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MattDemers

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#1  Edited By MattDemers

The Good

This is some of Becky Cloonan's best work; reading early volumes of DEMO up to this series makes you appreciate her growth as an artist, and the power of the images she's crafting. I enjoyed her work on this issue and the youthful portrayal of Conan.

Reinforcing the portrayal is Wood's writing work, which weaves strong narrative and an interesting cast of characters. From Conan to the antagonist to his comrades on the boat, we get a concrete picture of who we're dealing with, and the world that we're being introduced to. While this story is an adaptation of a Conan classic, it feels fresh and creative instead of just another copy.

The Bad

I had a bit of trouble digesting the last couple pages of the novel: is Conan being affected by an evil mist? Magic? Is it a trick of the eyes? What exactly is going on here?

I'd say that was the only caveat that kept this from being a five-star book. Things kind of went off the rails a little bit, and I'm sure it will be clarified next issue, but for the moment it didn't stand well by itself. It needs context, and possibly a trade paperback to assemble the entire story.

The Verdict

I'm not going to hide my love for the Wood/Cloonan creative team; they've produced some of my favourite comics of this modern era. However, I'm not being a fanboy when I say they've managed to make me interested in a character I had no prior interest in.

Wood's Conan is anchored in the "old" tripes associated with the barbarian, but brings a lot of color and character to the world in which the comic takes place. From the oarmen that accompany Conan to the major antagonist, no one feels one-dimensional or cardboard; I'm legitimately excited to see where this series goes.

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#2  Edited By MattDemers

If you read last month's Point One issue, you saw Captain America talk to Hawkeye about taking over the team. Now writer Rick Remender is joined by artist Gabriel Hardman to tell the story of some new and familiar Secret Avengers.

The Good

The concept of the Secret Avengers in this series has been a little bit of a struggle since the beginning. There wasn't quite a feeling or necessity for the missions to be secret up until recently. With writers like Nick Spencer and Warren Ellis following Ed Brubaker's lead, we've started getting more of a feel for secrecy.

There's no doubt that Rick Remender knows something about secret teams since he's written over twenty issues of UNCANNY X-FORCE, the secret X-Men squad. Joined by artist Gabriel Hardman and color artist Bettie Breitweiser, you immediately get a feel that this is going to be a covert series. The combination of Hardman and Breitweiser is a welcome addition. Perhaps it's because Breitweiser is also coloring WINTER SOLDIER, the way she uses colors just feels right in this title.

When there's a problem in Pakistan, it's obvious that the Avengers can't simply stroll into the country to deal with it. When it comes to defeating major threats or saving the world, you can't be held back by borders. With Hawkeye, Captain Britain, and to a lesser extent, Hank Pym joining the team, we're getting a taste for where the series will go. The new headquarters set up is brilliant in keeping the missions a secret from the world. We are definitely off to a good start.

The Bad

It's understandable why Moon Knight is no longer on the team. I have to assume that Bendis has some plans with him, possibly to go along with his series ending? Captain Britain seems like an odd choice because he's not part of the Avengers but I love that Remender mentions his time in MI:13. And if the Secret Avengers are looking at global threats, why not include someone from another country and who is a "Protector of the Omniverse."

Even though most of the team has operated as Secret Avengers, Hawkeye and Captain Britain haven't. It felt that as soon as they arrived at the new headquarters, they were dispatched immediately on a mission. If Hawkeye is the leader, I would hope they had time to coordinate what each is capable of.

The Verdict

While this series hasn't had a lot of stability, if this (and the Point One issue) are any indication of what we can expect, let's hope this creative team is on board for a while. Rick Remender knows about secret teams and secret agents. Joined by Gabriel Hardman and Bettie Breitweiser, you can feel the atmosphere they're all setting up. Captain Britain is an odd choice for the team but he brings something new that will be interesting to see explored in these pages. The team rushes off to a mission before training together and it shows. The Avengers might deal with threats to the country but there are dangers in other parts of the world as well. The idea of the Secret Avengers making themselves protectors of the world is a fascinating idea which really makes use of the idea for the team to be a secret. We're off to a great start and it's going to be fun to see what Remender has planned for these characters.

Editor's Note

We at Comic Vine strongly believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We each have our own voice. We can't always see completely eye to eye and it would probably be boring if we did. Below is the original review for this issue by Matt Demers. As Editior-in-Chief of Comic Vine, I didn't feel it completely fit with our previous approach toward reviewing this title and general perspective. So in the interest of sharing an alternate take, we're including both reviews, which we hope you'll read as further insight into the quality of this issue.

The Good

This issue marks a changing of the guard, as Warren Ellis' run on the book concluded last issue. However, the tone of the book is relatively the same, as the Secret Avengers seem to be widening their scope a little bit. Instead of having a distinct "Black Ops" vibe to the team, new heroes are being brought in that have a little more clean-cut background to them.

