Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review – Part 2

Captain America 602

by Ed Brubaker and Luke Ross

Luke Ross draws a mean Cap! In this case, the Cap is the crazy leftover from the ‘50s, who is founding a new group of Watchdogs. The action is good and the art still retains some cinematic elements, while you can spot Butch Guice’s excellent inks, resulting in yet another great artistic match-up. The rest of the comic is somewhat less than stellar.

We start with the fact that Marvel has continued publication of the regular series: you know, the one that went on hiatus during the Reborn mini-series? Well, Bryan Hitch left his run on Fantastic Four early so he could go do Reborn, and now Reborn is so late, it’s getting lapped by every other comic out there. We might as well be waiting for a Kevin Smith comic to come out at this point. For some reason Brubaker leaves Steve Rogers out of this issue, giving us Bucky, even though Steve is running through a dozen other books as I type.

We switch scenes to ‘50s Cap, who says “his” America has vanished, which is what Democrats said for eight years of President Bush, and what the Republicans have chanted for the last year about President Obama. My hope that Brubaker would leave it at that is dashed, as he decides to show a comic version of a Tea Party protest, totally immersing this comic in the modern real political fashions of the day, which irritates me to no end. I come here to escape the talking heads, not to see it mindlessly repeated.

Brubaker adds insult to injury as Bucky (undercover) throws Sam Wilson (Black Falcon) out of a bar and says, “Don’t forget your briefcase, Obama!” Really? This is the bright, original, inventive imagination of a comic book writer? To rip a bunch of stereotypes from the headlines and insert it into our comics? Mark Waid has been doing a similar kind of thing, and some other writers as well. Enough is enough. If I wanted to see this kind of drivel, I wouldn’t be reading comics, I’d put them down and turn on MSNBC and Fox News. It is the height of laziness to use stuff like this for your backdrop, and insulting to spend so much time on it that you are hitting us over the head with a hammer. I’m not going to waste my time getting offended at Brubaker’s depiction of southern hillbillies as conservative racist mobs, because I understand he is trying to cast a quick image. It’s the non-stop dwelling that bothers me. Political subjects have taken up permanent residence in some of these comics, and it’s a big turn-off. How about getting back to good stories? Because I can get this junk on any news channel right now, 24 hours straight.

Backup feature focusing on Nomad, written by Sean McKeever and drawn by David Baldeon. Simple art with a story that does not captivate in the eight pages it has to work. Just a way for them to justify the price increase.

Dark Avengers 13

by Brian Bendis and Mike Deodato

It’s a Sentry focus issue, but the theory behind the source of his powers is a little wonky. Bendis hints at it with a flashback to Biblical times, and suggests that the Sentry’s power comes from God. Then he flashes forward, but still to a place in the past: when Norman first recruited Sentry. Osborn gives him a vial, which Sentry craves, and starts sounding like the Void as soon as he drinks it. This is the “secret weapon” that the ads have been hyping lately, the fact that Sentry is really a drug addict, and Osborn is supplying him with more of the substance.

We flash forward again, every time with magnificent renderings by Deodato. This time it’s the point where his wife Lindy shoots him. She confesses his true origin to Cloc: he helped the scientist and acted the part of a hero so he could get continual doses of the power. A regular guy without the true honor and integrity to responsibly use that power, Bob Reynolds is simply a junkie trying to get his next fix. Bendis has Lindy explain this weird theory that Bob opened up a connection to the force that gave Moses and Jesus their amazing “powers.” As if throwing politics in these books endlessly wasn’t bad enough, now we have to put up with this?

Bob recovers and has his usual split-personality conversation with his Void half, who threatens to kill Lindy. Bob flees, diving into the sun, and still failing to kill himself. We end with the Void convincing Bob to let him just do what the Void wants, claiming good things will come out of it, and that “it’s God’s way.” Yeah, I’m sure. We’re supposed to believe that God would give that kind of power to a screw-loose incapable of dealing with it.

