Marvel News & Views

PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKES:

Following the earth-shattering events of Crisis on Earth-411, we are back because YOU, THE FANS, demanded it! We’ve had to suffer through our own private Identity Crisis to get here, what with Widro setting up shop at Inside Pulse and us comic monkeys wishing to avoid comparisons to that other Pulse that we know and love. Ergo, we give you our very own domain – The Nexus! We’re all still here to provide you with your regular dose of juicy comic goodness, only now we’ve been promoted.

Allow me to get the obligatory yet heartfelt ass-kissing out of the way first of all. I am so, so very proud to be a part of the Nexus. When news of the launch of Widro’s new site became common knowledge, the entire staff of 411 Comics moved over to it as one. All of us. Daron and Ben felt unquestionably loyal to Widro, and the rest of us felt unquestionably loyal to them in return. There was never any doubt about it, really. We just all wanted to stay together. I still consider myself to be a relative newcomer to this place, having only joined the staff at the turn of the year, and the first thing that became apparent upon initially joining was that there was a genuine camaraderie here. People from all walks of life, from all over the globe had come together to celebrate their love for comic books, with this shared passion creating a community spirit of our very own. There is no pettiness, there are no egos, there is only a shared desire to try our hardest to make our site as good as it can possibly be – then even better still. This should become even more apparent in the weeks to come as our talented staff strives to bring you the best comic book reviews, reports, columns and opinions that they can. We are planning a lot of exciting new features that will be making their debut in the weeks to come, in addition to all your old favourites from the old site, so feel free to stick around in the Nexus for a while and let us all know what you think.

As for this week’s MNV, we’ve got some significant developments regarding the status of Marvel’s future movie adaptations, a peek at the state of play in the newly-dubbed ‘Supreme Universe’, and a whole load of previews including the latest and upcoming issues of the Avengers (with more deaths!), Marvel Team-Up (yes, it’s coming back!), Spider-Man (the bad one!), Gambit (sure!), Madrox (better than you’d think!), District X (buy this book!) and the Incredible Hulk (the big reveal is here!).

First of all, here’s an e-mail from one Paul Beasley regarding the best Marvel title you probably aren’t reading at the moment – Mystique.

“Why can nobody (your good self included) see the oh-so-obvious twist in Mystique? The Identity of The Quiet Man is hardly M. Night Shyamalan-level in terms of “Whoa – didn’t see that one coming”-ness. Think for a second:

1) This person’s agent always turns up in places when no-one should know that Mystique is there (I know they teased us that Shortpack is also playing the double-agent game, but even he doesn’t always know where she is).
2) This person obviously has a vested interest in Mystique.
3) This person’s relationship with her aforementioned agent is a little bit over-friendly (certainly in the way the agent talks to them) for them to be a man, even a Quiet one.
4) It’s been building up to be a “really big” twist.

Hmmmm…….. Knows things are happening when they should have no way of knowing; connection to Mystique; possibly not a man at all; big twist – like maybe someone presumed dead?

It’s DESTINY. It’s so obvious they might have just called her that from the start. The final hint is that X-Treme X-Men stopped chasing the Destiny Diaries around the same time that Mystique started (can’t spoil the surprise by constantly reminding people of Destiny!!).

Personally I think it’s a shame, because they handled Destiny’s death really well. But it can help with turning Mystique towards hero-status by having her oldest friend act as her conscience and calming influence.

Anyway, I just thought I’d explain this for the un-enlightened. Good job on picking up the reigns on MN&V. Keep up the good stuff.”

Good job on picking up on the ID of the Quiet Man. I can’t believe that Destiny didn’t register with me until reading your e-mail. You’re right, it is obvious, isn’t it? And didn’t Xavie’s son Legion have visions of her at one point? That might have something to do with why she is in hiding and trying to lead Mystique away from the professor… Nonetheless, all shall be revealed this October!

Once again, I implore anybody with even a passing interest in reading good comics to check out this series. You can order the first trade, Drop Dead Gorgeous, here, and the second trade, Tinker, Tailor, Mutant, Spy, here. Try it if you like Alias (the TV show), the movie version of Mystique, or The Bourne Identity/Supremacy. Just be sure to do so quickly and show your support for McKeever (and, on earlier issues, Vaughan… VAUUUUGHAAAAN!) before it is too late. For crying out loud, the last issue only sold 526 more copies than the recently cancelled Thanos!

