Spotlight: Mighty Avengers #1

(w) Al Ewingdetail

(a) Greg Land

** MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD **

In the ‘Marvel NOW!’ era, Mighty Avengers is the weakest Avengers title on the roster, and that’s including Avengers Arena — a series I was incredibly critical of because of it’s apparent reliance on the same general premise as Battle Royale and The Hunger Games  — and Avengers Assemble, which started it’s ‘Marvel NOW!’ run with issue nine and had a few good, small arcs before getting roped into the perpetual crossover game. For a while, it seemed like Mighty Avengers wouldn’t receive a reboot treatment. But to be quite honest, there probably wasn’t a need for one. Marvel already has eight ongoing Avengers titles, and this is the first one to feel completely superfluous. I have a few theories as to why.

First, Mighty Avengers has launched in the middle of Infinity, Jonathan Hickman’s sprawling epic about the Avengers heading off into space to battle the Universal Builders, while Thanos takes the opportunity to attack an Earth without it’s heroes. I don’t tend to like series that begin during an event as much as those that launch more organically. It could be argued that certain events offer a lead-in to new series’, but more often than not, the act of launching a new title during a big crossover event feels manipulative. Beyond a few panels at the beginning of the issue and quick appearances by Proxima Midnight and Ebony Maw at the end, the events of Infinity are barely touched upon. Yet Mighty Avengers #1 has INFINITY scrawled across the top of the cover as if it’s integral to what’s going on. It’s not. In actuality, the attack on New York City could have been from anyone or anything. This title could have launched without the Infinity branding and would have been stronger for it.

Second, Al Ewing doesn’t seem to know how to write this book. I’ve not read any of Ewing’s work in the past — that I know of — but I’m already averse to his clunky, unnatural dialogue and weird pacing. The first red flag for me was when Spider-Man says, “I got a very bright young lady to reconsider a life of paid thuggery.” Otto Octavius inhabits the mind of Spider-Man now, and would never say something like “I got someone to do something.” Octavius is a scientific genius and never hesitates to talk down to anyone he’s speaking with by using overly dramatic language and a condescending tone. But beyond the Spidey faux-pas, Ewing insists on writing overly obtuse dialogue that never quite feels organic. Luc, the French superhero costumier, is just corny and reminds readers that they’re reading a comic book, taking them out of the proverbial zone by highlighting how silly these characters are. Then there’s the Ebony Maw, the most ridiculous sounding henchman I’ve ever read…but only in this book. He reads just fine in Infinity, but Ewing manages to overly complicate the Maw’s monologue that made me want to just stop reading. And a Katy Perry reference? Come on, Al — you can do better than that.

mightyavengers-1-4

Third, Marvel still seems to think people like Greg Land’s artwork. I honestly believe that one of the reasons the ‘Marvel NOW!’ relaunch of Iron Man wasn’t as critically successful as it could have been was because Land handled the artwork and no matter how good the writing is, those airbrushed supermodel faces are just disappointing to see. Jay Leisten does Land a favor by inking in a richness and depth not normally seen in Land’s work. Mighty Avengers #1 features some of Land’s best work I’ve seen to date, but again, that’s mostly due to Leisten’s incredible inking. Of course, characters like Monica Rambeau still look different from panel to panel (the inking can only do so much).

There are a number of reasons to read Mighty Avengers #1: it’s technically a tie-in to Infinity, it features a mostly African-American cast of characters — if you’re invested in diversity in comics — and it hearkens the return of Luke Cage to the ongoing happenings of the Marvel universe. But it’s faults are big, and they might just be too big to ignore going forward. I’ll give most any series three issues, but I’m not holding my breath.

GRADE

5/10

The Week in Revue (Aug 28 – Sep 3, 2013)

Spotlight

Batman Incorporated Special #1

(w) Chris Burnham, Joe Keatinge, Dan Didio

(a) Chris Burnham, Ethan Van Sciver, Jason Masters

DC Reviews

Batman/Superman #3

(w) Greg Pak

(a) Jae Lee

Justice League #23 –> DC Comics News Review!

