Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Marvel Capsule Reviews Week 22 2008

Look Look, I'm keeping to my announced schedule! How proud are you lot!

This week is Angel-Tribute week at Marvel! Alex Spencer has already covered most of these titles in his combo Angel review, but here's one more look at things.

ANGEL v.2 #1

(Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa / Adam Pollina)

Pollina has been away from the comics world for ages since his insane popularity buzz in the 90s with Loeb's X-Force. His style here has evolved into an even more hyper-stylised distortion and I can't get enough of it, reminding me strongly of Sam Kieth's evolution.

The story follows a teenaged Warren Worthington III in his boarding school life before his mutant wings manifest, the head-runner of a seeming Angel-tribute week in Marvel.



(Jeff Parker / Roger Cruz & Colleen Coover)

I'm in frank awe of this book.

Roger Cruz returns after a long sabbatical, much refreshed with a tighter, fresher look for his characters. Angel takes the spotlight this issue as he flies solo (nar nar) in search of his missing Aunt in a lost Brazilian underground paradise. Parker has settled comfortably in this book (now nearing its 3rd year) and is playing around with his cast, shifting different characters in focus and crafting an overarching story. The visuals of Warren's flight over the waterfalls are jaw-dropping, along with Parker's subtle touches like the birds following him en flock on his flight.

The back-up story features a funny origin story featuring adorable lil' Angel (the Poor Little Rich Mutant) as a parody of Richie Rich. Amidst the busy skies of Marvel's current teen team books, this one easily stands out as the best.



(Craig Kyle & Chris Yost / Clayton Crain)

'Angels & Demons' part 4. The third of this week's Angel spotlights from Marvel, taking a much darker turn. Angel officially joins the X-Force roster (really getting me excited about this title). The Purifiers (the group of mutant-hating militant Christian fanatics that X-Force is so keen to maim each issue) have brainwashed the team's resident werewolf and let her loose to have lunch on Angel in the gruesomest sequence in the title so far. This accident leads to two new elements entering the game that are raising the stakes in the upcoming endgame: a mutated militant Choir in the service of Bastion on the one side, and a reborn metal-winged murder-in-his-eye Archangel on X-Force's roster. Yost and Kyle are not afraid of sacred cows and are playing their game on a mega-event scale. No wonder this book has proved to be the surprise hit of the year.


1985 #1

(Mark Millar / Tommy Lee Edwards)

Ah, the famous 1985... Originally conceived/proposed as a fummetti comic - with photos of actors in costume instead of artwork-, ultimately the cost of the endeavor dawned upon Marvel's bean counters and Tommy Lee Edwards was brought in to illustrate the damn thing. And good thing for that, as this is career-making work he's handing in here.

'1985' refers to the year the story is set in. 1985, as in 'our' 1985, our world, with normal people, no super-powers and Marvel Comics cashing in on their Secret Wars crossover. Toby is a normal kid, into his comics, living with his mom and her new husband, spending time with his slacker rocker of a dad, and escaping into comics and Marvel Super-Heroes. On one of his outings with his dad, he runs into the mysterious new occupants of the haunted house in the forest -- but wait! Is that the Mole Man selling him old FF comics? Is that the Red Skull peeing through the first floor window? Why is the Vulture on the news? and deep in the forest... Dr Doom? The Hulk?

The concept isn't something as revolutionary as Millar would like us think (Superman Secret Identity and the origin of Superman Prime beat him to it there), but it's the execution (and the glorious art) that make this unmissable. If Millar keeps this up, we might be looking at one of the best limited series of the year



(Joss Whedon / John Cassaday)

I've read this issue 4 times so far. And I've cried every single time.

We all knew going in that Kitty would be biting the bullet (I've got to stop the puns already) this issue, but the sequence of events leading to the bullet's impact with earth still managed to make my heart skip a beat; I easily class it as the single most important x-moment since the death of Phoenix. I realised after the second reading, I wasn't crying out of sorrow; I was feeling so... proud (there I go again) of our little Kitty Pride. We thought we were reading a swan song, when in truth Whedon pulled the rug out from under our feet and revealed a love song to his favourite X-Man, who made the ultimate sacrifice to save the planet when all of Earth's mutants stood and gasped at her strength and resolve.

