Marvel Reads & Reviews: 4/18/07 Edition

Opinions on the Work of People Far More Talented Than I

Mighty Avengers #2

After last month’s nitro like takeoff (for a Bendis book anyway) this one feels like it is slowing things down to the pace of molasses being poured on a shingle (What, country colloquialisms work for Dan Rather, why not for me?! I mean, besides the fact that I’ve grown up entirely in the Northeast and never more than about 15 minutes driving from a city). Being a Bendis fan (typically) his pacing doesn’t tend to bother. However, it feels like much slower than #1 that the transition is jarring.

In reviewing the book, however, I’m not sure I’m accurately assessing the book. The format is more or less the same. Let’s review, shall we? (Yes, yes we shall.)

In issue #1, the Mighty deal with a bunch of big monsters until they realize they are facing a seriously mad Mole Man. Then, suddenly they have to contend with him and an Iron Man who freaks out and, oddly enough, turns into a naked woman.

In issue #2, the Mighty face a quickly morphing from mad to just sort of petulant to seriously scared Mole Man and attempt to assess the threat of naked girl. Then, suddenly, Wasp realizes that this new player looks like her and works out that she/it is Ultron.

In issue #1, flashbacks reveal how Iron Man and Ms. Marvel assembled the MA.

In issue #2, flashbacks reveal how Iron Man and Ms. Marvel assembled the MA.

In issue #1, thought bubbles revealed characters inner monologues to often comedic effect, especially when dealing with Tony Stark’s nearly uncontrollable lust.

In issue #2, thought bubbles revealed characters inner monologues to often comedic effect, especially when dealing with Tony Stark’s nearly uncontrollable lust.

In issue #1, Carol regrets even mentioning Ares to Tony.

In issue #2, she plots to toss him off the team the moment the current crisis is resolved.

See, not all that different.

What I think Bendis did a better job of in the first issue was the illusion of things happening. Last issue, the MA hit stuff while they tried to figure out what was going on. This time, they (with the exception of ready for anything Ares) stand around and try to assess the problem without the fisticuffs. That approach might be a bit more advisable when facing an unknown threat, but it does not translate so well when done in comics. Also, it probably shouldn’t be done while standing about 10 feet from the threat being assessed.

On art, Cho continues to show he has some strong action chops. He also, oddly enough, does a nice job with a variety of female body types. Well, sort of.

For some reason, the less clothes the ladies wear, the more alike they look. Check out Black Widow in costume last issue. She is positively lithe for a Cho woman and her chest nicely matches her thin, smaller proportions. Now, look at her post fight training in her shorts and sports bra. What the heck happened? She suddenly looks about 7 feet tall and she is sporting a body type more in line with our girl Ultron. Credit where credit is due, Cho does a nice job of conveying that Black Widow is considerably “harder” than Ultron (and, I guess by the transitive property, Wasp), but her proportions still have undeniably changed between issues.

Of course, all these critiques probably add up to you thinking I didn’t like the book. Not so. I just think #1 was better paced and better assembled and this one reads like a sequel to that first effort that does everything the same, but loses the “feel”. I’m tempted to say that #2 is to #1 what Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is to Home Alone, but that is wildly unfair because Home Alone 2 is an abomination. However, it is the best thing I can think of at the moment. Home Alone featured a boy fighting robbers, using various almost deathtraps to do so, and coming to terms with the scary guy in the neighborhood who’s actually not all that scary. HA 2: LiNY featured a boy fighting robbers, using various almost deathtraps to do so, and coming to terms with the frightening lady who’s actually not so frightening after all. It’s the same story and yet the first is fun bit of fluff and the second is eye rotting bad. It seems impossible and yet, there it is.

Again, MA #1 and #2 don’t break down quite like that. MA #1 is a great kickoff, raucous and fun, that should’ve gone a long way towards showing people that yes, actually, Bendis can write traditional Avengers stories within his style. #2 is really more of a…


Moon Knight #9

Suayan steps into the shoes of David Finch and does an excellent job of matching the former in terms of nailing the “feel” of the Moon Knight’s world as filtered through Huston’s vision. However, he does so with a decidedly different style, one that is more realistic (although muscle bound, no doubt) than Finch’s very rendered approach. It is a strong, bloodless change of power to be sure that only runs into one hitch: Suayan’s panel layouts.

