Tag: Clayton Cowles

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    Getting to Know Venom

    The Venom Symbiote made its first appearance in Marvel Heroes Secret Wars #8 (May 1984). Spider-Man accidentally released the parasitic Klyntar following a scuffle on Battleworld. Spidey thought he was simply generating a new suit after his was shredded in the fight.

    Venom #6
    Venom #6

    When Spidey finally realized the slick black and white suit was actually an alien organism, he rejected it. However, during the time the two were bonded, the Symbiote learned Peter Parker’s genetic code. Now Venom has the ability to grant any wearer Spider-Man’s abilities.

    Since Peter Parker, there have been many notable wearers of the Black Suit. Eddie Brock is the most notorious. It was Brock’s time in the Symbiote that solidly established Venom as Peter Parker’s worst nightmare.

    A Fresh Take On An Old Villain

    In Venom #1, writer Mike Costa introduced a new perspective on the sentient alien goo. Taking us inside the Symbiote’s consciousness, Costa raises some interesting questions about a character we all thought we knew.

    What if Venom is merely an amplification of the wearer’s Id? What if the Klyntar has less control over its actions than it appears, and the host is subconsciously in control the whole time?

    By the time we roll around to Venom #6, it’s evident that the current host is bad news. Lee Price is a horrible person. He is a disabled military veteran with a grudge. His experience as an Army Ranger has made him mentally hard and his disability has made him bitter.

    Lee dominates the suit to the point of abuse. For the first time, the suit appears unable to overcome the will of its host.

    Now, with the FBI chasing it down, Venom crosses paths with The Amazing Spider-Man. In a bizarre turn of events, the leader of the Bureau’s Anti-Symbiote Task Force is none other than…Eddie Brock.

    It’s about to hit the fan in this fatal four-way.


    Venom #6, Marvel Comics, Released April 19, 2017, Written by Mike Costa, Art and cover by Gerardo Sandoval, Color by Dono Sanchez-Almara, letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles, $3.99

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    Newly Formed JLA Versus a Group of Misguided Maniacs

    Whenever a new super-group is assembled there’s an inevitable learning curve for the reader. Steve Orlando has neatly dodged this awkward phase by writing four solo one-shot tie-ins that explore this new JLA roster individually before throwing them all together in Justice League of America #1.

    While it wouldn’t hurt to have already read the Suicide Squad/Justice League series and the five JLA Rebirth one-shots, this issue serves nicely to kick off the new roster. The new JLA consists of Batman, the Atom, Black Canary, Killer Frost, Lobo, the Ray, and Vixen.

    This chapter opens with each member of the new team in their respective cities fighting their own jobbers before they receive their first team call. The Extremists have invaded Earth and are hell bent on conquering the populace to save Earth from herself.

    Lord Havok and The Extremists Thirst for Peace, Prosperity, and Total Submission

    Justice League of America #1 is heavy on action. Orlando wastes no time throwing his misfit team up against a formidable challenge. The Extremists are the NWO in this invasion angle. Hailing from Angor (Earth-8), they represent a familiar, yet foreign, enemy. The Justice League of America must overcome their different moral compasses, experience levels, and personal histories in order to prevail.

    Ivan Reis delivers sharp panels and dynamic splash pages. He plays around quite a bit with angles and perspective. Reis’ character designs are also on point. The Extremists’ designs hint slyly at their origin without giving away the punch line entirely. (Is that a Magneto helmet?)

    This series aims to make heroes more accessible to John Q. Public. In Batman’s own words, “People need to see heroes are human…like THEM, that THEY can be heroes. The JLA will show them that.”


    Justice League of America #1, DC Comics, Released February 22, 2017, Written by Steve Orlando, Pencils by Ivan Reis, Inks by Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, and Julio Ferreira, Colors by Marcelo Maiolo, Letters by Clayton Cowles, $2.99

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    Haunted By a Techno Ghost

    From the opening spread of Invincible Iron Man #2, you know that Riri Williams is going to have a rough day.

    The newest incarnation of Iron Man (Ironheart, really) is hovering over New York City, surrounded by 20+ versions of Tony Stark’s iconic armor. Stefano Caselli’s artwork paints the grim picture as this new champion begins her hero’s journey.

