Fall means a whole lot of new TV, but also a slew of new comic book titles across the board which dominates a lot of our reviews this week!
Yes its weird how Secret Wars is still going, even a new issue this week, and All-New All Different Marvel starts up, but sometimes publishing in comic books as we know gets really weird.
Doctor Strange #1
I love Doctor Strange, but he hasn’t been as lucky as many heroes to have too many memorable and really great stories. He has plenty here and there but the best one is Brian K. Vaughn’s Doctor Strange: The Oath and that was a mini series that was a fascinating character study into the Sorcerer Supreme. But we’re here to talk about the Stephen Strange of right now and how his latest debut issue of a new run is off to a good start.
Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo seem determined to change all that with this first issue. From the gorgeous recapped origin page and the double page spread battle with soul-eaters that have taken residence inside a nine-year-old boy to the very telling inner monologue help to set the tone for the book. In exploring Doctor Strange you have to get weird and well, strange. Aaron gets to understanding Strange right away and it’s very well established to get a character’s understanding this early.
Another thing this book is doing better that I think Marvel struggles in is magic. Magic certainly exists in Marvel, but it’s not that heavily touched upon as I’d like. One of my hopes with this and really the All-New All-Different Marvel slate is that magic within the Marvel Universe is better explored and fully realized. This issue starts that off on the right foot. Particularly seeing Stephen chatting up some of his fellow mystical peers in a magic bar helps to expand the magical realm of Marvel and builds the story up a bit. They expound upon something big that’s coming that is further highlighted by the ending events of the issue and even the short back up story. But back to the magic, that is my favorite thing aside from the characterization of Strange himself. It’s great to see what he honestly deals with more than ever before on a personal level. We get a great taste of what he deals with and how it affects him. His mindset is fascinating both in other worldly dimensions and back here on Earth.
The book has the right look for all the weirdness that will come with Bachalo. He draws our normal world and the other dimensions so good but when they are merged together is where the book really shines in the art department to me. The book’s distinctive look is immediately established as much as our main character is and Kevin Nowlan’s art in the backup is quite nice as well, but Bachalo’s impressed me just a little more.
The very new-reader friendly debut of Doctor Strange is impressive in all the right ways with a brilliant understanding of the protagonist and a further exploration of a previous untapped aspect of Marvel. Though still accessible, the lingering Secret Wars does have an effect on the book, as well as the whole line really, but more so Strange given his huge role in that story. We don’t know what has happened since then given what happened to Strange. Regardless, Doctor Strange deserves a standout series and here’s hoping it’s exactly what the doctor ordered. 4/5
Invincible Iron Man #1
Here is where I think the lingering Secret Wars effect on the new Marvel line is kinda problematic. Given where we see where Tony was in the recent Superior Iron Man, it’s a bit jarring to just suddenly see him back to the Tony we all know and love. A little more context as to the in-between events of Superior and Invincible would have been lovely.
Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez have been stellar the last few years in their adventures with Miles Morales, but now they’re taking on Tony Stark and Tony feels like Tony. Bendis is really good at characterization for the most part with his comics and I still hold he does much better in writing individual hero books than he does group hero books. Invincible #1 continues to prove that to me. While there are good examples of Bendis writing books with more than one name hero, he shines at putting a great focus on one hero at a time. Again he gets Tony and by you new and old readers, you’re gonna understand and get Tony right away here. There are all the very familiar things about him and it feels like a breath of fresh air given recent events. Meet the new Tony, same as the old Tony. He even starts the book with such a Tony idea to combine pieces and essential parts of all previous suits into this one new suit, which looks extremely cool. It’s a fantastically designed suit and looks great in action.
We get a great feel on the supporting cast as well from A.I. assistant Friday to Dr. Amara Perera to villainous figures that appear. The book is pretty vague in plenty of its plot points and upfront with plenty of others as well so seeing how it all works will be fun to read, especially with the splash page reveal on the very last page.
