Wolverine #8

Comic books are riddled with deaths. From Uncle Ben, Bucky, Superman, and others, important characters have ended up on the wrong side of something and have bit the dust. Apart from Uncle Ben, the part about death when it comes to comic books is that you shouldn’t expect a character to necessarily remain dead. That’s the beauty of the genre. What once was lost can be brought back again.

That leads us to Wolverine. Marvel wrapped in 2014 the Death of Wolverine storyline. I questioned why they would want to take out a character that is as popular with comic fans as he is with casual fans. Yeah, I fully expect him to be back at some point snick snicking his way through bad guys with his adamantium claws but what brought Marvel to this point? While I understand that Marvel and 20th Century Fox have had their issues since Fox has the movie rights to the X-Men (and subsequently Wolverine) characters and universe, when you have a character like Wolverine who probably rivals Spider-Man for name recognition among the general public, why kill him off? This must be one heck of a story for them to be running with it. I had to check it out myself.

The first thing I really appreciated was the fact that despite this starting pretty much in the middle of an existing story, the writers made every effort to make this feel like the beginning of something big. We are clued in as first time readers (which I am for this particular story) as to what brought us to this point and some of the characters that are involved but we don’t have to have in depth knowledge of any back story to get a full understanding of what is happening in this issue. In fact, they did a pretty damn good job of making sure that the issue of mortality was front and center. The story from the previous issues really brings the reason why we’re here, seeing the beginning of the end of a character we all love, to the forefront.

I get the feeling that we are probably going to have a chance to see Logan reflect on his life throughout this story. He meets up with Death in the story (in the Marvel universe, Death is very much a real person. I don’t know this as of yet but I suspect that Death will be the same women who Thanos lusted after in The Infinity Gauntlet) and is started on a journey that will most likely bring him back to some past adventures. He’s on an island where he meets up with Death who happens to have a statue of Wolverine with the real skulls of his victims, friends, and families.

I do have to say that I just didn’t care for the side story too much in this story. Not that I wanted it to focus solely upon Wolverine but most of the story focused on a character named Pinch. Seems that in previous issues, Pinch had been a love interest of Wolverine all while they both were in a group headed by a guy named Offer. (Wolverine was undercover in the group for SHIELD.) Again, my problem wasn’t with the inclusion of this story in the issue but there should have been more focus on the character whose name is on the cover of the comic.

I really enjoyed the art in this issue. Reminiscent of classic superhero stories, it was simply well drawn, showcasing the emotions in the characters while showcasing the action in a story in a logical way that only comics can do. The training scene with Wolverine, Iron Fist, and Shang Chi had some great action lines when Iron Fist and Shang Chi were whipping on Wolverine.

Bottom Line:

While not a perfect issue, it was one of the best openings of a major event story that Marvel has put out that I have read. I get a real sense of a beginning in this issue which in other stories I have read like Secret Invasion or Spider Island I did not quite get. We get a real sense that we are on the start of a fateful journey that will see a character we all know and love battle through hell itself just to get to a long awaited end.

I want to see how Marvel pulls this off. I am under no expectations that this death will be permanent. If it isn’t, what device will they use that will allow future writers to get Wolverine back into the world of the living? If they happen to decide to do something foolish and keep this character dead, what finality will they bring upon him that will keep him dead forever.

 

Blink #1

   The X-Men. Thanks to various cartoon appearances throughout the years I am familiar with the characters but admittedly have not read too many of the comics where the characters originated. I wish I had a reason. I don’t hate the characters. Wolverine is an amazing character that I absolutely love yet for whatever reason I’ve found myself drawn to other comics in the super hero genre.   With the new X-Men: Apocalypse coming out this year I wanted to dive into the deep end of the X-Men pool so I decided I would give the story that became the inspiration of the film, Age of Apocalypse, a try. So I come to these stories as a new reader with a very basic understanding of the characters apart from the more well knowns like Wolverine, Cyclops, Magneto, and Professor X.

   The first story in the Age of Apocalypse story arc is Blink #1. Apparently this four issue series of Blink was written well after the creation of the Age of Apocalypse story but retroactively placed at the start of the story. That fact makes the story a little tough to follow since the story assumes you know a lot of what is going on before you even pick up the story. While we do encounter characters we are familiar with in this story, they have different motivations than we are used to so they may as well be new characters.

   That is the problem with prequels or stories like this that unintentionally become prequels. Take the Star Wars prequels for instance. Sure, they were not the landmarks of cinema that maybe George Lucas thought they would be but despite their many flaws, they told the story of how the heroes we do like and care about got to where they did when Episode 4 started. But when you’re creating a story that folks already know the ending to, it’s tough to create a story with characters and situations that are new and exciting since we already know where characters end up with the later part of the story. Any sort of tension or suspense you’re trying to create gets tossed out the window when you know the fate of the characters involved.

