Marvel's Dark Ages begins this week, with the Thing, Sue Storm, Spider-Man, and Black Panther on the cover, masked in shadow.

Dark Ages #1 & Comic Book Reviews 9/1

Dark Ages brings us to another awesome alternate universe where any hero can die. Tom Taylor brings his style of storytelling to the Marvel universe and I expect it to keep its high quality for the rest of the series.

In DC, other universes in DC’s Multiverse are fighting back against the universe we all read about. They’re sick of being unwilling victims, suffering the consequences of choices Earth-0 has made. Who can blame them?

Dark Ages #1

Written by: Tom Taylor

Art by: Iban Coello

Coloring by: Brian Reber

Lettering by: VC’s Joe Sabino

Writer Tom Taylor is famous for Elseworld stories where the stakes couldn’t be higher. With DC, he’s done DCeased and Injustice, so it was only a matter of time before he did the same with Marvel. Now we have Dark Ages #1. 

The premise of Dark Ages seems deceptively simple, all the power goes out, and superheroes rebuild civilization from scratch. It seems like an absolutely ridiculous premise in a world with space-faring civilizations and superheroes, but it has that spark that the best Tom Taylor stories have. 

They give us the characters we want, in a world that wants to kill them. Dark Ages embodies this as well as previous Taylor stories in its first issue. I can ignore the basic premise when Spider-Man is a dad to a daughter again. I can ignore the simplicity of the inciting incident when Laura Kinney is the leading Wolverine in an awesome jacket. But the main reason I can ignore some fundamental weaknesses in Dark Ages is that it gets the most important things right. Like usual, Taylor captures the core of the characters. 

I’m not saying uses a lot of characters in Dark Ages’ first issue with real depth, but the ones he does, he gets perfectly. Whether it be Spider-Dad living the married life, Honey Badger cracking one-liners, or Dr. Strange’s final sacrifice, Dark Ages has the perfect characterization of the characters it uses. That could change in the following issues, but I doubt it. 

It only helps that the art is top-notch. I personally feel like Iban Coello’s style has an anime-esque look to it, which is only a plus. And Brian Reber’s coloring is in peak form as well. Together they picked out the best character designs and brought them to life. I’m almost sad that everyone’s getting redesigns for the end of the world, but the previews we’ve seen tell me that everyone still looks good.

Dark Ages #1 is a must-read. While the lights may have gone out, it’s a bright spot on comics.

Batman: Fear State Alpha #1

Miracle Molly, Batman, and Harley Quinn stand side by side.
The Fear State begins.

Written by: James Tynion IV

Art by: Riccardo Federici

Coloring by: Chris Sotomayor

Lettering by: Clayton Cowles

Fear State has been a long time coming, with hints of it blanketing most of the Future State books from earlier this year. Now, I’ll admit that I don’t like “alpha” or “omega” issues because they end up as one of two things. They’re either filler, or they’re so key to the event that they should have just been the event’s first issue.

This one is the latter.

It sets up all the key factors of the event. I felt going in that I would understand and follow Fear State without this issue, but thank god I bought it because I was wrong. This basically continues the last issue of Batman. I have no idea how DC or editorial thought that this would be something to call a tie-in.

*SPOILERS* The position of the Bat-family is set up, the Unsanity Collective are partnered with Ivy, they establish the fact that there are two Poison Ivys, and Batman escapes from Scarecrow. *SPOILERS*

This issue has so much happening that it’s insane.

Asides from all the mechanics of this issue, the story itself is good. It puts nearly every character in a state of turmoil, which makes sense because it’s Gotham. At the same time, considering that three years in a row, Gotham City has been completely taken over by a villain, it isn’t special this time. 

Nothing is poorly written, the art is kind of wonky, but that’s okay. This should be an enjoyable issue, but I just feel myself getting tired and jaded. Every Batman story doesn’t have to build into a Bat-family crossover or a city-ending threat every year. Not every writer has to do their own spin on what it looks like when a villain takes over Gotham. 

Infinite Frontier #5

Darkseid holds President Superman and the Flash in two separate chokeholds as Agent Chase watches on, all of them standing on a giant chain, with the multiverse behind them.
Darkseid looks thicc, there I said it, look at those butt cheeks and tell me I’m wrong.

Written by: Joshua Williamson

Penciling by: Paul Pelletier, Jesus Merino, Tom Derenick

Inking by: Norm Rapmund, Raul Fernandez, Tom Derenick

Coloring by: Hi-fi

Lettering by: Tom Napolitano

First, I want to say that Mitch Gerads had no business making Darkseid so thicc on the cover. You can read what I said, he made Darkseid dummy thicc, and we know because he’s either naked or wearing skin color clothing. Either way, I needed it in my life, but the cost may have been too great.

Regardless, Infinite Frontier looks to be winding down and setting up Justice League Incarnate. I love how it continues to utilize characters we rarely see, but I love even more how metatextual it is in their use. A lot of the multiverse hates Earth-0, the main Earth, and for good reason. Earth-0 is the one who constantly causes Crisis’s and then the consequences are the most lenient on them. 

