Deadshirt is Reading… Spider-Gwen, Vader, and CM Punk!

Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more. For more of our thoughts on this week’s new comics, take a look at Wednesday’s Deadshirt Comics Shopping List.

Sarah Register is reading…

spidergwenSpider-Gwen #1

Written by Jason Latour

Art by Robbi Rodriguez

Color by Rico Renzi

Letters by Clayton Cowles

Marvel

“Soooo…catch crotchety old Vulture. Hand him to the cops. Get trust, pride and life back. Eat all the corn dogs.”

The same creative team that introduced us to Gwen Stacy, Spider-Woman, in Edge of Spider-Verse #2 picks up right where they left off in her much-anticipated solo title. This premiere issue isn’t immediately accessible to those who didn’t read her first appearance and thus feels more like a second issue, but I appreciate that we’re hitting the ground running to sate fan demand for the character. There’s a touching letter from editor Nick Lowe at the back of this comic where he expresses that Spider-Gwen is the product of fan involvement, and I enjoy the fact that Marvel gave us exactly what we asked for (even down to the cover title), but I also hope that they’ll surprise us just a little more as Gwen’s story evolves.

This installment introduces us to the Vulture, a classic Spider-Person villain but with the Spider-Gwen aesthetic—bright green and pink with glowing red eyes and metal claws. Lowe’s letter praised the talented team-up of Rodriguez and Renzi on the artwork, and rightfully so, as one of the highlights of this series is this stylized universe. The neon city, the punk girl band, Gwen’s amazing costume, and now even the bad guys feature elements of a cohesive and completely realized universe. People were already completely sold on this character when the first images of her EoSV cover were released, and the artwork continues to be such a strong point.

I love Spider-Gwen. She’s incredibly appealing, modern, and a welcome edition to the Spider-Family. The very fact that she traded up from girlfriend/victim to actual superhero feels pleasantly subversive, but it may also be the one thing that holds her back. Even though she’s in a different universe and other familiar characters get to do a little role-playing, she’s still somewhat stuck in a mold. With more than one Spider-Man, an already-established Spider-Woman, and now Silk in the mix, Gwen needs her schtick to be more than the gender-swapped version of Peter Parker. This first issue was a classic hero-meets-nemesis story, but a deeper storyline is developing on the periphery, and I’ve got a feeling there’s going to be a lot more to this comic than its rushed-to-the-presses first issue. This is a series to get excited about.

Joe Stando is reading…

spidermanAmazing Spider-Man #15

Written by Dan Slott

Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli (pencils), Cam Smith and Robert Poggi (inks), and Justin Ponsor (colors)

Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos

Marvel

“Don’t you understand? The world needs me! I was its best Spider-Man!”

Well, that’s more like it! Although Amazing Spider-Man #15 is billed as an epilogue, it’s really the key bit of unpacking and focus I needed to be satisfied with the “Spider-Verse” event as a whole. We get some nice closure for Mayday, a good final fight with Otto that clears up how this story can work in the context of what we’ve already seen, and some solid lead-ins to new stories for the main cast, including some of the members of the Spider-Army. It’s the right mix of action and denouement to bring the story to a close, and to make up for the pacing issues of the previous issue.

Now that the event is over, I don’t know if it’s my favorite crossover I’ve read, but it’s on the list. It was an ambitious idea that lent itself well to both solid action and great comedy. Parts of it were a little garbled, and I would’ve preferred a few more stories set in the middle of the event and a few less at the beginning/recruitment, but this is all Monday morning quarterbacking. The goal was to tell a big, bombastic yarn about a bunch of Spider-Men we’ve seen before and a bunch of new ones fighting bad guys, and in that regard, it succeeded.

thorThor Annual #1

Written by Jason Aaron, Noelle Stevenson, and CM Punk

Art by Timothy Truman and Frank Martin (colors), Marguerite Sauvage, and Rob Guillory

Lettered by Joe Sabino

Marvel

“The stranger the brew, the more it delighted everyone sans Mephisto, who turned many shades of green.”

Three stories this issue about three different Thors, from three wildly different creators. Two of them are great! One of them isn’t. THE ANSWER WILL SHOCK YOU.

