Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review – Part One

The Amazing Spider-Man 571

by Dan Slott and John Romita Jr.

I know that some of the lame villains will come back to haunt us later, but right now the series just kicked into high gear. Since they have left out all references to Civil War and the Mephisto mess, the action and story are definitely improving. Is it enough to counter the lingering problems? Why, whatever do I mean?

Menace faces off against Norman Osborn and comes up lacking. Here’s the main remaining problem with the direction: everything is a shadow or reflection of something else. Spidey used to have a large rogues gallery, which was growing all the time. Now we get a Venom knock-off and a Green Goblin knock-off in the same issue! The writers are even forced to have their own characters acknowledge it, via Osborn taunting Menace: “You’re nothing but a weak copy. A watered down morsel. No, worse… the decaf version.” That about sums it up, all right.

As much as the repetition stinks, the rest of the issue really does work. The different motivations between Menace and Osborn make for conflict, as does Anti-Venom’s new-found conscience, which still manages to screw things up for Peter. I love how the Thunderbolts come prepared to attack Venom, and use the exact same tactics on a guy who calls himself Anti-Venom… and they are surprised their plan of attack doesn’t work! It’s also nice how Songbird uses her powers to act like Doctor Octopus against Spider-Man, but can’t she concentrate enough to make four solid constructions to complete the imitation?

To sum it up, the action and story are pretty good, and Osborn’s discovery -plus his battle plan at the end- are genius. It took them a long time to ramp it up, but the series has officially become enjoyable again. Now, how long can they make it last…

Civil War: House of M 1

by Christos N. Gage and Andrea DiVito

I was less than impressed with House of M the first time it came around, but the powers-that-be seem enamored with revisiting it every chance they get. It’s worse than the Age of Apocalypse alternate reality revisitings ever were. These mini-series tend to be either average or a slight notch above, and the first part of this issue feels like a mindless re-run. Magneto’s youth is told yet again, just as Magneto Testament has come out. Oh, and this is all happening while Ultimate Magneto flashbacks are being tossed around in Marvel’s other universe. To make matters worse, the highlights of House of M Magneto’s past are pretty much like our regular 616 universe, and not entirely necessary for the setting of this Civil War story. The first eight pages could have been condensed to four.

The rest of the issue picks up though, and we get to see how Magneto became the leader of the mutant revolution. As afraid as I am that we will soon receive an onslaught of new M titles crossovers, like “Heroes Reborn: House of M,” and “Mutant Massacre: House of M,” and “Secret Invasion: House of M…” you get the point. This is the first issue of a five-parter, and I suspect they could have made this four, but DiVito’s great on the art, and the stage is set for what could be a better mini-series than all of the previous visits to House of M, including the first one. This is probably a good series to wait for the trade, but I’ll follow it each week to see how things go.

The fun part of the story is the showcasing of characters like Peeper and Shocker. These are mutants from a version of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, appearing in Captain America Annual #4, way back in 1977. In the regular universe, Peeper is dead already, but it has been a long time since we saw them in one place together, and the history fits in well in House of M. Special kudos to whoever thought to include them here.

Ms. Marvel 30

by Brian Reed and Adriana Melo

This title feels strangely disconnected from the rest of the invasion, as Ms. Marvel comes across what looks like a Hydra version of a super-SuperSkrull. Some of the attacks against Ms. Marvel look great visually, but it’s a little lame that someone that powerful can’t mop the floor with her. This is the type of power threat that could tackle the Mighty Avengers, Sentry and all.

The narration text is sloppy, with Marvel thinking the word “crap” at least three times in a row, plus her thoughts start reflecting the ‘60s, as she narrates everything we already see happening. When they go underground, she tells us they are going underground. When they hit the water, her novel thought that was really worth inserting in that panel is, “We’re underwater.” Thanks a ton for that brilliant exposition, Brian Reed. And thanks for a good editor to point out the basics of what not to do in a modern comic book. Sigh.

