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Spawn #263 [Review]

spawn0263Plot/Script/Layouts/Pencils/Inks: Erik Larsen & Todd McFarlane
Color: FCO Plascenscia
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Cover Art: Erik Larsen
Editor: Todd McFarlane
Published by: Image Comics
Cover Date: May 2016
Cover Price: $2.99

While I’ve no idea how long I’ll stick with it, Spawn is presently on my pull list, at minimum as my tiny individual way of trying to support both "high/continuous numbering" and the $2.99 price point. This is my seventh sequential issue that I’ve picked up…which may be a record for me now, or at least close to matching any previous time I’ve tried to follow the title.

Spawn–or rather, Al Simmons–has returned to Earth…human and normal (not disfigured)…and without his costume (despite the cover, more on that later). With only tatters keeping him from being fully nude, but still functionally naked, he finds himself gaining unwanted attention from the authorities. Resisting unwarranted arrest, he fights back and lands in the hospital for his troubles–having been shot and then bashed in the head. On waking and learning what his situation is, he requests Terry Fitzgerald…who despite relatable reservations helps him. Simmons gets set up for his new life, including the start to (presumably) a new iteration of a supporting cast and status quo.

The cover is quite misleading…we do not get Spawn–and certainly not in that classic sense–in this issue. Nor do we get an Al Simmons surprised at being human. That said, for one of extremely FEW instances in my life and as a comic person, it’s misleading because I’m actually "up" on this title. Much as the cover for #257 grabbed my attention (which started this whole current "phase" for me), I can see how this cover could be rather attention-grabbing and pique the curiosity. There’s also something kinda familiar about it–I’m not sure (nor am I planning to research the matter) if it’s an homage piece or just kinda evokes a bygone age of comic covers.

Of course, I’m quite enjoying Larsen‘s work–both the cover(s) and the interior art. Things one expects a comic’s art to do are done, and the visual style works well for this title. It "looks" and "feels" like Larsen art–it’s immediately recognizable to me as such, and I like it here.

Story-wise, I’m still far from being particularly "familiar" with characters (I had to do a quick Google search to confirm that Terry is indeed the guy Wanda married and such), but I’m enjoying the reading experience. This issue feels a lot like a "first issue," and functionally could VERY well warrant a "new #1" (and truly, many Many MANY Marvel books have "rebooted" or "renumbered" for far, far LESS a shift than the game-changing status quo we begin here!).

The backmatter backs this up…though I was disappointed at how "quickly" I got TO the backmatter of the issue. There’s no marking at the final panel of the issue, the final page of the story content–nothing saying "To Be Continued…" or any such, nor is it particularly cliffhanger-y. But darn it, I’m actually really eager to see where things go from here, how Simmons deals WITH his new status quo, how he gets back into the action and what this all means. The cynic in my worries at the shakeup being temporary…but even if it is, I have a bit of faith that it’ll at least last a few years. Simmons was gone from the title for some 65 issues–on a standard, unbroken monthly schedule of 1 issue every month on the month, that would indicate nearly 5 1/2 years. So I’m fairly confident that this status quo ought to take us to (if not through) #300 and/or beyond.

Wolverines #1 [Review]

wolverines001Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Nick Bradshaw, Alisson Borges
Inker: Walden Wong
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Editors: Katie Kubert and Mike Marts
Cover: Nick Bradshaw, FCO Plascencia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

In a lotta ways, I’m lost. I recognize some characters, of course (at least by name/vague recollection)…but it’s rather difficult to reconcile this as taking place in the same continuity as the stuff I grew up reading in the ’90s and early/mid-2000s. It’s also quite a challenge to consider that Wolverine–Logan–is really, truly, permanently, not-coming-back-ever-never dead-is-dead DEAD. Moving on…

Thankfully, the “Previously…” page is there–I don’t have to track down all those Death of Wolverine follow-up minis I skipped. Sure, they’d flesh out the DETAILS, but for where this series and this first issue in particular picks up, that’d be superfluous for me.

We open on a bloodied Mystique getting psyched to go through a door; then jump “back” to present. Where we find Mystique, Sabretooth, Daken, and X-23 being forced to work with some escapees from Dr. Cornelius’ experimentations. The mission is to locate/retrieve an object to help them survive. Unfortunately, the Wrecking Crew has also appeared in the vicinity, and confrontation ensues. Though the object sought is located–the adamantium-encased remains of the late Wolverine–this success is short-lived with the appearance of an old villain I certainly would not have suspected. The villain absconds with precious bounty, leaving our protagonists’ situation in disarray.

I picked this up to give it a shot–I’m currently buying all 3 weeklies from DC Comics, might as well give Marvel‘s a try. Moreso than that, though…the cover intrigued me. Kinda generic in a way, but it certainly grabs my attention, seeing the adamantium-encased body of Wolverine surrounded by individuals tied to him (from life, and from what he gave it for). We only get the arms of Deathstrike, Sabretooth, Daken, and X-23 (with a couple of the Weapon X kids in the background)…no Mystique. But that’s not something I even noticed until writing this review.

