Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review - Part One

The Amazing Spider-Man 567

by Dan Slott and Steve McNiven

A cool cover and a hint about the political race on the top banner of the DB leads us into the first leg of Kraven’s daughter trying to live up to the family name. The attempted cliff-hanger from last issue, where Vermin took a bite out of Spidey-dressed-as-Daredevil turns out to be somewhat less than lethal. It’s a little cheap, because it is dismissed as a minor wound for the most part, but the graphic depiction last issue made you think he was headed for the hospital immediately.

The story shapes up better after this, although the colorist’s decision to highlight certain words in red comes across poorly. It would fit in better with Slott writing Peter’s zany thoughts, but this issue has a decidedly more serious tone, and the bright red just does not fit in well. There’s also a slight gap in the writing, as Vermin’s nose is not able to distinguish between Parker’s scent as Spider-Man; instead, his eyes take priority, telling him he is facing Daredevil, despite his scent and Peter’s use of Spidey webbing. I guess we can dismiss it as Vermin being a couple pieces of meat short of being a full sandwich.

I want to talk more about the improving quality of this title, because it really has improved (honest!), but they still insist on poor stage direction. Vin gets a bolo thrown around his neck and appears to be suffocating, and just a couple of panels later, it is off, nowhere to be seen, and Vin has both hands free to catch a web-shooter. That’s just poor story-telling. Throw in a lack of Spider-Sense, and Pete’s just duking it out blow for blow with a villain, not really utilizing his skills. The idea that he is still trying to protect his secret identity is a joke, considering the mortal stakes.

The last part, where Pete appears in full uniform to inform Vin that he has made Vin a dupe, set up by Spidey to deter investigations into his true identity, is lame. There have to be three or four other ways Spider-Man could have tackled that. Instead, we have been set up with a retread of classic Spidey: he is living with someone who constantly berates Spider-Man. Just think of Vin as your updated Aunt May. I get chills just thinking of all the recycled insults they can use from Aunt May in older comics. Guess what kids? This IS your father’s Spider-Man!

I’m torn between the slightly better quality of the mag, and the obvious lapses that hang onto it, like dirt particles they just can’t seem to shake off.

Astonishing X-Men 26

by Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi

Once you buy into the conceit of the story, Ellis’ romp with the mutants really pays off. Emma is snobbishly funny as always, and who better to portray Emma’s unique insulting of her coworkers than Ellis? Bianchi’s pencils complement the writing very well, helping to set up the scene without editorial narrative. The characters are in full flavor, with Ororo recalling her time spent in Cairo, Emma being condescending to Armor (and pretty much everyone else), and Cyclops back in form as an excellent team leader, building on what Brubaker has done recently over in the Uncanny title.

Armor is apparently being portrayed almost Colossus-class in strength, which seems off to me. This scene alone doesn’t do it, but combine it with another title coming out this month, and they have her side by side with Colossus, performing the same types of feats of strength. I hope someone makes an effort to describe exactly what her strength class is at some point.

One of the highlights of this issue is an explanation by Cyclops on his orders, and talking to Ororo about killing the enemy. Ellis provides a much better explanation than all other titles combined, including the over-the-top blood thirst Cyclops has been showing in X-Force, Cable, Young X-Men, and Wolverine lately. His explanation is excellent, and even though it depresses me, it is hard to counter the logic. That’s another sign of a good writer, when he can make you feel emotion about a decision you disagree with, but understand. No other writer has even attempted a rational explanation for Scott’s new attitude, but this sums it up perfectly.

The verdict is solidly in: this is a book to get!

strong> Captain Britain and MI:13 #4

by Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk

Is this a mini-series, or has it become a full-fledged series in its own right? It looks like a new Excalibur, but with less in the way of legs to keep it going. This issue is action-packed, but the art and story fall slightly short of making me care what happens, possibly because it is all too predictable. They do poke a little fun at house of M, though, which is cool. At the end, they have wrapped up all threats to Britain involving Secret Invasion. I don’t know how many more issues there will be of this title, but it needs to improve if they hope to stay around longer than a year.

Fantastic Four 559

by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch

Between X-Men and Fantastic Four, things are starting to feel like the good old days at Marvel. The New Defenders are still at work on their mysterious plan, but in a good way of story-telling that doesn’t drive you crazy with the plot holes (see my problems with Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P.). The style is still wide-screen panoramic, which Bryan Hitch excels at, while Millar portrays Johnny as the experienced fighter he is, but still pulled down by a new foe, for whom he has no chance to prepare.

Millar also manages to include the mysterious Mrs. Deneuve and Alyssa, bringing a warning to Sue about the “second Earth’ storyline. Alyssa, arguably one of the smartest women on any planet, admits she has been fooled by a worldwide conspiracy to save the rich and political ruling powers of the planet, leaving everyone else on their own. The idea that 500,000 people could keep a secret this big is disgustingly stupid. Oh well, let’s just pretend that the head of a T.V. station can sit on a scoop this big. As impossible as it is, it does make for one doozy of a conspiracy story.

Check out the final couple pages of this comic. It is definitely worth it.

X-Men Origins: Jean Grey 1

by Sean McKeever and Mike Mayhew

This new series features a one-shot of each of the original X-Men, with Jean Grey up first at bat. If the rest of them are anywhere close to this, we have a winner on our hands. Mayhew’s paints are crazy-good, and this is McKeever’s best performance ever.

It’s a familiar scene, an expansion of details on how Charles Xavier found and helped Jean Grey come to grips with her powers. Familiarity does not breed contempt, though, as the storytellers embellish this re-telling with such flavor, rendering Jean as a younger girl, slowly growing into her own.

Brought out of this tale is a lesson many people could stand to learn: stop living in the past, and realize that it is only your own fear and guilt that stop you and keep you miserable. Every once in a while, a comic comes along that has a great message buried in it. This is actually a good one to hand out to anyone who is down in the dumps, who is stalling from taking a big step, or even someone who is mourning the passing of a loved one. It puts Jen Grey’s shock at losing her best friend into a normal context, showing that instead of being too related to Jean’s powers, her feelings and subsequent withdrawal were all-too human emotions, to which even the best of us can fall prey.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.