Category Archives: Reviews – Marvel

The More Things Stay the Same, the More They Stay the Same

Variant coverIron Man #1
“Believe, 1 of 5: Demons and Genies”
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Pencils: Greg Land
Inks: Jay Leisten
Colors: Guru eFX
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Greg Land (regular)/Adi Granov, Carlo Pagulayan, Joe Quesada & Skottie Young (variants)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

While the piecemeal approach to the repackaging of the publisher’s line of super-hero comics with its Marvel Now! branding seems rather inconsistent and awkwardly staggered, I have to admit many of the creative teams announced for the retooled line piqued my interest. Invincible Iron Man was one of the few regular Marvel titles I was buying month after month as of late, and with the relaunched, I honestly expected to stray away from the property. But when Kieron Gillen was announced as the new Iron Man writer, it was easy to decide to stick with the ongoing adventures of Marvel’s Armored Avenger. I expected something intelligent and different from him here, and while he fulfills the former promise, I was surprised at how the latter aspect was lacking. I still see a lot of potential here, but the plot and tone here seem rather recycled. The result is a first issue that doesn’t seem like a new starting point for the title character at all.

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Avengers Nurses X-Men

Uncanny Avengers #1
“New Union”
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Cassaday/Adi Granov/Daniel Acuna/Skottie Young/Sara Pichelli/Olivier Coipel/Neal Adams/Mark Brooks/J. Scott Campbell/Ryan Stegman/Mark Texeria
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

One could really see this as Avengers Vs. X-Men #13, only retitled to remove the “versus” part. I wasn’t interested in the AvX event, but the promise of a new start for both the Avengers and X-Men franchises, along with art by John Cassaday, was enough to draw me in. It’s also nice to see the new flagship Avengers book in the hands of someone other than Brian Michael Bendis, who had a solid run but has probably been attached to it for too long. Remender’s story boasts some of the more over-the-top, intense elements for which he’s known, but I don’t know they really fit into what is, at its heart, a traditional super-hero team book. Cassaday’s art really only seemed to pop in the nastier, harsher moments of the story, and since I didn’t care for those moments, the art never really grabbed me. Uncanny Avengers seems to fit in nicely with Marvel’s publishing approach in the 21st century, but it remains a short-sighted one that focuses on immediate payoffs rather than long-term sustainability and growth.

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Wooing the Reaper

Thanos: The Final Threat #1
“The Final Threat” and “Death Watch”
Writer/Pencils/Cover artist: Jim Starlin
Inks: Joe Rubenstein
Colors: Petra Goldberg
Letters: Tom Orzechowski & Annette Kawecki
Editor: Archie Goodwin
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

Earlier this month, Marvel released a one-shot collecting the 1990 two-part limited series Thanos Quest. I didn’t pick it up, because I bought and read the original issues back … Jesus, 22 years ago. I enjoyed them, just as I enjoyed quite a bit of Jim Starlin’s cosmic super-hero comics of the time. But I’ve always wanted to read his classic Thanos story from the late 1970s from Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2. I was thrilled to learn those two comics were being collected in this one-shot, separate from other Thanos stories I’ve read and already own. These 1977 scripts certainly show their age, but they’re also well-crafted in other ways. Starlin’s accessible stories are full of action and energy, but maybe what makes this reprint one-shot really stand out is the title character. Though almost cartoonish in his villainy, Thanos’ motive is oddly compelling. It’s not often a nihilist is driven to commit crimes on an unspeakable scale simply because he’s lovelorn for an abstract concept. Despite their overwrought qualities, these are great comics that every fan of the super-hero genre should experience.

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On Target

Granov variantHawkeye #1
“Lucky”
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Aja (regular)/Adi Granov and Pasqual Ferry (variant covers)
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $2.99 US

It’s been two months since Marvel Studios released its box-office behemoth Avengers flick, so I’m surprised the publisher waited this long to get a new series featuring Hawkeye, a key character in the movie, on the stands. Marvel has never really known what to do with the character. Past attempts to launch ongoing titles quickly fizzled. After reading Marvel’s latest version of Hawkeye #1, I have high hopes for this kick at the can… at least as long as this creative team is attached to it. Writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja, reuniting a few years after their successful and acclaimed work on The Immortal Iron Fist, don’t disappoint. They take some real risks here. The title character only appears in costume and only wields his bow on the first two pages. There are no super-villains to be found here. What’s more, there’s really no crime committed that spurs the hero into action. Instead, Fraction’s script presents the Avenger as being a down-to-earth, well-meaning screw-up who’s pretty much always in over his head.

