Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart, Volume 1: Riri Williams, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Stefano Caselli, was published in 2017 by Marvel.
I am not a Iron Man reader – I read three of his books for my big Civil War II project, but other than that I’m not interested in the character. Tony Stark is, in my mind, a generic superhero, generally an asshole, and usually a womanizer. I watch end enjoy his movies but have no desire to get into his books.
But when I saw that Riri would be taking over the mantle – ooohwas I excited. I am a sucker for cute, I am a sucker for kid genuises, and I am a sucker for origin stories. Ironheart, Volume 1: Riri Williams delivers on all three, with bonus points for bad-ass side characters and a de-powered Tony Stark.
The only think that irked me a bit in this book is the sudden and very early suit upgrade. I was excited that Riri would be spending quite a bit of time in an ugly, rectangular, grey suit. Instead, she very quickly builds a replacement – one that’s both more feminine and much more powerful. I wish she had either spent more time in her first suit or struggled more before the power-up.
But this is a great book (especially the particularly nice cameo) and a super introduction for the new character. I can’t wait until she meets the rest of the young Avengers!
Science Comics: Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers, written by M.K. Reed and drawn by Joe Flood, was published in 2016 by First Second.
Science Comics: Dinosaurs is a wonderful book – one I would have adored as a child. The book presents lots of modern facts and research, but it also covers the history of paleontology – including many of the huge dinosaur mistakes and misconceptions we’ve made in the past. It may be marketed to middle grade, but it is dense and contains a ton of great information.
The illustrations are the perfect blend of friendly and realistic – they’re cartoony enough to be easy to digest, but realistic enough to fit well with the scientific and historical text.
Because the book moves through history, it has a natural flow – even a narrative – that makes it easy to read despite the amount of information.
Blood of Dragons, by Robin Hobb, was published in 2013 by Harper Voyager.
Blood of Dragons is the fourth and final installment in the Rain Wild Chronicles series, which is itself the second to last series in Hobb’s Realms of the Elderlings epic story. Of course this book is filled with all the good Hobb brings to her books. Character growth abounds. The world-building is astounding. Her simple, frank prose remains beautiful.
Unfortunately, there are some serious pacing issues, though I’m struggling to nail down what they are. Maybe it’s a matter of not having a super strong protagonist; this book spends a lot more time with Thymara instead of with Alise, who I think is a stronger hero.
I made the mistake of reading this book at the same time I was listening to Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik, and I constantly found myself choosing to listen to Novik’s cheerful, generous dragon Temeraire instead of the snooty, violent, dismissive dragons in Blood of Dragons.
The ending felt, to me, abrupt and convenient. I’d have liked a few more chapters to flesh out the resolutions both at Kelsingra and in Chalced.
Having completed the Rain Wild Chronicles, I must agree with the general consensus that it’s Hobb’s weakest series. Ultimately, it feels like a really long and detailed buildup to Fitz’s final books – and I’m alright with that. If Realms of the Elderlings were one series instead of five connected ones, Rain Wild Chronicles would just be the middle slump we’re all used to. Besides – a “slump” of two five-stars and two four-stars is hardly a slump at all.
Artemis, by Andy Weir, will be published in November 2017 by Crown/Archetype.
Artemis, which will be released in November, is Andy Weir’s second novel – you probably know him as the creator of The Martian, the hugely successful popcorn sci-fi novel which was made into a movie (also hugely successful) in 2015.
Artemis takes place significantly further in the future than The Martian – main character Jazz has lived on the moon for almost her entire life. The permanent settlement there is well-established both as a commodity producer and as a tourist destination. Jazz is a low-level smuggler and major genius, and she has serious goals. Her ambitions quickly turn Artemis into an extremely fast-paced lunar heist.
The first thing that struck me about Artemis is that Jazz has the same exact voice as Mark, main character of The Martian. They’re both snarky, profane, extremely intelligent, and relentlessly stubborn. Since neither of these books are really about the characters – they’re both so light and super plot-based – the issue didn’t bother me at all.
The only notable difference between the two is weird addition to Jazz’s character – she has had numerous sexual partners, and apparently everyone in the colony knows and feels the need to comment on it every time they see her. I kept thinking that these past sexual escapades would be relevant, but I guess it was just flavor for her character? In a book this light, though, it really stuck out as a bit of unnecessary ickiness, and I wish it had been edited out entirely.
