Review: Avengers The Initiative Special

I’ve been a bit hot and cold on Avengers: The Initiative over its run. Arcs like the World War Hulk mini tie in and Killed in Action were pretty much full on excellent, but a couple of the one off moments and the Secret Invasion tie-in haven’t been tickling me the way some of the other issues did. Not sure why I ordered the Special, as I’m always a bit wary about these one off $4 specials, but I’m pretty sure I read the solicit and it sounded legit (i.e. not a couple pages or half story and a bunch of reprints or rushed supplemental material. You hear me random Hulk specials and Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?). It came in my DCBS box yesterday (and a depressingly sad box that only had about eight books in it. Sad times), and I read it a few minutes ago. Had to start writing about it immediately while it’s still fresh in my mind, because I was very impressed by the quality of this book. Like the main series, this was co-written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage, with art by Steve Uy, who seems like I’ve seen his work before, though he doesn’t seem to have done work on the monthly as of yet. This is a story that is designed to not stand on its own, but instead to give a chance to step away from all the Skrully madness and focus on a couple of the characters from the first year of the book that have been lost in the shuffle. The main story brings us back to the relationship between Komodo and Hardball, and the backup is about Trauma. This is a 40 page book. And I’m not saying 40 page from the perspective that it’s 32 story pages. There are a full 40 pages of story here, which actually makes this thing a good value at $4 (considering the extra dollar gets you another 18 story pages). I may not have previously been aware of Steve Uy, but his art is relatively reminiscent of Caselli’s work. So the packaging is good. What about the story?

Remember that little one of splash of the Nevada and Arizona teams fighting Zzzax on a dam that showed up in one of the recent issues of the main book? That’s where this issue starts, as these new super teams (led by Gravity and Two Gun Kid) attempt to work together to try and take down that silly electromagnetic monster. Long story short, both teams get pretty well wrecked before Hardball and Komodo step in (Hardball operates out of Nevada, and Komodo is in Arizona), and proceed to use their combined powers to stop the threat. What follows is mostly a continuation of the Hardball/HYDRA storyline that we saw around the time of Killed in Action and the attack on Gauntlet, where we learn a bit of back story about Hardball and why he can’t seem to escape of the devious clutches of the particular HYDRA operative that has been using his services. Hardball finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place (HA! I kill me!), and is forced to make a decision between his family and the love of his life. Sure, it’s a bit of a cliched story point, but that doesn’t stop Gage and Slott from breathing new life into it via unlocking some of the back story of Komodo and Hardball. These are damaged people who aren’t exactly in the position to make good and well reasoned decisions when it comes to matters of the heart. Hardball loves his family. He obviously loves Komodo. And his life is on the line thanks to some good old fashioned HYDRA blackmailing. We get some espionage and back stabbing all around, which sets the stage for the final big battle of the story. But the crux of the story isn’t lost in all of the punching and explosions, and Hardball makes a hard choice (again! Boom!) that certainly heavily changes the status quo of his character. I’m trying to keep things vague (could you tell?), because I love the way that this story unfolds itself. It’s perfectly paced, keeping a nice ratio of action and quiet character moments, and the motives of Hardball make you completely buy what he does at the end of the story, despite the fact that it’s not exactly what you would expect. This story really reminds me of what I liked about The Initiative in that first year. We grew attached to these characters, and I’m glad to know that Slott and Gage have not forgotten and abandoned them (or at least given them more time than a quick cameo from Cloud 9 or something). This story feels like home. I hope that the creative team gets back to stories like this post Secret Invasion, and maybe leaves Camp Hammond behind for a bit to explore what happens to these characters in the real world.

The Trauma backup is shorter but no less good. I do like Trauma as a character, and I think the decision to turn him into a superhero therapist that helps them overcome their fears was a great choice for him. This backup is similar to the main story in that its thrust was to delve into Trauma’s back story. This is a quick eight pages about how much it sucks to have a power like that without the ability to control it. He alienates both friends and enemies in high school. He accidentally gets his mother committed. He has to hide from his family and is eventually forced to leave his home, at which point he has nowhere else to go but Camp Hammond. This backup mirrors the main story in another way, in that we’ve got a glimpse at the future of where this character can go in the future. There is one specifically excellent and haunting series of two panels that really pulls off what was needed to make you emphathize with Trauma (excellent work, Mr. Uy). Excellent work here again.

This book is more than worth the four bucks for fans of the series and the characters. It’s right up there with Swierczynski’s Orson Randall special as a wonderful one shot that features great work from everyone involved. Vigorous thumbs up over here.

Secret Invasion 12B: The Rest!

New Avengers #45 (**)

House of M was the first Marvel book I ever read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s safe to say that I was looking forward to this one, especially the way that the last three or four issues of New Avengers had the little “Next! House of M!” icon at the bottom of the last page. Well, we finally got it. However, I was kinda let down by this one. There was a moment earlier in the Avengers Secret Invasion tie-ins that mentioned three things the Skrulls needed to happen to ease the pressure on their invasion. They needed Nick Fury gone, they needed the mutants in check, and they needed the heroes not to trust each other. Of course, these three necessary components take the form of Secret War, House of M, and Civil War. So you have the presupposition that the Skrulls had something to do with these events. But really, they just got lucky. These events all happened in rapid succession and as far as we can tell, the advance scouts and sleeper agents just happened to be there when they happened. I know this does sorta feed into the notion that this does reinforce to the Skrulls that the invasion was in fact prophesized, and I know that retcons are a bit of a taboo for fans these days, especially when they’re done to events that happened so recently, but Bendis wrote Secret War and House of M. He’s been planning Secret Invasion since Avengers: Disassembled. So why not take the plunge and make the Skrulls more than bystanders? It’s his story! He can make it work. This book just seemed like a great missed opportunity. I find that saddening especially since Jim Cheung was on the art for this book and his gorgeous work was wasted on a middling book. This one was a misfire.

Mighty Avengers #18 (****)

I don’t have a lot to say about this one (you’ll notice a bit of a theme for that, but I’ll discuss that at the end of this article). I do love the way Bendis writes Nick Fury. Mighty Avengers 12 and 13 were really fun, and I’m glad they went back to this portion of the back story. Sure, it’s designed to further flesh out the characters before the launch of Secret Warriors, but it’s a good little one off story that also builds up Maria Hill a little further, which I always appreciate. All the Secret Warriors are fun characters. Bick Fury is the badass he should be. It’s just a great book, and it makes me excited for Secret Warriors, so it was a success from that perspective.

Avengers: The Initiative #17 (***1/2)

I like Eric O’Grady. I should probably read the Kirkman issues. I don’t really have a whole lot to say about this one either. The overt actions of the Skrulls were a little sill, but I like the way they’re smart enough to realize that they need to mkake sure Spider-Woman is protected. It’s also possible that the use of Jessica Drew dupes came as a response to Maria Hill’s little LMD ambush on the Helicarrier, which is a nice touch (if one that may be completely fabricated in my own mind). Plus you’ve got that little Mutant X semi reveal that was a bit weird. Sure seems to me that they’re trying to intimate that Mutant X is Jean Grey. Which means it’s probably Madelyn Pryor. Or someone else that has long, flowing red hair. That was a bit strange. This was a good, if middling, read.

Secret Invasion: Thor #2 (***)

I don’t get the same sense of energy in this book compared to the Fraction one shots. Obviously, it’s not going to read like the JMS book, and the Thor that we see in the JMS book is different from the Thor that we saw in those first two one shots, but that’s not the problem. Even still, this book just doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s Beta Ray Bill, but I don’t have a problem with the character or particularly how he’s written. I guess it might be the way Fraction cuts between the battle at Asgard and the child birth scenes in nearby Broxton, Oklahoma, but I don’t necessarily hate the device. Perhaps it’s the execution. I also wonder if I would like this more had the two Fraction/Zircher one shots not come out yet. They created a quality expectation for any Fraction penned Thor book, and these first two issues haven’t lived up to that. The third issue shows some potential promise with some possible Thor/Beta Ray Bill team-up action. Hoping this will pick up and turn into something worthwhile.

Deadpool #2 (****1/2)

Complete madness. Deadpool training Super Skrulls is a recipe for disaster. HILARIOUS disaster! We’ve got a lot of nice moments in the course of this book, including the realization that Deadpool’s DNA replication not only grants his impressive healing factor on these new Super Skrulls, but also his complete mental imbalance (and presumably his penchant for breaking the fourth wall). Deadpool wreaks havoc on the Skrulls and basically ruins an entire batch of Super Skrulls (who had already killed a completely separate batch of Super Skrulls as a “training exercise”) singlehandedly. Of course, we find out at the end that this was planned by Nick Fury from the beginning, and all is right with the world. The humor is still there and solidly done. Personally, I still prefer Nicieza’s humor over Way’s thus far, but he still brings the funny well enough. And it’s perfect acceptable for a Deadpool book. It’s a positive start to the series and I’m looking forward to the continuation of the book.