Marvel is in a bad situation. They created this character originally as part of an April Fool’s gag, which was fine as far as it went. Then they decided to make him part of official continuity, and he didn’t really fit in anywhere. Then Bendis got his hands on him, and turned him into the world’s mightiest punching bag, and mental pansy. Every other opponent Bob faced could either destroy him outright or make him run away peeing in his super-tights. The contradictory stuff continued when Bendis gave a revised explanation recently during the Dark Avengers’ conflict with the Molecule Man, but that lasted all of one issue, before Bendis decides to retcon the Sentry yet again. This is worse than the Spidey-clone problem and the Mephisto garbage. At least there, the story didn’t change every night.

Wolverine has been given three or four different origin stories, but that was over forty years, and we are free to forget most of them as we wish. To change the Sentry’s origins and power source and everything about the character each month is ridiculous. The inconsistency is wasting our time and distracting us from the larger meta-event that was supposed to command our attention. There is no suspense here, there is no drama. I have no fear of what the Sentry will do. I expect any person with a mental, magical, or psychological ability to turn him into putty at the exact second Bendis wants them to, and it removes any potential dramatic impact whenever he is involved. The Sentry has become a cancer that needs to be excised form the entire Marvel universe as soon as possible.

Dark Wolverine 82

by Daniel Way, Marjorie Liu and Giuseppe Camuncoli

The coloring choices are not appealing for a lot of this issue, making for an underlighted, subdued feel. We are supposed to be getting an insight into Daken’s thoughts via his narrative captions, but they do not actually serve to reveal anything new. Most of the issue is wasted with Daken irritating anyone standing next to him, and making for unbelievable moments. Bullseye has been a fairly consistent character before Dark Reign started, and now he is reduced to an easily-provoked, harmless buffoon. He used to be one of the most dangerous killers in existence, and now Daken starts fights that do nothing besides reduce Bullseye to a neutered dog.

For all of Osborn’s paranoia, he falls for the oldest trick in the book during the battle, as Daken looks behind him and points. Like Osborn doesn’t have onboard sensors to warn him of incoming threats? Daken sticks a claw in Osborn from behind, and that’s where it ends. It’s a slow story, with not much going for it, and we still don’t know what Daken’s purposes are. He is just as random as everyone else around him, so this comic is not giving us much of substance.

Incredible Hercules 140

by Greg Pak, Fred van Lente, and Rodney Buchemi

Who would have thought I’d have to wait until I got to Hercules before I enjoyed an issue?!?! Pak and Van Lente together keep up the witty banter that provides a little humor as they fight for their lives. Something that seems particularly fitting is when Amadeus and Hercules are falling down a hole, and Cho says, “Shut up.” Hercules responds, “You shut up.” I love it.

Pak still manages to do a flashback and speak to more of the lore of the Pantheon, giving us Hephaestus’ origin, as it were. But wait, it’s still relevant! We learn that part of his story is what motivates him to want to create an artificial mold of Athena, so the wretched Hephaestus can finally have some sort of companionship. Delphyne finally learns what he has in store, and turns on him, deciding even she has limits. The story forming here feels just like one of the crazy deity stories, fitting in perfectly with the Olympic nonsense that make up the original, classic myths we grew up reading.

The twist comes when Zeus convinces Hera that his renewed youth has given him a chance to learn, and to attempt to live correctly in this universe. Hera tries to abort her plan to craft a new universe from the destruction of the old one, but Typhon reveals his true colors at the last second. His plan this entire time has been to destroy the gods, and he went along with Hera’s plot until he was in a position to block the entry into the Continuum, and make everyone perish in this universe.

The second feature has Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman showcasing the Agents of Atlas as they break through the underground entrance, just in time for Aphrodite to get through distracting Ares and step through a portal, intent on destroying Venus. They only have six pages, and believe it or not, it’s enough. They introduce all the characters, remind us what they’re there for, have some exciting action, and still end on a nice cliffhanger.

