A Spider-Man/Spider-Gwen: Sitting in a Tree Review – Across the Spider-Verse

TITLE: Spider-Man/Spider-Gwen: Sitting in a Tree
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Latour
PENCILLERS: Sara Pichelli, Robbie Rodriguez
COLLECTS: Spider-Man #1214Spider-Gwen #1618
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: May 24, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Who says there’s no such thing as modern romance? A good love story, especially in a teenage superhero book, can really hit the spot sometimes. But surprisingly, Sitting in a Tree doesn’t hit that spot in that respect. It never really delivers like you think it will.

Miles Morales’ father, now an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. again, has gone missing. A mission gone awry has seemingly left him lost in the multiverse. As such, Maria Hill recruits Miles for an off-the-books inter-dimensional search-and-rescue mission. Our hero’s search quickly takes him to Earth-65, a world where Gwen Stacy was bitten by a radioactive spider, and has become Spider-Woman. The two are already acquainted. So in Gwen, Miles finds a partner in his search. But does he also find an unlikely romance?

Typically, one of the goals of a crossover like this is to get readers of one book (in my case, Spider-Man) to start picking up another (Spider-Gwen). Years of comic book reading have left me pretty callous to such attempts. But as someone with little to no exposure to Spider-Gwen, I found myself pretty intrigued by what I saw. That’s a credit to Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez, and everybody on that book. Spider-Gwen #16 explores the Earth-65 New York City, as we meet it’s alternate versions of Matt Murdock (Daredevil) and Doctor Octopus. We also get a quick refresher as to how this world’s Peter Parker was different from the one we all know. It’s a great introduction to that character and her world.

More importantly, Robbi Rodriguez’s funky animated style is a treat. Combined with colorist Rico Renzi’s relatively bright palette, what we get is pretty unique. I found myself looking forward to Spider-Gwen just to see what they’d give us next. Renzi in particular gets to show off when we get to the Club Scorpion scene in issue #16 (shown left).

On the subject of art, I can’t find a lot of bad things to say about Sara Pichelli and colorist Justin Sponsor’s work here. Any time they work together on Miles it feels like a homecoming, as they did his earliest stories in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. That’s why it was so cool to have them on those early issues of Spider-Man. Pichelli gets to play with the multiverse stuff in issue #14, as Miles and Gwen jump into the Spider-Man: Noir universe, the Marvel Zombies universe, and then even the DC Universe for a quick jab at the competition (shown below). The latter got under my skin, but it also got a begrudged chuckle.

So the big selling point for Sitting in a Tree is the blossoming romance between Miles and Gwen. The premise made me think of how amazingly Bendis wrote Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in Ultimate Spider-Man. When he wants to do the teenage romance stuff, he’s as good as anybody…

Which is why it’s a pretty big disappointment that the romance stuff almost gets glossed over until the third act. Even then, we don’t get much. Instead of this being the story where the two get together, it’s the story that lays the foundation for them to get together later. There’d be nothing wrong with that, except the book’s title and cover suggest otherwise. You close the book feeling like you were sold one thing but given another.

Still, it’s fun seeing our creators play with around with the Spider-Verse stuff. Spider-Ham pops up during the third act, and he brings in some extra back-up during the finale. It doesn’t make up for us not getting the inter-dimensional love affair the book advertises. But it’s a cool little bonus.

Sitting in a Tree is…fine. That’s it. Just fine. It’s got elements of an epic crossover between titles, but it comes up short of meeting its dramatic needs. What can I say? Some days I’m a hopeless romantic. I have no idea if they plan to come back to this Miles/Gwen thing at any point. But by God, if anybody can make the cross-dimensional romance thing work, it’s those two crazy kids!

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A Civil War II Review – Lighting Strikes Twice?

Civil War II, coverTITLE: Civil War II
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLERS: David Marquez, Olivier Coipel, Andrea Sorrentino
COLLECTS: Civil War II #0-8
FORMAT: Hardcover
PRICE: $50
RELEASED: February 1, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s a good event comic somewhere inside Civil War II. You just need to squint really hard to see it. As amazingly talented as Brian Michael Bendis is, what he turns in here doesn’t truly get going until issue #5, and by that point you regret buying in to begin with. The series is also bogged down by a certain been-there-done-that feeling. The original Civil War was one of the biggest hits Marvel has ever had. By comparison, Civil War II feels like a knock-off song played by a shoddy cover band.

