CAPSULE REVIEWS Marvel Week 27 2008

The debuts of Astonishing X-Men and Secret Invasion Frontline save the day in an otherwise dreadful (yet thankfully short) week – when has Marvel ever had only 6 titles out in a week before?

Read on!


(Mark Guggenheim, Dan Slott & Bob Gale / Paulo Siqueira / Amilton Santos)

Three writers, three short stories, three POV on one eventful car chase through NYC.

The three Spider-Trust writers (minus Wells) give the Spidey, Cop and Villain -eye view on a Spidey vs Overdrive (the villain who can pimp any ride – snicker). It’s a good idea, executed in the most standard and expected way without any big surprises.

Well, apart one. The sheer idiocy of having Spidey recklessly endanger a bus-load of kids during the fight. After Overdrive commandeers a school bus for his escape, Spidey bursts through one of the windows, glass shards flying in every directions towards the unsuspecting kids. He repeats this genius move once more. Later, in his grand scheme to save the kids, he fires a sonic boom in their direction, breaks the rear window and has them escape into a web cocoon, which he then drops off the still moving bus!

Spider-Menace indeed!



(Warren Ellis / Simone Bianchi )

It’s a short week, so I’ll devote a bit longer on the star release…

When it was time for Joss Whedon to step down from his celebrated (critically acclaimed, fan-adored, sales-topping, tear-jerking…) run on Astonishing X-Men – there could only be one name fit to pass the torch (after Whedon himself had succeeded Grant Morrison, establishing the Emma – Scott – Wolvie – Beast uber-core team) to…

(Well, ok after Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman refused to return the editors’ emails)

Warren Ellis!

So, Warren had a bit of a up-and-down history with the X-Franchises, with a healthy and memorable/definitive run on Excalibur (it does take a Brit to do it justice), a short stint on Wolverine, and three hit-n-miss takes on X-Force, X-Man (which did kinda rock) and Generation-X.

Now, he makes his triumphant return – to the core (the ‘core-est’ of the core) X-Men books, using the familiar star-making cast (with Storm replacing the late Kitty – who had replaced the late Jean Grey – hmmmm), and once more using them to launch the X-Men into a new exciting direction.

Yes, they’ve officially moved into San Francisco, they have a new X-Cave, X-plane, (hideous) X-car, X-uniforms — a franchising dream-scape of opportunities! Their ew mission statement actually makes sense in this crazed-up Initiative-driven world (although we might need a bit more explaining how it fits in with the rest of the line): the X-Men are acting as consultants to the SFPD, visiting the scene of the mutant(?)-related crime in their street/police-gear, and being careful not to step on any toes. The crime is related to (yet another) a supposedly new species of mutant – or beyond mutant- handily explained in typical Ellis pseudo-science.

Despite initial fan unrest over Ellis’ handling of the X-Cast I was overly very impressed, Armour sticks around after Whedon’s run, well on her way to becoming this generation’s Kitty Pryde. Her rapport with Hank was a welcome distraction, showing off her quirky mix of irreverence and respect to her teachers/teammates. Cyclops and Emma click very well, without their dialogue getting too sappy (someone send a copy to Brubaker for reference); Cyclops is still reeling from the balls-growing rollercoaster of Unbreakable, while Emma is her usual fabulous caustic self; Ellis overshoots just a bit in her dialogue, going too far with her Samantha-isms (“I’ll simply have to this, and absolutely have to that, oh and will simply have to the other thing as well”). Queen Storm’s the clear stand-out from the group, making her triumphant return from the pages of Black Panther after an extended honeymoon leave; she’s a tough character to crack, with a voice that writer after writer has failed to get right – she always ends up looking like the boring mother of the group, a paper-thin leader figure or a frigid queen; Warren Ellis makes it seem so easy to catch the warmth, the regality, the fire and the humility of Ororo.

