Saturday, July 12, 2008

Marvel Capsule Reviews Week 24 2008

Ok, holidays are over kids, let's play ultimate catch-up! One reviews posting every day, till we get to current books!

Looking a month back, Spider-Man and Spider-Girl relieve the clone saga, the Hulk gets two kids - and learns Kung Fu, Captain Britain is still dead, Claremont still struggles,and Wolverine guts a churchful of Christians. Fun times!


(Tom DeFalco / Ron Frenz)

Yes, that cover is no lie - it's the Spider-Girl-Clone Saga dawning upon us!

Has Norman switched the babies at birth? Peter's bent to know, Normie Osborn is visiting his ex-wife the Goblin Queen (love her bitchy genes), while May has trouble of her own - what with cheerleading, the most obnoxious boyfriend in the history of jocks, a general wave of spidey-hate among her friends and the looming war between the mutant renegades and the anti-mutant zealots in the student body. All that, and even more subplots you can swing a spider-web at, in 22 pages...

Talk about fan-service with a smile! DeFalco takes the best elements of what we did love in the Marvel books in the 90s (ys, it wasn't as doom and gloom as some would remember) and makes them click again.



(Bob Gale / Mike McKone / Andy Lanning)

The amusing long-running subplot featuring the 'Bookie' (taking bets on super-hero fights from NY's finest super-villain drinking establishment) takes center-stage as he stages a fake fight between a fake villain and a fake Spidey (oops, there go the amazing Spoilers - hehe), but gets caught in the act. Trouble!

PLUS: the most amazingly BLUNT anti-smoking in-comics campaign... well, ever... Seriously, this makes the anti-drugs comics inserts of the late 90s look good by comparison.

The 'Spider-Writers-Trust' are really clicking great together, sharing characters and working subplots into each others' stories, while the editor is having way too much fun with the returned Reference boxes, the recap pages and even the 'to be continued' gags (teasing that the subplots will be untangled in Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk #3 - heh - add insult to injury, why don't you).

Still the funnest this book has ever been in the last 2 decades! Go Team Spidey!



(Paul Cornell / Leonard Kirk / Jesse Delperdang)

"When Captain America died, Americans heard it in an American way, through the Media.

When Captain Britain died, the British felt it in their chests."

Excuse me a moment while I try to wrap my head around how utterly SWEET this title is.

So, as of last issue's cliffhanger, Captain Britain is indeed dead, and I honestly don't see an obvious successor in sight. How very meta of you, mr Cornell; and certainly not a good a yeart for Captains... has anyone heard from Captain Midlands or Nextwave's the Captain recently?

So... using the good Captain's good name, launching off the mega-successful Secret Invasion, Cornell is simply doing what he does best, writing 'Wisdom 2', bringing more old favorites in the game, Alan Moore-ing us with some insightful views about the nature of Avalon and Otherworld and making someone as tiringly burnt-out during the 90s as the Black Knight fascinating again...

The 'Excalibur' franchise (well, let's just cal it what it is now) hasn't been in better hands since Warren Ellis's seminal run. It does take a Brit to do this concept and name right, after all...



(Charlie Knauf / Daniel Acuna)

The long-awaited (or rather severely bad-timed/delayed) sequel to Neil Gaiman's ultra-popular re-imagining of the Eternals myth for a new generation.

The Eternals, Gods on earth created by the cosmic Celestials, have been 'betrayed' by one of their own, Sprite, and trapped in ordinary everyday lives with no recollection of their true powers and purposes. Now a handful of them have been awakened and seek the rest of their vast numbers as they form two opposing camps.

Yeah, it's heavily built on the old 'amnesiac Gods' motif that both Gaiman and Marvel have extensively examined in the past (heck, Marvel has done it twice in recent memory, both times on Thor, with Warren Ellis and now JMS). Knauf doesn't seem to be adding much to spin it in a new direction so far, relying on vague motives to separate his 'good gods' from his 'bad gods' and applying little more than paper-thin personality traits on any of his starring characters. If not for the original series, I really wouldn't have any interest for this first issue.

Acuna (Uncle Sam & the Freedom Fighters, Flash) has the freshest art style in comics right now, so I applaud Marvel for stealing him off their Distinguished Competition and offering him this position and the great spotlight and promotional push. Currently he's the main reason I'm inclined to stick around and see how the story develops.



