Friday (2020)

Friday  2020

Friday is actually Friday #1. Or “Chapter One.” I went into it cold, only aware it was Ed Brubaker writing and Marcos Martin on art. I figured it was a done-in-one, but it’s actually the start of a new serial.

The titular Friday is one Friday Fitzhugh, who’s just come home from college to her New England town and found herself immediately in pursuit of some kid who’s run off with a sacred knife from an archeological dig.

The comic’s set in an indeterminate past, pre-cellphone, looks to be pre-laptop too. There’s not a lot of time to reflect on the seventies or eighties as quaint because it’s mostly action as Friday and her partner but he’s really the Batman to her Robin, Lancelot Jones, are in this pursuit. With the sheriff driving them. Sheriff answers to Lancelot.

There are lots of allusions to Friday and Lancelot’s “partnership” before college, though not as many as references to some cataclysmic rift in their relationship the night before she left for college. Did one of them get amorous and get shot down? Don’t know. Friday wants to talk about it, Lancelot instead ignores her and ditches her after picking her up—in the sheriff’s car—from her train to go on their mission.

There’s a lot of precedent for teen and tween boy detectives having tomboy female sidekicks (Encyclopedia Brown did, didn't he) and Brubaker seems to think there’s gristle in examining them after they’re able to buy cigarettes but….

Friday #1 ends with a postscript from Brubaker explaining its origins in the proto-YA novels of his childhood (mentioning Edward Gorey just makes you wonder how it’d read if Martin’s art were eerie in any way), which kind of constrains the whole thing and gives it some padding.

It may turn out to be worthwhile.

But a comic called Friday about a literal girl Friday (the reference just seems to target a forty-something, middle-class White male audience) and so far disinterested in examining its gender tropes by going all-on traditional? Eh.

Barrier #5 (July 2017 / May 2018)

Barrier #5

Barrier #5 finally translates Oscar’s dialogue. He and Liddy are both plugged into the aliens’ heads and, after Liddy’s flashback–revealing what had happened to her husband, though without dialogue–the aliens talk for a bit in Spanish then it’s Oscar’s flashback. With English dialogue.

Given how important not translating Oscar’s dialogue has been the entire series, it’s a little weird to see his tragedy unfold in English. Especially when it turns out Vaughan and Martin only hinted at the actual tragedy. Well, didn’t really hint. Lied. They lied about the tragedy. Unless you read the Spanish? It’s unclear.

There’s some good art. It’s not exactly good comic art. It’s good art though. I can’t even remember how the book read when the visual pacing was so good. None of its here, even though there’s a lot of art. There’s no opportunity for that kind of pacing anymore, not with the narrative.

Then comes the twist ending.

It’s an eye-roller. And makes the English translation even more of a cop-out.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2017) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #4 (March 2017 / May 2018)

Barrier #4

They get to talk again. The aliens dump them in a different area of the ship where there are other aliens and those aliens are mean.

Barrier doesn’t refer to language barrier, does it?

The issue delves into Oscar’s back story, undoubtedly much more if you can read Spanish, but there’s still some discernible information if you don’t. His family’s in Los Angeles, so he’s going to Los Angeles. The people in his hometown make fun of him since he doesn’t speak any English.

Barrier indeed.

The Texas comes out in Liddy at just the right time–though she’s barefoot in this alien forest, I find it hard to believe the grass is all nice and soft and not tearing up her feet considering there are starfish monsters around.

It’s okay. It reads in about three minutes, which is fine when you’re a “pay what you want” e-comic and not a four dollar floppy.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2016) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #3 (December 2016 / May 2018)

Barrier #3

The aliens speaking makes human ears bleed to the point of deafness. Blows the ear drums? So now Liddy and Oscar can’t talk to each other. They just have to communicate with body language and expression. Or Liddy just takes Oscar’s stuff because… she can?

There’s some “character development” like the revelation Liddy’s husband was (maybe) murdered. And we find out why Oscar wants his red notebook so bad. And the aliens don’t like fire. Maybe not personally, but their ship’s sprinkler system is all kinds of crazy.

So there’s no talking in the book, just visuals. There’s a little bit more of a visual tempo than last issue but nothing compared to the first. Martin’s alien ship designs aren’t very interesting. The ship’s empty. Martin does well with little details. The ship doesn’t have any.

