Category Archives: Reviews – Marvel

Never Ending, Ever Event-ing

Secret Invasion #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Leinil Francis Yu
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists:
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Back in February 2007, I wrote the following about the final issue of another Marvel event book, Civil War: “We’re missing an ending, which is something that happened at the end of House of M as well.” After making my way through this oddly tidy and rushed final chapter of Secret Invasion, I was left with the feeling that this story lacked an ending as well. In fact, it really feels as though the larger narrative of the Marvel Universe just keeps going on and on and on. Ultimately, if Secret Invasion #8 does anything, it provides a long overdue ending to Civil War, but even that seems like more of a footnote than anything else. The main purpose of the entire series (and the long-running Hood subplot in New Avengers) seems to be to set up yet another new status quo for the Marvel Universe, and while it’s intriguing, it’s far from inspired. A lot of super-hero comics readers have complained as of late of event fatigue. After reading this comic book, it seems as though some creators might have reached that same point.

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The Loeb Theatre

Ultimatum #1
“Chapter One: Three Kings”
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: David Finch
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: Steve Firchow
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artists: Finch & Miki (regular cover)/Ed McGuinness & Mark Farmer (variant)
Editor: Ralph Macchio & Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.50 CAN

When Marvel first unveiled its Ultimate brand, I was on board, as where thousands and thousands of other readers. By relaunching its familiar properties from scratch in a separate continuity, it freed creators up and opened the door to new possibilities and unpredictable twists. The Ultimate line was Marvel’s biggest cash cow for a while, but the bloom is off the rose somewhat these days. For a while, I had every Ultimate book on my pull list (I’m down to just Ultimate Spider-Man these days). Ultimatum is either Marvel’s move to end the line (unlikely, as it still seems to bring in some profits) or to re-energize the brand. This first of five issues certainly does a good job of establishing the world-altering stakes of the plot, but really, it just serves as an introduction to the most familiar of Marvel’s super-heroes in this particular shared universe.

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The Tangled Web They Weave

Amazing Spider-Man #568
“New Ways to Die, Part One: Back With Vengeance”
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Klaus Janson
Colors: Dean White
“Fifth Stage”
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Adi Granov

Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: John Romita Jr./Alex Ross (regular covers) and John Romita Sr. (variant)
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.05 CAN

I checked out the first issue of the new thrice-monthly Amazing Spider-Man in January, and I didn’t find it strong enough to lure me to read further issues in the new direction and format. However, with the debut of a new storyline and the addition of a couple of strong creators (John Romita Jr. and Mark Waid) to the creative team with this issue, I decided to give it another look. I’m glad I did. While the creators haven’t reinvented the wheel or anything, I can’t deny that I was entertained by and interested in the story. This is a solid super-hero story that stays true to the traditions of the title character, but what really held my attention was the shakeup in the status quo of newspaper scene in Spidey’s New York.

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Origin of the Species

newuniversal: 1959 #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Greg Scott & Kody Chamberlain
Colors: Val Staples
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover artist: Brandon Peterson
Editor: John Barber
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.05 CAN

Kieron Gillen impressed those of us who read his Phonogram from Image Comics, but his assignment on this one-shot from Marvel Comics really served as his introduction to a much wider North American comics-reading audience. So how did he do? Well, not only did he offer an intense period piece set on the fringes of a burgeoning super-hero continuity, thereby proving his mettle to readers unfamiliar with his work, he’s provided a great boost for Marvel’s newuniversal brand. If this story of paranoia, fear and the unfortunate ethics of evolution doesn’t make you want to immerse yourself in Warren Ellis’s retooled vision of the “New Universe,” nothing will. Gillen provides a story that does more than follow in step with Ellis’s work; it exceeds it. It’s too bad that this will likely only appeal to existing newuniversal readers. It’s a shame Marvel didn’t offer this book at a lower price point, even as a loss leader, as it would no doubt have ignited a great deal of interest in Ellis’s first newuniversal limited series, the new newuniversal: shockfront title and the further spinoffs set for release in the months ahead.

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Old Dog, No New Tricks

Wolverine #66
“Old Man Logan, Part 1”
Writer: Mark Millar
Pencils: Steve McNiven
Inks: Dexter Vines
Colors: Morry Hollowell
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: McNiven & Vines (regular cover)/Michael Turner & Mark Roslan (alternate cover)
Editor: John Barber
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.05 CAN

For a longtime fan of American super-hero comics, I can’t deny that Millar’s story of a broken hero and a dystopian vision of the future of the Marvel Universe is entertaining. It’s designed for the devoted super-hero fan. The problem is that it’s hardly the most unique story, and I don’t just mean for Marvel Comics historically. It’s only been a few years since Wolverine: The End was released, and that’s just one of a litany of alternate-future stories that have been all too common as of late. There are a couple of moments and visuals in this comic that will tickle the fancy of fans of comics continuity and history, but ultimately, there’s nothing new or different here to set this story arc apart from others that came before it. On the other hand, I am pleased that Marvel is publishing these focused, special story arcs from top-name talent in its ongoing titles rather than milking its readership with yet another limited series (not that Marvel doesn’t milk its readership with additional Wolverine titles).

