Archive for December, 2015

Hawkeye #2 of 4

December 31, 2015

Hawkeye 2 of 4Mark Gruenwald
October 1983
**

Hawkeye teams up with Mockingbird, a SHIELD agent-turned-urban vigilante, to take out an evil corp. The duo show good chemistry; she’s as tough as he is, & smarter too. But the title character hasn’t shown much more than some comic-book angst, leaving him looking like a narcissistic mope.

last issue: Hawkeye #1 of 4
next issue: Hawkeye #3 of 4

also indexed for Oct. ’83
The Fantastic Four #259

Hawkeye #1 of 4

December 30, 2015

Hawkeye 1 of 4Mark Gruenwald
September 1983
**

The Avengers’ perennial second-stringer finally gets his own mini. Hawkeye has been earning bread as the security chief at a tech firm—till this opener. A superheroine tips him to an evil plan & gets him dumped by a femme fatale. Gruenwald’s competent art includes some fine hand-to-hand combat.

next issue: Hawkeye #2 of 4

also indexed for Sept. ’83
The Fantastic Four #258

Moon Knight #6

December 29, 2015

Moon Knight 6Warren Ellis // Declan Shalvey
October 2014
*****

Ellis’ brief runs show the power of varying your method each issue. MK #2 & #5 were tight, one-scene actioner; #6 is a hypercompressed story, doubling as an origin recap for Knight & as the creation & defeat of a copycat vigilante. He’s built into a threat superbly, then instantly outclassed by MK.

last issue: Moon Knight #5
next issue: Moon Knight #7

Moon Knight #5

December 28, 2015

Moon Knight 5Warren Ellis // Declan Shalvey
September 2014
****

MK storms an abandoned building to save a kidnapped kid from goons. While others (Waid, Fraction) push vigilante comics in new directions, Ellis returns to the genre’s roots. Like 1930s pulp tales, Ellis is unrepentant about lurid violence. Contrast w/ Shalvey’s staging: smooth, almost balletic.

last issue: Moon Knight #4
next issue: Moon Knight #6

Moon Knight #4

December 27, 2015

Moon Knight 4Warren Ellis // Declan Shalvey
August 2014
*****

Swerving into Dr. Strange’s territory, MK falls into a dreamscape to solve a mystery in a haunted building. For the leap into the unconscious, Shalvey lays a few pages out in a head-comix style with a touch of Windsor McKay. But tonally this tale of fungoid horror most recalls the seminal Swamp Thing.

last issue: Moon Knight #3
next issue: Moon Knight #5

Moon Knight #3

December 26, 2015

Moon Knight 3Warren Ellis // Declan Shalvey
July 2014
****

Talk about a cult run: Marc Spector turns to his skeletal death-deity for help busting a ghost gang of LES punks. The weird, magic element may alienate the fan of street-level comics, but the origin of Moon Knight did have a trace of ’70s horror, & it opens the mag out.

last issue: Moon Knight #2
next issue: Moon Knight #4

Moon Knight #2

December 25, 2015

Moon Knight 2Warren Ellis // Declan Shalvey
June 2014
*****

Moon Knight fights a sniper; from start to finish, the action takes less than 15 minutes. It’s a done-in-one vigilante comic, Batman in photonegative costume w/ a touch of cynicism. Shalvey opens w/ the victims’ last moments, & his use of white in the layout recalls Aja’s contempo Hawkeye.

last issue: Moon Knight #1
next issue: Moon Knight #3

Moon Knight #1

December 24, 2015

Moon Knight 1Warren Ellis // Declan Shalvey
May 2014
****

In white suit & limo, Moon Knight hunts a killer Frankenstein cyborg under NYC. Four years after his last series, this 1970s riff on the Shadow gets resurrected again by a master at overhauls. In Ellis’ hands, MK’s a gentleman detective haunted by a weird entity from outside time; Shalvey adds ghostly atmo.

next issue: Moon Knight #2

also indexed for May ’14

Secret Avengers #21

December 23, 2015

Secret Avengers 21Warren Ellis // Stuart Immonen
March 2012
****

Cap & co fight a horror beast in a skyscraper. Anyone hoping for a resolution to the mag’s Lovecraft conspiracy will be disappointed; so will Nextwave fans looking for a gonzo reunion for Ellis & Immonen. Still, the duo’s expertise makes for first-rate spy-fi & a fine capper to a fun, cynical run.

