CAPSULE REVIEWS: Marvel Week 8 2008

A new (hopefully weekly) feature/challenge, where we’re reviewing ALL the books out in a week, at one paragraph maximum each. Let’s see how long I last!

From Marvel, two weeks ago: someone dies in Brand New Day, Red Hulk Smash, Incredible Doped Herc, Mighty Avengers vs Doom, Runaways by Whedon, Spidey makes fun of Canadians, Deadpool Saves the Marvel Universe, two Order members bond in the biblical sense, Wolverine boinks Magneto’s wife, but loses an arm and the Hulk has tea.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #551 (Mark Guggenheim / Salvador Larroca)

I’m digging this. Ignoring One More Day is a big factor in the enjoyment of course, and Harry’s absence in the current act helps to no end. Spidey and new ‘sidekick’ Jackpot (who is not MJ despite the hints) finish off their battle with new baddie ‘the Menace’ in a shocking turn of events that’s not given nearly enough room to breathe and is taken all too off-the-cuff by Spidey. Excitement, action, new villains, new supporting cast, quips and fun! Did we really need Mephisto to remember what made Spidey tick?


HULK #2 (Jeph Loeb / Ed McGuiness)

It’s the second issue of a new Marvel ongoing, so the new contracts demand the title character to whoop Iron-Man’s @$s so he can fill his monthly movie-tie-in quota. I defer you to exhibits: Sub-Mariner, Thor, Penance, Nova, etc. So Red Hulk shows up on the Helicarrier, smashes things around, battles Iron-Man and She-Hulk and of course crashes the whole ship down to ground (is that like the 5th time this year so far?). In the end Reddie escapes and tracks down Rick Jones who is -shock- the new Abomination, or rather ‘the A-bomb’ (insert your own A Team quip here). Jeph Loeb continues to ride back-seat on amazing wide-screen artists like McGuiness- who fills each splash page with huge staggering figures spitting out wannabe-Millar quips, cheesy one-liners or simply faux-swearing like so: $£*! Side compare with any Jeph Loeb Marvel comic the past few years to see the trend.


INCREDIBLE HERCULES #114 (Greg Pak / Fred Van Lente/ Khoi Pham)

Hercules is high on Hydra poison because of the newly (not-so) reformed half-brother Ares and rampaging around town with delusions of both his Ancient Greek adventures and his time with the Champions. Black Widow saves the day and has an honest real moment with our titular hero, while Wonder-Man provides humour relief and Amadeus Cho decides to travel down the most disconcerting of two roads. An engaging script which could have benefited from tidier art.


MIGHTY AVENGERS #9 (Brian Bendis / Mark Bagley/ Marko Djurdjevic)

MA has been the definition of page-waster from day one but it has now officially amped its game up by 1000x! The issue starts with a quaint time-travelling encounter between Doom and Morganna Le Fey in, drawn by Djurdjevic. The action quickly moves to the present with a double-page spread of the Avengers Quinjet reaching Latveria (keep in mind the last issue ended with a very similar double-page spread). The Quinjet crashes into the castle (is anyone keeping crash score between Quinjets and Helicarriers?), followed by THREE double-page spreads of the Avengers battling Doombots with absolutely no dialogue. Iron-Man enters the castle and encounters Doom, with two near identical splash pages showing the two armoured men in the familiar dueling stance exchanging repulsor blasts trying to overpower each other. The issue of course ends with Sentry butting in and turning the tide of battle, albeit with a Time Machine glitch dropping the men in Marvel’s Silver Age. Out of 23 ‘story’ pages, only 12 have more than two panels! Since this is is Bagley we’re talking about, a trueblood sequential artist, this feels like a misdirected effort. And like any other issue of the series so far, we’re presented with an interesting concept which is utterly failed by a conventional, hasty , and unoriginal execution.


RUNAWAYS #29 (Joss Whedon / Michael Ryan)

Whedon’s penultimate chapter sees all the antagonizing factions coming together for final battle, while the possibility of Gert’s return hangs in the air, and Ultron-Boy gets in the middle of a love square. Carolina and Xander kiss and make up leading to a jolting sequence between Molly and her new young friend. Whedon cleverly plays up the differences between the early 20th and 21st century, especially where it involves issues of race and sexual identity. Xavin finally becomes a rounded individual, while other relationships (are Nico and Roboto still dating?) get pushed on the wayside. It will certainly read better in a trade.