But on with the news…


NEWS & VIEWS:

Blade: Miscellany
Jessica Biel has been busy kicking ass if not chewing bubblegum on the set of the third instalment in Marvel’s first genuinely successful movie franchise, Blade: Trinity. As reported on Sci-Fi Wire, Biel’s rigorous archery training for the role of Abigail Whistler (yes, the daughter of Kris Kristofferson’s character), one of the human vampire hunters known as the Nightstalkers, actually paid off. In fact, she wound up using it to destroy a $300,000 camera!

According to writer-director David Goyer, “We’ve got this camera aimed at her, [and] she had learned how to shoot the arrow very well. She was 30 or 40 feet away, but she was also up in the air three stories. And all the crew were behind safety [glass]. The only thing that was uncovered was literally a 2-inch by 2-inch thing right in front of the lens. We said, ‘aim for the camera!’ and BAM! Right down the lens, into the housing and into the camera. Destroyed a $300,000 camera. We caught it on film and we’re going to put it on the DVD. It’s in slow motion, she shoots, looks badass and everything like that. There’s this pause, and then she’s like ‘YEAAAH!’ It was just right in the lens! It embedded like 8 inches.“

Mm, how method! She certainly gets one-over on Kiera Knightley’s Guinevere at any rate. It also makes me wonder if she put the same level of commitment into her role in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre… Don’t ever go around to her house for a barbecue, guys. Anyway, to see stills from the film check out the following link to Coming Soon. Not only do you get to see the always-impressive sight of Wesley Snipe in full-on Blade mode, but you get to see the quite lovely Ms. Biel and her even lovelier bum. Yay! Also, when did Van Wilder get so tough?? The hell?!?

This just in, AICN has an interview with Goyer himself regarding how he sees the future of the franchise itself, what he makes of Jessica Biel as a movie star, his struggles to choose one of the multiple endings to the film for theatrical release, and his views on the state of DC’s movie adaptations. He also dismisses any notion of being involved with the Iron Man film. Check it out, it’s a good read. Here’s a sneak peek:

There are a lot of rumours about the ending, none of which are completely right. I’ve seen a lot of people saying that he dies, or that they changed the ending so that he doesn’t die. I don’t want to give anything away, obviously, but I love it when I read stuff online that is put forward with such complete (authority), and then it becomes canon because other websites pick it up and you just sit there, shake your head and say, “No, you don’t know. That’s not even remotely what’s happening.” But there are definitely different endings that we’ve been playing around with, some versions of which will show up on the DVD as deleted scenes. We’re doing a third test in the coming weeks, and that will be the ending that was scripted. We’ve never tested that ending, so we’ll see how that goes. There were also a lot of differences of opinion as to – and, unfortunately, until the movie comes out, I can’t fully reveal this. But there was a lot of internal dissent between different parties as to what way to go with the ending.”

The Fantastic Five Completed
In the most unexpected piece of casting news in living memory, it was recently announced that none other than Julian McMahon will be playing Dr. Doom in the upcoming Fantastic Four movie. There are many different sites reporting the story, so feel free to choose your own. Personally, I liked Empire. In case you don’t know much about him, here’s a couple of quick titbits – no, he is not related to the WWE McMahons and yes, he did used to be married to Dannii Minogue. In the spirit of keeping links to hot babes throughout this news section, you can check out Dannii’s official website here. Anyway, McMahon got his big break playing a plastic surgeon on the TV series Nip/Tuck, which is quite ironic considering that he will be spending the majority of his time in this film under a layer of heavy prosthetics and armour to bring Victor von Doom to life on the big screen. After the casting news broke, the fanboys came out in their droves to bemoan the lack of a Ray Liotta, a Tim Robbins or a Jason Isaacs, all of whom were linked with the role at one point. Still, these are the same people who complained about Michael Keaton as Batman, Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man and practically every other piece of casting known to comic book-kind. With the sole exceptions of Halle Berry and Jack Black, they are always proven wrong. I think we should just all give Tim Story and his cast the benefit of the doubt for now until we can pass judgement on the completed movie itself. McMahon for one seems to have the right idea when he says “I like the opportunity to play characters who have these dark sides but make the audience empathise with them. You want them to think there is some kind of sweeter, softer side to it.” Yup, that sounds about right for Doom. Meanwhile, over on Sci-Fi Wire, McMahon’s future nemesis, Ioan Gruffudd (and how long will it take me to memorise how that name is spelt??) says that “I think the beginning of the story is us as real people, our friendship. They are real people. You can associate with them. They’re just in this incredible situation.“ I’m looking forward to it, in particular the mooted Thing/Doom showdown in the New York subway…

Buh-Bye, Berry!
From the BBC website, Halle Berry herself said that “after playing Storm in X-Men and now Catwoman, I think my comic book hero days are probably over.”

