Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review – Part One

NOTE: Little spoilers for Marvels: Eye of the Camera, so stay away until you’ve read it if you don’t want to know what happens in the final panel.

The Amazing Spider-Man 579

by Mark Waid and Marcos Martin

The cover draws your attention this week, with Shocker’s fist smashing the title, and the artist credits as part of crumbling brick, even the Marvel logo and the issue number. Astute observers will also notice that Spidey has one of the Shocker’s gauntlets. Inside, Martin’s style gives me an old-time feel, but the story and art work so well together, I end up enjoying it quite a bit, even if it’s not my usual style. You can tell Martin has put a lot of effort into depicting Spider-Man.

The dialogue is fast and furious, and the unusually rough treatment Spidey gives Shocker is a little surprising, but understandable. He gets all of the innocents out as he talks to the father of J. Jonah Jameson, Jr. The story is excellently paced, and I never know quite what’s going to happen next. Shocker gets away and Jameson Sr. disappears, but Peter ends up thinking that for him to be where he was, allowing him to save those people, counts as a lucky day after all. A very pleasing story all around.

The Immortal Iron Fist 20

by Duane Swierczynski, Travel Foreman, and Russ Heath

Russ Heath gives us the first four pages of art that show how the soldiers of K’un-Lun were able to stop the Ch’i-Lin from destroying the dragon the last time its servant killed an Iron Fist. Then we’re in the present with Foreman as artist, and the same assistant who just poisoned Danny Rand also reveals that she is carrying Zhou’s baby?!? Weird, and from out of left field. Is this something we will see more about later? Because there is no room to address it in this issue.

That’s too bad, because the story itself takes a sharp turn into lousy right away. What could have been a great mystery adventure turns into a quick discovery, as the Immortal Weapons discover a map to the eighth city in Zhou’s penthouse, putting an end to what could have been an interesting journey of discovery as the Weapons interacted with humanity. Then they waste an entire page with a small box flying in from nowhere to blow up the penthouse, because the map was rigged with a wire. Boring.

Danny’s accountant conveniently discovers that someone has been buying up Rand stock for more than 20 years; he discovers this the very night Zhou is trying to kill Danny. No apparent linkage really, no details other than what the accountant tells us… it’s like all sorts of interesting tid-bits happened behind the scenes just so Swierczynski could move his pieces into place.

Okay, here’s where it really bites. Danny dampens his own chi so he can become “invisible” to the monster. Never mind that the monster is standing right in front of him and can still see him. Then he “forgets” all of his training and skills, and claims he was still somehow a warrior, even as a boy, before he received his training?!? He describes himself as basically an eight-year-old boy throwing a tantrum, and then claims the monster can’t defend itself against that. Yeah, because a boy throwing a tantrum kicks my (censored) every time. What in the world has happened to this story in the last three pages?

Everything fades, and Danny does nothing fancy at all, just says he is powered by his own rage, and punches his fist through the monster’s face or neck, it’s hard to tell, because the art has gotten really sloppy in the past couple pages. With the monster dead, the dragon will hatch, and the Ch’i-Lin can’t come after a hatched dragon, so everything will be safe for a while. From a flash-forward, it looks like Nadine has the monster’s kid, and he ends up in K’un-Lun, so maybe we won’t see anything more about that again after all. We’ll see if they come back to it in future issues.

We then hop back to “Now,” when Danny declares he’s leaving, and the final page jumps to “Several months from Now,” with Danny in the lead of the Immortal Weapons, having found the eighth city. It’s like watching Lord of the Rings with all of the travel parts cut out. If they had done that, the movie would have been done in one pic, and only fifteen minutes long. There were all sorts of possibilities that we could have seen in between these pages, and I have a sneaking suspicion the writer has just brushed past all of them. The herky-jerky pace has no rhythm, and for a book that has a main character who concentrates on focusing his chi, this title now has a decidedly unfocused feel to it.

If things don’t pick up soon, this title is headed for the ash heap. A new creative team might be needed, immediately.

Marvels: Eye of the Camera

by Kurt busiek and Jay Anacleto

The original Marvels series was something grandiose and new to comic readers, and has already become the standard of many such stories that have come after, many of them noble attempts, most of them good reads, but never quite as good as the first. This sequel gives us Kurt Busiek returning as writer to feature photo-journalist Philip Sheldon again, but no Alex Ross on art. Jay Anacleto is the artist this time, and he’s good, but the first Marvels was a special project with devastatingly awesome art; it’s unfair and unavoidable at the same time to compare this effort with the work of Alex Ross. For some, it will be a shame that Ross was not able to come back and work on this next installment of Marvels, but divorcing Ross from the picture, Anacleto’s stuff is great and can stand on its own, with a similar style, but ever-so-slightly more impressionistic.

