Pick of the week (Nov. 26th): Superior Iron Man #2

This week was a pretty solid week for comics. The winner for me though was Superior Iron Man #2. Last issue we saw the debut of Tony Starks new sleek suit and his burgeoning narcissism (thanks to the red skull and fall out from axis), as well as his (dis)utopian app extremis 3.0. This issue starts and ends with a confrontation with daredevil for Tony. Sandwiched in between are more examples of just how far off Tony has strayed from the straight and narrow. This new series asks the question: What would you pay/do to be perfect? All around the Orwellian feel is working on all levels for this comic. The art is fabulous with an overall cohesiveness between art and story that has the makings of something special. I’ll be looking forward to more Superior Iron Man in the weeks to come.

Rating: 8.0

-Andrew Horton

“Have you ever wished the members The Breakfast Club were all brooding assassins? Deadly Class, writer Rick Remender has.”

Deadly Class (1-6)

Deadly Class tells the story of an orphaned teenage boy by the name of Marcus Lopez in 1987 San Francisco. At the age of fourteen, Marcus is living under a bridge and has experienced great emotional trauma in his relatively short life. As a small child he witness his parents get crushed to death by a suicidal schizophrenic who jumped from a bridge.  After that traumatizing event, Marcus was sent to a boy’s home, where it is implied that he was physically and emotionally abused.  He eventually escapes the abuse, by detonating some sort of explosive and killing the other residents.

In the first issue Marcus is on the run from the police for his crimes committed in his cryptic backstory.  He is then rescued by a group of teenagers who attend a school for teenage assassins called Kings Dominion School of the Deadly Arts. After his escape Marcus meets a Mr. Miyagi stand in, named Master Lin (the school’s headmaster), who offers him asylum at the school.

Despite being a school for young assassins, Kings Dominion isn’t that different from most fictions high schools. Instead of having typical cliques such as jocks, stoners, and band geeks, you have in-groups based on world crime organizations. Typical classes such as psychology and gym are replaced with assassin psychology and hand-to-hand combat.  It’s also interesting to note that even aspiring assassins have homework assignments, except instead calculus problems then have to commit murder. Maybe King’s Dominion isn’t  exactly your typical high school…

Around issue #3, writer Rick Remender temporarily gives up on the idea of writing about a boarding school for teenage assassins and instead decides to write a subpar tribute to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It honestly feels like even Remender, got bored with his own plot and decided that dropping acid in Las Vegas was more interesting than a school full of teenage assassins. Although, the Las Vegas half of the story arc provides readers with some of volume 1’s best moments, it doesn’t work for couple reason. The most obvious is the jarring fact that Remender struggles to write about the characters that aren’t Marcus. There are several other characters that join Marcus on the road trip but you’d be hardpressed to describe any of them beyond their outward stereotype. You have the late 80’s punk, female Latino stereotype, and a female Japanese gangster. The only exception is the N.W.A. knockoff, who got a backstory in issue 3, and even he doesn’t really have much character development.

Even more is the lack of connection between characters leading to the Las Vegas side of the first story arc. Marcus was attending Kings Dominion School of the Deadly Arts less than two weeks before being pulled from “The Ditch” (Kings Dominion’s harsher version of detention) by “friends” that  hardly know him. The supporting characters know little about him outside of rumors about his murderous past at the boy’s home. Even if Marcus’s character was as outwardly transparent as he was to the reader, chances are they wouldn’t exactly line up to be his friend. Marcus spends much of his time blanketing himself in his own sadness. His sadness is merited, but it doesn’t make the character’s Xanga worthy monologues any less cringe worthy.

Despite some of the writing faults, Deadly Class has decent qualities. Wes Craig’s artwork works very well with the plot. Craig’s art takes aspects of dark noire realism and more cartoon illustration and the combination makes a perfect backdrop for Remender’s story.  What takes away from the art is some of the coloring choices by Lee Loughridge. Much of the coloring choices are used to create an emotion for the panels as opposed to just coloring in what is drawn. At times the coloring choices are a great way to express the emotion of the given situation, but other times you’ll see whole pages predominately colored in puke green or urine yellow. It is an eyesore that sometimes takes away from one of Deadly Class’s best qualities.

By the end of the blood soaked and drug induced Vegas trip, we are left with plenty of questions about the Marcus and his friends. Near the end, an antagonistic figure from Marcus’s vague past is presented. Although this character is written for cheap shock, his meeting with Marcus is still interesting for the future of the series. Likely, this character’s involvement will help fill in Marcus’s backstory and help centralize the currently misguided plot.

Despite my slight disdain for the first arc of comic, I honestly want to keep reading the next arc to see what happens next. Rick Remender was proven with his other work (such as the very fantastic Image book Low) that he can write a great story.  And maybe, if given enough time, Deadly Class will merit the praise it has gotten on other review websites. But truthfully this optimism is even lower than this story arc’s review score.

