I feel weird saying it again so soon after Monsters Unleashed, but here we are at another huge Marvel crossover event. Steve Rogers was influenced by Red Skull and the cosmic cube and has been setting the dominoes up to bring the Marvel Universe crashing down. We’ve seen Rogers operate under the new status quo in Captain America: Steve Rogers for over a dozen issues and now it’s time for Rogers to unleash his big plan directly into the Marvel Universe–but we’re still not done there! Marvel has been launching new books like crazy and the hotly anticipated Black Bolt and Jean Grey solo series debut this week! Still not enough for you? Don’t fret because on top of those huge three books the publishing is debuting a new Guardians of the Galaxy ongoing series. Welcome to a huge week in The Marvel Rundown!
Secret Empire #1
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve McNiven
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Inks: Jay Leisten
Letter: VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
Nobody is reading this…right? Great because I have a huge confession to make; I loved the idea of Steve Rogers being secretly Hydra right from page one.
This might turn out to be a great week for Marvel because this issue captures the scope and idea of Secret Empire in such a pure, innocent manner. We knew that this big event was coming, but Spencer loads this issue with surprises and some of the most thought provoking writing of his career. What you thought you knew about the Secret Empire was wrong as Spencer pulls out a ton of surprises right from the jump. The writer analyzes supremely interesting points of view and perspectives from the heroes and villains of Marvel’s Secret Empire, you aren’t just getting the perspective of the big Marvel heroes here.
Lots of this story involves the reader trying to find out just what happened, but paying close attention and investing the time in this issue will merit reward. The comic has a cover that is entirely misleading, as something profound is presented in the actual issue. This comic book doesn’t feature any massive brawls, but aligns the stars for a huge confrontation between two factions of Marvel characters. Similarly to other issues of Captain America: Steve Rogers, this issue does a great job offering up more than just the surface level comic book fair. There’s a lot of politics between the new Hydra council that evolves in the scope of this debut alone. Seeing a brand new status quo with the different team of Marvel heroes and villains and the interpersonal dynamics between them all is why this is so interesting of the first place.
The biggest problem with Secret Empire #1 are the similarities the issue has with Secret Wars #2, which is arguably the biggest event storyline told since this new story. Going big in scope shouldn’t mean that there’s only one way to tell the story and I wish Spencer would have honed in on this a little more to avoid some of the similarities Valiant’s Divinity III: Stalinverse even feels like an influence here. However, just because the beginning of this story is similar to another Marvel storyline doesn’t detract from this comic in a large manner. Issue #0 and the end of Captain America: Steve Rogers brought lots of heart and definition to what has been going on in Steve Rogers’ head. Secret Empire takes a much colder approach aside from a scene here and there giving more definition to Cap and his relationship to the council. This issue gives readers the chance to sympathize with Rogers committed to Hydra even though the protaginist of the story is a villain. Spencer is on the right track to making Captain America as relatable and deadly as Doctor Doom of Secret Wars.
Steve McNiven’s very grounded and detailed pencils make this issue all the better. His reserved, slick style really dials up some of the bigger scenes and makes this quiet comic that much better to look at. There’s a lot of great character scenes here that are accentuated with McNiven’s attention to detail in facial expression and the individual poses. This comic is stuffed with characters talking to each other, leaving a lot of the big moments on the shoulder of the artist. Fortunately, McNiven delivers the layouts and character elements to really sell the sheer audacity of Secret Empire as a whole.
There are so many aspects of Secret Empire #1 worth celebrating that I can’t possibly bring them all to your attention in the short time I have to write about this here. Spencer and McNiven have committed to the source material and nail so many aspects of this story. The writer finds so many small, endearing moments for each side of the Marvel Universe in this story. I just hope that over the course of the mini-series Spencer continues to invest the time into grounding Captain America and his new allies.
Final Verdict: Buy. Secret Empire delivers as Spencer and McNiven devote the time and attention to their craft to deliver on the absurd premise baked within this massive crossover.
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #1
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Aaron Kuder
Colors: Ive Svorcina
Letter: VC’s Cory Petit
Reviewed by A.J. Frost
This is a big week for the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise (funny to say that, right?). With a massively expensive mega-blockbuster adaptation/sequel opening on Friday, fans of the dysfunctional quintet will have their eyeballs assaulted with gaudy, bright special effects and a surely effervescent Chris Pratt smirking at the camera every minute or so. But for fans who still stick to the routine of the monthly detailing of the Guardians saga, today marks the relaunching (another one?) of the fearsome Guardians, filled to the gills with 80s iconography (“abound!), acerbic repartee, a dash of intrigue, and, thankfully, daring action aplenty.
