Matt Fraction

The Fearless #1

Fearless 1

Fear Itself: The Fearless #1; Marvel Comics

The Fear Itself comic event that spewed across Marvel Comics in 2011 was more or less a disaster.  The helmsman, Matt Fraction, made a mess of things for a miserable, confused event that grew even bigger than the sweeping events of World War Hulk and Civil War.  The tragedy of this event caused me to avoid Marvel Comics titles for a long time. Finally, well past the event itself, I decided to just muscle my way through everything.  I whipped through one issue after another. The Tony Stark storyline was interesting. The rest? Ugh.

That Marvel/Fraction began dragging out the Fear Itself abomination even further with this 12-issue expansion called Fear Itself: The Fearless caused many fans to just drop all Marvel titles from their pull lists. Many critics complained that Marvel was milking it, but I suppose that presumes there was anything to milk in the first place. Fear Itself was poor. Of that event, I bought the seven core issues. I bought subseries with Namor, Wolverine, and Deadpool. And I bought #7.1 and #7.3.  Frankly, the .1 and the .3 issues were probably a lot better than anything Fear Itself contained.  I am still harboring a bit of animosity toward Fraction’s writing.

Anyway, The Fearless is a twelve issue limited series that I bought just for semi-completist-sake. (paradox) I liked the concept of the story being contained in twelve issues. Also, since I suffered through Fear Itself, I wanted to see if this epilogue story could salvage anything for the event…and Fraction. This past week I picked up issue #11 of The Fearless. Today, I finally read issue #1. Yes, that is how dreadful Fear Itself was – it actually made me very much avoid Marvel titles, which, I suspect, is the antithesis of what Marvel wants their events to accomplish.

Fear Itself encompassed many, many issues. But on the opening splash page of The Fearless #1, there are three short paragraphs that introduce the background to the reader. Frankly, they actually, in three short paragraphs, sum up the entirety of Fear Itself.  Eight mystical hammers smashed into earth.  They were wielded by eight warriors called The Worthy. The Worthy were avatars of the Norse god of Terror: the Serpent. Odin, father-god of Asgard, planned to destroy the earth in order to stop The Worthy (and therefore, the Serpent). Iron Man and Captain America and some other heroes save earth. The hammers were scattered around the world. There, you now know what happened in Fear Itself – don’t bother reading it, unless you are truly comics obsessed.

Now, I admit the bar was set quite low for this series. Nevertheless, despite Fraction’s name on the cover, I opened the issue. And I kept on turning pages and enjoying the artwork and the story right until I reached the back cover. I was, obviously, pleasantly surprised. If Fraction can write so well for the Invincible Iron Man title and can assist with the writing for The Fearless, what on earth was he doing with Fear Itself? Needless to say, I was so surprised, I read the issue again. Okay, to be honest, it’s not the greatest issue ever published, but altogether a vast improvement over the event itself.

The issue opens with the introduction of Brunnhilde in the year 1945. It’s a nicely drawn and colored introduction for the warrior – and her fight scene against the snow wyrm is clear and concise. Simple warrior action story on those pages. Then, the comic jumps ahead in time to present day Washington, D.C. where the Avengers are cleaning up after the massive destruction [sic!] wrought by Fear Itself.  Brunnhilde is arguing with Captain America over the property rights of the hammers. The dialogue on these pages is well-written and the artwork complements the discussion.  The artwork is framed really well, with snippets of other heroes (superheroes and regular humans) working in the area. In the end Captain America tells Brunnhilde to forget it because he is determined to keep the hammers in mankind’s possession and hidden.

Next few pages detail the villain Crossbones using a criminal network to obtain the location of the hammers. He provides this to Sin (the daughter of the Red Skull and formerly, one of The Worthy).  Sin, is drawn and written very nicely in her appearance here:  she’s caustic, arrogant, and sinister – which is how we like our Sin!  The last few pages detail Brunnhilde standing before one of the hammers in custody.  War Machine, who I have not seen in awhile, finds her there and attempts to dialogue with her. Unfortunately, Brunnhilde does not feel the need to converse and takes matters into her own hands and steals the hammer!

So here is an issue with interesting dialogue, good fight scenes, exciting characters, and good artwork. Everything a comic ought to have and everything Fear Itself did not have. I have higher hopes for issue #2, but I still have not forgiven Fraction.

4 stars

** Also, as a warning do not look at Sin on the cover too much…. or you’ll see the oddest thing.

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The Defenders #1 (2012)

Defenders

The Defenders #1; Marvel Comics

The Defenders is (yet another) team-up group in the Marvel Universe.  This relaunch of this group is a spin-off of some of the Fear Itself (awful 2011 event) storylines.  Anyway, this is the first issue in this new volume and it is written by Matt Fraction, penciled by Terry Dodson, inked by Rachel Dodson, and colored by Sonia Oback.  I really disliked Fear Itself (written by Fraction)  – even though I really wanted to like it.  I am enjoying the Invincible Iron Man volume which is also written by Fraction. So, here I was testing out this title.  I like the characters involved, even though I really don’t like the cover or the writer.

The cover has the Defenders posed in front of the enemy that they have assembled to battle.  Honestly, I really dislike the cover because the characters on the cover look like paper cut-outs that were just stuck on the pale-colored monster.  Namor in particular looks horrible – look at his right hand, it’s a fish hand!  Really, this is not a nice cover at all and it kind of hurts me to look at it. I really should not speak further on the matter.

