AMAZING MARY JANE #1/ Script by LEAH WILLIAMS/ Art by CARLOS GOMEZ/ Colors by CARLOS LOPEZ/ Letters by VC’S JOE CARAMAGNA/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Review by MATT MORRISON
After years of bit-parts and B-Movies, Mary Jane Watson has finally been cast as the romantic lead in a Hollywood blockbuster! Too bad the whole production is a scam organized by Quentin Beck (aka Mysterio) to get his own dark-and-gritty take of “the real story” about him and Spider-Man on-screen.
The odd thing is Beck seems sincere about wanting to make a good film and he’s hired a bunch of former super-villains as crew to give them real work experience. He even takes MJ’s advice on how to make her character more believable. But can she really take part in a movie mocking her beloved boyfriend for the sake of her career and keeping a bunch of supervillains employed at honest work?
Amazing Mary Jane #1 is the classic example of a mixed bag. The script by Leah Williams is engaging, full of humor and some brilliant satire involving the movie industry in general and superhero movies in particular. Williams’ also nails the voice of Mary Jane Watson and her interactions with Peter Parker are pitch-perfect.
Unfortunately, this brilliant story is illustrated by Carlos Gomez, whom I can only assume keeps getting work because the editors are too drooling over the bodies of the women he draws to notice that he can’t draw faces. A larger problem is that his expressions, misshapen as they are, also rarely match the emotions required by the script. The peak of this is Peter and MJ’s conversation near the end of the issue, which seemingly takes place over the course of two minutes, yet depicts Peter fighting a super-villain, posing for pictures and shopping for groceries.
In the end, your enjoyment of Amazing Mary Jane will come down to your ability to cope with terrible artwork to enjoy a well-written story. I wasn’t up to the task, great though Williams’ dialogue is. Hopefully she’ll find a more capable partner on future projects.
AQUAMAN ANNUAL#2/ Script by KELLY SUE DECONNICK & VITA AYALA/ Art by VICTOR IBANEZ/ Colors by JAY DAVID RAMOS/ Letters by CLAYTON COWLES/ Published by DC COMICS
Review by MATT MORRISON
When a random villain’s attack risks ruining Amnesty Bay’s Founders’ Day Festival, Arthur Curry must take on a series of trials to save the day; not to appease the villain, but to gather fresh food, replace the fireworks and ease the tensions in a town where things are already tense between the townsfolk and the retired sea gods who have recently moved there. On top of everything else, he also has to find his missing dog, Salty.
While the action of this Aquaman annual is brief, the comic itself is an amusing slice-of-life story that acts as a wonderful introduction to the people of Amnesty Bay and their newest residents. DeConnick and Ayala do a fantastic job of wrenching drama from the most mundane of issues and there’s a wonderful undercurrent (no pun intended) of humor centered around the fact that Arthur Curry treats an upset child and a supermarket run with greater urgency than a C-list villain threatening to kill him.
The artwork is equally enjoyable. Victor Ibanez puts a lot of detail into his work, but without cluttering the page with unnecessary lines or heavy inks. This gives the comic an amazing sense of clarity, which the colors of Jay David Ramos fully bring out. I hope to see them both working on the main Aquaman title someday soon.
Bottom Line: If you haven’t been reading the current Aquaman series, this is the perfect place to start. The artwork is solid and the story will introduce you to Aquaman, Aqualad and the city of Amnesty Bay and its people in an economical and amusing fashion. Highly recommended.
MARAUDERS #1/ Script by GERRY DUGGAN/Art by MATTEO LOLLI / Colors by FEDERICO BLEE/ Letters by VC’S CORY PETIT/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Review by MATT MORRISON
Denied entry into the new Mutant homeland of Krakoa, Kate Pryde (please stop calling her Kitty) decides to take up a task that needs doing and a job working for Emma Frost’s Hellfire Corporation. Because there are other mutants who can’t get to Krakoa, due to their being imprisoned by hostile governments or enslaved by various forces that fear a united Mutant nation. To give others the opportunity she can’t enjoy, Kate has formed a team to fight for the freedom of all oppressed mutants.
The first new X-Men book since Jonathan Hickman revamped the franchise, Marauders is a surprisingly solid introduction to the new Marvel Universe. Gerry Duggan introduces the characters smoothly enough and explains away those things that might confuse more casual readers (like myself), such as why the heck Kitty Pryde would ever work for Emma Frost. What truly sells all this is Duggan’s humor, which gives us a fantastic take on Iceman and a priceless scene with Wolverine. So all you fanboys who ever wondered what Logan keeps on his grocery list, wonder no more!
Matteo Lolli’s artwork is also noteworthy. The inks are a bit heavy at times, but Lolli is a fantastic fight choreographer and he does a fantastic job showcasing how truly scary Ms. Pryde can be when she doesn’t hold back and doesn’t care about causing pain. The colors by Federico Blee are suitable eye-catching and I particularly liked the detail on the lighting effects for Pyro’s fire.
All in all, I think X-Fans of all stripes will be satisfied by this series. The progression of the characters is logical, from what I’ve seen of the new X-Line. The artwork is impressive. Hopefully these Marauders will keep sailing for some time.
SECOND COMING #4/ Script by MARK RUSSELL/ Art by RICHARD PACE/ Finishes by LEONARD KIRK & ANDY TROY/ Letters by ROB STEEN / Published by AHOY COMICS
Review by MATT MORRISON
Jesus is in jail, but it’s something to which he’s become accustomed. As Sunstar and his super-friends embark on a noble crusade to pay the Son of God’s bail, Jesus gets a chance to read the New Testament and articulate where things wrong to his new friend, Larry.
There’s not as much overt comedy in this issue of Second Coming, but that’s okay. All truly great comedy has moments where things get serious and a point is made and I couldn’t help but be reminded of George Carlin’s classic routine about the return of Jesus and his thoughts on the religion he inspired as I read Mark Russell’s dialogue. The irony is that for all the anger and vitriol this series inspired after being announced is that there is nothing blasphemous here and Jesus is more disappointed than angry over the state of the world and blames himself for it. (“Oh, no. The miracles are where I went wrong the first time. Once I started with the magic tricks, it’s all anyone cared about. The message went right out the window.”)
Richard Pace’s artwork is equally involved and compelling. All aspiring artists should look at this series, if only to study how two different finishers can completely alter another artist’s work in different and brilliant ways. Pace is blessed to have two such finishers, Leonard Kirk and Andy Troy, who leave the sections of the book centering on Jesus and those centering on Sunstar looking as if they were drawn by completely different artists.
To put it simply and sweetly, this is a wonderful graphic novel. The art and story are fantastic and it is a well-plotted and thoughtful examination of the Christian faith in America. No wonder the powers that be were so eager to shoot it down! Then again, they were just as quick to condemn another truth-teller over 2000 years ago, if memory serves.