AQUAMAN #51 & MORE! [Mini-Reviews]

Aquaman #51 CoverAQUAMAN #51/ Script by KELLY SUE DECONNICK/ Pencils by ROBSCON ROCHA/ Inks by DANIEL HENRIQUES/ Colors by SUNNY GHO/ Letters by CLAYTON COWLES/ Published by DC COMICS


With his new companion Jackson Hyde at his side, Arthur Curry is ready to take on a truly heroic task – helping a bunch of finicky sea gods move into a new home on Amnesty Island. Meanwhile, Mera continues to plan a royal wedding, as Black Manta uncovers the first of the new gifts that Lex Luthor has given him in exchange for his service to the cause of Doom.

You wouldn’t think that a comic based around the idea of moving could be so entertaining, but Kelly Sue DeConnick manages that miracle here. The issue is light on action, but that’s okay as the emphasis here is on beginning to forge a relationship between Aquaman and the new Aqualad, as they try to figure out what they are to each other, while dancing around the problems the words partner, sidekick, ward and assistant offer when it comes to a job title. The final pages involving Black Manta feel tacked on, however, as if they were hurriedly added in so that this book could be marketed as a Year Of The Villain tie-in.

The artwork is much stronger this month, now that only Daniel Henriques is handling the inking duties. At least, the shading and general look is consistent throughout the entire issue, though the colors by Sunny Gho seem somewhat washed-out. (No pun intended.) Still, the full detail of Rocha’s pencils comes through, giving this book a distinctive look even if it seems to lack a certain depth (again, no pun intended.) thanks to the thin inks.  All in all, this is one of DC Comics most underrated series.



Ghost-Spider #1 CoverGHOST-SPIDER #1/ Script by SEANAN MCGUIRE/ Art by TAKESHI MIYAZAWA/ Colors by IAN HERRING/ Letters by VC’S CLAYTON COWLES/ Published by MARVEL COMICS


With her secret identity exposed in her home dimension, Gwen Stacy can’t get a job or apply for college. Luckily, she’s gained access to a magic pendant that allows her to travel to another Earth where she can take classes and just be Gwen Stacy and not Ghost Spider. Unluckily, this whole new world offers some brand new problems. And that’s ignoring how all of Gwen’s powers have been transferred into a synthetic goo that bonded to her like a second skin!

I haven’t been keeping up on the saga of “Spider-Gwen” for some time. I had no idea, for instance, that Gwen suddenly has what is essentially a symbiote providing her powers. Despite this, Seanan McGuire’s script – and the opening text on the title page – do a fair job explaining the specifics of Gwen’s recent backstory. Unfortunately, they don’t do much to explain the subplot involving Gwens’ dad (a cop) and her Earth’s version of Man-Wolf. And the sudden appearance of a certain villain on the final page will only make sense to established Spider-Fans.

It’s ironic, really, because the meat of this issue is so wonderful and easily accessible to new readers. Watching Gwen in action and interacting with Peter Parker while discussing how weird it is to do the whole “dimension” thing is far more interesting and a far more natural way of delivering the exposition than the info dumps we get elsewhere. If nothing else, I like the detail that went into the world-building and the idea that Tony Stark established a scholarship program for dimensional refugees, sentient mechanical intelligences and other non-normative beings seeking to start their lives over in a new world.

The artwork is similarly mixed. I like Miyazawa’s style but it loses all detail past the middle distance and those details are often obscured by the inking. The color art by Ian Herring is competent, but otherwise unremarkable. Fans of the spider-powered Gwen Stacy will love this book but it seems unlikely to win her any new fans.



Pretty Violent #1 CoverPRETTY VIOLENT #1/ Script by DEREK HUNTER & JASON YOUNG/ Art by DEREK HUNTER/ Colors by SPENCER HOLT/ Published by IMAGE COMICS


Gamma Rae wants to be a superhero. Unfortunately, her temper is even shorter than she is and she’s the youngest member of a family of infamous supervillains. Her family thinks heroism is just a phase she’s going through, the city’s superheroes are sure that her “breaking good” is all part of a sinister scheme and the only thing the general public hates more than a supervillain is an incompetent superhero who causes more damage trying to save people than the actual supervillains. Will Gamma find a way to make her dream come true? Will anyone survive if she does?

Ultra-violent superhero deconstructions are nothing new. Neither is drawing them in a fashion that ironically contrasts the innocent appearance of the art with the level of extreme violence contained within the story. Despite this, I found myself liking Pretty Violent more than I expected but that’s almost entirely due to how the book satirizes the attitude of the average citizen of the Marvel Comics universe, with people cheering on the supervillains that are actively trying to kill them because they were told to hate a superhero.

Unfortunately, the book is something of a mess outside of that bit of parody. Derek Hunter is a good artist with a style reminiscent of the classic Jack Cole Plastic Man comics in how the figures contort, but the story flow between panels isn’t great and the finishes leave it hard to make out the details given the thin outlines between characters. All in all, Pretty Violent is a delightfully twisted take on the superhero genre, though it is hardly original and barely readable.



Savage Sword Of Conan #8 CoverSAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #8/ Script by JIM ZUB/ Art by PATCH ZIRCHER/ Colors by JAVA TARTAGLIA/ Letters by VC’S TRAVIS LANHAM/ Published by MARVEL COMICS


Conan has never believed in fate, but the barbarian is soon cursing his luck, as a simple job guarding a suddenly dead merchant in a gambling house leads to Conan being forced into a battle he is unfamiliar with – a war waged with cards, though the stakes are as deadly as any sword fight.

Part 2 of Conan The Gambler proves as engaging as the first and Jim Zub’s script manages to make a game of cards as exciting to watch as any of Conan’s usual exploits. The artwork by Patch Zircher and the colors by Java Tartaglia does a fantastic job of establishing the setting and mood of the story, subtly building the tension in the environment as the games go on. Worry not, action fans. This is a Conan story and there will be a more physical contest before the issue’s end, with the promise of a more suitable challenge for Conan’s talents in the final chapter next month. This is a different sort of Conan story, but one to do Robert E. Howard himself proud.


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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