In the original story, the question of whether superheroes should register their true identities with the government caused a major rift, and subsequently a war. This time the divisive issue is “predictive justice,” or in essence, profiling. When a young man named Ulysses is suddenly able to see vivid visions of the future, Captain Marvel sees a crucial opportunity to stop instances of crime, injustice, and tragedy before they ever occur. Iron Man, however, can’t live with punishing someone who hasn’t done anything wrong yet. What’s more, the exact nature of these visions are unclear. Is Ulysses truly seeing the future, or just a potential future? As they search for an answer, heroes will fall in more ways than one.

civil-war-ii #4, two-page spreadThe predictive justice idea is a sufficient divider, and reflects recent real-world events involving police brutality. The Black Lives Matter movement specifically comes to mind, especially when we see what happens to Miles Morales. But it’s when we drill down on the notion of another war amongst the heroes that Civil War II begins to fall apart.

Civil War ended when Captain America surrendered, realizing how costly and violent the conflict had become. The idea that all of these heroes, most of whom were involved in that same war, would allow things to escalate to this degree a second time makes them all look irresponsible, and even downright stupid. This is especially the case after Hawkeye straight up murders Bruce Banner with a literal crowd of heroes watching. But of course, if the heroes don’t fight, you have no story. So you have to make it work.

The way you massage that into working, for my money, is to have the heroes lament having to fight each other again. The original Civil War is barely even acknowledged in this book. It’s almost as if Civil War II is trying to hide from it. While it goes without saying that this story has to stand on its own, it’s a sequel. A sequel to one of the most renowned stories Marvel has ever done, no less. Instead of dancing around it, why not embrace it? The payoff would seemingly be a deeper story.

Civil War II #5, 2016, Spider-Man, Captain AmericaBut even with that added depth, Civil War II would face the problem that it’s simply not that interesting until issue #5. Ulysses has a vision of Spider-Man clutching a dead Captain America in front of a decimated Capitol Building. Given how young Miles is, and the obvious real-world parallels, this is where the story finally starts to gain some momentum. Hindsight being 20/20, this should have happened in issue #3. You put the Miles vision in issue #3, and Bruce’s death in issue #5. That way, Bruce’s death doesn’t feel so glossed over, and it’s fresh in our minds when we get to the final confrontation.

How about this: Captain Marvel puts Miles in prison following the vision in issue #3. (That opens up issues with Miles’ civilian identity. But we can work around that.) After Banner’s death and Hawkeye’s subsequent acquittal, Iron Man’s crew breaks Miles out of prison. We then get the confrontation in front of the Capitol Building as they were presented in issues #7 and #8. Would this little switch fix everything? No. But it would at least up the intrigue level earlier, and perhaps take us on more of a ride from start to finish. In truth, James Rhodes doesn’t even have to die in issue #1. As was the case with Banner, his death is almost glossed right over.

Our primary artist is David Marquez, with Olivier Coipel and Andea Sorrentino tagging in for specific sequences. Marquez delivers big here, particularly in issues #5 and #6. His stuff with Miles is very strong, which makes sense, as he and Bendis worked on Ultimate Comics Spider-Man together. He gives us an absolutely gorgeous two-page spread of Spidey overlooking Times Square, watching the Hawkeye trial. And of course, primary colorist Justin Ponsor gives us the Marvel Universe in all its glory.

hawkeye-civil-war II #3, David MarquezWe do, however, see a lot of what I’ve come to call the “Marquez doe-eyed pouty face.” Marquez is good with facial expressions. But we see variations of this one over and over, perhaps most notably when Hawkeye surrenders in issue #3 (shown left). We see it multiple times from Carol Danvers and Ulysses. We see it so much it becomes distracting and borderline comical.

As many problems as I have with Civil War II, I’ll credit Bendis for one thing: Not killing off Tony Stark. That was what a lot of us were expecting, given Rory Williams had essentially taken up his mantle in Invincible Iron Man. Instead Tony ends up in a coma, and we get a vague explanation about how he can’t be treated. Frustrating in its lack of specifics, but better than having to go through the usual death, funeral, and resurrection routine.

