CAPSULE REVIEWS Marvel Week 26 2008

So Marvel released 23 titles this week.

Out of which six have ‘Avengers’ in their title, six more are Secret Invasion tie-ins, two are drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa, two are written by Matt Fraction, five of them feature Hulks of three different colours in total, but only one features two favourite super-heroes in cross-dress… -Sigh-

and I review them all:


(Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa / Adam Pollina)

Young Warren is trying to make sense of the changes happening to his body (teenage boys are barely fit to deal with acne, let alone molting)- while his protege silently suffers from a molesting teacher/priest (brilliantly and subtly portrayed in the writing and art) and the attack from Warren’s stereotype school rivals and bullies (that part I could do without).

Adam Pollina has grown into an amazing visual artist, with stunningly bold choices in perspective and character designs. Perhaps we could see him pay a short visit to X-Force (the title that launched his career in the 90s) after this mini?



(C.B. Cebulski / Takeshi Miyazawa)

… or more appropriately YOUNG Avengers Fairy Tales.

The size-changing Cassie Lang -fittingly- stars as the darling (and slightly disturbed) Alice, shrinking down into the magic Wonderland inhabited by Young Avengers versions of the famous characters. Cebulski keeps the plot structure of the original story, while changing the core emotions into the more personal story of a girl trying to come to terms with her father’s passing and discovering her real identity in his absence.

Miyazawa is an utter star choice for this, providing amazing Lewis redesigns of the main cast. Cassie is delighful, along with the twin brothers Wiccan (the wizard Hare) and Speed (the white-haired Rabbit), Iron Lad (the smitten Dormouse), the Ant-Man Caterpillar, Cheshire Tigra and Vision, Ultron, Jocasta replacing the classic playing card army! I was only slightly disapointed with the choice to use Patriot and Hawkeye for the big roles since they’re the less known of the cast, yet it makes more sense in the updated context of the story Cebulski wants to say. Bonus brownie points for squeezing almost the entire story in standard 23 pages and making it look ever so easy!



(Dan Slott & Christos N. Gage / Stefano Caselli)

Year 2 of the Initiative? Totally better than year 1.

3D-Man joins his new Hawaiian Avengers (‘the Point-Men’) team, only to discover a very Skrully-looking infiltrator. Meanwhile back at base, the non-invadey (yet still very secret-ey) Skrull hero the Crusader discovers Hank Pym’s replacement through a culinary disaster.

Dan Slott has been setting up his pawns on the chessboard for the past year for this pay-off: the 3D-Man’s Skrull detector, the Crusader as an unwitting foil, Pym’s plan to put a Skrull in every Avengers team in every State. Even Stefano Caselli seems to have fixed his game, looking better than ever, and without the annoying coloring faux-pas of season 1. Is this title finally realising its promise to become a true core Avengers title?



(Mark Millar / Bryan Hitch / Andrew Currie)

‘Death of the Invisible Woman’ part 1. Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Millar & Hitch kick off their second storyline in style. This issue shows even more promise than their first issue on the title, but I do hope it’s not squandered in the following ones again. Ignoring the attention-starved infant of a title (wasn’t Sue just killed off a few month ago in a special oneshot? And the Thing before her a few years ago? Give it a rest), the storyline focuses on the ‘New Defenders’ an utterly mysterious and spoilery group who have targeted Doom and the FF.

Millar teaches class here on how to plant hidden clues and drum up suspense – from the new villains (?) themselves, to Johnny and the Thing’s new girlfriends, the witch-ful new Nanny (who might not be as old as she lets on, judging from the excellently detailed and telling manner in which Hitch portrays her body language), Valeria’s secret, Mentallo’s puzzle and that final page reveal…

I really can’t spot any of the problems I had with the last few issues anymore. Hitch has corrected his unfortunate Thing anatomy, Millar has reigned in his mad ideas to actually serviceable concepts (Saturday morning Villain drills? brilliant) and gotten a feeling for everyone’s voice.

Oh, and they still haven’t missed a deadline in 5 months! Go Team Millar!



(Jeph Loeb / Ed McGuinness / Dexter Vines)

Finally! Green Hulk (newly re-stupidified) vs the evil militant gun-happy Red Hulk. It’s a slugfest so momentous that the Watcher showed up – and got a rightfu lseeing to that I’m sure made a lot of fans happy.

Yes, this is the sort of comic where the Watcher gets punched in the face and then pummeled in the mud until he loses consciousness…

As for the Red Hulk mystery – well, no matter how many curveballs Loeb tries to throw our way, I can’t really see how it can be anyone other than Thunderbolt Ross. I mean, really – the army training, that horrid haircutm the Hulk-hatred? Euch šŸ™‚

It took a few issues, but Loeb has won me over this unapologetic fan-service punch-athon.



