Last Days of Black Widow #20

   One of my favorite comic books of late has been the Black Widow series from Marvel. Thanks to the Marvel Unlimited app, I’ve been able to follow the adventures of Natasha Romanov as she deals with the consequences of her actions as a Soviet spy, an Avenger, and an Agent of SHIELD. It really is some of the best art work alone for a comic I have read in a long while. One issue I, like others, have with comics today is how they draw women. It seems that you can’t have a successful female character in a story unless she is showing next to nothing in a skimpy uniform. I am not a prude. There are times where scantily clad women are a ok to look at and enjoy but when you’re dealing with characters that should be on the level of their male counterparts, having them dress like strippers from a cosplay themed strip club just seems to negate any advances they are giving the female characters.   Natasha Romanov in this comic is different. She’s strong as hell but looks like a beautiful, average woman. She deals with problems in a realistic way, apart from the times where she has to kick ass and man does she know how to kick ass. Nathan Edmondson, the writer, and Phil Noto, the artist, have made one hell of a great comic that empowers Natasha without having to resort to cheap visual tactics to try and entice males to read the comic.

   Issue 20 is the end of the run for this comic and that is a shame. It’s a shame for two reasons. One, it’s sad the story is ending. (From what I understand Black Widow will of course be back but with different artists and writers involved.) Two, the story ends on a sour note because they’re not trying to give this story proper closure, they’re trying to kick start the Secret Wars story.

   Marvel Unlimited is six months behind everyone else so this is old news for some. Their main comic lines are all tied into the Secret Wars storyline which has led to a confusing mess. The main Secret Wars story is all right. I have no real complaints of it but it is not my favorite comic ever by any means. The tie in stories are something else all together.

   Comic book events in and of themselves are not bad things. I don’t dislike a good comic book event. What I have an issue with, and this goes for DC as well, both companies want to bring in absolutely every title under their umbrella into a massive story but end up finding ways to complicate things to such a point that you as the reader have no clue what the hell is going on. The Secret Wars event is meant to do one thing for Marvel and that’s remove the wheat from the chaff. They get a chance to make their world a little less complicated by removing aspects of their world that could confuse the hell out of the casual reader. You have your main characters that everyone knows about but other minor characters may not end up getting the love and attention they deserve because the creators at Marvel have to please so many masters.

   The problem I have with this is that they spend so much time trying to wrap things up for absolutely everyone that I have no real clue what is going on. I don’t read all new Marvel Comics titles. Apart from Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, The Punisher, and a couple Howard the Duck issues, everything else I have managed to skip. So getting this far into the Black Widow story to suddenly find that everything I have read before means nothing because she is suddenly apart of this new story that popped up out of nowhere is disconcerting. There were no seeds in previous issues that the world as it was established in the story was ending in any way, shape, or form. They just seemed to decide one day that whoops, the world is ending. Nice knowing you.

   The story itself is Natasha’s last bit of redemption for her past. It tells the story of how she, as a KGB agent, ended up killing a family in Cuba that wanted to defect to Russia. As an agent, she was just following orders but it was something she did not care to do. The story ends with her rescuing a family that looked just like the family she had killed. A nice ending but one that I wish was given a little more detail.

   The art work is great. Phil Noto is one hell of an artist, finding ways to show both power and weakness in characters that others would probably miss. His work on Natasha alone is amazing. Again, I love the fact that she is not drawn like the stereotypical ways women are drawn in comics. She’s not showing excessive skin. She doesn’t have boobs that could knock over a tank. She looks like a normal woman. Beautiful but normal. More artists need to use this as a model for female characters in their stories.

Bottom Line:

   I am so disappointed in this issue. All good things come to an end as they say but this ending is more like an after thought than anything else. Marvel has been so focused on setting up Secret Wars that they have disregarded the important work that is going on in comics like Black Widow.

   Having said that, despite the obstacles put in their way Edmondson and Noto have ended the series in style. It deserved much more of a proper ending that what it received but it’s still not bad. I hope these two meet up again to explore more of Natasha’s adventures in the Marvel Universe.

