The Amazing Spider-Man #673

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All good things, scratch that. All mediocre things must come to an end and we finally reach our end destination in the Spider Island story. To date I have been pretty critical but what would be the point if I just gushed over how amazing everything I read was? If people were honest, they would find something to critique in anything. And let’s not forget that most critiques involve purely subjective opinions. When I’ve written work and given it to others for their opinion, I realized that their opinion was simply what I was going to get. Said opinion may show me an insight to the story that I did not consider which would cause me to make changes to better reflect the new idea. Said opinion may have no bearing on the story whatsoever so I promptly discard it. Unless we’re talking about break the rules of modern English, grammar or spelling mistakes, how people create a story will be unique to each person. Add on to that an artist and the other members of the creative team and you have a whole group of folks who have input on the story at hand, much more than a simple novelist who apart from friends will have to deal with an editor and maybe an agent depending on how far along they are in their career.

So the epilogue to Spider Island, what did I think of it? Rushed would be a term that comes to mind. There were a number of elements that were still unresolved up to this point like the location of Carlie, Mary Jane still having the sickness, Kaine still being around, and the aftermath of the plague which were briefly resolved but not to any real satisfaction. The aftermath alone takes up all of three pages and the writer is more eager to whip out double entendres than going into any detail as to what it was like for so many people to get sick like that. Of course they’re not going to be able to do personal stories on each and every person but I really think there was a chance here to explore some of the human tragedy that most likely happened. How do I know this you may ask? Look at how J. Jonah Jameson almost killed a guy when the sickness transformed him. You cannot tell me that this was the only isolated case where that happened. Maybe they’re didn’t need much explanation but I do think they could have had a little more emotion than glibness and embarrassment over being suddenly naked.

Peter Parker apparently cares so much about Carlie that he promptly forgot about her the moment she turned into a spider. Once everyone was well he had time to go see his Aunt off at the airport and swing through town before heading home. Once he gets home, Carlie splits with him. She ends up revealing that duh, she knew he was Spider-Man. Seems the fact that once he claimed he was sick with the disease he suddenly know some kick ass karate while everyone else had to struggle a bit kind of blew his cover, even though like the old Lois Lane not knowing Clark Kent is Superman deal, you have to wonder what the hell is wrong with anyone that is close to Peter who he saves on a consistent basis doesn’t know he is Spider-Man. You would think that he would try changing his voice like Christian Bale did for the Batman movies but he’s always presented as talking just like himself. I don’t blame the writer for this one. It is a logic flaw in the character that’s never really been explored. We do have a bit of a back story of Doctor Strange putting a one time hex on everyone so they would not know that Peter is Spider-Man unless he reveals himself. But Peter is so careless with letting others know who he is despite his protestations otherwise that it amazes me that some inquiring reporter would not have been able to track him down. In the real world, much like Phoenix Jones in Seattle, there would come a time where the hero would make a mistake and be caught, having his identity revealed. Or someone would spot him and just follow him. He swings through the air. He may go at a decent clip but with the right vehicle you should be able to get an idea where his base is. But I digress.

The artwork was much better in this issue. What really stands out is the scene where Carlie splits up with Peter. That last shot where she has left the room and he’s standing there alone, we have a glimpse from above which just magnifies the sadness which is great. Despite not being in the story much, she was in enough that I ended up liking her. Yeah, Peter and Mary Jane are meant to be together which is why Peter screws this up but you feel bad for Carlie here because I get the impression that she really would have dug it if Peter had revealed the truth to her.

Bottom Line:

Spider Island has its flaws but it is still one hell of a read. I wish more time was given to some of the main characters in the story instead of spreading the available story so thin with sub plot after subplot. If they really wanted to focus on certain side characters, they should have given those characters free reign in other supplemental issues and not included them at all in this story. For the Venom subplot, if you took it out of the Spider-Man issue and simply left it all in the Venom comics, nothing would change. We’d still get a pretty decent story of a guy dealing with his past while juggling the responsibilities of the present. But tossing him into the main story just took away from time that could have been spent expanding the main story.

The Amazing Spider-Man #667

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First off, FUCK YEAH! In two minutes, they’ve done more to make me excited for this film than all the efforts of DC to get me happy for Batman vs. Superman. Well done. And perfectly made. It has enough to give you an idea of what is generally going on but doesn’t give so much away like the Titanic trailer did back in the day that it ended up telling the whole story. Off to the review.

The Spider Island story continues where the last issue leaves off where Peter’s girlfriend lets him know her secret, that she has spider powers. The story to this point has been pretty slow but in a good way. Not slow to the point where you’re wondering why the hell you’re reading the comic, slow in the sense that the story is building up, giving the characters enough chance to breath, grow, react to events around them. Too often in stories today, whether they be in comics, movies, books, etc., you see little to no characterization. No chance for characters to establish themselves for the reader in this case. You have no reason to care for them as they’re suddenly thrown into a torrent of action that has no tension because you could care less about what it happening to the people on the page.

I really like the relationship between Carlie and Peter. While there admittedly isn’t much time spent on their relationship this issue, their time together seems natural. It’s like being on the bus and seeing an old married couple board, sit next to each other, and start talking. There’s a familiarity between people that have been together for a while that you can’t just replicate unless you’ve been in a relationship yourself.

Madam Web annoys me. So far I hate her. She’s a telepath and knows everything that happens in the future and does everything she can to make sure people know this. More time is spent on her telling everyone that she knows what is going to happen than actually showing us what her purpose in the story is. The idea of the character is certainly intriguing and I reserve the right to change my opinion of her later in the story but now, she’s more annoying than anything as well as a hindrance to people that want to actually do something. Either have her contribute or stay the hell out of the story until you have something to do.