    It’s a test created by Stark, her would-be mentor and the personality of her suit’s artificial intelligence. With Stark presumed dead following Civil War II, his consciousness is haunting Williams like a techno ghost. And it’s helping her to grow from being a genius teenage tinkerer into a full-blown hero.

    Driving the narrative is writer Brian Michael Bendis, who transforms the story of a relatively mundane training exercise into a compelling tale through flashbacks. This helps to give us more insight into Williams’ character. Like most heroes, Williams has a tragic past, which comes to light as the story progresses.

    Riri’s Training to Take Over

    As usual, Stark in Bendis’ hands is always fun to read. But this AI version of Stark is more of a wise Yoda than the cocky Han Solo. So some of the best lines come from the young trainee, who complains as she is being pummeled by Stark’s autonomous armor, “You know, technically this is child abuse.”

    It will be fun to see the Stark-Williams dynamic plays out, particularly as Bendis introduces real adversaries. We get a glimpse of the baddies that will haunt Ironheart at the end of the issue. This can only mean one thing–the best is yet to come.


    Invincible Iron Man #2, Marvel Comics, Released December 21, 2016, Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Stefano Caselli, Color by Marte Gracia; Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles; $3.99

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    Riri Williams Debuts as Ironheart

    Many people have worn the signature yellow and red suit since Iron Man debuted in March of 1963 in Tales of Suspense #39.

    Others taking on the Iron Man mantle (including Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, Eddie March, Michael O’Brien, Carl Walker, Weasel Willis, Clarence Ward, Eddie March, Mary Jane Watson, Norman Osborn, James Rhodes, and Pepper Potts) wore armor built for them by, loaned to them by, or stolen from Tony Stark.

    But in Invincible Iron Man #1 is different. And so is Riri Williams. She’s a 15 year-old M.I.T. student, who built her own suit by reverse engineering one of Stark’s suits and repurposing materials she found around campus.

    A New, Self-Made Hero

    Invincible Iron Man was originally intended to follow the Civil War II miniseries, which hasn’t wrapped up yet. Because of this, writer Brian Michael Bendis tiptoes around the details of Tony Stark’s inability to continue as Iron Man. It’s clear, however, that Stark is no longer in the picture. This is Riri’s show, and it’s a very good one.

    Bendis’ script cuts between flashback sequences and a present that sees Riri taking on her first supervillain, Animax. We get to see Riri grow from an awkward grade schooler into an awkward teenager. She also has the added burden of being labeled a super genius before puberty. This heartfelt personal introduction runs the gamut from tender to tenacious.

    The clean, realistic art by Stefano Caselli is on point. Facial expressions, action sequences, and light sources are accurate and believable. Marte Gracia brings a vibrant palette that lifts the art off the page. The art team sells the script in a way that makes this a very fun comic to read.


    Invincible Iron Man #1, Marvel Comics, November 9, 2016, Ages 12+, Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Stefano Caselli, Colors by Marte Gracia, Letters by Clayton Cowles, $3.19

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    I Am Iron Man…Sort of

    The latest character to don the heroic Iron Man armor is no hero at all.

    Victor von Doom, the evil scientist, sorcerer, dictator and all around megalomaniac, has been a changed man since the events of the most recent Secret Wars. He is intent on righting his many, many wrongs.

    In Infamous Iron Man #1, Doom sees a golden opportunity to do just that with Tony Stark’s demise. But is Stark dead? Incapacitated? Imprisoned? Spirited off to another dimension? You’ll need to wait until the end of Civil War II to find out, true believers!

    However, Stark does make a welcome appearance, of sorts, in the book, providing a much needed foil to Doom. Writer Brian Michael Bendis is in his element firing off Starkisms that you can practically hear Robert Downey Jr. spewing at a lightning pace. Stark chides his would-be successor who is inspecting Stark’s hall of armor, “There’s nothing you here you couldn’t build yourself…eventually.”

    The book builds upon the foundation that Bendis and artist Alex Maleev established in the recent International Iron Man. As a result, Infamous Iron Man #1 feels like a natural evolution for the title as well as the character. That’s not an easy thing to do when dealing with a baddie as nefarious as Doom.