While Hawkeye and Captain Britain aren't exactly boy scouts, they definitely stand out in stark contrast to the craziness of Moon Knight in the previous iteration. Their macho posturing was a bit eye-rolling from time to time, but Valkyrie and Black Widow were almost turned into reader analogues with their eye rolling.

What I liked most about this issue is that it was different from Warren Ellis' run: while I like him as a writer very much, his stories felt ripped from the pages of his previous book, GLOBAL FREQUENCY. This book feels more "Avengers" than "Black Ops", which I feel fits the character roster more; I couldn't imagine Hawkeye taking the place of Moon Knight or Black Widow when it comes to offing baddies.

The Bad

While this is a new run on the series and I have some praise for the direction it's taking, I'm finding that this book is having trouble finding its paces and sticking to them. Every time there's a mission that involves some wetwork, there's another that could be undertaken by the "regular" Avengers.

The Verdict

I feel that the book needs to stop fluctuating from writer to writer and find a formula that works. Instead of having a rotating cast, there should be something concrete; it should take notes from Jeff Parker's "Thunderbolts", which relies heavily on character interaction to get its point across.

The book has, however, shifted away from its "one and done" format, so hopefully we'll see the new creative team settle in next issue. For now, though, the book feels fun, but perhaps a little... unfocused?

3 out of 5.

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#3  Edited By MattDemers

The Good

I like the continuity from The Punisher #6; while issue seven was a bit of a break for the reader, it established context that carries over to this issue, as well. All-in-all, this is a very well-planned arc by Greg Rucka, and it rewards readers who stick around and absorb all details. However, those who haven't read the series before aren't necessarily punished (heh) for their negligence: there's enough here that you can get the general gist of what's going on without a lengthy "PREVIOUSLY..." page.

Punisher's vendetta against the Exchange is looking to heat up with the addition of a third party, but I kind of predicting that this person might end up on ice because of her association. Every time someone steps up to Frank, they end up underestimating him terribly; this issue was another great example of that.

The cops' interrogation of the marine was definitely one of the stronger points in the book because it bled emotion. I've said before that this book gains something from Rucka's GOTHAM CENTRAL experience, and this drives it home further.

The Bad

Not much, to be honest.

The Verdict

While I don't have any major complaints about this book, it still doesn't get a perfect grade because I can't help but shake the feeling that this is a very standard Punisher story. There weren't any points that made me bolt upright and say "Man, this is unbelievable work!"

After the amazing Thanksgiving issue and the cop-centric exposition-fest last issue, this week's offering seems a little weak by comparison. However, this isn't a knock towards the consistency of the series: it's been a wild ride the entire way through, with some natural peaks between the stretches of flat road.

I need to work on my metaphors. While I do that, pick up this book.

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#4  Edited By MattDemers

The Good

The sequence with Red She-Hulk and Nul made me tip my hat to Matt Fraction, as he made me care about a character I had no intention of ever liking. The whole Red Hulk family left an extremely bad taste in my mouth, and I'm surprised that it's not so bitter any more.

The combat with Nul didn't drag, and it did enough to keep each member relevant (more on that later) without dominating the issue. There's a lot of SCIENCE (note the caps) in this issue, but there's some fisticuffs to balance it out.

The ending narration with the Silver Surfer is especially strong, as it establishes the Surfer's power; it also brings a weird sci-fi element to the ship barreling through space, with a somber "don't screw with the Surfer" message. Strong writing kept me interested, and smiling at the exposition.

The Bad

Despite a strong start, I feel like this issue was just tying up loose ends without any effective climax; the banishment of Nul just felt a little too "deus ex machina"-y for me, which is weird, considering the book features Doctor Strange, a walking deus ex machina.

Speaking of Strange, he did little in this book, alongside Iron Fist and Namor. While She-Hulk, the villain and Silver Surfer got top billing, the others seemed to fall by the wayside, cast a spell, throw a punch and generally stay quiet.

The Verdict

Despite the above, I think it's good that Fraction kept this arc from rolling on too long; the greater theme of this book is chaos, and it will be great to see what the Defenders can whip up with this new toy of theirs. The only problem is that I see one of the members leaving (don't ask me, I just have an intuition), which might send the book into a downward spiral.

However, provided it can keep the team solid and give each member the face-time to keep them interesting, this book should fill a "warriors of the weird" niche that I'm all too happy to push them into. These characters are tough to write on their own, and even more challenging to threaten as a team: if there's anyone who can do it, it's Matt Fraction.

This book is tough to rate, as it wasn't amazing enough for a four, but it didn't disappoint me enough for a three; this book is still worth your time, but this issue felt a little bit off.

