Review: Secret Avengers #25

Secret Avengers

Secret Avengers #25
Rick Remender (writer), Gabriel Hardman (pencils, inks), Bettie Breitweiser (colours), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Arthur Adams & Peter Steigerwald (cover). $3.99

Rick Remender’s current story line to Secret Avengers comes to a conclusion with some major surprises along the way, leaving us begging for the next issue.

Featuring a full-scale battle against robotic clones of Avengers – both old and new – Remender’s Secret Avengers team featuring new leader Hawkeye brings thrills and some life-changing moments.

Remender lets every Avenger get some time to shine throughout the story: from the sudden resurrection of Ant-Man getting some butt-kicking scenes, to the Human Torch leaving the story with a frightening conclusion; no one character outshines another. Everyone has a voice in the book and much like in Uncanny X-Force, Remender finds a way to give the story a perfect balance of characterization.

What can definitely be taken away from this book is how well Remender turns around our opinions of Ant-Man’s sudden return. Much like how people are beginning to feel about the recent amount of deaths in comics only-to-come-back issues later, the previous issues final page showing Eric O’Grady’s death followed by his reappearance one issue later flustered me beyond belief. How could Remender do something so ridiculous like bringing back a character one issue later? To leave spoilers out of it, the final pages of this issue make you realize that the author always has something up his sleeve.

To make the already great story even better, artist Gabriel Hardman really kicks it up with some fast-paced noir-style action in this issue. Punches are thrown, explosions are had, and beat up bodies scour each page with deep inks and colours. It took a few issues for me to realize it, but for a secret ops book, the art style matches the story perfectly. Panels are scary when necessary while lines are crisp and intense. Hardman really hits the nail on the head with this issue with very clean storytelling and even cleaner visuals.

Nothing could be done without Bettie Breitweiser’s colours, however. The balance of colours when people like The Human Torch fly across the panels, or a various city landscapes with varying blues and street lights give depth – all of it adds to the noir-style that Hardman creates. Breitweiser should stick to Hardman like how Dean White does with Opena, Brooks, and Ribic on Uncanny X-Force. (Jeez, I can’t get enough Remender, can I?)

With the arc coming to a close and Avengers versus X-Men now rearing its crossover head, I’m sure we’ll have a lot more excitement in-store for the stealthy Avengers.

Grade: 8/10

Keep on Space Truckin’!

The Blood Theatre Review: Legion of Monsters TPB

This is a review I’ve done up for The Blood Theatre. If you love horror, blood, guts, gore, violence, and all that other stuff that’s against the norm, I’d check it out. I write for them after all. . .

But on to the review!

Legion of Monsters

Legion of Monsters TPB
Dennis Hopeless (writer), Juan Doe (artist, cover), Wil Quintana (colours), Dave Lanphear (letters). $15.99

If you’re the person who enjoys having fun while reading your horror, look no further than Marvel’s Legion of Monsters mini-series. Collecting issues #1-4, LoM is a hilariously intriguing look at some of Marvel’s most prominent creatures of the night: The Legion’s leader, the vampire Morbius; with Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night; The Living Mummy, and Manphibian all leads in the story.

Acting as a monster policing force, the anti-heroes are work to round up stray monsters and pull them into the depths of New York City where they can live freely. Naturally, something stirs up problems with the underworld leaving the monsters in a state of chaos. Monsters start attacking each other and begin rampaging amongst the surface world.

Enter Elisa Bloodstone – monster slayer. She is set up early in the story as someone who tricks monsters into trying to kill her via stereotypical monster-movie lore: Elisa dancing in a bedroom in her underwear while the monster sniffs her “innocence” out. Unfortunately for the unnamed monster, this means total doom.

Elisa realizes there is a problem with the monsters and teams up with Morbius’ monster police to help solve the problem. Quickly established as funny with tons of wit, the story turns into a murder mystery the characters trying to solve the reason why monsters are trying to kill everything.
Writer Dennis Hopeless hits the nail in the coffin with this story. Each page is guaranteed to make you feel worried for the team, wonder what could happen next, or even just laugh out loud.

