Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review - Part 1

Ah, back in town at last. Now if only that pesky thing known as a day job will let me stay here long enough to read some comics! Alas, the batch of Marvel this week did not have a lot in it to recommend. For proof:

The Amazing Spider-Man 613

by Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta

The opening part of this Gauntlet epic is falling like a soft glove, as Electro, a known felon, somehow convinces the average person he is on their side. I suppose if Osborn can snow everyone into believing he’s an angel, this shouldn’t be too much of a stretch, but there is a certain inconsistency within the Marvel universe that makes the entire premise seem ludicrous. Remember when Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye were villains? Remember how the Vision started off as a pawn of Ultron? In each and every case, there was a dubious American public, demanding that these people prove themselves and show that they had changed their ways. Electro has shown no deed that can be classified as heroic, and it is a major failure for Waid not to give us the slightest reason to believe Americans have gone from the “show me” country to a place where we can stir up some rabble-rousers just by shouting loudly (domestic politics aside).

Enough has been said about the art not being up to par. Perhaps I could make allowances, if not for the fact that there have been a ton of artists on this title for the past couple years that have mostly done well. Azaceta just does not fare well in comparison to any of them. In the meantime, production values are falling everywhere, as Spidey talks about a post-dated check, but ends the sentence with a period followed by an exclamation point. Now, I’m very used to seeing them stick punctuation outside quotation marks at this point, and misspellings galore, but this is the first time I’ve seen them use twice as much punctuation as they need. 2009 is going down as a banner year in poor spelling and grammar. I cannot remember any other period in comic history where allegedly professional production teams have messed up this badly, this often.

The dialogue does not help matters either. Waid has Spidey waste too much time spewing modern pop culture tid-bits that will be stale in less than five years, and have other readers scratching their heads, trying to figure out the reference. To cap it all off, the premise of Electro getting an upgrade is a little foolish, as he was the one revealed to be behind the prison breakout in New Avengers #1, which wasn’t all that long ago. He had used his powers in a way never seen before, but he was basically dropped and ignored. Now we have to put up with another story about another upgrade that disregards his more recent history? Ptheh!

Finally, we get saddled with the DB towers coming down, which feels like a lackluster pale imitation of 9/11. The art imitation of life is transparently bad, as is Azaceta’s rendering of Betty Brant. You know it’s bad when you can’t recognize the character until someone tells you her name. We end with Peter thinking about his other foes, in a clumsy, amateurish foreshadowing of the rest of the gauntlet, which no reader needs, because they’ve been advertising the gauntlet for a couple months now. Worst script ever by Mark Waid. It’s hard to believe he is behind this.

Finally, Electro is freed by the Chameleon, and nobody has bothered to explain why this is all escaping the notice of Osborn and the Hood. All villains were supposed to be organized and getting those ‘get out of jail free’ cards. Chameleon frees these people before they even get to the police station, and it hasn’t caught the attention of the guys in charge? When all of Marvel has taken great pains to show that nothing escapes Osborn’s attention, between his network, the government, and his partners? It’s as if Spidey has become abruptly divorced from the rest of Dark Reign, but nobody said anything.

Worst train wreck for Spidey since Mephisto. Worse than Kaine and the clone bit from Guggenheim.

Dark X-Men 2

by Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk

We start on a bad note, with the identification captions having cutesy sayings at the end which do not serve the story, and are not helpful. Kirk’s artwork is plain and boring, with Nate Grey’s telekinesis almost indistinguishable from Electro’s electricity. Nate goes after Dark Beast, without any explanation for anyone who hasn’t been following Marvel for at least fifteen years. Osborn somehow has all the information he needs on Nate Grey, and decides this is a great test for his little X-Men team.

We fade to more of the bland, drab backgrounds with Mystique having a disjointed conversation with Michael, followed by an equally boring and almost meaningless conversation with Mimic, none of which serve to make us care or generate interest in the characters. Nate magically taps into the power of a group of psychics under Osborn’s control and saps their energy, and none of it ever has any explanation.