The story itself focuses more on Sheldon than the first series seemed to, but starting almost from the beginning again, in a sense. The first series started with the first Marvel superheroes, Namor and the original Human Torch, and Sheldon ends up having to get an eyepatch after getting hit by debris in one of their fights. That series then followed the entry of most of Marvel’s heroes, ending with Gwen Stacy’s death at the hands of the Green Goblin. For this series, there is a sense of starting over, and overlap. Just as at the end of the first series, we visit Sheldon at an earlier period when nothing exciting was happening, and he was thinking of himself as old and ready to quit. Then, the Fantastic Four arrives on the scene. Considering the first series covered Galactus and the FF quite a bit, it takes a minute to figure out all of the chronology and see the overlap going on.

This series gives us more details on the mutant scare, and more commentary on how the existence of super-heroes affects regular people, but on a much more personal scale than the first series. The first series gave us a viewpoint through the eyes of Sheldon, but still covered a lot of the big picture, with emphasis on these iconic Alex Ross shots of our heroes in their nostalgic hey-day. This issue, at least, does not focus so much on displaying the super-heroes themselves as much as how Sheldon perceives their impact, as we stay with him and learn that he has contracted lung cancer.

While nothing can compare to the first Marvels series, this is the type of story-telling at which Kurt Busiek excels. It is a pleasure to revisit this character, and interesting to revisit these classic times in Marvel’s history, with great art. Busiek obviously had more he wanted to say about the presence of super-humans in the Marvel universe, and examine things on a more intimate scale, which might not have been possible without the massive scene-setting of the first series. It’s a great place to visit, and I’ll be on board for the entire series.

Already my best recommendation of the month, beating all other titles hands down.

New Avengers 47

by Brian Bendis, Billy Tan, and Michael Gaydos

Homage cover to West Coast Avengers #1, limited series, 1984. And on that note, can we please be done with the homage covers and get back to creating some original covers that are interesting in their own right? I mean, seriously, West Coast Avengers homages? All you’re doing at this point is reminding us that there used to be another time when there were two Avengers titles, and it didn’t work out well then, either.

The combination of Billy Tan and Michael Gaydos might have been to keep the title on its schedule, or planned for effect. Tan handles the “Now,” and Gaydos draws the flashback portions. Overall they are both good artists, but the differences between them do jar you at first when you switch back and forth.

This is not a regular New Avengers story featuring the most popular characters in the Marvel universe. This is a story of how Jessica Jones fell in love with Luke Cage. Bendis does okay writing, although I was a bit put off that Cage would stand there cussing in front of his newborn baby, and Jessica doesn’t even attempt to break him of his habit before the baby can learn bad habits of her own. Granted, it will be a year or two before the kid would pick it up, but do we really need a super-hero’s kid running around with a potty mouth, because you just know we’re gonna end up with a five-year-old saying, “Sweet Christmas” and a few other choice four-letter words to boot. This stuff wouldn’t be happening if Cap were still here…

Long story short, Jessica sees big old mean strong Luke Cage all broken up at being estranged from his father, and they have a bonding moment, which leads them to the present, married and cussing with child in the room, and then we get back to the present, where Jessica realizes she handed her baby to Alfred the Skrull. What merits having a West Coast Avengers cover to this is beyond me, but so is a lot of what Marvel did with this Secret Invasion stuff.

This issue as a stand-alone read is pretty good.

New Exiles 15

by Chris Claremont and Jim Seeley

Nice cover, unrelated to the insides. There are a couple things I don’t like about the current story, and one of them is that Cat has synched up into the body of what we recognize as Tigra, but they have decided that is what Cat looks like in another dimension. Will we come across a Captain America that looks like Nightcrawler in another dimension, because heck, you could do that, too.

The other big problem is that Claremont is lapsing into his bad habits, with the characters all sounding alike again. Worse, he spends way too much time having the characters describe what is happening, when a better picture could have told that part of the story. Gone are the days when we need to have astounded citizens explain to us that Psylocke is rising out of the ground. Just show us a picture that makes it more obvious, and we get better art with fewer wordiness, and a story that flows better.

Readers, do not get confused when Morph calls himself Kevin, just because Proteus’ name is Kevin MacTaggert, and Proteus is embedded in Morph. Morph’s real name happens to be Kevin Sydney. To be honest, too much of the story appears to be Seeley trying to give us sexy poses of women. The backup story continues with Sage fighting her other personality problem, Diana Fox, and Diana ends up flying away. Does this mean she is out of Sage’s mind, or what? We do not receive an explanation here.

There is too much going wrong here, and I sense cancellation. Will they reboot yet again, or give the Exiles a rest for a while?
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

not to be a buzzkill, but NA #47 was about how Luke fell in love with Jessica. it's a small but important distinction.

-- Posted by: Nick Marino at December 8, 2008 11:46 AM

You are correct, sir! I stand corrected.

-- Posted by: tpull at December 8, 2008 10:03 PM