Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Nostalgia Review: Spider-Man #532-#538 The War At Home

The War At Home
Following last week's review of my first three issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, we'll continue through to issues #532-#538, titled "The War At Home" written by J. Michael Straczynski with Art By Ron Garney.

When we last left Peter Parker he was falling asleep after delaying the Super Human Registration Act whilst news of a disaster in Stamford, Connecticut played on the TV. This arc deals with Peter's intimate experience during the Super Hero Civil War including how he deals with his identity becoming public knowledge after Stark's urgency to unmask in public and to help re-enforce the call for heroes to register, fighting against Captain America and learning that he made the wrong decision. All of this comes with the family drama that Spider-Man is best known for and comes to a fantastic cliff hanger for the next arc

My first complaint about this arc though is that to get the absolute best out of it you have to read Civil War as well as these issues as you miss out on the key fights that happen in the event series and time-progression some times feels a little odd but, this arc does do what it sets out to do which is to present Peter's perspective of the event and how they effect not only him but, also Mary-Jane and Aunt May.

Straczynski once again shows his great handle on the Parkers, both in dialogue and the way they act and react and there's some really great scenes with Peter confronting Reed Richards, Tony Stark and other Pro-Registration heroes showing a different side to the character. The arc comes to a great second act where Peter realises he's made a mistake backing Stark and the rest of the Pro-Reg' heroes and the story takes a much more personal turn as Parkers become fugitives including a great fight scene between Spidey and Iron Man when he tries to defect to the opposite side. The arc ends with the King Pin putting a hit out on Spidey and the Parkers which, ends with Aunt May getting shot, all of this is done with great malevolence on the part of the King Pin with some real "because I can" sinister tones behind it which makes up for the lack of pacing due to the event title.

Ron Garney's for this arc really works to the strengths of the character and scenarios. His Spidey as always is lean and spindly but his Peter really shines through in showing the raw emotion of the character. Garney's composition really works in getting the most out of the script especially when Peter confronts the other heroes both physically and verbally, of course there's also great shots of Spidey web-slinging. The covers unfortunately feel cramped due to the big Civil War banner on each of them but Garney works well to try convey the main feel of the issue (or at least an image of what's happening in Civil War).

Overall this arc does it's job to both move the story forward and show Pete's side of The Civil War event and how a person can be at conflict with themselves in abiding by the law or doing what's right by yourself. It does lose marks because of the reliance on the main event book but, it gives great gravity to the situation by adding a single perspective of the every man that Peter is supposed to represent.

I give this arc a 6.5 out of 10. A good read for Spidey fans but, falls short because it's not the complete story.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Nostalgia Review:Spider-Man #529-#531 Mr. Parker Goes to Washington

Here we are for the first Amazing Spider-Man nostalgia review. Part of the reason why I wanted to review my back issues was to firstly to make good use of the money I spent buying them back and secondly to see the high and low points of the series and more importantly when I felt that the quality slipped that it made me sell them in the first place. I started collecting right on the cusp of the event series Civil War so it's a bit of a deep dive for people completely unfamiliar with the character but, for me it was the beginning.

Now being that this arc took place over 6 years ago I'm not going to give warning of spoilers so, with out further ado let's review The Amazing Spider-Man: Mr. Parker Goes to Washington (issues #529, #530, #531), written by J. Michael Straczynski with Art by Ron Garney (#529) and Tyler Kirkham.

These issues act as a warm up to Spidey's participation in the Marvel event 'Civil War' and whilst aren't fully needed it gives a great background for readers to fill in blanks when the Civil War tie-in issues begin.

This arc opens with Peter and Mary-Jane being woken up by Tony Stark via an intercom styled as a bird statue (it seems a few issues ago Stark ask Pete and M.J. to come live at the Avengers Tower), he announces that he has something to show Peter, this being a new Spider-Man costume as the original "was just...cloth", Stark goes through the features of the suit mentioning that it has resistance to small arm ballistics, has the ability to glide and of course an onboard computer like everything else Stark builds, at this point I'm surprised Jarvis hasn't been put into an android body yet.

