Open Mike Night: Star Trek Countdown to Darkness #1/Young Avengers #1

Maillaro: Just a warning bro, I managed to read them both during lunch, and I didn’t feel either of them were totally new reader friendly. Star Trek you should be fine as long as you’ve seen the movie, but there are a few references to the comic series. And the namedrop at the end is sort of meaningless unless you are a big Trek fan or look it up on Wiki (like I did).

Young Avengers is far worse. I read quite a bit of Allan Heinberg’s Young Avengers, and even I felt a little lost at times. A little too many cryptic references to past stories. Let me know how you feel when you read them.

Weaver: I honestly didn’t find them that inaccessible. Star Trek was clearly more accessible than Young Avengers, and yes I had to wiki that namedrop too…but only after you mentioned wiki’ing it, since I was originally just willing to accept it at face value to the plot.

Star Trek Countdown to Darkness #1

Written by: Roberto Orci and Mike Johnson
Art by: David Messina and Marina Castelvetro
Colored by: Claudia Scarletgothica
Lettered by: Chris Mowry
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

Weaver:So, let’s start with Star Trek, since we’re already talking about it. I thought this was a pretty solid book. It introduced us to what I’m sure will become core concepts of this series, namely Kirk and Spock suffering from unusual levels of mental difficulty, including Spock’s sleeplessness. At this point, both of them are internalizing it and dealing with the problems themselves, although we’re already getting hints that they’re going to become a Big Deal. While Spock’s nightmare references a particular incident, it’s easy enough to just follow along with it with no prior knowledge.

I have a few major complaints, though. The first one is that it seemed to spend a lot of time just hammering the same characteristic of Kirk and Spock at you over and over again. I was forgiving to a degree of the opening “Logic dictates…” monologue, because I could build a case in my head for reinforcing that given that he’s trying to figure out what went wrong. The later part where Kirk was going on and on and on about wanting to go down to the planet regardless of the Prime Directive was more taxing as a reader, since historically, Kirk would already be in the shuttle by the time Spock tried to rebut him. There’s no reason he had to say it more than once, twice maximum.

Maillaro: Especially the “new” Kirk, who has been shown as being even more reckless that Shatner Kirk ever was.

I did like that they showed that Spock’s problems where causing him to regress some back into being more Vulcan. I have been enjoying his relationship with Uhura in the ongoing series, but at times, it almost felt like Spock was overcompensating. It is a interesting dynamic for the character, but really feels far from the Spock we all know and love. And I am not really sure if that is a good or bad thing…

I also have to protest at no Bones in this issue. Even got a quick comment or something, even Wesley…I meant Chekov…got some lines in this issue. But Bones (who has been my favorite character in Star Trek relaunch) got nothing. That is just terrible!

All in all, I liked this comic, but it did feel a little generic. Enterprise is scanning a planet that is supposed to be primitive, they find a strange anomaly, so decide to go check it out. For science.  And find a secret tied to the past exploits of the Federation.

There was nothing particularly wrong with this comic…but I didn’t feel all that blown away for it. Especially when I could have waited a month and paid 2 bucks for it, as opposed to 4. Actually, it sort of reminds me of Star Trek: Insurrection. Technically, it was fine, but did it need to be a big budget movie? Not really.

Weaver: McCoy did get a mention…Uhura suggests that Spock go see him. As far as the Spock we all know and love…I’m one of those people that love Next Generation and later Trek, but never got into the originals, so I don’t know him that well, nor do I have a lot of affection for him…but I have liked him a lot in the new Treks. I guess I’m taking him as a brand new character more here.

The comparison to Insurrection is fair. Nothing here was truly worth spending time and money on unless you want to see these characters. However, I do see the potential for this becoming a worthwhile story later in the series…there always needs to be a bit of lead in.

Oh, another complaint from me: editing. There were a couple of big typos in the comic that threw me off. Especially if you’re trying to drag in new fans, such as Star Trek Fans, you want to give them the best possible product, and that’s an oversight that should have been caught.

Maillaro: Hmmm…fair point, I have watched exactly two episodes of original Star Trek. I did see most of the original cast movies, but that is “Spock reborn” so might not even be accurate to how Spock usually was in the show. I am sort of just relying on my sense of Spock from pop culture, which could be total BS. I do think Zachary Quinto’s Spock has been pretty damn cool on his own, so I agree with you on that.

Bah, name dropping Bones isn’t the same as him throwing down some of that Southern charm I need. To call Spock a “green-blooded hobgoblin” or to remind us “space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.”

I do think that you are probably right that this comic will be building up to something big, especially since it’s leading in to the next movie. But for the most part, the Star Trek ongoing has been just one shots or two parters, and I thought that got to the action a lot more effectively, and usually with more original and unique setups. I hate to dwell on that, but since IDW is already putting out a damn good Star Trek series, I really was hoping for something BIGGER here.

3/5 for the writing for me.

