When, exactly, is Marvel going to take a breather? Oh, never? Alright. We’re okay with that. This week’s stack of titles included some stunning work by Mark Waid, Leinil Yu, Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting, Rick Remender, John Romita Jr., Kelly Sue DeConnick, and a host of other brilliant folks. It was tough just choosing five this week…
New Avengers #2
“In Secret They Rule”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Steve Epting
Inkers: Rick Magyar with Steve Epting
Color Artist: Frank D’Armata
The first thing that comes to mind upon closing this issue is: Jonathan Hickman was born to write the Avengers. Every page is bigger than the last, yet the character work and team dynamics and conflicts are never lost, no matter how big the plot gets. And it gets big.
New Avengers #2 opens with the captured Black Swan being interrogated by Reed Richards. Why did she destroy a planet? Where is she from? How can she be contained? Last issue, it seemed as if she was a cosmic villain dedicated to destruction. This becomes ambiguous as she expresses emotion over her actions. Her warnings are dire. She only destroyed the planet because it would have collided with Earth. Even worse, the planet she destroyed was another Earth, and another collision can happen at any time. Yeah, the story is THAT big.
This leads to the first meeting of the new Illuminati. This is where Hickman and Epting shine. The meeting is rendered with no background, just the heroes and a table floating in darkness. This gives the sense that these heroes are the only beings in the universe that matter at that moment. They are a pantheon of gods deciding the fate of those beyond the void. Richards explains the situation and somehow, Hickman and Epting make a bunch of panels containing geometric graphs exciting: metaphysical concepts contained within simple shapes that have horrific consequences for reality.
It is Black Panther that truly stands out in this scene. When the Illuminati first met, he stormed out, disgusted by the idea of the cabal. Now, he is a willing member, which shows the reader just how serious a threat this is. He even willingly stands with Namor, a man Panther has sworn to destroy. T’Challa is the character we’re meant to relate to, and Hickman perfectly expresses Panther’s emotions through his internal conflict of vengeance versus duty. Each character has their own voice; Stark, for example, exudes arrogance and confidence even though he is one of the few true mortals in the room. It’s interesting that Hickman chooses to have Stark as a member of the team, not as Iron Man. They need the brain to guide them, not the armor. Namor casts an air of superiority on the proceedings, while Captain America acts as the moral compass, never allowing the godlike heroes to forget that they serve humanity, not the other way around.
Each member of the cabal possesses an Infinity Gem, and the idea is suggested to use the gems to stop the approaching Earth. Any longtime Marvel fan doesn’t have to think too hard about what happens when the gems are united. The team splits, half to prepare for the Earth’s arrival, the other half to seek out the lost Mind Gem of the fallen Professor X. It was shocking that Captain America suggested the Gems be combined. He is the only member present that is certain they will not be corrupted by the Gems’ power, because he is incorruptible. Hickman never loses Cap’s sense of humanity or duty. The issue could have been lost in a morass of metaphysical exposition, but instead was a character study of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. With all the Avengers titles out there, this character driven approach to cosmic storytelling truly stands out.
review by: Marc Buxton
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee
Colors: Javier Rodriguez
I currently read only two Marvel titles: Daredevil and FF. Daredevil #22 features a team-up of Daredevil and the “new” version of Spider-Man, which I had only basic knowledge of, since I don’t read Superior Spider-Man. I went in dubious, but I came out a fan.
This issue focuses on Matt Murdock as he continues to deal with Daredevil’s secret identity having been made public, his failing friendship with Foggy Nelson and the general day-to-day problems facing the blind. He is confronted by Doc Ock Spidey, who has been tasked with bringing Matt to justice by the assistant district attorney. The pair duke it out for a few pages but are interrupted by Stilt-Man, who they then take down, using TEAM WORK! See? It’s a team-up. The issue wraps with Matt and Foggy hammering out their problems over a bacon-covered cheesecake, as all reconciliations should be. The final panel delivers a bombshell, which I have no intention of spoiling here.
Mark Waid’s humor and understanding of why these characters work so well has never been stronger. I had no idea what to expect from a Spider-Man with Doctor Octopus’s brain, but after two panels of him bumbling with his spider-powers and displaying a complete inability to banter, I was hooked. The dialogue is sharp, the exposition is seamless and I laughed out loud (I don’t “lol”) when I turned the page with Stilt-Man’s reveal. The action is fast paced and there is a lot of information to catch the reader up to, but Waid handles it with amazing style and creates a comic book that anyone can pick up and enjoy.
Chris Samnee’s art has a lot to do with this as well. His art is clean and his action is presented beautifully. There’s never a question about what’s going on in any particular panel and his transitions are smooth and well thought out. I have been a fan of his since his work on Dc’s The Mighty and I don’t think he’s scratched the surface of his abilities yet. Every issue he draws is better than the last and I expect him to become a legend-class name amongst comic artists. Javier Rodriguez’s colors don’t hurt either. He takes an issue that has two red-clad protagonists and finds a way to not let the palette get stale.
If you’re like me and tend to stay away from the big-two’s seemingly endless supply of “gimmick” stories, give Daredevil #22 a try. It’s a great introduction to the “Superior” Spider-Man and has gotten me to consider expanding my Marvel pull-list. That is a BIG deal, trust me.
review by: Bob Chamberlain
Captain America #3
Writer: Rick Remender
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Inker: Klaus Janson
Color Art: Dean White w/ Lee Loughridge
Well, I certainly didn’t see that coming. In fact, those six words can pretty much sum up my feelings about the entire Marvel NOW! Captain America series, so far. Riddle me this, true believers! When is a Captain America comic not a Captain America comic? I’m not sure I can answer that question, but Remender and Romita’s current run is certainly different from most of the Captain America comics I’ve read. Oh, sure, it borrows heavily from Jack Kirby’s return to the character in the mid-70s, and Cap certainly behaves like Cap. It’s just that I feel like I’ve been conditioned to expect a very particular type of superhero action out of Captain America as a title, and consequently, I’m a little disoriented.
