Friday, May 23, 2008

Marvel Capsule Reviews Week 18 2008

It's a week of solid endings all around the block.

Iron Fist, X-Men Legacy, Avengers Initiative all wrap up their most important storylines, while we bid a sad adieu to the Order and a 'heck yeah good riddance' to Kirkman's Ultimate X-Men.

More mean-spiritedness after the jump!


(Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker / Tonci Zonjic, Clay Mann & Kano)

'The 7 Capital Cities of Heaven' conclusion. This storyline has proved to be far more entertaining, engaging and surprising than my humble expectations. I mean, it's Iron Fist, right?

This storyline started with an inter-dimensional tournament between the 7 Immortal Weapons, side-tracked into a treason plot (later escalating in a communist revolt), branched out into one-shot flashback stories involving the previous Iron Fist's adventures (while still feeding back into the main plot and following the protagonist in a linear fashion), and unexpectedly tied into a longer-running subplot involving Ran Corp's hostile takeover, a Heroes for Hire reunion and a corporate invasion into Heaven. It all culminates with Iron Fist punching a train and the 7 Immortal Weapons showing off some mad special move combos. Fraction & Brubaker have created a true epic story here and made Iron Fist the sleeper hit book of the year.

Am I the only one drooling for an Immortal Iron Fist arcade game a la Street Fighter right now?



(Brian Bendis / Jim Cheung)

It's clear by now that New/Mighty Avengers will effectively put their regular casts aside for the duration of Secret Invasion and instead provide us with flashback snippets revealing the key points from behind the scenes of the Invasion. Wouldn't a dedicated bi-weekly mini-series by the writer of the main event make more sense, and be a bigger seller?

This issue picks up directly after the Illuminati mini (which I haven't read -sigh-), revealing the events, battles, debates and science on the Skrull Homeworld that lead to the Skrull infiltration. The absence of the usual random-quipping brigade allows Bendis to focus on his story and dialogue and provide the most tight issue of his run, and my personal favourite. That staggering last page reveal is only icing on the cake.

Jim Cheung has truly become a star name, keeping the style that made him unique but mastering his craft since his humble (Force Works!!) beginnings over a decade ago.



Yeah, I'm still writing a capsule every month to reiterate I refuse to even read this anymore. Blah.



(Matt Fraction / Barry Kitson / Javier Saltares)

Final Issue. I loathe Marvel for killing this title off so early without giving it the proper push and opportunity to find its audience. Fraction manages to wrap up all his dangling storylines, and give the book a definite sense of closure-- even though the pacing has been beyond frantic to this end. Most of the cast does survive the end of the issue, and we've already had confirmation of their future appearance in both Avengers and Invincible Iron Man (the main villain of the latter being Stane Jr, the team's arch-nemesis introduced in this series). Once Fraction inevitably becomes the #1 popular writer in comics (seriously: inevitable, trust me), I hope he remembers this dysfunctional Hollywood team and returns for a reunion tour.



(Dan Slott & Christos Gage / Steve Uy)

Season finale. The Initiative's first year of trainees prepare for their graduation while daddy Iron Man attends a tribunal hearing to make sense of how crooked the system he set up has turned out to be. I take solace in the recent Pym/Skrull reveals which might account for how embarrassingly corrupt this facility has been. The tribunal scenes provide many hilarious moments, from the custom name tags (I.Man, W.Machine) to Gyrich's ludicrously smug political maneuvering out of Stark's questions.

With the main plots wrapped up, Slott shines through this quiet-after-the-storm issue, bringing out his a-game, both in terms of the comedy (Slapstick's off-kilter 'enemies with benefits' remarks to Justice) and drama (with the opening two page sequence literally raising my hair on edge).

The issue wraps up with the actual graduation and the revelation of the graduands' new costumes, identities and state/team allocations. UGH! It could be Steve Uy's completely spandex-inappropriate art style (seriously: this is the worst artistic fit for a superhero title since, well, ever), the recycling of the costumes and identities or my sheer dumbfoundedness at them switching Triathlon's name and costume (a George Perez redesign/tribute to 3D-Man) for the actual tacky original 3D-Man moniker and threads. Did I already mention: UGH! And was that a new Hyperion standing there unaccounted for?



(Robert Kirkman / Harvey Tolibao)

OMG! Teen Mutant Super-Hero Porn! (Watch the google search engines catch fire).

Kirkman (finally!) wraps up the most embarrassing run on Ultimate X-Men (yet). The painful 90s revivals, all the confusing time-travelling misdirects, the nonsensical Australian team line-up, the gratuitous Stryfe/Onslaught name-dropping, all building up to... well, nothing really. All this set-up and timeline manipulation by Cable and Bishop so we could end up with Phoenix-ex-Machina blowing Apocalypse away with a wave of her finger while the entire Ultimate Universe is watching helpless. Before she goes, she at least does us a favour by literally wiping away every single thing Kirkman has messed with during his run... healing all injuries, resurrecting every single fallen mutant, resetting the entire tableau. HUH? Before this, the Ultimate Universe was able to at least boast it took death seriously and had a more grounded approach to super-heroics. What a wrecking ball of a run from a normally beloved writer.

Oh, the porn reference in the first sentence? Just check out the guest-artist's (Sal Larroca didn't manage to complete his much-advertised 4-issue run before being yanked off to an actually meaningful title) renditions of the boob-tastic naked Phoenix (remember, she's 17... 17...) and a close-up of veiny Cyclops, actually representative of every single male and female teen in this issue.

Tolibao is actually a pretty talented artist with detailed and dynamic work, he just desperately needs an editorial edict banning skin-tight outfits on his characters.



(Mike Carey / Scott Eaton & Greg Land)

"Why did you kill us..."

Charles Xavier, this is the show of your entire life/contuinity, starring: Everyone you've ever taught and killed. Oh boy, do they easily fill 24 pages... In case you were lost for a legend/footnote, in order of appearance the Dearly Departed: Danger (Astonishing X-Men: Danger), Legion, the forgotten Krakoa X-Men (Deadly Genesis), Genosha (E is for Extinction), Enter the Sentinels, Phoenix (Dark Phoenix Saga), Illyanna's death, Colossus' suicide, Banshee (Deadly Genesis), Sophie Stepford (Riot At Xavier's), Thunderbird I, Doug Ramsey (New Mutants), the New X-Men Stryker victims...

It's a pastiche of the X-Men's greatest losses, all so important as to be instantly recogniseable, revisited during Xavier's fancy mind-butt with the resurfaced (and for once interesting) Exodus. This isn't a book for the new fan or even the casual reader. This is a consummate reward for the long-time fans who have endured this title through highs and lows and now get to experience and enjoy the entire spectrum of x-history as one cohesive whole.



(Fred Van Lente / Scott Koblish)

An average issue culminating in a moment of awesome greatness (TM)!

Iron-Man's tracking down his dad (isn't he dead or something in proper continuity?), who has seemingly graduated from the Desperate Housewives School of Insufferable Parental Guest-Stars. Before father and son can touch base (or, say, reveal secret identities) the villainous intangible Kiber and his phasing cronies abduct Daddy Stark (over a misunderstanding no less, yay convenient plot coincidence). I couldn't get enough of Stark Sr's put-downs against both his son and Iron-Man throughout the rescue scenario -- leading to the utterly random sequence of an upset powerless Iron-Man hitting his head on the wall in frustration, opening a hole revealing the power cables sending juice to the villain's Mean Machine -- you can figure the rest on your own. Fun. Let's hope Daddy Stark sticks around a while longer still.


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