With everyone dressed like Spider-Man wreaking havoc in New York it is understandable that The Avengers would mistake Peter for one of the bad guys. This goes towards one point I have had a contention with in the Marvel Universe and that is the fact that some of the heroes will not reveal their identity for the life of them. You would think that for a situation just like this they’d have some sort of safe word or something that would let the other heroes know who they are. The chance of mistaken identity would be too great and the chance of a good guy doing something bad would be something I would think they would want to prevent. Why would they not want to tell each other their identities if they work with each other so closely?

The art in the story just threw me off. As I have said before I am not a fan of anime. It’s just not my tastes. I’m not someone who thinks that just because I don’t like something that it must be universally bad. I get that a lot of folks worldwide love and appreciate anime and everything it offers. I prefer art that’s more realistic. Sometimes I can take silly like Daniel Aruda’s work on Holy F*ck and Holy F*cked. That art is simplistic but it helps elevate the silliness of the story involved. In this issue, the art just takes away any emotion you could have felt and just makes the characters look grotesque. Mayor Jameson looks like a Play-Do figure that’s been put in the microware and cooked on high for twenty minutes. Just bad.

Bottom Line:

This is a nice piece of the Spider-Island puzzle. Unlike The Korvac Saga and Secret Invasion, the story is coming along slow but nice. It is coming along at a realistic pace. Along with the realistic relationships and characterization we’ve seen to date I am really enjoying what is happening so far. We’ve dived into the deep end here and the writer has made sure we’re swimming along quite nice. I am not a fan of the art so far but objectively speaking, I have seen much worse so there is not much to really complain about. You would do well to check out this comic.

The Amazing Spider-Man #666

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Another day in the life of Peter Park starts out with him swinging through town contemplating how life has changed for him. I liked how it goes back over his history of how he would inadvertently stumble onto a crime scene or have a crime fall into his lap. You get a sense of the history of the character without having to have a PhD in Spider-Man history. He hears a call of a robbery in progress and proceeds to the scene where two robbers are fleeing a local shop. He takes care of them in due order with his usual quips. The police arrive and thank him for his work.

One of the cops mentioned ol’ Flat Top cutting the budget for the police since Spider-Man is taking care of crime in town. Turns out the Flat Top he was talking about was J. Jonah Jameson himself, the Mayor of New York. Seems the Mayor is seeing his poll numbers plummet because he is using city finances toward a Spider-Man task force which the general public doesn’t like. Then he has the nerve to complain about The Daily Bugle calling him out for doing this, once again blaming Spider-Man for all his troubles. I get that JJJ is a bit of a one note character. There are some shades to the character which can at times make him interesting but this was just too cliche. This was like how he was presented in Spider-Man 3, a joke. Whereas in the original Spider-Man movie, he’s a bombastic ass but he still does the right thing. We’ll probably get a little more JJJ in the story what with him being Mayor and all but this is not a good start for the character.

Next up we see Hydro-Man battling a trio of heroes, Gravity, Spider-Woman, and Firestar. Growing up a fan of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, I geeked out when I saw Firestar. Especially when she name dropped the show.

Anyway, Spider-Man makes quick work of Hydro-Man by using a special freezing device he made up at his job at Horizon Laboratories. Then it’s off to work where he showcases the freezing device to his co-workers who congratulate him. I found his female co-worker quite annoying. I am sure there are animal activists who would freak out over the well being of earthworms but man are they annoying as all hell. Reminds me of an episode of The Howard Stern Show where he got two female members of PETA to make out with each when he threatened to kill some bugs or something. Just stupid. Priorities people.

Next, we have Peter Parker’s girlfriend Carlie calling him to speak with him. I never knew this character existed before reading this issue but I liked how someone in my position doesn’t feel like her character is wedged into the story. I don’t know her history but she feels like she belongs which is a good job from the writer. When Peter inquires as to what she would want to talk about, we see one of the criminals that he had webbed up earlier break free from the webs, which one of the cops mentions that that is something even Rhino could not do. The bugs have bit a lot of people…including Carlie who takes down the criminal with a clothesline John Bradshaw Layfield from the WWE would be proud of.

After the phone call Peter is walking, oblivious to everything around him when a bus barrels down on him. Phil Urich and Norah Winters pull him to safety. Thanks to an editor’s note, we discover that Peter lost his spider sense. I have no problem with editor’s notes but one annoyance with this issue is that it seems every other panel had an editor’s note. I am all for filling in the reader on events they may not have read but when they become obnoxious like this issue, you have to ask yourself whether there was another way for the writer to talk about past events without annoying the reader. I did enjoy the panel where Phil gets pissed at a comment Peter made and you see the image of Phil’s alter ego, Hobgoblin. It was an amazing way to show the character having a dark side without making them rattle off a monologue.

We have a quick little scene of Jay and May Jameson in a hotel. It’s a quick way to show that the bed bugs making everyone like Spider-Man. It’s a nice tease towards the disease spreading across the country.

The scene turns towards a criminal about to be attacked for not being able to pay a mobster. Just when two bad guys are about to break his knees, he breaks out with some spider moves and escapes. That is one thing I never liked about Spider-Man. I get that he gets the strength of a spider but nothing was ever said about him, or anyone else like him with similar powers, becoming a martial arts expert. Show the character taking a beating or two but overcoming the bad guys. Show them learning to fight over time, not breaking out the Bruce Lee gymnastics. Once he escapes he runs across The Jackal, Miles Warren, who invites him to a get together of like minded criminals. Something big is planned.

We get a quick scene at The Baxter Building where Reed Richards is sending Sue and others to The Negative Zone for their protection. I wasn’t sure why they were being sent there. While I have to assume it has something to do with the bedbug outbreak, it could have had something to do with an event from a previous Fantastic Four issue that I am not aware. I have to dock points for this because I had no clue what the hell was going on. We did see Peter speak with Mary Jane on the phone. The Thing makes a funny comment to her on the phone. Nothing consequential but it’s a great little showcase of his character, how someone looking like a monster deep down is a lovable guy.