Clearly the creators are invested–at least Martin anyway (he’s drawing a lot), it’s hard to imagine the script was longer than a couple pages unless Vaughan writes Moore style–but the result is fairly underwhelming. There have been far better “silent” comic books; it isn’t even ambitious.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2016) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #2 (September 2016 / May 2018)

Barrier #2

So pretty much everything I liked in Barrier #1 is gone in Barrier #2. The issue opens at NORAD, with a couple officers talking in acronyms about how they’re not going to report a UFO even though they saw a UFO.

Close Encounters it ain’t.

Independence Day it ain’t even.

Vaughan thinks the acronym-heavy banter is enough to get through the scene. Can’t understand them, just like English readers can’t understand Oscar’s Spanish dialogue. The difference is Spanish is a real language and one assumes Vaughan is making up UFO acronym speak.

Then it’s back to the leads, who are now in space (or at least on an alien spaceship). They find each other, they fight, they bond, the aliens separate them. Yawn.

All of Martin’s visual pacing from the first issue is gone. There are War of the Worlds nods, Alien nods, probably other things, but it doesn’t make up for flow.

Oh, and it’s not Liddy’s daddy whose ranch she ranches, it’s her dead husband’s. Martin’s shockingly bad at drawing her face, by the way. He doesn’t have any depth to her features (most of the time). Same thing last issue but the visual pace made up for it.

No glorious visual pace here; nothing to make up for it.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2016) / Image Comics (2018).

Barrier #1 (November 2015 / May 2018)

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As a visual piece, Barrier #1 is all kinds of awesome. Marcos Martin’s pacing is sublime; the comic is “widescreen”–or landscape–with Martin sometimes using the whole page, sometimes filling it with as many panels as possible, sometimes splitting a single “shot” into panels. The visual reading experience is sublime.

The script? Eh.

Barrier is from late 2015. It’s creator-owned, originally digital. So far, politically-speaking, it dates poorly. Though, frankly, some of those questionable characterizations were always going to be questionable.

The first issue is an introduction to the main characters, Liddy and Oscar. Liddy is a Texan rancher, ranching her daddy’s place no doubt because tropes, and she’s having problems with a drug gang. She thinks. It’s unclear.

Oscar is from Honduras. He’s sneaking into the States, onto Liddy’s land eventually, and his entire story is in Spanish. No translation. Its success is–like the comic–a showcase for Martin’s art.

The stuff with Liddy getting drunk and maybe hiring an ex-military type to “deal with” her problem? Not so successful.

Of course, given how the issue ends, it’s entirely possible nothing this issue is going to matter.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2015) / Image Comics (2018).

The Private Eye 7 (19 June 2014)

The Private Eye #7

It’s a bridging issue. It’s got beautiful art, but it’s a bridging issue. Having a bridging issue on The Private Eye seems very strange because it’s self-published and digital and I’ve always assumed bridging issues were to meet some kind of publishing requirement or editorial mandate. Yet Vaughan does one here; maybe once you start doing them, you can’t stop.

A few things happen, I suppose. The kidnapped girl is still kidnapped. The P.I. fires a gun for the first time. There’s a nonsensical pop culture reference. And then the chase sequence, action set piece.

Like I said before, it’s beautiful. Martin does a great job with the chase scene in particular, just because he finally gets to let loose with something besides future design.

But Vaughan has run out of cool things to do with the story. It’s a really light issue and the series can’t support it.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate.

The Private Eye 6 (27 March 2014)

The Private Eye #6

It’s an odd issue. There’s a lot at the hospital with the P.I.’s assistant recovering, then becoming the target of both the investigators and the bad guys. It’s all very dramatic and Martin does a good job laying on the thrills. Vaughan actually ends up using some of it for comic relief, which is a little odd.

Otherwise, the issue’s spent with P.I. and his client as they discover things the bad guys are doing and talking about. Vaughan cuts back and forth, which is an adequate device though it’s a lot of treading water. Unless something major happens with the injured kid, this issue’s of the pointless, bridging variety. Vaughan’s not introducing any pertinent information. The future expository stuff isn’t pertinent.

Even though there’s a lot of excellent art from Martin throughout, there isn’t really a great set piece.

Vaughan is starting to feel disinterested on the comic.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate.

The Private Eye 5 (20 December 2013)

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After the protracted cliffhanger resolution, this issue starts getting really good and never stops. A lot of it is Martin. He’s got some breathtaking pages in this issue; it’s like he was waiting to impress.

