Comic book review: Captain America #12

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Captain America #12LOOSE NUKE PART 2 Nuke on a rampage! The Weapon Minus program revealed! Meet Dr. Mindbubble, the unbelievable Super Soldier created in the 1960s! Written by Rick Remender with artwork by Carlos Pacheco.

The second arc of Marvel NOW’s Captain America is in full-swing in this issue, with some solid scripting from Remender and compelling art from Pacheco. Shifting gears for a moment, Remender pulls back the focus on Steve’s struggle to resume his old life for some exposition. The story opens in China in 1968 to tease some background information on the Weapon Minus program, setting the stage for Nuke’s psychotic, politically-fueled rampage in Nrosvekistan. This apparently plays into a larger arc surrounding Dr. Mindbubble that Remender’s working on for another book, but, at the moment, it’s all a bit vague. Back in 2013, Steve is still reeling from the deaths of Ian and Sharon, trying to reconcile his twelve years in Dimension Z. A friendly visit from Falcon ends in a confrontation with Jet, who’s staying with Steve until she adapts to life in his dimension, as Sam tries to reach out to Steve. After a sparring session, Steve finally breaks down and tells Sam the truth about his experiences in Dimension Z, talking about his son for the first time.

A definite break in tone from the last arc, this latest story is unfolding nicely so far, balancing the mystery of Nuke and Weapon Minus with Steve’s personal story. Remender manages to strike an interesting equilibrium with this issue, moving the plot along and still giving Steve some space to grieve. I imagine some readers might find the slow pace of the issue a bit trying, but I’m enjoying watching this story play out as Steve comes to terms with everything that happened in Dimension Z. It’s heavy on exposition, from the Mindbubble monologues book-ending the issue to Nuke’s ranting, but for me the pacing works. If I had to find fault with this one, it’s the usual soft spots in Remender’s dialogue, which aims for a more dramatic execution and fall shorts as hokey and long-winded at times. Otherwise, it’s a good script.

Pacheco’s artwork has become a nice addition to this book since beginning this storyline, helping to really establish the tone shift from Romita and Dimension Z. The aerial sequences across New York City during Falcon and Cap’s sparring session are particularly visually pleasing, making the most of some dynamic framing and panel transitions. While the action is quite well-executed, Pacheco’s pencils, with the complement of White and Rosenberg’s color palettes, do the script a service by enveloping Steve’s storyline in an appropriate sense of melancholy. For me, this makes Steve’s emotional journey all the more immediate, and I enjoy this visual exploration of his internal state.

Overall, this is another strong issue in an otherwise interesting storyline. Despite the usual pitfalls, this arc is coming along nicely. Remender seems to be gearing up to something much bigger with his peculiar choice in antagonists, and Pacheco continues to please. Solid stuff all around with this one.

Comic book review: Infinity #4

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Infinity #4Negotiating the fall of worlds. The Illuminati versus Thanos. Thor, God of War. Written by Jonathan Hickman with artwork by Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver.

As the Builders prepare for their victory in the fight for Earth, the resistance mounts their final stand and Thanos’ lost son discovers his true nature in this latest chapter of the Infinity event. With the Galactic Council shocked by Captain America’s decision to surrender, he gets his parlay with the Builders, assuring the coalition that his strategy will work. Sending Thor to Builder-occupied Hala as their diplomatic representative, he tries to negotiate a truce. The Builder representative has no interest in negotiations and, after ordering Thor to cast Mjolnir out, forces him to bend a knee in submission to their conquest of Earth. The Builder doesn’t realize that Thor isn’t human, however, nor does he realize that he’s just been had. Mjolnir, tossed out of Hala’s atmosphere, slingshots around the planet to gain speed before returning to Thor’s hand, bursting through the Builder’s torso in a splatter of green gore. Thor then beats the Builder to death, proving Captain America’s belief that not only can the Builders be hurt, but they can be killed. With Hala now freed from occupation after this very public defiance, the Kree pledge their allegiance to the resistance once again, and the Galactic Council prepares a new strike against the Builder fleet.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Attilan crashes into New York City. Thanos staggers from the debris of the Inhuman throne room, only to realize Black Bolt’s voice had unleashed a Terrigen Bomb. Converted from sound to light by Maximus’ machine, the ensuing Terrigen cloud caused a chain reaction all over the world, instigating Terrigensis in any human with Inhuman DNA. Hidden away in a lost Inhuman city, Thane, Thanos’ son, is also changed by the bomb. His birthright revealed, Thane is instantly transformed from the healer he once was into a purely destructive being, killing everyone in his tiny city. While we don’t get very well-acquainted with Thane from his brief appearances here and in New Avengers so far, his transformation is quite compelling and tragic. Thanos beats Black Bolt and sets out to find his son, not yet realizing what awaits him as hegoes to dispose of his bastard heir.