Weaver: Yeah. Ultimately, this was solid, but making it a limited series and a movie prequel means that solid wasn’t quite good enough. I would standardly agree with 3/5, but I’m docking it a half point for it being less than was needed for what marketing was putting it out for. 2.5 of 5.

The art was decent throughout. Everyone looked unique, nothing was mysterious. The action scenes, what there were of them, were good, and the adversary designs were nice for what we saw of them. I’ll mark that a 3.5 of 5.

Maillaro: I am not even sure they are adversaries, to be honest. But we shall see. Wow, and I thought my 3 was harsh for the writing!

I thought other than maybe Scottie everyone looked really close to their movie counterparts, so I think I am going to go a little higher with the art on this one. 4/5.

Young Avengers #1

Written by: Kieron Gillen
Art by: Jamie McKelvie & Mike Norton
Colored by: Matthew Wilson
Lettered by: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $2.99

Maillaro: Young Avengers has had some of the most entertaining solicits I’ve ever read…

Variant cover by DAVID LAFUENTE
• Kate Bishop finally turns up!
• A lovely day trip to Central Park for a group of cheery youngsters.
• LIES! It’s not lovely as they’re being pursued by bad guys and it’s not a day trip as (er) it’s at night.
• A shameless retcon into Marvel Boy’s history!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99

And the ad from Marvel Now Zero was pretty damn cool too.

I might have overhyped myself for this comic a little too much. Don’t get me wrong, like Star Trek, I mostly enjoyed this comic, I just never thought it quite reached it’s full potential.

Damn, this column is starting to sound like every report card I ever received in school….

We start with Kate Bishop doing the best impression of her mentor Hawkeye by having casual sex with Noh-Varr in space without even knowing his name (even though she acknowledges they fought each other during Civil War). And suddenly Skrulls attack!

Meanwhile, back at Earth, the former Young Avenger known as Hulkling has been using his shape shifting powers to continue a career as a superhero. I loved when he was pretending to be Spider-Man…with a secondary mutation! We find out that Hulkling has been living with his boyfriend Wiccan and Wiccan’s foster parents. Wiccan is pretty pissed that Hulkling keeps risking his life as a hero, when the Young Avengers had so much loss and tragedy hit them. Hulking reveals that he needs to find something in his life worthwhile. This convinces Wiccan to use magic to find a universe where Hulkling’s mother never died. He ends up bringing her through to this world. But she seems to be an evil Skrull too!

Kid Loki was trying to disrupt Wiccan from screwing up reality but Miss America shows up to try and stop him. To be honest, I found a lot of the stuff with Kid Loki and Miss America to be kind of confusing and still not quite sure what was going on there.

Weaver: I actually really enjoyed this comic. Maybe not being familiar with the series or the ads worked in my favor a little, because my expectation was essentially, “Let’s check this out.” I don’t know any of these characters at all. I mean, obviously I know Loki, and I knew a little about the Young Avengers in general, and Noh-Varr, but I’ve never read anything featuring them. This is my absolute first time even hearing about Miss America, also. My son got a Marvel Calendar at the comic shop which has the cover image on it, and between us both we could name like…three people. And even then, it was mostly “I guess this character is filling the Captain America role.”

That said, I generally like them. I feel like I get the basics of how each of them operate, also greatly enjoying Hulkling impersonating Spidey.

There’s a really interesting dynamic in the Hulkling/Wiccan relationship in that they both seem to want to be exactly what the other one wants them to be in some ways, but there’s certain things that are involatile. It’s like it gets close to being dangerously codependent except they’re sticking to their guns in one particular spot. Seems like most teenage relationships, except that spot is whether or not they should be superheroes. I feel like I should know more about who Wiccan’s foster parents are, but that didn’t detract too much, and I’d much rather the generic “after all the tragedy superheroing led us to” than a point by point description of what all that tragedy was.

Loki and Miss America was definitely the weak point of the issue. It looked to me like the word Loki kept saying was supposed to look like “remember”, so that might have something to do with it. And while I can buy Loki’s magical affinity causing him to notice Wiccan casting a spell, Miss America creeping around Wiccan’s rooftop seemed a little too convenient. However, I have hope that’s going to get resolved.

I do kind of feel that the “I saved an evil version of your mom” thing was kind of Why We Don’t Do Magic Capriciously 101, a plot that’s been hit since the time of ancient Greece if not before, but it worked for the issue, and especially so when we consider there are teens involved.

Maillaro: I read Young Avengers, so other than Miss America (who apparently first appeared in a mini called Vengeance I never even heard of), I had a pretty good basis on who these characters were. I don’t think Wiccan’s foster parents are anyone important, but him and his brother Tommy (referred to as Speed in this issue) are reincarnations of Scarlet Witch and Vision’s kids. Oddly enough, the first Avengers comic I ever read was the Avengers West Coast issue where Billy and Tommy are destroyed along with Master Pandemonium…which is still one of the oddest names I’ve ever seen for a character.

