Thursday, May 31, 2012

EXCLUSIVE! Chad Nevett's Comic Book Mini-Reviews and Star Ratings for the Week of May 30, 2012

Yesterday was the day of many, many trades -- after last week when I bought three trades at the shop (Knightfall: Knightquest, Uncanny X-Force: The Dark Angel Saga book 1, and Silver Surfer: Parable) to boot. When I got my tax return this year, I used most of it to pay off a credit card and, then, placed an order for the available Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga and Spider-Man: The Complete Ben Reilly Epic trades. Well, all of those arrived yesterday (except for volume four of The Complete Clone Saga, but it will ship later). It's a big box of comics hated by... well, almost everything it seems. Flipping through them was like stepping into a poorly drawn time machine (aside from the Sal Buscema/Bill Sienkiewicz, John Romita, Jr., and Dan Jurgens/Klaus Janson issues, which are pretty great-looking). But, I also picked up that complete Alec omnibus that came out a while back since my shop had a copy on sale. That's a lot of comics to read. Sometimes, life is good...

Animal Man Annual #1: Someone explain something to me: the Red, the Green, and the Rot need to be in balance. If the balance gets out of whack, all of them suffer. Now, that's doesn't mean that one of the three won't grow a little too much, but... shouldn't it be a simple matter of the representatives of each sitting down and remembering that they all need one another? With the Rot out of control, why isn't anyone simply pointing out to that group that, unless they scale things back, they're going to be fucked, too? No, no, I get it: CRAZY BAD GUYS SHIT UP LOGIC! Still... it seems like there's an easier solution. Not as easy as the solution to the Rot back in the 19th century... Actually, it almost was just a discussion... I do like that Lemire gave us a story of the Rot being defeated without it giving any help to the current situation. And Timothy Green II's style fits well into the look of this title. Always nice when annual look like they belong with the main title. Definitely a more worthwhile tangent story than that lame Buddy Baker movie issue. [***1/2]

Batman Annual #1: This I liked a little less. Was the Freeze/Owl connection mentioned explicitly? I honestly forget. But, I also hope it wasn't and it's just a detail that they've learned and are revealing like this. If it is, kudos to Snyder and Tynion. Otherwise, it's a fairly basic 'Batman vs. Mr. Freeze' issue with some retconning thrown in for fun. A solid issue. [***1/4]

RASL #14: It's both easy and hard to believe that this series is ending with issue 15. Certain plot elements seem near their end, while others seem like they could keep going for quite some time. Before the final issue comes, I'm definitely giving this a reread so I can pick up the various bits that slipped through the cracks between issues coming out. I love Crow in this issue... his freakout over the parallel universes or the calm way he stands there when Miles jumps realities... Every issue of this series was a lovely surprise when it came out and I'll miss it. [****]

The Ultimates #11: I feel sorry for Sam Humphries a little. I've enjoyed his writing elsewhere and I don't think the writing has changed much on this title -- but, the art has had such a large shift and downgrade (with no help on the horizon) that his arrival coincides with a clear drop in this title's overall quality. Like this issue with its four artists and two colourists. One thing I loved about the Esad Ribic/Dean White team was how they managed to make this title stand out as something different and, now, it looks so fucking typical. I rarely look at previews of comics I know I'm buying, because why have three or four pages already read? But, I'd usually look at previews of new Ultimates issues so I could get a taste of the visual wonderings Ribic and White were going to give me... I tried that with this issue and saw nothing that made any impression. The writing is still strong and adventurous and -- that stuff with the new President was really quite good. But, this comic doesn't feel as special anymore. It's not one that I'm clamouring for, because one of the key elements has been completely undercut. I noticed the same thing firsthand when reading the Uncanny X-Force trade that I got last week (something people complained about when the single issues were coming out). Like I said, the writing is still at a level where I will keep buying this comic, but part of me wishes it weren't, so I could just walk away and save myself the trouble. [***1/4]


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 08 (Avengers #26 and Secret Avengers #27)

When Avengers vs. X-Men ends, I plan to look through all of the comics related to it and try to put them in a decent reading order like I did with Secret Invasion. One of the biggest problems with large events like this is that the comics, as released, don't work necessarily. The story doesn't flow, because each tie-in is presented from a different perspective and time period. In Secret Invasion, the comics that I rearranged most were the issues of New Avengers and Mighty Avengers where Brian Michael Bendis showed the past of the Skrulls (taking the place of people, preparing to attack Earth, etc) because they were released, seemingly, at random. They may have tied into the most recent issue of Secret Invasion, or they may not have. There was no way of telling until the new issue came out.

Avengers #26 and Secret Avengers #27 came out in successive weeks and, yet, the events of Avengers #26 take place after Secret Avengers #28 (which hasn't come out yet). Worse, reading Avengers #26, it seems like the events of the three-issue story in Secret Avengers means nothing. Absolutely nothing. Where we find the Avengers Space Team in Avengers #26 is very much the same place we found them at the beginning of Secret Avengers #26 minus a confrontation or two with the Phoenix Force.

Now, I'm not one of those people who get hung up on stories that 'matter.' I'm enjoying the story in Secret Avengers just fine and whether or not it changes the direction of Avengers vs. X-Men in any way doesn't really factor into that. It's doing what a good tie-in series does: tell an interesting story that relates to the main narrative, but can also stand on its own, creating an experience that enhances the overall narrative without being so entrenched in it that readers of that title aren't getting something out of it alone. (If that makes sense...) I do find the scheduling of the arcs and issue odd, though.

For one thing, Secret Avengers #27 was the only Avengers vs. X-Men released this week, while five comics related to the event came out last week. As well, Avengers #26 beginning a story that takes place after the current Secret Avengers story is a little offputting. At the time of its release, one issue of the Secret Avengers story had been released and, already, Marvel was skipping past it to allow Bendis to finally attempt to do something with Noh-Varr despite Secret Avengers being a Kree-heavy story? It's a less obvious case of conflicting events over different series than we've seen so far in this event, but it's still a conflict -- and one, that like the others, readers will just have to gloss over and pretend doesn't exist.

