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 Amazing Spider-Man #672

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_672

We come to the ending, but not the ending if you can believe that, of Spider Island. The big bad of the story meets her apparent doom but thanks to some sloppy writing, I had no clue what the hell was going on with this particular issue. There was no logical reason why everything ended up resolving the way it did apart from the editors at Marvel telling the writer to wrap things up quick.

One part that annoyed me with this issue was Mary Jane’s involvement. She shows up out of nowhere at a facility a person in her position should not even have known about. Then they have her ask why she’s been so slow in developing the symptoms that everyone else had and the results are almost comic. Reed Richards pretty much comes out and tells her that with Peter Parker porking her for as long as he did, she was able to develop an immunity that others did not have. But this statement from Mr. Fantastic kind of goes against the earlier bit of business at the start of the story where Peter does his absolute best to keep his identity private from anyone, including people who would actually benefit from knowing like fellow super heroes. At this point, I get that Peter was a part of the Fantastic Four and his identity would be something that Mr. Fantastic would probably want to know before he joined. Long time readers also know that Peter and Johnny Storm have a long standing friendship so at some point you could see Peter letting slip his identity. Frankly, it makes no sense for him to trust Reed and not many other people. Can you really argue that he mistrusted Iron Man? He couldn’t trust Captain America with his identity? Nick Fury would go blabbing to everyone about that punk kid from Queens who dresses like a spider?

The sheer amount of heroes in the story was too much of an overkill. Every character in the Marvel Universe shares the same world (for the most part) so I get that it would be unrealistic if an event of this magnitude occurred without a response from anyone other than Spider-Man. The problem I see lies in the fact that they have so many people in the story that they haven’t found a way to give each character a reason to be there. Take The Thing. He has some really funny moments in the story. I enjoyed his part in the comic but honestly, if he were removed from the story nothing would be lost. The same could be said for The Avengers. You know they would be fighting a threat like this but did we need to see pages devoted to them when they’re not really a part of the story at all? There are some supplemental stories that go along with Spider Island. If they wanted to include The Avengers, they really should have given them more than a silly cameo.

The Mary Jane arc actually ends with something interesting. Long time readers know that Peter and MJ had to divorce thanks to a deal Peter made with Mephisto in order to save Aunt May’s life. They’d been teasing that Mary Jane was a lot more comfortable with Peter than he was with her at this point. Peter had another girlfriend and everything, who is still missing at this point. What a great guy for trying to look for her. At the end of the issue, while Peter is concentrating on defeating The Queen, she tells him she loves him. Knowing how they were forced to split, it was great that they were still able to show the reading world that Peter and Mary Jane still had feelings for each other. Granted, they have their arms around each other like old friends so maybe this isn’t a love that will rekindle back into marriage. But it is a scenario that makes you feel like all is right with the world.

Bottom Line:

There are still two issues left in the suggested reading order for Spider Island but this really ends the threat. I have to imagine that at this point, the other two issues will involve more cleaning up of loose ends than anything else. I have real issues with this story but I don’t think it’s a bad story. It is something I would slightly recommend with the understanding that this will frustrate you to no end. There are so many places that this story could have went but it seems like the writer, Dan Slott, was forced to include story elements for the sake of including them. They didn’t have any real impact on the story at all. Even the Mary Jane subplot, if you take it out of the story, bears no impact whatsoever on what is going on. Also, while I have no problem with Peter getting back together with Mary Jane, showing him having no concern for his current girlfriend who mutated into a spider and followed The Queen’s bidding is just so damn callous. They should have had him more concerned than not at all.

The artwork I am still not a fan of. The last panel, where Peter and Mary Jane sit on top of the Empire State Building looking at New York was a great end to the story but again, the rest is just too sloppy and distracting for me to have any interest.

The Avengers #167

the avengers 167

The next issue in the Korvac saga brings us to Avengers Mansion where The Beast, Captain America, and the Scarlet Witch are reacting to an alarm. Turns out it is Nick Fury on the SHIELD space station, where he appears to be drunk. Maybe this is why David Hasselhoff decided to play him in that horrible television movie? Anyway, the call is made for the Avengers to Assemble. But Iron Man is late. Turns out Tony Stark is on the space station with Nick Fury. He excuses himself to head back to Earth…in order to get into his Iron Man gear and head BACK to the space station to handle the crisis with the team.

