Secret Invasion Part 12A

Secret Invasion: Inhumans (****1/2)

I must say that Pokaski has a very good feel for these characters. Crystal making a gigantic stone Black Bolt golem to fight the Skrulls? Fantastic. All the Inhumans are written well in a believable fashion, and you still get the different sense of how this royal family acts in comparison to a standard superhero team. Loyalty above all else is the name of the game. So it’s not even a question that Gorgon would protect Maximus despite his hatred for the man. I should also mention that the Inhumans’ methods for torturing a captive Skrull in attempts to discern the location of Black Bolt was a perfectly ingenius way to go about their business. We’re continuing to learn of the overall plans of the Skrulls as relates to Mr. Boltagon, and it’s not going to be pretty. This is a great series so far, and Joe Pokaski eally does seem to have a future in print media.

Nova #17 (****1/2)

Nova has returned home. Most of the events of this issue take place at the home base of Project PEGASUS, wherein Richard Rider, his brother Robbie and Darkhawk try to beat back the Skrulls from intercepting some seriously dangerous tech. The three characters engage in quite a lot of wisecracking (including a nice shot at the cliche of heroes attacking each other before realizing they’re on the same side) and we’ve got the return (in a way) of the Xandarian Worldmind. But the best moment of the entire issues comes on the last page, where we have a big (from my perspective) return that makes perfect sense, considering that character originally met his end early on in the Nova book (hint, hint…It’s Quasar!). Great reveal that was truly well executed and logical, and it sets up a lot of interest for the rest of the arc and potentially beyond, provided that he’s going to stick around. I love this book. But you already knew that.

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (***1/2)

Drax gets his Wolverine in the sewers of the Hellfire Club moment here, as he skulks around eviscerating Luminals for a good portion of the book. This issue has a bit of middle chapter syndrome going on; things happen and the story continues to move, but not a lot of it grabbed me. The Drax stuff was fun, but as I mentioned, we’ve seen it before. A lot. There is a big reveal involving Cosmo that was a nice moment, and I did enjoy the way Adam Warlock discovered the traitorous dog with a nice continuation of the work being done in the Marvel Universe with the Eternals and the Celestials. I am also looking forward to the litany of “I told you sos” and overall smugness of Rocket Raccoon over the next couple issues once he finds out about Cosmo. This was a good issue, but nothing special.

Black Panther #41 (*****)

Well, there was certainly an unholy amount of badass in this three issue run. There are so many great moments in this issue, from the reveal of what was actually going on with Black Panther and Storm to the final fate of the Skrulls. But like the rest of the issues, the real star of the book is Commander K’vv, the man that is running the Wakandan portion of the invasion. There is a running theme in the book of K’vvr struggling to figure out how to write a letter to his wife, and the final portion of the book is set to the narrative of the letter itself (this is, of course, going on after his bloody and violent end at the hands of the protagonists) with these stark pages of dead Skrulls and blood alongside the cheering Wakandans. The way Aaron wrote these issues is very sympathetic to the Skrulls, despite the fact that they are the invading force and should really be the villains of the piece. It’s that little extra oomph that pushes this book over the top. The characterization of K’vvr is excellent, and the final letter is a very sobering series of panels. These are overall probably the best issues to come out of the Secret Invasion event. I probably liked the Hercules issues more, but they were not as accessible as what we have her. I recommend that everyone out there read these books. You will not be disappointed.

Thunderbolts #124 (*****)

I love what Christos Gage is doing with these characters. I should have started reading this book earlier. How long has it been this good? Every single person in this book and on this team is certifiably insane. And all of it is tempered by the strange sense of twisted honor that many of these characters feel. Many of them are legitimately trying to do good works, but have to deal with what simply boils down to mental illness, and at the same time, you’ve got characters like Bullseye and Venom right next to them that only care about killing and survival. The interactions between Norman Osborne and Moonstone are awesome. Songbird, Radioactive Man, the Swordsman duo, Penance, it’s all great. I don’t know if I have more fun reading any Marvel book other than Thunderbolts right now. Awesome stuff.

