Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review – Part Two

Finishing off with the second half of Marvel’s massive release of titles this past week.

Captain America 47

by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice

Bucky is running around as Winter Soldier as a feint to the people who are after him, for “crimes” committed while he was under the Winter Soldier persona that the Soviets programmed into him. James falling prisoner is part of his plan, but Namor getting caught too was not. The Black Widow is finding out everything slowly on her own, but will she be in time to help? Professor Chin has taken the peculiar properties of the original Human Torch’s body and turned it into something you can inflict on others… and he’s going to use Namor as his test case!

The drama is intense, and although this issue is a solid middle part to a long story arc, it has the feel of something building to a boiling point (pardon the pun, Mr. Hammond). Butch Guice is a slight change of pace from Steve Epting on art. Epting still does the cover. Guice also has a good, dark tonal quality to his work, but his brush strokes are much denser. He is actually toning down the heavy blacks that he tends to play around with, and it’s a good attempt. It still takes getting used to, as the overall issue looks slightly darker than “usual,” and it fits more with Guice’s recent stint in the Ultimate universe than here. Either he will lighten things up more, or I’ll just have to get used to it.

All in all, a good solid read for the week.

Incredible Hercules 126

by Greg Pak, Fred van Lente, and Rodney Buchemi

The creators take us back to an origin story. To be honest, if you’re beginning high school and you’re still not familiar with the origin of Hercules to some extent, I despair for education. His invulnerability makes things a little difficult for the people who stick his head on the executioner’s block, but he doesn’t manage to save his father from the enemy’s blade. In a slight tweaking that fits Pak and Van Lente’s long-time portrayal of Herc as a bit of a short-sighted dunce, the townspeople are inspired to pick up weapons and fight, and Herc pretends after the fact that the idea was his plan all along. This actually fits in well with his legendary bravado, and tendency to believe that everything will merrily fall his way in the end.

A backup tale with art by Takeshi Miyazawa ttells the tale of Cho enlisting Banner to find his pup, which had been swapped by a Skrull during the invasion. Miyazawa’s art isn’t my normal cup of tea, but it works for such a short installment like this.

Marvels: Eye of the Camera 4

by Kurt Busiek and Jay Anacleto

Is this the fourth issue already? Man, this series is flying by fast for me. Phil Sheldon is experiencing his own existential crisis, with much of his lifetime’s work tied up in the super-heroic ideal, an idea that has been tarnished of late. Fitting in quite well with Busiek’s long exploration of the transition between issues of black and white, and the collective super-hero journey into areas of gray, this series asks the question if the presence of the heroes was ever a good thing, or if it all means nothing in the end, and people were just getting caught up in it.

One special note: on the newspaper clippings, you can actually make out real words and almost read the entire article, not the lazy incomprehensible sprawl that many people put down to fill the space of a background. It is that kind of extra detail that make this series such a high-quality product.

Busiek and Stern take an event from a series that wasn’t that good on its own, and make lemonade out of it. The final stage of the Secret Wars II mini-series had the silver Surfer channeling his energies through the Molecule Man to heal rift in Earth that would have torn the planet asunder. Sheldon is there to witness this cosmic alien being and the known super-villain cooperate to save the planet, and his faith is restored. His photo of the event becomes an instant classic, like that Navy guy kissing his girl when he gets home from World War II. Sheldon himself is invigorated, and his renewed belief in the heroes seems to renew his own health.

Looks can be deceiving, though, and Sheldon is not out of the woods yet. The art continues to be exemplary, though you can still get hung up on the stillness quality to it, an endemic part of the style: some panels seem too static by their nature, and it can sometimes stilt the motion flow that we normally associate with reading comics. Many panels are great pictures in and of themselves, and can act as a snapshot for each part.

Seeing as the series is called ‘Eye of the Camera,’ I broke down and bought the black-and-white version, and if you can spare the dough, I would recommend you try it too. The camera has been used throughout its history to capture the mood of a subject in black and white, and it has just as much of an impact as color, if not more. Plus, in the back of the black-and-white version, there is a breakdown of the script for this issue, which is always fun to explore.

New Exiles

by Chris Claremont and Jim Seeley

this team has saved the omniverse, and everyone is finally going their own way. Claremont closes the drapes on this version of the team, with Rogue finding true love, and Morph staying behind to help keep the last universe on an even keel. The only mistake is a lettering error, as on one panel in the discussion between Psylocke and Sage, their word balloons really should be switched, but you can figure it out easier than usual because Sage’s text is blue, to reflect her merging with the Crystal Palace. The ending has Morph show back up, and we leave them reasonably happy, content with their roles as protectors of the omniverse.

It’s a so-so ending, reflecting the slide in the quality of the title ever since Claremont took it on. The re-launch will have an all-new, all-girl team from what I can tell, reflecting the trend to restart things with a gender change (Black Panther, anyone?) in the hopes that it might sell better. I’ll check it out to see how they transition from this team to the new one, and chime in on its quality.

This title has been relatively poor for a long time, so this new attempt is most likely a good thing to try to salvage what started out as a good idea, but quickly devolved into tedium. Hopefully Marvel can successfully retool this concept, so it does not become the stutter-stop mess that the Legion has been for DC for years.

