There’s a lot of books out this week that I wanted to write about, so we’re dragging this feature out of storage. A new creative team for Amazing Spider-Man! Flash #50! An Archie finale! Books from Image! It’s a big week, so let’s dive in.
Amazing Spider-Man #1 (Marvel Comics)
(w) Nick Spencer (a) Ryan Ottley & Humberto Ramos (i) Cliff Rathburn (c) Laura Martin
If you still have a sour taste in your mouth from last week’s #Batrimony disaster, Amazing Spider-Man #1 is a great palate cleanser. Writer Nick Spencer and artist Ryan Ottley’s anticipated turn on Marvel’s top book is a spectacular, oversized ride that hits most of the beats readers want out of a Spidey adventure.
Ottley’s artwork shines throughout. As he did for years on Invincible, he packs each page with action, emotion, or both. The book’s action setpieces are wonderfully choreographed, and the coloring by Laura Martin make the issue’s characters pop off the page. His characters are wonderfully expressive, be it Peter’s frustration in his roommate’s late night (and early morning) gaming, Robbie Robertson’s disappointment, or Wilson Fisk’s skeeviness. There are a few instances where characters do look a bit off, but it’s hardly a dealbreaker.
Many people were worried about Spencer taking over the title after the events of his Captain America and Secret Empire, but this issue has all the hallmarks of his best works – sharp dialogue, real stakes, and an emotional buy-in from readers. And although the book leans a little too much into trying to bring the series “back to basics” (which also happens to be the arc’s title), the issue’s two cliffhangers are sure to keep readers hooked. If anything, the book is so concerned with setting up the new (old?) status quo for our hero that it rushes through critical plot points. But in the end, this is an enjoyable and engaging first issue.
Archie #32 (Archie Comics)
(w) Mark Waid & Ian Flynn (a) Audrey Mok
With the announcement that Nick Spencer will be taking over Archie in November, and Mark Waid jumping over to the new Archie 1941, it would appear that this is the veteran scribe’s last go on the publisher’s marquee title. If that is the case, Waid and co-writer Ian Flynn’s script wraps up most of Riverdale’s hanging plot threads in a satisfying manner. Archie #32 concludes an arc that combines the many soap opera elements that has made its characters endure over decades with the all-too-real threat of school shootings.
With the biological father of the Blossom twins holding the entire school hostage during a dance, Waid uses what’s been established over previous 31 issues to set up a proposed resolution. Then he immediately subverts reader expectations in a manner that is hilarious and perfectly Archie. It’s a great way to cut the tension of a scene that has built over the course of two issues. The situation is one seemingly ripped from the headlines, with a gun wielding maniac in a school. The inclusion of this makes the stakes more real without diving into a polarizing political debate.
Audrey Mok’s artwork is consistent and solid throughout. She does a great job in capturing the wholesome setting of a small town, high school dance. The characters are expressive, capturing the emotional tone of each sequence. The end result is a story that satisfyingly wraps a 32 issue narrative that has defined Archie for modern readers.
The Flash #50 (DC Comics)
(w) Joshua Williamson (a) Howard Porter
With a few exceptions, The Flash has consistently been one of DC’s better titles throughout its history. Moreover, it’s often been reflective of the state of the publisher at a given time. With the launch of DC’s Rebirth two years ago, The Flash was a title that introduced readers to new ideas while honoring and/or fixing the past. With Barry Allen and Wally West being the focus of DC Universe Rebirth #1, it seemed that The Flash would play a crucial role in shaping the DC Universe. That has more or less held true over the course of its run. Unfortunately, as the publisher’s titles become stale and the amount of stunts or events increase, those changes can be seen reflected in The Flash, coming to a head in this 50th issue.
The concluding chapter of “The Flash War” sees Barry and Wally attempt to take down Hunter Zolomon before he can unleash other forces that are known to readers of Justice League and no one else. While writer Joshua Williamson manages to keep readers up to speed without being over expository, it is frustrating that this personal battle for both Flashes is not fully self-contained. The issue (and arc) ends on a rather melancholy note, which is surprisingly fitting given the issue’s events. However, having missed the first few issues of Justice League, it reads as if we’re missing a part of the story.
Howard Porter’s artwork continues to impress, especially when you consider he had to relearn drawing. His big, sweeping action sequences can mesmerize. Readers can simply lose themselves in the artwork, much like our heroes find themselves lost with the Speed Force itself. However, if you look closely enough, you can spot the cracks. His big, dynamic stuff may impress, but those moments which require greater attention to detail are lacking. There is never an instance of clean linework, and certain panels are just too busy. Overall, the book is a reflection of its writing and artwork: a great, big-picture concept that needs refinement.
Oblivion Song #5 (Image Comics)
(w) Robert Kirkman (a) Lorenzo De Felici (c) Annalisa Leoni
Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici’s Oblivion Song continues to be an equally fun and intense science fiction tale. From it’s beginning, the series has been grounded thanks to the protagonist, Nathan Cole, and his continuous efforts to rescue his brother, Ed, from the hellscape that is Oblivion. Issue #5 features the anticipated reunion between the two, and like most comics, it does not go quite as expected.
Kirkman has thus far used Oblivion Song to explore the very idea of heroism, with Nathan’s actions at the center of the issue. Here, his ratchets the scrutiny up as Nathan is confronted by the people who have found a way to survive and thrive in Oblivion, and that “rescuing” them against their will is robbing them of the life they’ve created. This comes to a head when Nathan is reunited with Ed. While their reunion does feel rushed, and could have been prolonged by another issue, it does play against reader expectations.
Also playing against reader expectations is Ed’s unwillingness to leave Oblivion. While happy to see his brother, he has no desire to return to the “real world,” having found purpose and happiness in the Oblivion colony. It’s the classic dynamic of family members trying to control each other. While their discussion is cut short by a monster attack, Kirkman may look to build upon it in the future.
Most of Kirkman’s script features great ideas and interesting questions, but very little in the form of answers. Ultimately, it leaves us wanting more, but not in a “I can’t wait to pick up the next issue” manner. However, the artwork from De Felici makes up for the script’s (relatively minor) shortcomings. His style is one that can seamlessly transition from lighthearted to serious. This enables the issue’s few jokes to land and the reader to feel the varying emotions at play. His character work is expressive, while the action is visceral. Add in the eye-popping colors by Annalisa Leoni, and Oblivion Song #5 is a beautiful book.
Farmhand #1 (Image Comics)
(w/a) Rob Guillory (c) Taylor Wells
It should come to the surprise of no one that Farmhand #1 is one of the weirder titles in recent memory. After a long run of illustrating the quirky book Chew, Rob Guillory adds writing to his resume’ in this peculiar tale of farming genetically modified crops and industrial espionage. The artwork is great, but the pacing of the story is just a bit off. Still, the creepy premise and unique look should keep readers coming back for the next issue.
Superman #1 (DC Comics)
(w) Brian Michael Bendis (a) Ivan Reis (i) Joe Prado (c) Alex Sinclair
Spider-man isn’t the only iconic superhero getting a shiny #1 this week, as Brian Michael Bendis begins his run on Superman, following the Man of Steel miniseries. It is clear based solely on this issue that Bendis fully gets who Superman is and what makes him work. Joined by the always stellar art team of Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Alex Sinclair, Superman #1 looks fantastic. All in all, this was a wonderful issue.