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Marvel Comics December 2020: Great, Good Decent

Introduction

I’ve given December the theme of a “Year of Gaming”. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to recap the last year in mobile, PC, and console. It’s actually the first year that I’ve been able to dabble in gaming in all three. But, first, it’s comics weeks. I already did Spawn. Now, it’s time for Marvel Comics December 2020.

I could kill two birds with one stone if I had been able to snag a PS5 before the arbitrageurs got them.

Marvel seems to have avoided the revolving door of creative teams that has plagued DC and, to an extent, Spawn. Granted, they haven’t gone unscathed. However, the only major disruption that I’ve noticed is that Black Panther has gone on hiatus. I think that many of you might disagree that is a major disruption, but I enjoyed the book. Coates has done a good job with Panther and Cap.

Even with T’Challa momentarily on the sidelines, there are plenty of good books coming from Marvel Comics December 2020. I’m still finalizing my rankings, but so far, I’m tempted to put more books in the great category than I think I ever have, especially for Marvel. Sure, there was the post Covid euphoria that lasted a couple of months. Perhaps this is just me being filled with the Christmas spirit. Whatever the reason, join me as I try to justify my glee.

The Great

Amazing Spider-Man 52 and 53 (Nick Spencer, Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Gleason, Frederico Vicentini): First of all, forget what I said about the rotation of creative teams at Marvel. Apparently, it is just not as noticeable for some reason. Secondly, I’m missing parts of this story because they’ve done the “dot” issues (.LR for this) on Spider-Man again. I need to visit my LCS to pick up the missing issues. And, I will. Because this story has been awesome. I’m not usually one for “dark” Spider-Man stories, but Nick Spencer seems to have returned to the dark after a hiatus due to the abuse he suffered for Secret Empire. Completely unwarranted in my opinion. That’s neither here nor there. The bottom line is that Spider-Man is awesome right now.

Avengers 38 (Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness): “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” have quite possibly been Marvel’s most inconsistent team title this year. I can’t remember if I’ve pushed them into the great section before this month, but they have been trending that way for some time now. I loved the Moon Knight story and they payoff in this issue is worth it. Keep it going.

Immortal Hulk 40 (Al Ewing and Joe Bennett): I’ve sandbagged my review on this title for far too long. You could rightfully say, “Okay, it’s great. But, why?” Since it’s close to Christmas, I’ll oblige. Though the horror aspect of the comic has been toned down, the story has still been strong. Familiar faces from the past are popping up all over the place. They are affecting the story big time. The Immortal Hulk is both comfortable and surprising in a way that few stories do.

X-Men 14 and 15 (Jonathon Hickman, Leniel Francis Yu, Mahmud Asrar): Chris hyped this title for so long and then I got to sit down and finally read it and was a bit disappointed in the Empyre tie in. I know that I am missing big chunks of the story here because it is a true crossover. However, what I’ve seen of X of Swords has been fantastic. I might need to either pick up the trades (or to make Chris happy, fill in the missing issues). I’m one to roll my eyes at all of the events, but recently they’ve been exactly what books need to focus them and keep them on track.

The Good

Captain America 25 (Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leonard Kirk): It’s a mini anniversary issue! I suppose there are benefits to the every 5 year (or so) reboot. Like Hulk, Coates has old favorites returning to affect the story in quite positive ways. This book has been trending up with the most recent Daughters of Liberty/Red Skull story and I have given it the “pushing great” note.

Fantastic Four 26 (Dan Slott and RB Silva): This story was a bit of a mess at the beginning. Slott pulled it together after about the 5th or 6th page and it all went smoothly from there. Unlike X-Men, Empyre fit perfectly with this book and things got a bit sideways after that. Looks like from the teaser on the last page that big things are coming, so I have high hopes going forward.

Thor 9 (Donny Cates and Nic Klein): I’ve been down on Thor and Venom the last few months. Chris and I were texting and it just feels like Cates may have been taking on too much similar to Tynion with Batman and Justice League Dark. Well, if this issue is any indication, that fear was unfounded. All I have to say about this issue is “Wow.” Thor wakes up as Donald Blake to Hell on Earth. This one got the “pushing great” label, too.

Venom 30 (Donny Cates and Luke Ross): Venom Beyond did not live up to my expectations at all. It just felt like a mess and that they were filling space until the next event. This issue confirms that. This issue was good. I’m not sure about King in Black. However, as with other books, it looks like the event is focusing the book and driving it to be better. I will end up picking up the books at my LCS when I go to get the .LR issues of Spidey.

The Decent

There are no Marvel Comics December 2020 that are neither great nor good. Merry Christmas, Marvel!

The Verdict

I enjoyed Marvel Comics December 2020 very much. It might just be the Christmas spirit as I mentioned. However, I stand by my assessment that the books are good this month. For what it’s worth, I will say that I hope this continues into the new year. Please, please, don’t tell me that it is just the Christmas spirit from everyone at Marvel that made these books good this month. Marvel, make mine quality.

Hearthstone Duels Beta: Great, Good, Decent?

Introduction

What the heck is Hearthstone Duels Beta? Well, we are faced with yet another task as (unpaid) Blizzard beta testers. About a year go, Blizzard released Battlegrounds in response to the rise in popularity of auto battlers like Auto Chess, Dota Underlords, and Teamfight Tactics. As soon as I saw the gameplay for Battlegrounds at the event they put together to showcase it, I knew that I made the comment that I would play that mode almost exclusively.

I mean, who doesn’t want to watch cards smash into each other?

