Marvel Comics
By: Dan Slott (writer); Giuseppe Camuncoli (penciller); Cam Smith (inker); Marte Gracia (colorist)

It’s really an issue of Spider-Man Team-Up, featuring the Human Torch. You see, the Torch is upset that Parker Industries’ new headquarters is the Fantastic Four’s old digs, the Baxter Building. Cue the classic Mighty Marvel Misunderstanding(tm) and resultant tussle. I guess being a successful big-businessman in the Marvel universe is kind of like being a brilliant scientist. Just like Hank Pym can pretty much do anything in any field of science, Peter Parker can now buy anything, including prime real estate in Manhattan. Alright, let’s roll with that.

It’s kind of like the way that the Human Torch and Spider-Man are always best of friends whenever they meet in comics, despite the fact that they don’t really ever hang out except for those moments when they meet for their guest-starring conflict du jour. They’re great friends that never appear as regular supporting characters in each other’s books. Hey, at least it offers some opportunity for some fun fight scenes and friendly banter. Add some interaction with Harry Osborn, drop a cliffhangerry appearance of the last page’s villain, and you actually have like a theme going on. Something something family, or something.

The weightier part of the issue is all about the Zodiac, actually. Interestingly, the Zodiac does involve the fabled Zodiac Key, establishing this “new” Zodiac is indeed a new iteration of our long-standing Avengers villain team. Like Spider-Man, however, the team has been re-envisioned on a global scale. Whereas for Spidey, it’s striking a chord that still feels a bit fish-out-of-water, for the Zodiac, it feels like a true way to scale up their profile and power. We’re still getting a slow build up for the organization, which actually helps to take them seriously. We may have to add some more significant and personalized characters to them, however, to really help us feel for them.

Grade: B+

Marvel Comics
By: Jason Aaron (writer); Chris Bachalo (pencils & colors); Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin (Inks)

The good doctor treats the symptoms of Zelma’s head wound, the gremlin-like creatures that begin to run rampant through the weirdness contained in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Turns out, they’re are actually mind maggots, which, well, we aren’t really told why they are so dangerous, just that it would be “bad” if they end up in the cellar, so Dr. Strange takes on the problem personally. And literally.

The story is certainly a continuation of the first issue’s set-up, meaning we get a lot of introduction to scenery and vague generalities about the state of magic. A lot is left to the imagination, which leads to humorous and creepy effects like Wong making a mysterious meal from the strangeness in the refrigerator and the “‘nuff said” moment of “Do not talk to the snakes.” But the effect is a bit disappointing when it comes to, say, the driving element of the plot. It may be that writer Jason Aaron is leaving some mystery to develop over many issues, but right now the “vague sense of mystery” seems a lot closer to “glossing over important plot points.” Some superficiality is expected in these kinds of set-up, re-establish the character, world-building kind of stories, so I’m anxious to see what depths we can plumb as the series continues.

Zelma makes for a perfectly fine fish-out-of-water point-of-view character, and seems poised to become a recurring character. It’s also nice to see Wong treated with equal partnership to Strange, since his role can’t be the same archaic one from the 1960s anymore.  

Bachalo continues to provide some excellent art, perfect for the tone and subject matter for the series. It’s a wonder that he was never positioned as an artist on this series before now. It’s certainly a selling point that would be difficult to replicate.

Grade: B-

Dynamite Entertainment
By: Warren Ellis (writer); Jason Masters (artist); Guy Major (colorist)

First of all, that logo. Love it. Quite simple and finding that nice balance between modern and retro. I’m not sure the superimposed Os really sell, visually, but they do lend a sense of movement to the logo, a vague 3D pop-out kind of look.

Inside, we get a cold open kind of intro scene, as Bond chases down a killer purely for revenge. The layouts and the colors are unfortunately too dark and muddled to really get a clean flow, and too often I had to zoom in and scroll around to register each panel. Not a good experience. There’s some attempt at visual tricks like obscuring Bond’s face until he can be posed dramatically (and reminiscent of the standard pose that begins every Bond film) but it feels unnecessary and therefore frustrating that we have to get through it.

The majority of the rest of the comic features Bond in various conversations, the longest with M, a necessary feature of most Bond stories since the guy has to get a long-winded assignment from someone. The art plays around with angles at times, but largely from the same distance/perspective, so attempts to make it more visually interesting fall a bit flat. The characters expressions are appropriate, and not too over-the-top, so that works well enough. My personal feeling is that as always comics should go a little bit in that direction, though, being such a graphic and expressive medium.

I think Ellis really captures a good Bond voice, though. It’s too bad that at times it feels like there’s a bit of a metacommentary that disparages such a voice. Perhaps we’re getting some subtle jabs at the clichéd hero, but it’s too early to tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I also kind of regret seeing that we’re less concerned with four-color adventures in international megalomaniacal plots and more about stopping a local drug trade, but maybe there’s room for the series to grow into the latter.

Grade: C+  


Amazing Spider-Man #3 - Doctor Strange #2, James Bond #1


For straight-up superheroics, Amazing Spider-Man continues to bring some old-school sensibilities to a brand-new status quo; Dr. Strange is more concerned with its specific world-building in a story that could be the start of a unqiue and intriguing corner of the Marvel universe; and James Bond wasn’t what I was expecting, with too much disappointment in the art and in some general directions of story and character choices.