Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review – Part Two

Part 2 covers mini-series and a bunch of X-titles this week.

Astonishing X-Men 29

by Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi

…It’s not enough.

The Astonishing title was started with good action, solid characterization, and fast plot developments. The hope was that by focusing some very talented creative teams on high-concept story arcs, we could have a tightly-contained, high quality book that wasn’t necessarily a slave to the main continuity. Nothing would really conflict, but the Astonishing characters would get a little bubble so there would be room for just the one story, no crossovers, etc.

While the story is somewhat engaging, it is very slow, and we are only getting three or four panels per page, and the story-telling is a little clunky, by which I mean it does not flow as smoothly as it could from page to page. This entire issue is basically spent talking about Forge and going to meet him. While it is still worth purchasing… it’s not astonishing.

Cable 13

by Duane Swierczynski and Ariel Olivetti

This probably should have been part of last week’s review, but I got sent out of town on assignment with no internet access. It’s a chain in the Messiah War story, though, so I wanted to have a complete running review of the event. Swierczynski has a good handle on Deadpool, and writes him well. In his own series, Deadpool is not funny and too random, but here the conversation feels more like his old, usual lunatic self.

The story falls apart as soon as we switch to Bishop and Stryfe. Part of it is that the switch to having Bishop be an unrepentant, bloodthirsty murderer was a complete betrayal of his law enforcement background, and a betrayal of his own code of ethics. It is one of the worst mistakes Marvel editorial allowed to let happen. The second is the resurrection of yet another re-run villain. Stryfe had his run, and there were good things and bad things about it. One of the good things was that it ended. We actually had a story where the big bad villain met his end. The entire X-Force series has been nothing but resurrected villains, as if they can’t possibly come up with something new. Can somebody please give us something new?

Olivetti’s art, while good, looks static, and a large problem I have with a lot of the new computer method of putting the art on the page is how static it looks. Maybe I’m just old school, but the tricks used to give a sense of movement and action in a comic are missing from Olivetti’s style. It is a major drawback to the feel that comics are supposed to have, and I’m not sure how to get around it.

Dark Reign: Elektra 2

by Zeb Wells and Clay Mann

I really like the writing on this comic. The agent in charge is intelligent and experienced, and he doesn’t try to BS Elektra. He’s there to stop her, and he gives her a chance. The rookie misses his shot, and he manages to tag her instead. It’s only because she has an unknown advantage of being able to command part of the ship’s infrastructure that the tables are turned. Through it all, Elektra wastes no unnecessary words, but gets the job done, and you feel bad for the agent in charge, because he was good and competent, and he might have been a cool guy, but he’s dead now. He was a little overconfident, and that got him in the end, but it’s good writing to make you like a character in so few panels.

Elektra’s escape is cool, and the fact that Norman Osborn is getting dressed by his second-in-command is delightful. Here’s a fully capable executive, and you have placed a large amount of responsibility in her hands, and Osborn is so conceited, he ahs to have his deputy director, Victoria Hand, help put on his jacket and tie. It’s like making Hillary Clinton dress President Obama. Priceless.

The scenes with Foggy and Bullseye are good, and it all flows well. I question some of the coloring choices, but the art itself holds up well.

Fantastic Force 1

by Joe Ahearne and Steve Kurth

This group of characters was interesting, and it was worth a try to see if they could do more than just put in a guest spot in the main Fantastic Four title. A little of the stage direction is awkward, such as how immediately Alyssa’s ex-husband surrounded the group with enemy forces. The fighting and the interaction between the members is all good, and the setup works, I think.

The only problem is one I might not have known about if not for them including a view of the process for scripting as an extra in the back of the comic. We see that originally, the Fantastic Four were part of the story. They changed things up, deciding it would be best to let this group shine on their own sooner, which was a good decision. But almost all of the dialogue stayed exactly the same, with different people voicing the previous parts that the FF had voiced. That’s lazy writing, it’s cut-and-paste, and the different characters should all have their own respective voice and personality and way of saying things. This tells me that the group is, for the most part, the same, with interchangeable characters. The only way to make a new group like this have a longer shelf life in the comic pages is to have them be unique and interesting, and we’re not there yet. They need to do better than cut-and-paste for this to succeed as a concept.

