Across the Universe with Silver Surfer #1

Iconic but often cancelled, Norrin Radd makes a surprising return in Silver Surfer #1 from Dan Slott and Michael and Laura Allred. In a somewhat risky move, Slott reimagines Silver Surfer as a spacefaring traveler in a psychedelic universe of fun and adventure, abandoning the traditional themes of philosophic introspection that readers know this character for. This tonal shift is more in line with titles like She-Hulk, Doop and FF, whose focus on quirky characterizations breaks up the gloomy (and sometimes downright apocalyptic) nature of the rest of the Marvel Universe.

Free from big events and dark storylines, Silver Surfer and its ilk are better suited for casual readers who just want a good read without the complicated drama of interconnected plots. This title in particular also clearly draws from the well-trodden adventure structure of Doctor Who, giving Norrin a female companion to take on his latest galaxy-hopping adventure. This all but ensures a peppier Silver Surfer, no longer doomed to roam the infinite ocean of stars alone. But the question remains: Does it work?

SILVERSURFER1Light and breezy, this iteration of Silver Surfer still sees Norrin wandering the universe, committing good deeds to atone for the horrors he committed as the herald of Galactus, but with a few changes. He largely abandons his dour nature for a sunnier one, complete with snappier dialogue and an understated sense of humor. A seemingly normal excursion brings him to the Impericon, an impossible deep-space city bustling with thousands of alien races. He quickly learns that he has been taken there to stop the Queen of Nevers and save them from her bloody quest, as many other defenders before him.

Like those other defenders, the deceitful Incredulous Zed kidnaps the one person that Norrin cares for above all else to use as leverage in forcing him to complete the task. Zed then teleports a young Earth woman named Dawn to the Impericon to hold hostage. Left behind while her twin sister Eve travels the world, Dawn’s dreams of a life beyond her sleepy beach town remain unfilled by her job at her family’s bed and breakfast. However, she’s a total stranger to Norrin, who has no idea who she is or why she’s so important to him. So begin their adventures together.

As promised, Slott and the Allreds deliver a lighthearted comic adventure abounding with quippy dialogue and kaleidoscopic settings. Their collaboration establishes the perfect tone for this lighter, brighter Silver Surfer, taking Norrin’s search for redemption into far more hopeful territory. This may alienate some readers, but the choice to makes sense given the direction that Marvel has been trending toward with its secondary character titles. The imagery is fun and inviting, even if Michael Allred’s style tends to flatten the space a bit too much for my liking. There’s some missed opportunities to really explore the size and scope of space, which is such a critical component of this series and its aesthetics, with some pages coming off as cluttered. Even for it, Silver Surfer #1 is a cool read with a promising future ahead of it.

Magen Cubed –

The Birth of a New Hero in Ms. Marvel #1

thumbAfter months of buzz, the highly anticipated Ms. Marvel #1 is finally here, establishing new mythology as Carol Danvers passes her original title to new hero Kamala Khan. It comes from the creative team of award-winning writer G. Willow Wilson, known for her graphic novel Cairo and novel Alif the Unseen, and artist Adrian Alphona, best known for his work on Marvel’s Runaways. Debuting in early February to critical acclaim and fan fervor, at the time of this writing Ms. Marvel has already gone to a second printing as the Kamala Corp., Ms. Marvel fans who derive their fandom mantle from Captain Marvel’s Carol Corp., eagerly snatched this book from store shelves. And there’s a very good reason for the fervor. Joyous and refreshing, this title has everything a superhero book should: A strong mythos rooted in some of Marvel’s biggest titles, a popular forebear to pass her mantle to a new generation, and endearing young hero worthy of the task. More than that, this is a smart, relevant, and human title that has so much to offer beyond action and fantasy.

The lure of this title is the titular character herself. An average sixteen-year-old from Jersey City, Kamala writes Avengers fanfiction, idolizes Captain Marvel, and loves all things superhero. A lot of readers already know how the story goes: Her life is boring, her family is a constant source of irritation, and she’s the target of the concern-trolling white kids at her school. Living vicariously through her colorful fantasies, she is the average young comic book fan personified, seeking escape from her humdrum existence through the world of superheroes. Not only does this instantly endear readers to the awkward but lovable Kamala, but as a Muslim woman, she also highlights views and experiences not too often seen in comics.

