Marvel

The Punisher #2

The Punisher 2

The Punisher #2 (2011)

  The new Punisher series that started in late 2011 is something that I have been picking up from the shelves. I have read the first two issues, so far, and am really impressed.  The biggest reason for my love of these issues has been the art – both the cover art and the interior art. I gave the first issue a “cover of the month” award already, but issue two has many of the elements that made me love the first issue’s cover.   Both are very bold, very colorful, and full of action.  I really love the art on the covers done by Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, and Paul Mounts.

The interior art is also excellent – it’s been done by Marco Checchetto and Matt Hollingsworth.  I think I really like the work that these two artists create because I recognized their work immediately.  I had seen it before and loved it; they did some of the Daredevil/Shadowland stuff that I really enjoyed.  Some of the reasons I enjoyed that work is present in this Punisher series.  I love the art because its full of action – from a variety of angles that are not confusing or cramped – and the coloring and inking is phenomenal.  It’s really bold and colorful art, that cannot be emphasized enough.

The reason I am dwelling so much on the artwork is because I think most artists draw Punisher in a very dark and noir sort of way – or, at least, as they interpret dark and “noir.”  I can understand that and most of the time that is a successful method.  However, this colorful Punisher is awesome. Another difference is that Castle seems to be young-looking in this series. I like that because all of the other interpretations of Castle seem to make him edgy and grizzled. It’s a welcome difference to the character that I am appreciating.

In issue two, there are two pages in particular that I want to mention as being really good.  They are in the South Bronx at a criminal hang out and the Punisher is making an entrance. The color scheme is blacks and reds/pinks. This is quite fitting because it’s nighttime and it gives that bloody, seedy sense to all of the frames. There is a frame on the lower left page that shows Castle firing his sidearm and the fiery blast from the shot is excellent – I feel like I am right there in the scene.

The issues are being written by Greg Rucka, and while he is a famous writer, I really do not have much to say about him in general, besides name recognition.  So far in the Punisher series, I am liking the storyline.  I was slightly confused about the names of the people in the first issue, but now I am on board.  The second issue was well-written. I like how the Frank Castle is not speaking much and is just doing – and, of course, we know what he does.

The last page is a two-page spread of the Vulture surprising Castle. Again, the artwork has lots of movement and definitely makes the reader want to find out what happens next. Vulture looks scary in this shot, not goofy or silly. So, I do want to read the next issue.

4 stars

Avengers #10 – 12

Avengers 10

Avengers #10

Continuing onward in the storyline that started in issue #7, the Avengers seek to chase after the Infinity Gems – racing Parker Robbins to acquire them.  The Avengers (and X-Men) have divided into three teams.  One team has followed Professor X to the site of the old X-Men school. Another, larger, group has gone to Area 51. Finally, three very powerful heroes (Namor, Red Hulk, and Thor) are traveling deep underwater to obtain the gem that Namor had been in charge of.

Several interesting things occur in the issue that help to make it seem not just one big pile of heroes running around.  Underwater, once Namor retrieves the gem, the three heroes hover around. Red Hulk has his hand out to take it, but Namor gives it to Thor. I found this a neat subtle way of showing that the Avengers do not trust Red Hulk yet, and that Namor seems to have more faith in Thor than he does in himself – a rare moment of humility for Namor.

Another interesting tidbit involves the Avengers learning that Tony Stark owns Area 51.  They comment that they thought that he was impoverished.  Tony replies:  “My broke is not the same as your broke,” which I think is a classic line for Tony. It demonstrates his arrogance and the fact that he really is the richest character in the Marvel universe.  I got quite a chuckle out of this line, which stuck with me awhile after reading it.

Avengers 11

Avengers #11

Issue #11 starts off with a full page frame of Uatu.  If you know anything about Marvel comics, you know that when this dude is present, things are serious.  Parker Robbins appears as the three heroes emerge from the water. Robbins possesses the purple, red, and yellow gems already (space, power, and reality respectively).  After a tussle, the Red Hulk gains the red gem (power), but Robbins transports them all back to Area 51.  Unfortunately, Robbins escapes, even after the Avengers attack. It’s at this point that Spider-Man notices Uatu. “Anyone else happen to notice The Watcher is here… you know, watching!”

Robbins has zipped off to meet the Avengers & X-Men team at Xavier’s school. A battle ensues between Xavier and Robbins – which the former loses. I was surprised. The Avengers are not doing well in these issues. Robbins collects the mind gem and heads off to the astral plane to find the gem that was given to Dr. Strange. The art on in this issue is colorful as all get out.  The Astral plane is full of yellows and pinks and lights and spheres. It’s really quite a sensory bombardment. Dean White is the colorist and I have to give him a lot of credit because these seem to be some of the most colorful issues in comics in the last year or so. I think the writing is about what one should expect to find in an Avengers comic book.  The art is hit or miss, I feel. Some frames are great, others are not so pleasant to look at. It ends up being a bit discordant. Nevertheless, the colorist does a good job making the art look as bold and bright as possible.