As for Vaughan, he goes for some good humor and some cheap surprises. There are a few predictable moments as well. The villain is the problem so far–since the evil plan is already revealed, there’s not much to him without giving him active antagonists. Again, predictable.

Some of the smaller details eventually get revealed as more important than Vaughan implied. He contained his enthusiasm enough for a surprise. Very nice.

The character relationship between the private eye and his client is a little dull this issue, however. Vaughan never makes the girl particularly compelling and the P.I. is only interesting because Vaughan makes him so mysterious.

But those drawbacks can’t stop the issue’s success.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate.

The Private Eye 4 (10 October 2013)

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It’s the best issue in quite a while–maybe ever–but because Vaughan doesn’t try too hard. The most glaring exposition he gets in about the setting is a reference to Rand Paul’s presidency. The issue also feels like a private eye investigating.

It opens with the detective going to a clothing store, trying to bribe the owner… with the exception of all the wacky costumes, it feels like Raymond Chandler for a second. And that feeling–amazingly–doesn’t go away. Not until the goofy ending, which still work because Martin does excellent art this issue.

The clothes store scene just sets up the P.I. and his client having to break into a library. Vaughan’s pop culture references are problematic (would libraries–or the federal government–survive a Rand Paul presidency). He goes for amusing rather than accurate.

But the library sequence is taut, thanks again to Martin.

Good issue.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate.

The Private Eye 3 (28 June 2013)

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Well, it’s better than the second issue anyway.

It’s a bridging issue, it turns out at the end. The private investigator is going to take the case, the sister is going along with him. His grandfather has some funny lines.

Vaughan opens the issue with a flashback to the protagonist’s childhood. Apparently his mom was into kinky sex and died on her way home on night–Bruce Wayne he ain’t. Anyway, it’s hard to read the comic’s gender politics. There haven’t been any positive characters male or female….

Then there’s a flashback to the previous issue’s cliffhanger. Vaughan does a fine job wrapping it all around itself; except he only does it to retroactively add another cliffhanger.

There’s some goofy stuff about future TV and then the bad guy reveals he’s stolen a nuke from an eighties movie.

As usual, it’s passable thanks to Martin’s art… and because it’s cheap.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate.

The Private Eye 2 (7 May 2013)

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Let’s see what happens this issue. The lead has a sidekick. A teenage girl or something; she can do all sorts of stuff because she hasn’t relinquished her identity yet. He’s also got a partner in the sister of a dead client.

Then there’s some stuff with the bad guy, who apparently runs a cult.

There’s nothing with the grandfather, who was the best part of the previous issue.

So what does The Private Eye still have going for it? I don’t know… it’s cost effective? Marcos art feels rushed, which is fine, he’s doing a creator-owned digital only comic. This issue’s art definitely suggests he’s going to continue to slack though.

As for Vaughan? He too seems to have expended all his effort on the first issue. There’s nothing interesting this time. He’s just treading water, maybe doing a couple laps.

It’d be upsetting if it weren’t cheap.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate.

The Private Eye 1 (19 March 2013)

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While there’s nothing new under the sun, there’s especially nothing new in The Private Eye. Brian K. Vaughan does come up with some interesting details for his future setting–cloud computing imploded, everyone’s secrets came out, now the news media has been nationalized and reporters are cops.

Paparazzi are outlawed and basically are the new private detectives. Pretty sure a paparazzi is a person who takes pictures of famous people to sell them freelance, but not someone who has a client and investigates, but whatever. It’s got Marcos Martin art and a lot of it so who cares.

The story for the first issue is pretty familiar too. Maybe Vaughan kept cutting to old film noir posters to foreshadow. Again, doesn’t matter. Martin more than makes up for it.

Since it’s digital-only, Martin does these 16:9 panels, a little less wide than traditional double page spreads. They’re beautiful.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate.

Daredevil 6 (January 2012)

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I really like this issue, but seriously… is Waid going to soft relaunch the title every arc?

Once again, he changes the entire Daredevil landscape, adding Daredevil being hunted by all the Marvel Universe terrorist organizations to the already full plate. It’s like he’s shifting A plots to B plots and vice versa; he hasn’t given Daredevil a chance to breath and get comfortable. Who knows… it might be a good approach to make a modern mainstream comic accessible from issue to issue.

Waid also solves his big Daredevil problem here. This issue is all Daredevil (well, okay, Matt’s in his suit for the epilogue) and Waid handles it. The fight scene with Bruiser is fantastic, though the character’s motivation and, especially, his costume are weak.