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‘Thing One

Variant coverInfernal Man-Thing #1
“The Screenplay of the Living Dead Man”
Writer: Steve Gerber
Artist: Kevin Nowlan
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Ralph Macchio & Mark Paniccia
“Song-Cry of the Living Dead Man!”
Writer: Steve Gerber
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein
Letters: John Costanza
Editor: Roy Thomas
Cover artist: Arthur Adams (regular)/Nowlan & Gil Kane (variants)
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I haven’t read a lot of the late Steve Gerber’s Man-Thing comics, but I have enjoyed and been challenged by some of his work in the past. Furthermore, his work from the 1970s and ‘80s has certainly been heralded as some of the most avant-garde and finely crafted comics of the era by stalwarts of the industry and the medium. Ultimately, what drew me to this comic book wasn’t Gerber’s reputation, but rather the incredibly skill and artistry of Kevin Nowlan.

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Hexes and Hope

Avengers Vs. X-Men #0
“Prologue”
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis & Jason Aaron
Artist: Frank Cho
Colors: Jason Keith
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Cho (regular)/Stephanie Hans & Jim Cheung (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I’ve given Marvel a hard time about the apparent premise (given the title) of this latest crossover event, and I don’t plan to on following the entire run of the central crossover title (or any of the spinoff titles and tie-ins). But I have to admit, I enjoy Frank Cho’s art on occasion, and I wanted to sound off on the book for a review. Now, I don’t usually go for the zero-issue gimmick that so many comics publishers have embraced in the past couple of decades, but given the subject matter in this prologue, I can see why Marvel opted for it this time around. This isn’t the first chapter in Avengers Vs. X-Men. Instead, it serves to introduce two key players that will, I assume, serve as catalysts for the “story.” The art is, as I expected, quite sharp and attractive, and I enjoyed the incorporation of some classic, cheesy (and ultimately inconsequential) villains into this leadup. But overall, the two stories didn’t really seem all that interesting, nor did they provide the strong inductions to the two heroines as was clearly intended.

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Bring On the Bad Guys

Supercrooks #1
Writers: Mark Millar & Nacho Vigalondo
Pencils: Leinil Yu
Inks: Gerry Alanguilan
Colors: Sunny Gho
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Leinil Yu (regular)/Dave Gibbons (variant)
Editor: Nicole Boose
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment/Icon imprint/Millarworld
Price: $2.99 US

The quickest way to describe this latest creator-owned, super-hero genre effort from writer Mark Millar is as Ocean’s 11 meets Wanted. The pace and tone of the writing make something abundantly clear: Millar is crafting comics designed for adaptation into other media, and specifically into movies. Supercrooks has a fairly simple premise at its core: why would the Penguin and Toyman continue to commit crimes in Gotham City and Metropolis and the like when they’re bound to attract the attention of the men who keep tossing them in jail? It’s a solid foundation for a story about super-villains, but then again, it’s a little obvious. Then again, subtlety hasn’t exactly been something in which Millar has been interested in recent years, opting instead for bombastic, in-your-face genre storytelling that boasts a broader appeal. The first issue of Supercrooks is a good comic book, but it’s also a little bit… ordinary despite its effort to do something a little different within a world of super-heroes and super-villains.

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Some Assembly Inquired

Avengers Assemble #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Bagley & Miki (regular)/Arthur Adams, Marc Silvestri, Khoi Pham & Mirco Pierfederici (variants)
Editors: Lauren Sankovitch & Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

One can’t say Marvel isn’t up front about its publishing decisions (or at least this particular one). The reason for this new Avengers title’s existence is emblazoned right across the top in a banner promoting the May 4 release of the Avengers movie. That Marvel would want a title that reflects the roster of the big-screen incarnation of the team makes perfect sense, though there’s no denying the arrangement of this lineup of the comic-book equivalents of the same characters feels more than a little forced (especially when it comes to the Hulk). Avengers Assemble definitely stands apart from writer Brian Michael Bendis’ other work on the franchise, as it’s far simpler in tone than most of his other Avengers stories. This is pretty basic super-hero genre stuff, feeling a bit like a throwback to a simpler time. Unfortunately, that means the plot comes off as rather generic. The story lacks any of kind of hook needed to make it feel special, to make it feel worthy of a newly launched title, newly assembled roster and its connection to what’s expected to be a blockbuster flick.