Monster-driven dialogue is not something that is seen too often with stories, let alone comic books. Hopeless manages to give each character a distinct voice, as well as their own sense of humour. While Morbius and Bloodstone are shown as the leads of the story, the supporting roles are necessary as well as natural feeling as any friendship would be – whether you’re a monster or not.

Playing off that, Hopeless shows the reader that monsters aren’t entirely monsters either. The characters have emotions, feelings, and love for one another. Despite being hideously grotesque, monsters like Manphibian reminds the reader of that ‘loser kid’ from grade school who grew up to embrace his loser-dom. Morbius is smart, witty, and is looking for love in all of the wrong places. Although they are monsters, they are just as human and colourful as everyone else in our lives we could think of.

And colourful does not even begin to explain the excitement and thrills that comes from Juan Doe’s art. Images are flashy, tastefully cartoony, and brilliantly executed. Everything moves with excellent fluidity. Lines are clean when needed and disrupted when required. Doe has such a strong feel about the mood Hopeless wants to create that it would be as if they were in each other’s heads.

Meanwhile colourist Wil Quintana excels at trying the mood of the story together between Hopeless and Doe. Bright colours are never overdone, while even the darkest of colours still compliment Doe’s pencils and inks. Given the mix of the monsters available, Quintana has a lot of room to play around with colours, and he doesn’t seem to fool around at all with it.

While the series only lasted four issues, the trade paperback is an excellent way to make this book quickly accessible to enjoy at your own leisure and pass around to your friends. Although we may not see anything from the Legion of Monsters any time soon due to poor sales figures, this story stands out as being one of the best monster-books in a long time. Easily re-readable, action-packed, and funny, you’ll be demanding more from the Legion as soon as you close the book.

Grade: 9/10

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Toronto ComicCon Recap!

As promised, my review from the Toronto ComicCon!

But first, I’ve been crazy-busy with work. I thought I would have had this up sooner, so I apologize for being so late. Blame the vikings.

ComicCon

I got to the Con around 11am and due to some unfortunate lack of organization, I didn’t get in until twelve – and that was by purchasing an advanced ticket. While I didn’t whine or complain at all, I knew the reasoning behind it was because this was the first year for the Con. Usually the Con is small and does not cater to so many celebrities, as well as the anime, science-fiction, and horror audience. Alas, I don’t think the people running the Con were expecting such a large turn out. Props to them for keeping their heads cool, despite all of the rage-induced fanboys that went after them.

The workers at FanExpo and the Toronto ComicCon deserve more respect than they’re given.

I managed to get in and pick up some early issues of X-Men for a great price. X-Men #16 and X-Men #19 (last story by Stan Lee) were picked up at an excellent price. However, my prized win was picking up a pretty decent quality copy of Amazing Adult Fantasy #8. Originally called “Amazing Adventures,” the title changed with issue #7. The stories were by Stan Lee, with the artwork & cover done by Steve Ditko.

Seven issues later with issue #15, this title would be renamed “Amazing Fantasy,” and feature the first appearance of a nobody named Spider-Man. With issue #15, the series would get canceled. The rest is history.

AmazingAdultFantasy

While I didn’t bring anything to sign for him, George Perez was there and as expected, had the largest line at the Con.

A few friends of mine lined up for signatures with Mark Bagley, while I met up with Swamp-Thing artist, Yanick Paquette. I got chatting with him and he explained to me a few extremely interesting things about his artwork and how he does it. I won’t go into details here, however. He was a incredibly down-to-earth guy and was absolutely hilarious.

After a few more scores: Uncanny X-Men #201 (first Cable) and the mini’s of X-Men: Phoenix Endsong and Cloak & Dagger volume 1 #1-4, I headed off to see the sketch duel between Paquette and Daredevil artist Paolo Rivera.