   You also have the problem of the writer not knowing how to focus correctly. What do I mean by that? The purpose of a prequel is to essentially write a new opening to an already established story. Your focus going into it has to be making sure that the story blends as well as it can with the original story as it can. Too often you find writers making decisions that assume the reader or movie watcher or whatever know something that, if they were supposed to start the story from the new starting point, should not know by this point. If you are going to have a character act in a particular way, you have to act like the audience is meeting this character for the first time and explain why, either through actions or through a little thing called exposition.

   The big issue I had going into Blink was the writer assuming myself as a reader knew a lot more of the story than I did coming in. I get that comics are a different medium than books so aren’t always afforded the benefit of a proper, exposition filled set up of the story. Being that this details a less well known character as well, saying this is a proper story introduction would be wrong as well because while it may be the start of the reading order, this is not a story where you can throw in a ‘Once Upon A Time…” and start the story off. It’s one character’s adventures tossed into an already established story. There’s nothing wrong with that per se but the disorientation I felt trying to get my bearings to me shows that starting the reading order with this issue was probably not a good idea. Does that make this a bad story? No. It’s all right. Not my cup of tea but enjoyment of a story is purely subjective. Marvel could have done a better job with the reading order.

   The art is not my cup of tea here. There are too many garish colors and oddly drawn characters for my liking. I get that these are mutants for characters so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they will look different than you or I. The problem I had was the fact that the artist in question really loved making the characters extra curvy. The characters didn’t have the bit of realness I like to see in stories. It was like the X-Men version of a Conan The Barbarian comic. Whether it be Conan or Red Sonja, everyone had to have muscles upon muscles or extra billowing bosoms which just distracts me from the story. I understand that comics are not movies. They’re not supposed to be as close to real people as possible. I just don’t care for the exaggerated nature these characters were drawn in.

Bottom Line:

   I didn’t care for this. I wouldn’t call it bad but for my tastes, it just didn’t do it for me. In regards to its placement as the start of the Age of Apocalypse reading order, something feels off here. It doesn’t really feel like a proper beginning which really made getting through this issue a chore. I’m supposed to know a lot of what is happening already when I start…but this is supposed to be the start of the story. They’re trying to accomplish two things at once which for my money, was a failure.

New Avengers #34

New Avengers 34

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/New_Avengers_Vol_1_34

The Good:

The Secret Invasion continues. This issue is concerned with the group dynamic of the renegade Avengers that we met when they faced off against The Hand. Trust is nowhere to be found what with the possibility one of them could be a Skrull infiltrator. I really dug how Bendis went about sowing the mistrust among the team while still keeping them clinging to the hope that the people they’d treated like family were just that, family.

The best part of this issue was Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. It reminded me of my wife and I when she blurts out something that I may be thinking but am not talking openly about. Luke Cage suspects his wife and daughter are Skrulls. He has nothing to base this on but pure paranoia. She calls him out on his shit in front of everyone and with the assistance of Doctor Strange, proves that she and their daughter are who they say they are.

Bendis did a wonderful job with the ending, kind of tying it up with the previous issue in the Secret Invasion that I reviewed where Tony Stark’s version of The Avengers went off to fight a city full of Venom clones. In what could be the unifying factor of the two teams since the superhero Civil War, they both arrive to begin battle. Just as they arrive, a cliff hanger occurs when Echo is attacked with some of the Venom formula.

The art was reminiscent at least to me of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. On face value it appears to be hastily put together but in doing so at times it brings out characterization that may not have happened with a more cleaner approach.

I also liked that there felt like there was more scope to the drawing in this issue. Things felt bigger even when we were in an interior location. My previous complaints of scope we more than resolved in this issue.

The Bad:

The opening scenes did not make much sense in regards to the story line at hand. Yes, if I had looked back an issue I could have found out what The Hood was doing fighting Wolverine but being that this particular issue was third in line in the suggested reading order for the Secret Invasion story line, I expected a little more follow up but that particular part of the story was not followed up on. Maybe it’s because I am coming to this with a more traditional sense of story in terms of stories having a definitive beginning, middle, and end. Comics are traditionally more snapshots into the life of particular characters and like life, you don’t always have the definitive starting point to follow. Being that this is the suggested reading order however, I do wish more consideration was taken into account for readers like myself who don’t subscribe to every single issue of every comic they put out. If you are going to have a story that is told over multiple issues and multiple titles of comics, it has to be a little more cohesive than this story is. And we’re only on issue three.

While the art was good in a lot of respects, it was a little too sloppy for my tastes. This is just personal preference here but the art was a bit of an annoyance more than it helped the story. As I stated, I liked that it added more scope as well as adding more to certain moments when it came to characterization but I found myself more than anything just wanting to get through the issue. It just looked ugly.