War Machine: Weapon of SHIELD #33 (***)

I’ve gotten a bunch of the Iron Man: Director of SHIELD issues, mostly for 25-50 cents apiece at various cons or Wild Pig sdales. Haven’t actually read any of them yet, but this one is a Secret Invasion book and War Machine has officially taken the title over, so it’s as good a time as any to start reading the book, especially considering the book is ending in a few scant months to be replaced b a Greg Pak War Machine book. So was it good? I guess. Christos Gage wrote this one, and it doesn’t exactly have the same flair that he puts into, oh…I don’t know…let’s say THUNDERBOLTS (Woo! Thunderbolts!). It’s a pretty good book; nothing about it is bad or painful, but it’s just okay. I didn’t get much out of this, and it’s one of the few tie-ins that didn’t add too much to the worldwide scope of Secret Invasion. Not necessary to be read, but it’s okay.


So here’s the deal. I’m getting really burned out by the whole capsule review thing. Not really sure how to fix that, but I think I’m going to take some time to try and find a topic I can write about that isn’t a review or tied to any specific book. It’s been too long since the whole aborted look at the nature of various event structures to go back to that one (yeah, I know. Lame), so I’m really looking for something along the lines of the “In Defense of Civil War 7” article I wrote about six months back. Hopefully, the inspiration will strike me soon enough.

Bruce Castle Presents: The Amazing X-Men!

Amazing Spider-Man #572 (Cover B Variant Edition)

Amazing Spider-Man #572 (****1/2)

Only one more issue left in this arc. I wouldn’t have guessed it when this story began, but I’m actually sad that I can’t read the conclusion until next month. New Ways to Die is topnotch entertainment drawn beautifully by JRJR. It’s so great to see John Romita Jr. back on Spidey. He gets to invent some new characters too which is always cool. Dan Slott also deserves praise. Slott writes Spidey extremely well, but he handles every character with care. Who the heck if this Freak character? Was he always this creepy and crazy or is this more of Romita’s brilliance? We get a cool Bullseye fight, Anti-Venom is further developed, and crazy old stormin’ Norman has some fun too. There may even be some more pleasant surprises, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Go read the issue yourself. This arc gets better and better.

Uncanny X-Men #502 (**)

Uneven would be the word to describe this issue and maybe even the arc. Fraction and Brubaker have worked well together before but something is wrong. They seem to have conflicting opinions. Half of this issue is light hearted and the other half is disturbing. There’s more pointless S&M and even an unnecessary torture scene. Surely Scott knows Emma’s powers right? So, I guess this is just more sadism? Speaking of Emma Frost, apparently she has a tertiary mutation now. The power to turn into Lolo Ferrari (You kiddies at home can turn to page ten in your comic and then Google Lolo Ferrari)! While we’re on the subject of large knockers, Dazzler seems to have quite a pair in this issue as well. This leads to my critique of Land’s art. I’ve always enjoyed his work, but this is the first time I’ve felt dirty while viewing it. A big part of that is the subject matter (Who knows? Cup size may be in the script!), but he should share the blame with Fracker (The best combination of Fraction and Brubaker yet!). I really want to like this comic, but Fracker (I had to say it again) make it hard.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #53 – I Probably Read Too Much Marvel

The Amazing Spider-Man #570-571 (****): Menace is a good guy. Osborn is still a douche. Anti-Venom can take away powers. Mr. Negative has no idea he’s actually Mr. Negative. JRJR still knows how to draw the best Spidey comics anywhere. About the only glaring hole in this entire shebang occurs when Norman finds Parker’s webbed up digital camera. Like, the first thing that popped into my head when Norman made this discovery was “Hey, this is how Osborn figures out Spidey’s secret identity! It’s so obvious!” But, no. What is obvious to almost every single Amazing reader is not as obvious to the malignantly brilliant Osborn. C’mon Norman, grab a clue! Why would Spidey need to cut a deal with some random to sell his photos to the papers? Why couldn’t he just sell them straight up in his civilian identity and cut out the middle man? Norman Osborn, and by extension Dan Slott, equals FAIL.

Eternals #4 (**): Still expertly written, but the low star rating is my personal protest against COVERS THAT LIE! Iron Man does NOT fight Ikaris. Doesn’t happen, people. He just shows up and acts like a jerk. Wow. Big surprise. I expected more from the Knaufs… they did just finish one of the best runs on Iron Man ever, right? BLAH.

Foolkiller: White Angels #2 (***1/2): I liked it, but gosh I wish I’d waited for the trade.

Ghost Rider #26 (****): How does Jason Aaron do it? He brings back four of the lamest villains in comics (straight from the 90’s!) and manages to make me laugh from cover to cover. “I didn’t get to be called Death Ninja by being cautious.” RIGHT!?! It’s stuff like this that keeps me coming back. I want to break up with you so bad Ghost Rider, but Aaron is making it kind of impossible. Damn.

Ghost Rider Annual #2 (***): A nice, forgettable one-shot. I don’t think I’ll be getting these annuals anymore.

House of M: Civil War #1 (**): This blew. I was gonna wait for the trade, now I’m just gonna toss this and forget I read it.

The Invincible Iron Man #5 (****): Out of continuity Iron Man FTW!

Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #32 (***1/2): And so, this series of Iron Man comes to a close. Sure we got another War Machine centric SI arc to slog through before the series officially ends, but the star of the show is gone so we might as well call it like we see it. Stuart Moore did an exceptional job filling in for the Knaufs in this final Iron Man tale about doomsday weapons and revenge. It was probably one issue too long, but I really enjoyed it.

Moon Knight #21 (***): Another book I wish I could break up with. I don’t even like this version of Moon Knight anymore, I’m just sticking around for the Thunderbolts. See, if the Thunderbolts’ book had more hero-hunting stories, then I wouldn’t need to read crappy books like Moon Knight to get my fix. UGH.

Ms. Marvel Annual #1 (****1/2): This was very, very, very surprising. Brian Reed can not only write Spider-Man, but write him well. So well in fact, that this felt more like a Spidey annual than a Ms. Marvel one. Ms. Marvel is barely in it and when she does speak it’s only in response to something funny that Spider-Man just said! He totally steals the show. True Believers! I hold this comic up as further evidence that Brian Reed’s Ms. Marvel is boring! BUT! Brian Reed is still a good writer! SO! We must make our voices heard! PLEASE! Marvel, cancel Ms. Marvel and put Reed on Amazing! MAKE IT SO!

The Punisher #61 (**): Oh, God. Reading this is like that feeling you get when you’re at a party and it’s way past midnight and the host/hostess totally wants you to leave, but you’re too much of an idiot or too wasted to pick up the signals and then it gets awkward until finally he/she asks you to leave and then you can no longer be friends because you know that they think you’re an asshole, and…

Punisher War Journal #23 (*): There so many things wrong with this issue that if I actually started to list them out, one-by-one, I’d go insane with rage and tear the damn thing up instead of tossing it in the donation pile. Soooooo… don’t ask.

Runaways #1 (***1/2): NEW READER FRIENDLY JUMPING ON POINT ALERT!!! This book is T-H-I-C-K. It takes a while to read because there’s just so much ####ing dialogue, which I think is fine. All the characters get stuff to talk about and say and no one gets left out. My only complaint is that although I still enjoy Ramos’ art, his latest style choices make the comic hard to read at times. He’s putting extra effort into the backgrounds and I think that’s at least part of the problem. It’s too confusing; too much stuff to focus on. The mall scenes are especially busy. Be that as it may, Terry Moore’s first issue was still miles better than Whedon’s. I’ll be sticking around for at least the first arc, then, I may switch to trade.

Skaar: Son of Hulk #3 (****): Why is this book so late? At least it’s really good, otherwise…

Ultimate Origins #4 (**): Too little, too late. Also, ULTIMATUM = CELESTIALS!

Ultimate X-Men #97 (***): I’ve been enjoying this arc, but this issue had too much emo.

Ultimate X-Men/Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #1 (****): This was really fun! But, I can see why some people would hate it. The ideas are a bit tired…

Uncanny X-Men #501 (*): Seriously, Marvel? Rated “T+”? I gotta call bullshit here. Like, what’s with all the X-Men sex scenes? Yeah, yeah, w/e Frac-Baker… your story justifications don’t hold water when you got Greg Land, Super Perv, as one of your regular pencillers. Did Emma Frost really need to stroll around nude for three pages? How is that necessary to the plot? Or are we still trying too hard to be “cutting edge”? GARBAGE.

