‘Impy’ from now on) as he burned a particularly heroic old sorcerer to death.

The second thing that it accomplished was to create a piece of social commentary, or more specifically religious commentary. In the flashback the scientists were shown to be the plucky freedom fighters who were being suppressed by their magic following peers. One can’t help but draw comparisons to certain regions of the world where archaic belief systems surrounding gods are still widely followed and those who do not believe are either cast out or, often, killed. In a time where religion is coming under more and more scrutiny for the way it used to infringe on civil liberties and to justify wholesale slaughter it is nice to see a comic book take a look at the issue, albeit in an allegorical fashion.

Science is not painted as the ultimate good though, for those of you worrying about such an imbalance, as Impy is seen to take the cause to crusade levels and inflict just as much death, suffering, and intolerance as magic once did in his land. What this book does in this respect is show that such people exist on both sides of the fence and a subscription to one belief system does not in any way taint or sanctify an individual.

With regards to the main story beyond the flashback and its fascinating connotations, there isn’t a massive amount that could be freely revealed without straying into spoiler territory. A lot does happen and it furthers the plot in a deeply satisfying and rewarding manner but each moment is of huge significance which, whilst being a very high compliment to pay a script, does make a review rather hard to do. Hopefully it will be enough to say that the story takes a sharp turn to the left and things look set to get even more tense and intriguing in future issues. This arc is far from over and that is something that readers should be absolutely delighted about.

As is always the case in this series, the art was once again a thing of beauty. It is amazing how the large team of Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, John Livesay, Victor Olazaba, and Jaime Mendoza have meshed so well to deliver a book such as this. Each and every frame tells a story all of its own and the fantastic use of colour really drives home the sterilising effect of the Empirikul as it is drained away more and more each time they gain a greater foothold in this world. The page below should tell you all you need to know about the marvelous work each of these people have put in.

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Despite there being a great deal that just cannot be discussed in this review you should still be able to see why this series is this authors favourite right now. The writing is award worthy for the most part and the art is right there along with it, a more complete book is hard to find. The current arc seems to be in no hurry to conclude and nor should it be as it has so much left to offer the comic world.

Score: 10/10.

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Doctor Strange #7 Review

Doctor Strange #6 Review

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As you must be aware, Doctor Strange is currently in the midst of his greatest story arc ever. Issue after issue the team of Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo have delivered flawless writing and art work that have combined to craft a story that deserves endless recognition. That story kicked into high gear with this latest installment and the series has, somehow, reached even greater heights.

So, in the last issue it appeared that the war being waged by the Empirikul against any and all magic in existence was about to come to a head as they intruded on Earth, home to the greatest sorcerer of all, Doctor Strange. It would have been so easy for Aaron to follow the lead of many other, possibly shortsighted, writers and end the story here with one big battle. That was not what he did though. Instead Aaron took yet another turn and raised the stakes, and the tension along with it, to a whole different level.

Those expecting to see a triumphant Sorcerer Supreme charge into battle and avenge his fallen brethren will have been shocked with what actually transpired in this fantastic offering. It is not a conquering Strange that you see but rather a defiant, though outmatched one, scratching and clawing and refusing to go down without a fight despite facing forces beyond his ken.

Aaron weaves a wonderful tapestry as he drops in important character details pertaining to the leader of the Empirikul in a way that does not feel forced. Yes, the villain does a small monologue but Aaron creates a situation where it feels wholly natural and justified, which is exceedingly rare. You get a much better grasp on just why these interlopers are so forcefully against the forces of magic. It may not be a complete picture as of yet but that is part of the reason that it works so well, no more is given away than needs to be.

As for the writing as it pertains to Strange; he is shown in a desperate state, struggling to deal with his foe and resorting to great measures to try to mount an offense. With what has been learned about the consequences of his magic use, this should have fans turning the pages with that bit more trepidation as they wait to find out just what this means for the beloved Doctor.

The immense success of this comic does not just lie in the character details though but rather the story as a whole. This is never more wholly apparent than when Aaron takes you through a tour of the magical locations of Earth and shows the effects the Empirikul are having on them along with their associated magic users. Recognisable names such as Scarlet Witch and Magik are among the victims and it gives enormous weight to the tale to see such titans of the Marvel universe taken down by this new enemy.

A supplementary series of shorts on offer at the end of the book show yet more people who rely on magic and their reaction to its new absence. These enhance the story to no end and one in particular is just a little heartbreaking as it shows a little girl losing dear friends and finding herself alone once more in the world.

To accompany all this excellence, you are treated to yet more superior art by Chris Bachalo and his team. Together they have crafted panels that suit the subject matter within them to perfection. It really does seem like there isn’t a single speck of colour out of place and these talented individuals blend seamlessly in order to create the most tonally appropriate and, at times, jaw droppingly gorgeous art in any comic available today. From the cover art to the final panel, this is as close to perfect as comic art gets.

There hasn’t been a bad comic from this team yet but this is still by far the best of the bunch. If you’re reading this series then you’ll know that to be true, if you aren’t then you must buy all of the current issues immediately, and if you can then you must compel others to do the same. Here’s hoping there are no major shuffles that lead to this title being reassigned or scrapped because it is nothing short of perfection.

