Review: Edge of Spider-Verse #5

eosvThis series, designed to introduce us to some of the many and varied other inhabitants of the Spider-Verse has been one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises to come out of The House of Ideas this year. The main thrust of this five issue series consists of five one-off stories that get our collective reading appetite primed for the big upcoming Spider-Verse event that is to feature these obscure Spider-Men and Women as well as countless others.

However, the series has ended up being much more than the sum of its parts. One of the biggest developments to come out of the series is of course the inclusion of Spider Gwen in the Marvel Universe proper but for me that was secondary to just how good each of these single narratives really were. These stories were diverse in content, tone and style of execution, the one thing they all shared was dynamic storytelling. As good as each of these issues were, it appears that they saved the best for last.

The final issue is written by former My Chemical Romance front man Gerard Way. This is Way’s Marvel debut but he has co-created the brilliant Umbrella Academy series as well as The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys for Dark Horse. There is a significant anime influence to Way’s work and that is definitely apparent here as he introduces the young heroine Peni Parker, daughter of the late Peter Parker and genetic heir to SP//dr, a symbiotic combination of an Iron Man-like suit of hi-tech armor and arachnid companion. Way and artist Jake Wyatt present a completely fresh and inventive re-imagining of the Spider-Man mythology; there is just enough of the familiar to provide a connection but from there it is certainly not the same old “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”. Given the limitations of a single issue, Way does a fantastic job of creating fully actualised characters. Sure, we don’t get the luxury of a meticulously detailed back story, but we do get a sense that these characters have some extensive roots in this universe. Take Way’s clever slant on Mysterio –  it’s the perfect melding of science fiction and comic book villain but something more than merely an amalgam of the two genres. The same applies to the writer’s take on the extra-dimensional doppelgänger of Daredevil.

These previously unseen versions of characters we have known our whole comic book reading lives serve as anchors that keep this entirely new universe from feeling alien to us. It’s more like seeing a person we love with a completely different hairstyle; all the things we love about them are still there beneath the newly styled coif. Way very accurately captures the feeling and tonal quality of a Spider-Man story right down to the subtle nuances; the quirky sense of humor, the high ideals, especially the “great responsibility that comes with great power”. It’s all there, transcending time, dimension and universe.

eosv1Way enters the Marvel Universe like a brilliant, blazing shooting star. This story is engrossing, entertaining and refreshingly dynamic. The only complaint I have is that it is only one issue. I hope that Marvel gives Way another assignment sooner than later. He brings a degree of edginess and, God forgive me for saying this, a certain hipness that is not easy to find. Way is cool without being pretentious possessing an obvious love and respect for the medium of comic books. Much of his intelligent use of metaphor and penchant for obscure references as found in Way’s lyrics, are likewise evident in his scripts.

Jake Wyatt’s art is as unique and brilliant as Way’s writing. He has a style that readily lends itself to Way’s anime infused imagery and brings these images electrically to life. The artist incorporates Peni’s personality with SP//dr extremely effectively, particularly in one panel where we see that the young protagonist has put Hello Kitty-type stickers on the actual armor providing a touching and humorous juxtaposition between the menacing look of SP//dr and the diminutive girl who pilots the heroic symbiotic robot. Wyatt’s art is dynamic and his approach to storytelling is energetic, fueled by his unique use of panel placement and vivacious page composition.

The final Edge of Spider-Verse installment will definitely leave you wanting more. Marvel showed extremely shrewd judgment by closing the series with Way and Wyatt’s electrifying issue. It has all the action, excitement and razor sharp humor that we have come to expect from a Spider-Man related title. I would love to see these two creators return to these characters, this time for an extended stay. Until then I’m sure they will turn up in the big event along with a multitudinous amount of other Spider-Beings like Miguel O’Hara and Peter Parker but I for one will be looking forward to being reunited with Peni Parker and SP//dr. (5/5)

Review: Original Sin #5

os1Jason Aaron steps on the brakes, slowing the brisk pace of his revelation filled narrative in this current issue that trades dynamic character interaction and up-tempo timing for meticulously detailed exposition and historic flashbacks – all in the cause of more fully examining the character of Nicholas J. Fury.

