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The Best Comics You’re Not Reading #11 - Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol.2

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News broke two years ago when a teenager of African American and Latino descent replaced the deceased Peter Parker to become the new Spider-Man. Enter Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man.

Brian Michael Bendis is writing this story, as he wrote the 160 issues of Peters Ultimate story-line also, and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Bendis is also the current writer on Uncanny X-Men, All-New X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy, of Marvel and Icon’s Eisner Award-winning Powers. He’s a legend, having written for the last 17 years with all major brands, he is predominantly Marvel now. Bendis writes a slow burner styled story, which I personally enjoy although I know more people want one and done books, I appreciate an ongoing series continuing from itself, and grow much like we ourselves continue too.

The art started with Sara Pichelli (Star Trek, Runaways, X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back), who also did some of the recent issues, however David Marquez (All-New X-Men) has since taken over art chores, and each do an outstanding job. The art in this book is great, and fits in with the feel of the book, and works as what should be the flagship book of Marvels Ultimate Universe. Vibrant colors and modern art really excel in this book.

The story follows a young boy, Miles Morales, as he comes to turns with gaining powers similar to Spider-Man. He decides he doesn’t need to act on his new powers as Spider-Man is doing a great job as it is, and he doesn’t want to be a hindrance. Miles has the same abilities as Peter, however he also has the ability to turn invisible, and an electric strike dubbed the Venom Strike. Not being the genius that Peter was, Miles doesn’t have web-shooters of his own. Peter eventually dies after constant battles, and Miles is there to see his final moments. Guilt ridden, he believes it’s his fault that Peter died and dons the red and blue to honor the fallen hero. New York becomes upset at him for being an impostor and feel it’s in poor taste for him to wear Peters old uniform. He eventually gains his own costume, and fights on to gain New Yorks approval. Miles has his own cast, being from Brooklyn, with recurring visits from members of Peters life, including some of the remaining rogues from his gallery.

I really enjoy the ultimate universe take on Spider-Man as it is a more modern twist, and I enjoyed seeing Ultimate Peter succeed as he did, however seeing this new Spider-Man succeed is just as gratifying. This book is friendly for all ages, and is a great coming of age story, as Spider-Man is meant to be. I enjoy Miles and if you want a different take on Spider-Man, without mindswappy goodness, written by a stellar author, pick up Marvel’s Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol.2. 

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Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is collected in trade paperbacks and released monthly. You can also find it on Comixology. - Oz

Comic Book Rewind #7 – X-Force: Sex and Violence (2010)

Sex and violence? Sounds somewhat cheesy, and aimed at teenage boys, but hey, they both sell, and this story is one of my favorite Domino stories. Strap yourself in, this is one brutally sexy ride.

Writing duo Craig Kyle and Chris Yost team up to bring this mini series together, stringing together a tale about a mischievous Domino, and a very violent Wolverine as they team up one last time as X-Force to clear Domino’s name. Kyle and Yost have worked together previously on X-23 and the X-Force series that this miniseries is from. They have a very detailed and fluid writing pattern, though somewhat predictable, works.

The greatest thing about this series is the art. Superstar artist Gabriele Dell’Otto pencils this beast of a book, and any detail, weather it be the street or Wolverine dismembering someone is simply outstanding. The dominate colors within are black, grey and red. The cityscapes and general dialogue is dark and gritty with the grays and the blacks. As macabre as this may sound, the use of blood and the way it’s illustrated is beautiful. The throws of passion are red panels which are vibrant and break away from the gloom of the general story. Dell’Otto gives a master class on the use of pencils and makes me love it all the more.

This story is about Domino and Wolverine teaming up as Domino is being hunted by the Assassins Guild and The Hand, who are shown to be at war with each other. Domino has taken something she shouldn’t have, after doing some wet work for the Assassins Guild, and has left her in poor standing with them. Wolverine, who from the main X-Force run, has developed feelings for Dom, decides it’s his problem, and intends to help her clear her name.

This three issue miniseries as the title indicates indeed has sex, and violence, though the sex is very PG, the violence isn’t. This is a no-holds bared story, that surprised me as it is on par in violence and intensity as some of the Marvel MAX line. Thankfully an amazing story, aided by phenomenal art see Domino and Logan through to the end, on one of the most brutal Marvel stories I’ve ever read. If the title didn’t clue you in enough, this one isn’t for kiddies. Teens will want to read it, and I’m sure it won’t hurt them, hell there is worse for them to see on the ‘net, but that doesn’t mean they should.  