From Star magazine, as quoted on ComiX-Fan, “if Halle was going to be in [X-Men 3], she wanted the focus of the film to be on her. She price herself right out.”

So in conclusion, no more Halle flippin’ Berry stinking up comic book movie franchises! Yay! Seriously, she has to be the most over-rated actress going today. Plus, whoever decided that she was so good looking? She’s nothing particularly special. She’s certainly not as attractive as her X-adversary Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. That was a tenuous link to keep the babe theme going but whatever, check the evidence for yourself…

To Pun Or Not To Pun?
Stamos of course starred in The Punisher as well as both the X-Men movies, which gives me a nice little segue into the possibility of a sequel to the rather uninspired action flick starring Thomas Jane in the lead role. In fact, it was so uninspired that it hasn’t even managed to hit UK theatres yet and won’t for another month. I was able to get my hands on a copy through the wonders of torrents however, and was neither pleasantly surprised nor terribly disappointed with the film. Sure, the first act was absolutely awful and you’d be far better off spending your money on some of Garth Ennis’ trades rather than the film, but it was passably daft entertainment. It would certainly make for acceptable viewing when you have a few mates round and some alcoholic beverages of choice. Plus, the fight scene between Thomas Jane and Kevin Nash is just absolutely wild! In short, while nowhere near the pinnacle of Spider-Man 2, it’s a long, long way from Batman & Robin.

Anyway, in an interview with About.com for his new movie, Slander, Jane turned his attentions to the possibility of a sequel. As reported last week, Marvel and Lion’s Gate are waiting to see how well the DVD sells before they make that decision. Incidentally, as seen on Newsarama, when the DVD is released on the 7th September then for a limited time only it will ship with an exclusive prequel comic book written by Ennis, pencilled by Steve Dillon and inked by Jimmy Palmiotti. The book will be set in the movie continuity and show what happened to Frank Castle in the build-up to the start of the film itself. What’s more, 10,000 of these comics will have a variant cover signed by the three creators involved. You can see the regular cover by Timothy Bradstreet here. But back to Jane and his ideas for any potential sequel…

There’s a pretty good storyline in Circle of Blood. I like taking storylines from the comics and running them together. It would be great if Circle of Blood was one of them. And again, there’s some pretty good stuff from the War Journal stuff. I’m hoping that number two is called The Punisher War Zone. Like we could do The Punisher: Circle of Blood or The Punisher War Zone. I think that’d be fun.”

As for the first film, the always open and honest Jane had the following to say:

I like what it did and I like the place that it ended up having. My expectations for the film were not exceeded and I wasn’t let down either. I didn’t ever think that this was going to be a blockbuster film because of the nature of the material and the brutality of it, and the conditions of what we’re living in today. If this film had come out in the ‘70s, it would be a whole other story. But today we’re just not as a massive culture, we’re not into that. And I knew that. And that’s why I did it. These movies, there needs to be a market and what we’re seeing in films today is the overbloatation of selling Happy Meals and rides and **** behind a film. Which is fine and there’s a place for that and more power to them, but what’s happening is the balloon is getting so big at the top that there’s nothing in the middle. It’s either that or you’re watching internet porn. There’s very little in the middle. What’s in the middle is being neglected. The Punisher was made for a specific audience and it catered to that audience and that audience got what they paid for.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself, mate. Well, except for the word “overbloatation.” Anyway, the chance for another Punisher movie is now firmly in the hands of you, the fans. If you would like to see the character get another crack at the big screen to try and tweak the format slightly and improve on the first film’s performance, or indeed if you thought the first film was just great and want to see more of the same, then get busy pre-ordering that DVD. Hell, you can even write to Marvel itself and try to make your voice heard. After all, if the fans are not passionate enough to fill the balloon then the gulf will only get bigger and we’ll be left with nothing but internet porn… Or something… Wait, what the hell was Jane talking about anyway??

