Category Archives: Reviews – Marvel

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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How the Mighty Have Fallen

Mighty Avengers #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Frank Cho
Colors: Jason Keith
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Cover artists: Frank Cho (regular) & Leinil Yu (variant)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.75 CAN

When I was a kid, it wasn’t long after I discovered the world of super-hero comics that I was drawn to the team books. I loved me them team books, even through my teens and into my adult years as a comics reader. I still love super-hero team books. I’m a sucker for a good team book. Unfortunately, Mighty Avengers #1 is not a good team book. It’s a good-looking super-hero comic, and Bendis’s story is fairly accessible. But in this first issue, the characters contradict themselves, react blindly for no good reason and speak to one another in such a high-speed, pitter-patter banter mode that it would give Aaron Sorkin a headache. There’s certainly some fun to be had here. Seeing the heroes take on giant monsters was amusing, and Bendis offers up an interesting take on Tony Stark. In the end, though, this new title reaches for the stars but fails to really take flight with its debut issue, and the cliffhanger doesn’t instill confidence regarding what’s to come.

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Designer Thugs

Marvel Adventures The Avengers #9
“A Not-So-Beautiful Mind”
Writer: Jeff Parker
Pencils: Juan Santacruz
Inks: Raul Fernandez
Colors: Impacto Studios
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artist: Cameron Stewart
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics/Marvel Adventures imprint
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN

I haven’t paid much attention to Marvel’s younger-readers line since the first couple of issues of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man and Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four. I dismissed the line as rehashing old stories I’d already read and striving for a simpler tone to appeal to the little tykes. A couple of months back, though, Cameron Stewart’s cover art for this particular comic book started making the rounds, and I, like many others, was immediately tickled and intrigued. I asked the manager at my local comic shop to add this issue to my pull list, and I’m pleased I did. Writer Jeff (Agents of Atlas) Parker brings the goofy storytelling of DC’s Silver Age to this unusual lineup of heroes and oddball villain to achieve a delightfully entertaining story that will appeal not only to young, new comics reads but longtime fans of the medium and super-hero genre as well. Despite the oversized craniums of the characters, this isn’t the most cerebral of super-hero stories, but it’s funny, energetic and clever in its own campy way.

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Tony Stark Sees It as Sectarian Violence

Civil War #6
Writer: Mark Millar
Pencils: Steve McNiven
Inks: Dexter Vines
Colors: Morry Hollowell
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: McNiven & Vines (regular) and Michael Turner (variant)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN

Marvel’s flagship event title of 2006 reaches its penultimate issue in the first week of 2007. The past couple of issues have sparked some controversy and angry reactions among some readers, but they haven’t appeared to have negatively impacted the sales of this limited series. As such, I expect the outraged and entertained alike will be on board for this sixth episode as well, and the good news is that the plotting in this issue shouldn’t elicit extreme reactions. On the other hand, the overall pacing of this issue likely won’t get much reaction of any kind. Still, there are a couple of smaller moments that stand out as strong, and Steve McNiven’s artwork will not disappoint. Ultimately, the theme of personal freedoms versus demands for security falls to the wayside as the series approaches its finale, making room for a big, colorful super-hero rumble. It’s a big genre crossover story, after all, so I suppose such a stereotypical conclusion is to be expected.

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Like Eliza Doolittle, Only in Fetish Gear

Wonder Man v.2 #1
“My Fair Super Hero”
Writer: Peter David
Pencils: Andrew Currie
Inks: Drew Hennessy
Colors: Rob Schwager
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Cover artists: Currie & Hennessy
Editor: John Barber
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN

I’m rather indifferent when it comes to the character of Wonder Man. I’ve read a few Avengers stories over the years that made good use of the character, but I attribute that to good writing, not any inherent potential in the character. Peter David is a writer whose work usually appeals to me, so I decided to give this new title a look. The first thing that strikes one about this Wonder Man mini-series is how much the art hurts the book. The figures are so distorted that the visuals completely distract one from the story. Andrew Currie’s linework isn’t at all palatable. And if that weren’t disappointing enough, the story itself is far from David’s finest work. The title character here is a complete cipher. There’s no hint of any real personality here. David’s riff on Pygmalion/My Fair Lady is the star here, and the idea fails to sustain my interest for a few pages, let alone a few issues.

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Breaking the Rules

Civil War #5
Writer: Mark Millar
Pencils: Steve McNiven
Inks: Dexter Vines
Colors: Morry Hollowell
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: McNiven/Michael Turner (variant)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN

The good news is that this issue doesn’t boast any kind of shocking development/ethical travesty such as the one in the previous issue that sent fans into fits of frenzy, angered over a gratuitous death and mischaracterization of longtime Marvel icons. The bad news is that the plotting in Civil War continues to disregard the actual premise behind the event. The emotion that arises from these circumstances makes for compelling drama in the super-hero genre, and there’s no denying that Steve McNiven’s meticulously rendered artwork is mesmerizing. Unfortunately, that same eye for detail is lacking in the plotting. It’s a shame, because there was a lot of potential in the original concept, but the story has now degenerated into heroes acting as villains for no good reason.

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