Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review – Part Two

Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel 1

by Kevin Grevioux and Mat Broome

Have you ever wanted to like something and put it down feeling slightly disgusted? Mat Broome does some excellent art for most of this comic, although I do spot almost the exact pixilation effect as I just saw over in Ms. Marvel: Storyteller for a couple scenes. The villain design doesn’t make much sense, with his bulky belt pouches and his helmet with no eyes, and rigid shoulder pads that contrast with the rest of his form-fitting spandex. And why bother with a cape? Is there some super-villain rule these days that demands capes on everyone? I know part of the flamboyance associated with the heroes, but an astounding number of villains have decided to show off the pomposity with capes. End rant.

Okay, so I liked the art. That means the story was bad, yes? Yes! The set-up is almost a carbon-copy of the Sentry. Marvel is bringing us a new hero who is a ret-con, making him suddenly a very “old” hero. So he’s a super-hero form decades ago that nobody remembers. His villainous opponent has already been billed as someone whom only our new hero can defeat. Sound familiar? Does it sound like the Sentry? You betcha.

Now for the name: Blue Marvel. Will I get him and his costume confused with the Blue Shield? What about all the Captain and Ms. Marvel and all the DC Marvels floating around? Marvel Comics had a chance to introduce us to a brand new hero, and what they came up with was… another Marvel?!? Oh, but they are both more powerful than the Sentry, Marvel’s answer to Superman, who has been entirely ineffectual in every adventure since, because they don’t know how to incorporate him in a meaningful way. Please stop!

Now for their twist: the hero is black. Oh no, say it ain’t so! Talk about introducing a non-issue. I remember when comics tried to introduce gay heroes, and all the talk it generated, but do they really expect us to feel drama from doing a ret-con civil rights movement in the super-hero genre? Like we didn’t already see it done better over in American Way, the eight-issue mini-series put out by Wildstorm in 2006. Mash up American Way with the Sentry, and you have this mess.

Everything turns ridiculous when they discuss what this guy has accomplished, just as a civilian. To wit: military, “with a handful of medals form Korea… graduated magna cum laude from Cornell, electrical engineering, PhD in theoretical physics… all-American fullback from Cornell…” etc. This is Everyman, and he has accomplished everything that it would take six men to do. He is the epitome of both human and super-human accomplishment, and puts both Einstein and Jesse Owens to shame at the same time. Yeah, here’s a guy I can relate to. This is the perfect person, and ridiculously so. And the plot of the story is that America turns on him because he is black.

The comic throws John Kennedy into the mix as president, at first claiming that they “have been trying to push civil rights through ever since you got in office.” This is not even close, historically. Kennedy all but ignored civil rights for the first two years of his term, and put off tons of things he could have tried. You can offer all sorts of excuses as to why he took so long to get his butt off the ground to do something about it, but this idea that he had been trying very hard to do much in 1962 is pressing your luck. This is plainly evident in the legislation he did and did not put forward, and the lack of initiative until racial violence had already erupted in many places. Kennedy was a late-comer to bold action in real life. This comic sets aside the very error that they try to establish, and right after saying they have been trying hard and haven’t gotten it yet… Kennedy turns chicken and requests that Blue Marvel go into retirement. This, at least, is consistent with his about-face that led to the Cuban missile crisis. Coincidentally, a 2000 survey by the federalist society, 78 scholars of history were asked to name the most overrated president. 43 of the 78 chose Kennedy. I can’t complain about him, he was one of the earlier presidents to ask for tax cuts, and our economy boomed after they passed, so he scores at he very least a ‘C’ by me, no matter what. But I digress.

If any of this actually convinces someone to pick up a history book and learn what really happened back in the day, then this mini-series will be worth it. The art is almost worth it. But the ridiculousness of it, plus the re-run feel from both aspects of this story having been covered before, with the added fact that all of the Sentry stuff has been so recent, make for a very unpleasant read as far as good entertainment goes. If you don’t know your history, and you’re not familiar with the Sentry, you might even think this was good.

Iron Man: The End

by David Michelinie, Bob Layton, and Bernard Chang

I have mixed feelings about this one-shot, because it’s good, but the bar has been set very high for any book titled “The End,” and I am not convinced it lives up to the automatic expectations. Bob Layton gives us a magnificent cover, and he inks, but I wish he had been able to do the art. That said, Bernard Chang does a good job.

