Avengers: The Initiative #19 (Marvel Comics)
by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Harvey Tolibao & Bong Dazo
Unlike the other two main Avengers titles, this second-tier Avengers series really made the most out of its tie-ins to Secret Invasion, telling a story that ran concurrently with the main event title but still held up pretty well on its own. In the midst of all the super-hero action and the chaos of war, the writers have also managed to incorporate a couple of strong character-driven subplots, perhaps the best of which is that of the Crusader, a heroic Skrull-in-hiding who sides with Earth in the war. His arc comes to a logical conclusion in this issue, but I have to admit that I was disappointed in how it was resolved. It’s a tragic ending, but one that works in the context of the story, but it’s dealt with almost casually that the tragedy of the moment passes by so quickly that it fails to have the proper impact.
Moreso than any other issue in this series so far, the story crumbles under the weight of the expansive cast of characters. There are so many players in this game that the writers’ effort to give each one of them a role to play overwhelms any sense of flow, making for a dizzying and frenetic read. Furthermore, the art suffers from the inclusion of so many colorful characters. It seems like we barely see any Skrulls in this last-ditch effort to repel a Skrull invasion. The panels are busy, cramped and confusing. Now while this concluding chapter in the Secret Invasion story arc fell a little short, the larger plot remains a success, and I remain interested in the premise of the series and the third-tier characters. 6/10
Comics Are for Idiots: Blecky Yuckerella Vol. 3 trade paperback (Fantagraphics Books)
by Johnny Ryan
I’ve read a couple of Johnny Ryan’s oddball comics in the past, and I have to confess, I just don’t get the appeal, especially when it comes to his Blecky Yuckerella stuff. This collection of one-page, four-panel comic strips, primarily focusing on gross-out humor, seems as though it’s designed to entertain teenage boys who don’t feel the usual jokes about farts, shit, zits and sexually transmitted diseases are extreme enough for their low-brow sensibilities. I suppose one could describe Blecky Yuckerella as Nancy for Neanderthals. Ryan takes the piss of other pop-culture properties, notably Harvey Comics icons such as Richie Rich and Casper. Ryan’s cartooning is almost as crude as the subject matter.
I suspect the main point of this book is an exercise in free speech. Perhaps Ryan is daring critics to suggest it shouldn’t ever have been published. I wouldn’t agree with that sentiment, but I do feel I shouldn’t have read it. 2/10
The Death-Defying ‘Devil #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
by Joe Casey, Alex Ross & Edgar Salazar
The good news about this Project: Superpowers spinoff is one needn’t be intimately familiar with the events of that title to follow this one. Alex Ross and co-plotter/scripter Joe Casey seem to have established a whole new direction for the title character for this series. Where the writers go awry is that they don’t provide enough (or hardly any) exposition to explain just who the ‘Devil really is. They don’t touch on his history, and this new story is all about his history, notably as the arch-nemesis to the villainous Claw during the Golden Age of comics. I enjoyed the ‘Devil’s intense, silent demeanor and the contrast with the Dragon’s non-stop chatter, though keeping the main protagonist quiet limited the writers when it came to conveying key background to the reader.
Edgar Salazar’s art allows the story to unfold clearly. He’s a capable artist who shows a lot of promise. His figures are a bit stiff, and given the amount of action in this story, a better sense of movement is called for. Still, his name is one to watch for in the industry in the coming years. 6/10