Review: Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1

DoctorVoodoo

I’ve always believed that Doctor Strange was Marvel’s most tragically underutilized character.  Where most are tied down to the continuity of a single universe, here we have a massively powerful being whose mere will is the only thing holding our universe together.  There were millions of stories that could be told with him, ranging from the dramatic to the horrific to the bizarrely surreal, but instead Marvel opted to constantly ignore his power and knowledge so that he would better fit into whatever mold they wanted him to fit into.  By the point Strange lost his mantle to Brother Voodoo, it was mostly a mercy.

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural takes some steps, at least, towards making the concept of Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme relevant again.  Writer Rick Remender delivers a relatively solid issue of set-up introducing Earth’s new Sorcerer Supreme.  Mixing voodoo terminology, monsters and culture together with the loosely-defined comic book mysticism of Doctor Strange is an interesting choice, but one that Remender makes work throughout the issue.  The book’s biggest problem comes with Remender’s decision to completely forego anything like an explanation – having not read much Marvel lately, I had no idea when Voodoo got his doctorate, in what, or why… nor why Strange lost his mantle.  And, more importantly to this issue, what’s the importance of the floating-ghost maybe-sorcerer?

Palo’s art is, for the most part, excellent.  He handles the books multiple tones well, jumping ably between a horrific, voodoo-inspired monster and epic, dimensions spanning conflicts within a single issue.  His designs are solid and imaginative, and he works well with colorist Beaulieu to create a few particularly striking images without resorting to over-posed figures that look clumsily traced.  Perhaps his biggest flaw comes in his facial expressions: everyone in the issue looks either sad, angry, or transitioning from one to the other.

Overall, Doctor Voodoo, Avenger of the Supernatural is a promising opening issue.  It glosses over it’s two main conflicts far more quickly than they deserve, and it does a terrible job of informing the new reader – which is doubly surprising given that it’s the first issue of a new series – but it is for the most part a solid, enjoyable issue of comics.  The fact that Remender seems genuinely interested in mixing the epic mysticism of comic book magic with the earthy horror of voodoo bodes well for the book in terms of offering up fresh, inventive takes on characters and situations we’ve all seen before.  A promising, if slightly flawed, start.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

Review: Thor #600

(****)

The best issue of Straczynski’s Thor is here! But, I haven’t been a fan of his run at all, so that’s not saying much. Kudos to Marvel for offering an anniversary issue that is near irresistible. You get a double-sized issue of your scheduled programming, plus a ten or so page tale by Stan Lee and David Aja. Some humorous Mini Marvel action and about twenty pages of Lee and Kirby reprints round out one hell of a package. Though tossing a fin will be troubling, you do get 104 pages for your cash.

Straczynski’s Thor has been meandering and depressing. When Thor re-launched, I gave the first three issues a shot. The first issue was decent, but the second and third were incredibly awful. I later borrowed the first trade and still found it to be bad. Fortunately, the last six issues have been better, but Straczynski’s Thor has got to be one of the most overrated runs that I know of.

The issue begins with a resurrected Bor, Odin’s father. He’s wreaking havoc on New York due to a distortion spell from Loki-Sif. Basically, Loki puts Thor in an unwinnable situation and the rest of the issue is smashing, bashing, and thunder. That makes for a nice jumping-on point as well, since this issue is mostly action. The story, what little there is, is pretty good. It sets up a new status quo for Thor firmly based in Marvel’s Dark Reign for better or for worse. This title has struggled between Straczynski going off on his own, and the fact that Asgard is in Oklahoma. Whether it was Straczynski’s decision or Quesada’s, the future for Thor lies in continuity.

The battle itself is mostly spectacular. Coipel makes this book his own and begs even those most disenchanted with what Straczynski’s doing, like yours truly, to purchase this book solely for the art. Marko Djurdjevic joins Coipel this time, but the two don’t perform randomly like Land and Dodson did on Uncanny X-Men #50o. Coipel handles the normal stuff while Djurdjevic renders Bor’s spell-induced nightmare. Both artists did a remarkable job. Coipel shows the action, emotion, and even an “Avengers Assemble!” masterfully. And Djurdjevic has a lot of fun demonstrating Bor’s distortion, like when Spider-Man appears to be Venom in Bor’s lens.