The same can’t be said for Hearthstone Duels Beta. The concept intrigued me. Blizzard took the Dungeon Run concept and made it PvP. That sounds interesting. However, instead of enhancing my interest in the game mode, watching the game play actually decreased my interest. Then, I received a drop from Twitch to early access to the game mode.

The mode is now in full beta, so I’m no longer special. However, I write this web page, so I am special here. You obviously read the page, so I think you’re pretty special. Let’s discuss among our special selves if this game mode is any good or not.

The Great

Do you love Dungeon Run? I do. Do you not know what Dungeon Run is? I forgive you if you don’t. Let me give a brief explanation. And, yes, I realize that almost nothing I ever write is brief. How about I promise to keep this one under 100 words? Deal? Deal.

Dungeon Run is a mode Blizzard introduced as an adventure in one of the expansions. You start with a deck. Then, as you proceed through the “dungeon” and defeat bosses, you get to choose random “treasures” and cards to add to your deck. Honestly, it’s a fun mode and I used to think that I wanted more of it. 59 words.

He’s on fire!

After playing Duels a few times, it turns out that I just wanted more Dungeon Run. Duels lets you build your starting deck. I don’t care. It lets you play against other people. Without some sort of chat feature, I don’t care whether it’s a bot or a person. Duels does retain the treasures (though most of them are garbage) and card selection, which is great.

The Good

Remember when I said that I don’t care about building your own deck. That was mostly for show. Even though most of the time, because it’s a competitive mode, you will build the same deck, that’s starting to change some. Blizzard has already released new class treasures and hero powers that promote some variety in deck building.

Because I don’t have the whole collection on many of my accounts (yes, I have multiple accounts and play all 3 regions on all of them), I have to be creative with my deck choices. Yes, creative there is a euphemism for bad decks. But, sometimes those bad decks will catch an opponent off guard because they’re not looking for the “creative” card choice. And, since it is ultimately “no risk, no reward”, that’s good.

The Decent

This game mode is ridiculously imbalanced. Granted, it is a beta. Also, it is Blizzard and their idea of game balance has infiltrated MTG. make extremely imbalanced cards, make your money from selling them, and then nerf them (ban them in the case of MTG). Sometimes, this strategy is employed multiple times. Since it’s introduction earlier in the year, Demon Hunter has been nerfed 4 times.

They have proved time and again that they are not prepared for proper card design. Eh, eh, Illidan? Not prepared? Achievement Unlocked: Lame Dad WoW joke.

So, expecting Duels to be completely balanced right out of the gate is a tall order. I wasn’t joking in the beginning when I said that Blizzard expects us to be their unpaid beta testers. In the case of the new heroic mode, you are paying them to be beta testers. God bless this brave new world of gaming.

However, Hearthstone Duels Beta is way out of balance. If you can high roll a certain treasure or card selection, you are guaranteed to breeze through to a high win total. I was watching a streamer last night who had two runs where he was dealing 20+ damage per turn starting on turn 4 or 5. In a mode where your starting life is a maximum of 40, that’s ridiculous.

The Verdict

Hearthstone Duels Beta has some fun aspects. I do like that I can build my starting deck. Dumbing into one of the ridiculously overpowered runs is fun as hell. The rest of the time, it is just as frustrating as regular Hearthstone with the addition of even more randomness and frustration of potentially low rolling your way into oblivion. I play standard for the rewards (though they stealth nerfed them) and Battlegrounds because it can be legitimately fun. I don’t see myself playing Duels unless they include it in a quest.

Commander Legends: Cards I Love

Introduction

Commander Legends? Aren’t all commanders legendary? I am the first to admit that I have not played Commander at all. But, even I know that much. Okay, requisite dorky dad joke out of the way, let’s get to the actual introduction.

After all, I am a dorky dad and I have the photos to prove it.

As we often do, Chris and I texted about each new card that we found interesting or fun. I’m not sure who started the text chain this time, but I’ll be honest, I never expected it to persist for as long as it did. Mainly, we haven’t gotten together to play in almost a year (maybe even over a year) due to Covid.

As a result, I’ve seen Chris’s passion for the game die. I’ve been able to keep mine mostly alive by playing a game against the boys. Also, xMage and Arena have kept me going. So, I was more than a little surprise that Chris said that he ordered a box of cards. I followed suit by buying a Commander gift box from Channel Fireball that included two Commander decks. So, after years of saying that I’m a Commander player who never played Commander, we are both suddenly Commander Legends.

White

Commanders I’d Play

Both of these have similar effects. Akroma is just straight stupid with a card like Zetalpa, Primal Dawn that is keyword soup. Prava has the added bonus of being a tiny leader in addition to a possible commander. You could build one heck of a nasty token deck around that card. If Chris gets a copy, I might just buy or trade for it.

Other Cards of Note

Austere Command is just a ridiculously versatile control card that I would run 2 of in pretty much any deck that had white. Sure, it is expensive. But, all of the effects are devastating. In addition to just learning Commander, I have also learned about the Monarch, which was introduced in the Conspiracy set a few years ago. It’s a cool mechanic that introduces new strategies to the game. Akroma’s will works well with Akroma. Not surprising, but my eyes bugged when I saw the card.

Blue

Commanders I’d Play

Turning scry into draw is a seemingly powerful effect. Heck, I just got tricked into picking this card because of that effect. Now that I think about it, though, I wish that the effect was “may” or “scry and then draw”. The second effect might be too powerful. I picked the second because of the partner effect. Unfortunately, I can’t partner the card with my Kira because the CMC has to be below 4 cumulatively. Nevertheless, if both are in play at the same time, good luck casting any removal.