I did think that the characters really did feel like real teenagers, though I did think Noh Varr and Kate Bishop hooking up seemed like a strange departure for her. It really did seem like she was channeling the other Hawkeye (sorry, Clint…but you are a man slut). And I am glad that Noh Varr has developed into a pretty interesting character. I thought the Marvel Boy series Morrison did was all right, but that the character wasn’t all that memorable. Marvel has done a decent job of changing that perception over the last few years.

I also think that Hulkling and Wiccan’s relationship is strained, but I like that. Too often in fiction, when there is a gay couple, the sole interesting element is “the two characters are the same sex.” These are deep characters with a complicated relationship on top of the fact that they happen to be a same sex couple.

Weaver: My first Avengers comic was Henry Pym beating the snot out of the rest of the Avengers, only to be taken out by a reincarnated Ultron at the end of the issue. So maybe I associate “Avengers” and “walking in during the beginning of the third reel,” although much like that issue, this one made me interested in what is going on.

As for Hulkling and Wiccan, I fully agree. Usually, tension in same sex couples in fiction tend to revolve around how closeted they wish to be or don’t wish to be, and thus essentially something that you can only truly relate to if you are gay (or dating someone that your social group would seriously disapprove of to that level). While not all of us are superheroes, this is a more relateable form of tension, and it would work just as easily no matter who the two people in the relationship are. I think that’s really a great thing here, they’re not defined exclusively as being gay, there’s much more than that.

To me, Kate seemed to be acknowledging that she made an uncharacteristic random hook-up, but was trying to bluff her way out of it. I think there’s a story we’ll see later about how she ended up there. I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t. I also want to note that Noh-Varr has great taste in music, Be My Baby is phenomenal (they mention that’s the song he was listening to at the bottom of the credits page).

Maillaro:It’s funny, when we talked about this book, and I scanned through it again to think of what I wanted to say, I realized that it really was just that Loki/Miss American stuff that I didn’t like. OH! And like Morbius, I loved the design choices. The page showing the fight between Bishop, Noh Vorr, and the Skrulls was just awesome, especially with Kate’s “I Have no powers and not nearly enough training, but I’m doing this anyway. Being a superhero is amazing. Everyone should try it.”

My gut reaction was that I was going to rate the writing a lot lower, but the more I think about it, the more I think it deserves a solid 3.5 or 4. Kate will most likely be showing up in our reviews next week too as she’s a regular in Hawkeye.

Weaver: To be honest, that page jarred me at first, as did the later similar one, but after reading the whole comic, I reflected that I actually really liked it. It was very condensed storytelling, and really, “Kate Bishop and Noh Varr fight a bunch of Skrulls” is told pretty easily in pictures without needing dialogue, and that character quote really gives you a feel for what she’s about.

I’m giving it a 4 on writing. It’s definitely given me enough to go on with most of the characters, and it’s something that I want to see more of.

Maillaro: I am sort of down on the art on this one. It wasn’t bad, but the original Young Avengers series was drawn by Jim Cheung who I am a huge fan of (SCION FAN FOREVER!). I don’t know much about Jamie McKelvie other than he designed the new Carol Danvers costume (which I like) and according to Wiki, he is a longtime collaborator with Kieron Gillen. I guess it’s unfair to judge a comic art based on knowledge of the artist’s past work, but I seem to always commit that crime…

Weaver: I disagree with you here…you’re essentially giving out a Best Supporting Actor vote, where they use things like body of work and politics more than actual quality of the work in question. I thought this was fantastically laid out. Those double page spreads you were liking a lot are hard to toss out artistically cohesively, and yet I never got lost in them. The Spider-Fake scene worked really well, and the artist was unafraid to show us male/male emotional intimacy. The final page was similar to a number of things I’ve seen before, but was still visually outstanding to me. I’m going to speak up for poor Mr. McKelvie and say that if we are judging him solely on this issue, which we should, he definitely earns a 4/5.

Maillaro: Hey, I never claim to always be right, just honest about my reactions. 3/5 for me, with the acknowledgement that it probably deserves higher.

Weaver: It does deserve higher. That’s what I just said. As long as you keep acknowledging that I’m right whenever we disagree, these columns will go smoothly.

Maillaro: Keep it up, and I’ll make you review another Mars Attacks book!

Wow…we did this in kind of record time today, considering we both had things going on. Not too shabby. Next time, we’re going to go back to 1963 when the Doctor was a cranky old Yoda-Prototype, and we get to see Kate Bishop again and wonder which alien she’s banging this week.

Post Script

Maillaro: While doing the edits on this column, I realize that the letterer of Young Avengers was the same brilliant letterer who did Morbius. Not at all surprised! These were two of the best designed comic books I’ve ever seen. Kudos to Marvel for showing creativity in all aspects of the comic creating process.

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