Wednesday’s Reviews: The Avengers and The Alternate Avengers

Firstly, read Jim Shooter’s blog. It’s absolutely astounding to see what he does and has done. This recent entry is one of the most fascinating ones I’ve read thus far:

Hank Pym was not a Wife Beater

As for reviews, I swear I’m not going to bring this up again – but Bendis & Romita Jr. in The Avengers series have been up to that “multiple panel” deal in their books for the umpteenth. I thought I was going crazy. Then I took a look at Avengers #1, #5, #9, #10, and #11. I left out some half-page ones in other issues because they arguably are the norm for comics.

Panels

This is how I felt after laying all of these comics out:

Bert

Variety is all I’m asking for.

Now on to one of the most anticipated books this month.

Age of X Universe

Age of X Universe #1 of 2
Main Story:Simon Spurrier (writer), Khoi Pham (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Sonia Oback (colours).
Spider-Man Story: Jim McCann (writer), Paul Davidson (art), Antonio Fabela (colours).
Joe Sabino (letters), Simone Bianchi & Simone Peruzzi (cover). $3.99

For $3.99, this book is a steal. In fact, it’s an unbelievable steal which will impress every fanboy of the Marvel U.

Basing itself off of the current X-Men crossover, The Age of X, AoXU is how the other heroes have been affected by the mutants who are all over the world. Team leader and book narrator, Captain America, leads his unusual strike force of Avengers such as Vengeance, the Hulk, and Sue Storm to a mutant prison riot, to Fortress X itself.

But the excitement lends itself not to the battle, but to the quick back stories of each Avenger – and why they’re there. Throughout the book, we’re invited to see how the world has twisted its ways into the AoXU. Through that, we’re given little tidbits of character leaking themselves out into the page. We see Captain America and Sue Storm have consciences, while Iron Man is a vengeful deteriorating freak of nature and Spider-Woman is the top hit-woman. To top it all off, Frank Castle is the Chief of the Avengers – the man running the show. Of course, that will lead to extremely violent results.

Making things more interesting, forgotten mutants of the Marvel U make short, if not saddening appearances. Maggott, who I haven’t seen alive since 2003, makes a cameo, while Marrow, Mr. Sinister, and Whirlwind make for some extra mutant-loving goodness. (Did I just say that?) Don’t even get me started with Sabretooth’s depressing story.

Khoi Pham does one helluva great job delivering so many jaw-dropping moments in this book. A personal favourites are Vengeance taking on Chamber for a few fiery blazes of panels, and the final page with Hulk and his bug-eyes. My only beef is first in the book with Legacy (Rogue), as she seems rather mannish than well, being Rogue.

To top it all off, a bonus story featuring Spider-Man and a pregnant Mary Jane shows how certain heroes with altered DNA are considered “Post-Muties” – meaning Spider-Man is on the run. A short but enriching tale, we don’t see Spider-Man with his usual quips aside from the introductory narration at the beginning. Concluding on a moment where I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad, Spider-Man’s tale really ties together how perverse the AoXU is.

Regardless if you’re reading the X-Men crossovers or not, you’d be foolish not to pick this up.

Grade: 9/10

Unfortunately I’ve been busy so I cannot really focus on more reviews. Until next time folks, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: So Many Marvel Titles!

This week was absolutely crazy for comics. There’s so many to chose from that I decided on picking the most-anticipated issues this week – aside from the Fantastic Four #587. Sorry folks! I’m doing something different here. So let’s get started!

Age of X: Alpha

Age of X: Alpha #1 (one-shot)
Mike Carey (writer), Mirco Pierfederici, Gabriel Hernadez Walta, Carlo Barberi, Paco Diaz, Paul Davidson (pencilers), Walden Wong, Diaz and Davidson (inkers), Antonio Fabela, Matt Milla, Brian Reber (colours), Joe Caramanga (letters), Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend (cover). $3.99

Age of X: Alpha has been teased to readers for quite some time. Now that the issue is released, I’m left asking myself, “What?” Age of X jumps right into whatever world they are in and begins with stories being told by X-Men at a camp. There, we get stories of Basilisk (Cyclops), the Guthrie’s, as well as Wolverine and Magneto. All eventually tie in together to create the basis for the world of Age of X. Although a lot of the story is introductions, it serves well to establish what sort of world our mutants are living in. Basilisk’s story was easily my favourite, based on Arcade taking Cyclops and having him execute other mutants against his will. Some disturbing details about the story I’ll leave to you.

Given there were five individual stories running through the book, various artists were welcomed. Pierfederici made great drama with the groundwork of the multiple story lines, while Paco Diaz hit another home run with a great visuals with Wolverine. Barberi, on the other hand, does not know how to draw women as Husks’ breasts are grossly disproportioned, while Davidson’s art still runs flat with bland faces. What was especially welcomed was mutants who I haven’t seen since M-Day – most notably a personal favourite of mine: Chamber. Thank you, Mr. Carey!

A great cross-over premise with interesting stories and zero ideas on what is going on, will leave reader’s both frustrated, yet demanding more.

Grade: 6/10

Chaos War

Chaos War #5 of 5
Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente (writers), Khoi Pham (penciler), Thomas Palmer and Bob McLeod (inkers), Sunny Gho (colours), Simon Bowland (letters), Brandon Peterson (cover). $3.99

The Chaos War comes to an end as all of Marvel’s remaining heroes crash down upon the Chaos King! Hercules gives it his all as he battles down upon the Chaos King himself. On Earth, Amadeus Cho is busy trying to evacuate everyone and defeat the King. After Herc goes through a bloody beating, a swift hit knocks the King onto the ground, leaving all of Earth’s forces to beat upon him. Still to no avail! Fortunately, Amadeus figures out a way to stop the Chaos King from spreading without killing him at all. Needless to say, it works, and surprisingly leaves Alpha Flight alive by the end. Seriously? Not the Dead X-Men or Avengers? Just Alpha Flight? Oh, and Hercules is no longer a god it seems.

