Friday, November 30, 2012

Hawkeye #4

OK, just so I’m clear, Hawkeye is killing people again, right? At least, Bendis and Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye kills (and even enjoys it) while Rick Remender and Jim McCann’s Hawkeye sticks to his old West Coast Avengers no-kill code. Got it. I know which one I like better. (Hint: It’s the Hawkeye who wears a costume not a combat suit.)

Characterization problems aside, Fraction has set up a real pickle of a plot for Hawk to navigate. He’s caught on tape killing a foreign national, on orders from SHIELD (and it is still very possible that this is all a trick and Hawkeye didn’t do it.) Now SHIELD wants that tape back, and they are sending Hawkeye to Madripoor with their AMEX Black to get it back.

It’s great watching Hawkeye try to super-spy his way through Madripoor. He’s out of his element from start to finish. It’s rare to see a series lead get kicked around and outsmarted quite this much. It’s a lot easier to swallow since Madame Masque is the one on his case. She’s got some secrets of her own that could make things interesting (am I supposed to recognize that person on the last page? Mockingbird, I hope?)

I’m also fascinated watching Fraction navigate this weird relationship between Clint Barton and Kate Bishop. They simply cannot get together and have Clint remain at all heroic. What is Fraction trying to do here? Is Clint’s ability to avoid his urges supposed to make him more of a hero? If so, that’s a new one for me in comics.

Javier Pulido‘s art is fun and dynamic. Madripoor really feels like a hive of scum and villainy. I know it is in the mandate for this comic, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Pulido handle a few more panels with costumes. His one-panel takes on Kingpin and the other crime bosses left me thirsty for more.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Captain America #1

It sure seems like Rick Remender likes the same comics I do. I also discovered Jack Kirby’s manic run on Captain America in recent years, so I understand exactly what Remender means when he says Arnim Zola always belonged in Captain America.

It’s interesting, while many of the Marvel NOW books are taking the relaunch as a chance to create new villains or change things up, Remender is putting a new coat of paint on Zola. Arnim Zola has long been a pet favorite of mine, but this is the first time he really feels dangerous. Creating his own sub-dimension filled with revolting bio-creations makes sense for the mad scientist, and the level of planning he’s taken in order to obtain Cap sure helps Zola seem like an A-lister.

One jarring, but interesting change is in the tone of Cap’s interior monologue. Brubaker’s Cap was always pretty restrained, and he spent a lot of time worrying about Bucky. Remender’s Cap is always thinking about his next move, and weighing the results of his last. Cap is a lot more of a physical, action-based character here. We can read about every wound and the merits of each shield toss. Dialogue-wise, Cap’s still a bit stiff, but the surrounding characters are fantastic. The gonzo Green Skull and Zola have distinct voices that make them fun to hate. Cap’s attempts at humor with Sharon Carter are awkward, but so is the situation, so I can’t tell exactly what Cap’s voice will be during this run.

John Romita Jr. doesn’t quite have the look down for Cap’s new costume. The helmet seems a tad off, but it’s worth it to get Romita’s kinetic sense of action. I actually laughed with glee when Cap powers his way out his restraints in Zola’s lab. Romita’s Cap is FAST, you can see why Zola is so frustrated that he can’t keep up.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Indestructible Hulk #1

Here comes Mark Waid, reminding us all why he was one of the hottest creators in the 90’s, and why he still deserves that title today. 

I took a bit of chance and read this premiere issue with my 8 year old daughter after I saw Maria Hill on the first page. (My daughter is a bit of a fan after the Avengers movie.) Thankfully, this is definitely kid appropriate, with lots of comic-style violence and action, along with some great new vocabulary words for both of us! 

Bruce Banner is tired of Reed Richards and Tony Stark getting all the credit. He’s just as smart, but Bruce is justifiably worried that he’ll only be remembered as the Hulk. In an attempt to contribute something more, he wants to sign on with SHIELD. He wants to update the old comparison; instead of an unfocused bomb, he wants the Hulk to be a targeted cannon. It’s a great high concept that works. I’m not sure I buy into the armor quite yet, but seeing Hulk lead a team of SHIELD agents to take on a classic Marvel villain worked even better than I’d figured. 

