Staff Picks – Week of 07/05/2014

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #1
Brian Michael Bendis (w), David Marquez (a)
Marvel Comics

Adam says: Far and away the most consistently rewarding book of the Ultimate line since the arrival of young Mr. Morales on the scene in 2011 (and prior to that too), Ultimate Spider-Man has truly suffered in the last year from its absorption into various crossovers and events. Sure, it is something of a tired observation, but remarkable in this case, precisely because this book had garnered and has consequently lost tremendous acclaim and more importantly, genuine enthusiasm. Instead of being given the room to develop on its own terms, it feels as though Miles Morales was ushered into the role of saviour of the Ultimate Universe. When not anchored to anything other than his own tidy corner of continuity though, Bendis and Marquez really fly on this series. This re-launched, re-numbered first issue appears to mark a return to confined stories focused on Miles and his stellar support cast. Its pages packed with heart, tension, pathos and humour, this has all the hallmarks of a true Spider-Man comic. Miles Morales #1 is an ideal point of entry or re-entry for new and lapsed readers alike: a great teen superhero comic book all around.

The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952 Vol. 1 Paperback Edition
Charles M. Schulz (w/a)

Ryan says: Most of us grew up with Schulz’s “Peanuts” in some form or another. For me, it was watching the Snoopy movies on VHS tapes recorded from the television. I don’t think I ever really understood the humour as a young kid in front of my grandma’s TV set, but I still felt really attached to the characters. So when I saw this wonderful collection of reprinted (with some never printed) strips of the original Peanuts series, the child in me simply couldn’t say no.
I love the early style Charles Schulz began with in this book; though somewhat more limited in design, in my opinion the characters seem to be more expressive than their latter incarnations (and it’s obviously something that Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes” must’ve evolved from). And of course, it’s always interesting to watch an artist’s style develop into something uniquely their own.
The sense of humour is very much of its time, which is obviously part of the charm of this series, but at the same time very relatable, making it something that can easily be enjoyed by new readers as well as long-time fans. I’m hoping there’s lots more to come in this paperback format, as they’re loaded with more content than the hardcover editions, and as they’re concise gags, it makes for an ideal coffee table book.

Original Sin #1
Jason Aaron (w), Mike Deodato (a)
Liz says: There’s nothing I love more than a good old-fashioned murder mystery, especially if it’s happening at the center of the Marvel Universe and is being written by Jason Aaron. Anyone who’s read ‘Scalped’ knows that the man is a master of setup and deliciously drawn-out suspense. So with the Watcher murdered, a killer at large and a ripple of ominous repercussions shivering out across the cosmos, Original Sin looks set to be just my type of summer reading.
The first issue deals in a lot of setup, in a good way. Also good is that this story features a key role for the original Nick Fury, who has mostly been out of the picture since the Brubaker Captain America books wrapped up. Informed of the Watcher’s demise, Fury reluctantly consents to lead a team of players from all corners of the Marvel Universe. Unlikely team-ups abound, from the Punisher and Doctor Strange to Emma Frost and Ant Man, and the characterization and humour keep things fresh and even fun despite the grim circumstances. I love the cast of characters, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them interact further.
So who killed that Watcher? Why did they do it, and what didn’t they want him to see? I love the opening pages of a good murder mystery, when it’s just those basic questions and the clues and conspiracies are yet to come. And what I think I like best about Original Sin is that it’s a twist on your standard Event Book, something darker, more unpredictable and hopefully worthy of the great whodunnits I know Jason Aaron can deliver. Let’s see what happens next.

Locke and Key Artist’s Edition Portfolio
Gabriel Rodriguez (a)
Thomas says: Gabriel Rodriguez’ art is great and especially so on Locke and Key so when I saw this in Previews a few months back I actually became excited, more so when I saw it in the delivery for this week. Then I opened it.
I was not too impressed with the choice of pages that were included and would have preferred at least one page of sequential art instead of just splash pages. Another issue I had was with the choice of pages since they were, for want of a better term, generic.
Having said all of that it is a great, beautiful volume. It’s at a nice size and is designed simply and straightforward as a folio with the pages loose in a pocket inside. The quality of both the paper and the printing is as high as you would expect from IDW who genuinely excel in this area. Quibbles aside it’s a great idea and was definitely worth the price and is something that I will happily recommend.

Burn The Orphanage: Reign of Terror #1
Sina Grace/Daniel Freedman (w), Sina Grace (a)
Image Comics

Chris says: It was a really strong week for comics this time around … Either that or I just chose not to read a lot of crap. In reality, it’s probably a little of column A and a little of column B. Whatever the answer, there was a lot to choose from. A lot of things I might have chosen were already taken – and that’s fine, because I was more than happy to shine a light on the new Burn The Orhanage mini-series, Reign of Terror. As always this book defies categorisation and expectation, and I’m not even sure if it’s a mini or ongoing. What I do know is that Sina and Daniel plan to deliver a monthly dose of Rock, Lex, Bear & friends – and that once again their world has been turned upside down. For me, the real fun of BTO is not just the in-jokes and the continuing evolution of the series, it’s also the wonderful pop-cultural Easter Eggs littered throughout. You could read and enjoy this issue without going on the hunt, but I prefer to find what I can – it says something about the creators and the kind of book they’re trying to create. I know a lot of people don’t agree with me on this, and the book seems to be a lot like Marmite – you either love it or hate it – but I strongly recommend trying it out to see which camp you fall in. Sina’s art keeps improving issue after issue, and there’s some wonderful variant covers employed on each issue. Normally I’m happy with Sina’s cover, but this time I was totally hooked on Andy Belanger’s work … Sadly it probably meant some time away from working on Black Church 2, but the results were stunning! I would definitely check in with the issue before you decide to just Burn The Orphanage.

The Woods #1
James Tynion IV (w) Michael Dialynas (a) Josan Gonzalez (c)
BOOM! Studios

Taylor says: I’m very, very interested in what BOOM! are doing, as they keep producing original, progressive comics from up-and-coming creators and big names alike. Even if I don’t love everything they publish, I feel like they’re the publisher comics really needs. The Woods, though, was the title I’d been least anticipating, as Tynion’s work at DC has left me cold, while Dialynas was largely unknown to me, nice visuals on Dark Horse’s Amala’s Blade aside.
Man, was I happy to be wrong! Sketching young characters with relatable motivations, Tynion’s pared-back dialoguing is in perfect sync with Dialynas’s subtle body language and clever framing choices. The concept itself, a school mysteriously and instantaneously transported to an alien world, is served well by Gonzalez’s palette, heavy on the purples and blacks for a sci-fi/horror tint. Tynion avoids getting bogged down in practicalities and establishes his small band of protagonists quickly, without skimping on the web of small interactions that make this kind of cast compelling. Even if the archetypes aren’t unfamiliar, each character has a hook, and not in the obvious, patronising “this girls cuts herself” or “this guy’s Dad beats on him” way some larger publishers rely on. Yes, I’m looking at you, DC.
By the end of this first issue, as our handful of risk-takers make for the eponymous Woods, having chosen active danger over passive peril, I was rooting for a couple of them to prove themselves, and dying to know who’s running the show. Pretty good result for a book I only read in the spirit of open-mindedness, right?

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