Both gentlemen were hilarious at the panel – making jokes and describing their reasonings to why they got into art in the first place.

As for the sketches, they were challenged to draw Spider-Man punching a shark. Yup.

Overall, it was a great time. I wish I had both arrived earlier and was able to go the second day, but alas, work calls!

I’m definitely excited to see what the next Con will bring!

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Review: Swamp Thing #7

Can you believe it?! A DC Comic review!

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been reading Swamp-Thing since the New 52 began because I’m a sucker for horror. This is quite possibly one of the best decisions I’ve made. But on to the review, shall we?

Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing #7
Scott Snyder (writer), Yanick Paquette (pencils, inks), Nathan Fairbairn (colours), Travis Lanham (letters), Paquette & Fairbairn (cover). $2.99

It may have taken seven issues, but we finally have our Swamp Thing. However, if you were complaining about not seeing our monster-hero of the Green until now, then I’d have to question if you’ve been reading the same series of Swamp Thing that I have.

Scott Snyder has built this series up without the “hero” being present, yet still drew in readers each month. How? He created a world where a hero was needed by keeping the soon-to-be Swamp Thing – Alec Holland – human. He re-established the story for new readers, while keeping it still interesting enough for older ones to want to come back to read. Building suspense and story along the way, the true horrors of the Rot were what kept everyone coming back. Each issue would end with the reader asking, Where is our hero? Not because Swamp Thing wasn’t there, but because there was no glimmer of hope left for the world.

Issue seven brings Holland with his last breath of air – the Rot has overcome him while the Parliament of Trees die, condemning Holland for not becoming the Swamp Thing sooner. Scott Snyder makes Holland remain human as long as possible not only to make his inevitable change into Swamp Thing that much more important, but to give the fear behind the series that much more power. The assimilation of the Rot, the terror it brings, and the death it creates – all of it boils into the climatic moment where Holland finally accepts his fate.

To sharpen the point, Yanick Paquette completely obliterates any sort of safe feelings with his artwork. An acid trip with trees and fire, Paquette truly adds depth and chaos to the story with his impeccable take on the nature Snyder built. Details are unbarred – the grit, the grain, the green – all building to the single-page awakening of the Swamp Thing puts any panels he’s done prior in this series to shame.

Colours are absorbent with rich shades of greens and stings of orange. The balance of colours for Fairbairn are something to strive for as a colourist. Even with such a limited colour palette, the book glows with emotion and power.

As if they were meant for each other, Snyder, Paquette, and Fairbairn meld their story-telling into something glorious.

And that something glorious, to paraphrase Snyder is: “The monster.”

Grade: 10/10

And just hang in there! This review is posted over at The Blood Theatre! Check it out!

Review: Secret Avengers #23

I haven’t done one of these in a long time! Time has flown by!

In Secret Avengers, as seen by the cover – Venom joins the team. Oh, and by the way, Venom is now Peter Parker’s old high school colleague Flash Thompson. I’ll admit, I haven’t been catching up with my Spider-Man lore at all. When I saw Flash Thompson for the first time in years, I couldn’t believe he was missing his legs. He lost them due to fighting in the Iraq War. I had no idea Marvel went down that route at all. Kudos to them.

Secret Avengers

Secret Avengers #23
Rick Remender (writer), Gabriel Hardman (pencils, inks), Bettie Breitweiser (colours), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Arthur Adams & Peter Stiegerwald (cover). $3.99

The last time I can recall reading a story with so much intensity due to dialogue was Fred Van Lente’s Taskmaster mini-series. Writer Rick Remender does such an incredible job at giving everyone important moments and nails every voice along the way. I’ve always been iffy with Hawkeye because I find writers never know what to do with him. He’s either too much of a jerk or a complete goof. Remender nails the character and even gives subtle hints to why the character is that way. The same goes for Ant-Man. I was wondering why Warren Ellis just forgot about the character during his brief stint in the series. Turns out Remender had something special planned with his characterization.

