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Amazing Spider-Man #680

Written by Dan Slott and Christopher Yost

Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Klaus Janson, and Frank D'Armata

Letters by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

After a two-issue sojourn into sci-fi silliness, and a one off look at a long running subplot, Dan Slott and co. are back on track with Amazing Spider-Man, returning to some of the plots and storylines set up all the way back at the onset of Slott's solo run.  Here, Slott and occasional co-writer Chris Yost do what they do best, focusing on characterization and humor to temper the high-stakes drama and breakneck pace of our first Spidey/Human Torch team up in what feels like way too long.  It's perfect comic book bliss, and though I've honestly felt kinda lukewarm on Giuseppe Camuncoli's pencils in the past, the level of humanity and, well, inhumanity that he imparts to the characters at hand really make this issue one of the standouts in Slott's run so far.

Picking up with John Jameson, who was sent into space despite some interference from the Scorpion and Alistair Smythe way back during the "Big Time" arc, some unknown tragedy befalls the space station where he's residing just as he's having his first video conference with his father, longtime Spider-Man "nemesis" J.Jonah Jameson.  As communications black out, Peter Parker, in the control center as part of the Horizon Labs team overseeing the space mission, jets off to seek help from his bestie, Johnny Storm.  It's the kind of yarn that lends impeccably to the super-buddy-comedy style of old "Marvel Team-Up" stories, trading on some of the wittiest banter you're likely to find on the shelves this month.  Sure, some of the references are a little goofy, such as Johnny's rendition of infamous internet sensation "Friday," but they work by tapping into a type of rapport that will no doubt be familiar to many of Amazing Spider-Man's readership, and by letting the goings get serious when it's warranted.  Perhaps the biggest success of Dan Slott's solo run has been the return of Peter Parker to the iconic "everyman," or, in to coin a phrase, "every-fan."  There's a realness in the character, even when the situation is absolutely unreal, that builds the kind of connection between a character and his fans that only icons like Spider-Man can achieve.  

Maybe the biggest surprise for me on this issue is my enjoyment of Giuseppe Camuncoli's pencils.  It's not that I've never seen his stuff before, it's just that it's never really spoken to me the way it does here.  Of course Klaus Janson more than pulls his weight as inker, but it's Camuncoli's sense of acting and personality that really brings this book to life.  Maybe it's that I'm more interested in the characters he's using, but there are some real gems among his portrayals in this issue.  His J. Jonah Jameson is suitably cross and coarse, and his Dr. Octopus is downright monstrous.  His handling of Doc Ock's redesign is probably my favorite so far, really playing up the sci-fi elements of the look.  Colorist Frank D'Armata's moody, smooth colors really sing as well, totally enhancing the big budget sci-fi feel of the story.

As we move into the upcoming "Ends of the Earth," this kind of bridge is exactly the type of tale to tell with this title.  It's intimate, and yet also expansive, focusing on two best friends falling back into an old routine, even as they enter into an adventure that's anything but ordinary, even for Spider-Man.  Dan Slott's mastery of characterization comes through note perfect, and only seems to be enhanced by co-write Christopher Yost.  It may not be the most earth-shaking story, but it's exactly the kind of Spider-Man comic I want to read.  It's not just a great issue of Amazing Spider-Man, it's one of the best comics I've read this year.

DC Reveals JUSTICE LEAGUE #6 Cover
DC Reveals JUSTICE LEAGUE #6 Cover

Justice League #6

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Sandra Hope, Batt, Mark Irwin, Alex Sinclair, Tony Avina and Hi-Fi

Lettering by Patrick Brosseau

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10

I don't think I'd be out of line saying that Justice League is like the Transformers movies of comics. It's far from the deepest concept in the world, but when you weigh it against seven of DC's biggest heroes teaming up — oh, and with DC's two biggest creators, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, on board, too — the high concept has made this book a superpowered cash cow. That said, while the action is suitably epic, there's also that Transformers-esque feeling of fatigue, as the story behind the spectacle still feels thin.