last issue: Secret Avengers #20
next issue: Secret Avengers #22

also indexed for Mar. ’12
Captain America #7
Captain America & Bucky #626
The Fantastic Four #602
FF #14

Secret Avengers #20

December 22, 2015

Secret Avengers 20Warren Ellis // Alex Maleev
February 2012
*****

The Black Widow saves a mission via cunning application of time travel. The excellent use of the trope reads like a superspy response to the puzzle boxes of modern Doctor Who. Maleev helps make it an instant classic, w/ a ’60s flashback laid out as a daily strip, Modesty Blaise style.

last issue: Secret Avengers #19
next issue: Secret Avengers #21

also indexed for Feb. ’12
Annihilators: Earthfall #4 of 4
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #8 of 9
Captain America #5
Captain America #6
Captain America & Bucky #625
The Fantastic Four #601
FF #13

Secret Avengers #19

December 21, 2015

Secret Avengers 19Warren Ellis // Michael Lark
January 2012
*****

This brief run on a 2nd-tier Avengers mag may actually be the apex of the ’00s superspy revival. Each done-in-one mission has a different tone, thanks to the guest artists. Here Lark evokes horror & The Third Man; in E. Europe, the team raids a club whose owner gains powers up by smoking an Elder God’s ashes!

last issue: Secret Avengers #18
next issue: Secret Avengers #20

also indexed for Jan. ’12
Annihilators: Earthfall #3 of 4
Captain America #4
Captain America & Bucky #624
The Fantastic Four #600
Fear Itself: Captain America #7.1
FF #12

Secret Avengers #18

December 20, 2015

Secret Avengers 18Warren Ellis // David Aja
December 2011
*****

Backed by a rotating crew of A-list artists, Ellis is distilling the modern superspy trend into a stiff shot of comics. For #18, Cap’s kooky quartet displays Shang-Chi to far better effect than Brubaker did. He gives Aja the chance to draw a kung fu fight in an Escher dimension. Gorgeous.

last issue: Secret Avengers #17
next issue: Secret Avengers #19

also indexed for Dec. ’11
Annihilators: Earthfall #2 of 4
Captain America & Bucky #623
FF #10
FF #11

Secret Avengers #17

December 19, 2015

Secret Avengers 17Warren Ellis // Kev Walker
November 2011
****

In the rural hills of Serbia, Cap & the team play Mad Max with a cyborg death-rig that’s abducting human parts! This reads like Nextwave but with competent heroes, or like Planetary with a gonzo foe. Pity Kev’s ugly-cool style can’t quite handle the cinematic action, but he draws great zom-borgs.

last issue: Secret Avengers #16
next issue: Secret Avengers #18

also indexed for Nov. ’11
Annihilators: Earthfall #1 of 4
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #7 of 9
Captain America #3
Captain America & Bucky #622
FF #9

Secret Avengers #16

December 18, 2015

Secret Avengers 16Warren Ellis // Jamie McKelvie
October 2011
*****

The idea’s still ‘superspy Avengers’, but in one issue, Ellis succeeds where Brubaker failed. A quartet of heroes led by Captain America destroy a time machine that’s been repurposed as a super-WMD. McKelvie’s classical layouts are (like Cassaday’s cover) clear & full of dynamism.

last issue: Secret Avengers #15
next issue: Secret Avengers #17

also indexed for Oct. ’11
Captain America #2
Captain America & Bucky #621
FF #8

Winter Soldier #14

December 17, 2015

Winter Soldier 14Ed Brubaker // Jackson Guice
March 2013
***

A KGB superspy wipes love for Bucky from Black Widow’s memory. Brubaker erases this character’s past way too tidily (see also Agent 13’s pregnancy), and focuses on his hero’s wound. It’s the Widow who’s been attacked! That leaves a bad taste, but it’s not the first long run to end in mediocrity.

last issue: Winter Soldier #13
next issue: Winter Soldier #15

also indexed for Mar. ’13

Winter Soldier #13

December 16, 2015

Winter Soldier 13Ed Brubaker // Jackson Guice
February 2013
***

Ed B nods to his other major Marvel run, pitting brainwashed Bucky against his kidnapped GF’s ex, Daredevil. It’s no character piece, nor is it particularly well-staged; just a rainy nighttime NYC fight with Wolverine, Hawkeye, & Cap jumping in. At least they all chew Bucky out for his stupidity.

