Friday, November 12, 2010

Free Comics Review for 11/10/10

Welcome to another edition of Free Comics Review! The big news this week is that DC comics has launched their own digital comics hub, where you can read all of their digital comics from any browser at home. Of course, for the purpose of this column, it’s absolutely pointless, because they haven’t uploaded any new free comics this week either. Fret not, faithful reader, because we still got a huge selection of free comics to review this week. Hit the jump to see all eight of them.

Amazing Spider-Man #585 (Marvel App)

Written Marc Guggenheim
Art by John Romita Jr.

This is the second issue of the Character Assassination arc, which brought to a close a lot of Amazing Spider-Man’s running plots, including the reveal of Menace’s identity, which is shown in this very issue.

We also gain knowledge into the identity of Spider-Tracer Killer though it’s not exactly revealed in this issue. It’s also the eve of a vote for the mayoral race of New York. Like I said, a lot happens here.

Despite this being a second issue in an arc (that’s a weird choice, right?), catching on wasn’t difficult at all. I’ve only read a handful of comics from that era, and most of the bigger plot points are easy enough to understand. Some smaller ones are probably explained in the previous issue, but nothing that hampered the reading experience.

I’m not a big fan of Guggenheim’s writing in this. Not exactly sure if I can quantify why that is, but the dialogue feels forced at times, or somewhat unnatural. The plotting is actually quite nice, moving through a lot of material in one issue without it feeling rushed.

JR JR shows why he is the go-to artist for big Spider-Man stories like this one. He does a great job in the action scenes, which are dynamic and full of energy. People raise issues with the way he draws faces, but I’m not seeing it on this particular comic.

Black Panther #2 (Marvel App)

Written by Reginald Hudlin
Art by John Romita Jr.

Hey, what the heck is going here? Another second issue in an arc (and in a series in this case). This one is part of Who is The Black Panther?, of the controversial series by Reginald Hudlin.

Most of the story centers around the Black Panther holding an annual fighting event, where any Wakandian can challenge him for the crown. Several people challenge him in a fight, including Shuri, the current Black Panther, in her very first appearance.

Once the fight is over, we learn that this whole thing is set up in the past, on the day that T’Challa, as one of the challengers, earned the right to become the Black Panther. While this reveal is quite clever, perhaps too clever for it’s own good. Iit’s never at any point hinted that it was in another time, making for a very confusing first read.

Something that annoyed me was the commentators during the fight. I mean, this is supposed to be some royal affair, what would be a huge deal, and the commentators are making jokes throughout the whole thing like if it was the latest Wrestlemania.

There is also a parallel plot/framing device, where some members of the US government are being briefed on Wakanda. Everett Ross is part of this scene, though he hardly behaves like the one I remember from the older Black Panther series.

JR JR handles the art duties on this as well. Just go read what I said the previous comic.

Box 13 (Vol. 2) #7 (ComiXology App)

Written by David Gallaher
Art by Steve Ellis

If you remember, I read the very first issue of Box 13 for one of these columns. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised with what I read.

For one reason or the other, though, I haven’t been able to maintain that enthusiasm with what’s going on in this comic.

The plot follows Dan Holiday, who keeps getting flashbacks to the Pandora Process... whatever it is. It’s not clearly explained in this volume, probably on the previous one, so I’m a bit lost. Another character is now also experiencing the same effects.

There’s actually quite a lot of big panels in this comic, something that is peculiar from what I’ve read so far. Usually, all the issues from Box 13 are designed for the viewing screen of the Apple devices, but that is not the case here.

It works well for the dramatic effect that the comic is going for, but it makes reading this issue a rather short experience. Like all previous Box 13 comics, it’s only 8 pages long.

Cable #1 (Marvel App)

Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Ariel Olivetti

Just a couple of years ago, Cable got an ongoing series spinning out of the end of Messiah Complex, and this is the first issue of that series.

The mission statement for this series is quite clear from the beginning: Cable must protect Hope, the first mutant child to be born since the events of House of M. To do so, he escapes into the future using a time travel machine.

The villain of this piece is Lucas Bishop, who believes that Hope (which now that I think about it, hasn’t been technically named yet) will cause the future from where he came from. The time travel logistics here are not fully explained, but we must believe them nonetheless.

What is interesting is that Cable and the baby can travel through time easily enough, but moving through the planet has to be done the old school way: walking. It’s a small touch, but one that is not often brought up in these kind of stories.

I am decidedly not a fan of Olivetti’s artwork. The way he draws men makes them look like giant hulking piles of muscles. On top of that, the characters look stuff and posed, a big no-no on an action series like this one.

Captain America # 444 (Marvel App)

Written by Mark Waid
Art by Ron Garney

Interesting choice by Marvel, to release this one for free. Comics from the 90’s are usually very much ignored in their digital output. This one, however, it’s written by Mark Waid and Ron Garney, a very popular team.

I’ve heard quite a lot about Mark Waid’s run on Captain America, and I was excited that I got a chance to read a part of it. It also should be mentioned that Waid is currently penning a mini series with the character, marking his return to Cap comics.

Quite ironically, Captain America barely shows up in this particular issue. The plot revolves around a group of terrorists that have taken hostages in the Lincoln Memorial (including the President). Their sole demand: they want Captain America. If they don’t get him, they’ll blow themselves up, along with the monument and the hostages.