All Hail Supreme!
Contrary to popular belief, the best self-contained and cohesive universe to have come from Marvel is neither the muddled and confused 616 original version nor the newer, shinier and slightly-confused-as-to-when-the-Fantastic-Four-turned-up Ultimate Universe. It is the Supreme Universe, sparked to life last year by J. Michael Straczynski’s exemplary Supreme Power, which defied all lacklustre expectations placed on a title that was rebooting a rip-off of another company’s characters and went on to become the best new book of the year by a long, long way. This week, the universe is expanded further when JMS compadre Samm Barnes teams with artist Travel Foreman and cover artist Dale Keown to bring us the six-issue mini-series, Dr. Spectrum. The Spectrum character is essentially a riff on the Green Lantern but given a fresh lick of Marvel MAX paint and overhauled for a more contemporary audience searching for a more cerebral comic book. In ‘reality’ he is Corporal Joe Ledger, a proud military man who volunteered for a top-secret experiment that saw him test a crystal fragment found in the recovered spaceship that brought Mark “Hyperion” Milton to Earth. The crystal became fused to Ledger, knocking him into a coma for two years until the US government were able to revive him and use his new crystal-powered, er, powers to do their dirty work with superhuman finesse while Hyperion is used as little more than a PR tool. In the last arc of Supreme Power, the proverbial poopie hit the proverbial wind-fashioning device and Hyperion discovered what the government were up to. He destroyed their base, went toe-to-toe with Dr. Spectrum and defeated him, then went off to contemplate his place in the cosmos. Dr. Spectrum, meanwhile, was left for dead at the bottom of the ocean, protected only by a crystal-fashioned cocoon and watched over by a strange female amphibian creature…

Anyway, Newsarama has a very entertaining interview with Barnes that you should take a look at. It seems that the book is going to be set before the tumultuous events of the fight with Hyperion. In her own words:

The mini-series is in six parts, covering three threads. The first is Joe Ledger in the present, unconscious and in hospital, the centre of controversy as to what to do with Joe and the crystal. A second thread is the dreamscape, where Joe comes face to face with the crystal even as it is sizing Joe Leger up. The third thread is set in the past, consisting of the memories that the crystal taps into, key moments in Joe’s life that shaped him.”

It certainly sounds interesting and, given Barnes’ military background, TV writing experience and comic book writing “training” at the hands of JMS, this book looks set to keep up the very high standards that the Supreme Universe has set for itself thus far. Barnes herself comes across as a very amiable person too, which is nice to see as people always do their best work when they are clearly enjoying themselves. The interview also covers her upcoming Strange mini-series, co-written with JMS, and explains why one should emphatically not call her JMS’ protégé! Check out the interview and then take a gander at the book itself this week. About time we had some more women comic writers too!

Newsarama, being those busy types that they are, have also got an interview with the newly-appointed editor of the Supreme Universe, Axel Alonso. He talks about the Dr. Spectrum spin-off and hints that Samm Barnes might be getting the chance to do more spin-offs and one-shots within the universe, possibly with Nighthawk as the next target, which would be something I would be very much interested in. Nighthawk has not been explored nearly enough just yet and so Barnes, or indeed any writer, would have the opportunity to really get to grips with him as long as they follow any instructions that JMS has left in his extensive notes:

These characters are still new. They’re still going through their baby steps, so we want to make sure that the right type of writers map out the right type of course in conjunction with what JMS has planned, and that everyone fits. There’s an architecture to the overall series that anyone who is involved with a spin-off needs to adhere to. I look at the Supreme-verse as a place where superhero-dom is deconstructed as well as its icons. There are iconic superheroes that cut across more than just the two major publishers, and I think what JMS is doing here is a long-term, huge-scale deconstruction of what it means to be a superhero and fit into this universe. That’s my perspective on the whole thing. What my job is, which is more relevant, is to make sure that this universe, which is still something that JMS is probing the edges of, is something that is consistent, and that, since there’s only one of him, that we find the right people to spin off the limited series and one-shots to keep it vital and interesting.”

So let me get this straight – a soon-to-be-in-my-giddy-hands Dr. Spectrum series? Check. The promise of more spin-offs to come? Check. The main title being planned out intricately for the long-term? Check. The whole thing being kept under close editorial scrutiny to avoid any errors? Check. A talented and quite lovely British-Canadian woman writer being brought on board that out-foxes all the previously mentioned foxes in this column? Check.