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#5  Edited By MattDemers

The Good

There were a number of things involved with this issue that left me with a large, goofy grin on my face. It was easily the best thing I read this week, and it has all the elements for a classic two-part superhero story.

I think it's important to note that it was Peter Parker that saved the day, not Spider-Man. Having Spidey stressing about all the things he needed "to do", only to come up with an inventive solution in the last couple minutes highlighted Pete's ability to think on his feet and his inventiveness as a scientist. Having a little kick in the right direction from MJ did not hurt, either.

The issue also shined from having a great supporting cast, each bringing their own strengths into the book. Scraps' involvement added exactly what this story needed: a foil for Spider-Man that was just as smart as he was, but not overbearing. To be honest, it felt like another Peter (of course, with his own character) was riding shotgun to Spider-Man; it felt more right than weird.

The Bad

Not much, to be honest. I'm not the biggest fan of Humberto Ramos' artwork, but that's a personal preference, not a detriment to the book. Honestly, I feel like his cartoony style was a bit more subdued than it usually was, here. Either that, or I'm warming up to him.

The Verdict

I don't give five-star reviews often because I usually reserve them for books or issues that blow me away. While this issue wasn't one that left me pondering my life and how I should change it, it reminded me how superhero stories can be well-paced with decent helpings of dialog, exposition and action.

This book felt maybe 10 pages longer than it actually was, but not in a bad way: it's a testament to Slott's writing ability that he can cram that much narrative into an issue without it feeling cluttered.

In short, if you're a fan of classic capes action, you should be reading this book; it manages to remain simple, compelling and — perhaps most importantly — one of the strongest titles Marvel is putting out.

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#6  Edited By MattDemers

The Good

This issue was a bit weird, but in a good way; the narrative is framed in a movie in which Buddy Baker starred, and will most likely affect the way Animal Man faces challenges in the coming months. It's an emotional story worthy of an actual film, with Lemire's dialog and pacing shining through.

I just find it a bit rare that we get rich narratives like this in comics, period; it's almost like we were taken completely out of Animal Man's world and plopped into a depressing noir story. After the previous arc seemed to be dragging on a bit too much, this was exactly what the book needed in order to bump it back up to the top of my New 52 list.

The Bad

While the movie set-up was inventive, I felt that it kind of fell flat when we were brough back to the "real world"; we weren't given any significance to the tonal shift of this issue, and it's likely we won't see the rammifications for another issue or two. While it has me curious, it also makes it a bit of a buzz-kill when we're brought back from this inventive side-story.

The Verdict

Jeff Lemire threw a bit of a Hail Mary pass with this issue, as it's a concept issue that might not rub everyone the right way. I have to praise him for trying, however, as it's got me curious about its significance. Could we see a more involved Cliff in the coming months? Will Buddy Baker fall into the same perils as his character, Red Thunder?

I guess time will tell.

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#7  Edited By MattDemers

The Good

The Heimdall/Tanarus fight was great because we needed a way for Heimdall's "sight" power to be negated; it shows that Tanarus is still a bit of an ass, and not trying to completely

I wanted to point out the greatness of the Loki/Surfer scenes, as we tend to forget the importance of being "worthy" in wielding Mjolnir. Maybe seeing the Surfer struggle will bring some prestige back to the hammer after the whole "Red Hulk" debacle.

The art is lovely in this issue, and it definitely ties things together. I love the transition with Thor before and after he gets his hammer, and how much more robust he seems when he has it in his hands.

The Bad

Not much, to be honest. I really want to see Thor kick some ass in the next issue, which is a great thing to provoke. While I praised the Silver Surfer and Loki sequence in the above paragraph, its placement was a bit off and seemed to break up the story a little bit. If its position in the book was shifted in order to make things smoother, I would have nothing to complain about.

The Verdict

MIGHTY THOR is quickly becoming one of my favourite books due to its contained storylines and its effective use of existing characters while introducing good new ones. If there's one thing I can appreciate, it's strong dialog, narrative and progression, and MIGHTY THOR has it in spades.

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#8  Edited By MattDemers

The Good

I really enjoyed the art in this book, and despite the gripes I had with the content (see below), I really enjoyed the actual execution of the story; the character dialog is strong and the people that are speaking seem believable.

I had no problem with the way people were portrayed (except one, see below), and I'm curious as to how their performance will play out.

There are also a couple of in-jokes to those of us who go to comic conventions, and I can always appreciate a couple pokes at that culture.

The Bad

This book is a poor jumping-on point for anyone who did not read the first crossover, not just because of the plot, but the absence of any of the "crossover" properties that are supposed to provoke nostalgia from readers.

I mean, when you read that the Transformers, GI Joe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are going to be teaming up, don't you expect them to actually do something besides showing up in two panels?

These characters don't seem to have any role in the first issue,which urges you at the end to pick up "TRANSFORMERS: INFESTATION #1"; this seems a bit insulting. I mean, why would you put these characters on the cover without having them as part of the book?