And wow, does Waid make this villain sing. Spouting out equations and theories, other writers have made this guy work too, but I’ve never had this much fun seeing him actually fight somebody. I love that Waid put Hulk, known for his lack of intelligence, up against this particular villain, one known for his brain. (I couldn’t have been the only one expecting Mr. Hyde or a new Abomination). 

Leinil Yu’s art; what is there to say at this point? His new, short-haired Hulk looks imposing and powerful. I absolutely loved the way he drew Hulk as a green blur while in motion. Maria Hill looks wonderful, both powerful and hot in her SHIELD issue battle gear. I particularly loved that she is wearing her normal form-fitting outfit while leading a team of heavily armored SHIELD agents on the attack. Yu knows what fans like! 

Another strong debut from Marvel NOW, at this point, if people don’t like these books, I’m not sure what to tell them. These are exciting new chapters building on the history we know and love. It’s just the right mix for an old reader like me (and my daughter, I guess!)


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Avengers #34

Well, after many years of Bendis’ Avengers comics, I have to give him credit that he’s put everything back in on the shelf for the next writer. I mean seriously, I can’t think of much lasting harm that he’s done to the franchise. That takes a lot for me to say, because I’m certainly one of the online complainers that he talks about in the closing letter at the end of this comic. I still maintain that the Avengers rarely solved their own problems, spent too much time eating dinner and sitting around, and that in general, everyone talked too much. The pacing often dragged, and villains didn’t act like themselves. But Wasp, Wonder Man, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man, and the Vision are all back, so as a whole, the ride wasn’t so bad after all. 

In fact, I appreciate that Bendis chooses to go out on a high note. This isn’t a classic Avengers villain by any stretch, but Bendis makes sure to give his jam artists a nice, dynamic conflict to show off the Avengers’ powers. And the line-up on display in these pages includes a lot of mainstays like Cap, Thor, and Wasp, but also Bendis’ pets that are now entrenched as Avengers. Cage, Iron Fist, and Spider-Woman are all present and accounted for, punching and kicking with the rest. 

I especially enjoyed the closing pages, with the Avengers hosting a party to welcome back the Wasp to the land of the living. That seems like a party that should happen in comics more often. It is great seeing Wonder Man and Scarlet Witch reconnecting out in the crowd too. Bendis even manages to give the next writer a nice set-up; Tony Stark wants to get bigger. 

Bendis has another thing right in his closing address. He got to work with some fantastic artists. Stuart Immonen, Walt Simonson, Mike Deodato, Brandon Peterson, Terry Dodson, Frank Cho, I mean the list goes on and on. Seeing so many of them show up in this jam issue makes for a nice send-off. It also drives home just how successful Bendis’ run was. He got a LOT of top-tier talent on this book. 

So again, while Bendis’ Avengers wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, as I look over my long boxes, I own an awful lot of Bendis’ Avengers titles that I enjoyed enough to keep buying. Definitely more hits than misses. And heck, I’m following him to X-Men, so he’ll keep getting my dollars too! 


Monday, November 26, 2012

Green Lantern Corps #14

Whoops, somehow this one fell to the bottom of my stack and stayed there for a few weeks. I think this is only two weeks old, but I’m not sure. At this point, I’m only keeping up with a few DC books, two GLs and two Batman titles, and both are entrenched in another crossover. I really should just switch to trade on them, I guess! 

Anyway, Peter Tomasi wades in to the War of the Third Army as those gross weirdos start assimilating the GLC. While normal folks can be absorbed and taken over pretty easily, all ring-bearers have to lose their ring before they can become a staring, gropey white monster. That leads to some perfectly Nu-52-ish scenes of Green Lanterns getting their arms and fingers ripped off right before their chests burst as they become monsters. It’s sort of like a recipe at this point, isn’t it? 

