THIS WEEK: The team tackles the explosive launch of Gang War, with three main reviews about Amazing Spider-Man: Gang War First Strike #1, Luke Cage: Gang War #1, and Spider-Woman #1! These reviews feature MILD SPOILERS, so jump on down to the Rapid Rundown for a quick lil blurb about X-Men Blue: Origins #1!

What did you think of this week’s latest Marvel Comics issues, True Believers? The Beat wants to hear from you! Give us a shout-out, here in the comment section or over on social media @comicsbeat, and let us know what you’re thinking.

Amazing Spider-Man: Gang War #1

Amazing Spider-Man: Gang War First Strike #1

Writers: Zeb Wells with Cody Ziglar
Artists: Joey Vazquez with Julian Shaw
Color Artist: Bryan Valenza
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artists: John Romita Jr., Scott Hanna & Marcio Menyz
Reviewed by George Carmona 3rd

For the next four months, Marvel’s New York City will be a warzone as the various gang lords fight for territory to run their organizations in NYC, so It makes sense that the starting point for this event begins with the face of Marvel’s NYC, the Amazing Spider-Man. With superheroes banned and crime boss Tombstone taken off the board, the NY super-criminals look to take advantage of the chaos and expand their spheres of influence. The concept of superheroes being outlawed felt a bit like a rehash of the Registration Act from Civil War, but writers Zeb Wells and Cody Ziglar use this as the spark for the Gang War, expanding on the concept of why New York needs heroes. Artists Joey Vazquez and Julian Shaw along with color artist Bryan Valenza do a fantastic job with the storytelling, creating quirky, dynamic anatomy with the fight scenes, fitting for a Spider-Man title. First Strike is a solid setup book, mapping out the landscape of players and rules to this new status quo, and to get the entire story, readers will have to pick up 26 issues and I’m not sure how much blood can be pulled from this particular stone, but this first issue gives me faith in a satisfactory conclusion.

Luke Cage: Gang War #1

Luke Cage: Gang War #1

Writer: Rodney Barnes
Artist: Ramón F. Bachs
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover: Caanan White
Reviewed by Tim Rooney

The Hero for Hire has had enough sitting behind a desk in the mayor’s office and returns to the streets in this Gang War event tie-in series from writer Rodney Barnes, artist Ramon Bachs, colorist Andrew Dalhouse and letterer Travis Lanham. It’s nice to see Cage back in the middle of the action after being out of the spotlight for a few years. This first issue has to do a lot of catching readers up on Luke’s status quo and the anti-vigilante laws in NYC, which bogs down the first half of the book. But that tedium actually serves to make Luke’s frustration with the bureaucracy feel more authentic. So when he finally gets sick of having his hands tied while the city is on fire, we can fully appreciate and celebrate his heroic exploits. Barnes has a clear vision and voice for who Luke Cage is – a man with an overwhelming sense of justice and little patience to suffer fools. That combination means it makes zero sense for him to be mayor of New York City, and Barnes and Luke himself both recognize it. That conflict sits at the heart of this book. That clarity of purpose and focus on character puts this issue a step above usual event tie-in faire. Bachs art doesn’t do much to move beyond standard Marvel house style but it looks good in the action scenes and never distracts from the story.  I can’t say I like the costume Luke dons in this book but it’s a tall order to design a suit that can’t use any of the iconography of the character. I’m surprised to say I am looking forward to reading the rest of this miniseries and if the quality of the other Gang War tie-in titles matches what we get here, this event is one to be genuinely excited about.

Spider-Woman #1

Spider-Woman #1

Writer: Steve Foxe
Artist: Carola Borelli
Colorist: Arif Prianto
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Reviewed by Lucia Iannone

Jessica Drew is back in action in this new miniseries. It’s underwhelming and uncomfortable. 

Steve Foxe does, to his credit, keep the issue going at a nice, lively pace, and Jess feels authentically characterized. It’s clear he knows a lot of her history, even if it mostly comes through in throwaway lines. Carola Borelli and Arif Prianto both do a good job of keeping the visuals readable. 

But there’s also a lot to this issue’s detriment. The art, while good with expressions, feels stiff, and the reliance on local color in the coloring takes emotion and nuance away instead of heightening them. The ongoing mystery subplot is interesting, but it’s hard to feel compelled when the issue seems to breeze by its implications, what it means for Jess specifically, and why we should care. 

And while this first issue centers on Jessica Drew, and those parts are (mostly) meh, there’s also a storyline I’m not thrilled with: Diamondback, a Black villain, allies himself with Hydra as part of this issue’s tie-in event, GANG WAR, which to me feels like a poorly conceived and out-of-touch concept in name that doesn’t improve with what I’ve seen of the execution.

Maybe it’s a mandate from powers above, but it doesn’t sit right with me for a Black character to use wanting more than a taste of something (similar to “table scraps” phrasing I’ve often heard from other people of color) to justify his decision to throw in with Nazis. It’s a hard balance to strike when the decision making at Marvel towards Hydra has been antithetical to its core concept and origin for what might be decades, but it’s still disturbing here.

Final Verdict: SKIP. 

Rapid Rundown!

  • X-Men Blue: Origins #1
    • After over 40 years (and a weird explanation in the aughts), Chris Claremont’s original intentions for Nightcrawler’s parentage have been made canon by Si Spurrier. I’m not going to spell it out because I think it’s clear for X-Men readers what this is, but at least for me, I’m happy with where we end up. I will say, while I appreciate the consultation from Charlie Jane Anders and Steve Foxe, I would’ve preferred a different person to write this story. Spurrier toed the line and told a solid story, but it would have been nice to have this told from a Queer author’s pen. Wilton Santos and Oren Junior switch off with Marcus To on art duties, but the back and forth feels seamless thanks to some great colors from Ceci De La Cruz. I hope someone picks the threads of this story up and does something with it, but we’ll see what happens moving into this new era. Letters are by Joe Caramagna. – CB

Next Week: Thunderbolts #1 and Marvel Voices: Avengers #1!