Nitpicking aside, my only other complaint was the heavy-handedness of the HP Lovecraft allusions. While it isn't exactly a problem that the writer is using Lovecraft's work as a literal basis for these catastrophic events, it's disappointing because with all the other "borrowed" properties, there's little original here.

The female vampire's breasts seem to defy gravity and conventional clothing practicality. In some panels they shoot out like missiles from her torso, and in others the jacket she's unzipped down to her navel seems to be incapable of keeping them in.

As a whole, I really didn't like this character, as a strong, strike-team Vampire shouldn't be able to be disabled by two possessed guys; she wasn't quite a damsel in distress, but she didn't exactly have any depth associated with her. Sadly, she seems to be a bit of more eye candy than an actual character.

The Verdict

For all the nitpicking I did above, I liked this book a lot more than other "major" books this week; by all definitions, it was a good comic, but it just didn't seem to deliver on what it promised.

It felt as if someone had written a good comic, but someone along the line said "You know what this needs? The Ninja Turtles. And GI Joe. And the Transfomers. And the villain should be HP Lovecraft monsters instead of those boring old aliens. They're public domain, right?"

Which is saddening, because if those properties hadn't been slapped on, it might've gotten a higher score.

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#9  Edited By MattDemers

The Good

For an alternate universe story, I ended up liking this issue very much. Strong character work from Pak on the new "mirror universe" characters kept them from feeling too throwaway.

The interaction between Cyclops and "Howlett" was definitely a great contrast between the 616 versions of the heroes, and the younger Nightcrawler definitely brought the comic relief. All in all, he felt like the X-Men: Evolution version of Kurt, which wasn't a bad iteration by any means.

I also really enjoyed the flashback history sequence that brought us to this point in the book. It was quick, informative and well-done. Having Cyclops face the people he's failed and the people he cares about makes it all the more important that he is given the chance to lead them again. Great stuff.

The Bad

Not much; the book was full of some great action while keeping the characters from becoming one-dimensional. I feel like this book was a bit of a setup for the climax, though, and surrendered a little bit of awesome in exchange for a more satisfying ends. I'll be interested to see how the next issue turns out, and if there will be any repercussions back in 616.

The Verdict

Part of the reason I enjoy Greg Pak so much is his ability to make me care about characters that I would otherwise have not; his run on Hulk and his work for this issue have affirmed that belief, as I really couldn't see myself enjoying any iteration of Emma Frost.

This book is solid without any glaring faults; it just kind of didn't have the luster that would have secured a five-star review. I fully expect a satisfying end to this arc, and for it to change Cyclops' perspective in the new post-Schism era.

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#10  Edited By MattDemers

The Good

I'm really enjoyed Nicola Scott's art for most of the issue. Especially when compared to the heavy-handedness of the dialog, it's a high point, for sure. There are subtle clues you'll pick up on to show the major plot devices, and it takes an artist with talent to do that.

As a journalist, I was happy to see the "Superman" of this issue emerge with a "show, don't tell" joke; that's a phrase that's drilled into our heads a lot during training, and it definitely fit with some aspects of "Clark Kent."

The Bad

The whole premise of the issue is that the Superman that we're seeing isn't who we think he is, so the big reveal at the end of the issue is supposed to be a shock. However, by the time we get there it's so painfully evident that the Superman we're seeing isn't the real one, all hope of surprise is lost. I couldn't help but say "Oh, wow, didn't see that coming" at the ending, and I can bet I wasn't the only one.

I mean, the twist of the issue would have been a lot better if they had cut out maybe six or seven pages of "Superman" blowing up stuff and murdering people, leaving some kind of suspense. Instead, the issue comes off as boring, and we're left to wait for the explanation; I feel like Perez wasn't confident in the reader to actually get the point of the issue, throwing in more examples, as if to say "YOU GET IT NOW!?"

Also, it's disappointing that Perez chose to go with the "people DISTRUST Superman, now!" storyline this early in the book's run. It's usually best saved when there's proper establishment of the character, which we haven't exactly had, yet. Superman is still alien to the people of Earth, and I just don't feel like there's any trust to abuse.

The Verdict

I'll admit that I've stayed away from the "A-List" of New 52 titles (Superman, Action Comics, the Bat-Books, Green Lantern, Justice League) out of fear that they will be terrible, and really, this issue didn't do much to dissuade me. While it's not a "throw in the trash" issue, it doesn't come off as anything but blunt, heavy-handed and talkative. I'd like to note, though, that I have caught up with the books I'm reviewing: I think it's important to establish context.

For all the "reboot" is supposed to do, this issue of SUPERMAN just feels like something mired in the muck: little character development, a plot that doesn't have confidence in its readers and a premise that seems too way too early to be going into.

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