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X-Force: Sex and Violence is available as a trade, and single issues so check your local comic book shop, otherwise Comixology has all three issues here. - Oz

In the Spotlight July 2013 – Stephanie Brown Spoiler/Robin/Batgirl

Sorry for the absence of a Spotlight last month, I was away for most of it on a business trip. Let’s get into July with our character of the month, Stephanie Brown.

Stephanie was introduced in 1992 in the 647th issue of Detective Comics. She is the daughter of the criminal Cluemaster, and in the 648th issue of Detective Comics was made into the amateur vigilante Spoiler, who was out to spoil her Fathers plans. Eventually she was reintroduced into the DC continuity in the ongoing series Robin, as a love interest for Tim Drake.

In the solo series Robin, Stephanie was Tims love interest and often aided the Boy Wonder in various missions. In issue #126 of Robin, she took over the role of Robin, becoming the first chronological girl to do so. Stephanie lasted around 74 days as a Robin, after failing Batmans one rule to obey him at all times. She seeked to prove herself to him still, by donning the Robin costume one more time. She stole one of Batmans blueprints to end all crime in Gotham, but it fell into the hands of the Black Mask. This resulted in the Black Mask ruling Gothams underworld as the singular mob boss, in 2004 during the cross-over event Batman: War Games. Stephanie was the second Robin to die, although she was acting without authority. During Batgirl, there were a few instances where Cassandra would see the ghost of Stephanie.

In 2008 her death was ret-conned as many are, as her death was apparently faked by the attending doctor to teach Batman a lesson in taking children in and raising them in the lifestyle he leads. Stephanie took up the mantle of Spoiler for a short while, until the third Batgirl, Cassandra Cain threw in the towel after the death of Bruce Wayne. Stephanie decided to take up the Cowl, and with the aid of Oracle, (former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon) began taking on missions for the Bat-family.

Stephanie has no superhuman powers. She has been trained extensively by Batgirl (Cassandra Cain), Batman, and the Birds of Prey in martial arts, acrobatics, strength training, interrogation, and detective skills. She carries a belt similar to that used by other Gotham vigilantes containing a grappling hook, tracking devices, and various other crime fighting paraphernalia. For a short while, she was able to turn invisible due technology she had received from The Penguin.

After Stephanie took on the Batgirl identity, Barbara Gordon designed a new costume more in line with the rest of the Bat-families. It is equipped with kevlar and carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer to protect against ballistic, flame, and electrical attacks. Her Batsuit also carries a wireless relay within the cowl, permitting her to remain in contact with Oracle. Barbara is able to monitor Stephanie’s vital signs due to monitoring systems installed into the suit. As Batgirl she would use a collapsible bo staff, similar to the one that Robin (Tim Drake) uses.

Key Issues:

  • Detective Comics #647 – 649 First appearance / First Spoiler!

  • Robin #126 – 128 First Robin!

  • Detective Comics #796 Robin appearance

  • Teen Titans vol.3 #13 Robin appearance

  • Batgirl #53 & 54 Robin appearance

  • Batman #633 Death of Steph

  • Batgirl #61, 62, 72, 73 Ghost Steph

  • Gotham Underground #2 – 6 Re-emergence

  • Robin #170-174 Stephs’ official return

  • Batgirl vol.3 #1-24 Stephs’ run as Batgirl!

In the New 52 Stephanie is yet to appear and Barbara Gordon is the current Batgirl, after recovering from her spinal injury sustained by the Joker.

Stephanie Brown is one of my favourite DC characters and I hope she makes her triumphent return sometime soon. Her Batgirl run feels more Marvel than DC, but that’s only because it is filled with being more fun than being grim all the time.

That’s it for this months in the Spotlight, if you weren’t a fan of Stephanie Brown before, I know you are now.

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Comic Book Rewind #6 Daredevil: Yellow (2001)

"The measure of a man is not in how he gets knocked to the mat, it is in how he gets up." - Battlin’ Jack Murdock.

This week on the Rewind we’re looking at one of my favorite creative teams reuniting for one of the most celebrated Daredevil stories, which takes him out of his traditional garb, and tells a more modern origin story, Daredevil: Yellow.