IMMORTAL IRON FIST SPECIAL: ORSON RANDALL AND THE GREEN MIST OF DEATH (Matt Fraction / Nick Dragotta & Mike Allred / Russ Heath / Lewis LaRosa / Mitch BreitWeiser)

Matt Fraction flies solo in a series of inter-connecting short stories by a variety of star artists, following John Aman’s chase of Orson Randall and his Confederates of the Curious (including the father of present-day Iron Fist Danny Rand) from a cabaret Mystic show, to the Wild West with the Cowgirls from Hell, Dr Frankenstein’s lab and finally France for a final goodbye with his sick father and a twist about the nature of the chase. A delightful one-shot with amusing little adventures that tie into and feed the current storyline in the ongoing title without being essential reading. What Fraction and Brubaker had done with Iron-Fist should become a textbook guide for reviving lame forgotten characters and making them a can’t miss read.


THE ORDER #8 (Matt Fraction / Barry Kitson)

Mullholland is held captive by her old girlfriends, while Becky and Supernaut are forced to bond in a very naughty way to escape starvation and the deadly M.A.N. from S.H.A.D.O.W.. It’s all coming to a climax as the title soon gets canceled and it’s all your fault for not paying attention! Let’s hope Marvel wises up and releases a hardcover collection of these amazing issues.


ULTIMATE X-MEN #91 (Robert Kirkman / Salvador Larroca)

Hold on, the torment is almost over. Kirkman brings in Apocalypse, once more completely missing the point of the Ultimate Universe. Apocalypse here is the reborn version of Vaughan’s Ultimate Sinister with a vague agenda of destruction and a forgettable superheroic costume, followed closely by his henchmen: Onslaught and Stryfe. ‘Less is More’ mr Kirkman! You seem to have gotten things the wrong way around here. Only stand-out moment of the issue is Poccy breaking off Wolvie’s arm (isn’t Adamantium unbreakable by definition?) and hitting him with it; although that too was misrepresented in the final art and lost its oomph.


CABLE&DEADPOOL #50 (Fabian Nicieza / Reilly Brown)

Boy, this snuck up on everyone! The little title that noone thought would survive this long has reached its 50th (and final) issue, after slowly becoming the secret shame and joy of all Marvel fans by taking a humorous trek through the current dark and joyless Marvel Universe plateau. After months and months of silly team-ups (from Ka-Zar to the FF and Brother Voodoo), following Cable’s ‘death’, Deadpool now goes for the Big Bang as all the Great Heroes of NY show up to help against the rampaging stampede of Alien Symbiote-infected dinosaurs through the city! Someone mail a copy to Bendis, this is how you deliver on a cool premise! The issue wraps up with a series of fun pin-ups and testimonials from the creator, editor and my bud Ben Morse. I hope Fabian gets a chance to write more of the Merc-with-a-mouth in the future as this is the best stuff of his career right here.


MARVEL ADVENTURES AVENGERS #21 (Marc Sumerak / Ig Guara)

Black Widow debuts in the MA title, going back to her basics: the Russian super-spy is sent to infiltrate the American team as they do battle against her secret ally, the Crimson Dynamo. Lots of action, clever quips and interaction between Spidey and the rest of the team. Another great done-in-one action piece in the Great Marvel tradition. Can someone send Bendis a copy of this one as well? While you’re at it, someone find the DC editors and try to figure out how the Marvel Adventures editors can find such great untapped talent for their books, while Countdown has been struggling for a full year under fill-in artists of the caliber of the dreaded Tom Derenick and certain unnamed panty-shot artists with no eye for anatomy or storytelling.


THE ULTIMATES 3 #3 (Jeph Loeb / Joe Madureira)

Wolverine reminisces back to the days he was boinking Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s mom, while Loeb yet again spells out the siblings’ little incestuous relationship (started as a sneaky hint from Millar who had better taste than to make such a big deal of it) for those of the readers who didn’t get bored enough of the Ultimates’ disgusted reactions in the last two issues. The team splits into two with a wide range of infiltrators and doppelgangers to fill out the measly plot. Joe Mad’s art continues to suffer from the lack of a proper inker and the lazy panel structure in the scripts. So much for his big comeback. Lots of fluff and attempts for cheap impressions, without real backbone.


ULTIMATE HUMAN #2 (Warren Ellis / Cary Nord)

Tony Stark manages to overcome the rampaging Banner with a re-application of a familiar remedy. They then sit down to have tea and discuss Super Soldier formulas and space voyages. Pete Wisdom excels in his new role as the Ultimate Leader, in an issue where the talk overshadows the action, although Cary Nord excels at both.


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