The actual story is ok enough…where I’d thought the premise of the series might be the characters tracking the body, the cover suggested otherwise, which was why I bought this. And since (thankfully!) the cover suggests these characters around the body and the opening of the issue has them seeking it…hardly spoilers to say that yeah, they find the body IN THIS ISSUE. However, the villain that showed up and left the group in bad shape gives the characters a new quest/hunt, which should sustain the weekly nature of the series for a bit.

I appreciate Soule being on this, given my understanding that he’s the architect of the death of Wolverine…good to see that he’s the one to follow-up “long term” on the development, rather than just killing the character and moving on. And while I wouldn’t think I’d care about the characters involved, have not kept up with them (for example, the last I recall of Sabretooth, he was beheaded by Wolverine…though I’m loosely aware there was a recent-ish story that saw his return) the interactions are not too bad here and I’d be interested in seeing more, seeing these characters in a world without Wolverine.

The issue’s visuals are not bad…there’s a cartooney quality at points that’s mildly distracting and reminds me of Humberto Ramos‘ work. Not a terrible thing, but not entirely my cup of tea. On the whole this simply has the look of a comic book…I credit that to the strong linework (and I suppose that’s a shared credit with the inking). Ultimately the art’s relatively neutral for me…neither a significant turn-off nor a draw. It’s just there, it does its job, and I’m satisfied with it.

Had Marvel priced this at $2.99 as an enticement to investing in FOUR issues monthly, I might’ve been tempted to give it a shot on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, this is a $3.99 book…and a large contributing factor to my having been almost completely driven me away from Marvel stuff is their pricing. Their $3.99 price point combined with frequent double-shipping was a huge turnoff…and if 2 issues at $3.99 apiece each month is enough to frustrate me away from Marvel books, DOUBLING that frequency does nothing positive to my mindset.

I did see somewhere (Bleeding Cool, perhaps) that this series is scheduled to be collected in monthly volumes…provided those are not $20 apiece and I can find ’em at a discount, there’s a possibility I’ll go a bit further into this series that way…or perhaps consider an advance/pre-order for a discount on almost certainly inevitable Marvel Omnibus.

If you don’t mind the $3.99 and are a fan of Soule‘s work with Wolverine and/or Wolverine’s death so far, this may be a decent series to consider. As a single issue this fits the norm…the overwhelming part of the price comes from the realization of the series’ shipping frequency.

[ My thoughts on the final issue of The Death of Wolverine (the week it came out) ]

Spawn #200 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
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Story: 3/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Invincible #73 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Haunt #2 [Review]

Co-creator/Writer: Robert Kirkman
Layouts: Greg Capullo
Pencils: Ryan Ottley
Co-creator/Inks: Todd McFarlane
Color: FCO Plascencia
Lettering: Richard Starkings/Comicraft
Cover/Variants Artists: Todd McFarlane, Ryan Ottley
Publisher: Image Comics

I’m actually enjoying this series. We’re only two issues in, and there’s still a lot of questions about the main characters, and I still have to look back into the issue to remember character names and such. But it’s a pot brewing a good deal of potentil to come.

The brothers from the previous issue must literally work together to stay alive and protect their friend–the dead brother takes control of their “merged” body and explains to the living brother that he can do what needs done, but needs to not be fought.

Father Kilgore–the surviving brother–is none to pleased at the current state of affairs and wants to be left out of things. As his brother makes clear, though, he’s already involved. They wind up fighting a mercenary who seems to almost be played for dark humour more than actual threat. Finally, the brothers–as “Haunt” (though I don’t think the name’s been given yet for their merged form) begin to move toward some answers, with a fairly cliche sort of cliffhanger.

As said, there’s a lot of potential here. Backstory to both of the brothers and their friend will be interesting to discover in coming issues. Seeing how the cliffhanger will likely add greatly to the status quo, and that development will be cool.

And whether the visual style and tone or something else, I can’t help but be reminded somehow of both Spawn and Spider-Man; though this character seems like he’s much more at home in a Spawn world, obviously. He could also almost work in an Invincible sort of world. (Though as yet, I don’t believe there’s anything to say this takes place in one, the other or either).

Taken as a whole, the writing and visuals make for an interesting issue, and I find myself intrested in and planning on pickin up the next issue to see how that one is.

For now, especially if you can still get ahold of the first issue, I recommend this for fans of McFarlane, Spawn, Kirkman, or Invincible…and casul fans somewhere in between.

