FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #5 & MORE![Mini-Reviews]

Detective Comics #1001 Cover

DETECTIVE COMICS #1001/ Story by PETER J. TOMASI/ Pencils by BRAD WALKER/ Inks by ANDREW HENNESSY / Colors by NATHAN FAIRBAIN/ Letters by ROB LEIGH/ Published by DC COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

Bats around Gotham City are dying mysteriously for no apparent reason and something is pushing Dr. Francine Langstrom, the wife of Man Bat and former user of his serums, over the edge. The culprits may be a new knighthood, devoted to destroying the darkness at the heart of Gotham City… and Batman!

The Arkham Knight wasn’t a concept I felt ever needed to be brought from the video games into the comics. Peter Tomasi has turned the character into something else, however, and he has my attention. While fans of the games and Jason Todd may be displeased that he isn’t adopting yet another costumed identity to try and prove his mentor is wrong, I find the idea of The Knights of the Sun far more appealing.

The artwork is as gripping as the story, with Brad Walker and Andrew Hennessy continuing to be as excellent a team as they were on the New 52 Action Comics and the DC Rebirth Aquaman. I’m not sure how long this team will remain on Detective Comics, but I hope it’s a good, long while. This is just what this series needed to start off after the landmark Issue #1000. This is a great Batman story and one heck of a mystery!

5-5

 

The Flash #68 CoverTHE FLASH #68/ Story by JOSHUA WILLIAMSON/ Art by SCOTT KOLINS/ Colors by LUIS GUERRERO/ Letters by STEVE WANDS/ Published by DC COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

The original Trickster, James Jesse, is back, and he’s making everyone in Central City feel happy… or else! Of course The Flash has managed to keep his head, but can he thwart Jesse’s plan once he figures out what it is?

I’ve mentioned before how James Jesse is my favorite classic Flash rogue and this story showcases why. Of course Jesse has gotten a major power upgrade to pull off his current scheme (it spoils little to say it ties into the on-going mystery of the forces beyond The Speed Force) but at heart he’s still the same showman who just wants to show-up The Flash, who is frankly furious that the world has forgotten him.

I think this may be setting up a bigger mystery in the DC Universe at large, as Jesse seems to remember things from the pre-Flashpoint universe it has never been indicated happened in the current timeline, such as the highly underrated Underworld Unleashed event. Hopefully these plot-points won’t be forgotten but I’m confident they’re part of Joshua Williamson’s grand scheme. Perfectly paired with Scott Kolins (who is widely regarded as the definitive Flash artist of his generation for a reason), this is a brilliant issue of what has been an amazing run, no pun intended.

The issue stumbles only in that it isn’t a great place to start reading the series. It could be managed, but it would be like walking into a movie that is halfway over. Apart from that lack of instant accessibility, this is as fine an issue of The Flash as one could hope for.

5-5

 

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #5 Cover FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #5/ Story by TOM TAYLOR/ Art by YILDIRAY CINAR/ Colors by NOLAN WOODARD/ Letters by VC’S TRAVIS LANHAM/ Published by MARVEL COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

Peter Parker has faced tragedy before but the news his Aunt May gives him has shattered his world. Taking to the streets to clear his head, he stumbles across a car theft gone wrong and seeks to find another way to save the day as Spider-Man.

I’m reluctant to say anything about this issue of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man beyond “Buy it!”  While the central subject matter has been dealt with time and time again since Stan Lee first created the character, I can’t recall anyone capturing the emotional weight of the issues involved and how they change a family quite so well as Tom Taylor. There’s also some utterly hysterical comedy involving a cameo by Doctor Strange, for those of you who only read Spider-Man for the jokes.

Everything is ably illustrated by Yildiray Cinar, who last partnered with Taylor on the highly underrated Superior Iron Man. The explosive action sequences and the quieter conversations are equally well-handled. All in all, this may be the single finest Spider-Man comic I’ve read in two decades. A must read!

5-5

 

Symbiote Spider-Man #1 Cover SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN #1/ Story by PETER DAVID/ Pencils by GREG LAND/ Inks by JAY LEISTEN/ Colors by FRANK D’ARMATA/ Letters by VC’S JOE SABINO/ Published by MARVEL COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

The time in which Peter Parker wore his black costume without realizing it was an alien symbiote was surprisingly brief for all the weight it came to carry in the years that followed – only six months in real-world time! It was also an unusual time for Peter in that he had dropped out of college and was no longer the eternal student we’re used to. He also had something of a romantic life, trying to make an honest go of building a relationship with Felicia Hardy outside of their costumed identities.

Symbiote Spider-Man #1 goes back to this magical time period and builds on it. Peter David does a masterful job of copying the tone of the Tom DeFalco era of Spider-Man and trying to make this seem like a lost story of that time. Indeed, he may go a bit too far with joking references being made to the Muppet Babies and one action sequence taking place on top of the twin towers of the World Trade Center circa 1986.Still, we also get some utterly magic moments such as Felicia’s meeting Aunt May – an event I don’t think any other writer has portrayed.

Unfortunately, for reasons beyond my understanding, Marvel continues to give work to notorious porn-tracer and art-thief Greg Land. Land’s artistic laziness has been well-chronicled, so I don’t feel the need to indulge in a lengthy rant here. Suffice it to say that his work here is far closer to the wonderful original work he once produced 20 years ago during the original Birds of Prey series than his more infamous excesses on Ultimate Power. Yet he still has Felicia Hardy forcibly posed in unnatural ways throughout the issue. We even get one of those infamous wide open-mouth screams for which Land is so infamous.

Ultimately, your enjoyment of this series will come down to how much you can tolerate forced artwork for the sake of a good story. Personally, I don’t think it is worth it, but this issue ultimately evens out to average if you ignore the politics and a few cringe-worthy panels. At least we’re not getting Aunt May’s O-Face.

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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