We end with a repeat of Infinite Crisis, with X-Man Grey in the role of Superboy Prime, looking at the panes of the universe proper and asking, “What have they done?” Of course, this outside observer sees nothing but bad things, and will take it upon himself to fix everything and reshape the universe the way he thinks it should be. No thanks, I’ve already read this story. And they charged $3.99 for it, too! Wow. Canceled from my list.

Invincible Iron Man 21

by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca

As predicted, we have to spend half our time of the next two-to-four issues with Tony digging in his mental landscape, giving us some treatment of the main character of the title, even though he’s supposed to be in a vegetative state right now. Forget all you know about modern medicine, and the fact that medical technology, especially the advanced tech of the Marvel universe, should be able to read some type of activity if he’s dreaming about such active things. He’s a vegetable to everyone else. The Ghost agrees to go kill Stark, and Madame Masque helps him get there. Laroca’s art is fun and varied, as much as it can be via his CGI tools. Then they ruin the Reborn series for us.

Steve Rogers appears before Pepper Potts, in full Cap uniform. Yes, we all knew this would happen, but to see it in other comics before the big scene in the series where we are supposed to see it undercuts the dramatic appeal, and spoils the payoff. Marvel has Rogers in one or two other places already, so we just have to put off with problems with the delivery and publication schedule, but I tell you, I really wish I was able to read all of Reborn first.

Fraction has a recording of Tony Stark give instructions on how to bring Stark’s brain back, and everything jumps the shark at once, here. Pepper has to lose her battery, which she needed to survive, if you remember. No matter, they can just take it out of her now, and who cares? Tony breezily declares she’ll get another. No talk about how they will keep her alive in the meantime. They also decide to have Pepper’s suit AI giving guidance to Rhodey as he dismantles her suit, even though the battery that powered everything HAS ALREADY BEEN REMOVED! Nice to know that these suits, which can only be powered by Stark’s repulsor technology, can magically keep on working, and pepper can keep on living, when the whole point was that it needed to stay in her chest to keep her alive.

Wait, it gets worse. They attach cables to Captain America’s shield, and have Thor shoot his magical lightning through it, and the energy is supposed to jump-start Stark. Hey, longtime readers, does anyone remember that Cap’s shield is made up of a composite of adamantium and vibranium? And that vibranium absorbs energy, and Cap’s shield can absorb physical and energy attacks? I could be wrong, but to my knowledge, this “redirection” should be impossible, given the physics behind how vibranium is supposed to work. This was all cobbled together because Fraction thought it would make for a great visual. It does, but only by throwing aside everything that has gone before. Will fans remember this in the future? I will, if only for how lousy it was.

X Necrosha: the Gathering 1

by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, and various

Clayton Crain gets his name on the credits on the cover of this one-shot, but he has only done the cover art, as far as I can tell. Inside this cover, which looks to be a rip-off of the Vampire Diaries TV show group pose, we have tales of Selene’s five followers, all by different artists. Each story is not very good, and the sum total of its parts is not worth $3.99.

Wither’s story is drawn by Ibraim Roberson, with no inking. The computer CGI makes me long to go back and red some classic Marvel comics. Selene manipulates Wither almost effortlessly, destroying all character growth of the past few years in eight pages, and turning him into an unrepentant killer. There is basically a rinse and repeat as Selene then rescues the Earth-616 Blink by magically pulling her out of the water where she died years ago, but she is intact. Then they skip over her development, and we simply get to see her as an evil Blink at the end. Forget about even getting a glimpse beyond Selene being nice to her; we have no idea how she turns evil and willing to do any manner of despicable act for Selene with a smile on her face.

It’s all one big throwaway, with precious little substance to add anything to the Necrosha event, which was lame to begin with.

Wow, was this batch worthless. Let’s hope it gets better in part 2 this week.

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