This week’s comic book releases saw the debut of a new series from Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, Black Cat return to the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, Valiant’s Armor Hunters event continue in the pages of X-O Manowar, and much, much more. What was your favorite comic this week? Is there any title that absolutely must be read but we aren’t covering it? Leave a comment and let us know!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #3

Review by John Dubrawa

“You want my help, Spider? That touches my heart. Now let me touch yours!”
“You want my help, Spider? That touches my heart. Now let me touch yours!”

Now that The Amazing Spider-Man has had the proper time to ease into its grand return to form, it’s time for the series to, ahem swing into action as it were. Right from its opening pages, issue #3 is a step in the right direction with not only the reappearance of Black Cat in Peter Parker’s life but a key reveal about the mysterious Silk that leaves me wanting to know more about this character that has been appearing in all-too-brief snippets since this series relaunched. Silk represents something new and therefore something I’m looking forward to as Peter could use some more allies in his battles against his familiar foes who still believe him to be Otto Octavius. His one altercation with Black Cat in this issue proves to be a bit more than he can handle and it will only get worse given the partnership Felicia Hardy forms with another Spider-Man foe at the end of the issue. But even with a scorned Black Cat attempting to rip Peter Parker to shreds, the exaggerated art styling’s of Humberto Ramos keeps the issue from feeling too serious, yet retains a fair amount of intensity. Ramos’ art only falters when it comes to J. Jonah Jameson, an over-the-top character in his own right who looks downright terrifying in his brief appearance here.

RATING:  [usr 3.5]

 

BATMAN #32

Review by John Dubrawa

“Little things, so high up..so high they actually sometimes run out of breath and drop dead to the earth.”
“Little things, so high up..so high they actually sometimes run out of breath and drop dead to the earth.”

In his pantheon of tremendous Batman issues, Scott Synder’s Batman #32 is as straightforward as the writer can get with his weighty, wordy prose, resulting in the first underwhelming chapter in this Zero Year arc. That it took this long—the second-to-last chapter—for an issue to stray from near-perfection alleviates some of the disappointment, though the lack of narrative progression cannot be outright ignored. Call it treading water, biding time, spinning its wheels or another variation of that idiom–that’s what the plot is doing in Batman #32. Batman still edges ever closer to Riddler’s secret hideout but the lack of one of Synder’s poetic allegories or even an underlining thematic statement makes it decidedly less interesting than last issue, which was about practically the same thing and at least had lions. This issue has a lot of Riddler rambling, keeping with this idea of the character being a know-it-all but his “fun facts” grow incessant to the point where even Batman says, “enough fun facts.” What’s worse is all this information about Mexican bats and foxes cover up Greg Capullo’s art, which continues to be outstanding. His Batman has been through hell and it shows, the blood on his lip to all the scratches adorning his costume. FCO Plascencia’s colors also continue to redefine Batman in a Dark Knight era, splashing the pages with rich colors that transcend the brooding atmosphere classically associated with Gotham City.

RATING:  [usr 3]

 

JUSTICE LEAGUE #31

Review by John Dubrawa

“All this ‘saving the world’ business has done wonders for your sense of humor. I’ll give you that.”
“All this ‘saving the world’ business has done wonders for your sense of humor. I’ll give you that.”

Justice League is providing a natural transition from the events of Forever Evil into the next big thing and issue #31 is essentially laying some of the groundwork for what is to come in the next few months. Multiple status quo shifts have occurred since the Crime Syndicate’s invasion of our Earth, none more pressing than Lex Luthor now knowing that Bruce Wayne and Batman are one in the same. In this issue, the two are involved in a tense, fireside chat at Wayne Manor in which Luthor attempts to reveal Bruce to be Batman with writer Geoff Johns tossing in a well-placed homage to Superman II (at least the Richard Donner cut) to good effect. There’s also a new Power Ring afoot, Jessica Cruz, though her looming threat feels like a holdover until the next massive invasion. Ivan Reis steps away from art duties for an issue and hands the reigns over to Doug Mahnke, who makes a compelling argument for DC to keep him on the book indefinitely. His lines are detailed and his shadow use is heavy, creating both the perfect setting for the Luthor/Wayne tête-à-tête and a terrifying demonstration of the new Power Ring’s capabilities. Justice League readers couldn’t ask for a better fill-in artist.

RATING:  [usr 4]

 

MS. MARVEL #5 

Review by John Dubrawa

“Good is not a thing you are. It’s a thing you do.”
“Good is not a thing you are. It’s a thing you do.”

Ms. Marvel is still in its infancy but writer G. Willow Wilson is defining the character of Kamala Khan so well that it feels like she’s been around forever. Kamala’s ideals about helping others in need is put to the test in issue #5 as her first rescue mission as a costumed hero doesn’t exactly go according to plan. This hiccup, like the others we’ve seen her go through so far, pushes Kamala to learn to be a better hero because she needs to be one. It’s a mantra that should be adopted by all the heroes in this modern age of comics. Yet, beneath the exterior of a confident hero there still remains a teenage girl who is worried she’s going to be grounded or upset that her name isn’t normal like “Yasmine or Layla.” That kind of fun and endearing approach Willow takes into writing the character is carried through perfectly in Adriana Alphona’s whimsical art and Ian Herring’s beautifully bright colors, all of which come together to set a very unique tone for the series. Seriously, take a look at the reveal on the last page of The Inventor and tell me this series isn’t operating to the beat of its own, unique drum.