The next scene shows Flash Thompson as Venom fighting against agents of AIM. How or why he became Venom I don’t know. It’s not really explained, just presented as something we should already know. He’s talking to his girlfriend Betty Brant at the hospital where she is a patient. He’s telling her she needs to stay in bed but being a reporter, when she sees the emergency room filled with people who are freaked out they have spider powers, her eyes spread wide in happiness. This is a scene that will probably make more sense the further I get into the story but their inclusion made no sense. ‘Read the other comics,’ you might say. I shouldn’t have to. Not that I need to know the complete life history of every character. Some of the best stories are stories that throw you into the deep end and expect you to swim. Star Wars is a perfect example. For Episode 4, you’re suddenly involved in a fight between two sides that you don’t know anything about. Yet the movie does a great job of acclimating you to what is going on quickly. You care for the characters without quite knowing where they fit at first. Once you get used to the story you care for them even more. The only reason I knew about Flash Thompson and Betty Brant was their places in Spider-Man history. If I started reading Spider-Man with this issue I would not have known what was going on.

We go next to Avenger’s Mansion where Spider-Man is just finishing a hand in a poker game the team is playing. He leaves quickly to go to karate practice. Once there, Shang finally introduces him to Ms. Carpenter who is Madam Web. She tells Spider-Man that she can see into the future, knows what is going on, and knows he will help. But she wants him to prepare to kill if need be. Spider-Man says that will never happen. I didn’t really care for Madam Web. I get that she is a telepath and can see the future but the writer could have done a better job in having her give the exposition she is there to give. Anyway, Spider-Man takes off, being followed by strangers who are swinging through the air themselves. I get that Peter doesn’t have spider sense but he looks like a fool not seeing stuff like this. He arrives at his apartment with his girlfriend waiting for him, ready to tell him the fact that she has powers now.

The Jackal is arriving at a laboratory where some clones of himself are at work. He meets up with a strange woman who tells him about a new ‘plaything’ she made for him, a Peter Parker clone. The woman transforms the clone into a monster. It comes out of a tube, following her orders. She then alludes to an island of spiders. The last panel is great where we see average citizens flying in the sky like Spider-Man.

Bottom Line:

Another good read. While it is not as good as the previous issue, it does enough to advance the story for me to want to read more. It has its flaws, such as the over usage of editor’s notes and minor scenes with characters doing things we need a little more explanation for, but it is still a pretty good setup for future issues in the story. The artwork was pretty solid throughout, especially the little scenes like the image of the Hobgoblin when Phil was pissed at Peter for the quick retort. Peter was also a little too oblivious to events happening in the story that you would think anyone else would at least have raised an eye over. But overall, it’s a good start to a story, unlike the chaos that was The Korvac Saga. My how much a difference twenty years makes.

The Avengers #176

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Starhawk arrives at the mansion and asks Iron Man why he was summoned. Iron Man gives him the Cliff’s Notes version of the story so far and enlists his help. When he’s done telling the story, Starhawk says something that’s on the mind of everyone reading the story by saying he feels the ultimate bad guy in all this is Korvac but hey, for shits and giggles he’d be happy to help The Avengers. You would think that when a group arrives in the 20th Century claiming that an all powerful being has arrived in their time and is out to get someone that maybe someone in The Avengers would put two and two together and think about maybe seeing whether the threat the Guardians face could be the threat they are facing. You would think that would be someone that someone would consider but naw, not when there are city buses to destroy!

We cut to Moondragon who is contemplating events when she feels a disturbance and sets about getting the team together to tell them what she sensed. She witnesses Quicksilver and Hawkeye having an argument about Jocasta and The Vision. Moondragon zaps Quicksilver after he says something quite bigoted which causes him to get some clarity. You would think that someone who in the story is the offspring of one of the most notorious mutants alive would know a thing or two about bigotry of people that are different but what do I know? Then she walks in on Wonder Man and Black Panther having an argument about not being able to do anything. Then Thor busts through a wall as he and Hercules are fighting. Black Widow chews out Hercules which is so damn out of character for her. I could see her putting him in a choke hold but not talking to him like they were on the set of a daytime talk show.

So Moondragon gets everyone together only to tell them that she has to get ALL The Avengers to show up so she sends a message with her mind to the others who quickly arrive. Comics from this era were horrible in regards to a sense of time. It’s like the television show 24. When they needed to get a character from one side of one of the largest cities in America to the other, it would take all of ten minutes, sooner if they were on a chopper. The comics from this era were worse. They’d have characters travel great distances and the caption at the top of the next panel would be ‘Seconds Later…’ It is frustrating to see things like this because it takes you out of the story. When you’re shaking your head telling yourself that something is dumb, you’re not enjoying the story. There have been stories set in the most bizarre of locations and with the most unique characters. But if written well, you don’t notice it because you’re lost in that world. The writer here is his own worst enemy.

So after two pages of time killing filler, Moondragon has the grand plan of everyone putting the clues they found into a computer and have the computer give out the common denominator of everything. Good idea especially for a situation like this if everyone seems to be lost. But Iron Man has to be a dick here and assert his manhood to the woman who dared come up with an idea that could potentially solve their problem. He might as well have told her to help Jarvis do the dishes and have Black Widow do the laundry. He admittedly had no clue where the big bad guy was but when someone actually steps up with a possible solution, he does his best to show that he doesn’t like the fact that they stepped up with an opinion. What a great leader.

We cut to Michael Korvac sensing that Iron Man and the team are getting closer to sensing his presence. Korvac recounts how he killed and raised Starhawk back to life as well as removing the ability to sense him from Starhawk’s mind. What I question is, if he has the power that the comic is presenting, why would he be pretending to be just an average middle class joe in a suburb of New York? Wouldn’t he want to be moving around to different locations so that a team like The Avengers would not be able to do what they’re doing? Would Doctor Doom pretend to be an insurance salesman in Boise, Idaho in order to fulfill his evil schemes? Staying in one spot just screams of lazy writing. Especially when, after 11 issues to get us here, the team that are presented as so horribly in equipped to deal with a being of this magnitude so easily finds his location.

