Wednesday’s Reviews: Avengers & X-Force

It has been a while since I last did a review, let alone many reviews. I’ve been unbelievably busy, so I have had this on the back burner. Despite the lack of updates, traffic on my site has still been exceptional.

I really have to give a big thank you to my readers for making me want to update this more often. Without you, this site would have no meaning. (Did I just discover the reason for life, itself?)

I definitely have two major updates these next few days. The first is reviews, as you can probably tell from this title. The second will be a discussion about a recent movie I watched: Superman & Batman: Apocalypse. But more on that later.

P.S.: Two weeks of back-to-back Uncanny X-Force is mind-blowing.

Avengers

Avengers #12
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), John Romita Jr. (pencils, cover), Klaus Janson (inks, cover), Dean White (colours, cover), Cory Petit (letters). $3.99

Indeed, Iron Man wields the Infinity Gauntlet with the final chapter of the Avengers versus Parker Robbins story. With the last issue leaving us at a complete jaw-dropping standstill between Robbins and Thanos, who knew what would come next?

A very delicate, yet powerful conversation between the titan of death and Robbins stirs up a whirlwind of excitement for the reader. What will Thanos do to Robbins? More importantly, what will Robbins do to Thanos? All of it leads up to a climatic battle and a rekindling friendship all in this issue.

When the Avengers get tied into the mix and Red Hulk has a Power gem, you know there is hell to pay. It all leads to a vengeful slug-fest between Robbins and Hulk, with Robbins finally using the Reality gem to show how ridiculously powerful these Infinity gems are.

Brilliant pacing throughout the story makes each page another excitement to turn. I would argue this is Romita’s best work in Avengers so far, with very few issues on character feeling too stiff. The battle between Red Hulk and Robbins is truly a wonder to see, as a great panel-by-panel fight features art in the background of old Marvel events long-gone due to the Reality gems magic. Oddly enough, the events were actually ripped out from the original works and Romita simply placed the Rulk/Robbins fight over top of them. With two very contrasting styles of art, it literaly makes the panels pop-out at you. This too is because of White’s dynamics of red and brown tones over the gray-scales.

With very few problems in this issue, I am floored by how great this arc concluded. And most importantly, by the end of this issue, the reader will get yet another Marvel U shattering ordeal that only Bendis could effectively pull-off.

Sure, I could nick off marks for suddenly leaving the Watcher out of the story. I could also nick off marks for seeing yet another page like this. But they are minuscule in the grand scheme of how powerful of an issue Avengers #12 was.

Grade: 7/10

Uncanny X-Force

Uncanny X-Force #8
Rick Remender (writer), Billy Tan (pencils, inks), Dean White (colours), Cory Petit (letters), Esad Ribic (cover). $3.99

The team goes to rescue a captive Deadpool, while Psylocke battles the Shadow King in yet another explosive issue of Uncanny X-Force. Oh, and Archangel’s about to burst.

Right off the bat, the reader is dropped into a plot where Deadpool’s on a reconnaissance mission, while Psylocke is helping Warren deal with the Death persona. Fantomex also shows Deathlok around the base, making me wonder if he will be a permanent part of the team. (Eee!) Lots happen within the short timespan of this book, yet all is paced so ridiculously well, that you know this is a Remender book.

Needless to say, if you’re a Psylocke fan you’re in for a huge treat. This is her book. After Deadpool fails to check in with X-Force, the team goes to find him. Upon arrival, most of X-Force becomes mind-controlled (minus Fantomex due to his neural implants) – leaving Psylocke the only one able to fight up against their foe – the Shadow King.

If it’s not good enough that this story is primarily about Psylocke, we’re also given huge depth with Warren about his Death personality. In so-few pages, Remender intertwines all of the subplots in one grand scheme with an absolute flawless script.

By no-means is Wolverine or Deadpool the main-characters of these stories. This book is a Psylocke/Archangel/Fantomex story guest-starring everyone else.

Tan’s art is nothing less than incredible. A particular panel with Archangel screaming shows his anger and near-insanity. Don’t even get me started on how beautiful Psylocke is drawn in her old costume.

Dean White was on double-duty this month doing both Avengers #12 and this issue. While you can see similarities with both books for colours, he definitely has a knack for not over-doing things, yet still placing emphasis where needed. I definitely prefer his colouring style with Tan’s art. Actually, it would have been great with Ribic’s and Opena’s too. Of course he did a great job in The Avengers too with Romita.