Civil War II could have worked. It would never have been what its predecessor was. But it could have at least been a compelling story. What they gave us had its moments. But by the time things finally got off the ground, it was too late. Given how all-encompassing Civil War II was in terms of its effect on other books, this story can be given partial credit for DC Comics regaining all that lost momentum last year.

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An Infamous Iron Man #1 Review – The Most Unlikely Hero

Infamous Iron Man #1, 2016, cover, Alex MaleevTITLE: Infamous Iron Man #1
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLER: Alex Maleev
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: October 19, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

So this is basically Superior Spider-Man with Doctor Doom and Iron Man. That’s an incredibly simplistic description. But it’s basically accurate, isn’t it? Hey, Superior Spider-Man was really good. If they can capture some of that magic with Infamous Iron Man, more power to them.

In the aftermath of Civil War II, Tony Stark is out of the picture. As Civil War II has been plagued by delays, we don’t know where Tony is, or what’s happened to him. But he’s gone. In his stead, the most unlikely of replacements will take up the Iron Man name: Victor von Doom. But why? More importantly, what is in store for the world now that Doctor Doom is Iron Man???

At face value, this seems to be another story about a bad guy trying to make amends with the world and become a hero. His motivation beyond that remains to be seen. But something’s clearly not right, as evidenced by his creepy scene with Tony’s former love interest Amara Perara. There’s an ominous vibe that seems to indicate things aren’t what they seem. He also makes it clear he’s taking on the Iron Man identity whether Tony (or at least a digital projection of Tony’s consciousness) approves.

Infamous Iron Man #1, 2016, Alex Maleev, Doctor Doom costumeThere’s also something going on with Doom’s mother. They bring her up at the start of the issue, and then we see her at the end. Looks like someone’s got some mommy issues…

Also, the Thing is now an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. So Doom has a built-in first opponent, who he may face a soon as next issue.

Artist Alex Maleev and colorist Matt Hollingsworth let us know we’re squarely in villain territory for most of the issue. Their dark, sketchy, muted M.O. sets a grim tone worthy of Marvel’s most despicable villain. Even when we see Doom rescue Maria Hill from Diablo, it’s difficult to trust him as he’s shrouded in darkness.

Maleev’s rendering of Victor, whose face has been restored after the events of Secret Wars, is interesting. He maintains the suave and sharp look he had in Invincible Iron Man. But Maleev also humanizes him. Early in the issue, there’s a transition from a shot of the Doctor Doom mask, to the same shot of Victor. Male gives him a face slightly touched by age. Mike Deodato modeled him after Vincent Cassel in Invincible. But you can also see a little Peter Cushing (Tarkin from Star Wars) in Maleev’s version.

Doctor Doom is, among many things, delightfully complex. He’s as good a candidate as any to do the villain-becomes-hero routine. Our villain’s attempt to reform will inevitably crash and burn. Given this is Doctor Doom we’re talking about, that crash will undoubtedly be big, epic, and deadly. So for now, Infamous Iron Man has my attention.

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A Civil War II #5 Review – A “Black Lives Matter” Moment

Civil War II #5, 2016, coverTITLE: Civil War II #5
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLER: David Marquez. Cover by Marko Djurdjevic.
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: September 21, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s been a bumpy road for Civil War II. Despite its epic scope and game-changing plot points, it’s largely been a big bag of “meh.” And that’s not even getting into the scheduling delays.

Now, five issues in, it looks like things have finally picked up. The end of this book left a knot in my stomach. Despite having already killed off Rhodey and Bruce Banner, this series now finally has that heart-wrenching element that so many event comics strive for.

Thanks Miles Morales, and uh…sorry?

Ulysses, a new inhuman who can apparently see visions of the future, has torn the Marvel heroes apart. In Civil War II #5, they finally come to blows. Captain Marvel, who believes in using Ulysses to stop certain events before they happen, has assembled a group to fight against a team led by Iron Man. Tony Stark vehemently opposes acting on these visions, and questions their credibility. But by the end of the battle Ulysses has yet another vision, in which one of the Marvel Universe’s youngest heroes does the unthinkable. In a story that’s already seen the Bruce Banner murdered by Hawkeye, and Rhodey die in battle, the burning question is: Will Miles Morales be next?