last issue: Winter Soldier #12
next issue: Winter Soldier #14

also indexed for Feb. ’13

Winter Soldier #12

December 15, 2015

Winter Soldier 12Ed Brubaker // Jackson Guice
January 2013
***

Bucky agrees to revert to his Soviet self and execute a mission for the superspy who’s kidnapped his GF. Our hero’s taken impulsive actions before, so at least it’s in character—but it’s astonishingly stupid. Brubaker has one foot out the door, and Guice, no longer inking himself, is looking ragged.

last issue: Winter Soldier #11
next issue: Winter Soldier #13

also indexed for Jan. ’13

Captain America #19

December 14, 2015

Captain America 5.19Ed Brubaker // Steve Epting
late December 2012
***

Seven years after #1, Epting returns to pencil Brubaker’s final issue of Cap (tho’ the run wraps in Winter Soldier). It’s a montage/monologue of the hero’s career, focusing again on Cap’s symbolic burden. More compelling is an reprise of the action sequence v. terrorists atop an outerboro subway.

also indexed for Dec. ’12
Captain America #18
The Fantastic Four #611
FF #23
Winter Soldier #11

Winter Soldier #11

December 13, 2015

Winter Soldier 11Ed Brubaker // Jackson Guice
December 2012
***

One drawback to Guice’s robust approach to superspy adventure is that it compunds one of Bru’s flaws. Their men have only a small range of emotion, mostly centered on machismo. It means that character dynamics are undercooked, even tho’ the point of #11 is to team Bucky up with fan fave Hawkeye.

last issue: Winter Soldier #11
next issue: Winter Soldier #13

also indexed for Dec. ’12
Captain America #18
Captain America #19
The Fantastic Four #611
FF #23

Captain America #18

December 12, 2015

Captain America 5.18Ed Brubaker with Cullen Bunn // Scot Eaton
early December 2012
**

A 3-pronged action climax set in a space base, a rioting city, & an airborne villain’s lair. Yet it’s dense w/ clichéd plots, skipped story beats & fudged explanations—it’s barely passable as super-comics. Eaton adds to the generic quality with 4-panel pages & a style 15 years out of date.

last issue: Captain America #17
next issue: Captain America #19

also indexed for Dec. ’12
Captain America #19
The Fantastic Four #611
FF #23
Winter Soldier #11

Captain America #17

December 11, 2015

Captain America 5.17Ed Brubaker with Cullen Bunn // Scot Eaton
November 2012
**

To attack Cap’s confidence, terrorists cause riots—the sort of cart-before-horse plotting that makes villains super-ridiculous. But Brubaker’s always cast his hero as a neurotic Atlas struggling w/ his symbolic burden. More interesting is the cover’s bout, which establishes a Zemo/Agent 13 rivalry.

last issue: Captain America #16
next issue: Captain America #18

also indexed for Nov. ’12
The Fantastic Four #610
FF #22
Winter Soldier #10

Winter Soldier #10

December 10, 2015

Winter Soldier 10Ed Brubaker // Jackson Guice
November 2012
****

Black Widow has been kidnapped & mind-raped; regressed to her Soviet self (well, a 21C version of it); killed a longtime SHIELD agent, & had all memory of her romance with Our Hero erased. It’s all to torture Bucky emotionally, natch. But Guice’s art looks retro & contemporary all at once.

last issue: Winter Soldier #9
next issue: Winter Soldier #11

also indexed for Nov. ’12
Captain America #17
The Fantastic Four #610
FF #22

Captain America #16

December 9, 2015

Captain America 5.16Ed Brubaker & Cullen Bunn // Scot Eaton
October 2012
***

People are rioting in DC, influenced by a brain-ray carried via right-wing cable-TV. The hypnosis pattern is groovy op-art! An old plot device gets updated with smartphone screens, & it fits Brubaker’s obsession w/ mind control well. Less convincing is this comic’s widescreen destruction.

last issue: Captain America #15
next issue: Captain America #17

also indexed for Oct. ’12
The Fantastic Four #609
FF #21
Winter Soldier #9

Winter Soldier #9

December 8, 2015

Winter Soldier 09Ed Brubaker // Michael Lark
October 2012
****

Visually this arc matches the best of the run. Lark stages the SHIELD shutdown of a Lincoln Center ballet with urgency and clarity. Brubaker’s plot twist, however, doubles down on the Black Widow’s psychological violation. Brainwashed, she fakes lucidity till she’s on the helicarrier, then attacks.

