Monday, August 31, 2009

Interviews from Chicago Comic-Con

Steve here.

I went to Chicago Comic-Con, as they're calling it now, back at the beginning of August, and a friend and I conducted a few interviews for the website we occasionally write reviews for, Playback St. Louis. The interviews are brief and not very in-depth, but they might be of some interest to people. So here they are in case you'd like to check them out:

Sean McKeever of The Waiting Place

Brian Crowley, creator of the new webcomic Hamster Rage

two cosplayers dressed as Superman and Supergirl

blogger Jacque Nodell and artist Justin Bleep

Cullen Bunn, co-creator of The Damned for Oni Press


Saturday, August 29, 2009

CBR Review: The Unknown #4

I recently reviewed The Unknown #4 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Mark Waid and Minck Oosterveer’s four-issue mini about a terminally ill detective trying to solve the mystery of what happens after we die before she dies concludes with a lot of action and suspense. The Unknown has been a series that mixes a lot of elements well and this final issue is no exception; Catherine and James are finally staring death in the eyes thanks to a doorway in the basement of an asylum."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, August 28, 2009

I Bought Comics: August is Almost Over

First and foremost, I want to close the books on this year's blogathon by announcing that when all was said and done, $225 was raised for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund thanks to donations from Tim Callahan, Joshua Schroeder, Michelle Farwell, Eric Rupe, Eric Owens, Leighton Connor, Dean (no last name provided), and Nick Eliopulos. Thanks to those fine folks and everyone else who supported me throughout. It was a good time and, hopefully, I can do it again next year.

Now, onto comics, where I've got a few weeks of catching up to do. Remember, these aren't reviews proper, they're just whatever thoughts occur to me when it comes time to write about these particular comics. Okay? Okay!

Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #4

Marco Rudy is missed in the Nevett household. His work wasn't fully polished, but, man, he brought it with the page layouts in the first three issues. The new artist, whose name I forget and I'm too lazy to look up, isn't bad, he's just not nearly as exciting. The bigger shape of the story is beginning to appear. One of the most stunning DCU books in years, honestly, in term of experimentation and freedom. Normally, you need to be Scotish to get permission to write like this there.

Unwritten #4

This issue didn't wow me as much as previous ones. I think the initial novelty is wearing off, so we'll see if there's actually enough substance to carry this book forward. I forget where I read it (honestly -- I read a lot of stuff online), but someone was talking about how this issue is the final part of the first storyarc and, yet, it doesn't feel like the end of an arc (was it Graeme and Jeff in their podcast?). That's an interesting complaint/point and I think it's a valid one. I have no problem with larger, ongoing serials, but at least have some point to using storyarcs then. Previous Vertigo series told large, ongoing stories, yet managed to understand that if you call something a storyarc, it better have some sort of conclusion... which this one lacks. Not a huge complaint since I'm on board already, but it does make me wonder.

Doktor Sleepless #13

Man, the release schedule of this book really sucks the energy out, doesn't it? Some big things happen here, but I'm sure I only caught 3/4s of them, because I forget various things. Three more issues in this story and then I'll go back and reread it. Still, definitely worth picking up in some form if you're a fan of Ellis.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #4

Not much to say... Joe Casey continues deconstructing the superhero team and advances the larger plot in some big ways. I'm really liking this series.

Gravel #13

This storyarc has been a bit too slow-moving for my tastes, but I'm reserving absolute and total judgment until it concludes, which should be next issue. I'm interested in seeing what Gravel comes up with regarding the death of Lady Avalon. Still one of my favourite books and one that I look forward to quite a bit each month (or whenever it comes out).

Project Superpowers: Meet the Bad Guys #1

Not too bad. Better than that Death-Defying 'Devil series Casey did for this property. Each issue will be self-contained and introduce new bad guys. The motivation for this one is sketchy and kind of lame, but it was an enjoyable issue.

The Boys: Herogasm #4

Wow. Wow. I've been rewatching The West Wing with my girlfriend (who hasn't seen the series really) and, when the show was first on, I was in high school. It aired at the worst time for me: Wednesdays at 10 pm. I don't know about you, but Wednesday nights, I was usually dead tired -- but I knew that the show was good and wanted to watch it... but missed episodes and didn't always follow along as best I could. One thing that always stood out to me, though, was the revelation that not only did the Vice President not play a big role in the White House, but he and the President didn't even like one another. Now, that may seem obvious to adults, but when you're young, you assume that people get along, particularly two guys who lead a country together, right? Well, Bartlett and Hoynes have nothing on Dakota Bob and Vic the Veep. Christ Ennis is fucked up.

Cerebus Archive #3

What makes this book so enjoyable is Sim's total willingness to mock himself, which he does a lot. And rightly so.

Dark Avengers #8

Finally, things happen. But, they're not the sort of things that really pay off from the extensive build-up of parts 2 through 4 of this crossover, sadly. The story is still way too decompressed for its own good, but now that it's going somewhere, I'm happy again.

Detective Comics #856

Great art, okay writing. No, scratch that: goddamn gorgeous art, okay writing.

New Avengers #56

Why is Bobbi in her Mockingbird costume on the cover, but wearing a different costume inside the issue? Otherwise, an interesting issue. Wait, doesn't Luke Cage have the Wrecker's crowbar? What's going on? The bad guys striking back is definitely good stuff. Some people have been growing tired of these guys dealing with the Hood and the other bad guys, but, having just reread the entire series, I'm enjoying it more than I was before. It's nice to see a threat maintain itself like this and change and grow over time. Yes, the Hood and his gang keep showing up, but, each time, it's different. Good stuff.

Scalped #31

Oh fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. A slower issue, but you can tell that things are going bad for a lot of people and soon.

Secret Warriors #7

Jonathan Hickman is flying solo... and it reads the exact same. I didn't get the issue of Thunderbolts that this crosses over with, but it doesn't seem essential. Maybe it is. Whatever. I trust in Hickman to keep me up to speed. The artist for this arc is okay, but I have a strange fondness for Caselli. JT is playing a dangerous game with Fury -- one that's going to bite him in the ass since we know that he will die sometime... a few possibilities there: after much conflict with Fury, he sacrifices himself for the greater good; he doesn't listen to Fury and gets killed; Fury kills him. I'm hoping for anything but the first one since it's cliched and overdone.

And, shit, that was a lot of comics for the past few weeks. Again, thanks to all who donated money to the CBLDF.

CBR Review: Buck Rogers #3

I recently reviewed Buck Rogers #3 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Buck Rogers is dead. Stranded in his space suit with only 12 hours of oxygen near Mars, he’s been missing for nine days. The opening scene of Buck Rogers #3 creates a pretty harrowing situation for the eponymous hero that matches John Cassaday’s chilling cover. The rest of the issue explains exactly how this opening scene can be true and, yet, the book continues with Buck in tow."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

CBR Review: Avengers: The Initiative #27

I recently reviewed Avengers: The Initiative #27 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "You say you hate decompressed storytelling and long for the days of done-in-one stories? Well, Christos Gage has written the comic for you as not only is it self-contained, it takes what could have been two separate issues, and makes them two chapters in this single issue. It’s quite the feat as Gage demonstrates just how much you can pack into 22 pages of a superhero comic book."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CBR Review: Batman and Robin #3

I recently reviewed Batman and Robin #3 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "And so ends the first arc on Batman and Robin as Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely wrap up the threat of Professor Pyg and his attempt to make Gotham just as sick as he is. It’s a visual feast as Quitely turns in some career best art, full of energy and flair, matching Morrison’s odd script wherever it goes, including one twisted scene where Pyg lays it all out for the former new Boy Wonder to music described as 'sexy disco hot.' It’s a lurid, twisted cabaret performance that will leave you remember that fantastic Futurama line 'Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.' Part of me wishes I could unsee it, but it’s just too good to forget."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Incredible Hercules #133

I recently reviewed Incredible Hercules #133 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "This method of providing Amadeus’ past works quite well since it doesn’t feel forced that these details come out —- despite the book itself being a contrivance, though it doesn’t feel like one. It’s a neat trick that Van Lente and Pak pull off. Beyond that, Amadeus’s journey to discover the truth about his parents’ death and the whereabouts of his sister gets moving rather quickly as he visits Excello, Utah, a city where objects and buildings only exist when your senses tell you that they exist."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

CBR Review: Dark X-Men: The Beginning #3

I recently reviewed Dark X-Men: The Beginning #3 and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The final story is very strong and makes me wish that this mini-series came out before we knew who the Dark X-Men were since it has Osborn recruiting Aurora. Simon Spurrier writes a delightfully twisted story that ends with Aurora not joining the team -— not a spoiler since we know the line-up already. As we know she won’t be a member, the ending loses a lot of its power. It relies on surprise and there isn’t any, which does a disservice to Spurrier and artist Paul Davidson, who both do some great work."