The story moves on a very strong pace. Nothing is filler and everything is useful. Reading through the book, I felt as if Remender overdid himself with the story – there is just that much happening all of the time in the book. The conversations that need to be had are said. This is a solid story.

Art by Gabriel Hardman is also exceptional. The wonderful noir feeling throughout the whole issue is completely tasteful to the changing scenery. From the view of the Lighthouse in space, to a hospital scene, to another world and a gritty city – the transitions are flawless in his storytelling capabilities.

But what I must point out is how incredible Bettie Breitweiser’s colouring job is. Hands-down, the colours are the best thing about the story. Images truly come alive with Breitweiser’s great work on tones and highlights. Looking at the light pollution from the city gives so much more life to the buildings, while the transitions onto the final few pages carries the same energy to the climactic cliffhanger. Facial features are accented beautifully, and nothing is ever overdone. Dean White has a run for his money with Breitweiser on the prowl.

Criticizing the story however, I find that Remender is trying to buff his team up with as much “awesome” as possible. Last issue Captain Britan joined, while in this issue, both Jim Hammond (The Human Torch) and Venom have jumped on-board. While I do not mind the great variety of the series, I found that the previous writers: Ellis, Spencer, and Brubaker, couldn’t incorporate everyone into the story because it was stretching itself on the cast. Remender was able to give mostly everyone a voice, but the larger cast will certainly leave some heroes out of place.

While currently Remender is keeping a fine job with the cast on Uncanny X-Force (and passing characters off to Jason Aaron), I’d just hope Remender can keep doing stories like #23 – fully encapsulating and balanced enough for everyone to have a say.

Grade: 8.5/10

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Review: X-Factor #228 & Avengers vs. X-Men

X_Factor

X-Factor #228
Peter David (writer), Leonard Kirk (pencils, inks), Matt Milla (colours), Cory Petit (letters), David Yardin (cover). $2.99

There is always a ton of fun to be had in an X-Factor book – guaranteed.

As of last issue, Jamie Madrox (Prime) was killed by Jamie Madrox (Dupe) who was killed by the little boy whose father X-Factor was sent in to save and later possessed by the villain Bloodbath who Strong Guy apparently killed! Geddit? And that was all in the last issue!

Although it may seem overwhelming with that summary, X-Factor is fast-paced and features many twists and turns with each page. By the end of it all, you’re left begging for more after each issue. In X-Factor #228, there is no exception. Albeit a more of a conversational book, the dialogue is completely necessary and builds up the inevitable answers people have been asking since Layla Miller’s return in X-Factor #202. (We’re so close!) Not to mention, we’re also getting closer to find out what really happened to Guido after his “death”! And those are still only a few of the loose ends!

Looking at the writing, however, it’s obvious that David has a great handle on this book. Even in a book with little action, the amount of effort put into the characters we are reading allows us to enjoy the book on such a higher regard. It really is a family book, where even the characters are invested in their own team – and that alone makes it a fun read.

And what’s to say about Leonard Kirk? He’s a tight artist with strong emotions pouring out of the characters. Layla in particular really shines with bits of sadness, rage and shame. With such a focus on characters, it’s hard to notice that most of the panels do not have backgrounds to them as readers will find themselves much more interested in the story than the “set” background. It leaves colourist Milla with a lot more freedom to set different moods in the varying panels of humour, action, and sorrow.

Although the book is definitely not a jumping on point for new readers (and I think most books should be), for the fans, we’ll be at the edge of our seats for yet another issue.

Bonus points for a killer cover by Yardin.

Grade: 7/10

As an aside, I’m sure you’ve all heard about Marvel’s summer blockbuster involving The Avengers versus the X-Men. Marvel’s pushing it with an “it’s finally happening” message through their all of their media releases.

Well, what about Avengers #53? Jeez, guys.

Avengers vs. X-Men

Yup. “‘Nuff said!”

Keep on Space Truckin’!