Civil War II #5, 2016, Spider-Man, Captain AmericaThe image at left is our big vision reveal. Miles clutching a dead Captain America in front of a decimated Capitol Building. It may as well be an page from Red Skull’s dream journal. Now all the prior emphasis on Miles makes sense. Bendis and Marquez were planting a seed with a character they both have a lengthy history with. It’s fitting.

Virtually every Marvel book that doesn’t have Star Wars in the title has been effected by Civil War IISpider-Man is no exception. But in the main series Miles has mostly been a background character, albeit one Bendis and Marquez have made sure to keep around. I keep circling back to the two-page spread of Spidey watching the Hawkeye trial verdict on one of the big screens in Times Square. Intentional or not, it brilliantly positioned Miles as someone removed from some of the larger issues that plague more experienced heroes. There’s a certain naivety about him, partially because he’s so young. Those two elements are what set this moment apart from, say, the vision of the Hulk from issue #2.

But lets not kid ourselves. Like its predecessor, Civil War II is trying to be more than just another event comic. Its subtext speaks to the world we live in right now. Civil War speaks to post-9/11 paranoia, and Civil War II speaks to police profiling. It’s not an accident that Miles, a young minority, is shown harming Captain America, a symbol of American justice and values. This entire sequence with the vision and the subsequent arrest of Miles Morales is a Black Lives Matter moment. It’s Marvel looking at what happened with young men like Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Ms. Marvel, Civil War II #5, 2016It’s one thing to show us characters dying in a story about proactive justice. It’s another thing to really connect it to the real world. This is the emotional punch that Civil War II has been missing. It’s a shame we had to wait this long to feel it.

Ms. Marvel also accentuates the big reveal very well. It feels a little too coincidental that the other teenage minority in the scene just happens to be the one consoling Miles.

Speaking of subtext, Miles has an awesome line during a fight with Venom. As the longtime Spidey villain is taking shots at Miles for not looking or acting quite like Peter Parker, our hero replies with: “Another Spider-Man expert telling me how it should be.” That’s barely even subtext. He may as well be looking up at his critics.

The sad thing is, most of what we see up until the vision sequence is largely forgettable. Marquez, artist Sean Izaakse, and colorist Justin Ponsor give us a very action-posed two-page spread of the heroes about to collide. There’s also a lovely shot of Hawkeye cloaked in shadow as he presumably goes into hiding (shown below). But by comparison, it all seems very generic and business as usual for a superhero epic.

Hawkeye, Civil War II #5, 2016, David MarquezFrom a comic book sales perspective, DC Comics has outpaced Marvel since the start of its Rebirth initiative. I estimate Civil War II is largely to blame for that. Marvel may have banked too much on the success of its predecessor, and additional eyes from Captain America: Civil War. The story has failed to capture imaginations until now. We finally have something to sink our teeth into, but it may be too little too late.

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A Civil War II #3 Review – The Latest Casualty of War

Civil War #3, 2016, TITLE: Civil War II #3
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLERS: David Marquez, Olivier Coipel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: July 13, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I haven’t talked about Civil War II yet, and I can’t put my finger on why. Initially, I was very turned off by the concept of doing Civil War again. Even the title. Civil War II. It feels like there should be a subtitle there, doesn’t it? Civil War II: The Secret of the Ooze, or Civil War II: Judgment Day. How about Civil War II: The Legend of Tony’s Gold?

But I think the real reason it’s taken me this long is because I was waiting for this thing to get good. We’ve got a compelling story that echoes the real-world issue of police profiling, with virtually every major character in the Marvel Universe involved. As an exclamation point, War Machine was killed off in issue #1. But what we’ve seen thus far, this issue included, has been mostly talk. Obviously not every superhero comic needs to be padded with mindless action, especially when you’ve got a story that hinges on a moralistic issue. But issues #0, 1, and 2 went by feeling unimpactful. Even Rhodey’s death happened off panel, and feels glossed over in this issue.

Compare this to what we’d seen by issue #3 of the original Civil War main series. We had our inciting incident, the creation of the Superhuman Registration act, the unmasking of Spider-Man, the unveiling of a prison in the negative zone, our first real fight between the two sides, and what appeared to be the return of Thor. While the central issue in Civil War II is no less poignant, the story feels softer by comparison.

