With Carol Danvers set to soar into movie theaters in a few short months, Marvel is debuting a new Captain Marvel ongoing series this week. The title is helmed by fan-favorite writer Kelly Thompson and Marvel exclusive artist Carmen Carnero. Does the series debut fly as high as expectations? Plus, a second ongoing series for Peter Parker launches with Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 from Tom Taylor and Juann Cabal, while Seanan McGuire and artists Rosi Kämpe and Takeshi Miyazawa provide a somber epilogue for Spider-Geddon in the pages of Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #4. It’s time for the Marvel Rundown!
Captain Marvel #1
Written by Kelly Thompson
Illustrated by Carmen Carnero
Colored by Tamra Bonvillain
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by Amanda Conner
Joe Grunenwald: After a few years out in space and a brief diversion to Maine, Carol Danvers is back home and back in action. Samantha, what did you think of the debut of the latest Captain Marvel ongoing series?
Samantha Puc: I really enjoyed this debut! Kelly Thompson has a knack for writing humor, which this issue has in spades, and I loved getting to see Carol interact with so many great characters, like Jessica Drew and Jennifer Takeda. Rhodey’s cameo was much appreciated, too. There’s a lot of history in Carol’s life, obviously, and it feels appropriate that this issue pays homage while also moving things forward and giving us something new to focus on. What were your thoughts, Joe?
Grunenwald: I thought it was a solid debut. I’ve made no secret in this column that I’m a fan of Kelly Thompson, and she does great work on this issue. You’re right that Carol does have a lot of history behind her, and I liked how Thompson used that to inform Carol’s actions without hitting readers over the head that that’s what she was doing. It would’ve been easy to get bogged down in it, but this issue acknowledges past stories while still feeling like a step forward, which is great.
Puc: I agree! This issue hits some great emotional beats without sacrificing high-flying action, which is a balance that is sometimes missing from superhero books. I’m very intrigued by the final page, not just aesthetically but also in terms of what it might mean for Carol moving forward in this series.
Grunenwald: This is a 30-page comic, but it doesn’t drag. I felt like there was a moment where it might’ve started to get a little slow, and then Carol gets blasted and the story was off to the races again. Thompson does a nice job establishing Carol’s status quo and introducing what I’m hoping ends up being her full-time supporting cast (honestly, if this ends up being a ‘Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman’ team-up comic each month I’ll be really happy). How did you feel about Carmen Carnero’s art?
Puc: Honestly, same. I’m so here for Carol and Jess kicking ass and taking names. I’m also very excited to see how Carol’s relationship with Jennifer develops, especially given their mutual disdain for Tony Stark. As for the art, I love how dynamic Carmen Carnero’s style is! It feels very traditional in the sense that everything has that classic pop art style I think many people associate with comics, particularly superhero comics. The lines are clean, the character’s facial expressions are well-rendered, and the details underscore the focal point of each panel even when there are busy backgrounds or many characters in the frame. I’m particularly fond of the Manhattan scenes where city-dwellers can be seen living their lives in the background, because it just adds so much texture to everything. That’s…a really long answer, but basically I loved Carnero’s art from the first page and that didn’t change. What are your feelings?
Grunenwald: I agree with you that I liked Carnero’s style a lot, and her characters in particular are expressive and distinct. Her work, combined with Tamra Bonvillain’s colors, feels very much of a piece with the house style that Marvel has cultivated over the past few years, which is a style that I like, so you’ll get no complaints from me there. I did have some issues with her storytelling, though. There were a few instances in the issue where it didn’t seem like there was any continuity from one panel to the next, or where characters suddenly changed locations or positions within a scene. That was a little disappointing, and it’s something I hope Carnero can improve in subsequent issues.
Puc: I’ll be honest and say I didn’t notice that, but I agree that those unexpected shifts can be jarring. I’m glad you mentioned Tamra Bonvillain’s colors, though, because they are so beautiful! This issue was bright and bold, which is honestly refreshing in comparison to some of the other superhero books that are out right now. It felt good to read a superhero story that wasn’t all doom and gloom, you know?
Grunenwald: Absolutely. I appreciate any comic that’s not afraid to dabble in non-muted primary colors. Anything else we didn’t touch on that you want to mention, or shall we render our verdicts?
Puc: I think I’ve gushed enough about this issue! I personally think this issue is a STRONG BROWSE, though Captain Marvel die-hards (hey, #CarolCorps!) will definitely want to pick up a copy for their collections. Depending on where the series progresses after this debut issue, my feelings may lean more toward BUY.
Grunenwald: I’d give it a STRONG BROWSE as well. Thompson’s script is on-point and she clearly has great affection for the characters she’s working with, and Carnero’s art is generally pretty solid. This is great set-up for what’s to come for Carol.
Final Verdict: Samantha and Joe both give Captain Marvel #1 a STRONG BROWSE!
