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


Action Comics #1033 Review

Everything about issue #1033 of Action Comics impresses, from cover to closing page… 


Review by Andy Flood

Written by:
Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Superman),
Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad (Midnighter)
Art: Daniel Sampere (Superman), Michael Avon Oeming (Midnighter)
Colours: Adriano Lucas (Superman), Taki Soma (Midnighter)
Letters: Dave Sharpe (Superman & Midnighter)
Published 27/7/21Published by DC Comics

The first notable thing when picking up this issue is the new logo.  It’s been overhauled by Darran Robinson, who has done a great job of encapsulating (in his words) 82 years of history.  It’s a logo with a modern feel which still manages to echo ages past.  The cover title ‘Under Siege’ refers to some of the story to follow and pairs well with further clues reflected in the excellent cover art.

The cover is handled on this occasion by the team of Daniel Sampere (also interior artist) and Alejandro Sanchez (colours).  We have Superman in a determined pose, framed by Thao-La and a great depiction of Lois channeling strong ‘Ripley from Aliens’ vibes (foreshadowing a great scene she has later in the book).  All this is set against the backdrop of Atlantean preparations for war.  Anyone who has been reading thus far will know by now that tensions are mounting.  It’s another great cover for this run, promising a good read.

And it’s no empty promise; there’s a lot to take in during this issue, with events moving pretty quickly.  ‘Warworld Rising Part 4’ opens with scenes of espionage, as we witness two high-tech camouflaged figures infiltrate the crashed alien ship held by the Atlanteans.  It’s a really atmospheric sequence, which leads us headlong into a face-off now made considerably worse.  As the Justice League debate events and the best course of action (in itself making for some very cool pages), Jon and Lois are meanwhile trying their best to accommodate the refugee Thao-la as she struggles to adjust to her new situation.  Tensions soon escalate even further, as the surface forces of Earth and the Atlanteans teeter on the brink of war and the Warzoon attack Thao-La at the behest of Mongul and his cronies.

If this sounds like too much to take in, fear not; Phillip Kennedy Johnson has done a fine job of making sure we are never lost, instead providing us with a truly enjoyable thrill ride.  He delivers on the promises of both the cover and events of preceding issues while keeping multiple plates spinning in truly entertaining fashion.  The dialogue is superb throughout, often being highly emotive, and we are with both him and the characters every step of the way until the closing panel.

Daniel Sampere’s art is, once again, just what the book needs.  He gives us dynamic action, imposing superheroes and dark, mysterious bad guys.  He etches lines of tension into the character’s faces, and draws us further into the drama unfolding.  There are numerous occasions throughout this issue where a feeling of Sampere’s original pencils shine through, something I personally love to see, as the shading lines and contours are further enhanced by subsequent inks and colours.

And what colours they are!  Once again, Adriano Lucas treats us to hugely atmospheric palettes, always giving us a firm sense of place and expanding our levels of excitement.  The colours are bright and dynamic and support the story perfectly.

We have more excellent colours from Taki Soma as we move on to the Midnighter story in this issue.  Her choices are always fresh, and support Michael Avon Oeming’s  striking art in a hugely complimentary fashion.  The writing duo of Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad have written a story which showcases the strengths of the medium.  It’s high concept and has a touch of the bizarre yet the creative team work together so well that it entertains and impresses each and every time.

The pairing of Midnighter and Mister Miracle works very well here and introduces a comedic element that plays well through their dialogue as the action unfolds.  It’s another jam packed instalment, and the creative team here ensure that every panel pops and every line engages.  This Midnighter run feels very new and fresh and serves as a great companion piece to the lead story.

Dave Sharpe letters both stories again and, as ever, his work is clean, clear and well considered.  It really makes a difference when a comic is as easy to read as it is to look at or scan over.  Thank you, Mr. Sharpe!


Verdict

Everything about issue #1033 of Action Comics impresses, from cover to closing page.  We have two excellent companion titles to enjoy and are spoilt by a wealth of great art and storytelling.  It’s one of those comics which has you reading along thinking, “what happens next?” while feeling no small dose of excitement.  If you haven’t done so already, give Action Comics a try.  There’s a lot to like here.


(Suggested ages 13+ by DC)

Review by Andy Flood, 02/08/21