As with all “End” books, it is set in the future, and Tony’s body is breaking down. Rhodes is already dead and gone, so who can he have take over for him? In a break from other “End” stories, with Tony stark helping the world via technology so much, the planet is actually in pretty good shape. All of the classic parts of a good story are reflected here: Getting a beat-down by a villain; using your brain, coming back and stomping said villain; Tony facing down the bottle; and a new armor design!

Only complaint? A pixilation effect I already remarked about in two other Marvel comics in the same week. Are these artists all working from the same software program? It’s just crazy! The obvious future Iron Man is a guy named Nick Travis, so I think I am mandated to love the choice. The story does not end with any actual death, so it may read a little different form other “End” stories, but I still think it was a great story for the genre. (Still pouting about Layton not getting to do the art, though!)

Venom: Dark Origin 4

by Zeb Wells and Angel Medina

Near to the end, this issue takes the time to give us a real origin of sorts for the symbiote, as opposed to just the origin of Eddie Brock getting the costume. This is something I did not expect to get in this mini-series, which means I am happier than ever that I took a chance on it. Granted, it’s still not on my top ten list, but it has edged up into the “worthy of getting the trade” category.

What follows is Mary Jane’s first encounter with Venom, in which Venom asks her what would happen if she asked Peter to stop the heroics. MJ, thinking she is having some sort of nightmare with an animated Spidey costume, pricelessly, tearfully, answers: “He’d choose you.” That scene alone is worthy of purchase. The creative team has taken the opportunity to do more than just put some flavor on a flashback, they have added additional meaning to the history of this character and his interactions with Spider-Man’s universe. It adds up, and helps to give weight to Venom’s importance in the Spider-universe, whereas in the hands of other writers, he has been grossly overused and underwhelming.

This series just got an upgrade to “recommended.”

X-Men and Spider-Man 1

by Christos Gage and Mario Alberti

It’s flashback time, with Kraven announcing that Spider-Man is a mutant. Concerned with what could happen to him just because of such a public accusation, the relatively youthful original X-Men seek Spidey out to offer companionship and comfort. We get to see Gwen Stacey and Mary Jane, and the interactions between them and the X-Men in their civvies are great.

I don’t want to spoil the misdirection, and as always, it’s easy to find the spoilers on any other site, but the final couple of pages reveal the twist, and it’s a good one. Alberti’s art has a washtone quality to it that matches well for the time frame effect of the setting. I pick up a lot of these mini-series with hesitancy, and most of them are hit-or-miss. While next issue might not work as well, in my opinion this one was an enjoyable hit.

X-Men: Manifest Destiny 3

by various

Iceman does what they tried to do years ago with him: he adapts a little and uses his powers in a way he normally does not think to do. It’s nice to see them making the attempt, even if the art is cartoonish and lacking in refinement. They waste five panels in an eight-page story to show Mystique shooting out a truck and making it crash; that’s at least three panels too many. I can only imagine how much additional story Mike Carey could have thrown in, but Michael Ryan’s art isn’t good enough for me here.

The middle story comes from Marc Gugenheim, with better art by Yanick Paquette. However, the story itself is a rather wasteful one, doing nothing but taking a Z–list character called Graymalkin and explaining how old he is, and showing us that he is gay. Yup, that’s it. Where Winick has left off, Guggenheim is picking up? Don’t bother. Whatever slice-of-life agenda Guggenheim has, telling a story whose only point is to make us feel sorry for the oppression on the gay guy is already overdone, even in the comic book format. This is nowhere near new ground or cutting edge, this is tired retread. Someone tell the Gugg-meister he's plugging some agenda that was already covered and accepted almost twenty-five years ago.

The final story covers Colossus’ feelings of loss over Kitty Pryde, something that has not been shown enough, even though there are a dozen X-titles from which to choose. In the old days, a good writer would have made an entire issue revolve around this, maybe two. Instead, all o the X-writers are so wrapped up in their regular plots, there was no room for this, I guess. Chris Yost tackles it, with art by Humberto Ramos. It’s touching, if a little awkward in the dialogue and Logan’s attitude. I think it could have been done better, with a different artist, in Uncanny X-Men, but I’ll take what I can get.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.