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1
Written by Tom Taylor
Illustrated by Juann Cabal and Marcelo Ferreira
Inked by Juann Cabal and Roberto Poggi
Colored by Nolan Woodard and Jim Campbell
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover by Andrew Robinson
Alexander Jones: AJ, Joe, Marvel is back with their most important release of the year…another Spider-Man ongoing? The House of Ideas is leaning into the core tone of the main series, reviving sad sack Peter Parker who eats hot dogs on the street. What are your thoughts on the debut of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man?
AJ Frost: With 2018 being a banner year for the Spider-Man brand, it’s surprising how well Marvel manages to continue the good tide rolling with the debut of this new line. I thought it was pitch perfect, with really vibrant art mixed with a classic approach to our favorite sad sack Peter Parker. And besides looking nice, this book had a really pleasant story, if not just a bit safe. But I get it: this is a book meant to entice people coming off “Infinity War” and “Into the Spider-Verse” with an entry point that is solid and easy to grasp.
Joe Grunenwald: On the list of things I was hoping Marvel would do this year, ‘another Peter Parker Spider-Man title’ was nonexistent. That said, I appreciate the smaller scale that it seems like this book is looking to take. It had a very Fraction/Aja Hawkeye vibe, which is something I can definitely get behind.
Frost: I wouldn’t go that far, Joe, because this book still feels centered in the Marvel House style. It pops, but it’s not experimental like that series was. It’s really difficult to compare as well because the Peter Parker archetype is now embedded in pop culture while Hawkeye has, ironically, fewer eyes on him/her. The breezy tone in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 was a nice touch, though.
Grunenwald: Forgive me, AJ—I meant more that the structure of this book, about Peter and his neighbors, largely centered in the block or so around his building, reminded me of Hawkeye. You’re absolutely right that this is not as experimental as that series was, but it’s got a similar hook, I think.
Jones: Tom Taylor’s script for this issue is as good as I hoped it would be. The book has a great noir tone juxtaposed with a nice sense of humor and endearing vibe. Lots of Marvel titles are really striving for this tone right now, but I think few comics have been able to achieve any sort of stakes in the narrative. Thanks to the interesting new mystery and back-up tale, I wouldn’t even call the issue safe. I think Taylor is really willing to go there and craft a version of sad sack Spidey to rival the main Spidey series right now. This title fits really nicely next to the main series, as the core book is even more silly than this ongoing seems to be.
Frost: Ahhh…gotcha, Joe. It was nice that Taylor really infused the script with lots of humor. Spidey has always been a funny character, but a lot of writers have disregarded that aspect of him in favor of showing off his existential woes. The comedy here, as you point out Alex, is really nice and feels so natural.
Grunenwald: To be honest, some of the comedy fell a little flat for me. All the stuff about traffic in New York felt…not lazy, but, just, done? Maybe that’s just me. I really enjoyed the interactions between Peter and his neighbors, though, and between he and his roommate (which, yikes).
Jones: The initial scene with Spider-Man interacting with the bystanders had a really great final beat. I feel like we have read lots of comics lately that try to execute moments like these from Marvel and fall flat on their face. Which sequences did you read where you felt the humor was lacking, Joe?
Grunenwald: Honestly, that whole opening sequence. It was almost too much ‘neighborhood’ for me, talking about potholes and street repair, and then the last joke to the people he saved about how bad the traffic is. The action was great, and I liked the bystanders’ reactions to Spidey. And maybe Spidey’s supposed to be making bad, hacky traffic jokes. If he is, mission accomplished. It didn’t detract from the rest of the issue for me, but it was something I bumped on.
Frost: Spidey’s always been one for puns. It’s his coping mechanism!
Grunenwald: I know, I just usually enjoy them more!
Jones: What did both of you think of the core plot in the issue? I really liked the final beat in the story and think there was a great sense of noir infused with the playful narrative and script behind the issue. Also, how did you feel about the art from Juann Cabal?
Grunenwald: Peter definitely feels like a P.I. taking a case by the time the main story is over (with a superhero-y, Marvel twist at the end, of course). I’m excited to see how that plays out. Cabal’s art is pretty great throughout the issue. I particularly liked the opening spread of Spidey swinging across the city with flashes of his past in the windows behind him. I really liked that visual representation of the character’s history.
Frost: Solid core plot, but it’s always tricky to do something new with a character that has been going through the ringer for decades. Seeing Spidey do pure superheroics, though, is always a treat. As for Cabal’s art, it was on point throughout the whole issue. He really captured the essence of Spider-Man, which has always been lithe, fluid, and fun. Paired with the wonderful colors of Nolan Woodard, the art here was contemporary yet still harkened back to the classic takes.
Jones: I’m definitely a fan of Cabal’s fluid, fun artwork. I really like how full of energy all his character models come off. An aspect that really disappointed me, though, was the minimalistic backgrounds that can look really drab and boring. I think the artwork would have tapped into the ‘great’ category if the layouts were more immersive and there was a stronger sense of detail. Some of the supporting characters look a little boring and the characters can come off as stiff. That being said, I still really enjoyed the art in the issue overall despite its flaws.