While there has been a lot of progress with female representation in Marvel titles like Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Ms-Marvel-01-03and Journey into Mystery, Kamala does these books one better. She reaches out to a far broader audience that is often left behind in a sea of predominantly white, predominantly male protagonists. For that her arrival is very exciting for readers of all backgrounds, helping to develop a far more inclusive pantheon of heroes. After all, while Kamala is certainly not the only Muslim woman in the Marvel Universe, there is always room for more well-written characters, and she helps to bring another voice to that demographic.

When concern-troll classmate Zoe throws a party at the local park, Kamala wants to go, too naïve to see the malice behind Zoe’s patronizing remarks. Despite her friends’ warning, she asks her endearing but conservative father for permission to attend, only to find herself banned from going. Wanting to go out and have fun like the “normal” kids, she sneaks out, only to find she isn’t really welcome at the party. As she leaves, the effects of the Terrigenesis bomb Black Bolt detonated over New York reaches the neighborhood, engulfing the city in mist. As seen in the pages of Infinity and the ensuing Inhumanity, Black Bolt’s bomb is activating the powers of Inhuman descendants in the human population, manifesting these latent mutations in violent chain reactions.

Ms-Marvel-01Breathing in the mist, Kamala soon passes out, dreaming of her favorite heroes Captain Marvel, Iron Man and Captain America. Appearing to her like idols of devotional portraits, Captain Marvel tell her that she’s at a crossroads, set to decide what kind of person she wants to become. Kamala tells her that she wants to be beautiful, powerful, and less complicated, just like her hero. She wants to be normal, and with a final warning from her hero, gets her wish. Waking up from her vision she finds herself in a Terrigenesis cocoon. Panicked, she fights her way out of it, only to realize she’s been transformed into her role model. She’s certainly different, much to her surprise, but things are already looking more complicated than ever.

Full of warmth, charm and colorful fantasy, everything about this book is enchanting. Wilson creates a loveable Every Girl in Kamala, giving her a full and well-rounded world to inhabit, complete with a quirky supporting cast and plenty of subtle New Jersey pop culture shout-outs. The dialogue is natural and well-written, striking an affective balance of humor and earnestness that makes Kamala a compelling protagonist. Bringing the script to the page, Alphona’s artwork is all the more engaging. His lines are airy and light, gently exaggerating the character anatomy to affect a soft, storybook-like quality. This skillful touch develops a fun and appropriately whimsical graphic narrative, one that fits the youthful tone of the story but still maintains a level of visual complexity and fullness. Colorist Ian Herring brings it all home through the use of soft earth tones and dreamy turquoises, contrasted by the deep blues and striking reds of Kamala’s vision and final metamorphosis. Their collaboration makes for a truly lush and inviting visual experience with a cohesive and strongly defined aesthetic.

Living up to all the hype, Ms. Marvel #1 is a beautiful book from start to finish. A visual treat for readers of all ages, it establishes a hopeful new chapter in the Captain Marvel/Ms. Marvel mythology, as well as the Marvel pantheon at large. This is a must-read for fans both new and seasoned, full of a humor and humanity that injects a much-needed jolt of excitement and delight into the superhero genre. Give Kamala Khan the chance to steal your heart – I promise you won’t regret it.

Magen Cubed

Retro Review: A Blast from the Past with Moon Knight Special Edition #1

Having read and reviewed (and thoroughly enjoyed) the recent Moon Knight #1 from Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey, I was curious to dig through some of my backlog to see if I had any other Moon Knight lying around. To be honest, my knowledge of the night’s greatest detective is cursory at best, having read only sporadic appearances over the last twenty years or so. However, when I came across Moon Knight Special Edition #1 I knew it would be fun to review now. Published in October 1992, this special edition one-shot, complete with a cover gallery and mini-comic, falls more in line with what I’d read of the character growing up, albeit in a far more joking tone. So if you’re looking for a nostalgic dose of 90s Moon Knight, look no further.

Written by character creator Doug Moench with pencils by Art Nichols, Moon Knight Special Edition #1 follows the titular character as he teams up with martial arts master Shangi-Chi. Tasked with investigating a series of disappearances, this unlikely pair finds themselves embroiled in the strange world of the Golden Dawn mind-cult, which preys on young adults from their lair on a remote island. Populated by wave after wave of cartoonish, over-the-top obstacles and villains, the island and the cult that runs it are not exactly what they seem, much to Moon Knight’s growing frustration. The plot itself is as ridiculous and cheesy as the cult itself, but the long-suffering heroes are aware of it the entire time, putting much of the aggressive inanity into a sufficient context. Even for it, the conclusion feels a bit rushed and unresolved, adding a level of sobriety at the end that feels a little tacked on.

