Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Marvel Capsule Reviews Week 20 2008

Four new super-teams debuting this week in Marvel, June seems to be the loneliest month...

Spidey goes paparazzi, May joins a mindless cult, Spitfire dines on Skrull, the Invisible Woman beds one, the Green Goblin saves the day... All that and Cosmo: the Russian Cosmic Dog of Knowledge!


(Dan Slott / Marcos Martin)

Another double menace feature; introducing two new villains in Spidey's life: the first live-streaming media-savvy bank-heister SCREWBALL (loving her already) and the freaky two-dimensional wall-clinging celebrity stalker PAPER DOLL. All that and Peter becoming a filthy Paparazzi for the paycheck. Have I not said this often enough? It's good to have a fresh exciting Spidey book around!

Marcos Martin is the newest addition to the Spidey artist family and he brings an amazing clean style and dynamic storytelling to the table.



(Tom DeFalco / Ron Frenz)

I've been so busy talking up how great Spider-man has been since Brand New Day, I've completely forgotten to check back on the adventures of Spidey's retconned daughter, May.

'Brand New May' kicks off with some fun/spiteful jabs at the recent OMD events, and quickly moves to catch the casual reader up to all running plotlines including May's baby brother developing spider-powers of his own, a mutant-hating organisation fining root in her school, a grown-up Arana gathering troups, romantic trouble, and... cheerleading practice? An enjoyable teen drama / action romp, wrapping up with a major (no make that MAJOR, or rather... MAJOR!!!) last page reveal that turns the whole book upside down.



(Paul Cornell / Leonard Kirk)

The sequel to last year's Nexus Award-winning Best Limited Series, Wisdom (hey I have to plug us somewhere).

Wisdom and John the Skrull (the last surviving of the Skrull Beatles, didn't you know?) are joined by a back-to- basics Captain Britain (stealing all the glory), a cutthroat (or literally throat-gnawing) Spitfire, a flippant and street-smart (all appropriately reasoned inside the story and appealing) Black Knight and a famously Newsarama-bashed new British Muslim superheroine. Don't call them Excalibut, Claremont might flinch.

The new ongoing kicks off as a direct Secret Invasion tie-in to maximise sales (something that worked well for Heroes-For-Hire before it), without he tie-in feeling too forced. I'm loving this title to bits already (head-popping, sliced-body, throat-biting bits of ultra-brit-violence!), and can't wait for more.



(Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa / Nic Klein & Nick Percival)

Everyone converges on the swamp for the finale of the Man-Thing mini: Man-Thing itself (at its creepiest), the witch Jennifer Kale and her brother, AIM's terrorist squad, and a troupe of mutant cannibal swamp-lurkers. Poetically gruesome and ghastly. Let's hope it leads to more Man-Thing goodness (or a reprint of the classic DeMatteis/Sharp run? I'll keep pushing any way I can)



(Chris Claremont / Patrick Scherberger)

This debut encompasses most everything that's wrong with Claremont's writing today. Here he's given a blank slate and a great concept to work with: a present-day team of the X-Men's children in a Marvel Universe where everyone has aged in real time. What does he do? He makes this title a sequel to his X-Men: The End mini-series (no, seriously. He is writing the sequel to a series called 'The End') and tries his hardest to link the characters to the most obscure story threads. There's a specific reference in the backmatter to X-Treme X-Men: Savage Land #3-4, an utterly forgettable 2003 mini featuring a Savage Storm.

Back to the characters: Pavel (Colossus' Savage Land grandson, referencing X-Men: The End and some annual from the 80s), Becka Munroe (Savage Land daughter of the aforementioned Savage Storm), Oli Raven (revealed in the back-matter as Rogue & Gambit's son), Rico & No-Name (both of whom are surrounded by woooo 'mystery').

Half the issue is spent with the kids fighting an adult X-23 in the Danger Room (without actually using any powers or machines or holograms- 13 pages of kicking, punching and lame dialogue); the other half with a bar brawl and a hint of characterization. I don't want to be cruel. These kids may turn out to be half-decent and intriguing characters; the odds are certainly stacked against them and this issue on its own doesn't provide the slightest hook to bring me back next month.

The art is by Patrick Scherberger, a prodigy artist who won CBR's Comic Book Idol a few years back (I remember voting for him) and makes his big break with this title, having grown into a very promising character artist and storyteller.



(Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning / Paul Pelletier / Rick Magyar)

Yet another team debut this week. The survivors of Annihilation Conquest band together (under the same creative team behind the last two cosmic mega-events) to continue their Marvel space odyssey. Roll-call: Adam Warlock, Quasar, Drax, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Drax and Mantis.

I enjoyed the battle, the clever storytelling jumping in and out of the action, back and forth in time, and interjecting a running commentary on the battle sitrep from each character. Clever quips, big ideas, talking animals, and if I'm reading the final page reveal correctly we're bound to see some of the original GOTG return in future issues! DNA have taken Marvel's long stagnant space heroes and re-imagined them into a fertile cohesive world of endless possibilities.



(Paul Benjamin / Steve Scott / Nathan Messengill)

This one's got way too much action for 22 pages! Banner, Rick Jones and Monkey the monkey visit the Baxter building and Ben Grimm to find a cure and... yadda... yadda... The Doombots storm the building, falsely identifying our cast for the missing members of the FF (the monkey thankfully gets typecast as Franklin instead of Sue) leading to non-stop gags (and a conclusive explanation about the purple pants). Of course Banner Hulks up, there's a tussle with the Thing with every single conceivable catchphrase thrown around and a grand team-up against Doctor Doom!

