Amazing Fantasy #3 – Review

Amazing Fantasy is a title I’d strongly recommend for anyone either intrigued by the lovely cover art, curious about the displacement of some key Marvel heroes, or who wants something a little different.

Amazing Fantasy #3

Story: Kaare Andrews
Art: Kaare Andrews
Colours: Brian Reber
Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Released October 2021

I keep coming back to the covers for Amazing Fantasy 1 and 2 over and over, just to enjoy them, to find new details, to appreciate the skill of their creator. This one’s no different.

Here we have Black Widow, framed by an unmistakably alien vista, the victor of a battle against strange foes. It’s a wonderful piece of art by Kaare Andrews, once again nodding to his influences while creating something suited to the modern age. There’s a strong retro-futurism feel here, recalling the work of greats such as Ed Emshwiller, Virgil Finlay and the fantastical cityscapes of Frank R. Paul. There’s more than a dash of Rodney Matthews here too and, as each of these fantasy and sci-fi greats brought us whole new worlds of incredible imagination, so too does Kaare Andrews with his cover art here. If there are any elements that draw you in, be it the gorgeous rendering of Black Widow and alien companion, the Soviet rocket ship, the strange structures on the horizon, then you would do well to not only check out this run but also investigate Andrews’ predecessors.

While each of the three primary covers for Amazing Fantasy so far have been worthy of the ‘amazing’ tag and very much stand on their own, they also serve to signal a comic story which places its characters in situations and settings which are several steps from the norm. While the atypical nature of Andrews’ title might be divisive when it comes to audience, there are enough familiar elements to ease readers into this new world and allow them to enjoy the adventure.

And what an adventure it is! The action moves at quite a pace now, and early in this issue Andrews’ establishes the drums of war as a central theme. Certainly tensions have been building as each of the three main characters find their feet in this strange new land.

Another familiar face from the Marvel universe makes her entrance proper while a young king, Black Widow at his side, makes a bid to avert the impending conflict. Meanwhile, Captain America (in full pulp hero mode) attempts to rally the tribe of the Cat People to act against instinct and tradition in order to defend themselves. Spider Man/Peter Parker remains with the people of Dragon Rock, who make their own preparations.

Add to all this, two other bestial tribes, both of whom chomp at the bit for conflict, and soon we hear the drums start; DOOM, DOOM, DOOM. Moments of court intrigue and quiet reflection are done. Now is the time for battle to be joined.

Andrews switches to epic wide panels to depict both the prelude to war and its main act, a technique which works to great effect, especially when paired with the repeated sound of drums, literally spelling doom. The action is enhanced further by Brian Reber’s colours, shifting here to a dark, hellish palette and so fully immersing us in the grim events facing our heroes. The writing is working well too, with tight dialogue and good characterisation. Kaare Andrews guides us through his ‘Island of Death’ with confidence and no small amount of mystery, supported throughout by some great lettering work from Joe Sabino, who presents the words clearly while respecting the artwork.

The story brings a good number of dramatic moments, reveals and twists; certainly enough to make for a compelling page turner. By the time we reach the cliffhanger ending, we are left ready to read on, to look forward to the next instalment. And, as the preview of issue four’s cover would indicate, yet more stunning art to appreciate.


Verdict

Amazing Fantasy is a title I’d strongly recommend for anyone either intrigued by the lovely cover art, curious about the displacement of some key Marvel heroes, or who wants something a little different. As an added plus, this is a limited run and as such should be easy to track down and collect in its entirety. There are some great variant covers around for each issue too, so seek them out if you can!


Review by Andy Flood, 11/1/22


Amazing Fantasy #2 Review

These are a great choice for someone wanting something unpretentiously entertaining from their comics or an adventure story to share with their kids. It’s a short run, which makes it manageable, and it has a genuinely unique feel…

Amazing Fantasy #2
Reviewed by Andy Flood


Story: Kaare Andrews
Art: Kaare Andrews
Letters: Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Released: Aug 25th 2021

Another luscious cover awaits with issue #2 of Marvel’s Amazing Fantasy, again reminiscent of the pulp fantasy art of bygone times. We’re treated to the spectacle of a beleaguered Spider Man locked in underwater combat with a grotesque giant snake while a captive maiden and treasure await. It’s a scene full of nostalgia, bringing to mind many of the great illustrations from the sword and sorcery genre.

This gorgeous cover painting does a great job of making the reader wonder why Spidey finds himself in such a situation and why he’s wielding a dagger and a whole host of other questions. Some are answered ably in the ‘story so far’ blurb on the title page within. Broadly, World War II Captain America, teenage Spidey and young Black Widow find themselves in a strange land after having seemingly died or otherwise departed their plane of existence.

Each then encounter fantastical, fearsome and, in some cases, ethereal beings and become involved with the people of this new land. ‘Tribes’ picks up from the last instalment with a nightmare for Spidey, a journey for Cap’ and pampering for Black Widow. Each goes on to have different adventures with their adoptive tribes, revealing more of the world as the story unfolds. And what a world it is, full of sweeping vistas, dense forests and grand throne rooms. Equally interesting are its denizens, split into at least three factions in conflict.