Bruce Castle Presents: The Skrulls Get Around

Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1 (****)

This book should have come out a lot sooner. That’s really the only complaint I have about this. The two main things that a tie-in has to be concerned about is one: have something to do with the event it ties into and two: spend at least a little time introducing the characters because you want to bring new readers into your story. I know little about the Inhumans. I don’t think I’ve ever read any of their books before so all I know is their names and a little about their powers. Not only did this issue tell me who the Inhumans are, it did so in a very creative way through stain glass windows. This gave Tom Raney the opportunity to show his prowess as an artist. His Kirby-esque rendering in those windows is an artistic treat. The characters are written wonderfully and we get to know all of them quickly. But this is still a tie-in, and when the Skrulls do show up they kick some ass in cinematic fashion. Due to the great work from the creative team, SI Inhumans is worth the price of admission.

Secret Invasion: Thor #1 (****1/2)

If you haven’t been reading Thor Ages of Thunder from Matt Fraction, you really need to do yourself a favor and pick up those two issues. I have a friend who has been reading Thor for almost 30 years and he feels that Fraction has written the best Thor since Walt Simonson’s legendary run. So I was both excited and a bit nervous reading this because his other two issues of Thor were so good. But thankfully, this doesn’t disappoint. I’ll give a quick shout out to Doug Braithwaite who does the art on this fine issue. He brings us breathtaking images and genuinely godlike portrayals that leave you breathless. We get to see some cool things we rarely see like Donald Blake’s duties as a Doctor and of course the return of Beta Ray Bill which shows Fraction’s obvious affection towards the aforementioned Simonson run. The action was absent in this issue, but there was plenty of material to keep you entertained and the last page leaves you wanting more.

Secret Invasion: X-Men #1 (****)

This was a hell of a first issue. I’ll first mention what drew me to this issue was Nord’s art. I’m a big Conan fan and since he’s off that book I have to get his pretty art anyway I can. So when I saw this I thought: X-Men, Skrulls, Nord art, and a pretty Dodson cover, I’m there! In addition to the glorious Nord art, I had quite a lot of fun with this issue. So the Skrulls invade San Francisco because remember, California was near defenseless until recently. The Skrulls land and start slaughtering until the X-Men arrive!  A lot of action ensues. So this is fun and has stunning art. What was interesting though is how serious the Skrulls were. They acted like they came right out of some bloody war. They had Skrully priests blessing the troops with the commander saying “These soldiers are saints already”. Who is this Skrull commander? He’s a pretty crazy character. He even refers to the Skrull invasion as a crusade. Oh and he executes another Skrull for messing up. The only thing that keeps this issue from being the best out of these tie-ins is the absence of an aforementioned tie-in ingredient. This isn’t a book for new readers at all. But if you like the X-Men, gorgeous art, and some extremely intriguing Skrulls, pick this up!

Review: Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1

So I was given the surprising opportunity to read SI Inhumans today before I get it in my DCBS Box on Friday (it’s certainly possible that it had something to do with my bitching to everyone within earshot about the agony of having to wait TWO WHOLE DAYS!!!!!! in order to read the thing), and I read through it while I was at work. There was a hell of a lot of anticipation on my end. I think if you had to create a pecking order for my favorite characters in comics, the Inhumans run a close second behind Galactus and his Heralds, with a personal affinity specifically engendered for the Royal Family, as you’d be hard pressed to find a more interesting and diverse group of folks under one roof. I have literally liked every story I have ever read about the Inhumans. The Paul Jenkins/Jae Lee Marvel Knights run is well regarded as a classic (and deservedly so), but series like the Pacheco/Ladronn four issue run, or McKeever’s twelve issues, or Son of M or Silent War are all great stories. So combine that with my love for the characters and love for the Secret Invasion event, and you’ve got some big shoes to fill. Also consider that this is writer Joe Pokaski’s first full length comic work (he wrote some of those Heroes shorts as well), and there’s a lot of pressure here.