Hickman offers another tightly-scripted chapter in this unfolding event, taking what could otherwise be a fairly slow issue and keeping the momentum building instead. The length and scale of this event continues to work well in these segmented chunks, dividing each part of the story into smaller, digestible pieces. This strikes a great balance of perspective, affording the reader all the necessary points of view without bogging down the story in exposition or window-dressing. Hickman also raises the stakes with the Terrigen Bomb and Thane’s transformation, an increasingly risky move on Black Bolt’s part with some very dire consequences. I’m not sure about forcing Terrigenesis on hundreds of unsuspecting people in the midst of an already ongoing global catastrophe, so we’ll see how that plays out. It will be interesting to see how these issues are addressed moving forward, especially as Thanos has no idea of his son’s true potential. With so many regions on Earth still reeling from Ex Nihilo’s forced evolution, however, I hope Hickman has a plan to reconcile all of this mounting cataclysm, without sweeping anything under the rug.

As far as the art is concerned, Opena and Weaver knock it out of the park once again. Their styles complement one another, meshing well from segment to segment to provide a stunning reading experience. While Weaver’s pages possess a great sense of movement and energy, the scope and stoicism of Opena’s work is just as lovely in its own right, as each artist brings something engaging and visually pleasing to the table. I can’t stop raving about this team, especially when unified by Ponsor’s dramatic color choices, developing the lush alien backgrounds and brooding settings of the book. Ponsor’s palettes really do help to make this such a cohesive read, reinforcing the keen technical execution and production value of the title issue to issue.

Infinity #4 does its best to raise the stakes for human and alien alike, and is pretty successful on all accounts. The strength of Hickman’s scripting is the backbone of this title, and is again wonderfully executed by the efforts of Opena and Weaver. As the event reaches its inevitably dramatic climax, I look forward to seeing where this story goes, and how far its affects will span across the Marvel Universe at large.

Agents of SHIELD, podcasts, articles, oh my

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shielNope, sadly, there will no comic book reviews this week. None of my books came out this Wednesday, so I’m taking a bit of a break from review business. Next week I get back to my regularly scheduled pull list, snarky commentary and Instagram hijinks included. But until then, here’s some of what I’ve been up to in the meantime:

A face for radio: Chaos Theater

I was invited by Chris and Pedro of MAHQ to sit-in on their latest podcast of Chaos Theater to talk about ABC’s new Agents of SHIELD. Despite all my vaguely intoxicated stumbling and stammering, it was pretty fun, and I’d love to come back and do it again sometime. You can listen to it here. Revel in my smokey baritone!

Secret: A Fascinating Title, If You Don’t Mind the Wait

This week on eCharta.com’s blog I posted a little write-up of Image Comics’ Secret by Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim. A peculiar title, this is one of my favorites that I don’t get to talk about very much, due to its inconsistent publishing schedule. The recent release of issue #3 gave me a chance to do a little write-up and review:

Beginning in April 2012, this peculiar mix of espionage fiction and corporate intrigue saw just two issues. By the end of the summer it went on a year-long hiatus due to a series of production snags. The book, which had gained quite a bit of buzz and critical interest, was considered abandoned by readers. In the meantime, Bodenheim seemed to vanish from comics, and Hickman continued with other projects, such as Manhattan Projects, East of West, God is Dead, and championing Thanos’ return to the main stage in Marvel Comics’ timeline-shattering Infinity event. In August, the long-awaited third issue of Secret finally hit the shelves, as Miller dealt with the fall-out of the London murders. While an intriguing issue that explores Miller’s complex web of professional and personal relationships, I can’t help but keep my expectations low, even as I hope for more from this strange little world Hickman has cooked up.

