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Ultimate Spider-Man #73

July 2, 2012 Leave a comment

March 4, 2005

Quick Rating: Fair
Title: Hobgoblin Part 2

What has Harry been up to?

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: J.D. Smith
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Cover Art: Mark Bagley
Publisher: Marvel Comics

When this book is on, it’s one of the best comic books on the market. Unfortunately, it isn’t on this issue. Ultimate Spider-Man #73 is a perfect example of how this title sometimes misfires. There’s nothing wrong with it, there’s nothing in here that’s bad, it’s just that the events in these 22 pages in no way were deserving of an entire issue to tell.

This issue, we flashback to where Harry Osborn has been since leaving the cast of this title many moons ago. That’s it. The entire issue is a Harry flashback that shows where he’s been, what he’s been up to, how he’s been on the sidelines of some of the other events we’ve seen, and how much he may or may not remember. This is all good information. This is all important information for the story. But by the end of this issue, absolutely nothing has changed in the status quo, the story hasn’t progressed one iota. This information would have been far better served worked into another issue with actual plot progression.

Mark Bagley, as always, does a great job on the artwork. We get to see his rendition of Nick Fury and a return of the Green Goblin, plus some recreations of earlier scenes in this series and in the lackluster Ultimate Six. He does a lot with very little story.

Brian Michael Bendis is a good writer, and it’s a relief to hear that this title will be slacking back on the ridiculous number of issues that were put out last year, but since it will finally be on a sane release schedule, it’s even more important that each issue move the plot forward. This one just doesn’t measure up.

Rating: 6/10

Avengers Vs. X-Men #2

June 18, 2012 Leave a comment

June 5, 2012

Title: Round 2

Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction
Script:
Jason Aaron
Pencils:
John Romita Jr.
Inks:
Scott Hanna
Letters:
Chris Eliopoulos
Colors:
Laura Martin
Cover Art:
Jim Cheung & Laura Martin
Editor:
Tom Brevoort
Publisher:
Marvel Comics

With the Phoenix Force returning to Earth, Hope Summers seems to be the logical candidate for its chosen host. The Avengers have come to Utopia so that Captain America can ask Cyclops to turn the girl over into their custody. Cyclops isn’t having any of that, though, and this issue, war breaks out.

This issue is almost entirely action – it’s the Avengers vs. the X-Men, just as the title of the book promises. On that front, at least, it delivers. There’s a lot of fighting and a lot of property damage and a lot of hero-on-hero violence as the characters draw their sides and decide quickly who’s going to fight who. Some of this is fairly logical – Doctor Strange battling Magik, for instance, or Quicksilver heading straight in to trade blows with his father, Magneto.

The problem is still that the whole book is lacking in logical sense. Cyclops seemed ready for a fight long before Captain America arrived, and the rest of the X-Men with him. Captain America came in with an entire helicarrier full of Avengers. The thing that just doesn’t make sense, though, is why. Given the number of times these characters have worked together in the past, the notion that these two heroes would go in expecting a battle, having basically decided that negotiation is not an option, is absurd. There’s never any chance that this issue could be talked out, because Captain America comes in with his big guns and Cyclops is already waiting to throw a punch from the moment he arrives. This issue, which basically just follows the violence, is notable only for a pretty effective scene where it becomes clear exactly what Wolverine’s priorities are. Although he’s not the only character to have a foot in both the Avenger and X-Men camps, he’s probably the most interesting one, and it’s not hard to see this entire miniseries shaking out to be the ultimate Wolverine showcase.

John Romita Jr., as I’ve said before, is a strong artist, but not particularly suited for large-scale cosmic events like this one. He’s more of a street level artist, and the way the moments of big power fall flat here makes that clear.

After two issues, I already feel like this miniseries – one I hoped would escape the problems of Civil War, is simply doomed to repeat them.

Rating: 6/10

Avengers Vs. X-Men #1

April 16, 2012 Leave a comment

April 14, 2012

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.

Rating: 6/10

Avengers Vs. X-Men #0

April 9, 2012 Leave a comment

April 7, 2012

Title: Prologue

Writers: Brian Michael Bendis & Jason Aaron
Art:
Frank Cho
Letters:
Chris Eliopoulos
Colors:
Jason Keith
Cover Art:
Frank Cho
Editor:
Tom Brevoort
Publisher:
Marvel Comics

With Marvel’s big event for the summer about to kick into high gear, we’re served up this prologue issue that spotlights the two women at the center of it all: Wanda Maximoff, alias the Scarlet Witch, and Hope Summers, daughter of Cable.

