Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder

moon girl and devil dinosaurMarvel seems to be switching up plot lines every couple years, but the one that is all over my radar right now revolves around the inhumans. Do I have a basic understanding of what’s going on with the inhumans? Yes. Do I feel qualified to explain it to someone else? No, not really, but I can certainly muddle my way through and look up a good explanation. Since I’m not a fan of having to rely on something else to fill my knowledge holes, I decided to look up inhumans. I struck gold.

I discovered Moon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur, a juvenile Marvel graphic novel, about Lunella Lafayette, a preteen genius who also happens to be an inhuman. Lunella, aka Moon Girl, wants to change the world and is using her genius to create inventions that are helping her. Slight problem though. Ever since Lunella discovered that she has a latent inhuman gene, she’s been terrified of the terrigen mist cloud that is encroaching on New York City that will change her into something inhuman, something she isn’t even remotely prepared for. Lucky for Lunella because she has a plan. She has been chasing something called an omni-wave projector and she thinks she knows where it is.

Everything seems to be working out for Lunella until she finds the omni-wave projector and then a giant red-scaled beast, a devil dinosaur, is teleported from the pre-historic past to today! to a bustling New York City. With the devil dinosaur comes the Killer-Folk, prehistoric savages that want the Omni-wave projector too. Lunella finds herself battling monster hunters and the killer-folk at the same time as she is dealing with school and her parents. Getting into a good school and changing the world is proving to be more difficult than Lunella thought it would be!

All-New Captain America, Volume 1: Hydra Ascendant

all-new captain americaCaptain America is a widely loved and widely known superhero, one who fights for good against evil while decked out in red, white, and blue. The origin story of Captain America is fairly well-known following Steve Rogers’ journey to ultimate patriotic superhero. Movies both starring Cap as the major protagonist and also as a supporting character backing up the Avengers helped bring up his popularity.

What happens when Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, becomes too old to fight? All-New Captain America, Volume 1: Hydra Ascendant follows the story of Sam Wilson, formerly known as Falcon, as he assumes his new role as Captain America. Sam is selected for this role after the original Captain America Steve Rogers is robbed of his strength and vitality, leaving Steve to pick from a pool of viable candidates to find the next Captain America. Sam is chosen. He must learn to hone the skills that he developed as Falcon in order to become the best Captain America he can be, one that has the power to stand up and fight without being weighed down by emotions, revenge, or vendettas.

Cap finds a sidekick in his friend, Nomad. They work together to combat Hydra, only to discover that Hydra has infiltrated every aspect of society around the world. Nomad and Cap must rush to figure out Hydra’s ultimate plan, battle the Sect of the Unknown, and try to combat old villains as Steve Rogers’ band of villainous enemies start coming out of the woodwork to take down the new Cap and join Hydra. Sam and Nomad battle against the new generation members of Hydra, working out their battle techniques and trying to figure out what massive world-dominating plot this far-reaching network of super villains has in store. Once they figure it out, will they be able to stop or will this new band of fighting heroes be relegated to the sidelines as the public clamors for its original superheroes to come back and save the day? This new graphic novel definitely caught my interest and has me wanting to learn more about this new Captain America and his comrades.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Vol 1, Squirrel Power

unbeatable squirrel girlI’m forever looking for graphic novels beyond the usual scope of muscle-bound, male-centered superheroes out to save the world. With the influx recently of all things Deadpool related and then subsequently all things Batman vs. Superman related, I needed a comic palette cleanser. My dilemma quickly fixed itself when I found copies of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Volume 1, Squirrel Power on the shelves(I’m in the midst of reading volume 2, as volume 1 quickly caught my attention).

