Open Mike Night: Age of Ultron #2 and Fearless Defenders #2

Maillaro: It’s “second chance” week here at the Open Mike Night studio, with Age of Ultron and Fearless Defenders both getting a second looks in hope of winning us over. The first issues of both series were decent, but seemed like they could improve to be something much better.

Gonna start with Age of Ultron (mostly because I tend to read my books alphabetically because that is how my Comixology app sorts them).

Age of Ultron #2 (2013)

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciled by: Bryan Hitch
Inked by: Paul Neary
Colored by: Paul Mounts
Lettered by: VC’s Cory Petit
Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $3.99

Maillaro: All right, so here we are. Two weeks, two comics, 8 bucks invested into this crossover. We are sort of starting to see how things rolled out (vaguely), but I am still thinking that we need to get a little more. This entire issue was a lot of talking…first Black Widow and Moon Knight, then Peter Parker and the few other remaining heroes. There wasn’t any real action other than Widow dealing with a street thief and a very vague look at how Peter Parker ended up captured by Owl and Hammerhead.

I did think the characterizations were really good. I especially loved that after we saw Parker being so glib, this issue showed the other side of Peter Parker, the somber reflective Peter that jokes in the field just to keep himself from screaming.

And just like the first issue, I thought the last page was the best moment of the book, with Captain American revealing that he has a plan.

Weaver: Not only was this a lot of talking, some of it was really awful talking. I actually hated this issue a lot. Not just because of the super slow pacing, but everything about Black Widow and Moon Knight’s conversation was just…poor. We got the big corkboard of Fury to give us a montage shot of a lot of people, and this montage shot has the absolute worst cliche ever. A note saying “Who do you trust?” Nobody who is actually wondering that would ever write that down. Worse, just a few frames later Black Widow is talking about the nice thing about Fury being that he never wrote anything down…WHILE THEY ARE STANDING IN A ROOM FULL OF HIS NOTES.

The end conversation was interesting. Insight on Parker was very good. I wonder what Ultron’s long game is here, since he does seem to be tolerating some inferior carbon based life forms. Why hasn’t full extermination started? I hope we find out soon.

For me, I didn’t like the now-traditional last page Captain America shot either. I do like that Hitch draws Cap in a way that he looks seriously hurt, not just having sat there thinking. Check out his posture. But as far as best part, for me it would be the reveal of Widow missing an eye. That shocked me, and was done really well.

Maillaro: I actually thought the issue was fairly well written, to be honest. Grey actually quoted me in his review when I texted him, “Age of Ultron 2….nothing happens. Sad part is it is very well written nothing.” And I stand by that. I do get where you are coming from about Fury’s office, but I actually think that kind of “visual and verbal” short hand is necessary in comic stories in order to get a lot of information across in as few panels as possible. The one part I found really odd about that was the mention of “people he trusts in blue, people he doesn’t in red” but nothing in the panel was red or blue. What a cheap cop out (or inconsistency).

Weaver: Yeah, I spent at least three minutes staring at that panel for blue and red. Maybe they wouldn’t need to get a bunch of information out in few panels if they weren’t obsessed with giving those huge panels. I agree they’re beautiful, but to me, half this book feels like a coffee table book about the apocalypse with a few pages of frantic word bubbles inserted so that Bendis earns a paycheck. As for blue and red, Moon Knight and Widow mention that this seems to have been a Secret Invasion war room, which would make the note about Pym make sense in that context as well as an Ultron context, but as a fan of Pym’s, I’m hoping they deal with what’s up with him eventually instead of continually namedropping. So I think they could have still added the blue and red and said it was in a Secret Invasion context until we get the eventual Fury reveal.

Another thing bugged me about that scene…it was inconsistent whether Fury used the character’s last name or codename. There did not seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. The worst was that Cyclops was Summers, a surname that multiple people have in the super-powered community. You’d think if Fury really needed to write names down (despite him not writing anything!) he’d at least make the names as unambiguous as possible.