Daredevil: Yellow is the work of legendary scribe Jeph Loeb, and master artist Tim Sale, who have worked together on “Batman: Dark Victory,” “Batman: The Long Halloween,” “Spider-Man: Blue,” “Hulk: Grey” and “Captain America: White.” These two know how to get the job done, and work extremely well together. When I found out they were working on a book about The Man Without Fear, I just had to grab it.

Loeb is no stranger to working on an established characters origin and back story, having done so with the mentioned Marvel colored run as well as reintroducing Robin to Batman in a follow up to “Year One,” titled, “Dark Victory.” Loeb is celebrated for his work on “The Long Halloween” and also “Batman: Hush,” yet his dubbed coloredrun for Marvel gained some unsavory attention. Perhaps people were mad that the long time DC writer had jumped ship, but I find the romantic in Loeb who writes these Marvel stories as love letters to lost love, appealing. Daredevil: Yellow is Matt retelling his origin story to the now deceased Karen Page, whilst also recounting to a new audience how they fell in love.

Tim Sale has great art within this book and is aided by Matt Hollingsworth on colors. The series has a feel that throws back to the 60s styles of comics, with an inkwash finish. Moments that are grim get the dark feel from this effect, and positive moments are exuberant. This style works great with Loebs writing, and really completes this flashback series. My only criticism is that on some pages, the angles at which Sale draws characters, and gets inked look disgusting. This is very rare, but distracting.

Within, we find a Matt Murdock dealing with the loss of Karen Page by writing letters that will never be sent to her, reminiscing about a better time. Matt is rocked and isn’t as focused as he once was and believes that by remembering the good times, the times spent with her, he can get his edge back. We re-learn that it was Karen who first called him, “The Man Without Fear,” and much like other Marvel characters, its the hero who is loved before the person within is.

This is an all ages book, and covers content from the first run of Daredevil, with a modern twist on it. I really enjoyed this six part miniseries, and will be re-reading the rest of Loebs colored run over the week. Daredevil: Yellow is my favourite Daredevil story and always re-sparks my interest in one of the most unique heroes any brand has to offer.

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Check your LCS or Comixology for Daredevil: Yellow

- Oz

The Best Comics You’re Not Reading #10 – The Movement (DC)

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Teen vigilantism, and socialism run rampant in this new series by DC veteran Gail Simone. An attempt at a new age teen book, with a new team for the edgy and outcast. This is not the Teen Titans, this is The Movement!

Gail Simone comes back from a controversial vacation from DC, and comes out swinging with this break out series. This series follows a group of teens who have shacked up in the corrupt Coral City, and are involved in taking it back for the people. Gail writes an edgy and dark styled socialist book, following modern day trends which could be fresh from the news with a splash of anonymous is found within. Gail is celebrated as one of the more popular writers from DC, having penned stellar runs on both Secret Six and Birds of Prey. She is the current Batgirl writer and is dominating the revival of Barbara Gordon.

Art is shared by Freddie E. Williams II with colours by Chris Sotomayor. They do a great job together, with nearly flawless digital art, a great range of colours, whilst keeping the art as dark and gritty as the writing. Freddie is known for his works on Robin from 2006 on wards and The Flash from 2008, and also has a Youtube page dedicated to helping artists adapt to Digital Art in comics. Chris is known more for his Marvel works, having worked on titles such as Captain Marvel, Deadpool, Incredible Hulk and Captain America. I can’t stress enough how well these two work together to bring this book to life.

Police corruption is obvious in the book, as is the power being abused against teenagers of a lower standing in society. The first couple of pages of the first issue may be stressful to some readers, as it has the police frame a young man, then try to sexually assault his girlfriend to clear any charges. I wouldn’t recommend this book for the young, however being a teen book, it is aimed at teens, and they may understand some of the pressures the kids face, as sadly some of it may have been relevant in their lives.

The book has a wonderful, and contrasted cast of vigilantes in Burden, Tremor, Mouse, Virtue, Katharsis and Vengence Moth. A modern take on presumably orphaned children, such as the stories Annie, Oliver Twist or Enders Shadow. Showing the harsh reality for street children, who are forced to fend for themselves. Of the characters, so far Katharsis would be the stand out for me. Right from the pages of Batgirl, now in Coral City, what she’s doing as apart of the movement is yet to be revealed, but this winged beauty certainly isn’t out to play nice.

