Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Mike Deodato, Will Conrad
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Colors: Rain Beredo
Cover Art: Mike Deodato
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
This issue takes place between panels of Avengers Vs. X-Men #1. In that moment between Captain America calling the Avengers down to face Cyclops and their leap from the SHIELD Helicarrier, Luke Cage flashes to the day before. As his wife, Jessica Jones, returns to the mansion, the two of them get into a pretty intense discussion about the wisdom of raising a child in Avengers Mansion.
A valid argument, to be certain. The Avengers lead dangerous lives, after all. But am I the only one who thinks they should have had this conversation a long time ago? When the baby was born, perhaps, or before they moved into Avengers Mansion and Luke agreed to lead his own squad? Not only does it feel like a case of too little, too late, but even worse it removes us from the focus of the issue for a huge portion of it. I got this book because it’s an AVX crossover. Instead, I got pages of angst that don’t really have anything to do with the main story.
It gets better when Captain America calls the team together. There’s a bit of a surprise when we’re all reminded that Storm has joined the Avengers just in time for her to walk out on the team, then Cap gives one of his trademark rousing speeches. It’s okay stuff, but in the end it feels like a largely inconsequential issue.
Mike Deodato does some good work here, and that helps, but there’s only so far even the best artist can take you. If you’ve been with this series for a while it’s probably not bad. If you’re getting it just for the crossover, you can pass.
Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction
Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Scott Hanna
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Colors: Laura Martin
Cover Art: Jim Cheung & Justin Ponsor
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The Phoenix Force is coming to Earth, and the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe are about to go to war over it. I’ve said before that I like the basic idea behind this event. There’s a natural conflict here. Captain America sees a force of globally-devastating power headed to Earth and wants to stop it. Cyclops sees a force that may well be able to reverse the devastation of the mutant race the Scarlet Witch caused on M Day. And in fact, they’re both right.
The execution, however, is very flawed. The scene with Cap and Cyclops, where all this is spelled out, is clunky and overwritten. Scott is spoiling for a fight at the outset, which I suppose isn’t totally out of character for him these days, but still feels off in the presentation.
Wolverine actually comes off best here. As a member of both teams, he’s got his own conflict to deal with… not to mention the personal relationship he had with Jean Grey and the fact that he’s seen firsthand just how destructive the Phoenix Force can be. If there’s anyone here who can legitimately seem divided, it’s him.
I’m not terribly pleased with John Romita Jr.‘s work on this issue either. I’ve always liked his work on street-level heroes like Spider-Man and Daredevil, but when he goes for the big-scale cosmic stuff, it doesn’t really. Work there are two large panels here – Hope blasting Cyclops, Cyclops blasting Cap – that feel very similar, but that both look like they could have been accomplished better. Different lines, different colors, I don’t know exactly, but they failed to excite me the way they should have.
It’s not a terrible book, but it’s a weak opening to an event that should have kicked off with a bang.
Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!
TITLE: The Day God Came From the Machine
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Pencils: Al Davison
Inks: Al Davison
Colors: Ian McKie
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Ed Polgardy
Cover Art: Bryan Talbot & Angus McKie
PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: “Neil Gaiman’s Teknophage.” None of these words mean anything to me. Maybe if it was “Neil Diamond’s” or something, I dunno. Still, it looks like there’s a giant lizard, so how bad could it be.
IMPRESSIONS: Well… there’s a giant lizard, all right, but that’s about as much of this issue that I comprehend. We’re in a skyscraper in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by birds, bugs, and flying machines. Inside, the lizard – whose name is “Henry Phage” and who wears a snazzy red jacket, throws a bunch of people into a giant vat of green goop. And they turn into a blue thing.
It’s all… it’s kind of… what the hell is it?
Okay, I get that the people Phage sacrifices turn into this blue amalgam entity that kinda-sorta takes vengeance on him, but so what? I have no idea where we are, who these people are, why he’s killing them or why there’s a giant lizard wearing a snazzy red jacket in the first place. Quite frankly, this book is completely absurd, and the only reason it doesn’t rank lower is because I at least follow a little of the internal consistency. There’s a clear cause and effect here, but there’s no context to allow any of it to make sense. I know this issue the tenth issue – says so right on the cover there – but couldn’t they have included some sort of note to let people know what was going on? I’m utterly lost.
Title: Mirror Movies
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Chas Truog & Doug Hazlewood
Letters: John Costanza
Colors: Tatjana Wood
Cover Art: Brian Bolland
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: DC Comics
Following the Invasion, two big things have happened to Animal Man. First, he’s been made a member of Justice League Europe. Second, his powers are all scrambled, not functioning properly. This turns out to be a bit of a problem when the Flash’s old foe, Mirror Master, attacks him in his own home.
At first glance, this issue seems pretty standard for a superhero comic. Buddy is placed in a predicament when he’s attacked by a villain and is, in essence, powerless. We’ve seen it several times. What’s more, the book even suffers just a tad by having the main character’s circumstances dictated by a recent crossover without actually explaining anything. People who didn’t read the Invasion! Crossover at the time probably would have no idea what’s wrong with buddy or how he wound up with the JLE. Having read a lot of those comics, though, I’m pretty comfortable with this stuff, and have a pretty simple time of inserting this into DC Continuity of the era.