A few weeks ago, Uncanny X-Force released a .1 issue and it stood out as a great one-shot. The idea of the .1 issues were to get new readers on board.

Uncanny X-Force #8 arguably repeats the same process while still continuing the main storyline. I think I’ve said this at the end of every Uncanny X-Force review, but it needs to be said again.

If you haven’t started reading Uncanny X-Force, START!

And doesn’t Esad Ribic deserve a “best cover” award? Look at those colours! Wonderful!

Grade: 9/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

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: Part 2 – Fantastic Four, Avengers, and more X-Men!

As promised, here is part two of my reviews for this week.

Fantastic Four Final Issue

Fantastic Four #588
Jonathan Hickman (writer), Nick Dragotta (pencils, inks), Paul Mounts (colours), Rus Wooton (letters), Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Javier Rodriguez (cover). $3.99

The final issue of the Fantastic Four.

I don’t think any amount of words could capture what both Hickman and Dragotta put into this issue. The amount of raw emotion really draws the reader into the story with no words. Quite literally, there are no words spoken until the final page of the book.

The book goes over the immediate moment when Johnny dies, up to a month of mourning with the Fantastic Four and Marvel family.

Gut-wrenching moments with Dr. Doom arriving at the funeral, while Thing unleashes anger upon the Hulk and Thor – all are breathtaking moments which had my own eyes swelling up.

The secondary story involving Spider-Man and Franklin Richards places Spider-Man as the face of helping, reasoning, and understanding.

I really don’t think there is anything bad to say about this book. It’s a wonderful, sad, yet optimistic way to conclude the series.

Grade: 10/10

Avengers

Avengers #10
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), John Romita Jr. (pencils), Klaus Janson & Tom Palmer (inks), Dean White & Paul Mounts (colours) Cory Petit (letters), John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson & Dean White (cover). $3.99

Despite the this cover and the last one, there has really been zero action between The Hood and the Avengers. The majority of the story is the members of the Illuminati gathering the Infinity Gems from their hiding spots. Namor, Thor, and Red Hulk go into the furthest depths of the sea to gather a gem, while Professor X and a large band of Avengers encounter the Danger Room to retrieve another. Iron Man and friends go to Area 51 – a place which Tony Stark apparently owns, to get the third – but The Hood is already there. He snatches the gem and teleports to the next closest one – that being in the possession of Thor.

And that’s really the book in a nutshell. Pages are dedicated to unlocking, swimming, and finding the gems. I am aware that they are to show the importance of how secretive of places the gems were in – but it felt like watching the doors opening in Mystery Science Theater 3000 – only this was about 20 pages of it.

Admittedly, there was a fight in the Danger Room, but it really lacked oomph and trailed quickly into a who cares what happens because there didn’t seem to be any threat from the machine.

Another lull appeared in the story where for I believe, for the fourth time, we see faces bunched up on a page like this. It’s pretty bad when I’m able to start counting on these things in these issues.

A slow story from Bendis with half-decent art from Romita drags this current issue into the ground. Definitely a step-down from last-issue.

Grade: 4/10

X-Men Serve and Protect

X-Men: To Serve and Protect #4 of 4
Chris Yost, Kathryn Immonen, Jed Mackay & James Asmus (writers), Derec Donovan, Stuart Immonen, Sheldon Vella, Eric Koda, Sandu Florea & Miguel Munera (pencilers), Wade Von Grawbadger, (inker), Andres Mossa, Jesus Aburto & Jeremy Cox(colourers) Dave Sharpe (letters), Guiseppe Camuncoli & Marte Gracia (cover). $3.99

In the final issue of the X-Men: To Serve and Protect anthology, four very-different stories wrap up the series. The first involves Rockslide and Anole versus Mr. Negative and the Serpent Society. This story spanned all four issues and grabbed the attention to the reader in each book. Coincidently, it was written by Chris Yost, making the two unknown X-Men really stand out as both relevant and hilarious characters. Great cartoonish art and colours was also portrayed by Donovan and Mossa.

Kathryn and Stuart Immonen run the second story involving both Gambit and Hellcat – on a date! Hilarity ensues as Gambit’s frustration of Hellcat’s care-free attitude make for an interesting night. Kathryn’s storytelling, as far as I can see with her shorts as well as Osborn and Heralds, are beyond-witty and really excel at true storytelling in a limited space. Kathryn shines as one of Marvel’s best writers.