Stark works on the Iron Spider Suit
Pete takes the new "Iron Spider" Suit out for a try when some thieves are trying to get away from the cops in a stolen car. We see Pete make use of the gliding as a means to bypass the fact there was nothing near by to swing a web from to get to the vehicle along with  a cool couple of pages of apprehending the ne'erdowells  along with a scene where one of the suspects tries shoots at Spidey only to have the bullet fall to the ground, the cops take the thieves into custody and Spidey swings off. The issue caps with Pete asking what the catch is for the new suit and Stark outright tells him that he needs his unwavering trust and that he needs support in Washington tomorrow when he faces a group of senators to try revoke the upcoming Super Human Registration Act.

The next two issues take place in Washington where Tony and Peter meet with a board of politicians to try talk them out of approving the Registration Act. There's a nice bit with Tony explaining he's upgraded Pete's suit over night to be able to change the physical appearance of the costume and even go invisible so that he doesn't have to worry about street clothes and it now comes with three mechanical legs that pop out of the back. This issue has some nice characterisation of politics in that the duo are doing terribly at swaying their opening with Pete even learning a thing or two about how politics work (which also teaches the reader somewhat but don't go getting your law degree based off this!). During a recess of the meeting Titanium Man who has been watching the pair since they landed strikes and tries to attack Tony with Pete stepping in as Spidey to trade punches with mechanical menace.

During the fight Titanium Man announces that the death of Stark would lead to the Bill's approval which would then result in all of America turning against it's super heroes (like Russia did apparently). Spidey uses his new extra legs to damage Titanium Man's helmet resulting in him retreating. Back in the hearing room Tony is still debating with the Politicians using footage recorded from Spidey's mask of Titanium Man's scheme to sway the result, the board retort how do you have any proof this is real? When Spidey enters and announces he was there and why the registration act would endanger his and other heroes family, unfortunately because his identity is unknown the board cannot accept his testimony proving that there maybe a need for the registration act.

The arc ends with Tony talking to Pete about how it's good that he stood up for his morals and spoke his mind and that the bill has been delayed. The epilogue shows Iron Man meeting Titanium Man and passing over a briefcase of money for successfully attack Stark and helping in swaying the boards decision to pass the bill there and then but, Titanium Man warns him that America's government may well turn on the heroes sooner than they think and that Stark will find himself collecting briefcases of money in the near future. The last pages focuses on Peter as he falls asleep in front of the TV after a hard day as the speaker announces a terrible tragedy has befallen Stamford, Connecticut and Speedball is to blame.

Pete learns about Poltics and at the same time, we do!
These three issues are a great way to gear up for Civil War Stracznyski has a great way with dialogue in that Peter feels exactly how you would expect the character to sound like an average guy but is still very intelligent. The way he captures the board room scenes with Tony and Pete being out-debated by the politicians really gives the bill some weight (as it should do with it being the cause of the upcoming event), there's also scenes of good humour which what Spider-man needs as without it there's no heart to the series. The way the epilogue sets up the next story arc is very subtle compared to other comics and it works so well as it invests you on a level of intrigue rather than a cliff hanger.

Ron Garney's art captures the world of Spider-Man very well too, Spidey looks lean but not too muscular the way he sets up panels is dynamic that it flows well when you read it and there's no confusion to what's happening. Most Importantly the design for the new suit works on many levels too, you can tell it's designed by Stark with the colour design but it's also quite minimalistic compared to the ol' red and blue whilst re-enforcing where Pete's alligence lies. Tyler Kirkham's art does the job but it doesn't quite capture the feel of Spidey's world as well but does capture the awe that the character feels when standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial extremely well.

This arc is very political based and shows a different kind of threat facing super heroes but also reminds us that sometimes we should face our own politicians and in that sense draws great comparison between the story and the reader, the art is dynamic and tells the story well and the characters are portrayed extremely well with a good few humourous bits thrown in. If you've only read Amazing Spider-Man: Civil War go back and check this precursor out as it shows interesting character development like Tony being opposed to the Registration Act but also that he would not fight against his government.

Overall I give this three-issue arc 7/10.

Come back next Time when I'll be reviewing the Civil War Arc  (#532-#538)!

Monday, 15 April 2013

One Bartkira down, four to go

I've had a busy past two weeks but so far I've got my first page of Bartkira done, I decided to do it with pen and paper as I found the stuff I was doing digitally didn't feel up to scratch (sorry for the crappy photo, I should be getting a scanner soon though). Also checking out the comparison to the original page, I don't think I did too bad of a job.

This was a good challenging exercise that should improve my comicing skills especially my difficulty with backgrounds aswell as drawing people interacting. I think my inks could have been a bit better and for my next page I'm going to use my drawing table instead of just my computer desk with is riddled with knife marks from my younger days of making Warhammer models so, hopefully the next page will look at least 5x times better.

