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Ms. Marvel #43 (War of the Marvels) – Review

By Brian Reed (Writer), Sergio Arino (Art), and Ikari Studios (Colors)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: The War of the Marvels has gotten off to a pretty good start. As long as things don’t get too convoluted (as has happened with a Ms. Marvel story or two in the past), the War could go down as one of the better arcs of the series.

The Story: Norman Osborn tries to figure out who keeps attacking his secret Goblin weapon caches. Spider-Man tries to figure out what’s up with the no longer deceased Ms. Marvel. Meanwhile, a woman named Catherine Donovan tries to make sense of her recent thoughts…

What’s Good and What’s Not So Good: One of the best things about the latest chapter in the War of the Marvels is that it’s clear that Brian Reed is building toward, well, something. While a lot of the plot elements are a bit vague at this point and things seem to be moving rather slowly, there’s a general…weirdness…to the storyline that, surprisingly, works in it’s favor. By the time I had finished reading Ms. Marvel #43, my head was swirling with questions: What’s the deal with Ms. Marvel’s ‘tude? What’s the deal with Catherine Donovan? Is Reed’s story eventually going to make sense?

In short, Brian Reed’s dialogue and storytelling choices have me hooked. Am I entirely optimistic about the story because of that? Well, no. The “Ascension” arc left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth because it got too convoluted for its own good, and simply put, I worry that the War of the Marvels will do the same.

Sergio Arino’s artwork in Ms. Marvel #43 is pretty slick. It looks significantly better than the artwork done for Ms. Marvel #41, so much so that I can say that nearly every complaint I had has been addressed in some way. The unique color work by Ikari Studios, while occasionally a bit overpowering, is far more complimentary than the work done by Emily Warren and Christina Strain. In addition, Ms. Marvel is drawn much more consistently. My only real complaint about the artwork is that Arino’s characters tend to have a pose-heavy stiffness about them that is noticeable in a number of panels.

Conclusion: It’s a bit too early to say whether Ms. Marvel readers will be the winners after The War of the Marvels is over. It could go either way at this point and Ms. Marvel #43 does little to make me think otherwise.

Grade: C+

-Kyle Posluszny

Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-Man #2 (Dark Reign) – Review

By Brian Reed (Writer), Chris Bachalo w/ Rob Disalvo (Pencils), Tim Townsend, Mendoza, Sibal, and Disalvo (Inks), and Bachalo w/ Mossa and Fabela (Colors)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: I liked the first issue of Sinister Spider-Man a whole hell of a lot. Mean, hilarious, and absolutely awesome to look at, Sinister Spider-Man #1 might actually be one of my favorite single issues of the year. I wonder if Sinister Spider-Man #2 can live up to the high standard set by the first chapter of the Dark Reign mini?

The Story: Mac Gargan (Spider-Man) starts off a huge gang war in order to keep Mayor J. Jonah Jameson’s life as difficult as possible. Meanwhile, The Redeemer holds a group therapy session for villains that have been wronged by Spider-Man.

What’s Good and What’s Not So Good: The second Sinister Spider-Man issue is a lot like the first. The visuals by Chris Bachalo look fantastic (each page feels loaded with energy, even when nothing significant is happening), the dark humor by Brian Reed is spot on (who knew squirrels taste like “squirmy popcorn?!”), and the storyline is a perfect fit for a mini-series like Sinister Spider-Man. Sounds like another “A” right? Well, not quite… Two things keep Sinister Spider-Man #2 from reaching the heights of the previous Sinister Spidey issue: the visuals by Rob Disalvo and the nagging feeling that absolutely nothing of consequence is going to have happened when all is said and done.

Simply put, the change from Chris Bachalo to Rob Disalvo is downright jarring. It’s not because their styles are different, but because they are so similar. There’s one big problem though: Disalvo’s work looks incredibly weak compared to Chris Bachalo’s. While I’m sure a full book by Disalvo would look pretty cool, his few pages do not stand up well in comparison to the rest of Sinister Spider-Man #2.