What bothers me the most about these conflicts is that I've never heard an explanation for them. Why the disparities over the comics relating to this event? I understand the challenges in crafting a narrative over nine different titles, but doing so was also Marvel's idea. We didn't demand that Avengers vs. X-Men take place over those titles, nor did we demand that it happen on a specific schedule or demand anything that should have prevented editorial from making certain that everything lined up. Hell, it's not even a 'continuity vs. consistency' problem, because it's not consistent to have different comics released in the same month show conflicting events. What's laughable is these events are designed to be one large story when you put all of the issues together and, yet, these problems crop up early and often. How exactly did the fight at Utopia start once the Avengers arrived? Because, I've seen two or three different versions of that event, and they don't match up at all. Which is right? More importantly, why did they need to be presented differently?

Then, there's Avengers and Secret Avengers where, I guess, we're shown that, after the Avengers Space Team solves the problem on the Kree homeworld where a resurrected Mar-Vell is leading a cult of brainwashing Kree fanatics in an effort to have the Phoenix Force go there (and Ms. Marvel and Noh-Varr have been 'brainwashed' along with the Kree because of their ties to the Kree), Noh-Varr then betrays the Avengers Space Team... because the Supreme Intelligence (who was in on the Mar-Vell/Phoenix-Force-come-to-the-Kree plot) told him to? Or, are these meant to be two different versions of the same story? We see both Noh-Varr and Ms. Marvel turn on the Avengers in Secret Avengers #27 and it's nothing like the end of Avengers #26 -- especially Ms. Marvel's disappointed/pleading "Noh... how could you do this?" Didn't they both already betray the team? And wasn't there already an attempt to bring the Phoenix Force to the Kree homeworld, which Noh-Varr says his mission is?

How can you reconcile these comics? Especially when they share the same editor, associate editor, and assistant editor? What happened?

When this is all over, I'll try to put these comics in an order that makes sense, but I'm not sure that's possible.

Next week: Wolverine and the X-Men #11 and X-Men: Legacy #267.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Some Brief Thoughts on Avengers (The Movie)

Last Friday, I saw The Avengers with my girlfriend and we both enjoyed it. Her more than I (although, in some ways less, too...). I think she said she'd give it 4/5 and I said 3.75/5. Big difference. So, here are a few brief thoughts (aka minor, nitpicky complaints) (and I'm going in whatever order they occur to me right now):

* I'll be honest: any time Thor wasn't on the screen, part of me was wondering "Hey, I wonder what Thor is doing right now..."

* At the end of the movie, where the team 'disappears,' aren't Hawkeye and the Black Widow walking away from their jobs? I mean, they're just regular SHIELD agents. Actually, what makes them so special to be Avengers? That seemed strange.

* Michelle thought Captain America was the worst character (most uninteresting). I told her that that's something they copied exactly from the comics.

* I could watch Robert Downey, Jr. play Tony Stark all day.

* Adapting The Infinity Gauntlet seems a little stupid to me, if only because that story (and the other two "Infinity" crossovers) was about Adam Warlock and Thanos with the rest of the Marvel heroes used as filler, never actually doing anything. In The Infinity Gauntlet, they were cannon fodder that Warlock hoped would distract Thanos long enough to actually get something done. They were worthless losers. So, yes, let's make that story into a movie. (I know, I know, they'll just change it, shut up.)

* I tried explaining Thanos to Michelle after the movie was over and that was very, very weird. "He, uh, gets the Infinity Gems, which each represent mastery over something different like time or the mind. He does this to impress Death. Because he's in love with Death. That's why he smiles when that alien guy mentioned courting death, because, uh, that's what he's trying to do. Except, when he gets the Infinity Gems and becomes like a god, she won't talk to him then, either. Before, she was too far above him to pay him any notice, but, now, he's as far above her as she was him then, that it's the same thing. So, he's sad. It's weird and kind of creepy."

* The comedy was pushed a little too far at times. Like the bit with Captain America and the cop. That felt like the same type of joke done a couple too many times.

* Oddly, Michelle and I seemed to be the only ones who laughed at many of the jokes.

* The joke I laughed at the most, and the longest, was Cap's excitement over getting the Wizard of Oz reference. That killed me.

* But, my favourite moment was the use of AC/DC when Iron Man first showed up in his armour. I wish the soundtracks for the other movies were as distinctive as that one so we could have gotten three other moments like that for Thor, the Hulk, and Cap.

* It was well worth being secretive over the identity of the aliens. Clearly.

* Seriously, those aliens sucked. Even the flying dragons sucked. Also, why did they not send Thor through the portal to attack them on the other side, like, right away?

* If Thor can fly, why would putting him in a container and dropping it be a threat? Couldn't he just fly and lift the container from the inside?

* Mark Ruffalo was good.

* The stuff with Loki 'brainwashing' people was surprising and gave the first half a different feel than I expected, especially with Hawkeye.

* "Hulk: smash." That was funny, too.

All in all, an enjoyable movie. Not the end all be all of movies or superhero movies or anything like that. But, well worth the two free passes we used to get in.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

EXCLUSIVE! Chad Nevett's Comic Book Mini-Reviews and Star Ratings for the Week of May 23, 2012

Below this post are some brief thoughts on the final issue of Irredeemable. Over at Spandexless, I wrote "1000 or so words on Deadenders, youth, nostalgia, and growing up. Only 40 of them are worthwhile." It's for the weekly Spandexless Reads column that Alec Berry does there. He asked me to contribute a weekly 'essay' that concludes the column each week and I was more than happy to oblige. I may do it again -- or may send him some capsule reviews for the other part of the column. It entirely depends on if I feel like it and if he asks me for something specifically. I have joked to him that I may just send in a weekly capsule review of the pirate back-up strips in the Before Watchmen comics. Or... was I joking? DUN DUN DUN!

