Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review – Part 1

The Amazing Spider-Man 618

by Dan Slott and Marcos Martin

We open with a lot of creative credits these days. Names on the cover, on the recap page, and a nice bit of weaving them into the felt of a table at an illegal gambling den a few more pages in. I wish I knew why they do the credits twice; it happens sometimes in Nova too, but not in any DC comics. The story itself has Mr. Negative’s forces fighting against the Maggia crime family. It can get confusing, because Kingpin is creating diversions attributed to these groups over in Daredevil, and Hammerhead keeps switching sides like it’s cool.

Marcos Martin’s art is not strong enough to really carry Spider-Man, and Slott takes the humor a little far as the goons trade little quips as they fight to the death. That may have worked when I was ten, but really, these guys should spend less time yapping their mouths and more time trying to stay alive. Mr. Negative’s forces are killing tons of the Maggia. At least, that’s what it looks like at first.

As we progress, Martin’s inadequacy proves itself over and over, as we get almost an entire page of some pinkish-purple background that is really lazy. The twist comes as Silvermane and the other Maggia heads show up alive, informing the current stupid-head in charge that they faked their deaths to throw the heat off for a while, all with the aid of Quentin Beck, the original Mysterio. Along the way, Aunt May falls under the power of Mr. Negative and gives Peter a quick tongue-lashing.

Earlier, Peter contemplates flirting with the cop Carlie Cooper, while at the same time feeling guilty because he’s hot and heavy with the Black Cat when on Spider-time. No thought given to MJ, whom he saw recently, nor his reporter friend Norah, nor his roommate Michelle. All of which shows that the writers have gotten carried away with the whole modern “Peter is a man-slut who should have a venereal disease by now” storyline, unless they purposelessly want to turn him into an unfeeling cad aiming for as many women as he possibly can at the same time. It should be a sign when your main character is flirting or making out with so many women, you don’t even have enough time in your thought captions to cover them all!

Ten bucks says Hammerhead switches sides again next issue with no penalty for being a rat.

Avengers Vs. Atlas 1

by Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman

More Agents of Atlas, yay! We start with a classic villain, the Growing Man, somehow left on the ground at Avengers Mansion, although a time warp might have actually planted it there. We switch to the Agents fighting the good fight, unraveling one of the evil threads started by the Atlas organization before Jimmy Woo took over. The Uranian spots some temporal distortions and sends the team on another mission immediately. Spider-Man encounters the Growing Man and holds it until the rest of the New Avengers arrive, but the only one who has any clue is Ms. Marvel, who remembers the details about their foe a little after the fact. It’s fun to watch, actually, as Parker has chosen a bad guy that goes back so far, the fans will recognize him, but the good guys won’t, meaning they have to spend some time learning what he can do and learn how to defeat him. Too many stories have everyone familiar right off the bat; this helps to add a little something extra to the plot.

Hardman’s art works wonderfully for each segment, with some nice spooky coloring for the manifestation of the time distortions, and slightly different ways of drawing the two different teams. Parker is most at home writing for the Atlas team, such as the part where Venus tells Gorilla Man he doesn’t have to enjoy shooting up Lava Men so much, and he replies, “Do too” with a big gorilla grin on his face.

Wolverine provides the bridge for the knowledge gap between Atlas and the Avengers, letting his team know that the Atlas organization is really on the sign of the angels. Pointless fight avoided! Or is it? The time distortion grabs all of the Avengers and sucks them in, replacing them with… the original Avengers team! Well, with Cap in place of the Hulk already. The foreshadowing of this was highlighted in the first panel of the comic, showing us a memorial of the original team.

There’s also a second feature with Namora written by Parker and drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa, and it’s got a nice moral story about compassion and humanity, although the art doesn’t quite help to hit home the emotional impact that it could.

Doctor Voodoo 4

by Rick Remender, Jefte Palo and Alessandro Vitti

Four issues in, and we still have a boring visual blend of different shades of brown, starkly contrasting with their alternating visual manifestations of astral forms, showing up in too-bright blue or green. The plot tries too hard to make itself interesting, but the truth is that you never get the sense that it matters. All of existence could be at stake, but Remender doesn’t even bother to identify a lot of the mystical pawns Nightmare has made do his bidding, relying on the reader to know all of them already. Marvel’s magical cast is all under his thrall, but poorly used.

We end with Voodoo teaming up with Doctor Doom, the one who stranded him in the first place and arguably helped to cause some of this mess. There is so much potential for this new sorcerer supreme to take his place with the rest of the heroes, but instead he is divorced form everything else, isolated, and having no chance to make an impact. The rest of the Marvel writers aren’t helping, with Voodoo not getting crossover exposure: every other magical appearance is being occupied by Stephen Strange still, sabotaging this attempt to pass the baton, as it were. If nothing changes, this will quickly look like the Marvel version of the NBC Leno-Conan debacle, and they’ll stick Stephen back as sorcerer supreme, demoting Voodoo back to Brother. Except Voodoo won’t have crowds gathering at college campuses to protest Marvel’s treatment of him.

I have no idea how Remender will get a chance to do better work if this is the type of stuff they keep handing him. His creator-owned work is much better than this.

Nova 33

by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Andrea DiVito

Not too much to say with this issue of Nova, as we are in the middle of the story. Divito really starts to shine with his art when a younger alternate version of the Sphinx shows up to attack, and the heroes manage to find the original one withered from a chronal version of cancer. He brought his younger version forward to show him the consequences, hoping to avoid this fate, but Sphinx the Young decided he would take advantage of the limbo-like area they were in and take the Ka Stone off of Sphinx the Elder, giving him two Ka Stones at once.

The heroes agree to join the fight, and Sphinx the Young summons a few stone-relevant characters to fight off the heroes, such as Moonstone, Ulysses Bloodstone, Manwolf, another Darkhawk, and Basilisk. The stone theme shows that DnA have done their homework, but this is a place where it would have been cool to have a letter column, and an editorial box on the last page to explain some of the relation. There is so much history condensed into that one page, it would take an hour or two to hunt it all down on a wiki.

Spider-Woman 5

by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

The reporting style of Bendis has Jessica Drew breaking the fourth wall, talking to the reader. I’m not sure if it’s the best choice, as his brand of internal dialogue doesn’t flow with the neutral feel of most character captions. Maleev is hard at work, attempting all sorts if things to make this work as both a regular comic and a digital comic. At this point, I think I would buy a book that details his thinking and tricks, just for educational purposes. His art tells you that he is always striving for something new to give the reader, and makes this a more enjoyable book than the plot alone delivers.

In one sense, this is good, because Bendis allows the portraits to stand alone for the most part, but the story itself crawls, only allowing Jessica to recover her costume before it ends with the Thunderbolts showing up (events here take place before the Thunderbolts’ tussle with the Agents of Atlas in their own title). Bendis is letting the focus drift a little, but the art is captivating, and he might bring it home for the sixth issue, to remind us of her mission, and what this book is supposed to be about for now.

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