It's a loooooong read today, as Marvel seems to have pushed all her books out on the same week.
MIGHTY AVENGERS #12
(Brian Bendis / Alex Maleev)
The Secret Invasion is ON! This is the part of the storyline where Brian Bendis flashes back to everything he's done in mainstream Marvel the last 6 years and finally reveals his hand, and the 'big plan'.
Nick Fury is back, another Skrull infiltrator is revealed (do they usually do much more than sleep around with heroes? Skrulls are whores!), and Spider-Woman one-ups Alias (the show-- not the comic) with her cool Triple Secret Agent reveal (that surprises noone). Plus, why does she always change sexy poses in between lines?
Solid (even though it's got nothing to do with the titular team)
MS MARVEL #26
(Brian Reed / Adriana Melo / Mariah Benes)
Ms Marvel goes up against her own team (Sleepwalker, Agent Sum & MACHINE MAN AARON STACK, baby!) and her own Skrull doppelganger. Or is that the other way around? Brian Reed almost captures that feeling of doubt and paranoia, but despite all the blonde-on-blonde action it's still Machine Man that steals the show.
NEW EXILES #5
(Chris Claremont / Roberto Castro)
Sage, Morph and Cat (who's proving to be an exciting concept, a Kitty Pryde who can randomly and involuntarily switch between different alternate version of herself across the Multiverse) find themselves trapped on a fairytale world, protecting a handsome prince and the love of his life: a fearsome dragon. Finally showing some promise, by moving to the more promising half of the cast, but still too wordy and UN-funny for its own sake (did we really need the leftover Sage plot lines from Excalibur and the gratuitous pin-up nude shots every other page?)
WOLVERINE FIRST CLASS #2
(Fred Van Lente / Andrea Di Vito)
Kitty throws Wolvie a surprise birthday party like it's 1979 -- oh wait, it is!
Another fun untold story from Logan and Kitty's 'first classes' examining the evolution of their relationship. There's Mariko, a ninja dojo diner, the prerequisite Wolvie vs Sabretooth fight (nothing new to add to that cliche here though), a Dazzler concert (wow it IS the 80s) and Logan in a limo driver uniform. It's not the first W vs S battle, it's not the last, and it's certainly not the best, but it's worth a flip through.
X-MEN FIRST CLASS #11
(Jeff Parker / Nick Dragotta & Colleen Coover / Val Staples)
What an odd bit. If this was a different era, this is what I'd have expected to see on 'Assistant Editor's Month'.
The Continuiteens, a group of 'aware of their own medium' comics geeks have stumbled onto a reality loophole in Diamond's distribution system (through a warehouse set up in Man-Thing's swamp) that delivers 'our real world' comics to their fictional in-story comics store. It's a fourth-wall breaking 'Early Edition' as the three geeks, armed with a copy of X-Men First Class #11 (would have been icing on the cake if they had got the cover in-story to match the actual cover), help the X-Men deal with a series of escalating reality and time-bending threats: from Galactus, to Batroc, Venom and even Doop (check out his appearance here). Hardly surprising that, since Nick Dragotta (an artist member of the extended Allred creative family) handles the artistic chores this month (apart from a cute two-page origin story from Coover). Mark my words, Nick will become a superstar in the next ew years, as his talent for classic character design and dynamic extreme perspective compositions catches more eyes. This is his first 'solo' (well, unaided by Mike Allred's inks) project and it looks as solid as his previous work.
Quirky, convoluted, self-referential and utterly fanboy-candy, I'd recommend this issue to any self-respecting X-Geek.
(Jeph Loeb / Ed McGuiness / Dexter Vines)
I think I've finally managed to appreciate what people are seeing in this title. It's mindless unadultered comic book violence. It's super-hero popcorn action movie porn. Red Hulk and A-Bomb (irradiated monosyllabic Rick Jones), both portrayed chunky and bigger-than-life, punching each other through the ground in endless brightly-coloured splash panels, exchanging little more than quippy one-liners and cliche fightin' words. It is what it is, but I sure as hell am not shelling out my money for a guilty fun minute and a half that it takes to leaf through this. It's the poster child for comics piracy, no doubt!
HULK VS HERCULES: WHEN TITANS COLLIDE
(Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente / Khoi Pam, Eric Nguyen, Bob Layton & Reilly Brown)
...and by the above title, what they really mean to say is: The Incredible Hercules Annual #1! Tying into the most current events of the monthly title, Athena takes a moment's rest from their road-trip saga to tell young Amadeus Cho a story from Herc's past (and handily introduce the villain of the new Herc storyline starting in two months). The telling is a bit top-heavy, starting off with a truckload of exposition, but as soon as the action starts the flow picks speed and it becomes a real page-turner. After all, you've got Hulk versus the Olympian Gods, Hercules versus Hulk, Herc versus Ares versus Hulk, everyone vs the Giants and a surprise twist that furthers the writing duo's current exploration of Hercules' true nature of God vs Monster.
The art chores are shared between four (!) creative teams, but it works for the story, as each one is assigned to a specific location and time place in the story: regular series artist Pham fittingly doing the framing sequence, Nguyen creating beautiful tapestries to make the mythic exposition easier to swallow, Layton handling the New York flashbacks, and Reilly (Cable&Deadpool) knocking our socks off with his action extravaganza on Mount Olympus. With C&D canceled, I'd love to see Reilly take on Herc as his new regular assignment, he seems a more natural fit for the genre.
I hazard to say it's almost too much action (gasp) for one extra-sized volume, as the final (and trully climactic) battle is mostly dealt with behind the scenes.We want more Greek style pummeling dammit!