The problem I have with Brian Reed’s storyline pops up at the very end of Sinister Spider-Man #2. It looks as though a major character may be as good as dead far sooner than later, but it’s EXTREMELY unlikely that the character would die in what is, ultimately, just another Marvel tie-in mini-series. The fact that the character is unlikely to die in a mini-series like Sinister Spidey definitely takes away from the overall effect the storyline being developed has.

Conclusion: While it’s got a few flaws, Sinister Spider-Man #2 is still one hell of a fun comic book. Most of the visuals are incredibly stylish and edgy, the dark humor works extremely well, and the overall personality the book has makes it easy to overlook some of the problems I mention in the review.

Grade: B

-Kyle Posluszny

Ms. Marvel #42 (War of the Marvels) – Review

By Brian Reed (Writer) and Sana Takeda (Artist)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: For as much as I’ve enjoyed the last few issues of Ms. Marvel, I’m more than ready for the War of the Marvels to be over.

The Story: Ms. Marvel battles Ms. Marvel throughout Los Angeles. There’s lots of violence and trash talk.

What’s Good: As an all-out action comic, Ms. Marvel #42 is a hell of a lot of fun. The catfight between the two Ms. Marvels is surprisingly brutal, visually engaging, and full of the type of trash talk that makes superhero fights so entertaining. Also worth noting is how Brian Reed and Sana Takeda successfully give the battle a true sense of scale by having Karla and Carol punch, kick, and blast through a number of locations. It seems like there isn’t a place in L.A. that is safe from the two Ms. Marvels.

What’s Not So Good: While Sana Takeda’s work is quite stunning most of the time, it occasionally looks cluttered and confusing. Simply put, there is far too much going on in certain panels. Couple that with the fact that some panels are oddly shaped and you have a situation that breaks the flow of the action in a way that proves to be quite distracting.

My biggest complaint about the writing is that the trash talk heads into “camp” territory far too often. It’s fun in small doses, but small doses is not what Brian Reed delivers. Try not to roll your eyes at some of the dialogue. I dare you!

Conclusion: Ms. Marvel #42 is all about two blondes in LA, talking smack while trading blows throughout the city. There really isn’t much more to it than that. Sound like your cup of tea? Then be sure to check it out.

Grade: C+

-Kyle Posluszny

Ms. Marvel #41 (Dark Reign) – Review

By Brian Reed (Writer), Sergio Ariño (Artist), and Emily Warren w/Christina Strain (Colors)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: Yeah, it’s weird… But I’m digging the current Ms. Marvel arc quite a bit. A deceitful, morally shady “hero” that’s standing in for the real hero? Storyteller jar babies? Colorful cosmic looking entities that may or may not be parts of a “dead” hero?! That’s good stuff people!

The Story: Everyone (as in Deadpool, Ms. Marvel, the New Avengers, and the multi-colored cosmic entities) wants to get to the M.O.D.O.K./Storyteller babies.

What’s Good and What’s Not So Good: Frantic, funny, clever, and full of action, Ms. Marvel #41 delivers in ways that matter most as the series heads into the War of the Marvels arc. Brian Reed, who has been setting up the pieces and building momentum for the return of Carol Danvers, brings everything to a head in a way that makes great use of nearly every aspect of the story he’s been weaving. If I have any complaint about the way Ms. Marvel #41 plays out, it’s because Deadpool’s appearance feels rather tacked on and somewhat unnecessary. The Merc, as expected, has some entertaining lines, but there just isn’t a whole lot for the character to do.

The artwork in the latest issue of Ms. Marvel is something of a mixed bag. While the vibrant, striking color work by Emily Warren and Christina Strain compliments Sergio Ariño’s work well, it tends to overpower what Ariño does from time to time. Also, Ariño seems to have a bit of trouble with Ms. Marvel, as she looks inconsistent or awkward at times. Thankfully though, Ms. Marvel is really the only character I have any complaint about. Ariño’s Spider-Man looks great and his Wolverine looks impressive as well.

Conclusion: It’s always nice to see a series gain and maintain positive momentum heading into a major arc. Bring on the War of the Marvels!