Why? There was no reason to do this but to kill a few panels of space in the comic. This is what blows my mind about Iron Man in the comics. There is absolutely no reason for him to keep his identity secret. None. For any friend or family member that would be in danger, he is soaking in so much money that he could pay for security for the people he loves ten fold. The fact that his identity was kept secret during this era when the Fantastic Four, another group that had tons of money but had their identities out there for all to know, just tells me that the folks at Marvel weren’t thinking correctly. The movies had it right. Someone as rich as Tony Stark would have an ego. He would LOVE to have the world know he is Iron Man. Hell, let’s say he doesn’t tell the world. Why would he not tell The Avengers his secret? It would make the situations that Tony faces as the leader at this time a little easier to go through when Captain America gets pissed at him. It just created unnecessary conflict. Problems for the sake of problems.

Turns out a big space station has appeared out of nowhere that SHIELD wants The Avengers to investigate. They board the ship only to find the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians inform the Avengers that Korvac has come back in time in an effort to kill the Guardians leader, Vance Astro (not the best name you can give a hero. Sounds like the name of a porn star.) There’s reminiscing and then we switch scenes and see Janet Van Dyne Pym, The Wasp, as she shows off her fall collection.

Yes, The Wasp, when she’s not a super hero, is a fashion designer. Now granted, this is part of her character from day one but it is still annoying as hell. But hey, I’m not going to like every character. Hank Pym is in the audience along with Nighthawk and a strange man who stares intently at one model and says nothing throughout.

Out of nowhere the fashion show is disrupted when a group of criminals with their leader barge in demanding everyone’s money. The leader? His name is The Porcupine. This comic came out in 1977 and they’re naming bad guys with names that would have been made fun of in the 40’s. What, does the guy have the proportional strength of a porcupine? Was he stung by a radioactive porcupine and now is pissed off at the world?

Characters like this are why people made fun of comics for years. While the character is never shown as much of a threat in this issue, it is annoying to see such a pathetic character being presented as anything resembling a threat. It was like watching the WWE in the 1990’s when they had characters like Mantaur, Doink the Clown, the Repo Man, or Irwin R. Shyster. These were characters that, while the wrestlers playing them were fine wrestlers, were never, ever going to be considered as any sort of real threat towards the champion or would ever be taken seriously as athletes. Why couldn’t they come up with something novel like having criminals that were just, you know, criminals? I know that’s a wild idea and all that but at least at this point in time it was still so insane an idea to use that they had to come up with a character called The Porcupine and try and make him appear as if he were a real threat.

The end of the issue was intriguing. An unknown character who earlier had been ogling a model, sets eyes on the model when all hell had broken loose. She’s entranced by him and they meet, embrace, and end up disappearing. This was a nice little way for the issue to end because while this issue ended up resolving, thankfully, it gave you enough intrigue to see what happens in the next issue. While I may end up disappointed, it was a nice way to end the issue.

The artwork was top notch apart from the clothing. I don’t know, I think that too often I have seen DC and Marvel during the ages try and present their characters in ways to make them appealing to people of that time. By the time the issue comes out, whatever fad the creators wished to bank on was probably over and close to forty years later now the characters just look plain stupid when they’re dressed like people of that time. Why they could not dress the characters in neutral clothing is beyond me. I mean, these comics are supposed to be timeless stories, why could they not be drawn as such?

Bottom Line:

This is not a good second issue. Despite my criticism I’m not going to go so far as to say the issue was bad but it simply doesn’t stand the test of time. One annoying part I forgot to mention was the stupid flashback at the beginning of the issue. Show, don’t tell is a common adage they give writers. The writers of this issue forgot that by having the Guardians tell the readers what happened when Thor teamed with them. Yeah, it could be argued that there are some readers who have not read other issues with characters they may not like so having a refresher on what happened is not a bad idea. While I agree with that, I do think there could have been a much better way of retelling the story. Even something as having The Avengers scan security tape of Thor’s adventure would have been better than just people talking.

So yeah, it’s not horrible but I cannot recommend reading this issue. It’s a part of the Krovac saga so if you want to read that story from start to finish you have no choice. This is just not the type of story that you read just for the hell of it. It’s like the Star Wars prequels. You watch them just to say you did and you move on.

Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD

Nick_Fury,_Agent_of_S.H.I.E.L.D._Vol_1_1

 

The mark of a good story is one that, regardless of when you read it, it feels alive. Folks that read Tom Sawyer today are immediately drawn into the world that Mark Twain has created. It doesn’t matter that the story is set in the 1800’s, the way Mr. Clemens wrote that story, it could happen today for all I care. You know these characters intimately and care about them from first page to last.

And then you get stories like this. This was just…my god it’s bad. The writer of the piece is one Jim Steranko. (I’ll go into his history a bit later.) The story in question is a weird fusion of three separate stories that just don’t work together. The main story involves Nick Fury discovering someone named Scorpio is out to get him. Fine and dandy…if it weren’t saddled with two other stories, one involving a failed comedian who gambles too much and a mobster who was heading to Vegas to collect some money. Mr. Steranko tries and fails miserably this issue to try and meld those stories together.

The main story is Nick Fury and Scorpio. But it’s tough to call it a story because you don’t really know why the hell Scorpio is after Nick Fury. Well it’s a comic book, you may argue. Future issues will detail why he is out to get him. Yeah, doing a little research on the character (Thanks reddit!) I discovered that Scorpio does in fact have a very personal connection to Nick Fury and a reason to want revenge against him. Not that he’s right in his thinking but still it’s something that is not touched upon at all in the issue.

There really is nothing moving the story forward. There is just a simple premise that someone named Scorpio is after Fury. Everything else in the issue revolves around pure luck or pure stupidity in the case of the failed comedian. The side story is about a guy who owes the mob money. By the end of the issue he is mistaken for the mobster who was heading to Vegas to pick up some money and he gets the money instead. Thinking he has all his problems solved, he proceeds to try and call home. But whoops, there’s a bomb in the briefcase where he thought the money was. So bye bye douche bag. A character we are given no reason to like is killed. We’ve had our time wasted on a pointless story that does nothing for what we are reading at all. It was almost like the editor, Stan Lee, told Mr. Steranko that the issue didn’t have enough drama so they shoehorned a story in that was supposed to be a morality tale about how evil gambling was. Fuck that guy. Anyone thinking their problems were solved that simply deserves a quick death.

The story of the mobster is even worse. He’s almost a dead ringer for the comedian which is how the guy gets the money in the first place. The only reason the mobster appears to be included in the story is to have someone shoot the shot that appears to bring down the ship that Scorpio was attempting to escape from. Then he dies. And you wonder why you should care because he was in the story on just a couple page. They should have just named him Deus Ex Machina. Without him, Scorpio escapes. But without him, the story still happens pretty much as it happens. Why they couldn’t have Fury take the shot is beyond me. Nick Fury was a soldier who would not hesitate to shoot a bad guy. You could even explain it that maybe he didn’t want to kill the guy but was looking to bring the plane down and Scorpio, being a bad pilot, crashed. I get that maybe you don’t want your hero just shooting folks but come the fuck on.

Now onto the art. While the art is very much dated it is pretty much the only thing that can keep your interest in the story. There was a scene early on where a bomb goes off in the desert and you discover that Nick Fury was in the blast radius testing a special suit. The drawing Mr. Steranko uses to illustrate the explosion is a black and white drawing, abstract, but amazing in the power it shows.

The art looked quite familiar. There was a familiarity to it that I just couldn’t put my finger on. Then a little research brought this image.

indy

Jim Steranko was responsible for how the Indiana Jones movies looked. He drew the preproduction images that were used to make the movies into what they became. He also did work with other movies like Bram Stoker’s Dracula from Francis Ford Coppola. So at the end of the day, no matter how much I didn’t care for the story in this issue, the art saves the day.