Ah, I’m so happy now!

Sadly, I now have to get to the worst news of the week…

And like that… he’s gone
You’ll have heard this already no doubt, but it doesn’t stop it from breaking a fanboy’s fragile heart. According to Hollywood Reporter, Bryan Singer is now officially not involved in the third X-Men movie. In short, he signed to Warner Bros in March to remake Logan’s Run, his representatives ended talks with Fox for X-Men 3 in July, then quickly finished negotiations with Warner to replace McG on Superman shortly after. Singer told Fox he would stick with their movie as a producer, yet after accepting a pay-or-play offer from Warner to get their Superman franchise back on track after decades in the wilderness; Fox have declined to keep him on board.

As sad as I am that Bryan Singer will no longer be bringing the same magic to the third movie he brought to the first two, I can understand Fox’s decision. They are in the business of making movies, so when one of their largest competitors takes the person they wanted to direct one of their major superhero movies in order for him to direct one of their competito’s major superhero movies, then it looks incredibly bad for business to keep him on board, particularly when his heart clearly lies elsewhere. The major problem now, however, is that they have a release date but no director or script attached to the movie! I tried to come up with a shortlist of potential replacements but couldn’t come up with any. After all, who would have ever predicted that the Usual Suspects guy could have done such a good job with the franchise? In the end, as always, the most obvious solution was the one staring me point blank in the face.

There is only one person Avi Arad should be calling day and night to get signed up to this movie.

You know him.

He writes comic books.

He loves the X-Men.

He has his first ever feature film coming out next year.

He has several years of television directing, writing and producing experience behind him.

Joss Whedon

Well, why not?

Let’s look at the evidence. First of all, the man absolutely loves the X-Men. We have all read several interviews with him about Astonishing X-Men over the past few months and the one constant throughout them all has been the mental image they conjure up – that of an eager fanboy beaming with pride that he has been given the cherished opportunity to make his mark on the characters that inspired him as a little kid. It’s the same simple love that you can quite easily feel from a Sam Raimi interview discussing Spider-Man. Raimi channelled that knowledge and understanding of the character and his story into producing a film that will go down in history as the definitive piece of comic book cinema, with each frame showcasing the passion of any panel of a Lee/Ditko issue. Whedon provides the same feeling, in particular when the conversation inevitably turns to Kitty Pryde, the character that prompted him to create Buffy Summers. Reading AXM is practically as good as watching Spider-Man 2.

Going into more detail about Whedon & Cassaday’s venture, the most notable and important observation to be made from reading it is that the characters are finally acting like the genuine, flawed people that they are supposed to be at long last. They aren’t made to over-react and slip into melodrama as Chuck Austen would have made them, they are affecting the story’s premise rather than the premise affecting them as was wont to happen under Grant Morrison, and they don’t sound out of time as they do under Chris Claremont nowadays. Hell, for all that they might want to be known as superheroes now, it feels much more natural to address them by their real name and not their code names for the first time in years. So we’ve got Emma, trying to both maintain the icy front she felt she had to develop years ago in order to survive and also to melt it slightly in order to help the children in her care and further her relationship with Scott. We’ve got Kitty, contemplating her place in the world in the face of great upheaval as any young woman does. We’ve got Hank, valiantly attempting to gain acceptance in front of the most critical audience of all – himself. We’ve got Scott, whose life has once again been turned upside down by the death of his estranged wife, his new relationship with Emma and the resentment others feel towards her, and being shoved into a leadership role once again that he is clearly not ready to return to. We’ve also got Logan, who drinks beer. I dunno, I’m just not much of a fan of his but then he is probably best suited to just play off the conflict among the rest of the group rather than adding to it. In short, it is a truly magnificent comic that has captured the essence of classic, ‘old school’ X-Men stories and placed them into a contemporary, ‘new school’ setting to great effect.