One may infer by this opening sentence that they are in for an arduously drawn-out, exhaustive portrait of Marvel’s eye patch sporting super spy, but boy would they be wrong. Aaron does take a rather unexpected detour with this issue, especially in light of how exciting and shocking this story has been thus far. However, he very deliberately dissects Fury with surgical precision at the very moment this information becomes imperative to the forward progression of the narrative. There are elements of Fury’s extensive and storied past that even die hard Marvel fans may not know or readily remember because of Aaron’s decision to literally turn this issue over to Nick Fury (a great majority of the story is narrated by Fury).

The preceding two issues have ended with mind-blowing revelations centered on Fury; first his perceived murder by the Winter Soldier which is immediately followed by the revelation that the Fury slayed by the Winter Soldier was in fact an LMD and the “real” Fury is actually alive but a very elderly man. All of this  data is almost too much to take in – so much in the way that the Star Wars films go on to become the story of Darth Vader, Original Sin has become Nick Fury’s tale. This shift makes an exclusively Nick Fury-centric issue not only clever but necessary.

Aaron delves into the history of Marvel’s greatest Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. beginning with his days as a member of The Howling Commandos through his time as leader of the Secret Warriors on up to his current often ambiguous position within S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Marvel Universe as a whole. This interlude may seem to be a bit too lengthy of a digression at this point in an exciting, well established narrative but I think that if you read it as a precursor to the next chapter of the story it makes perfect sense. Although this approach does seem to hang a dynamic supporting cast out to dry for an entire issue; that is my only complaint and it is precisely because Aaron has done such a bang up job with the characterisations and interactions within this diverse and eccentric cast that they are so sorely missed, particularly Doctor Strange and the Punisher. For my money you can’t get a more “odd” couple, but Aaron makes magic happen with these two diametrically opposed “heroes”. The main plot of Original Sin is so strong that it can withstand a course deviation to further and more deeply develop one of the main players in this multi-faceted narrative without losing significant momentum. I can just about feel Exterminatrix and Dr. Midas lurking in the shadows, waiting for their moment to strike with maximum proficiency and malice.

Mike Deodato does a phenomenal job of bringing Fury’s legendary past to the page as he astutely illustrates Fury’s narration, enhancing his words with striking and dramatic images. Deodato does some of his most stunning and inventive page composition in this issue. He makes effective use of panel layouts creating an intensely cinematic feel depicting scenes from Secret Invasion and other equally iconic moments in the life of Nick Fury. Once again Frank Martin captures the tone of the narrative perfectly with his evocative palette of moody, subdued shades. The collaborative result of this creative team is a cohesive work crafted with chemistry and a mutual vision. This is visually one of the most dramatic issues in the series.

Sure this issue is a bit of a change of pace, especially following the big reveals of the previous issues, but Jason Aaron shrewdly throttles down the action and gives us a decidedly more cerebral chapter as a preface to what is sure to be a return to the excitement and over the top action that we have come to expect of this wildly entertaining and engrossing epic. Don’t jump ship if this issue didn’t scratch you where you itched. Have faith true believers, this is going to be one event that lives up to and dare I say exceeds the hype.

’nuff said. (4/5)

Original Sin #1 Review – Jason Aaron & Mike Deodato

ORIGINAL_SIN_ELEMENTSRight off the bat, Original Sin doesn’t feel like a normal event.

This superhero story occupies a space where the stakes aren’t clearly defined, the culprit could be anyone, and the detective(s?) are as shady as the business they’re in – a classic whodunnit setup. The whodunnit is a story not often played out like this in superhero comics, especially when it’s touted as Marvel’s big summer event, providing something that feels decidedly different.

