Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review - Part 1

Avengers Academy 1

by Christos Gage and Mike McKone

The Initiative is gone, and in its place stands this new academy. All of the “students” had already been approached by Osborn when he was in charge of things, but now Hank Pym, Tigra and Justice are gathering these kids in one place, starting their own version of the New Mutants. Add in Speedball and Quicksilver as instructors, and ostensibly the purpose is to groom them to be the next wave of super-heroes.

There is a lot of good news with this new series. Gage is smart enough to give each instructor his or her own reason for being there, and sharing it with the reader. McKone’s style lends itself well to featuring a team of young heroes, as his line style tends to have a look that translates into “young.” Thanks to some lip-reading, though, the young heroes-in-training have their suspicions raised, and it leads them to hack into the computers. There, they learn that they are not the hand-picked cream of the crop, as Pym and the others have told them. Rather, they are the ones who have been analyzed as the most at risk to turn into villains.

Most of the names hint at their powers, but the cast seems pretty cool. We have Finesse, sort of like the Taskmaster; Mettle, reminiscent of Colossus, Hazmat, Reptil, and Veil, who can turn into gas. The final guy is Striker, who controls electricity. With the good art and the interesting concept, this series is starting off with a good feel to it.

Captain America 606

by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice

Baron Zemo encounters the Ghost, who reveals to Zemo that Bucky is the new Cap, and it sets him off with a new fervor, sending him to recruit Iron-Hand Hauptmann, a classic henchman of the original Zemo. The Falcon approaches Steve Rogers with concerns about Bucky’s state of mind, right as Bucky has a Steranko-inspired nightmare. Bucky tries to reassure the guys that he is okay. It has a nice flow to it; not a lot of action, but some good character development that feels natural.

Outside, the past activities of Zemo catch up to the present, as Sam goes to start Bucky’s cycle, just as Bucky realizes he’s been drugged. The bike explodes, and you would tend to think that no human could survive something so close-up, but Brubaker is smart enough to have the Fixer assure Zemo that the charge was basically a concussive blast, not a normal, lethal explosion. We also learn that Zemo has sprung Sin from prison. It will be interesting to see if Zemo’s appearance in Thunderbolts has any overlap with this, but regardless, Brubaker has done a good job of showcasing Zemo’s intelligence and ability to develop nefarious traps and plans. Butch Guice’s art is excellent in every panel, in some cases reminding us of the classic Kirby origins of Hauptmann, to mind-bending dreams, to the dark, modern feel reflecting both a murky bar and the villainous aims of the bad guys.

We still have a second feature with Nomad and Araña. David Baldeon gives us some child-friendly art, and Sean McKeever seems stuck on writing duty for younger girls. The story is contrived, as Nomad asks around for work, and the only guy willing to offer her small chores sends her down to lock her in a basement where there is already at least one corpse. How is it that even when in her civilian identity, she still gets into trouble? Oh yeah, because the writer had to figure out something new to happen to her. It’s pretty disjointed, even if they do a good job of making us feel for her current poverty existence.

Daredevil 507

by Andy Diggle, Anthony Johnston, and Marco Checchetto

Chechetto’s art is interesting, but the whole unshaven look that DD has going on is getting old. They should either have him develop it more as time goes on, or give him a shave. It’s like he has a permanent five-day growth thing going on, but with no grooming. The White tiger’s turn to evil is explained by her being out of the presence of the healing abilities of the Tarantula. She kills Bakuto and makes it look like seppuku.

The whole thing has been orchestrated, seemingly over a long time, by the other leaders of the Hand. The trial over, Daredevil seemingly is unaware of their manipulations, and he heads back to the states, intending to give Bakuto’s South American rule over to Tarantula. The one-dimensional Bakuto did not help the plot much, but this issue sets the stage for Shadowland, a major push by Marvel to highlight the dark world of Daredevil. The path to get here has been slow and murky, so hopefully Shadowland lives up the hype.

Invincible Iron Man 27

by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca

Pepper is asking for her repulsor disk back so she can be Rescue again, and we all know she’ll get her way. We take some time to bring Arboast back as an employee of Stark’s new company, but Larroca CGI art doesn’t give the scenes the feeling of import that they deserve. Arbogast is a classic, dignified character, but there are no lines to show the age on her face, and the backgrounds are blurred amateurishly in an attempt to make you focus on the characters. It’s the opposite of the way it should be shown, and shows some of the limitations of art drawn entirely by computer.

The Hammer family engineers a threat in Japan that encourages the authorities to sign up Detroit Steel, prompting the American military to also sign up, to keep up with the foreign governments in this new arms race. Then the whole comic dissolves into insanity, as we have to see Rhodey sitting morosely in his War Machine armor, wondering about his mortality. The entire scene feels like a betrayal of the character of Jim Rhodes, and brings the entire comic to a dead stop for no purpose. Fraction should just let go of War Machine and let the Secret Avengers have him.

This series is on the edge of being dropped by me, it’s on a month-by-month basis now.

S.H.I.E.L.D. 2

by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver

The issue opens with the disturbing manipulation of Nostradamus to provide prophecy for some people. It’s a neat scene, but we skip back to Leonid and Leonardo da Vinci’s conversation. Dustin Weaver’s art gives us some nice Medieval-looking scenes, and makes da Vinci’s apparatus look fully functional for modern times, but still having an origin dating back to da Vinci’s original time of origin. The guy reveals to Leonid that he built all of this world they are now visiting, which is impressive. Agents Stark and Reed battle Leonid’s father, with results that are not fully explained as yet, but have an interesting effect on Nathaniel Stark, a nice splash page showing alternate versions of him reaching out to Leonid’s father during an overload explosion. I hope we learn more.

Hickman’s theme with da Vinci echoes Reed Richards’ theme over in the Fantastic Four. Where Reed just dropped out of a genius convention he founded because they have fallen behind, da Vinci intends to confront the organization of S.H.I.E.L.D., to set things right, as he believes they have stagnated, not building on the foundation he established for the group. There is just the right mixture of suspense and revelation, and it works to maintain an interest to see what happens next.

Just different enough from the standard super-hero fare we normally devour, this is one of the more interesting comics out by Marvel right now. It will be fun to see if this organization eventually crosses over to evolve into the more familiar organization we know, as this series progresses.

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