Wolverine #68 (****): Alright, I’ve bitched enough about this story. This issue? I liked it. I’m ready to be entertained now.

X-Factor: Layla Miller #1 (****1/2): Reading this was bittersweet. It reminded me of the old days, when X-Factor was fun. When XF was good. *sigh* If we could just skip past all the current XF sub-plots and get to the part where Layla Miller returns, that would be swell. Thanks, Peter!

X-Men: Legacy #215 (**): How many times are the X-Men writers going to subject us to this infinitely repeating scene? X-Man “X” is mad at Xavier. HO HO!! Stop the presses! Can’t wait to read that story! No. I can wait. I can wait forever.

X-Men: Manifest Destiny #1 (**1/2): BLAH. Nothing impressive here. The Boom-Boom story was amusing (that word is sooo condescending… LOVE IT!), but the Iceman/Mystique story seems to serve no purpose other than to once again illustrate how stupid Bobby Drake is and how much of an evil #### Mystique is. No thanks.

Bruce Castle Presents: Spider-Man & Invincible Together Again!

Large Cover of Amazing Spider-Man #571

Amazing Spider-Man #571 (****)

If you like John Romita Jr.’s art and you’re looking for a good time (without alcohol or working girls), then you should probably pick this up. New Ways To Die isn’t changing anything or blowing any minds, but it’s still enjoyable. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that. We who read funny books over the age of 13 always want adult material and hard-hitting stories. We must remember that these are still comics. Real law enforcement has little to do with spandex-clad individuals and pumpkin bombs, but this is the norm when it comes to the realm of comics. So please, immerse yourself in a world full of wonderfully drawn Thunderbolts, symbiotes, and goblins.

Invincible #52 (*****)

The new costume bodes well for Invincible. Just like the last one, this issue is marvelous. There are changes, but it’s an easy transition. The most visually noticeable difference, besides the aforementioned new costume, is FCO Plascencia’s colors. Bill Crabtree was on the book for 50 issues, but as of issue #51 he was replaced by Plascencia. Though I still enjoyed Crabtree’s work, to be frank, he’s easily forgotten. The art looks remarkable! Ryan Ottely is the main attraction of course, but Plascencia has noticeably changed the book’s look for the better. This issue appears to be more violent as well. There are two moments in particular that got a holy this and Jesus that from me. And I handle violence extremely well. So, the book looks great and it’s going in an intriguing direction. As always, I hope the next issue comes out quicker.

Marvel Team-Up #14 inspired my title. Go read this, it’s funny.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #49

Air #1 (-)

I can’t really review this book… I have no idea what happened!!! Somebody, anybody… please to explain!!!

The Amazing Spider-Man #568-569 (*****)

“New Ways To Be Awesome” is more like it! Dan Slott, what took you so long to land this gig? Your Spidey rocks! These first two parts did not disappoint, the Mark Waid Venom story in the back did, but that doesn’t detract in the least from the overall story. You could just not read it, or if you’re like me, immediately foget you did. DCBS was thoughtful enough to send me the variant covers for these issues, and usually I could care less, but I like this story so much if they don’t follow through on the variants for parts 3-6 I’m gonna be mighty sore!

Jack of Fables #25 (*****)


Yes, indeed, my good friend Prof Dresser… the funny is back! Although, I don’t think I buy Robin Page falling for Jack. It’s funny, but seems way out of left field, even with the labored 5-page explanation. However, I do like Priscilla Page finally growing her metaphorical balls. That was cool. The Book Burner? Kind of “meh” on that guy. But still, Jack’s final word balloon of the issue totally made up for it. Heh.

Superman/Batman #51 (****)

I just really loved the art. I loved the 5th dimensional impiness of the Lil’ Leaguers. This is another one of those books that works so well (now that Green and Johnson have taken over) BECAUSE it’s out of continuity… for the most part. It may not have the prestige of Action Comics, but it makes up for it with “Super Funtime Stories”. Isn’t that what comics should be?Yes, I think so.

Quick Hits:
• Action Comics #868 (*****): Another solid issue in the Gary Frank run. Brainic is frightening and cool. Finally.
• Daredevil #110 (*****): It’s hard to believe how mediocre this book used to be. Will the quality change survive Rucka’s departure? Never can tell.
• DC Universe: Last Will and Testament #1 (*): A complete and utter waste of time. I wouldn’t have minded it if the story was even remotely cool or interesting. It wasn’t, so I did mind its terribleness. I minded it very much.
• Doktor Sleepless #8 (****): The quality of this story has steadily been on the rise. My favorite scene in this issue was when DS basically told his ex-gf that he was, in point of fact, not sane. I kept waiting for some hint that the good Doktor was still just playing the part of “Cartoon Mad Scientist”, but no such hints were forthcoming. Great choice, Ellis. I’m finally on board for the duration.
• Final Crisis: Rogue’s Revenge #2 (*****): WOW. Best. Comic villains take note, this is how you villain it up, dudes. I love this mini, but I’m glad it’s only three issues. Thanks, Johns.
• Gravel #4 (****1/2): Gravel continues to be the best title Ellis is writing and at the same time not writing.
• Justice League of America #24 (*): As of a month from now, this title is dropped. DO. NOT. CARE.
• Justice Society of America #18 (****):
This, on the other hand, could not be better. KUDOS.
• Robin #177 (***): I like the writing, but color me confused? RIP is still running, isn’t it? Red Robin isn’t Tim or Jason? Methinks lame.
• Superman #679 (***): The less “super” of the two Superman books. James Robinson, why do you suck? Is it a style choice? I just can’t get into this book, it feels like it’s trying to hard. The Lois/Clark conversation/pseudo spat and the “…avenger me!” line were ludicrous. Although, I did really like the final page, and I’m not even a dog-lover!
• Ultimate Spider-Man #125 (***): Bendis continues with this tale I could give two tugs of a… right, I didn’t play the game, but still, that doesn’t mean the comic has to be boring. Am I right?!?
• X-Force #6 (****): Everything we expected to happen happened… and then something unexpected happened to boot. Um, Rhane EATING her dad? There’s no way anyone expected that. If you disagree with me, you are made of lies.

Bruce Castle Presents: The Amazing Iron Man!

Large Cover of The Invincible Iron Man #5 (50/50 Meinerding)

Invincible Iron Man #5 (****1/2)

Ezekiel Stane wears a shirt that portrays Captain America’s skull and beneath it says “TONY WAS RIGHT”. That’s one of the many little extras that Fraction packs into each issue of his Iron Man run. It’s turning out to be a hell of a first arc. Fraction puts his own unique spin on each of the characters and even manages to prominently feature his own original creation, the aforementioned Ezekiel Stane. If you felt a little bored with all the talking last issue, you’ll be pleased that there’s a lot of fighting in this one. The armor clangs and the tough talk is believable. Last issue I complained about Larroca’s art, but I did say he could draw the armor well. So, because of the shiny combat included, the issue looks great. Fraction manages to create an amalgam of continuity wank and new reader friendly material that should please everyone. The finale is shocking and contains a bit of poetic justice. I don’t believe what appeared to happen on the last page is possible, but I certainly wasn’t expecting it. This series continues to impress.

Amazing Spider-Man #570 (****)

This arc is half over. It’s the point when you can usually tell how you’re going to like the story. I’ve enjoyed the previous two issues, but they weren’t very special. Romita’s art is gorgeous and I like Slott’s style. Both creators handle Spidey extremely well and the addition of the Thunderbolts is a plus. But it was nothing more than a slightly above average tale with some laughs and pretty art. That’s not such a bad thing, but villain copycats like the ridiculous Menace and the new Anti-Venom detracted from the stories’ quality. However, after reading this issue, I’m starting to think that New Ways To Die will be better than I once thought. Sure, we have copycat villains, but we have the originals as well. Slott creates fascinating encounters between these baddies which I’m sure will continue. The issue contains a lot of a quality action and an ending that leaves me wanting more. Thankfully, I’ll satisfy that want in only of couple days. This arc isn’t the most original nor is it required reading, but it’s fun, well-written, and did I mention the awesome John Romita Jr. art?

Reviews: Secret Invasion Part 10B: The Avengers

As of tomorrow I’m off to the Comic Geek Speak Super Show (woop woop!) for the rest of the weekend. I’ll write up a report of what I saw and got there, and I’m very much looking forward to bumming around with about 300-400 crazy comic geeks and 50+ artists and picking up the sketches I preordered of random Marvel Cosmic characters (Thanos, Lockjaw, Karnak, Ronan the Accuser, and AIR-WALKER!). Hopefully I’ll have time to put up the final SI tie in part Sunday night or Monday, but things are going to get super crazy and busy next week with the move, so I might not be heard from in a while.

