Category Archives: Reviews – Marvel

Feeling Jaded

Agents of Atlas #970th Ann. Fram VariantAgents of Atlas #s 9-11
“Terror of the Jade Claw” Parts 1-3
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artists: Dan Panosian, Gabriel Hardman & Paul Rivoche
Colors: Elizabeth Dismang & Sotocolor
Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Cover artists: Leinil Yu/Dave Johnson/Adi Granov
Editor: Nathan Cosby
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US per issue

This story arc may well be the best of this series thus far. Sure, the original Agents of Atlas limited series that spawned this ongoing was stronger, but “Terror of the Jade Claw” has made the most of the Atlas Foundation concept and it’s been handled more clearly in this arc than ever before. Maybe what’s really allowed this story arc to shine, though, is the fact that it’s not hindered by connections to other Marvel continuity. There’s no “Dark Reign” branding. There are no Avengers, no Atlantean cousins, no Hulks. Parker simply focuses on telling an Agents of Atlas story instead of a Marvel Universe story, and it allows the true strength of the premise and the color inherent in these characters to really come out.

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Let’s Gets Smashed

My retailer expressed some frustration and confusion last week when he was pulling newly released comics for his various standing accounts, and the source of his annoyance was Marvel and its Hulk comics. Until last week, there was one Hulk title: the unqualified Hulk, written by Jeph Loeb. But with the return of old numbering for Hulk comics with Incredible Hulk #600 this summer, the title pulled off a mitosis-like stunt, dividing into two separate ongoing series by different creative teams. Most of his customers interested in Hulk comics were just down for Hulk, even back when it was called Incredible Hulk (before morphing into Incredible Hercules. So ordering and filling accounts last week understandably became a bit of a headache.

I wondered, though… would reading said comics bring pain as well?

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Spidey Sense Isn’t the Only Thing Tingling

Variant coverAmazing Spider-Man #601
“Red-Headed Stranger: No Place Like Home”
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mario Alberti
Colors: Andres Mossa
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
“The Best Version of Myself”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Joe Quesada
Colors: Morry Hollowell
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: J. Scott Campbell/John Romita Sr. (variant cover)
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US

The good news is that this comic (still priced at $2.99, whew!) is a good value, featuring two decent Spidey stories by two writers who clearly understand the character. The bad news…

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Reborn on the Fourth of July

Reborn #1
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Butch Guice
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Hitch & Guice/John Cassaday/Alex Ross/Joe Quesada & Danny Miki
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I was looking for something topical to write about for the site for July 4, and this week’s release of this title (combined with the delay of a few days’ vacation) provided just the sort of subject matter for a review on U.S. Independence Day. Of course, the readers should really pay no attention to the title of this series or even the issue number. In reality, this is Captain America #601 (or #52, or whatever number scheme associated with the most recent incarnation of the regular Captain America title you prefer), as writer Ed Brubaker is simply continuing the story that he began with Captain America #1 in 2005. The plot feels natural and logical, so for regular Cap readers, it’ll prove satisfying in that regard. However, the nature of the story — the miraculous resurrection of a fallen super-hero — requires Brubaker to stray from espionage genre that was so much a part of the creative success of his run on Cap and to embrace cliches of the super-hero genre that don’t seem to merit the hullabaloo that Marvel’s making of this event.

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What He Does Isn’t Pretty

Wolverine: Weapon X #1
“The Adamantium Men, Part 1 of 5”
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Ron Garney
Colors: Jason Keith
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Ron Garney/Adam Kubert/Olivier Coipel/Alan Davis
Editor: John Barber
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I didn’t enjoy this comic book at all, but honestly, I can’t blame the writer, the artist, the editor or the publisher. It’s my fault, you see. For some reason, I expected to find something a little different, something a little new. I’d heard good things about Jason Aaron’s Marvel work, and since I’ve enjoyed Ron Garney’s efforts in the past, I figured this newly launched series might something I’d appreciate. But hey, it’s a new Wolverine comic subtitled Weapon X. I’m at a loss to explain why I’d expect anything more than the typical blood, bravado and black ops that have been part and parcel of the title character for the past couple of decades.

