Single Combat 8/4/11

Posted on August 4, 2011. Filed under: Reviews, Single Issues |

By Erik Lewis, Lead Blogger

So it’s Thursday afternoon, and that means a new episode of Single Combat!  Every week, I visit the comic store to find the best and worst of the pile, just so I can let you know about them.  This week was a difficult one.  As you know, I pick up my comics at Comics and Paperbacks Plus in Palmyra, PA.  You can find them on Facebook here or here, or you can stop in if you find yourself in Central Pennsylvania. You can also follow me on Twitter, just to see what I think of my books as I read them!  Here’s what I got:

Flashpoint #4
Herc #6
Heroes for Hire #10
Hulk #38
Moon Knight #4
The Punisher #1
Red Skull: Incarnate #2
S.H.I.E.L.D. #2
Thunderbolts #161

And here’s what I thought:

Red Skull: Incarnate #2

Marvel Comics, $2.99

Greg Pak, Mirko Colak, Matthew Wilson, Alejandro Arbona

Review by Erik Lewis

In the back of the first issue, Pak delivers an afterword where he compares Red Skull: Incarnate to Magneto: Testament, which I believe is a fair comparison.  Both stories are of young men growing up at the start of the Nazi’s rise to power in Germany, and both follow them as they discover themselves, in one way or another.  The difference, however, is that even though both have been labeled villains at one time or another in their careers in the Marvel Universe, only the Red Skull is what can be called truly evil.  Pak does an excellent job setting up both characters in their respective books.  He says that when he saw the cover art for this series, he was chilled, and troubled, which if you read the story, is exactly the right emotion for this kind of thing.  While Testament shows the choices that will lead a young boy to fight for the rights of others(with albeit questionable tactics at times), Incarnate instead shows a boy follow an opposite road, one that will lead him to become one of history’s greatest monsters.  Incarnate is a very challenging read, at least for me, in that every page and almost every panel, I want to feel for the boy depicted, and I have to keep reminding myself throughout that he’s not the sort of boy who’s going to leave me with a sympathetic story in the end.  It’s something that Pak has reminded us of very forcefully at the end of each issue so far.  The art for the series, so far, fits the aesthetic that’s put forward by both the tone of the story and by the cover.  This series is one that I read with a sort of grim fascination, but it’s one that I truly do look forward to being released.  I recommend this if you’re looking for something beyond your standard superhero fare.

Odin’s Beard 5/5




Moon Knight #4

Marvel Comics, $3.99

Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Matthew Wilson, Tom Brevoort

Review by Erik Lewis

Moon Knight has been a little strange up until this point.  I do like the idea of a few superheroes working in LA rather than sticking them in New York, and I do like the idea that Marc Spector has replaced the voices in his head with the voices of other influential Avengers.  The only narrative misstep, I felt, was in the last issue, where we were suddenly pulled from a two-issue-strong story to read one that took place several months prior, but that’s fixed this time around, and spectacularly.  Moon Knight and Echo meet to discuss what they’ve found themselves in at the famous LA hot dog stand, Pinks, only to be ambushed by the Night Shift.  I like where Bendis’ writing takes the fight, specifically how Marc’s new personalities of Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Captain America help him during the course of a fight(Spider-Man will chime in to tell Marc that his jokes could be better, while Wolverine advises that he go after the guy with the gun, and Cap lets him know that he’s being hypnotized, things like that), and I love the frenetic pace that Maleev’s artwork and panel layout lends to the whole thing.  It all really comes together to make a spectacular action sequence, so good work for that.  Ultimately, though, my favorite thing about the book is the ending that sees Spector and Echo surrounded by police, simply because I find that superheroes get away from the police far too often and far too easily.  I like to see them get caught here because I want to know what happens when they do.  Do they have to account for their actions?  Will the police just let them go?  I hope that last one doesn’t happen, because that would be too easy.  Whatever happens, though, Bendis and Maleev have me on the hook for at least the next issue, so good work!

Volstagg’s Beard 4/5




The Punisher #1

Marvel Comics, $3.99

Greg Rucka, Marco Checchetto, Matt Hollingsworth, Stephen Wacker

Review by Erik Lewis

Were you aware that this is actually Volume 5 of the Punisher?  I didn’t, until I picked up this one.  It seems like every time they do something crazy with the Punisher(Frankencastle), Marvel feels the need to restart the title with Frank back at his roots as a psychopath to show that they actually understand the character’s real motivation.  Now sometimes that works out great.  Welcome Back Frank is one of the best stories, let alone Punisher stories, I’ve read in comics.  It’s so good that I even like the first Punisher movie(Tom Jane, not Dolph Lundgren.  Come on, people.).  But, if you’re expecting Welcome Back Frank quality from this Punisher reboot, you’re going to be disappointed.  For me, the series does an inadequate job setting up any character that isn’t Frank, to the point where I don’t know who he’s killing or really why he’s killing them at the end, and that’s important to the character.  He doesn’t kill unless his target deserves it.  He punishes the wicked, hence his name.  What it feels like, to me, is that Rucka watched Se7en a few hours before his script was due and said “Man, this movie was great, but what if The Punisher was in it?”  Not really for the exact plot, I guess, but definitely for the characters.  There’s an aged detective who could be a Morgan Freeman stand in, and a younger, Brad Pitt looking detective who seems to be working with Frank, although nothing is incredibly clear.  A lot can be done in sequences without dialogue or caption boxes, but it doesn’t really lend itself to this kind of action, where knowing what’s going on is required.