You can read my article and review of Secret at eCharta.

Comic Book Reviews: 9/25/2013

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ua12Uncanny Avengers #12

The dark origin of the Apocalypse Twins! Kang’s true motives revealed. A secret of pact between Ahab and The Red Skull that will bring horror to all mutants. Bring on the bad guys! From Rick Remender and Salvador Larroca.

After the surprising events of the last issue, we find the team racing to stop Uriel and Eimen as Scarlet Witch struggles to sway Wonder Man to the twins’ cause. The twins’ plans come to fruition here as the climax of this arc closes in, offering some intriguing character insight along the way. This issue has some really good moments going for it, such as the twins’ origins and their ties to Red Skull, and Captain America’s run-in with the recently resurrected Banshee. Remender offers a solid script and Larocca’s pencils are quite dynamic and affective.

My only real complaint, as it has been from the start, has been Remender’s handling of Scarlet Witch, who feels a bit stagnant in this issue. To be honest, she spends much of the issue simply justifying her decision to work with the twins, to herself and the audience, and clinging to Wonder Man. I appreciate that she’s in a fragile state given recent events, but Remender has been pretty determined to push Wanda into some kind of relationship with somebody in this book. Having her ask Simon’s protection, and how his actions “win her heart forever,” just ring a bit cheesy to me. So far, she’s spent most of this series being kidnapped, fighting with Rogue, or being drawn into romantic entanglements of some kind. For someone whose romantic and family life has been manipulated by so many people, I just want to see Wanda stand on her own two feet for a while, you know?

Other than that, this is a solid issue and an interesting read.

A20Avengers #20

INFINITY TIE-IN – “AVENGERS UNIVERSE: III” Unexpected overtures from the Builders. A meeting of Ex Nihilos. Total, unconditional surrender. By Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu.

The war takes a surprising turn as the coalition, outnumbered and outgunned, seeks parley with the Builders. Meanwhile, Ex Nihila reaches out to Abyss and Ex Nihilo to reveal some surprising truths, and the Builders prepare for victory on Hala. We learn that the Abyssi have all died off, leaving their siblings the Gardeners, banned from creating new life, to serve as slaves to their creators. As Captain America surrenders, Ex Nihilo and Abyss swear to put an end to the subjugation of their kind.

A lot of drama, a lot of intrigue, with some solid scripting from Hickman and amazing artwork by Yu. It’s an enjoyable read, with a few interesting twists and turns along the way. Overall another strong chapter in the Infinity event.

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HULK VS THING — and it’s one for the ages! As the kids in the FF start growing apart, their adult supervision seems to be having some issues of their own…Written by Matt Fraction, Lee and Mike Allred, and pencils by Mike Allred.

Tensions in the team rear their ugly head as the kids drift apart over Adolf Impossible’s arrival. While the team works with Maximus the Mad and Caesar to bring the Fantastic Four back home, Doom moves his plans forward and Ant-Man continues his downward spiral. The relationship between Scott and Darla reaches it inevitable romantic  crossroad and, of course, nothing quite goes according to plan. An issue with growing pains from every end of the spectrum, this is another engaging chapter in a fun and offbeat series.