Marvels: Eye of the Camera 5

by Kurt Busiek, Roger Stern, and Jay Anacleto

Phil Sheldon’s cancer is back, and he doesn’t have much time left. I’m feeling his urgency, his despair, his sense of loss. The words and pictures work beautifully to convey his emotions and thought process, and the pictures from the newscasts may even have been lifted directly from some of the comics themselves; when they show the Sub-Mariner joining the Avengers, the black-and-white TV picture looks like it was from that actual issue of the Avengers. (I’d go look it up, but my Avengers are buried right now at the bottom of my collection, since I’m about to do a major overhaul in organization).

Phil’s next reaction is just like mine was when the media reports on something so obvious, and gets it so miserably, badly wrong. The original X-Men become X-Factor, and are later billed as the X-Terminators, and the media report them as a new team(!). Yeah, that sounds about how well they do in real life on a lot of subjects, doesn’t it? There are a ton of neat elements in this story, including one of my favorites, the idea that Phil has of Peter Parker as a weasel for his pictures that JJJ uses to paint Spider-Man in a negative light. It’s not a major focus, it’s only mentioned in a couple of places, but it feels so true, because we can understand things from the pieces of information that Phil has, but we also appreciate the irony, because we know the truth.

The family support Phil receives is great, and you don’t normally get to see something like this in a comic book. It is refreshingly human instead of super-human, quietly heroic without being dramatically exaggerated super-heroic. Then, at the end, we get hit with a nice cliffhanger. Is this really the end of Phil Sheldon after next issue? I find myself wishing somehow I could keep reading stories like this, as all of the characters have grown on me.

This series has my best recommendation.

Wolverine: First Class 14

by Peter David and Ronan Cliquet

The creative team has changed, and the tone is definitely more… cutesy as opposed to tongue-in-cheek, if you can grasp the distinction I’m trying to make. The previous writer didn’t spend as much time pulling a Claremont, meaning Mr. David has the characters spend too much time describing what the picture already shows them to be doing. I has a paint by numbers feel to it, whereas Van Lente’s writing felt fresh. I have to issue a shout-out to my buddy Earl and ask for a reality check: am I on crack, or am I right about this?

The art is also slightly off. It still has the “less serious” feel that is appropriate for a book about pat stories, where we do not expect major problems to happen for our main characters, because we know precisely what will happen to them in the future, but Cliquet still went overly-simplified for his backgrounds, and he could have put more effort into it. There has definitely been a drop in the quality of this series, and it is one that desperately needs a high quality to stay alive. If they don’t correct the ship quickly, it may run out of steam inside a year.

Wolverine: Origins 35

by Daniel Way and Doug Braithwaite

Daniel Way is growing as a writer. It takes a certain skill to be able to give the reader the necessary background without making it too full of exposition, and he manages to do well here, giving us a little back-story on the Muramasa Blade before launching us fully into the meat of the current conflict. The trap is that Mr. Way has also fallen into the trap that most other writers have lately with Cyclops, and he comes across as a ruthless killer. What happened to his compassion? Marvel better have someone come up and explain how a piece of Apocalypse is still embedded in his brain and take it out later (Mike Carey, perhaps?), or I will be an unhappy camper. If this isn’t part of a plan by Marvel to show how out of his head Scott Summers really is, then it is a major disservice to the character’s history, even though Warren Ellis has tried to help explain it better in the Astonishing title.

The rest of the story is good, and they are still introducing elements of his past that help to make this series true to its “Origin” motif. Braithwaite continues to perform his excellent style, and I have to compare this to Olivetti’s style over in Cable and cite my preference for the motion feel that Braithwaite provides. That’s what I’m talking about!


by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, and Clayton Crain

Blech. Poor art, they really should have a separate artist and colorist for this, because the result is artificial in look, and lacking in proper contrast. It’s all monotone. The lacking part of this Messiah War is the poor ability to include the necessary parts of X-Men history adequately. Mike Carey is displaying a great example in the X-Men: Legacy title of how to do it well, but nobody here is paying attention, as they spend all their focus on trying to give us an exciting action adventure.

I have to give props again to the treatment of Deadpool, though. I can’t bring myself to buy his current series, so it’s great to see humor incorporated successfully amidst all the carnage. Also, his insanity plays better in this aspect, since here he has had several hundred years to lose some more screws. Logan is portrayed poorly here, reduced to a whiny, cussing bad excuse for a drill sergeant; about the only thing he does right is to order Warpath to guard the kid.

It’s not as big a disaster as previous issues have been, but I still have an argument with myself on whether or not to buy the next issue each month. Egads, I have to watch and make sure I don’t develop argumentative personalities like Deadpool has…

Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.