    Bendis and team have a lot of questions to answer in the coming months: What happened to Stark? What are Doom’s true intentions? What will happen when Doom meets Stark’s other successor, Ironheart Riri Williams?

    It may take some time to learn those answers, but, so far, the journey looks to be well worth the wait.

    Can’t get enought of Victor von Doom? Check out more Dr. Doom.

    Infamous Iron Man #1, Marvel Comics, Released October 19, 2016, Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Alex Maleev, Color by Matt Hollingsworth; Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles; $3.99.

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    Luke Cage Comes to Danny Rand’s Aid

    Power Man & Iron Fist #9

    Sweet Christmas! Marvel’s new Civil War II has officially collided with the world of Power Man & Iron Fist and the fiddle-faddle hits the fan. In Power Man & Iron Fist #8, Ulysses had a vision of Luke Cage staging a prison break to bust out his best friend Danny Rand and Captain Marvel and her future-preventing crew were on their way to bust it up.

    The newest issue of Power Man & Iron Fist hits the ground running as Power Man and his cohorts take on Carol and her squad in a huge super-powered confrontation. The action flies fast but so do the jokes, writer David Walker continues to bring a light and breezy tone to this book. Even in the large battle scenes, which are awesomely rendered by artist Sanford Greene, Walker never lets things feel too heavy. The stakes are high but the action is above all fun.

    Power Man & Iron Fist has been one of the biggest bright spots of the current Marvel lineup because it’s main focus is on the friendship between Luke and Danny. It’s one of comics’ best bromances and we see Luke’s desperation to get his friend back throughout this issue. If this were anyone else he might not have put his neck on the line so much, but Power Man needs Iron Fist and vice versa. Seeing these two reunited in this issue just makes me feel good. Their banter is one of the book’s greatest strengths.

    This is of course a tie-in with the major Marvel Civil War II event, and it’s always tricky to make these not feel forced. But this issue does a great job of folding the Civil War story in naturally. It actually enhances Luke and Danny’s story instead of feeling an intrusion. It adds greater stakes to the already engrossing struggle to break Iron Fist out of prison. This book strikes a great balance of superhero action and classic buddy humor, and I can’t recommend it enough.


    Power Man & Iron Fist #9, Marvel Comics, rated T+, released October 12, 2016, written by David Walker, pencils and inks by Sanford Greene & Flaviano, colors by John Rauch, letters by Clayton Cowles, cover by Sanford Greene, 3.99.

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    Review: Champions #1: Forging a New Age of Heroes

    Sometimes when the adults aren’t acting their age, it’s time to turn to youth for wisdom. That’s the premise for Marvel’s newest and youngest team of heroes called Champions.

    Disenchanted with the way their idols are acting in the wake of the second superhero civil war, the youngest Avengers quit the team and form their own team of idealistic do-gooders. They recruit a multicultural lineup with an android (Viv Vision), a Muslim (Ms. Marvel), an Asian (Amadeus Cho’s Hulk) and an African-American/Hispanic (Miles Morales’ Spider-Man).

    Writer Mark Waid throws in a nod to the original ’70s Champions team -– which included Hercules, Ghost Rider, and Black Widow. At one point, Ms. Marvel sarcastically asks, “Sorry, am I Hercules?” during a particularly harrowing situation.

    Waid does a good job of navigating readers through the as-of-yet untold end of Marvel’s Civil War II, by showing the youngsters’ frustration without spoiling how the war ends. At the same time, he crafts a compelling conundrum for the heroes who, like today’s police, are being constantly scrutinized thanks to the ubiquity of mobile phone videos. As the character Nova says, “It’s like everyone’s got me on video waiting for me to screw up.” By the end of the first installment, it’s that same scrutiny — as well as a stirring speech from the title’s emotional leader Ms. Marvel — that gives the group legitimacy as well as its name.

    As usual artist Humberto Ramos‘ angular drawings, particular of Ms. Marvel, are stunning. Ramos is a master of facial expressions as well, even conveying anger, fear and frustration on a masked character.

    It’s easy to see why Marvel chose to push this title first as part of its revised Marvel Now lineup. It feels relevant in every way. Hopefully Waid and team can keep up the youthful exuberance.


