Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review

Eight titles! Will no one have pity on the poor comic reviewer?

The Amazing Spider-Man 557

by Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo

Although Chris Bachalo has been my least favorite artist since the brand new day stuff started, I must admit he does draw Mayan death deities fairly well. The fight scene is also well-choreographed, with some out-of-the-box style of thinking on how to portray it, literally and figuratively.

The Mayan deity’s defeat is rather lame, though, as rescue comes in the form of homeless people, and the fact that the bums have beards is what sets the “god” to quivering and backing off. Since the title comes out three times a month, perhaps the readers will not be too irritated that the Freak storyline got put on hold for so many issues. Barry Kitson is the next artist, yay!

Ms. Marvel 26

by Brian Reed, Adriana Melo, and Ron Frenz

What plans are in store for Agent Sum? The introduction of this issue gives us a clue to his background, but it feels contrived, because the only reason it is shown is so the reader can know what Ms. Marvel is talking about later. Divorced from all other parts of the ongoing story, starting off the issue this way is very awkward.

The rest is actually good, as Secret Invasion kicks into high gear. As high alert as everyone is on, it is highly amusing to see how easily a Skrull joins a S.H.I.E.L.D. detachment. We also find out William Wagner is not dead, but that was pretty much a given. The writer has been dangling some sort of secret for the past few months associated with him, it wouldn’t make much sense to kill him and not let us know what it was.

I will say this, though: the new Skrulls suck at using their powers. Each one has a ton of the X-Men’s powers, but they only seem to use one or two at a time. If they had bothered to practice at all, they might have a better chance in fights. So much for military training. It would be great, I one of these Secret Invasion tie-ins, to see at least one veteran Skrull warrior who knows what to do with his powers.

New Exiles 5

by Chris Claremont and Tom Grummett

Leave it to Claremont, who used to take great pains to develop unique characters with unique voices, to butcher Morph’s character. Morph is used the entire issue to throw out pious, “we will overcome” sayings that have been trite backdrops for Claremont stories for decades. What happened to the class clown? What happened to ye olde editor, who should be scratching his head wondering why Storm and Morph and Rogue all sound like the same person.

Later, a mishap has Kitty in strange clothing that she can’t phase out of, although every other aspect of her power works fine, so explain that one. In the meantime the plot revolves around a prince who appears to have fallen in love with a dragon, all within a fairy-tale setting. I’m hoping against hope that the dragon can at least turn into a person of some sort, in order to keep this close to a family-friendly book. The story ends with a monologue from Morph, expounding upon how they may never be rescued, but the have to make things better where they are. How noble. How cliché. How long until we get a new writer?

Thor 8

by J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel

Straczynski expands on hidden lore from Asgard’s past, as Odin reveals how he came to adopt Loki, adding a slight twist that successfully adds to the history of Thor without contradicting anything else. It is also interesting enough to have made the effort worthwhile, something that Straczynski also did with Spider-Man; it shows that he puts serious thought into whatever topic he is writing. It is nice to see such respect to the character, in light of other things going on with most of the rest of the Marvel universe.

It is also worth noting that the issue is mostly talking heads, but the topics are gripping, and constantly engage the reader. Look carefully at the art, and the way certain people are depicted, to show how the wool is pulled over Don Blake’s eyes at the hospital. I don’t want to spoil it, but they choreographed the art very carefully to give the reader clues, but subtly enough that you might not catch every meaning until the big reveal is made. This is becoming one of my top Marvel titles.

Uncanny X Men 497

by Ed Brubaker and Salvador Larroca

One thing I appreciate from Brubaker more than almost any other writer is his cinematic feel for purposeful fights. As many decades as many of us have spent reading comics, there are a lot of opening scenes that are throw-aways, meaning the writer wanted to open with some action, either to get it out of the way, or to create some sort of action feel. It has been done countless thousands of times, and does nothing to advance the plot.

Brubaker consistently handles the X-Men better. The opening fight scene happens for a very specific reason; Wolverine’s comment about meeting the guys outside shows his utter faith in them with four simple words; Logan’s leap after an unconscious Nightcrawler displays his loyalty and willingness to self-sacrifice. All of this in just a few pages while still giving us rip-roaring action… and all in service of advancing the plot instead of a throw-away. Nice!

The rest of the issue centers around Scott and Emma, setting up for revealing the source of Hippie-land next issue. If only the title can stay this solid at #500 and onward.

Wolverine: First Class 2

by Fred Van Lente and Andrea Di Vito

It’s the second time around for Wolverine hanging out with Kitty, and they did well again. Van Lente has paid attention to continuity, and even remembers Kitty Pryde’s awkwardness around Nightcrawler, leading to an amusing story beat.

This type of setting actually fills a big void in the current Wolverine titles: his mentoring of younger women. Some of the best stories that involve Logan also tend to involve him being in a bad situation, but having to look out for someone young enough to be reasonably treated as an innocent bystander, but usually with powers enough that he can call on her to pull some weight. It’s a great relationship that has been repeated with Jubilee, a little with Armor, and even once with Katie Power from the Power Pack (see Uncanny X-Men #205).

The way Kitty gets back at Logan at the end is priceless. Oh, and a good mini-marvels comic strip at the very end. So far, this title is just as worth getting as X-Men: First Class, and maybe even slightly better.

X-Force 3

by Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, and Clayton Crain

I will refrain from commenting on the major plot concerning the bad guys, just because I would like to see more of it before I jump to conclusions. I will say, however, that turning Reverend Craig from a religious zealot into someone closer to a cold-blooded killer is a shallow caricature of what was a more-complex character, and it makes him something of a meaningless shadow of what he used to be.

Gripe #2: the computer-generated art shots of the team creeping along with only their glowing red eyes and red belts is getting really old really quick, and we’re only on issue 3. The narration is all by Warpath, but the pictures all focus on Wolverine. Five pages of our heroes doing nothing more than stumbling across Rahne, followed by two more pages later of getting back to Colorado with her. That’s all we get of our new undercover team in a 22-page book.

Then, to top it all off, Logan tells Angel to go get Elixir for healing. Now, regular readers know that Angel has a ‘secondary mutation” that gives his blood healing properties (because Wolverine’s healing factor, the old Morlock healer, Elixir’s abilities, and Rogue’s copying of those abilities just wasn’t enough to help out previous X-writers), with the limitation that the victim has to have the same blood type as Warren. Does Rahne have the same blood type? Let’s assume not, because otherwise Angel could have healed her right then. But not explaining something so major when you have so much room to do so is inexcusable. It means either the writer forgot Angel’s powers, or the editor, or both. It’s not like the art was so precious they couldn’t spare a word balloon or two to explain why a very relevant power would not work. Instead, they leave it all unsaid, and we have to just sort it out on our own, because the plotters-that-be can’t be bothered. I hope the majority of comic readers aren’t bothered to pick up the title.

Next issue: More glowy red eyes and belts! How original! Ooh, I can’t wait! (/end sarcasm)

X-Men: First Class 11

by Jeff Parker, Nick Dragotta, and Colleen Coover

Short and sweet, this title can be a hit-or-miss, and it was mostly miss for me this time, although they tried to do a continuity-type spoof. The art is even more kiddy-simplified than usual, and we get no Cyclops or Angel this time around. I’m hoping for better next time.

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