While Moon Knight’s encounter, sans costume, with Midnight (see, I told you!) is probably meant to be a chaotic frightening thing, panels are laid out in such a way that I could only think things through enough to identify that the layout was chaotic. It might be an intended choice as things seem to calm down considerably as the book moves to quieter character moments and Moon Knight preparing himself for a climatic battle (I assume) with his former sidekick, but it detracts rather than adds to the fight. When your form overwhelms your function, it is not a success.

Storywise, if you have heretofore like Huston’s approach to Marc Spector, you will continue to be happy. I know I am. However, if you haven’t yet formed to it a.) why are you still buying this book and b.) this is unlikely to change your mind about that approach.


Sensational Spider-Man #37

I have commented in the past on disliking Angel Medina’s clearly McFarlane inspired approach to Spider-Man. While he was emulating the style of his former boss, he was not quite there and thus the art was always just off enough to bug him.

That said, I think I prefer him to Ramon Bachs, who I assume is the new penciler on the title. Bachs style is far more down-to-earth and respectful of human anatomy; it is acceptably workmanlike. It is also, sadly, dull. There is no pop. Colors from Paul Mounts don’t seem to help matters as they too are perfectly adequate but a bit lifeless.

Of course, that was the case last issue too and it hardly bothered me. I think the problem here is that the story is slight enough in this installment that I was able to focus more on the artistic shortcomings. Unfair, perhaps, but there it is.

As I said, the story sort of peters (oh, I’m hilarious) out with this issue. The Hyde-Spidey fight feels a bit perfunctory, with little sense of life and death involved. Worse, the odd decision to cut away from Jordan’s moment of truth and tell everything in a brief Spidey narrator flashback robs the scenario of its urgency. It tells rather than shows us what happened and thus, the final shot of Jordan, which might have been haunting, ends up coming across as just “eh”.

What I did like is that Sacasa (sorry about last week’s typo, by the way) continues to “get” the version of Spider-Man that I most easily identify as being “right”. Yes, that is an entirely arbitrary position to take, I know, but I’m being honest and to me, there is a “correct” Spider-Man/Peter Parker portrayal. He does the right thing despite often being tempted to do the easy or more satisfying one. He worries not just for his own “soul” but for the “souls” of almost anyone he encounters. He cracks jokes, but can take a sec to be horrified by something like Hyde tearing off his own eyelids (or damn near anyway) or be serious enough to try to talk someone out of making a horrible mistake. In the midst of this “all huge stories all the time” approach to Spider-Man that Marvel seems enamored with, this approach is an oasis.

It’s just a shame that the plotting isn’t equal to it in this installment.


Ultimate Spider-Man #108

The other Spider-Man title that steps clear of the whole “Back in Black” mega arc gets to do so because, technically, it does not count. But, count or not, it remains consistently great.

This time out Bendis actually outdoes his Marvel U. writing by creating a Ronin that actually makes plenty of sense and who’s identity works in a way that feels organic and not “oh damn, people have already figured out who he is. Quick, change it”.

While at first, I liked the idea of it, I now can’t really support Bendis’ writing device of going inside Moon Knight’s head as it feels a bit too…showy, I guess. Particularly in this installment, where the personality represented by the red headed little girl diagnoses Marc Spector (and thus herself and everyone else there) as suffering from dissociative personality disorder (multiple personalities, in case you didn’t know). Worse still, she seems aware of her lack of “realness”. In addition to being a bit showy, it is also, more or less, unheard of. The redhead could be the “gatekeeper” personality (which would be weird considering her gender being the opposite of the “host, but could happen I suppose) but that means she’d be aware of the others, but would generally believe that she, and the rest, are just as “real” as Spector himself is. It’s a technique that takes me right out of the story. Although, admittedly, that may have more to do with my field of interest than the actual approach itself. I’d be interested in knowing if others had the same problem with it.

Beyond that, however, I really enjoyed the issue. I liked the twist on Mary Jane’s interest in being in front of the camera and the possible rivalry that may place into her life. Kitty Pryde continues to be a treat as well, giving the lovebirds the cold shoulder and then stepping up to defend Spidey despite that (her desire to hit something might’ve also played into it). My favorite aspect, however, is Liz Allen’s ever growing fear of mutants that not only gets her smacked down by MJ but gets her mocked by Flash Thompson in a quick, well placed aside.

Of course, Bagley’s art is impeccable as usual.