    Champions #1, Marvel, Released October 5, 2016, Written by Mark Waid, Art by Humberto Ramos, Inks by Victor Olazaba, Color by Edgar Delgado, Lettering by Clayton Cowles; $4.99

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    Review: Uncanny Avengers #12 – Pymtron vs. Hulkbuster

    Review of Uncanny Avengers #12

    uncanny avengers #12 coverThe Avengers erroneously believed that Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, was lost forever, killed by his diabolical creation, Ultron. After Hank returned to Earth, claiming that he and Ultron had merged peacefully, it didn’t take long for the sinister Pymtron to attack the Avengers. The Unity Squad called on the original Wasp, Janet Van Dyne, and Vision for backup and initiated the mysterious Project Icarus, which begins by summoning a massive Hulkbuster Iron Man to join the battle.

    The Uncanny Avengers #12 opens right where the last chapter left off, with Hulkbuster Iron Man and Pymtron squaring off. After Pymtron loses the scuffle and is contained in the Hulkbuster armor, half the team jumps into a spaceship with their oddly restrained captive.

    It doesn’t take long before Pymtron begins busting out of the improvised prison. Whatever Project Icarus is (there’s a huge hint in the name), it doesn’t stand a chance of working if the Avengers can’t keep Pymtron neutralized long enough to reach their destination.

    This issue wraps up The Man Who Fell to Earth. While the story hit all the major points, I feel like the arc could have been drawn out over several more issues. It only took until the cover of the second chapter in the story for the nature of Pymtron to be revealed. The only explanation I can think of for the rushed development of high spots in this story is the inclusion of The Uncanny Avengers in the Marvel Summer crossover event. The Uncanny Avengers #13 will see the team take on Captain America Steve Rogers in Civil War II.

    The Uncanny Avengers #12, Marvel Comics, Rated T, released August 17, 2016, written by Gerry Duggan, art by Pepe Larraz, colors by David Curiel, Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles, cover art by Ryan Stegman and Richard Isanove, variant cover by Alanna Smith, $3.59

    Review by Brendan Allen

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    Review: Civil War II #4 – Explosive Verdict in Banner Murder Trial

    Review of Civil War II #4

    Civil War II #4Some time has passed since the death of Bruce Banner at the hands of his friend and ally, Hawkeye. She-Hulk finally wakes up from her coma, and the first news she hears is that Hawkeye has been acquitted in the trial for Banner’s murder.

    In Civil War II #3, when the majority of the Marvel Universe arrived on Bruce Banner’s doorstep to demand answers after precognizant Inhuman Ulysses predicted that The Incredible Hulk would kill them all, Banner was understandably upset. Banner’s eyes flashed green for a moment before an arrow was loosed by Hawkeye to end his life. Clint Barton’s defense was that the arrow was designed by Banner, and that he was following a pact he had made with Banner himself.

    At the end of the last issue, Tony Stark has successfully replicated Ulysses’ power from the map he acquired (by mild torture) of the young Inhuman’s brain. Stark sees the future and is terrified.

    Civil War II #4 sees Iron Man explaining the science and math behind Ulysses’ visions to a group of assembled superhuman leaders. The visions are not exactly what they initially appeared to be. He succinctly expresses his continued belief that following these visions blindly is misguided and potentially hazardous to the freedom and safety of law-abiding citizens.

    There are difficult questions raised on both sides of the fence. Are Ulysses’ visions accurate predictions of the future, or mathematical equations of probability? Does it matter? If there’s a high enough probability that someone will commit a crime, does it make sense to detain and at least question them? How high does that probability need to be? What if acting on the probability of a future crime being committed causes a different tragedy to occur, like the deaths of Rhodie and Bruce Banner?

    It was easy to choose sides in the first Civil War event. Both of the team leaders had solid, persuasive arguments, I was on Cap’s side from the start. This issue is a little less clear for me. I was initially firmly in Iron Man’s camp, then may have been swayed to Captain Marvel’s for a minute. I landed back in Stark’s yard after this entry.

