Fastball Feedback: October Marvel Edition Featuring Squirrel Girl

FF - Angela - Header

The launch of All-New, All-Different Marvel is in full swing (as Secret Wars continues to aim at concluding in 2015) with plenty of new #1's from the House of Ideas dropping every Wednesday. This week there are three new series featuring a wide variety of talent, characters, and styles. We're taking a look at all three to help you decide what's worth checking out and possibly save some extra strain on your wallet.

FF - Squirrel Girl

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1

Written by Ryan North

Art by Erica Henderson

Colors by Rico Renzi

If you read the previous Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 released earlier in 2015, then you know exactly what you are in for with this issue. Nothing has changed from the writer to the artist to the colorist. The only real difference is that Doreen Green is in her second year of college and that's no real difference at all. It's fun, peppy, and packed with jokes.

For those that are not already familiar with the series and its creators, this may not be the best possible point of entry. While there's still a lot to like about this series, the new issue isn't quite as tightly scripted or presented as the spring debut. Ryan Brown's script introduces two new characters who are both loaded with laughs, but also contribute to dialogue that fills these pages with words. This entire issue is bogged down by exposition and the majority of pages feel cramped with exposition, words pressing against the edges of each panel forcing out Erica Henderson's opportunities to create visual gags.

Even in the scenes when Henderson is given space, like a certain food court, the puns take the lead and the setting is relatively generic, given the scenarios presented. Rico Renzi's color paint with pastels to make everything colorful, but what should be active scenarios are only made active by blues, greens, and yellows. Henderson's action is limited to the most obvious of artifices and rely on North's very active script to evoke laughter. The characters, interactions, and silliness are enjoyable as ever, but this relaunch of Squirrel Girl (in the same year it launched) is a standard issue of what has proven to be a very strong concept.

Grade: B

FF - Howling Commandos

Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1

Written by Frank J. Barbiere

Art by Brent Schoonover

Colors by Nick Filardi

Sometimes you can judge a comic by its cover and Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 is one such example. It is an almost entirely static shot of a large group of characters standing together, affecting interest on neither an aesthetic or idea-driven level. What you see is what you get, and all you see is a group of monsters posed around a woman in a T&A pose.

Brent Schoonover, the artist on both the cover and interiors, takes what is boring in a single image and transforms it into something aggravating as sequential art. Geography, posing, and basic facial traits all create serious barriers to comprehending this issue. There's little sense of how characters are positioned in relation to one another, and often why they are looking in any given direction. Setting the majority of this comic in a scene of action only exposes Schoonover's staggering weaknesses as a storyteller. His figures fail to capture any sense of movement, and still appear awkwardly staged every time they slow. Even when you are aware of what is happening on the page, it screams with inauthenticity.

Buried in all of this is the ingot of a good idea. Much of the script reads like grindhouse cinema, spitting on subtlety and happily accepting the obvious explosion or laugh. Frank J. Barbiere is a writer capable of understanding the appeal of that concept, standing up a massive cast of monsters for big action and tongue-in-cheek melodramatics. There are at least two moments here that are capable of evoking an emotional reaction, the sort where you grin with the comic rather than glaring at it. Barbiere's script doesn't contain enough laughs or craziness to make Schoonover's art endurable, much less entertaining though. It's a tough read where the glimmers of interest and potential only make the final result all the more disappointing.

Grade: D

FF - Angela

Angela: Queen of Hel #1

Written by Marguerite Bennett

Art by Kim Jacinto

Colors by Israel Silva

Substory Art by Stephanie Hans

Angela is a character that I initially had no attachment to when she was introduced to the Marvel universe, but writer Marguerite Bennett and artist Stephanie Hans have managed to adjust that attitude. In this new debut they create two narratives, one set right at the beginning of this new universe and another 8 months after the conclusion of Secret Wars. The former manages to make up for any shortcomings of the latter by revealing a rich past to this angelic tale.

Stephanie Hans illustrates the entirety of the "substory" set in the past. It's a richly illustrated tale (as shown in the heading of this article) with a painterly quality to it all. The depiction of fantastical monsters like a Bugbear and Heirophant are truly memorable. They make the action sing on the page and inspire the slightest bit of terror. Yet the truly memorable aspect of Hans' work lies in her characters and their romance. What she evokes in the past is the element that makes the present of the story truly sing.

The present as presented by Kim Jacinto and Israel Silva is something mediocre though. Jacinto applies a heavily detailed linework inspired by artists of the 90s in order to create something that feels far less realistic than what she is aspiring towards. There's nothing confusing about the action or drama shown in the present, but it alludes any sense of the organic or natural. If it were not for Hans' work in this issue, it could be tossed away. Yet the rich colors and beautiful love story shown in the past makes the present feel like a narrative worth paying attention to.

Grade: B-

What did you think of this week's comics? Sound off in the comments below.