Thankfully, not only is Whedon a huge fan of the X-Men and an already-proven commodity when it comes to the franchise, he is also very adept at live-action productions. We all know about Buffy and Angel, while the short-lived Firefly has a chance at redemption next year when it is rebooted as a movie called Serenity. Hopefully the film will prove to any remaining naysayers throughout Hollywood that Whedon is capable of transferring his magic touch to the big screen when able to present his own vision of the finished product, as opposed to the horribly jumbled messes that were the original Buffy movie and Alien Resurrection. You need only to take a look at some of the episodes of Buffy he directed to see how truly inspirational and creative Whedon can be. The most obvious example is the Emmy Award nominated musical episode, Once More With Feeling, which absolutely no-one in their right mind would ever have been brave enough to do. Whedon pulled it off with aplomb though, managing to simultaneously make the episode a vital part of the show’s mythos and something that could be instantly accessible to people who have never watched it before. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Whedon also directed the episode called Hush, which has nothing to do with a large fellow with bandages wrapped round his head but was actually an episode filmed almost completely in silence as the resident monsters of the week stole the voices of everyone in town. Again, he somehow managed to take this gimmick and make it wholly believable and downright frightening for a prime-time network TV show. The season four finale, Restless, also warrants a mention. It was composed entirely of dream sequences that captured everything from lesbian sex in the back of an ice cream van to a confrontation with the deceased high school principal in an Apocalypse Now setting, all while dropping massive clues about upcoming story arcs that would propel the show to new heights in the coming years. On the more humanistic side of things, The Body was one of the show’s most touching episodes. It saw Buffy finding her mothe’s dead body, only this time there was no demon to kill or vampire to slay; there was only a sad, natural death and the repercussions that came with it. It was a truly tender moment that played well to the strengths of Whedon’s ensemble.

This brings me to the next point – Whedon can handle ensemble casts. That is an absolute necessity for any X-Men movie. No matter what the final line-up may look like (Xavier, Magneto, Cyclops, Phoenix, Wolverine, Mystique, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Iceman, Pyro, Beast, Colossus, please!) they have to be as fully integrated as possible for this to work. It’s exactly what I was saying about the comics themselves up above – if they interact as believable human beings then it really doesn’t matter what story you can come up with, it will work. Whedon has had years of working with ensembles and has become something of an expert at knowing precisely when and where to change the line-up, to throw in conflict, to add splashes of romance and drops of humour. It is his greatest strength.

Finally, look at the most likely plot threads to be developed in X3. First of all, Jean Grey simply has to return otherwise the ending of X2 will have to be drastically altered. The details are somewhat sketchy as the Phoenix force was never fully introduced before her death, but they can be fleshed out in due course. The fact is, she will rise again and she will be reunited with Cyclops. Does this sound a tad familiar to Whedonites? Something along the lines of Angel returning from Hell to be reunited with Buffy, perhaps? Then we have Wolverine, still struggling to come to terms with his past after the revelations of the previous instalment. For that, read Angel and/or Spike questing for redemption upon regaining their souls. Then there are the three younger members of the roster, Rogue, Iceman and Pyro, split apart by forces outside their control as they try to find their place in the world and figure out the best way to use their power. This is slightly reminiscent of the Buffy/Faith dynamic worked to such great effect in seasons three and four. Hell, even the base mutant/human conflict can be looked at as the inspiration for the secret machinations of the Scooby Gang/Angel Investigations/Wolfram & Hart/The Senior Partners/The Initiative/The Watche’s Council and every other group found in the Buffyverse that pursued an underground agenda to benefit all.

In every single way, Joss Whedon is perfect for this newly-opened vacancy. Hell, he can even write it himself to boot! Of course, the remaining producers involved in the project will have to get him signed up quickly before the proposed Buffy Animated Series gets him tied up for the next few years.

Also, does anybody else think it would actually be kind of cool to see Xorn in one of the movies, or am I just being exceptionally cruel?


PREVIEWS:

Avengers #1
Newsarama has five pages of the next instalment proper of Disassembled for your perusal, both in pencilled and finished art form. Whereas issue #500 saw a sudden, unexplained assault on both the Avengers and the reade’s senses, this issue sees the heroes recover, regroup and, led by Captain America, plan their counter moves. I had better throw in a spoiler warning for the above link too, as there is at least one death strongly hinted at there. Also, the final double-page spread shows exactly what other heroes from the Marvel Universe have stepped up to the plate and come to offer their assistance to the Avengers. And damn there are a lot of them! I shouldn’t be spoiling anything by revealing that Spider-Man is one of the volunteers, but see how long it takes you to spot him in that picture. Took me a full three minutes… I suck. Anyway, David Finch does a marvellous job here. I wasn’t too keen on his work in the last issue but either I am becoming more accustomed to his style here or Bendis has really psyched him up to give 101%. Not only is the aforementioned group shot awe-inspiring, but there is a truly stunning shot of Iron Man taking flight. Incidentally, on that very same page, on the second panel down, I am certain that Captain America is saying “Yo Hawkeye, you farted?” Anyway, this is shaping up to be one pretty sweet series after all. The combination of epic yet nostalgic art with a knock-out punch of a story should provide Marvel with another hit. I still maintain that they have completely over-hyped this by letting it affect so many other books however, plus the fact that Avengers had been practically run into the ground before this started means it still falls short of greatness, but time may take care of that. This one hits the stands on the 25th August.