Moon_Knight_Special_Edition_Vol_1_1_WraparoundDespite the somewhat uneven handling of the script, Moench injects some great dialogue into this overly silly romp as Moon Knight and Shang-Chi try to get along for the sake of the mission. Much of their strained dynamics result in some truly funny moments throughout the issue, adding some much-needed humor to the story through useful tension and expert delivery. The buddy movie sensibility definitely works to ground the issue in defined characterizations and narrative voices, following the heroes as they grow to eventually tolerate each other and their opposing styles.

As for the artwork, Nichols’ clean page design and kinetic panel compositions carries this zany adventure to a satisfying end. As silly as the graphic narrative becomes, much of the imagery is compelling and visually interesting, making for a solid reading experience. The palettes of colorist Mike Thomas feel a bit muddy at times, especially during action sequences where character detail easily fades into dark amorphous backgrounds. Even for these rough spots, overall the colors are clean and effective throughout. The cover gallery and mini-comic are amusing and definitely worth a look.

While the tone of book is a little inconsistent, the clever dialogue and strong artwork of Moon Knight Special Edition #1 make for an entertaining read. It’s classic exaggerated 90s comic book fare with all the nostalgia, both good and bad, along for the ride. Issues like this are worth revisiting after books relaunch if only to see how many directions characters have gone over the years, from serious to silly and back again. This may not be the strongest example of Moon Knight, but it’s a fun revisit to the bygone days of my childhood.

Magen Cubed –

Review: Taking Flight in Miracleman #2

Marvel’s remastering of the deconstructionist classic Miracleman returns in its second chapter. This is second part of Book One: A Dream of Flying, with stories by Alan Moore and art by Garry Leach, Steve Dillon, Alan Davis and Paul Neary. #2collects reprints from Warriors #3 – #5, as well as reprints of original Marvelman adventures from creator Mick Angelo with art by Don Lawrence. As with #1, the backmatter features sketches and original artwork by Leech, offering a look into the production of the original Warriors serial.

Picking up directly after #1, this issue follows the return of Jonathan Bates, the former Kid Miracleman, in When Johnny Comes Marching Home and Dragons. Now a wealthy cybernetics mogul, Bates has morphed into a pitiless sociopath, corrupted by the destructive powers he now hides behind the polished veneer of status and industry. Back at the Moran household Liz is still struggling to deal with her husband’s transformation when Mike gets a call from Bates, inviting them to his offices. When Mike and Liz go to visit Bates, their polite chat takes a sinister turn as Bates’ true nature rears it vicious head. With no other choice, Mike transforms into Miracleman to stop the ensuing rampage as Bates lays waste to everything in his path, putting London in danger.

Miracleman2In the third story, The Yesterday Gambit, the Miracleman saga jumps three years into the future as Miracleman teams up with the alien Warpsmith to travel back in time. They arrive in 1963 on the day that the Miracleman family died, attempting to keep them from completing their fateful final mission. Young Miracleman dies and Miracleman loses his powers and memory, leaving Kid Miracleman alone to fester in his violent burgeoning tendencies. The resulting skirmish does nothing, however, as the family flies away to meet their inevitable death and Warpsmith wipes their memories of the event. In the end Miracleman and Warpsmith must return to their home timeline empty-handed, only to find themselves ambushed by Bates. This results in an ominous battle that alludes to dark days to come for Miracleman, past, present and future.

Whether you’re new to the series or a longtime fan, Miracleman #2 is worth picking up. Moore’s writing is so lush and descriptive that it sometimes reads more like an illustrated novel than a comic, enriching the graphic narrative through the pure strength of language. He presents a bleak but fascinating view into the internal machinations of the superhuman, and how even the best of intentions can become corrupted by the nature of ultimate power and strength. Today such deconstruction of the superhero genre is so commonplace as to become tired, but for the pre-Watchmen 1980s, this stands as a fresh and engaging glimpse into superhero fiction.