David Marquez continues to be an incredible artist whose details and overall look suits itself for fun and exciting storytelling and personal character interactions as well. He’s still one of the industry’s top talents and Justin Ponsor’s colors help to continue giving his work a vibrant look and feel. Truly a gorgeous book.
Invincible Iron Man #1 returns us the Tony we love and sets up intriguing plot points, while being coyly vague as to certain developments from the past and even the present as to how Tony came to be where he is right now. Whatever the case maybe, I’m curious enough to keep reading the book for a while. I’m in. 3/5
Paper Girls #1
There is an inherent charm to films from the 80s like The Goonies and Monster Squad that very much make both films still hold up with their sense of adventures featuring beyond curious teenagers. That’s the sense of feeling I got reading Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang’s newest series from Image Comics, Paper Girls. Hell there’s even a Monster Squad poster in the bedroom of our main protagonist.
Vaughn and Chiang are exceptional talents within the comic book industry that have more than earned the respect of peers and readers. They are on my list of people, who if their name is on a book, I immediately get it so when this book was announced, I knew I was going have to make it a top priority read and it didn’t disappoint.
Three things make this one of the best debuts of the entire year for me. First off the bat, it’s a double sized first issue. This is a great start to any book since with some premises, you need to go just a little over to fully encase someone in the world they are entering. The next part is the characterization of our titular papergirls, Erin, Mac, Tiffany, and KJ. Vaughn sets us in the early morning hours of Cleveland, OH in 1988 and lets the character beats and traits come out naturally as he usually does so well with his writing. It’s great to get a good base understanding of them off the bat and again, the double size issue helps that out greatly. These are already some fun characters to follow and I’m certainly interested. Lastly the other benefit of the extra sized debut is the mystery. What the girls discover is quite intriguing and the note it ends on gives it a whole other implication as to what might be coming.
Chiang’s art remains as great as ever with his spectacular work on characters’ distinctive looks and wide range of expressions and reactions. Chiang’s eye for details is what’s made him such a stellar artist, particularly now that he has to deal with time specific designs. He makes his environments feel alive and moves the story at a brisk pace, particularly how he moves between the surreal and real seamlessly. He’s great and real and fantastic and makes sure no panel is a wasted panel. Also his drawing of character quirks helps further bring across their personalities. Chiang’s art is only as good as his color which is so stunning thanks to Matthew Wilson who really makes this book pop. His eye for detail paired with Chiang’s eye for detail is going to make this one of the most beautiful books on the shelves.
Aside from an engaging mystery with intriguing characters, the issue itself has a nice package of fun extra after the last page to enjoy and again it’s a full book at $2.99. You’re going to be getting an incredible bargain and also one of the best debuting comic books of the year. Paper Girls shouldn’t be missed. 5/5
Survivors’ Club #1
Now while we’re on the 1980s, how about we touch on the horror films of that era. Specifically the ones that survived those films. That’s part of the idea here for the first of the brand new Vertigo launches for the end part of this year, a resurgence and throwback to what makes the DC off-shoot so unique and beloved. First up is Survivors’ Club, which brings together survivors of horrific and strange events in 1987. One of them randomly discovers her name on a list, along with the rest, on a deep corner of the internet and investigates a mysterious video game that seems to recall their traumatizing incidents.
The idea is engaging and most certainly one of the most intriguing ideas to come from any story this year. It has so many possibilities of what it can do and explore with its premise and its characters. Credit to writers Lauren Beukes and Dale Halvorsen for making a great first issue of a story. It is just one of the best things I’ve read all year. It’s a very straightforward first issue. Our characters and their traits are nicely set up, main mystery established, and now a domino effect as to who may or may not survive. What’s also great is what made Paper Girls so good, vagueness. The mystery is gripping and begs you to keep reading along with it. This is how to set things up.
Ryan Kelly, man am I happy that Ryan Kelly is the artist. Kelly is someone’s work who is admired and for good measure. It’s so nicely done and some of the best work you might ever see. His eye for detail is very good and something that might help this book become a standout. I think he’s very fit for strange settings and horror. This and his recent work on Dead Boy Detectives give me honest reason to believe that. His work flows beautifully on the pages and grabs the attention of your eyes that you just can’t look away from. I particularly loved the panel in which we see the past events of what happened to the club. They are displayed, but remain vague enough to give that air of mystery the book needs to keep readers attached and intrigued. It’s gorgeous.