   One of my favorite comic books of late has been the Black Widow series from Marvel. Thanks to the Marvel Unlimited app, I’ve been able to follow the adventures of Natasha Romanov as she deals with the consequences of her actions as a Soviet spy, an Avenger, and an Agent of SHIELD. It really is some of the best art work alone for a comic I have read in a long while. One issue I, like others, have with comics today is how they draw women. It seems that you can’t have a successful female character in a story unless she is showing next to nothing in a skimpy uniform. I am not a prude. There are times where scantily clad women are a ok to look at and enjoy but when you’re dealing with characters that should be on the level of their male counterparts, having them dress like strippers from a cosplay themed strip club just seems to negate any advances they are giving the female characters.

   Natasha Romanov in this comic is different. She’s strong as hell but looks like a beautiful, average woman. She deals with problems in a realistic way, apart from the times where she has to kick ass and man does she know how to kick ass. Nathan Edmondson, the writer, and Phil Noto, the artist, have made one hell of a great comic that empowers Natasha without having to resort to cheap visual tactics to try and entice males to read the comic.

   Issue 20 is the end of the run for this comic and that is a shame. It’s a shame for two reasons. One, it’s sad the story is ending. (From what I understand Black Widow will of course be back but with different artists and writers involved.) Two, the story ends on a sour note because they’re not trying to give this story proper closure, they’re trying to kick start the Secret Wars story.

   Marvel Unlimited is six months behind everyone else so this is old news for some. Their main comic lines are all tied into the Secret Wars storyline which has led to a confusing mess. The main Secret Wars story is all right. I have no real complaints of it but it is not my favorite comic ever by any means. The tie in stories are something else all together.

   Comic book events in and of themselves are not bad things. I don’t dislike a good comic book event. What I have an issue with, and this goes for DC as well, both companies want to bring in absolutely every title under their umbrella into a massive story but end up finding ways to complicate things to such a point that you as the reader have no clue what the hell is going on. The Secret Wars event is meant to do one thing for Marvel and that’s remove the wheat from the chaff. They get a chance to make their world a little less complicated by removing aspects of their world that could confuse the hell out of the casual reader. You have your main characters that everyone knows about but other minor characters may not end up getting the love and attention they deserve because the creators at Marvel have to please so many masters.

   The problem I have with this is that they spend so much time trying to wrap things up for absolutely everyone that I have no real clue what is going on. I don’t read all new Marvel Comics titles. Apart from Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, The Punisher, and a couple Howard the Duck issues, everything else I have managed to skip. So getting this far into the Black Widow story to suddenly find that everything I have read before means nothing because she is suddenly apart of this new story that popped up out of nowhere is disconcerting. There were no seeds in previous issues that the world as it was established in the story was ending in any way, shape, or form. They just seemed to decide one day that whoops, the world is ending. Nice knowing you.

   The story itself is Natasha’s last bit of redemption for her past. It tells the story of how she, as a KGB agent, ended up killing a family in Cuba that wanted to defect to Russia. As an agent, she was just following orders but it was something she did not care to do. The story ends with her rescuing a family that looked just like the family she had killed. A nice ending but one that I wish was given a little more detail.

   The art work is great. Phil Noto is one hell of an artist, finding ways to show both power and weakness in characters that others would probably miss. His work on Natasha alone is amazing. Again, I love the fact that she is not drawn like the stereotypical ways women are drawn in comics. She’s not showing excessive skin. She doesn’t have boobs that could knock over a tank. She looks like a normal woman. Beautiful but normal. More artists need to use this as a model for female characters in their stories.

Bottom Line:

   I am so disappointed in this issue. All good things come to an end as they say but this ending is more like an after thought than anything else. Marvel has been so focused on setting up Secret Wars that they have disregarded the important work that is going on in comics like Black Widow.

   Having said that, despite the obstacles put in their way Edmondson and Noto have ended the series in style. It deserved much more of a proper ending that what it received but it’s still not bad. I hope these two meet up again to explore more of Natasha’s adventures in the Marvel Universe.