(Matt Fraction / David Aja)

‘The Mortal Iron Fist’ part 1. Okay, they totally got one past me. All these issues, all those biographies of previous Iron Fists, and I never connected the dots…

This issue Fraction flies solo on Danny Rand, giving us possibly the most honest and intimate look on a character we’re only really beginning to know now. We follow Danny through a few days of his new life: coaching neighbourhood kids in Kung Fu, making love with his ‘girlfriend’, hanging out with his best bud, planning the transformation of his company into the ultimate charity. all the pieces of the puzzle fit to give us the portrait of the new Danny Rand, the wide-eyed dreamer, over-grown kid and hopeless ‘good guy’ who is often out of his waters in his everyday reality.

David Aja gets a chance to really strut his ‘art fu’ throughout the issue: from the opening happy moments with the kids, the intimate bedroom scene (subtly adding little details like a hint of a metallic joint on Misty’s bionic arm), the cinematic dream sequence and the trully haunting closing scene.

Simply Perfect.


MARVEL 1985 #2

(Mark Millar / Tommy Lee Edwards)

Keeping up the same high standards as the opening issue (hey, that’s a first for non-ultimate Millar), our young protagonist survives a run-in with the Hulk in the forest, but has trouble getting even his uver-geek of a dad to believe his story. Meanwhile, the mystery and conspiracy of the Marvel Villains’ landing into our own ‘real ‘world deepens.



(Chris Eliopoulos / Ronan Cliquet / Amilton Santos)


See: the Swarm. The Swarm is a funny super-villain made out entirely of killer bees who wears a purple cloak and talks in a sssssilly lisssssp. Big hit.

Now, this issue we’re introduced to the Cockroach version of Swarm: the Collective. Let’s back up a minute…


Sorry, but ewwww.

In the issue’s defense, we also get to see the Thing in a tutu skirt, the Torch in a french maid uniform, and the Blue Smurf Hulk. Not a total waste.



(Brian Michael Bendis / John Romita Jr / Klaus Janson & Tom Palmer)

Hank Pym.

Goliath, Yellowjacket, Giant-Man, Ant-Man, Dr. Pym.

Poor Hank.

Avenger, drunk, wife-beater, villain-by-mistake, inventor of deadly robots, suicide case. Lovable loser Hank.

Somehow his revelation as a Skrull didn’t really come as much surprise. If anyone was acting Skrully the past year… Hank had managed to be a prominent figure in the big 50-state initiative plan, but also well out of focus on any of the titles, that it was a big shining beacon.

This issue tells the back-story of his Skrull replacement: after a(nother) big argument with the on/off missus Janet Pym, Hank beds the bright-eyed young blonde Gwen-wannabe thing that’s been rubbing off on his leg in conferences. Um, you know the rest of the story. Very typical mid-life crisis-y, very typical Hank. I hadn’t even realised how much I missed Doc Pym until this story, major points to Bendis for instantly capturing all the loser charm that makes Pym a classic hit.



(Brian Reed / Adriana Melo / Mariah Benes)

Crossing out of Secret Invasion #3, Ms Marvel’s in the middle of the NY Invasion and she’sabout to go full-on punch-ey and blast-ey on the Super-Skrull Armada. It’s solid action from the first to the last page, and Carol finally enjoying herself for once as she discovers that, well, war turns her on! I think Reed finally figured out what makes Ms Marvel tick and stand out from the rest of the Marvel heroes.

Colour me intrigued.



(Brian Michael Bendis / Jim Cheun / John Dell)

…and while Mighty Avengers tells the story of the Hank Pym infiltration, this same week, New Avengers gives us the greatest mystery in this whole affair: the replacement of Jessica Drew by the Skrull Queen.

Jessica Drew… quintuple agent now?

The Skrull Queen posing as Jessica Drew, secretly working for Nick Fury, pretending to secretly work for Hydra, pretending to infiltrate SHIELD, and joining the New Avengers. Oof. She’s sure giving that other Jessica Garner/Alias chick a run for her money!

Bendis goes back to the earliest issues of New Avengers, revealing he DID have a plan – it all makes perfect sense in retrospect, this staggeringly scary level of detail in planning earns him mad brownie points. Being prepared to put up with an insane amount of fan derision just to set up your ultimate sleeper hit plan? Cajones!

and what about this cliffhanger? I’ve never been so anxious to see the familiar white-out House of M cliffhanger before! Bring it on baldy!



(Fred Van Lente / Gurihiru & Colleen Coover)

The fluffy bunny (oh dear, and I’m sooo serious) ending to the Power Pack’s action-packed origin versus the alien Snarks and the Project Pegasus. I can appreciate Van Lente’s dedication to always put in little over-the-top camp bits to appease the older audience as well as the kids.