Survivors’ Club #1 starts off the new Vertigo line with just what it needs to kick in the door and have people take notice of what the brand is doing now with its wide range of stories quite out of the norm for our world. The plot, art, and implications are all enough to keep me coming back. 5/5
Cyborg continues being a very damn good book. This is still among the top of my list for what’s best at DC Comics right now. The Technosapiens haven invaded and with no hope of reaching the Justice League, Cyborg and ordinary citizens are going to have to face the battle themselves. The strongest part of the series continues to be the narration and insight from cyborg himself. Again we’ve already known so much of him from previous Teen Titans and Justice League comics, but to finally further go into him in this way, is fascinating and allows for a new angle on the character.
David F. Walker’s scripting is still strong as it explores the high concept sci-fi action that provides many thrills and exciting action beats. His other part with the social commentary could use some work when it comes with the underground cybernetics and the action Congress is taking on it. It’s just kinda there and I feel like Walker could improve on that and find a balance. This issue is much more action heavy rather than the humanizing characterization of Vic that was the focus of the last two issues. There’s more here, but with more lasers. The mystery as to the Technosapiens and the Tekbreakers takes a great turn in the last few panels and ends on a very good twisty cliffhanger. It also helps that a special guest appearance from one of my favorite comic groups is pretty damn entertaining.
Sadly though the issue does have some art problems as it’s not as consistent on the last two issues without Joe Prado to help out Ivan Reis. Reis continues being a spectacular artist and while Eduardo Pansica helps fill in nicely, the look and feel just sorta is missing. This early into a run, that can hurt a book. Sometimes you gotta find the right sort of artist that won’t make you realize this, like recently with Black Canary #4. I digress a bit, designs still look great, it’s just I wasn’t quite feeling it as much this time.
Cyborg #3 hits a bit of a snag while still remaining entertaining and in good graces because of how truly strong the first two issues. A truly insane cliffhanger also helps to keep me hooked and amazing character development with out titular hero is so good. 3/5
The second story arc of the Image sci-fi western series came to a rather small scaled, but satisfying, conclusion as Sheriff Bronson goes to rescue Deputy Boo under hostile circumstances.
When Copperhead first debuted last fall, I knew I’d check it out simply for the sci-fi western hook. That’s a sub-genre I fancy and when the right story is present, it can be grippingly engaging with is fantastic tone and enraptured world. Copperhead hits the right balance of mixing sci-fi and western aesthetics. The second arc has expertly done this with the rescue mission story of a good, honest cop, from a gang of rough outlaws. The best thing is that among all the action and high stakes drama, Jay Faerber blends that in well. His deep understanding of people on both sides of the law makes the book standout and again gives it the great feel of a western with realized characters on either side. He’s exceptional.
Also exceptional is the art by Scott Godlewski. His look makes the place alive from the roaming landscapes, to the designs of the city and future tech, to the characters, be they human or alien. The book has a vibrancy to it that comes from his pencils. What also works is his perspective that really helps give a cinematic look to the book as if we’re watching a film. The panels move smoothly like a camera going to the next shot. Of course with doing a western comic book, the sun soaked look of exteriors and the wide range of interior lighting has to be there and an essential, Copperhead makes out great in that department thanks to Ron Riley. He makes this book the distinct treasure that it is. His best work to date is in this issue, particularly the saloon scene.
Copperhead wraps up its second go around nicely, while gearing up for what’s next on a cliffhanger.It is sure to keep readers around if they weren’t already going to get the next issue. It’s not one of the stronger issues in the run so far, but it’s by no means a weak one. There’s still excellent payoff and character dynamics to entertain all that pick it up. 4.5/5
That is all for now, I’ll see you next week while I’m flipping through the pages.