Comic Fodder

Dana's Marvel Comic Review Round-Up

THE NEW AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI 5

By Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Reed, Jim Cheung and Mark Morales

A couple reviews back I made mention of my concern on how they were going to wrap up this limited series. For the most part, each issue of Illuminati read like one-shots (some good, some not-so-good) that served up a bevy of information on the activities of this superhero organization. I assumed that collectively this run was leading up to an actual conclusion and an answer to why this comic book ever came into existence. Well, I’m not quite sure either was really provided to its readers.

When you decide to read a limited series, there’s a certain expectation, at least from me, of your standard “beginning, middle, and end” format. There’s the introduction to the current state of affairs which moves to the actual action which leads to the reveal, be it big or small, which takes us to the resolution. Normally, this resolution marks a change in a given character, super team, or status quo. Instead, the final issue of this book not only maintains the current conditions of everything and everyone, it also launches us into The Secret Invasion. There’s nothing wrong with one title piloting us to the next. This has been happening for years. But when the culmination of five issues for said title merely sets up events to come that have already been set up in other books, doesn’t this title just become redundant? Or worse yet, unneeded?

This issue of The New Avengers: Illuminati centers on what appears to be a new Skrull invasion. The team is brought together to lay eyes on the Skrull that has been posing as Elektra. If you haven’t been reading The New Avengers, there’s a threat that the Skrulls, now undetectable by various super abilities, have infiltrated the ranks of our superheroes. This has led to a great deal of mistrust in the Marvel Universe because no one knows if the person standing next to them is truly a trusted teammate or a Skrull in disguise. Since all of this information has already been provided in another title, I’m not quite sure why this was chosen as the finale to this limited run. Wouldn’t it make more sense, as an alternative to simply summing up proceedings already known, to have an actual conclusion, something that packs a bigger punch?

The art is again well done. I’m a fan of both Jim Cheung and Mark Morales so it never came as a surprise that I enjoyed what I was looking at. Together, they do a wonderful job of capturing the characters and the action – of course, this issue was no exception. The perspective in which each panel is laid out really draws the reader into the story. Not every artistic team can tout this claim. These two can. As a whole, the art’s been my favorite part of the book, and is one of the main reasons I kept picking up this title.

Though we do find out exactly where Jessica Drew (a.k.a. Spider-Woman) took the imposter Elektra, I can’t recommend this issue. In the end, everything is pretty much left as is. And don’t we deserve better than that?


ASTONSHING X-MEN 23

By Joss Whedon, John Cassaday and Laura Martin

My reviews of late for Astonishing X-Men have been middling at best. Since this book comes out so infrequently, it’s been extremely difficult to keep track of what’s transpired, and has taken me to the point of actual dislike for the title. I’ve never been a person who rereads prior issues to familiarize myself with past events or details. For certain arcs in certain titles, especially those filled with numerous storylines, it’s become somewhat of a necessity so I must fault myself, in the case of Astonishing X-Men, for not doing this. I believe my assessment of the title might be quite different if I had. When this comic book first came out, I thought it was great. The pace may have been a bit slow, but the direction was solid. The first arc unfolded with finesse, keeping the reader engaged, always imparting just enough development to maintain interest, yet never denying need. Has anything really changed in the writer’s approach to this title? No. But the frequency to which this title is released has, making it, as I’ve said, hard to follow. So when I set aside the span of months between issues, where I believe my real misgivings truly stem, this was a very good issue.

With this chapter, we’re one step closer to the end the current story arc and one step closer to the end of Whedon’s run. I’m looking forward to rereading the arc (yes, I do reread arcs) as whole once we’ve reached its conclusion. This issue is filled with characterization; something Whedon really has a knack for, and the pacing just flies. Any problems I had with prior issues have been pretty much stripped away as certain revelations in this issue have shed some light on past events. I’ll avoid giving any of that away.

The art, as always, is topnotch. If you’re at all familiar with Cassaday’s work, I needn’t tell you what a talent he is. His art is always dynamic. From a simple smirk on Wolverine’s face to the intense resurrection of Scott Summers (oops, I just gave something away – but are you really surprised?) to the taut skirmish on Breakworld, his work consistently advances the plot and conveys details that the written word cannot.

This issue isn’t a good jumping-on point for anyone. But if you haven’t been reading this title, pick up this and prior issues. You won’t be disappointed.


QUICK TAKE


SHE-HULK 22

By Peter David, Shawn Moll and Victor Olazaba

With Dan Slott at the helm, She-Hulk was a surprisingly funny, always unique read. In the hands of Peter David, the book is a bit more – it pains me to say it but – standard fare. The first issue of Slott’s first run of this book had me sold. To show us the lawyerly exploits of the usually “smashing” femme fatale was a stroke of genius. The odd defenses used by Jen and colleagues in the superhero court of law were always engaging and rich with continuity. I mean, Slott knows his Marvel history. So when I heard he was leaving the title, I was disappointed but still optimistic that David would do She-Hulk justice. Well, this isn’t Slott’s Shulkie. And the book is worse for it. The joy and absurdity associated with this title has all but vanished. The strength of She-Hulk (no pun intended) has always been in the law offices of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg and Book. Without them, the book just doesn’t make sense. Though it’s too early to tell whether this book has taken a turn in the wrong direction, currently, I’d say pass.


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Dana Severson is one of your resident reviewers of all things
Marvel. He is often found red-eyed and filled with caffeine.