Marvel Studio’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is the second movie in the Captain America series, is very much the best movie in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man and The Avengers come very close, but The Winter Soldier is a well-balanced mix of action and intrigue that superhero movies in general would do well to emulate. And it gets even better in comparison with its predecessor, Captain America: The First Avenger, which was a very lackluster and subdued affair with a boring villain and a boring plot. As such, the studio’s latest, Captain America: Civil War had a lot to live up too, and while it didn’t disappoint, it also left much to be desired.
Captain America: Civil War builds forward from the end of The Avengers: Age of Ultron from last year, and takes the overall story of the MCU forward in a plot that sees conflicts develop between the team members, conflicts that were hinted at in The Avengers and which are now magnified from several angles. As a pure action movie, Civil War does not fail to entertain and is right on point. But as an adaptation of the infamous Civil War storyline from the comics, it is unsuccessful and unsatisfactory.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers for the movie and even some for the original comics the movie is adapted from, so read at your own peril.
The previous issues of Black Widow have been pretty spectacular, as has been the norm on the title since its launch early last year. Natasha’s investigations into the organization CHAOS that has been causing all sorts of problems for SHIELD of late yielded some surprising results back in #15 and it made for a really interesting change of pace as far as the story was concerned. It also gave artist Phil Noto a chance to really go to town with the visuals and none of that seems to be headed for a slowdown in any way.
The two most recent issues, Black Widow #16 and Black Widow #17 are all about what CHAOS really is and what plans they have for Natasha and others like her all over the world. The reveal about CHAOS is something that really twists the head in ways you wouldn’t expect. Nathan manipulates the story in a really deft way and he shows some really mad skills as he has Natasha navigate the web of lies and half-truths being peddled by CHAOS. Supporting him, Phil also does a pretty incredible job and though some of the scenes were a bit more low-key than usual, his own mad skills were never in doubt I’d say.
Nathan Edmondson has been going full out with Black Widow of late, backing the SHIELD agent into a corner of hell and making her work doubly hard. Recently, she finally infiltrated a high-level meeting of CHAOS, the group that has been causing problems for SHIELD and for her right from the first issue of the series last year, and she didn’t exactly come out of it without a scratch. It has been a pretty incredible journey so far in this series, and with the addition of yet another guest star this past week, things look set to get even more crazy.
Black Widow #15 deals with the aftermath of Natasha’s infiltration of a high-level CHAOS meeting, a meeting that she forced to happen so that she could finally face her enemies. But things didn’t go according to plan since it turns out that CHAOS has hired soldiers who can, effectively, turn invisible. Problematic for sure, and much of this issue focuses on how Black Widow beats these guys, with some expert help of course. And that’s where the true fun of this book is, since each guest appearance so far has been handled artfully, and that looks set to continue with this one too.
Recently writer Ales Kot turned Secret Avengers on its head when he revealed that Modok had actually been the one to have planned all the bad stuff that had been happening to the Secret Avengers and Maria Hill, and that at the same time his favoured henchman Snapper had also been quite actively involved in his master’s machinations. It was truly a head-twisting moment, as far as I’m concerned, and it helped put into perspective certain other things that the series had been developing of late. And all of that went hand-in-hand with the excellent art that the series art team had been putting out, especially of late.
In Secret Avengers #12 we see some more momentous things. The revelation about Modok has certainly been a game-changer, but events elsewhere have already gained steam and this issue deals largely with the fallout of such. If you are a fan of Secret Avengers in general or the characters found herein in particular, then this is an absolute must-read issue because we finally learn some of what goes on in Modok’s mind, and that’s more valuable than almost anything else.
Another week of a “Magic 40”, though no graphic novels.
This week’s surprise hits were Ivar, Timewalker #1 from Valiant, Mortal Kombat X #4 from DC, and Twilight Zone: Shadow And Substance #1 from Dynamite. The disappointments of the week were Spider-Woman #3 from Dynamite and Spider-Verse #2 and The Amazing Spider-Man #13 from Marvel and Vampirella: Feary Tales #4 from Dynamite. Ongoing greats were Wonder Woman ’77 #3 , The Flash: Season Zero #11 and Supergirl #38 from DC, Black Widow #14 and Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #4 from Marvel, and, Grimm Fairy Tales: Realm War #6 from Zenescope among others.
Black Widow ended on a great note last month, with the ongoing storyline of what happens when the global media at large learns of Natasha’s various activities, both covert and otherwise, and then proceeds to vilify her and question what her role with SHIELD and the Avengers really is. This also then segued into some bread-crumbs that Nathan Edmondson had left behind in his early issues, and we saw more glimpses of the manipulators behind some of Natasha’s recent missions. All very spy-ish and all, which was fantastic.
Black Widow #14 continues Natasha’s search for answers and it is a tale of a vengeful superspy who is out for blood and damn the consequences. In a world where almost everyone she knows has a superpower, barring a very small handful of people, it would be easy to consider her nowhere near as proficient at them in getting things done, but that’s far from the reality. She has her own methodology and this issue shows just how effective that really is. And Phil Noto’s artwork is as pleasingly beautiful as always, a big plus as always.
