Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review

Incredible Hercules 136

by Greg Pak, Fred van Lente, and Reilly Brown

This time the opening sequence recaps events from Thor's point of view, and the view is obscenely funny! Pak and Van Lente have taken the story into the realm of absurdity, but many comics do that to us. Just try to recap the current status of Zeus and keep a straight face. Wolverine's history is more convoluted, but not nearly as amusing. They have taken the weird facts that have led to the current predicament and presented us with a story that simultaneously hints at high adventure with great stakes, while remaining grounded in the most pedestrian frat boy humor. Even the narration panels start having fun with you, claiming for a second that Fandral the Dashing is really Forbush Man.

Reilly's art goes along with the mood, giving us clear visuals of the characters, but having fun with the facial expressions to relay the light-hearted antics. Hercules, while dressed as Thor, actually delivers a purple nurple during the fight to the real Thor. The real Thor, dressed as Hercules, wins the fight as he must, with a good swift kick to Herc's groin and a wedgie. Warning to the reader: if you attempt to take this book too seriously, you will not like it.

Even in defeat, Hercules is victorious. He loudly proclaims that the man in front of him, Hercules, has defeated Thor, in a struggle that will resound throughout the nine worlds for all eternity. Malekith finally shows up to sic Grendell on the both of them, only to fall immediately to child Zeus, lest you think the plot might get too dark and serious. Then Queen Alflyse takes Hercules away, now with the full knowledge that he was dressed up as Thor, to 'punish' him. In spite of the simplistic humor (the wedgie and such), you really do have to laugh out loud at the hysterical actions, and enjoy the fact that even the mighty Thor has become entrapped in the absurd dilemmas that only Hercules could manage to whip up. This is a tale that could have been written straight, and in terms of continuity, any future writer could flash back to this event and add a more serious mood to it, but as it is, it's just pure fun.

The Marvels Project 3

by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting

Steve Epting's art is silently stealing the show, with his depictions of Coney Island and other locales, giving us a clear picture of Marvel history at the time, and also giving us some realism at to how things actually looked back during WW II in real life in many locations. The plot itself is still grasping lightly on each of the characters, with a couple pages devoted to each.

The highlight is actually a re-telling of the first duel between the original Human Torch and Namor. The little added detail of the Germans' attack on Namor's people, and his ignorance of the divisions among surface men, help to give the reader a better understanding of Namor's motivation, and it fleshes out his character, removing the simplistic evil attitude from when the story was first told. The needlessness of it adds a new dimension of tragedy, while the characters involved also reminds us of the original Busiek/Ross Marvels mini-series. The timing is nice, with Alex Ross involved with another tale involving Toro and Hammond over in The Torch right now, which comes on the heels of the Avengers/Invaders mini-series, and Hammond's recent problems as a deactivated android in Captain America's title. Also, they insert another reference to the Twelve, spending a page to bring up the robotic Electro, another small piece of the Marvels Project.

Pieces are all we see, even by the end of this third issue. The overall project has not been fully defined, and it is still uncertain if there is an official project underway, or if this is the story of how it came about. The scenes in previous issues with FDR tend to lead us to believe that the project is underway, backed by the U.S. government, but perhaps has not grown to envelop all of these different sources just yet. I find the pacing to be very good, so that even if it might seem a little slow, you can still be entertained by what they have shared with us so far. That said, I do hope they pull the pieces together next issue and let us see more of the overall concept.

Uncanny X Men 516

by Matt Fraction and Greg Land

Our mysterious attackers have kidnapped Scalphunter and forced him to transport five Predator X’s onto Utopia, while these same people are claiming they are not mutants themselves, but want to save all mutants. The coloring is distracting for the rest of the issue, as a conversation takes place where there should be blue sky, but it is always distorted by energy signatures and such. Folks, while sometimes you need to keep things interesting, there are occasions where you can sit back and just let us see a blue sky, you know.

Half the fans will probably be upset at what happens next. Magneto shows up and bows to Cyclops, while Xavier wants to attack Magneto right away. Why? Why any of it? None of this meshes well with anything that has been written recently, especially all of the excellent Mike Carey stuff over in the Legacy title. Still, Magneto has been tampered with and rebooted so many times since Xorn, they can get away with anything. Evidently he is not supposed to have an ego anymore. Fine.

Fraction continues to butcher another Carey story where Beast was refused by the High Evolutionary. Presto change-o, the Evolutionary took Magneto under his wing and did stuff instead. Xavier’s aggression is unwarranted, since the guy is supposed to be a relative blank slate, and had a less-than-bloodthirsty interaction with Magneto prior to this.

The art is Greg Land, but it’s a sloppy Land. The level of detail is nowhere near what it used to be. The large cast of characters is being ignored, with a focus on Cyclops and three or four others. It’s like a default holding place for mutants, to keep them out of the way during Dark Reign, and that’s about it. While the introduction of Magneto could have been mildly interesting, the way it was handled was very poor, designed as an attempt to shock readers. Much of the choreography was reminiscent of the last few times Magneto has appeared, during weddings and funerals, always in front of the entire mutant crowd. It was to the point that I felt I was reading an old comic from the ‘90s. But with less impressive art.

Web of Spider-Man 1

by J.M. DeMatteis, Val Semeiks, Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz, Sean McKeever and Stephanie Buscema

Why, oh why, did I pick up this comic? The main story focuses on Kaine, one of the worst characters ever introduced into the Spider-Man mythos. Not only that, but the story is basically about his inner struggle. Ptheh! It’s like they took everything that should have been cut out of a movie, and released it as a special DVD on its own. Semeiks’ pencils can’t save the fact that Spider-Man doesn’t actually appear in this story. Here’s an idea: when you launch a new series about Spider-Man, why not HAVE THE MAIN CHARACTER IN THE COMIC?!?!?!?

Okay, I’ve trid to calm down. The next feature is based on Spider-Girl, the alternate future daughter of Peter Parker. Her series had a rabid fan following, but sales have always been low. I can understand the desire to throw her over closer to the main universe, at least by osmosis, but remember the problems we had with the Ultimate universe being too similar to the regular one? This is the same thing. This wasn’t my first exposure to Spider-Girl, but I found myself hoping it would be the last. What did I have to look forward to? A Man-Bat rip-off, a slight variation on Green Goblin (way to be original), and the Spider-character wanted by the police. Why exactly is this supposed to be exciting new adventures? The entire thing reads like Spidey and Green Goblin had a sex change. Ron Frenz was okay on art, but it couldn’t save anything.

The final story is actually the best, a light-hearted comedy involving Frog-Man. Drawn by the granddaughter of the legendary John Buscema, her cartoony style fits right in with something out of Loony Tunes, which will fit right in if the Disney/Marvel merger goes through. Still, $3.99 for the comic? There is nothing here that commands the attention of any continuity-minded folks, and I can only recommend it if you’re already a fan of Spider-Girl.

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