Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review – Part One

This part of the review this week is almost all Dark Reign tie-ins, so you can get an idea of the inter-related parts of the meta-story. Settle in, there are a lot of titles!

Avengers: The Initiative 22

by Christos N. Gage, and Humberto Ramos

I have to ask how much longer I can purchase this title. Ramos’ art makes me think he is the new Rob Liefeld, with his grotesque caricatures of physiques driving me up the wall. Every mouth has either a solid white block of teeth with a gaping black maw, or gritted teeth with two solid blocks of white. If he draws a tongue, it always looks like a frog tongue.

The story is a simple Clor smash story, while the Shadow Initiative hunts down Hardball. The New Warriors return here, since the creative team over in their own title couldn’t sustain sales for that series, and the Initiative can’t even beat Clor, who goes off to hunt down the real Thor.

Gage had a unique opportunity to showcase other Initiative teams throughout the 50 states after Slott set him up with some nice team rosters, but we’re stuck with the main base, and it’s boring. I have no idea how much longer this series can stay aloft, but it needs a new infusion.

Fantastic Four 564

by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch

Despite their warning on the cover that nothing lame happens inside, it’s a slow issue. The team is taking a breather to visit Reed’s cousin in Scotland for Christmas, so most of the comic is a leisurely stroll through Scotland, so you know Millar gave hitch a ton of references. It’s a little self-indulgent, as somebody old-school like Kirby would have given us a lot more panels and much more to look at, or compressed four or five of these pages onto one page and given us a ton more story. The overall feel is that of a plodding French movie.

The comic has some good spots, and I laughed when they mention that Reed “accidentally” designed two new types of helicopters. The flight jacket presents are cool, and the dejection of Franklin and Valeria’s cousin, who received a Nintendo DS, is precious. This being the Fantastic Four, everything will go wrong next issue. This was a quick read, and will fit better in a trade format.

The Mighty Avengers 22

by Brian Dan Slott and Khoi Pham

This month’s cover links up with #22’s, and I believe next month’s will complete the picture. I cannot express how happy I am that they did it this way, creating three interlocking covers instead of printing variants that I will not buy. I have ranted a couple of times about variant covers, and why the companies can’t innovate more with one cover per month. First Trinity, now Mighty Avengers. It’s a great thing to do, and it gives the reader something extra without charging them an obscene price for another whole issue.

Khoi Pham’s art is not helped by his inkers. It’s getting so I can recognize Danny Miki’s inking style and that’s actually not good in my mind. It minds that, like Scott Williams had a tendency to do, he is having a tendency to do too much and lay his own style over Pham, when Pham’s art is what I really want to see.

Chthon has a hold on Pietro, and is causing havoc on the planet. The new team spends as much time fighting each other as they do the enemy, which is getting old fast. There is a suggestive scene as Hank Pym repairs Jocasta that I hope is meant as a joke, and knowing Slott’s sense of humor, it should be. The ending is weird, as Iron Man shows up to blast Mordred with a simple repulsor blast, and the show’s over. Half a dozen Avengers couldn’t get through to tag him, Hank couldn’t get a shot in, but Iron Man can tag him two seconds after he shows up?

The whole setup was too simple and poorly written. We need to demand better than this from an Avengers title. Hopefully things will get better next issue.

Ms. Marvel 36

by Brian Reed and Patrick Olliffe

Mr. Reed has made such a mess of things, he spends five entire pages doing a recap of events. Remember when flashbacks were almost mandatory to bring a reader up to speed if he missed an issue or two? They spent one or two pages on it and then moved on. Here we finally get something of an explanation for why Carol doesn’t want to use her powers, and it’s related to the forgettable Cru who helped to “fix” Carol in the first place. Now using her powers “hurts.” That’s about all we’re going to get for the next couple months, so if you think that’s lame, maybe it’s time to leave the title. I know it’s getting wearisome for me at this stage.

The flow of events has been interrupted so badly, after the recap we enter yet another flashback (!) to fill us in on Norman Osborn’s meeting with Ghazi Rashid, who receives Ascension. What this means is that as soon as Osborn got into power, he immediately started making plans to kill Carol. At what point did the issue where Carol visited her father take place? Because that’s when she declared she had to kill Osborn, but she does not yet know about the Ghazi-Osborn connection, so we’re dangling for months here.

Wait, it gets worse. Her narrative text when she catches up with Ghazi reds: “I’d really had meant to just talk to him.” This is what passes for grammar these days in a comic book. Is Carol drunk? Maybe that’s how she thinks when she’s drunk. Turns out Ascension gives people super powers, as if we needed yet another way to do that, between the strength-enhancement method back in the wrestling days, all the other variations on the super-soldier serum, mutant growth hormone, various radioactive rays, etc.

At the end, Ghazi drops the bomb that Michael Rossi was actually a "CIA agent" codenamed “Vitamin,” slipping info to Ghazi. This is stupid for a couple reasons. One is that Rossi was in the Air Force. Ret-conning him into a CIA agent takes one of the best loves Carol ever had and retroactively turns him into a potential villain, which does not sit well with me. The second reason it’s stupid is that CIA stands for the Central Intelligence Agency. Do we really think people introduce themselves as an Agency agent? CIA people identify themselves as case officers. Considering what the ‘A’ stands for, a “CIA agent” is redundant. But they’ve wasted our time already on ret-conning a cool character into dregs, spending half the issue on flashbacks, and becoming a teacher’s worst nightmare, so why not add redundancy onto their list of offenses too?

