On the Panel

Mar 24, 2014 | Posted by in Comics

Welcome to the first edition of my regular comics column On the Panel where I review the new comics I’ve been reading in the past week. That’s it for the intro so here we go.

Daredevil (2014) #1

The man without fear’s relaunch gets off to a great start. After his public outing Matt Murdock packs up his life and his alter ego and moves to San Francisco to start afresh. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee carry on their run with the titular character and manage to start this new run with high energy and light hearted fun.

Story wise it’s a relatively simple rescue mission plot that Daredevil has opted to involve himself in. The action is very fast paced and well drawn with some great character beats thrown in throughout. Daredevil acclimating himself to a new city with his blindness gets particular attention and is hilariously dealt with. Some of the jokes are laugh out loud funny as he misses roofs and so on (even his radar sense can’t compensate for everything).

Despite the fact that the story seems episodic there are subplots that will come to fruition later in the run such as the tease of a bigger mystery. The groundwork for how Matt Murdock’s life will progress now that he doesn’t have to hide his alter ego is laid out here.

I really like Daredevil as a character but haven’t really read much of him in recent years -can’t read everything- so I’ve been looking for something of a jumping on point to get back into him, this comic is 100% that jumping point. The new location and new status quo injects a great degree of freshness allowing new readers to enjoy the character in a fairly baggage free way, there’s plenty here for established fans but it’s not liable to collapse under its own mythology anytime soon. I’ll be reading the next issue that’s for sure.

Superior Spider-Man Annual #2

With Peter Parker returning to his own head in May (it’s a long story) Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man is moving along at a lightening space trying to tell as much story as possible before Doc Ock inevitably gives up the mantle. While the Goblin Nation story arc rages on in the main book and focusing on Spider-Man’s conflict with the Green Goblin and his lackeys this book allows some of the side characters to have some time to have their stories explored. As with Superior Spider-Man Annual #1 this title allows Christos Gage to take the reins and tell the story.

Two stories are told in this issue with the first focusing on long suffering journalist Ben Urich and his attempts to save his nephew who happens to be the current Hobgoblin (or is it Goblin Knight now? It’s hard to keep track sometimes) Phil Urich. Ben Urich has had a rough time of it and this story wastes no time reminding the reader of this, he has always been the normal person stuck in the middle of this superhuman craziness, naturally his nephew’s alter ego makes this a very personal problem for him. Without spoiling what happens the story has a very moving ending that really makes the reader feel for poor Ben.

The second story is far less impressive, focusing on Wraith learning what happened to Peter Parker’s ex girlfriend Carlie Cooper and bringing that story to an abrupt close. I feel that Carlie’s story should have been resolved with more input from Peter/Ock.

All in all this is an enjoyable side entry into the Goblin Nation arc that gives the reader some great insight into what is going on with a few of the beloved side characters, the art looks great and the first story excels in many areas with the second managing to be less poignant but still very readable.

Wolverine and the X-Men #2

The second issue in this relaunched series has me scratching my head slightly, it does seem to assume a lot of background knowledge going in which I seem to be lacking. There are so many X-Men and Wolverine titles out there that keeping track is nigh on impossible -not to mention expensive- so many important story points can slip through the cracks. The current trend in Wolverine centric titles is that he is struggling to cope with the loss of his healing factor consequently making him mortal. This does bring some welcome urgency to the character as each battle could end up being his last.

This issue carries on with the arc of Wolverine distancing himself from his own school, deals with the ever-present issue  of whether Genesis will fulfil his destiny and become the villainous Apocalypse and continues with Quentin Quire’s rise to doing something worthwhile with his life. All of the stories feel like I’m missing the start from some other book which is probably quite accurate, it both is and isn’t the fault of the comic as I’ve not done the background reading but at the same time there’s little here for those that aren’t clued up.

Not to say the book was without some great moments – Storm calling Logan out on his selfish and self-destructive behavior was entertaining if a little out of character for Storm as she is in other titles.

More time is spent setting up the Phoenix Corporation but I’m not really feeling them as a credible threat, nor does the mystery of who they are and what their motivation is really pique my interest. Will I read the next issue? Not sure as yet, will make that decision when it is released. I might enjoy it more if I had a better idea of some of the background, maybe someday I’ll find the time to catch up.

Avengers World #4

Picking up from where we left off in Avengers World #1 when Spider-Woman, Hawkeye, Nightmask and Starbrand were transported to the City of the Dead. This particular issue centers on Starbrand being haunted by the event that caused his origin. Through the spirits in the city he is forced to relive these traumatic events, though there seems to be a continuity error as this comic refers to a high school when he’s been clearly established as a college student. The artwork doesn’t resemble a high school here so I’m left to assume this is some kind of mistake.