Bottom Line:

I can’t recommend this comic. I just can’t. While the artwork, especially the cover, and worth a view, the story just makes you shake your head at how fucking horrible everything is. You can’t have a story where everything just happens by chance and the main character is just reacting to everything. That is not a good story. It’s not even a story, it’s just a glimpse into the life of a rather unlucky person. How can you be expected to care a lick what is going on when you don’t know the motivation for the bad guys actions and when half the characters in the story are there simply to take up pages that could have been used to better explain what the hell was going on in the main story? The seed of a story is there. I would have liked to know how Scorpio got his troops in SHIELD. I would have liked to have known WHY he had a grudge against Nick Fury. Instead we get something that passes for a story with artwork that, while it most certainly is dated, is still pretty interesting to look at.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #1

MM Spiderman

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Miles_Morales:_Ultimate_Spider-Man_Vol_1_1

The Good:

One of the great achievements in comics the past twenty years has been the Ultimates line of comics from Marvel. Realizing that the average consumer found themselves in a bit of a quandary due to the fact that despite their knowledge and love of a particular character, they found themselves not really knowing where to start reading a comic because there was simply such a large backstory for each and every character out there. The sheer volume of work on Spider-Man alone, on top of the fact that Spider-Man had multiple comics running at once with stories about him, kept the average person from diving into the comics they might otherwise enjoy. Instead of making a complete overhaul of their comics and starting over, they did the smart thing. They allowed Brian Bendis to essentially recreate the characters. While they may look and sound the same, there was enough of a change to invite new readers to enjoy the comics.

This comic is a continuation of the Ultimates story involving Spider-Man. By this point someone else has donned the mantle of Spider-Man due to the brave choice of having Peter Parker be killed off. (Stan Lee would NEVER have been so brave back in the day.) A young boy by the name of Miles Morales takes on the mantle of Spider-Man. This picks up after Spider-Man and the Ultimates have destroyed Galactus. Miles is living with his friend because his father left town after Miles revealed he was Spider-Man.

I’ve read the entire Ultimate Spider-Man line of comics to this point. In regards to back story, when they mention an event or character from the past, I know who they’re talking about. What I love about this comic though is that they seamlessly weave in that back story without it being a crutch to you as the reader. You’re not punished if you do not know absolutely everything that is going on.

I love how Miles has a support system of friends and family of Peter Parker to rely upon if he is unsure on what to do next. The big focus of this particular issue is Miles questioning himself as to whether he should reveal to his girlfriend that he is Spider-Man. Who else to ask whether that is a wise decision than a young lady who would probably know more about being a girl in that situation than anyone else, Miss Mary Jane Watson. While she certainly encourages Miles to tell his girlfriend, she also cautions him that a secret of this nature is not one given out lightly. She tells him to think about whether this could be a simple crush or something more because a secret of this nature will bind people together for life. Even after Peter Parker’s death, Mary Jane is still bound to Peter and doing her best to honor his legacy.

There are two big reveals in this story, both involving characters long believed dead in the Ultimates universe. The first is Norman Osbourne, the Green Goblin. It is revealed that SHIELD, after Galactus has been defeated, has been disbanded. One little secret Nick Fury had was the fact that Norman Osbourne was alive and well. We don’t know much more than the fact that he lives and escapes. He’s also crazy as fuck, much more so than the Norman Osbourne in the regular Spider-Man line of comics which is great.

The second big reveal is a bit of a shocker. It’s only on the last page of the comic but after starting with issue 1 of Ultimate Spider-Man and getting to this point, seeing that this person who we thought was dead turns out to be alive (Maybe. After all, it is a comic.) is quite the shocker. That person is Peter Parker. As to what the hell is going on I don’t know yet. I’m definitely intrigued and after I write this review I’m reading issue two in order to find out what is going on.

The artwork is as solid as ever. One thing the Ultimate line has got right is the art. It’s not sloppy in the least and evokes the Golden Age of comics past with a bit of a spit shined, modern look to it. Characters emotions flow from each line on the page. Another beautiful marriage of art and words that only comics can bring you.

The Bad:

I’m playing devil’s advocate with this one here but I still think I’m right. As an avid fan of the Ultimate Comics brand I’m quite knowledgeable as to what is going on in the universe that Mr. Bendis has created. What I can see happening though is some of the overwhelming back story that this line of comics was meant to alleviate. We’re expected to know a LOT of what is going on up to this point. While this is a continuation of the Miles Morales story this is the first issue in a new comic line so I think it would have been wise for them to not necessarily start over but create a story that essentially reintroduces you to this world. A new reader may not know that Miles’ father left town after Miles revealed that he was Spider-Man. They might not know who the hell his girlfriend is. They might not know who the hell his friend is and why he’s so goofy. A comic like this has to walk the fine line between pleasing long time fans like myself and fans who may be starting their journey in this universe with this issue. In this case I think the story did more to please people like me and I can see that as a bit of a hindrance.

