Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review - Part 1

The Amazing Spider-Man 615

by Fred Van Lente and Javier Pulido

I can see where the story is going right away, and it is reminiscent of the Sandman story in the Spider-Man Sunday comic strip we get to see reprinted in Comic Shop News every week. Sandman has found another little girl who is probably his child, and has created an environment for her with his abilities, to surround her and keep her safe. One problem: she had a home before. Pulido’s style reminds me of other magazine formats and genres, and might feel slightly out of place for a superhero environment, but I find the opening sequence at least to be very nice in that style.

Peter stumbles onto a murder mystery with three victims, and manages to link their association with each other and track Sandman to Governors Island. I declare that everyone at Marvel Comics is purposefully trying to make me mad with their errors in punctuation. In the same panel, they have a period inside quotation marks, and another sentence with the period outside the quotation marks. I have already spotted punctuation errors in two other Marvel titles this week, but it has become so rampant, I’m not going to harp on them anymore. Let’s just assume for the sake of speeding things along that Marvel has lousy spellers and no proof-checking anymore for their comics. It’s wretched and deplorable… and I think I’ll stop pointing them out now.

The other irritating thing is the constant insistence of the letterer to highlight emphasis on Peter’s narration in a lousy shade of red. Instead of shaking things up, the lettering has been this way since Brand New Day started, I think. I remember when letterers used to experiment themselves, and try to grow, but I’ve been sitting here with these bright red, out-of-place looking words that are really loud, considering thought bubbles and narration captions are supposed to be relatively quiet, but if the writer and others don’t agree with me that it constantly distracts from the art on the page… well, I think they’re wrong, but again, just another complaint that has been bugging me for a year or so now.

The story falls apart slightly when we learn that Peter has spent some time off-screen preparing an alternate cartridge to switch to in his web shooters, one that blends in hydrofluoric acid. Considering how much time it took Peter to make the original webbing, and how disastrous things have been when he has altered the mix recently, it’s simply unbelievable that he could go whip up something that works in so short a time. The writer is getting lazy, thinking you can just add whatever component you want, and everything will work right. Real life doesn’t work that way. Even though we’re in a comic, Peter is not at the level of Reed Richards, and even Reed would have had to experiment to get the mix right. This is just lame, and promises more lameness in the future, so that Peter will be able to go whip up some acid-webs, some energy-webs, some licorice-webs, etc., whenever he feels like it. It’s a betrayal of one of the core components of the character.

Finally, the whole idea of a “gauntlet” is seriously letting me down here. It seems instead of running through a real gauntlet, the brain trust has decided to let various rogues gallery villains go up against Spider-Man all in their own time, and then Chameleon will come along afterwards, scoop them up, and get each one to sit quietly for months until he has assembled enough bad guys. Perhaps it is just because this is not what I expected, but the result is a long, plodding stroll down villain-lane, when I wanted something faster and more dynamic.

If I’m harsh, it’s because I care. Each of these complaints is small in nature, but they are adding up. That means the title is on the bubble for me, about to drop, and I can’t really recommend it other than to say it’s an okay Spidey story overall. Most people won’t be bothered by the coloring choices, the spelling mistakes, etc.

Astonishing X-Men 33

by Warren Ellis and Phil Jimenez

Phil Jimenez can definitely impress me with his characters, but the backgrounds are poor. On page 5, we get to see a computer room with tons of screens, but there is no detail to them. It’s full of pretty colors, but not much added value. That’s not to say the art isn’t excellent for the entire comic, but I always want just a little bit more. Jimenez has got to be one of the more promising artists out there that is already great, but has the potential to do even better, if he can keep the skill up and not become slower in his work.

One small problem is that Agent Brand looks almost identical to Polaris if not for the outfit. There really was a distinguishing look when she debuted in Joss Whedon’s run with John Cassidy, but her uniqueness appears to have been lost in the art translation. As similar as the using of mutant corpses idea is at this stage, the overall story attempts to be epic. Warren Ellis is good with big ideas, but they call for something that has become cliché in comics: that enemy who has been around for a decade or century, is full of resources, skill, and power… and has been totally hidden until now. I have lost track of the number of ancient enemies who have decided “just now” to come out and declare their enmity. I liked Peter David’s take on it in X-Factor when he crafted some ludicrous villains who came out and declared they were arch-enemies of X-Factor… and the team didn’t realize who they were. Here, we have yet another bad guy who seems intent on killing mutants, but has been hidden away forever.

The physical dimension in the form of the art is impressive, both in the Brood/Krakoa clone and the reminder of Cyclops’ awesome power. The dialogue is slightly off, missing some of the true flavor that Whedon had, but still somewhat nice, as the X-Men joke a little at their absurd life and take shots at Wolverine. Armor is completely inconsistent from issue to issue, losing all sense of her original character, and basically being used as a generic fill-in for the younger, Kitty-presence on the team for us to somehow relate to better than the others.

Finally, Cyclops talks about wanting to meet this enemy and kill him. While Ellis has made it a point to explain Cyclops’ change of nature better than anyone ever could in the pages of X-Force, to have him make a comment like that is rather shocking, on its face. I keep wanting to see an exploration of his mind, and learn the damage that has been done to it over the years to help explain his change better. As things stand, no one has really shown us a reason for the massive change in Scott’s personality. It’s one of the major holes in the ongoing X-Men saga.

With all of these little gripes, this was still a fairly enjoyable comic. If it were a little less cinematic, perhaps we could squeeze more story in, and this would have less of a feel that it was written in preparation to be turned into a trade paperback.

