Road to Oz

Adapted by Eric Shanower
Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum
Art by Skottie Young
136 pages, color
Published by Marvel

It’s no secret that one of my favorite childhood novels was Ozma of Oz, and that I thought Eric Shanower and Skottie Young’s adaptation of the book was fantastic. Even better, having only read the first three Oz novels as a child, I’ve been delighted that Marvel has continued to hire Shanower and Young to create adaptations of the books that followed. Road to Oz is the fifth Oz book, and it’s also a very peculiar one. Shanower himself notes in the introduction that many fans consider it one of the weakest Oz novels. So should you read it? Now that I’m done, I’d have to say… yes.

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Hawkeye #2

Written by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

Five years ago, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, and David Aja teamed up to produce a revival of The Immortal Iron Fist. The series didn’t last too long, but it was a lot of fun, and it introduced Fraction and Aja to Marvel’s readers and well as them to each other. Now, Fraction and Aja have reunited for a new ongoing series starring Hawkeye of Avengers fame. And two issues into Hawkeye? All I can think is how much better Fraction and Aja have gotten since Iron Fist, and they were already good back then.

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Astonishing X-Men #51

Written by Marjorie Liu
Art by Mike Perkins and Andrew Hennessy
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

Marjorie Liu and Mike Perkins taking over Astonishing X-Men—a book that has floundered for a direction, creative team, and publishing schedule ever since the tail end of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s run—should have been a great thing. Their debut with issue #48 was not without its problems, though, and the highly-publicised engagement issue of Northstar and his boyfriend Kyle for #50 felt like things were getting worse, not better. But curiosity got the better of me for the big wedding issue this month. Because, after all, in fictional works everything always works out just fine once the wedding itself arrives. Maybe the real world would follow suit?

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Winter Soldier #1

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Butch Guice
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

Call it heresy, but I think I enjoyed Ed Brubaker’s issues of Captain America that starred Cap-replacement Bucky Barnes in the outfit more than when Steve Rogers was in the suit. And with Rogers helming Captain America once more an inevitability, I’m glad that us Bucky Barnes fans are getting our fix in the new series Winter Soldier. And so far, it’s exactly what I want from such a series: a mixture of black ops and crazy Marvel mayhem.

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Criminal: The Last of the Innocent

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
112 pages, color
Published by Marvel

One the most dependably good comic series being published is Ed Brubaker’s and Sean Phillips’s Criminal. A series of crime comic mini-series, whenever a new Criminal comes down the pike you know you’re in for something good. With their new collection, Criminal: The Last of the Innocent, Brubaker and Phillips not only keep their comic well-rooted in the dark and slightly depressing real world, but also give us flashbacks to a slightly more idyllic setting, one that comic-book readers might be especially familiar with.

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Punisher #1-6

Written by Greg Rucka
Penciled by Marco Checchetto (#1-5) and Matthew Southworth (#6)
Inked by Marco Checchetto (#1-5) and Matthew Clark (#6)
32 pages each, color
Published by Marvel

When it comes to characters who have had an extremely varied range of depictions at Marvel, the Punisher is probably somewhere near (if not at) the top of the list. Some takes have had him fighting cheesy super-villains like Stilt-Man, punching a polar bear, or getting turned into a Frankenstein’s monster. Others were grim and serious, going up against human-trafficking and a distinct absence of super-heroes in a "for mature readers" title. Greg Rucka’s new take on the character is on the more serious side of things (having replaced the admittedly-fun monsters of Marvel title), and in many ways it distills a lot of the different takes into a unified front.

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Generation Hope #13

Written by James Asmus
Art by Ibraim Roberson
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

Generation Hope‘s first twelve issues were, on the whole, a fun little book about a young girl named Hope Summers who is prophesied to be the mutant messiah, as well as a handful of new young mutants whose powers recently manifested. Written by Kieron Gillen, it tied in closely with Uncanny X-Men and rocked out smaller stories that focused much more on character growth than plot-of-the-month. With issue #13, though, the book’s been handed off to James Asmus and Ibraim Roberson, and I can’t help but feel like this book is different enough that it warranted a name change.

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S.H.I.E.L.D. Infinity

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Pitarra, Zachary Baldus, Kevin Mellon, and Gabriel Hernandez Walta
48 pages, color
Published by Marvel

If I had to make a "top five comics from Marvel that have caused some long-time readers to go into a tailspin over the past several years" list, S.H.I.E.L.D. would certainly be on that list. Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver’s stories of ancient history in the Marvel Universe (showing the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization spanning thousands of years, complete with alien invasions dating back to the time of the Egyptian Pharaoh Imhotep) mix our history with that of the fantastical from Marvel, and it seems at times almost designed to ruffle feathers. The idea of a S.H.I.E.L.D. Infinity issue sounded interesting, then, taking a break between the first and second volumes to let some other artists step in and draw vignettes from Hickman about the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization. But while I enjoyed it, I was a tiny bit disappointed in that as a potential jumping-on point, S.H.I.E.L.D. Infinity is anything but.

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Astonishing X-Men #36

Written by Daniel Way
Penciled by Jason Pearson
Inked by Karl Story
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

This is going to sound strange, but I feel a little bad for Daniel Way, Jason Pearson, and Karl Story. Stepping onto Astonishing X-Men—a book that was once the flagship title of the X-Men family, but has since fallen in stature due to increasing delays and stories drifting further away from the other titles—has got to feel like a bit of a poison pill. Expectations are simultaneously high and low, and after watching the wheels fall off on the book over the past few years, they just have to know that most readers are going to assume more of the same.

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Marvel Masterworks: Fantastic Four Vol. 2

Written by Stan Lee
Penciled by Jack Kirby
Inked by Dick Ayers and Steve Ditko
304 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s 102-issue run on Fantastic Four is fairly legendary, and with so many options now available to read those original issues (hardcover and softcover full-color Marvel Masterworks reprints, plus black and white Essential Fantastic Four volumes) it seemed like a good a time as any to start catching up on my Marvel history. Like my recent dip into Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers, though, I found a fairly wide range of material here; some good, some extremely dated.

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