Marvel Team-Up #1
Newsarama also has the first five pages of pencils of Robert Kirkman and Scot Kolins’ new series and, to the surprise of roughly nobody, the first issue sees Spider-Man and Wolverine teamed together. Thankfully, Kirkman claims that he will primarily be using the title to spotlight characters not deemed strong enough to carry their own book. Optimistically, he claims that he will have used “damn near everyone in the Marvel U by the end of issue #25.“ Um, sure Rob. Anyway, it’s hard to get a handle on how the first issue will be but it does have one of the best first pages I have seen in recent memory that you can check out at the above link. Judging by his interview, it seems that Kirkman is planning to use several Marvel characters to create a new sort of self-contained universe within this title, with the cast changing from issue to issue but the overall themes remaining prevalent as each character gets on with his or her arc. He also promises new villains – “I don’t think Marvel’s had a good reoccurring villain come on the scene since the early eighties“, a statement I wholeheartedly agree with, Venom and Carnage be damned – and that nothing will be contrived. After the opening story, we are promised appearances by the Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange, Blade, X-23, Hawkeye, Damage Control, Nick Fury, Punisher, Black Widow, Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America, which is an eclectic bunch to say the least. The more eclectic the better in this case, really. I love these sort of titles, especially when it leads to series of such quality as Spider-Man’s Tangled Web and Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, issues #19 and #9 of which are the best, respectively. It’s good to see Kirkman, Kolins and editor Tom Brevoort having such fun with this title. Hopefully it will be reflected in the book’s quality. Even more hopefully, let’s see the return of Howard the Duck, eh fellas?

Spider-Man #5
Yeah, whatever. Pop Culture Shock has the opening four pages of the fifth issue of Millar & Dodson’s drastically faltering Marvel Knights book up for your perusal. Well, actually, Frank Cho is on fill-in art duties, which means a massively increased bra size for Mary Jane. Seriously, her back must be in agony lugging those things around everywhere. This time around, Eddie Brock is back in town, having been hired by the mystery person to presumably mess with Peter Parker some more. We’re also promised an appearance by Doctor Octopus, just in case we get one flipping Spider-Man book that doesn’t have him in it over the summer months. God, this is all so tedious. Amazing has been varying in quality but has had the courage to take a serious peek under the skin of the very origin of the character itself. Spectacular was offering us some wonderfully light-hearted superheroics that will hopefully return when the Don’t Disassemble Johnny 5 nonsense gets out the way. Ultimate is so good that it can introduce Venom, Carnage and Sam Raimi and not dip in quality. This? This is just plodding, repetitive, poorly researched, and full of empty dialogue and uninspired moments. Worse still, the characters are changed to suit the narrative rather than the other way around. Millar, in the words of Samuel L. Jackson in Jackie Brown, “what happened to you, man? You used to be beautiful…“

District X #4
Pop Culture Shock again provides the goods, this time for the next instalment of what we naively used to think of as “Bishop’s useless solo book, which nobody would want to buy.” David Hine, on the other hand, thought of it as the opportunity to latch onto an overlooked concept from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men and fully flesh it out, finally giving some cathartic relief to a character who had previously been ruined by a seriously muddled back-story. I mean, have you read his entry in the Official Handbook? It’s enough to make you cross-eyed! Thankfully, here Bishop has been given a supporting cast that couldn’t give a damn about which possible alternative future he may or may not have sprung from and whether or not he is his own grandfather or some nonsense like that. He’s just a detective in mutant town, in what has been Marvel’s best new series this year (remember that for all intents and purposes Whedon and Cassidy inherited a book). So we get Bishop’s partner, Ortega, a human busy dealing with the ramifications of the mutant gene in his own family, we get Toad Boy, the most tragically obscene character outside of a Garth Ennis book, we get Daniel Kaufman, busy planning a mutant gang war and struggling to maintain his composure for everybody’s sake, and we get Mr. Punch, busy being punched. In addition, we get some wonderful concepts such as the fate of the poor girl on Toad Juice as seen in this preview, and a wonderful little mystery that is as well written as anything you are likely to see on shows like C.S.I.. It’s out this week, so check it out!

