Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review

It’s a light week for Marvel, but Secret Invasion is finally here. Spoilers below as to who the first revealed Skrulls are.

The Amazing Spider-Man 555

by Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo

Marvel continues to have problems with the Spider-Man title, but it’s not reflected in the sales. Sales are as strong as ever, partially because it comes out three times a month. Doctor Strange shows up here even though Doc has already left the New Avengers, but at least this time they acknowledge it on the letters page. If this was intended as a fill-in story, though, it is providing another break from the previous storylines, which means no Aunt May, no JJJ, no continuance of the Freak story, and so on. Spidey is side-tracked by Doctor Strange having a mystical prediction come over him and then fainting. The Doc, that is, not Spidey.

Chris Bachalo’s art has stagnated somewhat, and he tends to have skinnier stick-drawings for Spider-Man compared to the last three artists, so it doesn’t seem to be a good fit, but the story and dialogue is passably good, for filler.

New Exiles 4

by Chris Claremont and Tom Grummett

Regular readers of these reviews may be familiar with my theme regarding the New Exiles, lately. Mainly, there seems to be no point for their adventure. The latest issue reads well, with excellent art, and there are only a couple of quibbles, but the main one goes to the heart of the motivation of the team’s mission, which, it turns out, was just to get a new member.

Let’s discuss one of the smaller quibbles first. The villains leave behind a nuke that is described as near-megaton yield. Setting aside that this universe’s Black Panther can magically teleport any amount of people and materials to any location without noticeably using any communications equipment, it turns out that Pstyocke manages to take the brunt of the explosion, backed by Invisible Woman’s force field. That’s right, folks, Betsy can do more than just shatter mountains with her tk, she can also withstand a megaton of nuclear yield! All it does is make her pass out a little. Although this is pressing things a little, she then has to strain against an energy barrier that is being enveloped over the entire planet. Is this because a measly energy barrier is just as tough as a nuclear blast, or because she was still tired from shielding everyone from the nuke? I have no clue how she deflected not just the sheer, raw force of a nuclear explosion, but also all of the ionizing radiation and heat. If this is her real power level, she should be able to take Thor on in her sleep!

Back to the main problem. We were never really told what the team’s mission was in this world, and it does not feel like they have accomplished much when they leave it. As a matter of fact, the Exiles team jumped in blind and ditches everyone just when it seems like Earth’s troubles are just beginning. But forget about their mission to help, because Sabretooth turns into “I got my own problems” today and announces they’re leaving. Plus, they’re taking a person with them. That’s right, folks, Gambit has joined the New Exiles.

The tallus has been conveniently blocked all along, and only after the mission is over do we find out that their entire mission… was to go get a new member. Lame. The tallus was always supposed to help fix a universe, and there was always the bug creatures that kept the members of the team stable, but now the computer systems in the Crystal Palace are doing that for them? I hope this does not open up a storyline that mirrors Claremont’s old story when the X-Men lived in Australia with a semi-sentient HQ. The last thing we need is yet another never-finished recycled plot. Although most of this issue wasn’t half bad, if Claremont starts in again with his standard “mysteriously sentient computer” cliché, I’m gonna scream.

Secret Invasion 1

by Brian Bendis and Leinil Yu

Let me get some standard stuff out of the way before I digress: Great cover, great art, and the story is a good for the first issue. I’m on board for the ride, and hope it’s a good one.

We now return to the normal review, where my brain actually works, and I wonder how in the world this all came to happen. Don’t read any farther if you just want to enjoy the popcorn and candy that is comics, because this comic has plot problems on so many levels:

1. Civil War. It was a big crossover, and half of us thought it ended with a nonsensical whimper. This story has been longer in the planning, but we’ve already hit road bumps along the way (remember the nightmare publishing schedule of Secret Wars?), and Reed Richards already knows Elektra is a Skrull from the Illuminati series. Reed walked away from Tony then, so why is he with Tony now, acting like this is the first time they are talking about this? We’ve got continuity problems, and we’re only on page 5, people! I am left with just hoping that the ending doesn’t fall as flat as their last big crossover. And that they don’t reset everything (cough-Spidey-cough) a couple months after they’re done.