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Warp Driven

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #s 1-5
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist/Cover artist: Kaare Andrews
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

There’s nothing quite like a bargain. For comics readers and collectors such as myself, finding an old box of forgotten comics at a flea market, priced to sell, is always a bit of a thrill, but flea markets aren’t the only backdrop for such an experience. A lot of comic shops offer great deals on comics to clear out stock that’s been sitting around for a while. So when I saw all five issues of this limited series marked at $5 for the bundle at my local shop, I grabbed it up. Despite my appreciation of the creators’ past work, I wasn’t interested enough in these characters to pay four bucks a shot for each issue, but five for the lot? That’s a bargain at thrice the price. I’m pleased I got a chance to peruse these pages, but I’m also pleased I didn’t do so at full price back when they were initially published. The story reads incredibly quickly, and as its foundation are both recent and obscure elements from Marvel continuity that would likely leave many newer readers scratching their heads.

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Not Seeing Red

Daredevil #6
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist/Cover artist: Marcos Martin
Colors: Muntsa Vicente
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $2.99 US

I wrote last week Invincible Iron Man might be the best super-hero title Marvel is publishing these days, but it’s difficult to bestow the title of Marvel’s best when one has an issue of Mark Waid and Marcos Martin’s Daredevil in front of you. It’s also the cream of the Marvel crop, but for completely different reasons than Iron Man. Whereas that title derives strength from its real-world political and economic elements, Daredevil is firmly entrenched in the wonder and kitsch of the Marvel Universe. Whereas Iron Man boasts photorealistic, detailed visuals, DD is more about style, simplicity and design. That’s not to say DD isn’t as sharp or inventive. Waid’s script is smart and compelling, and Martin’s innovative layouts and Ditko-esque figures are among the finest examples of comic art being published today. Another advantage to Daredevil (to which its armored-hero brother can’t lay claim) is it’s unfolding quietly in its own isolated corner of the Marvel Universe, untouched by events and sales-driven plotting.

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Mettle-urgy

Variant coverInvincible Iron Man #510
“Demon, Part 1: The Beast in Me”
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Salvador Larroca (regular edition)/Mike Choi (variant)
Editor: Alejandro Arbona
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Every time a new issue of Invincible Iron Man was released during the course of Marvel’s recent Fear Itself crossover event, I’d kick myself for failing to have the title removed from my pull list at the local comic shop. The crossover completely derailed the socio-economic spin writer Matt Fraction brought to the super-hero-genre subject matter. What was one of Marvel’s best titles (if not the best, period) was reduced to a series of vignettes from a bombastic but ultimately aimless event. From a creative standpoint, Iron Man went from being a tremendous success to a tremendous disappointment. This is the first issue post-Fear Itself, but with the “Shattered Heroes” branding and the ongoing presence of Fear Itself elements, I didn’t have high hopes; nevertheless, I figured I’d give the book one last chance give the plotlines are once again standing up on their own. I’m pleased I did.

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Point Less

Variant coverPoint One #1
Writers: Ed Brubaker, Jeph Loeb, David Lapham, Chris Yost, Fred van Lente, Matt Fraction & Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Javier Pulido, Ed McGuinness, Roberto De la Torre, Ryan Stegman, Salvador Larroca, Terry Dodson & Bryan Hitch
Inks: Javier Pulido, Dexter Vines, Roberto De la Torre, Michael Babinski, Salvador Larroca, Rachel Dodson & Paul Neary
Colors: Javier Rodriguez, Morry Hollowell, Lee Loughridge, Marte Gracia, Guru-eFX, Sonia Oback, Paul Mounts
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos, Comicraft & Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Adam Kubert (regular)/Nick Bradshaw (variant)
Editors: Lauren Sankovitch, Tom Brevoort, Jody Leheup, Stephen Wacker, Thomas Brennan & Alejandro Arbona
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $5.99 US

I haven’t been all that interested with Marvel’s product line as a whole as of late, as I’ve found too much of its output represents one long, drawn-out storyline with no end in sight. The first couple of issues of Fear Itself was what ultimately did it for me; there was no hint of plot. And since then, Marvel’s made it clear it’s creating product, not stories. With multiple spinoffs, Fear Itself seems to be the crossover that never ends. DC’s fresh start served as a much stronger hook for this particular super-hero comics reader. Still, there’s no denying Marvel has an impressive array of creative talent at its disposal, and it was that lineup that ultimately led me to second-guess my initial decision to avoid Marvel’s new “Point One” brand.