Nova 22

by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Andrea DiVito

The Worldmind is recruiting a ton of new talent, all from Earth. Richard is out, and minus his powers, but he can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong in a major way. Turning to Project Pegasus for help, they test him to confirm that he didn’t really crack from the stress of holding all of that power and knowledge. Turns out, the Worldmind has been countering all of the difficulties he had with Richard by mentally brainwashing his new troops on a subtle level!

From one viewpoint, I can understand the heavy responsibility that governs the Worldmind’s decisions, but I’m still siding with Richard on this one. The drama is better here than most other comics on the stands, and the scope and difficulty of each challenge is still fresh, going on their second year for this title. Plus, there’s still bad news for Richard about the effects of being a repository for the Worldmind after all that time.

Yet again, I find myself hooked, and eager to read the next issue. This is one of the few comics that generates that type of anticipation.

She-Hulk 38

by Peter David and Steve Scott

Jazinda’s been caught, and She-Hulk and her Lady Liberators head for the rescue. She-Hulk is presented with an undeniably unscrupulous government-backed scientist who treats Jazinda as a bad lab rat, and we have a tough time accepting that even alien enemies can be treated this way, so it’s not that hard of a decision for She-Hulk to oppose the government in this case, since everybody else involved is just standing around and letting it happen.

Steve Scott is the artist, and he does a solid job for the entire issue. We end with Mallory addressing a board meeting and declaring She-Hulk off-limits for their “plans” involving her. Whatever nefarious plan it was is canceled, and Peter David gets to throw in a final punch-line in the character narrative itself to say that the book is canceled. Considering how often this happens to Peter David, he had a fairly good ending for the series here. No matter how lousy some fans will find it that the series was canceled, it is very important to actually have a good, solid end issue, and I think he did pretty well here. You know, he has had a lot of practice…

Ultimate Spider-Man 131

by Brian Bendis and Stuart Immonen

Ultimatum continues, with Peter holding off the Hulk’s rage for a few minutes, at least. There are couple of solid story beats, as Daredevil ends up being discovered as the latest casualty in this event, and J.J.J. coming to a realization about how wrong he has been concerning Spider-Man.

This issue is a small snapshot of the overall event, and it’s a quick read. I didn’t feel much for the loss of ultimate Daredevil, but I am actually glad that they are doing a little “housecleaning.” If nothing else, it will serve to help distinguish the Ultimate universe better from the 616 universe, and possibly allow for stories that are a little farther out of the norm. I mean, half the stories could easily take place in regular Marvel-land. The change to the status quo will be permanent for this event, and hopefully there will be some real freshness coming out in the future for stories as a result.

Kudos to Marvel and its creators for recognizing a problem and being proactive for a change.

Wolverine: First Class 12

by Fred Van Lente and Scott Kublish

It’s Van Lente again, and his insidious invasion to make the Marvel universe slightly more humorous and fun! This issue takes place right after the return of Cyclops to the team and a massive confrontation with Magneto in Uncanny X-Men #150. There is a great riff on the difference between a costume and a uniform that was hysterical to read (in a silent, I’m reading this by myself kind of way), and the banter between Cyclops and Logan is great.

The villain is a creation of Shuma-Gorath, which would make you filled with dread in any other title, but this series is family-friendly in a way that keeps you from feeling any genuine tension. Since these are all “flashback” tales, that suits me just fine, because it’s hard to build tension when we already have such a tightly-established continuity. Scott Koblish does a good job with the art, although he gets lazy every now and then with a panel background. The colors are really sharp with this comic, so good job, Ulises Arreola.

At the end, we see a crucial part of Kitty’s development as she stands up for herself and makes a decision on what she wants. It’s little jewels like this that consistently keep me appreciating this comic every month.

X-Force 12

by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, and Clayton Crain

We’re back to the covers showing everybody with the same glowing red eyes, and I’m fairly sick of it. Archangel is now officially part of the team, and Domino, Elixir, and Vanisher have become absorbed into the cause. The plot threads from the miserable Young X-Men series have been absorbed here, diluting the whole point of this title even further. Clayton Crain gives us machine-looking art that makes me feel like I’m looking at screenshots from a video game, as opposed to a real picture that someone put his heart into creating.

For some unknown reason, Hrimhari is able to keep Rahne hidden from everyone else, despite the plethora of ways the whole team has of detecting mutants these days, specially one of their own. Fever pitch turns out to be the infected mutant at the end that goes nova, and kills tons of humans in an unwilling suicide explosion. Archangel and X-23 look like they will be toast, but we all know some miracle will save them. Will it be Vanisher, or will they just somehow emerge untouched, even though the guy in front of them was just incinerated to the bone?

This story is all over the place, and it’s about to be interrupted by a crossover with the Cable series anyway. Can’t we just send Rahne back to X-Factor, let Wolverine rest from one of his dozen titles, and fold Warpath, X-23 and Angel back into a regular team book? Even though this latest plot has an inkling of something interesting to it, it’s too little, too late. I want the pain to end.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.