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Casual Comics Review Double Down – Fantastic Four #1 and Loki: Agent of Asgard #2

I liked the Double Down format so well, I thought I’d give it another go with some recent comics you may have missed – Fantastic Four #1 and Loki: Agent of Asgard #2.

Since diving back into the world of comics, the Marvel titles I’ve bought have been a mixed bag –  New AvengersAvengers AI, and Guardians of the Galaxy have all given me major headaches. A combination of thick continuity and a too-dark outlook on the Marvel Universe made me question my commitment to being a casual comics fan.

Recently, though, I’ve picked up many Marvel titles that have restored my faith in the current editorial direction. I adored She-Hulk #1 and have high hopes for Ms. Marvel after a good looking and well-told origin story in the first issue of the new run.

So what has Marvel delivered over the last two weeks? Let’s start with a classic team – The Fantastic Four.

Fantasic Four #1 (2014) – STORY BY: James Robinson ART BY: Leonard Kirk, Karl Kesel COLORS BY: Jesus Aburtov Marvel Comics

The FF is embarking on a new adventure with a new #1 and a storyline called, “The Fall of the Fantastic Four”. Even the title seemed like a downer. But, I was pleasantly surprised by the new series.

The book begins, as too many Marvel titles do, with a character recounting how the upcoming story is the darkest days of (humanity/mutants/the team in question). This time, it’s Sue Storm writing a letter to her daughter regarding the, well, impending fall of the Fantastic Four.

Marvel may want to send a memo to their writing staff, letting them know that this storytelling technique is a bit played-out.

As a casual fan, though, I really enjoyed this issue. I can set aside the bummer opening pages. Really, every FF storyline since the 60s has had the threat of the team breaking up / dying. So the prelude, while unnecessary, isn’t really that “dark”. In the good old days, they would’ve just splashed it on the cover and dug right into the story.

Like so… two pages saved.

Here are a few things I like about the first issue of the new Fantastic Four:

The team – It’s been too long since I’ve seen a Fantastic Four Series that features the actual Fantastic Four – Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, and yer ever lovin’ Uncle Benji. Welcome home guys. It’s great to have you here.

The costumes – I’m not sure if this is the first time the Fantastic Four are wearing these red uniforms, but I really like them. I’m sure I’ll want them to get back to the classic blues at some point, but the reds are really popping off the page in this issue.

Love the red uniforms, team…

The story – The first issue was pretty dang easy for a casual comics fan. I’m familiar enough with the broader Marvel Universe that I understand that Reed’s running some kind of educational facility in the Baxter Building. I like to think of it as the nerd academy vs. Xavier’s jock institute. So, the interlude with the kiddies running around was the deepest dig into current continuity, and it didn’t strain the brain too hard.

Robinson also does an excellent job, pacing the action and adventure with the team interludes and personal moments. Fantastic Four #1 is very well written. We even get a proper “It’s Clobberin’ Time!”

The art

No additional commentary needed.

This is exactly what I was hoping for when I picked up Fantastic Four #1.

Will I buy the next issue? AB-SO-LUTELY. Lock it in.

So, after reading this, I was pretty hyped for Loki: Agent of Asgard #2. It was one of my hot picks for last week, you may recall. Like many, I quite enjoy Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of the immortal trickster in the movies. I read the solicit:

“Loki vs. Lorelei! It’s the battle of the Asgardian younger siblings–from the casinos of Monte Carlo to a speed date in New York! Loki goes speed dating. We should have mentioned that earlier, really.”

Loki Agent of Asgard #2 by: Al Ewing and Lee Garbett. Marvel Comics.

How can you go wrong with that? It’s almost like Marvel had a roadmap to make it go wrong and followed it to the letter. But, it all begins and ends with the title being almost entirely impenetrable for casual readers.

I would’ve thought that with Loki’s relative popularity in the movie universe, Marvel might try a title that casual readers can “get”. I was shocked to open the book and find a page-long recap of the previous developments leading up to this issue. It’s only issue #2 after all. There was a bunch of nonsensical (to me) backstory about Loki dying, coming back to life as a kid, and redeeming himself.

That might seem pretty straightforward, but that’s not all. The original Loki then returns, kills the reincarnated version of himself, and takes his own place, but has to pretend to be the good version in order to wipe out his old bad deeds… Or something like that… I’ve read it three times, and I’m still not sure I’m getting it.

I’m a pretty bright guy (no matter what you might hear), and I shouldn’t still be struggling with the basic timeline of a character like Loki in the SECOND issue of a title.

Once I got into the book, I thought the story was witty. The art was gorgeous, as well. I’ve never really noticed the “coloring” on a book, so Nolan Woodard should be commended for making me sit up and take notice on the wonders a colorist can work on a bok.

But I’m just plain lost.  I liked the meat of the story, but I couldn’t make heads-nor-tails of where the story was coming from or where it’s heading based on this issue.

Will I buy the next issue? To be honest, I’ll probably read the next one (or two) at the comic shop to see if it’s making any more sense before investing another three bucks on another issue.