I should’ve stuck with my initial gut feeling.

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War Is Ellis

SA #17 variantSA #17Secret Avengers #s 17 & 18
“Beast Box” & “No Zone”
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artists: Kev Walker (#17)/David Aja & Raul Allen (#18)
Colors: Frank Martin (#17)
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Cover artist: John Cassaday
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US each

I stopped reading this series a few months ago. Despite my appreciation for previous writer Ed Brubaker’s work, I lost interest in the characters. But more importantly, I’ve lost interest generally in regular-sized comics priced at $3.99. I was lured back, though, and the reason can be summed up with two words: Warren Ellis. Every now and then, he revisits the super-hero genre that helped to establish him as one of the industry’s strongest writers (and beyond), and he almost always does something novel with the concepts. His recent brief stint on Secret Avengers hasn’t been an exception. The appeal here isn’t to sample Ellis’ take on Marvel’s various super-heroes. No, instead, they’re tools that allow him to explore science-fiction concepts that challenge the intellect and even send a couple of shivers up the reader’s spine. Adding to the experience is how Ellis has been teamed with some top artistic talent that are well matched to the subject matter of each individual story.

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And the Morales of the Story Is…

Ultimate Spider-Man v.2 #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Kaare Andrews (regular)/Sara Pichelli (variants)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Worldwide
Price: $3.99 US

When the first issue of the original incarnation of this title debuted, a number of people complained the title character didn’t really make an appearance. In fact, while Peter Parker was the star from the start, Spider-Man, in full costume, didn’t really appear until several issues later, and some argued the pace of the storytelling was too slow. I didn’t agree, viewing Bendis’ plotting choices refreshing. He took his time so he could focus on character, so he could really delve into Peter and explore who he is. It worked incredibly well, and it wasn’t long before some were calling it decompressed storytelling. The term took on a negative connotation later on, as some seemed to adopt the method to lengthen shorter stories for the collected-edition treatment. Well, Bendis keeps things fairly slow with this new title and new Spider-Man as well, and just as it did the first time, it pays off. Bendis crafts a lead character that mirrors Peter Parker in many ways, but he differs in so many as well. Of course, the strength of the writing comes as no surprise to those of us who’ve been following Bendis’ journey on Ultimate Spider-Man for more than a decade. What might surprise is the work artist Sara Pichelli delivers along with Bendis’ script. Her bright, crisp and convincing linework exhibits a lot of personality.

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Death, Be Not Proud

Captain Marvel: The Death of Captain Marvel hardcover collected edition
Writers: Jim Starlin, Steve Englehart & Doug Moench
Pencils: Jim Starlin & Pat Broderick
Inks: Jack Abel, Bruce Patterson & Jim Starlin
Colors: Jim Starlin, Carl Gafford, Glynis Wein, Ben Sean & Steve Oliff
Letters: Tom Orzechowski, Elaine Heinl, Diana Alberts & James Novak
Editors: Roy Thomas, Roger Stern & Al Milgrom (original)/Mark D. Beazley (collection)
Cover artist: Jim Starlin
Publisher: Marvel Worldwide
Price: $24.99 US

A couple of years after I started reading Marvel comics in the mid 1980s, I discovered its line of graphic novels, though today, they’d really been seen more as graphic novellas. They were squarebound, but about the size of a thin magazine. I think the first one I read was Revenge of the Living Monolith, and not long after, The Death of Groo. One of the best known of these graphic novellas was The Death of Captain Marvel, and while I wasn’t familiar with the character, the fact that it was about a hero’s struggle to come to grips with his approaching (and that it featured just about everyone in the Marvel Universe) appealed to me. I never ran across a copy though, so when I saw this reprint edition, collecting that novella and other material, on sale at a discount, I decided to check it out. What I discovered was that original graphic novella was as good as I thought it might be, but the supplementary material leading up to the character’s curtain call was confusing, contrived and somewhat disconnected from the real point of the book.

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