Fraction takes a step back from writing in this issue, focusing on other projects to let Lee Allred step in as script writer. The narrative shift is minimal, and overall Allred keeps with the tone that Fraction established in the last eleven issues. The heart of the book is still very much present, in scenes such as Adolf and Luna bonding over anime, or Darla and Scott’s abortive romantic interludes, and still feels really cohesive. As I said, it’s a slight departure from what we’re used to, but it’s certainly not enough to cast a shadow on such a fiercely enjoyable title.

ya10Young Avengers #10

It’s Mother’s Day. Don’t worry. You won’t forget. She won’t let you.Who’s bringing Mother presents? From Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Shifting narrative gears to focus on Mother, this issue sheds light on the back stories and motivations of numerous intriguing players. We get our first real insight into Mother and all her horror, as well as the mysterious reality-warping Patriot, who raises more questions than he answers. Teddy, separated from Billy and the team as he becomes embroiled Leah’s schemes, inadvertently falls victim to Mother’s trap in a compelling cliffhanger of an ending.

A really intriguing issue, Gillen and McKelvie achieve some great visuals through clever narrative convention. All the fun and witty interplay we’ve seen the last few issues is gone, in lieu of furthering the magical, dimension-hopping  aspects of the plot through some well-executed horror elements. This is just smart writing, buoyed by great artwork and the fantastic partnership between Gillen and McKelvie.

Housekeeping: Horror, comics, and some general news

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Avengers Assemble #17So, a lot has been going on the last month or so. I’m back in school for the fall, mean I’m as sleep-deprived and irritated as ever. I’ve also picked up a gig reviewing comics for eCharta, an online paper auction house specializing in everything from books to posters, stamps to manuscripts. I’m kind of the comic book correspondent there these days, writing articles and conducting interviews on anything that strikes my fancy. You can keep up with my stuff here, on their blog.

I’m also still writing reviews for MARVEL Disassembled. There I mostly cover books like Avengers, Captain America, Hawkeye, X-Men, as well as any important events. Currently I’m covering the Infinity event from Jonathan Hickman, which has been a blast so far. With my class-load and writing (I am still working on two novels at the moment, because I’m stupid and allergic to sleep) , I’ve had to cut down on my review pull list, from twelve titles to around six at the moment. That’s where this bit of housekeeping comes in.

How does this effect your site?

Rather than repost my favorite title reviews here all month, I’ll do a weekly round-up of my pull list. Likely put up every weekend, these posts will cover everything I’ve read for the week. The good, the bad, and yes, even the ugly.

But I fear change!

If you still want to follow my weekly write-ups and articles, follow eCharta and MARVEL Disassembled on Twitter. They’ll keep you abreast of my nonsense, I promise. Cutting down my review list frees me up to cover more random, offbeat stuff for eCharta, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

Aren’t you supposed to be a novelist or something?

Yes, I am, thank you. In the world of proper fiction, I have an update on my debut horror novel, Flesh Trap. Rather than be released in October as originally planned, it’s been pushed back a few months to a December drop date. Yeah, I know I’ve kind of talked up as coming soon, so I’m sorry about that. Don’t worry, though: Everything’s fine and it will be in your hot little hands in time for Christmas. So put it under the tree this year! Frighten the in-laws! Impress your friends! Use it as a doorstop! Whatever! Just buy a damn copy!

What about these other books you keep talking about?

For those of you who are curious about Flesh Trap’s sister book, White Bull (yes, all three of you), yes, I am still working on it. As I’ve mentioned before, White Bull is not a sequel per se, so much as it is a thematic sibling, following ideas and motifs in the same universe. No Casey Way or faceless dads or boxes made of flesh and teeth, but new stories around characters inhabiting the same world as Casey does. There may be a few guest appearances along the way, just for funsies, but I won’t get ahead of myself just yet.

I’m also working on my superhero fiction series, The Crashers, which you can read more about here.

So, there you have it. Horror, comics, and other things of interest. Nothing too terribly new or frightening, just some general housekeeping.

Comic book review: Infinity #3

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infinity3Prison break. Stealing a worldkiller. The fall of Attilan. Written by Jonathan Hickman with artwork by Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver.

The ramifications of the attack on The Behemoth are felt in this issue, as the galactic coalition is scattered and millions of refugees die. Seeing no point in continued conflict, The Builders issue a message: Surrender and live, or fight and die. In the aftermath planets across the galaxy begin surrendering to The Builders, as even the Kree yield in order to spare themselves further loss. Back on Behemoth, the fissures developing in the Galactic Council caused by J-Son’s meddling are temporarily set aside. Unwilling to accept defeat, the Avengers form a strategy to strike back and rescue the Captain Marvel, Captain Universe, and the other prisoners of war aboard the Builder flagship.