Grade: B

-Kyle Posluszny

DARK REIGN: THE SINISTER SPIDER-MAN # 1 – Review

By Brian Reed (Writer), Chris Bachalo (Pencils & Colors), Tim Townsend (Inks), and Antonio Fabela (Color Guides)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: I’m a huge fan of Chris Bachalo’s artwork and I’ve enjoyed nearly everything that I’ve read from Brian Reed. So, needless to say, Sinister Spider-Man #1 was an easy purchase. I expect good things…

The Story: Mac Gargan is Spider-Man… The Dark Avengers’ version at least. Posing as Spider-Man while the Venom symbiote messes with the stability of his mind, Gargan stops a bank robbery, hits a strip joint, and comes up with a plan to get back at the one that made him who he is, J. Jonah Jameson! Meanwhile, a mysterious figure that calls himself The Redeemer wants to help some of the people that Spider-Man put away…

What’s Good: Dark, twisted, funny, stylish, and also a little bit obnoxious, Sinister Spider-Man #1 kicks all sorts of ass. The writing compliments the visuals and vice versa in such a way that the first chapter of Mac Gargan’s Dark Reign tie-in reads and looks like something truly unique. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the start of the Sinister Spidey mini just might be one of the most fun comics I’ve read in quite some time.

Brian Reed’s take on Mac Gargan hits all the right notes. It brings to mind what Warren Ellis did with the character during the critically acclaimed Thunderbolts run that reintroduced Venom to the masses. The one key difference is that Reed’s Gargan is a little less psychotic and a little more comfortable with what he’s become. It’s a fair trade considering how Gargan has to take front and center as opposed to strictly playing off other teammates. Reed’s Gargan is a crass, sarcastic lowlife that’s pretty satisfied with his new position of power and ready to take advantage of everything that the new position offers. There’s a number of great lines throughout the book and leaves you feeling as though Gargan is written exactly the way he should be for a book about a Sinister version of Spider-Man (which, brilliantly, feels like an extension of the ongoing Amazing Spider-Man series).

I can’t say enough about how awesome the work by Chris Bachalo and the rest of the art team looks. It’s very distinct and proves to be a great fit for the crazy tone of the book. Bachalo’s characters are loaded with personality and his unique panel layouts do a great job of reflecting the feel of each individual scene. Also worthy of note is how striking the few black and white scenes are. While they look a bit simplified at times, they serve as a neat look into Gargan’s twisted mind.

What’s Not So Good: Simply put, Sinister Spider-Man #1 isn’t a book for everyone. It’s every bit the “love it or hate it” book that I assumed it would be when I first heard about it. Chris Bachalo’s artwork is clearly going to divide audiences and Brian Reed’s dialogue is most definitely going to offend some (Dead stripper dark humor…’nuff said).

Conclusion: Sinister Spider-Man #1 is awesome…IF you are the type of person that can get into what it offers.  I expected good, what I got was great.  While I certainly can’t recommend it to everyone, I can still give it the grade I feel it deserves…

Grade: A

-Kyle Posluszny

Ms. Marvel #40 (Dark Reign) – Review

By Brian Reed (Writer), Sana Takeda (Artist), Luke Ross (Pencils on pgs. 1-3 & 17-22), and Rob Schwager (Colors on pgs. 1-3 & 17-22)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: I’ve been enjoying the new direction of Ms. Marvel a whole lot. It’s a nice blend of new and old that works far better than anyone could have expected. While I’m not so sure about how Brian Reed is setting up the future of his series, I’ll let things play out a bit longer before I really make a final decision on it…

The Story: Deadpool gets hired by A.I.M. to retrieve the “storyteller” babies that Karla Sofen (the current Ms. Marvel) got control of in the last issue. Meanwhile, the mysterious glowing figure battles Ms. Marvel and a few of the other Dark Avengers for control of the babies.

What’s Good and What’s Not So Good: In the latest issue of Ms. Marvel, Brian Reed keeps the series moving at a breakneck pace. While the odd storyline is pushed to the side in favor of explosive action and character work that should help people become more familiar with the current Ms. Marvel, there’s still enough plot development to keep it from being completely overwhelmed by all the punching, flying, and energy blasting. Oh, and for those of you wondering, Deadpool, Spidey, and Wolverine actually serve something of a purpose, are well written, and aren’t simply tacked on for the sake of selling a few more books (though I’m not sure I’d call any of the guest stars truly necessary to the plot).