You can read the rest HERE!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blogathon 2009 Archive Post

Here is a complete archive of the blogathon 2009 posts:

Blogathon 01: Good Morning Good Morning Good Morning
Blogathon 02: Avengers Disassembled
Blogathon 03: The Pulse: Thin Air
Blogathon 04: Secret War
Blogathon 05: The Pulse: Secret War
Blogathon 06: New Avengers: Breakout
Blogathon 07: The Sentry
Blogathon 08: New Avengers: The Sentry
Blogathon 09: The Sentry: Reborn
Blogathon 10: New Avengers: Secrets & Lies
Blogathon 11: House of M
Blogathon 12: New Avengers: The Collective
Blogathon 13: The Pulse: Fear
Blogathon 14: The Road to Civil War
Blogathon 15: Bendis's New Avengers Pre-Civil War and Some Ryan Adams
Blogathon 16: Civil War
Blogathon 17: Civil War: Captain America
Blogathon 18: New Avengers: Disassembled
Blogathon 19: Civil War: Punisher War Journal
Blogathon 20: Civil War Wrap-Up, "Initiative" Kick-Off
Blogathon 21: New Avengers: Revolution
Blogathon 22: Mighty Avengers: The Return of Ultron
Blogathon 23: Thunderbolts: Faith in Monsters
Blogathon 24: The Order (Part 1)
Blogathon 25: The Order (Part 2)
Blogathon 26: New Avengers: The Trust
Blogathon 27: Mighty Avengers: The Infiltration
Blogathon 28: Thunderbolts: Caged Angels
Blogathon 29: The Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares
Blogathon 30: New Avengers: The Infiltration
Blogathon 31: New Avengers: The Illuminati
Blogathon 32: Secret Invasion (Part 1)
Blogathon 33: Secret Invasion (Part 2)
Blogathon 34: Secret Invasion (Part 3)
Blogathon 35: Secret Invasion (Part 4)
Blogathon 36: Secret Invasion: Thor
Blogathon 37: Secret Invasion: Captain Britain and MI:13
Blogathon 38: New Avengers: Dark Reign
Blogathon 39: Dark Avengers
Blogathon 40: Captain Britain and MI:13: Hell Comes to Birmingham
Blogathon 41: Captain Britain and MI:13: Vampire State
Blogathon 42: Secret Warriors: Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing
Blogathon 43: New Avengers: Search for the Sorcerer Supreme
Blogathon 44: Is New Avengers a Proper Avengers Book?
Blogathon 45: Why I Keep Reading Bendis's Avengers Books
Blogathon 46: Bendis and Obscure Characters
Blogathon 47: Bendis and the Retcon
Blogathon 48: Content and the Promise of Content Next Time
Blogathon 49: Goodnight Goodnight Goodnight

Thank you. Enjoy.

Blogathon 49: Goodnight Goodnight Goodnight

First off, here's a quick way to read the entire blogathon. I'll do a proper archive post later today after I get up:

Promo stuff and posts 01-17
Posts 18-37
Posts 38-49

Now, this has been great. As of the end of the posting part of the blogathon, $160 has been raised for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Hopefully now that I'm done, people will see that, yeah, I did it, and maybe some more donations will happen. If you want to donate, just go to the CBLDF's website and don't forget to tell me that you did it so I can do a final post on the matter in a few days and provide a final tally. I can be reached via comment or e-mail.

Now, I want to thank the sponsors of this blogathon: Tim Callahan, Joshua Schroeder, Michelle Farwell, Eric Rupe, and Eric Owens. These are the people responsible for the $160 and I cannot thank them enough for their willingness to give. It means a lot to me.

This was my second blogathon and I honestly can't say if it was easier or more difficult. There were a lot more comments this time and that was fun. Thanks to everyone who commented or directed people this way on Twitter. It all gave this a real event feeling, which is what I needed.

I'm not sure what else I should say exactly. I think I've said a lot already. I'm somewhat surprised I made it through this -- not just the posting, but the reading of all of these comics this past week. It was fun. Stupid, but fun. Doing it issue-by-issue like I did with the Joe Casey stuff... that was smart. You can focus, read less comics, and be a bit more relaxed. Ah well. On the plus side, I don't harbour some deep hatred for comic books right now. Not even Brian Michael Bendis comics -- which is good, because a new issue of New Avengers comes out Wednesday.

Oh yes, one final thank you... thanks, Brian Michael Bendis. I enjoyed the comics, sir.

(Because I'm awesome like that, as the clock counts down to 9:00 am, you know what's playing? "Thanks That Was Fun" by the Barenaked Ladies.)

With that, I say goodnight even though it is morning.

Blogathon 48: Content and the Promise of Content Next Time

Thinking back on the recent reactions to the conclusion of House of M, one recurring sentiment really struck me. It was the attitude that the story itself wasn’t all that good - too spread out, a little bloated, the tie-ins were kind of weak. But: the plot points it hit, the new set-up it created from the ashes of the old - it held a lot of promise for future stories, the potential for interesting things to come.


One of the elements of Bendis's work that I wanted to examine as I went was the difference between the content found in a particular storyarc compared with the promise of content to be found in future stories within the same storyarc. There's a sense around Bendis's work that nothing really happens, stories just promise that, next time, the story will be better. Secret Invasion, for example, doesn't end so much as say "Hey, now we're in 'Dark Reign' territory! Forget that Skrull nonsense!"

I'm not sure I agree with what I wrote in previous posts in this regard. Rethinking New Avengers: The Sentry, that story strikes me as one that's not particularly good, but acts mainly as a function to set up future stories with the Sentry. House of M Jog covers well. Civil War wasn't a Bendis story, but he was in the initial meetins that planned it and there's a lot about it that seems to exist just to set up new titles and future stories. I remember Millar talking about how it would boost the sales of certain books like Iron Man and Captain America -- the event book is meant to sell more comics. Not of itself necessarily, but books that lead into it, tie in with it, and follow out from it.

New Avengers: The Trust is a hard story to judge. Things happen, but so much of it seems to be set on reaching Secret Invasion. It's more a Secret Invasion prologue than a story in and of itself. The initial post-Secret Invasion New Avengers and Dark Avengers stories seem more like promises that the two groups would meet soon, teasing that out... while the most recent New Avengers story was a wild goose chase that results in Brother Voodoo as the new Sorcerer Supreme... something that could have happened much easier, but wouldn't have been nearly as effective in selling the upcoming Doctor Voodoo and Strange books.

There's a logic in thinking that only a quality story could work so effectively as a promotional tool, but all you need is the sense that something is important for it to become important and for it to seel books. Well, not just, but you get my meaning. Is it hyped by Marvel as a big deal that Brother Voodoo is the Sorcerer Supreme? Did he get the title after an arc in the flagship book? Who cares if it was any good! (Bendis does, of course... and Marvel, too...)

I think Bendis's reputation as someone who writes that was is exagerated because he does plan ahead. The current story feeds into the next, which feeds into the next, which feeds into the next -- and that could be seen as offering no content, just a demand that you read the next one and maybe it will be better, but actually reading the stories shows that's not the case. It's just not the sort of storytelling with clearly defined endings.

I do think that, sometimes, he needs clearly defined endings. Secret Invasion needed one. It really did. So did House of M. But, his New Avengers work in general has been rather content-oriented -- so did his Mighty Avengers work. While the first Mighty Avengers arc ended with Spider-Woman showing up with the Skrull's body, the Ultron story was clearly ended. The story you read concluded, the serial title and universe continued on. There's a distinction -- and one that Bendis is fairly good about adhering to. That works fine on ongoing titles, but event mini-series should be able to stand alone a bit better and they need to realise that. Otherwise, I stand by Bendis's offering of strong stories while also promising strong stories in the future. They're not all perfect or fantastic, but more of them than not are good. And that's something.

In 30 minutes, this ends. Thank god.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 47: Bendis and the Retcon

Part of what's gone with Bendis bringing back certain characters is retconning. I addressed that last post a bit, but what about the larger retcons that he puts into place to justify plot and character moments? The Illuminati is a great big retcon. The Scarlet Witch not knowing about her kids is another. How about Jessica Jones herself? Are these problematic?

I don't have any problem with retcon if they serve a purpose. The formation of the Illuminati? Great! The group affects the Marvel universe and the creation of the group is a logical move on the parts of the characters -- I'm surprised no one did it before Bendis. Now, some of the retcons Bendis does with the Illumunati I'm not a fan of -- only because the points of those moves haven't been revealed. Why was the Beyonder retconned as a mutant Inhuman? For what purpose? If there is none, it was a worthless change -- if there is one, it would be nice to reveal it a bit sooner after executing the change. Same with the Infinity Gauntlets.

Wanda not remember her kids never bothered me, because it helped push Bendis's story forward and it made sense. That was a traumatic event and would have some harsh effects. It was brushed off much too easily by past writers.

The insertion of Jessica Jones into the Marvel universe never bothered me either because it's an addition -- a new character that brings other characters to the forefront. Without Jessica, we don't get this better Luke Cage. I do take issue when retcon are added later like the Peter/Jessica attending high school together thing -- information that would have come up prior to when it did.