In events mirrored in this week’s Captain Marvel #16 tie-in, the coalition manages a bold surprise attack. Seizing control of several Builder ships, The Builders flee, leaving Ex Nihila behind to make a final stand. With the prisoners taking over the abandoned flagship, the Avengers free Starbrand, who is then able to mount a proper retaliation. Meanwhile, with Earth’s defenses overrun and the Illuminati sidetracked with another incursion, Black Bolt ushers the Inhumans to safety in Maximus’ secret pocket dimension. When Thanos arrives for his tribute, the head of his illegitimate half-Inhuman son, Black Bolt unleashes a devastating scream as Maximus arms his device and destroys Attilan.

Another strong offering from Hickman, this well-paced issue strikes an engaging balance of action and intrigue, as the war tips in the coalition’s favor and the Inhuman court falls. The two plots of this event coincide fluidly for a really exciting read that seamlessly addresses multiple perspectives in this colossal, unfolding drama. How the events of Infinity, Avengers and New Avengers come together issue by issue, and continue to feel like one unified story, is both highly enjoyable and a testament to Hickman’s strength as a writer. I’m curious to see how the arrivals of both Thanos and The Builders on Earth will finally come together. It seems like too much for one writer to pull off, especially with the stakes so high, but if the event keeps up this pace, it could make for a very interesting conclusion.

The fluidity of Opena’s and Weaver’s individual artwork continues to be a big plus for this series. Their styles mesh together impeccably from segment to segment, solidifying the overall sense of visual and narrative continuity through eye-catching settings and thoughtful page design. The art maintains a careful balance of action and intrigue, drama and adventure through dynamic panel-to-panel tension and a unifying undercurrent of anticipation. There’s nothing particularly shocking or unforeseen that happens here, but the reading experience is still just as satisfying. Complemented by Ponsor’s color palettes, this issue is another visually striking chapter in an already engaging series.

With strong artwork and scripting, this is another must-read for those following this event. Even if you’re not, it’s just lovely to flip through.

Comic book review: New Avengers #10

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na10Inhuman secrets reveal the desires of Thanos. The machinations of Maximus the Mad. The battle for Earth continues…what an awful time for an incursion. From Jonathan Hickman and Mike Deodato.

Picking up where Infinity #2 dropped off, Black Bolt reveals the true origins of Thanos’ lost son in this issue, and makes a decision that will change the fate of the Inhumans. As we learn, tensions in the royal family caused a fissure centuries earlier, splitting the kingdom in many tribes that scattered all over Earth and beyond. The descendants of one of the lost tribes ran into Thanos’ forces, and through “dark things in dark places” one of them returned to Earth pregnant with the Titan’s illegitimate son. As Black Bolt prepares his final stand against Thanos, the rest of the Illuminati disperse to find the son. Cracks in the team are momentarily tempered, even as the strain further threatens its solidity. Doctor Strange, still operating under Ebony Maw’s influence, travels to Greenland to find Thanos’ son in a secret Inhuman city and involuntarily leads the Black Order to the young man. Before anything can be done about it, however, another incursion begins, and Black Bolt squares off against Thanos face-to-face.

Another well-plotted issue, this script just simmers with dramatic tension as Namor and Black Panther come back to the table. The implications of the postponed Wakanda/Atlantis war aside, the stress of these events weigh heavily on the key players, and make for some interesting interplay that meaningfully underscores the tenuous nature of this alliance. I enjoy seeing how Black Bolt’s plotting pans out, emerging as a strong force amid all of these conflicting personalities and egos, as Strange continues to struggle with Ebony Maw’s psychic influence. There’s just so much going on for each of these characters internally, and Hickman balances these external pressures with a skilful touch.