As for the art, Leech’s work, which for me is the real draw of the series, still holds up today through his command of page design and storytelling. His pencils are made all the more affective and intense by Steve Oliff’s palettes, bringing a new level of emotional subtly to the page through thoughtful color choice. While I was a little less engaged by the artwork in The Yesterday Gambit, it’s still a solid story and a good read, with a wealth of beautiful narration and great imagery. And be sure to look at the Marvelman reprints in the back of the issue, they are truly charming and a great deal of fun.

Magen Cubed –

Review: The Man without Fear Gets a Reboot with Daredevil #1

As many of Marvel’s most beloved heroes return to the shelves with their own monthly titles this year, many ongoing books are renumbering with exciting new #1’s. Daredevil #1 arrived in March from writer Mark Waid, pencilist Chris Samnee and color artist Javier Rodriguez, embarking on a strong new chapter in this title’s long and dynamic history. While established readers will recognize this issue as a continuation of previous storylines, but with Waid’s tight scripting and Samnee and Rodriguez’s energetic artwork, Daredevil #1 offers a strong draw to new readers.

Matt Murdock has come to San Francisco to begin the next chapter of his life with a new set of mysteries and adventures. Helping the San Francisco police with a kidnapping case, Daredevil takes to the streets to hunt down the abductors himself. Far from New York City, Matt’s a little out of his element, seguing into a summary of his origins for new audiences as his rescue mission brings the attention of one of the rocket-propelled kidnappers. The girl in his arms, Matt engages in an aerial pursuit across the city, facing danger and distraction at every turn. When he attempts to comfort the girl his senses pick up the sound of an explosive microdevice in her stomach, turning the high-flying chase into a race against time to save her. What begins as a fun done-in-one adventure opens up to a brand new mystery as the issue closes on the dramatic return of Foggy Nelson.


With its fast-paced action and sharp dialogue, Daredevil #1 proves to be an exciting opening issue. Waid delivers a satisfying read that builds on the foundations he’s already established, catching readers up quickly and offering a nice introduction of Matt’s continuing adventures. With such a seamless transition from one leg of the title to the next the renumbering seems unnecessary, but even for it this #1 is a compelling read. Samnee’s strong sense of storytelling carries the book through clever and engaging page design. His artwork is as fun as it is absorbing, effortlessly navigating the equal measures tension and humor throughout the script. Rodriguez’s flat bold fields of color affect a strong balance of vintage adventure comic sensibility with the bright dynamism of this altogether surreal sensory world that Matt operates within. Their collaboration make this book a frenetic, funny and highly entertaining book.

Action-packed, well-plotted and wonderfully executed, Daredevil #1 is a strong offering from a successful creative team. Longtime readers will appreciate the strong continuity, and new readers can quickly catch up and enjoy what storytellers Waid and Samnee have in store. Even if you’re new to the Man without Fear, this title has an easy learning curve and is easily accessible, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Magen Cubed –

Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier

Coming to screens in April, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is pulled from the pages of the award-winning Winter Soldier storyline by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting. Spanning Captain America issues #1-9 and #11-14, Winter Soldier is a fast-paced spy story that changed Cap’s status quo forever. Aided by artistic team Mike Perkins, Michael Lark and John Paul Leon, Brubaker and Epting reenergized the Captain America mythos in the introduction of the arc’s titular character, reviving Cap’s dead partner Bucky Barnes as highly-skilled Soviet assassin the Winter Soldier. Full of action, intrigue and poignant character development, this saga lives up to the hype as its movie adaptation makes its way to a theater near you.

Since the end of World War II, Soviet Russia has used its secret weapon, the ruthlessly efficient and untraceable Winter Soldier, to assassinate key Western political figures. Deactivated at the end of the Cold War, this undercover agent is once again revived by the power-hungry General Lukin and used to do his dirty work. Lukin, who has come into possession of a vastly powerful and reality-bending Cosmic Cube, embarks on a plot of death and destruction that brings Captain America to his door. Cap, still reeling from a series of recent traumas, is in no shape to come face to face with Bucky or the horrors that have been done to him. What begins with the surprising assassination of the Red Skull ends in a globe-trotting spy story of regret and redemption as Cap struggles to save his best friend from himself.

CaptainAmericaWS1Brubaker is a masterful storyteller and his gift for plotting really shows in Winter Soldier. His scripting throughout the arc is air-tight, settling into a compelling pace and never letting up as every component of the unfolding mystery seamlessly comes together. While certainly action-packed, the globe-trotting adventure is elegantly tempered by flashback sequences and downtime, slowing down to afford some truly poignant moments. The interlude, The Lonesome Death of Jack Monroe from artists Leon and Palmer, chronicles the tragic last months of Jack Monroe’s life as his mind begins to slip as result of the Super Soldier Serum. Likewise, Cap’s flashbacks to the 1940s, as well as the development of Bucky’s experiences as the Winter Soldier, create a strong personal undercurrent to balance the story effectively.