Other Cards of Note

WotC is just trolling us at this point with blue cards that are 5 CMC and have “Force” in the title. Sakashima’s Will is just a cool card. I noticed a card with a similar “choose” effect when I was looking through white, but I wasn’t impressed with the card. This one is a lot of fun. I texted Chris about Body of Knowledge as soon as I saw it. Look at this dumb card, I said. Not sure it is good, but it certainly is dumb. Just my kind of card.

Black

Commanders I’d Play

I have an “Empires” deck that I put together that was the throne, crown, and scepter of empires. Of course, I built a blue deck around them. I was thinking that I could adjust the deck to build around Armix. The only problem is that if I make it Tiny Leaders, I can’t run the crown because it is 4 CMC. Tevesh Szat is just a Commander that you run if you don’t ever want to play a game of Commander. He puts a huge target on you.

Other Cards of Note

Profane Transfusion reminds me of the card from one of the Phyrexia sets. Phyrexian Rebirth. Once upon a time I had the ridiculous idea to build a token deck around that card. Maybe with the Cat Leader from above, I finally can. As I was looking through the black cards, I noticed an elf theme. As elves are usually green, I found that interesting. Rakshasa Debaser is just one of those ridiculous cards that I get in my head will somehow work exactly the way I hope. Yet, it never does.

Red

Commanders I’d Play

I texted Chris about Rograkh, too. I think my exact question was, “exactly how broken is this stupid card?” Actually, that wasn’t my exact question. I think I said something about “speaking of stupid” and he replied with something along the lines of “Dear God”. Looks like we can Alena, then the next turn cast Rograkh and a ton of cheap enhance spells, get a bunch of mana and then cast fireball. GG no re.

Other Cards of Note

Wheel of Misfortune and Explosion of Riches just seems like dumb Hearthstone cards. I simultaneously hate the RNG nature of that game and love the RNG nature of that game. These two cards just feel like they’d end up with half of the table laughing and the other half crying. I texted Chris about Blasphemous Act, “When you absolutely, positively don’t want any friends.”

Green

Commanders I’d Play

(a) Did somebody say elves? I noticed an elf theme in black earlier. I surely would have been disappointed if green did not have a similar theme. Time to brew a GB elf deck of doom. (b) Cascade from hand?! That seems like crazy combo possibility with some of the green cards out there. I’m sure Chris has some ideas.

Other Cards of Note

We heard you like ramp, so we put some ramp in your ramp in Reshape the Earth. That’s crazy expensive and if you have 9 lands on the battlefield, I’m not sure what you’d do with twice that. Then again, I’m not a green mage. Court of Bounty is another interesting monarch card that gives some versatility. And not only does Apex Devastator cascade four times, but if combined with Kodama, you get a creature from hand.

Multicolor

There are only Legendary creatures in the multicolor pool for this set. Therefore, I’ll pick more than the two I had been picking for each color.

Commanders I’d Play

In my research about Commander, I learned about group hug strategy. I don’t entirely understand it. But, from what I gather, that bunny looks like a group hug type of guy. I picked the Boros guy simply for all you players out there who like to take notes. He tells you to do so in the text box. I texted Chris about Yurlok because he brings back mana burn. We joked about him scaring off the noobs with old school rules.

Averna let’s you ramp when you cascade. That’s a neat addition. That abomination is going in my mythical GB elves deck. And, that brings us to Nevinyrral. I texted Chris about this one because I recognized the name from the old disk card. This guy has the same effect with a sizeable body.

Colorless

I joked earlier that WotC likes trolling us with almost Force of Will cards. They have done the same with Lotus cards throughout the years. This one is the closest almost Lotus that we’ve ever had. It very well could see a banning in Commander and especially Tiny Leaders. I could put the Staff of Domination in my terrible Armix deck. And, there is a cycle of diamonds in this set. I just picked this one because it’s not Mox Diamond, it’s Moss Diamond. LOL. *ahem* Colorless sucks in this set. What do you want from me?

The Verdict (Commander Legends cards are fun)

Commander Legends offers some fun stuff for players of the format. Even someone like me who has only fancied himself a Commander player who doesn’t have a playgroup can find something in this set. I have to say that there might even be better cards in here than some of the other more recent standard sets. I mean, I have been having fun with MTGA, but the Zendikar Rising cards are mostly just annoying to play against. So, I commend Chris on his decision to grab a box of Commander Legends. He won’t be let down.

Cards I Love: Hearthstone darkmoon Faire

Introduction

Come one, come all to the Hearthstone Darkmoon Faire! If you’re thinking what I’m thinking then you’re thinking, “Didn’t we just have a Hearthstone expansion? ” Yes, it appears as if the Hearthstone developers have taken a page from the WotC handbook. They are releasing expansions once every 3 or 4 months now. That’s good to keep things fresh.

It is not goo, however, for my bank account.

Yes, in spite of my machinations to the contrary, I am still playing Hearthstone. Hell, Reno even screwed me in a game a couple of days ago. Those of you who are regulars remember that’s why I swore at the game and swore off the game. It’s another card game to keep me somewhat sane through this pandemic.

The Hearthsone Darkmoon Faire, as much of the Hearthstone card base does, takes inspiration from an even of the same name in World of Warcraft. Towards the end of my WoW career, I became an achievement hunter. The Darkmoon Faire filled far too much of my time as a result. But, the Hearthstone equivalent has a twist. Similar to MtG bringing the Eldrazi to Innistrad, the old gods spread their own twisted corruption into the Faire.