New Avengers #44 (****1/2)

This is definitely a novel way to deal with the problem of how the Skrulls learned to become undetectable. We’ve known the mechanics of what is done for some time (well, those of us that are reading New and Mighty Avengers do at least), but it was never adequately explained how the Skrulls came up with the idea in the first place. Turns out that they didn’t. This is the furthest back in time we’ve gone since New Avengers: Illuminati #1. In fact, this seems to take place hours/days/weeks after the events of that book, where we find out that one of the things the Skrulls did to the Illuminati while they were captured was to perfect a way to create flawless clones of the six Illuminati members. Why would they do such a thing? It’s simple: they can interrogate Reed Richards without actually interrogating Reed Richards. The entire Illuminati makes their appearances here (well, technically none of them do, but you know what I mean), but Reed is at the center of things here, as the Skrulls attempt to attack his mind from various avenues and perspectives. Of course, they eventually crack him, and Reed rationally surmises how the Skrulls could potentially elude detection, which leads to the eventual invasion however many years down the line.

So this is really the first time in the history of Marvel comics that the Skrulls come off as actually smart. It’s important to keep that thread alive considering their less than stellar track record, because this is easily a situation that could fall into the realm of an unimpressive threat. A book like this is what is needed to reinforce the ideals at the core of Secret Invasion that these aren’t the kind of Skrulls that are going to be hypnotized into thinking they’re cows. This book also puts Reed Richards at the absolute center of the entire event, because he’s the cause of it all. His getting captured along with the rest of the Illuminati gave the Skrulls the ammunition they needed to get the ball rolling. But at the same time, it’s not perfect. The Skrulls were successful in completing their objective, but it sure took a couple tries to get it done, which further explicates the cracks in the armor that Bendis and the other Marvel writers have been seeding into this event from month four on. The plan may have been perfectly realized, but the execution hasn’t. Looking at what happened between the panels in Secret Invasion 5, it’s quite apparent that Reed not only knows the “how” that led to their improved cloaking abilities, but he also knows what they did to him to get there. Reed’s not going to be happy. These books are so layered and satisfying that I just can’t get enough.

Mighty Avengers #17 (***1/2)

It seems Hank Pym is Bendis’ anti-Hawkeye, as he’s been doing a lot of work in Mighty Avengers to attempt to redeem the poor bastard, and that continues here. There are two kinds of Skrull agents on Earth during this event. The first kind is completely stripped of any memories, emotions or feelings that tie them to being a Skrull to the point that they’re completely convinced that they are who they look like. This would be the model used for the folks that crashed in the Savage Land, and is mostly designed for diversionary purposes. The second variety it designed for the higher ups of the infiltration force, and they still retain their own thoughts and feelings through the transformation process, which allows them to carry out specific objectives that would be impossible had they gone completely undercover. Look at Queen Veranke/Spider Woman and Jarvis as examples of this kind of Skrull. Hank Pym is the latter version. But these agents still go through the process of having their DNA melded with that of their “host” (as it were), and in so doing, it’s impossible not to pick up on some of the physical and mental traits that come with the territory. And in this case, Hank Pym is just too smart for his own good.

It’s a good concept, but the book is a bit choppier than usual. I think the fight in the middle is a bit overlong, but the conversations that pepper the beginning and the end, and the slowly building mix of paranoia, fear and dementia that grips the Pym Skrull before he goes off the deep end are something special. So you’ve got the dual purpose of the Skrulls knowing that the replacement of Hank Pym undeniably necessary for the success of their plans combined with the various Pym Skrulls always figuring out that the plan isn’t going to work, and you’re left with chaos. I would have liked it more if it were structured differently, but it was still a solid story.

Avengers: The Initiative #16 (***)

I like 3-D Man. Not too fond of the Skrull Kill Krew at this point. We’ve only seen one issue, and they do go into the back story of the SKK (which is a bit of a problem in itself, as the events that led to the Skrull Kill Krew being formed didn’t exactly jive with the events of the Kree Skrull War so many years before it, but there might have been some kind of explanation at some other point), and I certainly understand why they’ve been pulled into the universe, but Slott and Gage don’t really give us a reason to care about them. I still like the writing, and Caselli’s art is more than adequate, but there was definitely a disconnect here that took me out of the story.

Bruce Castle Presents: Venom Is Popular?

I have to ask a question before we get down to the reviews. Why is Venom getting so much love right now? He isn’t in any newly released movies. He was in Spider-Man 3, but that was a while ago. I heard there will be a Venom movie coming out, but not anytime soon right? It’s not his anniversary. So why is he in Amazing and Ultimate Spider-Man, Thunderbolts, Moon Knight, and even that Venom Origins thing right now? Is there any reason for this?

Amazing Spider-Man #569 (***1/2)

This is the second part of New Ways to Die. It should probably be called New Ways to Make Money. This issue has already sold out according to Marvel. It has another superstar (Adi Granov) cover and it even has the first appearance of a new character. Like last issue, this contains some solid entertainment. We get some beautiful art from JRJR (Twice in one week!) and some impressive writing from Slott. It isn’t anything too spectacular yet, but this issue is produced well and it’s fairly enjoyable.

Ultimate Spider-Man #125 (***1/2)

After how bad last issue was, this is a breath of fresh air. I’m happy to report that USM seems to be back on track with the coolness. The plot seems to be moving along nicely now and there wasn’t any video game flashbacks. The Ultimate Beetle seems incredibly more interesting than last issue and he even has a humorous moment in here. I was a little surprised at the level of violence featured. Venom eats a few things including some people and a horse! I’m not usually too impressed with Immonen’s art, but he brings his A-game here. There’s also a nice Peter and MJ exchange and an intriguing ending. If the improvements continue, this still has the potential to be a pretty good arc.

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #568

Amazing Spider-Man #568 (***1/2)

I don’t know many people that read this book. Why? Because OMD was terrible. Not only was it terrible, but it also offended many readers. Let’s have Spider-Man, a beloved child icon, make a deal with the devil! Sorry, I had to say it. So a lot of readers like me haven’t even given this title a shot. Recently, Billy put this book on his top ten stating “if you’re not reading BND because of OMD, you’re only hurting yourself, brother” (Who does he think he is, Hulk Hogan?). Thanks to Billy, I finally gave this book a shot. Well, Billy and the fact that Marvel really really really wants you to buy this issue.

Think about it: Dan Slott is writing (I’ve heard he’s the best BND writer), John Romita Jr. returns to Spidey (I’m in the “I love his art” crowd. Oh and does this mean Millar is the reason why Kick-Ass is late?), Mark Waid (insert unfunny quip here) writing a 10 page back-up, Adi Granov (This is obvious I suppose, but I guess this means Favrau is why Viva Las Vegas is late?) drawing that back-up, and look at that Alex Ross (Um, I like Alex Ross?) cover!

First off, I have a few questions. Why are these BND villains so crappy? They all look like a bunch of z-level villains. Also, I thought no one knew Spidey’s identity, but it seems from this issue’s conclusion that someone does. As I said earlier, I haven’t read any of these BND issues, so I expected to be a little confused. I wasn’t though. This is fantastic given this title’s intended audience, new readers and kids. I’m glad this issue accomplishes its objectives. It’s nice to see a good book that kids can enjoy as well. 

I don’t know too much about Dan Slott, but his writing is excellent here. He writes Spider-Man incredibly well. His Spider-Man is actually funny and made me laugh out loud a few times. This is hard to accomplish in comics, but Spider-Man should be able to make you laugh. This is the first issue of the arc so this issue is mostly set-up, but it seems like Slott is building a story that shows a lot of potential.

Of course, Slott has a little help from his friends. I love Romita’s work and I’m pleased to say that his work is quite impressive here. Of course it’s no secret he draws Spidey well, but his interpretation of the new Thunderbolts are truly impressive. Also, those aforementioned crappy BND villains look better than they should. 

The disappointment in this issue lies in the 10 page back-up. This issue is a dollar more than usual because of this tale and it’s unneeded. Mark Waid brings us a story that contains impressive gimmicks and at a first glance it appears to be quite cool. But sadly, this just covers up what I’ve heard called “writer masturbation”. This back-up could have been summed up in a sentence. And really, all the important information is pretty much included in the main story. I would have preferred Waid had written something original, rather than try to unnecessarily add to the main attraction. However, I always enjoy seeing Granov’s art.

Overall, I’m glad I picked this up. It’s well written and it looks great. It’s produced by some fine creators and I get to find out in one week what happens next. It’s okay people, reading BND will not burn your face off.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #44 – The Last Bits. Some Good, Some Not So Good…

Avengers: The Initiative #15 (****)

Wow, Crusader’s origin tale was almost as cool as Aaron’s characterization of the Skrull commander over in Black Panther. And the artist can really draw the shit out of those Skrulls. As for the story, again we get another good tie-in that adds more depth to shallow spine that is Secret Invasion mini series. One could almost just not read the mini and get the gist of the story primarily from the tie-ins. One could do that if one was so inclined… and I recommend it to those that have yet to jump into the Secret Invasion lake. Don’t wait for the trade, just read Black Panther or MI13 or any one of the countless other great tie-ins.