In Wanda’s story, she’s recently regained her senses after years (of real-time, anyway, I’m not sure how long it’s been in comic book time) of mental issues which has had her attack and destroy her teammates, her friends, and even her husband, the Vision. The Vision is restored now, though, and the confrontation between the two former lovers is anything but rosy.

Although the last panel is a bit on-the-nose (a callback to the most famous Vision story of all time), Brian Michael Bendis does a decent job here of tapping into the raw emotion of the situation. Considering everything that happened between Wanda and the Vision, this isn’t the sort of thing that can be swept under the rug or ignored. It’ll be interesting to see, as the conflict between the Avengers and X-Men heats up, what side the Vision will fall on.

In Hope’s story, written by Jason Aaron, we see the first mutant born since Wanda wiped out the mutant population in House of M forced to train. While she and Cyclops forces her to push herself, concerned about the portion of the Phoenix force she knows resides within her, Hope decides to take off and prove herself on her own.

This is a nice introduction to Hope if you, like me, don’t really know anything about the character. I haven’t read any of the X-Men stories in which she’s played a significant role, so this gives me the lowdown on her history, her powers, and why she’s important. It works on that level.

Both stories are elevated by the artwork of Frank Cho. As I’ve always said, he draws a few things very well – monkeys, dinosaurs, and women. (Not to say he’s bad at the rest of it, but those are the three categories in which he excels). This issue is very strongly focused on the ladies – besides the two cover girls, Cho gives us good interpretations of Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, Emma Frost and a couple of snake-themed villainesses (and villains). There’s a nice balance between the action and the talking heads stuff, and Cho pulls it all off. It’s an impressive effort.

This zero issue is a good way to kick off the event.

Rating: 7/10

Ultimate Spider-Man #72

March 19, 2012 Leave a comment

February 5, 2005

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Hobgoblin Part One

Harry Osborn is back… this can’t be good for Peter Parker

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

Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the three two-issue stories that just wrapped up, but this issue of Ultimate Spider-Man felt really, really slow to me. Fresh from his horrifying encounter with Doctor Strange, a new horror enters Spider-Man’s life… the return of his former best friend, Harry Osborn, son of the Green Goblin.

The book starts by recapping the events from the very first issue of the title, where Peter Parker got his powers in the first place, then goes on to reveal some other events that went on that day that neither Pete nor the reader were aware of – events that are coming back to bite us now. Peter is still jittery, pushing away his girlfriend after having the fear of losing her instilled last issue, and having the son of his worst enemy, who also happens to know his secret identity, return to his life at just this moment makes for a devastating blow.

Brian Michael Bendis’s characterization and dialogue are as good as ever, and the added scenes don’t feel like a cop-out, wedged in to create tension now, like a lot of sudden reveal flashbacks do. It’s also nice to see that the quick stories that just wrapped up did not happen in a vacuum – although the Dr. Strange story isn’t specifically referenced, anyone who read the last two issues knows exactly where Pete’s sudden attitude shift comes from, and sympathizes even as you want to yell at his to wise up.

The problem, like I said, is the pacing. Quite often, the six-issue arcs of this title feel padded, and it’s a bad sign when I get that sensation from the first issue in the arc. This felt like half an issue, not a full one, and that disturbs me quite a bit.

Mark Bagley remains the king of Spider-Man artwork. Although there’s not a lot of action in this issue, the brief fight scene is handled well, and it’s interesting to note how much the characters have evolved visually since the beginning of the series, even if it’s just as simple as removing a pair of glasses and changing a character’s posture.

A good issue, as Ultimate Spider-Man always serves up. But one that felt like there should have been more here, a problem this title suffers from far too frequently.

Rating: 7/10

Somebody’s First Comic Book: What If? (1989 Series) #108

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!

TITLE: The Greatest Sacrifice

CREDITS:

Writer: Tom DeFalco
Pencils:
Sergio Cariello
Inks:
Keith Champagne
Colors:
Kevin Tinsley
Letters:
Chris Eliopoulos
Editor:
Frank Pittarese
Cover Art:
Sergio Cariello
Publisher:
Marvel Comics

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: The Avengers… they’ve got that movie coming out, right? And… I guess Spider-Man is one of them, too?