    Civil War II #4, Marvel Comics, released July 27, 2016, written by Brian Michael Bendis, art by David Marquez, colors by Justin Ponsor, letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles, cover by Marko Djurdjevic, variant covers by Kim Jung Gi, Michael Cho, and Phil Noto, $4.49

    Review by Brendan Allen

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    NCBD: Supergirl and the Suicide Squad Join DC’s Rebirth

    New Comic Book Day 8/17/16

    This week brought a strong group of comics. For New Comic Book Day, we continue catch up with The Punisher and Daredevil as a conflict comes to a head, jump into the new Suicide Squad series, continue reading Jeff Lemire’s incredible Black Hammer series, and check out Supergirl’s Rebirth. Remember, these are only a few of this week’s new releases be sure to check the TFAW website to see even more. We’d love to know what you think of these books too!

    SPOILER ALERT — We try to keep from posting spoilers, but one may sneak through to our reviews now and again. Read with caution, true believers.

    Black Hammer comics at TFAW.com

    Black Hammer #16

    By: Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart

    We last left Black Hammer with the whole team meeting up to reminisce their past lives with the hero (and their leader): the amazing Black Hammer.

    In this new issue we get to see a glimpse into the background of Gail Gibbons, aka Golden Gail, wherein she was given the gifts of the gods to fight to keep the world safe — or is it a curse? Now Gail, stuck in the body of a nine-year-old, is just trying so hard to get back the powers that she once felt burdened with. We also get to see Walky Talky and The Barbalien trying to get a probe outside the boundaries of the small town that they are trapped in. Also, we get to see a clash with one of their old foes, Doctor Sherlock Frankenstein (best name ever!).

    How will this “family” deal with all the troubles of trying to fit into the small town they’re stuck in, and what steps will they take to find their way home? Are they even in their universe, or are they in a pocket dimension? Could this be an elaborate trap by a villain from their past?

    All that, plus we still don’t know the full story of Black Hammer’s fate. I’m really looking forward to learning more in the next issue of Black Hammer. [Steve M. at Portland TFAW]

    Daredevil Punisher #4

    By: Charles Soule, Szymon Kudranski, Jim Charalampidis, Clayton Cowles

    Daredevil Punisher #4 completes the “Seventh Circle” story, and it’s been a great ride. DD and Punisher have worked together in the past, but they’re at odds this time over a gangster named Sergey Antonov. D.A. Matt Murdock is transferring Antonov to Texas so he can get a fair trial, but Frank Castle thinks he needs to be punished for his crimes.

    Soule wraps up the Daredevil Punisher miniseries in spectacular form, but I won’t tell you how this one ends, folks. What I will say is that it’s really great seeing how far both Daredevil and Punisher will take things, given their conflicting convictions. [Josh C. at TFAW.com]

    Suicide Squad comics at TFAW.com

    Suicide Squad #1

    By: Rob Williams, Jim Lee

    For anyone who wants to learn more about Suicide Squad after the wonderfully fun movie, you should definitely grab a copy of Suicide Squad #1! The story starts off with Amanda Waller’s inner monologue discussing why she assembled the Suicide Squad — she believes that bad can do good, and she’s . . . well . . . somewhat right!

    The group is sent to retract a cosmic cube in space, and as the group battles motion sickness, Williams provides a flashback of how Deadshot landed right into Amanda Waller’s Task Force X. It’s a great first issue, and I can’t wait to see where this one goes. Pick this issue up before it sells out! [Darcey M. at Universal City Walk TFAW]

    Supergirl Rebirth #1 by Steve Orlando at TFAW.com

    Supergirl Rebirth #1

    By: Steve Orlando, Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy, Michael Atiyeh

    Supergirl Rebirth serves as a slingshot for those unfamiliar with Supergirl’s past and her place in the DC Universe. The issue starts with a flashback that establishes a potential threat (or possibly ally).

    In the new status quo that is the DC Rebirth, Supergirl only recently crash landed on Earth (like, a few months ago recent), and the D.E.O. is trying to make sure she becomes a hero like her cousin, Kal-El. They’ve assigned full-time handlers Eliza and Jeremiah Danvers to show her the ways of this planet and act as “parents” to her alter ego, Kara Danvers.

    I anticipate good things from writer Steve Orlando; we’re already seeing strong elements of a family drama for this series and I’m excited to see how Kara adapts to Earth and comes to understand our ways.