Batman, Incorporated #1: You know what I'm oddly excited about? Finding out who Wingman is. Visually exciting, picks up right where it left off basically... Morrison's run began with Batman getting shot in the face. The final year has that, too. Ouroboros. [****]

Captain America #12: You know what would be great? A final page reveal where you don't need to read the caption explaining who the character is. That would be nice. Solid as always. [***1/2]

Journey into Mystery #638: I like the twist. [***]

The Mighty Thor #14: Three plots. Only one that I want to see more of. And it's not the one involving the lame teenager. Where the fuck did that come from? Am I forgetting something from last issue? It seems so out of place here. But, hey, this does feature Donald Blake learning an important lesson and Thor's biggest nightmare. So... yeah, not good. [**]

Prophet #25: Every issue is a surprise. Every page is a surprise. The larger picture becomes clearer while the smaller details are made more complex. Wonderful. That final page is kind of funny. [****]

The Unwritten #37: This issue is like the season premiere or something. A big jump in time, some big changes, a new status quo of sorts, and no Tom Taylor yet. In some ways, this series is more interesting when Tom's just a lingering presence (kind of like Steve Rogers). Seeing the world around him react to his nonsense and craziness is genuinely interesting. As his life is exposed through a book by Savoy, the growth of a cult and what that means is a nice place to reenter things. But, there is a sense of purposelessness that can't be ignored. Everything seemed to build to Tom's confrontation with Pullman that, now, the point of the series is unclear. It's like a TV show that was facing possible cancellation, so it wrapped everything up and, then, got renewed for another season. Maybe Mike Carey and Peter Gross had this planned out (I assume so), but it may take a little bit to win me over again. I am intrigued with where things stand, though. That final page is fantastic. [***1/2]


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The End is the Beginning is the End: Irredeemable #37

[I don't normally do this, but seeing as how this is the day that this issue comes out: spoilers of Irredeemable #37 ahead. Seriously. The thing I'm writing about more than anything else is the very end of that issue, of the entire series. If you don't want to know what happens, don't read this post. Don't.


You have been warned.

If you're spoiled now, it's your own damn fault, so don't blame me because you have an odd condition of intermittent literacy.]

The announcement a few months back that Irredeemable (and its spin-off title Incorruptible) would be finishing was surprising. It was inevitable, honestly, but it seemed soon somehow. What series ends at issue 37 -- on purpose? Just a shade over three years of Mark Waid's 'Superman gone wrong' saga that grew so much beyond that initial premise and it seemed short.

When the series first began, it gained a fair amount of notice, because here we had Superman Fanboy #1 writing a comic where an obvious Superman analogue 'turned evil' and crippled the world, seemingly poised to kill everyone on it. More than that, those initial issues were filled with twisted/altered versions of Superman's history, his supporting cast, his villains, and the DCU that flowed out of Superman... It wasn't quite as simple as that the further we were brought into the story and the Plutonian's history. This wasn't simply one bad day turning him evil; this was a lifetime building to an incredibly unstable person embracing who he always was after years of fooling everyone else. Waid really hit upon some fucked up ideas, particularly when the Plutonian's arch-enemy, Modeus, revealed why he's so obsessed with the Plutonian and coloured any future Superman/Lex Luthor stories with an uncomfortable sexual undertone.

As the series progressed, it moved away from that initial concept and began to explore what happens after 'Superman turns evil' with the ramifications on the world, various stories about the Plutonian off-planet, the remaining heroes trying to fix things. Of course, these changes into a series that was more original and, honestly, smarter and more engaging, also resulted in it being shunted off into the 'Oh, is that still coming out?' zone of comics. No longer new and 'exciting' and relying upon a twisted version of the superhero, Irredeemable didn't have that hook that made people have an opinion about it, whether they'd read it or not. That it also suffered through some art changes that left the title less visually appealing didn't help, honestly. The Incorruptible spin-off also sped up people not caring as much somehow. Like the title wasn't as important anymore; that it wasn't just a single book, but a burgeoning line, so get out now before it eats up more of your wallet. Comics, ladies and gentlemen!

So, now, we come to the end after the Plutonian being shunted off-world, returning, learning his true origins, and being placed in a position where all he wants to do is make things better again. That last bit is interesting, because there was a period where he seemed to embrace who he is. But, having doomed the planet to a slow and painful death seems to have shaken him. He may never have been the hero everyone thought he was, but he didn't necessarily want to be the villain he revealed himself to be. It all comes down to a deal struck with Qibit, the resident supergenius, where, if the Plutonian saves the world from radiation poisoning, Qibit will redeem the fallen hero.

And he lives up to his promise, albeit in an unexpected way: he scatters the Plutonian's energy across the multiverse. Boiled down his essence and, hopefully, able to 'get it right' somehow. Cut to Cleveland, Ohio, and a teenage boy rushing to show his friend an idea he's had for a character "for the funny pages." The final panel is a sketch of a muscular man with what looks like a triangle on his chest and two notebooks on either side reading Siegel and Shuster.

The end of Irredeemable is that the Plutonian becomes the subconscious inspiration for Superman who was the actual inspiration for the Plutonian.

You know what's crazy? That's the perfect ending for this series. On the surface, it seems incredibly stupid. Sappy and cheesy, but also ill-conceived. Upon reflection, it makes more and more sense. How else could Waid have ended this series? It began as a weird love letter to Superman as Waid took the character and twisted him around, both shedding new light on what makes the character work and bringing new implied depths to the character by showing what would happen if something essential was changed. It wasn't a mockery of Superman or even a perversion necessarily; part of what made those early issues resonate so much was how apparent Waid's love of Superman was. The series avoided being cheap parody because of that. That this character inspired by Superman would find redemption in being the inspiration for Superman is the only ending that truly works. It's the ultimate redemption, the ultimate setting 'right' what went wrong -- it closes the circle in a way and makes explicit that the Plutonian genuinely was Superman gone wrong.

It also reinforces the idea that Superman is the central superhero figure. In the Plutonian's world, him 'turning bad' was what made that world 'go wrong.' Everything flows from him, just as the DCU ultimately flows from Superman.

I'm sure that others won't be satisfied with the ending to this series or hear about it and scoff. I can understand that reaction and can't offer much more except that it feels right. Knowing the writer, having read the entire series... it feels like the right way to end this series. It doesn't wrap up the plot in a neat little bow. Most of the characters are dead and those that are still alive are left exactly at the moment of the Plutonian's death/redemption. Basically, Qibit redeeming the Plutonian and us seeing that his essence leads back to Superman ends that world. He truly is the beginning and end of that world and, now that he's redeemed, it no longer serves a function. We get that world 'done right' (or close enough to right) elsewhere.