Avengers 12

Avengers #12

I really like the cover of issue 12 because the artist dropped the title font to the center of the page and put a bold Iron Man in the center of the image.  Frankly, since issue #7, I fell hook-line-and-sinker for the setup that Tony Stark had fallen prey to his arrogance and greed. When I saw the cover, I did not think that the Avengers had saved the day, but rather that Stark had somehow managed to get his paws on all of the gems and was wielding them similarly to how Robbins would have.

The Avengers defeat Robbins. Iron Man does manage to get his hands on all of the infinity gems. And in front of the assembled heroes, he uses the gems to “wish them out of existence.”  He appears remorseful and solemn and the Avengers seem satisfied with his actions.  Steve Rogers welcomes Red Hulk to the Avengers officially because he says that Red Hulk acted both selflessly and smart.  I have to say that in this frame, Steve is pretty ugly.  This is certainly not some athletic and handsome movie star.  Steve’s face and hair is just drawn ugly. In the same frame, Red Hulk looks a bit like a Elvis. The pencils for these issues are done by John Romita, JR.  I still dislike his art and I feel that without the skills of the colorist and the inker, this art would be quite awful.  I admit the covers are bright and wild, but the interior art is sometimes downright ugly. It’s easy to see what’s happening in each frame and it matches the storyline, however, the art is not to my liking.

Yeah, I was sad to see the infinity gems/gauntlet be “wished out of existence” just like that – poof!  They have been such a driving force in the Marvel cosmic universe that I was disappointed that that was all the story we get.  I should have known better (and I bet most readers suspected more).  Apparently, Dr. Strange was surprised too, so I don’t feel so bad. The last pages of the issue show the Illuminati, once again dividing up the gems. This time, however, there is one more member among them who grasps the orange gem:  Steve Rogers. (Of course, it’s one of the ugliest Steve Rogers in comics yet…..)

Overall, I liked this arc. I like the infinity gems. I like Thor and Namor and Iron Man. However, I do feel this was an “all-ages” book, since there wasn’t the depth that I am used to reading in comics of late. But perhaps this is not a bad thing at all – the arc was fun, colorful, and let the writer play with the infinity gems. There is an awful lot for the writer/artist to juggle in this storyarc:  dozens of characters, a whole mess of gems, etc.  In some places, the story moves a little too fast, I think. In the end, the rift between Tony and Steve is somewhat better and the villain was defeated. This is well worth reading, but is probably not going to be one of the greatest Avengers arcs ever written.

4 stars

Daredevil #510 – 512 and Shadowland #3-5

I finished reading all of the Shadowland issues that I own. Shadowland was a 2010 “mini-event” that centered on Daredevil and his involvement with The Hand. It (core issues) was written by Andy Diggle and drawn by Billy Tan.

I read:

  • Daredevil #505 – 512
  • Shadowland #1 – 5
  • Shadowland: Elektra (one-shot)

I think to understand and enjoy the full story, one also needs Shadowland: Spider-Man, Shadowland: Ghost Rider, and Shadowland: Moon Knight.  The first two are one-shots, the other is a 3-issue miniseries. There are a few other tie-ins, but I wasn’t interested in them – and I don’t feel that I missed anything necessary. One should get the Moon Knight tie-ins, but I don’t really care for Moon Knight, so I am okay with being left slightly clueless regarding Moon Knight in this event. It seems that the majority of readers did not like Shadowland; generally I see people giving it 2.5 stars out of 5. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the storyarc and have already thanked Andy Diggle (on Twitter) for not wasting my money.

Timothy Callahan on CBR wrote a review of Shadowland #1.  He gives it a 3/5 star rating not really explaining what he disliked – except for mentioning some frame with Iron Man in it. On Spider-Man Crawlspace, Nathaniel Collins gives the entire event 2.5 / 5 stars.  Collins wrote: “One of the big problems I had with this event was that weren’t we suppose to be taking a break from them for at least the year?”  One comment that I hope is an obvious point:  being burned out by events in comics is not relevant to the storyline of Shadowland. Collins does go on to complain about the treatment of Wolverine and Ghost Rider in the event. I suppose those are valid points, but again, the storyarc really wasn’t about Wolverine and Ghost Rider as much as the psychology and actions of Matt Murdock. I found numerous other reviews that also seemed to dislike Shadowland, but not for any real fault of Shadowland – or at least not to the extent that it should be given a 40% out of 100% grade.