So what we have here is a fun story with high stakes that never loses its sense of humor. In addition, it doesn’t drown us in lazy political references like some comics do, nor does it offer up crazy explanations for god-like powers that is sure to offend most Christians, as Bendis does. Nor does the story offer up constant revisions or retcons. It’s flashback devices educate and illuminate, and are crafted to be relevant to the subject at hand for each current issue. In short, it’s everything we want in a comic, with none of the added nonsense. Go team!

The Mighty Avengers 33

by Dan Slott and Khoi Pham

Loki tries to pull all the strings, and it is fascinating to see his master strategy play out. See, Loki is a plotter. He plots a lot! He started undermining Osborn early on to help force the Cabal to break up, yet still manipulates events here so that the Mighty team stops stealing all of the good PR from the Dark team. He still needs a viable Osborn to lead the assault on Asgard, so he can’t have anyone else undermine Osborn publicly. It’s sort of like when siblings fight, and someone else suddenly intervenes: the older brother turns on the newcomer and tells him to back off, because “Only I can pick on him!”

True to form, the Sentry is immediately neutered, with Absorbing Man able to drag the Void out of Bob and make them fight each other (gee, who could possibly see that coming? I love it when they make my predictions come true by the time I pick up my next comic book). There are some great moments here, especially when Quicksilver quickly dispatches Venom, and Pym fakes out Osborn, making him think he has already touched a cosmic cube and re-made the world in his image. Loki provides a magic sword to break a spell and defeat Absorbing Man, providing yet another grand image caught on the cameras and publicized worldwide (whereas the camera feed had been mysterious dead while the early part of the battle was going on, where Osborn didn’t look so hot. Coincidence, Loki?), similar to when he killed the Skrull queen.

But wait, there’s more! Ultron has taken over one of Jocasta’s bodies at their HQ, and Pym was able to get a match and determine that the Scarlet Witch has been Loki in disguise this while time. It’s fun to see Pym’s glee when science can beat magic (although I can easily see the argument that a magical spell of disguise should be good enough to mimic someone’s retinal pattern, but hey, give the writer a break). Pham’s art is good to help the story flow fast, with some good choices on how to depict the events.

Thunderbolts 140

by Jeff Parker and Miguel Sepulveda

At the end of last issue, Scourge had disemboweled the Uranian, and the Thunderbolts had the upper hand… for a second. Then Venus does the opposite of her normal siren cry, and instead of being alluring, she causes them all to see some of their worst nightmares, giving Sepulveda some fun scary images to play around with. The Ghost breaks the stalemate, and the Agents of Atlas retreat, providing a good transition for Ghost to hitch a ride and then leave so he can show up over in the Iron Man title. The Uranian is actually okay, having just projected a mental image for everyone to see as a diversion.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Woo instructed the Uranian to plant a suggestion in Scourge’s head, since he is somewhat of a screw-loose already, and he has instructions to shoot Osborn on sight. What happens is that a holographic image of Osbron is projected between the entire team, and Scourge fires his weapon, hitting the Headsman in the head and killing him! Nice. Next issue will tie this title into the Siege event.

Uncanny X Men 520

by Matt Fraction and Greg Land

Cyclops sends a small team to track down the source of the nanite swarm, released when the Predator X’s were destroyed. Every now and then Greg Land gives us an excellent panel, but the story goes random when Fantomex shows up, having been hired to kill one of the remaining Predator X creatures. Are those things “alive” at all? I thought they were machines. “Kill” might not be the best term for this.

Back on Utopia, Magento enters the mutant staff meeting and declares that he has fixed the sinking island problem, and Cyclops pulls him out to berate him. Mags tries hard to fall all over himself in apology, claiming he wants to be trusted, and Cyclops says no. Charles Xavier tries to get him to stay around, which is a nonsensical twist from the previous issues, where Xavier actually attacked magneto, and Cyclops was the one giving him a break.

So let me get this straight: Cyclops gives the guy a break, he then saves the entire island and Scott’s whole plan, and in response, Scott kicks the puppy? Then the guy who was the most vicious attacker a couple days back tries to play nice? Is there any logic to any part of this comic anymore? Sigh. And I was in such a good mood after Hercules and Mighty Avengers, too…

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