I'll miss this series, mostly for what it became after its first year. But, at the very least, I can say that Waid got off the stage before I grew tired of the book and he went out the right way.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 07 (Avengers vs. X-Men #4, AVX: VS #2, Uncanny X-Men #12, and Avengers Academy #30)

I normally buy my comics on Wednesdays after work, briefly stopping on the way to the gym where my girlfriend teaches a class and where I sit and read my comics. This week, I got them on Thursday and had the chance to chat with Retailer Tim. He's not usually there on Wednesdays (nor do I have the time to chat on Wednesdays). We were discussing Avengers vs. X-Men briefly and he asked if I was enjoying it. So far, I haven't placed much emphasis on typical 'enjoyment' in my discussion of this big crossover event, preferring to find some other angle to work with. This hasn't been a series of 'reviews' so much as me just talking about things that occur to me. So: am I enjoying Avengers vs. X-Men?

Sure am.

By that, I mean the larger event, not the actual series bearing that name. I'm actually not too fond of the series Avengers vs. X-Men. The shift in authorial voice has made for inconsistent reading, and it suffers from the same problem every Marvel event since Civil War has: the tie-ins are more interesting, because they're concerned with something other than plot. They can spotlight characters and their motives where the main series is like reading a plot summary with the odd big of characterisation highlighted for a third of the page at most. Just enough so characters doing things doesn't seem random and determined solely by the ever-popular reason 'because that's what the script says.'

The fourth issue of the series, with Jonathan Hickman playing the part of 'The Writer' this time, focuses in on the core of the series more than previous issues, glossing over everything on the edges even more. The 'Avengers versus X-Men' stuff gets a few token panels, but who really cares about the fights? The main show is Hope and her quest to prove that she can host the Phoenix Force and save mutantkind -- and her thinking the man to help her is the one mutant still trying to stop her under the excuse that he'll kill her if she's wrong.

Logically, this is the point where Cyclops stops, mumbles an apology, and everyone moves the fuck on, because the 'mutant messiah' is really fucking stupid. She's actually surprised when Wolverine calls the Avengers and tells them what's going on. At least Jesus knew what Judas was doing...

Aside from that, I couldn't tell you much about this issue. It lays out where characters are in the world, contrary to where some are in other titles related to this event, and... uh... the Phoenix is here? Things are not helped by John Romita, Jr. turning in some of his most lacklustre work in years on these issues. The odd panel has that old magic, but at lot of it is characters in poses that would make Rob Liefeld roll his eyes and a complete lack of energy. I say we blame Mark Millar, because he apparently opened Romita's eyes to the wonderful world of creator-owned comics and that has ruined him for work-for-hire. Which wouldn't be so bad, but he's still doing work-for-hire and everyone working with him is pretending that it's up to his usual standards.

Avengers vs. X-Men isn't a good series. It's not actually a good event when you look at how all of the books fit together -- mostly because they don't. But, beyond the main series, there are good comics that offer something of worth besides plot advancement.


Okay, so AVX: VS isn't one of them. It doesn't offer plot, but it doesn't actually offer anything else. The sad thing? The second issue is better than the first and it's still rubbish. I couldn't help but laugh and roll my eyes when I saw people praising the first issue (or failing to trash it) because it 'did what it said it would do' by delivering two fights without a bit of plot or logic. Never mind that the fights were awful, of course. Like last time, there's only one way to read the fights in comics: like they were wrestling matches.

Match #3: Captain America vs. Gambit

Steve McNiven writes and draws this fight and, apparently, artists don't necessarily do these things better without someone telling them what to draw. Unlike the first two matches on this card, there's a simple logic to this one and an actual winner. Unfortunately, the simple logic is about as simple as you can get, producing what looks to be a rookie match. The moves are basic and laid out in such obvious precision that you can predict everything that happens. In a sense, it is a rookie match with McNiven writing the whole thing. The closest thing to innovation or a 'cool high spot' is Gambit using his powers on Cap's costume and Cap totally no selling it. Honestly, I almost have to give McNiven credit, because he seems to have learned from the Hulk Hogans and John Cenas of the world: keep things 'competitive' until the hero needs to end it, at which point he no sells his opponent's big move and puts him down easily with his finisher. In a baffling move, Captain America's finisher is a punch. Weak sauce.

Winner: Captain America [*1/2]

Match #4: Spider-Man vs. Colossus

This is a semi-rematch after Spider-Man's classic battles with the Juggernaut, whose powers Colossus now has. Honestly, this match should have been Survivor Series 2009 Batista vs. Rey Mysterio. Spider-Man uses his speed and agility to stay one step ahead of Colossus until Colossus hits some power moves and Spider-Man is killed, losing because the ref has to call the match. We actually almost get that, amazingly. Kieron Gillen lays out the match in a very similar manner (although Spider-Man's moveset is considerably less impressive than Rey Rey's), but, because of the demands of this series where, apparently, only jobbers like Gambit can actually lose clearly and definitively, things end in a time limit draw, provoking the crowd into booing everyone involved unmercifully. The comic may say that Colossus won, but that's bullshit. No one one with this match. No one.

Result: Time limit draw [*1/4]


Uncanny X-Men #12 is more coherent than issue 11, building on the series's second multi-issue storyarc and delivering the Namor/Thing rematch that no one demanded with a couple of X-jobbers brought along for the ride. Namor does get to redeem himself for his previous loss to the Thing (which happened in Namor's pet stipulation of the Underwater Cage Match) by burying Luke Cage. See, it's not just that this event is the Avengers versus the X-Men, it's also the Avengers Office versus the X-Office. Take that, Bendis.

What's surprising is that Gillen doesn't even try to play things straight in this issue. It's a comic that spends 90% of its space discussing Namor's sexual prowess, building to the punchline where the Apex guy assumes that Namor and the Thing fighting is foreplay, causing Namor to retreat in disgust and giving the Thing another cheap victory. I can only assume that, somewhere down the line, the 'big death' of this series will be the Thing having his heart ripped from his chest by Namor who then makes a snide remark about snorting it so he can totally be tripping while having sex with six or seven females from a variety of species.

In other news, I have no idea who the completely white woman with Namor and Sunspot is. Nor do I care.