(w) Geoff Johns

(a) Ivan Reis, Joe Prado

The Flash #23

(w) Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato

(a) Francis Manapul

Marvel Reviews

Captain America #10

(w) Rick Remender

(a) Joh Romita Jr.

Young Avengers #9

(w) Kieron Gillen

(a) Jaime McKelvie

X-Men #4 Review

(w) Brian Wood

(a) David Lopez

After a quick “Primer”, Brian Wood follows up his initial arc with X-Men #4, a stellar issue that highlights two key relationships in this series that will continue to be important going forward. I’ve never been a regular reader of Wood’s work in the past, but his ‘Marvel NOW!’ X-Men is one of my favorite titles to come out of the initiative. The fact that it’s an all-female team is indeed interesting, but it’s not the focal point because the roster isn’t padded out with C-list mutants. Each character is there for a reason and it makes sense, so why not write a series about them?

The first relationship Wood highlights is that of Jubilation Lee and Wolverine. The main catalyst that caused the formation of this specific lineup of X-Men was Jubilee’s unannounced return with a baby. Logan and Jubilee have always had a special connection, but that friendship wasn’t expounded upon in the first three issues. X-Men #4 features Jubilee and Wolverine taking a road trip around southern California, simply having a good time. There’s no fight in the middle, no nefarious scheme brewing underneath them the entire time, and no mind control to be had. It’s just two very good friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time hanging out, and it’s fantastic. What used to be father/daughter-esque has turned into a mutual respect and admiration between old buddies. Then — like the cherry on top of the nostalgia express — Wood takes the duo back to the mall where Jubilee was first recruited by the X-Men way, way back when. The first three issues of X-Men highlighted Woods’ talent for writing a 90s-style action without it coming across as overkill. X-Men #4 shows how well he can adapt that talent when writing a more somber plot line.

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The second relationship explored is between Storm and Rachel Grey. Near the end of “Primer”, Storm made the difficult decision to end the life of Karima Shapandar — a friend of the X-Men who previously had been in a coma for months and months — when she was possessed by the genocidal sentient virus villainess Arkea. In the end, Rachel’s protest caused a hesitation and Karima was able to exorcise Arkea from her own body. In X-Men #4, Rachel confronts Storm and challenges her leadership role in the X-Men, et al. It’s a surprisingly bold accusation that kind of makes sense. I like Storm as a character, but her personal politics and cultural affluence often frame her decisions. In this case, she made the wrong decision about Karima, but she’s unwilling to back down when Rachel demands some sort of acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Storm and Rachel have their fight while overseeing the rescue of a crashing jetliner by Rogue, Psylocke, and Kitty Pride. Wood is able to get his action sequences in without forcing a massive battle or giant explosion. Both Storm and Rachel have valid points concerning their position on the issue of crossing the line when there’s a perceived necessity. Both women want what is best for their teammates and students. And both of them are stubborn, proud fighters. It’s no wonder they’re butting heads this early in the game.

X-Men #4 is a fantastic single issue that’s already on my top ten for the year. The two plot lines are easily digestible without being overly simplistic or dull. Brian Wood is writing character-driven stories with 90s plot-driven stories and it’s working surprisingly well each and every month. I’m glad Jubilee is back in the main fold of things in the X-Men universe because aside from the fact that she’s a great character that has been sorely underused in recent years, it’s the perfect time for a 90s-era X-Man to come back because her style from back then isn’t too far off from what goes for fashionable today.

GRADE

10/10

The Week in Revue (Aug 21-27, 2013)

Spotlight

Justice League Dark #23 –> “Trinity War” Part 5

(w) Jeff Lemire

(a) Mikel Janin

DC Reviews

Batman and Nightwing #23

(w) Peter J. Tomasi

(a) Patrick Gleason

Green Lantern: New Guardians #23

(w) Justin Jordan

(a) Bradley Walker

JLA’s Vibe #7 –> DC Comics News Review!

