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Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review – Part Three

Okay, Marvel came out with a ton of releases this week, so to finish up, we actually have a part three for the reviews, bringing the Marvel and DC total to 31 reviews this week, so hopefully you all think I’m earning my keep.

The thread throughout these final titles is a question following this theme: Is Bendis destroying his own continuity? (This is also why the reviews aren’t in alphabetical order for this section.)

Avengers: The Initiative 25

by Christos N. Gage, and Humberto Ramos

The New Warriors drop off the corpse of MVP and head out, but they have plenty of monetary resources. They show up later to help form an Avengers Resistance. Because there just aren’t enough groups calling themselves Avengers running around these days. Add in the New, Dark, Mighty, two groups of Young right now, and you’ve got a half dozen right there.

The Taskmaster gets to be the new head of Osborn’s Initiative, and they recruit a drugged and addled Penance to be one of their pliable front-men, so the psychos and murderers won’t necessarily be in the limelight for the new configuration. Dimaondback is next, and these are pretty good choices. Osborn knows about an awful lot of things, such as Tigra’s pregnancy.

The Hood is brought in to push Trauma’s weak point, his mother. How Osborn was able to connect all the dots between Trauma, Nightmare, Dormammu and Hood, I’ll never know, and likely nobody else will either. Look for the book to get a boost up with Rafa Sandoval coming on as the artist next issue. For continuity’s sake, notice that the Hood is basically his normal self for this issue.

New Avengers 54

by Brian Bendis and Billy Tan

The big slip-up starts here for the consistency of the Dark Reign meta-story. Bendis has had problems before, from things like having Doctor Strange be surprised someone is dead when he was at the funeral, to deciding against decades of Marvel history that chaos magic doesn’t exist. Not only do we have story problems in timing, but the focus is on Dormammu, and it parallels a big Dormammu fight we just read in Ultimatum, which Bendis is also writing, so it’s kind of sad to be reading the same plot point for two major story arcs by the same writer that are so similar in one respect. The inconsistencies with all of the Secret Invasion Hank Pym stories didn’t match up either, and that’s the kind of thing slowly happening in Dark Reign.

The role of sorcerer supreme has fallen to Brother Voodoo, and I have no problems with that. There could easily be another more worthy, but it’s easy to just take the writer’s choice and not fight about it. Magic in Marvel has never been so clearly defined, so where DC tried to pretend there was a choice in who would take Batman’s cowl when we all knew who it would be, this role is much more up for grabs depending on the aims of the writer.

Begin continuity problems: Ms. Marvel is still alive and part of the New Avengers, but in her own title, she is dead. After she is dead, Karla Sofen takes up her uniform (we just saw her in Avengers Initiative, reviewed above). Since this issue has to take place between Dark Avengers 5 and 6, and Karla is dressed up as Ms. Marvel everywhere, Carol Danvers should be history at this point. I have no clue how they can reconcile this.

True to Bendis form, and despite Stephen Strange being in a weakened condition and passing the torch, he is still somehow powerful enough to contain the possessed Hood. Bendis never likes to explain the magical elements, so we just have to accept that these things can all take place and go along for the ride. The dialogue is crisp, and Spidey lets him add some funny stuff in the middle too.

Okay, so the Hood is a crispy critter now, and bereft of any magical powers. Loki in female form visits him in the hospital and offers him a second chance. Then, at the end of this issue of New Avengers, we are witness to Osborn’s interview live from Dark Avengers #5. This is where the continuity problems rear their ugly heads again.

Dark Avengers 6

by Brian Bendis and Mike Deodato

At the end of last issue, the interview was going Osborn’s way until Atlantean terrorists decided to attack the US. We go immediately into a meeting with the Cabal, and the Hood is present with his magic hood, and he is just fine. This is a big mistake, since he should either be a crispy critter still, or come out looking like whatever Loki’s plans for him are. The only way to avoid this paradox is to have Loki restore Parker so he looks exactly like he did before the exorcism. Hopefully that is what we’ll see at the next New Avengers, #55, or things just won’t fit at all.