I'm not entirely sure what Avengers Academy #30 is meant to convey. That's part of the point, I think. The central struggle is over the idea that the Avengers dropped off the students from Utopia at the Academy with orders that they not be allowed to leave, arguing that it's for their own good, because Captain America doesn't want to have to beat the shit out of teenagers. And because he's a facist in this story.

Christos Gage largely shunts the idea of which side in the Avengers/X-Men conflict is right to one side, preferring to approach it from the perspective of 'Is it right to lock these kids up?' What makes it a far less interesting comic than I'd hope is that the fix is in pretty early: it's wrong to deny the kids the choice. Gage doesn't put much effort into giving the other side any credibility or support. It's a fairly smooth blending of 'the Avengers are facists who hate freedom' and 'the Avengers are anti-mutant racists,' which is a little surprising from a book that you would assume from the title is more representative of the Avengers' side of the conflict.

In a funny way, this is a comic about giving kids the right to vote. We, as a society, have picked a rather arbitrary way to determine whose opinions we will value and whose we won't: the age 18. That line doesn't really have anything to do with intelligence or knowledge, but the idea that people under that age aren't fully people and can't be trusted to participate in society at the same level of those older. It's a fun idea to play with and one that I, personally, have strong feelings about (and have since I was a bright, politically-minded 15-year old).

Yet, this isn't actually about giving kids the right to vote. That's the subtext. The actual text of this comic is a bunch of teenagers complaining that an adult decided that he would rather not have to fight them and involve them in a conflict that, because of their inexperience, could result in their deaths. This is an adult deciding not to send the kids off to war and the kids bitching because they aren't learning why the Avengers are 'Earth's Mightiest Heroes.' That disconnect is hard to ignore and hangs like a black cloud over the issue. I understand and agree with the ideals of the comic, but the actual reality it depicts shows why ideals don't always work. It's wrong, in theory, to keep those kids there and deny them the choice of entering the conflict; but, it would be wrong to allow them to fight and die because they are young and not nearly as adept at the adults standing across from them.

Essentially, this is the Cyclops/Wolverine fight all over again and it's a little less interesting this time. Of course, Sebastian Shaw is just going to kill them all, so the point is moot.


Next week: Secret Avengers #27 and Avengers #26. (Avengers #26 came out this week, but, since it covers much of the same ground as the plot in Secret Avengers and only one Avengers vs. X-Men comic is coming out next week, I've decided to save it.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

EXCLUSIVE! Chad Nevett's Comic Book Mini-Reviews and Star Ratings for the Week of May 16, 2012

For weird reasons that I don't want to go into, I didn't get comics until today. When I arrived at the shop and was handed the contents of my pull list, the trade for Deadenders was included. This surprised me, because I didn't think I had actually pre-ordered it. I knew that I had considered doing so and went back and forth on the matter a bit. Not because I didn't want it or anything; it was purely a 'Maybe I'll wait and get it a little later' sort of thing. So, I got that as a little surprise to myself and have no problem with that. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Daredevil #13: What's in the drawer? I have to say that Mark Waid fooled me a bit here. I was thinking "HA! Stoopid Daredevil! You so stoopid!" and, instead, it was a good ol' fashioned New Avengers fake-out. Nicely played, sir. I thought Koi Pham's art looked better here than last time. [***1/2]

Fury MAX #2: I know this series can't (and won't) last forever since it's only supposed to be 13 issues, but, come on, a boy can dream, can't he? I need to hunt down a copy of that Peacemaker mini-series Ennis did (I have the first mini and reread it last night; it's good stuff; obviously). Oddly, what I enjoyed most was that Fury didn't kill the former Nazi. Most writers would write the character as an unstoppable god or something... [****]

The Manhattan Projects #3: The art slipped a bit here it looks like. Just a little rougher around the edges. This version of the bombing of Japan is interesting -- as is the fate of FDR. I'm curious about the larger picture of this series. So far, it's been very much little scenes/moments on its own. That's fine. Actually, this book is entertaining enough that I think I could be happy with a monthly dose of crazy scientists playing god. But, I have a feeling this is more than that, so... [***3/4]

New Mutants #42: No rack copies. No comic purchased. No one reads that fucking series to warrant rack copies. [NR]

Scalped #58: I've long enjoyed Scalped, but the constant movement of this final arc is insane. Things move fast as we approach the end -- and only two issues left now. What's remarkable is how so much can happen, yet scenes feel so leisurely. And Guera... the second panel of page two is fantastic. The way the grocery store scene is so visual... We're also starting see possible 'replacements' of characters, which part of me likes and part of me wants to avoid as much possible. Two more. Christ. [****1/4]

Winter Soldier #5: Talk about art deteriorating... If I weren't so lazy, I'd pull out the first issue and compare then and now -- guess which will look slicker, more polished, more put together? I'm also not noticing as many colouring tricks as began the series (which I'm glad of, by the way). That's something that TV will always have over comics: episodes don't look worse and worse as the season goes on because of deadline bullshit. But, an enjoyable issue nonetheless. James letting loose a bit more than we've seen before, further cementing him as someone who couldn't necessarily be Captain America longterm. And Doom is funny. Doom is always funny. [***1/2]

Wonder Woman #9: Hey, the cover gives away the end of the issue! Smooth, DC... smooth. Azzarello's writing is so playful and... bouncy. Has anyone ever used that word to describe Azzarello's writing before? But, that's what this is. It's just bouncy fun. [***3/4]


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 06 (New Avengers #26, Wolverine and the X-Men #10, and X-Men: Legacy #266)

Last week, Captain America and the Avengers seemed forced into the role of facists to make them less heroic and to make the X-Men easier to get behind. This week, the Avengers are again forced into a role that doesn't suit them: racists. With this week's Avengers vs. X-Men comics being two X-books and New Avengers, a title that has taken the idea of telling a 'tie-in story' to such an extreme that it's barely worth thinking about until we can see the entire story and judge if it actually does anything worthwhile, it's easy to see how this week is the week that it becomes about Mutant rights and race war. (I am legitimately surprised that no one shouted "Helter skelter!" in X-Men: Legacy #266. I admire Christos Gage's restraint.)