Ultimate Spider-Man #18

   If in Star Wars, if instead of getting his ass handed to him just like what occurred in The Empire Strikes back he swiftly defeated Vader with no effort at all we would have a situation where all that tension, all the buildup for how evil the bad guy was would be all for naught. When you’re building up a villain you have to make them a villain worth defeating so it is wise to have a confrontation with that villain where you initially fail.   Peter fails miserably this issue. Since he survives the ordeal that is not necessarily a bad thing because in failure we can learn a lot. He’s learned some valuable lessons so far but the fact remains that in his particular profession there is still much for someone in his position to learn. Situations aren’t always so black and white as folks may make you believe.

   One big lesson Peter needs to learn and learn fast is to not dive into the deep end of the pool if he doesn’t know what is waiting for him. Even 18 issues in we find him making decisions that are just foolhardy and quite ignorant. If you have no clue the strength of the person you want to face off against, what sense does it make for you to just drop in and start making fun of the guy. Peter learned quickly that Doctor Octopus physically outmatched him in most every way, most importantly with the ability to break his webbing. It’s little things like this that show you just how out of his element Peter is in. Another person would have done what they could to prepare for any and all circumstances that come their way. He should have stress tested the webbing apart from seeing if it could hold his weight. This is a lesson learned on his part for the future and something that he will not soon forget.

   It is interesting seeing the progression of Spider-Man in the Ultimate universe compared to how he evolved in the original Marvel Universe. Up till this point in Earth-616, Peter Parker was pretty much the ass kicking person we all know today. There wasn’t too much of a learning curve for him. One day, he was Spider-Man. That didn’t mean he breezed through every encounter with bad guys like nothing happened. Some challenged him along the way and tested him to his very limits. But there wasn’t much of a learning curve he had to endure.

   The Ultimate Universe has been quite different. While the parent in me is cringing at some of the foolhardy things Peter is doing to honor his Uncle, I appreciate that Peter is learning from his mistakes, even if those mistakes bring him one step closer to death. So far he has not made the same mistake twice.

   We also spend some time this issue exploring what could potentially happen to Peter if others found about him being Spider-Man. Another good element of the Ultimate Universe so far has been the fact that we’ve been exploring the results of actions the heroes and villains meet during their rumblings with each other. As a reader, logic does creep in your head when you’re reading stories like this. You do ask yourself how are people not noticing that a fifteen year old boy appears to be getting beat on a regular basis? He’s a nerd in school so shouldn’t Aunt May be a little more concerned that he has more bumps and bruises than a kid that age should? Wouldn’t teachers or school officials start getting suspicious and consider calling the authorities? You would think that a kid who lives with his Aunt and Uncle and having the Uncle brutally murdered like Uncle Ben was in front of Aunt May would be someone who would be a prime candidate for an elder to lose it and start whaling on Peter for no good reason. Having Peter fight the people he does without bumps or bruises that he has to explain is unrealistic. I am glad Brian Bendis is addressing this by having the closing panel of the issue have Aunt May coming down into the basement where Peter had just been with Mary Jane, who was bandaging him up after his fight with Doc Ock. That panel introduces a level of reality that was missing from the original stories up to this point, 18 issues in. Yes, there is some level of disbelief in these stories and you do have to check your brain at the door because this is not a documentary. But once elements that occur during a normal life happen in ways that we know cannot possibly happen, the reader is left on the outside looking in to a bad story.

Bottom Line:

   We are one more issue into this story detailing Peter’s first real encounter with Doctor Octopus. So far things are coming along quite nice. Are there things to nit pick about? Of course. I do think there are some elements of the story so far that are not up to where they need to be especially when it is coming to the motivation for Doctor Octopus. Why is he doing what he is doing? What made him single out the energy station? What is his end game? What is he working toward? Answering that he is just nuts is the wrong answer. Regardless of his mental state, in a story like this there has to be some motivation for people doing what they are doing. If your villain is doing things just cause, there is not coherence to the story. While it could be argued that I should have a little patience and wait for everything to play out, I argue that there could be a lot more explanation for what Doctor Octopus is doing. We are lacking that and that is making me as the reader a little confused as to why he is doing what he’s doing.