Osborn loses his temper at Namor, and you can feel the tension in the air. Deodato’s art lends itself to the heavy atmosphere, and Osborn quickly backpedals into his wheeling and dealing nature. Loki is smiling, since he wants Osborn to fail anyway. Back with his Dark Avengers team, Osborn gets a moment alone with Sentry and seems able to bring the Void out. This level of manipulation is new for Osborn, and someday I’d like to see how he was able to compile all of this information so quickly, and how to prove so adept at it. Sentry does indeed follow Osborn’s orders and kill everyone, save one little morsel used for public consumption, and then brought to Venom for his… private… consumption…

At the end, Osborn has to fight his own mental demons, but it’s interesting to see how fast he was able to manufacture so many different versions of his Iron Patriot armor. Or did he just co-opt some of Tony’s armors and paint the star over each of them? Great art, cool story, but please don’t ruin the stuff with the Hood, because the Moonstone/Ms. Marvel stuff is bad enough.

Thor 602

by J. Michael Straczynski and Marko Djurdjevic

Thor does not come out on a regular monthly schedule like the other books, so you might think it would trail the other Dark Reign events. But no, events here are actually past where everyone else is, for Loki has already transitioned back to his male form, and walks the halls of Asgard with his own cronies in tow.

William is a great character, and I like his relationship with Kelda and his views on everything. We do a strange time warp so that Thor can encounter Dr. Strange in his traditional regalia, in possession of the Eye of Agamotto still, and helping Thor to repair his hammer. But if Loki is a male now, then how did Dr. Strange give up his cape and paraphernalia in New Avengers, which takes place earlier? Is Loki casting an illusion at Cabal meetings to maintain his feminine guise? And if so, why?

Thor’s hammer is repaired, but it binds the hammer closer to Thor, such that the hammer can’t take much more of a beating itself, because if the hammer gets hurt, Thor gets hurt. Finally, Thor beats the clock to save Sif, and Don Blake gets a cool moment with the human host that was holding Sif. Another excellent story, and Djurdjevic gives us some great art. Check out his close-ups on Doctor Doom’s mask and the evil grin of Loki.

Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia 1

by Matt Fraction and Marc Silvestri

A group exercising their right to assemble tries to walk through a neighborhood, and the Beast is there with other mutants to physically get in their way?!? The premise is so bone-headed, it almost ruins the entire story. For such an intelligent person as the Beast to intentionally stick himself into a confrontational situation with hateful bigots is insane. He had to know what would happen, and that it would only serve to help the interests of the ones trying to cause trouble. It’s just unbelievable.

Continuity problems abound, with Ms. Marvel (STILL!) alive with the New Avengers, even though we’ve covered that. Every issue she shows up just adds to the paradox. If Loki is appearing as a lady at Cabal meetings, he has at least dropped the pretense with Doctor Doom at the Asgardians’ new home in Latveria. It doesn’t help their continuity problems, though, because every time they get something right and at the correct time, it only serves to make their mistakes worse, because the “proper” settings make it impossible for them to say a certain story happened earlier.

Emma Frost has gone AWOL, the Dark Avengers are rounding up the X-Men, and Ares gets an awesome scene. Emma shows up at Osborn’s place, and he has a new plan all in place, bringing out Professor Xavier from the latest X-Men: Legacy issue to present another leader for mutant affairs, while Cyclops is placed under arrest. Surprise! Xavier is in a prison, and Osborn is using a fake Xavier somehow.

Silvestri has four other artists credited with art assists, and it’s hard to tell in some respects. On one hand, most of the faces appear to have Silvestri’s style, but you can tell on many pages that it’s not the traditional excellent Silvestri pop that we’re used to seeing. It still comes out good, but I’m getting the sense that the artists are rushed, and the publication schedule is fast and furious, and they’re still falling behind.

The continuity errors aren’t entirely Bendis’ fault, but he is the primary architect. The editors should be playing a major role in the coordination, and there should be some flowcharts, electronic or wall-sized, that show where certain characters are at a certain key point in the meta-story. Tony Stark just showed up in charge of his company in the War Machine title, and if that’s the real Tony, then that’s either a mistake, or the readers should have been given an editorial notation that identifies when the issue takes place. After Civil War was over, they printed a Chronicles series that gives us all of the titles in chronological order, so the bigger story can flow correctly. With these mistakes popping up, a chronology book is going to look just as messed up unless they can No-prize their way out of a couple situations.

This is not continuity porn. This is asking for consistency within your own story. The mistakes are too big to ignore, and they leave a gaping hole in parts of the story. They need to find someone with late Mark Gruenwald’s skill for organization to keep track of things properly. And for heaven's sake, will someone please give us an editorial note every now and then? Would it kill you?

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

Posted by Travis on June 29, 2009 1:29 AM
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