From there, the single dumbest scene I have ever read in comics occurs when the team head outside and after realizing they all can’t hop into a quinjet to get to Forrest Hills, they commandeer a city bus. Once they board, they mention that Tony Stark would pay for cabs for all of them which begs to question why the hell they couldn’t just call a bunch of cabs? And why wouldn’t one of the richest men alive have a fleet of cars at the ready that could take them where they needed to go? If Jay Fucking Leno can have an airplane hanger full of cars, Tony Stark has to have much more! The lack of logic in this scene is mind blowing. George Lucas after he wrote the prequel trilogy of Star Wars would say this was written horribly.

So they arrive. The residents worry for a moment about their homes being wrecked but than someone says that the team is probably there to open a 7-11. That puts great confidence in the reader. They find the house they were looking for, knock on the door, and are invited in by Michael Korvac himself who invites them in. They inspect the house, finding nothing. Tony Stark asks the psychics of the group to do a sweep and they find nothing. The only clue they have as to something being wrong is when Starhawk acts like the rest of them are cuckoo bananas because he doesn’t see Korvac. While you as the reader would assume that Korvac, when he mentioned that Starhawk would not be able to sense him referred to him being sensed with mind powers, seems ol’ Korvac meant sensing him period.

Korvac  gives them the usual bad guy spiel that he had great things in plan for the human race but now he would have to destroy them. They banter among each other wondering what they should do next when Korvac attacks.

Bottom Line:

It seems The Korvac Saga is anything but. Korvac has not been in the story much and when you have someone presented as being all powerful doing such stupid things you can’t take him seriously. The only reason Starhawk was kept alive by Korvac was apparently to set up this scene. There was no other reason for it. Korvac is not presented as a reasonable guy with compassion. Even if he was, we’ve hardly seen him in the story. His actions so far have been self serving and bad. It was a stupid mistake. Also staying in the suburbs when he should have been roaming about was another decision made by either the dumbest supreme being ever or by lazy writing. I vote for the later. Thankfully we have one more issue to go because this so far has been a painful read. It didn’t have to be because the ideas presented make for an intriguing idea of a story. It’s just written so horribly my nine year old son would think it’s written bad.

 

The Avengers #175

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The Avengers stare at the ash that was The Collector wondering about the powerful being that would be able to do something of this nature to another powerful being. For a moment some of the team thinks they are in danger but Iron Man points out that with a being that powerful, if that being wanted them dead they’d be dead. Iron Man decides they need to check out the ship to find some clue to to who they may be facing. Any computer system that had information on it is promptly destroyed. At this point Iron Man decides they need to find a way to leave, ignoring the fact that Vance Astro is still on the Guardians of the Galaxy ship and could easily transport them home. Don’t you love it when a writer forgets what happened previously in a story?

They look around for something that could get them home. Iron Man discovers the time travel device that The Collector used in order to gather the specimens for his collection. From there, he discovers the little mystery that the writer was kind of, sort of hinting at when it came to Thor. It seems that Thor had been taken in and out of time with the help from The Collector to help battle the little brush fires to help keep The Avengers safe since he wanted the team intact. With that explanation everyone breaths a sigh of relief and moves on. I have a problem with this. To me, it seems like a big deal that a member of the team was taken so easily. The fact that there was doubts that he could be who he is should have been something that caused them to quarantine Thor from the rest of the group just to make sure he is no threat. As I mentioned before, the Marvel Universe has already established Life Model Decoys as a thing so to not act on suspicions that Thor is not who he says he is as well as take the explanation from the security tapes of a ship that was owned by a villain that kidnapped them was just plain frightening. I would do a lot more than absolutely nothing to make sure that Thor was on the up and up.

From there, a character who’d been in a total of maybe five panels decides he wants to use the time machine to go back to his own time. Bye bye Two Gun Kid. I get that in the Marvel Universe, he had a lot more adventures than what is presented in this issue. My problem with this development has to do with the fact that in regards to this particular story, the Two Gun Kid had no point being there. If they really wanted to retire the character or something by sending him back to his own time they should have done that in a comic where he had more involvement in the story. Doing it here was pointless because in this scene we’re supposed to be sad that a member of the team is saying his final goodbye when in reality I could have cared less because he was barely in the story.

Next up, The Vision finds a teleportation machine they can use to get back to Earth. Why have the Guardians of the Galaxy in the story, a team that has the ability to teleport them wherever they want to go, if you’re not going to use them? They’re presented as almost an after thought when at the beginning of the story their mission was of the highest importance. Logically I can see where a writer would hesitate having that many people actively involved in a story because when you’re dealing with the limited real estate that comics give you, you have to use each page wisely. At that point though, you should be asking yourself as a writer whether those characters are really going to be needed if you don’t plan on using them. Not every character is going to be needed for every page, every scene but you have to have a plan for them.

So from there The Vision transports the team back to Earth. Seems his aim is off because Wonder Man ends up in traffic, the Scarlet Witch appears in the sky and plunges to the ground, and Hawkeye ends up on a flagpole. Captain Marvel ends up saving the day, rescuing the members of the team that need his help. Another pointless scene if you ask me. What really bothers me is that there is no mention of any sort of communication disturbance to Vance Astro. If they simply had one line about the lines of contact to the Guardians ship were cut off, I could buy this scene. They would have to rely on a technology they had no clue how to use in order to get home. As it stands, this scene is presented as a bad attempt at comedy. We’re talking Jar Jar Binks level of bad here.

From there, we head to the home of Michael and Carina where we finally discover that Michael is Korvac, the being we met all the way in Thor Annual #6. Seems after Thor defeated him he escaped in time to our present day where he came across an empty ship that used to be owned by Galactus. From there, he used his computer circuitry to learn everything he could, in the process becoming a god! Seems the level of knowledge Galactus had on his ship was infinite so Korvac ended up with more power than he ever contemplated having. From there he turned himself human again and decided on a new mission, ending injustice throughout the world. Apparently on his terms which makes him the bad guy.

