Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review

It’s the usual mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Amazing Spider-Man 558

by Bob Gale and Barry Kitson

One of the more difficult things to figure out in a comic is pacing. With the three-times-a-week schedule and multiple cooks in the kitchen, there is a ton of added difficulty. Case is point, every issue we are treated to basically the same fake news blurb that serves to remind us that there is a spider-tracer killer out there, and the police want Spidey not just for questioning, but also for not registering his powers. With all of the different writers, this Spider-Tracer killer plot has been left dangling so much that many people have forgotten about it, and the editor doesn’t even care enough to change the wording on the “DB” page to give us an update. It is simply a marker to remind us that they will get back to it whenever they find the time. It’s a poor way to tell a story.

The second problem is that with so many writers, they have set up too many sub-plots. They have to devote a couple pages to the plot of Parker moving out of his aunt’s house, a couple on Freak, a couple on JJJ and his wife, a couple on the political race sub-plot, and some screen time to Menace. Phew! By the time we’re done with all that, Spidey has eight pages left to take care of Freak, this new “evolves-until he-can’t be-beat” villain. So of course, Spidey takes him out in eight convenient pages.

Barry Kitson takes care of the art, so we have a continuation of a great rotating cycle of excellent artists getting practice in on drawing Spider-Man, but the stories themselves are forgettable. Say what you want to about Straczynski’s stories, because you love them or hate them, sometimes both at once. But whether it was the magical aspect of his powers, the Other, the Gwen Stacy thing, getting Pete back together with MJ… you could at least remember them.

Avengers/Invaders 1

by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, and Steve Sadowski

The first issue of a twelve-issue limited series, this is one title that could be a casualty of a heavy “event” season in comic book land. There are some very minor problems in here, one of which is the excellent cover bears no relation to what actually happens inside the pages. The first issue is mostly introduction and setup, and everyone involved seems to be able to recognize the Invaders. If they were playing things closer to reality, they might think “Cap is back!” and confuse the modern-day Namor and the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four, but all of that is completely skipped, and the stage is set for everyone to automatically think it is the Invaders.

Those nitpicks aside, we’re going to have some awesome art by Alex Ross as usual, Krueger tends to tell good stories, and there are all sorts of dramatic possibilities between a living Steve Rogers, and all of it playing out during an invasion by the Skrulls. That said, we already have one fake Cap over in Secret Invasion, and who knows how many more times that card will be played before we get tired of it.

Invincible Iron Man 1

by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca

We have a solid creative team and a hit movie, so that is why it is mildly surprising to see such a “mature” issue number one to hit the stands. The recent movie was very family friendly, and you might think that Marvel would go the family-friendly route that they are doing on Spider-Man right now. Instead, we have a dark opening with people getting killed in a terrorist attack, followed by an introduction to Tony Stark showing him about to climb on a lady in lingerie. Not exactly the thing that pops into your head when you think about trying to capitalize on a major motion picture.

The plot is very black and white, as the immediate suspected enemy is the Advanced Genocide Mechanics, as if the bad guys ever chose to give themselves such an obviously evil group name. Tony’s Extremis powers and how everything works together is glossed over in as few words as humanly possible, so returning readers might be a little confused about what has happened to Iron Man over the years. Also, instead of a self-contained story, we are treated to the opening salvo of what looks like a three- or six-part story arc. The art and colors are great, and Matt Fraction tends to hit more often than he misses, but this reads just like another normal Iron Man story, not any great new beginning or fresh start. Oh, and it is completely divorced from any mention of Skrulls.

Nova 13

by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Wellington Alves

With the major threat from the Phalanx over, Nova has gone back to his “normal routine” of being the police officer of the galaxy. His next corner beat, though, is a planet being devoured by Galactus. As if that’s not enough, there’s also a psychic killer on the loose. The art continues to engage just as much as the story. One of the neat things about this title: you can pick up almost any issue and be up to speed very fast. This is a great comic to just hand out any random issue to someone and say, “Here. Try this.”

Secret Invasion 2

by Brian Bendis and Leinil Yu

Bendis is trying hard to be clever. As if things cannot be potentially confusing enough, every 80s character that pops out of the crashed spaceship is pretending to be who they are, but some of them might just be human after all. In the meantime, Tony can suddenly talk, it’s only his armor that is out of commission now, unlike what appeared to happen in the first issue. They also spend an entire page having a Skrull take Sentry out of the picture, only to draw the same two guys duking it out still on the very next page. As usual, the creative team is so busy trying to be clever, they mess up on the simplest of things, like fight choreography. For a good lesson in how to draw massive super-human battles, see George Perez, or an old issue of the Legion of Super Heroes.

