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 Superior Spider-Man #6AU (mini review)

(w) Christos Gage     (a) Dexter Soy

As an explanation as to why Spider-Man reads like Peter Parker in Age of Ultron instead of like Otto Octavius, The Superior Spider-Man #6AU is pretty unsatisfying. As a tie-in to “Age of Ultron”, the issue is an interesting look at how the Superior Spider-Man would process the oppression of Earth by someone other than he.

Truthfully, I feel like The Superior Spider-Man has stalled. The first two issues showcased Dan Slott’s ability to bring a fresh new perspective on a very old character. Since then, the series has been going through the motions, unable to find sure footing for the fledgling new anti-hero. With The Superior Spider-Man #6AU, writer Christos Gage utilizes the apocalyptic nightmare of Ultron’s victory to give Otto the ultimate feeling of inferiority.

Putting aside how ridiculous it is that Otto would go through to the trouble of “acting” like Peter to satisfy anyone’s comfort, Spider-Man takes it upon himself to destroy Ultron simply because he’s got a bit more experience with robots than anyone still living. But it’s not about his plan or it’s success or failure. It’s about Otto’s hubris and how it exceeds even the end of the world. This is what the Superior Spider-Man needs to be. This is what Otto’s journey needs to represent because that’s the kind of man he is, the kind that needs to be better than everyone else.

GRADE
9/10

The Week in Revue (Mar 27-Apr 2, 2013)

——- Spotlight

Guardians of the Galaxy #1
(w) Brian Michael Bendis     (a) Steve McNiven
THE GUARDIANS RETURN TO THE MARVEL UNIVERSE!

——- DC Reviews
Batman Incorporated #9
(w) Grant Morrison     (a) Chris Burnham
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MOMENTS AFTER THE DEATH OF DAMIAN WAYNE?

The Flash #18
(w) Brian Buccellato     (a) Marcio Takara
THE TRICKSTER ACCUSED OF MURDER? AND A SPECIAL CROSSOVER WITH…DIAL H!

Justice League Dark #18
(w) Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes     (a) Mikel Janin
THE CONCLUSION TO “THE DEATH OF MAGIC!”


———- mini reviews
Aquaman #18
(w) Geoff Johns     (a) Paul Pelletier
“DEATH OF A KING” BEGINS HERE! A NEW ARC IN THIS ACCLAIMED SERIES!

Superman #18
(w) Scott Lobdell     (a) Kenneth Rocafort
H.I.V.E. MAKES IT’S NEW 52 DEBUT AS THEY TRY TO TAKE OVER METROPOLIS!

Teen Titans #18
(w) Scott Lobdell     (a) Eddy Barrows
FALLOUT FROM “DEATH OF THE FAMILY” AND THE DEATH OF DAMIAN WAYNE! GUEST STARRING THE SUICIDE SQUAD!

——- Marvel Reviews
Age of Ultron #3 of 10
(w) Brian Michael Bendis     (a) Bryan Hitch
MARVEL’S POST-APOCALYPTIC EVENT CONTINUES!

Uncanny Avengers #5
(w) Rick Remender     (a) Olivier Coipel
WONDER MAN, WASP, AND SUNFIRE JOIN THE UNCANNY AVENGERS!

Young Avengers #3
(w) Kieron Gillen     (a) Jaime McKelvie
MORE AMAZINGNESS FROM GILLEN AND MCKELVIE ON THE LANDMARK SERIES!

———- mini reviews
Fantastic Four #5AU
(w) Matt Fraction     (a) Andre Araujo
AN “AGE OF ULTRON” TIE-IN ISSUE!

The Superior Spider-Man #6AU
(w) Christos Gage     (a) Dexter Soy
AN “AGE OF ULTRON” TIE-IN ISSUE!

The Week in Revue (Mar 6-12, 2013)

——- Spotlight

Age of Ultron #1 of 10
(w) Brian Michael Bendis     (a) Bryan Hitch

——- DC Reviews
Earth 2 #10
(w) James Robinson     (a) Nicola Scott


Green Lantern #18

(w) Geoff Johns     (a) Doug Mahnke

———- mini DC reviews

Green Arrow #18
(w) Jeff Lemire     (a) Andrea Sorrentino

Stormwatch #18
(w) Peter Milligan     (a) Will Conrad


Superman #17
(w) Scott Lobdell     (a) Kenneth Rocafort

——- Marvel Reviews
All-New X-Men #8
(w) Brian Michael Bendis     (a) David Marquez