Maillaro: Well, someone is a picky bitch this week. Something I found amusing is that ROM was removed from this image (it was one of the preview images used for Age of Ultron) and replaced by some other spaceknight named Ikon. I definitely think that this issue needed to move things forward much more than it did, but I am still likely going to give it another issue or two to see if it starts to establish a little more of a direction.

In a lot of ways, it feels like the first two issues should have just been one double sized issue to set the scene. But then Marvel wouldn’t have been able to charge 8 bucks for them. Definitely not a business model I’m in love with.

Weaver: If that’s a preview image, then I guess their idea that it has to do with Secret Invasion is incorrect. But that does kind of beg the question about why any of the major heroes would go along with Ultron. It’s not like it’s a philosophical thing, like Magneto or whatever, where someone could be swayed. Maybe it’s a hint back to Secret Invasion and Ultron’s replaced some of the heroes with bots. He has made robo-Avengers before. But then that would be even more recycling than is currently happening.

At this point, I’m not going to be wasting any more time on Age of Ultron. Nothing happened, they’re trying to sell that every week, and it’s wasting some great artwork in the process.

Maillaro: I don’t blame you…and maybe it’s just Stockholm Syndrome…but I really think there is a ton of potential here. But it sure ain’t living up to it yet. Last week I went 3.5 for story, 4.5 for art. This week, I am dropping to a 2.5 for story, but keeping the 4.5 for the art.  It wasn’t perfect because of the weird flaws we mentioned, but I didn’t think it took all that much away from how good this comic looked.

Weaver: I’m grading a little harsher. I liked some of the dialogue, so I’ll give the story a 1.5 and not the one that the pacing and glaring errors deserve on their own. Art’s getting a 4 because while it’s beautiful, there’s some disconnects like the red/blue and such which drop it a little further from perfection for me. And I really wanted to like this comic, more’s the shame.

Maillaro: It is kind of funny that I found myself in the position to have to defend a comic that I didn’t even like all that much. It was basically “THIS BOOK SUCKS, BUT NOT AS BAD AS YOU SAY IT SUCKS!” So, thoughts on Fearless Defenders?

Fearless Defenders #2 (2013)

Written by: Cullen Bunn
Art by: Will Sliney
Colored by: Veronica Gandini
Lettered by: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $2.99

Weaver: Fearless Defenders is that rare kind of book that can make me laugh out loud and yet also have a good serious plot going. Dare I compare it to Morbius? I dare.

Right from the recap page, you’ve got smartly written dialogue. My main complaints about the first issue seem to have gone right from my lips to God’s ear, as they say, since Misty’s censoring is toned down quite a bit and our overexcited lesbian archaeologist keeps her hands and lips to herself. Where I think this really succeeds is that most of the jokes are off-panel one liners, so to speak…the characters aren’t being funny as much as the occasional info boxes feed us a line. Not a breakfast person.

Maillaro: Yeah, I thought this issue had definitely fixed a lot of the concerns I had with the first issue. I loved the idea of the Shield Maidens, and I thought it was kind of messed up how Valkyrie has been shirking her duty because she wasn’t able to find any “worthy” females. Sounds like comic companies excuses why not enough female leads get their own books.

I did think like last issue, a little too much time was spend with one character in an extended action sequence (Moonstar this time, who has long been one of my favorite characters). Like I have said a few times, I like team books where we actually GET TO THE TEAM ALREADY, but that is just a personal preference.

Weaver: But the Wasp was RIGHT THERE.

Seriously, there is a sobering comparison when we’re talking about female leads and social commentary and these two comics. Look at the montage in Age of Ultron, most of which are male heroes. Look at Valkyrie’s montage of female heroes. Consider how sparse it is in comparison. Yeah, you have the typical ones…Storm, Sue, Widow, Wasp…a few more obscure like Jocasta…and then not a lot more. Yes, that panel didn’t have everyone, but neither did the Age of Ultron one, and I’d say they have about the same percentages. And so, yeah. If I’m Valkyrie and I’m looking to round up a group worthy of being Asgardian warrior women, yeah, after looking at the possibilities I’m going to go have a few beers and watch TV.

