Monday, April 28, 2008

Marvel Capsule Reviews Week 14 2008


(Zeb Wells / Chris Bachalo)

I'm digging Brand New Day! (I'll keep writing this every week to let it sink in). I'm looking past the chain of events that got us here, and enjoying what is clearly a return to greatness. This is the Spidey I remember loving to read each week growing up (we had weekly pocket-size Spidey reprints in pink and black ink). A vast supporting cast, fresh new villains each month, tragedy and woes mixed with joy and bad one-liners, amazing writers, spectacular artists, self-contained stories and arcs, fun fights, interesting challenges. Did we really need MJ out of the way to tell these great stories? Emphatically no. Did we need a deal with the devil, and Harry back from the dead? Hell no. But we're looking past that, looking past, looking past... damn! Thought that was working.

The start of a three-part story of Spidey fighting ancient ice spirits in a snowed-down NY, with a helpful guest-appearance by Wolverine and Doc Strange, all drawn by Chris -drool- Bachalo who seems to be on a coherent phase of his career, giving us a Spidey that's both reminiscent and yet so much cooler than the famous McFarlane rendition. Excelsior!



(Duane Swierczynski / Ariel Olivetti)

'War Baby' part 2.
Cable's ran to the future (2043AD to be exact) to protect the new Mutant baby girl, and the mutants' only hope for survival. Bishop is in hot pursuit, sporting a cybernetic arm, a time-hopping doo-hickey and a personality purge. I was never a big fan of Bishop, and only an occasional reader of Cable (the Robinson-Casey run and Lobdell/Ha's telling of his origins are fantastic); the two characters represent to me the part of the 90s X-Men lore that should remain dead and buried: time-travelling mutants who have been kept around long after the end of the storylines they came back to avert, and kept them relative. Writers and editors have tried to pigeonhole them in all sorts of scenarios since then, but whether it's alternate realities, war-torn countries, small island dictatorships, they never quite fit. This time they're both shoehorned into a future we still know next to nothing about, and spend their time punching and firing at each other with their huge arms and huger guns. Ariel Olivetti has been allowed to return to his painted art style from a few years back; Cable look amazingly realistic, but bishop and any other costumed X-Men feel out of place in such a detailed setting. And boy, do I wish that baby would stop changing sizes between panels!



(Mark Millar / John Romita Jr)

Kick-Ass? Oh boy, it sure does! Just when I was beginning to lose my faith in Millar, he pulls me back in. This is the story of a real life kid who decides to emulate his comicbook super-heroes, put on a costume and take to their streets to fight crime. Dumb, right? At the ending of last issue he (supposedly) learned a hard lesson, barely surviving his first mission and ending spending a whole year in hospital, surgeries and physiotherapy. Millar is taking the story throuh some unexpected turns, and I couldn't decide to pity the boy, cheer for him or slap him into his senses (well, scratch tat, it hardly worked the first time around). A big part of the success of the book is John Romita pulling no punches (heh) in portraying the awful, big, bloody violence in the book; not Frank Miller over-the-top action movie violence, no: real this-could-happen-to-you violence that sends shivers down your spine as you turn the page. Bravo!



(Chris Kipiniak / David Nakayama)

SWARM! They're a flock of beez.

SWARM! They look like a man!

SWARM! They wear a purple cape.

SWARM! They talk with a lizzzzzzp!

SWARM! They're horny for a Queen Bee!

SWARM! They're feeding her teenagerzzz!

But what of Spider-Man? He's bullied by the aforementioned teenagers, melting in the heat-wave and those bullies just stole his last clean uniform. Excellent little Swarm adventure, I've been itching to see my favourite Amazing Friends villain in Brand New Day, but MA is here to sate my honey-craze for now :) (Oh and check out that Skottie Young cover! Guy's a genius!)



(Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa / Alina Urusov)

Wiccan & Speed are the Scarlet Witch's kids, mysteriously returned to life as feisty teenagers. In this short feature tale, they're going on a road trip to find their missing mum. The journey takes them to the ruins of Genosha, the magical Wundagore and the New Jersey old home of Wanda & Vision where they stumble into my favourite forgotten West Coast Avengers (I was a major fanboy growing up) villain: Master Pandemonium! Ah, the memories! This is an amusing done-in-one that follows the same directive as the previous issues, and tells a fun story that leaves the characters completely unchanged - since Heinberg has dibs on their stories when he does return with vol. 2 of the regular series. Major points to Sacasa for the 'aw, cute' honest portrayal of Hulkling and Wiccan's relationship, it's always a treat to see the prominent Marvel gay super-couple on the page.



(Mark Guggenheim / Yanick Paquette)

Here we go AGAIN! Another new generation of new mutants, another new writer, another tedious chain of sequences with Cyclops/Dani/Prof X recruiting them one by one, and of course, another first battle against Donald Pierce. Do the X-Men hire him out for training every time a new team is formed?


It's the History Lesson bell! Gather round. When New Mutants v. 2-3 was launched by Weir/DeFillippo a few years back, it was a train-wreck. A hand-picked few mutants who didn't hold any interest and were sleepwalking through romantic subplots and outside attacks and dragged back by the constant presence of the original New Mutants in the cast as their tutors... It was eventually relaunched into New X-Men: Academy X (mainly to cash in on the backwash of Morrison's recently completed run) but that solved none of the problems, just increased the cast with young mutants who looked hopeful but weren't realising any of their potential, trapped in a loop of childish ghost stories, alternate realities and visiting relatives. Time for another change: X-Men Evolution's Craig Kyle and Chris Yost took over and immediately made their mark by killing off the majority of the school's students and placing the rest in the cross-lines of Stryker's Purifiers; suddenly there was action, the boring main cast was weeded out, the remaining kids were developing as characters and maturing into X-Men; after two years there was a captivating group of students who had captured the hearts of the new generation of fans--

--and then Marvel cancels the book and relaunches with a new cast and creative team. Mark Guggenheim is a cringe-worthy writer at best from what little of his work I've read so far (including his abysmal Wolverine saga), but he seems a favourite of the current editorial administration. The team he has hand-picked is... uninteresting. Whedon's Blindfold and surprise fan-fave Rockslide are the returning members, Wolfcub (a previous student popularised by Chuck Austen of all people, in a storyline mysteriously referenced heavily this issue, with the only purpose to confuse new readers) and... some new characters we don't learn much about. I just don't care at this point, and I desperately want my New X-Men cast back. Please?



(Jason Aaron / Ronald Boschi)

'Hell-Bent & Heaven-Bound' part 1-3.

One basic background fact about your humble reviewer: I don't know bikes. I don't like bikes. I can't ride bikes. Heck, I can't even ride a bicycle.

Yet here I am, reading Ghost Rider, all because Jason Aaron has signed up as the new regular writer.




(Brian K. Vaughan / Eduardo Risso)

Remember the amazing cliffhanger last issue? A tale from Logan's past as a soldier in the WWII, fighting and falling in love... in Hiroshima.

Vaughan always has an amazing way with cliffhangers; this issue he takes the event that the reader now clearly expects to see and spins it into a startling moment of cruelty and realisation. I wasn't too impressed with the first issue, as I felt it was padded out to push the reveal into the cliffhanger; this story makes up for it a thousandfold, words and art merging into the poetic telling of a love affair and a gruesome apocalyptic battle. Risso is an overlooked talent, and his art takes on a different dimension here; Risso's inks are most often coloured with moody flats, but now Dean White uses a watercolour effect and a yellow pallette to transport the reader to mid-War Japan.

Marvel has also released a B&W version of the book, but I wouldn't recommend it, other than for simple curiosity, as the colours are crucial to the book and the art here.



(Chris Claremont / Tom Grummett)

I'll just let Claremont himself -through his darling Psylocke- sum up my feelings on the New Exiles:
Their new mission ends with more tedious battles, reveals, silly coincidences and 'oh look who that is in this reality' moments that make little sense and serve no purpose. Why can't Claremont take a look back at his huge volume of work, or even the more recent X-Treme X-Men issues that did work (I personally enjoyed most of #20-35 and Mekanix), compare it with what he's currently putting out and get a wake-up call!


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