Well, my fears or trepidation were put to rest on the opening pages, where we see Karnak (he’s a personal favorite of mine out of all the Royal Family) explaining the history of the Inhumans while preaching in front of these beautifully rendered throwback style stained glass windows to catch up readers new and old alike. The current status quo of the Inhumans is also quickly established, as the events of Silent War have not been swept under the rug as some have feared. Maximus is still king of Attilan, the Royal Family still hates his guts, and Gorgon is still in his more animal-like secondary Terrigenesis form. The characterization of the Royal Family is pretty much spot on. Gorgon is still constantly trying to reconcile his temper with his loyalty to his brothers and cousins. Karnak is still a stone cold badass. Medusa still mixes her emotions of fealty, royalty, pride, and honor with that tinge of vulnerability bubbling underneath the surface. And Maximus is (as always) a MASSIVE JACKASS (who constantly takes pot shots at Triton for no reason other than being bored). It is very obvious that Pokaski is either a legitimate fan of the Inhumans or did TONS of research, so it all works in relation to what came before.

From a story perspective, it’s what you’d expect. Iron Man delivers the Black Bolt Skrull to Medusa, who is kind of a bit upset about it, and the Inhumans proceed to examine themselves from within Attilan to see just what this means for them while they attempt to find their missing deposed king. But the Skrulls are ready for them, and much of Attilan is burning by the end of the issue. I won’t go into specifics because this is a book that really requires a fresh approach to enjoy the way things play out. But I will say that someone is messing with the Terrigen crystals, and whoever designed the Inhuman Royal Family Super Skrull that appears in this issue could potentially be my new best friend. I think that thing may honestly be cooler than the Illuminati Super Skrull from Secret Invasion 2. We’ve got an ending with a very strong allusion to certain events of another recent Marvel event, and we have that undeniable need to read the next issue RIGHT NOW and the long, dark soul searching month of quietude before the next onslaught of awesomeness. And truly, what more is there to ask for from a monthly periodical comic book?

I wanted to end this somewhat haphazard and hastily put together review by talking about Tom Raney. Now, I already mentioned how great those opening stained glass style panels look. And the badass Inhuman Super Skrull. But the rest of the book is drawn in this wonderful clean style that is a pretty big departure from what we’ve gotten used to from an Inhumans book. This book does not revel in the darkness the way that Jae Lee or Landronn or Frazer Irving drew the Inhumans. It’s much more along the lines of of the artists that worked on McKeever’s twelve issue series, but even that was relentlessly dark at times. This book is not done from that perspective. The colors pop. Everything is vibrant and clear as day. It’s VERY different, but not in a bad way. This is also a different style compared to Raney’s work on Annihilation: Conquest, which I think has a lot to do with the coloring as well, so hats are off to the folks at Guru EFX for doing a great job on making this book like no other that has preceded it. That’s not discounting Raney, of course, as his lines are confident and strong, and his expression work from the myriad of Medusa’s emotions to Maximus’ indifference to Gorgon’s rage and Karnak’s frustration enhances the words in a way you can only get from the comic medium.

To say this book lived up to my expectations would be no small feat considering how excited I’m been to read the thing ever since it was announced (or more accurately ever since New Avengers: Illuminati #5 when I desperately wanted to see what the Inhumans would do about Black Bolt), but the combination of the spot on writing and the great art and the little subtleties that come from both the writing and the art really make for a truly compelling piece of superhero fiction. My mind is at ease and still swimming in a sea of Inhumany goodness. Won’t you join me?

Series Review: Silent War

That’s right, folks. On a day that featured the release of two event books (Trinity 1 and Secret Invasion 3), I’m going to review an almost universally ignored pseudo-event from last year. Ha ha!