. . . What? Read the book.

Pak and Van Lente have been favourites of mine for quite some time. Their writing skills are uncanny, and to put them together was a great idea. However, by this issue the Chaos War dwindled on me. It became exhausting just to see everyone lose knowing that it will just come down to Herc vs. the King. That battle, however. Wow. Khoi Pham is a brilliant artist and should be commended for some of the best layouts I’ve seen. Great two-page spreads of Herc and the King really stood out as brilliant works. A few particular pages with Palmer during the bloody mess Herc gets himself into leaves a jaw-dropping good time.

Although it began with a great premise, the Chaos War did nothing else to Marvel continuity but bring back second-rate heroes and show that Hercules had another story to tell.

Grade: 5/10

The Avengers

The Avengers #9
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), John Romita Jr. (penciler), Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer and Scott Hanna (inkers), Laura Martin, Morry Hollowell, and Matt Milla (colours), Cory Petit (letters), John Romita Jr. (cover). $3.99

Last issue featured the Illuminati’s return to the Marvel-verse. We hadn’t seen them since Secret Invasion, so their welcome was very exciting. By this issue though, we can safely say, it will be their last appearance. After Steve Rogers discovers with the New and Secret Avengers teams that the Illuminati exists, he wants answers. And so begins the arguing. A second story brings us to Parker Robbins in jail, showing us how he escaped, as well as how he knew where the Infinity Gems were. In a nutshell, we have very interesting conversation going on throughout the whole book – and it’s welcome.

What isn’t welcomed is what should have been solved with a bi-monthly series called Avengers: Prime. As I reviewed before, Prime was supposed to solve all the problems between Rogers and Stark. Although the Illuminati is yes, a special case, it read as if these two never had a conversation together since Roger’s return. It was more mind-boggling than anything.

As for the book on its own, The Avengers was really well-paced and a decent read. I was really more focused on how Parker Robbins escaped prison than the Iron Man/Steve Rogers story however. Another issue I had was something I feel Bendis is doing too-often now. Remember in Avengers #1 where everyone was talked to in two pages? It happened again! It feels like a cop-out. But I digress.

Romita kicked butt this issue! Various spreads of full Avengers line-up in a blizzard really shone. Pure and simple. Mixing in his ink and colour team, this is easily the best-drawn Avengers book yet.

Dialogue is the action in the book – which is fine by me when Romita pumps out a gem like this!

Grade: 6/10

Uncanny X-Force

Uncanny X-Force #4
Rick Remender (writer), Jerome Opena (penciler), Dean White (ink and colours), Cory Petit (letters), Esad Ribic (cover). $3.99

I really, really, really cannot stress how excellent of a story Uncanny X-Force has been. The conclusion to “The Apocalypse Solution” ends with a bang as our X-Force members fight to kill Apocalypse – who unfortunately is reincarnated into a little boy who does not know any better. After a huge beat-down by Apocalypse’s Horsemen in last issue, X-Force rallies what strength they have left to end Apocalypse once-and-for-all!

Remender knows his characterization. Everyone in the story has real emotions – real limits to what they can do. To top it all off, it still has humour amidst all the violence. An early scene with Deadpool and Archangel really had me laughing, but by the end of the book, I could help but empathize for each individual character. Thanks to Opena and White, I could see how they all felt, too. This book looks brilliant. Raw emotions, mixed with action, and a mood that isn’t quite dark, but definitely isn’t light, throttles this story to become something beyond a stereotypical comic.

This is what story-telling is all about. If you haven’t yet, start reading Uncanny X-Force now!

Grade: 10/10

New Avengers

New Avengers #8
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Daniel Acuna (penciler, inker and colours), Joe Caramanga (letters), Mike Deodato and Rain Beredo (cover). $3.99

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones finally get to go out on a date! Yes, since Civil War back in 2006, the married couple really haven’t had a chance to take some time off, with Squirrel Girl as their nanny. So as they go out for dinner, we witness their humorous conversation involving Luke wanting Jess’ name to be “Power Woman,” while a poor waitress watches on just to take their order. The conversation is so big, that a full-page spread is half-covered in word bubbles – all of it funny. Unfortunately, the date is cut short as Ms. Marvel fights a Doom-Bot in front of the restaurant (coincidence, eh?). After its defeat, the heroes go back to Avengers Mansion to discuss what just happened. That’s it in a nutshell, folks!

And you know what, I don’t mind it either. From both Avengers and New Avengers, Bendis gave the heroes some time off to not really battle. Arguably, this is the second New Avengers title in a row where there was very little action. There’s absolutely no problem with that when the dialogue is as quick-witted as Luke and Jessica’s was. Daniel Acuna’s art also made it very much exciting, where beautiful water colours amongst a dark skyline really brought the “action-less” characters to life.

Although not much happens here, it is nice to see heroes breath a little bit while setting up a new story arc.

Grade: 7/10

As a side note, the cover of the week totally goes to both Esad Ribic from Uncanny X-Force and Dave Wilkins on New Mutants #21 for his excellent work of Legion.

New Mutants

Although there were tons more to review, that’s all the time I have for now folks! Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!