Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review

Pull up a chair and get the lowdown on this week's new releases:

Annihilation: Conquest 2

by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Tom Raney

Aleksi Briclot does a great cover, and this is not like other comics, where you have a beautiful cover, but open up the inside to find some amateur has been given the issue assignment. Tom Raney with Scott Hanna in the inks, and Frank D’Armata doing some great colors makes for a good creative team all around.

One of the reasons this series has been a notch better than others is because of the potential for death among the characters. Setting aside the lame death/non-death of Wendell Vaughn, you have a harder sense of knowing if any particular character is about to die, which adds an element of suspense that is generally lacking from other comics that have someone appear to die.

The groups are split up into different factions, as one group tries to find a savior, another forges a new alliance with an enemy, and a third faction runs a resistance campaign The resistance group has a solid feel of being under pressure of capture at any second, but making solid strikes, trying to kill a dragon with bee stings. One can only wonder what will happen when all of the various groups manage to link up. Well-written and well-drawn.

Ms. Marvel 22

by Brian Reed and Aaron Lopresti

Carol is temporarily without her powers in this middle part of the Brood story, and some fans might quibble about her being able to take out a member of the Brood with nothing but a wooden branch, but the physical side of things quickly gives way to a mental tour of Ms. Danver’s life, different power levels, and costumes. It is not clear whether Carol’s subconscious is trying to tell her something, or if Cru is guiding things, but hopefully it will be cleared up by next issue. Cool final page art, too. There is little screen time by her supporting cast, and this storyline needs to wrap up soon, so we can get back to the point of the title.

Silver Surfer: In Thy Name 2

by Keith Simon Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat

After the previous Silver surfer mini-series, this is a bit of a let-down. The art is passable, if a little CGI-looking. Part of the problem is the story is a hash of arrogant dictatorship and religion issues, but with no new take on things, and no special relevancy. The Surfer himself seems to be fairly aimless, and for some reason we are now being told that Norrin Radd always had an ugly temper. Really? Since when? It could be any other cosmic character. The entire story is unremarkable, and feels like a holding place until they can figure out what they really want to do with the surfer. Here’s an idea: why don’t you have him help out against the Phalanx over in Annihilation: Conquest? Duh!

The Twelve #0

by J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston

This issue is actually a preview look, with reprints from some comics from 1940 and 1941. They give the reader an introductory look at three of the characters, Rockman, the Laughing Mask, and the Phantom Reporter. This is all prelude to the new Twelve series that attempts to take a collection of almost-forgotten characters and give them new life and dimension. The back of the book gives you a first look at the revamped character designs by Chris Weston. The project is not a normal one, but is slightly reminiscent of Straczynski’s tackling of the Squadron Supreme, or DC’s various attempts to revitalize characters that they have purchased form other companies, such as the Charlton heroes, and their never-ending attempts to make Shazam become cool.

This issue is good to get simply because it provides a window in to the thinking of writers and art styles in the forties. Heavy narrative text is in evidence, whereas today there is a much more concentrated attempt to have the art tell as much of the story as possible, and leave blocks of lettered text off of the nice art. It is notable that most of the villains in the stories are basically big business and economic motives, which shows you the concentration and awareness of society at the time. These are not the goals of depraved psychotics or world-conquering menaces, but more down-to-earth realistic scenarios that the average person could grasp: follow the money! There is also a less idealistic approach from these characters, as the death of an occasional bad guy is not looked at in askance. In the time of the World War II era, the average reader probably did not have any qualms about bad guys getting their due. It was only in later years that a new heroic ideal was forged that put human life up on a higher, more sacred pedestal, forbidding the taking of any life, no matter how depraved. Here, if you live by the sword, you often die by the sword!

Uncanny X Men 493

by Ed Brubaker and Billy Tan

Brubaker improves as he goes with this Messiah Complex storyline. There is a definite cinematic feel to the layouts, and a good sense of progression, almost like watching a good HBO series. The character dialogue flows naturally, as the main team retreats, wounded and on the run, with a definite feeling that things are not going their way. The home team at the mansion is under attack, and the chaos and frenzy of the action is displayed wonderfully by Billy Tan, all while still showing the reader that Warpath and Hepzibah are enjoying their new relationship. The only thing that gets a little tiresome is the constant nagging by Cyclops, trying to keep the younger kids from jumping in to battle. How old was he when Xavier first tapped him into service?