Wildcats #1 (****)

Picking up where Armageddon, Wildstorm Revelations and Number of the Beast left off, we have the relaunch of Wildcats. Cool. I always liked them, especially after Jim Lee left the book. He is stains. Anyway, despite not liking how they jump so far into the future (I read the Armageddon books, but why is Majestros evil again?), I still enjoyed this book. We got cannibals and cool explanations for powers and Grifter shooting shit and killer art and Black Ops back-up stories and angry god-like aliens… I mean, this shit is jam-packed. And we got Christos Gage writing more Wildstorm Universe characters. I think this is the Universe of characters he’s best at writing. Oh, did anyone else notice that the artist’s last name is Googe? Gage and Googe. Gage-Googe! GG!! Heh, I’m stupid. This book is not.

Quick Hits:
Amazing Spider-Man: Brand New Day – EXTRA! #1 (***1/2): It was fine, especially the Joe Kelly Hammerhead story, but what was the point of this? We couldn’t squeeze these into the regular title? I hate when publishers do shit like this. I think I only ordered it so I could complain. Hah.
Black Panther #38 (**): After the Jason Aaron Secret Invasion Arc, I am definitely dropping this book. Hudlin has lost the magic. He, in fact, lost the magic over two years ago and has yet to find it. So, I’m out.
Daredevil #109 (****1/2): Where has this book been? WHERE?! I could almost be just as happy with this book if they changed the title to “Dakota North”. Not kidding.
Reign In Hell #1 (***): Um, I ordered the first issue to see how it was… and I’m not impressed enough to pick up issue 2. I’ll wait for the trade, and if I hear good things, I’ll give it another shot.
New Warriors #14 (***1/2): This was actually okay. As annoying as theses characters are, I didn’t mind so much when Justice and the “real” New Warriors showed up to kick the “fake” Night Thrasher’s ass. Oh, and thank gosh it’s only a two-parter!
She-Hulk #31 (****): Where have they been keeping this artist? Vincenzo Lucca? He’s the stones! Okay, maybe his Darwin looks super lame, but She-Hulk looks rad! And the writing ain’t half bad either. Does this mean I have to add this book back to the pre-order list? Not quite yet. We’ll wait to see what else David has planned.
Skulls vs. Power Pack #1 (*): This sucked. Where’s mark Sumerak? Why didn’t I check for his name before ordering this crap? UGH.
Superman/Batman #50 (**1/2): This was too stupid. Too much retconning. Too much garbage that will never get referenced by Johns or Robinson. Now, if the story was better, then none of that would matter. But, it’s not, so it does.
Thor #10 (*****): Can JMS do no wrong on this book? Man, when Loki finally drops the hammer, it’s gonna be curtains for the Norse Gods all over again!
Ultimate X-Men #96 (*): Did I miss an issue or did this book feel like all kinds of jump cutty? Seriously, did we just fast forward past Northstar’s death? And then Jean’s in space fighting the Silver Surfer in a flashback? Huh-wha? Tell me I’m not the only one confused here? It felt like a compilation book, like the Spider-Man extra, like this issue was made up from parts of different future X-Men arcs… in essence, it sucked.
Wolverine: Origins #27 (*): “HE DOESN’T REMEMBER ANYTHING.”…seriously, Way? GAH! Daken has memory problems!! NO!!!

Review: Secret Invasion Tie Ins, Part 8

One disappointing book and a whole boatload of awesome fit into the eighth installment of Secret Invasion reviews.

New Avengers #42 (*****)

Awesome! Bendis takes one of the biggest questions of Secret Invasion (what the hell is the deal with the Skrull Ship from the Savage Land?) and explains it beautifully. It shows the dedication of the Skrulls, to the point that they’re basically using suicide bombers. The fact that all the Skrulls on the ship are completely and totally convinced that they are the real deal just adds to the madness and confusion, which is exactly why they were sent there in the first place. Skrully Cap refusing to acknowledge his true nature despite having already reverted back to his true form was some powerful stuff. We’ve also got the running background commentary from Spider-Man, and very few people today can write Spider-Man as well as Bendis. The work he has put into building up the Skrull invasion through slowly revealing their machinations and behind the scenes plotting adds an immense amount of enjoyment to the overall story. It’s very subtle and logical storytelling that is perfectly structured in every way.

Avengers: The Initiative #15 (****1/2)

I do enjoy the way that Slott and Gage write 3-D Man here. This is a guy that is certainly in a no win situation. He sees Skrulls as humans and humans as Skrulls, so of course he has no choice but to trust and confide in the exact folks that he shouldn’t. Of course, Crusader is a kind soul, and decides to switch sides and fight against the Skrulls (in a way that is very similar to the end of the Captain Marvel miniseries), and he’s got the added bonus of manipulating the Freedom Ring (made out of a piece of the cosmic cube) so he is one of the few people on Earth that can see through the Skrulls’ disguises. I like the way that the undercurrent of paranoia in the main Secret Invasion books is taken over by the OVERT paranoia of 3-D Man, who’s a guy that is breaking apart at the seams trying to figure out what to do with the false information presented to him. There’s another thing I really like about this (that ends up being a theme of this batch of books), but I’ll get to that during the She-Hulk review later.

Ms. Marvel #29 (****)

Ooooh, baby. I will concede that the first half or so of this book could be considered more of the same. More Ms. Marvel dealing with the Skrull attack on New York. More of her mistreating civilians in a time of war and panic. But she eventually moves on and tries to figure out what’s going on by buzzing by Stark Tower and eventually moving a group of citizens to the Raft for safe keeping, and this is where the issue turns. Something has been going on at the Raft. Whatever that something is, it’s pretty goddamned creepy. I won’t go into it because it’s really the type of glorious WHAT THE FUCK moment that really needs to be experienced freshly and first hand or you lose a lot of the moment. I have no clue what’s coming from the rest of this arc. I also have no clue how this jives with some of the events of Secret Invasion #4, but the timeline is a funny thing, so I’ll give it some more issues to suss itself out.

Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #3 (**)

Well that was…odd. The opening kid drawing pages were certainly strange, but I have no clue what the writer was thinking in writing the narrative from the perspective of Franklin. It doesn’t read particularly well, and it certainly doesn’t seem to mesh well with what I know of Franklin as a character. There were some good moments, and I like the way the resolved things with Lyja, but this book fell off a bit of a cliff here, and it’s certainly disappointing after the first two issues. Ah well.

Black Panther #39 (*****)

Hoo boy. This one’s a doozy. Hello, Jason Aaron. I’ve never actually read anything by you. Turns out, you’re a pretty sweet writer. Talk about EPIC. So apparently there are two things you don’t do in times of war. You don’t attempt to invade Russia in the winter, and YOU DO NOT FUCK WITH WAKANDA. We follow two different plot strains here, from Black Panther preparing the troops for war to the Skrull captain just trying to get through one more invasion so he can retire to a remote planet and be with his family. Turns out it’s not going to be that easy, as the Wakandans are more than capable of defending themselves. I’m quite impressed with the amount of characterization Aaron manages to give this Skrull captain in such a short period of time. Perhaps the fact that it’s a familiar character trope, but it’s impressive either way. I wouldn’t necessarily put it up there with Hercules or Captain Britain yet, but this was a fantastic read. This book also feeds into what I saw in Avengers: Initiative and She Hulk

Thunderbolts #122 (****)

I’ve never read Thunderbolts before. I think Gage does a great job of operating from the assumption that a lot of folks will be jumping on to Thunderbolts for this arc, so he uses the device of Norman Osborne and Moonstone giving the entire team a psych evaluation to introduce us to the team, one by one. And this is certainly a quirky cast of characters. They fight Swarm (yes, he of the random MTU Sinister Syndicate card), and their odd methods for defeating the enemy leads to the best line of any comic I’ve read so far this month (“Why do you think we haven’t been allowed to go after Daredevil? Or Luke Cage? Perhaps because we can’t stop a Nazi made of bees without eating him, while you hide like a shrieking schoolgirl because you ‘don’t like bugs’!!”). We move on for some pretty creepy shit involving Swordsman (that dude’s got issues. And to stand out like that in a book like this is impressive) leading into Captain Marvel busting stuff up, Secret Invasion #1 style. This is a really entertaining book with some seriously engaging and well defined characters. Good stuff.