Avengers #7

(w) Jonathan Hickman     (a) Dustin Weaver

———- mini Marvel Reviews
Iron Man #7
(w) Kieron Gillen     (a) Greg Land

The Superior Spider-Man #5
(w) Dan Slott     (a) Giuseppe Camuncoli

mini Reviews (Feb 20-26, 2013)

———- mini DC reviews


Green Lantern Corps #17
(w) Peter J. Tomasi     (a) Fernando Pasarin


“Wrath of the First Lantern” continues in Green Lantern Corps #17 with Volthoom (the eponymous First Lantern) seeking out various colored Lanterns from which to leech emotional energy. Already, this follow-up to “Rise of the Third Army” feels long in the tooth — a person who has the potential to literally reshape the entire fabric of the universe is spending his time poking around the lives of mere mortals? “Wrath of the First Lantern” needs to be about more than just exposing our protagonists’ emotional frailty because that’s basically all “Rise of the Third Army” was about, and that turned out pretty unsatisfactory. It’s unfortunate that, even with a new crossover to pump it up, Green Lantern Corps #17 is simply forgettable.

GRADE: 6/10

Green Lantern: New Guardians #17
(w) Tony Bedard     (a) Aaron Kuder


Green Lantern: New Guardians #17 is the third and final GL family title this week to step up to the plate and attempt to make “Wrath of the First Lantern” interesting, and it’s also the third to fail. Volthoom, at this point, isn’t a very menacing villain because all he does is toy with peoples emotions to gain strength — and GL:NG #17 proves that he’s not even very good at that. Kyle Rayner has mastered all the emotional spectrum and his now a White Lantern, which gives him an edge when Volthoom flips reality at a whim, but there’s no sense of high stakes. Much like “Rise of the Third Army”, it’s frustrating to see so much going on with so little explanation, and being forced to wait for a payoff again with “Wrath of the First Lantern” is already annoying.

GRADE: 6/10


———- mini Marvel reviews

Avengers #6
(w) Jonathan Hickman     (a) Adam Kubert


Again, Jonathan Hickman surprises and astonishes with Avengers #6, which finally answers the question, “Who is Captain Universe?” The ‘deus ex machina’ of Hickman’s first arc, “Avengers World”, was a normal human who somehow became the living embodiment of the entire universe who was able to stop the misguided Ex Nihilo and Abyss from wrongly destroying earth — with no real explanation until now. Hickman promised a huge, epic, grand narrative that would interweave with New Avengers, and the advent of Captain Universe brings those plans one step closer to fruition. If you’re not reading Avengers, you should be; simple as that.

GRADE: 9/10


The Superior Spider-Man #4
(w) Dan Slott     (a) Giuseppe Camuncoli

The Superior Spider-Man continues to be one of Marvel’s best series due in no small part to Dan Slott’s impecable grasp on Otto Octavius — the more we see of Otto as Spider-Man, the more we get to know the real motives and thoughts of a man who has been a villain for 50 years. The biggest complaint about SSM so far has been the use of ‘Ghost Jedi Peter’ — Peter Parker’s phantom consciousness still tied to his body — and The Superior Spider-Man #4 answers those concerns by dialing back Ghost Peter’s appearances allowing Otto to be himself. Though, Peter’s emotional bias against Otto (as well as Otto doing anything differently than Peter did as Spider-Man) is starting to make him sound like a twat for constantly getting grossly upset over Otto’s way of doing things. And while it’s all been relative fun and games for Otto so far, the return of the cold-hearted Massacre promises a challenge that not even the Superior Spider-Man is prepared to face.

GRADE: 8/10

The Week (Feb 6-12, 2013)

——- Featured Review
Avengers Assemble Annual #1

——- DC Reviews

  • Earth 2 #9 PREVIEW
  • The Phantom Stranger #5 PREVIEW
  • Young Romance: A New 52 Valentine’s Day Special

———- mini DC reviews

  • Animal Man #17 – Rotworld: Conclusion, Part 1
  • Swamp Thing #17 – Rotworld: Conclusion, Part 2


