Thanos #1 Review

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The Mad Titan cometh. In keeping with Marvel’s new, villain-led, direction that has seen the rise of such titles as Carnage and the upcoming Venom, audiences are now being treated to a standalone series following perhaps the single most evil entity in the entire Marvel Universe, Thanos. The question going into this debut issue though was always going to be how, with such a one-dimensional character, could Jeff Lemire write a compelling narrative?

In the case of Carnage, it was relatively easy to set a series around his exploits as he is, at his very core, a character steeped in complexity. Cletus is the product of a broken home, tormented by an abusive father and cast out by society, due to this a reader can be brought around to feel sympathy for him whilst still maintaining his terrifying aura. When it comes to Thanos however, it is not such a simple task. This is a character that shows no compassion, no relatable traits, and no interest in turning his life around so a book that follows his journey runs the risk of being a one note failure. Lemire manages to avoid such a disastrous step with ease though, which should be no surprise to those familiar with his work.

The focus is not truly on Thanos, despite the book’s title. Instead the lens is turned on The Black Order, Corvus Glaive, and most notably of all Thanos’ own family. The opening deals with The Order and Corvus, showing readers how the absence of the once dominant god has allowed Corvus to seize control of his vast army. The beauty of this prolonged segment is to show the juxtaposition between Thanos and his would-be usurper. The latter rules through rewards and his own form of kindness, if you work for him then you will reap the rewards of your labour and due to this the Order grows exponentially under him. The former bothers not with such diplomacy as he storms in to reclaim what is rightfully his. Lemire and artist Mark Deodato Jr. put across the enormity of the imposing villain by quite literally filling the frame with him as he confronts Corvus. The viciousness and brutality that one would expect from Thanos are present and accounted for as Lemire allows him to revel in his own sadism, a touch that fills readers with hope as the series continues. It would appear that the character is going to be done justice by this talented writer.

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As the story progresses you get to see a whole world of deceit and treachery develop as Champion of the Universe: Tryco Slatterus, Starfox and Thane begin to join together in order to kill Thanos once and for all. It appears that they are being given the confidence to embark on such a mission by Death who reveals that Thanos is dying. Therein lies the most important hook as it throws up many questions. What is killing the god-like Thanos? Will he be able to defend himself against such a collective force? And will he find a cure to that which ails him?

As noted before, Mark Deodato Jr. does a wonderful job of bringing this rich story to life with his weighty set pieces and excellent character portrayal. Each face tells its own story and every character feels unique enough to warrant their inclusion. The glaringly obvious size disparity between Thanos and Corvus is handled expertly and it gives a real sense of scale to the enormous conqueror. Whilst the colour pallet is a little limited, this works in the favour of the book as these are characters that exist in the darkest reaches of the Marvel Universe, such a sense of foreboding should be considered mandatory.

All things considered, Thanos #1 is an exceptionally strong opener to what could be a must-read series. The story is set up in a compelling manner and the reader is invited to pick a side in this upcoming war. If Lemire continues to shine here as he has done with his work on Old Man Logan then Thanos could be a real unexpected treat.

Score: 9.0/10.

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Thanos #1 Review

Infamous Iron-Man #1 Review

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I am Iron Doom. Yes, it would seem that Marvel is not content with adding just one new Iron-Man to its repertoire and has opted instead to give fans a second in the unlikely form of Victor Von Doom. Could such a bold, left field move possibly be a success?

Doctor Doom first reappeared in the Invincible Iron-Man comics earlier this year and under somewhat ambiguous circumstances. He seemed to be set on a new path of heroism as he aided the then Iron-Man, Tony Stark, in his battles against Madame Masque along with a few others. The answer to the of question of why the former country leading terrorist had seemingly switched sides never became abundantly clear however and it appears that this new series will tackle that conundrum.

