Comics Reviews (July 2nd and 9th, 2014)
Since we have two weeks of comics here, I’m doing two picks of the week. No idea if both or either are from this week, last week, or what.
All-New X-Men #29
After an issue where I felt utterly lost we get one I understand, at least. Not sure about the ending, mind you – the time travel is still way too muddy and full of characters I can’t keep straight. But the Angel/X-23 love plot is a nice ending. I’m still not loving this particular phase of Bendis’s X-Men, though. Hoping that whatever shakeups are planned with Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier get things flowing a bit better. C
These “Steve Rogers moves ever forward in time” issues are… not exactly a solid gold premise, even as the individual issues are pretty good. There’s an increasing sense of sound and fury in Hickman’s run that’s worrisome – the mysteries and secrets are stacking ever higher, with each issue being more and more setup and very little payoff. There’s a staleness that can set into a book when it goes too long without a feasible jumping on point, and we’re at thirty-two issues since the last usable one. I suspect that, when all is said and done, Hickman’s Avengers run will be looked at as something of a let-down, and as a wasted opportunity in terms of feeding out of or into the movies. C-
Captain Marvel #5
A book that feels like it’s been rolling along at a simmer for a bit too long finally bursts out and does something interesting. There are satisfying echoes of the start of Messner-Loebs’s Wonder Woman run here – the balance between alien weirdness and real drama is satisfying. I wish some of the plot revelations had come earlier – I suspect this arc could have lost an issue without serious damage. But we appear to have reached the parts of the arc that are important and that do belong there, and that’s exciting and fun. Still not one of my favorite books, but this is a solid issue that delivers some real entertainment. B+
Daredevil #0.1 and #5
A pair of Daredevil issues, each of them functionally one-shots. I believe 0.1, also called Road Warrior, is a reprint of a digital “Infinite Comic” – certainly the panel layout seems to suggest that. (No splash pages, and every page bisects neatly at the halfway point) It’s a prequel to the current Daredevil run, and is, like most of Waid’s Daredevil, a perfectly satisfying little adventure. #5 fills in some backstory on Foggy Nelson that was left mysterious for four issues, and is… a perfectly satisfying little adventure. It’s hard not to wonder if Waid’s Daredevil is on a downward slope at this point – certainly nothing in the six issues so far of the San Francisco iteration suggests the book has a raison d’etre. Pleasant, but unambiguously for the sorts of fans with large pull accounts. B-
Lazarus #9 (Pick of the Week)
The conclusion to an arc, and the thing that jumps out at me the most is that you can still basically jump in here and understand everything that’s going on. One of the real pains of monthly comics for me is that I’m very bad at remembering what happened last month in full, and sure enough bits of the supporting cast are fuzzing out on me, and yet this remains a clear and effective issue with a solid climax that invests me in characters I can only sort of remember from last issue. The themes and topics of this book fascinate me, and I adore the moral ambiguities of terrorism depicted here. A surprisingly good jumping on point for one of my favorite books coming out right now. A
Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #3
Bendis is steadily upshifting into an epic tone with this run, and this issue exemplifies what’s so good about Bendis when he does this. It steadily transitions from a human level to an epic and seemingly hopeless showdown between Miles and Norman Osborne, with pleasantly clockwork precision. I’m still utterly unconvinced by the “Peter Parker is back” subplot, not just in the “I am sure he’s not actually” sense, but in the “I’m not sure this is a good plot” sense, but this is still a fantastic issue. And the reworking of the iconic “Peter comes out to Mary Jane” scene from early in Bendis’s Ultimate Spidey run is charming. A-
I really don’t know what to say here – we’re definitely in the weak bit of Miracleman, where it’s hampered by Chuck Austen’s rather wooden art. It’s not that the storytelling is unclear so much as that it’s weirdly expressionless and at bizarre odds with the nuance of The Original Writer’s script. Delightful at $4.99 for seventeen pages of story. I really hope Marvel eventually gets around to releasing an edition of this I can recommend to someone with a straight face. Grading is pointless – I just like laughing at the book at this point. Though I bet #9 is going to be pick of the week.
