This week is the last time we’re going to deal with Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy, Marvel’s latest and greatest big-budget Spider-Man event storyline. The series ended a bit prematurely with issue five of the limited series and this week we’re taking a look at an epilogue chapter that is supposed to put a coda on the event. Marvel is also launching an ongoing series from for fan-favorite hero: America Chavez. Chavez is getting an opportunity to shine outside of the spotlight of Young Avengers and into her ongoing series–reviews of all that and less await in the Marvel Rundown:

America #1

Writer: Gabby Rivera
Artists: Joe Quinones and Paolo Rivera
Colors: Jose Villarrubia
Inkers: Joe Rivera and Paolo Rivera
Letters & Production: Travis Lanham
Reviewed by AJ Frost

Written by Gabby Rivera and drawn by Joe Quinones, America #1 is the epitome of Marvel’s commitment to diversity in their characters; this is not merely phenotypic diversity, but diversity of viewpoints and experiences. America Chavez is among Marvel’s most outspoken LGBTQ characters, and one of its rising stars in terms of popularity within the comic book universe. If you’re a red-hatted MAGA wearin’ kinda individual, with a penchant for alternative facts and remembering non-existent massacres, then you might want to stay away from Marvel’s America #1 because it might set off more triggers than Loki at a German concert hall.

This highly anticipated debut issue for Miss America, aka America Chavez, mostly delivers on providing a fun, fast-paced story with strong elements of female empowerment, strength, and heart suffused within its pages. The story in this opening issue is pretty light. In a nutshell, Miss America is getting comfortable in her role as the leader of the Ultimates, traveling around the multiverse effortlessly saving people. At the same time, she is eager to begin her academic studies (at Sotomayor University no less! Justice indeed!), where Chavez will learn even more about her powers and how to utilize them even better. All the while, there is a strange encounter from the outskirts of the Utopian Parallel that will surely be solved down the line (it’s only a minor subplot in this issue).

The technical side of the book is a mixed bag. It’s colorful, but with some stilted dialogue. Action packed, but with some weird pacing problems. When the comic is working on all cylinders, it’s winsome and witty. But when there is something off with the dialogue, or when the action stops for a melodramatic moment (“What I wouldn’t give to hug my moms one more time…”), then everything seems to read more unnecessarily tediously. I will hand it to Rivera. She’s been giving the reigns to build a new comic. I’m excited to see where she takes it, but the beginning just needs to work out its kinks. Future issues should resolve this minor quibble of mine.

While I don’t want to spoil much, I will say that, for me, the last two pages of America #1 were the most exciting and the most interesting. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you have been keeping up with recent events, especially one particular meme-able event that happened during President Trump’s inauguration, then you will enjoy what you read.

It is admirable that Marvel is demarcating their dedication to expanding the range of their characters’ identities (at least in their books. Movies are another situation). No longer is every superhero a white, cisgendered person in tight spandex. Superheroes are now reflections of a culture that is coming around the notion that virtuous people don’t have to fill some pre- fabricated mold. America #1 is a testament to Marvel’s role as an ink-and- paper leader for diversity in action!

AJ’s Verdict: Peruse

Alexander Jones: I didn’t want to pass this issue without drawing attention to the stellar artwork from Joe Quinones. This book has a unique tone to begin with, the panel layouts, personality and experimentation with the artform made this comic such a pleasure for me to read. Never before have I seen Quinones take such a big risk to merit such high reward–which is also where I’d like to give some kudos to Rivera for whatever part the writer had in channeling the clever ideas that make these pages so beautiful. If you love the medium of comics and artistic collaboration don’t miss out!

Alexander’s Verdict: Buy.

The Clone Conspiracy: Omega #1

Writers: Peter David, Christos N. Gage and Dan Slott
Artists: Mark Bagley, Stuart Immonen and Cory Smith
Colors: Justin Ponsor, Jason Keith and Richard Isanove
Inks: Cory Smith, Wade Von Grawbadger and John Dell
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by Alexander Jones

The end of Dead No More: Clone Conspiracy felt a little bit rushed with so many plot threads of the story left unresolved for this epilogue one-shot to tie-up. The first story is dedicated to cleaning up the end of the previous one, lacking a certain amount of tension by trying to conclude the event-level epic with a slew of characters that doesn’t tie the narrative together in a satisfying way. The issue feels like a series of well-drawn vignettes and not a complete story. Smith’s refined pencils are a nice complement to the main series’ pencils by Jim Cheung. Slott’s work with The Rhino is rather impressive and emotional. The writer does a good job showing why the villain is drawn back into fighting Spider-Man in a manner that doesn’t feel forced. Smith’s pencils really wonderfully tap into the emotion of what the two characters feel even though the scene lacks a big scope. Slott is able to mine poignant character beats between several characters, but does so with players not directly connected to the series’ own supporting cast.

Unfortunately, it’s up to Peter David to try and push a more forced aspect of the narrative along. David amicably attempts to clear up one of the messiest parts of the crossover but at the end of the day the story feels like an editorial edict to get to the next chapter in the Marvel Universe. Worse still, the majority of this sequence features two characters talking about their problems while sitting down. David and Mark Bagley aren’t given a very cohesive storyline to work with, but comics are a visual medium and aside from a bar fight, there isn’t much for the artist to work with here.

Slott returns to writing duties with artist Stuart Immonen for the last story. Immonen and Slott approach this story with a welcomed quirky tone. Spider-Man almost seems delighted to go up against one of his former villains who might be enjoying the scenery more than he should. Immonen even changes up his pencil style in this issue ever-so-slightly with a more exaggerated style, featuring larger proportions on characters and details he chooses to omit from the panel. Unfortunately, Slott rushes a character beat at the end of this issue, making the seams of this comic just a hair too visible. While the writer is teasing a more organic and simplistic take on the character, my issue at large with Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy was just how forced the entire narrative felt. Instead of introducing something meaningful to give this event some more context, Slott cleaned up some missing character beats and gave us a tease at what’s to come in the main title in this epilogue issue.

The art is mostly great in this mixed bag of an issue with Immonen and Smith getting a chance to stretch their legs with how exciting a Spider-Man story can be, Bagley’s short story was so brief that the artist didn’t get that same opportunity. Dedicated Spider-Fans that are looking towards the future of the Spider-Man publishing saga will likely find something to like about this comic, but this issue is not for the casual Spider-Man reader. Looking ahead in future issues of both The Amazing Spider-Man and Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider, I would really like for the writers to try to focus less on forced plot and more on what it means to be a Spider-Man in the modern Marvel Universe.

Verdict: Skip. You can go ahead and let your clone read this one.

Next week is heavy on the Marvel publishing side with end of the very enjoyable (thus far) Inhumans Vs. X-Men and the debut of R.L. Stine and Daniel Warren Johnson’s Man-Thing!