That said, I really enjoyed Artemis. Like The Martian, it was a super fun read, with lots of interesting science/pseudoscience and a fast, popcorny pace that kept me reading all day. I think this one will be another bestseller.
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
In the past few months, I read and reviewed 28 trade paperbacks (collections of comics – they usually have 4 – 6 “comic books” worth of comics in them) in an attempt to read every piece of story in Marvel’s most recent event, Civil War II. This is my meta-review and a collection of the individual reviews.
Warning: this essay will contain major spoilers for the opening act of Marvel’s Civil War II – most notably, two major character deaths which occur at the very beginning of the story. I have not spoiled any middle or ending plot points.
Who are you to judge Marvel?!
I am a relative comic, and especially Marvel, noob. I started reading Marvel with Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), who led to Squirrel Girl and Thor (Jane), who led to Captain Marvel. This was a wonderful way to begin reading Marvel titles; all four of the series were extremely well-received at the time.
Though I have religiously followed those four characters, I’ve also expanded my horizons quite a bit – I’ve read a lot of Miles Morales’s backlog, I’ve read some recent Thor (Odinson) books, I’ve read X-Men, multiple Avengers series, Fraction’s glorious Hawkeye run, quite a bit of the modern Wolverine and Vision stories, etc.
My point being – I’m relatively new to Marvel but have done quite a bit of reading.
Until recently, though, I hadn’t experienced any of the infamous Marvel Events. For those of you who don’t know, Marvel events are generally considered to be nothing but cash-grabs; Marvel creates a big, “world-ending” event which disrupts every writer’s (and character’s) story and requires anyone who wants to know the whole story to buy way more comics than they normally would. The story for one particular character is no longer contained to just that character’s series – it’s spread across 30 different books.
Six months ago, I knew Civil War II was happening but I had no interest in reading it. I read Ms. Marvel’s Civil War II book just because I didn’t want to miss out on any of her story, and the book was so good I came up with this crazy project: to read and review every single Civil War II book. I am a “patient” reader – I read comics in trade paperback from the library – so I had an opportunity to read the whole epic story (in vaguely the correct order) and decide for myself whether Marvel events are as horrible as I’d been hearing since I joined the comic book community.
I don’t even know what the Civil War II is.
Like the first Marvel Civil War, where Iron Man and Captain America faced off over major moral disagreements, splitting the superhero community in half as they did it, the Civil War II pits hero vs. hero. Ulysses, a new hero, seems to have the ability to perfectly predict the future, and many people (most notably Carol Danvers, as Captain Marvel) want to use his powers to shut down crime before it begins.
Other heroes (most notably Iron Man) believe that what Ulysses does is no more than extremely detailed and precise profiling and that no one should be punished for a crime they didn’t commit.
Of course, the two sides ultimately battle it out, with several major casualties acting as catalysts.
All of this takes place across ~30 different comic books.
Sounds good, but I sense a tear-down coming…
I think that one reason the first civil war worked so well is because both sides were so easily sympathetic. Iron Man believed that heroes needed more regulation in order to protect innocent people (and property). Captain America believed that relinquishing control to a government was a sure path to a corrupt Avengers. Each side had their own valid argument, and heroes chose sides based on their own beliefs or loyalties.
In the Civil War II, there is no such ambiguity.
Captain Marvel is wrong.
She blatantly arrests or attacks people based on nothing but one new hero’s power – a power no one understands.
She indicts people for crimes they have not yet committed.
And half the heroes in the world believe she’s right.
It’s just completely nonsensical.
Look, I know grief affects people differently, and a case could be made for why everything Carol did could have come from either grief or genuine goodwill; her lover and her best friend are both victims of a major battle early in the story (before the actual civil war begins), and it’s easy to imagine that her pain has driven her a bit insane.
But I think that’s a load of bull. Part of writing is creating believable characters. Carol’s actions are simply not believable. A military woman who has for her entire life fought for not only the good of the Earth but also the good of the universe would never out of the blue ruin lives based on future predictions.
If we are to believe Carol is acting out of grief, I want to see it. Where is Carol crying, Carol kicking the shit out of walls, Carol hugging her cat, Carol attending Rhodey’s funeral, and Carol mourning Bruce?
And that says nothing of the rest of the people on her side of the war! Instead of consoling her, helping her check into therapy, trying to talk her down or even forcing her to stand down, Carol’s greatest friends and allies join in the ridiculous fight. It’s like everyone on her team has had a great big gulp of the insanity Kool-Aid.