Original Sin finds its core in two of the more unlikely protagonists in current comics history: the recently retired Nick Fury, and a mysterious figure with a crew of the Marvel Universe’s misfits. The Watcher Uatu has been murdered, and his eyes are stolen – and it may not be a villain this time. The way this setup opens Marvel’s roster for a big event is a cool idea, and the pairing of the Punisher and Doctor Strange holds great promise. The return of Nick Fury is also a fun addition, laying the foundation of the classic gumshoe character of this noir-like tale.

Aaron is the perfect choice for such a large ensemble cast, nailing the characters down easily. The only complaint is in regards to the constant reference to “the boss”, rather than any named character makes for some fairly clunky dialogue, but it’s bound to be a small price to pay if the reveal works out in the end.

Deodato’s art is as good as ever, with some impressive character work, clever panel design, and some gorgeous vistas. Aside from some colouring issues, with Steve Rogers’ t-shirt inexplicably changing colour, and some panels are deprived of  detail thanks to some heavy shadowing, Frank Martin is up to the task of matching the tone of  Aaron’s story.

Like almost every event since forever, Original Sin starts off strong. But a lot of events start strong, only to eventually disappoint – Age of Ultron comes to mind. Let’s hope Aaron and Co. can stick the landing.

If not, well, at least they had an excuse to dust off Nick Fury’s flying car off again.

Review – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

hr_Captain_America-_The_Winter_Soldier_138I waited months to see Captain America: The First Avenger. I was worried that they would take one of Marvel’s great characters, and make a film that took his title literally and create something that ultimately boiled down to US propaganda, rather than really explore what Steve Rogers is about. The first time around, I wanted to hate it. I mocked everything – laughed at the dialogue, joked about how one scene in particular was awfully reminiscent of Return of the Jedi, rolled my eyes at Hugo Weaving’s scenery chewing – but at the end I turned to my husband and said that was awesome, let’s watch it again.

I feel bad about my lack of faith in Marvel Studios now. While I still try to go in to MCU films with no hope other than to be entertained, they consistently and effectively deliver exactly what the audience is wanting. What does the audience want? A film that shows us superheroes that exist here in the real world. A universe that is so close to ours, that sometimes it’s easy to suspend your disbelief, and imagine that these events are really happening, while we’re sitting in the comfort of our living rooms watching the destruction on the news.

To say Winter Soldier is a game changer is a bit of an understatement really, but it’s difficult to elaborate on that idea without offering up some pretty huge spoilers for the end of the film. What I will say, however, is that it cements the concept of these characters existing around us. From Sam Wilson’s uncannily plausible flight suit, through to Frank Grillo’s likeable but sinister portrayal of Brock Rumlow (the name Crossbones is never mentioned outside of a bit of symbolism for comics fans), and Robert Redford’s brilliant turn as Alexander Pierce – someone you can really see heading up an intelligence agency. They’re written well, they’re acted well, and most importantly, they talk like real people, which are key elements missing from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – the Marvel property with the closest ties to Winter Soldier.

Chris-EVans-vai-gostarHow can a film that contains such a ridiculous character as Batroc the Leaper do this so well though? Through brave interpretations of characters whom we have seen as jokes, caricatures, and ridiculously implausible technological developments. Just wait until you see how they brought Arnim Zola into the modern day – it’s genius, and not at all what I was expecting.

While the peripheral characters are the icing on a rather large cake, the main characters have plenty of time to shine. With a running time of over two hours, there’s never any doubt that everyone gets their share of the limelight. Nick Fury gets his own action sequence, Maria Hill has a key role to play in the final act and somehow there’s still time to explore how the events of the Battle of New York have affected Cap and Black Widow’s – both personally and publicly. There’s a glaring lack of Black Widow backstory, but Johansson’s character actually gets to be a person here, rather than a means to an end, or a Whedon Woman trope, which gives me hope that those Black Widow movie rumours may come to fruition after all. Chris Evans handles bringing the role of Steve into the modern world very well, he plays him with just the right combination of righteousness and sass, and that’s exactly what I think Cap is all about.