It's an easy direction to take things, but is far lazier than last week's Civil War-inspired facist take on Captain America and the rest of the Avengers. That, at least, showed some semblance of learning from a past event where Marvel failed to keep two warring sides on equal grounds and applied it to a story where things obviously leaned in one direction over another. Here, though, we have all of the X-Men falling in line with the idea that this is a mutant versus human conflict involving a group whose second (third depending on how you look at it, I guess) line-up included two mutants who were only known as terrorist followers of Magneto. Say what you will about Captain America and the Avengers, but it's hard to paint them as anti-mutant given the group's long history of accepting mutants (and androids and aliens and Inhumans and beings from alternate realities and past versions of teammates stolen from time before they became the hero they already know). The Avengers is basically a group that lives Xavier's dream and leads by example.

In story, Cyclops trying to turn it into a mutant/human conflict makes sense -- as much sense as turning into a facism/freedom conflict -- but he's also clearly a kind of crazy cult leader. There's a whole group of mutants that moved to the other side of the continent to get away from his craziness. And, this week, it seems all of them except Wolverine is ready to fall back in line behind him with few doubts? What's weird is that X-Men: Legacy #266 and Wolverine and the X-Men #10 show the faculty at Wolverine's school discussing what they should do in two very different ways (again: GREAT FUCKING EDITING, IDIOTS) and the end-result is the same: mutant solidarity in the face of crazy odds and a general consensus that the Avengers are trying to stop the Phoenix from returning because they hate mutants and not because it keeps destroying entire planets on its way to Earth? It is possible that all X-Men have been so opposed and beaten down that they've lost their senses and have caught Cyclops's crazy stupidity, I guess. Maybe?

Both issues take two different approaches, only one of which actually comes off as plausible. In X-Men: Legacy, a team of three Avengers show up at the Jean Grey School to make sure that everyone there stays nice and calm and doesn't go anywhere. That's an obvious confrontational move, particularly when it's easy to observe the school without necessarily alerting the X-Men to their presence. Instead, things devolve because we're dealing with a bunch of people who don't know how to deal with feelings of anger and frustration without hitting people. That makes sense. We're dealing with stunted growth and psychological damage that's hard to understand completely. In many ways, the mutant/human overtones are superficial, because it's really about us vs. them with the reasons not mattering. All that matters is that they came here and it's pissing us off. The Avengers made a bad play and turned many of the X-Men who were content to keep teaching and ignore Cyclops's crazy cult conflict into an oppressed minority group that is suddenly feeling very threatened and oppressed in their own home. Now, the Avengers don't do this because they hate mutants, merely because the school is home to possible allies of Cyclops and his X-Men, and they aren't sure if they will join the fight or not. That's a logical move and it becomes a big fight because everyone involved is fairly stupid and immature.

Wolverine and the X-Men, on the other hand, offers less of a reason for Cyclops's recruitment tactics to work. He shows up uninvited at Wolverine's school and everyone basically tells Wolverine to go fuck himself despite all that's changed since Schism is a powerful cosmic entity coming this way that destroys planets with ease, all under the guise of mutant solidarity. I guess my problem is that, out of all of these mutants, only two (Wolverine and Beast) seem willing to question the idea that the Phoenix Force will somehow be a good thing for mutants and Earth. In expanding the concept of this being a mutant/human conflict with a group that's been established as fairly pro-mutant for almost its entire existence, intelligent characters have to shut off their brains. It's too simplistic -- and, yet, maybe realistic?

I have a hard time understanding that type of thinking, because of who I am, I suppose. That sort of irrational allegiance is foreign to me. There is no reason why all but two mutants would suddenly turn "Fuck the Avengers, all hail the giant fire bird in the sky!" aside from the sort of irrational loyalty built by comradery, oppression, and basically only encountering people who want to kill them. I still think this direction for the story is too forced and one-sided, too much of an overcompensation, but it doesn't seem as implausible as I thought when I began this post. What I also question is if this will actually make the Avengers seem less like the clear-cut 'good guys' in this conflict given that my first reaction was that the X-Men all come off as simple-minded fools who conveniently forget that the people they're fighting have had their backs pretty consistently. It seems too easy and too simple of a way to expand upon the conflict.

It's also writing the characters in an odd corner: either the Phoenix is a force of good and the X-Men are right, or it's a force of bad and the Avengers are right (and dead). That's not a very good place to have the story right now, particularly when you have so many of your characters turning their backs on logic to join up with Cyclops. There's a third possibility that the Phoenix is neither of those things -- and that seems like the safe bet. But, will it somehow avoid the trap of making one group seem entirely crazy in the brief seconds before total destruction or one group seem entirely racist through the fault of being wrong?

Next week: Avengers vs. X-Men #4, AVX: VS #2, Avengers #26, Avengers Academy #30, and Uncanny X-Men #12. Big week.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

EXCLUSIVE! Chad Nevett's Comic Book Mini-Reviews and Star Ratings for the Week of May 9, 2012

Another week, another shortage at the shop. After some sort of problem (I heard it was a truck accident?) with Diamond meant Fury MAX #1 (and some other comics) were delayed from last week, this week, my shop was shorted on Silver Surfer: Parable hardcovers, so I don't get that for another week or two. I wouldn't mind shit like this if it happened only occasionally, but it seems to happen a lot -- and when it isn't happening at my store, I don't have to expend much effort to read about it happening elsewhere. Fun. But, I did get Essential Black Panther, so I didn't exactly need another collection to buy this week. While I'm on that, thanks a lot, Marvel, for leaving Jack Kirby's final two issues of Black Panther out of this volume... good on ya... idiots.