She-Hulk #31 (****1/2)

Thank you, Peter David, for taking away the bad taste in my mouth that was X-Factor #33. This is a GREAT issue that introduces a seriously cool concept into the Skrull mythos. The Talisman as a character and as an idea is just super cool. This is some high concept shit that I did not see coming. But here’s what I love about this book that I loved about Black Panther and Avengers: The Initiative. We’re starting to see the chinks in the Skrull armor. 3-D Man can see Skrulls. Darwin has revealed the true nature of The Talisman. Black Panther discovered the Skrull agents in Wakanda and gave them what for before humiliating a Skrull invasion force. Captain Britain is turning the tides in England with the help of Excalibur. We’re starting to see just how the humans might be able to beat back the storm, and none of it is coming from the big guns. It’s the fringes where the Skrull forces are spread out and weak that we’re starting to see the cracks form that could eventually expand and take down the entire fleet. This is FANTASTIC storytelling by everyone at Marvel. You can tell that they’re unified and all working on the same massive puzzle, even if they’re confined to their own little corners. This is what happens when you get everyone on the same page but still give them room to tell their own stories.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #31 – More Secret Invasion Tie-Ins!


So far, to pretty much everyone’s surprise, the tie-ins to the main Secret Invasion mini-series have been made of pretty high caliber stuffs. Especially, in my opinion, MI-13 and the Fantastic Four spin-off mini. This last month’s crop of books, of which I will review quickly here today (and which Desiato already did over here), have been no different.

First, I fricking love these covers, especially the Mighty and New Avengers “homages.” They really help give them that “everything ties into everything else” feeling. Second… let’s skip ahead to the individual reviews:

• Avengers: The Initiative #14 (****): This was a great issue of The Initiative, and I guess that’s mostly due to the fact that Dan Slott came on to co-plot this baby. He handled the Pym flashbacks/reveals expertly and his use of the 3-D Man was retro but at the same time very, very cool. I hungrily await the next installment.

• Fantastic Four: Secret Invasion #2 (****): The Fantastic Four mini has to be the most surprising of all the tie-ins. Although Aguirre-Sacasa is uber-talented and has done a fantastic job with the FF in the past, I don’t think anyone was expecting this one to be the great read that it certainly is. I think the quality has to be chalked up to AS’s obvious affection for these characters. The way he writes “The Brief Loves of Johnny Storm” is evidence enough of this, not to mention the touching make-out scene in the Negative Zone. I don’t know about you guys, but I really felt for these two characters caught on opposite sides of this holy war. I’m hoping maybe Lyja and Johnny get their happy ending… although, with Millar on the main title, I won’t hold my breath.

• Ms. Marvel #28 (*****): I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but… Ms. Marvel is my favorite of the bunch. WOW. Finally! We get some action! Some suspense! This one was epically written! There are not enough exclamation points in the memory of mankind to express how much I loved this issue!!! Her attitudes on war, murder and purpose? Loving this shit!

• Runaways/Young Avengers: Secret Invasion #1 (****): I love how, in the absence of the series’ creator, Marvel is keeping the Young Avengers franchise alive. Just like the Young Avengers: Presents, this crossover fills that YA fix nicely. Also, thank God that awful Whedon arc is over so we can get back to enjoying good Runaways comics. As far as the issue’s plot, I’m glad we finally find out what it is those freaking Skrulls were saying to each other over in Secret Invasion #3, and… what Teddy and Xavin’s respective roles will be in SI.

• The Incredible Hercules #118 (****): Not much to say here, besides pointing out how impossibly well written this book continues to be. Oh, and how about that Snowbird/Hercules hook-up? JEEZ! Herc sure does get around! AND, OH… Skrully coyote!

• The Mighty Avengers #15 (*****): The sordid life of Henry Pym… you know what? EFF that! Janet is such a ####! She totally left his ass, so like, he’s totally in the right to sleep with the first student/Skrull infiltrator that happens by… like, good for him, except, you know, when he gets beat up and replaced by an alien invader. That was kind of bad. And probably his fault. But, whatever. Screw, Janet!

• The New Avengers #42 (****): Jim Cheung is godly on the art. GODHEAD. Also, special thanks to one Mr. Bendis. The pieces finally fit. Everything fits! She’s been a Skrull since before the breakout? WHA!?!? …awesome. Now, all he has to do is explain that Skrull that showed up in one panel of Disassembled. Then, I shall be satisfied. Maybe.

So, yeah. High quality shit right here. This shipment of books has totally restored my faith in this event. I think the main action of Secret Invasion won’t really happen in the main book till we pass the midway point. Bendis is slow-rolling the hell out of this one. Which, I’m okay with, as long as the payoff is huge. Not talking “No More Mutants” huge. I’m talking “Death of Captain America” huge. Know what I’m saying?


Review: Secret Invasion Tie-Ins!

That’s right. For the past two weeks, I received seven Secret Invasion books in my DCBS box. Let’s take a look (In the order that I read them).

The Incredible Hercules #118 (*****)

This book is still completely awesome. In this installment, we’ve got the God Squad (complete with collectible trading cards on the recap page with special Amadeus Cho rookie card) trying to find the lair of the Skrull Gods. In order to do so, they have to try and barter with Nightmare in order to receive a map that will lead them to their destination. Of course, Nightmare won’t just give it up, so we get to see montages of the various fears of the God Squad (including Amadeus Cho) until they are able to deceive Nightmare, steal the map and get the hell out of there before he uses the energy he received from absorbing their fears to take over the world. The banter is still awesome. The writing just sparkles at every turn. It’s genuinely funny, and I don’t see any way that people can’t be charmed by the Herc/Cho team up. They play so well off each other. This is a quality book month in and month out, and they’ve kicked it into high gear for Secret Invasion. Plus, considering the final splash page, the rest of this is probably going to be a hoot.

New Avengers #42 (****1/2)

The continuing saga of Jessica Drew brought to you from the perspective of nearly every major event since Bendis started generally steering the Marvel U. We get implications that the events of the Savage Land arc of New Avengers, House of M and Civil War were not only advantageous to the Skrulls, but possibly planned by the Skrulls. We also get a further continuation of the mythology behind this Skrull religion, as the act of fully immersing someone in a new identity takes the position of basically being a ritual, and a very cool one at that. Jimmy Chung also does a hell of a job on art chores (I LOVE that double page splash covering the background of Jessica Drew with her posing in the middle). This book is certainly covering the “secret” part of the Secret Invasion equation (while the main mini is much more of the “invasion” section), and I love the hell out of it. Secret societies, secret meetings, tons of conspiracy, tons of paranoia. And it all weaves its way beautifully through everything Bendis has been writing in the main Marvel U since Avengers Disassembled. Fantastic work.

Mighty Avengers #15 (****)

And the train keeps rolling. And Hank Pym’s skrully origin is revealed. And we get another bad ass ritual sequence. And we get some very cool art with Klaus Jansen and Tom Palmer working off John Romita Jr. breakdowns. It’s very reminiscent of JRJR and yet not at the same time. Groovy. I love the way the skrull constantly pumps Hank Pym for information (as well as other things…OH!) and makes it come off as the genuine gushing of a super hero groupie. And yet everything is for a specific purpose. These are all wonderful little puzzle pieces that are non essential to the main plot of Secret Invasion, but fill in that extra little bit of credibility that makes us really understand how the hell the Skrulls managed to pull this off so effortlessly. Plus, we’ve got a mention of the Beyonder, which is going to drive the people who think the Beyonder is behind all this up the wall. The only problem we have here is a bit of a timeline issue with New Avengers 42, which seems to feature Jessica Drew skrull talking to Hank Pym skrull, and that seems to take place before the events of Mighty 15 where he gets replaced. But it’s a minor continuity quibble, because I’m just enjoying the ride at this point.

Avengers: The Initiative #14 (****1/2)

Now THIS is fun. Slott’s back on co-writing duties for this issue (and I would assume the rest of the Secret Invasion arc, but I haven’t really been paying attention to the creator credits on solicits), and we’re dealing with the Skrull threat at Camp Hammond. Mostly from the perspective of 3-D Man, who is himself one of those altruistic Skrulls (similar to the Skrulls that pal around with She-Hulk, MI:13 and the Runaways…oh, and Hulkling), who is understandably trying to hide his identity in these trying times. Long story short, he finds out a way to see through the Skrull’s masking effects using a special pair of goggles, and proceeds to discover that EVERYONE at Camp Hammond is a Skrull. Of course, one assumes that this is not actually the case, and few if any of the people in the final double page spread are actually Skrulls, but it’s going to make for a fun little side story of one man against a world of people he thinks are guilty but are most likely innocent, and the hijinks that ensue. And nothing is more enjoyable than hijinks ensuing. The extra half star comes from that final splash, and the way 3-D Man’s yellow tinted goggles give off a sepia tone vibe and makes those last two pages look like some demented old-timey photo. Great stuff.

