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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Stay Fly

 Title: Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Stay Fly 

ISBN: 9780785190141

Price: $15.99

Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2015

Artist: Marcio Takara, David Lopez, Laura Braga

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnic

Collects: Captain Marvel (2014) # 7-11

Rating: 3.5/5

After a long opening arc, Carol Danvers spends Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Stay Fly rocketing around on a variety of adventures. Joining her is Tic, the mysterious alien girl who put the previous arc into motion, and I suppose I should start off mentioning how much I dislike her continued appearance in this title. The Higher, Further, Faster, More trade introduced a cast of interesting aliens and the most annoying of them ended up traveling with Carol Danvers past that story. It’s a rare misfire for Kelly Sue DeConnick, who previously used the little girl Kit as an adorable side character. Tic (which I noticed is “Kit” backwards phonetically) is Space Jubilee when Carol needed Space Shadowcat instead.

Tic is thankfully unable to drag the comic down too far, as the first story here brings back a better previous guest character: Rocket Raccoon. He had previously mentioned that Carol’s cat, Chewie, was an alien called a “Flerken” after it tried to attack him. It’s revealed that this wasn’t a joke and that Chewie is a portal-generating alien who has just laid a clutch of eggs. Because Flerkens are so rare and valuable, a living ship arrives to capture Chewie and her “Fler-Kittens” to exterminate the species forever. The ship is sadly not given more explanation despite an excellent depiction under the pen of guest artist Marcio Takara. This is only an unconfirmed theory, but shortly after this arc was published, the Guardians of the Galaxy encountered the home planet of the Symbiotes, and the ship is reminiscent of Venom and others of his ilk.

Having a guest star like Rocket is obviously a draw for readers of Guardians of the Galaxy to pick up Captain Marvel, but he’s used extremely well in this. He had a rivalry with Chewie already established and the two go through an arc of their own, possibly ending up in love by the end. DeConnick also uses a countdown theme in each of the issues, making the two parts mirror each other without feeling like a retread. Another guest star invigorates the following issue as Lila Cheney gets mixed up in Carol and Tic’s voyage home. Lila is from the original New Mutants era and has the unusual ability of “long-range teleportation” -- unlike Nightcrawler’s short-range jumps, she can only teleport over lightyears of distance, often unwillingly.

This ability has landed Lila in a number of sticky situations over the years, and one trip made long ago led to her getting unwittingly engaged. She ends up on Carol’s ship while trying to escape the marriage; Carol and Tic return with her to work the situation out, leading to the issue’s dialogue conceit. Everyone on the planet Aladna speaks in rhyme and the visitors have to play along. DeConnick doesn’t have them stick to a certain rhythm, which simplifies the matter; they just have to rhyme everything they say. The issue plays up the silliness; the prince wears Ziggy Stardust-style eye make-up while his father is clearly Fat Elvis. The end annoyed me as it appeared Tic was going to leave the book for the second time in two issues, only for it to be undone yet again.

Issue #10, which is Carol Danvers’s 100th solo issue (under various names), is an annual-sized tale told through letters from home. The story revisits Grace Valentine, a villainous scientist obsessed with being more famous than Captain Marvel, after her original story in the first volume of the title. Valentine's unhinged plan ends up with her taking control of New York City’s rats and sending them against Carol’s friends. Kit, Spider-Woman, and Jim Rhodes tell the story in three chunks, with Spider-Woman’s chapter having a hilarious flashback to the time she tried to have Carol incinerate a rat in their apartment. This issue reconfirms the romantic pairing of Carol and Rhodey that the first issue set up. It’s a shame that Rhodey didn’t go off to space with Carol and Venom to join the Guardians; his Iron Patriot career went as well as his Iron Man 2.0 tenure.

Carol convinces Lila to take her back to New York for one night to check in on Tracy, her crotchety mentor who has fallen into a deep illness. This leads to Carol fighting both Valentine and June Covington, a mad scientist she had previously encountered in Avengers Assemble: The Forgeries of Jealousy. David Lopez illustrates a fantastic page of Covington’s glasses multiplying sinisterly while Carol is knocked out by her germs. Carol hasn’t had the best rogues gallery, so these two fearsome foes are a welcome addition to the cast. She’s able to defeat them with what might be the strangest team-up I’ve read in ages; it makes sense in retrospect but it’s still baffling. If I spoiled it here, you wouldn’t believe me.

There’s a sense that, much like the previous volume of Captain Marvel, DeConnick’s plans for Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Stay Fly were modified due to scheduling issues. Carol had to be in space for her tenure in Guardians of the Galaxy, so after she comes home for one issue, she returns to them ... only to go home four issues later at the end of the next arc. But many of these issues can be overlooked as Carol makes for such a great protagonist. She has deep personality flaws, like her hotheadedness, but she has a rich history to explain why she’s all screwed up. The new Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps seems to be the book DeConnick has wanted to write since Carol upgraded her rank, so Stay Fly is just a step on the road towards that end.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero Vol. 1

 Title: Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero Vol. 1

ISBN: 978302901271

Price: $29.99

Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2016

Artist: Dexter Soy, Filipe Andrade, Emma Rios

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnic, Christopher Sebela

Collects: Captain Marvel (2012) # 1-12

Rating: 3.5/5

The book’s second half is exciting and well-written overall. Captain Marvel is a relatable and charismatic hero whose adventures are fun to watch. The narrative is very interesting. The artwork looks great in most places.