The third story by Mackay and Vella was probably the weakest story out of the bunch, but arguably one of the oddest stories in the whole series. Dazzler, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing act as a super heroine trio, “Dazzler and Her Radical All-Girl Roller Death Squad!” Indeed. They fight M.O.D.O.R.D. (The Mental Organism Designed Only for Roller Derby), as well as Armadillo, Klaw, a Sentinel, Whirlwind, and even Doctor Bong. The three find that Chadmaster (or the Grandmaster in disguise), is letting her fight so she can have cosmic powers. Of course, she beats up Chad because she’s a mutant pop star that roller blades. What else could she want?

The final issue by Asmus, Koda, Florea, Munera and Cox features Psylocke and Hercules defeating the Griffin. After winning, Herc offers Psylocke a chance to “union” with him. We’re then taken to a flashback where the two met before in London above a beaten Crimson Dynamo. There, Herc asks her the same question. Flashing forward to the present, Herc innocently asks, “so. . . did we?” followed by a sock in the face by Psylocke. Brilliantly executed and dramatically simple, the final story was my favourite to the entire series (and not because Psylocke is a favourite of mine).

A great mash up of stories by a group of immensely talented writers – X-Men: To Serve and Protect concludes its series very strong.

Grade: 8/10

Godspeed, and keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Fridays w/ Wednesday Reviews?!

Tuesday marked my one-month anniversary of the blog, meaning in one month’s time, I’ve had 680 views! I think that’s pretty fantastic so far, so thank you everyone who has supported this idea! Last week’s article about Women in Comics was a huge success. Thank you for the comments and feedback received. Believe me, I’ll definitely be doing more posts like that in the near-future.

As for this week, I was late getting my comics on Wednesday hence no review. So instead of doing two separate blog posts, I’ll slam together one epic-post involving my weekly reviews, plus my Classic Comic feature. Sounds good? Okay!

So I am planning on doing three reviews for comics I grabbed this week, plus the Classic Comic, thus my reviews will be a bit shorter than usual as I want to cram everything in and not bore anyone. Also, please keep ***SPOILER ALERT*** in mind for when you read these reviews.

So without further adieu, let’s start with the Classic Comic!

As I’m sure you’ve heard about The Increduble Hulk coming back to television, so is a favourite of mine, Cloak and Dagger.

So as such, I shall review Cloak and Dagger Vol. 2 #1 from July of 1985. The second volume only lasted eleven issues, as it followed from a four-issue limited series. Bill Mantlo wrote both series, while Rick Leonardi penciled Volume 1, and up to issue four on Volume 2, only to have each issue after that drawn by different artists. Needless to say, this was to be Cloak and Daggers big break.

C&D1

The comic opens with the duo stopping a child sex-ring, which makes the story start pretty dark for characters who flew out of the Spider-Man comics. A battle ensues with the gang who steals the women, where Cloak and Dagger both put an end to the nonsense. They manage to hold off any death until the police arrive, and they head back to their home – The Holy Ghost Church – their sanctuary.

There, the Father believes Cloak is a bad influence on Dagger and believes he is persuading her in a life of crime. They discuss with the Father that they are runaways (it’s written in bold in the book and thus explaining their cameo in the Runaways series) and give a brief story about who they are, and explain how Cloak saved Dagger and they are a team.

While taking refuge in the church for a few days, Cloak inexplicably attacks church goers and makes them see their darkest fears. Dagger attacks back, believing Cloak must have been angry at the Father for his judgment. However, during the battle, two red eyes appear from the darkness making the reader assume Cloak has been possessed. Dagger, unknown to this, thinks Cloak is arrogant and leaves him, giving the reader the understanding that the duo is no more. So ends the comic.

Cloak and Dagger #1 is dark and gritty – exactly how the duo are upon facing crime. They are misunderstood and believe in high-morals, fighting for what’s right while still dealing with their own demons. The first issue really emphasized the image of C&D, especially with inker Terry Austin at the helm giving us the looks of a grungy city.

Story-wise, it ended weak with Dagger being almost ridiculous with her reaction to Cloak. It seemed like something out of Degrassi. However, that lull at the end does not overshadow the true nature of the comic throughout. It was unfortunate that the series only lasted eleven issues. Although the two were back for Volume 3 in the late 80’s, their run only lasted nineteen issues and left the duo to guest star in comics from there on out.