(w) Sterling Gates

(a) Pete Woods

Marvel Reviews

Captain America #10

(w) Rick Remender

(a) John Romita Jr.

X-Men #4

(w) Brian Wood

(a) Lopez

Uncanny X-Men #10 Review

(w) Brian Michael Bendis

(a) Frazer Irving

Uncanny-X-Men_10_Panel

No matter what Brian Michael Bendis does, he cannot convince me to get behind Cyclops as an antihero. The point of the current run of Uncanny X-Men is to showcase Cyclops as a terrorist on the wrong side of the law for the first time in his life. This is an important time for Scott Summers because he now perceives humanity as a hostile entity hellbent on mutantkind’s destruction — the exact opposite of what he was taught by Professor Charles Xavier. Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men is supposed to highlight the duality of Scott’s situation and how perception is everything when it comes to civil rights. If Xavier and Magneto were once analogies for Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X — in respects to their methods of achieving social equality — then Cyclops is symbolic of the Black Panthers, an organization that had very good intentions but often fell into discord and chaos due to a truly defined lack of direction. But that’s a very, very loose metaphor.

It was fair game to hate on Cyclops before Avengers vs. X-Men and the horrible events that happened at the end. Now, Bendis is trying to make him seem multifaceted and more well-rounded. Instead, it’s painfully obvious that Cyclops is still the self-entitled ass he’s always been, he just now has a different cause to fight for and it happens to be against popular opinion. What really irks me the most about Cyclops in the ‘Marvel NOW!’ era is how smug he acts. Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magneto, and Magik — the only non-new mutants in the bunch — are all suffering form malfunctioning powers. For a man whose middle name was responsibility, it’s downright frustrating to see Cyclops seek out and train brand new mutants when he doesn’t have his own house in order.

Mostly, Uncanny X-Men #10 truly brings home the idea that Cyclops is just a dick. Scott’s ego got big when he became a symbol of mutant oppression. Whether he earned the label or not, he’s hammed it up on more than one occasion like he’s the true mutant leader. This month, media outlets are reporting a massive protest in support of Cyclops and his more aggressive agenda. Without thinking twice, he whisks his new students directly into the public eye which ends up not being the public eye at all, but rather a trap set to catch the egomaniacal Cyclops. It’s obviously a trap. It’s so damn obvious you want to smack Cyclops and tell him to get his thumb out of his butt and stop being a whiny little jerk.

GRADE

7/10

Thor: God of Thunder #11 Review

(w) Jason AaronThor_God_of_Thunder_Vol_1_11_Textless

(a) Esad Ribic

Perhaps it’s an editorial decision, or maybe it’s just how things are going right now at Marvel, but this is now the third recent story arc I’ve felt ended on a rather flat note even though it was a whole lot of fun to read. Age of Ultron, a few months back, was fun because it was a time-traveling cluster-f*ck that ended with a sharp left turn and a big load of craziness that writers are still trying to unknot. Then, Sam Humphries’ insanely fun, all-female X-Men ended it’s three issue opening salvo with a quick, ‘deus ex machina’-style cop out that was not satisfactory. Now, Jason Aaron’s epic God Butcher saga in Thor: God of Thunder comes to a close in the eleventh issue, yet it contains only a fraction of the epicness seen in the ten that come before.

** SPOILERS AHEAD, YE WHO CONTINUES **

The most exciting part of Thor: God of Thunder #11 is Dark Thor handling two hammers and ending Gorr, the God Butcher, once and for all. But that only takes up a few pages of the issue. I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t enjoy this issue because I very much did. I only expected a grander finale than Aaron delivered. Though, in some ways, it seems appropriate for an enemy who detested the pomp and circumstance surrounding gods to be deposed of in such a quick and unceremonious way.