   The art was pretty solid this issue. I really enjoyed the level of scope that Mark Bagly was able to create in this story. When they had exterior scenes, you felt you were outside in a real environment. Internal scenes felt like they were occurring in real buildings that were either big or small. While the artwork can’t always be classic, when the little things like this are done well it goes a long way towards making your reading time enjoyable. This is a lot like the Star Wars Prequels in a way. The story so far has not been the best but there is always something going on that will keep your interest.

Ultimate Spider-Man #16

   When you’re exploring the mind of a madman as a writer, you walk a fine line of making the madness something folks can relate to in some way which makes the character that much more frightening to the reader or you make his ramblings so incoherent that you don’t know what the hell is going on so you end up losing interest in the story. The problem I am seeing with Doctor Octopus in the story two date is a little two fold. One, we don’t have much to base his character on. We had a brief introduction to him when Peter toured the Osborn facility and he stole some of Peter’s blood. From there we see him involved in the explosion at the labs which he spends time in a government hospital for and now he is cuckoo bananas. We as readers are not going to like every character we see but we have to have some sort of reaction to them. For Doctor Octopus, I am not having that reaction. Any sort of feelings I have for the character are more related to his status as a villain in the original Spider-Man universe (Marvel Universe 616 for you nerds out there).   Doc Ock is currently having issues remembering his past which brings him to the home of some other rich industrialist. It is implied that Otto had been giving the person who owned that room industrial secrets from Osborn Labs. That is fine and all but it doesn’t do much to explain what is really going on because again, we’ve not spent too much time with this character to really know what motivates him.

   Think of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The big badass of the film was Darth Maul. A part from having a cool look and being a part of a great fight scene, what do we know about him? No, we don’t need to know his whole life story but what motivates him? Why is he a Sith? What brought him to be aligned with Darth Sidious? We don’t know this information. We’re expected to not like the guy because he’s wearing black and he has horns. That is not the way to give us a bad guy in a story. We have to know what motivates him. Even if that motivation is based on incorrect information of if the guy just loves being evil, knowing the motivation for why they are bad is key to making us as the audience have the reaction the writer wants us to have in the story. In the case of a movie there can be some cheats of course which comics can replicate in a sense two since they both involve visual and written arts together. But making a guy look bad is not the way to set him up for you audience to accept him as bad. They just may think he’s an idiot.

   We get our first official introduction to SHIELD in this issue. Turns out the room that Doc Ock trashed was owned by one Justin Hammer. Folks that are fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will recognize that name of course since Justin Hammer, played by the great Sam Rockwell, played a younger version of the character in that movie. This character will end up having the same type of values as the movie version but since we are just meeting him here we don’t know that. He’s just a very important business man that has enough clout that he can discuss top secret information with SHIELD agents.

   It is interesting that our first introduction to SHIELD is clouded. The casual Marvel fan will probably have nothing but good things to say about the organization what with the characters they see on a regular basis like Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, Agent May, and others but here we’re not quite sure where SHIELD stands. If they’re talking to someone who has been involved in corporate espionage they themselves may not be an organization that we should trust. I like that they kept the agents appearance so ambiguous.

   We do get a little follow up with Gwen Stacy this issue. Her motivation for pulling the knife on Kong is that no one was helping Peter after Kong kicked him. She wanted to help him out, especially since she stated she thought he was cute. That is nice and all but as I stated in my previous review, her actions are quite ridiculous for what the situation asked for. I mean, she saw that Peter and Kong earlier had been having a conversation about mutants that didn’t result in Kong kicking Peter’s ass so her reaction was quite stupid if you ask me. Not that it is bad that she defended someone but you would think there were any number of ways that she could have responded that didn’t involve recreating the fight scene from West Side Story.