last issue: Winter Soldier #8
next issue: Winter Soldier #10

also indexed for Oct. ’12
Captain America #16
The Fantastic Four #609
FF #21

Captain America #15

December 7, 2015

Captain America 5.15Ed Brubaker & Cullen Bunn // Scot Eaton
late September 2012
**

After evil supergoons devastate Times Sq, a Glenn Beck parody attacks Cap’s rep. Behind both plots is a villainous scheme to <yawn> emotionally wreck our hero. Eaton fills his page count, & Brubaker has one foot out the door, so who’s to blame for some terrible work in an opening battle scene?

last issue: Captain America #14
next issue: Captain America #16

also indexed for Sept. ’12
Captain America #14
The Fantastic Four #608
FF #20
Winter Soldier #8

Winter Soldier #8

December 6, 2015

Winter Soldier 08Ed Brubaker // Michael Lark
September 2012
****

Brubaker has made Nat Romanov formidable in her own right, so why’s he casting her as the damsel-in-distress here? She’s made into a pawn in a duel btw Bucky & an ex-KGB sleeper agent. It’s perilously close to fridging: she’s not just another brainwashed character in the run, she’s a violated woman.

last issue: Winter Soldier #7
next issue: Winter Soldier #9

also indexed for Sept. ’12
Captain America #14
Captain America #15
The Fantastic Four #608
FF #20

Captain America #14

December 5, 2015

Captain America 5.14Ed Brubaker // Patrick Zircher
early September 2012
***

D-Man (a sidekick from Gruenwald’s long run) gets killed after his brainwashed turn as Scourge (a Gruenwald vigilante ID). This somehow ties into HYDRA’s claim that Cap’s lost the soul of America. But that’s the Achilles Heel of Bru’s run: his Steve R. is long on self-doubt but short on specifics.

last issue: Captain America #13
next issue: Captain America #15

also indexed for Sept. ’12
Captain America #15
The Fantastic Four #608
FF #20
Winter Soldier #8

Winter Soldier #7

December 4, 2015

Winter Soldier 07Ed Brubaker // Michael Lark
late August 2012
*****

Lark stages an exceptional action sequence—a high-octane firefight on motorcycle & camper van—but also some narrative flashbacks that are artfully quiet. Note also how realistically Brubaker directs the action as a mission op, recalling the excellent indie Queen & Country as much as, say, Bourne.

last issue: Winter Soldier #6
next issue: Winter Soldier #8

also indexed for Aug. ’12
Captain America #13
The Fantastic Four #607
FF #19
Winter Soldier #6

Captain America #13

December 3, 2015

Captain America 5.13Ed Brubaker // Patrick Zircher
August 2012
***

More adventures in the post-9/11 era, with a firefight in LGA, a spy snagged in DC. It’s solid, but the status quo since Cap’s return lacks the apocalyptic momentum of the this run’s start. Plus I’d like to see it move from the Bush era to the Obama: drone strikes abroad, vigilante racism at home.

last issue: Captain America #12
next issue: Captain America #14

also indexed for Aug. ’12
The Fantastic Four #607
FF #19
Winter Soldier #6
Winter Soldier #7

Winter Soldier #6

December 2, 2015

Winter Soldier 06Ed Brubaker // Michael Lark
early August 2012
****

My favorite of Brubaker’s artists takes a curtain call with this late-run arc about a KGB cryo-tube agent, an obvious foil for the title hero (he even kills an ex-Bucky!). Bru’s brought back to his hard-boiled, realistic side; take a sec to note how smoothy he shifts from last arc’s Doom & Apes!

last issue: Winter Soldier #5
next issue: Winter Soldier #7

also indexed for Aug. ’12
Captain America #13
The Fantastic Four #607
FF #19
Winter Soldier #7

Captain America #12

December 1, 2015

Captain America 5.12Ed Brubaker // Patrick Zircher
late July 2012
***

HYDRA has added a brainwash case to this run’s long list: Henry Peter Gyrich, who’s aiming to expose SHIELD’s witness protection program while killing its beneficiaries. Cap v. 6 (?!) is what Secret Avs could’ve been: spyfi adventure, Steve Rogers & SHIELD v. terrorist cells & political superspies.

last issue: Captain America #11
next issue: Captain America #13

also indexed for Jul. ’12
Captain America #11
The Fantastic Four #605.1
The Fantastic Four #606
FF #18
Winter Soldier #5