Score: 6 out of 5 (Not a score that is likely to be given again but ‘5 out of 5’ just didn’t feel good enough).

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Doctor Strange #6 Review

Doctor Strange #5 Review

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Bleeding eyes? Check. Atlantean Black Magic? Check. A badass cape? Check. Well then, it must be the latest issue of Doctor Strange.

It is an undeniable fact that there hasn’t been a weak point in this series since it first leapt onto shelves with the rest of the post-Secret Wars titles. Week after week Jason Aaron and Co have been firing out the quality like a comic writing machine gun. So then it would be a surprise for the quality to suddenly dip, right? Right. Well thankfully it hasn’t.

This issue delivers on some of the battle that was promised in the last one but it also takes an interesting detour that prolongs this story yet further and adds even more dimensions to this incredibly fleshed out world.

The primary focus is not on Strange as such but rather it rests upon his faithful ally, Wong. You see, building from what was learned last week, the consequences of Strange’s use of magic are better explored in the form of the toll that it takes on his body. By rights his use of Atlantean Black Magic and other supremely powerful spells should have killed him by now, as is made clear in the book, but something is keeping him from feeling the full effects. That something is Wong.

More specifically it is a group of devotees to magic that somehow absorb the ill effects for Strange without his knowledge. Wong is the one who organised this to happen and the ramifications of it not happening are made very clear and they are not good.

This closer look at the previously little discussed sidekick that is Wong can best be described as a stroke of brilliance. It brings even greater gravity to the story as you are left to wonder what will become of Doctor Strange If these monks are no longer able to bear the consequences of his actions. It is something that will undoubtedly be explored further in the fullness of time and it promises to make The Sorcerer Supreme’s showdown with the anti-magic invaders all the more scintillating.

Of course, a portion of the book did also follow the good doctor as he sought to fend off his would be killers. Unable to use magic for a good portion of the fight as they have successfully stripped most of it from the universe he was forced to resort to hand to hand combat. Well, technically it was sword to snout as he was fighting wolves but still.

This was a welcome change of pace from the mystical adventures of previous installments and it served to freshen up the flow of the narrative, as if it needed it. With this issue Aaron showed his diversity in terms of storytelling ability with this character and reaffirmed the fact that he is the best writer this series could possibly have. The day he leaves this title will be a sad one indeed.

The build provided for the next issue was superb and fans will be clamouring for the conclusion of this story if that should indeed come in the next book. There will undoubtedly be a battle for the ages as Strange finally comes head to head with the antagonists of the piece but it remains to be seen if he can dispatch them in just one issue.

By now the art style for this book is well entrenched in the minds of fans and there is no deviation from that here. Nor should there be though as it works perfectly with what Aaron is going for in terms of the story of this book. Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, John Livesay, Victor Olazaba, and Jaime Mendoza combine to create something ultimately quite beautiful in an a strikingly bizarre way. It is hard to think of a time that a Doctor Strange comic ever looked better.

If you still aren’t reading this book by now, then there is something wrong with you. This is the best Marvel title on offer right now and it is not one to be passed up on. Get out there, pick up a copy, and enjoy.

Score: 5 out of 5.

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Doctor Strange #5 Review

Doctor Strange #4

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Doctor Strange came out swinging when it was launched a few months back and since then it has established itself as the strongest book in Marvel’s revamped line-up. As such each new installment is met with a mix of excitement and trepidation, no one wants to see all that good work go to waste. Would issue four be the book that ruined this series?

In the early stages parallels were drawn between Doctor Strange and DC’s similar title, Constantine: The Hellblazer. These comparisons are very warranted as both deal with the occult and less than perfect mystical lead characters. However, whilst Constantine has also been fantastic, Jason Aaron has done a great job of setting his work apart from all others and has arguably made this the better of the two comics.

The most important thing that Aaron introduces is the idea that using magic has consequences. This entire issue is built around that central theme and it serves to ground the character in a way that hasn’t been achieved in the past. Too often a magical hero would simply be able to use their powers as a means to get out of any corner that a writer may have backed themselves into. It was lazy and undermined the tension of what had preceded it, leading to audiences simply not caring about any future adventures involving that personality. In this book Strange is shown to suffer from extreme bouts of vomiting when he uses his powers too much and as such he is forced to limit himself the way any other hero has to with their own respective abilities.

The addition of these new limitations means that the current villains Strange is running headlong into have taken on an even more sinister nature. It will clearly no longer be a case of him saying just the right words and being done with the situation, he will have to fight tooth and nail just to survive and that kind of tension and drama is exactly what makes this book a must read for any comic book fan.

As of late, most books seem content to have their heroes and villains confront one another immediately and do not put much effort into the build-up. It should be common knowledge that a payoff such as what these writers are looking for can only be achieved when the fans anticipation has been sufficiently stoked. Aaron gets that so right in this book. Audiences have been waiting for Strange to do battle with these Sorcerer killing zealots for four issues now and finally it seems that he is set to do just that next time out. One would expect this battle to be near cataclysmic for Stephen and every single person who has read this far into the series will, without question, be eagerly anticipating the next issue to drop.