I'm still really pleased to be a part of this project and it's fun to draw really detailed stylised simpsons especially with their mouth shapes.

Don't forget to check my tumblr (link is found to the right) for more frequent updates on my Bartkira pages and don't forget to click on the Bartkira Tag on there too to see everyone else's contribution, the ones already completed are mind blowingly awesome! Check here>>>>

The Amazing Spider-Man or, Fandom Strikes.

Back in December 2012, Marvel released The Amazing Spider-Man #700, inside that issue a certain event happened that made me incredibly disappointed with the whole creative team who made that issue and it's previous issues leading up to this event.

I felt that it was rushed and smeared the character's history and defining moments all for a gimmick, my reaction in hindsight was one full of passion but at the same time. The way I dealt with this feeling, looking back on it was idiotic at the very least.

Due to one issue and a change to the status quo I sold all of my Amazing Spider-Man issues that I had been collecting since I was 15, over 7 years of collecting (#529-#700) and reading stories about one of my favorite characters. After ASM#700 the title relaunched with this change in status quo still in place as The Superior Spider-Man, I was determined not to read it but as the issues came out my comic reading felt some what empty without Spider-Man or Peter Parker.

Several months later I decided that I needed Spider-Man back in my life but not just the new series, the issues that I had also sold too but they had to be the ones that I had bought myself  I was incredibly lucky in that the comics dealer I had sold my issues to still had them and had only sold issues #698, #699 and #700 and I could accept that I would have to hunt them down myself (Which now I thankfully have!). I got off lucky with this mistake but I've learned my lesson which is if you really love the character never get swayed by one issue as with all super hero comics it'll eventually go back to status quo.

So, with my comics back I've decided to make the re-purchase of them worth it. I'll be posting a review of each story arc and pin point great stories from the lesser ones, I'll also be boosting my digital painting skills and portfolio by doing illustrations of key plot points of costume changes as best as I can so, to celebrate this I've started off by doing a tribute to the classic spidey pin-up which served as the cover to ASM #300 (drawn by Todd McFarlane). This is only the second time I've done a large photoshop piece but I think I'm getting faster at it, there are some anatomy issues but that comes both from inexperience with the tablet and using the original picture from reference. Overall though I'm proud of this piece and it serves as a good start to this little side project and I can't wait to start reading Spidey again!

It's good to have you back boys!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Check This Out: Godzilla: The Half Century War

Last week the final issue of "Godzilla: The Half Century War" was released and with it concluded one of the best Godzilla stories ever!

Written and drawn by James Stokoe (Orc Stain, Sulivan's Sluggers), this 5 part series tells the tale of the arrival and key battles of Godzilla through the eyes of a soldier. I highly recommend this short series to anyone who enjoys comics as I didn't pick this up because I was a fan of Godzilla, what caught my eye was the stunning artwork, with a mix of eastern and western artistic influences, Stokoe builds fantastic imagery that's never boring to look at, even panels that just feature people talking is dynamic and interesting to look at and of course the most important thing, Godzilla and all his fellow monsters look bitching! All of this ties together so well with Stokoe's use of inks and unconventional colour choices and gradients that it really is just a please to flick through and even more to stop and read and just let it all soak in.

The story itself is really ingenious too, I've seen some Godzilla films and they're generally dip when it focuses on human characters often because they're quite two-dimensional but, Half Century War differs in that the story is told solely from the perspective of Japanese soldier Lieutenant Ota, the reader gets to hear Ota's intimate thoughts on Godzilla as he soon becomes obsessed with trying to understand the King of Monsters and the situation he's be put in time and time again by the creature, this really helps capture the sense of Godzilla as this towering unstoppable force of nature and humans are powerless against it.

(Stokoe captures the visual representation of Godzilla's Trademark roar perfectly.)

Half Century War is definitely a pulp read as it's doesn't try to pretend it's more sophisticated than it really is and just delivers on a really compelling read with kickass art that would be great stepping on point for anyone interested in getting into Godzilla films or comics but with Half Century War being so good, it may be a tall order to beat within the franchise. 

So, go, go now! And try track down all the parts that make up this fantastic story or wait until May 21st when IDW will be releasing the Graphic Novel which will collect all issues. I can't say enough how good this little series is so please, please give it a try!