The real stars of this show, however, are Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, as Sam Wilson, and Bucky Barnes respectively. Mackie’s clear excitement at being able to play in the sandbox carries over to his portrayal of Wilson, who has a kind of fanboy excitement about being included in Cap and Widow’s team. Stan does an impressive job of a role that, for most of the film, involves a lot of empty, angry, or irritated gazes, and the delivery of one particular choice line lifted from the comic. Both actors fit their roles perfectly, yet another example of Marvel choosing the right actors, and developing the right characters.

bwposter2From a technical standpoint, this is probably Marvel’s most ambitious project to date. If you think The Avengers was a large project CG wise, forget it. Winter Soldier has not one, but three helicarriers, more action sequences than I can remember, and while it may not have Iron Man 3 scale supersuits, the work on Falcon’s wings, and The Winter Soldier’s arm, is pretty impressive. There are certainly a few missteps in the larger scale shots that are more visible when viewing the film in 2D, but overall the CG is great.

The score is adequate, with moments of greatness when building tension, but there are points where it could have done with dropping out completely. Over all, Winter Soldier has a post-Cold War action thriller vibe to it, and sometimes the score doesn’t quite fit, particularly during a lot of Cap’s dialogue. I found myself wanting a bit less soaring patriotism, and a bit more understated disillusionment.

On paper, it’s hard to believe this film would work. The guys who made You, Me and Dupree direct an espionage thriller based off a comic book, where half of the long standing characters either aren’t cast in the film, or are only just being introduced, and the only way you won’t know what the big reveal will be is if you live under a rock. Forget about it. Wry humour, innovative use of characters, and a big reveal that has so much more large scale fallout than what you’re thinking of, make this film quite possibly the best that we’ve seen from Marvel Studios yet.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier makes excellent use of one of Brubaker’s great storylines, but never once feels like the core concept came from a comic. Anthony and Joe Russo may be mostly known for directing such classics of modern cult television comedy as Arrested Development, Happy Endings, and Community, but don’t let that make you think they can’t handle a big budget action epic.

Equal parts tense dialogue, thrilling action, and character development, Captain America: The Winter Soldier pushes the Marvel Cinematic Universe one step closer to the audience, and continues to reinforce the idea that superhero movies don’t need to exist in their own genre.

50-Word Review: Daredevil #36

Daredevil_36Waid finishes Daredevil’s superhero life in New York, makes a nice transition to the new series set in San Francisco. Foggy’s fate is left hanging, but everything else is tied up neatly as you’d expect.

One of the better plots for the east to west coast move Marvel has done.


Retrospective – Wolverine: Old Man Logan (2008/09 Millar/McNiven)

250px-OldManLoganI was talked into reading Old Man Logan back in 2011, after much hesitation and more than a few I promise, I’ll read it next week‘s. Honestly, it’s not a book I ever gave a second glance to, mostly because the only part that looked up my alley was Steve McNiven’s art. Mark Millar has always been a writer I’ve felt at odds with, and Wolverine has never been on my list of favourite characters, so while I like a good bit of blood and gore, I decided to push it to the back of the pile until I was short on reading material.

At this point, it would be timely to remind everyone that previously when McNiven and Millar teamed up for Marvel, we got Civil War. Love it or hate it, it contains some of the most iconic panels in recent comics history, and it was this that convinced me to finally give Old Man Logan a read.

At its heart, this is a western road movie. A gory, frantic actioner, that only stops briefly for a few pages of exposition, before building to its bloody, viscera splattered conclusion.

It’s brilliant, and shameless, and never once tries to be something more than an excuse for a couple of hundred or so pages of extreme violence. The plot itself exists for little reason other than to facilitate the carnage at the very end, but that doesn’t mean you ever feel any lack of sympathy or connection for road trip buddies Wolverine and Hawkeye.

old-man-loganMillar’s writing is solid, if nothing spectacular, mostly because the star of the show here is McNiven’s incredible art. Every panel is finely detailed, but never feels fussy. The dirt and grime of a future without superheroes mixes with all the blood and guts, to create a really stunningly beautiful book. Each spray of red across the page feels like it’s been flung from the tip of a paintbrush, rather than finely pencilled, inked, and coloured.

