Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review

Spoilers below for the final issue of Heroes For Hire, so skip over it if you haven’t read the issue by now.

Heroes For Hire 15

by Zeb Wells, Alvin Lee, Leonard Kirk, Ale Garza, and James Cordeiro

As far as I know, this is the swan song for this title. They took a d-list villain, made a hero out of him, and then transfigured him into a cool-looking force of nature with a goal. Then they killed him. It was telegraphed from the beginning, but they had the potential to do something else with him. The comic blog-o-sphere seems to feel the way I do, that this series had potential, but something was a little off the whole way. The ending is a little flat, with a bunch of unanswered questions, and a few upturned apple carts, but without much purpose, unless Marvel has plans to pick up all of the different threads and resolve them somewhere else in the Marvel Universe.

For starters, Paladin has always been a mercenary for hire, but he had something of a conscience, and a history of siding with the good guys for the most part. He went a little towards the “jerk” side of the hill during Civil War, but Zeb Wells treats Paladin as if all he ever read about him was his part in the Civil War. He doesn’t really have any redeeming characteristic throughout the series, and the “relationship” with Black Cat is forced and awkward, especially with the retro-victimization of Black Cat poorly done by Kevin Smith a while back. Paladin is one part of the series that never quite clicked, throwing things off.

The second big thing wrong is Shang-Chi. Here is a troubled warrior who has always tried very hard to walk the noble path, and he basically gets horny for Tarantula, an unrepentant villain who kills without remorse. Do I make you horny baby? Do I? Rather than leave Humbug to his grisly fate, Shang does the honors. Was it murder or a mercy-killing? Either way, after twenty-odd years of reading Shang-Chi, I tend to not believe most of his actions throughout the entire series. They have torn him down, and he walks away at the end. What is to become of him?

Finally, Colleen and Misty also have a break, over the monkey. The question mark on the cover is extremely apt. This is the end, and all we have are question marks as to the status of each character. With all of them in limbo, why are we supposed to care about any of them? A bad ending to the series, and the art seems to have gone downhill just as the writing.

Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Annual 1

by Christos N. gage and Harvey Tolibaq

At last we have an instance where the writer has remembered that Tony Stark has Extremis in his veins, and is connected to pretty much anything electronic you can think of. He actually uses this ability (!), and Viper tries to find a way to counteract it. The whole setup is to try to get Viper out of the position of ruler of Madripoor, but the hubris with which Tony approaches the issue costs him the life of one of his undercover agents. Smooth move, Tony. Yet another corpse to lay at your feet. It’s really a wonder why he hasn’t started drinking again.

The story and art are fairly good as a stand-alone story, but Viper disappears without it being shown, or any explanation. Just a mention on the final page, a casual, “Hey, holler if she shows up again,” that is a little lame, considering how deadly she is. Other than that, this is a pretty solid read with good dialogue.

New X-Men 44

by Christopher Yost, Craig Kyle, and Humberto Ramos

The good news is that Skottie Young didn’t do the art this month. The bad news is Humberto Ramos did. It’s like they get to hop around to the different X-titles the way Chuck Austen did. It was a mistake then, and it’s a mistake now. Don’t be fooled by the cool cover by David Finch, who raises hopes that someone decent will actually draw the characters so you can distinguish them. Anyway, it’s chapter four of the Messiah Complex, and enough discussion of the poor art.

Predator X shows up in the first panel, and if the mutants were at 198 before, they’re down to 197 now. If someone knows of a good website where they have been tracking mutant deaths when so few mutants are left, please let me know. There is a little hopping around between all of the different characters, as you have to expect during a major crossover, so we get quick glances of Madrox and Forge, Professor X, Cyclops and the rest of the X-Men, but the major thrust of this issue is supposed to be the kids going after the Purifiers. Ramos’ art suffers from the same problems here as it did in X-Men, the fight scenes are poorly drawn and choreographed. Rictor pops up in is undercover role and tries to warn the kids off, but Lady Deathstrike is involved with the Purifiers somehow (yeah, figure that one out, considering the Purifiers’ mission statement), and it looks like another mutant has bit the dust. Are we down to 196? Oh, and five X-Men decide to bust in on 16 or so evil mutants. Nothing like a good battle plan, guys. Let’s hope Cyclops still knows what he’s doing.

Penance: Relentless 3

by Paul Jenkins and Paul Gulacy

Talk about growing up fast. Robbie Baldwin has somehow gone from a fleeting, happy kid to a goth-wannabe, but along the way he has also turned into a master strategist, playing people like Tony Stark and Norman Osborn for chumps. Penance has stolen nuclear codes all as a feint for getting the Thunderbolts’ plane to himself, so he can go to Latveria and take out Nitro all by his lonesome. Tony has a psychiatrist AND the president of the United States helping him out, but still cannot see Baldwin’s endgame. So much for being a futurist and seeing how everything always turns out, huh?

