Currently writing this from back home in Pennsylvania. I finally acquired myself a job, and even though I don’t start until January 5th, things have been quite hectic. Even still, I’ve got some free time right now so I wanted to throw out some reviews before I return to Boston.
Mighty Avengers #20 (****)
This is Bendis’ last issue of Mighty Avengers, and is really the true “requiem” issue for the Wasp (as opposed to Secret Invasion: Requiem, which will primarily be reprints of important Wasp issues). This issue features the Wasp’s funeral, and primarily deals with Hank Pym’s attempts to reintegrate into society after escaping from the Skrulls and discovering the death of the love of his life. We’ve got three artists on this book, with Lee Weeks covering the opening couple of flashback pages, and Jim Cheung and Carlo Pagulayan drawing the rest of the issue. It’s a funny thing, because one of the annoying things about this issue was the device that Bendis used to catch Hank Pym up on the goings on of the world using five silent full page splash collages of House of M, Civil War, Cap’s death, World War Hulk, and Secret Invasion. It’s a waste of pages, but the work Jim Cheung did on these was fantastic. It reminded me a lot of the Young Avengers Presents covers, as well as that double page spread from the first Secret Invasion New Avengers book featuring Spider-Woman’s history. So I didn’t like the pages being there, but they were beautiful to look at. Ambivalence. I loved the funeral scene, and while it’s another example of everyone piling on Tony Stark post Secret Invasion, I think it fits here because of the emotionally charged nature of the scene, and the way Hank didn’t necessarily get the full story of the events he missed when Carol Danvers caught him up. This book did give us a much more appropriate send-off to the Wasp that we didn’t see in SI 8. It’s a strong way to leave the book for Bendis, and I’m looking forward to what Dan Slott plans to do with the book from this point on, because this team seems to be the odd one out.
Secret Invasion: Front Line #5 (****)
Front Line #5 is structured in a very similar way to issue eight of the main series. The title of this issue is “Dark Reign,” and it basically follows the end of the Central Park fight (starting with the Wasp’s doomsday device whatever thingie being activated), quickly finishes that plot thread and moves on to confronting the idea of a world led by Norman Osborne. You can definitely understand why Ben Urich being the main character of the book was done, because it pays off in spades due to Urich’s long personal history as a man from the Spider-Man family with a long history with Norman. The scene where Ben confronts him and both he and the crowd completely blow him off is great. It also does a nice (if perfunctory) job of wrapping up the other characters we saw throughout the five issues. I still like the premise and import of the Front Line idea, and this was a worthy companion to the Secret Invasion event.
Secret Invasion: Dark Reign (***1/2)
Okay, so we all know that Maleev messed up Namor something fierce. Crazy homeless Bendis isn’t exactly what you would expect from the long faced, regal king of the seas. However, I do think Maleev did an excellent job with the rest of the characters in the book (Norman’s hair notwithstanding), and the art in a book like this isn’t as important as the writing. It’s a bit easier to ignore the art in a board room book compared to something that’s heavier on action. And I think that the board room scene itself was well done. The goals for this book are simple. You’ve got six people in a room with explosive personalities and different agendas. You have to find out why they’re all agreeing to work together and how Norman Osborne could keep these people in line. So obviously this is designed from the perspective as a callback to the original New Avengers: Illuminati and Road to Civil War books, and I think Bendis pulls this off creating a twisted mirror of craziness where the trust is completely nonexistent, and no one is looking out for anyone other than themselves. Really, Emma is the only one here who’s acting from the angle of potential altruism, as she seems to be willing to partially compromise her beliefs in order to make absolutely sure that the mutants will be kept safe. I’m not exactly sure what made Bendis decide to bring in the two vingettes about Kitty Pryde and Swordsman, as they could probably be better served in the X-Men and Thunderbolts books, but at the same time, I do also see them as quick little hooks that might make you want to pick up some X-Men or Thunderbolts issues, so maybe that’s why we saw those framing scenes. I think the characters were written well, and I’m looking forward to the other shoe dropping for Doom and Namor, as well as where we’re going to see the continuing story of The Hood. I liked the book for the most part, but it was generally inconsistent in both the writing and art categories.
