Watch out for bi-daily updates as we catch up on our weekly reviews once and for all (before taking a major holiday!)
Week 21 for Marvel: the big titles under-perform while the little titles that could, CAN! (yeah, I was reaching for a front page blurb…) Read on for Spidey, Mighty Avengers, X-Factor, Ultimate X-Men, the Initiative, FF, Hercules, Marvel Adventures Avengers and Iron-Man!
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #560
(Dan Slott / Marcos Martin)
‘Peter Parker, Paparazzi’ part 2. Peter moonlights as a paparazzi hunting a celebrity actor while Spidey tracks down the crazed 2-dimensional (no, literally) celebrity stalker Paper Doll, who’s flatlining (again, literally) anyone Peter implicates in his front page snaps. Intrigue! Paper Doll is a freaky concept, although I keep feeling the inside art fails to capture her eeriness as well as the issue’s cover.
Lots of plotlines are developing across the board (it’s good to have a supporting cast again), Spidey does battle with Andy Warhol Captain America and a giant metal banana — and wait till you see who’s back on the last page (I so was clued in by page 4)!
AVENGERS INITIATIVE #13
(Christos N. Gage / Steve Uy)
A self-contained new-reader-friendly start to season 2 of the title, starring a new year of Initiative recruits arriving on the superhero training campus.
The spotlight lies squarely on Boulder/Butterball, the invulnerable chubby fanboy, with the rest of the class made up of Prodigy (of Slingers’ fame) and a selection of F-list Spider-man and Iron Man villains. Gage already gets more up close and personal with the new characters, showing them training, bonding, skipping camp, skinny-dipping and getting… intimate. Boulder starts off as a gag character, but by the middle of the issue I was enamoured with him, while on the last page I could honestly hardly contain my tears.
Clearly the best issue of the run and a great start for the new writer and season. Good enough to make me ignore the obvious faults of Steve Uy as the regular artist on a superhero title who can’t actually draw super-heroes.
FANTASTIC FOUR #557
(Mark Millar / Bryan Hitch / Andre Currie)
‘World’s Greatest’ part 4. I don’t particularly agree with the title choice. Can we rename the eventual trade into ‘World’s Most Average’? No? Anyone? No?
Not the best-paced of FF stories: MM spent two issues showing off and setting up some insane ideas only to end up having planetary threat level battles behind the scenes; the FF get their asses handed to them in the third issue without laying a single dent on, before Reed shows up in an Anti-Galactus suit to destroy the big bad robot in one blow. It doesn’t make for any sort of satisfying read or a believable threat. I expected much better.
What does work in the issue: Johnny’s doomed carnal affair with a sexy super-villainess, Alyssa’s staggering confession to Reed and even Reed’s special anniversary gesture to Sue — travelling back in time to sip coffee while watching their younger selves meet for the first time outside. Even that scene’s sweet intimacy is almost overshadowed by the clumsy over-reaching of Reed offering Sue a ring made up of an inhabited micro-galaxy… Really now, am I the only one thinking it’s a little too crass and self-centered a gesture? Noone? Someone? Chime in. 🙂
GHOST RIDER #23
(Jason Aaron / Ronald Boschi)
‘Hell-Bent & Heaven-Bound’ part 4.
Converging upon the crossroads paved with cannibal ghosts: One flaming skull Ghost Rider, a dozen gun-totting Biker Nurses (from the bad side of Heaven), one passenger bus and one cannibal hillbilly with a strapped-up deputy take-away in the backseat.
High-adrenaline action, impressive visuals, bad-ass-edness at every single turn, at least five ‘F**K WHOA!’ moments within 22 pages and the closest superhero comics will ever get to Garth Ennis’ Preacher. Hot!
THE INCREDIBLE HERCULES #117
(Jeff Parker & Fred Van Lente / Rafa Sandoval / Roger Bonet)
‘Sacred Invasion’ part 1. Hercules’ skrully sister Athena (ok, seriously didn’t see that coming) goads him into assembling a ‘God Squad’ to chase after the Skrull pantheon and avert the coming Invasion. Who gets on the schoolyard pick? Alpha Flight’s Snowbird (with a fitting current continuity bashing), the Eternals’ Ajak, Thor’s nemesis Demogorge and Ares’ nemesis Mikaboshi, representatives of the four pantheons at the ends of the compass. A volatile mix (heck, they even start fighting this issue) featuring continuity-rich characters, fan-favourites and fresh faces. Even for the hint of a Hercules-Snowbird, I’m sold!
Plus: the Godmobile!
IRON-MAN: DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D. #27
(Stuart Moore / Roberto de la Torre & Carlo Pagulayan / Roberto de la Torre & Jeffrey Huet)
‘With Iron Hands’ part 1. Nuclear terrorism, inexistent Eastern European countries, a nanotechnology super-villain (my field of research is carbon nanotubes well, so deriving perverse pleasure in looking at my science cannibalised into a comic book), an armoured Iron Men SHIELD batallion led by Stark… The issue is filled by fertile concepts, but none are realised in an engaging manner. Similar in theme and ideas to Invincible Iron-man, with the sole difference that the latter clicks, while this one is frozen on its tracks from the get-go.
