Sunday, March 16, 2008

Marvel Capsule Reviews Week 12 2008

New Marvel Swag! Looking through the goody bag this week:

Spidey goes 2nd base on JJJ, Thor and Hercules spend some quality family time, the Order goes south, Iron Fist rallies the troups, HERBIE the Robot gets infected by Atari, Black Panther swipes Cyclops and Deadpool's pinkies go shopping without him.


(Bob Gale / Phil Jiminez & various)

Spidey finishes his tussle with new druggie baddie 'the Freak', a constantly mutating and evolving rat-creature from the sewers with a taste for the Good White Stuff. Can't see the staying qualities of this one, sorry Spider-Office. Meanwhile, the new supporting cast all make quick cameos, there's new potential romances coming from every direction, but still the only tongue action Pete is getting is ... JJJ? The new direction and cast is definitely working for, although the stories so far feel far too inconsequential, it would be great to finally see some of the over-arching arcs start to come together more clearly after 12 issues!



(Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente / Khoi Pam & Paul Neary, Danny Miki)

'Glory of Hera' part 4 (of 4). SHIELD has been a bad girl, shooting down the Hulk, putting heroes in Jail, hurting Amadeus Cho's pet puppy (well, coyote, really), and now the super-genius tot is getting back by infecting every last of their systems with an unbeatable virus. While Hercules is trying to reason with his 'sidekick', and SHIELD fires missiles at their floating base, Half-Brother Ares decides to crash the scene and pummel on Herc because he gets his own ongoing and great marketing push, while Ares' limited series tanked and noone gave a damn. Lots of Greek God on Greek God action going here, coupled with a genuinely surprising (but valid) characterization of Ares and a look inside Hercules' thoughts. Pak and Van Lente have a solid grasp on Herc, playing up the character's human faults more than his Godly Hero aspect. I'd say it's a winning strategy. Khoi Pam still struggles with the art (even with two famous inkers helping with the load); for Marvel to hire Gary Frank to launch this new direction and pay Arthur Adams on covers they surely believe in this move, but Khoi Pam feels too novice for this project. Hercules is supposed to be a big heroic hunka sexy cheese, a GOD, but comes off as little more than a scruffy construction worker.



(Marc Sumerak / Ig Guara & Jay Leisten)

The Avengers track down Sabretooth in Wakanda and team-up with new ally the Black Panther-- sporting the Cassaday Cyclops costume from Astonishing X-Men? No, seriously. Lots of old-fashioned action, with Storm and Wolvie taking the lead and the Panther not really getting any screen time despite this being his 'big debut' in the line. The action isn't as fun, the jokes aren't as pithy, dumb Hulk doesn't get any good lines and I'm inclined to file this under 'wasted potential'.



(Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction / David Aja & Tonci Tonjic & Kano)

'The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven' part 6. Iron Fist reimagined as a legacy book and written as if it was a manga, in terms of characters, pacing and plot. The tournament between the 7 cities gets forgotten for a bit (damn shame, the fight scenes were wondrous) as the revolution inside the cities and the organized attack by Hydra on the outside finally collide, as Iron Fist rounds up the other Weapons of Heaven to join him in intercepting the attack. There's only one flaw in this launch: with so many fascinating characters running around connected to the Iron Fist legend (the Golden Age Iron Fist, his sidekick-Danny's dad, their mentor and trainer, his son and failed Iron Fist-the Steel Phoenix, the Prince of Orphans, among others), Danny is starting to look insignificant and foolish in their shadow; then again I get a sneaking suspicion, Danny was never supposed to be an important feature of this title for long. Don't make the mistake of trade-waiting on this, as the plot weaves in and out of each issue to accommodate each of the satellite specials and annuals into each month's issue, making for a special experience that will be lost when they're separately collected in different trades.



(JMS / Marko Djurdjevic)

And on the 7th issue, the Thunder God rested... in a specially ordered Asgardian coffin inducing OdinThorSleep (a Shroendinger half-dead half-alive state) to recharge the divine bunny batteries. JMS does an amazing job of explaining away basic Quantum Physics to comics fans, and using the theory as an organic part of his storytelling. In his half-dead state, Thor's essence travels to the Norse Land of the Dead to visit dear-ly departed old dad Odin and have a heart to heart; JMS explores a harsher side of the Norse God Prince King, revealing Thor avoided reviving Odin to remain king, just as Odin had done all those years ago, shown in a breath-taking flashback action sequence. This is Djurdjevic first full-issue interior art work without his painted style. It's not as flashy as his covers, but his design work and panel structure is still strong and a perfect fit for the mythological story within.



(Matt Fraction / Barry Kitson & Javier Saltares)

The Order started out as the most promising Marvel title out of the Civil War aftermath, but Marvel never gave it a chance, calling for its cancellation as soon as issue 6 was released. This is the penultimate issue, and you can easily see the writer scrambling about to quickly resolve the multitude of open plotlines and threats he had set up for the title. At this point I've lost track of who's allied with who and for what purpose. The art looks as rushed as the plot, with Saltares scribbling over Kitson's breakdowns, and losing cohesion in the characters as the issue progresses. I only hope these characters eventually get a second chance to fame, as Matt Fraction's name gains much-deserved recognition in the mainstream. no point in reading this issue if you haven't before, it's not representative of it's earlier high standards.



(Marc Sumerak & Chris Eliopoulos)

Fun! More short stories starring Frankling 'Calvin' Richards and his pet robot HERBIE 'Hobbs'. This time around Franklin recreates the (fully operational minus an arm) original Iron Man armour, uses a time-controlling doohickey to cheat at Dodgeball, terrorizes the School Fair with the too realistic Volcano Model, and fights off Alien life-forces with his Super-Burp powers. If you've read one you've read them all, to be honest, same quality stuff for the fans of the twosome.



(Daniel Way / Steve Dillon)

'The Deep End' part 3. The creative team has finally hit its stride with this being the best issue of the title yet. Not necessarily good news, considering this is mostly due to Deadpool having every line in this issue and Wolverine running around in a slapstick feral state foaming at the mouth and slashing stuff. If he wasn't in the title on the cover, noone would believe this wasn't an issue of Deadpool's solo book, guest-starring Wolverine to boost sales. Way undoubtedly gets Deadpool (and that leaves him in limited company, actually): the jokes, the violence, the rabbling, the insanity. Look out for a lot of scanned-in panels next week after the book's been out, this issue will give me panel fodder for a month. This shift in focus and theme also finally plays to Steve Dillon's strengths: utterly horrendous violence and splatter used to comedic effect. Maybe Deadpool gets to kick Wolvie off his title after the end of next issue Herc-style, and take over. It would make this fan a happy camper.


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