Maillaro: The new FF managed to find three pretty awesome females with no problem (She-Hulk, Medusa, and the new Miss Thing). Valykrie was just being lazy, I stand by that! What about Spider-Woman? Arana (whatever they call her now)? Tigra? Rogue? Scarlet Witch? Ms Marvel? And that was just me being lazy and popping off characters from Marvel Avengers Alliance.

Weaver: Yeah, it’s easy to have a good female character when you create one for exactly that purpose. Outside of Storm, Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, and Rogue, there’s not a lot of female characters with serious name recognition in the Marvel Universe, or comics in general. All I’m saying is that I think Valkyrie set out to find a Captain America or Iron Man type, or even a Wolverine, and while yeah, you can get close to that, you can’t get that close. You also have to take into account that she couldn’t very well take someone who had a serious tie in to another ongoing title, so no grabbing Wasp or Sue Storm.

Let’s go back to being lazy with Avengers Alliance. When it launched, there were no females in the highest point cost bracket. Not one.

I’m not saying that there wasn’t some laziness to it, but I do think that if you go down to earth planning on assembling an all-female superteam of the gods, you’re bound to be a little disappointed about what’s out there compared to what you could get if you went with an all-male team. That said, I do think that I could come up with a decent roster of people to at least approach…it doesn’t seem like she even did that.

Maillaro: Don’t want to wander too far off topic, but most of the best characters in the Marvel Avenges Alliance in the starting roster were pretty low pointers, like Torch, Invisible Woman, and Dr Strange. Those three are still pretty popular, especially when it comes to PvP. ANYWAY!

But it really is starting to feel like Fearless Defenders is starting to hit its groove, which I am glad for. The over the top elements of the first issue are dramatically toned down, and the characters and story are starting to develop into something new and fun to read.

I still have no idea if there is a market for this book, but the only thing we can do is buy it and tell people “HEY, THIS BOOK IS WORTH READING! PUT DOWN AGE OF ULTRON, AND BUY MORBIUS AND FEARLESS DEFENDERS!”

Weaver: And therein lies the rub. You can write the best comic ever, but if no one buys it…you’re not going to be doing it for long. Young Avengers is another title I’d add to that list, although unlike the other two, Young Avengers seems to get a lot of push.

I’m going to give this book straight 4’s here. The writing and art are great, and I especially like the use of sepia tone with the flashbacks. Well…4 on the art might be pushing it…I absolutely hated the Hippolyta design. Oh well, a mark given is a mark given.

Maillaro: I didn’t mind the way she looked, but I was thrown by Hippolyta too. I know that since she’s a mythological figure, she’s basically fair game when it comes to using her in a comic…but I kept thinking “DC really should sue them!” She was so blatantly a rip off of Wonder Woman (who’s mother is Hippolyta in the comics). Why didn’t they just use Power Princess of the Squadron Supreme?

Wow, I just looked it up on Wiki, this Hippolyta actually is a long existing character in the Marvel universe. I definitely had never heard of her before Fearless Defenders. Wiki seems to say she’s shown up a lot in the last few years, but I guess she travels in different comic circles than I do.

Last time I gave it 2.5 for writing and 4.5 for the art. Sticking with the art score, but definitely bumping the writing up to a 4/5. Cullen Bunn definitely smoothed out the edges from the first issue and has put Fearless Defenders on the right path to be a real solid comic.

Weaver: Oh, for sure she was a blatant Wondy rip-off, I was thinking the same thing. But seriously, she’s existed in Marvel? I guess we weren’t as big of fans as we thought!

It definitely looks off to a good start. I look forward to seeing what other B and C listers they manage to bring in.

Maillaro: So, what do we have on the agenda for next week? Hey, you haven’t tried Captain Marvel yet, so we can do the next issue of that!

Weaver: I’m for it! I’m going to be on vacation in two weeks, so I’ve been pretty busily prepping up for that. I’ll let you pick next week’s.

Maillaro: Sounds good! See you then!

Final Scores

Maillaro – Story Weaver – Story Maillaro – Art Weaver – Art
Fearless Defenders #2 4 4 4.5 4
Age of Ultron #2 2.5 1.5 4.5 4

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