Demon Hunter

Felsteel Executioner: Speaking of corruption, our first card has one of the new keywords for this set. The corrupt triggers when you play a higher cost card while the card with corrupt is in your hand. It offers versatility. Honestly, though, it’s one of the weaker keywords.

Throw Glaive: Speaking of keywords, this is just “Echo” with more words. I’ve heard from several programmers who would know that Blizzard is infamous for their “spaghetti code”. Hell, even as an extreme novice to programming, I can see that their stuff is not optimized very well. Regarding this card, it’s gonna be situationally awesome.

Druid

Guess the Weight: In keeping with the faire theme, the name of this card is hilarious. The effect is pretty great, too. I like that Blizzard is willing to take the chance that they make an absolute trash card in order to give us something that we’ve never seen before.

Kiri, Chosen of Elune: At first glance, this card looks like garbage. After all, it does to lightning bolt. Mind you, that’s never stopped me from picking a card to be featured. However, I don’t think this card is garbage. Those two cards have synergy with druid and could lead to some fun combos.

Hunter

Mystery Winner: There was some talk about Hearthstone getting rid of the discover mechanic. I think that would be a very bad idea. Discover is probably the best mechanic to come out of this game. I think they wanted to (and eventually have) do away with the cards that have the ability to iterate the discover process infinitely.

Trampling Rhino: So, they use the keyword in the card name, but then write an entire phrase to explain what that keyword mean in the card description. Perhaps this is the only card that they have planned with this ability and they don’t want to waste the resources. Who knows?

Mage

Grand Finale: I love the elemental mage archetype. I’m not sure there are enough cards to support it in standard. But, I enjoy playing Wild better anyway. Give me all of the broken cards.

Deck of Lunacy: Can you play this card and all expensive spells to get a deck full of Pyroblast? Is that how this works? Well, I guess there’s also Puzzle Box of Yogg Saron. Either way, it’s dumb fun.

Paladin

Redscale Dragontamer: I picked this card because art is hilarious. Yes, Paladin cards this expansion are an absolute joke.

Snack Run: Hey, it’s got discover. That must mean you love it. Well, yes, discover is fun. However, it feels like any time I play the other card that has a similar effect, I get nothing but 1 and 0 cost spells to choose.

Priest

Insight: I think this is the type of card that they were envisioning when they developed the corrupt keyword. It is a decent card by itself with crazy upside if you decide to corrupt it. Compared to this, most of the other corrupt cards feel like an afterthought.

Palm Reading: In addition, this is the kind of discover card that I love. You discover something, plus you get a guaranteed good outcome. This is just a solid and fun card. Priest continues to get strong support cards.

Rogue

Swindle: 2 mana, essentially draw 2? Plus, it is targeted draw in both cases. Looking at the card now and thinking about it, I’m surprised they made it combo and not corrupt.

Tenwu of the Red Smoke: I’m about to go Johnny Combo on you here, but there’s gotta be a way to play this with either the new or old C’Thun to be able to cast the old God multiple times per turn. In fact, I think I’m going to workshop that deck once I get finished writing this article.

Shaman

Magicfin: This guy will fit quite nicely into my wild murloc shaman deck. What do you want from me? Like Paladin, the Shaman cards in this expansion are garbage.

Revolve: First we had evolve. Then we had devolve. Then we had turn everything into murlocs. Now, we have this trash heap of a card.

Warlock

Wicked Whispers: The old gods are back. Their whispers have returned as well. If you’ve ever been involved in a random whisper encounter in World of Warcraft, you realize just how creepy that is. Regarding the card, zoo was already strong. This is just going to make it more so.

Cascading Disaster: Another card with a reference to an MtG keyword in the title. It also almost has that ability. This is the only card I’ve seen that has the repeating corrupt. Once again, I think they missed an opportunity to have more multiple corrupt cards.

Warrior

Sword Eater: What power creep? Years ago, they nerfed Fiery War Axe to 3 and now for one mana more, you get a 2/5 body with taunt. Sure, it’s a turn late and you may lose tempo. However, warrior has so much targeted removal that you might not.

Tent Trasher: I’m not sure how often you’ll get the mana reduction on a regular basis more than one or two, but I like this sort of effect. I wonder if they tested as each minion type played and found it to be too powerful that way.

Neutral

Old Gods and a Bunny: I remember there being something in World of Warcraft with the Rabbit. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I think it was made into a battle pet after that update. Whatever the reason, this stuff is making me want to play WoW again. Must resist the temptation. Other than that and the old gods, none of the neutral cards are very interesting.

The Verdict (Hearthstone Darkmoon Faire looks fun)

I liked that Ashes of Outland introduced dual class cards. Even if most of the cards were garbage, it is a fun addition to the game that I hope they expand upon with future sets. The cards in Hearthstone Darkmoon Faire aren’t nearly as groundbreaking. What they are, though, is fun. That’s all I ask when playing these games.

Great, Good, Decent: Dc november 2020

Introduction

I finally got around to DC November 2020 review. Though, to be fair, this is actually a quicker turnaround that I’ve been accomplishing recently. I’m not quite back to the point where I can write before multiple deadlines. However, the articles are being written within a week of the deadline at least.

Gotta walk before you can run.