Civil War II #3, Bruce Banner, Tony StarkThe good news is while issue #3 still feels flat in terms getting readers to pine for that next issue, it’s definitely impactful. About as impactful as an arrow through the head…

As most people reading this likely know, Bruce Banner dies in this issue via a killshot from Hawkeye. Ulysses, a young man who apparently sees the future, has seen a vision of the Hulk on a murderous rampage. Continuing in her attempts to use Ulysses to stop such disasters before they happen, Captain Marvel leads a who’s who of heroes to apprehend Banner. Acting as the voice of reason is Tony Stark who vehemently opposes these “preventive” measures. As it looks like Banner is about to Hulk out, an arrow goes through his forehead.

The issue goes back and forth from the present-day trial of Clint Barton/Hawkeye to flashbacks of the confrontation with Banner. Bends gives the issue a great sense of foreboding. The early dialogue with Banner, Stark, and Carol Danvers feels like an oblivious, and in this case innocent man being led to the gallows. From a writing standpoint, it’s the strongest moment in the book. It’s followed closely by the moment Clint is discovered as the assassin, and he’s simply got his hands out awaiting the cuffs. He knows he’s killed an innocent man, a founding Avenger and a friend no less, and he’s accepted his fate.

This is obviously a very emotional issue, and Marquez’s characters convey everything very well. Stark, Danvers, and Barton are perfectly somber during the court proceedings. Banner’s tension is visibly mounting as he realizes what’s happening to him. We see him go from nervous, to frightened, to defensive. But jjust as he’s starting to get angry, he’s taken out. The result is sheer terror from both Stark and Danvers. Marquez gives Tony a very subdued anger when he says: “Who’s next on your hit list, Danvers?!”

Civil War #3, 2016, group shot, David MarquezThis group shot at right is awesome. Props to colorist Justin Ponsor for making it pop the way it does. And that sky looks gorgeous.

As a Miles Morales fan, I appreciated how our young Spider-Man was peppered in throughout the issue. Bendis, Marquez, and Ponsor worked together on Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man back in the day, so that was fun to see. We even got an appearance from Ganke!

Olivier Coipel tags in midway through to draw a flashback conversation between Banner and Barton, in which the former gives the latter the means to kill him if he ever Hulks out again. Thats another scene where the colors stand out. It takes place in a seedy bar, and the color palette gets darker and feels dirtier. We also see more black in this scene than anywhere else in the issue. It sets the scene perfectly.

The verdict is left in the air, in favor of a cliffhanger where Tony and Mary Jane Watson seemingly discover how Ulysses’ visions work. I’m hoping that, combined with the emotional impact of Banner’s death, will finally kick things into high gear. This story feels less like a war, and more like a colorful debate where people are accidentally dying.

Although for the record, I’m not convinced Rhodey is dead. Both he and Banner will come back eventually anyway. But I don’t think he died in this story. They made a point to have that scene with he and the president early on. Something feels unfulfilled there…

Images from author’s collection.

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A Spider-Man #1 Review – The Rise of Spidey Jr.

Spider-Man #1, 2016, Sara PichelliTITLE: Spider-Man #1
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLER: Sara Pichelli
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: February 3, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As someone who followed Miles Morales’ adventures in the now defunct Ultimate Universe, Spider-Man #1 was an adjustment, and initially confusing. While this issue was mostly enjoyable, it left me wondering if Miles’ inclusion in the Marvel Universe proper will be a good thing for him in the long run.

After the events of Secret Wars, Miles and his cast of supporting characters have been retconned into the main Marvel Universe. In terms of backstory, our intro tells us the basics: Miles was bitten by a radioactive spider, became Spider-Man, and has only shared his secret with his father and his best friend Ganke. We see Miles try (unsuccessfully) to balance life as a teenager, and life as a superhero. But when Blackheart terrorizes New York City and leaves the Avengers laying, Miles can’t simply sit in class and do nothing…

I found a bit of dark humor in Blackheart’s appearance here. He’s the son of Mephisto, the demon who warped reality for Peter Parker (for better or worse) back in One More Day, and now that reality has been changed for Miles, Mephisto’s son pops up. Maybe that’s why Spider-Man has such notorious bad luck. He’s always got the devil watching him.