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Volume 1, Squirrel Power introduces readers to Squirrel Girl, a very upbeat superhero who just happens to have partial squirrel blood running through her veins. If the thought of having to introduce yourself to yet another new superhero sounds a bit daunting, never fear! Squirrel Girl was actually introduced to the world in 1992 with her current creators paying homage to her previous comic book life by including Marvel Super-Heroes vol. 2 #8 as the very last issue in this trade paperback. Readers are given a look inot how the original creators envisioned Squirrel Girl and are also privy to the previous art styles and drawings of characters like Iron Man and Doctor Doom, since Squirrel Girl is out seeking a partner. Current creators, North and Henderson, are sure to reference back to her origins throughout their new reiteration of Squirrel Girl, talking about her first encounters with Iron Man as she is currently involved in new hijinks.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Volume 1, Squirrel Power follows Doreen Green, Squirrel Girl’s alter-ego, an alter-ego she adapts so that she can become a regular college student. If you’re looking for more background information about Squirrel Girl, she kindly provides that for you within the first few pages of this book by singing her theme song (Wondering what tune it’s sung to? It’s the Spider-Man theme song!) Squirrel Girl has the proportional strength and speed of a squirrel and, of course, the giant squirrel tail that she has to tuck into her pants in order to appear normal. Doreen is trying to balance school, boys, dorm life with her roommate Nancy and Nancy’s cat Mew, battles with super villains, and the fact that she can both talk to squirrels and they can understand her. This first volume is a fun introduction to an incredibly upbeat and dynamic female superhero who is struggling to find her place between two very different worlds.

Ant-Man

ant-man movieAnt-Man is a Marvel creation that most recently came out as a movie starring Paul Rudd as Scott Lang and Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym. Dr. Pym was the original Ant-Man, the one who discovered the Pym Particle, a substance that had the ability to shrink items, most importantly a suit. He became Ant-Man and his wife became the Wasp. After a devastating accident, Dr. Pym hid away the formula and the process to find the Pym Particle, locking the suit away.

Flash forward to the present and viewers are introduced to Scott Lang, a burglar who has just been released from jail and is trying to turn his life around so that he can be in his daughter’s life. His roommate and a few friends approach him with the chance of a lifetime: they heard about a rich man who has a safe in his basement and if Scott can crack it, then they will be set financially for a long time. This heist changes Scott’s life and puts him in the sightline of a very powerful man, former Ant-Man Dr. Pym. Giving Scott a chance to reform his life and atone for his past crimes, Dr. Pym presents him with the opportunity to protect the Ant-Man suit and the formula from a group of scientists who wish to harness the power for dubious reasons. Dr. Pym mentors Scott in the ways to use the suit and how to harness all of its powers, while Scott works to change his life for the better. This movie is an excellent introduction to the background of Ant-Man and provides viewers with some pretty spectacular effects, while also keeping the mood light yet fill of action and adventure.


ant-man bookMoving further down the timeline is Nick Spencer’s Ant-Man. In this volume, Ant-Man is older, somewhat more mature, and has worked with a variety of other superheroes. Just because he’s older doesn’t mean he has become a better superhero though. Throughout this graphic novel, it’s pointed out to Scott that he isn’t even the best Ant-Man and that some people still think he’s dead.

Scott is still trying to better his life and provide for his daughter, something that this graphic novel shows has not been without some significant difficulty. Scott thinks he has it made when Iron Man calls and offers him a job, but quickly realizes that he’s only one of many candidates and just because he’s worked with Iron Man before doesn’t mean he is going to get the job. The realization that his ex-wife is moving with his daughter to Florida and a rumble with an old foe throws Scott off-balance, leaving him to try a new business venture that takes Scott and his family down a dangerous path where he is forced to see that what he thinks is right for his family and what is actually right for his family are two very different things.

What I liked best about this graphic novel is that if you are confused about something that is happening, the writers have written in explanations and have also provided you with the issue numbers of the different graphic novels that will help you to fill in the holes. Plus Scott does a lot of reflective thinking, so that helps. It’s brilliant! Check out this graphic novel for a more sarcastic and humanized approach to a superhero who is just trying to get his life together.

Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee and Peter David and Colleen Doran

amazing fantastic incredibleIf you think of Marvel, chances are the first name you think of is Stan Lee. He has become the face and name most closely affiliated with Marvel and rightfully so. Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir is Stan Lee’s memoir and it’s not like your traditional memoir. This book is a fabulously illustrated graphic memoir done in full color that gives you a birth until present glimpse into the life of Stan Lee.

With Marvel just recently celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary, the release of this graphic novel comes at a high point when Marvel is once again at the center of awareness. Stan Lee is the most legendary name in the history of comic books and this graphic memoir will answer questions about his life and work history that anyone from comic newbie to comic guru may have.

Following Lee’s life from a small boy in an apartment to his current venture of traveling and speaking in venues around the world, this book gives readers a glimpse into the life of the comic legend and co-creator of Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, and many, many other superheroes. Stan Lee changed the superhero game by insisting his superheroes/villains/other characters were complex characters, dealt with personal issues and used wit in order to give readers more relatable superheroes. He read other characters as flat portrayals of the age-old story of good vs. evil and wanted to bring out the human qualities of these superhuman heroes. This graphic memoir illustrates the life and times as Stan Lee as he first broke into the comic industry and effectively changed comics as the world knows them today.

This book is chock full of advice for writers, readers, illustrators, and anyone else who has a dream that they want to follow, despite what other people may be saying to them. Believing in yourself and not giving up are two of the main themes that are consistent throughout this memoir, reminding readers this through speeches and also through the stories of the superheroes that he created and was able to successfully launch into the mainstream public. Whether you’re a comic fan, love Marvel, or are wanting to learn more, I highly recommend this graphic novel as a look into Stan Lee’s past and the overall history of both Marvel and the cast of superheroes that he created.

 

Spider-Gwen, Vol. 0: Most Wanted by Jason Latour

spider-gwenSo if you’re not aware, a major event has unfolded in the Marvel Universe resulting in the Spider-Verse, the biggest Spider-event in history. In Spider-Verse, this November 2014 debut event began with Morlun announcing the Great Hunt, where he and his family would hunt down and kill every Spider-totem/Spider-creature in the Multiverse. As numerous Spider-themed superheroes were being killed, they realized that they needed to band together, so Spider-Man decided to create a team to help fight against all of the villains. This event launched multiple storylines with villains across the different universes launching their own nefarious plans to take down the different Spider-heroes in their own specific universes.

All of this background information leads to Spider-Gwen, Vol. 0: Most Wanted. In an alternate universe, Earth-65 to be exact, Gwen Stacy is alive, having never been thrown off the Brooklyn Bridge by the Green Goblin. In Earth-65, it isn’t Peter Parker that is bitten by the radioactive spider, it is in fact Gwen Stacy, who then becomes Spider-Gwen, also known as Spider-Woman.

Spider-Gwen, Vol. 0: Most Wanted focuses on the life of Gwen Stacy after the death of Peter Parker. Gwen is wrestling with Peter’s death for two reasons: 1) he died in her arms and 2) everyone is blaming Spider-Gwen for his death when in reality, it wasn’t her fault at all. In this universe, Gwen is in a band called the Mary Janes, and shortly after becoming Spider-Gwen, Peter Parker experiments and in trying to become more like Gwen, he becomes the Lizard, which ultimately leads to his death. A man-hunt begins with everyone looking for Spider-Gwen and J Jonah Jameson leading a giant smear campaign against her in the papers and with Gwen’s own father, Captain George Stacy, leading the hunt to capture Gwen.

This first volume is especially intriguing to read because in addition to all of the superhero problems Gwen is facing, she is also dealing with the drama of being in an all-girl rock band and trying to find a balance between her personal and private lives. I highly recommend you check out this graphic novel because it will go more in-depth into Gwen’s world and will allow you to compare the “normal” Spider-man universe with the universe where Gwen has the spider powers.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis

miles morales ultimate spidermanMiles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man is a graphic novel that introduces the world to a brand new Spider-Man. In this world, Peter Parker has been killed in a major superhero-villain brawl and everyone is left in the lurch, mourning the loss of Spider-Man, dealing with the fall-out of learning his identity, and coming to terms with the fact that they don’t have a hero anymore. Along this same storyline, runs the story of junior high student, Miles Morales, and the various happenings of him and his family.

