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The Pull List: SECRET WARS #1, SWORDS OF SORROW #1, DEAD DROP #1 & More!

Check out what I checked out this week.

Whether the comics are inspiring or disappointing, I read them all.

Welcome to The Pull List.

And, as always…Spoilers ahead!

Secret Wars #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Esad Ribic
Colorist: Ive Svoricina
Cover: Alex Ross
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99

Time has officially run out. Only two worlds remain.

This is the story that Jonathan Hickman has been building towards since Avengers #1 and New Avengers #1 kicked off the Marvel NOW initiative back in December 2012 and January 2013.

Hickman has done something special here as he’s weaved a story that is easy to appreciate regardless of whether you’ve been keeping up with his Avengers’ books or jumped right into the deep end without knowing how to navigate the waters of this universe ending event.

Secret Wars is a name that has been synonymous with Marvel Comics since the inaugural series carrying that name occurred in 1984.

Mainstream audiences became familiar with the property when Mattel released Marvel Comic action figures tied into the limited series comic book to to stores that same year.  There have been other limited runs using the name but this 2015 edition promises to change everything……and it does!

When examining the past, present and future of the Marvel Universe in relation to Secret Wars, Doctor Doom is one of the most, if not, the most important piece of the puzzle. He caused a lot of damage in the inaugural series and he is pretty much doing the same today.

The book opens with Doom, Doctor Strange and Molecule man face-to-face with the Beyonders. Doom discovered their plan to destroy the multiverse and his plan to stop them triggers some unfortunate side effects which brings us to the current state of affairs. There is a white light that appears to represents God’s hand in all of this, and of course, Hickman makes it pay off as Doom has absolutely no problem defying him.

Things transition to the battle to end all battles in New York City as Earth – 616 (Regular Marvel Universe) and Earth- 1610 (The Ultimate Universe) throw everything at each other in order to save their world. Hickman did a superb job of conveying the gravity of this grave situation through the actions of the characters. In the Ultimate side of things, S.H.I.E.L.D. is forced to work with Maker in order to find a way to stop the incursion by destroying Earth- 616.

Maker, the former Reed Richards, has become an egotistical, megalomaniac, and is the last person Nick Fury would ever work with, but realizes has no choice even though he knows that Maker has his own agenda. In the regular universe, the Future Foundation is in final preparations to launch an arc to salvage their world while saving some important folks to rebuild the human race if their plan fails.

Esad Ribic deserves all the props in the world for making the opening salvo of this series such a visual delight that made it very easy to tell which universe we were in as the story progressed. The images of the two worlds coming closer and closer together echoed that time almost up feeling that added more tension with each turn of the page.

The desperation on both sides was pronounced to the nth degree when Cyclops absorbed the Phoenix force. This moment gave me pause because it was a roll of the dice as to which version of the powerful entity would appear. Knowing the implications of what each one brings to the table made me cringe because things could go from bad to worse in a heartbeat.

Some of our favorite heroes bite the big one here and normally it’s easy to ignore since everyone eventually comes back form the dead. However, with 33 Marvel titles being cancelled due to this event, things are kind of at a standstill right now since we don’t know what questions the emergence of Battleworld will answer thus, their deaths in this particular case are a little more intriguing.

There were also some fun moments to be found here which speaks to how Hickman can so easily find levity in the midst of a cataclysm where is doesn’t detract or distract from the main story being played out. Wilson Fisk has a moment with some of the other street level villains, and it was nice to see how they reacted to the end of the world since their lust for power and money is small potatoes in the overall scheme of things.

Sure enough, the Punisher crashes the party as only he can. Just like Fisk and company, Punisher can’t offer any assistance that would help the likes of Iron Man and Hulk, so he savors these last few moments and utters an epic line that fit the character perfectly while leaving the end result to our imagination. I normally hate when this happens because it’s the writer’s obligation to tell and finish the story we’re paying for.

However, this is an exception because history shows this could go one way or another.

My phone blew up within hours of the book’s release because a lot of my non-comic reading friends were convinced by the onslaught of Marvel advertising that they needed to take part in this event. The fact that the Marvel Universe, as we know it, has ended shocked everyone not in the know. While it wasn’t a shock to someone who knew the end was near, the construction of the plot and its execution made this feel like something special.

Jonathan Hickman delivers in a big way here and with the splendid artwork of Esad Ribic and the gorgeous coloring of Ive Svorcina, Secret Wars is in excellent hands and plans to take us on a the ride of a lifetime.

Score: 5 out of 5

Swords of Sorrow #1
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Sergio Davila
Colorist: Jorge Sutil
Letters: Erica Schults
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: 3.99

Dynamite Entertainment has more female lead comics than another other publisher that has a piece of the comic book market share.

Gail Simone helms this latest endeavor which brings them all together in a tale than spans time and space. Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris, and Vampirella are the established big three in this party, but you also have characters like the house wife turned murderous vigilante in Jennifer Blood who will only be familiar to Dynamite readers.

Things start off as an introduction of what each woman combative skill sets consist of, then the overall plot starts to take shape when a courier starts delivering ebony blades to Blood and the others and this is when things start to go haywire.

Without explanation, various elements start appearing where they don’t belong such as the Black Beauty automobile winding up in prehistoric times or Red Sonja on Mars battling John Carter’s soldiers. The latter is revealed to be a vision in a mirror but it isn’t clear if anything revealed was fact or fable.