I’m really digging this series, and I’m glad Gail Simone was able to get back to DC and be able to bring us such a thought out, griping and gritty drama. Parents may want to check this book out before letting younger readers pick it up, as there is violence and horror themes, as well as the mentioned police corruption and abuse of powers.

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Head into your local comic shop or find the Movement online over on Comixology - Oz

The Saga of Superman [cool infographic]

Superman

 First look at DC’s Villain Month books with 3D  motion covers. Coming this September! “It’s essentially artwork that’s been separated onto different layers, so when you hold the cover, which is a premium stock cover, and you slightly rotate the comic book left or right or up and down, the images move a bit.” - Jim Lee

The Best Comics You’re Not Reading #9 – Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye (IDW)

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The four million year long war for Cybertron is over! Autobots and Decepticons are outdated clans in this title, the book focuses on them being a united race, the proud race of Cybertronians. Rodimus learns of a group of ancient Cybertronians known as the Knights of Cybertron and pleas with other Cybertronians to join him aboard the spacecraft Lost Light, on his quest to find them. Nub suggested Transformers: More than Meets the Eye to me, and so far I’m enjoying it and believe it needs to be enjoyed by many more readers.

Britsh Transformers fan and writer James Roberts, is penning this voyage in what I can only describe as a story heavily influenced by Star Trek, Lost in Space, Battlestar Galactica and Stargate: Universe. Roberts writes this as a more mature Transformers story, and as someone who grew up watching them, I believe it’s fair to say his investment in them has matured as he has. He still writes a fun story, however it is more serious and darker than Transformers stories I am more familiar with. He has a style that is very fluid and easy to follow. The story has an atmosphere to it similar to the animated film, in that it has excitement, adventure and a journey into the unknown. Roberts also in a quirky way has a running soundtrack for the series, with the overall theme song of the show being, Lost Coastlines by Okkervil River.

The introductory artist for the series is Nick Roche who sets a whole new standard for Transformers art, however it is the series regular artist Alex Milne who keeps the standard and pushes it! The art style is very G1, however is it also modernized without the bastardization that other medias are using to portray Transformers.

One of the things that got me pumped for this series was seeing one of my favorite bot fraggers, Drift, as a lead character. That being said there are 208 Cybertronians who leave on the Lost Light, and the main cast is Rodimus, Ultra Magnus, Drift, Brainstorm, Ratchet, Red Alert, Whirl, Rung, Swerve, Chromedome, Rewind, Cyclonus and Tailgate.

I found the story overwhelmed me at first, and unless you’re a die hard Transformers fan, that has been reading everything since day one, some of these characters, and events that have transpired will confuse you. One thing to note is that this series follows up from the acclaimed 2011 one-shot: “Transformers: Death of Optimus Prime,” and much like those Marvel mutant titles Bendis is writing, this has a sister story which can be found within, “Robots in Disguise,” which follows those that chose to stay on the newly liberated Cybertron.

The first issue gets the ball rolling in a somewhat standardized way, introducing key members of the book however we quickly learn that this is infact a united Cybertron, these are Cybertronians, former Decepticons and Autobots will be working together in this book, and not all grudges are forgiven. The Lost Light and her crew embark on their journey, however sabotage leaves them lost and stranded! Also a warning from the future arrives late for our adventurers, adding to the fast building suspense.

This story has reignited my passion for Transformers and I must thank Nub for suggesting this to me. That being said, I admit I went over to Big Bad Toy Store in typical Nub fashion and checked out their range of Transformers and found an UN-08 Autobot Drift by Takara action figure (seen below) that I just had to have! I am five issues in, so far there are 16 issues out, collected in three trades, with the fourth expected in August. An outstanding story so far, my hat is tipped to the creative team. I would suggest this for all ages, although it is a violence much different to the classic cartoons, parents may feel comfortable reading it before letting a younger audience view it, as there is plenty of oil and gears.

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Don’t forget to check out Comixology to start reading and Big Bad Toy Store for all your Transformers merchandise needs! - Oz

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Comicbook Rewind #5 – Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (1984)

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The New Teen Titans, were originally called together by Raven to defeat her demonic father Trigon the Terrible, however it is Deathstroke the Terminator who gives the Titans the most grief, and this story proves he is one of the greatest tacticians in the DC universe.

