Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review - Part 1

Warning: Spoiler for Thunderbolts below. I waited until Sunday to post it, at least.

Fantastic Four 569

by Mark Millar, Joe Ahearne, and Stuart Immonen

A wrap-around cover can’t save the finale, which lands like a brick. Millar couldn’t even get around to writing it himself, and Hitch couldn’t draw it, so we’ve got the grand finale by pinch-hitters, and why is this the case? Why didn’t Marvel do what it’s done with every other title the last five years and just delay publication? It couldn’t get any worse than the Wolverine nonsense that also involved Millar.

Millar or Ahearne has thrown three or four concepts into this issue with nary a good explanation, allowing Reed to be super-smarter at a faster speed than ever before, while diluting the power of every other dimensional equivalent of the FF team. Dozens of FF variants come charging in, and Johnny and Sue are able to hold them all back. Piece of cake, right? Especially when you don’t have to devote any space to showing how they do it. It’s just magic!

It’s like watching an action movie where they shoot a million bullets and nobody gets hurt. It’s so bizarre it jolts you out of your own suspension of disbelief and reminds you you’re watching a bunch of fakery. Even the dialogue is disjointed. Ben talks like he’s going to kill Clyde Wynchham, every step of the way, but instead sets him free. How about showing us the thought process or the steps? No, we go from Clyde unconscious to Clyde helping them out. Val warns her father some of the equations look "a few decimals off,” hinting at sympathetic catastrophe from Reed’s encounter with Victor Von Doom’s failed experiment… but nothing comes of it. Instead, Val hits the button and everything works out just fine. So there’s at least two things that don’t make any sense.

Wait, it gets worse. Reed knocks out all of the parallel FF teams a few pages back, right? Turns out all their power has been drained, and put into the “real” foursome. Okay, counting forward, we learn that they can hold that power without burning themselves up for twenty-three point four seconds, which is exactly how long it takes to defeat the Maquis. Good timing yes? Maybe, except for the fact that Reed drained them SIX PAGES EARLIER! I have no idea how much earlier in time that was, but it means that Reed and company have already been holding onto all that power for a couple minutes, standing around doing nothing but watch Clyde fight his future self.

As if the story wasn’t broken enough already, the Torch hits the Planck temperature, with Val and the other three standing right behind him. No fear, they didn’t even get a little blinded! Johnny can magically project all of that in only one direction. Finally, we find out the apprentice was Doctor Doom all along, in disguise, which, combined with the Clyde/Maquis paradox, busts open just about all the previous rules of time travel that we know of, again with no explanation. They even drag up the dead Watcher again, just to try to make it seem an important piece somehow, when it was just another meaningless spectacle, an attempt by Millar to shock and awe. The Clyde Wyncham tie-in from 1985 was so little, Clyde only spoke three times, and that was only to his future-self.

The final pages are a relief, as the too-quick romance between Debbie and Ben crumbles on the wedding day. Maybe it would have been believable if we had longer with the character, but just like the false romance in Batman R.I.P., the writer injected a quicky relationship that the readers had no chance to invest in and make it real.

So at the end of what was originally a great run turns into the status quo, as the artificial girlfriend goes away, the half-fast tie-in happens in a flash, and what could have been an interesting new villain is disposed of with broken time-travel nonsense and science magic that nobody can imagine really takes place. I don’t think I’ve ever read the start of a story that was so promising and see it crumble so fast into disgust. Except for maybe Ahearne’s own Fantastic Force mini-series.

At least the fill-in pencils by Immonen were up to his good standards, as usual. At least I got something out of this mess.

New Avengers 55

by Brian Bendis and Stuart Immonen

Bendis gives us a focus on the bad guys, the goons that the Hood has assembled, and the inevitable bickering that insecure jerks who find themselves full of power are bound to do. He also throws in some character updates, giving us a humorous view of the consequences of the Avengers holing up in Bucky’s pad, and Peter’s misgivings about revealing his identity to the team.

Immonen’s style doesn’t seem to fit here with a group that’s supposed to be underground, and the villains have no atmosphere to them, so I get no sense of contained power or menace from their appearances, but he certainly still does an impressive Spider-Man. In a change of pace, the team gets in trouble not from the Hood or Osborn, but from a couple of villains from the Hood’s crew, as the entire team is taken down. It sounds originally like a power neutralizer, but it makes Clint throw up, while Bobbie isn’t hurt at all, so I’m hoping we get a good explanation next issue.

Secret Warriors 6

by Brian Bendis, Jonathan Hickman, and Stefano Caselli

While the big battle rages, Viper and Madame Hydra are on another mission. They have taken hostage the families of the Japanese crime world, and return them mostly for a mystical box. The Silver Samurai’s anger at not being worthy of Viper’s attentions is excellent. I’m still getting used to Caselli’s style , but as much as I appreciate it, I do wish there were some other choices for lighting, as some panels look way too ‘light’ for the intensity of the scene.

Hydra opts out of the battle after the Secret Warriors arrive, and Fury has more recruits, as tons of soldiers depart Osborn’s ranks to be on the side of the (sort-of) angels. One thing could be handled better, and that is referencing these characters by their code names. Six issues in, and I can see how some readers might have to go back and look at earlier references to identify who is on each page (okay, I admit, it was me! I had to go back and look something up). A good writer works in the IDs as much as possible.

The final couple pages, as we learn more about who fury works with, and where that person is staged, are exciting surprises, very welcome, and encourage anticipation of the next couple issues. One of Marvel’s better issues this week.

Thunderbolts 134

by Andy Diggle and Miguel Sepulveda

Mr. Francesco Mattina doing an awesome cover again, I just love his work. Diggle is having some special fun with Mr. X, who plays with the headsman like a cat with a toy mouse. Songbird approaches the Fixer and Mach IV to feel them out, trying to round up support to take on Osborn. She feels a big sense of responsibility for allowing Osborn to stage his country-wide takeover starting from the offices of the Thunderbolts.

Fury’s tense conversation with Daisy in Secret warriors resonates here, as we see Fury taking an active hand in another covert op, one which Daisy does not need to know (for now, at least). The Black Widow II blows her cover and offers a hand to help rescue Songbird from the clutches of the newer Thunderbolts team, while revealing herself to be… the original Black Widow! Another excellent surprise.

Sepulveda has an interesting style, and he can do his own inks very well. Half the time the backgrounds are sparse, but the colorist has filled the area with complementary tones that match the action well enough so that you don’t feel cheated. In other panels, the backgrounds are full of hazy, slightly-indistinct structures that in other titles might warrant a complaint. In this comic, they add to the murkiness and dark atmosphere in a helpful way. The rest of the time, the art is so good, it makes up for a couple of blank background panels later.

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

The recent FF stories are the worst ever published stories in the 500+ issue history! What an embarrassment for Marvel! What nonsense! (I particularly despised the Thing affair---as it came out of nowhere and went back nowhere as well...)


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