The ability to toe the line between comic art, and realism, is something that has always impressed me about McNiven. Unlike artists like Adi Granov, or Alex Ross, whose hyper-realistic style can often seem cold and unmoving, or John Romita Jr or Frank Miller’s, whose work can be quite cartoonish, McNiven’s keeps his work pulpy, yet real. Just the right amount of bright colours and sharp definition to offer up plenty of movement and visual chaos, while still being realistic enough to make you really lose yourself in the page.

As previously mentioned, the plot of Old Man Logan is secondary to the art, and it’s really pointless talking about it. It’s so thin, that even a few words on the story will really give you an idea of how the whole thing ends.

All you really need to know about Old Man Logan, is that it’s a great ride. The perfect book for someone who wants some mindless escapism, in the form of gratuitous and extreme violence. This was my third time reading this book, and I still give it ten out of ten.

Black Widow #1 and #2 – Nathan Edmonson/Phil Noto

black-widow-012014 heralds the return of solo titles for two characters I have long been a fan of. In February, She-Hulk hits the racks, with what looks to be a promising new series. First off though, Black Widow is in the spotlight, continuing the trend of character focused, intensely personal solo arcs that kicked off with Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye in 2012.

With the more subtle theme of loneliness and isolation undercutting Natasha Romanova’s quest for atonement, and Phil Noto’s delicate, almost retro art style, the whole book feels like a bleak seventies thriller. Exactly the tone I expected from a book aiming to be unique, despite clear influences from titles such as Hawkeye and Captain Marvel. It’s an engaging, violent, and visually stunning book, that in two issues has already earned a permanent space on my pull list.

The first issue is classic set-up and exposition, introducing Widow to newer readers in a way that doesn’t feel forced or tedious to those who are already familiar with (at least some) of her long and complex story. As someone who hasn’t read any of Nathan Edmonson’s previous work, this was a pleasant surprise. Introductions are made, motivations are set, and like the influential titles mentioned above, something resembling a normal home life is established.

Issue two moves straight on from the set-up, and headlong into a deeper exploration of Natasha’s motivation, while also offering an insight into the man aiding her quest – apparently unassuming lawyer Isaiah. Isaiah’s story is a more subtle, understated contrast, inter-cut throughout Natasha’s overt, public fight with the main villain of the issue. Issue two also cements the idea of home, something we perhaps may not have associated with Black Widow in the past, with a return to her apartment in the final scene.

natWhile the writing here is solid, the real star of the show is Phil Noto’s magnificent, elegant artwork. His style is fine and almost fragile, ideas I had perhaps not associated with Natasha in the past, but it fits so perfectly here. Noto’s colours effectively convey tone, and the washed out, muted look of the whole book really gives it the feel of that seventies espionage thriller. His consistency with character design, sketchy, movement filled panels, and ability to convey emotion are what elevate Black Widow from very good, to excellent.

My only hesitation is that I feel like this is the film we should have had. Marvel has taken a risk in giving Natasha her own solo – and that’s great – but when are they going to take that leap from page to screen? Black Widow is a wonderful, grim, introspective look at a character still surrounded by a lot of mystery, despite her long history in Marvel Comics canon. Could this book be the test run for a Black Widow film? I sure hope so.

2013 Comics Highlights

capt-marvelIt’s the time of the year where we look back on the previous 12 months and the highlights and lowlights. Kimberley Griffiths and I dragged ourselves off our respective summer couches to throw some bouquets and brickbats:

Kimberley’s take

1. /Hawkeye v4/

This series has gone from strength to strength, and bringing in whole issues for Kate Bishop was a genius idea on the creative team’s part. Some have disliked the amount of introspection in Fraction’s book, but for me, it’s a welcome relief from the constant chaotic events that tend to take over the Marvel universe. It just edges out my number two thanks to none of its issues being annoying event tie-ins. Favourite issue? #11 (Pizza Dog), thanks to the innovative storytelling and David Aja’s fabulous art. (Marvel)

2. /Captain Marvel v7/

The first volume of Kelly Sue’s book is now over, but this has been a huge standout for me. When it first started, I was mostly just excited to see Carol in pants, but it had me hooked within two issues. Wonderfully written, only a few missteps with the art and the Infinity tie-in, and great character development. I can’t wait for volume 2.

