Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review – Part One

The Amazing Spider-Man 574

by Marc Guggenheim and Barry Kitson

I really enjoyed this week’s cover. It fit the story inside very well. There have been a number of war movies released in the past couple years, and most of them have fared poorly at the box office. The most successful one has been The Kingdom, which started out as a murder investigation. Part of the reason the movie was commercially successful is that it didn’t get into the politics of the situation, it just told a story. Most of the other movies contained such overt anti-US involvement messages, people weren’t interested. This comic follows The Kingdom, in that the setting is wartime in Iraq, but none of our time is wasted pounding on our head the fact that war is hell; instead, it is an intrinsic part of the story.

This was a most excellent issue, based in part on the real-life events focusing on a real Army medic, Jeff Guerin. Although some facts were changed, the gist is the same, and Flash Thompson takes the spot of Jeff. The storytelling is Guggenheim at his best; that may be because most of the story was already “written” for him in a sense, but the pacing is excellent, with flashbacks of Thompson’s life inserted at just the right times to give readers a feeling of what helped make Flash the man he is today.

Barry Kitson’s art is phenomenal. You can tell he studied his references a lot to try to get all the details right, to accurately depict the uniforms and weapons correctly. This is the sort of thing that Kubert and Heath and company used to do regularly in DC’s war books. The foreshadowing is not bad, so although you can predict the end of the story, if the reader is coasting along, it just might be a shock on the final page.

I’m sure there will be some people who complain about what happens, and there are all sorts of ways Flash can overcome his situation. Regardless of what future writers might do to the character to make light of his situation, or to quickly make it irrelevant, this issue at least was very well done.

Captain America 43

by Ed Brubaker and Luke Ross

A new chapter opens for Bucky with the Red Skull stuff over for now. He now has years of history catching up with him, because he was not on ice all this time; the Soviets caught him and brainwashed him, turning him into the Winter Soldier. Does he remember everything he did? According to his confession to the Black Widow, he does. That’s good in one respect, because the amnesia stuff going on with Wolverine for years and now his son make for overload if you start doing that with too many characters.

What kind of impact will Bucky have? Black Widow is registered, but she comments that Bucky is making the most impression on the unregistered heroes. Will the Superhuman Registration Act be addressed further, or is this strange limbo situation all we get? Cap stumbles across Batroc the Leaper and doesn’t handle himself quite as well as the original Cap, which leads to Batroc’s Chinese employer getting a picture of Bucky’s face. Already his ID is blown, and to some people with long memories, who either hold a grudge for the flashback wartime mission Bucky went on, or for a later mission he conducted as the Winter Soldier.

If we can’t have Steve Epting on this title, then Luke Ross is a suitable substitute for sure. Ross makes an effort to put some nice detail and consistency into his backgrounds, so that the restaurant scene at the end shows consistent details from every angle in the different panels. This comic has been a visual feast for a while now, and I am eager to see more of Ross’ work.

Daredevil 112

by Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano

There is one slight problem with Lady Bullseye, but overcoming it is a tough task for any writer. In the comics, we so rarely get to see the debut of a brand new villain as it happens, which means a ton of new villains show up for the first time having an unrevealed background. How can all these villains keep popping up after having gone under the radar for so long? The simple answer is, it’s a big world out there, and everybody you meet for the first time has a large background that is unknown to you, and it’s that way here as well.

Brubaker weaves Lady Bullseye’s agenda into the title quickly, seamlessly tying it in to the fallout from Bendis’ Secret Invasion consequences. This is excellent, for we get to see the drama of the Hand organization without having to dwell on the mess that is Secret Invasion any time after this in Daredevil’s title. The Lady tests Tarantula and Iron Fist while Matt is distracted by both the murder frame and his affair with Dakota North.

That makes for a lot happening in one issue, and it keeps things fresh and interesting. Brubaker is to be commended for starting new storylines in both this title and Captain America, and managing to keep them both fresh and inviting, in light of the recent historic runs that have preceded them. Both titles are helped by the appropriate artistic style. Lark and Gaudiano might not work as well on the Cap title, for example, but here it meshes very well with the writing. Considering that their style is not my first choice, it is all the more impressive that they can do things in such a good way that I can appreciate their effort.

New Exiles 13

by Chris Claremont and Tom Grummett

I feel bad for Alex Garner, because his cover is excellent, but for the New Exiles, they need to move past group posing shots and give us something more relevant to look at. The cover is supposed to relate to the inside story as a general rule; it sort of does, but a cover also has to give you an interest in what they do. There have been too many covers of people posing; just look at Captain America’s cover this week, or Amazing Spider-Man’s, and you will see what I mean; they are much more relevant and interesting.

We finally get an explanation of sorts for Cat’s random transformations in the backup story: she is not ‘locked’ into any single dimension, so she cascades from one dimensional incarnation of herself into another. It may give her an advantage into the omniversal crisis going on, and it now makes some sense as to why she is taking the lead on tackling it, as opposed to Sage.

The main story is mostly character development, establishing all of the problems various members of the team have, and setting up for the next mission. It is not moving as fast as when Claremont was first writing the X-Men, and the backgrounds of the Crystal Palace might get a little stale if that’s all we get for a lot of issues in a row.

The mental problems of Sage and Rogue and Psylocke might be a little too much mental overkill. It would be nice to see one of these resolved soon, as it feels like there is a stockpiling of ‘issues,’ which lead to year-long dangling plot threads that most of us have grown not to like from Claremont. That said, this title has improved a little from its restart. It needs to kick it into a higher gear for me to recommend it better.

