Review: Secret Avengers #25

Secret Avengers

Secret Avengers #25
Rick Remender (writer), Gabriel Hardman (pencils, inks), Bettie Breitweiser (colours), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Arthur Adams & Peter Steigerwald (cover). $3.99

Rick Remender’s current story line to Secret Avengers comes to a conclusion with some major surprises along the way, leaving us begging for the next issue.

Featuring a full-scale battle against robotic clones of Avengers – both old and new – Remender’s Secret Avengers team featuring new leader Hawkeye brings thrills and some life-changing moments.

Remender lets every Avenger get some time to shine throughout the story: from the sudden resurrection of Ant-Man getting some butt-kicking scenes, to the Human Torch leaving the story with a frightening conclusion; no one character outshines another. Everyone has a voice in the book and much like in Uncanny X-Force, Remender finds a way to give the story a perfect balance of characterization.

What can definitely be taken away from this book is how well Remender turns around our opinions of Ant-Man’s sudden return. Much like how people are beginning to feel about the recent amount of deaths in comics only-to-come-back issues later, the previous issues final page showing Eric O’Grady’s death followed by his reappearance one issue later flustered me beyond belief. How could Remender do something so ridiculous like bringing back a character one issue later? To leave spoilers out of it, the final pages of this issue make you realize that the author always has something up his sleeve.

To make the already great story even better, artist Gabriel Hardman really kicks it up with some fast-paced noir-style action in this issue. Punches are thrown, explosions are had, and beat up bodies scour each page with deep inks and colours. It took a few issues for me to realize it, but for a secret ops book, the art style matches the story perfectly. Panels are scary when necessary while lines are crisp and intense. Hardman really hits the nail on the head with this issue with very clean storytelling and even cleaner visuals.

Nothing could be done without Bettie Breitweiser’s colours, however. The balance of colours when people like The Human Torch fly across the panels, or a various city landscapes with varying blues and street lights give depth – all of it adds to the noir-style that Hardman creates. Breitweiser should stick to Hardman like how Dean White does with Opena, Brooks, and Ribic on Uncanny X-Force. (Jeez, I can’t get enough Remender, can I?)

With the arc coming to a close and Avengers versus X-Men now rearing its crossover head, I’m sure we’ll have a lot more excitement in-store for the stealthy Avengers.

Grade: 8/10

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Review: Secret Avengers #23

I haven’t done one of these in a long time! Time has flown by!

In Secret Avengers, as seen by the cover – Venom joins the team. Oh, and by the way, Venom is now Peter Parker’s old high school colleague Flash Thompson. I’ll admit, I haven’t been catching up with my Spider-Man lore at all. When I saw Flash Thompson for the first time in years, I couldn’t believe he was missing his legs. He lost them due to fighting in the Iraq War. I had no idea Marvel went down that route at all. Kudos to them.

Secret Avengers

Secret Avengers #23
Rick Remender (writer), Gabriel Hardman (pencils, inks), Bettie Breitweiser (colours), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Arthur Adams & Peter Stiegerwald (cover). $3.99

The last time I can recall reading a story with so much intensity due to dialogue was Fred Van Lente’s Taskmaster mini-series. Writer Rick Remender does such an incredible job at giving everyone important moments and nails every voice along the way. I’ve always been iffy with Hawkeye because I find writers never know what to do with him. He’s either too much of a jerk or a complete goof. Remender nails the character and even gives subtle hints to why the character is that way. The same goes for Ant-Man. I was wondering why Warren Ellis just forgot about the character during his brief stint in the series. Turns out Remender had something special planned with his characterization.

The story moves on a very strong pace. Nothing is filler and everything is useful. Reading through the book, I felt as if Remender overdid himself with the story – there is just that much happening all of the time in the book. The conversations that need to be had are said. This is a solid story.

Art by Gabriel Hardman is also exceptional. The wonderful noir feeling throughout the whole issue is completely tasteful to the changing scenery. From the view of the Lighthouse in space, to a hospital scene, to another world and a gritty city – the transitions are flawless in his storytelling capabilities.

But what I must point out is how incredible Bettie Breitweiser’s colouring job is. Hands-down, the colours are the best thing about the story. Images truly come alive with Breitweiser’s great work on tones and highlights. Looking at the light pollution from the city gives so much more life to the buildings, while the transitions onto the final few pages carries the same energy to the climactic cliffhanger. Facial features are accented beautifully, and nothing is ever overdone. Dean White has a run for his money with Breitweiser on the prowl.

Criticizing the story however, I find that Remender is trying to buff his team up with as much “awesome” as possible. Last issue Captain Britan joined, while in this issue, both Jim Hammond (The Human Torch) and Venom have jumped on-board. While I do not mind the great variety of the series, I found that the previous writers: Ellis, Spencer, and Brubaker, couldn’t incorporate everyone into the story because it was stretching itself on the cast. Remender was able to give mostly everyone a voice, but the larger cast will certainly leave some heroes out of place.