The ending is lame, as the super-SuperSkrull wears himself out fighting others, and Ms. Marvel take shim out in one shot. Then, without following up on the Hydra angle, we flash forward several months to get into an entirely different story. I want to leave Secret Invasion behind as badly as the next guy, but that was as stinky a transition since I saw the newscaster talk about a ten-car pile-up and then switch to her “cheery” voice for the puppy fluff piece that was coming up next.

Bottom line: good art by Adriana Melo, with a couple-page credit to Paulo Siqueira, bad story by Brian Reed.

New Exiles 11

by Chris Claremont and Paco Diaz Luque

Empress Hydra is making the rounds with her team of evil mutants, and leaving a bloody mess in her path. That part is good, but the sub-plot is a bit of a mess. Seriously, Sabretooth thought Cat was joking when she said she was trying to save the omniverse? These guys have pathetic communication skills. Grummett is a good artist, but you Luque is good too: his renditions of both characters and backgrounds are nice. Too often you just get one or the other.

Sabretooth goes off alone in an attempt to pick off the new Empress Hydra enemy, in a tactic and a setting that reminds me of an episode where Buck Rogers went undercover as a criminal. The writing has improved overall the last couple of issues, but we do still have to put up with a grand soliloquy from Cat, as she rages against death and swears she will win, whatever it takes. These mutants under Claremont’s writing spend more time make self-inspirational pep talks than any other group I have seen in my life. It’s an improvement that it is mostly contained on one page for a change. Hey, that means this series is looking up!

X-Men: Magneto Testament 1

by Greg Pak and Carmine Di Giandomenico

Nice cover! I should have known it was the work of Marko Djurdjevic. This Magneto story is a five-part mini-series under the Marvel Knights banner, and nobody quite knows yet if it will end up being part of continuity or not. Everyone at Marvel seems to be aiming for that, but they will probably remain non-committal until the full story is out, and the fanboy reaction has subsided.

Before I get into the story itself, fans will need to know that the name most associated with Magneto, Erik Lehnsherr, was shown to be a forgery way back in X-Men #72, 1998. It was back when Joe Kelly was writing, and the title really stunk eggs; most of us liked the name Erik Lehnsherr, and the idea of it being a forgery was a poor plot device that wasn’t really needed, but Marvel did not have much direction for their mutants back then, and were content to let it coast, as long as raid fanboys kept their collections unbroken, and they pasted Wolverine across the various X-titles as often as they could. So in this story, his real name is Max Eisenhardt, which I guess does sound a little more Jewish, if that was what they were aiming for.

The story itself actually reminds me a little of Maus, the only comic book to ever receive a Pulitzer prize. Maus was a great read, and most people who have been around comics long enough have probably heard of it almost as much as Watchmen and the Dark Knight Returns. In Testament, no matter what young Max does, he cannot get ahead. Even when he wins, the Germans strip the young Jew of everything, and punish him further.

Greg Pak has a page at the end which states they have decided to tell a new Magneto origin story basically, which may have thrown out and/or re-ordered some elements that we have read about in the past. As excellent a work as this is, I am greatly relieved that they told us this up front. If they would get into the habit of doing this more often, they would ease a lot of consternation from the fans. When we buy good stories like this, if you tell us there may be a thing or two we’re changing about the continuity, we will actually tend to accept it with a lot more grace, and fewer temper tantrums. It involves respect for your reader, and I just became a bigger fan of Greg Pak for thinking to do it for us.

The next thing worthy to note is the time period. This is World War II era, when the Jews were persecuted, hunted down and executed, culminating in a horrible event known to most people who pay attention as the Holocaust. Pak and company have tried to do their best fact-checking to portray honest history of how things actually went down back in those days. I have studied the time period extensively, both of World War II and the history of the persecution of Jewish people, and from what I can tell from my studies, these guys have painted a very accurate picture, and the series has already moved me.

This is the best story form Marvel this month, and one of the more educational and thought-provoking for its foundation in real-life world history. This title has my strongest recommendation this to everyone.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.