They had been most recently seen in the Uncanny X-Men storyline during the Dark Reign saga under the belief that they were mutants. However, in the Cloak and Dagger one-shot released after Siege, the two discovered they were not mutants and went back out into the wild to find their place in the world. Apparently that may be seen in television next.

Grade: 7.5/10

As for the rest of the comics, I wanted to review three this week which I found were unbelievably awesome: New Mutants #18, Chaos War #2, and Kick-Ass 2 #1.

New Mutants as of late, have been trying to get some R&R post-Second Coming, but unfortunately they’ve been pulled into limbo and are fighting government-bred mutants over the life of Illyana.

NewMutants18

Written by Zeb Wells and drawn by my favourite local artist, Leonard Kirk, New Mutants #18 was a blast. Literally. The entire issue was dedicated to fighting for Illyana’s life – the New Mutants versus the government mutants. Each page splashed with colour of explosions and drama.

But what really makes this comic exceptional is Wells’ work on individual characters, such as the government mutants, mixed in with Kirk’s take on how to explain with art. For example, Cannonball flies towards a government mutant named Toko at full speed only to be repelled back instantly. What’s Toko’s power? Who is she? We can only see what is given to us, and it’s done so beautifully. When you take in the wonderful mix of bright red and orange colours, you get incredible contrasts which usually are not found in many comics today.

This comic was a pleasant surprise despite being all-action. Story is told through the little dialogue, but pushes enough through so someone picking up the series for the first time would not be lost. Over all, a great read.

Grade: 8/10

Now I feel bad for bashing Chaos War #1 two weeks ago. Pak and Van Lente definitely kicked butt with this comic. Keeping the plot line brief: the world is doomed and no hero is left to help but gods themselves.

ChaosWar2

All superheros/people in the world have been put into a coma by the Chaos King. Planes crash, people “die,” but are not really dead because the underworld is being turned upside-down. It’s a long story.

We see the underworld get turned into a crap-storm as characters such as Ares, Zeus, Banshee, The Abomination, and more, are summoned as dead heroes by Pluto (Lord of the Dead) stating he will set them free if they fight for him against the Chaos King. Immediately we see Zeus slain by the Chaos King, showing that in death, one can still die.

Hercules feeling his fathers death, realizes he needs to set up a team to defeat the Chaos King. Of all things, ETERNITY, is summoned from Hercules. If you don’t know who Eternity is, take the strongest thing in the universe and put it into this guy. Regardless, Hercules wants help, and Eternity says he cannot give it as the Chaos King is an Anti-God, Eternity’s opposite, and cannot fight him as it would be like fighting himself.

So lost, Herc calls upon some strong friends: Amadeus Cho, Venus, and Thor are already there, so he calls upon Sersi of the Eternals, followed by Galactus and the Silver Surfer, making them the God Squad.

It’s really a page-by-page, jaw-dropping comic. Beautiful art again by Pham shows us the immensity of the other worlds. Fire and brimstone trickle the battle fields and Hela’s appearance at Hades with her army really shows the immensity of this battle about to explode. Although the first comic failed to impress, sticking around really showed me wrong.

Grade: 9/10

And alas, the inevitable Kick-Ass 2, #1. Still written by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita Jr., I can see where Romita Jr. put all his attention when he was drawing the Avengers comics. We get to see his great art again!

Taking off from the hit-comic-series-turned-movie, Kick-Ass is back, and kick-assier than ever! The comic kicks-off pretty much how the first comic ended, and we see Hit-Girl training Kick-Ass to be a better fighter. Although it doesn’t explain it, it seems like awhile has passed since the first comic.

KickAss21

I say that because shortly after training, we see our hero Kick-Ass, or Dave Lizewski, meeting up with another hero, Doctor Gravity. They walk the street and are approached by a gang – which in turn, they fight, split up, and meet up again at a underground lair where other superheroes have joined together, calling themselves Justice Forever. Superheroes are becoming a norm it seems.

Mindy is also battling her new dad, Marcus, about being a superhero. She is hiding it from him, but being a detective, he knows she’s lying. So she’s banned herself from being Hit-Girl as she promises Marcus she will not do it anymore.

Also, much like in the first comic, we get a small flash-forward to what is to come – Red Mist’s super villain army versus Kick-Ass’s superhero army in the middle of the streets. So we know what’s to come.