Colleen Coover gives the last of the 4 pseudo-scientific Power kid bios, with Jack explaining Archimedes’ Greeklish theories in hilarious fashion.



(Joss Whedon / Michael Ryan / Ketcham, Olazaba, Paris & Yeung)

Joss Whedon *finally* concludes his 2-years-long mammoth 6-issue (heh) run.

But, honestly? I wouldn’t have minded waiting another year, if in the end we get 6 issues that stir up so many emotions and thoughts. After all, it may have been published in 6 issues, but there’s enough story, characterisation, action and new characters in here to fill 2 full years of other writers’ titles.

The kids’ wrap up their adventure in the start of the last century, escape the explosive war between the super-gangs and head home, with a surprise new member in their ranks and an immense upheaval in their dynamics. The action contains dozens of Whedon-isms and smart-talk, and almost all the new characters get a brief moment to shine. Before the end, Whedon tips his hand, revealing the soul of his story: living in the past, the despair from the pointless struggle to escape the loop of pre-destination, regret, true love, the adults’ yearning to relive their youth and correct their mistakes, the children’s need to grow up as fast as they can – and now the realisation that they might just not be ready…

The strongest mirror parallel echoes from the finale: Gert’s parents – going through the remainder of their lives knowing their daughter – the reason for their atrocious actions- is going to die, but cursed to be unable to change anything or repent from their fated course of action on the one side; and on the other, the Wind-Dancer at the end of her life, knowing how her love story ends abruptly by her fault, trying to warn her young self, arm her with the knowledge of her lonely destiny – yet her younger self chooses to make the same mistake again because of her fear of the future’s uncertainty just as her old self chooses to keep trying in vain by sending her lover in the past over and over…



(Chris Yost & Takeshi Miyazawa)

Crossover Madness!

Chris Yost manages to tie together: the ending of Whedon’s Runaways (which left them with an added member, and stranded in New York), the Young Avengers scene from Secret Invasion #2-3 (keeping some of the same dialogue, while putting it into the context of the larger story here), and even the entrance of the Initiative (later linked into from the relevane crossover issue of their title). I’m quite impressed with the level of planning that’s gone into this.

Yost has an amazing rapport on the Runaways (hmmm), and a passable handle on the Young Avengers who feel more like the guest-stars in this first issue. Much of the issue is spent setting up the forgettable (hey ‘they all look the same to me) Skrull supporting cast, and an ineffective faux-double cross. This sequel to the teams’ original meeting during Civil War already looks more promising! After all this is the closest they get to Karma, as both teams utterly coincidentally (trust me i’ve checked with both teams’ writers/creators) have a gay Skrull in their midst. Now the Empire is here to gay-bash their teen brains out! Or, you know, take over the planet and stuff…



(Peter David / Val Semeiks / Victor Olazaba)

The Bran subplot finally gets resolved with a gigantic fistfight across the city and a divine twist with a slice of PAD-ian moral dilemma. It’s all too spread-out since the start of the arc, convoluted, and yet quickly resolved.

The real appeal of the issue? Another notch on Shulkie’s belt, this time of the Greek Demi-God variety. Naughty Naughty!

Although Semeiks did deliver in the boudoir scenes, the rest of the issue felt too rushed in places, with She-Hulk going up and down in bra-sizes between panels and generally looking like a hoppity gamma-irradiated cow. Bad form.

The new status-quo and supporting cast hasn’t even remotely clicked for me yet, I still have faith PAD will find his footing soon and remind us just why he’s considered the best Green-genes writer.



(Warren Ellis / Mike Deodato Jr)

‘Caged Angels’ part 6.

The ultimate Thunderbolt vs Thunderbolt storyline wraps up with two last gritty & nasty showdowns: Doc Sampson vs Moonstone (with a side of Penance) and Songbird vs the Green Goblin. Both these battles felt absolutely cathartic, as Ellis has been building up the tension on both fronts for a while, so these characters had enough pent-up hatred towards each other to blow the whole of T-Bolts mountain in the sky – which they kinda do come to think about it! So when the time comes where evil super-villains (as opposed to our cuddly ones) manipulate them each other, they barely take a moment to resist the urge, and instead revel in the all-out hair-pulling, floor-busting release of it.

Punching people is good for the soul!



(Brian Michael Bendis / Stuart Immonen / Wayne Von Grawbadger)

Heh. Bendis tries his luck on those silly type of narratives with our hero dissing out his life-story sat on a bench/table/bed, zooming in and out of the story while the audience he’s talking to changes, showing the endless loop of the story’s repetition to random new people. Ahem, yeah, storytelling 101 for you. Funnily enough I caught the exact same Forrest Gump device used today on Youtube for a ‘Samantha Who?’ recap trailer.

Aaaaanway, yeah, Bendis does that same thing here.

Only, with Venom/Eddie Brock.