The rest of the issue? Colossus' death match didn't sink in since the overall saga obviously requires a cohesive reading. The choice of Emma as the person who spends the last moments with Kitty is an obvious one in retrospect, with the intense teacher-student relationship they were fighting to evade since #1 overcomes both of them. Beast finds true love sex. Cyclops puts his visor back on, in a simple gesture carrying tremendous weight. Whedon came in, opened the toybox, brought some toys back, sent others away to keep the balance (Kitty says it herself, she's dying in the same prison she freed Peter from), and in the end while returning most pieces to their proper place he has made us get to know each and every of these characters (we thought we knew) more intimately.

I do hope the X-Men can ever be this good again... And here's a grade I really don't disperse with easily:



(Matt Fraction / Khari Evans / Victor Olazaba)

Another self-contained story/legacy of a past Iron Fist: Bei Bang-Wen (1827-1860). Fraction provides an exciting done-in-one adventure with its fair share of twists, turns and ass-kicking. As enjoyable as it was, it leaves no after-taste; the exploits of this Iron Fist have already gone from my mind, and he didn't manage to forge any emotional connection. Khari Evans (Daughters of the Dragon) does an exceptional job in capturing the frenetic action, he richly deserves a regular gig on this book or other.



(Paul Tobin / David Hahn)

The FF in cosplay HELL!

In one of the oddest ideas to grace Marvel Adventures yet, the FF battle the Silver Mask, armed with a weapon that turns cosplay students into the polar opposites of the heroes they're dressed as. One shot creates the Anti-Fantastic Four, proving as ineffectual as they're evil. A second shot animates an army of Marvel's Who's Who against the FF. A third one introduces us to the Anti-Anti-FF and somewhere I hear a collective fanboy vein popping.

The issue is played wholly for kicks (do these FF even really do any super-heroing instead of volunteering for college movies and neighbourhood charity fairs?), but the in-jokes will only get you that far before the messy story structure crumbles around you.



(Fred Van Lente / Matteo Lolli / Christian Cornia & Christian Dalla Vecchia)

Iron Man vs Blacklash (loooove him), Happy Hogan spotlighted with an inane jealous grudge against Iron Man for being a better body guard to Stark, a surprise mystery villain that did take me by surprise...

Some of it works, some of it flops, but it all pales before the utter guffaw of having Iron-Man slip unnoticed out of the back of the speeding limo by flying out through a hatch underneath the car! Huh?



(Brian Reed / Andre Coelho)

'Secret Invasion' part 3. Ms Marvel crumbles. Hard. Reed is putting the pieces together from every story in the run so far, punching in one last explosive piece and giving us the most emotionally intense story in Ms Marvel's history.

I knew it was worthwhile sticking around this book for a reason besides Machine Man's (still scathing) one-liners.



(Brian Michael Bendis / Billy Tan)

Spidey crashes into the jungle (in another scene diverging out of Secret Invasion #2) to meet Ka-Zar (and Shanna with Zabu and the other wacky Savage Land Savages) and get the low-down on the Skrull SHIELD's dealings in the S. Land around New Avengers #1.

Good for your crossover needs but nothing more than average.



(Fred Van Lente / Gurihiru)

How cute is Katie Power! I just can't get over that cover!

The Power children are trapped amidst the Snark abducters and are trying to rescue their parents while discovering their newfound, well, powers. Katie of course ends up in the Snark nursery (it's true: all babies are cute, even baby alien predators) providing the most enjoyable scenes in the story, along with the usual laugh-out-loud interaction with her older brother Jack.

What's a book about family and growing up without some space rays and sibling rivalry, eh?



(Peter David / Val Semeiks / Victor Olazaba)

A shocker of an issue as PAD finally reveals the missing story of how She-Hulk got disbarred and ended up as a Bounty Hunter. Cleverly-plotted, and playing with the concept of super-hero law, albeit not as geekily as Dan Slott before him.