Bottom Line:

   It is my job to critique. Just because I look for things that may not have gone right in a story doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the work. This story was pretty damn good considering some of the areas that I felt Bendis failed with. My biggest issue overall has to do with the sheer lack of information we have about Doctor Octopus. He’s killed a few people so sure he’s a bad guy but as of now we don’t have any motivation apart from insanity that is driving him to do what he is doing. The original Doctor Octopus was very much insane as well after enduring a nuclear accident but you did get the impression that, no matter how wrong his motivation was, that he had something he was working towards. He had a goal. He had motivation. So far, Doc Ock in the Ultimate universe does not have that motivation.

   The art work this issue was nothing to write home about but it wasn’t bad. I would call it average. It didn’t do anything amazing that really stood out but it kept the story chugging along without too much distraction.

The Avengers #177

Avengers 177 actual

The Korvac Saga comes to an end with an epic showdown between The Avengers and Michael Korvac…in a house in the suburbs. You read that right. An epic showdown…in someone’s house.

Why? With all the power at his disposal in the world why the hell would they keep the story in the house and make someone’s living room the site of a doomsday battle. Why not take to the skies? Why not take the battle into space? I would never see Doctor Doom battling The Fantastic Four at a Wal-Mart, why would the writers think a battle of this size was all right to have in someone’s living room?

That is the big problem I have had with this series. Don’t get me wrong, the basic premise for the story is great and something I would love to see tried again. (Maybe they have. If they did post a comment at the bottom of the page and let me know.) The idea of an evil being that for whatever reason has a transformation, a transformation which gives him unlimited power, having a plan to rid the universe of evil, is confronted by a group of heroes, battles them, and in the course of a battle has even more enlightenment. With that enlightenment, he ends the battle and kills himself. I like that idea.

The execution in this story though was bad. You can just imagine someone gave this idea to the writing team and told them they had to come out with the series within a month. Jim Shooter, David Michelinie, and Bill Mantlo all have reputations that speak for themselves. Jim Shooter was the Editor in Chief for Marvel during some of the best runs for character like Daredevil. David Michelinie introduced the Marvel Universe to Venom. Bill Mantlo created Rocket Raccoon. (In doing research for this I learned a little more about Mr. Mantlo and will speak about it at the bottom of the page.) While I have been critical of the story, and rightfully so, the work of these writers speak for themselves as to their talent. They know how to write good stories. It didn’t happen for The Korvac Saga.

I don’t know, maybe I should just chalk it up to when the story was written. That would be nice to do but I feel that is wrong. Bad writing is bad writing no matter who is doing it. And no matter the talent of the writer involved, with the sheer amount of content comic book writers have to put out on a yearly basis, there will be clunkers.

What can a writer of any sort learn from this series? To me it would be planning. This story suffered when it would take characters like The Guardians of the Galaxy, have them show up in the first issue and present it as if something big is going to happen between the two teams when all that happened is the Guardians just sit back in a house in the suburbs that Tony Stark bought for them doing not much of anything. The story line reason they were there was that Korvac was attempting to kill a young Vance Astro which did not happen. Korvac never mentioned wanting to kill the younger version of the Guardians team at all when he was in the story. The only interaction he had with the Guardians apart from the grand finale was flashbacks to the story that started all this in Thor Annual #6. If you’re going to introduce characters in your story and promise they will be involved in a particular story line, make sure that happens.

Bottom Line:

I do not recommend this. It’s been done better in The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon show. If you have to know this story, watch that show. It’s not a bad idea for a story by any means. There are some great moments in the story but overall, the execution is just horrible. You will have better uses of your time.

Now for Bill Mantlo, the creator of Rocket Raccoon. In 1992 he was involved in a hit and run which left him permanently brain damaged. In order to get the rights to use Rocket in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Marvel paid Bill’s family a nice sum of cash to help for his on going care. But on going care is not cheap and any little bit helps. Groups like Humble Bundle have been great in having proceeds for sales they make go towards The Hero Initiative which sends money to folks who have worked in the comics industry who need help with medical expenses and other problems they cannot take care of themselves. Too often, creators will come up with a great character only to have to sign all rights to it over to a major corporation and they end up destitute. Now most folks go into the industry knowing how the game is played but for creators like Bill, someone who has created a character that we are still enjoying forty years after his creation, that’s money he would never see that could be used to help his medical expenses.