Spider-Man #1, Sara PichelliSpider-Man #1 confirms that much of what we enjoyed about Miles in the Ultimate Universe is still intact here. The most important of which are his wit and personality, and his friendship with Ganke. What it doesn’t tell us is how things have or have not changed. Miles apparently remembers everything that happened during his time in the Ultimate Universe, and on Battleworld. But this issue doesn’t tell us that. I myself had to find that out via an interview with Bendis. So if Miles remembers, does his father remember too? What about Ganke? If not, did he tell them? What about Peter Parker? What does he know about where Miles came from?

This is an instance where an issue #0 might have come in handy. I’m not suggesting one needs to know all of Miles’ exposition before reading Spider-Man #1. But it would have helped bridge the gap between this issue and Secret Wars. We wouldn’t have had to comb through every inch of Miles’ continuity. Just a brief look at what the Ultimate Universe was, and how Miles fits into the primary Marvel Universe. That way, all the nagging questions are answered. Hopefully Bendis is planning on addressing those questions sooner rather than later anyway. But an issue #0 would have been an easy access point.

Spider-Man #1, 2016, Sara Pichelli, spash pageDespite the confusion, Miles is nicely portrayed as a teenage superhero torn in so many different directions. Parents, grades, girls, not to mention the Avengers-level threat attacking the city. It’s classic Spider-Man stuff, really. There’s a great scene where Miles tries to talk his way out of class, hears no from his teacher, and then simply walks out. Even if this is your first exposure to him, I imagine it’d be hard not to root for Miles here.

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of Ganke to Miles and his world. They’ve almost got a Frodo/Sam dynamic going on. Miles is obviously the hero, and that’s okay with Ganke, who is simply happy to help his friend however he can. He’s very endearing that way. Miles and Ganke can also consistently pull off “Bendis Banter,” i.e. Bendis’ trademark hit-or-miss attempts at witty dialogue, without it grating on the reader. Perhaps that’s because coming from two teenage boys, it feels more believable than usual. In any event, readers can be grateful Ganke jumped universes alongside his best bud.

Sara Pichelli is once again drawing Miles in this issue, and that’s something fans can be thankful for. As the artist who drew his origin story, there’s a special vibe any time she’s with the character. To her credit, she’s aged him very convincingly. As awkward as it sounds, if you’ve followed Miles from his first appearance up to Spider-Man #1, it legitimately looks like we’ve seen this character go through puberty. So often, comic books are like revolving doors when it comes to writers and artists that we don’t typically see that happen.

Spider-Man #1, 2016, Sara Pichelli, While we don’t see much of him in this issue, it looks like we’ll soon be diving into how Peter Parker effects Miles’ life, and his role as Spider-Man. Quite frankly, I’m nervous about that.

In the Ultimate Marvel line, Miles became Spider-Man after Peter Parker died. That was part of what garnered so much publicity when the character made his debut. He wasn’t just some spinoff character. He was the Spider-Man. In this new series, he’s a Spider-Man. The tried and true Spidey is still alive and well, and from the get-go, Miles is somewhat redundant. The two characters even share the same home city. Miles may as well be called Spidey Jr. I’m reminded of the brief period when Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson both wore the mantle of Batman before the New 52 launched. That didn’t last long, and typically this kind of dichotomy doesn’t. So what happens to Miles when it’s time for there to be only one Spider-Man?

Furthermore, this whole All-New, All-Different initiative is obviously a hook for new readers. But to what degree does having two Spider-Men cause confusion among those readers?

Still, despite lingering questions Spider-Man #1 delivers. For those of us familiar with Miles, we get the next chapter in his story. New readers are introduced to a young hero, who depending one’s perspective, may be the rightful Spider-Man of the 21st century.

Images from author’s collection.

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An All-New X-Men: Yesterday’s X-Men Review – I Grow Up to Be a Villain???

All-New X-Men, Vol. 1: Yesterday's X-MenTITLE: All-New X-Men, Vol. 1: Yesterday’s X-Men
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLER: Stuart Immonen
COLLECTS: All-New X-Men #15
FORMAT: Hardcover
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASED: March 27, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Even with its flaws, thus far All-New X-Men manages to be one of the more compelling Marvel NOW! releases.

While at death’s door because of another next-gen mutation, Beast makes a drastic move. In an attempt to make Cyclops see just how far he’s fallen (see Avengers vs. X-Men), he travels into the past and brings the five original X-Men to the present day. Now these relatively young and naive incarnations of Beast, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman and Angel must face a future where Charles Xavier is dead, Cyclops is leading a “mutant revolution,” and humans all over the world are suddenly gaining mutant abilities.