The opening story arc has a few problems. Some of the art isn’t that great.

The first volume in a new take on Carol Danvers proves to be a rousing success. The storyline is interesting, the action is exciting, and Captain Marvel ends up being a fantastic main character. The volume stumbles a bit at first, but even these introductory chapters are fun in their own way. Anyone looking for a good introduction to the new Captain Marvel should definitely take a look at this book.

Captain Marvel Earth’s Mightiest Hero Vol. 1, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, starts out average but ramps up the quality as the story progresses. The opening story arc deals with time travel in a way that brings in some cool history but causes the message to become a bit mixed. However, from here, things get better as the rest of the book is a fun ride filled with great characters and thrilling action. Readers have a chance to see Captain Marvel beat up bad guys while dealing out humorous quips. They also have a chance to become invested in her personal story, as DeConnick makes Carol Danvers a character that is incredibly easy to relate to. Overall, this is a wonderful read and an optimistic start to this series.

The book starts out with an arc that centers around time travel. It uses this setting to highlight the Women Airforce Service Pilots, a real group that goes unappreciated in most forms of media. This perfectly fits the feminist tone inherent to Captain Marvel’s character and gives the arc legitimacy by grounding it in real history.

However, the opening arc’s use of time-travel is a bit confusing at times and jumps around too much, preventing it from significantly contributing to the overall story. In addition, the message found in the arc’s conclusion seems different than the one it started with. In the first chapter, Carol’s reluctance to take on the Captain Marvel name is the focus, while in the final chapter her reluctance to be a hero at all is the focus. These problems prevent the opening story from being as entertaining as it could be.

Luckily, the narrative improves drastically from this point onward. Captain Marvel begins tackling smaller, but more straightforward, problems in the present. This allows for some great moments of action that showcase Captain Marvel as a hero. These moments are exciting and fun in an uncomplicated and celebratory way. All of this also allows Carol’s personality to shine, as she brings a bit of humor to each altercation.

Each of these stories also humanize Carol as a character and make her more relatable. This is a hero with insane levels of power who also lives in an apartment building and owns a cat, emphasizing the fact that, underneath her superhero fa├žade, she is still a normal person. So when her schedule gets overbooked and she struggles to maintain the commitments she has made, it relates to similar situations in the lives of readers. All of this makes you care about Captain Marvel as a person and become more invested in her story.

This deep level of connection also helps make one of the volume’s larger narrative threads, Carol’s health issues, more meaningful. Having a superhuman character struck down by a relatively human problem is an incredibly interesting concept and furthers Carol’s status as a normal person. Giving her a problem she can’t punch her way out of also works in adding a level of diversity to the storytelling. Though the action and charm sold me on the individual chapters, this is the point that sold me on this series as a whole.

The majority of Captain Marvel Vol. 1 features Dexter Soy’s gorgeous pencils and inks. These chapters look incredible and are packed with awesome levels of detail. This detail makes both characters and backgrounds look realistic and helps bring the entire story to life. Plus, Soy’s work really helps highlight some of the action scenes, making them even more exciting.

However, there are also a few chapters here, from other artists, that don’t look nearly as good. Filipe Andrade’s heavily stylized approach looks nice in its own way but does not match the theme or tone of this comic. These chapters are also a huge departure from the art style seen in the rest of this volume, introducing a bit of a disconnect into the book.

Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero Vol. 1 starts a new Captain Marvel series. Carol Danvers previously starred in the Ms. Marvel series, which ended with Ms. Marvel Vol. 9: Best You Can Be.

The story here continues in Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero Vol. 2.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Ruse: The Victorian Guide to Murder

Title: Ruse: The Victorian Guide to Murder

ISBN: 9780785155867

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2011

Artist: Marco Pierfederici, Minck Oosteveer

Writer: Mark Waid

Collects: Ruse # 1-4

Rating: 3/5

Having created nigh infallible and insufferable Victorian era detective Simon Archard in Enter the Detective, Mark Waid left the series midway through the following volume The Silent Partner. Eight years later he returned to his creation, now published by Marvel.

If there are any concerns of the can’t go home again adage applying to this witty period drama, just read the sample page, which is the opener. With a single well selected word Archard is cemented as arrogant, observant and infuriating. It’s the satisfying manner in which he continues. Having based Archard on Sherlock Holmes, Waid has an instantly identifiable lead character, but with Archard’s partner Emma Bishop there’s work to be done, and it’s done well. She’s extremely competent, adaptable and endearing, and in equal measure admiring of Archard’s deductive abilities and infuriated at his lack of social skills and concern for her well being. One element from the previous graphic novels is omitted. In this incarnation Emma has no ties to other eras, and the series is better for it.