Miles lives with his parents and has his name entered in the lottery to go to a charter school, instead of a public school. After learning his school fate, Miles heads to his Uncle Aaron’s apartment, his dad’s brother, the one person that he is constantly told to stay away from. Once there, Miles is bitten by a spider with a number written on its back, a spider that escaped from Norman Osborn’s laboratory in Uncle Aaron’s bag while he was robbing the place. Everything seems normal until Miles runs out of the apartment and discovers that he can turn invisible. With that one discovery, his life is turned completely upside-down.

With his roommate, Ganke, being the only person who knows he has spider-like powers, Miles wrestles with what to do. Was he given these powers for a reason? Should he become a new Spider-man since the old one is deceased? What will his dad, a vocal non-supporter of any kind of mutant activity, think of him? How will he balance fighting crime and being a normal every-day junior high student? These questions and more are answered in this collection as Miles begins to fight crime, is introduced to Nick Fury and various members of the Avengers, and as he struggles to deal with balancing family, school, and his brand new superhero life. The author has added in some twists that are guaranteed to make you question everything that you think you’ve learned about the old Spider-Man and the new Spider-Man.

Thor: God of Thunder by Jason Aaron

thor god butcherI have always found Thor to be very intriguing. An immortal God growing up in his father Odin’s shadow, listening to tales of war and the defeating of enemies and subsequently struggling to lift Mjolnir, his magic hammer, when he was younger because he wasn’t worthy yet. In the Marvel movies, viewers get some flashbacks of Thor’s life, but not as much as I was looking for. Instead of digging into Norse mythology, I decided to look at the graphic novels available at the library to see what background they could provide me. That was where I found Jason Aaron’s run of Thor.

Thor: God Of Thunder, Volume 1: The God Butcher is the first volume in Aaron’s run that gives readers an insight into Marvel NOW!’s interpretation of Thor. I found this graphic novel to be confusing, yet ultimately rewarding because it filled in many of the wholes that I had about Thor’s upbringing and his motivations for behaving the way that he does.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty: The reason I found this graphic novel to be confusing is because of the story line. In this first volume, Thor is on the hunt for the God Butcher after discovering floating body parts of a God in a river after a fight. The horror in the eyes of the deceased God catapults Thor on a hunt that defines his actions for the entirety of his life. This graphic novel is a prime example of why you MUST pay attention to the artwork in order to follow the storyline. This volume is essentially three Thor stories being told at once: past Thor, present Thor, and future Thor, all on a quest to hunt down and kill the God Butcher who has made it HIS mission to kill all of the Gods across all of the worlds. Differentiating between past Thor and present Thor is a little difficult, but there are wardrobe and art style clues that will help key you in to what Thor you are actually looking at. This first volume of Thor is perfect to set up the rest of the series’ run because it introduces a villain that even Thor has trouble defeating, the idea that gods are vanishing and no one is aware or really even cares, and that this is a problem that has taken thousands of years to solve, yet still hasn’t been fixed. (Bonus: There is a Lord Librarian who has WINGS and who Thor goes to for help!) The back stories of both Thor and the God Butcher are exquisitely thought through and Ribic’s artistic descriptions of Thor’s struggles really show the darkness of this seemingly eternal fight. Check this out and let me know what you think!

Black Widow: Volume 2: The Tightly Tangled Web by Nathan Edmondson

the tightly tangled webIf I sounded impressed with my review of the first volume of Nathan Edmondson’s Black Widow a few weeks ago, then I can firmly tell you that his second volume, Black Widow: The Tightly Tangled Web intrigued me even more. This volume shows you that Black Widow is indeed a human capable of feelings. (If that statement made you roll your eyes, let me explain.) In the first volume, and really throughout any of the Avengers movies, the Black Widow, aka Natasha, is shown as a cold,  yet ruthless, killing machine, one who will do whatever it takes to complete her mission, an M.O. that makes perfect sense since she used to be a KGB assassin. Edmondson expands upon Natasha’s past in this second volume, allowing readers a glimpse behind the dark curtain that hides Natasha’s true self.