I do admire that Bendis is rather singular in his vision -- he knows what he wants to do and isn't afraid to make it happen. Some people consider that disrespectful to tradition or previous writers, but it's the nature of the beast. The only tradition he should be upholding? Write the best story that you can. And are previous writers better served by allowing stories that seem antiquated or bad today stand untouched? Why not make something positive out of them?

I find it funny how so many people are so slavish to continuity when so much of it was written on the fly with no thought to what it would mean six months down the line let alone three decades. It's foolish to be held to those decisions when they were obviously not always the most sound. It's like forcing a band to play a song the exact same way every single time when, really, the studio version is just what came out that day. So much of continuity is based on what just happened to have come out that month that it's weird to be so faithful to it... at least without thinking about it.

Now, is Bendis quick to just plough through and do what he wants? Perhaps. But, say what you will, nine times out of ten, he has a plan and it pays off to some degree.

In 30 minutes, I'll discuss the content/promise of content divide. We're in the home stretch now!

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 46: Bendis and Obscure Characters

The obvious 'obscure' characters Bendis brought back during his run are the Sentry, the Hood, and Noh-Varr, all three stars of mini-series from a few years previously that hadn't appeared since. Bendis brought them all back, changed what he thought needed changing, and been using all three since... though Noh-Varr the least. The Sentry and the Hood have figured rather heavily into his plans.

But those aren't the only characters Bendis has brought back. Probably his biggest 'save' of a character is Luke Cage. Sure, he's not obscure, but Bendis first started working on him in Alias and, as we saw, he eventually made him an Avenger. An Avenger you take seriously. A guy who's been an Avenger for 55 issues (56 as of Wednesday). That's a serious pedigree for the former Power Man. Not only that, but Bendis has given him a wife and kid. He turned a dumb stereotype into a responsible family man and pillar of the community (despite his legal status as a fugitive -- the people in his community know that that law is bogus and Luke Cage still has their respect).

People (including myself) will rag on Bendis for bringing back characters and changing them, but Luke Cage is the answer that says 'Sometimes it works. Sometimes it is 100% on the money.' Because Bendis's Luke Cage is a fantastic character, a better one than he was before Bendis. I can't imagine someone disagreeing with that assessment. Yeah, yellow shirt, tiara-wearing Power Man was funny and all, but this is better. A million times better. Luke Cage is the man.

Bendis also redid Nick Fury, turning him into a serious spy in Secret War. Or Spider-Woman, creating a compelling character about to get an ongoing series with some good hype. He even put Dr. Strange on the Avengers. Bendis's run has been marked by a fondness for looking at unexplored characters with potential and bringing them to the forefront... I wonder how long it will be before he turns his eyes to 'traditional' Avengers...

I really like that part of Bendis, because he does some good work as a guy who 'fixes' characters. He has a knack for find that part of them that's cool and interesting. Nick Fury as the badass superspy -- people have tried to pull that off, but few have. All Bendis did was have him act like a real badass superspy would, which is do anything to get the job done.

While I don't like his work so far on Noh-Varr, I can't argue with his general direction of success in reforming characters.

In 30 minutes, some more stuff about Bendis. Duh.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 45: Why I Keep Reading Bendis's Avengers Books

One of my goals with this blogathon was to figure out why I keep reading Bendis's Avengers book. I almost dropped them post-Secret Invasion (actually, the tie-ins had me almost drop them during Secret Invasion -- at least, temporarily). But I didn't. Why? The book is rarely great. The odd issue here and there manages to get out of that 3-3.5 star range that the book seems stuck in. Now, 3-3.5 stars isn't bad, but it's not amazing. A book that consistently performs at that level could easily get cut from my reading list -- Invincible Iron Man is at that level, but got cut. I like New Avengers more than Invincible Iron Man yet rank them at similar (if not equal) levels of quality... what's up with that?

One explanation could be the amount of time and money I've put into this run. I don't want to quit because then I'll have all of these comics without an end -- an incomplete run. I reject that theory as I've done it before with other titles. Keeping a run going has never been a concern of mine to this point.

That means I must be getting something else out of these books. There is New Avengers's position as the central (and key) book to the Marvel universe right now. Read it, you know what's going on in the MU. That's a pretty good reason to keep up... sarcasm. Sorry. It's not. I don't care about that sort of thing. If I did, I'd be buying Blackest Night. If it's important enough that I need to know, I'll find out somehow.

So, maybe the writing is just... good? Maybe I don't drop the books, because I simply enjoy them quite a bit. While the objective quality may be close to Invincible Iron Man, the subjective quality is more varied. Maybe these books just speak to me on that personal, hard-to-define level. As I said at some point during the day, I like good dialogue and Bendis does good dialogue. His characters are grounded with real concerns. They react (and act) in somewhat real ways. You get the feeling that they deal with some of the same crap you do -- the day to day living crap. When Luke and Jessica have a fight, they don't automatically split up, they work through it -- like real people more often than not (at least when they're married).

While Bendis's writing is usually in the 3-3.5 stars range, he sometimes jumps up to 4 or even 4.5... he can be great and it's fun to watch him flirt with greatness all of the time. One scene in an issue may be great, while the rest are mediocre (Dark Avengers #3, for example). Bendis rarely lays down on the job -- some may mistake his natural pacing and dialogue for laziness, but it all has a purpose, even if it's just lame attempts at joke... or random nonsense that people say.

I read it because I enjoy it. I enjoyed the hell out of rereading his work, even the not-so-great stuff. Highly entertaining.

In 30 minutes, I don't know what yet.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 44: Is New Avengers a Proper Avengers Book?

New Avengers -- a comic I keep up with more than I'd say I actually "read" -- is absolutely fine the way it is: it's a monthly installment in the current flavor of a popular franchise, and gauged against the other monthly installments of other franchises, it's a relatively satisfactory one.

--Tucker Stone

One idea that's come up during this blogathon is if Bendis writes a 'proper' Avengers book with New Avengers (and by extension, Mighty Avengers and Dark Avengers). Does he populate his teams with real Avengers? In essence, does New Avengers count as the Avengers title or has Marvel been lacking one since it ended with #503?

I find the idea that Bendis's work isn't really an Avengers title an absurd sort of thinking. It's elitist, snobbish, and fails to grasp a simple fact: it's an Avengers book if Marvel says so. There's no other criteria than Marvel saying it's that book. And do you know how we can tell Marvel approves? They publish it. Any fan ideas of what's true to the spirit of the Avengers or canon or whatever is false. The closest it comes to reality is in the concept of the personal canon -- which we all have. Grant Morrison's New X-Men counts; Chuck Austen's work immediately following it doesn't count. Simple.

In that regard, obviously, New Avengers won't count for some. But, let me try and argue why it should without resorting to the easy, absolutely correct answer of 'Because Marvel says so.'

New Avengers is a proper successor to the previous Avengers title since it features the central team of superheroes in the Marvel universe that aren't the Fantastic Four or X-Men. When trouble goes down, the New Avengers are there to save the day just like the Avengers would have. Their membership is unique, but so was pretty much every other team. They have popular members like Spider-Man and Wolverine -- well, Spider-Man was already an Avenger technically prior to this and so what? Why would popularity be grounds to kick someone out. Does that mean when Captain America had two titles at one point, he wouldn't be Avengers material anymore?

I honestly don't understand the idea that New Avengers isn't the real Avengers -- whatever that means. What is it then? The storytelling is different than past runs on the book, but that could just as easily have happened if Bendis had a run on the book without it becoming New Avengers. Say everything stayed the same, but Avengers never ended -- would people have the same complaint?

As far as I can tell, having read 54 issues of the series, Tucker is quite right: New Avengers is a nice enough read for what it is. It's better now -- critically and commercially -- than it was before Bendis took over.

What I still can't figure out... if so many people dislike the book, why does it sell so well? Is everyone buying a copy to bitch about it?

With that, I'll return in 30 minutes to try and answer that question for myself.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 43: New Avengers: Search for the Sorcerer Supreme

[Discussed in this post: New Avengers #51-54.]

The most recently concluded New Avengers arc has the group go up against the Hood. Again. It has Spider-Man unmask himself. Again. It has Bendis throw in a weird piece of character info that we should have known already. Again. It's the perfect Bendis comic to end on!

In New Avengers annual #2, Dr. Strange used dark magic to save the team and he's no longer worthy of the the Sorcerer Supreme title, so he needs to find the new one -- and he's just hoping it's someone good and not Doom. But, he's being pursued by the Hood whose demonic possessor/master, Dormammu, wants that Eye of Agamotto. Chris Bachalo draws the Hood/Strange segments in the first two issues of this story and those are gorgeous pages. Bachalo makes the Hood terrifying. Just a freaky, scary monster.

Billy Tan draws everything else and it's typical Billy Tan ugliness. He left the book after this story was done and thank god for that. Stuart Immonen came on board and you could tell Bendis was pleased with the way that worked out.

