This week: Reviews of Captain America #602, Dark Avengers #13 and Thunderbolts #140 – and some Comics Daily-endorsed T-Shirts! Read the rest of this entry »
Well, if nicking an existing comic’s numbering for a newly-titled enterprise is good enough for The Incredible Hercules… anyway, this will be rather short-lived, simply a one-off at the end of this strange Week Of No Comics, as I go over in capsule form some more of the comics picked up in what was actually a quite busy pre-Christmas week. Hopefully tomorrow, weather permitting, we’ll actually have something new to talk about.
Beasts of Burden #4
A slightly odd one this, as this “trial run” miniseries comes to an end – but feels rather more like the lead-in to further issues of an ongoing, setting up the beginning of an apparent new storyarc rather than keeping the four issues as relatively self-contained. But despite the lack of a fully satisfying resolution, it’s still superbly-crafted stuff – I’m not quite sure how a comic manages to be so delightful while also being somewhat dark and occasionally downright bleak, but this does – perhaps down to the sheer beauty of Jill Thompson’s art, although Dorkin’s deftness of touch can’t be understated. I thoroughly hope we’ll see more of it later this year.
Blackest Night #6
I still don’t think this is sparking in the way that an event of its size should – too much needless padding between the big moments and neat ideas, and too much fragmentation across other books and away from the core mini in the way the story’s being told – but it’s hard to deny that some of those occasional big moments and neat ideas are definitely… well, neat. I mean, it’s daft, but the idea of a bunch of well-known DCU characters suddenly becoming members of the Assorted Pick ‘n’ Mix Corps is inherently amusing, particularly when you’ve got Lex Luthor as an Orange Lantern and the Scarecrow joining the Sinestro Corps (a couple of the others are… reaching a bit, though. Ray Palmer “showing great compassion”?) It’s only a shame the idea isn’t extended further, I’d quite like to see how a wider assortment of characters get divvied up among the various Corps. Anyway, without being either particularly special or any worse than “decent”, this is still marching on towards the inevitable conclusion where Hal Jordan absorbs the power of all the Corps and White Lanternzzzzzzzzzz.
Dark Avengers: Ares #3
I’d probably call this series Gillen’s strongest Marvel work to date, although this closing issue is rather less explosively fun and light-hearted than the first two parts, which saw the gleeful videogames journalist side of the writer’s character emerge. Here, things round off in a rather unexpected direction – although of course, as the closing dialogue makes clear, it was sort of telegraphed the moment Osborn gave Ares his task. Very strong stuff, and as also demonstrated over in Thor, there’s probably nobody better at writing Gods on Marvel’s books at the moment.
Detective Comics #860
In which the closing part of Kate’s origin – the training, the suiting up, the involvement of her father – plays out almost exactly as you’d expect it to based on everything that’s happened up to this point, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work well. In direct contrast to the way she suddenly showed up in 52, it feels like the Batwoman character has earned her status with this arc, and if anything, it’s almost going to be a disappointment when Bruce Wayne makes his comeback and (one would assume) boots her back out of his title. A self-titled ongoing, preferably with the same creative team, certainly wouldn’t go amiss after all of this. And while I’ve been less than enthralled with the story in the Question backups, it’s easy to ignore – with the shadow of JH Williams’ brilliance cast over it – the fact that Cully Hamner’s turning in some great art there, too.
Fall of the Hulks : Gamma
Well, you know, it’s kind of worth checking in with all this stuff every once in a while, just to see if Loeb’s finally gotten round to telling us who Red Hulk is yet (answer: no, he hasn’t. Sigh.). And actually, by the standards set by his comics in recent years, this isn’t dreadful. John Romita Jr art can redeem almost anything (particularly when it contains an absolutely gorgeous and very Kirby-looking two-page splash of the Hulk – the proper one – fighting the Fantastic Four), and the fact that it opens with the fact that General Ross has been killed is a neat and surprising twist. But the funeral falls subject to the awkward overwroughtness that has become Loeb’s trademark, and I can’t help but wonder how Carol Danvers and Bucky Barnes – wanted fugitives, lest we forget – get away with hanging out with the military in Washington, unless some serious spoilers for Siege are being given away here...
This week: Capsule reviews of The Brave & the Bold #30, Cable #21, Captain America Reborn #5, Dark Avengers #12 and X-Men Legacy #230! Read the rest of this entry »
This week: Capsule reviews of Dark Avengers Annual #1, Fall of the Hulks: Alpha and X-Force Annual #1! Read the rest of this entry »
This week: Capsule reviews of Beasts of Burden #2, Dark Avengers #10, Hellblazer #260, Invincible Iron Man #19 and Justice League of America #38! Read the rest of this entry »
Given that this crossover has so far mainly consisted of an accomplished piece of disguise, with a primarily character-lead drama masked as a political clash, it comes as no surprise to find a similar piece of deception in its final act, with an interesting tale of the triumph of experience on the part of the victorious side. Matt Fraction delivers the expected fan-pleasing punch ups which Utopia has promised, but manages to encase these moments in a consistent broader storyline.
