Weekly Comic 100s: Dr. Strange, Spider-Ham, Shazam!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As promised, this week I’ve padded the rather slim pickings from December 26 with some leftovers from December 19.

By the way, folks, I tried to read Incoming!, the big issue that’s supposed to lead us into what Marvel’s doing in 2020. But I couldn’t get through it. It’s all supposed to link back to a mysterious murder, which was intriguing enough. But the massive scope of the story, with all the different plot threads and characters, was just too much to follow.

Thankfully, Marvel is pretty well represented this week…

TITLE: Dr. Strange #1
AUTHOR: Mark Waid
ARTISTS: Kev Walker, Java Tartaglia (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Phil Noto.
RELEASED: December 26, 2019

The twist here is that Stephen Strange now has use of his hands again. Now he can resume his work as a surgeon, while continuing on as a master of the mystic arts.

I’m not much of a Doctor Strange fan. But I can’t find much to fault this issue for. The opening page is its best. It’s got a Twilight Zone feel to it, while also reminding me of one of the opening splash pages for an issue of Saga.

I don’t feel a huge pull to come back next issue. But what the hell? I won’t rule it out.

TITLE: Spider-Ham #1 (of 5)
AUTHOR:
Zeb Wells
ARTISTS:
Will Robson, Erick Arciniega (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Wendell Dalit.
RELEASED: December 26, 2019

For yours truly, the biggest surprise coming out of Spider-Ham #1 was that our titular character is on a team with other anthropomorphic animal heroes. Iron Mouse, Squawkeye, Quacksilver, etc. Basically the same Looney Tunes concept, but with the Avengers.

If you like this sort of thing, or enjoyed the character in Into the Spider-Verse, then this Spider-Ham miniseries should be right up your alley. Me? While the issue was fine, I’ll take a pass on this one.

TITLE: Shazam #9
AUTHOR:
Geoff Johns
ARTISTS: Marco Santucci, Scot Kolins, Dale Eaglesham, Michael Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Kaare Andrews.
RELEASED: December 18, 2019

Most of this book takes place in the “Wozenderlands,” an amalgamation of the worlds of The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. We’re told there was a “crisis,” and the worlds had to be merged. So essentially, it was Crisis on Infinite Earths, but with these fairy tale settings and characters.

That is so friggin’ random, that I absolutely love it. Who in the hell could have called this? All the while, we continue to advance the story of Billy Batson and his family. Truly, Shazam! has become one of the best books DC has right now.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #5
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: David Marquez, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 18, 2019

This whole “Secret Six” thing ended up not being the mystery I wanted it to be. And at times Williamson’s dialogue is a little awkward. But at the end of the day, this first story arc was fine. I did love the nice little “trust moment” he gave our titular characters in this issue.

I also feel like I haven’t heaped enough praise on David Marquez and Alejandro Sanchez. They’ve put together an absolutely beautiful book. Marquez can make virtually anything look good. Whether he’s working in the DC, Marvel, any other universe.

TITLE: Star Wars: Empire Ascendant
AUTHORS: Charles Soule, Greg Pak, Ethan Sacks, Simon Spurrier
ARTISTS: Luke Ross, Roland Boschi, Paolo Villanelli, Caspar Wijngaard. Cover by Ricardo Federici.
COLORISTS: Guru-eFX, Rachelle Rosenberg, Arif Prianto, Lee Loughridge
LETTERERS: Clayton Cowles, Travis Lanham
RELEASED: December 18, 2019

Empire Ascendant serves as a bridge into the four new Star Wars books Marvel’s releasing in the near future. Apparently they all take place after The Empire Strikes Back, as opposed to the previous ones, which were set beforehand.

We get four short stories set just before Empire. Not a lot from the main characters, Luke, Leia, etc. But if you give it a chance, this stuff actually has some meat to it. My personal favorite is the set-up for the Bounty Hunters series. I think The Mandalorian has wet the fandom’s collective appetite for more stuff like that.

TITLE: Family Tree #2
AUTHOR: Jeff Lemire
ARTISTS: Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur (Inker), Ryan Cody (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 18, 2019

Family Tree needs to be careful it doesn’t accidentally become a comedy.

It’s meant to be a horror/adventure comic about people being forcibly changed into trees. But there’s a flashback in this issue where Judd, the book’s resident grizzled old man character, is caring for a fully transformed…uh…tree person? When the tree tries to talk back to Judd, I couldn’t help it. My funny bone was tickled a bit. I still buy Family Tree as the horror story it’s trying to be. But sometimes there’s a thin like between horror and hilarity.

