Category Archives: Reviews – Marvel

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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A Shot in the Dark

Bullet Points #1
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist/Colors/Cover artist: Tommy Lee Edwards
Letters: John Workman
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Elseworlds. What If?. “Imaginary” stories. Alternate-continuity plots have been a staple of shared-universe super-hero comics for decades, even before the Silver Age. These stories tend to be a payoff for diehard fans of the characters themselves, people who want to see a different spin on familiar figures. I know I enjoy such stories, as long as they’re executed well. Sometimes, the emphasis is on action and fun, and at others, the writer’s aim is to bring a darker, more mature tone to the characters, or perhaps a tragic one. Bullet Points definitely falls into the latter category, but the question readers will want answer is whether or not it’s executed well. Straczynski’s script is intriguing but hasn’t hooked me yet. Fortunately, Tommy Lee Edwards’s artwork always hits the mark.

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The Cure for What Ails You

Doctor Strange: The Oath #1
“The Oath, Chapter One”
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils/Cover artist: Marcos Martin
Inks: Alvaro Lopez
Colors: Javier Rodriguez
Letters: Willie Schubert
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN

With Brian K. (Runaways, Y: The Last Man) Vaughan listed as the writer on this limited series, there was no way I was going to miss the book. But to be honest, I didn’t expect much more than an entertaining supernatural, super-hero yarn. As I made my way through this debut issue, that’s exactly what I found. Vaughan offers some solid drama and sharp humor, and artist Marcos Martin captures the same kind of vibe that the original and ultimate Dr. Strange artist — Steve Ditko — brought to the character four decades ago. So figured I was definitely getting my money’s worth… and then I hit the last page and realized I got so much more.

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Hush Little Baby, Don’t You Cry…

Astonishing X-Men #17
Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist/Cover artist: John Cassaday
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN

Everyone daydreams about his or her future. About the perfect job, the perfect mate, the perfect life. For some, it involves riches and wild times that never end. A few years ago, that’s what it meant to me. Now, I’m in a great relationship, and I was honestly surprised when her dreams of a small family and a comfortable home became my own. At first, I wanted it because she did, and I wanted to make her dream come true. But slowly but surely, I started thumbing through the paper’s real-estate insert of my own accord. I started taking notice of babies and of the possibilities that lay ahead. The opening scene in this comic book delves into such a promise, into such a dream, and it explores the pain of someone using that dream against you. Whedon offers up an exciting, well-balanced script full of emotion and drama with a touch of humor, all brought to life in convincing detail by artist John Cassaday.

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Cloning Around

Ultimate Spider-Man #100
“Clone Saga, Part 4”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils/Cover artist: Mark Bagley
Inks: John Dell & Drew Hennessy
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.75 CAN

One hundred issues in six years, all by the same creative team. It’s actually quite an accomplishment on several levels, especially in the context of the comic-book industry today. Bendis and Bagley took the title character back to his roots as a regular teenage kid who finds himself in way over his head on a regular basis and added to it more modern sensibilities. Bendis built a solid foundation for the series by keeping Peter Parker’s feet planted firmly on the ground, so it’s unfortunate that this milestone gets away from that strength.

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A British Invasion

Union Jack v.2 #1
“Enemies of the Crown”
Writer: Christos N. Gage
Pencils/Cover artist: Mike Perkins
Inks: Andrew Hennessy
Colors: Laura Villari
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Andy Schmidt
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN

I stopped following Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run a couple of issues ago. Though I enjoyed the Winter Soldier subplot, the whole Invaders story arc struck me as just a rehash of past stories (as did the Cosmic Cube’s incorporation into the plot earlier in the series). As a result, my interest in this new Union Jack limited series was somewhat minimal, but when I heard about writer Christos Gage’s use of Israeli and Arab heroes in the story, my interest was piqued. I’m pleased I picked this book up. Politics are front and centre in this story, not the title character’s history. Gage has developed a plot that allows for the color and fun of super-hero action with the tension and intellect of a political thriller. I was also pleased to find that one needn’t have read recent issues of Cap (or any past Invaders comics) to follow this story.

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