I do miss the courtroom drama of the title, and this issue was a happy respite from the ongoing ore that She-Hulk's book has become.


THOR v.2 #9

(J. M. Straczynski / Olivier Coipel)

They should have made Loki a girl years ago! Here sHe is, up to his/her (ok, let's stick with 'her' from now on) usual tricks, but the gender swap makes every scene all that more creepy and disturbing - as the added element of sexual tension is added in the equation.

The new story arc examines the Asgardians' interaction with the people down below Asgard. There's some dates, a basketball lesson, and a wild troll fight that pits Balder against Thor and spreads the seeds of a future coup with a wicked little revelation...

Plus: Loki on estrogen, don't forget!



(Brian Michael Bendis / Stuart Immonen / Wade Von Grawbadger)

Bendis delivers one of his darkest issues on the title, featuring Spider-man captured, chained and hung upside down by his lamest Ultimate villain: the Shocker. The absurdity of the villain's history only amplifies the drama and brutality of the interrogation scenes as Peter's fear (and his girlfriends' agony to find him and help him), especially interjected with flashbacks of Spidey prancing around cracking jokes at the villain.

Briliantly played, mr Bendis!



(Ed Brubaker / Mike Choi)

'X-Men: Divided' part 4. One issue before the wrap of the storyline and things finally heat up as both X-teams prepare for battle. Wolvie, Colossus and Nightcrawler in Russia escape their captors (with a shockingly cold reveal) stumbling upon a re-cooled Omega Red. Emma and Cyclops meet with Mastermind's (boy, the Wyngarde girls are very popular these days) brain-washed hippie X-Men team in flower-power San Fransisco. Brubaker still has pacing issues, as the San Fran storyline especially has taken two issues too many to reach this point, and I have little hope of seeing both these battles resolved satisfactorily in next issue's regular-sized conclusion.



(Fred Van Lente / Salva Espin)

Logan and Kitty travel to Transia on Magneto's trail ,but isntead stumble upon the High Evolutionary, Bova (BOVA! we love Bova, the insanely cuddly cow-nanny), and the rest of his evolved animal children (along with a hefty bulk of exposition).

It's all slicey slicey with a shocking last page in the classic Marvel Manner.

Poor Kitty kitty...



(Mike Carey / Scot Eaton & Mike Deodato / John Dell, Andrew Hennessy & Mike Deodato)

Xavier and Gambit take a road trip to uncover the truth behind Alamagordo, the shared origins and Mr Sinister's involvement in Xavier's own childhood. This issue's flashback sequences come from a period that few fans even bother acknowledging, the Alan Davis pre-Millenium run, where the particular Gambit-Xavier relationship was last showcased; LeBeau was never really much of a student to Xavier, and they had a special understanding that Carey brings forward subtly yet eloquently through their interactions.



(Kevin Grevioux / Mitch Breitweiser)

Gah.I don't know what pains me more here. The forced drama, the convenient plot coincidences, the stilted monologues, or the fake happy ending. Cassie Lang (Stature) is the late Ant-man's daughter and proud carrier of his superheroic legacy. Even against her mother's wishes and her foster cop dad's disdain she's still proud and fighting. ANT-MAN's legacy. That does take a lot of pride, really now... Grevioux forces his hand here; after a home dispute where Cassie almost lashes at her foster dad, she steps out and lucks onto the Growing Man (without explanation, for a villain who's always linked to Kang), and in the fight she accidentally drops her foe onto an onlooking cop - no wait, it's her foster dad! UGH.

Ridden with guilt, she starts shrinking into nothing, so her friends put her under the microscope and shrink down to talk her back to health. A fitting metaphor and great idea there, ignoring everything that leads to it - and what comes after. Cassie snaps out of it shockingly fast before the issue wraps up on a happy note with everyone eating pizza, the foster dad miraculously recuperating behind-the-scenes and Cassie's mom accepting her daughter's choices.



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