So, where to begin then? As you’ve probably noticed by now, Marvel has relaunched the Guardians series with this installment of All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #1. After a long stretch at the helm, Brian Michael Bendis ceded authorship to the equally formidable Gerry Duggan, who does an admirable job here crafting a fun story that retains all the character beats that we’ve come to love while still able to be loose and reckless with the fortunes of his ink and paper denizens. For his part, Duggan doesn’t tamper much with the successful recipe of the cholent that is Guardians of the Galaxy. Star-Lord is still leading the way, Gamora providing sharp combat skills, Drax the Destroyer is still liable to destroy property for no reason at all, Rocket Raccoon’s mouth is as loose as his trigger finger, and Groot is still…grooting his way through life, I suppose. Everything feels in its place, and that’s a good thing.
But where this issue excels, for the most part, is in its set-ups. Obviously, as the first installment of a new ongoing series, there has to be some routine expositional boxes that need to be checked. Fortunately, the way that Duggan and his talented artist Aaron Kuder have thought of inventive methods to present the Guardian gang in ways we as readers have never seen before. Case in point: the opening sequence. Taking place on a metropolis on distant planet called Citopia (who says that the place names had to be taken seriously?). While readers mill about with the mundane lives of the inhabitants (Citopians?), Galactus appears out of nowhere and all the citizens of the planet run for their lives in fear. But ’tis all a! It’s not Galactus at all, but a diversion from the Guardians to break into the one of the galaxy’s more fortified vault to steal a precious item for a mysterious being known only as the Grandmaster (and **not** the Collector. Just keep that in mind).
Here’s the good news: The Guardians are in good hands. While the full extent of the franchise stewardship from the Duggan and Kuder is yet to be fully realized, I have no worries. While there may be a kink or two getting the plot into gear, a clunky line of dialogue here and there in this first issue, that’s to be expected. But the last panels… something is definitely afoot (no spoilers here!). Looks like we’re starting our summer comics reading off with a real winner.
Final Verdict: Buy
Black Bolt #1
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Christian Ward
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
What a great week for Marvel. This issue is another embarrassment of riches that was met with a lot of hype. This opaque tail places Black Bolt in a prison setting with a bevy of bizarre inmates and wardens. The art is great as Christian Ward gets plenty of chances to really stretch his legs here and dig into Black Bolt and a new corner of the Marvel Universe. This series takes a lot of inspiration from Marvel’s recent Vision series while delivering something highly unconventional and unusual.
The comic has a style all its own that seems specially catered towards Ward’s signature artistic contributions. Psychadelic page layouts and badass fight scenes ensure that this comic stays interesting all the way through but there’s a huge mystery at the core of the book just waiting to come out to roost. I hope writer Saladin Ahmed takes time breaking down the narrative of this highly unusual mystery surrounding the prison.
There’s obviously something special about this comic and with enough restraint and dedication to the weirdness of Black Bolt #1, Ahmed could be building the next great ongoing Marvel book. Ward’s depiction of the character and new environment is a great match for Ahmed’s strange narrative techniques and stylistic choices. If you’ve ever wondered what makes this character special besides a cool voice and status, Ahmed is and Ward are going to charge your mind about the former Inhuman king
Final Verdict: Buy. Black Bolt #1 is an exciting new start to a book bursting with lots of untapped potential.
Jean Grey #1
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Victor Ibanez
Colors: Jay David Ramos
Letter: VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
I have been extremely angry with Marvel books that preserve the status quo without adding anything new to the table. Jean Grey #1 commits the heinous sin of being overly familiar despite having a few nice moments towards the beginning. A huge fight scene of the issue is mostly wasted as Hopeless doesn’t doesn’t set up enough dominoes to keep the issue cohesive as a whole. However, the writer employs a dastardly trick here that keeps the comic from being boring right at the end of the story.
Hopeless has a great voice for Jean and seems to understand the character much better than lots of his contemporaries. It would have been nice for Jean to have more ’60s aspects or outlooks, especially as Ramen in particular would be such a weird concept for this character to grasp. I understand that this Jean Grey would have an incredibly jaded outlook over the past few years in the main Marvel Universe, but I can’t help but think that something within this character would embody that same conservative teenager from the 1960’s.
Victory Ibanez delivers some great work throughout the issue. The artist draws environments and backgrounds in incredible detail, really catching the feeling going through the faces on each and every character in this issue. Ibanez is great at drawing figures and differentiates between different Marvel heroes exceedingly well. There’s also a hot streak going on here with some of darker more alluring moments shining through as well. Ibanez is given a few different environments and groups of character to render here and the artist tackles each in the best way possible.
Final Verdict: Browse. Jean Grey #1 misses a couple of big character moments and looks like set dressing until the comic teases a big character moment. A mixed bag that huge X-Men and Victor Ibanez might really enjoy.