Top 5 Marvel Comics For Week of 1/9/13

The Den of Geek staff breaks down our favorite Marvel releases this week! Featuring reviews of Superior Spider-Man #1, Thor: God of Thunder #4, Fantastic Four #3, Cable & X-Force #3, and Scarlet Spider #13.

Marvel gave us plenty of material to sort through, but with a bit of time and some deep soul searching we have managed to get you the Top 5 comics for this week. 

(And by “soul searching” we do not mean sitting around wearing our different cosplay costumes for each character and using that as inspiration. We don’t do that. Really. Or not this week, anyway…)

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Fantastic Four #3

“First Boots on the Ground”

review by: Mike Cecchini

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Writer: Matt Fraction

Penciler: Mark Bagley

Inker: Mark Farmer

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Colorist: Paul Mounts

Okay, now that the entire preamble is out of the way in both of the Fantastic Four titles, we can get down to business. Both books, Fantastic Four and FF, have been intimately intertwined for their first two issues, with the story in one title seemingly taking place between the panels of the other one. It’s been great, and all, but now that both teams have gone their separate ways, the real fun begins. And, just like it’s been from the start, Fantastic Four #3 is great fun.

First of all, the book opens in space. I’ll admit, I’m such an easy audience that opening “37.984” light-years from Earth is enough to put me in a good mood. Reed’s quest to figure out what it is that’s causing his body to break down has led the Fantastic Four (plus Franklin and Valeria) to Zeta Doradus, a planet apparently made up completely of unstable molecules. Reed, Sue, Johnny, Franklin, and Valeria head down to the planet to collect samples, and leave Ben to mind the ship. As you might imagine, this ends up being a mistake…

If this is the first real example of what the Marvel NOW! Fantastic Four title is gonna be like, then I’d better make sure that I have a new longbox ready, because I’m in for the long haul. This episode feels like a classic episode of Star Trek, and I mean that in the most flattering way possible. The opening on the ship (and I do love their ship), the date, the mission to a “strange new world.” Yeah, I’ve seen this somewhere before. A little Star Trek, a little Lost in Space, and a little Doctor Who…and all Fantastic Four.

Mark Bagley’s pencils are probably the best I’ve ever seen from him. After coming to associate him with more “earthly” concerns (thanks to his defining, virtually endless run on Ultimate Spider-Man), it’s a treat seeing him render the sleek technology of the Fantastic Four’s ship, and sprawling, cosmic vistas. And since Bagley is the very model of consistency (I can’t remember a book he’s been on ever shipping late), hopefully this means there will be plenty more where this came from. Is Fantastic Four my favorite Marvel title? Not yet. But it’s getting there!

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Story: 8/10

Art: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

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Cable & X-Force #3

review by: Marc Buxton

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Writer: Dennis Hopeless

Artist: Salvadore Larroca

Under Rick Remender, X-Force was nothing less than an epic title. Every story arc contained consequences and threats that out menaced the one that came before. Cable and X-Force carries the torch for Remender’s seminal run, and while the characterization and action is spot on, there needs to be a bigger menace than a Chik-Fil-A stand-in to make this book worthy of the title X-Force

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Cable and X-Force #3 opens with a nicely done scene where Havok and his team of Uncanny Avengers confront Hope on where her father, Cable, is located and what his purpose may be. There’s some great tension between Hope and her Uncle Alex, and Hope refuses to give him any info. Meanwhile, a sequence of flashbacks finally reveal why Cable has seemingly gone rogue. This casts Hope in the role of the renegade, like her father, and makes her the book’s sympathetic core. Cable, troubled by visions that detail future threats to the mutant population, reveals to his team that there is something in a popular fast food chain’s eats that will cause people to become obese and feral. The heavy handed dig at Chik-Fil-A notwithstanding, the menace does not really live up to the X-Force legacy. Defying liberal expectations, Hopeless does add some nice plots twists about the bigoted owner, which casts her into an unexpected and sympathetic light. It’s refreshing that her bigoted views aren’t as black-and-white as one might expect, but an evil fast food chain? Not really in the league of Apocalypse, Sinister, and Magneto.