The Civil War II fundamentally doesn’t work because one side is fundamentally wrong.
But what about everyone else?
Although not all of the Civil War II stories were horrendous, very few of them were marked improvements (or even, honestly, sidegrades) from the story arc the characters were already on. Ms. Marvel certainly experienced some character growth as her mentor went insane. Miles Morales, as a victim of the Civil War II, had to mature real quick as well. Sam Wilson (as Captain America), had one of the most beautiful stories of them all, but his was more of a parallel to the Civil War II instead of a direct part of it.
Most of the characters were derailed from their established stories in a way that makes me sad. Nova went from saying goodbye to his mother and blasting off to find his father, to suddenly and with no explanation being a part of the Avengers and the Civil War II again. Cho (Hulk) gained some nice backstory, and his book featured a beautiful homage to Bruce Banner, but, ironically, Banner overshadowed Cho in his own book.
You mentioned a money grab?
As I read these 28 books, I increasingly wondered whom this event is for. My understanding of comic readers is that most of them either 1) have a short to medium list of comics (actual comic books – not trade paperbacks) that they buy from the comic store each month or 2) get trade paperbacks six months after the final comic leaves the comic store (either purchasing it or borrowing it, it doesn’t matter).
This event doesn’t work for either of those groups.
I read 28 books for this project. I read 3,527 words for this project. If I had bought the books for this project, they would have cost $500.
And I didn’t even read every single tie-in.
Does the average comic book reader want to spend $20 to read about characters they don’t normally follow, just so that they can understand the story for the characters they do?
And I understand that not every book is necessary for understanding a big event like Civil War II. But for me, all of the most relevant books (Iron Man, Inhumans, X-Men) were ones I’m not interested in. So I couldn’t read just the books I normally follow; they wouldn’t make much sense without the ones I don’t.
Events feel like money grabs. They ask people who follow four or five characters to suddenly follow all of them.
Okay, Civil War II sucks, got it.
No, wait! It’s not all bad!
Captain America: Sam Wilson: Civil War II works so well that I believe it stands as a magnificent book even independent of the event and the character. The only things I knew about Sam Wilson going in were 1) his role in the current movies and 2) that in the comics he currently wields the shield and the mantle of Captain America.
Sam’s booktakes the premise of the Civil War II (which, as I’ve ranted about above, doesn’t make a great story on its own) and weaves it with real-world current events, creating a narrative that progresses the story in world, but also comments on our own society.
The artwork in Captain America: Sam Wilson: Civil War II is not groundbreaking, but it doesn’t matter. This particular book is truly about the story.
Spider-Woman’s book is also spectacular. I actually think that Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears: Civil War II, paired with the first volume in the series (Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears: Baby Talk) is a great introduction to Marvel comics for people who aren’t as into world-ending massive scale superhero tales. Spider-Woman’s books are low-key, relationship and character focused, and beautifully feminist.
For fans of Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales, and Wolverine, their Civil War II tie-in books are all both relevant to the story and loyal to the existing characters. Even if you’re not interested in the event, I recommend that fans of these characters not miss their event books.
The rest of the book is mostly crap so I don’t recommend you buy it, but if you can get your hands on issue #3 of Choosing Sides (or just check it out from the library), the War Machines short is absolutely breathtaking. Gorgeous artwork supports four wonderful two page stories.
How about a rating for the whole thing?
I think it says a lot when out of 28 books almost 1/3 of them are 1 stars. On the other hand, I try to be a bit stingy with my 5 stars, but I gave out five of them for this project. There are definitely some gems in the mix!
(Please note I use the Goodreads style of star rating: 1 is “did not like it”, 2 is “it was okay”, 3 is “liked it”, 4 is “really liked it”, and 5 is “it was amazing”. So a 3-star is still a decent book, for me.)
The average number of stars I gave these books was 2.68. I’d be comfortable rounding the whole event down to a big fat 2 stars out of five – an “it was okay”.
The project, on the other hand, was a whole lot of fun. I wrote a lot, thought a lot, and (I believe) grew as a critic. Truly, it takes a lot to make a good comic, and the past few months have been a great exercise in finding and appreciating the good and the bad.
The format of this list is: book title and link to review | # of stars | mini review or note.
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 6: Civil War II | ★★★★★ | The one that started it all. I loved this book so much that I decided to read and review the entire rest of the event. Because Ms. Marvel is so close to Captain Marvel, Kamala’s Civil War II story is actually an improvement over her already-existing arc.
