It was an iffy week over here at Comic Book Corner. We had some big hits (Kay still loves West Coast Avengers and Life Is Strange) but there were some serious stinkers on our lists as well.
But the fun news is that Eric has joined us with a few new reviews. Say hi!
West Coast Avengers, Issue #8
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Gang Hyuk Lim
Cover Artist: Eduard Petrovich
Kay: Fresh off their battle with Madame Masque, M.O.D.O.K., and Lady Bullseye, this issue of West Coast Avengers starts off with at least some members of the team taking a little much-needed R&R – while Noh-varr is boring Kate to sleep with his complex theory of how the Skrulls are in L.A., kidnapping innocent people for nefarious purposes. He believes they’re doing this under the cover of the Temple of the Shifting Sun. The team decides to suit up and have Johnny, Kate, and America infiltrate the Temple, using Clint (disguised as Wonder Man, since he’s not famous enough on his own) as a distraction. Meanwhile Gwen and Quentin will sneak into Madame Masque’s base of operations to try and connect her to this.
Both plans go about as you’d expect: poorly. It’s not Skrulls, it’s vampires, and the last page shows them fang deep in America. Madame Masque’s goons realize something’s up when they notice the pink dip dye on Gwen’s hair…oops.
There are so many things I continue to adore about West Coast Avengers. Each character gets a little intro box that reminds me what their powers and super hero names are. America and Ramone have a kiss that takes up a whole panel. Gwen gets to attack stuff with her katanas. America and Ramone have a kiss that takes up a whole panel. This comic seems interested in telling an on-going story, not 5-6 issue arcs that fit neatly into a single trade. Did I mention that America and Ramone have a kiss that takes up a whole panel? Jeff the Land Shark makes an appearance. There’s more shenanigans going on with Kate’s mom, and I’m really having feelings about this whole storyline. I want to know what’s going on, like, *now*.
Gang Hyuk Lim took over as artist (and colorist) on this issue, and while there are great panels that are absolutely adorable, the art overall felt really uneven. There are panels with gorgeous faces next to ones where I’m asking what is even happening. I’ve been fangirling over Triona Farrell’s work on colors for a while now, and while Lim does a perfectly good job on art duties, the book lost that atmospheric feeling that created setting so very well. I’ll be fine if Lim stays on as artist for a while, but I’m honestly hoping that he’s a fill-in.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, Issues #1-3
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Juann Cabal
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Cover Artist: Andrew Robinson
Eric: Since I started getting back into comics in the past couple years, most of my chosen reads have been DC books. I’ve picked up a few Marvel books here and there, but haven’t really found anything I wanted to latch onto. But I was intrigued when I heard about the new Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man (FNSM) series that began in January. I’ve picked up the first three issues to check it out.
The focus of FNSM started out on something of a small scale, with a story centered around residents of Peter Parker’s apartment building. In issue #1, after saving some civilians from a car crash off a bridge, Peter is approached by one of his elderly neighbors, Marnie, who asks him to check up on another neighbor, Leilani, thinking his “friendship” with Spider-Man might assist with the trouble she’s having. Of course, neither of the neighbors is what she seems, and this leads to a conflict with some mysteriously super-strong orange-skinned government agent types who abduct Leilani. Peter then discovers that Leilani left behind her two orange-skinned children hidden, and he gets some assistance from some unexpected sources – including the Human Torch and elderly neighbor Marnie – as he investigates in issue #2. Issue #3 finds Spider-Man and Marnie (who, minor spoiler alert, has powers herself!) traveling through a magical elevator portal to an underground version of New York to rescue their neighbor.
I tend to follow specific writers in my comic book choices, and Tom Taylor is one writer who has piqued my interest lately. I’ve read a few things Taylor has done with some recent DC specials, and I thought his FNSM might be a good point to jump back into Spider-Man stories. Taylor perfectly grasps Spider-Man’s witty and sarcastic tone (the banter between Peter and the supporting cast, especially villain-turned-roommate Boomerang and Human Torch Johnny Storm, is chuckle-inducing), and I appreciated Taylor’s focus on characters in Peter Parker’s neighborhood that basically lends the book its name, rather than dealing with a more expansive Marvel universe. I was initially concerned that issue #3’s elevator-to-underground-New York storyline was a little far-fetched; then I remembered that Spider-Man is a character who has dealt with far-fetched storylines throughout his 50+ year history. Taylor also included a short, charming epilogue-style story at the end of issue #1 with some sure-to-be-important revelation about Aunt May, but I won’t spoil that here.