Ms. Marvel #28 (****)

Yes! I hoped this book would pick up once it got to the thick of things, and it surely did just that. First of all, Greg Horn is one of the best cover artists working today, and this issue is no exception. We join Secret Invasion already in progress with Ms. Marvel trying to deal with the armada attacking New York City. I mean, the book begins with a little twist on a very famous T.S. Eliot line (“This is the way the world ends. Not with a whimper…No…We should have known better than to think it would end with a whimper”) and I’m a big T.S. Eliot fan, so good on you Mr. Reed. And even better, we’re no longer bogged down with all the messiness from the last couple issues with the multiple Skrull Carol Danvers’ running around and too much of an emphasis on her interpersonal relationships. We’re full up on action now. And while not much actually happens in this book, it sure is staged well. We’ve got some nice story beats (the Skrulls react to Ms. Marvel’s power levels by shape shifting into defenseless innocents and blending in with the crowd) and good art. I don’t know if this book is as good as I rated it, but I think it’s such a step up from the last few issues that that probably had some influence on my score.

Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #2 (****)

I love the way they take the time at the beginning of the book to point out how many times Johnny Storm has been screwed over by members of the opposite sex. It’s one of those character moments that lets you understand the complete exasperation that Johnny deals with when he discovers that Lyja is the Skrull that infiltrated the Baxter Building. And I also like the way that Lyja realizes very quickly that she bit off far more than she can chew once the Baxter Building is attacked by all kinds of nasty inhabitants of the Negative Zone. Plus, we’ve got Annihilation Wave bugs! And a giant robot piloted by Franklin and Valeria! And the added bonus of the gang needing to rely on breaking some folks out of the Negative Zone prison for the next issue! This book is just pure fun, which is exactly what we should expect from a Fantastic Four book (Mark Millar, I’m looking in your direction). And Barry Kitson is still bringing the kind of awesomeness that makes me miss The Order. Nothing wrong with this book at all. It’s a bit on the flighty side, but still a solid read.

Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers #1 (****1/2)

Exactly what I wanted. More issues of dealing with the trust factors of someone on a team being a Skrull (this time we’re dealing with Zavin of the Runaways), but at its core, this book is all about Hulkling. Because all things told, he’s an extremely important character for this entire overall event. This guy is the true heir to the Skrull throne. And we get to see the continuation of what happens after he took both barrels to the face during Secret Invasion #3. Zavin, after pulling a card from the deck of Captain Skrull-Vell and pretending to play along with the Invasion in order to further his own agenda, realizes who Hulkling is, and the chase to rescue him ensues, played out in front of the backdrop of a lot of his friends getting hurt and possibly killed. It’s human drama (though none of those involved are actually, you know, human). And it’s pulse pounding. And put simply, it’s great. As someone who doesn’t know who any of the Runaways actually are, I was able to get character traits down right off the bat (thanks, Chris Yost!), which allowed me to follow the excellent story unimpeded.

I am SHOCKED at how good all of these tie ins have been so far. This is an incredibly rich tapestry that is billowing in the wind behind the somewhat straightforward and austere book that is the main title. Yes, the tie ins are generally of a higher quality than the actual Secret Invasion mini. But that doesn’t bother me one bit. Everything informs everything else, and we’re left with this living, breathing organism of an event that is very costly if you want to experience the whole thing, but completely well worth it. Phew! That was a lot of words.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #21

Rating System: Brand New Day Spider-Man Villains!

5 Stars: WARNING: Screwball
4 Stars: Mr. Negative
3 Stars: Jackpot
2 Stars: Menace
1 Star: Freak

100 Bullets #91 (****)

Finally, significant plot development!!! A new character!!! Although, he does look a little too much like Shepherd. That was confusing at first. Anyway, the new guy, Mr. Slaughter, shows up to reveal interesting things and answers questions from about 90 issues ago!!! Seriously, we haven’t seen the attaché cases referenced in a good long while. Even still, as the series winds down, I doubt The Azz’ll answer every question, I’m sure he’ll let some of this shit linger. Bastard.

The Amazing Spider-Man #559 (*****)

Dan Slott can do no wrong in this one. Of all the writers on BND, I’m glad Slott’s the one who gets to rotate in so often. The man just gets Peter. He gets the new direction and his new villains are right on the money. They are exactly the kind of fun and interesting that fits well in the Spidery Universe. Screwball, the first live-streaming super-villain, makes this issue. Especially her reaction to getting spider-tracer’d. Marcos Martin was born to draw Spidey. See, that’s one of the downsides to rotating the art team. They’ve all been fabulous, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Martin on a more regular basis, even if I’d have to wait a month for the next issue.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1 (***)

It was… fun. I know everyone’s been raving about it, and I don’t really want to bash it, but in my opinion, it wasn’t as good as all that. The team intros definitely work better here than in The Order, and I like the banter, but I just don’t buy the team’s chemistry. Star-Lord, Raccoon, Mantis and Quasar, I get. Giffen did such a fantastic job setting up Star-Lord’s team in that four issue mini, that you wouldn’t expect these characters to act any other way. And Quasar is such an unexplored and lost character, I get why she’s in this book. Drax, Adam Warlock and Gamora… in a team book? Now? Not feeling it. Yes, I know they used to be in the Watch together, but let’s face facts, the characters we have now are nothing like the characters from that much beloved B-Team from the 90’s. Gamora even says so herself in this issue. Just based on how these characters were written in the Annihilation books, I don’t buy that they’d join this team. Sure, D&A skirt the issue with some throw away dialogue about Gamora “searching for meaning”, but these ideas just don’t hold water with me. Anyway, I know lots of people love it, so I’ll stop complaining. I’ll keep reading, since I appreciate the D&A style and what they’re trying to do for Cosmic characters in the Marvel Universe, but I can’t fool myself into thinking this is a 5-Star book.

Wonder Woman #20 (****)

YAY for good writing! YAY for good Wonder Woman writing! That’s all.

X-Factor: The Quick and The Dead (****)

Hey, it’s a 4-Star X-Factor book! I had so much fun reading this. Lately, everything with the angsty/self-loathing Quicksilver has been wonderfully entertaining. I love how crazy and delusional he is. I mean, isn’t this the natural progression for anyone that is as self-important as Quicksilver used to be? The man imagined himself the savior of Mutantkind, for God sakes! If David could tear himself away from the atrocious She-Hulk, I’d love to see a Quicksilver ongoing. The character is finally interesting enough (thanks to Hine) to support it. Oh, what happened in this one-shot? He got his powers back, of course!

Quick Hits:
Amazing Spider-Man #558 (*): I could’ve happily lived the remainder of my life without the conclusion to “The Freak” story. Bob Gale FAILS at BND.
The Boys #18 (****): This book continues to impress month after month. Hughie is now one of my favorite comic book characters.
Cable #3 (***): I’m still on board with this, it’s kind of slow, but I like that the dialogue and narration is sparse. I read so many books every month, it’s nice to relax back with an “empty” read once in a while.
• Foolkiller #5 (***1/2): Decent conclusion to a surprisingly good mini. Looking forward to the next one.
Logan #3 (***): An overall interesting story, but it may have worked better as a fill-in run in the main book.
Nightwing #144 (**): I’m not sure what it is, but I’m just not as jazzed about this book as everyone else. The Talia banter was cool, but the rest of the issue was just sort of blah. If I nail it down, I may do a full review of the book next month.
Nova #13 (***): An entire issue’s worth of lead up for a final page splash that may or may not have been worth it. I appreciate what D&A are trying to do here, but as a longtime Marvel and Silver Surfer reader, I’ve seen this type of setup many times before. I don’t want to be so harsh as to call it a rerun, but it’s damn close. I’m a jaded bastard. Next issue is sure to be an exciting read, so I’ll give the writers the benefit of the doubt for now.
Punisher War Journal #19 (*): I don’t get how Fraction could go so wrong, so fast. The Punisher has always been a historically difficult book to write, but he seemed to have a unique handle on it… till recently. More cancellations in my future?
X-Men: Legacy (****): This is the book continuity buffs have been waiting for! And I, for one, love it! Carey mines the X-Men’s illustrious legacy, unearthing forgotten gems. Also, Professor X as a semi-amnesiac totally works. This is the best X-Men Carey has ever written. Shit, I even like the Finch covers. He manages to allow his women to look like women!