Favourite issue? #17, which ended on a poignant, whimsical note.  (Marvel)

3. /Pretty Deadly/

Another Kelly Sue Deconnick title, this one is brand new but already shows promise to be a stand out for 2014. I feel like we’ve been waiting for it forever, but the anticipation didn’t dull any of my enjoyment – gorgeous art from Emma Rios, a witty, clever script from DeConnick, and Jordie Bellaire’s subtle touch on colours. It’s a fairytale western mystery, and if that combination doesn’t hook you, the art certainly might.

Favourite issue? #1 if only because there’s only three so far. (Image)

And the worst: Rick Remender’s /Captain America/ /v7/. I made it five issues in before I decided it wasn’t worth it, not even for Steve (Marvel). The Bounce, for being a self indulgent, trying too hard to be cool, disaster of a book (Image).

David’s take

1. /Daredevil: End of Days/

This mini-series was not only the highlight of 2013 for me but probably the highlight of the last five years in comics I’ve read. Art to die for, a brilliantly penned story with equal amounts of Daredevil history and new events – this series has got some serious praise and it’s all deserved. (Marvel)

2. /Judge Dredd/

I’m quite the Judge Dredd fan and I really like what IDW are doing with him. The stories are new, the art is more than respectable and the franchise is getting the respect it deserves. My only criticism would be that IDW oversaturated a little with the Judge Dredd: Year One and Judge Dredd Classics, although Mars Attacks versus Judge Dredd has been brilliant. (IDW)

ToddUgliest3. /Todd: The Ugliest Kid On Earth/

I’ve raved repeatedly on this title, and I’ll continue to do so. It’s wall to wall quality from an art, story and humour viewpoint. Each cover is pretty well worth the price of admission alone. (Image)

The lowlight for me was: Hoax Hunters even though I liked it a lot initially – it just lost me by issue six or seven and I just gave up.

For 2014 I’ve added Pretty Deadly to my pull list and would love any suggestions for others. Happy New Year from us all here at The Comics Herald!

Review: Avengers Annual #1 – Immonen/LaFuente

avengers-annual-01-300x461Avengers Annual #1 is a welcome bit of light relief, after the convoluted complexity porn that was Hickman’s Infinity. It’s equal parts action packed, witty, poignant, and bizarrely adorable.

Writer Katherine Immonen has written a fun and charming stand alone story, that could have easily been as preachy as an after school special, but instead had me grinning from start to finish. David LaFuente’s art fits nicely with Immonen’s at times chaotic plot, and some of his panels are the funniest sight gags I’ve seen so far this year.

The plot centres around Zamira, a student of Shang-Chi who stows away after a tour of Avengers Tower for unclear reasons, and Steve, who drew the short straw and has been left behind to stand guard over Christmas. Somehow Immonen has managed to pack an affecting, almost depressing sub-plot for Steve, in to what is otherwise a chaotic and action packed book. I was expecting something with as much substance as candyfloss, but instead this is a surprisingly character-driven issue, that takes a moment to look behind the superhero persona.

While I didn’t really think much of Zamira, the manifestations of her power – self styled copies of existing heroes – delivered some genuinely funny one liners, often full of innuendo, and always poking more than a little fun at characterisation. Subsequent reactions from each Avenger sometimes feel like you’re sitting through a semi-satirical DVD commentary, with real life versions of characters commenting on their on screen personalities.

BWhile I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and laughed out loud at a lot of the dialogue, what I enjoyed most however, was LaFuente’s art. He does a great job of conveying the disorderly mess that Zamira’s power creates (although visually this may be a bit much for some readers), and I liked the exaggerated cartoonish style a lot. Facial expressions are over the top, movement is well conveyed, and as previously mentioned, the sight gags are just hilarious.