Bottom Line:

The Ultimate line of comics is a great place to dive into the deep end of the Marvel Universe. The movies themselves have cribbed a LOT from this line of comics so if you’re looking to get a bit of a heads up as to where the movies may be heading next, what better place to start than here. I also love that these comics take some pretty daring chances. I mean, they could have easily kept Peter Parker alive and not introduced Miles Morales at all and still have had a successful run of comics. They chose the brave option and we the reader are better off for it. While I do think more effort could have been made to ease in the reader who may be starting their journey with this issue this should still be mandatory reading for comic fans. I give the story a 9.

The art is well done here. When someone is able to make the words of a story mean more by their artwork you know you have a master artist on your hands. Comics are a collaborative medium. It doesn’t matter much if the art is good if the words suck and vice versa. In this case the art pulls you into the story just as much as the words. I give the art an 8.

Mighty Avengers #13

Mighty_Avengers_Vol_1_13

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Mighty_Avengers_Vol_1_13

The Good:

In this issue we take a bit of an interlude to see how the Secret Warriors, a team who’s first issue I had reviewed previously (https://jousmafiles.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/secret-warriors-1/) but who I didn’t know too much about. Seems that the team was brought together by Nick Fury initially to fight against the Skrull invasion because he needed a team of people he knew he could trust, a team that was not on anyone’s books. A team led by everyone’s favorite Inhuman, Daisy Johnson. (She’s known as Skye on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD television show.)

I have a soft spot for any comic that begins just a few blocks from where I am reading it. It opens in Mount Tabor Park in Portland, Oregon where Daisy meets up with Nick Fury who is in disguise. The disguise is actually pretty funny. In the main Marvel story line, Nick Fury is white. He was only established as black in the Ultimate universe created by Brian Bendis. In this issue, he meets up with Daisy in disguise as the black version of himself in the Ultimate universe.

I liked the interaction Daisy had with each new team member that Nick Fury suggested she speak with. Even a jarring intro she had with a young lady who could read the future seemed natural. While I don’t have a clue where Daisy fits into the grand scheme of things in the Secret Invasion, the team that’s been put together is an interesting group.

The artwork did a good job in showing the individuality of the characters. The scene I enjoyed most was the intro to Doctor Druid’s son. He’d arrived at Doctor Strange’s old home for help where Daisy meets up him. He knows something is up due to having some powers but he doesn’t know where they come from or how to handle them. When Daisy tells him she can help him get a grasp on everything, the smile he gives when hugging her is priceless.

The Bad:

Based on the cover of the issue you’d think that you’d have an issue dealing with the Skrull versions of the heroes we all know and love. You’d be wrong. While the story told in these pages wasn’t bad by any means, it is a kind of bait and switch. Nick Fury has already been introduced into the story so having him on the cover would not have been too far fetched to have. Yet we think we’re going to see Captain America and encounter nothing of the sort.

The story itself, if you can even call it that, felt too short. While it could be said that this could be due to enjoyment of the story, that the story was so good that it felt like it was over before it had a chance to start, I counter that it felt fast because not much of anything really happened. We meet a group of people who on the last frame are lectured by Nick Fury about the pending invasion as they glance of pictures of people Fury believes to be potential Skrulls.

While you don’t doubt that Nick Fury has his heart in the right place, similar to The Punisher you have to ask why he takes some of the actions that he does. He seems to feel that the ends justify the means and that in the name of world peace it is ok to deceive, lie to , hurt, and even have killed people you may love and respect. We get that the Skrull invasion is a pretty serious threat and that big decisions will have to be made but at this point, Nick Fury is in charge of jack shit. His getting involved without SHIELD being involved just makes no sense and makes me not really care for the character that much.

They’re touching on this albeit briefly in the Marvel Movie universe as well. While Nick Fury is supposed to be in charge of the Earth defense force, he keeps a lot to himself and doesn’t trust too many people. There’s a plan B for everything. Again, you sense that he has the right intentions for his actions but in the movies you can’t tell me he didn’t know Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD. There is no way he is that dumb. And if he knew Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD, why didn’t he do anything about it? What is his end game?