Something else that Aaron manages to do here is to make his titular character feel more attached to the world around him, something that hadn’t been done in the previous issues. This doesn’t mean that he is engaging in the real world but rather that he is shown to be heavily involved with other magical types. It’s a nice change of pace to see him being less aloof and appearing suitably scared in the face of the coming war.

The art on this book was managed by a sizable team consisting of Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, John Livesay, Wayne Faucher, Victor Olazaba, and Jaime Mendoza. The risk is always there with a group of this size that the resultant work will be unfocused and tarnished by too many cooks adding to the pot. That is, thankfully, not the case here as this issue is just a spectacular in design as all of the others that came before it. The colouring is arguably the most successful contribution of the artistic team though as Bachalo once again crafts a shadowy world befitting of such an enigmatic character. The final panel is particularly effective in its relative simplicity, setting the tone as it does for the next book.

Once again Doctor Strange is an absolute triumph of creativity and imagination. It may be too early to call this but this is shaping up the finest run in the character’s history. Should this keep up, and there’s no reason to think that it wouldn’t, then Marvel already have their best series of 2016 right here. Do yourself a favour and get reading if you haven’t already.

Score: 5 out of 5.

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Doctor Strange #4

Doctor Strange #3

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People are strange when you’re a stranger, and they don’t come much stranger than the Sorcerer Supreme. The good doctor is back for another action packed adventure in New York City… buck naked. Don’t worry you won’t see the little sorcerer but you will see a fantastical adventure that reaffirms Doctor Strange as one of the best told stories out of any of the big comics at the moment.

If the last story was quite contained and small in scope, then this one was a return to the series opener as readers were once again presented with a city spanning romp that perfectly coupled superb storytelling with exquisite artistry.

The book opens to find Strange running through Central Park in his birthday suit. He manages to avoid violating any public decency laws due to the fact that he is in astral form which is rather fortunate. What that means is his real body is still safely tucked away in the Sanctum but his consciousness has been spirited away and apparently clothes don’t come as part of the deal. He finds himself immediately engaged in a battle with magic eating Een’gawor Slugs and it becomes clear that his own magic is of no use against them. Luckily he stumbles upon The Axe of Angarruumus that graced the front cover of the first issue. See they had a plan for that all along. From there the story unravels and is largely carried by Strange all on his lonesome. What a triumph of direction that it is then that this book retains the immaculate quality of the previous issue.

Jason Aaron continues his sterling work with a script that serves to perfectly reinforce all that has currently been learnt about this character whilst also introducing new facets to the universe around him. It is taught that his magic is not within him but rather dependent on outside energies which creates new worries about the arc’s shadowy villains who seek to destroy magical energy. These touches are what is making a very rich universe for Stephen to live in and creating an unparalleled reading experience. Not only does Strange and the world around him benefit but so too does his house keeper, Wong. He was introduced in the last issue and you get a feel for him quite quickly. He is tough and loyal to the end but appears slightly exasperated by his boss’ antics. That is developed further here as, whilst Strange is traipsing around NYC, Wong ensures the safety of his physical body as well as that of the Sanctum. You get the feeling that the typically aloof lead has but one person he can rely on to be by his side and that resonates with the reader, helping to make Wong a welcome presence on the page.

Thankfully the tone of the book does not veer into too serious a territory and instead injects welcome humour throughout. An obvious example is Stephen essentially streaking through New York but perhaps an even better scene comes when two tourists are discussing how there is nothing to see in The Big Apple at the exact same time that some sort of magical explosion is taking place directly behind them, unseen by their eyes. And this serves as as nice segue into the artistic triumph that is this book.

Chris Bachalo has been flawless since day one and that doesn’t change for even a moment here. His use of colour to create visually arresting frames from start to finish is a skill so few possess. Sure there are plenty who make a bright, pleasing aesthetic but Chris goes beyond that to tell an immediately recognisable story with every brush stroke. He continues with the practice of distinguishing between Strange’s magical world and the real one by draining all of the colour from ‘reality’ and making the other come alive with vibrant hues. Once more each monster looks unique and just works within the confines of the writing, complementing the story and telling one of their own. This pair have proven to be an incredible choice to work on this book together and one would hope they do not get replaced as so often happens in the world of comics.

One more thing that continues to go right in this arc is that the hero has still not come face to face with the villains, allowing tension to continue to build for their eventual confrontation. Strange is by this point aware that something is very wrong in his world and is just now getting ready to find out what is causing these problems. With that in mind it is logical to think that a showdown in not far off but getting there is proving to be so enjoyable that it wouldn’t be the worst thing if they held off for another few issues. Plus, the little bits of development they do for the bad guys each month is paying off in dividends as the picture becomes clearer and more worrisome with each new crumb of information Aaron drops.

It is no surprise that Doctor Strange has once again knocked it out of the park as it continues to ride high on its wave of momentum. Special things are happening with this comic and it is a great time to be a fan of the mystical surgeon turner sorcerer.

Score: 5 out of 5.

Doctor Strange #3