Over all, there’s no real threat aside from what was teased to us earlier in the issue. It is also hinted that Red Mist is gathering villains, but it is not really explained how it is known. We also see that someone Kick-Ass knows is brain-damaged, while his house is also blown up. I’m not a big fan of spoilers, but it seems as if we are given a bit too much information too early on. I already feel like I know the ending before the story began.

However! Kick-Ass 2 is, so far, a lot better than the first series. I enjoyed the first series greatly, but I suppose with already established characters, I feel connected to these people a lot more. It also seemed a bit darker – which Millar was going for – but I only got that feeling when he gave us a hint of what will happen, rather than what is happening. Mix the forward-moving story with great art finally coming out of JRJR, I have to say, Kick-Ass 2 did not disappoint!

Grade: 7.5/10

I also think this is an interesting read: Click here to read it. It’s the blog from the person who won the bid for lunch with Joe Quesada. The proceeds went to charity, The Hero Initiative, and he got a great day out of it! What really stands out is that he has the same views I have with breaking into the comics industry: the feeling of getting closer to the dream with each step you take.

And on a heavier, unrelated note, I had the KFC Double-Down the yesterday. Do not believe the hype. Although it may be two patties of chicken which replaces bread, the sandwich itself is no bigger than the palm of my hand. I had it down in four bites and it does not fill you what-so-ever. Is it worth the bragging rights? I don’t even know anymore. But I felt fine after eating it!

Until then, keep on Space Truckin’!

The Black Widow Wins!

Black Widow #6
I believe it definitely has been an awesome week for comics. One thing is that Black Widow #6 stole the spotlight with a new run by Duane Swierczynski and Manuel Garcia. It’s rare for a mystery story to stand out like how this one did.

For far-too long, Marvel has thrown Black Widow as a partial character. Sure, she’s had her few individual stories, such as Homecoming, or more recently, Deadly Origin – but now with her own monthly series, she’s finally getting the credit she deserves.

This, of course, goes along side of Marvel’s Women of Marvel push for the past year.

Regardless, this new arc is fantastic, and a must-read. Fortunately, you do not need to read the prior five issues to play catch up so new readers are welcome to join right in.

In a nutshell, Black Widow faces two foes – one foe trying to kill the other, and one of which Black Widow must save! To top it all off, Black Widow is being framed and the issue ends with a nail-biting conclusion! It’s just a great introduction to an arc.

Grade: 8/10

Along with this week, I was given a great surprise. Avengers #5 by Brian M. Bendis and John Romita Jr. picked up from – what I have thought to be – a lack-luster start for a major-title.

Avengers #5
However, it was not until this issue did things start coming together. There was an actual story to this book. No more quick cuts and fast-paced panels with mindless action. In Avengers #5, we actually get a story with character development which has been lacking from previous issues. We get a story which incorporates a large part of the Marvel U (a nice bonus). And most importantly: we get our characters back. Iron Man is no longer a rushed, fast-talking, over-zealous person. He’s (relatively) back to normal. Spider-Man and Hawkeye are now separated as two individuals – as Hawkeye steps aside and shows emotion for Mockingbird’s well-being. Thor gets a wonderful scene battling Galactus in probably Romita’s best-drawn-moment since the comic’s inception.

Needless to say, I’m glad the comic was picking up finally. I was going to stick around until the Red Hulk and Illuminati issues were released to pray it got back on course. It seems with Avengers #5, we may actually get a great series of comics ahead of us.

Grade: 7/10

My other two comics from my pull-list this week were Uncanny X-Men #528 by Matt Fraction and Whilce Portacio, and Ed Brubaker’s take on Secret Avengers #5, with new-to-series artists David Aja and Michael Lark.

Both comics were transitional stories with not much action, but developments in characters and their history – mainly Emma Frost and Nick Fury, respectively. I, unfortunately, can’t review every comic in great detail – unless you want me to! Sound off below?

But first, check out some other blogs I’ve stumbled upon – comic related, of course.

Joe Shuster Awards – Comic Awards – involving one-Leonard Kirk.
ComicBookGrrl – A well thought-out blog about the nature of comics.
TechLand – News and goodies about comics.
Weekly Comic Book Review – Weekly. . . comic. . . book. . . reviews.

Oh! And I just scanned this!

Stan Lee and Me!

Until then, keep on Space Truckin’.