Sunday, August 03, 2008

Marvel Capsule Reviews Week 29 2008

Spidey sings the DD theme song, Ghost Rider takes to the Good Book, Archangel is feeling blue, Longshot gets lucky, Hercules as well, Sue with Namor even more so, Captain America becomes a Queen... and the Avengers challenge Galactus to a Texas Hold'Em tournament!


(Mark Guggenheim / Phil Jiminez / Mark Pennington)

'Kraven's First Hunt' part 2. I don't care what you nay-sayers are hung-up on, this is fun stuff. The new Eva Longoria Kraven has tracked down Spidey to his appartment, and abducted him - well, kinda. See, she kinda has the math wrong, figuring that hottie latino cop flatmate Vince Gonzales is Spidey; in turn, this leaves our boy Pete without threads (what with Kraven stealing his only pair), thinking his roomie has found out his secret, and heading to DD for a spandex loan so he can investigate without resorting to the good ol' Amazing Bag-Man disguise.

The fine mess of misunderstandings the storyline is based on is rackety at best, and doesn't hold up to close examination. Spidey has only one costume? He keeps it under his bed? His first instinct was to visit Murdock (who of course doesn't, know his identity now - even though the implicit mutual trust between these two was always the basis of their unique dynamic and relationship)? Spidey needed to dress up as another outlaw super-hero to get to the police station?

Still, it's worth squinting at all that for the joy of seeing Spidey make the most out of his 'Dress as another super-hero' day, see my old favourite Vermin (and hey, no boobs on him, a Marvel First) and have genuine excitement and suspense for the resolution of this...



(Gregg Hurwicz / Paul Azaceta)

A second mini-series featuring the new vigilante Foolkiller, with the trademark gimmick of leaving a Tarot 'Fool' card on his criminal victims; without having read the original series, his setup and M.O. seemed altogether too similar to Frank Castle, Punisher - hopefully with Frank guest-starring next issue, the creators are aware of these similarities and they will be addressed and resolved.

The first issue barely features Foolkiller, instead focusing on a young black kid who's just finished serving time and is looking to start fresh with a new job - which unwittingly makes him a target for the White Angels - an organised racist group with a similar gimmick to Foolkiller himself.

The concept and insecurity don't go anywhere further than your typical crime story - although the potential for going for some real impactful drama was there.



(Jason Aaron / Tan Eng Huat / Jose Villarubia)

'God don't Live On Cell Block D' conclusion. When Jason Aaron decides to do action, you just know it's going to be so deliciously over-the-top, in-your-face symbolic and just downright fun and nasty... Inside prison, Ghost Rider faces off against a steroid-pumped, hillbilly, religious-crazed Hulk of a man - one who's specially equipped to take him down and impervious to his powers (a real shocker, following from the recent arc's utterly invincible portrayal of Blaze).

The fight gets ugly fast, but Blaze gets the upper hand by literally hitting the bible-thumper with the good book. It's this sort of Tarantino-esque approach that really (finally!) makes this book work. Spread the good word!



(Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente / Rafael Sandoval / Roger Bonet)

'Sacred Invasion' part 3. It's hilarious that the one Skrull reveal that was the most surprising after Spider-Woman would be... Kirby - the pet dog of Amadeus Cho, Hercules' sidekick!

I think I'll let Nate Cosby's brilliant-as-usual recap page speak for itself:

The 'God Squad' reels from the sabotage, fight a boat-load of dead pantheon gods, and finally meet who all the Skrulls are referring to in the enigmatic 'He Loves You'.

(Plus, the ever-delightful 'morning after a God fling' scene with Hercules and Snowbird, because the writers are geek enough to understand the reader's hidden guilty needs!)



(Stuart Moore / Carlo Pagulayan & Steve Kurth / Jeffrey Huet & Andrew Hennessy)

'With Iron Hands' part 3. The confusing plot mess continues to unravel, but little touches shine through nonetheless: the smart, intimate portrayal of Stark's new relationship with his armour through the Extremis (finally purchasing that Warren Ellis trade made all the difference in the world), and -dum dum- Tim Dugan's Flying Commandos!


MARVEL 1985 #3

(Mark Millar / Tommy Lee Edwards)

What happens when 'our' real mundane world becomes invaded by super-villains from a fictional comics universe, and the only one who seems to notice is a young kid?

Well, up until now, that is. The villains start attacking the city in waves, and Millar reminds us just how terrifying and downright 'horror movie' creepy even the lamest-looking of the Marvel Villains can be, when juxtaposed to an everyday ordinary setting. Case in point, my favourite back-chilling sequence from the book as n indication:



(Jeff Parker / Ig Guara / Sandro Ribeiro)

Jeff Parker's return to this book has launched it out of the 'amusing, funny, light-hearted kids' book' niche, and into an exciting, no holds barred irreverent and often ridiculously hilarious direction; the only books I could really compare this to are Ellis' Nextwave and the original Giffen JLI/JLE.

[Check here for a special length plot summary with the best panels of the issue]

Absolutely the most enjoyable, value-for-your-buck, kitsch, quotable book of the week/month/year, which doesn't take itself too seriously and unapologetically takes advantage of every last bit of absurdity the super-hero medium affords it!

Too fun to be legal! Tell your friends!



(Brian Bendis / Khoi Pham / Danny Miki)

My excitement's waning here, as we get another typical 'How they got replaced by Skrulls' story, featuring Elektra.