However, while I enjoy Brubaker’s work, I find that his characterizations are often quite thin. Winter Soldier, unfortunately, is no exception. The somewhat generic dialogue feels a bit tired throughout, as Steve recycles uninspired lines plucked right from equally uninspiring action movies with a blandly flirtatious Sharon. This is a little irksome, but, compared to the rest of the compelling character drama, ultimately doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story. I just wish some of the emotional weight reserved for Bucky’s and Jack’s storylines could have been a little bit more equally distributed among the rest of the principle cast.

Epting, who handles the bulk of the artwork, brings the story to the page with energy and gravitas. His strong sense of narrative truly shines through the use of thoughtful page design and panel transition, expertly pacing each critical scene. The quality of his lines and dramatic use of shadow sets a somber tone that grounds the story in a real sense of weight and physicality. Overall his style meshes impeccably with Perkins and flashback artist Lark, making for a cohesive reading experience from start to finish. This is also due largely in part to the work of colorist Frank D’Armata. D’Armata’s dark and moody palettes affect a somber tone throughout, and the use of grayscale color schemes during the flashback sequences is a nice touch.

Overall Winter Soldier is a great story from a dynamic creative team. It’s fun, it’s compelling, and it’s wonderfully crafted from start to finish. This arc is required reading for Captain America fans but I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an exciting superhero read. Oh, and be sure to see the movie. I hear it’s pretty good.

Magen Cubed  –

Review: A Hard Day’s Work with She-Hulk #1

Fresh from the successes of female-led titles like Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Ms. Marvel, Marvel Comics finally brings one of its most enduring characters back to the page with She-Hulk #1. Since her first appearance in 1980’s Savage She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters has made numerous appearances in the pages of Fantastic Four, Avengers, and Incredible Hulk, as well as several separate runs of her solo Sensational She-Hulk. In that time, Jennifer has been around the block, not only as the hulking green hero but as a savvy New York attorney, offering legal counsel to many of her fellow heroes.

In February Jennifer finally came back to the shelves in her own anticipated ongoing solo title. Fresh off her recent major role in FF from Matt Fraction and Lee and Mike Allred, Jennifer is back to basics. This new book is helmed by the creative team of writer Charles Soule, artist Javier Pulido, and color artist Munsta Vicente, and offers a fun ride for readers new and old.


An upbeat title that takes several cues from its predecessors, the opening issue follows Jennifer’s misadventures as she balances her life as a superhero with her career.  Realizing that she was only brought on for her connections in the superhero community, Jennifer quits her position at Paine and Luckberg, LLP. to find a more appreciative firm. After this incident she goes out to drown her sorrows at the nearby lawyer bar. There she runs into Holly Harlow, the widow of a recently deceased villain and inventor.

Holly, alone with two children to raise, has reason to believe that Tony Stark stole some of her husband’s patents before his death. She wants Jennifer to represent her in court, hoping to support her family on what little legacy her husband left behind. Although hesitant at first, Jennifer agrees to take the case, using her longstanding relationship with Stark to settle matters out of court. What seems like a simple case quickly takes a strange and frustrating turn for Jennifer, sending her into battle against lawyers, robots, and Stark’s very intimidating one-man legal department, Legal. Despite the obstacles thrown at her, Jennifer finds a way to solve Holly’s troubles and makes a pretty penny in the process, giving her enough capital (and confidence) to open her own practice.

A fun romp into the flipside of the superhero business, She-Hulk preserves the wit and charm of her earlier titles while still doing something new. Soule delivers a solid script here, maintaining a likeable playfulness in showing off Jennifer’s legal savvy as she maneuvers through Stark’s obnoxious corporate defenses. Pulido brings this quirky world to life with a strong sense of storytelling, buoyed by the retro sensibilities of his line work and several clever comedic flourishes throughout. Vicente’s clean bright color palettes help to develop this cool visual aesthetic, making for a fun visual experience from start to finish.