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Man of Steel

This week marks the debut of not one but two Iron Man titles. One is an ongoing series, and despite the fact that I’ve not been interested in the regular Iron Man series for some time now, the talent involved in this second title is more than enough to draw me in. The other new title is a limited series crafted by the Iron Man movie’s director and a Marvel artist who also served as an artistic/design consultant for the flick as well. One of these comics is a real delight, challenging and clever while maintaining a strong sense of drama, both external and internal. The other is more of a fleeting diversion, not so satisfying but not wholly disappointing either.

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Secret Satans

Secret Invasion #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Leinil Yu
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Gabriele Dell’Otto, Leinil Yu & Steve McNiven
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.05 CAN

That’s it?

After all the talk of closely guarded secrets, of paranoid powerhouses and reported efforts on Marvel’s part to keep spoilers from leaking on the Internet, we’re faced with a story that fails to surprise, shock or even rock the boat all that much. Bendis’s script is a bit awkward, given how much exposition is needed and the diversity of characters that play a role in the story, but given the scope of the event, it’s understandable with the first issue. Where the story goes astray is with the predictability of the big “revelations” about who’s a Skrull and who ain’t. I did enjoy the art. The loose, sketchy work Leinil Yu’s been doing on New Avengers is replaced by much more defined, intense visuals that serve the atmosphere of the plot fairly well.

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The Dusty Dozen

The Twelve #1
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Chris Weston
Inks: Garry Leach
Colors: Chris Chuckry
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artist: Kaare Andrews
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.05 CAN

Ever since I started reading super-hero comics in the late 1970s and discovered DC’s concept of Earth-2, I’ve been fascinated by costumed characters from the medium’s Golden Age. I didn’t start reading Marvel titles until the mid 1980s, so I have a greater familiarity with DC’s classic characters (as well as those they’ve acquired over the years, such as the Fawcett and Quality super-heroes). I’ve since discovered and enjoyed many stories featuring some of Marvel’s Golden Age properties, but those spotlighted in this new title are new names to me. I relished the opportunity to get to know more ideas from the past. J. Michael Straczynski’s plot handles these characters as being literally out of their own time, and he manages to balance the silliness and oddities of 1940s comics storytelling with a more modern sensibility. However, I came away from the issue with the sense I’d read something that was, unfortunately, almost wholly unoriginal.

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Ultimately Disappointing

Ultimates 3 #1
“Sex, Lies, & DVD”
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist/Cover artist: Joe Madureira
Colors: Christian Lichtner
Letters: Richard Starkings
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.05 CAN

Earlier this week, I watched a climactic episode of Heroes on NBC. Clearly taking a lot of cues from super-hero comics, it was thoroughly entertaining, balancing darker, more modern cynicism with instances of heroism and idealism. The episode was credited as being written by Jeph Loeb, and while I haven’t been wild about his recent comics work, the Heroes episode renewed my faith in the genre writer. So it was with cautious optimism that I approached Ultimates 3 #1, despite my general disinterest in the artwork of Joe Madureira. It didn’t take many pages for that cautious optimism to turn to disappointment. This is only a five-issue limited series, as I understand it, and in the first issue, Loeb provides us with no actual plot. His script doesn’t jibe with Marvel’s Ultimate continuity, and all of the “heroes” are off-putting. Even if Loeb and Madureira didn’t face the daunting task of following in the footsteps of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, this comic book would have come up wanting.

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Gerber Babies

Steve GerberThis week saw the debut of two disparate Marvel limited series — the latest incarnations of Omega: The Unknown and Howard the Duck. But these properties have more in common than a publisher. Not only are both resurrected creatures of the 1970s, but they’re the brainchildren of one particular writer: Steve Gerber. Oddly enough, Gerber is not involved in either of these two relaunches, which is fodder for another column altogether (for someone more in the know about the politics of comics publishing than myself).

With or without Gerber’s participation, the question is: are these two oddball Marvel comics three bucks a pop?