Sitting in the park.

Telling the story of his genesis, his stalking of Spidey, and their big fight in a museum.

To old ladies, frat girls, soon-to-be-lunch innocent bystanders…

I quite enjoyed the whole quirky creepy manner of the story unfolding, very much like an oddbeat Twilight Zone or Goosebumps (hehe) episode. Still, the issue wraps up way too fast for my taste, with the action scene thrown in the last pages as more of an after-thought (“oh hey, we got carried away having fun this issue we totally forgot to include Pete and a fight scene! Can we make do with the last 5 pages?”)



(Jeph Loeb / Joe Madureira / Chis Lichner)

What a gigantic mess.

We’re only one issue before the conclusion, and nothing still makes much sense. Half the team is in the Savage Land battlnig Magneto & the Brotherhood (well, more like posing for a series of brief versus splash pages one by one), while the Wasp & Hank Pym face off against a robot version of the original (read: more interesting) Ultimates.

Where’s the problem?

There’s little to no plot – random people just show up and take each other out while spouting their names. The art isn’t up to Mad’s standards as the digital inking process is muddying up every page (where’s Tim Townsend these days?). There is nothing remotely ‘ultimate’ about any of the characters here, as they all flatten into a stereotypical cardboard personalities and attributes.

We have to look forward to another volume of this drivel? Someone call Millar… please!



(Ed Brubaker / Mike Choi & Ben Oliver)

‘X-Men Divided’ part 5. Oh, well, at least it’s over. Brubaker hasn’t been seting my world afire with his UXM run, but this latest arc had been the worst, slow-paced, non-event filler storyline of them all. So Scott & emma finally fight the hippie X-Men under Mastermind’s control, with the entire struggle resolved by Emma… getting through the illusionist’s telepathic defenses and turning the illusions off? That’s it? Did we really need to drag this 5 issues just for the pinup shots of Angel, Warpath and Hepzibah dressed like Flower Children?



(Fred Van Lente / Salva Espin)

‘The Last Knights of Wundagore’ part 2. Havoc! The High Evolutionary has de-evolved the animal bits out of Wolvie (turning him into a meek little coward ****), and evolved Kitty into, well, her namesake – a humanoid cat-girl who leads the attack against Man-Beast and his own Ani-Men.

Seeing Kitty in her shiny and sleek Feline armour (kudos to Espin for the very original look) brought back the exciting memories of Claremont’s first handling of the character in the 80s, when she would change names and outfits between issues (or even between scenes). This title has been a complete geek-joy/fan-service to Kitty loyalists, and we’ve not even hit the half-year mark yet!



(Jeff Parker / Roger Cruz)

With Angel on holiday, it’s time for Xavier to enlist a new recruit in his school for gifted youngsters…

oh, hey wait… You mean:

Machine Man??

And not even funny, brutal, misanthropic Aaron Stack from Nextwave “I hate you fleshy ones” Machine Man!

No, no, original, whiny, constantly depressed “Why do I only dream about stupid robot sheep” Pinocchio Machine Man!

Damn continuity!

An amusing issue nonetheless, especially Xavier taking an amusing stance towards the usual superhero team-up plot…



(Mike Carey / Scot Eaton / Andrew Hennessy)

Did Mike Carey just successfully manage to collect all the disparate Alamagordo threads from all over the 90s X-titles, and make sense out of them into a surprising twist reveal (and an even more shocking last page?). Guess there was a purpose behind what Nicieza was babbling about after all! I don’t know how much of this is the original purpose and how much is Carey working his magic, but I’m completely satisfied with the result.

Plus, we get to see Sebastian Shaw being a formidable villain, Sinister an actual menace, Gambit as a charming swashbuckler hero, and… Amanda Mueller? Talk about bringing a poisoned chalice to the dinner table! Carey safely sidesteps across the minefield here, but the wikipedia entry is just full of fun facts about the geriatric witch: Scott Summers’ great-great-grandma, Sinister’s deranged lab assistant, the head of the Black Womb Nazi experiments, and Fontanelle’s mother (do you remember Fontanelle?), back when Nicieza was really pushing for the ‘Gambit as the Third Summer brother reveal’.

I love the 90s (when done right!)



(Matt Fraction / Alan Davis / Mark Farmer)

Alan Davis?!? Wow, they really went for the big guns this last issue of the spotlight anthology mini-series. Although I can’t be convinced the teenage Hawkeye deserves the honors on her own, Fraction’s tale of her meeting the original Hawkeye (since resurrected, working undercover and showing up to challenge the young girl for his name and bow back) has enough heart and sappy pro-dream messages to make it worth Alan Davis’ time and effort.

Major brownie points to readers who recognise where Hawkeye’s dress in the bar scene below is based on!


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Join our newsletter

never miss the latest news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary for Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games!