——- Marvel Reviews

  • All-New X-Men #7 PREVIEW
  • Avengers #5
  • The Superior Spider-Man #3 

———- mini Marvel reviews

  • Iron Man #6
  • New Avengers #3

REVIEW: THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #2

(w) Dan Slott (a) Ryan Stegman

**CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #12**

With The Superior Spider-Man, Dan Slott is exploring uncharted territory with the character: critical thinking. Peter Parker has always been a smart person. Incredibly smart, in fact. Unfortunately, that genius was usually squandered by Peter’s one-track mind when it came to being Spider-Man — the mask always took precedent, no matter the cost. And when we take an unbiased look at Peter Parker’s entire career as a vigilante superhero, we can see that many of the tragedies and heartaches in his life were a result of unpreparedness or simple miscommunication. This may sound harsh, but it’s one of the many truths the ghost of Peter Parker is forced to learn as he watches his own life being lived by someone else. The Superior Spider-Man #2 builds upon the events of the first issue without the storyline feeling like a Brian Michael Bendis super-decompression. Octavius isn’t as righteous or ‘good’ as readers want him to be in Peter’s body, but the switch has proved to be a fantastic source for new types of Spider-Man storytelling, and that’s the best thing to happen to the character in years.

“He’s saying super villain stuff! How can no one see through this?” ponders the Ghost of Peter Passed as he watches everyone in his life fall for Octavius’ deception. I was worried Ghost Peter would only be popping up every once in a while when Otto needed a good kick in the pants to do the right thing, like a guardian angel with some alternative agenda. Having Peter float around aimlessly only to be unseen, unheard, and unknown to the world is fun because it lets Dan Slott convey the difference between the Amazing and Superior Spider-Men. Otto is doing things with the concept of being Spider-Man that Peter wouldn’t have thought of in years. Like actively figuring out ways to balance an actual social life against crime-fighting, or being smarter about patrolling the city by employing spider-bots that connect with a tablet app to relay information about various incidents that require Spider-Man’s attention. He makes nice with J. Jonah Jameson so the press isn’t constantly on Spider-Man’s case, and he actually dates Mary Jane Watson (or “the Watson woman”), something that hasn’t happened in a great many years. Of course, it’s not really Peter doing these things.

Ghost Peter isn’t too fond of Otto’s new ways, but just because Peter doesn’t understand something doesn’t make it bad. It happens a lot (in movies, at least) — one scientist discovering the final solution to the chagrin and over-analysis of the other scientists out of jealousy and a feeling of failure. In the case of The Superior Spider-Man #2, ghost Peter mentions, on more than one occasion, that Otto isn’t doing things like Spider-Man would do, and Mary Jane makes the same observation. This sequence feels like the first of many that will put Otto Parker’s identity and reputation up to the test with Peter’s personal relationships. Otto explains that he’s trying to be “a smarter Spider-Man” by evolving the way he looks at being a superhero and a man in general. The most interesting part about Otto’s drive to be better is that — at least in this issue — it’s primarily fueled by his desire for Mary Jane. Otto takes MJ on multiple dates with little more payoff than pecks on the cheek and the cold shoulder one particular night. It’s in the frustration of not even getting to first base that causes Otto to have his greatest revelation about Spider-Man as Spider-Man so far: Mary Jane and Peter’s relationship is dependent on the Spider-Man aspect to keep it alive and healthy — without the mask, there is no spark and no deep connection.

It could be argued that Slott has effectively cheapened decades of history between these characters by implying that their love was little more than some weird superhero/damsel-in-distress relationship that was only good when the world was going bad, or vice versa. Really, it’s an astute observation on the nature of a super hero being in love with someone who isn’t. In the beginning, Peter and Mary Jane had a relationship built upon a mutual respect and love for one another, but as time went on and Spider-Man’s life began to affect Peter’s, Mary Jane was often caught in the crossfire as the one who needed saving, with all the whirlwind emotions that come with being held hostage by a mutated thug or international crime syndicate. Otto’s decision to break things off with MJ is one that merits significance because it’s a decision that shocks ghost Peter because it’s something he could never do, no matter how much sense it made. Otto understands how Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship became dysfunctional and he puts a stop to it before it can even start back up.

The Superior Spider-Man #2 continues Dan Slott’s fantastic look at a villain turned hero. Otto Octavius has a chance to change his life completely (and for the better) without sacrificing who he is at the core, which is something many of us wish we could have done at some point in our lives. The addition of ghost Peter into the mix is risky, and the jury is still out on how that element of the storytelling will play out, but for now, it’s enjoyable and provides the Peter Parker presence fans really want. Giving Otto the chance to make Spider-Man into a better hero was a stroke of genius for Slott because it allows Otto to transfer his mad scientist ideas into competent tech with practical uses. I mentioned it in my review of the first issue and I’ll say it again here: for me, The Superior Spider-Man is a whole lot more fun and interesting than Spider-Man has been in a while.

GRADE
8.5/10