MARVEL ADVENTURES FANTASTIC FOUR #35
(Paul Tobin / David Nakayama)
Bri-lli-ant! This issue has everything: the Fantastic Four, family squabbles, ORRGO ( the boastful alien world conqueror with VAST MENTAL POWERS), a beauty pageant (with all of the above on the judging panel. Yes, ALL of the above), and a sinister plan from the A.I.M. evil scientist cabal: smuggle new AIM recruits in the country by having them pose as beauty pageant finalists. (seriously. it was all over the issue's solicits)
Oh you can bet there's going to be punching and laser-shots and -- oh never mind: It's enough that there's ORRGO. Every line he gets in the comic is pure comedy gold, overshadowing even Aaron Stack's usual brilliance in this week's Ms Marvel. When's the last time you really laughed out loud and unabashedly enjoyed a Fantastic Four action romp?
POWER PACK DAY ONE #2
(Fred Van Lente / Gurihiru)
The Power Pack kids recount their origin to their newest family member Franklin Richards. The telling gets a bit too exposition-heavy at some points, but it's sandwiched between snippets of Awesome: namely Katie's rainbow-tainted un-objective telling of the origin, and the very meta chapter break in the final page - both included here for your convenience. I suspect by the end of the series we'll have the best example of a debut Power Pack film, evenly balancing both the young adult and kid audience.
(Peter David / Val Semeiks)
When you've got nothing funny or exciting to report from an issue that sees She-Hulk chase a fugitive to a baseball match, dress up as a hot-dog vendor and end up in jail, well, you're really doing something wrong. Don't you miss the fun times?
And please, stop it with the Juggernaut jokes, it never works when the new writers tries to use the old writer's trademark gag.
(J.M. Straczynski / Marko Djurdjevic)
Respect. JMS may have called down my ire with his Spider-Man stories, but here... here he's making Thunder God history. He's returned Thor to the level of power and grandeur that he deserves, he's saved the trampled Don Blake continuity and keeps providing amazing hair-raising stories. Thor has induced a death-state to talk to his father on the other side and come to terms with the realization that it was his subconscious decision that was keeping him from returning to life with the rest of the pantheon.
At the same time, Don Blake gets one free day to independently roam the Earth, and goes visiting his old flame Dr Jane Foster (it keeps getting better and better) to... ask about Sif? Damn, you deserve that slap, doc.
JMS juggles two emotionally charged parallel narratives that both escalate into an amazing crescendo: a mythic battle in the netherworld and a shocking twist revelation that was brilliantly set up and delivered. Damn that ****. Thor is a must-read book, and it was about time.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #121
(Brian Bendis / Stuart Immonnen)
An interim slapstick issue with Peter Parker explaining to his class how Omega Red ate (well, exploded) his homework. No, really. Omega isn't nearly as annoying in his ultimate version, though Bendis clealry abuses him to crack jokes at the disposability of the 90s Marvel villains. An easy read issue with nothing to offer and lots of page time wasted on the extended classroom intro scene that should have been edited down to the simple framing sequence that it was.
UNCANNY X-MEN #497
(Ed Brubaker / Mike Choi)
'X-Men Divided' part 3. The three amigos (Logan, Kurt, Pyotr) are ducking it against giant Russian flying robots (for a change), while Scott and Emma are infiltrating the hippie commune that's beocme of central San Fran. I really can't see a lot of meat or purpose in either of these vignettes. I wish they were both done as single issues instead of being dragged (kicking and screaming I bet) into a five-part storyline just so the big X-Men: reunited event would coincide with the big 5-0-0 issue.
Bru may be purely brilliant in every other title he's doing right now, but his UXM is clearly falling behind. How can someone mis-write the Emma-Cyclops couple so badly? Criminal.
(Craig Kyle & Chris Yost / Clayton Crain)
'Angels & Demons' part 3. Holy... Kyle&Yost sure aren't modest when it comes to drafting their Rogues gallery here. Each issue has been culminated in an escalating series of villainous reveals. First issue gave us Bastion, then issue 2 entered the Magus into the equation. The next step? A series of recruitment interludes, bringing in (and back from the dead in most cases) a Who's Who of mutant killers from x-history. Graydon Greed (operation Zero Tolerance), Cameron Hodge (X-tinction Agenda), the Leper Queen (Blood of apocalypse), Pierce (the Reavers), Stephen Lang (pre-Phoenix Saga), Reverend Stryker (God Loves Man Kills) and Bolivar Trask (the Sentinels original daddy). I mean... Holy Damn! Reviving all these heavy-hitters is a make-or-break move. If you don't provide a big-enough story to justify stepping on soooo many beloved storylines, you're going to get a very disgruntled fanbase. The Jury is still out on this. At least the amazing sales (I'm sure they caught everyone unawares) can justify the opening gambit, and the quality of the story and the art so far in the storyline bode well.
YOUNG AVENGERS PRESENTS #4
(Paul Cornell / Mark Brooks / Jaimie Mendoza)
A Vision spotlight. Vision/ Iron Lad/ Kang Jr was the one character from Young Avengers who I was never too clear on. It's always a plot trap (exhibit A: Doug Ramsey / Warlock / Douglock as well as the original Wonder Man/Vision debacle) and needs to be navigated with care. Cornell examines the relationship between the Vision and Cassie Lang in an extended (and well-written) diner scene that leads into the fun action half of the book, with the two ex/potential (see? confusing) lovers battling AI goons while one';s hand is molecularly bonded through the other's chest. Grabby, right? It's an enjoyable and rewarding read, that unlike previous issues actually moves the characters' relationships forward in preparation for the return of the regular series. (Also: Mark Brooks has improved in leaps and bounds since I last saw him. Well done, man)