Daredevil 508

Daredevil #508 cover

Callahan made a good observation when he wrote:  ” the best way to write about Matt Murdock is by having him appear sparingly.”  In Daredevil issues #505 – 509, Daredevil is quite present and in the majority of frames. In Shadowland, there is less of Murdock to be seen – except when he’s surprising us by jumping out of a dark corner or when he’s lounging in his darkened throne room.  However, this fits nicely with a storyline entitled “Shadowland.”  If people wanted to see Daredevil in bright sunlight in every frame, why are they reading something called Shadowland?

Several reviewers bemoaned the fact that in recent years, Daredevil / Matt Murdock has been mopey and miserable. While this may be true, its certainly not any fault of Diggle’s, nor should we demote Shadowland because of what happened in previous storyarcs. If this is so disagreeable, I’m glad I started with issue #505, because I am unaware of previous Miserable-Murdock. Finally, several people had the audacity to dislike Daredevil’s black costume. While I am mockingly amused by Daredevil’s quick change (is there some superhero costume shop everyone goes to in a pinch or when they change their modus operandi?), I think the black costume is the best Daredevil suit ever. (Wanna talk about the YELLOW suit?!) But enough about the naysayers!

The plot:  Shadowland is the story about the deeply rooted bitterness, self-doubt, and interior struggles of a blind lawyer/superhero.  The protagonist is also a martial arts expert who happens to have good intentions when he takes over a notoriously corrupt organization of ninjas.  With the hope of turning the organization into a force of good, the protagonist is ridiculed and attacked by those who seek other goals.  Influenced by the secret Snakeroot group, the protagonist loses the struggle with managing superhero morality and his role in a powerful organization. Snakeroot, capitalizing on the weakened psyche of the protagonist, forces him to become a conduit for an evil magical being. Supporting characters do not understand the inner turmoil of the protagonist, nor are they aware of the efforts of Snakeroot. These characters are left to make sense of their friend’s actions while maintaining their own moral code.  Now, if you say you do not like this plot, you’re probably lying – since this plot has been used countless times in all sorts of media to great success.

Shadowland Elektra

Shadowland: Elektra cover

This is the perfect plot for the Daredevil character, I believe.  Murdock being a loner from Hell’s Kitchen can carry a plot that that involves secretive scheming and nighttime ninja fighting. In some sense, its almost Gothic without any of the modernized Gothic emotive babbling. In fact, throughout Shadowland, we are fortunate that we aren’t privy to constant drivel in the form of inner dialogue while Murdock grapples with his inner demons.  Instead, for the most part, we only see the exterior results of Murdock’s “transformation.”

If there is a true deuteragonist, its probably Master Izo. He was in New York when the ninja lords of The Hand were conspiring to make Daredevil their new leader. Izo helped Daredevil and together the two overcame the Kingpin and Lady Bullseye, eventually banishing them from Hell’s Kitchen.  Izo later faked his own murder at the hands of Daredevil in order to deceive the Hand so that they accept Daredevil as their new leader. In other words, Izo’s been the hand moving the chess pieces well before these issues of Shadowland. In this event, Izo is the one aiding the heroes by getting them to understand that the Beast has “wormed its way inside” Murdock and they must act quickly – and kill, if necessary.  Izo urges Elektra to get involved and he tells Luke Cage and Iron Fist the real situation. Also, he’s the reader’s help because he acts as a pseudo-narrator for those of us who haven’t been keeping up with Daredevil.

Other great elements include Iron Fist’s use of Chi. Finally, someone utilizing Iron Fist and his power in a way that doesn’t emphasize destruction.  Shang-Chi has good moments and bad. In his bad moments, he’s somewhat annoying. In his good moments, he really completes the “martial arts” trinity that could be Daredevil, Iron Fist, and himself. In the pages of Daredevil, the reactions to the situation are demonstrated by “Foggy” Nelson, Dakota North, Becky Blake, and Detective Alex Kurtz. These pages give the reader a good sense of what is happening in NYC at the street level for the regular citizen. It looks gritty, scary, and ominous.  If you are interested in these characters, it seems they are handled fairly well.

Overall, Shadowland is well worth purchasing and reading. I don’t think one needs every tie-in (as I listed above, I did the bare minimum) to get an enjoyable read. I liked this mini-event and am a bit sad it’s over.

5 stars

Avengers (2010) # 7 – 9

In 2010, Marvel started a new several new Avengers titles, including The Avengers and New Avengers. This is some of the aftermath of Marvel’s several years of universe-wide events like World War Hulk, Civil War, Dark Reign, etc. I was rather excited about a new Avengers title for a number of reasons. First, the Avengers are Marvel’s “team.”  The Avengers represent the main core team of superheroes in the Marvel Universe and regardless of anything else that is going on, the Avengers have the history, the clout, and the job of being the driving force in the Marvel universe.  Second, I felt that Dark Reign and Siege struggled as major events and its a good feeling to come out on the other side with a new title starting from issue #1.  Marvel was touting it as “The Heroic Age,” but whatever one calls it – it feels like a step forward with some good direction.

The Avengers title is written by Brian Michael Bendis, who has been one of Marvel’s main architects for the last several years.  He is joined on the title by John Romita, jr. who is the son of famous John Romita, the comic book artist of Captain America and Spider-Man fame.  JRJR (as John Romita, jr. is often designated) is an artist who has worked on a variety of titles to include Iron Man, Thor, Amazing Spider-Man, and Daredevil.

After issue #3, I was ready to drop The Avengers from my pull list. At $3.99 per issue, it was making my forehead hurt way too much. I have no idea what the heck issues #1 – 6 are about. I think there is some time travel / alternate reality stuff going on. Kang the Conquerer is involved – and you know what that’s like! Sheesh! Anyway, I really hated the cover for #1, I really did not like the storyarc for #1 – 6.  But I kept it on my pull list. Like I said above:  this is The Avengers. In other words, you don’t just drop Avengers because of a bad arc or because you didn’t like the cover. If you want to be “in the know” in the Marvel Universe, you’re pulling at least one Avengers title.  In my world, the first six issues don’t really exist – or, they do, but only in the alternate future of Kang the Conquerer.  So, let us never speak of them again.

Avengers 7

Avengers #7 cover

The Avengers title starts off with issue #7.  The whole story starts with some criminal activity like murder and theft in some dark snowy place.  Who’s doing all this?  Looks like the ex-The Hood. You may remember him from Dark Reign or by his name, Parker Robbins. (I really don’t like this character’s names. He wore a red hood – which makes me always want to call him Red Hood Cp. DC’s Jason Todd. Also, Parker Robbins is like some amalgam of Peter Parker + Red Robin in my head. I wish The Hood was just called Bad Guy and his real name was Bob Smith.)  Most of the first issue is follows Robbins as he gathers two of the Infinity Gems. This is great, because I liked some of the cosmic Marvel stuff dealing with the Infinity Gems, particularly in the Infinity War, Crusade, Gauntlet.

So this loser criminal gets a hold of two Infinity Gems – the yellow and the red. One of the first things he happens to do with these gems is beat the hell out of Red Hulk. (Or Rulk if you prefer)  Anyway, in this issue there is a very charming centerfold piece of artwork showing Robbins in his hoodie, sneakers, and shorts socking Red Hulk directly in the eye. I like the way Red Hulk is drawn in this “frame” and it definitely gives a title like The Avengers a superhero feel to it. (What would an Avengers book be without someone punching a Hulk?) Don’t ask me who Red Hulk is – its a long story and I’m not certain I’m the one to tell it.

The last pages of the issue take place at the Avengers Tower in NYC. The Avengers team is having a get-together, including Spider-Woman, Noh-Varr, Thor, and many others. Red Hulk crashes the party – literally. He smashes in the window and lands on the floor in a mess. I like here how Thor takes such a leadership role by being one of the first heroes to react to the situation.

Avengers 8

Avengers #8 cover

Issue #8 has the tag “Return of the Illuminati” written on the cover, which is very cool because the sneaky and conflict-driven “Illuminati” has been one of the cooler, more interesting threads in the last several years of Marvel history.

Upon seeing the cover, I had no idea who the chick front and center is.  (But, boy doesn’t she have a lot of hair?!)  This issue begins with the members of the Illuminati gathering at the request of Iron Man. Most of the members are vexed because the group did not part happily previously.  We also learn that this is Medusa, wife of the deceased Black Bolt (former Illuminati member). This is good stuff and the dynamic between each of the characters is done well.  By way of explaining things to the members of the Illuminati, Iron Man tells us the story that Red Hulk brought to Avengers Tower regarding Robbins.

The problem is with JRJR’s drawing of Steve Rogers. Really. In one frame, I spent a few solid minutes trying to determine if I was looking at Steve Rogers or Noh-Varr.  I still have my doubts. Red Hulk is drawn very well. Professor X (one of the assembled Illuminati) looks a lot like DC’s Martain Manhunter – just without the green skin. I know Xavier uses his brain but I don’t think that means his forehead and brow need to look cro magnon.

Avengers 9

Avengers #9 cover

Issue #9 moves the storyline along by taking us back to Robbins in prison. We get some glimpses of how Robbins escaped, how he might be able to be collecting the Infinity Gems, and who might be working with him. In the present, we witness a confrontation between most of the major superheroes and the Illuminati.  Steve Rogers is really annoyed with Tony Stark. I have some problem with this because Steve takes the matter up with Tony, but honestly, the other Illuminati are as much to blame for the secrecy. After all, it’s not like Doctor Strange is just some tool that Tony uses.

The storyline is excellent. I am loving the Infinity Gems and Red Hulk and the Illuminati. However, again, I am really annoyed by the depiction of Steve Rogers. There are some frames where he looks out and out rotten. This simply does not look at all like any incarnation or rendering of Rogers. At all. Frankly, when I look at some frames, I see the main character from the anime Bleach, Ichigo Kurosaki.  The extreme youthfulness and the hair and even posture of Steve Rogers is not reasonable. And I really need JRJR to do better with this character. Medusa could be interesting, we’ll have to see. The writing for Thor is subtly good – once again he comes across as a wise leader. And Thor looks like Thor.

Ichigo

Ichigo

I give all of these issues 4 stars. The storyline is interesting and fun. Most of the artwork is great. I cannot, however, accept Ichigo as an Avenger.

Daredevil and Shadowland #1

I have never been a huge Daredevil fan. There are two reasons for this:  1.  (at the risk of seeming absurd) Daredevil seemed impossible to believe. Yes, I am aware that all kinds of things go on in comics that are impossible, bizarre, and unreal. However, I think somehow my willing suspension of disbelief stops at a guy who is a mix of Batman and Spider-Man and is blind. I just cannot make that leap.  2.  Daredevil always seemed like a “nice” guy.  I mean, he seemed obnoxiously goody-two-shoes.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating villainy, but something about Matt Murdock’s morality irritates me.  Nevertheless, I was vaguely interested in the renumbering of the Daredevil series at issue #500 and I was actually excited for writer Andy Diggle to take over the title. Unfortunately, I was never able to get my hands on (and maybe because it was never top priority) issues #500 – #504.   I probably should attempt to scoop them up.

Last night and today I’ve begun reading these Daredevil issues. Obviously, much of this is the lead up to the Marvel “mini-event” Shadowland.

Shadowland card

Shadowland teaser card

I didn’t really know what Shadowland was going to be about. However the art was definitely awesome looking. And it was called “Shadowland.”  If that’s not an interesting title, I dunno what is. So what if it focused on Daredevil? This had to be something worth reading.

So, I made the effort to get some of the Shadowland issues and some of the issues of Daredevil prior to Shadowland. I managed to get issues #505 onward, but I didn’t begin reading them. As is usually the case, I was unsure of the reading order for the event anyway, because like all events, Shadowland seemed to run through a core miniseries, Daredevil, and a couple of one-shots and miniseries. As I collected the issues, I had to continually admit that the covers were really awesome. In particular, Daredevil #505 and #506 were really great. Eventually I went and looked at the variant and second printing of some of these issues and I was even further impressed. (#501, #508, #510 second printing covers are even better than the first printings!)

I read issues #505 – #508 and Shadowland #1.   I am thoroughly impressed and I love what I have read of this arc, so far. I mean it. Its great. By far, this is some of the best artwork interior-wise that I’ve seen in a long while. I do not mean that there are just a few good frames. I mean that there are whole issues where the art melds perfectly with the story and is beautiful, intense, and colorful. (Here’s me, putting this stuff in the Louvre and The Met….)

As I mentioned, I jumped in to these issues at #505. What’s going on? I don’t really know. Matt Murdock and White Tiger are flying to Japan to meet with Daimyo and The Hand.  What/Who is The Hand?  Well, if you read any Marvel Comics, you know The Hand is an organization of ninja. So, of course, I’m sold. Ninja.  There isn’t a whole lot in the world that’s better than ninja. Its like even the worst story can be okay if it includes ninja.  Daredevil has become leader of The Hand. He’s going to meet with the daimyo to attempt to unify them in order to turn The Hand from a criminal organization into one of protection and justice.

While in Japan, there is intrigue among the daimyo which results in ninjas fighting. I’ll say it again: ninjas fighting. And the artwork is tremendous. Seriously. I would make posters out of all of these frames. Marco Checcetto and Matt Hollingsworth were the pencilers and colorists, respectively, for these issues. They did a ridiculously good job. Ninjas fighting – great artwork – awesomeness!

After I finished issues #505 – #507, I read Shadowland #1, which starts the event. Andy Diggle is writing the event and Billy Tan is the main artist. This is new territory for me, because although I’ve heard about these guys, I had never read any of their work. I approached the first issue expecting it to be a sort of “build up” issue in which not much happens and we are supposed to learn backstory.  Instead, Shadowland #1 continues straight where Daredevil #507 left off.

Shadowland #1

Shadowland #1 cover

Matt Murdock has returned to NYC.  Bullseye is being transported on a prison transport ship (amusingly with the call sign whiskey tango foxtroti.e. WTF) – and he escapes. We learn that Daredevil, who has copped a very cold, dark attitude, has fought with Bullseye previously – wherein Bullseye leveled a city block and killed over 100 people in doing so. On this city block, Daredevil has built “Shadowland.”  Its a Japanese-style building serving as headquarters for The Hand under Daredevil’s control. The purpose is to protect and defend Hell’s Kitchen from criminals.  The Avengers (i.e. Thor, Iron Man, Iron Fist, Captain America, Luke Cage) are discussing these new changes. Luke Cage is very vocal about disliking Matt setting himself as judge, jury, and executioner of NYC.  Iron Man and Captain America understand the need for Shadowland, but insist that it must be a temporary situation.  They encourage Iron Fist and Luke Cage to chat with Matt to find out Matt’s intentions and to discuss his recent attitude changes.

Bullseye confronts Daredevil on the rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen. He fights off a pack of Hand ninjas. (Read: cool ninjas fighting) Finally, Daredevil steps in and mercilessly beats the crap out of Bullseye (breaks and dislocates his shoulders and arms) – ending the fight with stabbing Bullseye through the torso.  Luke Cage and Iron Fist, who were on their way to see Matt, witness this and are shocked.

What’s great about this issue? Everything. Daredevil’s black costume is very, very cool. Luke Cage and Iron Fist as minor characters are interesting and well played. Bullseye getting killed? Also surprising in the first issue of this event. The artwork is tremendous and I have to say that I am hooked.

I can easily give all of these issues (Daredevil #505 – #508 and Shadowland #1) 5 stars.  The writing is just to my tastes and the artwork is perfect. Again, let me reiterate: NINJAS.

5 stars

Avengers #235

Avengers @35

Avengers #235

So, I started going through  my Avengers issues.  The earliest issue I have that has surrounding issues and makes sense to start with is #235. Its kind of a random place to start, but its also what I have to work with.  I have #234, but I’ve already gone over that issue in a elsewhere – specifically focusing on the Scarlet Witch.

#235 was written by Roger Stern with art by Bud Budiansky for September 1983.

The issue begins with repairmen working at Avengers Mansion.  (Apparently, this is the result of something that occurred in Fantastic Four #257).  Wasp is flitting around nagging and bossing the workmen.  Captain America is there as well, and he seems to be in a sour mood.  We soon learn why he’s so sour:  he is worried about the Avengers.  Thor has left the team temporarily to attend to a personal mission in space (Cp. Thor #334).  Iron Man has recently given up the suit because he has fallen into his alcoholism.  The reservist Avengers, Scarlet Witch and Vision, are both in the medical lab – the Vision is in a medical bed in some sort of “coma” while the Witch hovers over him.  Vision had been injured in a battle with Annihilus, which occurred in Avengers #233.  Basically, Wasp is chairwoman of the Avengers, and the Avengers now consist of Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Captain Marvel, Starfox, and She-Hulk.

She-Hulk has been called in from the West Coast and she is jogging through NYC where she meets up and banters with Spider-Man.  She relates to him that as an Avenger, she gets paid $1,000 a week.  Of course Spider-Man is awed and regrets having passed up the chance to be an Avenger himself – back in issue #221.

The National Security Council contacts the Avengers and requests their help.  The Wizard has escaped from the Vermont Federal Penitentiary and the NSC asks the Avengers to help relocate the criminal mastermind.  Wasp gathers her team and divides them into two groups.  Captain America will lead the Witch and She-Hulk to check out The Wizard’s home.

Of course The Wizard is at his home and has been devising defensive measures.  And, actually, that’s the biggest reason I like this issue.  I really like traps and puzzles for heroes to contend with.  She-Hulk is “trapped” in a room with two doors, when she goes through one door, the room “spins” and so she just, basically, walks back across the room to the first door. And then she repeats. Finally, she gets wise and makes marks on the wall to help her ascertain what is happening.  Naturally, when she finds out, she just starts knocking walls down.

The trap for Captain America seems pretty intense, honestly.  He enters a room wherein zero-gravity has been established.  As soon as he enters, he floats into the air.  This isn’t so terrible, however there are also a lot of high-intensity lasers installed on the walls which shoot beams at Captain America. So he has to time his movements in zero-gravity to avoid these beams.  In order to escape, he uses his shield to knock out a few lasers, and then he finds a working laser and shoots the rest.  There is a frame depicting this where there are 15 lasers shooting at him. This is rich!  Good old 1980s comics!!!! Woot!!!

The Scarlet Witch enters a room which, I think, is the most creative and interesting.  Her trap is a room that a field effect that generates a pocket of non-causality.  We are told that all actions have an equal chance of occurrence inside the room – nullifying Witch’s powers. I won’t give any more away, but suffice it to say, the Avengers capture The Wizard.  They also realize that Wasp is quite a cunning Chairwoman for teaming them up as she did.  The mission made the Witch feel better about Vision, made Captain America focus on more than woes, and made She-Hulk feel participatory in the team.

Originally this comic issue cost .60¢.  I think that was a steal. Even though I didn’t have any of the background story (e.g. what happened with Annihilus? why is the Mansion a wreck?), I was able to read along and enjoy the story.  We saw Captain America worried and intent on training and missions.  We saw Wasp, as the oldest Avenger on the team, making wise decisions as their leader.  Finally, we had a cameo by Spider-Man.  The villain was stubborn, smart-until-dumb, and the challenges he presented were interesting.   My world as a kid was very DC and not very Marvel.  So its kind of fun to return to these older issues and read a good story that I didn’t have to get lost in backstory with.  And even though this team is not the original, traditional Avengers, there is plenty of character dynamism involved to make the team engaging.

4 stars

Namor #1 (2010)

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I am reading along in the “Curse of the Mutants” storyarc that started with the new 2010 X-Men series.  The storyarc continues in Namor #1 – also a new ongoing series of 2010 starring Marvel’s first mutant, Namor the Sub-Mariner.

Namor 1

Namor #1 cover

I signed up to get Namor regardless of whatever storyarc was running at the time.  I knew that the ongoing would not be the most popular and would most likely be canceled eventually, but I wanted to 1.) show Marvel I support ongoings outside of Deadpool and Wolverine2.)  for one time in my life be a subscriber to a Namor title.

The cover art for this issue was done by Jae Lee. I don’t run into art by him very often, although I have a number of his things for The Dark Tower comics.  I spent some good solid time looking at this Namor cover and am not sure if its great or if I dislike it.  First of all, the background water is done, in my opinion, very well. This looks like water. Deep below the surface of the water, clearly, and the tricks done with the lighting make it look real. In other words, Lee doesn’t just paint a blue background. Now, as far as Namor himself, he looks very youthful and almost Asian.  In fact, this is a very different looking Namor than the typical box-head, square-jaw we are used to seeing.  He almost looks petulant in this shot.  I don’t know how I feel about this.  Also, I find this pose to be very odd, as well. But I do admit:  this is very unique. Now, the “throne” Namor is sitting on isn’t really a throne.  It looks like an octopus that is surrounding him. At first glance I thought it was a throne, but Namor’s butt isn’t actually sitting on anything. He’s just hovering in the arms of the sea creature.

The story is written by Stuart Moore and interior art is done by Ariel Olivetti.  The interior art isn’t my favorite style.  It looks like it was drawn by a girl. Its got that feminine style to it – which was kind of a let down for me because I like the edgy sharpness of masculine art. Its not that the art here is bad, mind you. It just isn’t very hard and sharp. Everything seems blended and pastel, I suppose.

The story is written well. We learn a bit of background about The Aqueos (vampires sect), we met the Tridents (underwater sea people), and we learn about The Vault of Law. The Vault of Law is a box that can only be opened by a royal – so, Namor. And it contains Dracula’s head – which (Cp. X-Men issues) is what the X-Men are seeking. It has been stolen.  Namor recruits the Tridents to help him fetch it. The Aqueos Highlord meets them and fights. He declares war on all the Atlanteans.

Some problems first. The first time in this series that Namor says the famous Imperious Rex! Its as flat and deadpan as possible. I mean, its really lackluster, as if Namor himself is bored.  Also, on the small Trident force are two brothers: Husni and Husam.  I swear this sounds to me like Stuart Moore dug into Muslim history and discovered the Shia Imams:  Hussayn and Hassan.  It doesn’t matter too much, Husni is dispatched in the fight with the Aqueos in this very issue.

The good stuff:  there are some good quotes by Namor including this one:  “If you face death on this voyage, stare it in the eye and slit it down to the gills!.”  Also the storyline moves along nicely, we learn background, we fight, we end with a threat by a scary evil baddie.  So, as far as issue #1’s go, this one meets all expectations. I just don’t prefer the art and some parts of Namor’s dialogue are flat.

2 stars

March 2011: Cover of the Month

Lots of nice covers to choose from this month. I finally selected these from which I had to pick just one!

  • Batman #706
  • Captain America #614
  • Batman & Robin #19
  • Uncanny X-Force #4
  • Daredevil: Reborn #1

And I picked Captain America #614 by Marko Djurdjevic as the winner. This was a tough call, but this cover is chilling and scary and very remarkable. (I hate the Nomad blurb on it, though.)

Captain America 614

Captain America #614 cover

February 2011: Cover of the Month

I had a hard time choosing covers that really stood out and were worthy of being considered very good covers. In the end I selected three choices. I have to say, picking the winner was a tough thing to do as well.

  • Brightest Day #15
  • Black Panther #513
  • Detective Comics Annual #12

Black Panther #513 as done by Simone Bianchi…..

Black Panther 513

Black Panther #513 cover

Deadpool #26 – 28

Deadpool 26

Deadpool #26 cover

I recently finished reading Deadpool #26 – 28 and I have to say that they are better than the previous few issues. I have written many times that Deadpool is a character that is very unique and that readers either love him or hate him.  There really is no middle ground with Deadpool, which, well, is just another facet of his character.

These issues all focus on Deadpool’s personality.  While there have been plenty of issues in the past that have emphasized Deadpool’s comic relief and his mercenary skills, these issues present insight into the background and development of his personality.  Sure, we all know that Deadpool has been genetically-enhanced and used as a tool.  But these issues take a quick look at why Deadpool is as “insane” as he seems to be.

Issue #26 was actually somewhat heart-tugging, particularly with the Ghost Rider being part of it.  Deadpool leaves Las Vegas (and the “job” that he had taken on there). As he leaves, the Ghost Rider chains up Deadpool and hauls him out into the desert.  The Ghost Rider, in these frames, is drawn very nicely – just as imposing, hardcore, and scary as he ought to look. The Ghost Rider attempts to use the Penance Stare on Deadpool, but it knocks Deadpool out and it changes the Ghost Rider into Johnny Blaze – who is confused as heck.

Deadpool 27

Deadpool #27

The next pages of the story show how Deadpool, as a youth, tried to hang himself, but gets selected into Oscar Zero – a clandestine group operating under the CIA.  They want to use Deadpool as a mercenary. Eventually its discovered that Wade has thirty-four tumors and they present him the option of going to Canada to take part in a “project” that might help him.  The next frames show Wade strapped to a table and screaming in pain like some sort of Frankenstein.  When Wade regains consciousness in the desert – he punches Johnny. He asks him: “You’re the Ghost Rider?”  Johnny replies: “Sometimes” and Wade responds: “Well, I’m Deadpool. All the time. An’ I don’t need to be reminded of it!”

Johnny asks Deadpool what he saw during the Penance Stare, and says that the Ghost Rider wanted Deadpool to see something, because if it had wanted him dead, Deadpool would be dead. Deadpool asks Johnny if he thinks Deadpool deserves to die… Johnny says “yeah,” and Deadpool thanks him.

In issue #27, there are several flashbacks to Wade as child.  Wade is watching the news and he clearly idolizes Captain America. His father, however, tells him harshly that he won’t be just like Captain America and that he should stop dreaming. In issue #28, Dr. Bong, the evil villain of the storyarc, tells his underlings that Deadpool used to be a psychiatric patient of his. He says that if there’s one thing that Deadpool hates more than himself, its his friends. Throughout the issue we see Deadpool not understanding the circumstances that he is in, but reacting with anger when his so-called friends are just trying to use him.

Deadpool 28

Deadpool #28

The conversation continues as Dr. Bong explains that Deadpool’s advantage is not that he isn’t afraid to die, but that he does fear living.

While these aren’t the most amusing of Deadpool issues, they are significant because the backstory of Deadpool is seen from an angle that is not too often presented.  Most of Deadpool’s mental issues are not his own fault; he is insane, but not because of any of his own faults. In fact, the sense that I got reading these issues is that if Deadpool has a main fault – its that he is too trusting. He trusted every person who got involved with him and the majority were just trying to use him.  Deadpool’s inability to distinguish between friend and foe is a major concept used in his character development.  In fact, throughout all of the recent Deadpool titles, his inability to comprehend friendship is at the root of his problems.  Looking ahead to issue #29, I expect to see the same psychological subtleties in the storyline.

4 stars