The visuals in Ms. Marvel #40 look pretty great all around. That said, it’s incredibly jarring to go from Luke Ross and Rob Schwager to Sana Takeda and then back to the first art team. Ross’ style could not be more different from Takeda’s and, as a result, the latest issue of Ms. Marvel never feels like a cohesive package.

Luke Ross handles all of the Deadpool, Spider-Man, and Wolverine stuff. His Spider-Man is fantastic, though his Deadpool, while expressive, looks a bit off. As for the Wolverine scene, Ross handles “He who appears far too much” rather well, even if the action of the scene seems a bit tame compared to what’s seen earlier in the book.

Sana Takeda once again makes Ms. Marvel feel unlike anything else that Marvel puts out. Her style is lush, rich, beautiful, and well suited to the type of action that Ms. Marvel delivers. Sure, her style isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely something I’m a fan of.

Now even though I’m a big fan, that doesn’t mean that I can ignore some of the flaws of Takeda’s work. My biggest complaint is that the some of the action is too explosive for its own good. It makes pages feel rather cluttered and panel progression more difficult to follow than it should be. Also, what’s with Ms. Marvel’s breasts getting larger as the pages go by?

Conclusion: Be sure to give Ms. Marvel #40 a shot. It looks mighty fine, advances an interesting story, and gives Karla Sofen the spotlight the character deserves.

Grade: B

-Kyle Posluszny

Ms. Marvel #39 (Dark Reign) – Review

By Brian Reed (Writer) and Sana Takeda (Artist)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: I became a fan of Karla Sofen (Moonstone) back when she was part of the Thunderbolts, so it’s nice to see her finally playing a larger role in the Marvel universe.

The Story: Ms. Marvel stops a meteor from crashing to earth and then reports to Norman Osborn about her assignment involving the terrorist group A.I.M. As it turns out, the reported events and the actual events are quite different from each other. Also, a mysterious being appears, speaking an alien language…

What’s Good: I’ve got to hand it to for Brian Reed for successfully weaving the stories of Carol Danvers into the life of the new Ms. Marvel. What Karla uncovers during her investigation into A.I.M. pulls a number of elements from Ms. Marvel’s recent past into the present in a way that creates an interesting scenario for the series as it moves forward. While the story being developed is, admittedly, pretty strange, I think it’s something that will prove quite entertaining; considering Karla’s villainous past and the position she currently holds.

Another thing worth mentioning is how effective Reed’s storytelling style is throughout the issue. By using the mission report to Osborn as a framing device, Reed adds a bit more to Sofen’s personality and devious nature. She does things for her own reasons, yet knows how her current situation forces her to act a certain way. It creates certain “character study” moments that elevate the book as whole.

The artwork can’t really be considered to be anything but divisive. While I personally like Sana Takeda’s manga/anime style (hence, it’s in the “What’s Good” section), I’m well aware that some people are going to be instantly turned off by it. That said, there’s no denying how great some of the panels and pages look. The page showing A.I.M.’s meteor crashing to earth is absolutely stunning. Also, I think Takeda’s artwork goes a long way towards helping Ms. Marvel #39 stand out from the Marvel pack. There simply isn’t any other Marvel book that looks like it does.

What’s Not So Good: For as much as I like Sana Takeda’s work, the smaller panels look quite weak. They seem oversimplified, rushed, and absolutely dominated by the colors. Thankfully, the number of small panels is kept to a minimum and does little to hurt an otherwise good looking book.

An additional “Not So Good” thing is how quickly Brian Reed moves into combing the old Ms. Marvel with the new. Another issue or two to establish Karla Sofen as both a character and as the new Ms. Marvel would probably have added a bit more depth to the series.

Conclusion: I’m definitely a fan of the new Ms. Marvel. Karla Sofen adds a lot to the series, as does Brian Reed’s intriguing storyline.

Grade: B

-Kyle Posluszny

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