Daredevil 503

by Andy Diggle and Robert De La Torre

Foggy and company realize that their woes are not just the wickedness of the universe, but that they are being targeted. My money is on the Kingpin, and he has maneuvered things so that Dakota North has just lost her investigator’s license. Meanwhile, the Kingpin is setting up the crooks so half of them think they work for the Owl, and the other half think they work for the Hood. Disguising his involvement within layers, he has control, but without too much publicity in the underworld.

Daredevil himself is going off the deep end with his new organization. Tarantula comes from the wrong side of the law to begin with, so he does not really have any qualms about how things go down, but the White Tiger has serious doubts about how things are being run. When Daredevil calls forth someone who disobeyed an order, the guy impales himself on his sword before Matt can think to stop him. Izo seems to have no problem manipulating Matt, but Matt himself doesn’t seem to know what he wants.

Will Matt destroy the Hand? Or will he be tempted to use its power to try to do what he thinks is right, to try to balance the scales of justice with this newfound power? It is a temptation that has corrupted many men, and it is a nice dilemma for Matt. Diggle has a solid story here, and La Torre’s art continues to fit the dark atmosphere. Maybe they should change the title to Dark Daredevil…

Dark Avengers 12

by Brian Bendis and Mike Deodato

Victoria Hand shows up to surrender to the Molecule Man, who dissipates her armor, as if she could hide a weapon that could hurt him. This gives Bendis an excuse to parade a scantily-clad woman in her panties for the entire issue. The Sentry reincorporates himself and is quickly disrupted again by the Molecule Man, and Victoria’s surrender is shown to be a ploy to distract him until the HAMMER forces strike. Deodato’s art is superb, and we also get a couple nice pages from Greg Horn to showcase a couple scenes.

The story goes sideways as the Sentry’s opposition convinces Molecule Man to put everything back the way it was, and then Owen basically disappears. The Sentry calmly declares that he can control molecules too, and this is the source of his powers. Why Reed Richards could never figure this out is a mystery, since he has had no problem diagnosing Molecule Man, Galactus, etc. over the years. This dues ex machine solution ruins any momentum this story might have had. It turns into basically a retcon of the Sentry, so instead of being a Superman stand-in that they always have to get out of the way, he is now an ever more powerful enemy who is basically possessed of god-like power. Bendis takes too long to develop this, and for a change, he actually spends far too little exposition to properly explain it to the reader.

For chronology’s sake, it might be better for the fans to read Realm of Kings: Inhumans 2 first, then The Mighty Avengers 32, then this issue. Otherwise, we might not understand how the Absorbing Man can present the slightest threat in Mighty Avengers. It also provides insight into Loki’s machinations to make Osborn break, which seem to climax at the end of this issue, so Mighty 32 and 33 probably take place before this issue.

The Mighty Avengers 32

by Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage and Khoi Pham

Loki is still maneuvering the team behind the scenes, manipulating events to his own perceived advantage. Slott provides cool dialogue, although he tends to make a big mistake of many modern comic writers, inserting an old pop culture reference and then having the character complain when a younger character doesn’t get the reference. It happens way too often in comic books, and it’s a waste of space. For decades, wise editors have warned writers against inserting too many references that will end up dated into their stories, but now the situation is worse: they still insert hose references, then waste our time further so they can express their distress that the CURRENT reading audience may not recognize their reference!

That nit-pick aside, this is a good read. Khoi Pham’s are flows nicely, and the Avengers return from the Inhumans to be steered into a conflict with the Dark Avengers. The statement is made a couple of times that the Mighty team is being seen as the “real” Avengers, and that goes for a lot of us fans as well. The stories are being told better here, with a lot of meaningful interaction, such as Pym designing a new shield for US Agent, Quicksilver trying to get back with his sister, Pym not telling Pietro that it isn’t really Wanda… I could go on, and that’s the point. There is so much going on here that isn’t anywhere else, the interaction that helps to make the Avengers who they are is present in this title when it isn’t in the “Dark” and “New” and “Initiative” titles.

Slott throws in a few funny comments too that help to make this comic worthwhile.

Ms. Marvel 48

by Brian Reed and Sana Takeda

The cover is interesting, and makes you think something might actually happen for a change. A Captain Marvel imposter is running around killing members of the cult devoted to him, and Carol wants to investigate. The real culprit is allegedly Mystique, for no reason I can figure. Carol’s friends help her track down a man that might be Mystique’s disguise, but the story falls apart quickly after that.

Carol goes in guns blazing, and the man acts clueless. Four or five panels later, he acts evil and the final page has a massive explosion. Why would he waste time acting clueless if he was just going to blow up everything? Don’t you think that if a superhero comes bursting through the roof of your house, it may be a little late to try to fake her out? The explosion at the end is a massive cliché with no excuse, because we all know there will be absolutely no consequences from the explosion. An editor should have asked “so what?” Because the editors didn’t do their job, I’m sitting here asking “so what?” for this entire series. Massive waste of potential for this character.

Thunderbolts 139

by Jeff Parker and Miguel Sepulveda

Jeff Parker gets to play with the Agents of Atlas again, yay! Osborn sics the Thunderbolts on them, and the team tries to plan a good order of battle, but their independent and arrogant ways leave them prey to Venus’ sounds. Scourge freaks out and lashes out to break the spell, and to give them credit, they do try hard, aiming a heat ray at Namorita and other things.

We end up with a great fight sequence that is entertaining to watch for a change, unlike the meaningless action sequences in titles like Ms. Marvel, or unsatisfying the spectacle of Dark Avengers. Scourge recovers enough to skewer the Uranian, and unlike the cliffhanger attempt in Ms. Marvel, I actually am not sure of the consequences from this action, and I am excited to find out next month! That translates into a good comic, folks. Sepulveda has a good day on the art chores, with some nice group poses and cool action sequences. Excellent.

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