For all of the things done to Wolverine lately, he shows up here being very restrained and understanding. Although it’s subtle, the reading tends to have you think that Robbie filled Wolverine in on his plan, and Logan sympathetically decided to help Robbie out. Here’s a thought, Tony Stark: if Nitro was responsible for Stanford, and you knew Robbie was trying to get at Nitro somehow, would you station Wolverine, the very guy who tried to kill Nitro himself, anywhere in Baldwin’s path? I’m not sure if this is bad writing or just showing us how stupid Tony Stark and company really are. I’m still trying to hold off on final judgment, but there are some serious plot holes in how one lone psycho-kid is able to outwit the entire U.S. government and the genius super heroes on his case. Hopefully the rest of the story does not need any further tortured thinking to get Penance where he wants to go.

Thunderbolts: Breaking Point 1

by Christos N. Gage and Brian Denham

This is a very strong story with very few nitpicks, probably my most recommended read of the week. The tale starts off with a dramatic fight scene, and Songbird takes charge and wins in a very intelligent and inventive way, all while dissing Moonstone. The dialogue and humor are great in what follows, as Moonstone attempts to undercut Songbird’s position on the team.

What is cool about this story is that Songbird changes the rules of the game and turns everything on its ear, after she gets a wake-up call from an encounter with her long-lost mother. Songbird turns ruthless on the battlefield, takes a public relations hit, and lets moonstone take a little smack-down that everyone knows she deserves and can survive. The revenge is petty, and delicious. At the end, we have a resurgence of the Screaming Mimi that used to be hardened and bitter, but with all the intelligence and cunning that the last few years of experience have brought her. Oh, I hope she joins the Avengers someday!

X-Men: Emperor Vulcan 3

by Christopher Yost and Paco Diaz Luque

It’s the midpoint of the saga, and I give it two thumbs up. The art continues to be good, and Cho’ds humor is great. The theme is familiar; the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But now, we are introduced to the Chancellor’s Guard, the group that slaughtered Rachel’s family. The tension is great, and the interactions between the characters make for excellent intrigue.

There is one moment that Havok has with Polaris, where he feels pride in the ability to do something he thinks his brother Cyclops wouldn’t be able to do, but it’s rather ruthless and un-heroic, so it bothers me a little bit. The morality that gets tossed around these days deserves much more discussion that it receives. Too many heroes seem to be turning into Punisher clones without much of an inner struggle. It may be more realistic, considering the nature of the threat, but it still needs more attention.

The last couple pages throw a neat twist onto a good idea already introduced with the planet-destroying weapon. Check it out!

What If? Annihilation 1

by David Hine, Mico Suayan, and Rafael Kayanan

Gabriele Dell’Otto draws a stellar cover for this interstellar tale, with the threat of Annihilation coming straight to the shores of Earth’s superhumans during their Civil War. Nova’s reaction is priceless, and the scenario that unfolds ignores the idea that Black Bolt has been a Skrull, thank heaven.

There is a little cliché, as the Watcher who has sworn not to intervene decides to intervene again, but what can you do? The art is very good for a one-shot, and the ending is great. It makes you wish more regular series were given this much attention.

Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

Why is deathstrike being involved with the Purifiers a question? She was involved with Stryker back in God Loves, Man Kills II (in X-Treme X-Men a few years back). Deathstrike's also not a mutant, she's a cyborg, so her and the Purifier's aren't exactly strange bedfellows.

It actually makes a lot of sense for Deathstrike to be an adversary of the New X-Men. Her whole deal back in the day is that she hated Wolverine because of the imagined slight that he stole her father's adamantium bonding process. If that was her issue back then with Wolverine, it's easy to see her going after X-23. Mayber after Messiah Complex she'll be an adversary of sorts for the new X-Force.

-- Posted by: Josh at November 26, 2007 2:57 PM

I suppose if you keep it in that context, it's not so strange. The extended history, if Deathstrike is aware of it, makes for strange bedfellows. The Purifiers were the ones who went through the Facility to obtain Predator X; the Facility was a branch of Weapon X, which was responsible for injecting Wolverine with his adamantium. I guess I was thinking, if Deathstrike was aware of the connection, she might transfer some of her wrath to people who were willing to use the same processes that (in her view) were responsible for the death of her father.

-- Posted by: tpull at November 27, 2007 2:02 AM

Good points. I forgot the Weapon X/Facility connection.

In this case, it may be the previous loyalty to Striker and imagined slight of X-23 existing superceding the Weapon X connection. If she knows of it.

It could also be possible that Deathstrike feels the Purifier's connections to the Facility and therefore Weapon X is so small, that it would be ridiculous to hold it against them.

We are also talking about a character who gave up her quest for Wolverine's death after his adamantium was ripped out of him by Magneto. Deathstrike was also an ally of the X-Men for all of two seconds in an annual dealing with some fallout of Opertation: Zero Tolerance during the Claremont returns era of the X-Men. So her reasoning for doing anything is suspect.

-- Posted by: Josh at November 27, 2007 9:21 AM

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