Bad news first. The actual Jason Aaron story here, featuring Future Thor and the Girls of Thunder, felt sort of off to me. I’ve liked Aaron’s takes on the distant future a lot, but this was sort of middling, with not quite enough gags in what’s a decently funny premise. It’s not especially helped by Truman’s art, which depicts Thor’s granddaughters in essentially sports bras. I’m not asking for Skottie Young, but a more elastic, animated artist might have been a better pick. Thor’s final act of the story, creating an Adam and Eve named Steve (after Steve Rogers?) and Jane (after Jane Foster??) was also a little odd. It’s not a terrible story and there are some fun moments (“He’s so angry his eyeball is sweating!” “No, I think… he’s crying,” -the flying sharks), but it’s not what I would’ve led the book with.

Thankfully, the other two stories are wonderful. Noelle Stevenson has a great handle on both the new Thor and the Warriors Three, and the story of them “hazing” her was cute and energetic. Sauvage’s art is bright and lush, almost reminiscent of fairytale storybooks in a way that suits a story about gods. CM Punk’s comics debut is a hilarious tale of Thor drinking everyone in the Nine Realms under the table, and Guillory’s art is the kinetic, goofy style it needs to really pop. These are two very different creative teams, both compared to one another and compared to most of cape comics, and they’re both lovely. I’ve mentioned half a dozen times in these reviews how much I love anthologies, because we get to see this kind of diverse talent working on characters we know and love. I’d love to see Stevenson or Punk on an ongoing or mini-series, and (for the most part), I loved this issue.

Kayleigh Hearn is Reading….

xmenAll-New X-Men #38

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Marcelo Maiolo (colors)

Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit

Marvel Comics

“D’you want to fight Gamora? Because I’d rather die…I meant, if I fight Gamora…I’ll die.”

All-New X-Men #38 is a fine example of excellent art elevating a mediocre story. The fourth installment of “The Black Vortex” crossover features the X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy regrouping after their most recent battle, while the transformed trio of Gamora, Beast, and Angel plans to unleash the power of the Black Vortex on an unsuspecting alien race. The plot so far seems to be the same beat over and over again: first Kitty and Star-Lord steal the Black Vortex, then Gamora and co. steal it from them, and then a Very Special Guest Star steals it from them…if the story is to gain any momentum,  the Black Vortex needs to be more than a magical MacGuffin. The issue ends with an engaging cliffhanger that promises great character interaction ahead, but for now the event is merely ho-hum.

Despite the stalled story and dull dialogue, Andrea Sorrentino’s artwork is absolutely stunning. His depictions of alien worlds and interstellar battles feel truly cosmic, like the cover of a far-out 1970s sci-fi novel you know you have to pick up. (He also gives Jean Grey freckles, which is nice human touch.) The comic is also enhanced by Marcelo Maiolo’s trippy, sparkling colors. Some important panels are colored only in stark red and white, giving the art a sense of urgency and danger. Thanks to Sorrentino and Maiolo, The Black Vortex finally looks like a cosmic epic.

vaderStar Wars: Darth Vader #2

Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Salvador Larroca, colors by Edgar Delgado

Letters by Joe Caramagna

Marvel

“Vet your next adjutant more closely. I will be watching them as closely as they watch me.”

Kieron Gillen hits a second issue out of the park. I confess to finding the prospect of a Marvel Vader series to be quite a dreary one at first, because no one, including Lucas, has seemed to have any idea how to write the guy in years. Gillen struggles like everyone else—Vader shouldn’t be a silent presence, but make him too chatty and he seems like Episode II Anakin at best—but succeeds laudably. In fact, he avoids nearly every pitfall that Vader stories have dropped in over the years.

Gillen doesn’t skimp on action, but none of Vader’s physical confrontations are presented as any kind of true threat. Rather, they form the backdrop to the challenge he presented the character in issue #1: getting back in the Emperor’s good graces after losing the Death Star. The retconning of the Expanded Universe lets Gillen resurrect one of the better bit characters from A New Hope, General Tagge. This cautious “but what of the Rebellion?” officer has been granted the favor of the Emperor and assigned as Vader’s minder. He blusters and orders Vader about, but it’s clear that the guy knows he has a tiger by the tail. Using Tagge to replace Tarkin is an inspired story move, as Vader can only truly be challenged by folks that he’s not allowed to kill no matter how annoying they prove to be.

Vader’s other enemies don’t prove so fortunate. Gillen understands that the Vader of the Original Trilogy is not the Vader of the Prequel Trilogy, and we see only the cold side of his rage. His relationship with an R2-like astromech droid is deeply chilling when considering his affinity for droids in the PT. He also remembers that Vader is more than a plodding lightsaber-slinging sadboy, as over and over we see Vader triumph over Imperial and Rebel alike with his cunning. This series has definitely won me over.

Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!

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