Speaking of running (Actually, this doesn’t have anything to do with running, but I wanted a smooth transition. Nailed it.), Chris and I were texting earlier in the week. He texted to warn me that it looked as if DC Comics might be on the precipice of another reboot. Granted, it’s been about 4 or 5 years since the last one.

But, still, I felt that familiar old irritation. Why do they keep doing this to us? Why can’t they just let the comics evolve for a decade and then maybe decide that it’s time to sell to a new audience? I have to say that I love what both Marvel and DC are doing right now for the most part and don’t think there needs to be a massive overhaul. Thankfully, Future State appears to be simply and “event” right now. Our conversation ended with us both in agreement that it was most likely to test the waters for an eventual reboot. *sigh* Well, while we can, let’s enjoy DC November 2020.

The Great

Batman 100 and 101 (James Tynion, Jorge Jimenez, and Guillem March): This issue has been hyped for months. Ever since Tom King was on the title and he promised something completely unexpected. Many assumed that meant that Batman might finally kill the Joker. That’s the ending I hoped for, but it wasn’t quite that. Nevertheless, this encounter has forced Bruce to rethink the way he’s doing things. I’m excited to see what that means. 101 promised to be a letdown after the excitement of 100, but that ending was magnificent.

Justice League Dark 27 (Ram V and Amancy Nahuelpan): Like Hulk, I’m running out of superlatives to use for this title. It stumbled slightly when Tynion left, but as I’ve said numerous times, Ram V has proven to be a worthy successor. Also, like Hulk, this is the title that I’d miss the most if they rebooted and it isn’t in the lineup like it looked like might happen.

Wonder Woman #763-765 (Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh): I started collecting WW for a few reasons. One, when it started after Rebirth, Greg Rucka wrote it. Two, I loved the movie version. Three, and not insignificant, it is a core title. For a bit there, it wavered. But, Mariko Tamaki has firmly taken the reigns and made it hers. Good choice, DC.

The Good

Aquaman 64 (Kelly Sue Deconnick and Miguel Mendonca): I started collecting Aquaman for one of the same reasons as Wonder Woman. I enjoyed the movie. The first story arc was interesting. Ever since Arthur returned and there’s only been hinting at a showdown with Manta, the book has bounced between Good and Decent with a few issues close to great. Those issues have been written by Ms. Deconnick who is back after a (covid related?) hiatus. So, the future looks good.

Action Comics 1026 (Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita, Jr.): Either Bendis or Romita or both of them together figured out how to make a BMB patented “talkie” more interesting. The panel configuration in this book is all over the place. Backwards, upside down, sideways, sometimes all three at the same time. Overall, I’ve enjoyed this title more than Superman, but neither is giving me reason to believe that the BMB hire was anything more than a PR stunt.

Catwoman 26 (Ram V and Fernando Blanco): This had the “Joker War Collateral Damage” and it involved fallout from the last issue with the Joker. However, it served as little more than a set up for the next arc. I had to look up Father Valley. I thought he was a new character, but he’s not. I’m interested to see where V goes with this.

Justice League 54 and 55 (Joshua Williamson and Xermanico): Maybe Death Metal focused the title similar to how Joker War did with Batman and Detective. Perhaps it is Josh Williamson’s touch. Whatever the reason, this title is starting to recapture some of the fun at the beginning of Venditti’s run as writer. They probably just took my advice and read Avengers to see how to write a team title.

The Decent

Detective Comics 1028 and 1029 (Peter J. Tomasi et al): These issues are better than the title was before Joker War. It’s not as good as it was during the tie in issues. I realized that I think I just don’t like Tomasi’s writing style. Here’s hoping that he and I can find a compromise soon.

Superman 26 (Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis): At this point, I’m only collecting the book for the artwork. This title might not survive on my pull list after Future State.

The Verdict

Other than Detective–and I’m realizing that probably won’t change unless I come to terms with Tomasi or they replace him–and Superman–which is subject matter and not even BMB has been able to make Superman interesting to me, the DC November 2020 books are very good. I’m still upset that they’re choosing now to take a hiatus and push Future State, but who knows. Maybe that will end up being awesome and I won’t even miss the regular titles. It remains to be seen in a couple of months.

Great, Good, Decent: Marvel November 2020

Introduction

I’m a bit late with Marvel November 2020 reviews. I meant to have all of the comics reviews done last week, but the end of the week got away from me. I know that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Deadlines are often ignored during the school year. Alas, I do have a plan to try to get back on track. We’ll see if it comes to fruition.

This feels more true than ever this year.

If I’m able to stick to the plan, it’s going to be busy on the page this week. It’s the middle of the NFL season. Hearthstone has a new set releasing and they’re also beta testing a new game mode. MTGA is releasing Kaladesh Remastered. Thankfully, if I want to do a Commander Legends review, it releases next week. I’m exhausted just thinking about this other stuff.

Before we get on to the Marvel November 2020 reviews, a short note. As I was reading Amazing Spider-Man 50, I noticed that they have these ridiculous .LR issues in the arc. Therefore, I’m saving Amazing Spider-Man 51 for until I’ve been able to go to the store to pick up the supporting issues. *sigh* Why are they always doing my boy Spidey with these “dot” issues. Oh well, on to the reviews.

The Great

Immortal Hulk #38 and 39 (Al Ewing and Joe Bennett): I’ve said it before and I will say it again. This is the most consistently entertaining Marvel Comics title in the last decade, possibly longer. I loved the original vision of the title as a horror book. It has since introduced The Leader. This has precipitated a slight shift in the focus. It is still horror, but it is more focused on psychological horror. I will never forgive Marvel for killing this title in 6 or so months. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but I will be salty for a while after the final issue.