MARVEL ADVENTURES AVENGERS #24
(Jeff Parker / Ig Guara / Jay Leisten)
Team dynamics take a dive when an outside factor gets the Avengers bickering like school-children and the entire team takes a trip to Doc Sampson’s shrink sofa. It’s an almost issue this month, a fun concept not fully realised, with too much happening at once and confusing story-telling.
Maybe I’m just spoiled by Parker’s usual flawless standards…
Don’t be Hating.
MIGHTY AVENGERS #14
(Brian Bendis / Khoi Pham / Danny Miki)
An issue devoted to that wacky Sentry panel in Secret Invasion #2. Skrull Jarvis is giving his alien honchos the info-dump on the Sentry and how to take him out of the equation, with Bendis taking an intriguing approach to the character and his opposite, the Void. The Void here isn’t inherently evil: he’s the mirror opposite of the Sentry; when the Sentry is the archetype of heroic and noble, the Void is forced to be the snickering villain; now that the Sentry has been reduced to a crumbling deserting basketcase, well, now is the time for the Void to step up and save the day!
Khoi Pham (Hercules) fills in, showing some promise, but jumping art styles from one end of the Bendis spectrum (Leinil Yu) to the other (Jim Cheung). Will he really evolve into a ‘Big Gun’?
ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #54
(Mike Carey / Tyler Kirkham)
Ultimate Salem’s Seven are here to save the day, while Sue ponders over Lesbianism leaflets (just window shopping, down girls, down!), Ben & Johny fool about (ew, not in that sense) and Ultimate Agatha Harkness does the shrink thing on the boys (as in, psychotherapy, damn where’s your mind at today)… A witty and approachable new chapter (even if you haven’t read for a year, like yours trully), although the art does leave a lot to be desired.
Is Marvel really that low on creators that they need to outsource the art duties to Top Cow?!?
ULTIMATE X-MEN #94
(Aron E. Coleite / Mark Brooks / Jaime Mendoza & Troy Hubbs)
‘Absolute Power’ part 1. Ah, another new writer on Ultimate X-Men. That’s the 6th one and counting! As for the roster, boy has it grown as well.
Let’s count our chickens:
Cyclops, Jean (returned after last issue’s great exit from the team with nothing but a throwaway line), Storm, Beast, Angel, Dazzler, Iceman, Firestar (fresh off the pages of Ultimate Spider-man, again with no explanation here about her origins or identity, and suddenly strawbery blonde- do they even realise this is Liz Allen instead of Angelica Jones?), Wolverine (hitting on the jailbait Firestar at first chance -huh-?), Nightcrawler (again, returned to the team with a passing mention of his Morlock affiliation and his grand betrayal of the team), Colossus, Havoc, Northstar, Rogue… 14 members! Returning characters, erased personalities and several of last issue’s additions to the roster (Pyro, Psylocke, the two-headed guy) just swept aside.
As for the issue itself: it introduces Ultimate Alpha Flight, which is really a lot like the regular one, only with Jubilee (ok) and Sunfire (huh? Japan/Canada, dude? get your red-and-whites straight). They show up in the middle of the X-Men’s softball game (zzz) with a target in mind, they throw the kids around like amateurs in a few quick action panels (I so expect better from my Ultimate titles than this) and then fly off. In-between we’re treated to a ‘drugs are bad’ retread of the recent storyline from Young Avengers: substitute Patriot for Colossus and MGH for ‘Banshee’ as the super-drug of choice and you’re set. I know it was supposed to be shocking, but we’ve seen it done so much better before, and generally the sight of Colossus with a needle has been to death (nar nar).
As far as debuts go, it doesn’t look too optimistic right now. I’m hoping Coleite picks up the pace, gets a tighter roster together and learns how to write these characters. So far it feels like a bad 90s x-book, instead of a cutting edge Ultimate book as it should be.
(Peter David / Pablo Raimondi)
Can you call it a filler issue if it’s done by the regular creative team of the book?
This sure felt like a fill-in issue. The X-Factor scramble to save lives when Mutant Town is trapped in an energy sphere and Arcade has set a religious fanatic to explode in the middle of it. We get the unbridled excitement of M holding a ceiling, Siryn saving a bad comedian, Strong Guy hosing people down, Jamie climbing a roof and Rictor typing on a computer! Glee!
(No, I won’t even comment on the scene where Arcade fakes being a cyborg by using two masks on top of each other. My brain hurts from overthinking this)
Tags: Avengers, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Marvel Adventures, Spider-Man, Ultimate Universe, X-Men