I got the same requests to add some info to Book Blogs. Do you think I should make a group about bookish charities, mention it in the discussion, or leave these kinds of things out of the site altogether? What do you think?
We can run in circles about the art. I thought Emma, Doom, Loki and The Hood looked great, and that allowed me to deal with the inconsistencies with Norman and Namor.
It’s also pretty damned obvious that Norman DOESN’T have control over any of these people. It’s laying the seeds for this little cabal to fall apart and lead to his downfall. But more importantly, just about all of these characters are currently in a place of weakness at the time this issue happens. Doom had just escaped from jail and couldn’t exactly waltz into an airport to try and get himself back to Latveria. Atlantis is in bad shape and Namor already needed to ask for help from Doom, who isn’t exactly in the position to give it right now. Loki is treading the thin line in Thor trying to make sure she can seize control without anyone noticing. Emma’s got to deal with the endangered mutant population, as well as the fractious times of moving everyone to San Francisco. The Hood has to deal with keeping a bunch of crazies in line.
As such, this is the perfect time for Norman to attempt something like this, because he has all the power while they don’t, and he can help them return to their past glory, which in his twisted mind will make them fall in line, which of course they won’t when push comes to shove. Doom needed a way out of the country, so he had to listen to what Norman had to say. Loki loves sowing mischief and chaos, so she probably loves the idea of the puppet masters working behind the scenes. Emma and Namor need to do everything they can to keep their respective races alive to allow for them to thrive in the future. The Hood needs to make sure he keeps his men happy, because they’d be just as willing to turn on him in an instant.
The whole point of this to me was to show that they’re not on the same page, they’re not working together, and Norman is going to completely fail in his attempts to keep them all in line. And why would we expect otherwise? But Norman’s hubris and general insanity makes him think that he’s actually in complete control here, which he isn’t. We got everything we needed to set up Dark Reign from this issue.
That’s why it’s all about perspective. Bendis wrote this for guys like me that are filling in the gutter gaps with prior knowledge. It’s not as good or interesting for those outside the know, but it allows for him to focus more on characterization than exposition. I know the game and I know the players, so I can just jump right in. For those of us that can do that, it’s a lot more entertaining. I think Morrison’s been doing the same with Final Crisis, which is why I haven’t enjoyed it as much as the DC folks.
Though I did like both issues four and five, so it seems to be on an upswing for me. Good for them.
Run the Bendis fan club do you? Its amazing how what you read is totally different to what everyone else did. Youre reading events into the comic that were never there. And this is because youre under the mistaken belief that Bendis can write.
He cant. All he does is misuse other creative teams characters and leave them to clean up his mess in their own titles.
Ever read Jinx? Or Goldfish or Torso? You can grouse all you want about Bendis’ skills when it comes to the mainstream Marvel Universe, but just throwing out that he can’t write is silly. YOU may not like him, but the man can write. He sure as hell wouldn’t be making the money he is writing important books if he couldn’t.
And far be it for me to just ignore the overall continuity of the Marvel Universe when I’m reading my books. I spend enough money on the things that I take the time to look at things from the bigger picture as well as what’s going on in the specifics of whatever book I’m reading. The events I talked about ARE there in some form or another. I’m not just making shit up. And neither is Bendis. And even if I am connecting the dots and drawing my own conclusions about things that are hinted in the books, who the hell cares? I read and write about books to enjoy them. And I’m enjoying them.
Actually, Bendis is flat out amazing on his non-super stuff. Powers & Torso were quality, and Alias was one of the books that got me into comics. It’s just… I despise his work on super heroes. I don’t really know why, and I can’t quite pinpoint what’s changed with him (or with me), but I’ve found his superhero work to vary from plain to bad, without exception.