Last year I did a small roundup over at The Founding Fields with fellow reviewer Bane of Kings which contained a list of the best new comics to have come out in 2013. It was a rather small list with only 10 entries each from the two of us, reflecting our reading for the year and the consequent small pool to pick from. But in 2014, I greatly expanded my weekly reading, and so for the round-up of the best new comics to have come out in 2014, whether as mini-series or ongoings, I have decided to go much bigger.
There were a ton of new comics to come out last year and many of them started off well enough but unfortunately well by wayside since subsequent issues were nowhere near as good. That however, is a call to make on any new comic and you have to have a wait-and-see attitude for the most part. For this embiggened round-up, I have some mini-series here and some ongoing titles. Some have had multiple issues come out in 2014, while some have had less than three.
Irrespective of that, these are all the most promising new series of 2014, and I think that they are all well worth the read in 2015.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
A few days ago I did my best of 2014 list for the comics I read in the second half of 2014. And back in July of 2014, I did the first “best comics of 2014” post. The reason I mention that is because of the changes I’ve made for this list. While previously I used to do it so that I put up my top 6 comics, in July’14 I did a top 12 on account of the increased number of comics I was reading at the time. And that same holds true for this list as well since I’ve gone up on the number yet again, and this list has the top 20 and then 20 honourable mentions.
More comics, yay!
So, with the books of the second half of 2014 already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite monthly comics of the same period. The next post will be a list of the top graphic novels I read in all of 2014.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
The last week of 2014 and I hit my Magic 40 number. That pleases me immensely. I was hoping I’d be able to make it to this number, and I did, especially with 2 graphic novels in the mix a well!
For this final week of 2014, the surprise hits were: Jungle Book: Fall Of The Wild #1 from Zenescope and Transformers: Drift: Empire of Stone #2 from IDW Publishing. The disappointing comics of the week were Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy #7 from Marvel and Secret Origins #8 from DC. The regular greats like Aquaman, Catwoman, Sensation Comics, Secret Avengers, Godzilla: Cataclysm and others struck once again in the final tally.
The graphic novels for this week were Sunstone by Stjepan Sejic and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Volume 3 by Dan Abnett, Pop Mhan, Mark Roberts, Deron Bennett and Stjepan Sejic.
Under Maria Hill’s leadership, the Secret Avengers have been through a lot. Many of them have undergone some sort of a crisis of faith, while others have continued to do their duty to the best of their abilities, though their actions haven’t always borne fruit, and they’ve been faced on all sides by deception and betrayal and schemes and counter-schemes, all of which has really messed up their cohesion as a unit. Ales Kot and Michael Walsh and the others have done some brilliant work on the last few issues, keeping this book one of the most consistent out there, and it looks like things are headed towards something bigger still.
In Secret Avengers #11 we see some really momentous events happening. Hawkeye has finally found Modok and Phil Coulson both, Nick Fury Jr. is still in a coma-state, Maria is at the mercy of Snapper and his band of henchies who have infiltrated Maria’s command Helicarrier, Jessica is still dealing with Ivan, and so on. In all of this, Black Widow’s absence kind of makes me sad, but the good thing is that Ales Kot writes another awesome issue with the characters he has to hand, and the art team outdoes itself yet again, delivering one of the best books to date.
I was hoping for a second Magic 40 week in a row, but turns out that it was just wishful thinking. Still, I managed to get up to 30 comics this week, though no graphic novels sadly.
There was only one surprise hit this week, Eternal #1 from Boom Studios, as pretty much all the other comics I read this past week were ongoing series I’ve been following for a while. The disappointments of the week were Spider-Woman #2 from Marvel and Future’s End #33 from DC. And the ones that continued a great trend were the likes of Black Widow #13, Justice League #37, Catwoman #37, Supergirl #37, Wayward #5 and others.
Last month on Black Widow we saw what happened when news media across the globe got access to some classified and confidential files on the titular character. Noted real-life news anchor/journalist Anderson Cooper guest-starred in the issue, providing a damning account of Natasha’s recent activities and the question was raised whether she was an asset or a liability for SHIELD and the Avengers. It was a fantastic melding of the real-life and comic-life, and I thoroughly enjoyed the issue from all angles, whether you look at the story or the art or the characters or what have you.
The new Black Widow from this past week looks at the fallout from last month’s events as Black Widow kinda-sorta goes under the radar and visits with her attorney and friend, Isaiah, who was shot by an unnamed assailant at the end of Black Widow #12 and left for dead. Isaiah survived, thankfully, and now he has a few things to tell his friend and employer. Once again, Nathan Edmondson delivers a great look at Natasha and Isaiah both, and we even get to see another guest-star on the book in the form of Clint Barton aka Hawkeye. And Phil Noto’s art, just amazing.