From Brian Michael Bendis’ opening to this new series it is clear that the psychology of Doom is set to be put front and centre as the story unfolds. That one simple fact immediately sets this apart as the most interesting Iron title on the market right now, though that is hardly a difficult achievement. In a scene that evokes both great comedy and a haunting sense of foreboding, you get to see The Hood and Doom (Prior to his transformation to good guy) engaging in a little verbal back and forth as Hood inundates Doom with personal questions in a decidedly fanboy-esque manner and the former leader of Latveria becomes increasingly irritated with his stooge. The moment asks two very important questions; what is Doom’s goal and why didn’t he kill The Hood?

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With regards to the first question, that will serve as the underpinning to this entire journey readers are now about to embark upon. It is something that Bendis should be careful not to reveal too quickly lest the series become tired without that sense of intrigue. The second rather informs the first as it shows that this switch in personality for Doom may have been a long time coming, rather than a spur of the moment thing. It is certainly out of character for him to banish someone from his villainous meetings rather than dispose of them more permanently.

With the set up for the series out of the way it is time to look at how this issue performes as a standalone entity. With the brilliantly designed plotline it would be natural to assume that you’d be treated to a strong opening issue but that simply isn’t the case here. Yes, certain aspects do garner some interest as they cause you to question everything you know about Doom and second guess his motives as he begins his transition into the role of the new Iron-Man but, for the most part, the writing feels flat and, at times, hopelessly dull.

The strongest indicator that this was not a rousing read is that the entire middle portion of the book is almost instantly forgettable. You get a fantastic opening segment as discussed above and the ending leaves you somewhat eager to see what is to come next but the bulk of the story follows Doom through a series of tedious encounters that do little to inform on his character beyond what you already knew. He saves Director Hill and visits Stark’s scientist ex-girlfriend, neither of which gives any useful information to readers save for giving them the heads up that The Thing is set to have showdown with Victor in the very near future (say, next issue maybe).

This is all indicative of a larger problem with Bendis’s writing and that is that it always feels as though he is writing with the Trade Paperback in mind so that his work can be read as a collection. True, when the TP is released it will likely read very well but that won’t help keep monthly sales at the level they need to be as reader interest is going to die off if they’re subjected to long periods where nothing of any note happens.

Moving on, you will find the art and colouring provided by Alex Maleev and Matt Hollingsworth to be disappointingly subpar. Perhaps this is nothing more than a matter of personal taste but the majority of the panels look far too grim and muddy to spark any excitement in the audience. With the exception of the depiction of Doom’s magic, the colours are all subdued and difficult to distinguish. It makes for a boring read visually and does absolutely nothing to breathe life into the almost equally uninspiring script. The lone strength can be found in the imposing manner that The Thing is drawn in, he looks every bit the tower of stone that he is and it does give cause for at least some excitement to be felt in anticipation of his inevitable battle with Doom.

Working with such an interesting premise should have lit a fire under all those tied to this book but sadly it doesn’t seem to have done so. There are moments of promise to be found and the hook at the end is enough to bring most back for a second go around but overall this issue can be listed as a missed opportunity. The hope is that Bendis and co. can do some serious course correction as quickly as possible in order to salvage what could still be a classic saga.

Score: 3.0/10

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Infamous Iron-Man #1 Review

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

Carnage #8 Review

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‘Carnage’. It is a series that should be near the top of comic sales charts right now due to its originality and creativity. It offers something entirely unique in a world of boring movie tie-ins and about a thousand different Spider-Man books. Strangely though, it appears that people don’t much care for originality anymore as Carnage’s sales figures continue in their downwards trajectory. So why exactly is that and did issue #8 offer some degree of course correction?

The short answer is that it did not. Issue #8 remained true to the feel of the earlier entries in this series as it retained the dark, quirky silliness that has come to define Gerry Conway and Mike Perkins’ work on this title. The problem with this is that, whilst is does make for some excellent reading for the initiated, it does not lend itself well to new readers who aren’t so knowledgeable when it comes to Marvel’s rich history. The best examples of this come in the form of The Darkhold, which has been present in the comic world since the 1970’s, and the newly introduced Demi-God Chthon, who has been around since 1975. Due to the inaccessibility of such an eclectic tale it makes it highly unlikely that sales figures will ever improve, but they will probably fall a fair way yet.