One of the things I love about Gail Simone’s writing is how she injects her witty nature anywhere she can. If you follow her on Twitter, you know what I mean. As to be expected, Red Sonja has the strongest voice, however, Simone gives an empowering presence to the rest of the cast who are being brought together. DC Comics’ Secret Six is one of Simone’s most well-known works because she is able to juggle multiple characters for maximum result and the same seams to apply in this first installment.

Sergio Davila’s artwork was a mixed bag as the character work hit the right notes but failed to play any real music. The background imagery and action scenes are intense and jump out of the page at times which made me appreciate the story that was unfolding a little more.

Overall, this was a pretty good first chapter. With five more issues to go, it should be interesting to see if the creative team is able to find one defined voice and tone to tell a distinctive and memorable story. If I had to judge by this first issue alone, odds are, they probably will.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Convergence Superman #2 (of 2)
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

Convergence rages on as Superman battles the heroes of the Flashpoint universe, Lois Lane is in labor, and Thomas Wayne tries to piece it all together.

Dan Jurgens stated in a recent interview that he took the lead on this two part series because he felt that none of the pre -New 52 characters got a proper farewell. This was his way of rectifying that.

I really miss this version of Superman.

There is no chip on his shoulder, he’s not trying to be relevant with the modern audience, its just earth’s greatest hero fighting for what’s right.  In true Man of Steel fashion, he tries to talk some sense into Captain Thunder, Cyborg, and Abin Sur while they are beating him down until Lois’ cry for help prompts him to act fast and race off to save the day.

Jurgens characterization of Thomas Wayne/Batman felt practiced to the point of the familiar, even though this is his second outing with this version of the Dark Knight. There is a different dynamic to the loss that fuels Thomas’ crusade and that came through without beating the reader over the head.

The fact that Lois and Clark are no longer married in the main continuity is kind of a bummer and their relationship in a post Convergence world will probably be the worst it has ever been. While the birth of their child will mean diddly squat in a one months’ time, if there were any two comic book couples that deserve a happy ending, it’s these two.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Dead Drop #1
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Adam Gorham
Colorist: Michael Spicer
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Price: $3.99

The opening of Dead Drop absolutely wastes no time getting into the thick of things as X-O Manowar is in hot pursuit of a terrorist in possession of a virus that could wipe out the planet while trying not to harm New York’s finest who believe he is an imposter.

Yeah, I’d say there’s cause for panic.

If you’ve read the ongoing series Zero, it’s obvious that creating tension is Alex Kot’s specialty.

Kot taps into the strain and pressure of the situation that elevates with each turn of the page. This is essentially one big, well thought out chase scene encompassed with some thrilling scenarios.

The book also keeps a fast pace that made me feel that it was over in a few pages even though it left me wanting more.

Adam Gorham’s illustrations are the perfect complement as they make the chase come to life on the page. The character work is fluid and the action scenes are well detailed. Gorham also did a great job incorporating Manhattan’s bustling atmosphere into the background using traffic, pedestrians, and subway tunnels as involuntary hurdles. The coloring by Michael Spicer consisted of a pallet of mainly brown, yellow and blue. Sounds kind of boring, but it works here, and gave the pencil work a determined look that fits the setting.

There is also a map that outlines all the key areas of the city with page numbers that identify to the reader where the action is taking place. This was a simple, yet clever, device that tied in quite nicely since knowing if you were in Chinatown or Times Square added to the thrill of the chase.

This was probably one of the best first issues I’ve read in quite some time. There was no exposition or background filler. We knew what we were getting and the creative team used their strengths to present worthy wild story with common stakes that I actually cared about. If I’m correct in how the other heroes of the Valiant universe are going to be implemented in future issues, the creative force behind this series will have a lot of good things in store for readers!

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Star Wars – Kanan: The Last Padawan #2
Writer: Greg Weisman
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Colorist: David Curiel
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

Kanan: The Last Padawan #2 is an action heavy book that tangles several layers of emotion considering we already know the outcome of Order 66.

However, one thing the movies never delved into was how a trusted and honored Jedi, now turned public enemy #1 would react, and survive on the run?

Kanan, going by his real name Caleb Dume, is a Padawan in very sense of the word. His training is incomplete and will remain that way as he has to think outside the sheltered box of the Jedi Order.

Greg Weisman makes the most of the fear that Kanan exuded as he raced to Coruscant after receiving the emergency beacon from the Jedi Temple.

As he arrives, he receives the message from Obi-Wan Kenobi telling all Jedi to stay away while an armada of star ships surround him. Pepe Larraz artwork augments this moment Kenobi’s sonnet of hope for the future is background noise the heightened fear and anxiety of the situation.

The dark coloring is often too dark in some scenes. I understand the palette is there to represent dark times for the titular character, but Star Wars isn’t really a universe of muted colors. There is nothing wrong with David Curiel’s application, I just believe that a little more variety would have imagery standout a little more.

The next installment will most likely deal with some post Episode III elements. This is really intriguing since we’ve read about that time period in novels such as Tarkin and A New Dawn. However, we get to actually see some of them unfold in this canon shepherd by the Lucasfilm story group.

Score: 3 out of 5

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