Batroc’s Beard 2/5




Flashpoint #4

DC Comics, $3.99

Geoff Johns, Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope, Kate Stewart, Rex Ogle

Review by Erik Lewis

Flashpoint is a strange series.  I like it, but the mere existence of it and what it represents has pretty much eliminated my need or desire to read any other DC books.  Yet, even so, I find myself liking this book much more than some of the other stuff I picked up this week, or even previous weeks.  I will say that even though I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far, with the events at the end of the last issue and the beginning of this one playing out how they did, it seems to me that Johns is including things that aren’t really relevant to the overall story.  I suppose it’s ok to take a moment to look in on Superman, but if he’s just going to fly away when he can, really, what’s the point?  Anyway, this issue is really where things are starting to come to a head, which is good, seeing as it’s issue 4 of 5.  Batman(Thomas Wayne) has finally agreed to team up with Cyborg’s coalition of other powered individuals, so the Flash and all the rest try to personally put a stop to Wonder Woman and Aquaman’s war against each other.  It’s not a very long fight, in fact, not much at all happens(I suspect you would need to read some tie-ins to understand exactly why what happened happened, too), but what does happen is pretty big, and it finally gets Reverse-Flash to reveal himself.  The next issue is truly going to be the one not to miss, but this one’s pretty good too.  I would say that if you like the Flash, Flashpoint, or are interested in the New 52, this issue is pretty well essential, as are the three before it and the one after it.

Ollie’s Beard 3/5




S.H.I.E.L.D. #2

Marvel Comics, $2.99

Jonathan Hickman, Dustin Weaver, Sonia Oback, Nick Lowe

Review by Erik Lewis

S.H.I.E.L.D. finally feels like it’s going somewhere, in the 8th issue, or the 2nd issue of it’s second volume.  I can see now that the first volume(the first 6 issues) were almost purely setup, to get us ready for this volume, but it still feels unnecessary to call this anything other than issue 8.  What I’d really like from this series is a little resolution, and while we did get a little bit when the divergent plotlines of Michelangelo, Leonid, Newton and Da Vinci, and Stark, Richards, and Tesla all wound up together, it still seems like there’s too much going on here, and almost none of it is as it seems.  Now, I’m all for mystery, but it seems like the mystery here is to add a false veneer of importance to the book.  That it’s mystery for the sake of mystery, mystery intended to confuse the reader, not to intrigue the reader.  There’s no one peeking around the corner, at least no one that I can see.  Maybe that’s my fault.  Maybe I’m reading this book differently than it should be read.  I will say that it’s effective in getting me to want to read more, so that’s a mark in it’s favor at least.  I will also say that imagining a secret history to the Marvel Universe, one that incorporates this number of actual historical figures seamlessly with characters integral in one way or another to the Marvel Universe is also something very ambitious that I salute Hickman for.  However, if we don’t get some sort of resolution soon, I may stop caring about this book and it’s twists and turns altogether.  For now, though, it works.

Ollie’s Beard 3/5




Herc #6

Marvel Comics, $2.99

Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Neil Edwards, Cory Hamscher, Jesus Aburtov, Mark Paniccia

Review by Erik Lewis

The last couple of issues of Herc have been Fear Itself tie-ins, and for me, it seems like one of the only truly successful Fear Itself tie-ins.  I’m not saying that the others are bad, and I’m not saying  that I didn’t read the others and I wasn’t entertained by them, I’m saying that in taking the tone of an event book and taking it in their own direction, I felt that Pak and Van Lente were the most successful out of anyone writing from the jumping off point of Fear Itself, although there were others who were almost as successful, and indeed, others that I might have enjoyed more if I had enjoyed what came before more(Hulk springs to mind first there, although it has nothing to do with Parker’s take on the character, and rather has everything to do with Loeb’s take on the character instead.)  Since the beginning of this title, Herc has be fighting the Warhawks, trying to stop them from bringing about the conflict of all versus all and resurrecting Ares from the depths of Hades.  In this issue, they come their closest, and fail.  It’s not surprising, but it is a hell of a lot of fun to read, and the threads from the Fear Itself story I would think would need to continue, as Herc still needs to somehow deal with his temporary allies, Basilisk, Man-Bull, and Griffin, though that could be as simply as turning them into the authorities once everything calms down.  The only thing that has me a little down about this book is nothing but a fan’s concern, nothing critically wrong with the story or the art, just the comment that Hecate makes that Herc will never channel godly power again.  I know he doesn’t need it to be awesome, but…I liked the Hercules of old.  Anyway, this is a great book, and a great series.  Miss it at your own risk.

Volstagg’s Beard 4/5





And that’s it for this week.  Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments, or follow us on twitter.  Any way you can get word to us is fine, and be sure to share this with others, too!

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2 Responses to “Single Combat 8/4/11”

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A comment in your Red Skull review hit the nail on the head for me, and how I felt reading the first issue: “with grim fascination.”

Really, I would compare it to reading the biography of Charles Manson, or some other serial killer.


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