I’m a big fan of the Inhumans. I became interested in the “team” through the Heralds of Galactus expansion of VS System, but it was reading the Son of M mini from the Decimation “event” that got me hooked. That led to me going back to read the Paul Jenkins/Jae Lee 12 issue Marvel Knights series, which was quite excellent. One of the things I really dig about the Inhumans is the sort of caste system that we have set up in Attilan. You’ve got the Royal Family at the top of the chain, followed by the Royal Guard and the rest of the standard citizens, with the Alpha Primitives at the bottom. I wanted to read Silent War due to its coming out of the events of Son of M, and I picked up issues 2 through 6 at the Wild Pig sale in October of last year. Didn’t read them, of course, until I finally got around to getting the first issue at Wizard World Philly this past Sunday. I pulled out the rest of the series and gave it a read.

First thing’s first, I really like the way that David Hine decided to expand on the slight framing device from Inhumans, where certain issues were written from various perspectives (Lockjaw and Triton, for example). Silent War pushes this device to the forefront, having the caption narrative handled by a different character for each issue. Gorgon, Crystal, Luna, Medusa, Maximus and The Sentry (that’s right. The Sentry) all give a different perspective on exactly what’s going on in the Inhumans’ war on Earth. And once again, it all comes down to Black Bolt. It’s a further exploration of exactly how a society deals with a leader and monarch who cannot speak and never shows his entire hand. There’s a lot more going on here from a plot perspective, with terrigen crystals being misappropriated and government conspiracies, and an appearance by X-Factor and some Attilan political intrigue, but this story is really about the characters. The arrogance and desperation of Quicksilver. The slow loss of innocence of Luna. Medusa’s frustration in dealing with her husband and his problems with communication. Black Bolt’s reaction to betrayal in his ranks and the tension that comes from his inability to release. And you’ve got another Sentry issue with him staying out of a fight in the standard Sentry way, but his narrative is not actually written like a child. It’s so refreshing. You’ve got a guy that rationally realizes that if he joins a fight that involves Black Bolt, it’s going to escalate to the point that both men would have to let loose, which could easily lead to the destruction of the eastern seaboard. There’s no whining about The Void. There’s no babying of him by the rest of the Mighty Avengers. It’s the best handling of The Sentry since the original Jenkins work. In fact, all the writing in this book seems to be a love letter to those two Jenkins works (Sentry and Inhumans).

We’ve got some pretty crazy art going on here too. Frazer Irving’s painted style is strongly reminiscent of early 1920’s expressionist art and film, using angled architecture and at times very over exaggerated facial expressions and movements. He does some neat little tricks here and there too, including a much appreciated and well executed homage to Edvard Munch’s The Scream involving Black Bolt in issue four. It many ways, the use of Irving here is another call back to the Jenkins/Lee book, as he follows in Jae Lee’s tradition of using darker and more muted tones to characterize Attilan as more of a prison than a home. Irving does an excellent job with the Inhumans themselves and all the other crazy terrigenesis’ed folks you see in the book. The art is definitely not for everyone. But I quite like it, and I think it’s well suited for the subject matter.

I guess the last thing to talk about is the ending. It’s a pretty big change to the status quo of the Inhumans and Attilan. And it sets up quite a lot of potential for the future. But it has also been pretty much ignored in the continuity of the Marvel Universe. We’ve got two hooks here. It’s after Civil War (as the Mighty Avengers show up) and it’s before World War Hulk (the attack on the opera house was mentioned as one of Black Bolt’s transgressions). But we see in World War Hulk that Black Bolt is still in charge of his people, and the events didn’t factor in to New Avengers: Illuminati or any of the Secret Invasion stuff thus far. So it’s a story without a time. You know what? Who cares? This is a very well written and well drawn book. What else do we need? I loved the hell out of the story, and I do want to see the continuation of a Maximus and Ahura led Inhuman civilization, how long it takes to fall apart and how Black Bolt comes back into prominence. Hopefully we’ll see that one day. Inhumans fans should definitely read this, but for those not familiar with the events, it’s a good idea to at least read Son of M and possibly Marvel Knights Inhumans as well. Great stuff.