    Emanuela Lupacchino and Ray McCarthy are already a good pair, and I’m excited to see how they will continue to come together as a team. Their art is similar to that of Terry and Rachel Dodson, and I couldn’t think of higher praise than that. [Josh C. at TFAW.com]

    What did you think of these books? What should we review next week? Let us know below!

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    Review: Uncanny Avengers #11

    Review of Uncanny Avengers #11

    uncanny avengers #11In The Uncanny Avengers #10, we saw the return of Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp. She was called in as a favor from Tony Stark to try and assess how much of Hank Pym remains in the newly returned Pym/Ultron amalgam. When Pymtron fails to catch Van Dyne’s reference to Ghostbusters and then also buys into her made up story about a beach vacation that she and Hank never took, Van Dyne takes a hard stance that Pym is dead and Ultron must be destroyed. She temporarily disables Pymtron with an EMP device and the chapter closes with Deadpool pulling the trigger of a rifle aimed at Pymtron’s head at point blank range.

    The Uncanny Avengers #11 opens right where #10 left us. Deadpool doesn’t usually miss what he aims at, so he either intentionally pierced Pymtron’s ear, or lost his nerve. While the Degenerate Regenerate is delivering an ultimatum for surrender, Pymtron punches some sort of invasive electronic device into Deadpool’s chest.

    With the rest of the team chasing after Pymtron, Cable tries to remove the device from ‘Pool’s body, only to discover he won’t be able to unless it is first disabled with another EMP blast. Problem is, Van Dyne’s miniature EMP device only had one shot in it, and she used that one to temporarily disable Pymtron the first time. She will have to wait for it to recharge, then make a decision to either save Deadpool, or take down Pymtron long enough for the team to rescue Pym’s body from the machine.

    The pacing of The Man Who Fell To Earth has been non-stop since it picked up in The Uncanny Avengers #9. The story is blazing right along, and the teaser page promises the action will continue into the next chapter with “Project Icarus,” a secret failsafe the Avengers have put into place for just such an occasion.

    The Uncanny Avengers #11, Marvel Comics, released July 27, 2016, script by Gerry Duggan, art by Pepe Larraz, color by David Curiel, letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles, cover by Ryan Stegman and Richard Isanove, $3.59

    Review by Brendan Allen.

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    Review: Civil War II #3

    Review Civil War #3

    civil war II #3 coverIn the end of Civil War II #2, precognizant Inhuman Ulysses projected a vivid and terrifying vision onto everyone present. The Incredible Hulk would kill them all. This, right on the heels of Tony Stark pointing out that Ulysses’ visions may be influenced by his emotional state, and Ulysses’ emotional state being turned inside out by Iron Man kidnapping him from his bed in the middle of the night and torturing him (a little bit) in order to map his brain.

    In Civil War II #3, this revelation leads to nearly all of the Marvel Universe showing up, unannounced, on Bruce Banner’s doorstep. Captain Marvel and Iron Man (sans suit) enter the lab to draw Bruce Banner out and explain the situation to him. Stark and Danvers both present valid arguments on their positions regarding Ulysses and his visions. Banner admits that he has been experimenting on himself with Gamma radiation to keep himself from Hulking up, and tells the group it as been over a year since his last episode.

    Then it hits the fan.

    The issue cuts back and forth between a courtroom in the present, where one of the Marvel U is on trial for murdering another, and flashbacks to the field in front of Bruce Banner’s not-so-secret lab, where the crime takes place. I can’t really say much about either scene without spoiling, so we’ll leave it there.

    I said at the end of my review of Civil War II #2 that the pacing of this series was off, and that the build was too slow for a summer series of only 7 issues. Chapter 3 has finally hit the accelerator. The battle lines have been clearly drawn and war is on the horizon (which is good, considering there are only four issues left in this series).

    Bendis’ dialogue is believable, and the emotional state of several characters is finally starting to make sense. If I had one (small) complaint about this entry, it would be the switching back and forth between David Marquez and Olivier Coipel on art duties. Their styles are similar enough, but the differences are noticeable from scene to scene.

    Civil War II #3 (of 7), Marvel Comics, released July 13, 2016, written by Brian Michael Bendis, art by David Marquez and Olivier Coipel, color by Justin Ponsor, Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles $4.49

    Review by Brendan Allen

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