Before continuing with the Dr. Strange plot, I want to address the small bit of business that occurs without him: the team picks a leader and Spider-Man reveals his identity to them. After Clint's stunt at the end of last issue (the video calling out Osborn), the team has a meeting and... names Clint leader. A choice that makes sense no matter how many morons think Captain America should be leader because his superhero name is Captain America. Trust me, I saw that debate go on for way too long on message boards. Christ.

The unmasking of Spider-Man is handled well. Peter is, of course, a whiny little bitch about it. "But I don't waaaaaaaaaaant to!" But, he does it, because he should. It's then they we learn for the first time that Jessica went to the same high school as him! And had a crush on him! Before she got sick and went into a coma! Seriously! What the fuck? Shouldn't that information have come up sometime back when they knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man before "One More Day" took that knowledge away? It's shocking here because you'd think that would have been covered then. I'm used to Bendis contradicting regular continuity, not his own... from twenty issues ago... ah well. [Edit: Am told that Jessica's crush on Peter was introduced in an issue of Alias that I have not read, which explains why I was completely wrong here -- but understandibly so. Just wanted to let you all know.]

Around then, Dr. Strange interrupts them and, soon, they're off to find the new Sorcerer Supreme with only the Eye of Agamotto as their guide. They wind up in New Orleans where the choice seems to be Daimon Hellstrom... Son of Satan? Oh, the Eye... it knows the score alright. There, they get into it with the Hood and Madame Masque. Part of the team handles her, while the other part handles him until the new Sorcerer Supreme is selected... Brother Voodoo! He arrives on scene, the day is saved, Dormammu is banished and the Hood is left very badly hurt.

A few more things:

* I like the choice of Brother Voodoo as new Sorcerer Supreme. He's different from Dr. Strange and could lead to some interesting stories.

* The Hood being injured and offered a deal for his power back by Loki is a repeat of the Black Widow II being injured and offered her looks back by... who was it again? Someone!

* Before taking on Madame Masque, Captain America asks if anyone else wants a gun -- you know, because there's a lady with a bazooka and guns out there -- and Spider-Man freaks the fuck out. I mean, he almost throws a hissy fit. He is so damn annoying in this storyarc with his whiny bullshit. "Oooh! Guns scary!" A polite 'no' would do the job. (And I say that as a very anti-gun person.)

* Clint deciding that they need to kill Norman Osborn at the end of the issue is great. Scott (commenter) said he doesn't believe Clint would kill and I think Bendis has put him through so much that, yeah, he'd kill a guy like Osborn. He's sick of nothing being right in the world since Avengers Disassembled and if killing Osborn fixes something, he'll do it. Thankfully, I won't discuss that conversation from #55 because Spider-Man is even whinier and annoying there.

We reach the end of the line for discussing Bendis comics. Well, discussing specific stories at least. What, already? I've only been doing it for 21 hours! But that's not the deal -- the deal is 24 hours, so I've got three more hours to fill. Join me in 30 minutes to see what I pull out of my ass first.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 42: Secret Warriors: Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing

[Discussed in this post: Secret Warriors #1-6.]

Secret Warriors is my current favourite Marvel ongoing book. There's at least one other title that I like more, but it's a mini-series, so fuck it. Bendis's involvement in the series and opening arc is more that of a guide. He helped with the plotting and broader points, but Jonathan Hickman wrote the scripts. Hickman, for those unaware, did The Nightly News and Pax Romana, writing and drawing both, and they're both wonderful and you should know them.

Isn't Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing the best title you've seen here all day? Just wonderful. Magnificant. I wish the series were called that, but it's not just about Nick Fury. It's about all the Secret Warriors -- from his caterpillars to Hydra to Duggan and his men to... HAMMER people maybe? It's about the wars we don't see. This is the ongoing implicitly promised by Secret War and it is damn good.

In the first issue, we learn that SHIELD was run by Hydra. Since when? Since forever! This is another big Bendis change and some people don't buy into it, but I do. I'll tell you why -- it makes sense. It does. Hydra created SHIELD so they could do what they really wanted while appearing like they weren't doing anything. Genius. What that makes you wonder: what was Hydra really doing all of these years that the stuff we saw was the fake, meaningless bullshit?

The caterpillars get a good amount of time here, as well they should. Phobos, god of fear is my favourite. He's 12 years old. He's awesome.

Things move quickly in the book as Hydra quickly rebuilds itself, showing us its ruling council of Baron von Strucker, Madame Hydra, Viper, the Gorgon, Kraken, and the Hive. We get an equal amount of exposure to the good guys and the bad guys. Hell, the recap/info page for issue two is the same as issue one, except switch Nick Fury to Strucker...

The fights are fast and brutal. People don't always walk away. We learn that quickly.

Nick Fury's world is a dangerous one and the kids may talk some shit, but we're not sure if they can come through (they can). Or, at least, they do here. Will they continue to be able to do so?

Nick recruits Dum Dum and his Howlin' Commandos... private military contractors... they steal the Helicarriers from HAMMER. They steal the Helicarriers.

Hickman does better dialogue and character work than you may expect if you know his previous work. In The Nightly News and Pax Romana, his writing is more about ideas and philosophies than characters. Characters are tools in a sense, but you get little of that here. He really shows that he's got some serious chops -- hence why he's taking over Fantastic Four this week. Marvel knows they've got a winner.

This story ends with the revelation that Madame Hydra is the Contessa, which is another reveal that makes sense to me. Especially if SHIELD was always Hydra's...

Secret Warriors is a lot of fun, action-packed, has some solid character moments, and Stefano Caselli's art is always growing. He's not quite up to speed on the quiet moments yet, but his action is solid. I didn't expect to like his art, but I do.

If you thought Bendis's Fury was fantastic, Hackman matches Bendis there.

In 30 minutes, we run out of comics with New Avengers: Search for the Sorcerer Supreme.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 41: Captain Britain and MI:13: Vampire State

[Discussed in this post: Captain Britain and MI:13 #10-15 and annual #1.]

It is an absolute shame that Captain Britain and MI:13 had to end -- but it's fantastic that it got to end on a high note like Vampire State. This is about as perfect a storyarc as you're going to find in superhero comics and Paul Cornell takes it a step further by using vampires -- and then takes that a step further by using Dracula. It could have failed on so many levels with those decisions, but Cornell doesn't just get by, he nails it, pulls it off, and leaves us all wondering how the hell he did that.

Cornell's Dracula isn't unfamiliar but he isn't quite like any Dracula you've seen before. He's smart, confident, refined, racist, and knows he's going to win. The racism against Muslims is a nice touch -- and works with the idea of invading Britain because of its large immigrant population. He plans out a careful strategy and executes it with great skill. Only a stragist his equal could match him -- and thank got MI:13 has Pete Wisdom, because he pulls off some masterful swerves against Dracula. When it appears that Dracula has won, it was really his greatest desire as fulfilled by Plokta. When he thought he destroyed a skull that would protect Britain from vampires, it was a fake skull that they put on a show to protect. When he thought he controlled Lady J, he didn't. When he thought he had a treaty with Doom, he didn't. The first half of the arc is about building Dracula up, showing him as unbeatable, while the second half is about tearing him down, showing him as beatable.

Cornell lays on some heavy cliffhangers in this arc. The entire team is killed style of cliffhangers. And while he always follows up on them, unafraid to undo them, it never feels forced or like we got a fake-out before. It only ever feels like something bad happened and the trained professionals reacted, solving the problem. To Cornell's credit, he makes us believe that these characters are as good at what they do as is necessary for a lot of these issues to work. But, we believe it. They are the professionals.

It seems, in restrospect, obvious that vampires would pose a threat with two on the team -- one who's devoted his life to hunting them down. Except it still felt like a surprise for Dracula and company to invade Britain somehow...

The budding relationship between Blade and Lady J is one of my favourite things about this arc. Blade in a pub in issue ten is a great scene. Or, Blade staking J's son to make sure the vampire bugger is put out of his misery... they're a good couple.

Pete Wisdom's strategy is a constant effort to delay Dracula until they can think of something better and it winds up working out.

The annual, which focuses on Meggan, is rather weak. I didn't care for it when I reviewed it for CBR and don't care for it now. The tone isn't quite right, Cornell never really hits his stride in it like he does the rest of the series.

The final issue of the series is a pretty good ending. It's not the strongest end, but you need to remember that it was just meant to be the end of the arc, not the book -- and I doubt Cornell altered it a lot to suit that purpose. It does end with various couples -- Blade and J, Brian and Meggan, Dane and Faiza, Pete and Tara -- although that one is so fucking cool. Pete driving the car, looking like Bond, Tara admiring him. Leonard Kirk nails that pic.

Kirk is an essential part of the book. He has a distinctive style, using thin lines, a little sketchy, but very clean, very easy to read and understand. It's a shame he didn't do every issue.

