Monday, July 14, 2008

Marvel Capsule Reviews Week 25 2008

Bumper car wars, ancient Greek underage gay sex, blasphemy, drugs, gamma-irradiated cross-breeders... and Arnim Zola! Something for every perverted taste?


(Bob Gale / Mike McKone / Marlo Alquiza)

Hey, it does what it says on the cover! Spidey versus the Enforcers (perhaps his unintentionally lamest villains) in a bump-car ride in Coney Island...

All that plus a truckload of villains, betting-a-plenty and a 22-page long anti-smoking ad.

Oy Vey, Quesada, we get it already!



(Jason Aaron / Tan Eng Huat / Jose Villarubia)

'God Don't Live On Cell Block D' part 1. Ghost Rider locks himself inside prison to get close to the man holding the answers to advance his hunt for the renegade angle who sired him. Jason Aaron has turned Ghost Rider around into the book it was always meant to be - but no man (writer or editor) dared make true. Dark, twisted, and bloody blasphemous, this Ghost Rider is the ultimate Vertigo avenger in Marvel's homestead, waging war against Heaven like a hardcore flaming skull leather biker version of Jesse Custer for the new millennium.

Tan Eng Huat (Doom Patrol) fills in for this arc, although it took the credits for me to recognise his style. The distinctive lines and style are there, but dulled down by yet another attempt at digital inking or colouring straight over pencil art. Villarubia is probably the best in the biz to attempt this process, but I still think the results can never compare to a traditional inking process.



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

Starlord. Adam Warlock. Gamorra. Drax. Quasar. Rocket Raccoon.

Even for someone like me, who could never hold a prolonged interest in Marvel's cosmic history and adventurers, a colourful/volatile setup like this (especially including supporting members like Mantis, the sociopath bonsai Groot, Cosmo the talking Russian cosmodog) holds an inescapable allure (much like the classic Infinity Watch team). DnA have very carefully picked their players for this new space team galvanised after the two gigantic Annihilation events. A mix of old and new, rich in history, and bonded through war, love, family and hate, each of them brings something different to the table, be it power, intelligence, muscle, tactics, grief, optimism, slapstick or pure sex appeal.

The great Marvel Hype machine of course spun the discovery of Captain America's shield as another wink wink hint at Steve Rogers' inevitable return, but eagle-eyed GotG fans easily guessed the real big return this issue: Vance Astrovic, or Major Victory from the original run of the Guardians. It's the last missing puzzle piece that really makes this the ultimate Marvel cosmic story, and earns the new team its new name - appeasing all concerned fans after the last botched attempt at resurrecting the brand name. Now, when can we expect Captain Marvel in for a visit, I wonder?



(Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente / Rafael Sandoval)

'Sacred Invasion' part 2. Oh naughty naughty writing team, teasingly playing up the oh-so-very-forbidden parallels between Hercules's current relationship with sidekick Amadeus Cho and his famous actual relationship/love affair with his young companion, the boy Hylas, during the Argonauts' journey.

In this issue, Hercules compares his current companions in the 'God Pack' to the original Argonauts' line-up, stopping short at making the parallel between Hylas and Amadeus. Later on in the story, he does confess to the similarities between the two boys, even recounting Hylas' tragic fate (-ahem- being wooed away from Hercules by a woman/nymph essentially... the nerve on some kids!) - but still leaving out the details of Hercules' severe reaction to this loss...

Would the Marvel writers really dare go down that route in future issues, like Radical Comics' Steve Moore has done in their version of Hercules? LYS@D is keeping a close eye.

Oh yeah, this is the must-have to-know-us-better 'personal nightmare' issue, as tghe Gods are trapped in Nightmare's clutches. A true and tried recipe, it's served rather expertly here - even if the resolution was a bit too easy to swallow. (Yeesh, look at me and the food similes - I'll sound off now and head for a snack)



(Stuart Moore /Roberto de la Torre, Carlo Pagulayan & Steve Kurth)

'With Iron Hands' part 2. One of Stark's old drinking buddies (an old and trusted plot device that feels especially forced in this handling) shows up - grown up into a world terrorist with a penchant for bringing nuclear terrorism technology into life...

Apart from the odd cool line here and there, I didn't care for the plot, the adversary, the SHIELD trappings, the new supporting cast of rookie Iron Men, or even at least the art. Thankfully, there's other venues for an enjoyable Iron-Man fix these days.



(Jeff Parker / Ig Guara / Sandro Ribeiro)

'Who Wants To Be A (Different) Super-Hero?'

Yes, the genius of Jeff Parker did decide to combine an Arnim Zola (camera for a head, face on his chest on a screen - yay!) story with an Avengers mind-swap! Seriously, it's like cool on cool squared. All that plus the Wrecking Crew...