Story: 6.5
Art: 8.5
Overall: 7.5

Haunt #1 [Review]

Co-creator/Writer: Robert Kirkman
Layouts: Greg Capullo
Pencils: Ryan Ottley
Co-creator/Inks: Todd McFarlane
Color: FCO Plascencia
Lettering: Richard Starkings/Comicraft
Cover/Variants Artists: Todd McFarlane, Ryan Ottley, Greg Capullo
Publisher: Image Comics

OK, so call me a sucker. This is a first issue, yeah. And I recently missed out on the debut of Chew, which had seemed interesting from an ad or two I’d seen. The Todd McFarlane and Robert Kirkman co-creation Haunt also seemed like a sorta interesting thing–again, from an ad. I’d pretty much forgotten about it entirely, though, until I received an email yesterday (the day before the comic’s release) about its release. I don’t know what landed me on this particular email list, but at least it was targeted, and did its job very, very well. Take these factors: two big names–creators whose books I’ve enjoyed recently, and a cheap-in-today’s-market cover price (this book’s only $2.99 cover price)–and combine them with “notice” or “attention” and you have a combination sufficient to get me to pick the book up. (Unfortunately, though I should’ve realized, there is the taint of variant covers, which I didn’t even consider…I wasn’t paying attention and am not particularly thrilled with the cover I wound up with).

So…what’s this Haunt thing all about? It’s only the first issue, so there’s plenty to wonder at. We’re introduced to a handful of characters and how they’re related to one another…and find out that one of them is actually dead, apparently a figment of his brother’s imagination. Only, there’s something more to it than “imagination.” When the surviving brother looks in on a woman both brothers had been involved with in the past–he’s got some less than wonderful history with her, it seems–he doesn’t think there’s anything to protect her from, though is soon proven wrong. When a couple of armed individuals enter the scene, a bit of a transformation occurs, and we meet the title character of the series.

I doubt much of it will stick as interesting to me long-term. But for the moment, there’s something interesting about the title character to me–the relationship between the brothers and the transformation that leaves one facing “Haunt.” I was put in mind of the Kevin Green transformation into Prime (for those few of you who remember the character). There’s also the slight twist on a quasi-archetype that I won’t get into as it’d be pretty serious spoiler territory.

The art team’s pretty familiar, and yet brings something new to the table. There’s a difference in visual style from Invincible and Spawn, but also a similarity to both…sorta like it has the grittiness of Spawn softened by the brighter style of Invincible. And honestly…works very well to me.

On the whole–for both the story and the visuals–this feels very much at-home in the same universe as Spawn (it remains to be seen if it is, actually) while not entirely out of place in a universe that has Invincible in it. With or without the comparisons…it’s got a fairly generic premise mixed with an intriguing twist sufficient to hook me and leave me interested in seeing what the next issue brings.

I bought this issue thanks to the initial hype/marketing and the names attached to it.

The package itself–the story, the hook–will bring me back for another look-see.

As something new, to get in at the beginning of what’s likely a major project with either Kirkman or McFarlane, this is well worth checking out…if only for this first issue.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8.5/10

Invincible #65 [Review]

Conquest Epilogue

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Penciler: Ryan Ottley
Inker: Cliff Rathburn
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Editor: Aubrey Siterson
Cover: Ryan Ottley & FCO Plascencia
Publisher: Image Comics

This issue provides the wrapup/epilogue to the Conquest story arc. As such, this issue is pretty low-key action-wise (though the visuals don’t hold anything back). Invincible wakes up in a hospital room where he finds out how Atom Eve survived. We’re then moved along to the funeral of Rex Splode, who actually did die, and see the reactions of key characters (and there are plenty of other Image characters to be spotted in the crowd attending the funeral). Invincible gets some closure as he sees the mangled body of Conquest, and we also see some ominous foreshadowing of what’s to come. The issue closes out with Invincible stating an official change in personal policy regarding his dealing with supervillains…one that makes plenty of sense, and should be interesting to see explored in coming issues.

The story itself is solid as usual. No real complaints there…it’s what I’d expect of an epilogue. While a couple of scenes seemed a bit drawn-out, it’s the same sorta thing I found charming/enjoyable in early issues of Ultimate Spider-Man, so I don’t have any real issue there. I’m not chomping at the bit for the next issue…but I’m suitably engaged, and can’t see just arbitrarily stopping here. This story came out of the single-issue Invincible War, which was a point I decided to try “jumping on” this title. I’m interested to see where the next arc goes, as I expect it to tell me more on whether I’m enjoying the title in and of itself, or just enjoying seeing direct follow-up to an issue I decided to try.

The art’s also quite good. Things look as they should, and probably my only complaint is that the remains we’re shown of Conquest are quite…gory. That’s fitting in the story, but none to pleasant to look at (even though being such is the point and so the intent of the art seems achieved).

I don’t see this issue being a great jump-on point for new readers; though just because it’s an epilogue is no time to jump off for newer/continuing readers. A good issue that continues to be worth its cover price.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

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