Oh, and the cliffhanger resolution from last issue is pat.

But it’s an excellent issue, even with my complaining. Probably the best so far.

Daredevil 5 (December 2011)

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Oh, come now, Mr. Waid… you don’t really think a reader is going to believe Daredevil drowns and dies at the end of this issue, do you?

The end of the issue–the only problematic part of an otherwise charming outing–feels more than a little rushed. It’s like Waid needed to get his superhero fight scene in and he fell back on expository dialogue to get it done.

There’s some great Martin artwork of Daredevil on the yacht and the yacht incident and it makes the scene passable. But it’s a heavy drop from the rest of the issue, where Waid not only has his supervillain machinations, surprises from Foggy and actual lawyerly stuff from Matt.

The issue’s full enough, especially for a modern mainstream book, it doesn’t actually need the titular character to appear in costume.

Still, the ending’s just weak, not bad. The issue’s still quite strong.

Daredevil 4 (November 2011)

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Is Martin regular on Daredevil now? If so, it makes sense this issue feels like a soft relaunch, like Waid’s introducing the new artist. If not… well, it makes no sense.

But it’s a successful issue. Waid opens with some amusing action–Daredevil in a lion habitat at the Bronx Zoo–and then moves into this issue’s story. He just does it very slowly, very deliberately. There’s a lot of Daredevil in action, fighting the odd crime, there’s a lot with Matt bantering about not being Daredevil or bickering with Foggy.

There’s none of the flirting, which is okay, since Martin doesn’t draw Matt like a surfer dude.

It’s the kind of issue one would get excited about–it’s even more exciting that the series’s actual first issue–but I’m rather hesitant. Daredevil‘s been fine, but uneven.

The issue’s either another deviant or it’s a sign Waid’s firmly footed.

Daredevil 1 (September 2011)

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With Paolo Rivera doing the feature and Marcos Martin doing the back-up, Mark Waid has great art on his Daredevil revamp. But great art can’t do all the lifting. Waid’s take on Matt is a little unexpected, but a lot of fun.

The approach reminds a lot of TV, specifically “Life” and “The Mentalist.” Matt’a had some rough times so he’s going to be upbeat and eat unprocessed sugar and meet girls. As Daredevil, he constantly smiles. It’s like Waid is declaring the approach to the reader.

And it basically succeeds. Waid’s Matt is a likable protagonist. It’s too early to talk about the supporting cast. Waid’s still just introducing them, though hints at more Foggy problems pop up.

Sadly, the back-up, about Matt and Foggy, is stronger than the feature. There’s a point to it, while the feature is too expository.

This comic is a pleasant surprise.

The Mystic Hands of Dr. Strange 1 (May 2010)

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This issue is an homage to Marvel’s old black and white magazines, though at the regular, modern comic size. And, with the exception of including a text story (I don’t care who wrote it, why’s it there?), the issue is a complete success.

The feature story, from Kieron Gillen and Frazer Irving, is set in the late seventies and deals with contemporary social issues. It’s a “place in the world” superhero story for Dr. Strange, even though he’s not exactly a superhero. Gillen’s writing is strong and Irving draws a scary Mephisto. With it, the issue’s off to an excellent start.

The next story, from Peter Milligan and Frank Brunner, is also good. Brunner’s artwork lends itself, on a whole, better to the form than Irving’s does. Milligan writes fine dialogue.

Ted McKeever’s action story is really a moody introspective addiction piece.

It’s all great. But why the text story?

CREDITS

The Cure; writer, Kieron Gillen; artist, Frazer Irving. Melancholia; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Frank Brunner. So This Is How It Feels…; writer and artist, Ted McKeever. Duel In The Dark Dimension; writer, Mike Carey; artist, Marcos Martin. Letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, John Barber and Jody Leheup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Doctor Strange: The Oath 5 (April 2007)

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For the finale, Vaughan tries to bring back the charm of the early issues and sort of does. Not enough to really matter, but he’s referencing it.

The last issue is more about Dr. Strange than anything else, with Vaughan looking at the relationship between medicine and magic. Given the villain, it makes for a good conflict for Strange. It’s so good, in fact, when Vaughan calms things down again and reverts back to the charm… there’s something missing. The series, which had a couple unsteady issues, found new ground. Then Vaughan all of a sudden backtracks.