Fortunately, Jason Aaron does a phenomenal job with the dialogue in this issue to fill in the gaps before and after Dark Thor goes to town on the God Butcher. The conversations between the different versions of Thor are some of my favorite from the writer and the character. The three Thors represent the three aspects of Thor’s internal struggles: he will always feel the the desire to please Odin (and the resentment that comes from it) of the young Thor, he will always have the kindness and compassion of Thor the Avenger even though these aspects make him weak in the eyes of his enemies, and he will always be reluctantly destined to be the greatest and most powerful god of all like King Thor. Jason Aaron just knows how to write Thor. Some black metal band from Sweden needs to write an album based on this storyline.

GRADE

8/10

Spotlight: Infinity #1

(w) Jonathan Hickman

3041316-infinity_1_cover(a) Jim Cheung, Mark Morales

** SPOILERS AHEAD **

I really, really like Jonathan Hickman’s writing. I think he has some of the highest-concept ideas out there, and that he rivals Grant Morrison in ability to create long form, cohesive stories. Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and his creation of FF showed the industry just what he could do with big name characters, and we read in awe. In the ‘Marvel NOW!’ era, Hickman has been promoted to the Avengers franchise, currently writing Avengers and New Avengers, two series that can be read separately, but ultimately connect in ways we are just beginning to see in the pages of Marvel’s newest crossover event for the fall, Infinity.

Now that I’ve gotten my praise for Hickman out of the way, let me say how much I disliked Infinity #1.

Crossover events used to be special in that they happened once a year (sometimes longer!) and had actual, tangible implications on the Marvel universe going forward. Though Avengers vs. X-Men did indeed usher in the entire ‘Marvel NOW!’ initiative, it took 12 issues and dozens of tie-in issues to explain what could have been said in a four-issue mini-series. Similarly, last Spring’s Age of Ultron was solicited as a major, major event for the Marvel universe that ended up falling very short of popular expectations and whose aftermath — which was oddly marketed as the highlight of the event from the get-go — has only really affected a handful of titles instead of having major recourse for an entire universe of characters. It’s like Marvel is getting worse with each subsequent event because Infinity already feels like a whole lot of overkill for very little payoff.

Infinity #1 is, simply put, a mess of an issue. Unless you’ve been reading Avengers AND New Avengers, I promise you will have no idea what’s going on because I struggled to keep up with the plot and I’ve read both series since issue one (of their ‘Marvel NOW!’ incarnations. I have not read every Avengers issue ever). This is a shame because Jim Cheung’s artwork is simply spectacular. Cheung is one of my favorite artists, and he excels on these pages with beautifully drawn characters, backgrounds, monsters, and fight sequences. What would have made his artwork even better is a cohesive story that wasn’t trying so hard to be highbrow.

While Hickman is a good writer, he’s overstepping his bounds with Infinity, trying to be super-intellectual instead of fun and interested. The various ‘interlude’ pages are annoying because they’re puzzling; the last thing I want to do when I’m in the middle of reading a comic book is pause for a few minutes every five pages to decipher some cryptic message about a portion of the story. I don’t know who told Hickman this technique would be a good idea for a comic series attract a wide variety of readers — it’s alienating and nearly insulting in it’s pretentiousness.

The real problem with Infinity #1, though, is how vaguely it’s written. What we do know is a lot of ‘whats’. We know there are some alien assassins running around. We know Thanos is involved somehow. We know the Avengers encounter some Skrulls on Earth for some reason. We know that the Kree were attacked by some mysterious fleet of universal builders whose trajectory is heading straight for Earth. What we don’t know, are the ‘whys’ of any of these events. Hickman is a master of long-form storytelling, and that works when he’s writing an ongoing series. For an event comic series called Infinity, though, this first issue is sorely lacking.

I doubt if I’ll event continue to read Infinity as a true crossover event. Marvel can market this mini series however it wants, but as it stands right now, Infinity is just a major point in Jonathan Hickman’s grand Avengers design. That’s not a bad thing, but when looking at the logistics of this being the second major crossover event of 2013 — and starting only two months after the previous one ended — it’s hard to justify jumping in when the learning curve is so freaking steep. If you read Hickman’s Avengers series, you’ll want to read Infinity because if you don’t, you’ll be lost after it’s over. Otherwise, this event may not be for you.

GRADE

5/10