With the mutants’ new status quo having been largely explained in the previous issue of the story, little time is wasted in getting down to brass tacks, with the two sides of the crossover finally squaring off against each other. Defeat for the X-Men was never on the cards here, but Fraction sensibly avoids having Cyclops carry the day through sheer weight of numbers (here he commands the casts of four books, compared to Osborn’s two teams), instead picking on a satisfying concept to resolve the situation. The writer shows that the Iron Patriot has not yet appreciated the constraints which he must operate under, and Cyclops’ superior knowledge of non-lethal combat allows him to outmanoeuvre the Avengers. Osborn’s team visibly buckles under terms of engagement that they are still unaccustomed to. It’s a satisfying conceit, reflected in many of the match-ups on show here. Bullseye stumbles in the face of a more experienced Archangel, while Wolverine’s grudge against the more-powerful Weapon Omega allows him to overcome his enemy. The only moment which slightly jars is in the final pages, where Fraction shows Osborn and Summers both managing the fallout from the incident. Tellingly, the self-satisfied expression which has become the trademark of Scott ‘Smug’ Summers during this arc is completely absent from Terry Dodson’s art. The writer obliviously felt that both sides in the clash had to walk away with a slightly ambivalent result, but Osborn’s upbeat assessment and Cyclops’ exhaustion sit rather oddly in the context of the latter’s triumph in the previous pages.
That aside, the issue presents a remarkably rounded-package, with even the feed-ins to the forthcoming Confession one-shot and X-Force’s Necrosha event not feeling like intrusions in the face of a story which has made good on its promise of adjusting the X-books’ status quo without completely discarding the pleasures of the “SFX” set-up. By deliberately dialling down the situation’s political aspects in the second half of the story, Fraction has left a compelling implied hook for Uncanny’s next arc.
It’s capsule review time again, as we cast our eyes over Dark Avengers #8, Dark X-Men: The Beginning #3, Ms. Marvel #44 and Gotham City Sirens #3 Read the rest of this entry »
After a slightly unsteady start, the Utopia crossover has thankfully made good on some of its potential, with a perfect misunderstanding intelligently driving the standoff between the two sides. Although there might be some disquiet amongst Dark Avengers fans that their book has effectively been deposed by the mutants, there’s much to compensate those willing to be consoled by the array of spin-off series featuring Osborn’s team.
Aside from the pivotal face off-between the two leaders, most of the action takes place within HAMMER’s headquarters, as the factions within the Iron Patriot’s cabal begin to feud. Matt Fraction does manage to throw a bone to the title’s regular readers, with much of the installment structured around Osborn’s personality disorder, which seems to be spreading. Like the perfect politician, the director manages to hold a number of positions, each with complete sincerity. While being complicit in Dark Beast’s torture of the captives, he rebukes Cyclops for forfeiting the right to moral leadership. While Emma Frost presents a front of heroic leadership for the cameras, she simultaneously lies to all parties present at the issue’s dénouement. Even the straight-faced Scott Summers is getting in on the act, ordering Osborn to leave the events in San Francisco to his control, whilst apparently taking little action to thwart the sinister schemes of Bastian’s puppet, Simon Trask.
Luke Ross’s art isn’t going to win awards here, but the penciller copes well with the large number of panels which the writer sometimes demands of him. The one criticism that could perhaps be made is that the plot isn’t driven very far forward, with Fraction waiting until the last page to progress a plotline significantly trailed at the end of the last issue. Bullseye’s driving events forward boarders on self parody, deliverable emphasizing the point that most of the script is devoted to fleshing out the scenario set up in the first two installments of the crossover, while making clear that the power level of the Dark X-Men means that they shouldn’t be counted out just yet. In the end, the intelligence of the script is best shown by the confrontation shown on the cover. By the time that the Dark Avengers finally begin to face off against their new sister team, the action has already moved to the more interesting issue of Osborn’s ethics, perfectly showing the weight that Fraction has managed to invest in the story.
The last time there was a formal X-Men/Avengers crossover, we ended up with Bloodties, which was a complete mess best left forgotten. Sadly, if we’ve learnt anything from X-Men/Dark Avengers: Utopia, it’s that the 14 year abstention lasted that long reason.
Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to like this. I really did. And to be fair, it’s not without it’s good moments. Fraction effectively portrays the confusion and bubbling tension of the anti-mutant march and the response to it, and the scenes between Cyclops and the San Franciscan Mayor are nice and sharp. It’s just that what surrounds them is such a disappointment that it’s hard to appreciate even the good bits.
Silvestri’s art is a major problem with the issue. It appears to be a real rush-job, with an art team that comprises 13 individuals besides Silvestri himself doing either pencil “assists” or inking. The book looks poorly-finished as a result, and even bits that are recognisably Silvestri display all the worst excesses of the man’s style, particularly in Emma’s ludicrous outfit and the downright hilarious posing that passes for “storytelling” in Silvestri’s world. Worse is that so much of the script relies on crowd scenes, where Silvestri’s inability to render more than two facial expressions really starts to show. Far better artists would struggle with the demands of the script. Silvestri positively buckles beneath them.
Sadly, the script itself isn’t without fault either. The twist ending borders on incomprehensibility, as Xavier’s involvement is revealed and Emma inexplicably changes costumes. Although billed as a co-starring book, the Dark Avengers are inserted largely as an afterthought. It is, for all intents and purposes, a regular X-Men issue guest-starring Osborn’s Avengers team. It’s unclear what, exactly, these guys are in the story for.
Whether or not the storyline will continue in this vein remains to be seen – it’s entirely possible that with the setup established, things will shift gears and become more satisfying, but it’s a highly debatable – and it already looks unlikely that things will reach the same level of excitement as the Messiah Complex crossover that actually kicked off this site in the first place.