While currently Remender is keeping a fine job with the cast on Uncanny X-Force (and passing characters off to Jason Aaron), I’d just hope Remender can keep doing stories like #23 – fully encapsulating and balanced enough for everyone to have a say.

Grade: 8.5/10

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Quick Reviews of Wedneday’s Comics – 10/27/11

This weeks pull-list for me was just filled with awesome comics. Two by Jason Aaron, two by Abnett & Lanning – other stories by Warren Ellis, Nick Spencer, James Asmus, Jonathan Hickman – art by Emma Rios, Chris Bachalo, Marc Silvestri – Gah! It’s an excellent overload! I don’t have time to fully review every single issue, so let me just tell you what was so awesome about each one!

Wolverine and the X-Men #1
Jason Aaron (writer), Chris Bachalo (pencils, colours, cover), Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza & Al Vey (inks), Rob Steen (letters). $3.99
Wolverine and the X-Men

Who wasn’t looking forward to this? The over-sized first-issue delivers an exciting look at how the new school is ran and the who’s-who with faculty. Aaron sets up this book with extreme care as readers get not only an idea about the school, but who the villains will be throughout the series. Making things even better is Chris Bachalo’s glorious art and inking team. Over-exaggerated bodies really only work in Bachalo’s world because he does them so. . . right. The story is stuffed with extra goodies too. An enrollment chart to see all of the characters in the story along with a Class List breakdown makes this the perfect jumping on book for any comic fan. I mean, who gives you a character guide to a first issue? So quickly grab Wolverine and the X-Men now, and join us at the Jean Grey School For Higher Learning.
Grade: 9/10

New Mutants #32
Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (writers), David Lafuente & Robi Rodriguez (pencils, inks) Val Staples & SotoColor (colours), Joe Caramanga (letters), Jason Pearson (cover). $2.99
Unlike the parent title “Fear Itself,” we actually get to see the New Mutants fight with enchanted armor! Seeing Warlock run amok in Hel was a blast. To top it all off, Nate Grey saves the day in one of the most coolest ideas I’ve seen in recent New Mutant storylines. For $2.99, Abnett and Lanning shake up the status of the New Mutants pretty deeply. I’m really excited to see what will happen with Magma. . .
Grade: 7/10

Cloak & Dagger – Spider Island #3 of 3
Nick Spencer (writer), Emma Rios (pencils, inks) Alvaro Lopez (inks), Javier Rodriguez (colours), Joe Caramanga (letters), Emma Rios & Jose Villarrubia (cover). $2.99
Cloak and Dagger

Two words: Emma Rios. What an exciting end to Cloak & Dagger’s mini with Rios at the helm. Can this woman do no wrong? Her creative team working with her are too – flawless. To top it all off, Spencer threw readers for a loop with an incredible ending to the crime fighting duo. My main beef with is was that even from the get-go, I wasn’t entirely sure what Mr. Negative’s motives were. Maybe I had to pick up the rest of Spider Island to understand it. Regardless, one should not have to go out and buy five other books to understand a mini series (if that is even the case). However, I beg that Cloak & Dagger turns into a monthly series. Rios, of course, must be on board. Now go out and BUY THIS BOOK!
Grade: 8.5/10

FF #11
Jonathan Hickman (writer), Barry Kitson (pencils, inks) Paul Mounts (colours), Clayton Cowles (letters), Steve Epting (cover). $2.99
So comes the Kree armies upon Earth! What’s most exciting is that the FF are not alone in fighting them. Yes, the Avengers are with them to save the day. The Kree army, led by Ronan the Accuser, also brings back a particular Kree whom I haven’t seen alive in quite some time (And no, it’s not Mar-Vel). While Kitson kicks butt in the art department, I cannot feel bored with his backgrounds. The man has talent – I just wished he used a ton more of it! Oh, and this story will continue in Fantastic Four #600.
Grade: 6/10

Astonishing X-Men #43
James Asmus (writer), David Yardin, Normal Lee & Rachelle Rosenberg (art), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (digital art), Joe Caramanga (letters), Arthur Adams & Jim Charalampidis (cover). $3.99
As a one-shot story featuring Emma Frost and Danger, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. Turns out the story is just as interesting as the concept of the duo. Danger wants to feel human and finds something calling for her on the Secret Avengers Quincarrier. Naturally, stuff goes wrong. Fortunately, Beast shows up and while things go wrong, Emma and Beast shoot one-liners throughout the rest of the story to help pick things up from interesting to a little bit better.
Grade: 5/10

Secret Avengers #18
Warren Ellis (writer), David Aja & Raul Allen (artists), David Lanphear (letters), John Cassaday & Paul Mounts (cover). $3.99
Secret Avengers

