I haven’t done any blog posts about comics yet. I’m rectifying that now. Time for some comic book reviews! I have no idea if I’m going to do this on a weekly basis. Last week saw Marvel’s Dark Reign really kick into gear. Dark Reign’s flagship title, Dark Avengers, launched. Dan Slott introduced us to the bizarre new team over in Mighty Avengers. Andy Diggle began revealing the new roster of the Thunderbolts. And Matt Fraction gave us a glimpse into Emma Frost’s mindset in the Marvel Universe’s new status quo.
The following books were all released on January 21st. They’re listed in the order I read them. Spoilers will be kept to a minimum.
Thunderbolts #128 (Writer: Andy Diggle, Artist: Roberto de la Torre): In the previous two issues, Diggle did a spectacular job writing the Thunderbolts as Warren Ellis had reimagined them. It was an incredibly dark and intense story that lead to the dismantling of that team’s roster. In this issue, Diggle pulls back the curtain on his team of Thunderbolts. Sadly, judging by this issue, his T’Bolts aren’t quite as interesting as Bullseye, Venom, and company. It’s obviously way too early to start panicking here. Only a fraction of the team has even been introduced. But this group seems to lack much of the personality their predecessors had in spades. I do have to give props to Diggle though for his Obama appearance which both made sense for the story and established Norman Osborn as a lame duck appointment by the outgoing Bush Administration. Dark Reign is all Bush’s fault!
Dark Avengers #1 (W: Brian Bendis, A: Mike Deodato): You ever have a favorite band break up and then the lead singer puts out a solo album? The music sounds similar to that of the band you so loved, but it’s just not nearly as good. That is Dark Avengers. I flipped open this book and it looked remarkable like Warren Ellis’ Thunderbolts. Mike Deodato’s drawing all the same characters: Norman Osborn, Venom, Bullseye, Moonstone. If only the characters didn’t have to speak, because those word balloons pointed at their mouths are not nearly as engrossing. But even if Brian Bendis could channel Warren Ellis perfectly here, I’d still have to question the overall concept. Basically, we have a team of villains dressed up in the costumes of unregistered heroes like Spider-man, Wolverine, and Iron Man. Supposedly in the Marvel Universe, Iron Man is despised for his role in Secret Invasion. Spider-man and Wolverine are fugitives. Why would Norman Osborn dress up his team like these social pariahs? It’d be like the Democrats trying to win the White House by nominating a George W. Bush clone. It doesn’t make any sort of sense.
Mighty Avengers #21 (W: Dan Slott, A: Khoi Pham): Thank you Dan Slott. Thank you for giving me a classic Avengers title to love. I adore this book. Going into the issue, I knew very little about the new team. I knew it involved Hank Pym and I could see Scarlet Witch and Jocasta were on the cover. That’s it. The roster Slott has chosen, assuming this is the permanent roster, is almost Nextwave insane. And like Nextwave, it’s also brilliant. The dialogue is tight, often funny, and perfectly in character. While I’ve always felt Brian Bendis has trouble with team books (his best issues of New Avengers always only deal with 1 or 2 members of the team), Dan Slott’s writing shines when the scene is full of costumed crusaders. I do have to say Hank Pym’s new costume is atrocious; I have no problems with his new codename though.
Uncanny X-Men Annual #2 (W: Matt Fraction, A: Mitch Breitweiser and Daniel Acuna): I’m sure I’m not the only one who was completely baffled by Emma Frost’s inclusion in Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign inner circle. She’s a good guy now! She’s been one of the white hats since the mid-nineties when she mentored Generation X along with Banshee. So while Brian Bendis did very little to justify her place at the table, Matt Fraction has taken up the challenge in this Uncanny X-Men Annual and does an admirable job of explaining her motivation. In addition to learning more about the White Queen’s thinking, we also get insight into her relationship with Namor. Pairing these two together was a genius move on Fraction’s part. Having two of the most arrogant members of the Marvel Universe interact, often through some intense flirting, brings out the best in both characters. I look forward to seeing these characters together more often. The art here is gorgeous. Mitch Breitweiser handles the present, while Daniel Acuna deals with the flashbacks. It’s unfortunate such a beautiful issue has to be marred by a fairly awful cover from Terry Dodson.
X-Factor #39 (W: Peter David, A: Valentine de Landro): I’m going to listen to Peter David’s plea on the recap page of this issue and not play spoiler. What I will do is implore you to pick up this issue! From the cover, I’m sure everyone knows this is the issue where Siryn and Madrox’s child is born. And like most of the best X-Factor stories David’s written, there’s a ton of humor, there’s some tragedy, and there’s no big superhero battles. The art is a vast improvement over the last story arc that introduced Darwin to the group. And, yes, there’s a huge twist here. A huge gut-wrenching twist that would be impossible to spoil without just outright saying what happens. Rarely in any creative medium do you have a moment so original, so unique, that your jaw just drops because you did not and could not see it coming. That is what happens in this issue. It’s impossible to over-hype.
Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D #2 (W: Grant Morrison, A: Doug Mahnke): The last issue of this book came out roughly forever ago. I don’t know if it was by design or because of delays, but the span between issues means I had no clue what was going on when I started reading this issue. Frankly though, that’s hardly a new feeling for me when reading a book written by Grant Morrison. I did remember enjoying the first issue, even though I didn’t remember what the heck was happening in it, so I decided to pick this one up despite the $4.50 price tag. It’s your fairly standard Grant Morrison issue. There are some great moments and other moments when you inevitably say to yourself, “what the hell was that?” Personally, I’ll be happy if I never have to read another book in 3D again. In addition to having to wear the ridiculous glasses, trying to read word balloons while looking at 3D images is a recipe for a splitting headache.
Trade of the week:
Fables: War and Pieces (W: Bill Willingham, A: Mark Buckingham): I finally got around to reading the latest Fables trade this week. If the title didn’t make it obvious, “War and Pieces” is the final battle between Fabletown and the Adversary’s forces. I loved the Cinderella story that leads into the war. She should really have her own Alias-style secret agent book. The main story, however, I found lacking. It’s anti-climactic, perhaps intentionally so, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing. I thought Boy Blue’s post-war narration was a mistake. It took all the suspense out of the conflict. The last chapter feels rushed and really could’ve been expanded into an additional issue. There’s one moment featuring Boy Blue towards the end of the story that truly deserves a full page, but receives only a small sliver of one. If there was one aspect of this story that I loved, it was Prince Charming’s arc. Charming is really the star of those four chapters. And his relationship with Sinbad is also a huge highlight.