Avengers Assemble #3: Given how well Bendis wrote Thanos when he 'appeared' in Avengers last year, I'm not exactly thrilled to see him pop up here. That appearance was Dr. Strange posing as Thanos, though, so, hopefully, Bendis does a better job this time around. Then again, Thanos is one of those characters that I have a hard time reading when he's not written by Jim Starlin. Other writers don't seem to quite grasp the character or what he's about the same way. Reading this issue, I wonder if I would have liked it more if any artist other than Mark Bagley drew it. Yes, of course. Ugly fucking comic. Cluttered pages, poor line work... And Bendis's writing here isn't that impressive. The fight construction is generic, the villains lack personality, and there's that standard comics trope of 'power equals the ability to fight well' cropping up. [**]

Batman #9: The narration to this issue made me want to enter the comic, walk up to Batman and remind him that he's not actually a bat and those people he's fighting aren't actually owls. They're all people dressed up in costumes and what costumes they choose to wear doesn't necessarily reflect the relationship those animals have. It's just so silly, man... [**3/4]

Captain America #11: Solid as always. It seems weird to want to look down on a comic that's just delivering good superhero stuff every month. Not amazing, not bad -- just good. Like that's a crime or something. [***1/4]

Fatale #5: This issue finally hooked me in a little. I'd been having a tough time getting into this series, not convinced that all of the elements cohered well. There's a lot of mystery still there, but seeing that there was an actual point to everything goes a long way sometimes, even if that point isn't 100% clear. But, still, this remains the Sean Phillips and Dave Stewart show. [***1/2]

Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE #9: Alberto Ponticelli works with a new inker this time out and the results are messier than Walden Wong's efforts, but it's still too wide open, too empty. Ponticelli's art when he inked himself was darker, used blacks more, which complemented his demented line work. Take that away and figures wind up looking awkward -- too bright somehow. Not the best issue as far as writing goes either. [**3/4]

Fury MAX #1: That first page... fuck me... I love it. It's Ennis and Parlov back together, doing their thing. It would be too much to hope it lasts forever, right? [****]

Hell Yeah #3: I think this series is hitting its groove for me finally. (Like three issues in deserves a 'finally...') Thus far, it felt a little meandering and scattered, not able to fit enough into an issue to make it feel worthwhile entirely, but, here, Joe Keatinge hits a really great balance across the issue, especially introducing a plot twist that seems to work at cross purpose to last issue's plot twist. I knew having a little patience would pay off here... (Or, maybe it's learning that Keatinge is a wrestling fan. That could be it...) [***3/4]

Hulk Smash Avengers #2: It's like reading an ultra-compressed version of "Earth's Mightiest Heroes 3" or something... I love how well Joe Casey can jump in and capture a period of Avengers history so completely. The scene with the Vision and Scarlet Witch served no purpose except fitting this issue into context. Casey takes a very character-driven approach and, more than a lot of flashbacks, it makes this feel almost like a genuine 'lost' issue. Max Fiumara's art is a bit hit or miss at times, but I love the way he draws the fight. [***3/4]

Journey into Mystery #637: An improvement over Exiled #1. Almost interesting enough for me to buy next week's New Mutants. Some of the 'Asgardians as humans' bits didn't work completely, forcing it a bit. Still, more worthwhile that it seemed a week ago. [***]

Mystery in Space #1: The third Vertigo anthology like this in the past couple of years and, like the previous ones, it's a hit-or-miss affair. Mostly mediocre SF stories with the odd one that's better than the rest and one that I didn't get past the second page of before giving up. What happened to Paul Pope's contribution, though? The lack of it is the most disappointing part about this book. [**3/4]

The Ultimates #10: The creative team switch begins here with Sam Humphries joining Jonathan Hickman as co-writer for a short transitional period before he takes over entirely. There isn't a noticeable shift in writing yet. The opening pages showing Washington before it was blown up, though, are an utter waste. Otherwise, this was a quieter issue of response to what's happened and gearing up for some more big stuff. Esad Ribic and Dean White's absence is what hurts. This series just took a big downgrade in art and it affects the reading experience quite a bit. What bugs me most is when, later in the issue, Luke Ross and Matthew Wilson's art begins to resemble the Steve McNiven plastic people. Gone are the lush colours and exquisite line work that made this comic stand out (along with Hickman's insane writing); left is something that looks so much more typical and dull. [***]


Thursday, May 03, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 05 (Avengers vs. X-Men #3 and Avengers Academy #29)

Chapter Three, In which the thematic replay of Civil War is made even more obvious...

There's a leaning in recent weeks to shift from the idea of this conflict being Sensible Heroes Trying to Save the World vs. Crazy Cult Who Thinks God Will Make Them Great Again towards Government Group vs. Innocent Family. Not to the extent where anyone who's reading this story thinks about it as such; no, it's one of those things where characters in the comics try to redefine an obvious conflict to their advantages. Of course Cyclops would want to change the story since one doesn't make him the Mutant David Koresh. Beyond that, there seems to be an attempt by the writers to move the narrative into that realm, because it's a less one-sided conflict. If you look at the conflict between the Avengers and X-Men objectively, there is obviously a good guy/bad guy dynamic at play (staunch X-Men fans will deny this, but they have drunk deeply of the Kool-Aid). On one side, you have a group that see a giant cosmic being that's destroying every planet it encounters on its way here; on the other, you have a group that hope that they're somehow special and will not only not be destroyed, but the cosmic being will look upon them with love and grant them miracles and shit. If it weren't the X-Men making up that second group, there wouldn't even be a question of whose side anyone is on. So, the narrative can't actually be about that. The X-Men can't be the clearcut crazy villains of this story since the appeal is watching two groups of heroes fight, dividing the audience in two.

Just like Civil War was supposed to. Except it didn't either.

Civil War was based around a fairly similar one-sided premise: a criminal whose superpower was to blow himself up, surprise surprise, blew himself up and everyone blamed the good guys, because... I guess Captain America's superpower is to magically stop Nitro from using his powers. From there, it became a conflict between two groups with Iron Man and Captain America as the figureheads of each side: those in favour of registering superheroes and having them work for the government (security) and those who think that superheroes should have the ability to choose how they use their powers and only police those that use them in antisocial ways (freedom). The attempt to divide fans between these two sides failed, because everyone on Iron Man's side (especially Iron Man) was depicted as an asshole. Very unlikable. Part of the problem seemed to be that no one writing the comics seemed to agree with Iron Man's side. Maybe they did, but they sure didn't write their comics like they did. And that is key to what appears to be happening Avengers vs. X-Men.