Oh god, we're running out of comics! In 30 minutes, we'll do Secret Warriors: Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 40: Captain Britain and MI:13: Hell Comes to Birmingham

[Discussed in this post: Captain Britain and MI:13 #5-9.]

Issue five was what won me over. Blade joins the cast and stakes Lady J at the end of the issue. Before that, the Black Knight has an awkward conversation with Faiza's parents that's damn funny. It's a quiet issue, pretty light -- which makes the final page that much harsher and surprising. That's when I knew for sure that this was the book for me. Cornell suckered me in, made me think things were alright and then Blade stakes Lady J. Goddamn.

Every issue of this story ends with a cliffhanger of some sort. #5: Blade stakes Lady J; #6: Plokta offers Captain Britain his wife back; #7: Pete Wisdom reveals that the Black Knight doesn't have the Ebony Blade; #8: Captain Midlands is revealed a traitor; #9: Dracula is coming. I don't understand how this title lost readers, because every issue ends with a dare not to pick up the next issue -- and I can't fathom why anyone would take them up on that dare.

Now, if the book were nothing but cliffhangers and teasers, that would be worthless -- it's got a lot of great stuff in the actual issues. This plot, the team preventing a Duke of Hell, Plokta, from taking over a building (and the world) by offering people their deepest desire, is a fairly basis one. Lots of Mindless Ones to fight, lots of temptation. Lady J and Blade bond a little. The Black Knight almost loses control. Captain Britain gets lost in fantasyland for a while. Captain Midlands betrays them all to have his dead wife back -- a contrast to Captain Britain who breaks free of his nearly identical illusion. Blade using a paper sword to cut Plokta. Alistair's form being a bit more maleable... all fantastic.

They eventually defeat and capture Plokta. There's an excellent scene at the end where Pete brings Captain Midlands a gun, hoping they'll avoid a trial. Harsh, brutal, perfect.

The story ends with a teaser for Vampire State, the book's concluding arc -- Dracula invades Britain. Fun fun fun.

Leonard Kirk does good work.

I'll write more in 30 minutes when I discuss Captain Britain and MI:13: Vampire State.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 39: Dark Avengers

[Discussed in this post: Dark Avengers #1-6.]

It wouldn't be too wrong to call Dark Avengers "Thunderbolts Lite," since that's how it reads. "Warren Ellis already wrote this book and it was better then." A harsh way of putting it, but it's true. Sure, Bendis tries to dress it up with a few new characters and the idea that they're the Avengers now, but it isn't as good as Ellis's Thunderbolts and suffers from that comparison constantly hanging over its head -- spurred on in a big way by Mike Deodato doing the art here. I understand the impulse: he knows the characters, it provides some continuity from one book to the next, he's a great artist -- but it also acts as a constant reminder that, while good, Brian Michael Bendis is not in the same class as Warren Ellis. Bendis may be one of his generation's best mainstream superhero comics writers -- but Ellis may be his generation's best mainstream superhero comics writer. And he does evil bastards better than anyone else.

That said, Dark Avengers is fairly entertaining and has some very, very good scenes. Bendis's Sentry stuff gets better here. Issue three begins with a fantastic discussion between Osborn and Reynolds as Osborn gains his trust by sharing the similar conditions they have. What is really interesting about their discussion is that Osborn sounds more Doctor Samson than Osborn -- and I like that. Bendis understands just how Osborn would adjust his approach to the Sentry... and it's a weird mix of honesty and bullshit. He's obviously playing the Sentry, but you also get the sense that he's being sincere on some level. It's very powerful stuff and Bendis at his best. Later in these issues, after Atlantean terrorists attack US soil, Osborn sends the Sentry to kill them all except one -- and the scene is beautiful because, part of what made their initial dialogue so effective is Osborn's insistance that there is no Void... but, here, he asks for the Void. Not by name, but through implication. The Sentry's eyes go dark and he utters the fantastic line "I thought you said there was no Void."

This is the point where I admit that I forgot something waaaaaaay back in Mighty Avengers: The Return of Ultron: Ultron killed Lindy and the Sentry went Void -- black eyes and just harsh and brutal... and he brought Lindy back to life. Something similar happens here when the Sentry is killed in Latveria and comes back to life in New York. Bendis seems to be advancing this plot and it's interesting.

The main villain here, Morgana le Fey shows up in a very dumb way for a very dumb reason, but it provides some entertaining fight stuff, including Doom and Osborn travelling back in time. Or the Sentry ripping her head off. Nothing too special, but good.

The make-up of this Avengers group is a good one. I don't like the inclusion of Noh-Varr as Captain Marvel for a few reasons: him becoming Captain Marvel was an idea hinted at by the Illuminati and to have Osborn be the one that carries it out is just a little too cute for me. Bendis doesn't really do anything with him except have him have sex with Moonstone and then act all surprised when he realises they're all criminals. Kind of a waste. He'll return, but nothing here changes my opinion that Bendis doesn't really know what he's doing with Noh-Varr.

The interactions between team members isn't any sort of improvement on Ellis's work with them. Even the inclusion of new character add little. Though, Aries slapping Bullseye for acting like a child is great -- and telling him that if he hit him, he'd be broken. Aries is a character that Bendis has a lot of fun with and it shows.

All in all, Dark Avengers is a decent read, but is stuck in the shadow Warren Ellis's Thunderbolts.

We're slowly running out of books, people! But, fear not, we've still got a few to get through. In 30 minutes, Captain Britain and MI:13: Hell Comes to Birmingham.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 38: New Avengers: Dark Reign

[Discussed in this post: Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1, Dark Reign: The Cabal #1, Free Comic Book Day 2009 Avengers #1, and New Avengers #48-50.]

The "Dark Reign" is upon us.

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign is the final Bendis/Maleev book I'll be discussing and it's not that bad. It's mostly known for the odd manner in which Maleev depicts Namor -- basically, a skeevy-looking guy who may or may not be deathly ill. It's odd because Maleev did a much better Namor in the New Avengers: Illuminati special. This is the other side of that special. Whereas that explained the Illuminati, this one explains Norman Osborn's Cabal, which features Namor, Doom, the Hood, Loki, and Emma Frost. Osborn's reasoning is good: as the new top cop, he's going to make deals with these people to keep them in line -- and, when they've got a problem, come to him and he'll solve it nice and legal-like. Osborn in a pretty good spot and doesn't want to lose it because one of these people. In the course of his talk, he threatens them with a mysterious figure that I assume is the Sentry since he's on Osborn's pocket (but wasn't known to be at the time this was released). The issue ends with him killing the Swordsman -- and that scene bothered me because of Bendis's dialogue where the Swordsman talked like a regular criminal when he normally spoke in a more dignified, aristocratic fashion. Bendis's ability to write, like, three different voices rears its head again. A decent one-shot, but mostly set-up.

Dark Reign: The Cabal is a one-shot with five stories featuring the non-Osborn Cabal members. The only story that I dig is Jonathan Hickman's Doom one that has Doom thinking about a year from then where he and Namor take down their fellow Cabal members. It's a nice little window into Doom's head. The Hood story by Rick Remender shows off his ruthlessness. The Matt Fraction Emma Frost story is a good introduction to the character and her past. The Namor story is odd and I'm not sure what it's point was other than they need a Namor story. The Loki one relates to Thor and was unnecessary.

The Free Comic Book Day 2009 Avengers issue is pretty good. By Bendis and Jim Cheung, it has the New Avengers and Dark Avengers work together to stop Ymir the Frost Giant from taking over the world. There's some fighting and words and it's a fairly fun comic that introduces the currect status quo: the bad guys are in charge and have their own evil Avengers, but the good guys are still around and are trying to take them down. Here, though, they need to work together. Cheung does some fantastic art here. Aries gets the chance to shine a bit.

New Avengers #48-50 has the team deal with the new status quo by reforming post-Secret Invasion at Captain America's house. The new line-up: Cap, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, Ronin, and Mockingbird. Iron Fist sticks around during these issues, but he's out of here after this. But, before they can get to the business of saving the world and maybe getting rid of Norman Osborn, they need to find Danielle Cage. Issues 48-49 deal with this and includes a lot of city-scrounging... it gets to the point where Luke even goes to Osborn and agrees to sign up with him in exchange for help. Osborn provides help in a horrific way by feeding Skrulls to Venom until one of them tells him what he wants to know. After getting the baby back, Bullseye kills the Jarvis Skrull and Luke is Osborn's... until he comes into the office with the Wrecker's crowbar and lays a beating on Bullseye and Venom and tell Osborn where he can stick their deal. Luke Cage is the man.

Of course, Osborn one-ups him by revealing his Avengers team that day. That leads into issue 50 where they try and bait Osborn's group into a confrontation where they'll use a power drainer to take them down easily. The thing is, Osborn outsmarts them and sends the Hood's crew instead. The New Avengers still win and that issue ends with Clint recording a message denouncing Osborn that gets played on the news.