Foilball’s Review Roundup #17

Rating System: The Best of Jim Starlin

5 Stars: WARNING: The Infinity Gauntlet
4 Stars: Adam Warlock and the Infinity Watch
3 Stars: Cosmic Odyssey
2 Stars: Dreadstar
1 Star: Marvel Universe: The End

Avengers: The Initiative #12 (***)

Once again, Iron Man compromises his position on the SHRA and allows a group of fugitive super heroes to “escape”. I just don’t understand editorial’s inconsistent stance on this. In a shared universe, you can’t just abandon bits of story and character development every time a creator writes himself into a corner. For those of you who would say that Iron Man’s resent behavior IS a sign of character development, I say, “I don’t think so.” I don’t feel the writing here, or in the other books where he isn’t the title character, would support that argument. I think it’s just editors letting writers do their own thing. Would Tony really act like this? He fought a war over his beliefs and he got his best friend killed. If that honestly changed how he felt about registration, he’d have gone rogue already and we’d probably see him fighting to repeal the Act. He hasn’t and he’s not. I expect this type of shit from DC, not Marvel… the masters of continuity.

Ms. Marvel #26 (*)

I’m really starting to dislike this book. Too much exposition and too much useless dialogue. It’s Reed aping Bendis, and he’s aping him badly. I want to drop this book, but I really like Carol Danvers. But I’m also pretty sure I only like her when Bendis is writing her. Dilemma!!! Oh yeah, and this issue doesn’t feel like it fits in with Secret Invasion at all. I know that’s kind of a ridiculous thing to say, because there’s a bunch of Skrulls in here… but these Skrulls aren’t acting very Skrully, that is to say, their Skrulliness isn’t consistent with how Bendis has set them up in Avengers and SI. Like, this Skrull chick is way too forthcoming with the infos. I want to like Reed and his Ms. Marvel, but this book is less fun than it used to be and now I’m starting to wonder if it was ever any good. And another thing, pretty convenient for Reed to introduce this Agent Sum guy’s background information a couple of pages before it’s relevant to the story. UGH. So bad.

Rann-Thanagar: Holy War #1 (**)

I didn’t preorder this, but I picked it up on Wednesday because back in the day, Starlin and Lim were a creative team to be reckoned with. I went in with semi-high expectations, I tried very hard to keep the nostalgia factor in check, and the book failed to exceed them. Actually, it didn’t even come close. I was bored; bored to tears. That’s about the worst thing you can say about any piece of art. Sorry, guys. This sucked. Oh, but I did laugh at these two pages. Robin sits there completely invisible till the very last panel where he gives Starfire permission to go on the mission. Hold on, Robin is still a kid, right? Starfire’s the adult? HAHAHAH… stupid. I won’t be reading #2.

Superman/Batman #47 (***1/2)

Hey FYI, Busiek wrote this idea already over on Superman. I don’t remember the specific issue number, but it was about six months back I think. The idea: a team designed and trained by the US government to take out Superman if he ever goes rogue… been there, Green. But it’s okay, since surprisingly, Green does a better job with this idea than Busiek. You don’t have to be original all the time, most of the time we’ll settle for interesting. And this, this Doomsday kryptonite creature, this thing is interesting… to me at least.

Ultimate X-Men #93 (***1/2)

So… a reboot? Yeah, I can live with that. Does this mean Fantastic Four is the Ultimate book on the chopping block? I hope so. Does anyone like Ult. FF? About the issue: the fight between Apocalypse and Phoenix was just long enough to satisfy my need for cosmic violence without boring me. Also, thank you Robert Kirkman for reversing the “Dark Phoenix” expectations we were all… expecting. We don’t see Light Phoenix very often and it was a welcome surprise. There was some lame here, mostly due to the super-muscular art. UGH-UGH.

Quick Hits:
The Mighty Avengers #12 (****): Nick Fury, you fool! I wouldn’t kick that Skrull out of bed, she was the super hots! Maria Hill is one of the best, most complex characters Bendis has ever written… too bad she’s almost surely a Skrull. The meeting between Spider-Woman and Fury on the bridge was perfect. I think I’m looking forward to this story more than Secret Invasion proper.
The New Avengers #40 (****): I think I’m 4-starring this mainly for the Jimmy Cheung art. The story was neat too… and I loved how pissy the Skrull King gets. What’s also neat? Plenty of Skrull art to steal for some future Vs. set.
The Immortal Iron Fist #14 (****): So much fighting in this issue! Just when you think the fights over, Fraction and Brubaker toss out a dozen more fist-pounding panels! Have I mentioned how much I love how they print the names of the special moves in big white font? HEH.
Justice League of America #20 (**): I wasn’t even aware Flash wasn’t in the JLA right now. I mean, I’ve been reading the book for over 10years, but it’s been so forgettable lately I just had no clue. Apparently the editors felt we needed reminding. Thanks editors!!!
The Order #10 (**): A decent ending to a mediocre series. I’m glad the Order hasn’t disbanded, but I don’t care about them much past that.
Teen Titans #58 (-): Dropping this book. Now that we won’t be making any DC sets for a while, it’s finally safe to drop all the DC titles I can’t stand.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #13

Rating System:

5 Stars: WARNING: Dawn of the Dead (Original)
4 Stars: Shaun of the Dead
3 Stars: 28 Days Later
2 Stars: Return of the Living Dead
1 Star: House of the Dead

Avengers: The Initiative #11 (***1/2)

Finally, the KIA arc comes to a close. The best part of this issue was seeing Slapstick “demolecularized” or whatever. YAUS! Oh man, and then War Machine Hulks-out… only to get his ass kicked almost immediately after, and unfortunately, off-panel. This was a huge mistake, I think. Like, who didn’t want to see War Machine throw down with KIA? It could have been an epic fight, spanning half the issue. Instead, we get Iron Man and the Mighty Avengers to the rescue. Seriously, WTF was Slott thinking? Why even have War Machine in this book if he never does anything cool? When I saw that panel of him transforming, I thought to myself, “This is it… this is the big payoff!” and then nothing. So, STUPID! Also, thank God KIA died in the end. He was a stupid villain. Oh wait… GAH!

Cable #2 (***)

In this issue of Cable… in lieu of actually moving the story forward, the writer decides to go back in time and explain to us how it is that Bishop located Cable. But why? Don’t get me wrong, it was really interesting and clever. Kudos, Mr. Swierczynski for being so smart… but it was still just another example of writer masturbation. C’mon, you know I’m right. We could lose that entire sequence and still be fine going forward from there. I hope we don’t see more of this crap in the future (get it? GET IT!). Oh, I need a small clarification from the people at home: since when has Bishop been able to throw massive inanimate objects with his powers? Cause and effect. Is this something new? Is it just bad story-telling?

The Walking Dead #48 (****)

Okay, finally… PEOPLE DIE! LOADS OF PEOPLE!!! This chick! And then this guy! This random dude! And the doctor lady! OMG… LORI and the BABY!!! Hershel! WOW, everyone I hated is dead except the Governor… BOOM!!! This is the single greatest issue of Walking Dead ever. EVER! And I love the final page. Priceless. New and exciting times folks! Hope this means we’ll finally be getting fresh and interesting stories. One can dream.

Wolverine #64 (***)

The exciting “Get Mystique” continues… first, in order to sneak into the “Green Zone”, Wolverine blows himself up. How many times is this in the last couple of years? I thought he couldn’t survive this kind of shit anymore? Didn’t they do a whole arc about this? De-powering him? HUH?!? (Man, I complain too much.) Anyways, he somehow manages to find the room Mystique is hiding in and confronts her… butt naked and charbroiled. Pay attention, in this episode, exposure is a theme. After putting up a half-assed fight, she escapes into the desert. The final few pages setup next issue’s grand finale. Apparently, Mystique’s big plan is a truck full of weapons and nudity. Hmm, could work.

Quick Hits:
Captain Marvel #5 (**): This was hugely disappointing… more questions, less answers. Why did I even read this? So he turns out to be a Skrull after all? And he’s gonna be a good guy? So who the hell was that that attacked Thunderbolts Mountain in Secret Invasion #1?
Nova #12 (***1/2): This epic tale of fail finally wraps with the final part containing more excitement than all other parts combined. I love Nova, I love what they’ve done with “Cosmic” Marvel, but this story arc was a serious misstep. Please, bring on Galactus!!!
• Supergirl (-): YAUS!!! The final issue… that I’ll be paying for. “I’m gonna cure cancer!” Shut up, Stupidgirl.
• WWH Aftersmash: Warbound #5 (*): This series started at a solid 4 stars, and never recovered. This could have been awesome. I feel like this mini is filled with leftover ideas from some 80’s run on Incredible Hulk. Like, Mark Paniccia found this lost folder filled with unused and stupid ideas and he was like, “I gotta overnight this to Greg Pak, he’s a Hulk genius! He’ll know what to do with it!”
Young Avengers Presents: Wiccan & Speed #3 (*): So, unlike the other issues in this mini, this issue feels it can get away with containing zero plot development. Hmm. Interesting choice.