Maestro 3 (Peter David and German Peralta): Hulk is having quite his day in the sun. In addition to being in the best title and She Hulk having guest spots in Avengers and Fantastic Four, Peter David came back to write another Maestro story for us all. This issue was a bit slow until the final panel reveal. All I will say is that Maestro is going to the dogs.

X-Men 13 (Johnathon Hickman and Mahmud Asrar): Okay, this must have been what Chris was talking about when he said that this title was very good. I wasn’t too impressed with the last few issues, especially the weird Kree/Skrull tie in. Also, it looks like the X of Swords story is a crossover and I am missing context by not reading all of the issues. But, Apocalypse is back in this issue and I’m excited for what that means going forward.

The Good

Amazing Spider-Man #50 (Nick Spencer and Patrick Gleason): After 850, I was excited for this arc. I should have known better than to have expected great. Spencer often takes some time to set up his stories. That’s where this issue is. It’s a fine set up with one hell of a reveal at the end. I’m also salty because of the .LR issues. Why? Just why?

Avengers 36 and 37 (Jason Aaron and Javi Garron): Chris and I were texting earlier and he said something about having dropped Justice League from his pull list. I replied that they need to read Avengers to see how to properly write an ensemble book. What’s weird is that when Venditti took over from Snyder, I listed that as one of his strengths. I just think Covid has run amok on some of these titles. Neither here nor there, the Moon Knight arc has been fantastic and this book is bordering on great.

Captain America 24 (Ta-Nehisi Coates and Daniel Acuna): I can’t think of a better writer to wrestle with the implications and aftermath of Captain America as a Nazi than Coates. Like Avengers, this books has flirted with greatness during his tenure. In this issue, Sharon Carter is back and so is the Red Skull. Bring it on.

Fantastic Four #24 and 25 (Dan Slott et al): I didn’t like Empyre as much as I thought I would. The aftermath has been fun, though. Thing and his girlfriend (wife?) adopted the two alien babies, leading to some hilarious interludes. I wouldn’t put it in the same tier as Avengers or Captain America, but it is definitely trending up recently.

Venom 29 (Donny Cates and Luke Ross): Like Hulk, I enjoyed the reimagining of this title as a horror book. This most recent arc has gotten away from that in favor of a future sci-fi vibe. In my opinion, it hasn’t been as successful. Supposedly something big is coming next issue and there’s some event starting, then. Sorry, Eddie, I already spent a stupid amount on Future State. I’ll catch you in the TPB.

The Decent

Thor 7 (Donny Cates and Aaron Kuder): Overall, I haven’t enjoyed the Thor titles since Legacy. I enjoyed the Odinson to All-Father story of the previous series. In my opinion, this one has struggled to find a proper footing. The Galactus story was fine. I stated in the last review that this arc would most likely just be a filler between the other two arcs. And, so it appears to be .

The Verdict

Marvel November 2020 is better than recent months have been. Hulk is still the best book I’ve read in decades. Maestro has proven to be a wonderful surprise. Avengers, Captain America, and Fantastic Four are all pushing great. I admit that my giddiness a few months ago was most likely due to having comics back after the Covid drought. This time, it is probably because of the holidays and recent news that has me giddy. Whatever the reason, I look forward to what the end of the year will bring.

Love Letter to Spawn 310 and 311

Introduction

TLDR: I enjoyed Spawn 310 and 311 slightly more than the previous two issues. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the previous two issues. As with anything Spawn related, the issued had good and bad qualities. I very much liked the art, but the story felt too long. There may be a pay off later, but even that felt lacking.

Sad trombone sounds…

Okay, that picture and caption are slightly damning in the face of the final sentence of the previous paragraph. But, I swear. I enjoy Spawn. It’s the one comic that I have made a pact to somehow collect the entire run. I’m probably (at most) 50 issues short. It’s because I love the book so much that it might seem like I’m hard on Spawn 310 and 311. It’s a tough love.

The Great

The Art in 311: I’ve made it known on several occasions that I like the super realistic art in Spawn. With some other titles, I can abide a different art style, but I grew up with Uncle Todd’s and then Greg Capullo’s art on this book. That’s what I want to see from Spawn on a regular basis.

Ken Lashley’s work was amazing in the most recent issues. I think I mentioned last time that I texted Chris to cal it Capullo-esque. I was more than a little upset, therefore, to see a new artist on issue 310. The art wasn’t as sharp. But, that changed with 311. I guess this is just the new reality of post Covid comics this year. Issue to issue changes of writers and artists.

The Good

Overpromising and Underdelivering: Again, this might seem like a negative against the book. Perhaps on its surface, so allow me to explain. At the end of issue 310, he promised Overtkill, Gunslinger Spawn, and one other that I’m blanking. Also, I am too lazy to walk downstairs right now to look it up.

All three of those characters made an appearance in the issue as promised. However, they came on in the last few pages of the issue. So, that’s disappointing. The good is that hopefully that sets up for a great issue 312 and maybe even 313. Here’s to hoping.

The Decent (This is Actually More The Ugly)

Anti-vaxxer Messaging?: It surprised me that the first part of issue 310 contained some anti-vaxxer messaging. I can’t say that’s how it was intended. However, the “villain” of the first few pages was a doctor working on a vaccine for a worldwide pandemic that turns out to be poisonous and making people sick.