Billy Tan's art in these issues is just ugly pap. I cannot stand it. Issue 50 has a series of guest artists who do single pages where Bendis has one of the Avengers narrate. Bryan Hitch does a nice double-page spread; Steve Epting does Cap's page; Alex Maleev (okay, he shows up again!) does Spider-Woman; Steve McNiven does Spider-Man; Leinil Francis Yu does Wolverine; Michael Gaydos does Luke Cage; David Aja does Iron Fist; David Lopez does Ronin and Mockingbird; and Greg Horn does Ms. Marvel. I like how they got artists with some association with the specific characters to do the pages.

Post-Secret Invasion, the status quo isn't all that different for the New Avengers: they're still outlaws, the line-up is mostly the same, and they just can't be stopped. Oh, and they're still fighting the Hood. And they'll fight him in the next arc, but that won't be for a few posts.

In 30 minutes, we'll meet the Dark Avengers.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 37: Secret Invasion: Captain Britain and MI:13

[Discussed in this post: Captain Britain and MI:13 #1-4.]

Despite tying into a big event crossover, these four issues aren't the best hooks for this series. I nearly dropped the book initially because these issues aren't that strong. But, I had heard positive reviews of Paul Cornell's Wisdom mini and, more than that, I had a feeling about this book. Sometimes, I get these 'feelings' about books (and TV shows and movies and CDs) that tell me that I should check them out. There's no real reason for doing so other than me trusting these feelings. Only rarely have they been wrong, so I put a lot of trust in them at this point in my life. Oh, and we once again know that I was right. Captain Britain and MI:13 was worth sticking with.

The general concept of this opening story is good: the Skrulls want Britain's magic and MI:13 needs to stop them. Simple as all that. Despite the title, Pete Wisdom the leader of the group and Captain Britain dies at the end of the first issue. Cornell is the king of cliffhangers, by the way. The man excels at crafting them. First issue? Captain Britain dies. We're all fucked.

Cornell alternates between two major battle points: Avalon, home to Britain's magic; and London, where the Black Knight and the army hold off some Skrulls. Here, we're also introduced to Faiza, a doctor that's hit with some Skrull zap ray that gives her the power to open up bodies and fix them. It's a defensive sort of power.

By the end of the second issue, it looks like the Skrulls have won Britain's magic. They have a weird Dr. Strange-like Skrull that's actually kind of freaky. However, when all seems fucked, Pete Wisdom does something stupid and releases all the dark, evil forces in exchange for help in fighting the Skrulls and Merlin brings back Captain Britain who kicks some ass. In issue four, there's even a lovely joke where the dark forces tell Wisdom that they will grant one request and he utters those immortal words... "No more Skrulls." Oh ho ho. I love it.

The story ends with Faiza plucking Excalibur out of the ground.

It's a decent little story, but nothing too special or exciting. It's a shame that a cool character like Skrull John (a Skrull that's taken the form of John Lennon) had to die. But, that opening on the team gets filled in the second story by someone even better -- at least in the hands of Cornell.

Leonard Kirk has a simple, clean style. Lots of energy, good facial expressions, the whole lot. He does some very nice art here. The visual reintroduction of Captain Britain is particularly lovely.

In 30 minutes, welcome to "Dark Reign."

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 36: Secret Invasion: Thor

[Discussed in this post: Secret Invasion: Thor #1-3.]

Agardians versus Skrulls. Fraction gives the people want they want -- never say he doesn't. The story here is a clever little one. While Donald Blake helps deliver a baby, Beta Ray Bill uses Thor's hammer after Skrulls beat him up and stole his. Because he is wise, before giving his hammer up, Thor created a storm so the people of nearby Paxton get underground and not be endangered by the Skrull/Asgardian fight. And what a fight it is!

If you want a well-executed extended fight, this series does it. Doug Braithwaite's art is colours-on-pencils and that style of pencil shading works with the Asgardians of the story. He's a dynamic artist and draws the fights amazingly well.

There really isn't much to this series beyond baby and Skrulls, but that's all that's needed. Fraction throws in some nice moments like the people in town seeing that Asgard is on fire and wanting to help put it out.

The Skrull that leads the charge is a weird combination of various big, strong superwomen and is just insane to see. She has Stormbringer, Bill's hammer, in two halves and knows how to use them. It takes dropping Asgard on her to kill her. That's fucked up.

I don't really have a whole lot to say about this book. Fraction and Braithwaite do good work. Put them on Thor and I'll be happy.

In 30 minutes: Secret Invasion: Captain Britain and MI:13.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 35: Secret Invasion (Part 4)

[Discussed in this post: Secret Invasion #8, New Avengers #47, and Mighty Avengers #20.]

For these posts, I'm using the Secret Invasion reading order that I created earlier this year. It's totally awesome, but I don't recommend rereading any of this really. Except the Nick Fury issues and New Avengers #47, which I will discuss momentarily.

I would like to once again apologise for my CBR review of Secret Invasion #8. It was wrong. I was excited about reviewing the finale to Marvel's big event and, you may not remember this, but it shipped the Wednesday after America's Thanksgiving, meaning their books were delayed by a day -- so Canada got it first. We got that shit first! And that clouded my judgement. I didn't want to be the guy who confirmed that the ending kind of sucked and Norman Osborn takes over as everyone predicted, so I let it off easy.

Well, time to correct my mistake, folks.

The finale to Secret Invasion is a complete failure. There's no climax as the entire thing is told in the past tense. These events already happened, so everything turns out okay. So why do I care? The Wasp dies? So? Norman Osborn kills the Skrull Queen as EVERYONE IN THE WORLD rushes to kill her? So? The people replaced arrive and the one character whose replacement we'd want explained, Mockingbird, didn't get a goddamn issue explaining that shit! That's just cruel, Bendis. Cruel, cruel, cruel. Waste my goddamn time and money with how Elektra got replaced and not Mockingbird, a character whose soul we know is in hell or something like that? THAT'S THE SHIT YOU EXPLAIN! Also, how does the president shut down SHIELD? Where's the goddamn Secretary-General of the UN? Someone call Ban Ki-moon immediately! And, dude, they stopped the invasion! Tony Stark didn't fuck up too much!

Unless you look at like this: Stark was Director of SHIELD for, like, 15 days since the final pre-Secret Invasion Mighty Avengers arc took place on Initiative Day 14. Guy's in charge for less than a month and what happens: Ultron almost kills the world, the Hulk almost kills the world, the Venom Virus takes over Manhattan, and Skrulls almost conquer the world. You bet your ass you fire him.

But you don't replace him with a man with a history of repeated psychotic breakdowns. Yes, yes, Bush don't care what no docters sez, I get it, but no. No no no no. No. Just don't. First, you think you're Secretary-General of the UN and now you think a mental patient can run national security? Christ. That's why they passed the 22nd Ammendment, eh? Thank god.

So, the new status quo: Everybody Hates Tony Stark. Norman Osborn is in charge of HAMMER, which is like SHIELD only 'Merican.

While that was a rather bad conclusion to the event, the New Avengers issue that shipped the same day is very good. Issue 47 features godawful Billy Tan art for the framing sequence where Luke Cage tells his kid about the day he fell in love with Jessica. The rest is an absoltely fabulous Michael Gaydos-drawn story about Luke hiring Jessica to find his father so he can just see if he's okay and maybe show that he's not the criminal that he was once accused of being. This is a subtle issue. The storytelling is purposeful and it is done very well. Gaydos does more with a look than Billy Tan does with a billion unnecessary lines that only he knows why are there. The issue ends on a point from Secret Invasion #8: Skrull Jarvis has the baby. See, I done told you Jessica fucked that one up!

Mighty Avengers #20 is Bendis's final issue of the title and the epilogue to Secret Invasion, dealing with Jan's death and Hank Pym's reaction to the world post-living on a Skrull ship. Shit has changed, boy. This issue isn't very good either. It's melodramatic and Hank Pym is pissed off, which is... I dunno. Jimmy Cheung does some nice splash page montages of the events Pym missed, though.

And that does it for Bendis's Secret Invasion stuff. In 30 minutes, we do Secret Invasion: Thor.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 34: Secret Invasion (Part 3)

[Discussed in this post: Mighty Avengers #12-13, 18, Secret Invasion #4-5, Mighty Avengers #19, and Secret Invasion #6-7.]

These Secret Invasion posts were composed using the Secret Invasion reading order that I created earlier this year.

Okay, we're kicking this issue off with three Mighty Avengers issue that let us know where Nick Fury has been and what he's been doing. Alex Maleev does the art for two of the issues -- I totally forgot he did, so he does two more issues of Bendis's Avengers stuff than I previously claimed, oops. -- and these three comics are, by far, the best tie-in issues. These are the issues where you can tell that Bendis cared about what he was doing because he was working with Alex Maleev and Bendis does not fuck around with Alex Maleev. It's in Maleev's contract.