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Late Edition… Really Late

Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk #3
Writer: Damon Lindelof
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Leinil Francis Yu (regular)/Adam Kubert (variant)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US

It’s been so long since the original publication of the first two issues of Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk that the series has taken on almost a legendary status in the world of delayed super-hero comics (though Kevin Smith’s perpetually unfinished Daredevil: The Target will no doubt be seen as the King of Comics That Never Were). The biggest selling point of this study in excess was that it’s penned by Damon Lindelof, co-creator of TV’s Lost. When the series began, the show was at its zenith of popularity, and while it’s still going strong, the bloom is off the rose a bit. As a result, readers and retailers are left with loud comic book set in a shared continuity that’s in the process of being dismantled in Jeph Loeb and David Finch’s poorly received Ultimatum. There is some entertainment to be gleaned from these pages, but I can’t help but wonder what the point of the exercise is now.

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The Best Defence is a Good Offence

Hulk #10
“Love & Death”
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Ed McGuinness
Inks: Dexter Vines
Colors: Guru eFX
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artists: Ed McGuinness (regular covers)/Arthur Adams (variant)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Jeph Loeb’s had a rough go of it as of late, critically speaking. His run on Wolverine was universally panned. The same for Ultimates 3 and Ultimatum, for the most part. While his latest efforts at Marvel have been successes on the sales charts, they’ve been creatively flawed, at best. But then again, there’s Hulk. The introduction of the Red Hulk and the excesses of this action-oriented series haven’t represented the most sophisticated in comics storytelling, but they have been undeniably entertaining. This latest story arc is incredibly contrived, unnecessarily decompressed and rather forced, truth be told, but it’s also damn cool and fun.

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Guts in the Machine

War Machine #1
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Leonardo Manco
Colors: Jay David Ramos
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Leonardo Manco (regular edition) & Mike Deodato (variant)
Editor: Bill Rosemann
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While one could argue that a darker tone in Greg Pak stories isn’t a new thing (see The Incredible Hulk, World War Hulk), with War Machine, he explores much grittier terrain than he has in the past. Sure, Pak writes a bloody barbarian story in Skaar, Son of Hulk, but what makes War Machine harsher in tone is the fact that it’s much more grounded in reality, even though it stars an armor-clad cyborg. While this new title clearly has its roots in the Marvel Universe, it reads like an independent title with super-hero trappings, yet something that’s still limited by a larger brand. Pak’s premise portrays the title character as something of a Punisher type with a focus on war crimes rather than street-level corruption. Given Pak’s track record and stories that led up to this new ongoing series, I expect we’ll see more depth in James Rhodes’s character in forthcoming issues. I hope so, as there wasn’t much to be found in this inaugural issue. I know I sound overly negative about this first issue, and I don’t mean to be. Pak and artist Leonardo Manco offer up an intense, kinetic opening chapter, but their creative child’s initial steps are awkward ones at times.

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Reign Drops Keep Falling on My Head

Dark Reign: New Nation #1
Cover artist: Daniel Acuna
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Marvel Comics hasn’t had the best track record as of late when it comes to its big event comics; well, sales-wise, they’ve been successes, but creatively, they’ve faltered (in my humble opinion, of course). But on occasion, what flows from one of those awkwardly paced stories seems to make the excess and din of the event worthwhile. Case in point: Civil War. Though it started off strong, it lost its way by the end. But in the wake of that event, Marvel released a handful of good to great comics. The Order, Avengers: The Initiative, The Invincible Iron Man and a new direction for Captain America Civil War served as the setup for all of them (and probably a couple more I’m forgetting about at this moment).

Secret Invasion struck me and others as an exercise in futility. Rather than a cohesive story, it was a marketing stunt, designed to get consumers to buy more comics and to continue buying them by transforming into another event, namely “Dark Reign.” But this one-shot demonstrates that again, some interesting tangents can arise even from a disappointing effort. I have a minor concern that this one-shot simply reprints material from the various new titles it’s promoting, but I’ve been led to believe that’s not the case, that these short stories are original, designed specifically for this special. Now, given that this is clearly a promotional effort, I’m surprised Marvel didn’t offer it at a friendlier price point. However, the page count and quality of the storytelling won’t leave you feeling that you didn’t get your money’s worth.

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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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