Overall this issue is just fun, reviving a character with a rich history and an eager readership. Longtime She-Hulk fans will love the playful writing and entertaining artwork, while new readers will find plenty of love in Jennifer’s continuing adventures. If you’re looking to a lighthearted and engaging superhero book, I highly recommend She-Hulk #1.

Magen Cubed –

Books You Should Be Reading: Black Widow

It’s not often that I find myself unashamedly praising a mainstream superhero comic book, at least not outside of the safe and comfy perimeters of a superhero comic book blog. In a sea of creator-owned titles and indie comics more than worth the cover price, superhero books are mostly comfort food. While many titles out there are challenging genre convention, narrative structure, and the limitations of commercial art, superheroes, by and large, mostly stay the same. That’s okay: they’re supposed to stick with the standards, because that’s their function. The pages of the average cape book spill over with modern hero mythology, archetypes of classical fiction and folklore dusted off and repurposed every few years to have one more go around.

But sometimes you get a superhero book that does a little more, goes just a little bit further, and pulls off something great. Black Widow from Marvel Comics, helmed by writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Phil Noto, is one of those books. Fresh from the publisher’s successes with solo titles such as Hawkeye and Captain Marvel, Marvel’s applying a similar formula to this book. While Captain Marvel is a traditional hero book with a strong emotional center, about air force pilot turned crime fighter Carol Danvers, the offbeat Hawkeye, following the oft-depressing daily exploits of Avenger Clint Barton, is a little more genre-bending. Black Widow, to its advantage, follows the core principles of these titles with great effectiveness. It’s a superhero book, yes, but in name only, as this title firmly grounds itself in action, espionage, and one woman’s quest for atonement in the face of a blood and tragic past.


Noto and his stellar artwork and his soft, painterly colors create a beautiful balance with the energy and dynamism of his page layouts.

The title follows Natasha Romanov, known to even the most casual fans as Black Widow, a ruthless ex-KGB assassin, an efficient SHIELD agent, and a cool-as-ice Avenger. She is currently on a meteoric rise into the upper echelon of well-known Marvel properties, thanks to Scarlet Johansson’s portrayal in Iron Man 2, Avengers, and the upcoming Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. Natasha can also be found in numerous Marvel animated shows and films, and makes notable appearances in recent video games as well. While this book could have tried to play off of the character’s recent mainstream exposure, instead Edmondson and Noto craft a tighter, more personal narrative, focusing on Natasha and her very small circle of associates. If you’re looking for a star-studded supporting cast of Avengers alum, you’re not likely to find it anytime soon. This is actually one of the best parts about the book, as it is small and self-contained, and is carried by the strong partnership between Edmondson and Noto to some visually pleasing results.

There is no shortage of action and adventure in this series, in the same vein as The Bourne Identity or Mission Impossible, with slick and exciting fight sequences, daring escapes, and plenty of spy gadgets. This is the main draw, but I find Edmondson is most successful in that he still keeps the story grounded in Natasha’s personal quest. A former killer with a checkered past, Natasha spends her off-time making up for it, one job at a time. In the first issue she makes a point of telling her manager/accountant Isaiah that she’s not doing contract work for the money, insisting that he transfers her compensation to her network of trusts. Natasha never compromises her ideals in the pursuit of her cause, and is never portrayed as anything but a compelling and capable spy, remaining a very relatable and human character throughout.

As I’ve stated in my reviews of the first two issues, the real star of this book is Noto and his stellar artwork. His soft, painterly colors create a beautiful balance with the energy and dynamism of his page layouts. Moody palettes and lighting techniques establish locales with an effectiveness I don’t often see, creating a distinctive visual tone for the series. The softened filter that Noto applies throughout gives a delicate, gauzy emphasis to key panels, contrasting the brutal efficiency of the character with her inherent femininity. Black Widow is as beautiful as she is deadly, and Noto explores that through graphic narrative without coming off as patronizing or obvious, a feat I rarely see done effectively.

While it’s still early days for this title, Black Widow is a cool book that packs a punch. It’s visually pleasing and fun to read, successfully blending genre conventions to satisfying ends. If you’re not already following this book, I highly recommend that you start.

Magen Cubed –

The Return of a Marvel: Miracleman #1

One of the most transformative characters in comic book history makes his return to the page in Miracleman #1. Conceived in 1956 by writer-artist Mick Anglo, the previously-titled Marvelman was the United Kingdom’s substitute for DC’s Captain Marvel (not to be confused with Marvel’s various Captains Marvel) and was published by L. Miller & Son. Powered by atomic energy, young reporter Mickey Moran utters the magic word “Kimota” to become the blue-and-red-clad superhero Marvelman. Published until 1963, the original Marvelman series had a healthy run and was reprinted for sale in Italy, Australia and Brazil. Due to copyright issues, legal disputes and struggling sales of reprints, the character eventually disappeared from store shelves entirely.