Mighty Avengers #12 has Nick Fury learn about the Skrulls and begin planning. #13 has Daisy Johnson recruiting various caterpillars to form a group Fury will train. #18 (the non-Maleev issue, but drawn by future Secret Warriors artist Stefano Caselli, so we're not upset) has the group of Young Howlin' Commandos kidnap Maria Hill because she's a Skrull. Each issue works as a whole. Each issue is compelling. Nick Fury is the man. These are the sort of tie-ins that works because they tell us how the surprise appearance of some characters works. None of that 'Oh, Billy was replaced by a Skrull on June 12, 1987' bullshit, because who cares? You could have told us all of those stories in one comic where each replacement got a page. Bam. Done. Let's rock and roll.

But, Nick Fury being a badass superspy and recruiting a bunch of young people that he can teach to be badass superspies and kill aliens? There's a reason why Secret Warriors is my favourite Marvel ongoing right now. And Jonathan Hickman is only part of it.

I hate the cover to Secret Invasion #4 as it depicts Nick Fury with three loser members of Young Avengers, those little pussies that he and his Howlin' Commandos save from execution. They're not worthy of sharing a cover with Nick Fury, dammit!

Issues four and five kind of advance the plot maybe? Nick Fury and company kick some ass and leave Ms. Marvel as a treat for the Skrulls. Agent Brand frees Reed Richards who invents a Skrull detector while Captain Mar-Vell blows up Skrull ships despite being a Skrull himself (see, Kree, Skrull, Mar-Vell is a traitor always!). In the Savage Land, Clint sponsors Mockingbird for Avengers membership and feels betrayed when it's revealed that she's a Skrull. He's so pissed that he says a bad word. Oh, and Maria Hill blows up the Helicarrier after admitting that Nick Fury was right. Even people who hate Nick Fury know he's the man.

Mighty Avengers #19 is a horrible piece of shit tie-in issue that adds nothing to any story anywhere. I mention it because I'm contractually obligated to do so.

Secret Invasion #6-7 is when big time fighting happens. Goddamn, nothing actually happens in this crossover. Yes, big fight qualifies as nothing since it's not a particularly good fight. Somehow, these impossible-to-defeat Skrull warriors now pop like waterballoons. What the fuck happened? Oh yeah, it's time for the good guys to win! Duh. Shit. My bad.

Also, Thor meets the new Captain America, and the new Captain America? Doesn't care, because who cares really? I sure don't.

In 30 minutes, I wrap this shit up before continuing to discuss two more Secret Invasion tie in stories. HA! You thought it was over? It's not over until I say it's over! HAHAHAHAHA!

(Also, MarkAndrew, a fellow Comic Should be Good blogger, did a great response post to the blogathon over there, so check it out!)

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 33: Secret Invasion (Part 2)

[Discussed in this post: Secret Invasion #2, Mighty Avengers #14, New Avengers #41, #43, Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust?, and Secret Invasion #3.]

I'm using the reading order for Secret Invasion that I came up with earlier this year in these posts.

Secret Invasion #2 follows up on one of the first issue's teasers: the '70s heroes in the crashed spaceship. They totally throw down with the New and Mighty Avengers and you're damn right it's awesome. Luke 'Sweet Christmas!' Cage versus Luke 'Responsible Father!' Cage! Spider-Man versus Spider-Man! Ms. Marvel versus Ms. Marvel! It is everything you could hope for and more. Except, seriously, the '70s heroes couldn't be the real ones? That would have been sweet. Or, I don't know, a mixture of the two? Some Skrulls, some humans? The issue ends with the Skrulls invading Times Square. And they are some awesome-looking Skrulls. The Young Avengers are totally impressed.

Mighty Avengers #14 is a fairly solid Sentry story. It earns marks as a Secret Invasion tie-in that doesn't explain how someone became a Skrull. Really, it explains that the Skrulls don't see the Sentry as a threat because he's crazy -- if he hasn't already killed himself (or everyone) by the time the invasion happens, just shapeshift into the Void and he'll freak out. Easy as pie. And it works. Wow! But, then, a Skrull tries to kill Lindy, the Sentry's wife, so the Void gets involved and saves her. She's a little freaked out as a result. An issue that advances a totally different Bendis subplot but it works.

New Avengers #41 is a Savage Land issue where Ka-Zar and his wife (Shanna? Sheena?) explain how they came across Skrulls before with those rogue SHIELD agents in the Savage Land. Borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring!

New Avengers #43 is more Savage Land goodness as we learn that '70s Captain America is a Skrull after he's killed by Mutates or something. Even more borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring!

Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust? is a one-shot with five stories. They're all pretty bad. The Captain Marvel one is melodramatic and painful to read. The Agent Brand one has a moment or two -- and some interesting art, but whatever. The Wonder Man & Beast team-up is decent, but definitely geared at people who remember those two doing things together. Meaning not me. Because I don't. The Marvel Boy NOH-VARR! story shows that ripping off Grant Morrison's writing isn't the same as writing a faithful version of his character. The Agents of Atlas one made me not want to read Agents of Atlas.

In Secret Invasion #3, the SHIELD Helicarrier magically appears in the Bermuda Triangle after losing power over Manhattan. Wicked mean gliding skills that Helicarrier. In New York, the Skrulls kick some fucking ass and destroy lots of property and not even the Avengers Initiative kids can save the day. Meanwhile, in the Savage Land, the Skrull Queen/Spider-Woman tries to convince Tony Stark that he's a Skrull as a mean tease to all of us who kind of wish he were a Skrull, because that would mean that he's not a horrible bastard. (Spoiler: he's not a Skrull. He is a horrible bastard.) Back in New York, the Skrulls take Times Square and celebrate by killing young superheroes until one of them is blown up by...


Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?

You'll find your answers in 30 minutes.

Also, we're up to $160 raised! More! I demand more!

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 32: Secret Invasion (Part 1)

[Discussed in this post: Secret Invasion #1, New Avengers #44, #40, #42, #45, Mighty Avengers #16, #15, #17, New Avengers #46.]

I will be discussing Secret Invasion with the New Avengers and Mighty Avengers tie-in issue put in with the mini-series proper according to the reading order I came up with earlier this year.

So, it all begins. The Marvel Mega-Event of 2008 has arrived! Yay! Are we having fun yet?

The first issue of Secret Invasion is its best, because it does what Bendis does very well: set things up. Everything falls apart and various things are set up the series to tackle: '70s Marvel heroes in a spaceship in the Savage Land? SHIELD down? Hank Pym a Skrull? Jarvis a Skrull? The Baxter Building imploded? Captain Marvel attacking the Thunderbolts? Reed Richards splattered on the walls of a lab? More, please! My mind has been blown and I loved it.

Actually, that's all I have to say about that first issue. That paragraph sums it up. So, moving on...

The numerous tie-in issues here range from the best, which I'll rank as INFORMATIVE to the worst, which I'll rank as GODAWFUL. Speed round time!

New Avengers #44 -- Skrulls use Reed Richards clone to figure out way to go undetected. Rank: DIDN'T HATE

New Avengers #40 -- They get an exiled Skrull princess and inform her of their plans to infiltrate Earth by replacing people. She insists on being one of them, Spider-Woman. Rank: TEDIOUS

New Avengers #42 -- Skrull Queen replaces Spider-Woman and does stuff. Rank: TRYING MY PATIENCE

New Avengers #45 -- Skrull Queen suffers through House of M and doesn't like it. Rank: NOW YOU KNOW HOW WE FELT

Mighty Avengers #16 -- Elektra is attacked by Skrulls, is eventually killed and replaced. Rank: I ASSUMED THIS HAPPENED AND YOU PROVED MY ASSUMPTION RIGHT

Mighty Avengers #15 -- Hank Pym has sex with college student in London who is a Skrull. She replaces him. Rank: JOHN ROMITA JR SHOULD CONSIDER HIMSELF BETTER THAN THIS

Mighty Avengers #17 -- Skrull Pym tries to warn the other Skrulls that the invasion will fail. They kill him and replace him. Rank: TOLDJA SO TOLDJA SO

New Avengers #46 -- The Hood and his gang discover Skrulls at SHIELD. Turns out the Slug is a Skrull, too. Rank: I PITY SLUG-SKRULL

In 30 minutes, part 2 of my Secret Invasion posts.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 31: New Avengers: Illuminati

[Discussed in this post: New Avengers: Illuminati #1-5.]

It's Sunday now. Only nine more hours of this.

I'm not sure I can write anything now about this book better than I wrote about it when I named it the worst comic of 2007. Granted, that was just out of the comics I'd read that year, so I'm sure there were worse, but I really, really hate this mini-series. I won't blame it on Brian Reed, because it shows some of Bendis's worst traits in retconning the past: namely, if it suits his needs, screw what came before. Normally, I'm not necessarily opposed to that line of thinking, except there's nothing here except changes and promises that there will be pay-offs later.

