Monday, March 10, 2008

Marvel Capsule Advance Reviews Week 11 2008

Jumping a few weeks ahead, this week I'm taking an advance look (without serious spoilers) to the week ahead and Marvel titles shipping on Wednesday 12th March 2008.

This week: A raccoon will fly, Spider-Girl is rated Mint, Johnny scores a HOT date, Cap chases his shadow, Hulk gets the couch, an Avengers kills himself -twice-, Rictor suffers a crotch shot, Jennifer Kale loses her top, Logan joins Osama, the Sentry is beside himself, Nighthawk gets more than he bargained for, and Psylocke with Sabretooth get the love bite!


(Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning / Tom Raney)

I haven't checked in on this crossover since the very first issue of its prequel. The recap page and the exposition in the story bring the reader up to date effortlessly; just one issue before the great conclusion, the expository flashbacks hit critical mass as the High Evolutionary accesses Ultron's memory files (as the maniacal robot is too busy bonding with Adam Warlock to do his own evil master plan reveal) to discover the origins of his resurrection and alliance with the Phalanx. The story touches on the recent Mighty Avengers boo(b)-tastic appearance, actually tying the dire moment in the villain's history with his current incarnation and using it as footing for his new motivations. There's something to be said about lemons and lemonade here. This is Marvel's unsung treasure, and only judging by the separate threads joining together and the overall plot and scope it's easy to make the comparison to DC's Sinestro Corps War. Definitely checking back for the rest of the story and looking forward to the conclusion following the stunning cliffhanger.



(Tom DeFalco / Ron Frenz & Sal Buscema)

May is trapped in mylar getting auctioned by some evil guys for some other evil guys with mastermind Hobgoblin cackling about, while baby brother Benjy is getting surgery for injuries sustained when he was taken over by Carnage a few issues back. Some masks are pulled, characters die, there's fists aplenty for even the most insatiable action-philes and even a bit of romance on the side. After the OMD marriage-killing fiasco, all eyes were turned to Spider-Girl, the What If future where the wedding did stick, and produced two kids for Peter and MJ. DeFalco provides a great counter-argument to OMD, although it does get mired a bit too much in the 70s storytelling style. After a bit I started leafing through the senseless spandex action to get to the more interesting supporting cast scenes and mystery reveals that give this title its longevity.



(C.B. Cebulski / Joao Lemos)

Cebulski begins yet another Fairytale series, this time adapting/remixing with the help of the rich Avengers universe of characters. This issue, 'Peter Pan' (Steve Rogers) and 'Tinker Bell' (the Wasp) invite Wendy/Wanda and her brother (Pietro) to Neverland where they face off against Captain Hook (Klaw). These tales are always amazing reads, not really for the sake of the script itself, but for the striking art from a variety of new talent who are making their american comics debuts in these pages; Mind, the scripts aren't bad at all, but you can only get excited about the alternate castings so many times; in the end it's only a retelling of a story we've heard hundreds of times before. The casting in this story is among Cebulski's most brilliant, especially when it comes to Klaw as Hook, whereas the rest of the Avengers acting as the Lost Boys are simply adorable. Joao Lemos is a revelations and really helps this story take off with his ethereal stylistic art and the remarkable character re-designs. A Must-Buy.



(Mark Millar / Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary)

Well, that went bland fast! After a promising premiere, I was primed for the fun to start; as it turns out, we were only half-way through the setup! Taking two full issues to introduce the setting and the threat for a four-issue storyline can't be very wise as Millar spends way too much time info-dumping all the fun, yet self-congratulatory facts about 'Nu-Earth': Alyssa Moy's new pet project, a life-size model of Earth, meant to be used as an escape hatch for the entire world population once environmental destruction really kicks our collective derrieres. Reed is being approached for the job, while Torch has a naughty moment with a new super-villainess, the Thing returns from a date and Sue is nowhere to be seen. I hope the last two parts of 'World's Greatest' are explodey enough to compensate for this extended infomercial.