As the decades passed, both Marvelman and his family of kid sidekicks faded away until 1982, when they were revived by Alan Moore, Gary Leach and Alan Davis. Appearing in the monthly British anthology Warrior, Marvelman became Miracleman, a dark deconstructionist work of superhero fiction. This new and different take on the character featured a very adult Michael Moran, plagued by migraines, domestic struggles and feverish dreams of flight, taking genre conventions of 50s and 60s superhero comics head-on. This book would later be taken over by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham, who took the story even further. However, falling again into legal limbo in the 1990s, Miracleman changed hands several times before being secured by Marvel Comics in 2009. As of 2010, Marvel has been reprinting various collected editions of Miracleman’s numerous iterations, and in January 2014 he returned to store shelves in Miracleman #1: A Dream of Flying.

This oversized issue features collected reprints, restored classic Marvelman comics, concept art, and an interview with Anglo. The artwork has been beautifully restored by Michael Kelleher and Gary Leach, with lush digital color work by Steve Oliff. Digicore’s crisp restoration of the classic comics will please nostalgic readers looking to revisit the hero’s early days. #1 opens up with Prologue: 1956 by Angelo and artist Don Lawrence from 1985’s Miracleman #1. On face value, this half-tone piece of 50s action comic nostalgia reads as a kitschy throwback for unfamiliar fans, but ends on a haunting note that paves the way for the stories of Moore and Gaiman. The final page, an unsettling and ever-advancing close-up of Miracleman’s face captioned by a quote from Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, is one of the eeriest and most satisfying pages I have ever seen in a comic.

Rounding out the issue is the first two collected stories by Moore and Leach from Warrior #1 and #2, Miracleman1featuring the rebirth of Miracleman as we know him today. …A Dream of Flying and its follow-up are dark and uncompromising, exploring Miracleman’s origins, his mysterious fall, and his eventual return from struggling journalist Michael Moran to the hero of his youth. These stories examine the strange and innocent world of 50s superheroes through the lens of modern cynicism and nuclear paranoia of the Cold War-era West. Whereas Anglo’s shiny gleam of scientific inquiry and magical fantasy painted Miracleman’s powers in broad and optimistic strokes, Moore’s vision of the nuclear-powered hero is far more jaded. Similar themes are strong elements in Moore’s later work such as Watchmen, and it is interesting to see how these ideas have developed in different books. In these issues, readers see their first glimpse of the corrupting sway these powers can have over heroes, as Johnny Bates, the original Kid Marvelman, survives into adulthood with his abilities but is rendered a sociopath.

This is an exciting book for fans of comics and comics history, reviving one of the most important characters of the last thirty years. Whether you’re new Miracleman, or you’ve been a longtime reader since his earlier iterations, this book is absolutely worth picking up. It’s an essential work that has informed comics creators for years.

Magen Cubed –

Review: The Avengers Take to the Stars in Hickman’s Infinity Saga

Helmed by writer Jonathan Hickman, Infinity is the expansive event from Marvel Comics that saw the return of Thanos, the Mad Titan, to Earth. This six-issue series, penciled by rotating artists Jerome Opena, Dustin Weaver and Jim Cheung, is the culmination of three plotlines spanning several titles. The first plotline is the arrival of the Builders, which is the focus of Hickman’s Avengers, a highly-evolved species destroying every life-sustaining planet in their march toward Earth. The second is the wave of mysterious illnesses plaguing the galaxy, as teased in New Avengers and Nova. The third is the political ramifications of these events on the intergalactic community, which Guardians of the Galaxy deals with directly. Alternate perspectives of the event could also be seen in the pages of Avengers Assemble, Thunderbolts, and numerous other tie-ins.