2. This story is a big fat rerun for most comic readers who have been around a long time. In 1988, DC published an eight-issue mini-series called Millennium. It was a major crossover, with a DC-mandated policy that at least one cast member of every DC title reveal someone who was secretly an agent of the Manhunters. The wool was pulled over everyone’s eyes, and it took the Guardians to pull down the curtain and organize the super heroes to the threat. Hmm, big plot? Check. Long time in the making? Check. Can’t tell who is really someone you can trust or not? Check. Eight issues? Check. Lots of betrayals? Check. Rerun!

3. Duplication within a short time frame. Okay, let’s guess that there are a bunch of new readers, that tons of older readers weren’t into DC around 1988, and so forth. The Skrulls are running around all saying, “he loves you.” What have I been reading for the past six months or so? Countdown to Adventure, where all of Lady Styx’s followers have been chanting non-stop, “Believe in her.” The religious connotations are old hat to me, and it’s already making me feel like I’m reading a me-too story, and this is still only the first issue.

4. Will they answer the questions? See, we have revelations for a lot of Skrulls here: WARNING: SPOILERS START HERE

Sue Richards, Dum Dum Dugan, Jarvis, Henry Pym. How long have they been in place? Is it like in Ms. Marvel, where you have the real one, and an extra imitator running around? Or has Jarvis been in place for decades? Is this the Spider-clone saga all over again, and what you thought was Hank Pym having a nervous breakdown was really part of a Skrull plot somehow? Have our favorite characters been stand-ins for five years’ worth of stories? Because everyone knows how much an audience loves that. Before this is all over, the readers need a solid explanation for which character was a Skrull, when it started, and for how long. For man-off-the-street turning into Sue, we can safely guess that was not a long-time thing. But what about the others? Bendis has a habit of not explaining things sometimes, and it will hurt the story if he doesn’t give some additional detail with this.

5. Poor explanations and plot holes galore. An entire orbital station blows up because of one guy? A Skrull turns into Sue in the Baxter Building lobby, and no alarms go off? It’s one thing to say you can’t detect one when they’re already in a form, but no video cameras caught it in mid-switch? The Skrull impersonator, who came in from the street as a man, automatically knows all the override codes to open the Negative Zone? How?!?!?!? Are you telling me Reed neglected to put safeguards on it?

6. Blown opportunities. Seventeen heroes emerge from a crashed ship, all in character with the 1980s. It would be one thing to cause confusion if these were all the characters from the Kree-Skrull War, but some of them aren’t. As much as I want the White Queen to return to normal (because Grant Morrison gave her an unexplained third mutation diamond form power only because Colossus was unavailably “dead” at the time for Morrison’s run, and the genius editors at Marvel let him actually do it; now everyone who follows has to deal with Diamond Girl… but I digress), she’s a Skrull or a clone or whatever, and there’s really no suspense to this. I would love to turn back the clock and get the Beast back to looking like he’s supposed to, rather than a refugee from the Beauty and the Beast television show, but I don’t want to witness another deal with Mephisto to make it happen. The writer could have made the mix of characters a little more “believable” to create suspicion with the new arrivals, and it just ends up flat.

We’re stuck with what we’ve got, though, so enjoy the ride if you can. I try to read each issue the first time with my brain off, so I can enjoy it a little, and then go back and ask normal questions that tend to make my brain explode. Based on past experience, the details won’t matter, and comic fans will gobble this up like nothing else, despite the problems in the way the story is being written.

Young X-Men 1

by Marc Guggenheim and Yanick Paquette

This new series begins with an homage to the way Professor X traveled the globe to gather his international X-Men team, with Cyclops playing the part of Charlie, sans wheelchair. Most readers will start to wonder if Cyclops is a Skrull, because he busts a mutant out of jail in California without even a shrug. I guess we’ve gone from a guy who was raised right, tries not to kill, and obeys the law as best as the law lets him …to a guy that does pretty much anything he feels like, with no moral compass.

X-Force wasn’t enough for ol’ Cyke, he has to put together a second team of mutants, and this doesn’t count the third team he’s building over in the Uncanny title. Wasn’t there only supposed to be 198 of them left anyway? His rationale is supposedly geared towards the modern threats to mutants, as if to say that Nightcrawler, Beast and company can’t do it already. Cyclops has to turn to teenagers when he has battle-tested adults? The whole series is poorly conceived, and the “new threat” is the original New Mutant team. Please tell me Cyclops is a Skrull. Please?

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