I hat defending an issue I didn’t like, but honestly, the issue itself (aside from the art) wasn’t bad. The Dark Reign intro was literally just that, an introduction to the new status quo. The board room was interesting, and I enjoyed it to an extent. Killing off Swordsman was a horrible move although I did enjoy him mentioning Kitty (as I love the character). Norman Osborn is crazy. Pure and simple. I love the Green Goblin. He is one of my favorite villains ever. Because of that, I enjoy seeing Norman think he has control over things. This shows Norman trying to take control over the villains (okay Emma isn’t, Namor isn’t necessarily), which is brilliant. See, Thunderbolts was great after Civil War and so was Avengers: The Initiative because they were trainwrecks. Horrible ideas (in the comics, not the comics themselves) that are just crashing and burning and you have the privilege of watching. This is looking like that. I really look forward to seeing Norman take control, lose it, go crazy, and the people look for superheroes again.
Oh, and please try to spell Norman’s name correctly. It’s Osborn, not Osborne. Sure, you don’t read a lot of Marvel, but it gets a little annoying to see his name misspelled. Sure, you don’t have to, and it really doesn’t matter, but it is one of those little things that I notice that bugs me.
Geez, I didn’t even notice the whole Osborne/Osborn thing. I had been doing it too. Whoops.
I certainly agree about the enjoyable train wrecks that you mentioned, because I like the sense of semi-realism that it suggests. No one in the Marvel Universe is immune from screwing things up. Nick Fury messes up the Latverian invasion (i.e. Secret War) something fierce, and is forced to go underground because of it. SHIELD made all kinds of mistakes under Tony’s reign, and he’s going to pay for it in his own book. Now Norman’s in charge and he’s already asking for trouble by attempting to wrangle five powerful individuals who probably won’t be fans of how they’re treated. To me, one of the best things about the Bendis-led Marvel Universe is the way that no one is safe. There isn’t that long standing character that’s never going to change in any meaningful way (COUGHSupermanCOUGH). Tony Stark’s been picked up and pushed down again. Cap’s dead. Spider-Man sacrificed his beliefs for his aunt (I know it sucked as a story, but it’s still out there as an example). Thor’s a completely different character now. The X-Men are in a state of constant danger. And so on and so forth. Everyone’s fair game. And that allows for organic moments of change, which is VITAL for the continued survival of a serialized medium.
And really, the opposite of that was the start of my disconnect with DC. I was so jazzed after I read Infinite Crisis and 98% of 52 that we were seeing this brand new day in the DC Universe, but then they do something blatantly reductive like using the new multiverse to shoehorn Elseworlds into continuity proper. Suddenly, Kingdom Come Superman’s in the JSA and I stop caring. That, to me at least, was not an organic movement, and was more about pleasing the fans than telling cohesive stories. I think that Marvel (and Bendis) have the guts to make these changes without trying to please the fans, because these are the stories they want to tell. Presumably, if they have that motivation, they’re going to do everything in their power to make it as good as possible.
I’m really bothered about the lines of thinking like “Doom would never do this” or “Tony Stark would never allow Norman Osborn to run the Thunderbolts” and so on, because all that does is close doors. Do we really want Doom to act and sound like the Stan Lee or John Byrne version of the character for the rest of our lives? That would bore the hell out of me. They’re strong characters that have strong traits, but nothing should be unchangeable or off limits.
Wow. That came out of left field…
I agree that nothing shouldn’t be off limits, but there’s a difference between ‘off limits’ and ‘off limits until you tell me what the hell is going on’. After all, it is an extremely odd turn for Doom – an arrogant control-freak – to let a no-name villain who could barely handle Spider-Man control him. If there was an arc building up to this, that’s one thing… but there wasn’t. It was just, ‘oh, Doom’s there and known convicted super-villain is legally running things for some reason’.
The equivalent is if they had Superman just go on a killing spree. Not ‘he kills one person and begins to snowball’ (which is acceptable), just… Superman snaps and kills a bunch of people.