She-Hulk 34

by Peter David and Vincenzo Cucca

It’s pos-Secret Invasion, and the title has little direction. The main impetus for this issue is She-Hulk reading a newspaper and deciding to help out in a natural-disaster-struck country. I’ll give Peter David this, he knows how the world works. When the musicians got together for their ‘We Are the World’ collaboration, they raised a lot of money to fight world hunger, but the unspoken story was of how so many of the supplies rotted in warehouses because the country’s ruling authorities wanted to control the food distribution, and maintain their stranglehold on the populace. The same thing is happening here, so it’s Jen to the rescue.

The rest of the issue is spent gathering together the recent “Lady Liberators” team of Valkyrie, Invisible woman, and Thundra. Here, Thundra has been transformed from the woman seeking a strong mate into either a lesbian or bisexual Amazon, something Simone has hinted at recently for Wonder Woman in DC. It’s a little tiresome; how about writers leave the existing characters alone, and if they really insist on injecting people into comics and announcing a deviation from the standard sexual morality, they can make the new characters? Thundra’s attitude is amusing, but it doesn’t really match up with her past motivations. It is not entirely out of left field, as Thundra has always made a point of trying to put men in their place, at least.

The final page sets the ladies up for a confrontation with the Winter Guard; we just saw them over in Iron Man’s title. It’s cool to see them get a little more screen time. After this story wraps up, what direction will Jen go in? Back to being a lawyer? Bounty hunting with Jazinda? Something else entirely? David needs to make the next step a logical one; otherwise, the title devolves in an adventure-of-the-month mag, with no real purpose to She-Hulk’s life.

Wolverine: Manifest Destiny 1

by Jason Aaron and Stephen Segovia

The subtitle of this issue is “Enter the Wolverine,” an ode to Bruce Lee, as Logan enters Chinatown to resolve some long-standing issue that an arrowhead reminds him of when unpacking. It reads as if this is something long unsettled, but perhaps only recently come to the forefront of his recovered memory. Unlike Wolverine’s Origin title, where this might have fit, the story is a new construction of Aaron’s that he has described as his ode to Hong Kong cinema, which puts me on alert for my crap-o-meter right away. At least we have a better artist than on Aaron’s other Wolverine run, “Get Mystique.” Hah! Mystique is already back causing Bobby mischief in the other X-Men: Manifest Destiny mini-series, rendering Aaron’s hyped-up Wolverine ending into so much felgercarp.

The cinema suspense feel does not translate onto the comic page, and we get introduced to another ex-girlfriend’s of Logan’s that I don’t recognize. The art gets a little fuzzy on whether the villain just presses his sword against Logan’s throat or slices it open; it looks more like he thrusts it straight in, which is supposed to be one of the few ways to kill Wolverine, since he allegedly can’t stop from bleeding out, but that has probably change din the last few years to make him more survivable. Heaven forbid he get a neck guard or anything sensible.

The panel arrangements on the art are fun, but some of the backgrounds are very sparse, and the dialogue is small, so this is a quick read. Hard to recommend right away without knowing if the mystery to be revealed next issue is any good or not. I’ll keep you posted. If you like Leinil Francis Yu’s art, though, you will probably enjoy Segovia’s style.

X-Factor 36

by Peter David and Larry Stroman

Here comes a new villain-in-a-suit, who is ten steps ahead of everyone, overconfident, and knows exactly how to defeat Darwin. The dialogue is a little cheesy, and Stroman’s art is getting on my nerves. The backgrounds are getting worse, and some of his faces look more like animals than people. Longshot used to look cool, and now he looks like some redneck wife-beater stereotype, that’s how bad the art is. I’ll have to yank out my older X-Factor mags from Stroman’s first run, it seems like he did better back then. Any one of the previous artists can come back, please.

The rest of the issue is trying to find where Darwin is, and the villain has led them to a trap, with a warehouse being blown up. Since we know nobody dies, does this mean our master villain be surprised? If he was good enough, he should have predicted the trap would be a failure. We’ll see what happens next, but this is another Peter David title that feels like it has lost direction, and needs a reason to continue.

X-Men: Legacy 217

by Mike Carey and Scot Eaton

Here’s something we have seen a lot of in DC, but not much in Marvel lately: successful ret-cons that add to the story. This one is kind of a doozy, as we find out Wolverine tried to kill Professor X on the first day the new X-Men were gathered together. Then, Charlie breaks Logan’s mind apart, making the Prof. even more of a jerk than anyone had ever imagined.

The other half of the issue is Miss Sinister trying to ingratiate herself with Daken; it all has a sort of robbing the cradle feel to it, as Miss Sinister is a more recent derivation of the ancient Mr. Sinister, so it has the vibe of a 22-year old making out with a 38-year-old teacher or something. Scot Eaton does great on the art as usual.

The next chapter takes place in Wolverine: Origins 29, where we should get a little more insight into the Professor X/Wolverine history, and maybe, eventually, get more insight into what Romulus did to Daken. A good set-up issue, now they need to deliver the goods.

Like it or not, Marvel will be milking Logan’s restored memory for some time to come, so we will be getting tons of flashbacks and ret-cons involving him for years. If you want to read entirely new stories, you should probably avoid this title for a while, and write off the Origins title entirely.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.