Black Widow: The Tightly Tangled Web tackles the bigger idea of superheroes as a whole. In both volumes, readers see Natasha as part of the Avengers and SHIELD, going on missions for them, but also going on side jobs in order to atone for her past life as a KGB assassin. Once the Black Widow is seemingly outed through media footage splashed all over the news, other superheroes, SHIELD operatives, and the regular public are forced to question the idea of superheroes operating outside the reach of the law.

Another ongoing thread in this second volume focuses on the people who come and go in Natasha’s life. In San Francisco, Natasha runs into her ex Matt Murdock, also known as Daredevil, while hunting for cyber terrorists. On what she thinks is a simple mission in Prague, Natasha finds herself face to face with the Winter Soldier, who unbeknownst to her is there to stop the train from being robbed. Later, she runs into the Punisher, aka Frank Castle, a former Marine turned vigilante, while searching for information about a deadly criminal network that seems to be running communications off of the boat she is searching.

Add in a run-in with Hawkeye and this second volume reads less like a stand-alone Black Widow volume and more like a combination superhero graphic novel, which I found to be equally disappointing and riveting. I did enjoy the interactions she had with each person because it added an extra layer of depth to Natasha as a human being and highlighted important aspects of her past and her personality that would have been missed if readers were only privy to the conversations between her and her attorney, Isaiah. (Isaiah seems to be her closest friend and confidante and the doozy of a mess that Natasha finds herself in in this second volume comes back to harm Isaiah.) I just wish this volume had been more of a focus on Black Widow, more of a true stand-alone comic. I personally can’t wait for Edmondson’s new issues of Black Widow because it sounds like they will show more about her background.

Black Widow: Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson

bw finely woven threadWhen I watch any of the Avengers movies or really any movie about a superhero, I get really excited because it gives me more of a chance to understand each of their backstories. Sadly, one of the Avengers doesn’t have her own movie and it’s the one that I have the most questions about: the Black Widow. I’ve had to exhaust other sources to learn more about this infamous former KGB assassin and why she is on a mission to atone for her past sins.

My newest Black Widow source of information is Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmonson. (This is currently part of a series, so stay tuned for my review of the second volume whenever I can get my hands on a copy!) In this first volume, readers are introduced to the mysterious Natasha, who is known to her friends and enemies alike as the Black Widow. When she’s not helping the Avengers or on missions as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha is working to make up for her past as a KGB assassin. She still utilizes the tools and tricks she learned as an assassin, but is now able to pick and choose the missions that she goes on. In this volume, she finds herself thrust up against the “Hand of God” on an undercover mission in Russia. With the mention of Chaos, she quickly finds herself entangled in a deadly plot that has wrapped its web across the globe. No one is safe from Chaos’ grasp, not her close friends or even her employers.

This first volume mainly introduces readers to the sorts of missions that Natasha goes on and the people that are closest to her. She’s still cold-hearted, but as you follow Natasha through her missions and through her interactions with the stray cat by her apartment, you realize that she is working to better herself the only way she knows how. It gives a little more depth to the character of the Black Widow that Scarlett Johansson plays in the Avengers movies. This volume gives you enough information about present day Natasha to understand how she operates and gives you very little information about her past, just enough to leave you curious and hopeful that the subsequent volumes will explore more about her past.

In Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread, Edmondson has written an introduction into the Black Widow that allows for the truly artistic work of artist Phil Noto to shine. Throughout this graphic novel, Noto varies the colors used and the way he draws to highlight different scenes and the many different places where Natasha travels. The mysterious nature of Natasha as the Black Widow is elevated by the dark colors and stylized way of drawing the Noto employs. Edmondson’s words serve to add another layer of depth to Natasha’s character, since she’s primarily alone and spends a lot of time thinking out her next actions in her head.