I’ve found that the best bad guys are ones that at least in their head think they’re the good guys. What they’re doing has to make sense to them. The flaw of course in bad guys for stories like this has to do with the means they use to achieve their goals. Regardless of their intentions, they’re going to run through anyone and everyone who gets in their way. The Daredevil television show illustrated this brilliantly with Wilson Fisk. Wilson was very much a bad guy in this story but his goals, if you sat back and thought about it were actually to make Hell’s Kitchen a good place to live. It’s literally not until the last twenty minutes of the last episode where he says fuck it and becomes a bad guy. Villains that are there to just cause destruction and chaos are not as interesting over the long term. There may be some enjoyment seeing them wreck havoc but once they’re stopped you promptly ignore them. The best villains have that little shade of gray which allows you on some level to relate to them. For Korvac, his effort to make the galaxy a better place is certainly a goal I would hope most of us shares. The fact that he’ll straight up murder the faces of anyone who gets in his way is the trait that makes him the villain.

Back to the story. The Avengers make it back to the mansion where they discuss tactics. We have an interesting bit where Quicksilver questions whether they should have Jocasta help and whether she can even be considered alive being that she’s an android. From there, The Vision gets in his face like they’re about to throw down. You almost expect Jerry Springer to pop out of somewhere while Quicksilver and The Vision fight while the Scarlet Witch takes off her top and pole dances for the reader. From there you see Wonder Man attempt to impress Ms. Marvel with a show of strength that back fires. Because we’re all ten year old boys and we all know that the way to impress the ladies is by lifting things in the air, not trying to treat them like human beings and getting to know them as people. Iron Man attempts to use some of The Avengers equipment to look for the force that is behind what happened to The Collector only to find out that Gyrich from the NSA took the machines. From there, Jarvis casually mentions the Guardians in a conversation where he’s bitching about having to help so many people and it’s at this point that Iron Man thinks to have them help with their cause. They may already be looking for an incredibly powerful creature that is looking to kill a member of the Guardians but there is no way at all that those two events could somehow be related. There’s no reason to even consider that question because you know, science.

Iron Man contacts the Guardians in the home he bought for them for their mission and gets Starhawk’s assistance to help look for the being behind their problem. All the while, Michael Korvac sees what is happening and smiles, knowing that after his earlier battle with Starhawk, Starhawk will not know where to look for him.

Bottom Line:

We’re nearing the finished line. This particular issue was not as bad as others but it still left a lot to be desired in terms of quality. It’s not that this is a bad story. I think it’s a great idea for a story, it’s just horribly written. There are way too many lapses in logic that make you question the editing standards at Marvel during this time. It’s like it is written by a fifth grader. They want to throw everything into the mix and then promptly get distracted at the slightest whim. They’ve also had elements introduced in one comic and promptly forgotten in the next. Writing a long form story is tough, believe me. Writing my novel Time to Play the Game was by far the toughest bit of writing I have ever done. It’s like a big puzzle that you have to put together while blindfolded. I think I did pretty good in my case but I am also sure that if I went back to that novel now I would find some pieces that are missing which detract from the story much like I’ve seen in every issue in this story. That does not excuse it from happening. I get the idea that while Marvel wanted a story that was told over many issues they did not properly plan it out. They winged it which would explain all of the lapses in logic you encounter in this story. If you’re going to tackle a story of this size, there has to be SOME planning. If you fail to do that, the story, and your reader, suffers.

The Avengers #174

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We start off with the team facing off against The Collector, the character most folks met for the first time in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie played by Benicio Del Toro. The Avengers tell him to let the other Avengers go which The Collector politely refuses to do. Battle ensues.

I liked the little subtle jabs the writer took against collectors of pop culture artifacts in this issue. In a line that is pretty ironic, Iron Men says that The Avengers aren’t collectibles. The late 70’s saw a marked increase in collectibles like action figures, trading cards, and other toys. While collecting in and of itself it not a bad thing, it can be taken too far. Take comics for instance. You have people that will buy a comic and without even reading it board it up and have it on a shelf where they hope it will make them money someday. What is the purpose of buying a comic if not to read it? Now I get that if I were to somehow get a mint copy of Action Comics #1, taking it out of the package and reading it now would be the dumbest thing to do. But comics are stories. They’re meant to be read and enjoyed.

Anyway, The Collector fights against the team until the only Avenger left standing is Hawkeye. The Collector doesn’t take him too seriously but pays for underestimating him when Hawkeye is able to destroy a machine that has kept the other Avengers in stasis.

Defeated, they get the story from The Collector as to why he attempted to collect The Avengers. The Collector has been around for ages. Being that he has the gift of prophecy, he was able to sense the coming of Thanos. So, like an intergalactic Noah, he decided to collect people from all over the galaxy in order to preserve the species. Being that he was taking people by force you don’t have too much sympathy for the guy however being that his ultimate goal was preservation of life, you can somewhat let his actions slide. He had the right idea, just the wrong way of accomplishing it.

He gets around to letting them know that he sensed another danger, one far greater than Thanos, that was a danger to the world. Because of this danger, he thought it imperative to start collecting again.

We head to the home of Korvac where his wife is telling him that she had plans to betray him but could not follow through because she loves him. She admits that she was sent to foil his plans by her father but love screwed that plan up. Her father? The Collector.

We head back to The Collector’s ship where he is just about to reveal who he fears the most in the galaxy when he is poofed into a pile of dust. The team reflects on the power of the person they will have to deal with…even though at the beginning of The Korvac Saga, the Guardians of the Galaxy made it quite clear that Korvac was in our time. If it weren’t for Vance Astro in the first place they would not be aboard The Collector’s ship to begin with so simply forgetting who this big power is just seems a little too far-fetched for my liking.