RATING:  [usr 4]

 

OUTCAST #1

Review by John Dubrawa

“We’re always looking for your kind. Outcast. One of many.”
“We’re always looking for your kind. Outcast. One of many.”

Now that both The Walking Dead and Invincible have surpassed their 100th issue and counting, readers need a new title that can get them on the ground floor for the next big thing from creator Robert Kirkman. Thankfully, that book exists, it has been released, and it’s Outcast #1. Kirkman, with help from artist Paul Azaceta, crafts a foreboding first issue in the world of demonic possession and exorcism, one that without question owes its fair share to The Exorcist. Outcast #1 is not about crab-walking down the staircase and spitting up pea soup, but there are noticeable similarities between the two properties. Thankfully, beyond the panic-stricken mother whose child has been possessed and the doubtful priest charged with exorcising said demon, Outcast #1 operates on the strength of its engaging main character, Kyle Barnes. Kyle is a demon exorcist in its own right and within the pages of this double-sized first issue, Kirkman weaves enough of a shrouded past for the character that I want to know more, which is what a first issue should absolutely do. Visually, Azaceta brings about a style not unlike David Aja (of Hawkeye fame), using simple character designs and a lot of small, intimate panels. And those little panels prove capable of packing of a lot of visceral punch once the plot ratchets up, that’s for damn sure.

RATING:  [usr 4]

 

TRANSFORMERS: WINDBLADE #3 (OF 4)

Review by John Dubrawa

“Side with me and you’re free to continue to enjoy our hard-won peace. Side against me and you should ask yourself—honestly-how many of your ‘brothers’ will follow?”
“Side with me and you’re free to continue to enjoy our hard-won peace. Side against me and you should ask yourself—honestly-how many of your ‘brothers’ will follow?”

Never would have I imagined Transformers: Windblade to be a political thriller involving sentient robots that turn into machines, but then again, the tagline for the entire line is, “more than meets the eye.” Reaching her penultimate issue of this limited miniseries has not stopped writer Mairghread Scott from further shifts in the plot, which currently centers on Windblade’s diligent search for the culprit behind the blackouts on the titan (and temporary living facility for the Autobots) Metroplex. This issue sees the hint of another, more heinous mastermind than the current suspect number one, Starscream, who, based on his actions here, is not without his share of culpability as he appears to be running Cybertron’s version of Guantanamo Bay with the same affinity for torture. There are real stakes ever-present during each perilous moment our heroes find themselves in, thanks to artist Sarah Stone and the life that her expressive, animated faces injects into each character. Even something as subtle as that momentarily look of surprise on Starscream’s otherwise sour mug created a twinge of excitement within me knowing this series is about to get more intriguing.

RATING:  [usr 4]

 

WOLVERINE #9

Review by John Dubrawa

“If I keep that in mind, that I did that, that I’ll always regret it, maybe I can put some new values together, go forward.” 
“If I keep that in mind, that I did that, that I’ll always regret it, maybe I can put some new values together, go forward.”

Preparations for Wolverine’s eventual death this September continue with Paul Cornell’s Wolverine #9, the final part of this month’s two-part prelude, “3 Months to Die” and a much more interesting chapter than the previous one. Whereas the last issue was an action-centric fight on death’s literal doorstep, this issue is far more contemplative, a studious look at the lives lost at the hands of Wolverine. And who better to uncover these skeletons in Wolverine’s closet than Death herself? Longtime Wolverine readers will appreciate all the names that resurface if only in passing reference while Cornell’s script manages to ascertain to a newcomer like me the importance of Rose, who I know nothing about but has a larger role in this reflective journey. Much of the intended emotion during Wolverine’s confrontations with his past resounds due to Kris Anka’s clean art, which offers a wealth of animated and reactive faces. Even the brief snippets we get of other character pairings—like Iron Fist and Shang-Chi or Sabretooth and Pinch—look crisp and lively in spite of some sluggish dialogue that detracts periodically from an otherwise interesting meeting between two longstanding entities who shall meet again soon—Death and Wolverine.

RATING:  [usr 3]

 

X-O MANOWAR #26

Review by John Dubrawa

“You want the best contracts? Show you’re the best at the job.”
“You want the best contracts? Show you’re the best at the job.”

X-O Manowar’s latest issue (and its first foray in the Armor Hunters crossover event) is surprisingly light on its eponymous character as it turns the narrative focus toward Reebo, leader of the Armor Hunters/the new big bad of the Valiant universe. Robert Venditti handles the quasi-origin of this intergalactic bounty hunter in a fairly formulaic plot that proves nonetheless effective in showcasing the kind of intimidating warrior and militant leader Reebo can be. By the issue’s end it’s obvious why being recruited as part of the Armor Hunters suits Reebo so well (see what I did there?), establishing him as a legitimate threat moving forward in this event. X-O Manowar appears in a limited, albeit paramount role that severely underlines Reebo’s motivations for joining the Hunters in the first place, and creates a helluva excuse for Diego Bernard to work his pristine art on some high-scale action set pieces. Unfortunately a large part of the issue is confined to smaller, dialogue-based panels whereas Bernard’s art excels much more a grander scale. The interior of a bar is just not a captivating backdrop, even in Bernard’s capable hands.

RATING:  [usr 3.5]

 

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