(Peter David / Valentine DiLandro & Andrew Hennessy)

One of the X-Men's classic and most beloved villains returns in a big fashion here. Although I can't reveal who it is here, a quick flip trough the next issues' solicitations will prove a great help! Unaware of their target status, the X-Factor group continues to pull things together after the catastrophic events of Messiah Complex, with their roster dwindling even further, certain plotlines set up months ago proving a dead-end (but why develop them in the first place then?) and PAD providing a very PAD take on the Misunderstanding gag commonly encountered in the shut-door sex farces. It's a joy to see how well this disparate cast of characters has come to feel like a natural family. How the loss of two of the cast's most favorite characters (Layla and Rahne) will come to affect the dynamic of the series will unfold in the next few months, but for now the title still reads as good as always. Mad props go out to editor Aubrey Sitterson as well for keeping a cohesive artistic feel in the series even as it passes through a variety of fill-in artists. Why aren't talents like DiLandro getting more regular work at Marvel?



(Warren Ellis / Mike Deodato Jr)

Four psychic villains have got themselves captured inside T-bolts HQ in order to play a little game of Mouse Trap with the Villainous Super-Hero team. Shutting down all exits, they're telepathically nudging each of their psychoses to the front to get them to kill/eat/destroy each other. Swordsman fully realizes his hereditary right to the Baron Strucker taking over the base, Norman is craving the Green mask of the goblin, while Venom overcomes his host and goes on a cannibalizing streak with the HQ personnel acting as the all-you-can-eat buffet. Ellis orchestrates a manic chess game with two Kings throwing peons/guardsmen at each other, a rampaging Alien Symbiote Queen tearing up both sides of the board and Leonard Sampson finally acting his fictional IQ and seeing through to the game's real grandmasters. Mad props to Ellis for remembering and utilizing a fun tidbit from Speedball's tenure in Nicieza's New Warriors.



(Jason Aaron / Ron Garney)

Finally. I -of course- had seen the signs back in Jason Aaron's first fill-in issue on the title, but I couldn't be conclusive before I had read at least 3 issues under his pen. Jason Aaron is the best at what he does, and what he does is make Wolverine a thrilling character to read. He gets the voice right, he gets the mood right, he gets the action right and he's not afraid to point out the inconsistencies and contradictions in the character as he's being treated today but most of all: he makes him worth reading. Wolvie continues to hunt Mystique down, in a genius Tom & Jerry manner, all the while flashing back to the pair's hidden history in 1921 where they are revealed to be lovers leading a team of mutated thieves and scoundrels. Ron Garney is doing the best work of his career, finally overcoming the shadow of his legendary run on Captain America with Mark Waid. This is the best creative team Wolverine has ever had, don't miss out on another issue!



(Brian Bendis / Mark Bagley & Danny Miki)

Sentry, Iron-Man and Doctor Doom have been trapped in 1975 (Marvel publishing time, not Marvel U. time) due to a time platform accident. This is a nicer effort than -well- any other issue of MA before, with balanced action, exposition and gags. Is this the positive effect of Bendis trying to script like it was 1975? Could we please keep it up anyway? Stark and Doom hatch a plan, Sentry has (another) psychotic episode and the whole thing is over quite fast and painlessly (for some) with a quick application of Sentry History 101. As far as time-travelling stories go this was equal parts uninspired, undistinguished and unnecessary, as it unfolds in a simple 'let's get from A to B' fashion without any bumps or detours. Bagley is wasted on this, ad Bendis needs to realise he's ill-suited for super-team comics and get back to super-teens and crime.



(Chris Claremont / Tom Grummett)

The New Exiles have landed in a parallel Earth where Storm is married to Wolverine, Namor is black and married to Susan Storm, while their son is a blonde Gambit. I dare you to find cause and effect in this What If world which was hit by meteors 30 years past creating massive floods. Claremont uses pure coincidence upon chance to connect familiar names to utterly random characters and connections here. Susan has invisibility powers although she was never part of the FF? She named her son after alternate reality New Orleans X-Man, and all her kids speak in Southern accents? His cast is a true Who's Who of Claremont Holy Cows, with alternate versions of Sage, Kitty, and Rogue, led by Ultra-Cow Psylocke (Boy, am I getting tons of hate-mail for this); Still, Claremont seems to be heading somewhere with this, and Tom Grummett makes the pill go down lighter with a consistent art style. It took him three issues before a character spouted 'OutSTANding', maybe there's hope still!