Overall, the entire issue has a rather vintage feel to it. This is definitely something I think Fraction planned, because it’s too obvious not to be the case. When I say “vintage,” I mean the yellow boxes, the page guides in the bottom margin, the character title boxes, etc. There’s a lot here that really reads like a late 1980s or early 1990s comic book.  That’s not a bad thing; in fact, I rather enjoyed this aspect. It’s a bit “refreshing” to have a bit of a return to those issues.

Page 2 is all about the big bad monster. Page 3 introduces Doctor Strange – and I really hate this introduction.  Ugh. It’s a “morning after scene” with the Doctor sprawled in a pink bed in a messy room while the chick from last night informs him “This was a mistake.” Ugh. Bleechhh. I hate that this is how Fraction introduces Strange because it’s not classy at all, and I think Strange is classier than this. I hate how Dodson draws the scene, it’s not really how I would picture this scene – if I was forced to do so. Luckily, the story moves right along and Hulk busts into Strange’s room.  It’s a funny entrance:  Wong apologizing for not halting Hulk! Enter Namor into story. Enter Silver Surfer. But, then we get She-Hulk (red She-Hulk these days, folks!) and her entrance is really priceless. In fact, the frame that brings her into the story is what is responsible for my giving this comic more than one star.

Red She-Hulk Chasing Bulls

Red She-Hulk Chasing Bulls

This is not Jen Walters, this is Betty Ross. I think I prefer Jen Walters, but this is really my first time seeing any Red She-Hulk. (She was created in 2009 by Jeph Loeb.)  I just really got a kick out of She-Hulk in Pamplona – chasing the bulls and screaming “Come back and chase me, you cowards!”  That’s funny; a little silly and stupid, but funny nonetheless.

Ultimately, the story is absent. Hulk says some stuff about where the monster came from and why its a threat, but the reader does not get much by way of Hulk’s words. And then, the entrances of all of the characters except She-Hulk are obnoxious. These are not heroes, they are obnoxious jerks and this issue is about getting them all in one place and on the same quest – whatever that may be.  On the last page, the group seems to meet yet another character – who has them cornered. Overall, the story is pretty much what one expects from Matt Fraction.  The art, too, is somewhat weak. I like the effort to make the issue seem “vintage.” I like She-Hulk’s entrance. Other than that? Not too much here to really like.

2 stars

Invincible Iron Man #511

Invincible Iron Man

Invincible Iron Man #511; Marvel Comics

I have been reading Invincible Iron Man for several years now, I think since the Extremis armor storyline.  The numbering of this particular title has, of course, changed but this is actually the 46th issue in this volume (2008).  For the most part, this volume has been above average, but nothing has been really awesome amazing.  In other words, this is a solid Marvel title with one of the classic characters.

I am not a big fan of writer Matt Fraction; in fact, I am not really a fan at all, but I am trying to be kind. Last year, Fraction’s event Fear Itself was a bloody mess and aggravated a lot of Marvel readers. Fraction’s been writing this volume since issue #1, however, and has done a decent job.  Every issue that I read is good – but the writing is not the strong part, the art is. Salvador Larroca’s artwork is phenomenal and perfect. I love it. Every issue I look at I find myself saying things like: “Hey, that’s a really good frame” or “This art is really quite good.”  So, ultimately, I am not sure where this title would be without Larroca.

The above holds true for issue #511.  The storyline is good enough, albeit a little tired. I feel after 46 issues, we are still in the same exact arc as issue #1.  Now, I know that Iron Man has his particular villains that he constantly battles and that contained storylines are something of a rarity in today’s comic industry. However, I feel like we are having some sort of groundhog day stuck-age where we are moving forward and moving forward, but just not going anywhere. The thing is, it’s interesting (fighting Ezekial Stane and the Mandarin), but we have been doing it for 40 issues. Looking at the whole volume, it’s easy to see developments and progression, but at the same time, I feel there is this lack of anything happening. It’s a very odd read – which is why I was complaining about Fraction.

However, as long as Larroca keeps drawing, I am going to keep reading. His artwork is fantastic and, honestly, not enough readers/critics are talking about it. It really ought to be praised more than it is. Maybe after all these issues, everyone has started to take it for granted. I haven’t though, because reading this issue I was still impressed with the art.

Pepper Potts by Larroca

angry Pepper Potts by S. Larroca

Here are two of my favorite frames from this issue. The first is of Pepper Potts. Potts is angry and frustrated. Maybe even a little hurt. And Larroca is able to display all of these emotions on her face in such a way that it doesn’t make Pepper look silly, constipated, or blah.  You can look at this frame and almost empathize with Pepper.  It may seem like a “simple” facial drawing, but it actually conveys Fraction’s storyline better than Fraction’s words.

Sasha Hammer by Larroca

Sasha Hammer by S. Larroca

Another frame that really, really caught my eye was of Sasha Hammer. She’s standing in front of the Detroit Steel tech and the media, with dozens of cameras, is eating the scene up. I was trying to imagine a shiny piece of armor as a backdrop for a saavy, catty chick like Sasha. I then imagined all the camera’s flashing and the media crowded around her while she basks in the attention.  When I stopped imagining, I found that Larroca had been in my brain had had drawn precisely the image that I had imagined. Really. I mean, I love how her hair looks, I love the incline of her head, I love the sunglasses. Of course, Larroca’s art here is perfectly completed by colorist Frank D’Armata. The “blurry” colorful background with the flashbulb reflections in the sunglasses is awesome. Really. I mean, you feel like you are right there in the scene at Hammer Industries’ Hanger with the arrogant Sasha Hammer.

4 stars