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Sigil #1 [Review]

Writer: Mike Carey
Pencils: Leonard Kirk
Inks: Ed Tadeo
Colors: Guru eFX
Letters: Rob Steen
Cover: Jelena Djurdjevic
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Asst. Editor: Sebastian Girner
Senior Editor: Nick Lowe
Published by: Crossgen/Marvel Comics

I’ve missed Crossgen. However, until this issue, I don’t recall ever reading an issue of Sigil. So, with this being a new take on things and not a continuation of the old…I come to it fresh. And perhaps for that, I greatly enjoyed this issue.

The issue opens with some disembodied voices talking about some past events, and we gradually move to seeing someone who turns toward the camera with surprise, and cut to a high schooler–Samantha Rey–waking suddenly from the dream, to an impatient father trying to get her up for school. She has an important history exam that day, and we learn she’s having trouble with school since losing her mother. Further exposition follows as daughter/father talk, and then as Sam stops by the cemetery on her way to school. Once at school, we see some of what Sam’s high school life is like, as an encounter with a bully forces her to race to class, where her teacher is not happy at her tardiness. Beginning her history exam, she blacks out to a vision, and finds an hour passed, leaving her in hot water with the teacher. We’re introduced to other students, and then Sam’s bully instigates a situation that causes Sam’s birthmark to flare up, and she finds herself facing the realization that her birthmark is something far more.

The art–perhaps simply for Sam having red hair–reminds me a bit of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, and the high school setting certainly contributed to that as well. The art seems fairly simple…smooth, and the coloring somehow lighter or “brighter” than I think I’m used to. Overall, nothing struck me in a negative light, and I had zero issue with the art. The entire art team provides a great piece of work that clearly conveys everything going on, and I really liked the art overall.

The story is quite solid. It’s got a lot of exposition to bring us up to speed on the main character in particular, to work us into her world, and while it’s rather noticeable as exposition…it still works for me. It seems the most important, core elements are presented in this issue as we should get from any first issue. The story provides a nice hook at the beginning, introduces us to the main character, to her family, to her school life, and then takes that extra little leap into what makes this story more than just some slice-of-life about some random high school girl. The cliffhanger leaves me eager for more, and yet I don’t feel shortchanged by what story was provided in this issue by itself.

Overall…this is a fantastic start to the series. For some reason, I have it in my head that this is just a mini-series…but I for one would absolutely love to see this as an ongoing, if every issue was up to the quality of this one.

As said above…I come to Sigil fresh. I recognize the name of the ship Sam sees–and caught myself grinning when I recognized it. Major plot point or simple nod to the past, its presence is a welcome inclusion. The use of the sigil itself reminds me of early issues of the original Crossgen stuff without feeling out of place…perhaps for its stylized modification from the original.

I also come to this just totally thrilled that it carries a $2.99 price.

I don’t often talk about a comic’s cover…but I really like the layout of this, what I believe is the “trade dress” for the new Marvel Crossgen stuff. Having Marvel‘s logo at the very bottom puts it virtually out of site, allowing the Crossgen sigil to stand as its own thing at the top, allowing the “branding” to stand on its own. The logo seems familiar, though I can’t presently recall the original to know how it compares to that. The main image draws the eye to the sigil, as a whole emphasizing that. There’s something to be said about such a close-up on the character, but the image doesn’t truly stray into particularly questionable territory.

This is a complete, totally fresh start…there is zero need to have ever read anything else before this. The art is easy on the eyes, and the story draws one in. While fans of the original Crossgen work may be disappointed at this not being a return to the original series…I think it likely that those fans will be able to appreciate this new start. And for anyone considering this…I highly recommend it! As a whole, I consider this a fantastic first issue that is more than the sum of individual story/art ratings…as seen below.

Story: 8/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9.5/10

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Fall of the Hulks: Alpha [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Meeting of the Minds

The Leader and his group of intellectual villains work behind the scenes through Marvel’s history to assemble the lost knowledge of the Library of Alexandria.

fallofthehulksalphaWriter: Jeff Parker
Penciler: Paul Pelletier
Inker: Vicente Cifuentes
Colorists: Guru eFX
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Cover: Ed McGuinness, Mark Farmer, Dave Stewart
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Associate Editor: Nathan Cosby
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this issue, except perhaps a jumping-on point in preparation for the coming Fall of the Hulks "event." What I did not expect was what seems to essentially be an "Illuminati" of intellectual Marvel villains and their "backstory" throughout Marvel’s past.

This issue basically follows The Leader, M.O.D.O.K., Egghead, The Wizard, The Mad Thinker, The Red Ghost, and Dr. Doom as they assemble the contents of the formerly-believed-lost contents of the Library of Alexandria through the years. Their first mission is an incursion into the home of the Eternals. Here the protagonists discover there are other locations around the planet with further Alexandrian contents, including Wakanda and Atlantis. Bucking the silver Age trend of simplicity, here we see that it takes months and years for the protagonists to prepare to actually launch a mission to gain the knowledge they’re after, as well as the explanation that allows for what we’ve already seen in the last half-decade of continuity regarding these characters. As the issue closes out, we get some info regarding the Red Hulk, which actually intrigues me after never before this having any interest in even the concept of that character.

The story is pretty good in and of itself. It’s not spectacular, and I’m not a huge fan of retcons…but for my understanding of things, the backstory that is here inserted into existing continuity seems to work. Additionally, I feel like I have a better understanding of who The Leader and The Red Ghost are now than I ever did before.
The art is also quite solid…while keeping its own feel, it also evokes some of the feeling of the different eras the story touches upon.

