Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review – Part One

The Amazing Spider-Man 570

by Dan Slott and John Romita Jr.

This will be my second comment on the lettering: the bright red emphasis on Peter’s narrative captions have to go. They are extremely irritating; Spidey’s thoughts, while sometimes urgent, almost never merit being presented in bold red, unless he is screaming out loud. The idea that his thoughts are constantly screaming is an idea that we do not need to have. Ok, rant-mode off.

Doing a sequel can be either a stroke of genius or a big mistake. Alien versus Predator? Why, every fanboy out there wanted it to be made. The first one was average, but the sequel? “Why did they bother?” people say. For Spider-Man movies, it’s the opposite: everyone (well, almost everyone, including me) enjoyed the first one so much, we immediately demanded a trilogy. Casting Eddie Brock as Anti-Venom should fall down closer to the side of genius.

Concentrating on the situation, we get to leave all of the messy discontinuities with the character at the doorstep, and concentrate on the action. The interplay between Venom, Anti-Venom and Peter is great, including the impression Peter finally gets to make on Brock. Add to this the potential consequences of Anti-Venom’s “cleansing” of Spider-Man, and the meeting between Norman Osborn and the more recent goblin-glider derivative called Menace, and we actually have a pretty solid read, made all the more potent by the long history involving most of the characters.

One of the more enjoyable Spidey stories since Straczynski’s run.

Invincible Iron Man 5

by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca

Wow, talk about falling apart. I’d give my kingdom for an editor not half-asleep at the wheel. Obadiah is simultaneously trying to attack four separate locations of Stark Industries buildings, and Tony is tracking them via a virus planted in leaked Starktech. The big problem is, Iron Man is using the virus to track the enemy from thousands of miles away, while simultaneously protesting that, “I can track him to about two hundred-fifty meters… and I bet he knows it.” So without any corroboration, we are to expect that Tony planted a tracking virus, Stane found out about it, and Tony expects him to lure him to him anyway. All while being able to functionally track them from afar (remember last issue, all four attack squads showed up on the map), but they get fuzzy the closer he gets, until they’re good again at close range?!? That is at least three kinds of messed up writing!!

Next we have a Stark building running on solar panels, but the facility is six times as large underground as it is above. Yet the solar energy from only a smaller amount of panels keeps it off the grid and using no fossil fuels. What happens if the panels don’t work, or are sabotaged? Is there a fossil fuel backup? Fraction, in his attempt to re-cast every super-hero he writes as “green” or “humanitarian” in some way, asks us to believe the unbelievable. From the ongoing tour of worldwide Stark facilities, it sounds like the planet should be a paradise, as Starktech is involved in almost every aspect of life. Fraction spreads it on a little thick here.

Next, Tony asks pepper to stream information to his suit of armor. Hello?!? Remember his Extremis powers? Tony can interface with his own computers faster than Pepper ever could. This is the writer’s way of involving Pepper in the scene, but it comes at the cost of remembering the basics of what Iron Man can do these days. They need to find a way to separate Extremis from Tony Stark, or this “poor memory” slip-up will plague almost every writer that handles the character from now until doomsday.

The art is pretty good, but that’s about all I can say. It looks like Tony gets his head blown off at the end by Stane, but the 110110101010 stuff probably means Tony was just controlling his suit remotely. Lame. Now, if Tony was really in the suit and can grow his head back, now that would at least be interesting…

Ms. Marvel Annual 1

by Brian Reed and Mark Robinson

This annual takes place before the events of Secret Invasion, and addresses one of my complaints about the Registration Act: namely, how can Spider-Man run around New York so publicly without having other registered heroes hounding him constantly? The cover is cool, but the inside art is lacking. The writing is snappy, but not enough to handle the biggest problem with the entire issue.

This is a Ms. Marvel annual, but Spider-Man steals the show. The comic starts with Spider-Man, our sympathies are with Spider-Man, and Ms. Marvel is left behind to hold off a robot while Spider-Man attacks the root of the problem and saves the day. Why isn’t this a Spider-Man annual? Ms. Marvel is a sidekick in her own magazine! That might be a premonition for the future of her series. I wonder if they can segue her title into a relaunch of Nextwave?

Oh, and don’t bother checking out their ads for It just takes you to Marvel’s site, to the Secret Invasion section. Another beautiful opportunity to add a layer to their meta-event, wasted. They could have had news stories, video segments, anything to add details to the ongoing event. What do we get? Their normal site. I say again, fellow fans: lame!

The Twelve ½

by various

While we are waiting for the next regular issue of The Twelve, along comes this little tidbit to tide us over. It is made up of old publications of Fiery Mask, Mister E, and Rockman. Even though you might not be used to the old style of the art, I recommend you pick this up. The credits page alone makes things interesting.

Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America, did the writing and the art for the Fiery Mask stories. It is fun to read these stories of old, and their fantastical leaps that contain almost none of the attempts at realism that modern readers demand of today’s comics. The hero is blatantly bold, strutting into danger and overconfident that nothing will harm him. It is also funny when the Fiery Mask, for his origin, rescues a damsel in distress, who seems to be coming out of a coma at first. Next, she has one of the largest word balloons in the comic, as she extrapolates how this guy just gained his superhuman powers. She went from a ditzy blonde to a scientist is one panel!

Add in castles that constantly explode no matter what, a nurse that falls in love within a few moments of discovering the Fiery Mask’s secret identity, and someone knocking him out with a footstool (!) and you have an example of one of the earlier comics of grown men trying to write tales of adventure to capture the imagination of American readers. The next story with Mister E is almost repetitious, as both he and the Fiery Mask seem to be dealing with vampires at some point in their stories.

Mister E is captured by his arch-nemesis and led to a cavern, where his foe leaves him in a death trap. That’s right, this is in the days where the villain didn’t just plug the hero with bullets, but forced him, by threat of bullets, into a sure-fire death trap. Which the hero then escapes from fairly easily.

The Rockman story is written by Stan Lee, and has an artist credit of “Charles Nicolas,” which was a house name, or fake name, used by the publishers. From what I gather, the publishers made the artists use this fake name so that the art was registered in the “house name” of the company, not the individual artist, so that the artist could not make a claim on his own work! There may have been little resistance in some cases, as the comics industry was not a highly-valued place to be working, and many artists didn’t use their real names on credits anyway, to avoid having their “good name” linked with comic books.

Jack Kirby was just one of the artists who used this fake name, but the artist for the Rockman story was Basil Wolverton, who was very good at drawing ugly people. Take a look at this and see where Robert Crumb got a lot of his inspiration. Wolverton actually won a contest once to draw the world’s ugliest woman in Li’l Abner. Only three artists are credited with using the house name of Charles Nicolas on Wikipedia, but perhaps Wolverton and others did as well.

Witness the two stories, and the two different methods of communication Rockman uses to reach his people! Witness Rockman’s amazing strength, and the see him get taken down by pixies! Watch as he could save a villain, but tells him, “Sorry, but you don’t deserve it!” see Rockman spank evil pixies… two at a time!

Taken in the context of the times, this is pretty good stuff to read. The sad part is, some of the art by Wolverton is better than we see from some artists today, and a couple parts of some of the stories are better than some of what we see today!
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.