Bottom Line:

Things are starting to make a little more sense in the story. If you treat this story line like a season of a television show, this follows a formula that Joss Whedon and others have followed well. You have a big bad that lasts throughout the particular story with little side adventures that may or may not have to do with the bad guy along the way. At the end, everything needs to wrap up with the protagonists defeating the bad guy. While it has been quite rough getting to this point, we’re at a point now where The Avengers are getting set to face off against Korvac. Finally.

I don’t like the fact that it has taken this long for them to realize what is going on. From the outset of the story Korvac has been acknowledged as a bad guy but then he was promptly forgotten. Sloppy writing. And the fact that the Guardians of the Galaxy were introduced in issue one of the story and then almost forgotten as well. Yeah, they’ll make an appearance when they set about defeating Korvac but I wish they had more involvement in the story than almost nothing.

So where does that leave this issue? It’s light on story but what it does is get the ball rolling for the big finale. It finally addressed what has been happening with the disappearance of The Avengers and gave a pretty compelling reason for their disappearance. And while The Collector is very much bad in this story, he does have some very interesting shades of gray in regards to his motivations which make him a much more intriguing character than your standard mustache twirling baddie. This almost comes across like the true beginning of The Korvac Saga because now things are about to get serious.

The Avengers #170

Avengers_Vol_1_170

Back to the Korvac saga! We see Captain America working out and Beast pops in to have a conversation with him. They talk a bit about an interaction that Cap had with the Scarlet Witch where she called him out for not contributing to the team. He’s playing the macho role of working out his anger and embarrassment by some sort of physical activity.

From there Iron Man shows up and asks to speak with Cap alone. Cap talks a moment about a machine that Tony Stark had built before they discuss the argument they had in issue #168. Iron Man ends up apologizing for his distracted loyalties and promises to be better. Cap also apologizes a bit. An interesting bit of action here was Tony Stark coming close, oh so close, to admitting to Captain America his identity which under the circumstances would have resolved so much unnecessary tension that hiding their identities have caused. Why they couldn’t pull the trigger and have him reveal his identity is beyond me.

From there we get another glimpse of Hawkeye as he calls the mansion to tell The Scarlet Witch what happened with him and the Two Gun Kid on the train. He says he’s in Colorado at this point. Scarlet Witch says they can be there within an hour which is laughable even with access to a private jet. Hawkeye says no, he wants to be back at the mansion to have Tony Stark’s computers aid in finding him. That’s all well and good but they do mention later in the comic that Hawkeye would be back at the mansion soon. Maybe the late 70’s were different but I cannot imagine a regular airplane getting from Colorado to New York City in under an hour even when traveling in first class. The sense of time the Might Marvel writers have in regards to travel is ludicrous at its best.

Next we’re off to Attilan, home of the InHumans, where Pietro Maximoff, Quicksilver is enjoying a moonlit night with the woman of his dreams. While they talk about his happiness, he disappears. These disappearances of characters is definitely an intriguing aspect of the story and something I want to see followed up on but the scenes themselves are so short that you’re in and out of it before you have a chance to know what the hell is going on. Yeah, you know that Korvac must have something to do with it but at this point we’re just seeing them disappear in a page of action, in this particular case just a couple of panels, and you’re expected to know what is happening. This is just wrong on so many levels. It doesn’t have to take a whole comic to explain it but some shot of a bad guy looking on a collection of our heroes after he transported them would be enough to keep me quiet on this. You know it must have SOMETHING to do with the story. The point it WHAT does it have to do with it?

Yellow Jacket, the former Ant-Man, and The Wasp arrive at the mansion with a special delivery. Jocasta, the android completed by Ultron to be his bride. Seems in a previous issue, The Avengers stopped Ultron from taking Janet Pym’s life force and placing it into Jocasta’s metal frame. Well, turns out all that action was for no real reason because Jocasta wakes up and has the voice of The Wasp anyway. There a mad rush to stop her but out of nowhere Iron Man and Captain America let her escape. Then Thor arrives talking about being away for a long time and getting back just in time which throws others for a loop because they’d recently seen him when the Guardians of the Galaxy first arrived. Iron Man and Captain America seem to already know about Jocasta and what her plans are and are simply looking to track her. Which is all fine and good if there had been some scene, even a simple panel, describing how Iron Man and Captain America know she is in the building and what her purpose was. SOMETHING would have been nice. Just showing up acting like they know everything just felt more convenient than anything. Now the Thor revelation is a little more intriguing. Thor was just there with them two issues ago. Why is he talking about being away for awhile? Is he a life model decoy? Is he simply an impostor sent by Korvac? I want to know more.

You’re left with a lot more questions than answers when you finish this issue. That’s not a bad thing when it’s executed well. In this case, most of the questions resolve around what the hell is going on. We see once again characters suddenly knowing everything that is going on when previously they were not even in the scene. We have definitely intriguing scenes of major characters that are disappearing but they’re so short in execution that we have no real emotion apart from confusion to experience. There are some definite good events happening in the story that make me want to read the next issue, the execution of it is so damn poor that it’s taking the fun out of reading the story. While some may argue that this is how comics were written back in the day, I counter with the fact that bad writing is bad writing, no matter the era. While books my not be written like Oliver Twist in today’s day and age, there is no denying the fact that Oliver Twist is a classic book. From first page to last you have a compelling story where everything is done for a reason and everything makes sense. Here, while you have a good idea for a story, there’s not been a lot of thought in making sure that it’s put on paper correctly.

Bottom Line:

There are some intriguing elements in regards to the Korvac Saga in this issue but once again we have a weak story. There are good moments for sure but you’re expected to just accept a lot of stuff that once you think about it makes no damn sense. While you could argue that it is one chapter in a longer story, they could still make sure this chapter was able to properly advance the story which this one did not. You have to get through this and it will be over quick but man, James Shooter and George Perez should have known better.

The Avengers #168

Avengers_Vol_1_168

Comic book covers can be a lot like movie posters for sci-fi or fantasy epics from the 1980’s. The posters themselves kick all sorts of ass, giving you the impression that you are about to see some sort of wild epic that only your imagination could hold you back from. Then you get this.