All-New X-Men Vol. 1: Yesterday's X-MenYesterday’s X-Men is ambitious, to say the least. Here we have a book that’s trying to bring in new readers by kicking off a new chapter in the world of the X-Men, while at the same time bringing in time traveling counterparts from another era, while at the same time trying to adapt to a new status quo where Cyclops is essentially a bad guy, while at the SAME time trying to introduce new characters. We certainly can’t accuse Bendis of phoning it in, can we? What’s more, this entire debacle works for the most part. It hits a few snags, but All-New X-Men has been near the top of my weekly stack since issue #1.

First and foremost, Stuart Immonen puts on a heck of a show here. He draws a hell of a Beast, particularly in the opening pages where we see him crying out in pain, with his hand extending out beyond the panelling toward the reader. The panel in the lower lefthand corner of the first page is a favorite of mine, as the character’s eyes tell such a great story. Cyclops also looks wonderful. He’s got a great badassery about him, particularly in the moment when he crosses his forearms, using the “X” symbol as part of an act of war. Immonen also has the unenviable task of drawing both Cyclops and Iceman at different ages (Beast is something of an exception, as his younger self is still human-looking). Almost all of this is pulled off very nicely.

All-New X-Men, Vol. 1: Yesterday's X-Men, Beast, Stuart ImmonenBeast a new look here, though I can’t say I’m a huge fan. At this point my loyalties are with feline Beast as opposed to simian Beast. Granted, it’s too early to make too harsh a judgment. But one character I CAN judge harshly is Iceman. Presumably to differentiate present day Iceman from past Iceman, Immonen draws the modern day character with silly looking icicles all over his body. This all seems like a needless distraction to me.
Bendis likes to banter. The more of his stuff you’ve read, the more obvious that is. It’s just how his voice is. He’s witty. I usually don’t have a problem with it. Depending on who he’s writing, it often works to his advantage because it gives us the sense that the characters know each other well. It also lends itself perfectly to funnier characters like Spider-Man. The trouble here is that Storm, and more notably Emma Frost, two characters who air less on the jokey side, seem to act out of character at times. Most of it is subtle, i.e. the use of certain words or expressions. But it’s there. On the plus side, Beast does deliver a classic bit of Bendis humor to Jean Grey toward the end of the book. She asks him: “How did I die?” His honest, logical, scientific-minded response is: “Which time?”

All-New X-Men, Vol. 1 Yesterday's X-Men, Stuart Immonen, BeastOn the subject of our fuzzy friend, while Yesterday’s X-Men is essentially a book about Cyclops, one can make the argument that Beast steals the show here. In addition to seeing young Hank McCoy interact with and treat his present day counter part, readers will likely find themselves questioning the wisdom of his decision to tamper with the space time continuum. From a character logic standpoint, it’s something we can chalk up to desperate times and desperate measures at the end of the day. But the stakes are immensely high, and the number of things that could potentially go wrong are astronomical, which obviously makes for a more tense and intriguing story.

And then we come to the proverbial elephant in the room, Jean Grey. If we’re looking for a way to bring Jean back, this works as well as anything. The characters all react accordingly to the reappearance of their fallen friend. She doesn’t get a hard hitting one-on-one scene with either Cyclops or Wolverine in this book, but it’s bound to be coming. Here Comes Yesterday plants the seed for that, and for now that’s enough.

We also get a sub plot in this book about how Cyclops, Emma Frost and Magneto are suddenly having trouble with their powers as a result of their direct contact with the Phoenix (though Magneto wasn’t actually part of the “Phoenix Five”). This feels like filler to me, but I’m willing to see where it goes. At the very least, it gives us an interesting scene between Cyclops and Magneto in issue #4.

If All-New X-Men is set to be the new flagship book of the X-Men line, then things are looking good for the time being. We’ve got a compelling story, fantastic art, and some great fan service going on. The negatives are there. But the positives are strong enough to offset them for the time being.

RATING: 8/10

Image 1 from ign.com. Image 2 from shootingdirtylooks.wordpress.com. Image 3 from superheroscifi.wordpress.com.

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