These one-shot issues by Ellis are an absolute blast. Featuring Steve Rodgers, Sharon Carter and Shang-Chi, we get three spies in a world full of trouble. Aja & Allen’s work recreates a stair-world like M. C. Escher and fully makes our heroes utilize the complexity of it. Needless to say, it makes the story that much more fun to read. As always, Ellis’ conclusion has me in stitches. If Secret Avengers keeps up like this, I hope the rest of the comic world would catch on. These are so much fun to read! (All aside, the cover for the issue is the worst one of the week. For the longest time, I thought that was Elektra).
Grade: 9/10

Annihilators: Earthfall #2 of 4
Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (writers), Tan Eng Huat (pencils), Andrew Hennessy (inks), Wil Quintana (colours), Joe Caramanga (letters), John Tyler Christopher (cover). $3.99
What’s more exciting that the Universes’ Mightiest Heroes in an all-out war? How about the Universes’ Mightiest Heroes versus Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? Yes, The Annihilators versus The Avengers happens in this issue – and it doesn’t disappoint. Little quibbles from Ronan to Ms. Marvel, “You are a disgrace to the name Mar-Vel,” and Beta Ray Bill versus Red Hulk make this an excellent story to read. Pacing is tremendously good, while the story itself is mostly just fighting. Like I said, the book delivers exactly what it said it would. My beef is with Eng Huat’s faces, where sometimes they’re spot on. Other times, not-so-much. On the first splash page, how old does Captain America look? And what is Thing “feeling?” Case-in-point. Rocket Raccoon and Groot get their second story too – exciting pacing with Mojo acting as a villain? I’m down.
Grade: 8/10

The Incredible Hulk #1
Jason Aaron (writer), Marc Silvestri (pencils) Michael Broussard (pencil assists), Joe Weems, Rick Basaldua & Sal Regla (inks), Sunny Gho (colours), Ed Dukeshire (letters), Marc Silvestri, Joe Weems & Sunny Gho (cover). $3.99
Incredible Hulk

I wasn’t looking forward for another Hulk reboot. I loved Pak’s run. Who could take Pak’s place? Enter Jason Aaron. What an wonderful thrill ride with an awesome twist-ending. To make things even better, Silvestri is absolutely, brilliantly, astounding. This book is gorgeous from cover to back. The amount of time and detail put into this issue is anything less than astonishing. It’s like, jaw-droppingly good. After being skeptical picking up a rebooted first issue, I’m definitely on-board for the rest of the ride.
Grade: 10/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Fail-Blog

I definitely will not be able to post a blog until next Friday (November 5th).
So to keep things short:
New Captain America photos here.

And as for quick comic reviews this week: Incredible Hulks #615 was my top pick for great story telling.
X-Men: Curse of the Mutants – X-Men vs. Vampires #2 was filled with boring stories and one involving the making fun of obese people. It was a pretty big fail.
Uncanny X-Men finally is dropping their bazillion side-stories, and sticking to just one as Generation Hope is coming out next week.
X-Men: Legacy ended with a dud.
Secret Avengers and Black Widow, however, picked up the slack with great dialogue and power story.

Lame reviews, I know, I’m sorry.
Until next week though, folks!

Hulk, X-Men, and Vampires

Sorry about the delay, folks. Yesterday’s comics were pretty good. Black Cat’s limited series finally concluded (and with a decent plot), while Incredible Hulks rampages on in issue #614 – fighting the Secret Avengers, while X-Men #4 battles on with the vampires. I also picked up Tick’s Edlund Epic #5 and #6, but they are comics from the 80’s reprinted in colour (and may eventually appear in my “classic reviews”), while I also picked up Shadowland #4. Unfortunately, I’m still lacking Shadowland #3, so I refuse to read on until I grab that. Damn lack of second-printing! New Avengers #5 also was released and is shaping up to be a decent story.

So this week we have two great books to go under the knife. Hulks and X-Men.

Incredible Hulks #614 – written by Planet Hulk/World War Hulk great, Greg Pak, featuring art from Barry Kitson. This run has been called the “Dark Son” series, and we’re on part three of six. In a nutshell, Hulk has another son – Skaar’s twin brother who has more of the Old Power than Skaar does. Pretty much, his new son, named Hiro-Kala, wants to destroy the remaining Old Power (so Skaar – and despite him having the Old Power himself – which is addressed in IH #613) so he’s sending his planet, K’ai, towards Earth to destroy it.

Hulks614

If that wasn’t bad enough, the government missiles and weapons aren’t doing any damage to the oncoming assault. The government decides to send up thousands of soldiers to fight it. Cut to Cape Canaveral, and the Hulks are on a rampage destroying tons of military equipment. The Secret Avengers jump in to fight off the Hulks until Black Widow and Beast show up with a gun which could teleport the Hulks into the Negative Zone instantly. So yes, the Hulks surrender and talk to Steve Roger’s about why they were damaging everything.