(Chris Claremont / Patrick Scherberger)

Not quite as boring/confusing as the first issue, but still daunting.

I'll admit, I was prepared to dislike this book from the start, and it really has done little to dissuade me. The story of five new mutant students at Xavier's school, inexplicably set in the continuity-convoluted world of X-Men: The End. Colossus' grandson Pavel and the pointlessly enigmatic (is all the secrecy supposed to elicit some response from the reader? Some interest? How about some worthwhile hints then?) 'No-Name' (a ridiculously dorky thing to name a character with no name, defeating the entire purpose).

After the initial interesting exchange between the two, and the all too-sweet exchange romance and exchange of gifts that follows, we get treated to a half-assed battle between the kids and the -waitforit- X-Men's 'formidable' foes, the Shockwave Riders! I was actually laughing for a good minute at that page, desperately trying to remember if the Riders have ever done anything of importance outside of that one issue of Claremont's botched X-Millenium relaunch. The claim of their importance is questioned a few pages later, but it still feels incredibly lame to dig these particular nobodies to feature in this issue when the x-history is full of far more interesting adversaries.

The issue also features a back-up reprint from X-Men Unlimited featuring cl;assic Jean Grey by Torres and Miyakawa, along with two dorky 'What The!' one-page reprints.



(Jeff Parker / Mitch Breitweiser)


Now WTF was that!

Thundra, the ultimate feminist leader of the 23rd century (leading her female army to tkae over most of the world from the male tyrrants yadda yadda) travels back to our century to challenge the Hulk into a fight and...


... seduce him, making out with him (Hulk Smooch!) in order to...


... steal a tissue sample from his cheek so she can go back to the future and...


... get herself pregnant with Hulk's baby girl who will grow to lead the female army into total World domination...

Jeff, I'm a huge fan, you know that; but... seriously...

What drugs are you on (and how can I get my hands on some)?



(Paul Benjamin / Steve Scott / Nathan Massengill)

Pure Brilliance!

Hulk gets transported to the alien arena of the Champion of the Universe (remember him? one of those wacky cosmic Elders of the Universe, with their Infinity Gems and funky costumes) where he must fight in a tournament against the Champion along with other Earth powerhouses like Thing, Juggernaut, Doc Sampson and... Rick Jones with Monkey!

It's a fun fun fun slugfest, but what makes it an unmissable must-own issue is the startling finale with collectable Kung-Fu Hulk! Hulk Kick, dammit!



(Chris Claremont / Tom Grummett)

'the War Day' part 1. First of all, I just can't wrap my head around they're actually keeping Sage into that horrid horrid little medieval slut number from the last storyline, with the green mini-jacket over the golden metal brassiere and the skanky ho hairdo. Really now, show the character some respect...

The team visits a new badly defined reality, where this time the British colony in the Americas rages war against France -- the only thing is... both sides are using American heroes and mutants (seemingly randomly divided along the two sides), and all wearing their costumes circa 70s/80s...

The character subplots are thankfully more interesting than the actual plot, with some inter0character plays slowly crystallizing, Kat Pryde and Mystique becoming more and more interesting, along with Rogue just hovering around and looking stunning in her Grummett leathers.



(Victor Gischler / Jefte Palo)

A haunting oneshot noir story - chillingly narrated from the journal of a high-class prostitute who gets swept up in the wave of Punisher's war on crime. The plot itself is a standard infiltration 'n' massacre story, but it is Ms Venne's narration that sets it leagues above other stories. Gischler really gets inside the head of this woman, examining her history, her family ties, her philosophy and the justifications she makes to lead this life and put herself above the situations. In the progress of the story she finds her foundations shattered, her illusions of power dragged through the mud as she witness the real gory face of violence; she is terrified at losing control and the reader is carried along in the shockwave of her tragic fall from 'grace'.

One of the finest Punisher stories, even if Castle is only a delivery vehicle in the entire affair.



Less of an anthology of short stories and more like a 'Where are they now' or a short continuation/flavour of several disparate limited series from the past years.

Brian Reed & Lee Weeks provide an epilogue to their Captain Marvel series, leading into Secret Invasion #3 and the attack on Thunderbolts mountain - though even with the setup I'm still utterly mystified by the Skrull Captain's motivations - is he good or is he bad or is everyone just as confused about what to do with him?

