AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #800, X-MEN: RED ANNUAL #1 & MORE! [Mini-Reviews]

Amazing Spider-Man #800 Cover
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AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #800/ Story by DAN SLOTT/ Pencils by NICK BRADSHAW, HUMBERTO RAMOS, GIUSEPPE CAMUNCOLI, STUART IMMONEN & MARCOS MARTIN/ Inks by NICK BRADSHAW, VICTOR OLAZABA, CAM SMITH, WADE VON GRAWBADGER & MARCOS MARTIN/ Colors by EDGAR DELGADO, JAVA TARTAGLIA, MARTE GARCIA & MUNTSA VICENTE / Letters by VC’S JOE CARAMAGNA/ Published by MARVEL COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

Norman Osborn has merged with the Carnage symbiote to become The Red Goblin. Now Norman is on a tear and out to kill all of Peter Parker’s friends and family. With all of Spider-Man’s allies incapacitated, our favorite wall-crawler will have no one to turn to for help in the biggest battle of his life… except his greatest enemies!

I’ve largely avoided the Spider-Man comics since One More Day, despite having enjoyed a great deal of Dan Slott’s writing in the past. I still hold his Spider-Man/Human Torch – I’m With Stupid mini-series with Ty Templeton as the best retro mini-series in Marvel history. And yet, when I heard about the absolutely ludicrous conceit of The Red Goblin going into this issue… well, curiosity won out over common sense.

This book is as gloriously over-the-top and ridiculous as I feared. It is also shockingly good, and I’m not ashamed to say the final pages brought tears to my eyes. The most astonishing aspect of this book, however, is how easily Slott’s scripts explains all of this insanity to the guys like me who haven’t been keeping up with little details like why Harry Osborn now has two sons and who knows Peter Parker’s secret identity now. The artwork is also as amazing as the title suggests, with several top-notch teams working on the individual chapters as the running battle between Norman and Peter escalates across Manhattan.

 

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BLACK LIGHTNING/HONG KONG PHOOEY #1/ Story by BRYAN HILL/ Pencils by DENYS COWAN/ Inks by BILL SIENKIEWICZ/Colors by JEROMY COX/ Letters by JANICE CHIANG/ Published by DC COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

Legend has it that three scrolls hold the secret to The God Fist – an ancient martial arts technique created by a demon, that can give those who learn it ultimate power. It all sounds like nonsense to Jefferson Pierce, but when dead bodies turn up in his town thanks to a group of martial artists and a mad magician looking for the scrolls, Pierce will turn to his old friend Penry – a martial arts master who just happens to be a talking dog – for help in bringing justice to the victims. Little does Jefferson know that Penry already has a connection to the legend of The God Fist.

This comic is played almost painfully straight, with none of the hilarity of the original Hong Kong Phooey cartoons and Penry being written as Iron Fist if he were an anthropomorphic dog in the DC Universe. The final effect is reminiscent of the sorts of martial-arts themed comics that Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams crafted back in the 1970s and 1980s – no surprise given that the artwork is by Denys Cowan, who drew much of O’Neil’s The Question. Those who are expecting high comedy will be disappointed but those who might enjoy a slice of nostalgia that perfectly replicates the cheesy but enjoyable feeling of a good 1970’s low-budget kung-fu action movie will want to check this out.

 

Doomsday Clock #5 Cover
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DOOMSDAY CLOCK #5/ Story by GEOFF JOHNS/ Art by GARY FRANK/ Colors BRAD ANDERSON/ Letters by ROB LEIGH/ Published by DC COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

As Rorschach and his new ally escape from Arkham Asylum, Adrian Viedt manages an escape of his own. Meanwhile, the global conflict over America’s metahumans continues to escalate as Batman and The Comedian seek understanding, Mime and Marionette hunt for The Joker, Lois Lane grills Lex Luthor regarding his role in recent events and Johnny Thunder looks for a sign of his old friends and a magical jade lantern.

I’m still not sure where the heck Johns is going with all the various subplots in this book. While he does a good job of mimicking Alan Moore’s writing style on the original Watchmen, Johns is nowhere near as focused and depends too much on the supplemental material in the back of this issue to build his world instead of letting the details come out naturally in the narrative. The art by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson is still fantastic, but it seems to be a pretty layer of paint on a largely empty house.

 

X-Men Red Annual #1 Cover
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X-MEN: RED ANNUAL #1/ Story by TOM TAYLOR/ Art by PASCAL ALIXE/ Colors by CHRIS SOTOMAYOR/ Letters by VC’S CORY PETIT/ Published by MARVEL COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

This X-Men annual tells the tale of how Jean Grey came to reconnect with her oldest friends and reestablished her life in the wake of her recent resurrection, as she learned how the world changed in the time since her death. While this story is light on action, a part of me wishes that this story had opened the X-Men: Red series as it does such a fantastic job of establishing Jean’s character and who she is – something that seems to have gotten lost in many of the stories featuring her, where she existed only to be a source of friction between Cyclops and Wolverine. With both characters dead, Jean is now free to be her own woman and Tom Taylor does a fantastic job of exploring how Jean moves on in the wake of their deaths.

The artwork is as detailed and vivid as the story, with Pascal Alixe’s art doing a wonderful job of conveying a sense of motion and action even in the static scenes of characters just talking. The only real flaw is that I find Alixe’s depiction of Jean Grey a little top-heavy and there’s some frankly odd poses that look forced, unnatural and painful.

Despite some wonky artwork, this book is a wonderful exploration of Jean Grey’s character and a good “test” issues for those who haven’t read the first few issues of X-Men: Red.

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About Matt Morrison

Matt "Starman" Morrison is The Grand Exalted High Macha of Raspur - a non-existent but real-sounding country. He has been writing about comics since before the word "blogging" was coined. He enjoys acting, role-playing, movie-riffing and sarcasm. You can follow his adventures on Twitter, @GeekyGeekyWays.

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