IMPRESSIONS: Maybe not… the story kind of starts in the middle, with the Avengers (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and three people I don’t know) throwing down against Spider-Man’s enemy Carnage, who somehow has taken possession of the Silver Surfer. (Wait – Silver Surfer… wasn’t he in the Fantastic Four movie?) Evidently, we learn later, Carnage is some sort of alien slime that has been bonded to a serial killer, but left the killer and possessed the Silver Surfer.

We also find out, somehow, that these guys aren’t technically Avengers, but that they’re about to pick a new team. I’m not sure exactly how this works, but I like to imagine it’s like gym class, with Captain America and Iron Man taking turns picking from a line and the last one (I’m guessing the dude called “Justice”) being stuck with whoever picked second. Anyway, “Cosmic Carnage” nearly destroys the Avenger called the Vision and whips up on the rest of them until Spider-Man decides to clue them in that the monster is usually vulnerable to loud noises and fire, and maybe this girl called Firestar could do something? In the end, though, all she does is weaken the alien enough for the Surfer to exert control, fly into space, and kill himself and, presumably, the alien too.

I’m… lost here. The story itself is kind of straightforward, but what on Earth are they talking about – they’re not “really” the Avengers, they went and killed the surfer, and… and the title of this book. “What If?” Is that supposed to tell us that this is a “fake” story? It didn’t really happen? And if that’s the case, why the hell am I reading it?

GRADE: C-

[Meta-Note: I’m going to drop the usual pretense of this feature for a moment here to explain my commentary. The old Marvel What If? series, for a long time, was hosted by the Watcher, who explained that what we were seeing was a story set in a world very similar to the “real” Marvel Universe, but where something happened differently and the whole world changed as a result. Kind of a superhero version of Ray Bradbury’s Butterfly Effect theory. At some point, they dropped the Watcher as the narrator and, not being a regular reader of that book at that time, I didn’t really think much of it. Looking back for the sake of “Somebody’s First Comic Book,” I realize the lack of explanation makes this confusing as hell.

On a more amusing note, the letters page for this issue features letters for issue #105, the first appearance of Spider-Girl. The letters absolutely gushed over the comic, although the editor answering the letters initially says “Every story is only meant to be a glimpse into that particular reality. So don’t count on any more trips to see Spider-Girl!” Ah, hindsight.]

Fear Itself #7

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

November 6, 2011

Title: Thor’s Day

Writer: Matt Fraction
Pencils:
Stuart Immonen
Inks:
Wade Von Grawbadger
Colorist:
Laura Martin
Letterer:
Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Artist:
Steve McNiven
Editor:
Tom Brevoort
Publisher:
Marvel Comics

The Asgardian siege of Earth is reaching its Climax. Captain America has led a contingent of ordinary Americans to take up arms against Sin, while Iron Man has managed to outfit the Avengers with the most incredible weapons any of them have ever had, and Thor stands ready to face his destiny. And in the end… eh, it’s okay. The problem isn’t so much that the issue is bad – there’s a lot of good stuff to it, really – but it feels somewhat anticlimactic. The ending of this issue was telegraphed at the beginning of the miniseries. A good writer can make that work, mind you, but it all comes down to the execution – if you’re going to tell me what happens, at least find an unexpected way to make it happen. But it doesn’t, really, it doesn’t surprise at all. There is the requisite major character death at the conclusion, but it’s hard to take it seriously here. The character in question died not very long ago, came back not very long ago, and has a pretty big media presence for Marvel Comics at this point. It’s hard to imagine he’s not going to be back before the Avengers movie comes out next summer, and that sucks some of the drama from it. The best stuff here, truly is Matt Fraction’s treatment of Captain America. He really does nail Steve Rogers, having him step up and act the hero he’s supposed to be, every inch a warrior, every inch an Avenger. I’d gladly read a Captain America series written by Fraction, even if the rest of the book is kind of so-so. Immonen and Von Grawbadger continue to deliver on the artwork – gorgeous pages, a couple of full-page and double-page spreads that I’d love to have as a poster. It just looks great. If it read as well as it looks, it’d be one of Marvel’s finest crossovers. As it is, it’s just better than the last few.

Rating: 7/10