Artist Marco Pierfederici is not quite the finished article. There’s a lot of effort on display, both with the period detail and the well staged layouts, but they’re accompanied by some shaky work on figures and faces. For those who’ve read the previous Ruse volumes he also falls shy of the lush pages supplied by Butch Guice. Minck Oosteveer illustrates the third chapter, and while his people look better there are some very odd faces. It also raises the question of why it’s the case with only four issues comprising the original serialisation that it couldn’t have been arranged for a single artist to draw it all.

The plot concerns someone turning the screws on the inveterate gamblers of Partington, concentrating on the wealthy and influential, consolidating their debts for purposes unknown. Waid’s classic mismatched and bantering partnership sustains the plot until the major revelations of the third chapter, and his fine dialogue consistently raises a smile. Waid deliberately overplays some aspects of the plot to misdirect from others, but this isn’t the type of tale where anyone other than Archard’s going to figure anything out, so going with the flow is all for the best, particularly during the opening of chapter two.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Star Wars Vol. 3: Rebel Jail

Title: Star Wars Vol. 3: Rebel Jail

ISBN: 9780785199830
Price: $19.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2016
Artist: Angel Unzueta, Leinil Francis Yu, Mike Mayhew
Writer: Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron
Collects: Star Wars (2015) # 15-19 and Annual #1

Rating: 4/5

Star Wars Vol. 3: Rebel Jail, by Jason Aaron, continues the fun adventures from the first few volumes but also has a few problems that cause it to be the worst of the three. On the positive side, the main storyline is incredibly tense and exciting, and the secondary storyline offers a few laughs. However, on the negative side, the secondary storyline isn’t all that interesting, and the entire volume contains a number of contradictions. This is still a good quality volume overall, it simply isn’t quite as entertaining as previous volumes were.

Rebel Jail starts out with what appears to be a completely independent story about a Rebel spy who chances upon an opportunity to kill the Emperor. He ultimately fails because the entire situation turns out to be a trap set by the Emperor himself. The trap kills every spy on Coruscant and a number of senators as well. The entire story is short but thrilling and serves as a great reminder of how cruel the Emperor can be.

From here the story returns to the main cast, as Leia and Sana escort Doctor Aphra to a secret Rebel prison. Immediately after arriving, a mysterious figure takes over the prison and begins killing off large swaths of prisoners. Leia and Sana are forced to team up with Aphra to survive before the mysterious figure is revealed to be the spy from the opening story. It is a very well constructed twist, one that gives hints about the reveal without completely giving away the answer. Ultimately, the heroes triumph but their victory comes at a cost, making it a realistic but satisfying victory.

Enhancing this overall narrative is how tense the entire situation is. Aaron drops readers off on a prison revolving close to a sun, where everything is controlled by the person in charge of the prison. This instills a sense of claustrophobia and apprehension on every page, since the heroes could be jettisoned out an airlock at any moment.

However, the story’s contradictions negatively affect what would otherwise be a great story. The entire premise here is based around Leia’s reluctance to execute or kill unarmed prisoners. Yet this same character is the one who gave the order for the Emperor’s assassination, who the Rebels assumed would be unarmed. It also just feels out of place that Leia would let Aphra go, especially when she knows that Aphra is directly associated with Vader himself. Leia’s inconsistencies here do not hold up well and caused a number of small problems in my enjoyment of the volume.

In addition, the volume’s background story also hurts the collection as a whole. This story follows Luke and Han as they make a smuggling run in order to pay for debts they have incurred. Though the story is fun and has a few cute moments, nothing about it feels relevant or interesting. It is another negative that knocks Rebel Jail from great to just above average.

Finally, the volume ends with a completely unconnected flashback to Obi-Wan’s time on Tatooine. This story is not quite as suspenseful or pulse-pounding, but it still ends up reading wonderfully. It helps to fill in the gaps in Luke’s childhood and also gives Obi-Wan a bit more character development. Any fan of the Star Wars movies is sure to appreciate this short break in the otherwise modern narrative.

Leinil Francis Yu provides the artwork for the vast majority of Rebel Jail. Though his work here is not quite as cinematic as the visuals previous seen, it is probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing art styles in this series thus far. Characters and locations are all drawn well but are also given a stylistic flair that suits the rather dark nature of this particular story. Yu also does incredibly well with depicting emotion on characters’ faces, which is important in a story with characters like these. Overall, this is a good looking volume that the majority of fans are sure to like.

Star Wars Vol. 3: Rebel Jail continues the story from Star Wars: Vader Down. Both stories take place between the movies Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope and Star Wars: Episode V- The Empire Strikes Back.

Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State Volume I

 Title: Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State Volume I ISBN: 0919359094 Price: $ Publisher/Year: Aardvark-Vanheim, 1987 Artist: Gerhard Writer: ...