Bottom Line:

As an individual issue, this really didn’t do much for me. It had some really good moments no doubt, especially between Luke Cage and Jessica Jones but that was the wheat among a LOT of chaff. In a long form story, not every chapter will be a winner. You can’t have moments that contain tons of action of tons of reveals, just meat to the story that people crave. Sometimes you need exposition to set you up for greater things down the road. I do believe this issue did that in terms of hinting at a possible reconciliation among the two Avengers teams but as a stand alone work, I have to give this a 4.

The art I’m conflicted on. What was done well was done really well. But the overall darkness and sloppiness is just something that I couldn’t overcome the further I got into the story. I’m not saying that Leinil Yu is a bad artist. I just didn’t care for the material as presented in this work. It felt like an amateur trying their best to copy Frank Miller. There can only be one Frank Miller and it’s not this person. I give the art a 5.

New Avengers #31

New-Avengers-31-pg-000

One great feature about the Marvel Unlimited app is the Discover section which brings together notable events and one shots for famous characters in their arsenal. For major event stories that take place over multiple issues and multiple lines of comics they give you a suggested reading order to keep you organized. While the story itself may not be 100% written to be a chronological story (They can be side stories that don’t affect the main plot of the event story but still affect a major character) knowing where the creators of the story want you to start if you want to tackle a particular story is a nice touch. One story line I came across was for Secret Invasion. To kind of mix things up here, I think I will be reviewing the Secret Invasion story from start to finish. The reason I say I think is that for all I know I may end up hating this story so to commit to reading a story that takes place over 98 issues would be silly on my part if by issue 12 I’m hating what I’m reading. Without further ado, let’s begin the Secret Invasion.

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/New_Avengers_Vol_1_31

I’d really like to send my love and appreciation to the good folks at the Marvel Wiki site. It’s been a great starting off point for me when it comes to wanting to know more about characters, stories, and the people who make them. Hats off to the work they and their contributors do.

The Good:

To start off, this comic, apart from the very last page, have nothing to do with the story we are about to dive into. From the intro on the first page of the comic it’s explained that what we are seeing is the finishing touches of the Civil War story line (which I definitely want to re-read before the movie comes out. I can’t wait to see Spider-Man in a real Marvel movie!) Taking that into account, what we’re seeing here is mostly cleanup. There’s not too much story going on but on the flipside you’re also not bored out of your mind. You care about the characters and want to see them overcome their fight against Elektra and the evil organization known as The Hand.

And hell, let’s talk about that ending.

Elektra Skrull

I would expect nothing less from a Brian Bendis comic. The closing image is jarring. It evokes a feeling of paranoia. Someone who they thought was their enemy turned out to be someone completely different. An alien in their midst looking to cause trouble among Earthlings. If it could happen to their enemy, could people they consider their friends not be who they say they are as well?

Being that this came out in 2007 when America was well in the midst of their Islamic xenophobia this feeling of paranoia was most likely intentional. When you’ve been attacked you’re in protection mode. You don’t want to be attacked again. Anything and everything that gives you the remotest sense of danger you’re paranoid about. It’s a natural reflex which in and of itself is not bad but taken to extremes can lead to horrible actions on the paranoid person’s part as well as leading to the paranoid person being exploited by people looking to harm them. This was a great start and definitely makes this decision to read this story a good one (so far).

The artwork was great. The cover alone is quite jarring with the character Echo shoving a sword into the gut of who they think is Elektra. The character portrayals were great. You could get a sense of the emotions the characters were looking to convey in the story. I especially liked the concern from Jessica Jones (I can’t wait for the Jessica Jones show on Netflix!) when she inquired about Luke Cage, the father of her baby. Quite realistic.

The Bad:

I do wish there was some more substance to the story. This is nitpicking because the intro is pretty clear that what I am reading is the very end of another story line but this still felt quite rushed with no real substance. It was essentially a 20 page fight scene with a shock ending. There are no character arcs, nobody learns anything, you’re just coasting by until you can get to that last image.

If I had to nitpick about the artwork it would be that the artist was more concerned about the characters and not about where the characters were at. I never got a true feel as to where the action was happen. Apparently it was at some sort of ninja temple or something but the location was drawn in such an abstract manner that I never really felt a sense of scope or anything. If the action at hand has no real danger of harming the environment about them, it may as well be happening on a soundstage.

Bottom Line:

This is a good start for this story. While I would have liked them to have planted the seeds more in the previous story apart from one image on the last page of this issue, it is what it is. The last page alone is worth the read because it gets you interested in what happens next. It’s not perfect but that alone gives it good marks in my book. I rate the story a 7.

The artwork I’m conflicted on. While the character drawings were great, I wish more attention was given to the location where the action was taking place. This is nitpicking to be sure. Please don’t take this as an I hate the artwork rant. But what the artist did good could have been better if more attention was paid to the entire piece and not just the characters. I rate the artwork a 6.