This week’s comic book corner pulls together some things we read at the end of March and the beginning of April. We were super busy people throughout the month – just, unfortunately, not all that busy reading comics! But don’t worry, we’ll get back into the swing of things and be filling up your feeds with all the comic reviews you can stand this month.
Marvel Team-Up Featuring Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel
Writer: Eve L. Ewing
Artist: Joey Vazquez
Colorist: Felipe Sobreiro
Cover Artist: Stefano Caselli & Triona Farrell, Variant Covers: Paco Medina & Jesus Aburtov; Todd Nauck & Rachelle Rosenberg
Kay: It’s been a long time since I’ve read a titled Team-Up issue. It’s not infrequent for heroes to cross over; for example, Wolverine showed up in the original run of Ms. Marvel, Tom Taylor wrote a brilliant issue with Squirrel Girl appearing in All-New Wolverine, and in Sina Grace’s Iceman, Bobby goes out on a blind date, only to bump into Firestar and Spider-Man. And of course, Team-Up issues go way back; team-ups were often seen as a way to increase a new character’s reach and bring in new readers. And of course, the original Team-Up series featured Spider-Man and whoever was hanging out in New York that week; having Spidey in the first issue here just seems right.
One of the fun things about this Marvel Team-Up Featuring Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel, of course, is that neither of these characters needs an introduction. Spider-Man was created in 1962 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and Ms. Marvel’s incredible popularity began when she was introduced in 2013, moving to her own series in 2014. This is a great way to kick off a new series: the ultimate fangirl meets one of the most famous Marvel heroes. Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel get a three issue arc, and then the series looks like it will continue with new characters.
I am mostly a fan of cinematic Spider-Man, with the new Tom Holland portrayal my favorite live-action movie; the recent Into the Spider-Verse is beyond incredible, and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. That said, CBC’s Eric has been tempting me with his recent write-ups on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. But Kamala Khan is one of my favorite characters in all of 616 Marvel, and Eve Ewing has been absolutely killing it on Ironheart, so ultimately, this book was a must-buy from me as soon as I saw the solicit.
The story of the comic is pretty cool; both Peter Parker and Kamala Khan are attending a presentation at ESU, a local college, where Dr. Yesenia Rosario is delivering a keynote about her new mind-preserving technology; her “Polly” device can download a person’s consciousness for remote storage. Of course the keynote is attacked by Jackal, and Kamala and Peter team-up to take him out and save the day.
What’s fascinating about this book is its reversible format. You can start from either the front or back of the book and work towards the middle with its ultimate revelation of the classic identity switch. From one side of the book, you get Kamala’s perspective and her contemplation of what it’ll be like when she’s more adult; from the other, you get Peter getting ready for the event and missing his youth. When the two storylines collide, the book reminds you to flip back to the other side and read into the middle again.
I was skeptical about how this would feel as a reader at first, but I actually like how it dealt with a classic team-up problem: trying to show what everyone’s doing all at once. The characters have to be forced together quickly in scenarios that don’t always make sense, and they have to stick together throughout the action, even when they’d be more effective splitting up. I got both Peter and Kamala’s perspective on events as they unfolded, and I loved the joined perspectives when I got to the center.
I really enjoyed this book, and I’m so excited to read the rest of the arc.
Wizard Beach Issue #4
Writer: Shaun Simon
Artist: Conor Nolan
Colors: Meg Casey
Cover Artist: Conor Nolan
Publisher: Boom! Studios
MAJK: Now that Hex thinks has discovered the spell he needs to save his homeland, he’s more determined than ever to escape the beach. All he must do is convince his Uncle Sally that he’s having a good time.
While Uncle Sally seems fooled, Agnes, the lovely young witch who has grown fond of Hex, isn’t.
Agnes flat out tells him “I get it. You are here for one thing, and now that you’ve found it, you have no use for anyone else.” OUCH! I love this witch. Hex is so single minded in his focus that he doesn’t realize what he is missing. It appears his Uncle realizes this as well. After a heart to heart, while ballooning (by which I mean turning themselves in to balloons), Sally frees Hex of the curse.
While packing to go Hex again overhears his Uncle’s closest friends conspiring again, and he discovers the involvement of someone he would never have expected. As Hex leaves, he attempts to warn his Uncle but is once more frustrated by Sally’s apparent obliviousness to the world around him.
Hex’s return home is emotional, and you can see the conflict he is feeling. Simon’s fun dialogue moves the story along at a bouncy clip but there are several points that he lets the art to the heavy lifting, and this is one.