22 pages. Seriously. Steve Scott was a pleasant surprise (Paniccia & Cosby continue to discover the best artists out of all the Marvel editorial offices), a more mainstream version of indie fave Peter Snejbjerg.



(Chris Claremont / Roberto Castro)

Talking of good art... well, let's just walk silently away from the train wreck that is this issue.

Roberto Castro is a perfect fit for a cartoon book, but certainly nothing super-heroic. The medieval setting of last issue is suddenly revealed to be a backwards part of a futuristic high-tech world, Sage and Cat keep going through the same motions as last issue, and the Prince's tumultuous doomed love affair with the big scaly dragon that's got him in odds with his family is resolved in an... unorthodox manner, as the dragon inexplicably turns into a scantily-clad blonde bombshell and is finally accepted by the King & Queen. Say what? Shrek in reverse, and not in a good -or fun- way.



(Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa / Barry Kitson)

Say whaaaaaat? I should have seen that last page reveal coming a mile away. Which other Skrull would have such a personal grudge against the FF?

Um, ok, it's been 3 weeks, I might as well say it:

LYJA's back!

Who? Lyja was a Skrull infiltrator who, posing as Alicia Masters, broke the Thing's heart and married off with the Human Torch. Her identity was compromised, but she eventually became a member of the team and even had a romantic thing for the Thing. Ah, the good old DeFalco days. I have a great affection for the character so I hope RA-S treats her with proper respect.

Meanwhile, we get another juicy Skrull-whore scene in the beginning of the issue, with a Skrull-Reed seducing Susan. Damn alien sluts...



(Joe Casey / Jim Muniz)

Another issue, another team line-up. And each issue Kyle Richmond gets a bit more desperate, this time recruiting a team of mercenaries: Atlas, Junta (who?) and Paladin. I don't really care for any of this, and I have a clear feeling I'm not supposed to anyhow, as these clowns will be replaced next issue with someone else before the actual line-up is revealed in the last issue.




(Warren Ellis / Mike Deodato Jr)

'Caged Angels' part 5. A quartet of psychics have gotten themselves prisoned in Thunderbolts Mountain and turning the crazies (=the titular heroes) even crazier. Venom is eating his way through the guards patrol, Swordsman is staging a coup (demanding the cloning of his dead sister so he can bonk her some more), and Norman Osborn donning his Green Goblin gear to put things right.

Ellis gets right inside Norman's psychotic mind, giving us the most staggering insight into his villainy, and the single best-written Green Goblin since... ever. One chronically late title that undoubtedly is worth the long wait for the insane fun it delivers.



(Jason Aaron / Ron Garney)

'Get Mystique' conclusion. Logan and Mystique have one last tussle under the hot desert sun. The fight get downright gruesome, but not as biting as their heart-to-heart, with Jason Aaron managing to put Mystique's x-continuity and on-again/off-again X-men membership status in perspective and make some sort of sense of her motivations. This is a story highlight for both characters. Get Mystique has been the best Wolverine storyline of the last decades, I'm hoping for Aaron and Garney's return as the regular creative team on the title after Millar's second stint next issue.



(David Lapham / Johnny Timmons , David Lapham, Stefano Gaudiano, Kelly Goodine )

David Lapham delivers his gruesome Vertigo take on Wolverine in three short horror/crime stories. A moody tale of his time as a freakshow act (with a lovely damsel in distress involved, wouldn't you guess), an off-beat ludicrously tragic tale of a bus-driver inspired by Wolverine to change his life, and a super-zombie chase across Coney Island with a gut-wrenching tragic twist. For the amount of adult themes and gore within these pages I was surprised it didn't carry a MAX label. With all these great Wolverine non-spandex minis coming out the past few months (Vaughan, Carey, Lolos etc) it would make sense to drop the pretense and group them under the umbrella of a third monthly Wolverine anthology title for indy/Vertigo creators.



(Mike Carey / Scot Eaton / Brandon Peterson)

Mike Carey has balls the size of coconuts. Starting off the second storyline of his new direction, he races in the face of convoluted 90s X-continuity, pummels his foot on the gas and refuses to yell chicken even when faced with the ultimate dread of the Nicieza micro-continuity: Alamagordo! The mention should send shivers up most x-fans' spines. Everything converges here: Gambit's origins, Destiny, Mr Sinister, Xavier, the Rykings, the Black Womb, Fontanelle. Even Nicieza gave up on the dangling plot after realising he had piled way too many questions in this small basket.

Well, like we said, coconuts! Carey approaches Alamagordo with a fresh eye, introducing everything again for the first time, resetting the players, the mysteries, building up my anticipation for what could be the x-reveal of the decade tying every odd piece of continuity together into an air-tight new canon. Mr Sinister experimented on Xavier as a child? How can you not be intrigued?

Bonus brownie points for remembering Xavier's Brood baby, and tying it into both Cassandra Nova and poor Legion. Something's a-brewing.



(Chris Yost / Trevor Hairsine / Kris Justice)

An emotional retelling of Peter Rasputin's childhood, from his brother Mikhail's launch into space, to the onset of his mutant gift, the birth of his sister Illyana and finally his meeting with Professor Xavier. Yost has remained faithful to the existing material, weaving his story around it, organically introducing Alexander Vazhin (from Brubaker's CAPTAIN AMERICA) in the equation and focusing on the emotional core of the character rather than a cold retelling of the events.


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