The fight itself is clever. Although the mirror master scenes don’t really push the boundaries of comic book storytelling, Grant Morrison is finding ways to use his powers that I don’t think had been fully explored in the past, at least not all of them. What makes the book stand out, though, are some a couple of perplexing prologue and epilogue pages which both point to a larger conspiracy at work against Animal Man and, at the same time, begin to further set the stage for the really bizarre stuff that is to come.
The Chas Truog and Doug Hazlewood art team puts out a good effort this week. You can always tell Mirror Master, even in disguise, due to the expressions on his face, and there’s a nice consistency with the disheveled, just-rolled-out-of-bed look that Buddy maintains throughout the issue.
And as a final note, it’s a nice touch that the issue is dedicated to the creators of Mirror Master: John Broome, Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino… as well as “the late, great Barry Allen.”
Ah, how times change.
Archie’s Double Digest #203 (Archie Comics)
By Melanie J. Morgan, Norm Breyfogle, and others
Archie Comics is reportedly going to retire the “new look” experiment after the next story runs in Pals ‘n Gals Double Digest, which I personally think is a shame. There have been some interesting stories told in this format, and this one isn’t too bad. As the Andrews search for a new house in Martinsville, Archie accidentally lets it slip to his father that he doesn’t want to move away from Riverdale. As the Andrews sit down for an important family meeting at a hauntingly familiar diner, the rest of the gang back in Riverdale decide to throw the Andrews the greatest going-away party of all time. The end of this story is somewhat predictable — not only do we get the expected result, but it comes about pretty much exactly as we would have expected. The scene in the “Bizarro Pop Tate’s” diner is funny, though, and helps elevate the story a bit. The rest of the digest, as usual, is full of short stories from Archie’s 60-plus year deep catalogue, and as always, they’re of varying quality. We do get a nice little block of Little Archie stories, which speaks to the child in me quite strongly. Overall, it’s a fun little book and a solid, if not shocking, way to end the “Goodbye Forever” story.
Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Have You Seen the Stars Tonight?
Tim Hunter has given up on magic… but magic hasn’t given up on Tim Hunter.
Writer: Si Spencer
Story By: Neil Gaiman & Si Spencer
Colors: Fiona Stephenson
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Shelly Bond
Cover Art: Frank Quitely
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
Review: I am an unabashed fan of Tim Hunter. I loved the original Books of Magic series about his childhood and the subsequent Hunter: The Age of Magic about his teenage years. Right from the outset, from the addition of that “k” to the word “Magick” in the title, it is clear that this will be a very different Tim than we have seen in the past.
It seems about four years have passed since we last saw Tim. He has turned away from his destiny to become the greatest sorcerer of them all, denied his place as the Merlin. He has settled down with the love of his life, Molly, and he is happy in a world without magic.
Cue the cataclysm.
Something is very wrong with this universe. Magical creatures are dying… being slaughtered. People seem to be forgetting all about gods and faith. Hell seems to be coming to Earth and, as always, John Constantine is going to have to get Tim back on track if the world is going to be saved.
I’ll be honest here, this is not a very accessible issue. As big a fan of this series as I am, I had to read this issue twice and I’m still not entirely sure what’s going on. Now some of that, of course, is because this is the first issue of the series and a lot will be filled in as the story progresses, but new readers won’t grasp who Tim is or why he’s so important or why Constantine is thinking about him. Having read the earlier books is almost a prerequisite for this one.
Dean Ormston’s artwork is spot-on. He has a fantastic quality that is still quite dark and dirty, reminding us of the subtitle of this new series, Life During Wartime. This is not a bright, happy tale. This is likely to be a hellish, brutal story. War is Hell, and Ormston’s artwork, even in the early, jollier scenes, conveys a sense of foreboding. You can look at the panels, at the serenity in Tim’s face, and you know that in a matter of issues, it’s all going to be shattered.
This is a very new direction for Tim Hunter, and while it may be a bit confusing, it’s one I like. I’ve already hitched myself to this title. I’ve got to see where it goes.
Madman Atomic Comics #7 (Image Comics)
By Michael Allred & Laura Allred
Following up on last issues truly astonishing death of Joe, Mike Allred takes a shot at the great creative challenge of a silent issue. As Frank Einstein takes a voyage through space, his ship runs aground on a distant world. As he seeks fuel or alternative transportation, he finds himself on an even more bizarre journey of the mind. While I always admire the skill necessary for a silent issue, I’m not really sure how well it works here. Madman is such a bizarre, cerebral property already, that I’m not really sure I understand what Allred is saying with the conclusion of this issue. I’m not sure exactly what’s going on with It Girl, how it relates to what has happened before, or how everything pieces together. I can really only hope, at this point, that next issue will start to clarify things once we get the dialogue back.