Nolan, Schall, Lewis, and Casey come through with flying colors in each of these moments, quite literally in some cases. The running of the jellyfish is a stunning two-page splash worthy of being framed. Yes, it’s that pretty. Throughout the jellyfish festival and Hex’s return home Nolan, Schall, Lewis, and Casey combine their respective magics to conjure some of the most evocative panels rendering a sense of joy and wonder blended with the sadness of leaving a place you just realized you enjoy. The utter sadness in Hex’s face on the train home is a real heart tugging moment but will the magic he’s learned be enough to stop the cold, dark, and fighting that plagues his home?
If you haven’t been following this comic, I’d recommend checking it out. It’s a refreshingly relatable, fantasy ride against the sea of high-action angst and gore that often populates the comic shelves. It’s one of those comics that you can read with your child, without having to explain heavy topics or censor scenes. At the same time, it is a truly delightful tale that anyone of any age can enjoy.
Labyrinth Coronation Issue #12 (of 12)
Story: Simon Spurrier
Writer: Ryan Ferrier
Artists: Daniel Bayliss with Irene Flores
Colorist: Joana Lafuente
Cover Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Kay: Labyrinth: Coronation. At least it’s over.
Seriously, I don’t have anything more to say about this story. Well, I’m more than a little heartbroken that this is how it ended; I had such high hopes when I read the first issue. Last May, I was fervently recommending the first issue of this series, but it went horribly off the rails at some point. I don’t really know what happened. Perhaps the story of Sarah and Toby should have been left entirely out of the telling. Maybe Maria just wasn’t a strong enough character. Maybe the writers got tired of the parallels and just decided to tell their own story part way through. I have no idea.
Throughout the series, you are teased about whether or not Maria’s baby is Jareth, the Goblin King. There are many implications that he is…but the story never answers that question. In Issue #12, the story specifically refuses to answer any of the questions the series has posed. The last time I saw such an unsatisfying ending was How I Met Your Mother. And Maria ends up staying at Jareth’s magical ball with her abusive husband, the one who threw her and her son out of the house and started this whole mess.
I will not be buying this in trade, I won’t be keeping my single issues, and I’m definitely not going to recommend this series to anyone. Go watch the movie; it’s beautiful and magical and lovely. Skip this series entirely.
Zodiac Issue #1
Writer: Joe Brusha
Artist: Daniel Maine
Colors: Jorge Cortes
Cover Artist: Igor Vitorino; Ivan Nunes
MAJK: If you’ve never been introduced to Zenescope or the Grim Universe the first thing you need to know is every story and every character are based on fairy tales – but these fairy tales come with a twist. It might even be more accurate to say they are based on twisted fairy tales.
Zodiac #1 is the first issue of a three-part mini-series, that features Patrick O’Connell, a super assassin. Patrick’s backstory is typical for the comic world. As a kid in Ireland he watched his sister murdered by a random junkie; he became motivated try and rid Belfast of drugs. Standard, Punisher style origin. His story then takes a leap down the fairy tale rabbit hole. He meets Merlin the Magician who helps create a magic-enhanced super suit which turns him into an unstoppable assassin.
Who doesn’t love an assassin? In the comic world, the bad guy working for good is one of the more popular tropes out there. It’s popular for a reason. Not all stories based on it work, but so far Zodiac does. The smooth narration of the first two pages come on all the right kinds of strong thanks to Taylor Esposito’s wonderfully chosen dialogue font. This makes Zodiac sound somewhere between lost soul and avenging angel. The incredible art work of Daniel Mainé offers us detailed shots of Patrick’s suite and each of his weapons. From guns to blades to claws to cross bow, Mainé adds a science fiction vibe with the futuristic look and piecemeal shots that culminate in an awesome full body reveal. Cortes uses a combination of shadowy blacks with cool blues that enhance the science fiction otherworldly tech vibe giving this comic an almost cinematic opening.
Zodiac #1 sets up the overall story nicely; Brusha paces it well given that there’s a lot to do when you have to cram one third of a story into a single issue. We get a tense and intriguing opening scene, the TL;DR of Merlin’s Directive to stop the Order of Tarot, and we the back story of Patrick’s deeply personal vengeance mission, all while navigating action packed fight scenes, meeting a mysterious witch, and finally joining forces with another one of the Grimm Universes delightfully deadly characters.
I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy this series. This is shaping up to be a great grab for fans of comics like The Punisher and The Darkness. Any Zenescope fan will find this an acceptable addition to the publisher’s line-up. I’ve already grabbed the next issue.