(Dan Slott & Christos Gage / Stefano Caselli)

K.I.A. continues, wrapping up the long-running MVP mystery of the title's first year. MVP was one of the earliest Initiative recruitees who died in a training accident and his death was covered up by the Initiative bosses. Later issues revealed his body was cloned not once, not twice, but -um- many times. There's a regular MVP who lives with his dad in the country, three of his clones who became the Scarlet Spiders and now a zombie version calling himself K.I.A. (Killed In Action) literally tearing through a laundry list of people who witnessed his death. In all the mayhem, Justice reforms the New Warriors (not the horrendous Ex-mutants ongoing now on the stands, but an actual NW roster) and the Initiative recruittees are asked to pick sides. I can't say this title really works for me in the big scheme of things in the Marvel U. Is it a young heroes title? A generic Avengers book? Why are some mutants forced to join while others like the New X-Men are left out? Why are veterans like Hellcat and Gargoyle training along utter novices like Slapstick and Cloud Nine? It all lacks clear definition for me. At least the ugly situation with the colouring has been resolved and Caselli's artwork shines through better. Is it that hard to get a more capable colourist on board? Overall a good action piece, but weighed down by the enormous and unmanageable cast which seems to grow more with each issue.



(Paul Benjamin / Steve Scott & Nathan Massengill)

Titled "Analyze SMASH This", you just know this is a can't miss, as MA Hulk meets Doc Sampson! There's something to be said about the classics: Bruce Banner, on the run from the military, turning into a rampaging Dumb Green Hulk when angry, partnered on the road by sidekick YorRick Jones (and new addition, a very Ampersand-like monkey). Sampson takes the Hulk in for therapy and a cure, but some not-so-startling romantic revelations will lead to some quality smashing time! This is an average classic Hulk yarn, almost by-the-numbers, but it's still a fun story with concrete art. If you're willing to sample this series, I'd urge you to try out earlier issues though, which played up more with the funny aspects of Dumb Hulk.



(Joe Casey & Keith Giffen / Jim Muniz & Cam Smith)

It's the Defenders by way of Justice League International - minus all the jokes. Nighthawk is tasked to lead an utterly random team of new Defenders for the 50-State Initiative, consisting of the X-Men's Colossus, the Invaders' Blazing Skull and everyone's favourite Green-Genes: She-Hulk! It's a team of seasoned pros, acting like a bunch of amateurs, by going in battle untrained and unprepared, against the KKK of the Marvel Universe: the Sons of the Serpent. There's little believable reasoning behind assembling this team, as much as Stark is funnily vilified in these pages. With the upcoming solicits in mind, and all the quick cameos and interludes of previous Defenders members, this doesn't like it's a staying roster anyhow. A good read, but considering the abilities of the two writers, I came in with higher expectations but was only served a lukewarm appetizer.



(Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa / Brian Denham / Nick Percival)

A MAX series reintroducing readers to Marvel's horror and magic characters, using Man-Thing as the silent protagonist and the wordy Digger as the narrator and Crypt-Keeper stand-in. This issue sees the Man-Thing enter the life of stripper/sorceress Jennifer Kale when she traps/gets trapped by a group of Lady Killers. A short-but-sweet story, with enjoyable art and Digger's narration providing the right amount of creepy snark to counterbalance the grisly proceedings. I wish they would still use the classic catchy 'Whoever knows fear, burns at the touch of the Man-Thing'. Who knows, if this proves popular enough we might end up seeing a collection of J.M. DeMatteis and Liam Sharp's classic Mature Readers Man-Thing series which was never concluded. (PLUUUUUG)


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