It is a crying shame that Carnage is destined to be cancelled like so many that have come before it because what Conway and Perkins have managed to achieve with this one note supervillain is quite remarkable. Never before has Carnage, who arguably reached the peak of his fame in the 1990’s, been so interesting in his presentation. Typically, he has been a one-dimensional killer with very little to offer unless surrounded by a dynamic supporting cast, such as the ever witty Spider-Man or the bullish Venom. What has been done here is a complete 180 from all of that as you will now find yourself looking forwards to the crimson catastrophe’s appearances on the page more than anyone else’s. That is especially true in this issue as he is the only one with anything interesting going on.

Perhaps that is a large part of the problem for some readers, the supporting cast are often left feeling quite irrelevant and rather underdeveloped. Case in point, just a few issues back Jubulile was introduced and looked set to become a massive part of this second arc as she took on some undefined part of Carnage’s powers and escaped his clutches. Now though, she has been reduced to a barely present entity that matters very little in the grand scheme of things. That will most probably change in the near future as she pulls some Deus Ex Machina nonsense to save the day but until then people will continue to be baffled by her lack of inclusion.

The wider supporting cast also have much the same problem in that none of them have anything interesting to say beyond telling Eddie Brock to shut up. That’s hardly sterling character development and has done a lot to downgrade this comic in the estimation of its remaining fans. They’d all still admit though that Carnage’s antics are very nearly enough to entirely make up for the weak spot in Conway’s writing.

In terms of the story set out in this instalment, there is a decent amount of goodness to sink your teeth into. The drama involving Carnage’s search for answers in relation to the Darkhold continues and it takes him into a rare situation, one that sees him put in harm’s way. The side characters being introduced from month to month are definitely getting more developed and they actually offered more to the overall story than Brock and his team have for a long while now. The stakes are being raised little by little and if everything continues as it is then this arc should conclude in epic fashion with ramifications that reach as far into the future as this comic lasts.

Perkins’ art is still as beautiful as ever but there is no reason to rewrite a description of it once more so here’s an example to do the talking instead.

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So yes, Carnage could well be finding itself on the cancelled list soon enough but for now let’s just enjoy the uniqueness on offer and hope that Marvel allow the experiment to continue for a long while yet.

Score: 7.0/10.

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Carnage #8 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

Spider-Man #4 Review

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You want lots of character building and dialogue coupled with next to no action? Well you got it. So that’s probably the wrong way to introduce Spider-Man #4 but it is essentially the truth. There is precious little in the way of actual action but then that is really what sets this series apart from all the other Spidey ones on the market right now. What it does do is capture the life of a modern teenager remarkably well.

So what do you get in lieu of all the fighting exactly? For the most part it’s a prolonged conversation between Ganke and Miles in which they debate which of them is the most oppressed in modern society, something that seems to be a very active competition amongst most teens. Ganke asserts that he gets the worst of it due to his weight whilst Miles contests that being black is more of a struggle. Neither one of them is willing to relent and look at things from the other’s perspective for just a moment, which again is typical of teens as they tend to only be interested in their own point of view and to hell with anyone else’s.

Bendis has already established a rich theme of tackling issues such as these in this series and he does a moderately good job of portraying the character’s concerns this time around too. Both of the boy’s gripes feel quite realistic to their station in life although the way that they are presented comes across as being quite shoehorned in. The argument itself is born out of nothing and seems entirely tangential to the actual narrative at play.