But disorientation is sometimes a good thing. After all, superhero comics are often so predictable that any attempt to shake things up is met with howls of anger from the fans. Captain America has been anything but predictable, and Captain America #3 was even more of a swerve than usual. I mean, opening the book with a still-human Arnim Zola in 1929 performing all manner of incredibly disturbing experiments? Yeah. Didn’t see that coming.
But it’s not the first two pages which make Captain America #3 so unpredictable. No, the big surprise is saved for the last page. Believe me, you probably didn’t see it coming, either. But before we get there, there’s the little matter of just how much time Cap has spent in Dimension Z. It’s been a year (of comic book time, not our time) or more. Even this issue seems to take place over the span of weeks or months. Considering the near-complete removal from the rest of the Marvel Universe, Cap’s shaggy appearance, and the unfamiliar, alien location, you could almost say that it’s barely a Captain America comic at all.
Except…it IS. Cap is still Cap, even when he isn’t fighting in World War II or leading the Avengers. What Captain America has been about, really, is what makes Steve Rogers so special, even when stripped of many of the traditional trappings of the character. The flashbacks to his childhood during the Depression are meant to help illustrate that, but I honestly think that this can still be accomplished without them. I’m too interested and invested in this insane Dimension Z plot to bother with more earthly concerns. And, you know what? You guessed it! I didn’t see THAT coming, either. Oh, and watch out for that last page. It’s a doozy.
review by: Mike Cecchini
Indestructible Hulk #3
“Hulk: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Writer: Mark Waid
Penciler: Leinil Yu
The first two issues of Indestructible Hulk were great starts to the new Hulk series, but did you really expect anything less from Mark Waid? The last issue showed Bruce Banner and Tony Stark having it out in an action-packed brawl and then joining forces afterwards, after Bruce proved that he and Tony are scientific equals. Indestructible Hulk #3 continues on the same path of awesomeness.
First and foremost, Leinil Yu’s artwork is remarkable, and for that reason alone, I’m not going to go into a summary of the plot so that you’re forced to go buy the physical comic book. The comic contains amazingly detailed artwork, especially on the full page spreads, which feel like they’re delightfully in your face. The R.O.B. (Recording Observation Bot) that Yu has drawn looks awesome, and looks like it is filled with personality. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until R.O.B. 2.0 to see more of him, because Hulk smashed the original R.O.B. to pieces.
Secondly, Mark Waid’s story for the new, upgraded Bruce Banner continues to keep my interest. All that you really need to know about the story is that Bruce continues to build up his lab, and Hulk continues to smash everything else. I’m very excited to see Bruce Banner 2.0 working with S.H.I.E.L.D. Waid’s Hulk series, so far at least, has been incredible. While it is too soon to tell if it is my favorite Hulk comic, it certainly does have the makings of a masterpiece.
Thirdly, Sunny Gho’s colors are fantastic, rounding out the creative team behind Indestructible Hulk #3 quite well. I said the same thing last month about Hulk’s color, that it’s great that Gho went with a different shade of green than the usual hue we are used to seeing. There’s a little hint of blue in there which makes this Hulk unique. Indestructible Hulk #3 is action packed and looks stunning!
review by: Robert Bernstein
Captain Marvel #9
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Filipe Andrade
Man, was the art jarring. With angular and sketchy layouts contrasting DeConnick’s clean linear storytelling and engaging dialogue, it was hard to get into the flow of the story. Yet, somehow, as the issue progressed, there was a synergy between words and pictures you wouldn’t expect when first cracking the cover. Andrade excels at using simple lines on a face to convey a change of emotion, and it shouldn’t work, but somehow it does. The art takes some getting used to, but when one accepts the style, it serves the plot nicely.
This is a super hero comic, so it should seem big and brassy with continued energy and movement, yet somehow DeConnick deftly spins a simple story of a woman just trying to get her daily tasks accomplished while being interrupted by dinosaurs and kidnappings. DeConnick has a handle on Carol Danvers. It’s a pleasure to read a character when the writer is clearly so comfortable writing her. This issue presents Carol’s relationships with some of her fellow Avengers, and how those relationships impact a normal day. From Tony Stark hacking into her smartphone to coffee with Spider-Woman after the two buddies throw down with the two dinosaurs, this story is a unique perspective into the modern life of a modern Avenger.
The book has an indie feel, which may harm it in today’s insular market. With a (relatively) quiet story and experimental art, there might be a concern that people will dismiss the title. They shouldn’t. Captain Marvel showcases a unique blend of humor, action, and heart. The first arc made the mistake of trying to reestablish Carol by having her go on a journey through time. Separating Carol from the Marvel Universe while trying to establish her new status quo gave the stories a detached feel, even though her characterization was spot on. The slice of life stories that follow Carol’s time jump really serve to establish her in the tapestry of the Marvel Universe.
Carol is defined by three things: her inner strength, her humanity, and her relationships. DeConnick explores all three as she guides Carol through her errands, while providing, but never forcing, two action pieces. Spider-Woman as Carol’s running buddy is a delight to read, as is Carol’s banter with Stark.
DeConnick’s voice makes this a must-read title, even if some of the plot choices and the art might force people to feel it stands apart from the mainstream Marvel Universe. If Captain Marvel is going to last, it needs a little bit more of a mainstream feel to go along with the perfect voice and characterization DeConnick expertly provides.
review by: Marc Buxton