All of these seemingly separate threads come together in Infinity, in an event that promised to forever change the status quo of the Marvel Universe. While the Avengers are off-planet fighting alongside interstellar coalition forces, Thanos comes to Earth to murder his last known living son, Thane, rumored to be living among the Inhumans. The ensuing attack devastates the planet as the superhero community, already scattered across the galaxy, struggles to defend against the Mad Titan’s pirate army of rogues and psychopaths. In the midst of the chaos, Black Bolt, the Inhuman king, destroys the floating citadel Attilan in an attempt to stop Thanos. Unknown to the royal family, he unleashes his Terrigenesis bomb on Earth, causing a violent chain reaction that immediately activates dormant Inhuman genes in the human population. Overnight thousands of people become Inhuman, manifesting strange powers and changing their lives forever, in an act that will lead directly into Marvel’s Inhumanity event.

The strengths of this event lie with Hickman’s detailed plotting. He laid the groundwork for this event in both Avengers and New Avengers, giving him ample time to develop the Builders as a legitimate threat, and to set the stage for the twists and turns that followed. We see the Avengers off-planet fighting alongside the galactic coalition, as Iron Man, Black Panther and the rest of the Illuminati hold the line against Thanos. In the midst of this is the Inhuman drama of Black Bolt and Maximus destroying Attilan and unleashing their secret bomb, trying to keep Thane’s location a secret and perpetuate their species in the face of genocide at Thanos’ hand. Hickman delivers a great deal of tension through solid scripting and pacing, both in the tight interweaving of his plotlines and in exploring the full scope of the story through rotating character perspectives. From the shocking destruction of Attilan to Thor’s brutal reclamation of Builder-occupied Hala, there are many notable moments that make for an exciting and satisfying read.


The real burden of this event, however, is shouldered by its artists, Cheung, Opena and Weaver. To their individual credits, all of them rise to the occasion. Cheung, whose pencils bookend the series with issues #1 and #6, carries his portion of the series across planets and solar systems with great success. His panel compositions are highly engaging throughout, his page layouts making the most of the action and narrative tension. Opena and Weaver, who rotate out on the rest of the issues, work together well. Their styles mesh impeccably from segment to segment, solidifying the overall sense of clarity and continuity through eye-catching settings and thoughtful page design. The art maintains a careful balance of action and intrigue, drama and adventure through dynamic panel-to-panel tension and a unifying undercurrent of anticipation. Unified by the color palettes of Justin Ponsor, the artwork maintains a visual cohesion that never feels jarring or inconsistent from artist to artist.

This is an event that makes a lot of promises, living up to most. Even with the strength of Hickman’s detailed plotting and a dynamic creative team to bring his scripts to the page, however, Infinity is defined by its highs as well as its lows. Just like Avengers, which has been criticized for sacrificing character development for the sake of moving the plot, Infinity suffers from similar problems of scope. It does address the stories of key players like Captain America, Iron Man and Black Bolt, and features Captain Marvel and Thor in strong supporting roles, but frequently leaves the rest of the sprawling supporting cast in the dark. Tie-ins and supplementary issues do offer alternative points of view on the event, some more effectively than others, but the men and women on the ground are relegated to the status of prop much of the time. When you have such heavy-hitters as Smasher and Hyperion, and strategically essential characters like Manifold and Captain Universe, drawn out of the main storyline, it feels like a bit of a waste.

As for the execution of the overall plot itself, there are some holes and soft spots. A somewhat convoluted narrative, the respective Builder and Thanos plotlines don’t quite entwine in any fluid or meaningful way. Instead they read as simple coincidences, random events that happened to overlap as Thanos arrived to find the planet defender’s away from home. Moreover, the need for a complete and final conclusion of these plots is ultimately left unfulfilled. By the fact that this event serves to set up the next, an extended preamble for Inhumanity, the story lack any real sense of final resolution. Its conclusion fails to answer many of the title’s own core questions as the heroes simply turn their attentions to the next problem. Yes, it does change the status quo, but it doesn’t give the reader a moment to even enjoy the finale, and leaves one to wonder what, if anything, was really gained.

As a series, Infinity has an exciting storyline and many unforgettable moments, carried by Hickman’s strong scripts and the stellar work of its artists. However, as an event, it does leave an uncomfortable amount of questions unanswered. The lack of satisfying resolution is frustrating, as is the lack of overall character development. If taken in the context of one chapter leading to another, in a larger and more expansive story, this series is much easier to digest and enjoy. It isn’t perfect, but it does what it set out to do. While not completely satisfying for many readers, who want to see more closure in this storyline, it leaves us eager for more, making us come back to see what happens next in Inhumanity. At the end of the day, that’s what Marvel wanted all along.

Magen Cubed –