Frost: I can see how you get to that conclusion. But I think any minimalistic backgrounding might just be an ode to an earlier age when comic backgrounds where just simple single colors in the panel. Of course, it might also mean the colorist didn’t have enough time to get everything done.
Grunenwald: The occasional minimal backgrounds didn’t bother me, either, but I agree that I can see where you’re coming from, Alex. What did you two think of the backup story?
Jones: I really enjoyed it. I think the middle came across as a little bit melodramatic. The opening sequence was really emotional and heartfelt. The story also pays off Peter’s paranoia really well in the middle sequence. I think Taylor is incredibly good with pacing in general. The major stumbling block for me was how cold Aunt May came across in ignoring Peter. That being said, I’m a fan of what Taylor is doing in this additional story and it made me realize that the title isn’t going to just be a throwaway Spider-Man comic.
Frost: I thought it was a nice complement to the main story. A diversion that shows what Peter means not only to his immediate family, but also to the community at-large.
Grunenwald: I’m really torn about the backup story. There’s big stuff that happens there, but there’s also really a lot of nothing that happens there. It felt like a series of scenes that were cut from the main story and made their own thing, but with only the flimsiest of connecting tissue. I enjoyed those scenes, but as a whole, aside from the final page, the backup doesn’t really amount to much.
Jones: Marcelo Ferreira’s pencils are extremely unique and expressive. Even though his rendition of Aunt May can also be over-the-top with some of the shadows, he does a great job drawing expressions. The rooftop scenes, in the beginning, are also well-drawn and filled with emotion. Ferreira is definitely a creator to watch at Marvel.
Grunenwald: Ferreira and inker Roberto Poggi work well together, though their work together may be a bit too heavy on the blacks and the shadows for my liking on a Spider-Man book. I’d be interested to see them work on Daredevil or one of the other slightly darker characters.
Frost: So what did we all think of this new excursion with our friendly neighborhood Spider-person?
Grunenwald: I liked the main story well enough to give this book a BROWSE. If the backup story had been a bit more substantial, that might’ve helped. I look forward to seeing what Taylor, Cabal, and co. can do with a regular twenty-page issue.
Frost: Interesting. I really was caught up in this book, and despite its flaws, I think it displays Spider-Man at his best. This is a BUY from me!
Jones: I think this book is solid and it pairs really well with the core title. Taylor’s strong sense of humor and Cabal’s fluid characters deem the issue worthy of a BUY for me.
Final Verdict: AJ and Alexander give the first issue of Spidey’s latest series a BUY, while Joe says BROWSE!
Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #4
Written by Seanan McGuire
Illustrated by Rosi Kämpe and Takeshi Miyazawa
Colored by Ian Herring
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by Bengal
Reviewed by Samantha Puc
Following the events in Spider-Geddon, Gwen Stacy of Earth-65 has a unique ability that separates her from the other spider-people she’s come to call her friends (if not found family). But as the old saying goes, with great power… you know the rest. Thus, it’s up to Gwen to deliver devastating news to the loved ones whose spider-people didn’t make it through that epic fight, which leaves her in more than one precarious position. Her own emotions are going haywire, which certainly doesn’t help; mourning is a process, and grief crops up in unexpected ways for any of us who have had to say goodbye to loved ones.
Seanan McGuire handles Gwen’s grief with an aplomb that makes the emotional beats of Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #4 feel all the more intense. McGuire’s run on Spider-Gwen has so far masterfully balanced action and emotion, driving home the importance of Gwen in her friends’ lives through a unique series of circumstances that dump her into a universe where her counterpart is still alive, but still totally lost to her closest friends. In this issue, we get to see Gwen process that and what it means for her own universe, while simultaneously grieving for her friends and trying to be strong and do the right thing. Getting to sit with Gwen in this issue feels like a blessing; it’s a chance to breathe after the events of Spider-Geddon and a chance to reconnect with her after everything that’s happened to get her to this place.
Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #4 is devastating, but also deeply cathartic. Rosi Kämpe and Takeshi Miyazawa’s art centers Gwen’s grief while also demonstrating how ready she is to enter worlds where she really doesn’t belong, in order to relay horrible news in the most empathetic way that she can. Kämpe and Miyazawa inject raw emotion into every panel, breaking down the barriers between reader and character until it feels impossible not to be as heartbroken as Gwen and her friends. In particular, her panels with Felicia Hardy feel like a punch to the chest—the vulnerability in their expressions is captured so lovingly that it took this reader’s breath away.
Ian Herring also employs color beautifully in this issue, not only to mark the differences between universes but to establish the mood of each panel as Gwen goes through the motions of what she sees as her duty. Clayton Cowles leans into the drama with his lettering, which adds yet another element to really drive home just how intense everything feels.
Personally, I have absolutely fallen in love with Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider and think that this issue in particular is worth a BUY. The character development is so perfectly rendered on all fronts that this may be one of my favorite single issues of 2019. If that feels like a bold statement so soon into January, it’s only because you haven’t picked up this issue yet.
Final Verdict: BUY.
Next week, the Invaders return!
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.