You can't unsee this!
You can’t unsee this!

So when the comic for part three of the Korvac saga showed The Avengers rushing into a room and you see a mystery man sitting in a chair with his hands folded, you assume that you’re getting a big baddie. Could Norman Osbourne be in this story? Could Doctor Doom be trying on different clothes for this issue?

No, it’s the head of the NSA there to scold The Avengers for not fixing up the mansion from a previous mission they were involved in which allowed him the chance to enter without being noticed. This lights the fuse that Captain America needs to yell at Iron Man for being a bad leader. He tells him that his focus is not on The Avengers but on being Tony Stark’s bodyguard which as I have previously stated, if Tony had been honest with the other Avenger’s issues like this would not be happening. They would know everything that is going on in his life.

From there you get a single page of Hawkeye and a cowboy making their way to New York to rejoin The Avengers but after performing some tricks for people on a train, the cowboy disappears. This came and went out of nowhere. If there had just been some small communication between Jarvis and Tony that Hawkeye had been in contact and had planned on coming back to New York, I would not have issue with this page in the story because it does set up something interesting. Where did Mr. Cowboy go? What caused him to disappear? Again, for one page of story it is not bad it would have just been nice to have some warning that Hawkeye would be in the story.

Then Starhawk from the Guardians of the Galaxy arrives at a suburban home dressed up as a woman. He meets the man of the house who turns out to be a creature who fights him on multiple dimensional planes of existence. Just as the bad guy in the story kills Starhawk and turns him to dust, he decides that he doesn’t want him dead after all, raises him back to life, and erases his memory. You could argue that this goes to show the immense power of the bad guy in the story. I would argue that this shows a story that burned through multiple pages for no damn reason. The biggest sin here was the fact that the bad guy spent page after page giving a monologue about how powerful he was. He was telling the reader basically what was happening instead of allowing the reader to be shown what the hell was happening. Every writer is guilty of telling the reader what they should know instead of showing them. I am sure that if you read my book you would find scene after scene where I broke the cardinal rule myself. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t identify it and call it for what it is. Wrong. When you tell the reader what they should think, you’re taking away the reader’s ability to make a decision for themselves. Comics are not movies or television. They have the ability to only show you a quick snippet of a scene before they have to move on. It is up to the reader to come up with the rest of what the writer wants them to see, think, and feel.

Despite the contrived story, I really enjoyed the artwork. It had a real sense of scope this issue that was missing in previous issues. Apart from the selection of pants the head of the NSA wore, everything in the story seemed time neutral which was nice. The story could have taken place in any time which allows readers, no matter when they pick up the issue, to enjoy the story for what it is, warts and all.

The action between Starhawk and the human version of Korvac was drawn well. You could see the emotion in the faces of each character and when the action reached its final crescendo, you could almost feel Starhawk disintegrate into dust in Korvac’s hand. On another riff on the story though, why Korvac thought it would be a great idea to raise the man he just killed from the dead and wipe his mind is beyond me. That’s a rookie mistake that you know will backfire on him when Starhawk gets his memory back and gets revenge for being murdered.

Bottom Line:

Yet another disappointing chapter in the Korvac Saga. This story just went in so many places I don’t see where the writers were trying to go with it. It’s almost like the writer decided to take a lot of acid and see how long he could write a story before he got really fucked up. My guess, it was by page three.

There are some definite intriguing aspects of this story that interest me to read on. Take the disappearance of the Two Gun Kid and the appearance of the human Korvac. I want to know what happens next in those two instances. I just wish we didn’t have page after page of pointlessness to get to that place. It was a story for kids you might say. There are still stories for kids that are able to properly show the action on the page and make every effort to be logical when it comes to the story like making sure that a character who had not been in the story at all up to this point doesn’t just magically appear out of nowhere. Maybe there was advance warning of Hawkeye appearing in another comic altogether but there still should have been some warning in this particular issue. Logic just doesn’t seem to be on the writer’s mind this issue which is a shame because the art, from George Perez and Pablo Marcos, was pretty damn good for this era.

The Avengers #223

avengers223B

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Avengers_Vol_1_223

The Good:

Time to go to the circus with Clint Barton and Scott Lang. Hawkeye gets a letter from an old friend asking for his help. He arrives to find that his friend is being held hostage by The Taskmaster in order to use the circus that she owns as a training ground for future terrorists. Scott Lang happens to be at the circus at the same time and, spotting Hawkeye needing help, decides to join in on the fun.

This was a fun simple issue. While some older comics can be tough to read, the beauty in them is that for the most part the stories are self contained little gems that don’t ask too much from you as the reader. Too often comics today want you to know the details of tons of details that in the grand scheme of things don’t matter to the story the writer is trying to tell. They want to have the next grand epic that will last over dozens of issues in order to get interest in stories that really don’t need too much complication for them to be fun. I compare Brian Bendis’ work on the Ultimate Spider-Man line to his work on the Secret Invasion story. While the Spider-Man stories ended up being a grand world that had a lot going on he still did one hell of a job in making the issue you purchased its own self contained story that enticed you to WANT to buy the next issue. You are rewarded with a good story and more to come.

The Secret Invasion was the opposite. Too much was happening for you as the reader to really get a read as to what was going on and what loyalties people had. That’s not a knock on Bendis since he didn’t write every single issue of that series for one and two, when you have to put out the sheer volume of work he has put out over the years, not everything is a gem.

This story fit into the former. While you definitely felt that the characters were a part of a much larger world, that back story was icing on a very good cake. You didn’t have to know the fact that Hawkeye knew the young lady who now owned the circus to know that he cared for her and ended up being sexually attracted to her as well. The same goes for Scott Lang. You knew he cared for his daughter and that he was excited to be Ant-Man but his past had no bearing on the story and hand. While this story was a little simplistic compared to comics today, I wish more comic artists could take some of the rules they followed back in the day to heart.