The art for this issue, while much better than the last issue of Mighty Avengers, still has that sloppy feel that I didn’t really care for. I like my art a lot cleaner than what is presented in this issue. Locations don’t really appear real. Characters have this non-realistic look that is quite jarring. The disguise I had mentioned Nick Fury was wearing earlier looked nothing like his Ultimate universe self looks like which pretty much ruins the point of having that joke. If you didn’t know about the Ultimate Nick Fury, you have to ask yourself why Nick Fury is walking around in public in black face and how anybody could fall for it?

Bottom Line:

I was harsh on this comic. In some ways it deserves it because there is not much going on. What it does though is introduce you to a new set of characters that I am intrigued to know a little more about. Who are these people and what are their links to characters we may already know? How will they work as a team? Will Daisy Johnson be a good leader? All questions I want to know the answer to. For that, I have to give the story a 7.

The art I am conflicted on. I think it looks horrible. It does however have a couple of good touches such as how Doctor Druid’s son was depicted which was nice to see. I really wish it was much cleaner because the mess really detracts from what was done well. For sloppy drawing, I have to give the art a 4.

This is not a bad issue. I am not looking to see people purposely skip this issue because there is a lot to enjoy. Just know that you are not getting a comic classic. This will just get you to the next issue of the Secret Invasion.

New Avengers #40

New-Avengers-40-pg-000

What a difference a day makes. I go from the beginning stages of loathing for the next issue in the Secret Invasion to becoming excited to what happens next. I still stand by my review of the previous issue because it was not only a horrible read, it’s placement makes no sense in this story since it does nothing to advance it. This story did a much better job in terms of advancing things.

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/New_Avengers_Vol_1_40

The Good:

With just the slightest bit of backstory we now have motivation for the Skrull Invasion of Earth which has been missing these past few issues. We only get the Skrull side of things this issue. We don’t see yet the actions of Reed Richards and others when they were on the Skrull home planet that could cause the Skrulls to want to invade Earth. Mr. Bendis did a wonderful job showing both the religious and scientific factions of Skrull culture as they ended up relying on each other for the invasion to be successful.

My biggest issue with the series so far has been the complete lack of motivation for this invasion. Why? Why would an alien culture go to such efforts in order to cloak themselves among the people they are looking to invade? Now we have those answers, at least enough of an answer to be satisfied of the why the Skrulls are looking to invade. Do I want to know more? Yes. Do I want to get to know some of the invading force? Yes. But at this point in the story, it has kept me from abandoning this series and has me quite interested in what the next issue brings. So, mission complete.

I also appreciated how the main Queen of the Skrulls ended up wanting to involve herself in the invasion. It would make sense that someone as religious as her would want to be on the front lines. If you think your actions could bring you to the promised land quicker, uniting you with your deity, who wouldn’t do whatever they could to help bring those actions about and not look to sit on the sidelines? The fact too that it is established that for the human impersonations to work, they cannot stray one bit either through mind or matter or else they will be detected. These people end up becoming clones for the most part which explains why they could blend into society and with their friends and family so easily.

The reveal at the end that the main queen was Spider-Woman was the perfect way to make the reveal. Unlike the Avengers Illuminati issue where Black Bolt revealed himself as a Skrull, this revelation that the woman who has been established to be a trusted member of both the renegade and official Avengers on top of being a trusted confidant of Nick Fury is in fact a Skrull in hiding, the Queen of the damned Skrulls, was a nice shock. Well done.

The art was solid in this issue, reminding me of some of the classic issues of The Avengers. The cover alone is reminiscent of the first Avengers cover so it is nice that they made a nice little modern homage.

The Bad:

The biggest issue I had was the fact that this issue deserves more than one issue in order to fully explain the motivation as to why they have chosen to invade Earth. This comic does feel like the highlights from a much larger story. Granted, the highlights are one hell of a read but I find myself wanting the information now, not twenty issues down the line. At least a little nod like Stan Lee used to do back in the day with a asterisk along with a brief description as to a previous issue the backstory could be found in would have been nice to have.

The art again evokes classic comics but it fails in terms of scope. We see a couple of external shots on an alien planet that look no more expansive than the set of Star Trek in the 1960’s. While the characters are well drawn, the locations where the action takes place are dull, not interesting in the least, and give the feel of smallness when it should be having an expansive feel.