I’m not sure how Uncle Todd thinks about vaccines. Initially, I was surprised that it was even included in the issue. But, then I remembered that I was confusing Uncle Todd for Ed Boon and his Twitter crusade to spread the word about masking during the pandemic.

During a time of misinformation and attacks on science and medicine, it felt very irresponsible to include this storyline in the comic. I know that it’s fiction and only a comic, but we’ve seen that pop culture and entertainment can heavily influence opinions. Okay, I’m off my soapbox.

The Verdict

Spawn 310 and 311 are overall good. As mentioned in my previous review, they aren’t as good as the Dark Horror story or even the beginning of the soft reboot started in issue 300. With the inclusion of some older villains, that promises to change for at least the next issue. Hopefully Uncle Todd is able to keep the momentum going forward.

Great, Good, Decent: Milestone Amazing Spider-Man 850

Introduction

“Amazing Spider-Man 850 coming soon”. I texted these words to Chris last week as I was organizing my comics for the big October 2020 reviews. He replied with, “Already?” I know that he was very excited for 800. He collected several variant covers for the issue as it was the penultimate before the Legacy renumbering.

Even so, there is some evidence that Marvel might not be all that great at counting in some of these Legacy reveals.

I followed my announcement up with the fact that the the new number 50 came right after number 750. I wondered if they might try to celebrate both anniversaries in succession. Luckily, it looks like they realized the quandary and will use #50 in a different manner by launching a new story. I have to ready myself because this one looks dark. Surprisingly the (spoiler alert) return (again…how many times now?) of Gobby wasn’t. Read more in my Amazing Spider-Man 850 review, starting now.

The Great

Gobby is Back! – I already told you this in the introduction. Granted, I gave it a sarcastic comment. That’s just my nature. Trust me. I’m always here for classic villains returning in any book. I loved it when they introduced Leader into Immortal Hulk. Joker War has resurrected Batman and Detective Comics.

Now, the Green Goblin returns to–

*checks notes*

*rubs eyes*

*puts on reading glasses*

*whispers off camera* Is this right?….Okay, here goes. *ahem*

Now, the Green Goblin returns to fight side by side with Spider-Man. The Sin Eater (more on him later) proves to be a bit too much for our favorite wall crawler. And, so, Norman Goblinizes himself to join the fray. Together, they triumph. Goblin uses the good deed to proclaim his original debt to Peter repaid and returns quickly to his villainous ways. Expect to see more of the Green Meanie in future issues.

The Good

Spider Family – I either misread or misinterpreted the end of the previous issue. The Spider Family is, in fact, back. However, I interpreted them as being back to stop Spider-Man or work against him. While that part is true, their actual intentions became more clear in this issue.

They came back from the future (or an alternate dimension, I guess it isn’t that clear) to help Spider-Man survive the fight with Sin Eater. So, they stopped Spidey from preventing Norman from changing. That allowed the Goblin to help Ol’ Webhead defeat the Sin Eater. I may still be misinterpreting this whole scenario. To be perfectly honest, I just skimmed some books last week to get the reviews done.

The Decent

Sin Eater – I’ve made no secret of the fact that I haven’t been the biggest fan of the Sin Eater arc. He just doesn’t “feel” like a proper Spider-Man villain. He belongs more with Doctor Strange perhaps, with a few modifications. Ghost Rider would prove to be a worth foe. For me, Spider-Man doesn’t match up well against these supernatural types.

With that being said, I like Kindred. He’s back at the end of this book. Perhaps that means he will be part of the next story. I mean, we find out in my Marvel comics review for November on Friday or Saturday. Part of me wants to sneak a peek, but I’ll be good. I already had to warn Chris of potential spoilers in this article.

The Vignettes

Instead of following in the footsteps of DC Comics and filling this issue with short stories, Marvel instead split the main story into 3 acts (how Shakespearean of them) and then featured 3 short stories at the end of the issue. Coincidentally, they split nicely into a Great, Good, and Decent.

The Great (A Family Affair by Saladin Ahmen and Aaron Kuder): Tells the story of Vulture’s granddaughter getting into a scuffle with Spider-Man due to a misunderstanding. Spidey puts her straight (possibly) and she may have a reckoning with granddad.

The Good (Four Shoes by Tradd More): A weird story where Spidey is taken into an alternate dimension via a glowing cube on the Brooklyn Bridge. His mission? Save a dog from some kind of knight/wizard lady? I don’t know. It’s better than I’m making it sound here.

The Decent: (All You Need Is… by Kurt Busiek and Chris Bachalo): I expected more from these names. This story felt like a way to simply jam as many Beatles references into the story as possible. I….am not a Beatles fan, so I don’t see that as a worthy goal.

The Verdict

Amazing Spider-Man 850 is all I hoped for. The return of the Goblin is predictable. However, I didn’t see the team up coming. Also, I enjoyed the history lesson in the second chapter of the story. Sin Eater is gone (good riddance), Kindred returned, and Gobby is on the loose. This books was wavering a bit for me recently. However, similar to Joker War and Leader, this issue might serve to refocus and bring it back to greatness.

Great, Good, Decent: DC Comics October 2020

Introduction

DC Comics 2020 is a bit of a misnomer just as Marvel Comics October 2020. First, it is now technically November. Second, I got behind in my reading and reviewing. These are the comics that I received from DCBS in both September and October.

Sue me. Things have been a bit busy at work this year.