4/10

-John Small

Pick of the week (Nov. 19th): Amazing Spider-Man #10

My top pick for this week is Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man #10. In this issue Slott moves the narrative of Spider-verse forward with a new twist in the plot, keeping the reader interested in what will happen next. All the while he introduces us to new Spider-Men (some who last, and some who may or may not last), and simultaneously launches two new titles (Spider-Woman, and Scarlet Spiders). Whew! All that and he still managed to have two battle sequences and a one liner each from Spider-Monkey and Spider-Pig. Slott does this issue right: fast and furious. I give this comic 6.5/10

-Andrew Horton

Cyclops 1-5 (Or how I learned I would grow up to be a villain and instead of staying on earth I ran away to be a space pirate with my dad)

The Marvel NOW! Cyclops series opens up with our title character (Scott Summers) at age 16. Through a very complicated storyline (I won’t ruin it for ya’ll who haven’t read Uncanny X-Men yet) he is granted the ability to see his future and discovers that he becomes a maybe not so nice guy (who may or may not kill a certain someone [trying real hard for no spoilers here]). At the same time he finds out that his dad, who he thought was long dead, is in fact alive. Not only that but he is a space pirate! Now Scott being the typical 16 year old who has just had his life completely flipped turned upside down does what any 16 year old would do: He runs away and joins his father’s crew of space pirates!

Greg Ruckas’ (Wolverine, Detective Comics), story starts out with Scott awkwardly trying to find his place aboard his father’s space pirate ship. At first he doesn’t know where he fits in with the other crew members, who all seem to have a function. This would be the prevailing theme throughout the story arc. In a way it’s a coming of age/finding your place story. The pace of the comic is fast and furious as Scott and his father fight alien crew after alien crew. In issue one we discover that Scotts father is a wanted (by the law) man, and that he might not be all that he says he is. Scott’s father, Corsair, keeps having to take a “Medicine” that he is unwilling to explain to Scott. Corsair is driven by an incessant need for this drug. It’s this need that leads them into a trap in issue three, which gets Scott and Corsair trapped alone on a deserted planet with no hope of survival or escape (Spoiler: They survive, and they escape).

Ruckas’ Cyclops is a galaxy spanning awkward teenager coming of age and learning your place story. Written in such a way that even if you don’t know the back story of Scott, or the X-Men in general, you can still follow along. He manages to show the strength and the weakness of being a teenager at the same time. That, I feel is his greatest achievement in his time on the series.

The Art was done by Russell Dauterman (Issues 1-3) and Carmen Carnero (making his marvel debut). Daughterman and Canero both did an excellent job of crafting visuals to enhance Ruckas’ story telling. The work of digital design on the space scenes was especially stunning. The color blending was just the right mix between bright and vibrant colors, while still maintaining a level of realism. The only real weak spots as far as art is concerned would be the cover art. The cover art for issues 1, 2, and 5 is abrasive enough to be a real turn off for new buyers.

Overall Cyclops 1-5 is a well-crafted, well-illustrated story that is worth a read. Or two.

Story: 6/10

Art: 7/10

Overall: 6.5

-Andrew Horton

Moon Knight 1-6 (or how I battled myself and won, all the while saving others)

Warren Ellis and Declan Shalveys (with coloring from Jordie Bellaie) run on Moon Knight was something of an oxymoron. On the one hand Ellis’ story telling was dark and grungy, drawing from the title characters mental illness. Whereas Shalveys art had a focus on contrasting elements, the white of a glove versus the pitch black shadow of the beyond, and often times bright striking colors. It was this contradiction in styles that was the driving force behind the greatness of the comic.Ellis’ story telling style was often a one-and-done issue. That being an entire story encapsulated within one comic, reminiscent of comic books from the silver era, but with each new comic a thread or two of continuity was shown. This was successful in doing two things. First it made each comic in the arc enjoyable to read in and of itself. This made the book approachable by even the most laid back of comic readers. Secondly it rewarded the more faithful readers for their loyalty. Issue one focused on the return of Moon Knight to New York. It did a good job of introducing Marc Spector, while still keeping him shrouded in mystery. Ellis also briefly touched on Moon Knights history of mental illness, while not  letting it be the focus. Also at the end of the book we get a nice introduction to Khonshu, the Egyptian diety who “gave” Marc Spector his abilities. On the surface Issues two through five served as character development and a chance to showcase Shalveys amazing art. At closer inspection you see Ellis is building a tension between Moon Knight at the police force. The NYPD is none to happy about Moon Knights vigilante crime fighting spree, but time and time again are forced to rely on him. All of this comes to a head in issue six when an old police officer from issue one comes back to assume the identity of one of Moon Knights foes “The Black Spectre”. Officer Trent Ryan becomes obsessed with Moon Knight after he is told he wouldn’t be needed any more on a case once Moon Knight got involved. This obsession costs him his job, his girlfriend and eventually his life. With that Ellis’ short run on Moon Knight goes full circle.

Shalveys and Bellaires work on the art for this comic cannot be understated. Every art decision he made on this arc was successful. From the constantly high contrast of Moon Knights attire and limo to the superb paneling on issue two, right down to the lettering choices for Moon Knight and Khonshu. Shalvey and Bellaire really delivered. My favorite issue from the run was issue number four. In this book we see Moon Knight crossing over into a realm of drug induced nightmares. The artwork is phenomenal. The contrast from the dark brown and blacks of the real world to the fluorescent greens and blues of the dream world pounded home that Moon Knight was a real contender in the Marvel Universe.
Overall Ellis’ and Shavelys Moon Knight story arc was incredibly fun and entertaining. It payed homage to the Moon Knight that came before while staying out of the trap of over using his mental illness. To me that was the greatest success of this tun of Moon Knight. To many times before writers made the mistake of not letting Moon Knight grow into his own character. Ellis and Shavely not only let him grow, they let him flourish.

Story: 8/10

Art: 9/10

Overall: 8.5/10

-Andrew Horton