Next we are supposed to believe that a dinosaur can scare Thor and Phoenix out of the way, and successfully scatter all the rest of the super fighters. Following Tony, he figures he has been hit by a virus, and says he will have to build from scratch. Nice, let’s just ignore that Extremis is part of him and tied directly into his nervous system. All he needs is a new tin suit for his outside, and he’ll be peachy keen next issue!

Meanwhile, a Skrull Captain Marvel has invaded Thunderbolts headquarters. Is it the Skrull Captain Marvel we read about in the recent mini-series? We don’t know, because it isn’t mentioned in this entire issue! Nothing like introducing concepts and then forgetting them for a twenty-page meaningless battle. Secret Invasion was supposed to be a shocking, mind-shattering epic that challenged our perceptions and made things exciting. Instead we’ve been given meaningless, poorly-choreographed fight scenes, delayed plot points, and “reveals” of characters who are Skrulls that mean nothing so far.

This is the most over-hyped series in recent history. I wanted to like it, but it’s only the second issue, and we’ve moved nowhere besides one super-fight. Between the lame way Hawkeye “died” and was brought back, and Wanda’s “no more mutants” meaning 198 mutants, it’s hard to see what the excitement is all about. There is nothing so far that makes me want to recommend this to anyone.

Thunderbolts: Reason in Madness 1

by Christos N. Gage and Ben Oliver.

The Thunderbolt one-shots have been a good idea, allowing the major storylines to advance in the main title, while feeding us a little extra character development on the side. This story focuses on Gargan/Venom and Norman Osborn. It may not be the best comic out this week, but it’s good and solid, and at least as memorable as most of the other titles reviewed this week.

X-Factor: The Quick and the Dead 1

by Peter David and Pablo Raimondi

Quicksilver has gotten a little lost in the shuffle lately, and this one-shot gets us up to speed on what happened. Pietro has always had a screw loose, and he sort of went further downhill after House of M. In some strange way, all of the changes that were wrought on him by the Terrigen mists have resolved so that he appears to have his original powers back. While another example of Marvel resetting their characters without much in the way of explanation, this story feels unresolved. We are left at the end not knowing too much about what his mental state is. Maybe that’s the point.

When next we see Quicksilver, will it be as hero or villain? And where and when will he appear? And how long until someone accuses him of being a Skrull?

Young X-Men 2

by Marc Guggenheim and Yanick Paquette

As if the first issue wasn’t bad enough. Long-time readers will remember the teenagers Dani and Amara, but they enlisted Terry Dodson for the cover art, to give us exceedingly endowed women. Way to avoid the stereotypical sexism of portraying females as one-dimensional sex objects, guys. It’s basically false advertising anyway, because the inside looks nothing like the cover.

The writing is atrocious. The story picks up with the team tackling the original New Mutants and getting their butts kicked. Then it is revealed that they have been through three weeks (!) of “intensive” training. No offense, but if Cyclops spent three weeks with a team and they were still performing this badly, he’d call up the sentinels himself to take out the trash.

Then, it turns out that Santo has taken all of the three weeks to actually question Cyclops about how the New Mutants went bad, and Cyke gives them a non-answer… that everyone meekly accepts. A couple of pages later, Cyclops is dividing the team, and he calls one team consisting of Santo, Rockslide, Dust, and Wolfcub. An editor worth his two cents, or for that matter any random passerby might have pointed out that Santo IS Rockslide!!!! It’s like they are sleep-writing, sleep-drawing, and sleep-editing this title.

Later, Blindfold switches from speaking in first-person to speaking in third-person for no discernible reason. The fight choreography is the worst ever: Dani Moonstar goes from a hand-to-hand combat exchange in one panel to managing to pull an entire rifle from the wall in the next. And then she fires at point-blank range. And SHE MISSES!!!! When we get back to their fight, Dani has gotten behind Blindfold and is somehow able to hold the rifle at arm’s length to Blindfold’s head, and still get her other arm around Blindfold’s neck. The art is disgusting, and it’s fairly easy to tell that nobody here has any real experience with firearms. Oh, did I mention that Dani was drawn with a bow and arrow on the cover too?

Here’s to hoping this title dies a fast, inglorious death.

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

I like your reviews. I especially endorse your comments on Secret Invasion and Nova.... I liked the first issue of Secret Invasion, but despised the second one. What happened to a story there?????

Please keep writing every week (and I'll read them!)....

-- Posted by: Tony J at May 12, 2008 12:27 PM

Thanks, Tony. I guess we just hold on tight, cross our fingers, and hope it gets better.

-- Posted by: tpull at May 13, 2008 1:13 PM