We have the ability to help. If you click this link, you will head to Greg Pak’s website where he has a link showing you where you can go to help pay for his medical bills. When my mother was alive, the last decade of her life she dealt with non-cancerous brain tumors that had her rely upon constant medical care to help her with everyday things. Bills pile up. Comic book artists and writers, creators of characters we enjoy for years after their creation, deserve our thanks especially in their time of need. Head to that link and help him out. You can also find a site on Facebook created by his brother that will give you updates about him.

The Avengers #171

Avengers_Vol_1_171

Jocasta has escaped thanks to Iron Man and Captain America allowing her to do so. The Avengers head onto a crowded New York street and get reports from passersby that Jocasta was just there. They also apparently have time to be ogled by the ladies in The Beast’s case and with The Scarlet Witch, she’s offered a modeling gig. With a robot that could destroy the human race on the loose, taking time to get laid sure shows some folks priorities.

The Avengers head into an alley to discover a wino who says that a robot and a penguin had just left the place. They think he’s a drunk but the next scene you see is Jocasta in a car with a nun. The nun is apparently working for Ultron. At this point you wonder whether the writer of the piece was actually paying attention to the story he was writing. He goes one minute giving the impression that the team has lost Jocasta and with the next, Iron Man is still tracking her. So scenes like this where they’re asking folks if they’ve seen a female robot are just pointless if Iron Man has the ability to track her. The story almost comes across like it was written in one draft and, after a cursory glance for spelling errors, just published as is.

From there we go back to the lady who offered The Scarlet Witch a modeling job. Seems she had left a lady in a changing room in a department store and she was rushing back to her. That lady was Carol Danvers, Ms. Marvel herself. At first I thought she had something to do with Korvac when she changed into her Ms. Marvel gear. Then she flies off and joins up with The Avengers, telling them she is tagging along because she senses some danger that will face them. Yellow Jacket and The Wasp arrive in a cobbled together ship that Tony Stark had previously made and Iron Man, suddenly remembering he had the ability to track Jocasta, the killer robot they were all worried about stopping except when they were offered modeling jobs and sex, tells everyone to follow him because he knows where the bad guys are.

They arrive at a convent. A nun lets them in and they head into the lair. Thor has a panel where he’s talking about how folks consider him and his people god’s but that they make no claim to supreme divinity. Which is true and all but it’s not like any other Asgardian apart from Thor views Earthlings as anything but subservient animals. He finds himself uncomfortable in a house of worship which is an interesting idea that could be expounded upon at some point.

Wanda is teleported somewhere. We don’t know where. The Avengers are concerned but focus on finding Ultron first which they do in quick order. A robot built on logic gives a monologue to the heroes when he should have just been firing everything he had at them. I get that with artificial intelligence, Ultron will end up having some form of emotions. With the memory banks he holds, and the fact that he talks about Yellow Jacket being his father and all the other stuff he talks about, Ultron is not like the Cybermen from Doctor Who. The Cybermen or the Borg from Star Trek are cold, methodical creatures that have a single focus. Sure they’ll talk to you but it’s more to tell you that you’re insignificant and that you will be murdered soon. They’re not going to have a Bond villain type of monologue.

We then break to The Scarlet Witch who’s in a room of mirrors. For someone who’s power is sending hexes, it would be an appropriate way to keep her prisoner. When she attempts to send out a hex, it could just as easily hit and hurt her. I just wish that, since this is part of the Korvac Saga story according to the Marvel Unlimited app, that there had been some reference up to this point about the fact that Korvac was taking people. Sure, at the end of the story we’re brought back into the main story we’re reading here but with Wanda being taken like she was, it was a bit of a red herring for the reader to think that maybe we’d be getting to the bottom of the story for once which we are clearly not at this point.