Jeff Parker & Leonard Kirk push through another enjoyable done-in-one with the Agents of Atlas - the reunion of the 50's 'Avengers' as they plow through a Skrull attack. I can't wait for a proper return of these anthology darlings.

Zeb Wells & Steve Kurth check back on Marvel Boy after the events of his mini-series and his odd new status quo since Civil War: Young Avengers/Runaways. It still makes little sense, and the reader isn't offered any catch-up info on just who the heck this boy is and why he's so important. Kurth does a bang-up job of imitating J.G. Jones signature style nevertheless, so the short story provides good eye candy if nothing more...

Mike Carey establishes Agent Brand and the SWORD outside the Whedon-X-Verse, playing a little game of put-the-pieces-together, as Brand realities the ultimate Skrull Invasion plan through the Skrulls cryptic hints. Timothy Green III is a new but impressive name - if this is his first Marvel try-out, he's already making a huge impression.

Wonder-Man and the 'Beast' break away from Secret Invasion #2 and have an old-time reunion. Kudos to Christos Gage for really utilizing his continuity to push through the air of doubt that this might really be the real Beast that's turned up from space, while the feline one is a doppelganger - but really now! A great treat for the fans of one of Marvel's best buddy hero teams.



(Greg Pak / Ron Garney)

This is so totally not the title for me...

Having missed out on the entirety of Planet Hulk (though I hear only praise, and Greg Pak IS unbearably handsome so it's only a matter of time before I succumb to that tasty trade), I couldn't relate to the importance of any of the events in here. Pak does a remarkable job of recapping the entire crossover in just the major beats for the new reader, but I still felt a connection missing that I'm sure will be easy for readers coming here after the mammoth storyline.

So, right after the Hulk left the planet Sakaar, his unborn/just-conceived baby boy (still inside his dead mother's body) was trapped underground, where he was wombed by the planet's core and was born into fire and rage and so on... Origins don't get more hardcore than this! Of course the boy grows to adulthood within a year (handy green genes) and goes 'HulkSmash'ing through warlords and scoundrels... The promise is there, but it's a make/break situation for the next few issues to keep readers' interest strong.

Ron Garney is trying a new uninked style, that for once does work, and captures the cruelty and despair of the post-bomb Sakaar with subtlety and amazing talent.



(Joe Casey / Jim Muniz / Cam Smith)

One more issue following the now predictable formula: the new team of Defenders introduced in the previous issue (third one in a row now) fights, kinda wins albeit with risks and amateur mistakes, and then is forced to dissolve when Daddy Starks arrives on the scene/sends his goons. There's a few subplots with Son of Satan, Krang and the wizard dude, and by the end of the issue another team is formed...

This time around, Casey has a tighter rein on things, with Richmond's speach towards Stark being an amazing highlight- along with Son of Satan's long-awaited reunion with ex-wife Patsy Walker (Hellcat/model).

With more and more pieces starting to fit together, will this utter sequential mess come into a cohesive plot by the series end? Bets are on!



(Charlie Huston & Jason Aaron / Jefte Palo & Werther Dell'Edera / Antonio Fuso)

Two short vignettes from the pages of the new X-Force.

Charlie Huston tells the slightly convoluted story of Wolverine basically tearing through a huge army of Christian Zealots, for the life of a new mutant manifestation - only the last part isn't quite clear until after the expected twist that he's not quite so... A different plot structure might have served the story more, although two readings will also do the trick nicely for most. Huston enjoys the notion of Wolverine not being allowed to smoke anymore -cause kids are getting a bad example - but he's allowed to slaughter men to pieces and slice their heads in half on the page, and really plays out the idea of bad habits, killing, smoking, and ####-swearing. The art is again from Jefte Palo (this week's Punisher oneshot: the Black Book), who exhibits a darker, bloodier and more stylish early Tim Sale bent on his art, fitting the subject matter. Marvel, this one's a definite keeper!

In the second story, my favourite boy Jason Aaron plays to his strengths (Indians - and yes you should be reading SCALPED monthly from Vertigo- and mutants), examining the changes going through the young mutant Apache Warpath's head as he further descends into a dark path of revenge. It's an fascinating contrast to Wolverine's senseless rampage, as we see Proudstar haunted by each man he's killed and contemplating the differences between a hunter and a killer according to his own traditions.


No comments: