Marvel

Daredevil #1 (2011)

Daredevil 1

Daredevil #1 cover

I have said it before:  I have high expectations for issues that are #1’s.  I demand more, expect more, and want more out of them, because if the publisher is going to put forth a first issue – he’s marketing it to me – he has to convince me.  He has to prove, right out of the gate, that there is a purpose and a goal in creating a new series/title, and that the story I am going to follow along is worthwhile, entertaining, and new. This new Daredevil title has received all sorts of acclaim.  Many comic sites have called it one of the top three new series of 2011.  Everywhere I looked, this title (and this issue) was praised and lauded.

I got interested in Daredevil with the Shadowland event.  And I am not ashamed or abashed to say that I actually quite enjoyed Shadowland – and even Tweeted the writer my thanks for his story.  Then, I read the 4-issue Daredevil: Reborn miniseries which bridges the gap between Shadowland and this new Daredevil title. The story in Reborn was not awesome, but the covers were absolutely awesomely amazing. AAA – in other words. Triple A. 5 star greatness.

This cover, which was done by Paolo Rivera, I believe, is also fantastic. It is also very representative of the interior art and story which is the essence of this new title.  First of all, I love “simple” cover art – by this I mean, not cluttered and sloppy and busy, but generally just a focus on one or two characters with a glorious background.  This cover is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time because it shows that the artist truly understands the character. I do not mean this in some sappy psychological manner. I mean, the artist actually seems to be reveling in his understanding of what makes Daredevil a unique and interesting character.

One of the main reasons that I disliked Daredevil was that he was uninteresting. This cover, alone, demonstrates to me that this series has made Daredevil an interesting and exciting character. I absolutely love the word-art onomatopoeia that is the background for this cover. It’s great! Look closely and see the birds in the scene. Read some of the words: HONK SCREECH THUD VROOOMM. However, my favorite part of the cover is the perfectly depicted smile on Daredevil’s face. It’s mischievous, cocky, and fun. This isn’t the tired and miserable Daredevil of yesteryear. This Daredevil, swinging towards us right off the page, is ready for fun, action, and coolness.

The interior art is just as fantastic as the cover art.  The last page of the main story is really phenomenal – I would love a poster of it. Several frames throughout the pages are just excellent – the artwork is clean and uncluttered, but filled with that real understanding of the character. The pink “radar” lines and the clean pencils just make the artwork in this issue outstanding and really, I cannot praise it sufficiently. Sometimes, I look at a frame and think: “Wow, yeah, that’s such a unique and creative way of seeing this scene – and totally encompasses how Daredevil deals with the world!”

The writing is pretty good, too. I mean, I like how Daredevil seems arrogant, but capable. He’s not moping around, and he’s got a fun and mischievous flavor that shows through in both the dialogue and in the way other characters react to him.  It’s a really fun story that definitely makes you want to read the next issue – which is the precise goal of first issues. The backup story in the issue is also very well done, and again really makes the title a cohesive entry between Shadowland, Reborn, and this new series’ storyline.

5 stars

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X-Men #17

X-Men 17

X-Men #17 cover

The first X-Men comics that I have read, began in this 2010 series, of which this is issue #17.  For the most part, I was pleased with the first 15 issues. Many people did not like the first storyarc (Curse of the Mutants), but I like Gischler’s writing and I think it was a satisfactory and interesting story. None of issues have been standout amazing – you know, the kind you frame and re-read a dozen times in a week. However, the issues have remained solid entries into the X-Men canon.

This storyarc Betrayal in the Bermuda Triangle started in issue #16.  Basically, the Future Foundation (which is what the current Fantastic Four are called) happened upon a mysterious buoy that was encoded with a mayday message from a different dimension. The message was actually from one of Cyclops’ old ex-girlfriends. The FF headed to Utopia (X-Men island homebase) to enlist the X-Men on a mission to go to the different dimension and rescue said ex-girlfriend.

So, we have a “team-up” scenario with the FF and the X-Men. Not all of the X-Men, though just: Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost, Pixie, Dr. Nemesis, and Magneto.  Also, for some reason (I do not read the FF title), Doctor Doom is a member of the FF and is going along for this rescue mission. (In issue #16 there is a cute “aside” wherein Thing and Wolverine banter about how Doom and Magneto are “teammates.”)  The first thing that happens when the team lands in the new dimension – they open their ship canopy and discover a jungle filled with dinosaurs.

Needless to say, I was somewhat disinterested in the story in issue #16. I am not too fond of the FF and going with them to a dimension in which there are dinosaurs made me dubious and unenthused.  The only good part to issue #16 were the frames in which Emma Frost (Cyclops’ current girlfriend) was sarcastically commenting on having to rescue Cyclops’ ex-girlfriend. I’m really starting to like Frost – both in the X-Men title and in the Wolverine titles.  Therefore, I was not expecting much out of this storyarc, much less out of issue #17.  Even the cover of issue #17, while a nice piece of art, just does not engender any feelings of excitement or thrill.

I judged a bit harshly, because issue #17 surprised me and actually got me interested in the storyarc.  The first two pages consist of bantering between Cyclops, Emma Frost, and Sue Richards. This was okay stuff; like I said, I’m becoming enamored of Frost. But page three has a really great piece of artwork:  full page scene of the heroes looking over a small cliff at a really neat-looking, science-fiction futuristic, alien city that has developed, apparently, around a crashed space ship. Very cool. Anytime that happens in a movie or a comic – yeah, I’m excited. “I-want-to-go-to-there.”

The other heroes discover information about the found buoy and learn about George Stanislaus. Magneto, Dr. Nemesis, and Reed are fixing their ship and Nemesis presents the problematic of needing a gigantic power source to fix the ship.  Wolverine, Thing, and Pixie get into a number of scrapes and finally run into Cyclops’ ex-girlfriend – who is sexy, confidant, and gets a full page piece of art to introduce herself. We also meet the sentient life on the planet (so, other living things besides dinosaurs).   However, the real win for the issue is the last page – Doctor Doom!!!!

Overall, this issue fixed all of the worries and complaints that I had with the previous issue. And there were several pages of art which were quite good.  (Art in this issue was done by Jorge Molina.)  I really like the dynamics of some of the team-ups here and I am actually somewhat interested in the overarching large scenario that the different factions in the book seem to be coiling around. Definitely money well-spent.

4 stars

X-Men: Schism #1

X-Men Schism

X-Men Schism #1 cover

The first point I’d like to make here is that this miniseries/mini-event was written by Jason Aaron who is my favorite comic writer. I mention this because I admit that I am slightly biased in my review because, well, Aaron rocks and I want to see him succeed and be writing comics for a very, very long time. Yep, total fanboy loser here and not caring!

This mini-event called Schism is a five-issue limited series involving the X-Men.  There was a four-issue miniseries entitled Prelude to Schism that was released prior to this series. I did not buy it or read it, but I know that it focuses on four major leaders of the X-Men community and their role as leader.  However, I did read all of the X-Men series volume that started in 2010 as well as the Wolverine 2010 volume. So, I was up-to-date with those before reading this first issue of Schism.

Now, as is my usual method, let me discuss the cover. I did not get any variants, just got the standard first printing issue.  And I am disappointed.  The artwork for issue was was drawn (interior and cover) by Carlos Pacheco. The main reason that I am disappointed is because the cover is just an adjustment of a scene from the interior art.  In other words, this is no special exciting cover.  And that is disappointing because this Schism event was really publicized as a big deal; so not having a truly separate piece of art for the cover somewhat belies that sentiment.  That being said…. the frame in the interior of the comic that is similar to the piece shown on the cover is absolutely fantastic. It’s exciting, active, and entirely without words. No dialogue or exposition, just a two-page centerfold spread of Cyclops and Wolverine destroying Sentinels.  Pacheco’s art here is fantastic – it really should be made into a poster and plastered on all the X-Men fans’ walls. It’s fun and classic-feeling to see these two X-Men taking out the baddies without any cluttering words, just good old head-popping battle.

The issue (event) starts out with Wolverine arriving on the X-Men island, Utopia, with his uniform in tatters and with arrows and throwing stars actually sticking out of his flesh.  He looks rough.  I read some other reviews and people did not quite understand these frames – why does Wolverine look like this?  Honestly, it’s all contained in the recent issues of Wolverine.  He was fighting the Red Right Hand and it got pretty messy for him.  Sure, he wasn’t wearing the same costume, but it IS comics and that IS a different comic title. Anyway, I just assumed that this mess is due to that storyarc in the Wolverine title. (Which, by the way, Jason Aaron is also writing.)

Most of the next chunk of the issue deals with the interactions between Cyclops and Wolverine.  There are some really nice frames of both writing and art.  Some readers did not like the interactions between Cyclops and Wolverine. Some felt that Wolverine was out of character or that the interactions were forced.  Honestly, I have to disagree because I feel Wolverine’s responses were very sensible based on his recent adventures in the Wolverine title. For 17 issues in that series, Wolverine has been punished and beaten and tortured especially by people throwing his mistakes and troubles in his face.  I mean, literally, he went to hell itself.  So, Wolverine probably is going to feel a bit of guilt and remorse and treat Cyclops with a bit of respect.  Not to say that Wolverine is some sort of happy chum.  He is quite grouchy here, too.

Kid Omega’s entrance…. yeah… really… lame and laughable. However, I feel that the reader was supposed to realize how lame and laughable it was.  I do not feel it was supposed to be an entrance of some really slick badass.  Like most things in the real world, major catastrophes start because some dumbass did something ridiculous.  Kid Omega’s telepathic compulsion enacted on all the government leaders was really cool, though. And I admit it did make me wonder how that would be in real life. Aaron, you are such a cynic!  But also, most importantly, Aaron references “The Revolution Will Not be Televised.”  That is so cool. Back when all the Occupy Wherever started, I was listening to that song thinking it was so apropos. [For the record, I do not support Occupy Anything.]  But kudos to Aaron for working that gem into a comic book!

For some reason, and contrary to all likelihood, I have taken a fondness to Emma Frost – and NOT because she runs around like a naked Hooters girl.  Something about her uppity, bitchy attitude has been amusing in recent X-titles (LOL – even that is punny!)   Anyway, I liked her and Storm in this issue. They were supporting roles, but somehow done quite well.  Cyclops (whom I never liked) has always been a whiny, annoying, jerk. So, even though he’s trying to act all leader-adult-bitter here, I still don’t like him.

However, there are some excellent awesome frames in this issue – again without words – wherein we see the Sentinels of various countries.  China, Egypt, Russia, Paris. And these frames are awesome. Really. Pacheco gets a gold star! Excellent artwork.

Overall, the villainous plot and the mastermind is a bit ridiculous and absurd. However, it is the first of five issues and I am willing to wait and see how this plays out before I am going to make a judgment on the villains. I am skeptical, but it’s too early to start a critique.  And I am quite interested to get reading the rest of the miniseries. This did not get awesome ratings from many readers/reviewers whom I usually trust.  Frankly, I don’t know what they were looking for if they didn’t find it in this issue. Sometimes, it’s too easy to just be negative right out of the gate, I think.

4 stars

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.