The first issue isn't that bad. No big changes there, but I will always be bothered by Black Bolt being able to blow up the ship with his voice, but the Skrull King who is ten feet away not dying. How does that work? No one seems to be able to answer me in that area. How can a voice blow up a spaceship and not a little squishy thing 10 feet away? It just drives me insane. I wind up shaking my head and gesturing with my hands wildly while trying to make sounds that come up like parts of words. But, this issue matters in that it sets up Secret Invasion, WHICH HAPPENS NEXT! The Illuminati, after the Kree-Skrull War, go the Skrull homeworld, tell them to fuck off, blow up their main starship, get captured, escape, and the Skrull King vows that Earth will be his!

The final issue also matters since it has Tony bring the Skrull body to the group and Black Bolt reveals himself a Skrull and they fight. Then two more Skrulls show up the Illuminati barely survive. But they survive.

The other three issues? The only one that I have strong feelings about is issue four, which features the official introduction of Noh-Varr into the Marvel universe... and they call him 'Marvel Boy.' I will admit that I'm a little possessive and weird about Noh-Varr in the worst fanboy sort of way, but his name isn't Marvel Boy, that's the title of the goddamn comic book. How does no one mention how hypocritical it is for Namor to judge ANYONE who declares war on humanity? My original thoughts on the issue stand.

I don't mind Jimmy Cheung's art, but it's stuck drawing godawful writing, so it kind of sucks as a result.

In 30 minutes, we begin the big, three- or four-part Secret Invasion series of post. Are you excited? You should be!

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blogathon 30: New Avengers: The Infiltration

[Discussed in this post: New Avengers #38-39.]

These are two wildly different issues. One is very good, the other not so much.

Issue 38, "The Breakup," has the fallout from Jessica's decision at the end of Revolution to go to Avengers Tower for the sake of her baby. Luke is not pleased. Understandably so. Now, this is one of those issues where you shouldn't take sides, because both characters have strong point of views and neither is right or wrong. But, I side with one of the characters. I'm not going to say which, though, because that doesn't matter.

What matters is that Bendis continues to write Luke and Jessica so damn well. Their argument is Bendis demonstrating why so many people love his work. The back-and-forth, the irrational stubbornness, the sheer frustration that the person you love won't agree with you... it comes through incredibly well. Luke sees this is a betrayal of their morals; Jessica sees this is a necessary step for the safety of their child. Since the first issue of The Pulse, Jessica's priority has been her baby and it continues to be, and I really like how Bendis doesn't waver from that. It's interesting that that isn't Luke's first priority -- though he seems more considered with what sort of kid little Danielle (forgot to mention that that's the baby's name -- the best name Bendis could have chosen, by the way) grows up to be, based on what kind of people her parents are. Jessica values the safety, Luke values the image and substance... it's weird how different they see the world.

The real shame is that, as Secret Invasion will show, Jessica makes the wrong decision here.

The involvement of the Mighty Avengers at the end is a little frustrating, because I hate it when people get involved with a dispute between two adults -- it's not like Jessica needs their help and it's not like Luke is doing anything wrong.

Michael Gaydos did this issue and, again, his art makes Bendis's writing read better.

"Echo," issue 39, is not as good. The art is top notch from David Mack, but the story is mostly some Skrulls trying to replace Echo, so there's a lot of fighting. There's something appropriate about an issue devoted to a deaf character not being dialogue-based, but the fight here can't live up to the fight in the previous issue. It's not bad, it's just a 3-star book following a 4.5-star book. It only looks worse by comparison.

It ends with Maya sleeping with Clint. That hasn't really been reference since... I assume it will be in the future.

In 30 minutes, New Avengers: Illuminati, the mini-series I called the worst comic book of 2007. My opinion has not changed. Fun!

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 29: The Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares

[Discussed in this post: The Invincible Iron Man #1-7.]

My dislike of these comics is a little exagerated because I'm not a big fan, which isn't the common consensus for Fraction's Invincible Iron Man. After all, it won an Eisner. If you're going to listen to me or the Eisner's... well, I can't fault you for siding with them.

The first issue of this story is very good. The epilogue (issue seven) to this story is very good. Everything else is rather bland and mediocre, I find. The story really suffers from a first issue that was overwritten -- in that good way where it's amazing because a lot of hard work and time... hard work and time that you couldn't reasonably expect Fraction to put into subsequent issues. The drop off in quality is actually pretty big from the first issue to the second and it never really recovers until issue seven -- and even then, it's not a steady line of improving quality, that's more a momentary jump that doesn't last (I dropped the book in the next arc).

The first issue here is a perfectly crafted little jewel. The narrative coheres for the whole issue, the pacing is spot-on, the ideas are great -- actually, I'll state that the ideas are consistently great in this arc. The character moments/interactions are quite good. I'd put Invincible Iron Man #1 up against almost any other single issue Fraction's written (not Casanova #14, though, because that's his best).

After that, though, it doesn't hold up. Things don't get bad, just less good, more mediocre, more middling. I wasn't really bored reading this story, but I wasn't engaged either. Tony doesn't really have any personality, Stane is very typical, everything just seems like it's going through the motions.

Things aren't helped by Salvador Larroca who does some of his work art ever on this book. He uses a lot of photorefence and forgets how to draw. It's ugly, ugly stuff. The worst part? In issue three, he does a couple of flashback pages in a Moebius style that is SO good. Why couldn't he draw the entire comic in that style?

Question: when Tony is in China, why would China, a permanent member of the UN security council, try to arrest him when he is the Director of SHIELD, the UN-funded world peacekeeping organisation? I know China doesn't get along with everyone, but that seems like one of those lines they wouldn't want to cross since it would cause MANY problems. Oh wait, SHIELD isn't really a UN organisation... somehow... right? (And I didn't hold this against Fraction really since it's a problem the entire MU has with SHIELD... thank god they got rid of it...)

Issue seven has heart and heart will ultimately win me over.

We're soon approaching Secret Invasion, folks. But, first, in 30: New Avengers: The Infiltration (aka 2 issues that don't fit anywhere else).

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 28: Thunderbolts: Caged Angels

[Discussed in this post: Thunderbolts #116-121.]

Caged Angels is comic book brilliance. After showing how the team and concept was flawed in the first arc, Ellis continues by making things go worse as the team slowly rots from within thanks to four telepaths in their custody. It's not like the team needs a lot of prodding to tear itself apart, but it's done with total precision and expertise here.

The inclusion of Leonard Samson to talk and evaluate Robbie Baldwin is a great example of Ellis being able to shift gears and write the exact opposite of what you expect from him: a kind, compassionate, caring person. Len Samson is the best psychiatrist you've ever seen, because he guinely cares and want to get Robbie better. He also has daydreams about killing Norman Osborn and Moonstone, which is a plus.

The best part of this arc is Ellis's Norman Osborn which hereby set the new standard for Norman Osborn that all writers will be measured up against. Not the smartest move when the new Marvel status quo is to revolve around Osborn -- and no one has written him as well as Ellis does in this arc. It hasn't even been close. The monologue that Osborn delivers in issue 120 is a thing of beauty. I'm not sure Ellis has writen a better chunk of speech from a single character ever. And, trust me, there's part of me that doesn't like saying that a piece of work-for-hire stuff by Ellis may be better than his creator-owned work, but that Osborn speech is so damn good. Bendis should have it typed up, printed out and taped above his desk so that every time he writes Osborn, it's there, challenging him to do better -- and he should hate that speech for it's hateful, disappointed look when he fails.

I am actually convinced that Warren Ellis is the best writer in mainstream superhero comics. He is the Professional Writer unconcerned with who or what the characters are and who loves them -- because he sure doesn't. He's not affected by such lowly emotions when writing: all he cares about is writing a quality story. That's it. And he does it every time. The only other writers in mainstream superhero comics that seem to have that same indifference/lack of love for superheroes are Garth Ennis and Brian Azzarello and neither can work the genre like Ellis (partly because neither wants to work it like Ellis does). Ellis's lack of emotional attachment to characters is why he is better. Seriously. A childhood fondness for characters will ultimately bias every other writer in the business. Look at Bendis's Avengers: his favourite characters get better positions. Not so with Ellis: he just uses what's available, finds the interesting elements, and goes running. There's nothing wrong with the bias other writers have really, it just means that they'll always be a step behind Ellis. He can be objective about what he's doing, they can't. I don't want you to think that means Ellis will be better in every case, just in a broad, general sense. (The only writer I'd accept as a legitimate argument for being a better writer in mainstream superhero comics right now is Morrison -- and strangely, it's partly because he's Ellis's opposite number -- for all of Ellis's indifference/lack of love for superhero characters, that's what fuels Morrison so completely that it leads to quality consistently.)

Ellis's Thunderbolts is one big reason why Dark Avengers can't really get going: it can't match up. Putting Mike Deodato on that book wasn't the best idea since it further invites comparison.

Ah, I'm rambling. One final thought: the first arc built up Bullseye as an unstoppable killing machine and ended with him getting beaten nearly to death. This arc, anytime Bullseye is mentioned, he's dismissed as useless, and it ends with him killing those responsible for the problems at Thunderbolts Mountain. A nice little bit of symmetry.

In 30 minutes, The Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]