It makes sense that the rest of the multiverse would fight back. The fact that Darkseid is in the middle of all of it is just pudding on top for me. 

I will admit that this issue sacrifices having any small and interesting character moments to have a lot of bombastic action, but that’s okay. The plot is also moved along much more than in previous issues. I believe this will help make for a good finale, but one of, if not the weakest issues in this series. 

Though, since a series can be brought down by its worst issue, this bodes well.

Static: Season One #3

Static descends on creepy looking riot officers.
Waiting for Static’s theme song to drop as I’m reading.

Written by: Vita Ayala

Art by: Nikolas Draper-Ivey, Chriscross

Coloring by: Nikolas Draper-Ivey, Wil Quintana

Lettering by: Andworld Design

I think this issue exasperated for me my one big issue with this series. I don’t quite enjoy Virgil’s inner voice. He does come off as a real teenager, with mature thoughts and mature problems, he doesn’t sound phony. In fact, I think he sounds too much like a kid. He walks himself through every thought and action, constantly second-guessing himself.

That being said, that will make him more relatable and likable to people who aren’t me. You may very well find this side of Virgil endearing because it’s well-written. It’s just not my cup of tea I’m now realizing.

The creative team is telling a grounded and personal story for Virgil. It’s not even about superheroes like Icon & Rocket. Static is about the responsibility to keep oneself safe and true. This is one of those stories where the conflict is squarely around attacking Virgil. The government wants him and Hotstreak is willing to help them get him. It’s rare for superhero comics to have the villains on the upswing, and to have their goal be about directly targeting the hero. That could change with three issues left, but it’s a nice change of pace for now.

I do have to warn anyone considering reading this issue that the art changes halfway through. Nikolas Draper-Ivey’s amazing, anime-esque art, is replaced by Chriscross. Chriscross’s art isn’t bad by any means, but it’s far less attractive and stylized than Draper-Ivey’s. It does lead to a couple of funky faces too, so I hope this change in art style is just for this one issue.

New Mutants #21

Mirage and Karma fight some shadow beast.
Mirage and Karma didn’t come to play.

Written by: Vita Ayala

Art by: Roid Reis

Lettering by: VC’s Travis Lanham, Joe Caramagna

New Mutants is the best ongoing X-Book. Way of X may be the best arc, but New Mutants has become the best since Vita Ayala and Roid Reis came onto the book. A return Reis’s case.

We continue seeing the youngest of Krakoa tackle the nation’s problems maturely and with empathy. While the adults are cold and tactical, the youth remind the readers why the young are the future. It’s the kids who call out the strange protocols surrounding clones for being unfair, and it’s the kids who defend themselves and their home from the Shadow King.

That, and the continued ability of all the young ones to apologize, is something that hits home with me. It’s been a theme throughout Ayalas run on the series, and its my favorite thing about it.  

New Mutants doesn’t just succeed on its main plot though, but also with its B-story, supported by the info pages. Warpath describing what it feels like to be relied on, and then to see him goes berserk to protect his students is an excellent little side story. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t connect to the main conflict with the Shadow King, that’s alright. That doesn’t take anything away from it.

Magic #6

Planeswalker Jaya Ballard has hands of fire and is surrounded by flames.
Jaya Ballard is a hot fiery killer. I meant hot as the temperature of her fire, honest.

Written by: Jed MacKay

Art by: French Carlomagno, Ig Guara, Francesco Segala

Coloring by: Arianna Consonni

Lettering by: Ed Dukeshire

This issue worked both as a short standalone story and as an issue that pushed the overall story forward. The origin of Jaya Ballard and this arc’s enemy was gripping. It brought us to a different time in Magic the Gathering’s canon. It runs the risk of appearing boring, but the art style is so functionally gorgeous and skillfully colored that panels don’t appear boring. 

There’s continuity to the locations in this issue, where usually characters are walking through different fields as they talk. This is common in comic books, and a book about dimension-hopping heroes usually uses that to its advantage. This time, they followed one character and made the setting follow her too.

The actual character work of Jaya, comparing her to her older self with the narration and dialogue worked well. I feel as if I know her better than any of the other three protagonists. It’s obvious that the creative team currently has a favorite planeswalker with Jaya after this issue.

What I’ve realized about this issue as I write the review, is that it’s the perfect jumping-on point. If you missed the first issue, this one brings you up-to-date on everything you need to know, regarding the plot. It won’t help non-MTG fans catch up, but it will certainly catch up MTG fans who missed the first few issues.

Jump on Boom! Studios magic series with Magic #6. It’s the perfect issue to do so after the first.

The Dark Ages Begins as the DC Multiverse Ends

Tom Taylor strikes magic again with Dark Ages. It’s nearly all set up, but even as he was setting up the rest of the series, he still struck a chord with what makes Marvel’s characters special. It’s nice to see him return to Marvel after being at DC for so long. This is a series Marvel could use just as much as DC needed DCeased.

And DC released good books too in Infinite Frontier and Static. They seem to be doing really well with lesser-known characters. If only they’d give more of them ongoings. They could start by making the Milestone books ongoings instead of minis, but these issues are all good steps in the right direction. What was your favorite book this week?

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