From there we see Ms. Marvel roaming the halls of the convent. Seems she had bowed out of the fight against Ultron since Hank Pym had mentioned that he had built a resistance for the existing team which she is not a part of from Ultron’s attack. I can accept this as a reasonable way to get her somewhere else. It’s little things like this that are missing in the story so far that have made this reading experience a bit of a chore. When you do see that the writer finally takes the time to explain why things are happening as they are, you find yourself getting lost in the action of the story which is what they want you to do.

Turns out that the nun that drove Jocasta to the convent was an android as well. Ms. Marvel quickly makes her her bitch and discovers that Wanda is still in the convent being kept prisoner. She also discovers that the real nuns are still in the building, tied up by Ultron. Again, something that doesn’t make sense. Ultron has no problem attempting to murder the man who made him and the rest of The Avengers as well but a robot would still tie up some nuns and just not brutally shoot them in the face? Why would he care? He wouldn’t. Even with his artificial intelligence, when an android has its mind set on something, little things like murder would not keep it from accomplishing its goal. It’s a machine. Even with the artificial intelligence, logic would state that straight up murdering the nuns would have been the way to go for Ultron. But apparently he has a soft streak for Catholics. Maybe Hank Pym put in some special programming from the Vatican to protect people of the clergy.

Ultron wakes up Jocasta to have her join his side only to have her, in a fit of human logic, decide that even though she is programmed to be at his side, she has to kill him because she knows what type of robot he is. It’s been established that Jocasta had an imprint of Janet Pym’s mind in her recently which made her a sort of pseudo-human. It is what it is I guess. Yeah, The Vision is an android in the story as well but is basically a human but I still don’t buy the fact that they somehow have life. They have programming telling them how to react. That’s nice and all in order to resolve the story but maybe it’s just because robotics at this point and time are not at the point where artificial intelligence could be any sort of a threat to mankind but I just don’t buy androids in a story that are presented as having some sort of emotion. Yes, it’s a fantasy set in a place that is real. But I just don’t buy it. Let the robot be crazy as fuck looking to kill everyone but I just can’t accept it having human emotions or reactions.

The story ends with Ultron defeated. They commiserate about a job well done only to end the story with Jocasta and Captain America disappearing. Seems the writers may have gone down from their high and remembered that they were supposed to write about Korvac. Oh to see the drugs that were passed in the Marvel Bullpen in the 70’s!

Bottom Line:

This issue has some serious flaws in execution. They’re the type of flaws that if they had been addressed in editing could have made this a pretty decent story. Having Iron Man especially go from not knowing where the heck Jocasta was to suddenly remembering that he was tracking her was annoying as hell. I also didn’t like the fact that they set up a big story element of Iron Man and Captain America allowing her to escape as if they had some sort of advanced knowledge that the rest of the team did not have only to completely ignore it. They seriously just dismissed the big ending from the previous issue by saying that with Iron Man as leader he can do whatever he wants. Now that would make me feel secure if The Avengers actually existed.  Another chapter in the Korvac Saga is in the books and the main story would probably take all of one comic to tell at this point. Mostly filler up to this point which is not so bad since the stories are taking place in a universe where multiple things can and will occur at once but I wish there was a little more coherence.

World War Hulk: Aftersmash! Damage Control Issue 1

world_war_hulk_aftersmash_damage_control_1

The Good:

With news that Marvel has a new show in the works about the clean up team called Damage Control, I figured I would dive in to the Marvel Unlimited app and see if I could find some Damage Control stories. I was familiar with them from the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon that appears on the Disney Channel but as of yet I had not had a chance to read any of their stories.

The idea is brilliant. It allows Marvel the chance to address the biggest plot hole you encounter in superhero comics and that is simply the aftermath. How the hell does the world get back to normal? It makes sense that a team in in place that would come on the scene after a superhero fight and clean things up in time for the next issue. If the plan for the television show is in line with what I have read in this particular issue than we’re in for a treat.