Tomasi still has a fantastic voice for Guy Gardner. This is his book, with John Stewart only getting a few pages to make contact with Fatality, currently of the Star Sapphires. Gardner is justifiably worried about his own family, and the now-evil Guardians make him pay for it. They bring up all his recent missteps in front of the entire Corps, and then shame him until he steps down. With Hal and Guy gone, that only leaves John Stewart and maybe Kyle Rayner as Earthborn GLs. (Is Kyle still an actual Green Lantern? Or is he a rainbow guy now?) 

Guy is back home, normal, and still in the sights of some bad guys. Clearly Guy has some ties to the Justice League; maybe we’ll be getting more guest-stars in the upcoming issues? Tomasi has plopped Guy in a real pickle. If he couldn’t beat the Third Army with his ring, what can he do with just a motorcycle? We’ve got to hope Salaak and Kilowog have something to add soon. 

Fernando Pasarin continues delivering strong work. In the midst of all the carnage and viscera, there is some great “acting” on the faces of the failing Lanterns, including Guy. I’m also still amazed that he can get such strong emotions from the more alien faces in the book, although on someone like Salaak, I’m pretty sure the dialogue is a big help. 


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Red She-Hulk #59

What a difference one issue makes. I wasn’t sold after issue 58; Jeff Parker spent too much time on the boring supporting cast members, letting Red She-Hulk just materialize as a threat and destructive force to harass them. I see now what he was trying to do: cast some doubt on Betty Ross’ mental state and really put some fear of the character into the Marvel U. I just hope readers stick around to give this issue a chance; this is much more what I had in mind when I started picking up this Marvel NOW title. 

This issue still keeps much of the focus on the Avengers strike force focusing on taking out Red She-Hulk. Captain America, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and more all join forces to take on Betty and stop her seemingly mindless rampage. I especially like how seamlessly Machine Man is assimilated into the team. He’s not an Avenger, but you’d never know that from reading this comic. (Heck, maybe he’s a reservist along with anyone else Steve Rogers deputizes these days.)

Red She-Hulk is definitely too wild, but her heart is in the right place. She’s trying to avoid an apocalyptic future witnessed by a young lady she knows. I’m not sure how the Echelon project leads to the apocalyptic future Betty sees, or if the vision is even real, but it is a good way to put her opposite the biggest names in the Marvel U. I expect X-51 will switch over to her team shortly. 

Carlo Pagulayan’s pencils are dynamic, but they have a tendency to get fuzzy. It’s too bad, because I think he does a great job realizing the current model sheets for the Avengers, and I love his super-spy Betty Ross. There are just some panels where the lines seem fuzzier than necessary. Perhaps there is a printer issue? I like Pagulayan’s pencils enough I want to see them in sharp detail!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wolverine & the X-Men #20

I’m slowly catching up with Uncanny X-Force, so I finally understand what’s going on with Archangel. I’m not sure I like it, but at least I understand it. I have a hard time with some of the more out-there concepts, like the one that Warren Worthington has been reborn a blank slate. He’s got no memories, new powers, and he’s slowly burning out the Celestial lifeseed that is giving him his new lease on life. That’s pretty complicated, right? Isn’t it easier to just say he’s an original X-Man with wings? Sometimes comics confuse me! 

Jason Aaron makes the best of a weird situation by taking Angel out of the normal flow of the Jean Grey Academy. Archangel isn’t faculty, and he’s not a student. Instead, he’s the first graduate and head recruiter, traveling around the world trying to convince new mutants to attend Wolverine’s school. 

I might not care for Warren’s status, but I love seeing new mutants again. Shark Girl, a new were-shark type of character, seems like a ton of fun. I think she’s got some fantastic potential, it seems like the X-Men often neglect aquatic powers, so this is a great idea. I also love that someone is out there competing for students. Mystique and a new Silver Samurai are on the job, and a whole slew of villains show up on the last page. (I only recognized a couple of those guys from previous Aaron-penned stories. Lady Mojo???)

Steven Sanders does a nice job with Archangel’s new, segmented wings. Again, this isn’t my preferred version of Angel, but I can at least appreciate the design. I also love how revolting Mudbug is. A crayfish man makes a lot of sense to join the villain team, and I can tell already that I’ll love Aaron’s dialogue for the southern bug.