In other areas, everybody and their dog seems to have found out who has the new mutant baby, but he’s walking around while all of the other mutant telepaths have collapsed. In light of all of the developments, Cyclops’ big plan is to form a new X-Force team. Really? Your entire secret ace in the hole is to put together six members of your teams that basically symbolize all the hack-and-slashers? The team roster looks like a pick-up group of the new Dual Blades power over in the City of Heroes MMORG. Wait, does this mean Wolverine is going to be in a seventh or eighth title now, or is someone going to call shenanigans and put a limit to how many places he can be at once? Aside from those little nitpicks, this is still a great read, and has made the X-Men a more exciting read in years, better than anything else, with the exception of the Whedon/Cassidy run on the Astonishing title.

What If… X-Men: Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire1

by Chris Claremont and Juan Santacruz

Larry Storman is a name I haven’t seen in a while, and his style seems to have marginally improved, but it still has that recognizable heavy Stroman look to it. Vulcan assumes most of the power of the Phoenix Force and goes on a rampage, so the x-Men have to bring him down. As with most of Marvel’s attempts at What If stories lately, this is a fairly good read, with an excellent ending. Nothing mind-bending about it, but good enough to pass the time.

X-Men: Die by the Sword 4

by Chris Claremont and Cafu

Let me tell you a story. A few years ago, the X-titles had been ruined by no guidance and writers like Chuck Austen, and a nice man by the name of Chris Claremont was brought back to whip some of the characters into shape, and give them a semblance of a goal. He did a good job, but as the X-titles got on track, Claremont increasingly fell back into minor titles with re-runs for plots. Fast-forward to today, and the X-titles have a new lease on life, with good potential for storylines, and Claremont is off in the least-populated area, with a dwindling interest in Excalibur characters, and non-important characters in the Exiles, who will not be affecting the main Marvel Universe, if you discount the daily “battles for the existence of all creation” that Claremont can’t stop himself from writing.

In this latest issue, Claremont gets to handle some of his favorite characters like Psylocke and Kitty Pryde, but not always the original, main universe versions. We finally get one panel of Sabretooth mentioning Proteus, but without any background to tell the reader why that could be important. Then we receive a couple pages of Dazzler calmly thinking out her battle strategy, and make more comments about being nasty, when all she is doing is throwing people around. Is she kicking a guy in a private place at least? The art simply does not match the thought process. Then Dazzler claims that Rouge packs “a stronger wallop than even Juggernaut.” ?!?!? Then how is she easily deflecting the shot? Juggernaut can life or press close to 100 tons, depending on his current power level, which would fling Dazzler off the railing like a ping pong ball.

Later, Dazzler mysteriously dies, but without any hint as to why. She just falls to the ground. Was it the invisible attacker? Maybe. But the art and writing are so bad, it is impossible for the reader to tell. The rest of the heroes are off fighting a villain with no metrics, by which I mean, you can’t tell if you’re doing any good or not. In regular depicted fights, you can get a measurement of how much a punch from Captain America might affect someone like the Wrecker. Here, they could be playing cards for all the effect we are shown. Nobody cares if Dazzler is unconscious or dead, anyway. She resurrects constantly, with no explanation why, as one of the many dangling sub-plots that Claremont insists on putting out there, hoping that his run will last two hundred issues so he can close them all out. Thankfully, next issue will be the last. But we may still have to exist with Claremont writing the new Exiles title. Or not, if nobody buys it.

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

I think it's unfair to call the new X-Force a grouping of hack-and-slashers.

The group is made up of experienced trackers or individuals with some sort of heightened senses. If you're going to send a team after someone who doesn't want to be found, wouldn't you send the best trackers?

My only real grip is having Wolverine leading the team. I don't think he's leadership material and we already have Wolverine light with X-23.

I would put someone on there with leadership experience and also experiecne leading a behind the scenes strike force. I'd grab Dani Moonstar out of retirement and put her on the team or swipe Cannonball from adjective-less and give the team a little fire power.

But that's just my two cents.

-- Posted by: Josh at December 10, 2007 8:28 AM

I agree completely with your take on the Surfer. The Silver Surfer is one of the most unique and cool characters in the Marvel Universe. He is a character best used sparingly. For years Stan didn't really want anyone else to write the character and writers wanting to utilize him had to get Stan's ok on plots involving him. It's a shame to see such a wonderful character in such a ordinary story. When the Silver Surfer shows up I expect a top notch story and art - and this new mini ain't cuttin' it for me.

-- Posted by: Jim Brocius at December 10, 2007 10:42 PM