Incredible Hulk #75
Once again, hats off to Pop Culture Shock for this preview of the latest instalment of the Hulk saga, on sale this week. It’s the start of a new arc, given the wonderful title Wake to Nightmare, and we are promised that all shall be revealed this time. Given that I am reading this title in HC format, I’m way behind on the latest developments but this is a title of tremendous quality. It also highlights the difference between good storytelling and fanboy trash. Good storytelling involves fleshing out your characters, themes, twists and developments, gradually revealing your hand – but not too much – until you finally drop the bombshell that the audience is waiting on. Sometimes such bombshells work (see New X-Men: Planet X), sometimes they don’t (see Batman: Hush) but at least the creative team had the balls to try and make it work. Fanboy trash involves pandering to the lowest common denominator at the expense of engaging your brain. The Hulk always seems to suffer from the fanboy trash syndrome, whether it was the much-maligned Ang Lee movie or Bruce Jones lengthy conspiracy arc, and that makes for a sad Iain. After all, we all need to grow sometime. As Ed Vedder would put it, “it’s evolution, baby.“ On a side note, seeing as how Iron Man is looking in rather bad shape in this issue and going through some identity crisis in Disassembled, and that hidden antagonists are involved in both cases, how cool would it be if Banne’s enemies where behind the assault on the Avengers too? I would mark for that. See – fanboy speculation is okay, just not fanboy trash.

Gambit #1
The confusingly-named but ever-worthy ComiX-Fan has a five-page preview of the new ongoing series from writer John Layman and artist Georges Jeanty, with covers by Greg Land. I get the feeling that on the first page Gambit is saying “Alright folks, move along, there is nothing to see here. Please return to your homes and places of businesses. I repeat, there is nothing to see here.” As for the preview itself, well, it certainly isn’t anything spectacular. The art is distinctly average, there is some guff about Sentinels and throwing cards, then some stuff in a bar where an absolute moron throws away four aces in a poker game in order to go and talk to Gambit. I repeat – he folds with one of the most unbeatable hands a person can have to go talk to Gambit. Gambit? Who the hell can even understand what that moron says? And isn’t he meant to be blind now, anyway? Ugh. I can’t comprehend why so many people like this character but as long as there is an audience for it, Marvel will keep pumping out these “limited ongoing” titles every few years to milk the fans dry. I say “limited ongoing” because they are quite obviously not going to be able to sustain it, but they aren’t going to limit themselves to just six issues either. Ah well, enjoy it if you can…

Madrox #1
While Gambit looks set to stumble onward into mediocrity, the shock of the year could come from Jamie Madrox not only getting his own five-issue mini-series but that it will be pretty cool to boot. Then again, Paul David is writing it so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise after all. Anyway, Newsarama has an eight-page preview of the first issue, solicited for a 15th September release, which also introduces Wolfsbane as part of the supporting cast. Apparently Strong Guy will be making his way into the book as well, as David gets the X-Factor crew together for one more run. The book looks superb thanks to Pablo Raimondi’s noir artwork, while the story sees us return to the Mutant Town setting that works so well for District X, as Madrox opens up his own investigations agency. The solicitations also give overtones of a Human Target type vibe as we probe into the psyche of the Multiple Man and discover what its really like to be split into several identical copies all at once. Oh, just order it already! You’ll love it, trust me!


RANDOM BITS OF POO:

CBR have an interesting interview with Spectral Motion, the special effects team that worked on both Men in Black movies, the second and third Blade movies, Hellboy and the upcoming Fantastic Four flick. Check it out!

Mike Wieringo, Fantastic Four artist extraordinaire, answers several questions for your viewing pleasure.

You didn’t think I could let a column go by without mentioning Spider-Man 2, did you? Check out this link and go to the News Wrap section to take a gander at how the wonderful effects were created.

Mark MillarSpider-Man… Venom… Yes, yes, very good…


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Iain Burnside is currently in the NEXUS, BABY!!