The Hulk in Storm's body trying to uproot a forest.
Wolverine in Ant-Man's body on a pocket-sized berserker rage.
Ant-Man in Spider-Man's body trying to talk to an ant-hill.

It goes on and on. Bonus points of course for: the most imaginative use of Arnim Zola in a comic yet, the clever foreshadowing with the Avengers cam chat earlier in the issue, and the Sitcom-tastic cover that rivals the excellence of last year's Modok and Ego covers!



(Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa / Barry Kitson)

Lyja's back, as the Skrull's chosen warrior agent to tear the FF apart in the Negative Zone. Thankfully RAS loves the old Ms Green Storm as much as the rest of us queer fanboys and doesn't stoop to a vengeful b*tch cardboard characterisation. I do miss the DeFalco Fantastic Family days...

Kitson is a master of his craft surely, and brings significance to this crossover tie-in, along with Davis' stunning cover. Otherwise, the issue is packed with cute moments, from Franklin & Valeria's bug-stomping armour, the Thing's pest control issues and Johnny's recounting of his major love-affairs in a purely Johnny fashion...



(Mike Carey / Tyler Kirkham)

Carey isn't at the top of his game in this title, and the continued nuisance of the amateur-hour Top Cow Productions art team isn't really helping matters. It's nowhere near the levels of ground-breakage this title should be aiming for, and reads much more like an actual Top Cow product (insert index finger in mouth) than I'm comfortable with.

Salem's Seven take control of an emergency situation over the FF, although the new characters and their powers are presented in such a quick and confusing fashion that I was left with a headache trying to decipher who's who on the double-page spread. Certainly an occasion where the pictures and words didn't work together well at all...

Professor Agatha Harkness keeps sinking into new levels of weird, obviously tampering with the team dynamics, messing with the four's heads, and shamelessly hitting on jailbait Johnny... The current take on the characters is more dysfunctional than what I'm comfortable reading, and the only saving grace of the story is the emotional rooftop break-up rooftop scene.



(Aaron Coleite / Mark Brooks & Brandon Peterson / Jamie Mendoza & Brandon Peterson)

'Absolute Power' part 2. The jury's still out on new scribe Coleite's take on this title, as the drugged-up super-X-Men track down Ultiamte Alpha Flight to save Colossus' loverboy Northstar.

A lot of the problems I had with the first issue are gone as he's gone through his growing comics-writing pains: the roster's significantly reduced and focused (probably Heroes bad habits washing off slowly), the fight scenes are more cinematic, the villains are becoming more interesting. Still, there are new problems rising to replace them: a sort-of lame continuity fixation (is there a point in making Rahne Sinclair into the new Sasquatch, other than mad geek-cred?), the jovial kicking-off of characters for cheap dramatic effect, and the underlying warped anti-drug message. More on the latter: Wolverine has a total sissy freak-out fit when he's accused of having used the mutant-enhancing drug Banshee, while, earlier on in the story,half of the team doesn't bat an eyelid at the idea of pumping their systems full of the steroid.

Certainly an improvement over Kirkman's 90s-fest, it's still not up to par with the usual standard set by the first three writers on the title.



(Mark Millar / Steve McNiven / Dexter Vines)

'Old Man Logan' part 1. It's 50 years from now, America is an endless wasteland, the heroes are defeated and the villains have divided the land and are... living off the rent? Wolverine is no more, just the old man named Logan, with his wife and kids, living on the land owned by the Hulk's hillbilly grandchildren.

It's an offbeat, borderline ridiculous concept, but it does work - Mark Millar knows the strength of his collaborators and just how much he can get away with because a typically stunning artist has his back. Magneto and Kingpin as landlords? Blind Hawkeye driving the Spider-mobile into the sunset? The probably incestuous retarded Banners family arriving on their pimped-up Fantasticar? Big flashy crazy insane concepts. Steve McNiven manages to make them all seem grounded and believable as he creates a world at the sunset of the Marvel universe with breath-taking texture and emotional detail.



(Peter David / Valentine De Landro / Drew Hennessy & Craig Yeung)

After the recent DWS events, Mutant-town is no more, and Val Cooper joins the book's supporting cast (or is it Rogues' Gallery?) with an ultimatum invitation to join the O*N*E (eek, when will the x-editors let that ill-conceived concept die away), or the Initiative. Our boys and girls of course opt for the third fugitive route, affecting a time-jump of 6 months (PAD so loves those, although it will certainly wreak havoc with inter-X-title continuity) and a move to... Denver?

Plus: Siryn's baby gets a name, and it's a familiar one, although PAD is quick to poke fun at that particular x-tradition before we can...

With a tight core line-up, a renewed sense of family, new threats, new base of operations and a refreshed status quo (and two very interesting additions coming up next month), X-Factor's future is looking bright.


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