Bottom Line:

This is a welcome issue. I have really been debating whether I wanted to continue this story (after only a week doing it) and this issue makes me want to know more of what is going on. Is it perfect? No. It has its flaws but what it does well, it does so at such a level that makes you forget some of the horrible stories you’ve encountered to get to this point. Not every chapter in a book will be great. But the sign of a good story is that at the end of a particular chapter, you’re impelled to immediately get to the next chapter. This does that in spades. I give the story an 8.

The art I was harsh with but this again is another issue of what they do well, they do it so well that makes you ignore the flaws. I really got a sense of character and where they stood in Skrull society. While I wish the locations were more realistic and didn’t feel small, I have to give the art this issue a 7.

The Mighty Avengers #15

mighty_avengers_12

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Mighty_Avengers_Vol_1_12

The Good:

The issue came to a merciful end quickly.

The Bad:

This was painful to get through. Just painful in all regards. The story was more repetition from each other the issues preceding it. The only difference in this issue was that we catch up with Nick Fury. We see that he’d been keeping up on the actions of everyone in our story. We’re given no reason to care other than the fact that he’s Nick Fury. Somewhere down the road he will play an important part to the story I am sure but this issue, boy did Brian Bendis test my patience.

I have really questioned whether I should continue with this story line and that is not a good sign just a few issues in. I’ve seen how this story has been adapted for other mediums, most successfully in season 2 of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes which apart from Batman: The Animated Series is my all time favorite cartoon.

Fans of this show know that this story can and will lead to quality entertainment that can make you think as well. We live in a complicated world. Our heroes are no longer the straight laced milk drinkers they were presented as when comics first appeared. They’re complicated and can make bad decisions. Some like The Punisher can also have the right intentions but choose to go about making things right in very wrong ways. Sometimes loyalties can be questioned and the actions of people you’ve worked with for many years can make you wonder whether you even know the people who profess to be your friend.

This issue presented us with none of that unless you like human on alien love (albeit unintentional). Nick Fury meets up with an asset and they commence with the one eyed love machine boogie. But Nick Fury, who has parental trust issues, follows the woman and finds out she’s a double agent. When he confronts her about it, she tries talking her way out of it before he pulls out a weapon and shoots her in the damn face. No motivation for it, just…

It may be argued that previous issues explained why Nick Fury had reason to do what he did and I don’t doubt that. I’m looking at this from a person following Marvel’s own suggested reading order for this story. If Nick Fury is supposed to be a hero, we should have been given a reason as to why he shot the woman. While it is established that Nick has some idea of the Skrull invasion since it is established that he is monitoring what is going on but again, we have no reason to believe at this point that Nick Fury knew this woman was anything but a traitorous human.

We also get an extended scene where Nick shows up on a helicarrier and speaks with Maria Hill, warning her about the Skrull invasion. While it is explained that with Nick formally holding Maria Hill’s job as director of SHIELD he would know ways to get onto and off any place he wants. I don’t buy that, at least not on his own. It was just a convenient way for him to tell Maria something he could have said by a pirated secure transmission. It tried to show that Nick is a bad ass when they didn’t really need to do what they did.

The art work is just atrocious. My youngest son could put paint on his back side and sit on a paper making better art than what this issue made. It was sloppy, rough, had no passion to it. It felt like some high school student who is way more confident in his abilities as an artist than he should be just wasting ink on page after page of pure artistic vomit.

Bottom Line:

Avoid this issue like the plague. There is no reason to read this issue. It brings nothing to the Secret Invasion story line and in fact does more to detract from it than anything. Maybe reading the back issues of this particular comic would make me appreciate it more but that is not my goal here. My goal is to read the Secret Invasion story with the suggested reading order that Marvel put out. While not every issue will be a winner, they should have made more of an effort to make each issue make sense in the fact that while multiple stories may be occurring, they have one main story they need to focus on and they are not successfully doing that. If you see this in your local comic book store, don’t even buy it. Just rip it up and throw it away (after paying for the issue because you don’t want to get arrested).

 

Secret Warriors #1

Secret_Warriors_Vol_1_1

One of my favorite shows on television right now is Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. Now admittedly the show is a bit uneven. For every exciting episode there is an episode that makes you shake your head wondering why the show ever got made. (It helps that the studio that makes the show is the one putting it on the air. Just like Moonlighting in the 1980’s, the network saves major money putting on a show that they make themselves which makes them much more lenient when it comes to stuff like ratings.) I think what the show has gotten right is the fact that they have pretty much inserted themselves into the Marvel Cinematic Universe quite flawlessly. While out of the gate there was more of an expectation that we’d somehow see Iron Man show up on the show, Agents of SHIELD has settled into a nice little niche of its own, mainly as an introduction for characters that may be minor now but could potentially be big later, like the Inhumans.

Season 3 debuts near the end of the month. One of the advertisements of the show mentioned a group called the Secret Warriors.

agents-of-shield-season-3-secret-warriors-crop

Doing some research I discovered that the Secret Warriors originated with the comics. They were a group of mercenaries put together by Nick Fury (the WHITE Nick Fury) whose leader was Daisy Johnson, who is currently a character in Agents of SHIELD that we know as Skye. So in order to know a little more about the group I decided to dive in to the first issue.

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Secret_Warriors_Vol_1_1

The Good:

The story, while short, went along at a good pace. The comic made me appreciate how the producers of the show did their research for the character of Daisy because she came across pretty much just like she did on the show. She was a leader for the team that Fury put together after SHIELD was disassembled in the comics. The Secret Warriors were sent on a recon mission that went bad and were attacked. The attack did a nice job in showing the distinct personality of the characters albeit briefly.

I really liked Nick Fury in this comic. While I’ve known that Nick Fury was originally white, my only real exposure to him has been through the Samuel L. Jackson inspired character that was in the Ultimate comics and as shown in the films with the actual Samuel L. Bad Motherfucker Jackson. The great thing Nick Fury in this comic showed was the brilliance in Brian Bendis for pretty much taking the same damn character…and making him cooler by making him Samuel L. Jackson. There really is no difference in the characters. This shows that, unless you’re making a movie based on the life of Doctor Martin Luther King Junior and want to cast Tom Hanks in the lead, changing the race of a major character in a story is irrelevant as long as the character’s race doesn’t somehow affect the story in a major way (like my previous example, though in my twisted mind I would kind of want to watch Tom Hanks as Martin Luther King. But hey, you’re talking to a guy who paid to see Freddy Got Fingered in theaters twice!)

The artwork was pretty solid in the issue. It had the classic realism that I love in comics, reminiscent of golden age comics but updated for modern audiences. Basically, more attention to the little details while the main characters look magnificent.

The Bad:

As mentioned, the story was short and that is not a good thing. Just when you’re getting interested in the story the issue ends. Obviously, the medium of comics tells their stories over multiple issues. I’m not complaining that the story was not resolved in one issue. My complaint, which is getting to be a major theme I am noticing with comics in general, is the fact that individual issues do not always work well as individual works.

Let’s bring up a movie example, The Empire Strikes Back. As far as plot goes, the story was not resolved. Han Solo was frozen in carbonite and shipped off to Jabba. Luke Skywalker lost his hand and his pride after his battle with Darth Vader. Princess Leia found love after losing her family and an entire freaking planet and ended up losing that love the moment she admits her love. There is a lot left on the table in terms of story that is not resolved. But the ending of that film was perfect because it had the emotional ending we were all looking for. The main characters all learned from their failures and knew what needed to be done to move on.

This issue had nothing like that. It had a shock ending that was meant to get you to read the next issue (which was a good ending by the way) but the path you took to get there was disjointed. It felt like highlights from a much bigger story. Parts were missing which ended up making me lost.

The artwork again was pretty solid. To nitpick, I would have to say that it did underwhelm me in terms of what it had to offer. Sometimes you know what an artist is really into their work. While the art itself may not be perfect their passion for the piece will ring out causing you to be more invested in the story. While the art was pretty decent, it didn’t really bring me into the story more. I didn’t feel like I was stepping into a new world, more like an artists rendition of a Hollywood movie set.

Bottom Line:

This comic is far from perfect. While as an individual issue I can’t say it is too enjoyable, I would have to say that overall it did enough to make me want to read issue two which means it did it’s job. I give the story a 6.

The artwork wasn’t bad. While I wouldn’t say it was the greatest artwork in comic history, it wasn’t sloppy like some comics today are. While it did come across like an artists rendition of an action movie, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For that, I give the art a 6.

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.