TITLE: The Low, Low Woods #1
AUTHOR: Carmen Maria Machado
ARTISTS:
Dani, Tamra Bonvillain (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer). Cover by J.A.W. Cooper.
RELEASED:
December 18, 2019

This feels like a Stephen King story. (Heh…)

The Low, Low Woods takes place in 1997, which hits a nostalgic soft spot for me. There’s a lot of exposition in this issue. We learn about a small town forever changed by a raging fire, and two teenage girls who discover some gory surprises.

If you like this sort of thing, I’d definitely recommend it. For me personally, this issue is a little low on intrigue. But the characters and the setting are interesting enough to at least get me to consider coming back for issue #2.

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A Justice League #40 Review – His Mama Named Him Mobius

Justice League #40, coverTITLE: Justice League #40
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLERS: Kevin Maguire, Phil Jimenez, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Scot Kolins, Jason Fabok, Jim Lee. Cover by Fabok.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 29, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This issue is HILARIOUS.

It’s not meant to be a funny issue, but it’s still hilarious. In putting together this issue about Metron and the Anti-Monitor, Geoff Johns has spotlighted a problem with not just DC Comics, but entertainment in general: Reboots, retcons, and remakes. This is particularly the case in the world of superheroes. We’re now on our third modern cinematic versions of Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. And as this issue points out (in so many words), the DC Universe has had five (maybe sixth, depending on what happens in Convergence) continuity adjustments in the last 30 years. Even Marvel is about to do a massive reboot.

Keep all in mind as you read these lines from Metron…

“Although it is unknown to all but a very few, the birth and destruction of the universe has been an ongoing cycle. And overtime, that cycle has accelerated. Because of that acceleration, the fabric of this universe is losing its cohesion. Reality has been taken apart and been put back together too many times.”

Metron, Justice League #40, Justice League #40That last line is hysterical, especially considering the man writing this is the chief creative officer of DC Entertainment! It’s funny, but also somewhat gratifying as a fan, just to see this sort of thing acknowledged in a story. All things considered, I don’t think I’ve ever read an issue this “meta.”

As we learn in Justice League #40, the Anti-Monitor, in his latest conquest to consume universes and realities, has somehow “cracked open” the Multiverse (again, see Convergence) for others to exploit. Metron, the designated observer of the space-time continuum in the DCU, tries to reason with the Anti-Monitor, citing that reality cannot survive another crisis. What follows is a revelation that The Anti-Monitor is on a collision course with one of DC’s most powerful entities. And indeed, the very fabric of reality may unravel.

Evidently the coming conflict (Hint: The story is called¬†Darkseid War.) is a very personal one for The Anti-Monitor. We even find out he has a birth name: Mobius. His involvement suggests cosmic, potentially time-altering consequences in the coming issues of Justice League. Of course, the stakes seem to be just as high in Convergence. How they’re connected, if at all, remains to be seen. But it would seemingly behoove them to connect the two stories in some way.

Justice League #40, two-page spread, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Scot KolinsWith an artistic team like this one, it’s no surprise this issue is gorgeous. I’m a huge Kevin Maguire fan, so opening the book with his work was big thrill for yours truly. He has such a gift for the little nuances in human expression, and that’s on great display with Johns goes over some of the Jack Kirby Fourth World stuff, specifically the switch involving Scot Free (later Mister Miracle) and Orion). After nine pages from Maguire, we get a two-page tribute to Crisis on Infinite Earths from Phil Jimenez. This is followed by nods to Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, and Flashpoint by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, and Scot Kolins respectively. After that, it’s a two-page callback to Justice League: Origin from Jason Fabok. Jim Lee, one of the true masters of the explosive superhero comic book, finishes it out from there. Most of this stuff is really gorgeous. It’s a tribute not only to the artists, but Johns’ ability to take what is essentially a giant info-dump, and turn it into a gorgeous issue.

Supposedly, this storyline has been planned since the New 52 began. I believe that. Justice League hasn’t been perfect. But it has had a certain flow to it, not unlike Johns’ Green Lantern run. We’ll be seeing a lot of heavy hitters on the pages of this book in the months to come. Let’s hope we see a home run.

Image 1 from dc.wikia.com. Image 2 from waitwhatpodcast.com. 

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