Where the threat falls flat, Hopeless still uses his cast nicely. Domino is used as a master strategist, Forge as the tech genius, and Dr. Nemesis as the wonderfully snarky mad scientist tasked with curing the future threat of the Burgers of Monstrousness. They each have their own voice and they are all uniquely suited for their missions. The banter between the characters keeps the plot moving nicely. The story has a great deal of fun action pieces, expertly rendered by the great Salvador Larroca. It is Hope that shines as the point-of-view character for the reader. Her loyalty and concern over Cable is inspiring. She is willing to face down Havok and Wolverine because she trusts that, despite appearances, her father is doing the right thing. Cable’s premonition powers are a nice addition to the character, and will doubtless be the catalyst for many stories to come.

Let’s just hope that those stories will be a little less heavy handed than having X-Force war with an ignorant fast food entrepreneur. Being topical in comics is sometimes a mixed bag, what is a hot button issue today will seem dated quickly. While the tragedy of bigotry is universal, the ignorance of fast food moguls seems clunky and unworthy of such iconic characters. 

Story: 6/10

Art: 8/10

Overall: 7/10

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Superior Spider-Man #1

“Hero or Menace?”

review by: Robert Bernstein

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Writer: Dan Slott

Artist: Ryan Stegman

Color Art: Edgar Delgado

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Finally, after what seemed like a decade (but was only a couple weeks), the first issue of Superior Spider-Man has hit comic book store shelves, and we get the next chapter in Dan Slott’s master Spider-Man plan! I was fully expecting to see Spidey wearing a pair of Otto’s shades over his mask, but thankfully, that was not the case. For those that live in the Batcave, Superior Spider-Man #1 takes place directly after Amazing Spider-Man #700, in which Doctor Octopus switched minds with the (now dead) Peter Parker and became Spider-Man.

In Superior Spider-Man#1, we learn that the new iteration of Spider-Man is a little more tech friendly, having added a few new gadgets to his repertoire at the hands of Otto playing Peter Parker. Some of this new technology includes nano-spider tracers that are fully equipped with gps locators and audio transmitters, as well as employing voice activation technology in the spider on his chest. We also learn that Otto plans to make more of a spectacle of Spider-Man than the original Peter Parker did, as he calls the press ahead of his stomping of the Sinister Six, a villainous group made up of Overdrive, Boomerang, Shocker, The Living Brain and Beetle.

Dan Slott’s Superior Spidey feels just that–superior; an updated version of the classic technology-less superhero we’ve grown to know and love. I’m okay with change, especially if it’s an update to keep up with the times. I love the one page basic synopsis of Otto Octavius becoming Peter Parker on page one of the book, instead of wasting precious pages going into a lengthier story summary as many comics tend to do. Slott continues to show that he was well deserving of being the one to terminate Peter Parker. I won’t ruin it for you, but there is a delightfully surprising twist at the end of this issue that I was not expecting at all.

Ryan Stegman’s artwork deserves to be admired. I’m not sure whose decision it was, but I like how the new Spider-Man has a different set of eyes on his costume, that vaguely resemble a set of Doc Ock’s shades from when he was first introduced in Amazing Spider-Man#3. Stegman’s artwork is extremely detailed, and this action packed issue’s excitement is shown well through his creation. Edgar Delgado’s coloring is vibrant where it should be vibrant, and dark where it should be dark. I don’t, however like the color choice from the twist mentioned above (you’ll know what I mean when you see it), but other than that Delgado’s coloring looks great.

Superior Spider-Man #1 is definitely the start of something new for Spidey. It has an epic feeling right from the first page. There’s still a lingering feeling of good versus evil for the new Peter Parker, but hopefully Slott won’t hold that for too long, as I could see that aspect of the book getting stale after a short period. We can’t help but wonder what’s on the horizon, especially since we’ve already seen some previews of future issues, courtesy of Marvel. We are excited about the possibilities Dan Slott has created for Spider-Man, and hope to see this new book take him in directions we haven’t seen before. Regardless of where Slott takes us next, Superior Spider-Man#1 is a creative, exciting and intriguing comic.

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Story: 10/10

Art: 10/10

Overall: 10/10

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Scarlet Spider #13

“In The Midst of Wolves”

review by: Marc Buxton

Writer: Chris Yost

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Artist: Khoi Pham

Presenting, for your reading pleasure, a review of the Spider-book that doesn’t receive death threats! While every last detail of Superior Spider-Man is argued and perseverated on, fans seem to forget there is another web-slinger in the Marvel Universe who shares DNA with Peter Parker. For over a year, Chris Yost has been presenting the story of Kaine, a clone of Peter Parker, who must balance his own dark and selfish nature with the overwhelming sense of responsibility literally engrained in his genetic code.