There are a few call-backs to the earlier issues’ details, which makes The Oath feel like something of a relaunch. It’s Vaughan establishing Strange for a new reading audience (unfortunately, it didn’t take).

Martin also changes a little here, using his panel layouts to control reading time.

It’s good, but not great.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; penciller, Marcos Martin; inker, Alvaro Lopez; colorist, Javier Rodriguez; letterer, Willie Schubert; editors, Molly Lazer, Aubrey Sitterson and Tom Brevoort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Doctor Strange: The Oath 4 (March 2007)

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Vaughan gets back on track this issue (it probably should have been combined with the previous one, of course). There’s not as much palpable charm, but Vaughan makes up for it with the return of Strange’s overconfidence.

It turns out—spoiler alert—the overconfidence is somewhat warranted (though Vaughan does play pretty loose with what Strange can and can not do against the series’s villains) and there are some great scenes. So great, Vaughan has to rely on a particular harsh, hard cliffhanger.

The issue moves so well, it hides the lack of actual content. There’s a little more flirting between Strange and Night Nurse, but not exactly character development. Wong has a handful of lines, but he’s sort just used as a sickly narrative device.

Vaughan does return some of it to Strange’s past, but really just as filler. He doesn’t need it, the issue’s excellent without the retcon.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Javier Rodriguez; letterer, Willie Schubert; editors, Molly Lazer, Aubrey Sitterson and Tom Brevoort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Doctor Strange: The Oath 3 (February 2007)

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Vaughan is starting to lose a little of his steam. The majority of the action takes place resolving last issue’s cliffhanger. We learn the secret villain, after some red herrings—very short red herrings, almost like Vaughan only half-heartedly included them—and it’s not particularly exciting. It’ll probably be more exciting next issue but this one… is strangely pat.

It’s good and all, but Vaughan additionally reveals the secret villain to be working for drug companies. The last two issues was great chemistry and banter and this issue is evil drug companies? It would have been more revolutionary to have a non-evil drug company. No shit they’re going to stop people from curing cancer. In some ways, Vaughan’s approach is mildly insensitive. It’s a plot point, no more real than if they were curing warp speed sickness. It’s like cancer isn’t really “real.”

Some lovely Martin art too.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Javier Rodriguez; letterer, Willie Schubert; editors, Molly Lazer, Aubrey Sitterson and Tom Brevoort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Doctor Strange: The Oath 2 (January 2007)

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Dr. Strange and friends head out to discover what’s going on—there’s really not much action, just going to the Bronx, then to a secret base. What Vaughan concentrates on (besides the humor) is the flashbacks to Strange’s past.

Vaughan’s read on the character is a lovable jerk. Wong’s got to know he’s a prick, but Wong still likes him because Dr. Strange is, all in all, a good guy. The flashbacks just show pre-magic, Dr. Strange was a selfish jerk. Post-magic… he’s an altruistic jerk. The best is when he’s whining he knows New York better than Spider-Man.

Wong points out navigating the boroughs still gives him trouble.

Wong shares that observation with Night Nurse, who’s along for the adventure and a great foil for Strange. Intentionally or not, Vaughan has recast Doctor Strange as a Hollywood classic, full of charm and banter.

It’s absolutely wonderful.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Javier Rodriguez; letterer, Willie Schubert; editors, Molly Lazer, Aubrey Sitterson and Tom Brevoort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Doctor Strange: The Oath 1 (December 2006)

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One has to wonder… if everyone wrote Dr. Strange and Wong as well as Vaughan does here, wouldn’t Doctor Strange be the most popular book on the market? Instead of one without an ongoing, I mean.

Vaughan comes up with a compelling story, sure, but the selling point is his dialogue and the character relationships. The issue opens when Iron Fist and Araña comparing superhero notes, which is hilarious on its own, then the drama of Strange being shot (there’s a shadowy villain too)… but soon it’s all about how much fun it is to spend time with Wong and Strange. Even when Wong’s dying, it’s a lot of fun.

There is, of course, the second layer to The Oath. There’s Marcos Martin’s artwork. Something about his style just makes it all work—the humor, the drama, the magic.

It’s a lovely book (even if the villain’s name is stupid).

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; penciller, Marcos Martin; inker, Alvaro Lopez; colorist, Javier Rodriguez; letterer, Willie Schubert; editors, Molly Lazer, Aubrey Sitterson and Tom Brevoort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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