Juann Cabal’s artwork is especially nice for this series, and I think his graceful, crisp style fits Spider-Man particularly well. Caball doesn’t give Spider-Man the now-standard “spaghetti style” webbing that many other artists draw, but that’s a small observed detail that is insignificant to anything that this book is doing. Overall, FNSM is a nice comic book to look at.
I’m interested to see where Taylor and Cabal take Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. I’m glad I picked up these issues.
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Marcho Checchetto
Colorist: Sunny Gho
Cover Artist: Julian Totino Tedesco
Eric: Daredevil and Spider-Man are my two favorite Marvel characters. With Daredevil, I was an especially avid reader of the gritty Bendis-Maleev and Brubaker-Lark runs of the early 2000s. But I haven’t kept up with Daredevil in the comics since then, and lately I’ve been reading a lot of DC. So, as with Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, when I heard about the new series beginning in February, I thought it would be a great place to jump back into some Marvel comics.
While I haven’t kept up with Daredevil in comics recently, I’ve been a fan of the Netflix streaming series since it began in 2015. I recently finished watching Season 3, which in my opinion was the best season of any of the Marvel Netflix series. Daredevil #1, which begins the new “Know Fear” storyline, reminded me a great deal of the first episode of Season 3. We begin with a rusty Matt Murdock/Daredevil, recovering after an extremely close brush with death. I had no idea what happened to Daredevil at the conclusion of Charles Soule’s run a few months ago, but I was able to gather enough of an idea of the backstory through hints Zdarsky wrote into Daredevil’s narration. Zdarsky shows us the current state of Matt Murdock’s life, as he alleviates his stress and insomnia by bringing home a woman from a seedy bar and then scratching his vigilante itch. These scenes are interspersed with flashbacks to moments in Matt’s younger life, when he began discussing the nature of morality with the leader of his church, Father Cathal, who eventually becomes a confidant. And there’s a subplot involving some Hell’s Kitchen detectives who are on Daredevil’s trail, all while Kingpin is pulling the strings somewhere behind the scenes.
Again, it’s all very reminiscent of the Netflix series. But it’s done very well. Zdarsky paces the story effectively, and the jumps between present day events and the flashback scenes flow seamlessly. Marco Checchetto is a good fit for this series; his figure work reminds me a little bit of Steve McNiven’s figures in past Marvel titles like Civil War or Old Man Logan. Checchetto’s style isn’t as gritty as Alex Maleev’s or Michael Lark’s, but it’s noir enough that it serves this Daredevil book ably. Daredevil is actually only in costume for about nine pages of the story, of course for a fight scene – and again, echoing back to the first episode of Season 3, this Daredevil, who’s not in peak shape, is almost beaten by a few random thugs. I get the sense this first storyline will be focused more on Matt Murdock’s recovery, rather than his costumed adventures. But that’s okay; if the emphasis on Matt can work for the Netflix series, it can work for this series also.
For all the similarities to the Netflix series, this book wasn’t as bloody, nor did it have the strong language that made the Netflix series for mature audiences. But the thematic elements in this issue definitely earned this book it’s PG-13 T+ rating.
For how enjoyable the main story was, the best part of this issue was the back-up story written and illustrated by Zdarsky. Short and sweet at a succinct four pages, it’s a mostly-wordless tale of Daredevil tracking a kidnapper. What’s clever about it is how it’s told: the meat of the story is actually two pages, but Zdarsky doubles it with alternating pages that display the story in “regular” vision, and then show the same story in the dark of Matt Murdock’s eyes. The nine-panel spreads that emphasize the blind Daredevil’s heightened hearing and radar sense are clever juxtapositions against the sighted panels.
I’m adding this book to my pull at my LCS.
Life Is Strange Issue #4 (of 4) (but more coming!)
Writer: Emma Vieceli
Artist: Claudia Leonardi
Colors: Andrea Izzo
Cover Artist: Claudia Leonardi
Kay: This issue wraps up the four-issue arc (“Dust”) that was an extension of the original game, continuing from the timeline where Max saved Chloe’s life. I think it was somewhere around issue #2 or #3 that I started to worry that 4 issues wasn’t going to be enough to tell this story well. I was semi-right.