With uber-villain Darkseid hitting planet Earth, it's pretty surprising how small-scale his conflict with the Justice League feels. Part of that has to do with the direction writer Geoff Johns has taken with the team's inaugural outing — as opposed to taking that Morrisonian bent of splitting up our heroes to fight threats that are spiraling around the world, the League more or less stands united throughout this issue, both in location and in sentiment. Johns is able to let most of our heroes at least get one decent shot in (except for poor Flash, who kind of gets lost in the background), and while their attacks are far from inventive, they are surprisingly brutal.

What makes this digestible, of course, is the juggernaut that is Jim Lee. New designs notwithstanding, never has the Justice League looked as badass as when Lee and his army of inkers took them on. Aquaman and Wonder Woman, by virtue of the script, get the best treatment by Lee and company, with Arthur having a sinewy power to his strikes, and Wonder Woman having a surprising joy on her face as she blinds Darkseid in a splash page that virtually shakes with debris. While the differences in various inking styles are noticeable, it doesn't hamper the storytelling too much, but the colorwork does. With Alex Sinclair, Tony Avina and Hi-Fi involved, the pages occasionally take on a muddier quality that makes it difficult to take in Lee's bombastic splash pages.

Still, even with the impressive action beats, the seams are pretty visible for this issue. Lee's layouts are the weakest part of his art, which means that the connective tissue between all those beautiful splash pages can feel a little less than inspired. Johns, it could be argued, suffers from the same problem — the pacing is more or less out the window, as he shoehorns action beat after action beat in a script that feels far too decompressed to be 23 pages (plus backup). It's way beyond having no theme, the characterization is more or less nonexistent, leaving behind what could be a very successful opportunity to redefine these new characters and instead turning this comic into action figure combat.

Of course, as Hasbro has proven with the Transformers movies, action figures have their fans, too. Justice League #6 is a fighting comic, not a thinking one, and there are plenty of people who will say that's good enough for them. Yet striking artwork aside, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed with the execution of this book. I had no problem with the relaunch of the DC Universe, as I felt the opportunities for new directions and new insights would help reinvigorate the Justice League for a new generation. But that's the problem with having all style and little substance — with the action-heavy approach, these characters feel more like strangers than ever.


Invincible #89

Written by Robert Kirkman

Art by Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, and John Rauch

Lettering by Rus Wooton

Published by Image Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

I really need to get back into Invincible.

I've always viewed this book as the best parts of Superman and the best parts of Spider-Man coming together to make something pretty amazing. I check in every now and then, but even if you're out of the loop, Kirkman still can layout a comprehensive story that mostly anybody could follow along. I have no idea how Mark got infected with some sort of virus, but you get the idea it's serious and actually imposes a threat. He is in the care of a team of Viltrumites, and is soon aided by newly made ally, Dinosaurus. Apparently in my reading absence, Mark established something called Invincible, Inc. It's briefly mentioned but the gist is that you pay for Invincible's protection and services. Kind of like a superpowered bodyguard and pest control, more than the actual police department. However, since he's in space it seems the business is on the verge of collapsing and Bulletproof dons Mark's costume as Invincible for a client in his absence. The last four panels give a pretty good summary of the setup for the things to come.

This is the book where Kirkman still shines. This is a comic book that isn't afraid to be a comic book. Kirkman's brand of humor, edged with some dramatic flare he continues his tradition at being a great storyteller that's not bogged down by minuet details and captures what comics can do. He manages to concentrate on a few central characters, but Invincible's universe still seems large. Only a handful of characters actually have dialog in this issue, but the pacing keeps things along and it's never dull or unnecessary. The fact you have somebody besides Mark stepping into the Invincible costume is a milestone, but doesn't take itself too seriously or make a big deal about it. Bulletproof understands that Invincible has a job to do and he'll take over in the mean time.