That narrative is the arrival of a new ‘hero’ at their school. A mutant known as Goldballs (Worst name ever) has joined their year and Ganke has something of a man crush on him which leads to some mildly off-putting gushing on his part. The escalating argument between the friends along with the new student leads to Ganke essentially betraying Miles and spilling his secret to Goldballs. It is a bit of a jaw dropper of a moment and one that allows this relationship to take a very interesting turn as you are left wondering how they can salvage the friendship and what the ramifications are going to be now that an outsider knows Miles is Spider-Man. The most likely answer is that ‘Balls will turn into an ally for a time but Bendis might decide to break the habit of a lifetime and steer things in a more original direction.

There is some action to be had at the very end of this comic as Hammerhead comes after Spidey on the orders of Black Cat. This is another element that should serve to greatly alter the life of young Miles and it promises to be a very engaging storyline, especially once it aligns with the Ganke/Goldballs saga that is unfurling alongside it.

Sara Pichelli, Gaetano Carlucci, and Justin Ponsor share the art responsibilities on this title and the end result is largely a success though there are some elements that appear to have been rushed just a little bit. The good comes in the form of Spidey’s fluidity of movement throughout the scenes with Hammerhead, he looks every bit the aerial acrobat that the character is supposed to be. The misses are less noticeable as they occur in the background of some scenes. Often the scenery is incomplete and rushed looking, most notably in the cafeteria. It is a relatively small gripe but one that you will notice and may well be irritated by.

Issue #4 is best described as a mixed bag. There is plenty to compliment but so too is there plenty to criticise and it makes for a middling reading experience. This is still better than Amazing Spider-Man but it falls just shy of the unexpectedly brilliant Spider-Man 2099. A little work could push it to the head of the queue though.

Score: 6.0/10.

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Spider-Man #4 Review

Old Man Logan #6 Review

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‘Old Man logan’ has consistently been the brightest book on the Marvel landscape alongside the spectacular ‘Doctor Strange’. Jeff Lemire has proven himself something of a revolutionary with the way that he has written the troubled character and as such Wolverine if more interesting now than he has been in the last decade or so. All that being said it is far from uncommon for a comic to lose steam in its second arc, so could this one buck that trend?

Last month fans were offered a subdued adventure filled with wistful wanderings rather than blood soaked violence and that was actually a very refreshing way for Logan to be presented. Despite how good the beginning of ‘Bordertown’ was everyone knew that the series couldn’t stick to the action light format for a second straight issue and so issue #6 saw Lemire up the pace. In order to achieve this return to violent form he brought in the cyborg group known as The Reavers to hunt down and kill Logan along with everyone else in the frozen little town.

What’s worth noting is that, despite the switch back to an action heavy style, Logan still retains his thoughtful quality from the last instalment. There is a beautifully detailed scene where he strolls through the town in search of a missing dog and remarks on the hardiness of the inhabitants. To see this man who, just a few issues ago, was lost and without a home suddenly feel like he belongs in a place was powerful indeed. Of course, any intelligent reader would take that as a huge warning signal that death and suffering was about to fall on the town.

Despite the cartoony nature of The Reavers they still made for a formidable foe in the confines of this story. This is a weakened, aged Logan that fans are now following and so a pack of homicidal, enhanced beings creates a real sense of dread as you know that they now have a far better chance of taking out Logan that they would have had they been facing his younger self. Add to that the presence of a young Maureen and you have yourself a recipe for some delicious tension topped off with a garnish of uncertainty.

As is always the case Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo turned in some exquisite work in colouring and inks. These two should be considered the premiere art team of the time as they provide audiences with stunning books again and again. To say what makes them so great would be to retread tired ground so let these frames speak volumes instead.

When compared to the first four issues, this one feels as though it was slightly more lacking in terms of progression but it was nonetheless a superb entry into the series. Lemire is currently the head writer on three excellent books, the other two being Moon Knight and Extraordinary X-Men, so it is astounding that he has managed to keep this one as near perfect as it is.

Score: 8.5/10.

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Old Man Logan #6 Review