Civil War II | ★★★☆☆ | Because the whole “main event” is only eight issues long, this book was extremely fast-paced, to the point of being way too light on details or exposition. In my review I remain optimistic that the tie-ins will provide more explanation for character motivation. Lol.
Civil War II: Choosing Sides | ★★☆☆☆ | This is where my review lengths started ballooning and I really began to have fun writing about what I was reading. Choosing Sides has mostly horrible zero-star one-shots, but also the best comic in this entire event.
Civil War II: Gods of War | ★★☆☆☆ | These characters were completely new to me and I actually enjoyed meeting them. It’s a bit of a meathead book, though.
Uncanny Inhumans, Volume 3: Civil War II | ★★★☆☆ | The Inhumans are a huge part of the Civil War II, so it makes sense that their book would be quite impactful in the grand scheme of things. The best part of this book, though, was meeting all of the ridiculous characters; that was quite a treat.
Nova: The Human Rocket, Volume 2: Afterburn | ★★☆☆☆ | I like Nova a lot and he’s one of the characters I follow, but his story keeps getting ruined by other characters and their stories. This book is a prime example.
Mockingbird, Vol. 2: My Feminist Agenda | ★★★☆☆ | This is a book that knows its audience. Creative touches like suspects portrayed as D&D villains, a boy scout footprint guide, and background characters in cosplay really make it a fun read.
Invincible Iron Man, Volume 3: Civil War II | ★☆☆☆☆ | The final money grab – this book is only half Civil War II issues, and the rest of the included comics are from 2007. Questions aren’t answered either, unfortunately.
Invincible Iron Man, Volume 3: Civil War II, written by Brian Bendis and drawn by Mike Deodato Jr., was published in 2017 by Marvel.
Well, here it is. The final book in my huge project to read the entire Civil War II in trade paperback form.
And – what a surprise! – it was a huge disappointment.
It’s a disappointment mostly because Invincible Iron Man: Civil War II feels like a ripoff. I thought I was going to get explanations, a bit of a wrap-up for Tony, and a natural mantle hand-off from him to Riri (the new Iron Man). Instead, this book only has three modern issues. The other three included issues are TEN YEARS OLD. Can you imagine spending $25 on this book, only to get no resolution and only three modern comics?
Once again, I’m left asking myself – am I not supposed to read this event? Because I am a “patient reader” – I get my comics in trade form and from the library – am I not supposed to be able to read or enjoy events? That’s a tough sell when Marvel has been spending more and more of their time forcing their characters to tie-in with events. Do I just need to spend six months of the year not reading and enjoying Marvel comics, because those are the times they’ll be incomprehensible without reading all of the tie-ins in the prescribed order?
(And about that – the whole point of this Civil War II project of mine is that I did read all of the tie-ins. And…they still don’t make sense.)
Also, I appreciate that the artwork in this book is stylized, but for me it’s so muddy it just makes the story hard to understand.
For me, the final panel is just a perfect finale for the entire Civil War II project Marvel has put on: it’s a cliffhanger. A cliffhanger you can only read the resolution of if you buy the tie-in books. ಠ_ಠ
Uncanny Avengers: Unity, Volume 3: Civil War II, written by Gerry Duggan and drawn by Ryan Stegman and Pepe Larraz, was published in 2017 by Marvel.
Uncanny Avengers: Unity: Civil War II follows yet another civil war within a civil war, as Steve Rogers’s team splits up due to conflicting goals and morals. Of course, a main piece of the story follows Deadpool as he works really hard to get himself in as much trouble as possible. Joy.
Luckily for me, Deadpool is foiled by Clint, who is currently in prison while his trial occurs. Clint is a great character with an actual cool story in the Civil War II, and we’ve only seen his story in the background, so I was excited to see more of him and learn more of his thoughts and motivations.
AND YET. Even though this book has quite a bit to do with him, we still are not provided an explanation as to why he <spoiler>killed Bruce even though he was cured</spoiler> This is a major major plot hole and it drives me insane that it’s not addressed at all. The fact that <spoiler>Bruce could not Hulk out when Clint killed him</spoiler> completely changes the entire ordeal.
Also crappy is the characterization of both Captain America and Captain Marvel. They are bonafide villains at this point; their character destruction disgusts me.
Except for Deadpool, who can have all the crappy stories he wants as far as I’m concerned, Uncanny Avengers was yet another crappy story forced upon cool characters.