This issue starts a new arc that sees Kaine, still reeling from his violent confrontation with Carnage, confronting the issue of sex slavery. The characterization of Kaine can be summed up in one line the hero speaks “My name is Kaine, and for some reason I keep getting involved.”

It’s clear Kaine’s powers scare him. He knows he has darkness in him, and if he lets it out, he’ll have trouble reeling it back in. Yet, despite his wish to live a comfortable life free of responsibility, he keeps fighting. The book opens with a very effective montage of Kaine punishing the sexual predators that prey on illegals. Kaine knows the fight is useless, that for every trafficking scum he puts down there are three more out there, but he keeps fighting. The whole time, as he descends deeper into the bowels of the sex trade, he fears losing control of himself and becoming something uncontrollable. 

Old fans of Spider-Man will remember the Lobo Brothers from a few decades ago. This time out, there is a Lobo sister to replace one of her fallen siblings, and she’s as beautiful as she is nasty. Yost casts the duo as the reprehensible leaders of the slave ring, and they want to punish Kaine for interfering with their operation. The climactic battle is a nice contrast to the action in the opening. Where, at the beginning, Kaine manhandles his foes, at the end, the lycanthropic siblings rip Kaine to shreds. He is almost paralyzed by the violence, and is reluctant to sink to his foes levels of depravity, lest he become them. The Lobos have no such qualms, and begin to feast as the book fades to black. Yikes. The whole book is an excellent character study of Kaine, and presents a seedy corner of the Marvel Universe not often seen.

Now, who knows what direction Superior Spider-Man will go? Will it be a tale of retribution for Doc Ock, or will it be a quest to balance a dark nature with a sense of humanistic responsibility? If either of these themes are the case, they may be redundant, as Scarlet Spider has been exploring these ideas for well over a year! One does hope Kaine will meet Ock and compare notes about living in Peter’s skin, sooner rather than later.

Story: 9/10

Art: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

Thor: God of Thunder #4

“The Last God in Asgard”

review by: Mike Cecchini

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: Esad Ribic

The first story page of Thor: God of Thunder #4 is stunning. So is the next one. Alright, the whole darn book is a feast for the eyes, and it’s tough to single out one image. But that first page, where the aged Thor, defeated and battered, is being carried by Gorr’s Black Berserkers, is like something out of a nightmarish storybook, or the cover of the greatest metal album never recorded. Esad Ribic really outdid himself this month. The final panel on page three brings it all home, and this entire sequence would be just as powerful without a word of dialogue or narration.

This is chapter four of the “God Butcher” story, and we’re almost at the end. It’s amazing that Jason Aaron has managed to maintain the “Thor of Three Eras” approach to this story for as long as he has, without it once feeling gimmicky or incoherent.  Aaron has played with chronology since the first issue, effortlessly switching between eras spanning thousands of years. This really could have turned into a mess. It hasn’t. A round of applause for Mr. Aaron, everyone!

While “future Thor” has been defeated at the end of time, “our” Thor is tearing his way through a batch of Gorr’s Berserkers  in Omnipotence City, before flying off to Chronux, “The Palace of Infinity,” in order to head Gorr off at the past, erm…I mean, the pass. You see, Gorr has a plan. And, as you might expect from a guy who calls himself “The God Butcher,” Gorr doesn’t exactly dream small.  Oh, and let’s not forget the Thor of the past, who spends most of this issue being tortured by Gorr, about a thousand years ago. Confused yet? Trust me; it makes perfect sense in the book.

I can’t help but feel that I’m watching what will come to be known as one of the definitive Thor stories unfold. And for a character who has extended runs by guys like Jack Kirby (talk about defining!) and Walt Simonson in his past, that’s no joke, boys and girls. Gorr is a terrifying baddie and tailor-made for cinema, as well. If he turns up in any of the Thor sequels, whether or not it ends up mirroring this story, it’ll be impressive. Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic have created a character who gives gods nightmares. It’s working on us mere mortals, too.

Story: 8/10

Art: 9/10

Overall: 9/10