However, as I wrote in the Marvel Comics review this (technically last) month, I’m committed to getting back on track by the end of the year. While I committed to that last year as well, I learned some tricks during the quarantine that will help this time. The only weird thing is that you will now be treated (?) to two straight weeks of comics. Think of it as a proper reboot of the page. Comics fans love reboots. Right? Right?!

The Great

Action Comics 1024 and 1025 (Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr.): I’ve made no secret of my severe distaste for Superman. If my younger brother Tim ever reads the page, he might disown me for the amount of times I’ve said it. However, BMB has been doing his best to reverse that opinion. Right now, he is succeeding with Action. This story is fun and focused. That was missing from the Leviathan story.

Batman 96-99 (James Tynion IV and Jorge Jimenez): After reading issue 96, I texted Chris and said, “I’m really enjoying Joker War.” He agreed that it has been really good. This is the story that I’ve been waiting for from Tynion since he took over the title. I hope it continues.

Justice League Dark 25 and 26 (Ram V and Amancy Nahuelpan): I wept when they took Tynion off of this title. It was probably my favorite DC book since Rebirth. It took a few issues, but they found a worthy successor. Ram V is great on this book and I want this to be long term.

Wonder Woman 759-762 (Mariko Tamaki and Mikel Janin): I’ve been looking forward to this since I saw the announcement in the previous issue. Then, she wrote one of the vignettes in the Detective Comics 1027 anniversary issue. Now, I finally get to experience Mariko Tamaki on Wonder Woman. It’s worth the wait and hype. Love it.

The Good

Catwoman 24 and 25 (Sean Murphy, Blake Northcutt, et al): Catwoman has been iffy ever since Joelle Jones left. Ram V filled in nicely for a few issues, but then it went a bit off the rails. It was just inconsistent. I’m not ready to declare Sean Murphy the savior, but these two issues were fun.

Detective Comics 1025 and 1026 ( Peter J. Tomasi and Kenneth Rocafort): Detective Comics disappointed me more than the main title. I knew that Tynion would eventually find his footing. Not so for Tomasi. However, Joker War has focused him and this book. It might be great if not for the main title, which is absolutely killing it.

The Decent

Aquaman 62 and 63 (Jordan Clark and Marco Santucci): As I’ve been looking at the books on Previews World (also where I grab my cover shots), I’ve noticed that many of the creative teams have been reshuffled because of the Covid break. It might explain why it has been so inconsistent. This book is a fine War for Atlantis, but it’s not what I hoped from this story.

Justice League 50-53 (Various, but it looks like they might have settled on Joshua Williamson and Xermanico for the DM tie ins?): Perhaps no title has suffered more this year than good old Justice League. Scott Snyder seemed to have put it at the bottom of his priorities. After they took him off the title, it became a fun team title again. Then, it wandered in the darkness for a couple of months. Death Metal might serve to focus it similar to how Joker War did for the Batman books.

Superman 24 and 25 (Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis): BMB has not successfully changed my mind about Supes in the main title. He keeps introducing new characters that should add to the mythos and make the character more appealing. None of them have. I just don’t care. If I get rid of a book (and I have no plans to do so because I get so few books lately), this is the first to go.

The Verdict

DC Comics October 2020 is much stronger than Marvel this month. There were a couple of good books that I considered making great and the only decent book that I truly did not enjoy was Supes. Join us next week as we do back to back comics in an attempt to get the page back on some sort of predictable schedule. See you in a couple of days for Spawn 310 and 311.

Love Letter to Spawn 308 and 309

Introduction

Spawn 308 and 309 arrived simultaneously a couple of months ago. Therefore, after a Zendikar review that took far too long and a detour into the NFL for a couple of days, we are back to our bread and butter on the page. That’s right. It’s time for some nerd content. More specifically, I’m going to catch up on the comics I’ve missed the last couple of months and write some reviews.

Trying to catch up be like…

I’ve already read Spawn 308 and 309. I know, no large feat. However, it feels like I actually accomplished something simply by reading those two books. Now, I can try to plow through the other two dozen or so that I have from the last two months. That might seem like a massive undertaking since it took me a couple of months just to read the two Spawn issues. However, Tuesday is my lighter day teaching and I will have time (theoretically) to devote to reading. But, first, to finish this review of Spawn 308 and 309.

The Great

Ken Lashley’s Art: I have had a love/hate relationship with the art in Spawn since I’ve come back to comics. Sure, there have been some other books that I haven’t enjoyed the art, but this one has had some of the most varied art over the last couple of years. But, I texted Chris and said, “I like Ken Lashley’s art. It has a bit of Capullo vibe.”

The Good

Uncle Todd’s Writing: I was excited to have Uncle Todd back and writing for the old Hellspawn. I learned, again, that you should be careful what you wish for. Uncle Todd is good in small batches. However, when asked to carry a story for much longer than a few issues, he loses the thread a bit and things start to unravel. I’m not saying that’s happening here just yet, but the potential exists.

The Decent

The Story: Speaking of writing, I just can’t get into this story. I liked the “reboot” of issues 300 and 301. Ever since, this story of time traveling, cross overs, and Heaven’s War on Earth is just leaving me cold. These latest issues were slightly better. I’d rather they go back to the creeping terror of the “Dark Horror” story.

The Verdict (Spawn 308 and 309 are fine)

I titled this article, “Love letter to Spawn 308 and 309”. I wouldn’t say this reads so much as a love letter. Then again, they say that if you love someone, set them free. If they come back, then they’re yours. Otherwise, it was never meant to be. I don’t think that I need to set Spawn free again just yet, but I’m certainly not looking forward to new issues like I was before the pandemic.