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Day Traitor

Amazing Spider-Man #544
“One More Day, Part 1”
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Joe Quesada
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: Richard Isanove
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Joe Quesada/Marko Djurdjevic
Editor: Axel Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.75 CAN

Marvel gets its big Spider-Man event of 2007 underway with this issue of Amazing Spidey. There’s a problem, though… it seems as though this storyline has been underway for some time already. Writer J. Michael Straczynski fails to advance the plot in any meaningful way, making for a frustrating read for those who have been following the series. Straczynski and Marvel editorial seem far too focused on trying to make this Spider-Man story as plausible as possible, and that drive for realism just isn’t necessary. Quesada’s exaggerated approach to the artwork doesn’t suit the grounded tone for which the writer strives. He handles the larger-than-life qualities of super-heroes well, but when it comes to portraying the emotional turmoil of people rather than super-people, his effort falls flat.

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Assenting and Dissenting Order

The Order #1
“1: Henry” or “The Next Right Thing”
Writer: Matt Fraction
Pencils: Barry Kitson
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Dean White
Letters: Artmonkeys Studios
Cover artists: Barry Kitson/Steve McNiven & Dexter Vines
Editor: Warren Simons
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN

The Order is the latest in what sometimes seems like a long, unending line of “Initiative” titles from Marvel spinning out of the events of its Civil War crossover event, but it stands out as rather unique as its older brothers and sisters. The reason: it really doesn’t read much like a Marvel Universe comic. Its links to Marvel continuity are tangential. Instead, the book reads like a super-hero title designed to stand on its own or fit into a less developed, newer super-hero universe such as the world of Wildstorm. In any case, the completely new cast of characters, Matt Fraction’s writing and Barry Kitson’s art are more than enough reason to get any fan of solid comics storytelling to take a look. Given the completely new characters introduced here, it’s not surprising that Fraction’s story is accessible; what little one needs to know of Marvel continuity to appreciate the story is spelled out clearly in the script. Visually, the varied designs combined with an effort to give the Order members a uniform look grab the eye. Ultimately, though entertaining, The Order is actually hampered more than helped by its home in the Marvel Universe in terms of storytelling, though the Marvel Comics banner no doubt ensures this take on super-heroes reaches a wider audience than it would have otherwise.

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Thunderstruck

Thor v.3 #1
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Olivier Coipel
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Coipel & Morales/Michael Turner
Editors: Warren Simons
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN

Fan reaction to the cloned version of Thor that turned up in Civil War was almost universally negative, and that’s putting it mildly. Nevertheless, “Clor” may have been a smart move in one regard: fans’ hatred for the false version of Marvel’s thunder-god hero demonstrated how much they missed the character and fanned the flames of demand for his return. Well, his return has arrived… or at least it arrives eventually. Writer J. Michael (Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man) Straczynski draws out the process for no good reason, making for a somewhat tedious read. Fortunately, Olivier Coipel’s stunning artwork distracts from the decompressed script. The artist captures the grandeur and magic of a story of a god, and he also brings a dark look to the visuals that adds an air of maturity and mystery to the book.

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Extinction Agenda

newuniversal #6
“Tumble”
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist/Cover artist: Salvador Larroca
Colors: Jason Keith
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Axel Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN

I was one of maybe five fans of Marvel’s New Universe line back in the 1980s, so I anticipated Warren Ellis’s revival of the brand for a new series. However, my reaction to the first issue was lukewarm. In my capsule review of the first issue, I wrote, “As I made my way through this first issue, I was surprised to find that he really hasn’t tinkered all that much with the properties … Both Star Brand and Justice don’t seem changed all that much …” Fortunately, that hasn’t proven to be the case in subsequent issues, and this latest episode is full of the kind of edgy, political and imaginative scenarios Ellis does best.

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Boot Camp

Avengers: The Initiative #1
“Happy Accidents”
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colors: Daniele Rudoni
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artist: Jim Cheung
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN

Civil War certainly was a sales success for Marvel Comics, but it certainly wasn’t a critical darling. Fortunately, there seems to be a payoff from the crossover event when it comes to the stories that have spun off from it. Avengers: The Initiative approaches the Marvel Universe from a military standpoint, and the premise is actually one that makes sense in the context of the 21st century. This project will prove to be a turning point in artist Stefano Caselli’s career in comics, as he offers up his slickest, strongest work to date. The book is also filled with a wide variety of colorful super-hero characters, from lesser known but established Marvel heroes to new creations. Writer Dan Slott’s love of Marvel’s history shines through here, but more importantly, this comic book showcases his ability to craft strong, character-oriented moments. The characters, not the crossover, take the spotlight in this first issue that will no doubt hook readers and have them coming back for more.

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