It's an unneeded waste of a story in a way, as it reveals details that every reader had probably filled in their minds unaided. Elektra fights the Skrull attackers, putting up an impressive resistance before they ultimate cheat and gang-ile on her. Skrullektra then challenges the Hand's leader, kills him and takes over.

Khoi Pham swings between extremes in the art chores this issue: going from beautifully sexy sequences (how can the sight of a Skrull Elektra with a flaming skull and Thing arms be so strangely arousing - for a gay guy even!) and choreographed action, to ugly stale sequences (like the caricature meeting between Skrullektra and the terribly miscoloured Skrull Jessica Drew, whom I easily confused with Jessica Jones thanks to the utter absence of dialogue cues).

It's a definite miss, unless you're a very desperate Secret Invasion groupie...



(Mike Benson / Mike Deodato Jr.)

A self-contained flashback adventure guest-starring Werewolf By Night, who's found himself captured and exploited by an ambitious dog fight running circuit, and in desperate need of saving by a certain white-cowled vigilante.

The story is a pretty standard smash-and-grab (and smash some more), but it serves as a stylish (Deodato Jr keeps getting better by the day) introduction to new readers. The issue also reprints Moon Knight's first appearances in Werewolf By Night's ongoing title.



(Mike Carey / Eric Basaldua / Top Cow Productions)

This is a special public announcement: it's cool to read UFF again, they're back on the groove.

Well, ok, to be fair, it turns out Mike Carey had never really lost it after all -- he was just being too sneaky for his own good; his villains 'the Seven' did look deceivingly average and run-of-the-mill, his ultra-foxy Agatha Harkness didn't look like more of an unconnected distraction to the main plot, and let me assure you, the horrid Top Cow art wasn't helping a bit.

Boy, was I wrong! Everything is connected, the Seven and Agatha turn out to be a brilliant, very Carey take on a mythical villain, all the threads are miraculously connected into a cohesive story, and we even get a stunning look at Ultimate Atlantis as Namor and Sue spend some quality time in the deep.

The art is thankfully passed over to another Top Cow studio artist, Eric Basaldua, who arrives to pretty much save the day; his style reminded me of a more mainstream Steve Pugh, edgy, sexy and filled with surprising details (like seeing little droplets of water on Namor's skin when he steps into Sue's force field cocoon underwater).



(Peter David / Larry Stroman / Jon Sibal)

'He Loves You' part 1. X-Factor Investigations settle in their new Jersey headquarters and streamlined direction. Their first mission: track down Uncanny X-Men's Darwin on behalf of his estranged father. The complications? Darwin's been a bad boy, developing an actual personality (mirrored by that rather loud new fashion sense), and hanging out with poster X-boy of the 80s Longshot (yes, still sporting a mullet) - who may or may not be a Skrull impostor and hunted by a certain green-skinned gamma-irradiated ex-lawyer also written by PAD...

Veteran (and cult-favourite) X-Factor artist Larry Stroman takes over regular art duties, reuniting with his original collaborator in launching the fun-fun X-Factor direction in '91. His spectacular character designs have remained as sharp as ever, although the transition to the new inker and colourists has taken away a bit of his art's crispiness and edge imho, having been used to his bolder, more defined lines. It's an absolute joy to see him back in comics full-time, he's one of those artists who have an absolute inimitable personal style that transforms and enriches any character he tackles. Think Jim Lee, Joe Madureira, Chris Bachalo, Sam Kieth...



(Craig Kyle & Chris Yost / Clayton Crain)

'Angels & Demons' part 5. Kyle & Yost are giving a Vaughan a run for his money in cliffhanger-fu with this book! Let's recap:

#1: The religious anti-mutant fanatics Purifiers discover the carcass of the techno-organic Technarch Magus in the deep.

#2: They use the Nimrod's remains to bring the anti-mutant zealot Bastion back.

#3: Under Bastion's orders, and using the Magus' techno-organic virus they resurrect a Who's Who of anti-mutant activists: Bolivar Trask, Stephen Lang, William Stryker, Graydon Greed...

#4: A brainwashed berserk Wolfsbahne bites Angel's wings off. The Purifiers use the wings' DNA to reverse-engineer an angelic militant choir, while Warren turns back into his deadly, nihilistic, blue-tinted, metal-winged form as Archangel!

This issue? The Purifiers' human leader grows weary of Bastion's methods and a civil war erupts in the ranks, while Archangel comes to terms with his new station. For all of you worrying about how this fits with the Uncanny X-Men's current status for Angel, don't worry; I know how this plays out and it's all going to make sense very soon!

Out of all the relaunched/refreshed X-books, it's no wonder this one has made the biggest impression with the fans - combining amazing quality embellished graphic violence, a frenetic plot movement, borderline characters, depth of characterisation, but mostly: a loud defiance for the unwritten X-book laws and a compulsion to really push the envelope and produce each issue like it was the year's loudest mega-event.

It's taking everything that compelled readers to make X-force a great hit when it first launched, and finally doing right by the concept.



Mirela said...

This week I only liked the new Spidey, Herc and (OF COURSE!) X-Factor issues!

The Skrullektra story was BLAH (Bendis has REALLY spread this concept thin WAY too fast!) and X-Force was BLAMBLAMBOOM! silly and over the top. A nice read, but Kyle and Yost do tend to overshoot their targets most times like that.

Manolis Vamvounis said...

but what if the target IS BLAMBLAMBOOM?

I think there's a definite gap for that sort of guilty pleasure x-book in the market :)