The strong scripting aside, Deodato’s pencils continue to really sell this story. His clever use of layouts and visual design make the narrative pop, and the strength of his compositions remain truly engrossing throughout. Deodato finds a way to bring a great deal of quiet dignity to these characters, even with the sweeping tone of the story. His artwork evokes a lot of emotional subtly, which is quite a feat in a team book with so many players on the board. There’s just something about his use of shading that really draws me in, and maintains a somber mood that encompasses the story. As always, Martin’s color palettes serve as an appropriate complement to Deodato’s pencils both in tone and depth.

With a good script and solid artwork, this issue serves as another strong chapter in the unfolding Infinity saga.

Comic book review: Avengers #19 Infinity tie-in

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Avengers #19The Avengers, prisoners of war! One last desperate plan. Betrayal in the Galactic Council. From Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu.

Another intriguing Infinity tie-in from Hickman, with pencils by Yu and some lovely coloring work by Gho. Captain Marvel and Hawkeye are among those captured by The Builders after the Battle of Corridor, held captive by the Gardener Ex Nihila. Captain Marvel is brought before The Builders to explain how humans came into contact with Starbrand, Nightface, Abyss and Captain Universe, all in stasis in Builder custody, and why they fight for Earth. Meanwhile, the intergalactic coalition is losing ground against the unstoppable Builder fleet, and the recent suicide of Ex Nihilii is weighing heavily on their minds. Captain America brainstorms a new strategy, but schisms in the Galactic Council fuel further tensions as J-Son of Spartax seeks private counsel with The Builders.

Seeing no point in war, he offers a ceasefire. The Builders, however, aren’t looking to win a war. Instead they want to destroy Earth and save this failing universe. It appears that the Earth is some kind of nexus point in the destruction of our timeline, and we finally get some hint to the endgame as The Builders try to cleanse the universe of our potentially harmful planet. Hoping to avoid further conflict, J-Son promises to deliver Earth to them, but the gesture is swiftly rebuffed. When the opportunity presents itself The Builders trace his signal to the coalition’s location, launching an immediate attack. The entire fleet appears to be destroyed as the issue closes on a final scene of violence.

With some strong dialogue and intriguing political interplay, Hickman provides a successful script. The underlying tension of the plot is well-executed by Yu, whose engaging panel transitions and page designs make for a tight, dramatic reading experience. Yu and Gho work together well to offer some truly stunning pages that cash in on the uneasy but inherent beauty of characters like Ex Nihila, and make The Builders both fearsome and visually appealing. Overall this is another compelling tie-in with some lovely visual components and solid scripting, keeping this event moving at an interesting pace.

Comic book review: Captain America #11

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ca11LOOSE NUKE PART 1: A man further out of time! Captain America returns home to deal with the repercussions of his time in Dimension Z. Someone has set Nuke loose in a foreign nation and he’s on a rampage. Who is The Iron Nail? From Rick Remender and Carlos Pacheco.

Following an introductory flashback to young Steve losing his mother in 1935, this issue picks up after the war in Dimension Z to begin the next chapter in Captain America’s life. Still reeling from his twelve year captivity in Dimension Z, Steve Rogers is back in his timeline, and finding it difficult to assimilate. With Hank Pym and Bruce Banner struggling to restore Steve’s ravaged body, Maria Hill tries to give him the time he needs to recuperate, but Steve just wants to get back to active duty. Meanwhile, Jet is being interrogated by Nick Fury, as SHIELD tries to determine whether she poses a future threat. When Steve vouches for her credibility as an asset during his captivity, she’s released into his custody, where they assume their uneasy relationship as fellow survivors. Refusing to speak of Ian, to SHIELD or anyone else, they reconcile their mourning with silence.

With Steve and Jet on their way to Brooklyn to assume some semblance of a real life, the deranged Nuke goes on a violent spree Nrosvekistan, killing dozens of unarmed civilians. None of this reaches Steve yet, as he returns to his old apartment, a Batcave-like shrine to his career as a soldier and superhero. It’s an uneasy and quiet scene, as they navigate the trinkets and memories of a life far removed from the one they’re now living. He resolves to help Jet begin a new life, but she tells him he has no business lecturing her amid such a memorial to the past. Seeing his own hypocrisy, he and Jet take his memorabilia to the roof to burn it, ridding himself of his past to start over.