The Avengers (leather-jacket era, aw yeah!) show up on the scene, to try to defuse the tense situation. There’s a funny scene with Quicksilver, who manages to rescue one sole hostage by himself, though it wasn’t the President. Priorities aren’t Pietro’s strong suit, are they?

Cap can’t show up, for reasons that eventually become clear, so the Avengers spend a lot of time talking and thinking about what Cap would do in this situation. It’s quite over the top, to be honest. In the end, they do manage to rescue the hostages.

As far as hook issues, this one is strong, though not without it’s faults. The art is a product of the era, but it’s not as bad as it could have been. Garney’s art has come a long way since then.

Harker #1 (ComiXology App)

Written by Tony Lee
Art by Neil van Antwerpen

The full title for this comic is: “From The Pages of Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Harker #1”, but there was no way I could have fit all that in the title section. As you can infer, it’s a sequel to the classic Dracula novel published by Markosia, and it stars most of the characters from it.

I’ve been reading a lot Dracula comics since I started this, haven’t I? Well, this one is extra special because it endorsed by the Bram Stoker estate. That makes it an official sequel, I think.

The story is set six months later after the events of the book, and it deals with a lot of the fallout from the death of Dracula (um, spoilers, if you haven’t read the hundred year old book). Jonathan and Mina are back in London, and they are trying to leave those memories behind.

We learn of a fourth bride of Dracula, one that had her own castle and lived separately from them. She is apparently much more powerful than the other brides, and is planning her revenge on the people that killed her husband.

The story is actually very much in the same flavor of the original book, so I can see why it was endorsed by the Stoker’s. It’s not as overwritten as the book, but the tone and mood are very much in the same vein.

The art is perhaps a bit too dark for my taste. It’s hard to know who is who at times. But when Dracula shows up (in a dream), he’s creepy in all the right ways.

Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead #1 (ComiXology App)

Written by Warren Ellis and Steve Pugh
Art by Steve Pugh

Hotwire is a Radical series co-created by Warren Ellis and Steve Pugh. Apparently, Ellis came up with the concept, character and stories, and Pugh developed it, including writing and drawing the series.

Funny anecdote: I was actually given a (digital) review copy of this issue, but for one reason or the other (I think my workload was quite heavy that week), I never got around to reading it until now. I think I still have all the issues that Radical sent me, so I might dig them up.

The high concept for this sci fi series is actually incredibly compelling: fifty years ago, the souls of people stopped moving on to the afterlife, so now their souls (or a facsimile of them) stay in Earth. Most of them are harmless, but they cause trouble every now and then.

That’s where Alice Hotwire enters the scene, she’s a police office that specializes in cases dealing with these “ghosts”, though she prefers to call them “Blue lights” because of the blue hue that they have.

On top of dealing with the dead, Alice is also a very unpopular member of the police force, so she is running into conflicts from her partners at every turn.

As a whole, this thing is filled to the top of crazy ideas. Ellis and Pugh went all out and created an immense universe for Alice to inhabit, and they have thought out a lot of the ramifications that would happen from something like this happening.

The art takes a bit to get used to, but it’s gorgeously painted and does a great job in portraying the crazy world of Hotwire.

Reya #0 (ComiXology App)

Written by Morag Lewis and Sergei Lewis
Art by Morag Lewis

Totally my fault, but I somehow missed to review this one the past week, when it was originally put for free. Published by Markosia, this is a prologue to a four issue mini series.

Reya is about a girl named... Reya, who lives in a small village of the country. Every now and then, talent hunters from the city come to look for individuals naturally talented in magic to recruit for their schools.

Suddenly, a tiger appears! And one of Reya’s friends dissapears!

Yeah, I don’t know either. The point is that Reya rescues her friends from the clutches of the tiger. Because of her bravery, she is chosen as a recruit to become a magician, despite having no apparent magical powers.

To be honest, I liked this more as an idea than it’s execution. It’s a nice and interesting set-up, but the series is played more like an action-comedy. Just not what I was really expecting when I read the description.

The art is in the style of manga, completely in black and white, and I’m not a fan of it. It’s too simple at times, and backgrounds are almost entirely forgotten. I realize it comes with the territory though, so I won’t complain too much about it.

That's it for this week's column! Any ideas, tips, or advice are welcome. Remember that you can always read the comics in the ComiXology web reader (with the exception of the Marvel ones). We always try to improve our content based on your suggestions, and with a new column, it's good to hear back from the readers. So, comment away!

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Don Winslow said...

For a good long while, only Cable #2 and up was released on Marvel's DCU. I waited months for that issue, so I understand the frustration.

Matt Duarte said...

Wow, that seems like a very strange choice. Why wouldn't they upload the first issue?

Don Winslow said...

I have no idea! It bothered me. But at least I could read Fantastic Four 1-100. That was great.

I like your free comics reviews. Keep up the good work.

Dennis N said...

Ron Garney is also drawing the Ultimate Captain American mini coming out soon, so it makes sense to make that issue available: both writer and artist have Captain America minis coming out.

Matt Duarte said...

@Don: Glad you like the reviews!

@Dennis: Ohh, good point! I had forgotten all about that.

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