Just four books to cover this week, but four important ones as Secret Wars finally comes to a conclusion and Star Wars: Darth Vader continues to bring the awesome. So sit back, relax, and help us guide your purchases the next time you hit up your comic shop.
Secret Wars #9
Writer & Designer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Esad Ribic
Color Artist: Ive Svorcina
Well, it’s finally over. Sadly, many in the comic press are judging this series on lateness rather than content, and while the delays on Secret Wars were a pain the ass, that does not lessen the impact of the masterful story that Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic delivered. I really have never seen a mainstream comic with more moving parts, and like a masterful clockmaker, Hickman kept it all logical and precise. There were literally infinite amounts of character in this book but somehow Hickman managed to keep it all very grounded and personal even though this was probably the least grounded concept in modern superhero history. At its heart, Secret Wars was a Fantastic Four story; most of the major players were taken from Marvel’s first family. Reed, Sue, the Richards’ children, the Future Foundation, Doom, Molecule Man, Black Panther, and Namor all got their start in the pages of the Fantastc Four, and they were all front and center in this tale, a tale that may very well be the last Fantastic Four story. And if it is the final FF yarn, then this was truly a worthy send off of some of the characters that kicked off the Marvel Universe. One of the major issues with these crossovers is that very often, one leaks into another creating a cycle of never ending stuff. Hickman should be commended for having a precise, and quite frankly, universe changing ending where the Marvel Universe is different than before the event. But make no mistake; this is the Marvel Universe that Jack and Stan created with a few wonderful and a few melancholic alterations. Secret Wars was the first series in a long while that did what it said it was going to do: change things but not break things. The Miles Morales stuff was particularly moving and the fitting tribute to Reed and Sue should send even the most jaded Marvel fans into emotional fits. And oh man, that art. Esad Ribic is a modern master and he made a story that should have been impossible to execute look seamless.
Big Picture: It’s not a reboot. It’s not a relaunch. It’s a brave new world that looks like the old world but with some inclusions and omissions that have meaning. Bravo Marvel; a company finally delivered on a crossover.
4 ½ stars
Agents of SHIELD #1
Writer: Mark Guggenheim
Artist: German Peralta
Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg
While we wait for Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD to return to ABC, we have this bit of fun to tide us over. In this new SHIELD book, writer Mark Guggenheim reintroduces all of Marvel’s TV agents and adds the latest Deathlok to the mix, creating an interesting team. The book is fun and breezy and the characters that Guggenheim actually spends time with really get to sing. There isn’t much Daisy, Simmons, or Morse in this book, but Guggenheim’s May, Coulson, and Fitz speak with the same voice as the characters on the ABC series. These are different character than the ones appearing on ABC and Guggenheim gets to play with some of those differences. If you’ve ever wanted to see a romantic bond between May and Fitz, well, here you go. We also get to meet a woman from Coulson’s past, and of course her name is Lola! Guggenheim seems like he is having a blast, and so will you even if this issue seems a bit truncated. The art is problematic at times though as German Peralta renders many of the females with the same face and his figures are rather stiff. Peralta knows his way around an action sequence though.
Big Picture: Marvel is still trying to incorporate the NBC characters into its comic book universe and it’s ironic that they turned to one of the major DC TV writers to do so. In all honesty, this comic felt like the most natural fit for the TV agents and I look forward to more.
All New All Different Avengers #3
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Adam Kubert
Color Artist: Sonia Oback
I haven’t loved Mark Waid and Adam Kubert’s All New All Different Avengers nearly as much as I thought I was going to. Waid is my favorite writer in comics (other than Brian k. Vaughan) and Kubert is one of my top artists. I adore every member of this new Avengers team but the first two issues left me a little cold. Maybe it was because the entire team didn’t get together, or maybe because I just wasn’t buying into the villain. I’m happy to report that with issue #3, with these all new all different Avengers assembled, I am a much happier customer. Maybe it’s the fact that we now get to see all those awesome characters together so the book doesn’t feel like a glorified issue of Marvel Team Up. Waid is beginning to get the feel for his team dynamic and finally, after three issues, this book feels worthy of being the flagship Avengers title. While I was happy that the threat of the arc was so personal to Nova, the villains used to kick off the title felt tacked on at best.
Big Picture: Marvel has turned the ship around and I look forward to watching Waid forge his team into a legend.
Star Wars: Darth Vader #15
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Color Artist: Edgar Delgado
I have beaten you over the head with just how awesome Star Wars: Darth Vader has been, and Gillen and Larroca upped the ante with “Vader Down.” This is simply one of the most exciting Star Wars stories to ever appear in comic form. It has a mixture of the old Star Wars cast in their prime and some awesome new characters introduced by the writer and artist. This is as good as Star Wars stories get with a deft mixture of characterization, drama, pathos, and humor. It also has some incredibly powerful Princess Leia moments mixed in with the tantalizing, non-stop action. But the book’s greatest achievement is just how awesomely badass the creators make Darth Vader. This comic is a monthly reminder of what Darth Vader is- the greatest sci-fi villain of all time.
Big Picture: If Darth Vader does appear in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story than 2016 could be the year of Vader. This book is the perfect centerpiece to that possible yearlong celebration.