It’s apparent that Kaare Andrews has enjoyed creating this world and he’s crafted a story which makes the integration of our super heroes into this almost classic fantasy setting a lot of fun to experience. As we go along for the ride, we see dragon flights, elves, orcs and more. We encounter danger, romance, conflict and intrigue. We, as readers, have a really good time. The creator’s passion for this project shines through and includes us in the excitement.

Andrews plays with different ideas in both the art and writing, using light and shadow along with vibrant colours and distinctive line work to great effect. He teases us with hints of what is going on in the world and suggestions of why our protagonists might be there while always keeping things moving forward.

Even after the mysterious reveal at the end of this chapter, this near one man show isn’t quite done with us. We are treated to some back matter showing some of the creative process, including a cover concept sketch and several page layout to finished colours examples. These insights should be included more often, as they deepen the appreciation for just how much goes into making a comic like this. Lastly, we get a sneak preview of next issue’s cover, and it’s a thing of beauty; reason enough, in fact to look forward to #3!

If all that doesn’t tempt you, we get even more value for money with this series, as each issue comes with a bonus digital edition code inside, for use on tablets, phones and the like. Being able to pan, scan, pinch and zoom to your heart’s content offers another way to enjoy this great title.


Verdict

It’s hopefully pretty clear by now that I love this pulp fantasy and sci-fi infused title and, for me, the covers alone seal the deal. That said, these are a great choice for someone wanting something unpretentiously entertaining from their comics or an adventure story to share with their kids. It’s a short run, which makes it manageable, and it has a genuinely unique feel. Give Amazing Fantasy a try, if you can. I think you’ll stay for more than just the covers.


Review by Andy Flood, 03/09/21


Amazing Fantasy #1 Review

If you’re in a comic shop and don’t feel even the remotest pull of curiosity when faced with an image of Captain America riding a winged lion, then perhaps you are browsing the wrong shelves…

Amazing Fantasy #1

Reviewed by Andy Flood, 8/8/21

Story:  Kaare Andrews
Art:  Kaare Andrews
Letters:  Joe Sabino
Released: 28/7/21
Published by Marvel Comics


If you’re in a comic shop and don’t feel even the remotest pull of curiosity when faced with an image of Captain America riding a winged lion, then perhaps you are browsing the wrong shelves.  The first issue of Amazing Fantasy has such an image on its cover and it really is one you have to hold in your hands to appreciate.

Granted, old ‘Cap’ looks a little different here, with Thor-like hair and beard and Conan-esque garb.  But the shield is there, albeit peppered with arrows.  The whole composition of the cover, from the languid pose of the supple elf-maiden to the hyper muscled orc (?) and Cap bring to mind the classic sword and sorcery art of Frank Frazetta and maybe even a little Boris Vallejo.

The whole cover is gleefully anachronistic, and I love it.  From the title font down to the brief cover pitch, it instantly conjures up the feel of the pulps of old.  Indeed, the original run of Amazing Fantasy (originally titled Amazing Adult Fantasy) harkens back to the post-pulp early ‘60s, and while primarily being famous for featuring the first ever appearance of Spider Man, had previously featured some excellent, weird and wonderful stories from Stan Lee, illustrated by Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby!

It is perhaps fitting then, that this new book contains not only numerous nods to Marvel history but also stars Spider Man alongside Captain America.  Joining them is Black Widow, or perhaps more accurately here, ‘red-room’ era Natasha Romanoff.  Kaare Andrews has elected to use World War II era Cap and teenage Spidey in this awesome story.

Aside from the letters and editor credits, this title is very much a one man show, and Kaare Andrews makes sure it is a seriously impressive show, at that.  The opening scenes of ‘Arrival’ show us Captain America on what seems to be an ocean-bound escort mission during WWII.  Disaster soon strikes and the Cap is transported to a strange new world, lit by twin suns and populated by fearsome beasts.

We then change pace, tone and art style to join a young Black Widow in the depths of the Red Room programme.  Soon after experiencing some of her harsh reality, we shift over to join everyone’s favourite webslinger, mid-fight with the Green Goblin, just before he is similarly whisked away to find himself in hot water surrounded by odd, misshapen creatures.

This whole book is a love letter not only to Marvel but also the many early pulp fantasy and science fiction stories which informed a lot of later entertainment.  Kaare Andrews uses his shifts in art style to take us from one era or scene to another, with changes in line work and colours very effectively charting a course through the chaos until our three protagonists all arrive in this strange new world.

As the action unfolds and builds towards the climactic closing pages, we are left with a sense of wonder and discovery but also with questions as to the exact nature of our heroes’ experiences.  Is it real, a shared dream, or something more… permanent?


Verdict


‘Arrival’ is a superb opening issue for this 5 book run.  The standard cover is worth the price of admission alone (there are a few nice variant covers around, too).  As a comic creator, Kaare Andrews is openly flexing here, showing off his considerable talents to bring us a tale worthy of that awesome cover and a gathering of some of Marvel’s most popular characters.  This one is highly recommended.  I can’t wait for issue 2!


Review by Andy Flood, 8/8/21