The basic problem of the Avengers being the good guys and the X-Men being the bad guys has addressed by trying to remake Civil War to an extent by having the Avengers under Captain America play the role of the pro-registration side, while the X-Men under Cyclops are the plucky rebels espousing freedom from government tyranny. (Sidebar: Since Utopia is an independent nation, it's not really government tyranny. It's more like a declaration of war. And since Cyclops surrendered, I think Captain America just conquered a country.) Last week's issue of Uncanny X-Men ended with Cyclops's letter to the media where he basically calls them the Gestapo there to take a sweet, innocent teenage girl from her bed in the middle of the night (while leaving out the cosmic destruction bird) and Avengers Academy this week has Captain America rounding up the mutant youth and dropping them off in a 'detainment centre' basically. It may be a school where they're provided with a lot of amenities, but all that really sounds like is minimum security prison. And prison is prison no matter how nice. Then again, as the State, the Avengers could be seen as putting minors in protective services, so it's not all bad. Nor does it seem as such in the comic.

The strange part is the scene where Iron Man almost berates Captain America and says "...but it wasn't too long ago I was saying things just like that. And you were on the other side." The X-Men had surrendered and Iron Man is upset because he has no idea what to do next with them. It's a moment of petty bickering that stands out as forced. That's also the case with Captain America jumping from zero to 'throwing someone out of a plane' with Wolverine later in the issue. There's an obvious effort to make Avengers vs. X-Men Captain America into Civil War Iron Man, and it doesn't fit. Part of the problem is the the context where there's an immediate threat in the Phoenix that wasn't there in Civil War -- there's far more objective evidence that, yes, the Phoenix is a threat to the world and it must be stopped than, uh, superheroes blow up schools at of the fucking time.

This is the part where I make the 'it's not in his character to overreact like this' argument, but the last time someone made the 'not his character' argument, Matt Fraction retorted with "Well, he did it in the comic, so suck it, True Believer!" That said, this doesn't feel right. This is the way a man who's unsure of himself acts -- someone who doesn't know what he's doing and has never encountered problems like this. His going from arguing with Wolverine to hitting him is too rash to ring true. Granted, it was in the service of taking him off the board, but it still did not seem like the character (which I say about a comic written by a man who's been writing that character for well over half a decade).

There's also something too cutesy about Iron Man being the one arguing with Captain America. It's not subtle and that makes it less effective. It's an obvious ploy to make the Avengers seem less like the good guys and the conflict to be on more of an even playing field. But, it does show that Marvel has learned some lessons since Civil War and how to present a conflict like this. They're not any more effective this time, but the effort is there. The execution is what lets them down.

Next week: New Avengers #26, Wolverine and the X-Men #10, and X-Men: Legacy #266 (unless my shop has no rack copies of that one since it's not on my pull list).

EXCLUSIVE! Chad Nevett's Comic Book Mini-Reviews and Star Ratings for the Week of May 2, 2012

The tragedy of the day is my shop not getting any copies of Fury MAX #1. They ordered them, but they never arrived. Drat.

Action Comics #9: What are we to make of this one-off issue that doesn't really have anything to do with the series otherwise? Hell, this title seems to have little approaching a larger structure. That's not a bad thing since this was an enjoyable issue. Hints of Hexus in there -- Hexus as Superman / Superman as Hexus. And Lex Luthor of Earth 23 denying he's a racist is funny. Still, what seemed like it would be a series about the young and upstart Clark Kent has quickly become something more freewheeling -- more like I would almost imagine Morrison's idea for more All-Star Superman would be like. Weird. [***3/4]

Age of Apocalypse #3: Small moments amuse me in this series. The little one-page scenes usually, like Pierce busting Shaw's balls on that first page. I like the way this series meanders a little -- more about the characters and their world than a strict forward-moving plot. And de la Torre draws the hell out of it. [***3/4]

Animal Man #9: Reading this comic sometimes feels like riding in a car on a long trip and watching for signs that tell you how far it is to your destination and no matter how much distance you think you've travelled since the last sign, the change is small and depressing and you will never get there. Never ever. [**3/4]

The Boys #66: Similar idea to the final arc of Scalped: jump ahead a period of time and move past the immediate fallout to the 'good part.' There, it's the trial of Red Crow; here, it's the 'trial' (senate subcommittee thing) of Vought-American. And Hughie is made to look the ass in front of the Boys because Butcher is sick of his whining. And his girlfriend leaves him because she's sick of his whining. Next issue: the fat hamster kills himself because of his whining. Oh ho ho. [***1/2]

Daredevil #12: A thoroughly enjoyable comic with some great art. That's enough, right? (Though, that ending did make me wonder... what the fuck was the point of last month's crossover? Did it actually accomplish anything?) [***3/4]

The Defenders #6: Watch as the art grows increasingly bad as the issue progresses! It's like the world's worst magic trick. There's something about this issue that felt so forced. The chaos and meandering (I like that word) of the first few issues has been replaced with... I don't know what. Something. Something I don't like as much. It's not order. It's almost like continuity. Or being too pleased with itself and the self-awareness that lacks true self-awareness? Like, those 'dateline' bits that were, three quarters of the time, really lame. It's like Fraction took that Doc Brass issue of Planetary and decided that it was too exciting for the modern Marvel audience so he took out all of the clever and interesting bits. Except for the bar one. That was pure Venture Bros. [**1/2]

Dial H #1: It's like reading one of those early Vertigo comics. But without the swears or nudity. The art even looks like it came from that period. DC will eat itself -- all of it. That sounds really snarky since I did like this comic. I didn't love it. But it was solid. Good enough that I'll probably buy the next issue. [***1/2]

Exiled #1: Another crossover! Unless the Journey into Mystery issue kicks this up a notch, I can't see myself buying the New Mutants parts of this crossover. There just wan't much that I found interesting in this. Some nice little moments, but not much else. [**]

Green Arrow #9: Does this make sense to anyone else? Yet, I can't look away... [???1/2]

Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha & Omega #5: I like how Wolverine is the type of guy who, if you kick his ass, he immediately likes you more and wants to hang out with you twice a week so he can learn how you kicked his ass and he can make sure it never happens again. Once he's done this, he will then kill you and feel a little bit bad about it, but... dude, you kicked Wolverine's ass. You do not get to walk away from that. Obviously Avengers vs. X-Men will end with Hank Pym's head on a one clawed hand and Quentin Quire's on the other. Also, Wolverine hates those thinkin' types. Probably. I don't know anymore. So... where are people placing this in Wolverine and the X-Men chronology? [***1/4]