A revenge story 40 issues in the making, has Deathstroke take down the Titans and finally complete his late son, Grant “Ravager” Wilsons final contract. Without spoiling further, I suggest you read this amazing series as it highlights just how powerful a motivated Human is when coming up against Superhumans.

Written by Marv Wolfman, who has written many books for DC, most notably, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Dial H for Hero and Green Lantern. Wolfman also created fan favourite Robin, Tim Drake. Wolfman stuck with the Titans from 1980 until the series ended in 1996.

Art is shared by many for this series; however the primary artist is George Pérez. The art for its time is stunning, and I commend the team for their efforts on it. It looks like a comic should, and there is little to fault.

The story revolves around the introduction of Deathstrokes son, Joseph “Jericho” Wilson, introduces Dick Grayson as Nightwing, reveals a traitor within the Titans, has the death of a Titan and the farewell of a Titan! So much to pack into three issues and an Annual, yet it is executed perfectly and is heralded as one of the greatest Teen Titans stories of all time.

Originally printed in “Tales of the Teen Titans #42, #43, #44” and “Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3,” this series is available as a trade paperback, and on comixology. The Judas Contract was slated to be created as a direct to DVD movie in 2006, however it was placed on hiatus, and there are currently no plans to produce it. This book, as the name implies is aimed at teens, however I feel teens and adults will enjoy this story. 

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The Best Comics You’re Not Reading #8 – Fearless Defenders

Fearless Defenders is a new series in the Marvel NOW universe, written by up and coming scribe, Cullen Bunn. It features the characters Valkyrie, Misty Knight, Moonstar, Hippolyta and newcomer Annabelle Riggs. Zombies, evil Demi-Gods known as Doom Maidens, and a roaring good time is found within a book that is putting the fun back into comics.

Before I get you excited about this wonderful story, I must first point out the covers. If you haven’t seen them, I have them here for you. The covers are gimmicky and flash back to a lot of our childhoods, and are created by Mark Brooks. He does a fantastic job each month adding something new to the book. One of the exciting elements to the covers is that the characters featured on it are included in the story. This series is slated to have a rotating roster, yet is set to be an all female cast. I’m seriously exicited for this element and future covers Mark Brooks intends on creating.

Cullen Bunn, also known for The Sixth Gun, Venom, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe and Wolverine, has approached this series in a very interesting way that as I’ve mentioned is bringing fun back to comics. His writing is very casual, yet engaging at the same time. If a character is yet to be introduced in that issue, he will have a cute note introducing the character for the sake of new readers, and in a surprisingly twist on character development. Though these notes are never super serious, it is just another layer to place upon the story, and the characters they represent, as it can be their mood, or their thoughts on a location, their comfortablity, or thoughts on other characters. An example of this is one page introduces Valkyrie where she is in a diner having breakfast with the team and her subnote is; “Valkyrie. A…Uhm…Valkyrie. Not really a breakfast person,” or “Misty Knight. Bionic Private Investigator. Doesn’t recognize the existence of decaf.” Cullen braving the use of non-mainstream characters and throwing them into a team book, and pulling it off is worth commending.

Will Sliney is on art duties in this book, and it’s his break into mainstream comics. He has worked previously with Boom on Farscape, and Image on MacGyver: Fugitive Gauntlet. The art flows nicely, is a bit pervy which has raised eyebrows, but being a female team book, with two guys working on it, I think fun will be had. However, Will doesn’t make the Fearless Defenders wear what I call, “slut armor.” The girls are covered appropriately  respectfully, and yet still manage to be sexy and powerful. I salute Will for being tasteful in his approach.

This book currently has four issues out, and I am amazed at the quality of the overall effort supplied by all involved. The story involves Misty Knight doing some investigating, running into Mercenaries and finally Valkyrie, to battle zombie Asgardians. We find out Valkyrie has been shrugging off some of her responsibilities and is responsible for the coming apocalypse, not just for Earth, but all Realms. The only fault is the weak return of the Amazon Hippolyta, who is now known as Warrior Woman, and the constant reminder that Moonstar is a depowered mutant, only to have her turn into a Shield Maiden at will without much explanation may confuse newer readers.

A violent book, with horror elements and a bit fantastical, I would recommended this for teens and up. This is steadily climbing my must read list, and I can’t wait to see more of the Fearless Defenders as they battle the Doom Maidens!

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