February 21st, 2024

Rob's Picks:

Cobra Commander #2 - The Energon Universe has pushed the maturity of its titles a notch above their kid-friendly source material. The second issue of Cobra Commander takes things to another level. Commander has been dispatched from Cobra-la to find and take Earth's energon, chafing under the watch of his appointed guardian. Writer Joshua Williamson puts villainy front and center as our title character goes head to head with perhaps the only faction to have less regard for human life than him: the Dreadnoks. I’m not kidding; this one goes hard. Buzzer and Ripper waste no time demonstrating how they got their names in a brutal interrogation. Whether the violence in this issue is sudden or foreshadowed, artist Andrea Miller and colorist Annalisa Leoni ensure that the reader feels the shock of impact. While other books in this universe use action to thrill the reader, this one wants to disturb the audience. This issue is all the better for it, making a great case for just letting your villains be villains. We’ve seen so many bad-guy titles that look to find sympathy for the devil or take the turn from antagonist to antihero; the fact that this ostensibly young adult targeted series is willing to let its bad dudes be this bad is refreshing to say the least. This issue is another impressive showing from the Energon Universe. The creatives behind these comics truly understand the assignment.

Ultimate Spider-Man #2 - Issue number one brought us up to speed on the life of journalist and family man, the perfectly ordinary Peter Parker. It was an incredibly satisfying premiere, taking time to show the soon-to-be shattered status quo of this world, and allowing us to absorb new characters and altered dynamics. It was a perfect jumping-on point, and now that we’ve hit the ground running, this issue arrives with the web-slinging action that the first lacked. Jonathan Hickman doesn’t dial back on the sharp dialogue and the deliberate pacing but adds generous amounts of the action and humor we expect from Spidey. Having accepted the belated spider bite, Pete has begun to learn the ins and outs of his new abilities. More than a decade behind the learning curve means the occasional hard landing, but in just a few weeks, his fledgling heroics have begun to generate attention. For Wilson Fisk, under pressure from both this world's secret masters and an assassin in green armor, it is a needed distraction. Old newsmen J.J. Jameson and Ben Parker can smell a cover-up and decide to make this their first investigation as newly independent journalists. Peter learns some hard lessons about the superhero game in repeated encounters with a hi-tech robber, but starts giving out quips and punches in the way we’ve come to expect before too long. The Ultimate universe continues making a great first impression. This and Black Panther are setting a high bar for the upcoming Ultimate titles. If this is an indication of the quality we can expect from future books, this will be an amazing year for superhero comics.

Guardian of the Galaxy Annual #1 - The Grootfall saga comes to its end. This epic space opera gave our heroes an impossible challenge, to fight a losing battle against one of their own. Along the way, they’ve had to reckon with their pasts. In facing Groot, they have each faced themselves, both who they were and what they’ve grown to be. In their final desperate bid to save the manifold territories and their friend, the guardians stopped fighting and joined with Groot, hoping to not only end the destruction but to undo it. As is often the case, a reckless action by Starlord has imperiled their plans. The Spartoi have arrived to exact justice on their fugitive royalty and prevent Grootfall's final bloom. This arc has shown so much heart; its action and humor never distract from a story that is ultimately grounded in emotion. They all have regrets and learn a measure of acceptance. For Rocket, that means forgiving Groot for what he’s done and forgiving himself for what he’s done to stop it. No character is more changed by this story than Drax. From the beginning, we saw the destroyer in a far more reflective and at peace than ever before. It’s as though he’s been patiently waiting for the rest to arrive where he has, resigned to fate but not despairing. Comics haven't always known what to do with Drax post-Thanos, so this annual gives the character some long overdue catharsis.

Solomon's Picks:

Edge Of Spider-Verse #1 - Edge of Spider-Verse is back with three awesome new stories! Every entry in this book was nothing short of enjoyable, with each offering its own unique tone and style that appeals to a wide range of readers. The first story introduces the anonymous Weapon VIII, a ruthless Spider-Variant who hunts down superheroes in its home universe. The next entry is a cheeky “Street-Level” type story about Spider-Byte juggling her IRL/school life with her online superheroing responsibilities, and the final entry shows Miguel back in his timeline, fighting off a Hulk before having an ominous conversation with Madame Web about the future Spider-Society. Though I am usually turned away from the VR/Digital Superheroes, Spider-Byte’s story (by Nilah Magruder and Eric Gapstur) was surprisingly my favorite out of the bunch, with the energy of the story matching up most with what I love about the Spider-Themed heroes of Marvel, along with Spider-Byte being an extremely charismatic character. The dialogue and interactions definitely stood out in this story more than the other two, and I would love to see her character expanded upon more after the resurgence of popularity following her appearance in last year's Across The Spider-Verse! This was a pleasant and quick read so any die-hard Spidey fans should be sure to grab a copy today!

Ultimate Spider-Man #2 - Ultimate Spider-Man is already shaping up to be an iconic story with these first two issues. This issue finally gives readers what we’ve been waiting for with Peter donning a black suit and taking to the streets! As this version of Peter has been robbed of his original role, we see him make very amateur plays upon obtaining his powers, though he maintains the wise-guy, slightly awkward, and good-natured characteristics that we’ve all grown up with. While on a late-night patrol, he has a run-in with the Shocker who outsmarts Peter on two separate occasions. We also get to see more of Wilson Fisk’s plans for the Bugle, as well as Ben and Jonah’s plans for their new company. This story has the potential of being my favorite origin of Peter making the suit, with one of his children being the ones to draw/propose the iconic red and blue spider! I’m absolutely loving this older, more family-focused version of the character, and though it seems a portion of the community is anticipating something terrible to happen to disrupt his lifestyle, I’m hoping the responsibility Peter must learn in this arc is to balance both fatherhood and superheroing without losing one or the other. We’ve had enough Parker-Luck in 616 to last a lifetime, so the breath of fresh air Ultimate is offering this character is welcomed!

Animal Pound #2 - Another thought-provoking entry into this fantastic story! In the wake of the revolution, the remaining animals in the pound have found that, though they have liberated themselves from human rule, they had a new influx of problems to deal with. Rations were running low, and their more primitive instincts were beginning to take over. After an unfortunate murder, the animals decided they needed a strict system of laws, designated figures of authority, and everything that goes into a functional society. They set up a unique voting system, and towards the end of the issue, after much debate, finally elect a leader. These first two issues have been absolutely incredible and really showcase Tom King's strengths as a writer, being able to create a unique commentary on our own rigged power structures, the differences in equity and equality, who the law is made by/for, and much more! I’m sure I said this about the first issue, but this is one of those stories you find yourself reading over and over to catch all the little details and clever messaging. I’ve been loving Animal Pound, and I cannot recommend this book enough!