Is it bad for me to wish this title goes into a death spiral? Can we at least get a new creative team? Carol Danvers used to be an awesome character, and now she’s being wasted.

New Avengers 50

by Brian Bendis, Billy Tan, Matt Banning and Justin Ponsor

Yay! Yet again, Marvel gives us a fold-around cover. Unlike the JLA title a few months back, when we had a good picture of the hero team and a variant issue with the villain group on it, here we get to see both teams face off against each other. This nice stuff with the covers is something that helps takes a tiny bit of the sting out of the increased cover price (If we have to go to $3.99 on a regular basis, can we take those variant covers and put them as bonus splash pages in the back on special paper or something? Give us a bone here, publishers!).

There are a ton of guest artists in here, 16 by my count, so they tried hard to make this a special 50th issue. Bendis has fun with Spidey’s banter, especially the comment to Logan: “You’ve had sex?” Funny stuff. The heroes try to trap Osborn using Spider-Woman, but Osborn sics The Hood’s crew on them instead. Each guest artist plays with the character they are respectively known for recently, so Leinil Yu handles Wolverine for a page during the big battle, Steve Epting gets Captain America for a page, Greg Horn does Ms. Marvel, and so on and so forth.

It’s a fun issue, and Clint (Ronin) goes on the air at the end to call out Osborn and speak to the insanity of it all. So we don’t actually get the fight that is hinted at on the cover, which may upset some fans. But we should get to it before too much longer. It’s not the greatest story-telling in the world, but it’s good enough, and it’s couched within an interesting meta-story where the bad guys have taken over. In that sense, it’s already got Final Crisis beat with its own slogan: Evil Wins.

Thunderbolts 129

by Andy Diggle and Roberto de la Torre

Osborn’s manipulations have born fruit: Doc Samson has been set up, and Osborn is the hero again, knocking out Headsman disguised as the Green Goblin. What this means for our comic book version of President Obama (note to self: click 'ignore' on the spellchecker for 'Obama'), who appears to have taken the bait, is unknown. Given that criticism of the new president has been met with anger in some circles, do the writers have to worry about some sensitive soul getting offended at comic Pres. Obama being deceived? Will supporters write in protest letters to comics? Probably not, Marvel highly publicized the Obama appearance in Amazing Spider-Man, and that was a “good” story, in which Obama was portrayed well. Here they have him assert his authority, but he still buys into Osborn’s ruse. There is no more publicity for Obama’s appearance in the Marvel universe though, so this should fly under the radar. With any luck, we can avoid the highly-charged partisan mud-flinging that never stops in the real world, with all of the fake offense that people take.

In pure story terms, the outcome is good. Osborn has framed yet another super hero, and the president is on his side, at least for now. Next issue crosses over into Deadpool #8, but given the last bait-and-switch, when they said the Thunderbolts would appear in Moon Knight, they put them on the cover of an issue, and they only appeared on the last page, I am very hesitant to pick up Deadpool. The character is popular enough that his new series is selling well, but it wasn’t good enough for me to pick up off the rack. The humor is not the same with the new creative team, and I have severe doubts that anything of significance will happen for me to care.

So far, this new direction is a good start. I would like to see an increase in the pace soon, and more appearances by the rest of the new team.

War Machine 3

by Greg Pak and Leonardo Manco

Osborn has tricked the New Avengers, set up a murder attempt on Ms. Marvel, and now he is cleaning up a potentially embarrassing situation that pits Ares against War Machine, all before his dark avengers go to defend Doctor Doom. The cover is imposing, and Manco’s art seems to have a slight impressionistic tinge to it that make sit seem like there’s more on the page than there really is. The story is middling forgettable, but an Ultimo virus is unleashed at the end that reminds me of Computo possessing Danielle Focart in their first ever Legion of Super Heroes annual back in 1982. That’s right, I’m old.

The new series is cool, but it’s lost some of its ‘oomph’ from the Iron Man title where it was set up. I hope to see them really swing into better gear after they wrap up this story line.

Wolverine: Origins 33

by Daniel Way and Doug Braithewaite

Braithewaite comes in on the art, yay! Nick Fury helps to clue in Logan on more of his past, painting a picture of manipulation by Romulus, and linking Logan’s family ties to Mac Hudson from Alpha Flight. Forget Weapon X, this is seriously a long-running conspiracy to manipulate people! The art sequences are nice all the way through.

The last part is a little at odds with the New Avengers, where Logan sees his son on TV dressed up as wolverine for the Dark Avengers. Does this sequence here take place before or after he fights Osborn’s stooges in New Avengers #50? It makes sense only if Nick Fury tells Logan about Daken for the for time, which means next month’s issue should take place before new Avengers #50, for those that like to keep track of that sort of thing.

I’m happy to be on board this title again, I jumped off when it seemed to meander, but it’s about as good as it has ever been, and I’m happy to see it back to being a quality book.

Next part of the review: every other Marvel title. Phew!
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.