Ryan Ottley's still has that trademark modern day style that hearkens back to a simpler time in comics. Nothing is over rendered and everything comes out nice and polished. The layouts are solid and easy to comprehend. Though I'm curious on when Even became a lot more curvier. She looks great with them. I'm not too familiar with Cliff Rathburn's inking, though. He does a great job of fleshing out the details, without going crazy. Just adds more subtle layers to already great art. John Rauch on colors though? Man, this is just killer. I've been a big fan of his work for a long while, and his skills are in full effect here, without taking anything away from Ottley or Rathburn. It's layered accordingly, adding that extra pinch of oomph to the pages.

Invincible is one of those books that are my go-to for recommending to new readers that want to get into comics. It's the perfect book for that. While I might have skipped an issue here and there, this one needs to be added again to my pullbox soon enough.


The Cape #4 (of 4)

Written by Jason Ciaramella and Joe Hill

Art by Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel

Lettered by Shawn Lee

Published by IDW Publishing

Review by Edward Kaye

‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

IDW’s The Cape is a four-issue miniseries that expands upon the events that occurred in Joe Hill’s short story of the same name, which was published in his 20th Century Ghosts anthology. IDW also adapted Hill’s original short story into a one-shot of the same name (slightly confusingly), which they published back in 2010. The miniseries is written by Jason Ciaramella, the same writer responsible for adapting the original story into a one-shot.

The miniseries picks up events pretty much exactly where the original left off, with our protagonist having just dropped his girlfriend from a great height (literally), and now finding himself being investigated by the police. From that point events inevitably spin out of control, and it’s not long before the character embarks down a path of bloody vengeance against everyone who’s ever wronged him. In this final issue of the series, our villain and our hero come together for a final showdown, and only one of them walks away alive.

Jason Ciaramella has done a very solid job of expanding upon the short, and maintaining the malevolent and foreboding feel of Joe Hill’s original story. The series has been quite a thrill ride, and while the overall direction of the plot was somewhat preordaned, Ciaramella has treated readers to some quite wild and unpredictable moments. In a lot of ways the series has put me in mind of some of Mark Millar’s recent creator-owned work, only a lot more restrained, and significantly better off for it. My only real criticism of the series is that the story feels a little bit decompressed, and could likely have been told in the space of just 2 or 3 issues. Some of this is down to the fact that the main story is padded out slightly with flashbacks to when Eric and Nicky were kids, but also there are a few lengthy fight scenes, and numerous splash pages, which could have done with being cut down a bit. A good example is this final installment — pretty much the entire issue is filled by a fight between Eric and Nicky. It’s a great fight scene, but perhaps goes on just a little too long, and includes a heck of a lot of splashes.

This criticism aside, Ciaramella’s script for the issue is pretty good, with some nice dialog and some decent character development work - Eric’s made some pretty drastic decisions in the series, most of which have seemed quite irrational, but Ciaramella’s work on developing the back-story goes a long way towards aiding the reader’s belief in his justification of his actions. As mentioned, most of the issue is taken up by a fight scene, so Ciaramella keeps the script mostly to dialog, with a small bit of narration in the epilogue. As for the climax, Ciaramella delivers a suitably satisfying ending that fits the story incredibly well and finishes things off quite nicely.

Zach Howard is the series artist, and also illustrated the original one-shot. He has a style of drawing that reminds me somewhat of that employed by Gabriel Rodriguez on Locke & Key. His pencils have a nice and open feel to them, with smooth lines, and the characters have very natural looking features and anatomy. I really like the fact that he fills every scene with abundant details, even in the backgrounds, where he could have easily have gotten away with leaving them blank. There’s a lot of fighting in the issue, and Howard choreographs the battles really well, and ensures that every action is clear and drawn from the best angle to illustrate what is going on. With his inking Howard makes the final artwork look quite gritty, in keeping with the theme of the story. He accomplishes this through the use of heavy blacks on key scenes, as well great use of screentone effect — some artists have a tendency to go overboard with this, but Howard uses it pretty much perfectly.

The artwork is finished off with a dark color job courtesy of Nelson Daniel, which uses a muted pallet that suits the story perfectly.

The Cape #4 provides readers with a fitting, and highly satisfying, conclusion to the story begun in Joe Hill’s original short. Fans of the story will not be disappointed. 

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