Now, maybe there’s more to it than that. My biggest complaint isn’t actually that. I have a fundamental complaint with the entire Dark Reign premise that has yet to been explained.
That said, I definitely agree that DC’s editorial staff – and more than that, a huge chunk of DC’s fanbase – is full of cowards and panderers. Marvel’s is no better, of course (I just won’t go into it… don’t want to alienate everyone on the planet, right?), but at least Marvel’s isn’t afraid of at least some change. I will say, most of the time, it’s change for the worse, because most of the time, it’s change for the sake of change rather than change for the sake of story (Marvel needs to take lessons from Brubaker).
I think the biggest problem DC has right now is the idea that they need a ‘unified direction’. If they were concerned with a ‘unified direction’, then comics like Sandman and Starman, two of the best comic books ever produced, never would’ve happened because they didn’t fit in with the ‘direction’ of the era in which they were produced. DC’s editorial needs to get their heads out of their asses and focus, for a few years, on telling good stories, rather than on making a coherent shared universe or any nonsense like that.
Actually, I wish both companies would do this. Every decision I’ve despised in the last decade of comics seems to stem from the idea that we HAVE to have a shared universe. Marvel’s embarrassingly idiotic pretensions to ‘realism’ almost all stem from this, and that’s something I’d hoped they’d’ve grown out of by now, whereas DC seems borderline schizophrenic in their attempts to make their setting unified, on the one hand giving us fun, interesting stories like 52 only months after reductive grim-fests like Identity Crisis. Because there always needs to be drama, the populace of these shared universes gets stupider and stupider (Marvel is the best example of this, now that DC has finally given up making Lex respectable… for now), which eventually reaches the point of self-parody, not that any of the editorial staff and most of the fanboys even notice.
And then, while all that’s going on in the shared universe and fanboys are gleefully wanking over Superman v. Doomsday part 19, we have genuinely creative, fun stories being told just off center in books like Patsy Walker: Hellcat, Blue Beetle, Manhunter, etc… that are ignored because they are continuity-lite and thus not important to the ongoing saga of the shared Marvel Universe/DC Universe, not realizing that any significant change that is ever made will be the result of a questionable decision and thus will either be retconned or completely ignored in the next few years.
And that isn’t a criticism of the fans so much as the industry. That’s what they WANT us to read. That’s what we’ve been TRAINED to read. We’ve had so many huge crossovers jammed down our throats that that’s what we’re comfortable with, so when we go a year in a book with absolutely no connection to the greater comic ‘verse, we get antsy. This, more than anything else, is something that needs to end for the industry to survive the next decade or so, because neither company is bringing in a lot of new readers, and both companies are going to start losing readers to the economy…
… okay, that was also kind of out of left field.
The Mighty Avengers going to Latveria is the main reason Doom doesn’t have a choice but to go along with Osborn on the short term. He was beaten at his own game on his own turf, Castle Doom sorta exploded, and he was taken into SHIELD custody at The Raft (and he broke out alongside the rest of the villains when the Skrulls took down Starktech), So he was completely cut off from his country and had no way to get back there. Hence, he gave Stark a chance because he was stranded.
I keep getting into conversations with my non comic reading friends about how twisted and fucked the Direct Market/Diamond/Big Two system of comics is, and most of them are usually just amazed that it still exists as a hobby. There are so many things wrong with every facet of this industry, from creators phoning it in to overzealous editors to publishers that don’t have a clue and so on down the line that you sometimes do wonder just what the future holds, especially with the price hike to $4 DEFINITELY happening this year across the board.
I just personally think that even though Marvel makes very similar mistakes as DC and all the other publishers, I have more often than not enjoyed the product and the ride on which they have taken me. And to be honest, my favorite books are the ones that exist outside the main breadth of continuity. So I’ll read my Green Lantern Corps and my Nova and Incredible Hercules and Thor and so on, but I do also like the idea of a shared universe, which is why I read the events and the Avengers titles and such.
It’s tough sometimes.