The comic starts at the end of the events depicted in World War Hulk. The CEO of Damage Control is on a helicarrier speaking with Tony Stark about the price to fix up New York after the attack from The Hulk. While we’re thrown into the story pretty much smack dab in the middle of everything that is going on I at no time felt lost. While these characters are definitely well lived, having previous adventures that are not referred to in this issue, that never gets in the way of the focus of this issue and that is getting the team together to repair New York. There were even characters that had previous issues with others in the story that was told in such a way that you never had to know exactly why they were upset at each other to appreciate what was going on in the story.

Too many writers, not even exclusive to comics, are hell bent on trying to throw so much into their stories that they forget just what it is they are bringing to the table in order to get people interested. They want to focus either on convoluted back stories that have nothing to do with the story or lead the reader along a path that will ultimately confuse them and leave them disappointed. I think of season 2 of one of my favorite shows 24. Season 1 had done a pretty decent job in making sure that everything going on had something, even if it was minor, to do with advancing the main plot, which was the plot from Victor Drazen to try and kill Jack Bauer and David Palmer as revenge for the murder of his family. Season 2 started out with promise in all but one area. Kim Bauer. She was a nanny with a family that it turned out was dealing with a very abusive husband. The fact that Kim was apparently staying with these people for months and the fact that not only was he abusing his family but also hitting on other women and she was oblivious to this is one area that makes you shake your head in disbelief. There is no way someone acting like this guy did would not have been noticed. The big problem though was the fact that, based on season 1, I thought until the very last episode that what was happening to Kim somehow had to do with the main plot of season 2 which ended up not being the case. If you removed all of Kim Bauer’s scenes from that season you would miss nothing of importance. That’s not a knock on her. That’s a knock on producers shoehorning her into a story that she didn’t belong in.

When it’s done right though, when you’re introduced to characters smack dab in the middle of their lives you find yourself immediately lost and immersed in the world and it’s great. Take the original Star Wars. The war between the Empire and the Rebellion had been going on many years before Darth Vader’s Star Destroy attacked the Tantive IV and that knowledge actually helped strength the characters and their motivation when we first meet them. While this story is by no means a classic, much like Star Wars you’re diving into the deep end with this story and brought along for a ride.

The art was pretty good especially with the fact that the story revolved around a construction clean up crew. Apart from the characters themselves there was no superhero action in this piece. It was either boardroom meetings, meetings in homes, or exterior shots. But the art was vibrant and went a long way toward making you care for the characters.

The Bad:

As always I have to focus on something that didn’t quite sit well with me. This is more quibbling at this point but when it came to how they glossed over the fact that we were in a post Civil War era where superheros either had to have registration cards or face jail time, it seemed silly for a company that so far in the comic had gone out of their way to follow the rules and be safe would suddenly decide that it was ok to get superhero involvement without checking their registration cards. Argue all day about whether the cards are right or not and that argument would be irrelevant because for a company that wanted to continue to get government money in order to continue as a business, I don’t buy that they would let something this big slip. Some may say that this may mirror how some companies hire illegal immigrants but I would disagree. Superheros are very much legal citizens. As long as they plan to use their powers they’ve been required to be registered for just such situations that New York had faced in the battle against The Hulk. Again, argue whether that was needed or not but this should not have happened. All it was was a glaring transparent plot device that allowed the Thunderbolts to appear at the end of the story to see if people were registered. You could see something like that coming from a mile away.

The only issue I had with the art was around the CEO of Damage Control. Everyone but her was drawn in such a way as to make them appear as comic book versions of magazine models. But not the CEO. She’s overweight and looks like my foot if it swelled up to look like a walking hippo. Not everyone on Earth has to be depicted as pretty in a comic but you can do better in terms of making people at least appear normal.

Bottom Line:

This comic made me more excited to see a potential Damage Control television show. I really want Marvel to consider posting more Damage Control stories as well apart from the three they have. It goes a long way to explain how things work behind the scenes in the Marvel Universe. It’s also a great study on average people dealing with the aftermath of superhero actions. I give the story an 8.

The art was good for all but its depiction of Mrs. Hoag, the CEO of Damage Control. Again, not everyone has to be pretty and a model but if they’re just a normal schlub, please don’t go out of your way to make them look deformed. I give the art a 6.