That aside I really enjoyed this book, I always like stories that deal with extreme guilt like is currently felt by Kevin Connor, particularly when they do it well. The plot device of him reliving the event is a popular way to explore this with good reason. It was also great to explore Starbrand and find out more about him, it seems that he’s a very fragile person which will more than likely cause issues for his team somewhere down the line.

Overall it was good stuff that will hopefully have some interesting payoff in subsequent issues. In general Avengers World has been quite strong as a series so far, effectively showing the globalisation of the Avengers since the events of Infinity and allowing the reader to visit and explore so many different characters and team combinations that will allow some very interesting stories to be told.

Ms Marvel (2014) #1

The Ms Marvel mantle has been largely unclaimed since Carol Danvers adopted the Captain Marvel identity. This left the moniker wide open for something new to be done and G. Willow Wilson embraces this opportunity fully.

Kamala Khan is a 16 year old Pakistani-American girl from Jersey, she has been raised Muslim but is written as someone who is fairly uncomfortable about it. She laments the “weird holidays” and pakoras in her lunchbox, feeling alone in a world that she doesn’t understand. She’s also very modern her obsession with the Avengers and her desire to escape her life by writing fan fiction that she posts online.

The first issue’s antagonist comes in the guise of Zoe – the popular blonde girl at school who teases Kamala about her lifestyle. Being undecided about her faith Kamala is too insecure to come to her own defense and instead slinks off in shame. Props to this comic for not shying away from the fact that people like Zoe do exist and that absurd levels of cruelty and ignorance are all too prominent in the modern world.

You might be forgiven for thinking that this book is a cultural drama but this begins to change as the Terrigen Mists from the Infinity story arc cause her to manifest super powers. The transformation sequence is superb – Kamala has a vision of Captain Marvel, Iron Man and Captain America who seem to grant her wish of being like Captain Marvel back when she was Ms Marvel – inclusive of the “classic politically incorrect costume” – as well as warning her that this won’t turn out the way she thinks. She emerges from the cocoon looking exactly like Ms Marvel.

This comic is great, smartly written and beautifully drawn with a fresh and exciting character that I genuinely can’t wait to continue reading. 

Ms Marvel (2014) #2

Picking up where the first one left off, Kamala Khan is struggling with the realisiation that getting what you wish for isn’t necessarily the best thing that can happen. After getting her wish to look like Carol Danvers it quickly becomes clear that this isn’t practical. Some very amusing observations about the realities of her costume and hair help to illustrate this point.

Most of this issue shows Kamala terrifyingly experiencing her powers and saving her nemesis Zoe. Her internal monologue shows her surprise at how happy she is to have saved a live, even if it is someone who is so unkind to her and others. I like that she is painted as being an innocently good person capable of great compassion, it’s even better that this fact surprises her.

This is an excellent continuation of Kamala’s origin story, the issue is light on content but very heavy on story. The reader is really given access to Kamala’s thoughts an insecurities as the reality of her dream come true starts to consume her. She learns a lot about herself and the shades of grey present in the world around her.  I really like this character and I’m eagerly anticipating issue 3.

Thoughts on Ms Marvel

A new comic book character is usually met with skepticism from the public – citing reasons like hasn’t it all been done before? Originality in comic books is very hard these days since most of the powers have been done before and many of the origin stories start to feel all too familiar.

I cannot stress enough how much of a breath of fresh air this character is. The insecure teenage superhero has been done in various guises for decades now but never quite like this. Kamala Khan’s cross cultural background gives readers a fascinating story that hasn’t really been told before.

Her obsession with the Avengers, down to idolising them is a stroke of genius as it mirrors the general public reaction to the superhero movies currently filling our cinemas, particularly among young people. These characters are heroes making entirely realistic that someone young and impressionable like Kamala would look up to them. The difference being that she happens to share a world with them.

The establishing of her insecurities and feelings of isolation only lends further value to the idea that she would try to escape by writing fan fiction and living her life online, again very pertinent to today. I really liked how her cultural background adds to her loneliness as she doesn’t quite fit in with her American friends or her Muslim family. It seems entirely natural that she wishes she was blonde, beautiful and white given that the popular girl at high school looks a lot like that. She resents her uniqueness and her culture instead of being proud of it. This allows so much potential for interesting character driven stories to occur.

She is a lot like Peter Parker when he began since she’s the awkward teenager seemingly on her own in a cruel world. She has a more stable family unit that Peter ever had but the similarities are there, she has powers forced upon her without knowing quite what to do about them as well as facing normal teenage problems. I really hope this character endures as she’s her unique outlook on life is what Marvel comics really needs right now, buy this comic and help this character to continue.