The art, while feeling aged, was pretty good. The cover alone is classic with Hawkeye ready to shoot an arrow that Ant-Man it hitching a ride on the arrow. Marvel had a habit in the 80’s it seems of wanting to add cultural references at that time into the story to be hip. That included the hair style which today can look silly. When the going gets tough though, the action is well drawn.

The Bad:

As I mentioned Marvel had a nasty habit of trying to be hip by including cultural references of the day into the story. While that can’t always be avoided, for stories that are simple like superhero stories there should be as little to remind you of when the story is taking place as possible. Now apart from Superman at this time, comics weren’t quite the cultural icons they are today. Marvel had one show, The Incredible Hulk, that was a hit but that, apart from the characters, was completely different than how Hulk was in the comics. That doesn’t mean the show was bad. I love that show. For the Hulk character, copying Les Miserables was a brilliant idea because while it allowed the producers of that show to have the action scenes that would interest the kiddies like me, it had enough dramatic meat for the adult viewers to really get into. Comics were still kids stuff though. Things were definitely changing mind you but Marvel and DC were not marketing to 39 year old guys like myself just yet.

I would have liked to have seen more locations than a tent and just outside that tent. They could have done more to spread the action out to other parts of the circus. While circuses don’t cover miles upon miles of space, they are large enough that they could have had a little variety in where the action took place.

The art was a little sloppy when it came to details in the locations where the action took place. It’s not that I demand that comic drawings replicate photos and come across as realistic as possible. These types of stories are fantasy mind you. There is meant to be some element of the fantastic in what we are seeing. What we should not be seeing is sloppiness and that’s what I was seeing throughout the story.

Bottom Line:

You would think that based on my criticisms that I didn’t like the story. That could be farther from the truth. Yes it was a simplistic story and you definitely knew the story took place in the 1980’s but sometimes the simplest of stories can be the best. Take sitcoms. I love Everybody Loves Raymond. There is NOTHING about that show that is original. Nothing. No innovation whatsoever. But they took very familiar sitcom elements and wrote and performed them well. That’s where this comic falls in my thinking. Could it be released today? No. But it’s still a damned good story. I give the story an 8.

The art was pretty good. While I do have some issues with it, the cover alone is worth the price of admission. In fact, I love the cover so much that Kevin Feige and the folks at Marvel would be damn foolish if they don’t do that same Ant-Man on the arrow bit in either Captain America: Civil War or The Avengers: Infinity War. While the movies should mostly use the comics as inspiration and look to adapt them to the movies, if there is no other image in comics that deserves to be on the silver screen it is this cover. I give the art a 7.

Now because I loved The Incredible Hulk, here is the tv show theme song.

 

The Amazing Spider-man #86 Beware the Black Widow

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_86

I love Black Widow. To me she’s one of the most fascinating characters in Marvel. NOT FOR THAT REASON!!!

AoU_Black_Widow_0003

Ok, it helps. Anyway, Black Widow has a shadowy past that she’s making atonement. She started as a villain for the Soviet Union facing off against Iron Man with her henchman The Crimson Dynamo. A man named Clint Barton helped bring her to the side of the angels.

There are many characters in comics that people know a lot about however they haven’t had a chance to actually read some of the origin stories for said characters. The issue I read today is not so much an origin story but a sort of re-origin story. While Black Widow had been in the Marvel Universe for a while at that point, apparently at some point they took her out of the stories for a while. This story brings her back.

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_86

The Good:

Getting more acquainted with Black Widow was great. While this is a Spider-man comic, Ol’ Peter Parker kind of takes a backseat to Natasha Romanov. We see her in her original outfit spying on Ol’ Spidey. From there she heads home contemplating what she needs to do in order to get back into the hero business all the while trying on a new outfit, the outfit that we associate with Black Widow today.

I really enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Seeing what brought Black Widow into the woman she became was great. You got an understanding that when she was bad, her motives were based on helping someone, her husband at the time, a fact that I was not aware of. Her logic to want to fight Spider-man, in order to learn from him so she can be a superior fighter, was sound, something you could actually see someone doing.

I also enjoyed the plot with Peter and Gwen Stacy. At this point Peter was just coming back from a fight with Kingpin. Gwen notices he’s hurt and gets upset, telling him she no longer wants him to associate with Spider-man. (At this point she knows that he takes photos of Spider-man for The Daily Bugle, not that he’s Spider-man.) One great feat Marvel has always been good at was showing that the job of being a hero can take its toll on you, even if your goals are to help mankind.

The artwork was what you would expect from this era, excellent. John Romita Sr. was one of the figures that helped shape the images we take for granted today. While you could probably nitpick of the artwork (there was too much yellow. Apparently John Romita Sr. liked yellow.) when your work creates the standard that people still use to this day, you’re doing something right.

The Bad:

I find myself again reacting negatively to a story that is simply not written for today’s audiences. It was a great story but there were little things I found quite annoying. Stan Lee apparently LOVED having people speak their thoughts out loud repeatedly. I’ve read many comics from this era and this is a common device used to express thoughts but it really took me out of the story.

I also hated Stan’s use of dots during this dialogue. It was annoying…reading a sentence…that was constantly interrupted by those damn dots. I had to go back to make sure William Shatner didn’t write the comic.

I hated how the women were portrayed in this story. The most offensive part was when Gwen had Peter promise to not associate with Spider-man anymore and leaves. Her father tells Peter that he should excuse her because she’s a woman and women think with their hearts. Yeah, this was the early 1970’s. What should I expect? I could not accept the dismissive attitude both Gwen Stacy and Black Widows were treated with.

Bottom Line:

While the story is not perfect, debuting the modern take on a character that people know and love was a great read. As I stated, my objections have more to do with modern tastes than anything else. The story I give an 8. The artwork brought me back to early Saturday morning cartoons which was great. As I stated, while you can certainly nitpick, you could probably nitpick a Van Gogh as well. While the story is not perfect, it is a perfect introduction to the modern Black Widow.