In Issue #4, Max realizes that she’s being pulled in too many directions. She says that it feels like the “real Max” is out there somewhere, and she’s flickering through dimensions, being pulled towards whatever this Max’s original time stream would be. (A thing I’ve learned to accept about time travel and multiverses is that everyone’s is different, and I need to hope for internally consistent rules, not consistent rules across the genre. It pains me, but there we are.) Max somehow shifts into a sort of space between all the timelines and allows herself to be drawn towards the one that is truly “hers.” The end panel is of her on the beach, surprising Chloe – who hasn’t seen her in ages – and Rachel Amber, who Max never met in the game.
I have feelings about a lot of this. In the original game, Chloe and Max kiss at the end, and my little queer heart went pitter-pat. They kiss again in this issue – then discuss how it was always Rachel that Chloe really had feelings for, and that basically she’s not over it, and so being with Max would be a mistake. I didn’t like it, but okay. And “ending” where Max is meeting up with a Chloe and Rachel who are already best friends…I’m never going to get my friends-to-lovers ending. This makes me sad. The last narrative box says “This action will have consequences.”
Overall, I loved the art in this miniseries, and I’d absolutely check out a book that had Claudia Leonardi working on art. But the moment I was most excited was the last page – where the advert announced Issue #5 coming out in May. YAY! It looks like the team will be the same, and I’m all in.
Man-Eaters, Issue #6
Writer: Chelsea Cain
Pencils: Kate Niemczyk
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Kay: I don’t know what to say about Man-Eaters anymore. Since the very first issue, I have been passionately defending Chelsea Cain’s right to tell the story that she wants. Honestly, I think it’s a little frustrating to hear someone say the equivalent of “I get that there’s queer people out there, but I really want to write a story focused on straight kids,” as if that wasn’t the vast amount of media out there, but I have defended it.
Issue #4 pissed me off with it’s faux-creation of a magazine aimed at boys that included a satirical article about how boys were scared to go to the bathroom with girls. Issue #5 seemed to be back on track with its (cis-centered, but still well-written) story. While Maude and her friends are in the bathroom, one of them disappears, and the entire school goes into panicked lockdown at the potential of a cat attack. Maude is found out for drinking Estro-Pop. Maude’s parents continue to investigate the cat attacks in town.
In terms of story, the continuing events are interesting and continue to keep me reading. Where this issue went horribly, horribly wrong for me is on the very first page. See, the book starts with a letter from the school nurse at Maude’s school, warning parents of a “menstruation event” at the school. It says that “female students – and men with female sex organs – must report to the school nurse’s office for a puberty check.”
WOW, Chelsea. Are you serious? When we were asking for there to be acknowledgement that trans boys and nonbinary kids could also be affected by a society that was trying to stop menstruation, I feel safe saying this was what literally no one meant. There were so many better ways to do this. “All students with a uterus.” “Cis females, trans boys, and nonbinary students.” Also, what the hell is a puberty check? Kids in the book clearly have small breasts and hip curves, they’re going through puberty…
The trade of this book is out, and I seriously considered picking it up…but then put it back on the shelf. I want to like this book so much more than I do. I don’t want to take it off my pull list yet, but I’m also struggling to continue to support this book.
Labyrinth: Coronation Issue #11 (of 12)
Story: Simon Spurrier
Writer: Ryan Ferrier
Illustrated by Daniel Bayliss with Irene Flores
Colors: Joana Lafuente
Cover Artist: Fiona Staples
Kay: My opinion on Labyrinth: Coronation has not changed since the last time we spoke. In this issue, Maria faces off with the Owl King while Sarah faces off with Jareth. While Sarah says “you have no power over me” before the final tolling of the clock – though the implication has always been that Jareth rewinds time to give her that ability – Maria does not. The Owl King picks her up and tosses her out of the labyrinth and back out into the human world.
The caretaker goblin (Beetlegum?) is talking to himself about how this never would have made (him) happy, how he did all of these things to help, but I don’t know what things he’s talking about. He cared for Toby and the other baby, he suggested to both of the kings that this wasn’t the ideal course of action, but he hasn’t *acted* at any point in the story I can remember.
We see the Owl King capture Maria’s baby in one of those crystal globes of which Jareth was so fond. And that’s…it.
The most exciting thing I have to say about the upcoming issue #12 is that then this will be over.