Some may find this book a bit too much of a departure from the serious plot of Avengers as a whole, but perhaps a light-hearted one-shot is just what we need after Infinity and its long, drawn out lead up.

If you want to read a book where Cap wears an apron, Tony wears a crab-shaped pool ring, and Natasha tells tall tales about herself, then this is the book for you.

Deadpool #19 – Duggan / Posehn / Shalvey / Bellaire

deadpool19The final chapter of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly hits like a sledge hammer to the chest delivered by Thor Odinson himself. It’s relentless, not only in the rapid fire pacing employed by co-writers Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, but in the poignancy nailed down in the heart-rending revelations uncovered during this cathartic journey undertaken by Deadpool. Duggan and Posehn have proven their comedic chops in previous arcs, but the emotional meat-grinder they throw Wade into, and then reassemble him from the mass of raw nerves and newly exposed feelings, is truly unprecedented in the history of the character. Daniel Way certainly touched on the darker side of Wade Wilson, but just scratched the surface of the voluminous amount of back story just waiting to be told to fully bring this character from the shadows and into the light of actualisation. Duggan and Posehn have succeeded in this endeavor beyond expectations.

In this issue Duggan and Posehn show that Deadpool has changed at the very core of his belief system, as is witnessed by his reaction to Butler during their stand-off. Deadpool relies on a very under-used weapon in his arsenal – his intellect. The fact that he is able to step back and not only examine his options but recognize and act on an alternative to full-throttle violence shows tremendous growth and strength of character. Violence still ensues of course, and boy is it brutal. Declan Shalvey graphically renders one of the most gruesome panels of this arc, but as always he does so with such artistic panache that violence becomes poetry.

Another point of growth and development is Deadpool’s relationship with the other heroes of the Marvel U, specifically Captain America and Wolverine. The two iconic heroes seem to have accepted Wade on a level they have heretofore thought unlikely if not impossible. It is as though Wade has come through a rite of passage and proven himself worthy of a “super hero guys night”. The bond formed by the three is one of the highlights of this arc for me as I’ve always wanted Deadpool to stop being the Rodney Dangerfield of the 616 and finally get the respect he deserves. That is not to say I would like a humorless, brooding Deadpool – I just think that Duggan and Posehn have found the balance that allows Wade Wilson to be more than comedic relief. In fact, they have given Deadpool an overhaul and what has resulted is a more interesting, fully-formed, engrossing and to a degree even endearing character who is capable of holding his own with the big boys of the Marvel U.

Although this has certainly been the darkest arc of this run, perhaps even any run of Deadpool, it is not without an optimistic and hopeful ending for Deadpool. There is the aforementioned improved standing in the eyes of the hero community as well as the possibility of finding his daughter among other gems of introspection to be gleaned from this arduous trek.

Visually, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire collaborate to bring this emotionally taut narrative to life. Shalvey’s tweaks to Deadpool’s appearance infuse his facial expressions with more emotive power than in previous incarnations, adding an additional degree of dramatic weight. The method of shading Shalvey uses perfectly captures the dour tone of the narrative. Bellaire’s coloring is spot on, particularly the contrast of muted colors used in the flashback sequences as opposed to the more vivid hues used to convey the gravity and horror of the more violent scenes. These two artists do an impeccable job of transforming Duggan and Posehn’s words into images – every page is full of gritty magic.

This is arguably the best Deadpool story to date, definitely the most poignant and while we know for sure that Deadpool will always be able to make us laugh, it is good to know that he is now in the hands of writers who can tell us stories of a far deeper and much more complex nature than the jokey, pop culture reference laden fare of the past. Given this issue’s final page teaser, I feel secure in saying that Duggan and Posehn have another twisting, intricate narrative in store for us. The fact that it involves S.H.I.E.L.D. makes me even more anxious to get started.

So to Deadpool fans and neophytes alike I unreservedly recommend this issue – this arc and this series, all of which are top-notch.

And remember comic book fans during this reflective holiday season, the geek shall inherit the Earth. So until next time, see ya at the comic book store.