Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Union of the Snake Part Four
Cobra launches their attack on the Pit – and neither team will ever be the same!
Writers: Brandon Jerwa & Josh Blaylock
Pencils: Tim Seeley
Inks: Cory Hamscher
Colors: Val Staples
Letters: Robin Spehar
Editor: Mark Powers
Cover Art: Tim Seeley, Andrew Pepoy & Val Staples
Publisher: Devil’s Due
Last issue, Zartan broke Cobra Commander out of G.I. Joe custody, only to reveal that the two men were using each other’s identities. Meanwhile, Destro has finally discovered the location of the Joe headquarters, the Pit. This issue, Destro makes his move against the Joes, just as Cobra Commander makes his move against Destro.
With two issues left in this storyline, it’s incredible to think that there are still more shocks to come. This is a seriously action-heavy issue. The Joes are in bad shape – the Jugglers have cut the team down to 12 members, they’re under the command General Rey, a man many of them have never met, and now their viscous enemies are descending upon them with guns blazing.
G.I. Joe has always been a book that could surprise you – it’s ostensibly a kids’ property, but the fans are in their 20s now. More than that, even when the fans were kids, this book could be pretty harsh at times with the violence, the action, and even the casualties. Although there have been resurrections during the course of this property (the original Cobra Commander being the most obvious example), there have been far more characters who have stayed dead. This issue ends on a major cliffhanger that will have fans of one of the characters in an uproar.
We also start to get a little characterization of the new leader of the “official” Joes (as opposed to the splinter group of former Joes carrying out their own missions). General Rey is still something of an enigma, but here he’s painted as a man of honor. The question, for the Joes and the readers, is whether he’s being genuine or if he’s just a puppet of the Jugglers.
Tim Seeley continues to own this book artistically. He has a beautiful, clean line, and Cory Hamscher and Val Staples all come together to make this the best this property has ever looked.
This may not be the best point to jump into reading the book, in the middle of such a major storyline, but if you can find the first three issues in this arc it’s a great time to come on board, because the Joe team has never undergone so many changes so quickly, and the story has almost never been this good.
Marc Andreyko has made his mark with comics about strong, powerful women, and tells their stories very well… but this issue takes that idea to the extreme. On the afternoon of a very familiar Friday the 13th, a hitchhiker gets picked up by the kind-looking Pamela Voorhes, who begins telling the girl her own story. It seems that the evil that haunts Camp Crystal Lake didn’t begin with Jason’s “death” in the water, as we’ve so long believed. The evil was there much earlier. Whether it was within Pamela to begin with or within a monstrous “bad seed” remains to be seen, but either way, it’s clear that the roots of this darkness are very deep indeed. This is a nice look at the origins of one of the most enduring horror icons of the last 30 years, and fans of the franchise will be very satisfied with this issue.
The Phantom #19 (Moonstone Publishing)
By Mike Bullock, Silvestre Szilagyi & Marat Mychaels
The “Invisible Children” arc comes to a powerful conclusion this issue. The Phantom has been captured by the army of Him, the warlord that has taken over a small African country and is taking its children to torture, brainwash and destroy them. But the Phantom has many more tricks than his captors, and the jungle itself is rising up against this atrocity. Bullock has done something pretty rare — he’s taken a real-world, real-life political situation and told a story that’s not preachy or tiresome, but instead effective and heartbreaking. Perhaps it’s just because this is a more black-and-white situation than most political issues — who could possibly argue in favor of what’s really happening to the children of Uganda? But whatever the reason, this is a fantastic issue, and one of the most pertinent, most incredible Phantom comics I’ve ever read.
Spider-Man Family #3 (Marvel Comics)
By Paul Tobin, Pierre Alary, Fred VanLente, Leonard Kirk, Roy Thomas, Jim Craig & Yamanaka Akira
This issue of Spider-Man Family is something of a mixed bag. The focus is on Spidey and the Fantastic Four, which is always an entertaining pairing, but the lead story is kind of weak. Spidey and the FF team up to fight a giant mummy (which is definitely fun), and then again against Electro. There’s a lot of the standard misunderstanding-then-team-up stuff, which is really somewhat out of place considering the relationship between these characters even relatively early in their careers. The personalities are off as well. While it’s true that many of the earliest FF stories made Sue subservient, this issue goes too far in the opposite direction, making her more aggressive than she’s ever been painted. We also see the Scorpion drawn into battle with her former namesake, Mag Gargan, the current Venom — a pretty good story, and certainly a logical one. Next is a reprint of What If? Vol. 1 #1, “What if Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four?” This is one of my all-time favorite What If? stories, and it’s a welcome addition to this book. The story ends with a new “Spider-Man J” tale (does the “J” stand for “Japanese?”), a reprint of the Japanese Spidey title. This is the first of those titles I’ve read and, honestly, I wasn’t impressed with either the story or the artwork. This isn’t a bad issue, but except for the classic reprint, there’s really nothing to get excited about.
Quick Rating: Very Good
The Human Torch is going back to high school… with a certain arachnid.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: J.D. Smith
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Cover Art: Mark Bagley & Richard Isanove
Publisher: Marvel Comics
When Reed Richards and Sue Storm suggest Johnny goes back to school to get his high school diploma, he’s not wild about the idea. You know he’s going to break down and go, though, because if he didn’t there would be no team-up. Johnny, predictably, winds up attending Peter Parker’s high school and falls in with his group of friends, including a smitten Liz Allen.
You’ve got to remind yourself, as you’re reading this, that the Ultimate Fantastic Four is not yet the world-famous team of adventurers their mainstream counterparts are. The characters are in hiding and the sight of someone bursting into flame is pretty startling, even for a guy with spider-powers. Bendis balances these reactions very well. In addition, this is a surprisingly strong issue for Mary Jane. We get to see several sides of her as she struggles to help her friends with various problems, and even see her slip up a bit with Peter.
After the laugh-out-loud Wolverine team-up and the unrelenting bleak tone of Carnage, this issue is kind of back to normal. There are some amusing, lighthearted moments, but there are heavier moments too. The issue is light on action but heavy on character content, and that makes up for any deficiency.
Mark Bagley gets to play with some characters he doesn’t get to use as much this issue, doing a solid job on the FF, particularly the Thing. It’s still weird to see a young Reed Richards, but you learn to get used to it. The issue is extremely heavy on dialogue and Bagley has to carry the weight of a lot of talking heads scenes – something, as luck would have it – he does very well.
As usual, Ultimate Spider-Man is a solid title, the strongest of Marvel’s Ultimate line. This issue works for people who read the title for the emotion and character interaction. If you’re looking for fisticuffs, you’ll have to wait.