Though I came to the issue familiar with little more than the characters’ names and visual representations (excepting Dr. Doom), everyone was quite recognizable, and I really enjoyed the visuals.
Even though I’ve not followed the Hulk side of the Marvel Universe since World War Hulk ended, I still really enjoyed this issue and found that I didn’t need to know recent events. I’ve often enjoyed stories that flesh out villain characters and give them depth and motivation, and true explanation for why they would door act as they do, and this is one such issue.

I expect this is little more than set-up in the grand scheme of things, but if you want a Leader story involving a teaming-up of supervillains (including death and betrayal) reminiscent of 1980s stories but with a modern feel, this is a great issue for that.

Ratings:

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

Age of X: Alpha #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

 

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

Ultimate Comics X #1 [Review]

His Father’s Son

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Arthur Adams
Colorist: Aspen MLT’s Peter Steigerwald
Digital Inks: Aspen MLT’s Mark Roslan
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comic Craft’s Albert Deschesne
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Assistant Editor: Sana Amanat
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Cover: Art Adams
Published by: Marvel Comics

Okay…so, I can hardly remember the last time I read an Ultimate comic. After reading from issue #3, I let Ultimate Spider-Man go around issue 80 when I gave in on the realization that the stories just weren’t being written for the single-issue format, and I wasn’t enjoying the pacing for the price per issue. I’m pretty sure I gave up on The Ultimates before that due to lateness, and I don’t recall sticking with Ultimates 2 more than a couple issues. All the hype over Ultimatum and the Ultimate Comics relaunch didn’t pull me in. I read Ultimate Iron Man 2 when I scored the hardback for the $6.

I’m not even sure what intrigued me with this issue. The teaser ads? Perhaps in small part–after all, WHAT is there to be done with Wolverine that’s NEW? Would this be something interesting like the Mary Jane and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series? Would a book about a teenaged Logan in modern high school (thinking “Wolverine” instead of “Sparkly Vampire”) come across well?

So, despite my extreme dislike of the $3.99 cover price, I grabbed the issue–choosing the cover whose image I recognized from the teaser ad. Behind Siege #2 (which was spoiled for me via twitter prior to reading), this was near the top of my stack this week–bypassing Deadpool and even a couple Blackest Night issues.

One of the things that Marvel has done well for many years is “The ‘Previously…’ Page” at the start of their issues. This is a page that is basically prose or just non-story content that serves to get a reader up-to-speed on stuff, contextualizing the story that’s about to begin; it also serves to have the issue’s credits all in one place, so that when this page is omitted, a collected volume flows as one long work, uninterrupted by titles and credits every chapter or so.

Opening this issue, we have a series of images with seven simple sentences that serve to place this story. Context provided–whether as wholly new information, or to catch one up. I’d read The Ultimates, and Ultimate Spider-Man, followed a bit of Ultimate Fantastic Four, and even some of the Ultimate X-Men. The pictures and words tell all I need to know–and the world in this issue is apparently the same as I’d read before, but much changed by Ultimatum. The world exists, but even though I haven’t read in years, I’m not lost.

This issue’s story begins with narration from James Hudson, talking about his son–a son brought to him by an old friend years earlier. That old friend wasn’t able to raise the boy, but knew James and his wife Heather could, and so entrusted them with the child. Now a teenager, and running concurrent with the narration of how the boy came to be Hudson’s son, we see this son discovering what he is, and how his being different changes his life. Kitty Pryde–a name and character I’m somewhat familiar with from both the Ultimate comics and mainstream Marvel continuity–enters, with a classic trapping of such stories: the message from a person to their loved one, recorded shortly before dying. This child–Jimmy Hudson–is confronted with the image of his father, and the reality of who he really is. We also learn the difference in his mutant ability from that of his father.

The story, surprisingly enough as I have really not enjoyed Loeb‘s work for years–is relatively engaging. It’s not perfect, but I remained interested throughout the issue, and that’s quite the achievement in my eyes. As a long-time comic reader familiar with much of the Marvel universe in general throughout much of the last couple decades, names were familiar, but as this is not the mainstream Marvel universe, I had zero problem with the Hudsons being different than the characters I knew before this issue, and rather enjoyed the reference to how James’s codename is come about. There was also something to the realization of who the main character is that is at once obvious and yet not exactly what I expected–and any duplication of a similar character in the main Marvel books works so much better to me here.

The issue reads like an origin issue. We have the introduction of characters who are (presumably) going to be much of a supporting cast. We’re introduced to who assumably is the main character of the book. We learn where he came from, how he is seen by his family and others. We see his discovery of his identity, and what that does to him. We’re left on an ending that both provides actual conclusion to this specific single issue’s story, and yet it is clear this is by no means the end–the issue is not a one-shot.

The art isn’t the greatest I’ve ever seen, but–except for one panel that really put me in mind of Millar‘s Kick-Ass–never really took me out of the story. It’s clear what’s going on throughout the issue, even the effect as we find out Jimmy’s “other” mutant ability. Particularly with no previous issue to go on, Adams’ art actually stakes itself as definitive to me for this character, and does quite a good job of it.

Again–I despise the $3.99 price point, particularly for a mere 22-page issue. As I’d already compromised my principle (avoiding all Marvel $3.99 books) with Siege and Siege: Embedded, I allowed myself a further compromise to pick this up, since it’s a debut issue of a new series, and I was actually somewhat intrigued.

What I got was a very enjoyable issue, that really does what a first issue of any series ought to do…and it stands alone. I won’t be picking up future issues, as I refuse to pay $3.99 as a regular, ongoing price for a “standard” comic.

In and of itself, though, this was a good read, and actually mostly worth its cover price for the experience. While I don’t plan to purchase future single issues…provided the inevitable collected volume is reasonably priced, I expect I’ll have some interest in picking that up to read this story and go from there.

Story: 8/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 8/10

Fall of the Hulks: Alpha [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

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