Despite a somewhat overwritten flashback sequence, complete with an excessively inspirational speech from Steve’s mother, Remender really delivers a solid script in this issue, hitting all the right notes. Steve’s sense of loss and confusion is really nicely developed, as is his strange and quiet new relationship with Jet. I also appreciate the time spent explaining Jet’s respective abilities, in that her bare skin acts as psychic membrane able to predict her opponent’s next move, which explains why she’s running around half-naked all the time. Her undressing before battle on always seemed pointlessly emphasized, but now that makes sense.

There’s a mournful undercurrent through this issue that grounds Steve’s sense of loss, and the decision to make Steve’s apartment a Batman-esque shrine to his heroic exploits was a nice touch. While at first I found it a little too on-the-nose, it really helps to end Steve’s pigeon-holed status as Marvel’s answer to Batman. For far too long he’s been portrayed as a man who’s become so consumed by his ideals and heroic persona as to allow his personal life completely fall to the wayside, often to the detriment of his characterization. Putting distance between him and those attitudes is a good move, and burning his past sets Steve up to start over in a different headspace.

Stepping in for Romita, Pacheco’s artwork is a great complement to the book. There are aspects of his style that mesh well with Romita’s, making for a nearly seamless transition between artists, while still putting his own spin on the book. His pencils perfectly capture the kind of quiet tension and sadness that permeates this issue, giving Steve a much-needed vulnerability and Jet a tangible fortitude despite her youth. Jansen’s inks and White’s color palettes round out the artwork for a really engrossing reading experience.

Overall this is a strong issue that begins the next chapter of Steve’s new life with some real emotional resonance. Highly recommended.

Comic book review: The Fearless Defenders #9

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fd9You know what Fearless Defenders has been missing? Dudes! It’s not easy being an Asgardian shieldmaiden – especially when your boyfriend’s got a chip on his shoulder! And Venom’s not alone! He’s brought Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Hercules, Werewolf By Night, and a legion of significant others with him! From Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney.

While the Defenders are handling an assortment of villains in New York City, their respective boyfriends, not-boyfriends, husbands and hopeful suitors are at a pub run by the former hero Shamrock. Feeling bored and left out, Valkyrie’s sort-of boyfriend Venom invites the group’s significant (and not so significant) others for a sort of intervention. What ensues is a fun his-and-hers perspective on the Defenders’ new status as a formidable team, as the men plan to weigh in on what the women have been up to. Some relationships are tested, others are forged, and Misty and Iron Fist agree to ditch everyone and let them have their pity-party. Plus Hercules shows up to tell a few misandry jokes – who can beat that?

Full of action and humor, Bunn delivers a solid script with some really clever moments. Annabelle and Val’s shared body situation presents a puzzling obstacle for both of their love lives as they both attempt to establish (and abide by) some helpful boundaries. Seeing Annabelle ruin Val’s romantic interludes, and how running into Annabelle’s ex mid-battle complicates things for Val, is an entertaining way to address the issue. Cannonball and Nate Grey’s reconciliation over their respective relationships with Dani Moonstar was entertaining as well, and it’s always fun to see Hippolyta tell off Hercules. There are quite a few duds, sure, especially when it comes to Enchantress’ stale fashion quips, but overall the writing in this issue was fresh and highly entertaining.

Sliney, despite some lackluster artwork in issue #8, offers some really solid pencils here. In line with the quality of work we came to expect from the first few issues, his page designs and panel compositions make for a fun reading experience. He strikes the right balance of humor and action, punctuating the jokes appropriately and laying off the unfortunate cheesecake anatomy we’ve seen of late. If Sliney keeps up with this quality of work, I will definitely lay off my criticism and go back to loving this book.

With so much going for it this month, this is a highly enjoyable issue with good scripting and artwork to boot.