Finally… Simone Bianchi. An italian super-star artist, his art, his designs and his storytelling… jump out of the page and are incredibly rich in personality and texture – like an abject super-reality squished on the comic page. Going back to my gay-crash on Storm, no artist has captured her attributes so easily – and it’s been decades since she had a decent costume design – an homage (but not derivative of) to the original Cockrum timeless leather piece.

Ah, I’ve been babbling. Good times are coming!



(Alex Ross & Jim Krueger / Steve Sadowski)

First of all many Happy Wishes to Steve Sadowski who tied the knot with his loved one this week!

The Invaders do -of course- stage an escape from SHIELD captivity — thanks to Bucky’s retconned hardcore spy-awesomeness. Meanwhile WWII Namor (pre-dye job) discovers the ruins of Atlantis and gets in a nonsensical fight to the death with present-day Namor (yeah that’s smart, what a win-win situation) – who’s inexplicably gone from being all about ‘Declaring War on the Surface World’ (did anyone else read that mini?) to a peaceful co-existence mode. HUH!

I *might* already be losing all interest in this title – and with 9 issues ahead, that’s never a good sign. Thankfully Sadowski’s hubba-hubba art is enough to make me stick around and just stare at the handsome heroes…



(Duane Swieczynski / Ariel Olivetti)

‘War Baby’ part 5. Finally concluding! Once more it’s Cable vs Bishop in the vaguely-defined apocalyptic (?) future. Bishop commandeers some random street mercenaries. Cable gets his waitress darling (I don’t even care to remember her name, let’s call her Annie) into spandex, gives her a gun, and lets her loose. Well, at least he had the forethought of shielding the baby in a protective armour shell this time. The fight gets cut short when Cable ultimately makes an escape jump further into the future.

That was it? Was there any point to the events of the past 5 issues? Utter disappointment and lack of any worthwhile plot structure, characterisation or any redeeming quality whatsover.



(Brian Reed / GG Studios )

By Gawd, they finally get it!

In the heart of heart of NY, ordinary everyday people go about their ordinary everyday lives. Well, about as ordinary as you get when you’re living in a super-hero populated NYC.

A young E.R. doctor, reporter Ben Urich, a high school student and her negligent father (a designer for the Fantastic Four toy franchise), a cop, a cabbie who gets his taxi wrecked by Spidey vs Menace…

Reed follows their everyday lives, giving us the ultimate intimate street-eye view of what it could mean to be a real commuter in the Marvel Universe New York… and then of course, the Skrulls invade! Reed succeeds where Jenkins failed miserably 2-3 times in a row; he focuses the story on the people on the street – instead of giving just a newscast recap of the event, wasting time on a lame conspiracy or just using it -let’s say- as a continued showcase of the reporter’s lifestory.



(Howard Chaykin / Marco Turini)


I absolutely didn’t understand a single thing that happened this issue…

Did I need to be familiar with the previous book? The Ultimate Power mini? I’ve not read either, so I’ll need your feedback on that.

The recap page was hardly helpful as only one of the characters explained there actually makes an appearance in the book. Well, him and Ultimate Nick Fury – someone will also need to explain the reasoning behind spinning him out on his own like this ‘Private Practice’-style. Talk about ‘doomed from the get-go’.

Ok, so what did I piece together? The Squadron Supreme (Marvel’s version of the JLA) is… somewhere off world. The remaining members (a Zatanna analog and a smart guy) are working with Nick Fury on… something. Meanwhile across the board we get introduced to freaky gruesome new analogs of (I’m totally guessing here)… familiar Marvel characters, like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and Captain America.

Howard Chaykin has zero consideration for the new reader here, not bothering to properly introduce all his cast and his situation, while new artist Turini has the oddest fascination of drawing porn artists on the news. Seriously, what kind of newscaster talks like this on the news? And why would a scared helpless victim pout like a call-girl ad?



(feel free to check out Mark Stoddard’s review for a slightly less positive spin)

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