So, once again, Marvel is proving to be a mixed bag. It makes me even more nervous about diving back into the DC Universe. Here’s the deal, if they ever put out a new Doctor Fate title, it’ll be time for me to take that plunge. Until then, I’m still trying to get my footing on this side of the great divide. Luckily, I’m finding quite a few titles outside the big two that are more accessible.

Cheers!

– CCG

Casual Comics Rewind Review: Vision and the Scarlet Witch Volume 1, Number 4

Here we are, at the end of the line for this wonderful Marvel mini-series from the 80s, starring my all time favorite married couple – Vision and the Scarlet Witch. And, it’s been a heck of a ride. Let’s check in on my favorite Marvel sweethearts and see what kind of family drama awaits the duo into this month.

“Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself…!” opens with a mystery. A figure clad entirely in white climbs Mount Wundagore. The narrator is content to call him the “White Pilgrim” at the outset.

Vision and Scarlet Witch; Vol 1 #4.

And, you know what? Snark about the stories all you like, haters. But there’s no denying one thing – that’s a gorgeous splash page. Read the rest of this entry

Casual Comics Review Double Down – She Hulk #1 and Ms. Marvel #1

With so many great titles hitting the last couple of weeks, I’m still digging out from my pile of recent purchases. It’s all relative, though, since I only buy about four titles a week.

Two super-buzzworthy titles dropped, so I wanted to give you the Casual perspective on both She-Hulk #1 and Ms. Marvel #1. Two books with female leads, but both come from very different places. One is an established hero with a long publication history, the other is a brand new hero with a familiar name. One is a grown (7 ft. tall) woman with a professional career, the other a teenager out of her element and just discovering her powers while navigating high school.

How’d they each do in their respective first issues?

She Hulk #1

She-Hulk #1; Marvel Comics

Full disclosure, I absolutely adored the last She-Hulk series I read. Read the rest of this entry

Casual Comics Review – Rover Red Charlie

A wise man once said, “Sometimes you kick. Sometimes you get kicked. Yesterday was that kind of day.

I stopped in at Legend Comics over my lunch break. Joe Patrick – one half of the Two Headed Nerd – finally caught me in the store, so my cover was blown. On the positive side, I stumbled onto Rover Red Charlie while browsing the shelves. The series is up to issue #3, but I only picked up the first two.

Rover Red Charlie #1 by Garth Ennis and Michael Dipascale Avatar Press

It’s a “high concept” book, and it’s written by Garth Ennis, which was enough to convince me to give Rover Red Charlie a try.

Ennis is not known for being a subtle. He often piles shocking material on top of offensive material in a short stack of mayhem that dares you to stop reading. Read the rest of this entry

Casual Comics Rewind Review: Vision and the Scarlet Witch #2

Vision and Scarlet Witch #2 – “Faith of our Fathers” delves further into the complicated back story of the Scarlet Witch and her “father” Robert Frank. Turns out he’s not really their father, but Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver have been keeping that on the down low.

Four awesome things about this issue:

  1. The super couple just hangs out around the house in their full-on superhero gear. (To the delight of teenage boys because… Wanda in costume? Hubba, hubba…)
  2. They have a huge supercomputer with a teleconnection to the moon in the living room of an otherwise nondescript home in the suburbs. In fact, it’s quite near the covered porch where Jarvis is enjoying a spot of tea after the altercation in the last issue.

    No danger, just my dad at the door. Better be sure I’m wearing the full costume, though, while I talk to my brother who is ON THE MOON!

  3. Robert Frank still actually thinks he’s the father of Wanda and Pietro.  Quicksilver’s power is super speed. So was Frank’s when he was a hero in the 50s known as… wait for it… “The Whizzer”. Wanda and Pietro have never told Frank he’s not really their father. But face it, I couldn’t bear to bring heartache to an old man who still goes by “The Whizzer” either.
  4. Wanda and the Vision get around town via taxicab – even though one can fly and the other can teleport.

The issue starts out, wonderfully, in media res. The splash page shows the Vision, arm melted into a twisted slag. The guy can turn hard as a diamond or completely intangible. The sight of the Vision – in pain, arm smoldering brings immediate intensity to this issue.

Who knew this was even a thing that could happen?

Via flashback, the readers come to see just how Vision got into this mess. And, delightfully, it involves more family drama.

Robert Frank has another son, Nuklo, a 32 year-old nuclear beast with the mind of a child. Frank wants the Vision and Scarlet Witch to help him take back custody of his abandoned child from the research facility where he is being kept.

Once again, the art is wonderfully ahead of its time for a comic of this era – minimalist, yet striking use of lines and shading. And, the non-linear storytelling really works – helping parcel out more complex backstory and the emotional trauma while maintaining tension.

You all know that Vision and the Scarlet Witch have a special place in my heart. Rereading the stories convince me that the Marvel miniseries I knew and loved still hold up today.

–          CCG