Hulk tells him that the government would just be sending soldier’s to their death, so they had to destroy all the equipment so people would not go up in space. Plus, it would create jobs for the economy. Really, they mention that.

After deliberation, both Rogers and the President allow the Hulks to go into space – via the Stone Flagship used to bombard Earth during World War Hulk! The final panel, the President is shown saying, “God help us. . . the Hulks are running the show now.”

If you have been reading Hulk, this definitely was a “wow” for me. It was such a great feeling seeing the Stone Flagship rise out of the ground. Of course, the comic made the event seem much more epic than how I described it.

I love Pak’s writing. Ever since he’s been attached to the Hulk, I’ve tried to read everything he’s done. He literally is responsible for turning the Hulk into such a great character – in my eyes. As for story, we really get to see the power of the planet K’ai in this issue and see that it can wipe-out quite a bit. On top of that, we get half the story of the Hulks smashing. Full-spreads of damage, plus Kitson’s take on the Secret Avengers. It’s great to see them in such a different light – literally – than Dedato’s drawings. I find Beast looking a lot more menacing, while Valkyrie and Rogers share a lot of the spotlight. Bright blue colours of the characters against a red skyline for most of the comic contrast very well.

Needless to say, this story was not only fast-paced, we get information about how the world would have reacted against K’ai, plus the intervention of other heroes with the Hulk. Quite frankly, this was a great surprise following two issues of character build-up. The Incredible Hulk’s story, plus a bonus-story at the end between Bruce and Skaar really place the $3.99 price tag at a great value, with a fantastic story.

Grade: 9/10

X-Men #4 is a continuation with the Curse of the Mutants storyline where the X-Men are against vampires. To summarize quickly, the vampires want the X-Men to become vampires so that their race can be the most power ever with mutants on their side. They argue that vampires are like mutants – shunned from society. Since the mutants are now at an all-time low-number, the vampires feel it best to strike now.

Xmen4

And as you can see from this GORGEOUS cover by Adi Granov, yes Wolverine became a vampire and is on their side now. You’re all probably like, “but his healing factor would’ve fought that.” And you’re absolutely right. It’s how Wolverine did not become a Brood, or ever hold a virus for long in his body. Well, from a FanExpo Canada panel back in August, C.B. Cebulski mentioned that it would be explained in the comic. However not in X-Men #3 or #4 where Wolverine is a vampire, so I’m still waiting.

The story, by Victor Gischler, with art by Paco Medina, is mostly Wolverine/Cyclops-focused. There’s a small subplot of Blade and Angel/Archangel searching for vampires and finding them – only to run away immediately, while the rest of the story is done through video intercom. Yup. Never judge a book by its cover.

Wolverine brags how great it is being a vampire and he explains how he feels being one. Dr. Nemesis cannot figure out a cure to vampirism, and Cyclops calls Xarus (lord of the vampires who killed Dracula and became the leader), and tries to persuade Xarus that the X-Men will fight. Xarus brags some more (as it seems vampires do a lot), and shows off both Jubilee and Wolverine both turned into vampires. They both brag how great it is and ask Scott to join. Of course, he refuses and Xarus wants to bring the fight to them.

The only really exciting moment is seeing the final panel of an army of vampires which will be led by Wolverine in the next issue to attack the X-Men.

If my review sounded boring and drab to you, that’s how the comic was too. I apologize for it. I’m sure Gischler would not. What I cannot knock is Medina’s art. Great use of panels shows us the action split between words. For example, Cyclops describes fighting vampires on one page. Within said page, we get three different panels of action in different parts of the city, featuring Colossus, Pixie, Rogue, Storm, Psylocke and Gambit. All of that is broken up by Cyclops’ sentences. It’s done extremely well, and each page tells its own story. Angel and Blade’s stumbling upon a vampire lair also spreads a full page of them pretty much overwhelmed by vampires. Pages like those, with beautiful dark colours by Marte Gracia, give this Curse of the Mutants plot a grim feeling.

However, given a lot of action is done in dialogue buffed up between two egos, it really dwindles the story. It’s like watching school children say, “I’m better because of this,” “Oh yeah? Well I’m better!” Only somehow this involves the leaders of X-Men and vampires. What a battle!

Grade: 6/10

In other news, the Spider-Man movie villain has been discovered as the Lizard, played by Rhys Ifans. Also, congratulations goes out to Christopher Hastings, and Anthony Clark, writer, drawer, and colourist to the web comic Dr. McNinja. Their recent Volume 4 has been picked up by Darkhorse Comics! Once again, this goes to show you that persistence in the art universe is key!

We’ll see what tomorrow will bring with my classic comics! 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’.