Original Sin #5
So apparently Nick Fury was secretly a member of the Night’s Watch and had a giant machine thingy or something and defended the Earth in much the same way everyone would have assumed Nick Fury did, only apparently it was a secret and… bored now. D
Original Sin #5.1 Thor® & Loki: The Tenth Realm #1
Another bold experiment in counting from Marvel, this time pairing Al Ewing and Jason Aaron on a big Thor crossover that is apparently there to reconceptualize Norse cosmology to include Todd McFarlene’s Spawn only without actually including Spawn, all the while tying in with the not actually very good Original Sin crossover. Somewhat impressively, despite all of this, this is a pretty good comic that contributes materially to what Ewing is doing in Agents of Asgard and at least seems like it might usefully set up some stuff in Aaron’s Thor as well. Unlike the kind of bizarre Iron Man/Hulk Original Sin tie-in, this makes organic sense if you’re following the books in question, which is something, at least. But at the end of the day, the inherent pointlessness of the premise grates, and one suspects that both Ewing and Aaron would be better served writing this crossover without Original Sin looming over it. Which is, for Aaron, ironic. C
Thor: God of Thunder #24
Ah, good, the conclusion to the storyline that I found so frustratingly lacking in the supposed final part of it. This makes me feel far better about this “Last Days of Midgard” story. It also confirms a basic truth about Aaron’s run on Thor, which is that he absolutely kills on the smaller, personal stories, but his big epic issues are kind of repetitive. The start and end of this arc, when it’s on the personal level, were both fantastic bits of superhero storytelling. I quite love Aaron’s take on Jane Foster, and Rosalind Solomon is a great character. Both get marvelous amounts of paneltime here. This is solid and interesting and one of those comics that justifies itself for audiences who are not obsessives like me. A-
Hm. It’s not that I didn’t like the decision to wander around the world for three issues following the absolutely insane events of issue eleven. I did. But this issue, which is effectively two stories, is oddly anti-climactic. After building for three issues to the revelation of what Sieglinde’s escape actually entailed, when it finally arrives it lacks a certain punch, feeling like a smaller mystery than the resurrected Hitler of #14, who isn’t touched on here at all. It’s not that this is a bad issue, but the build implied by delaying it made it feel like it would be very big, when in fact it’s really an issue of moving some chess pieces around and doing some key exposition. I’m being nitpicky, of course – it’s a perfectly capable issue and the series is working well. But I can’t really fault a comic that does a sight gag of blowing up Dad’s Army, so B+
United States of Murder Inc. #3
The two main plotlines of this book seem to diverge more and more, although they’re clearly going to connect back up eventually. As is normal for a Bendis book, we’re on issue #3 and there’s still nothing close to the book tipping its hand on what sort of book it’s going to be. Still perfectly entertaining, but we’re definitely at the holding pattern point of the story. But mostly, I’d like to single this issue out for the worst cover of the week – a stunning feature in which a bland minimalist design centered on the lower-left of the page is overwhelmed by an equally sized set of blurbs in the top right. Whoops. B-
Rocket Raccoon #1 (Pick of the Week)
Skottie Young is a delightful visual stylist, and that’s the main appeal here. The writing is perfectly solid, but its purpose in life is to provide the connective tissue for Skottie Young to draw bizarre wonders. Which it accomplishes in spades. This is funny and manic and inventive, and apparently shipped a titanic number of copies, which on the whole feels good. It’s nice to see a book like this succeed. A-
July 10, 2014 @ 6:37 am
"Hickman's Avengers run will be looked at as something of a let-down, and as a wasted opportunity in terms of feeding out of or into the movies."
I'm not particularly sure Hickman's ever been interested in feeding into or out of the movies, to be honest. This is a run that began with basically nodding towards the movies by having the line up people knew from the movies getting clobbered by the villain and Cap then building an army of Avengers that requires the reader to be conversant with the last 30 or so years of Marvel continuity at times to know who is who. Someone writing a book with an eye on the movie audience isn't going to introduce Captain Universe or Shang Chi to the Avengers, if you ask me. Hickman stopped worrying about whether or not the movie goers were going to be able to follow along at day one.
Grant Morrison noted in his pitch for the book that became New X-Men that he couldn't figure out why comics weren't trying for the audience that had just made millions with the first X-Men movie, and he crafted the book to attempt to be familiar to the audience that saw these movies…and of course failed to garner any of it. Because comics and movies have different narrative concerns, no matter how hard Marvel spent 2006 to 2012 or so making their comics look like storyboards for movies, and anyone who would -happen- to go into a comic store to find a comic (since finding comics anywhere else other than as trades in the local Barnes & Noble is a crapshoot at best) would be alienated by what they read in roughly three pages, if that.
So while Marvel may have given Hickman a directive to attract the movie audience, I don't think he cared much about that for very long (or he thought that the hook of the familiar characters would be enough to hang his hat on, which I very much doubt given the nature of the story he told.) There's a lot to judge Hickman's work on-and I tend to forgive him for his bumps and hiccups because he's a writer who writes for longer term periods than a lot these days, who seem to not think more than six issues ahead-but judging it on how well he's playing to the movie audience, which is something no writer has really done well for long term periods, seems a little unfair.
July 10, 2014 @ 11:34 am
Love these reviews. I picked up Wicked & Divine and Trees based on your recommendation and loved them both. Keep up the good work!
July 10, 2014 @ 1:06 pm
"reconceptualize Norse cosmology to include Todd McFarlene's Spawn only without actually including Spawn"
Interesting. Is this the Angela thing, or a different Spawn thing?
July 10, 2014 @ 1:07 pm
Yeah, the conceit is that Angela is Thor and Loki's sister, and hails from the previously unknown Tenth Realm.