My main complaint with Straczynski’s tale is perhaps the direction it’s taking. The Dark Reign moments were my least favorite parts. When Thor cries “Avengers Assemble!”, only a few jokers show up. I won’t spoil it, but why would only those guys appear? There must be close to a hundred heroes, and villains actually, that could’ve answered the call. It’s a ridiculously contrived moment. The status quo change is interesting, but the guest appearance on the last page is not. You can count him on your “most appearances in Dark Reign list” along with Osborn.

The bonus material is fun. The Lee/Aja tale is much like the main one; you can ignore the words and just gaze at the art. Aja produced some amazing work and Lee’s “story”… is pedantic to say the least. Thankfully, we’re also treated to some classic Thor stories as well where Lee redeems his good name. Stan Lee is in top form in these reprints and Kirby is, as always, the king, though these are some of the Vince Colletta-inked issues that are very controversial among Kirby fans. The last addition, by Chris Giarrusso, is hilarious. It pokes fun at Straczynski’s run so as you can guess, I had a blast.

The love outweighs the hate here. Marvel offers quite a hefty tome filled with glorious art that makes up for a bit of lackluster story. Good anniversary issues are rare, but you can count Thor #600 among them.

Review: Ultimate Hulk Annual #1 – Spoilers!

Ultimate Hulk Annual #1

(***1/2)

Wow, what the hell is it with Loeb? He inspires so much fanboy hate! I read this issue once and I had a blast. Then I talked to some friends and whah whah bitch bitch! So I read it again. The fiasco in question? Hulk got his ass handed to him by Power Princess. Okay, a little weak right? But think, Power Princess=Wonder Woman. Maybe even more powerful actually. Remember Ultimate Power? Squadron Supreme vs. Everybody! This Power Princess seems to at least be more vicious than our current Wonder Woman. So Wonder Woman sucker punches Hulk in the face. Hulk fights back and eventually gets cut on the arm (Wonder Woman has awesome axe and shield). Hulk smashes back on shield and does hurt Wonder Woman.Wonder Woman then punches Hulk in the balls and knocks him out with one last giant punch. Now c’mon, it’s a bit silly, but not very. This is comics people! Anyway, it didn’t bother me much.

Here are ten reasons to read this comic:

1. The Ed McGuinness art!

2. The Marko Djurdjevic art!

3. Hulk doesn’t have those stupid tattered pants!

4. Hulk naked (If you’re into that kind of thing)!

5. Naked Hulk has money somehow!

6. Hulk gets laid!

7. Hulk gets laid!

8. Hulk gets laid (Is that enough?)!

9. Hulk gets laid (Now it’s enough)!

10. This comic is tons of fun! Nuff Said!

Bruce Castle Presents: Matt Fraction Books Unite!

Large Cover of Uncanny X-Men #505 (Villain Variant)

Uncanny X-Men #505 (***)

Do we really want this man writing the X-Men?

I think it’s official, Brubaker has left the building. Did Fracker break up? I don’t know, but that picture is awesome. And Tony was right. Anyway, I feel sorry for this book. It’s become Marvel’s answer to JLA. One of the terrible things about the current JLA is that the book has to keep servicing other books. It spends too much time talking about events that it can’t tell its own stories. That’s exactly what Uncanny X-Men is. This issue spends so much time talking about X-Force, and M-Day, and Astonishing X-Men and now Dark Reign. Fraction only gets a few pages to tell the stories he wants to tell, but it has little impact. It barely makes sense! The Dodson’s continue to impress and the fact that this book isn’t terrible demonstrates Fraction’s ability as a writer. Please Marvel, give the man some freedom!

Large Cover of The Invincible Iron Man #8 (Villain Variant)

Invincible Iron Man #8 (****1/2)

Everything about this book is perfect. Except the art of course, Larroca can’t draw people. I know I know it’s Iron Man, but this book is about the characters. It’s not about the iron. Although the few panels involving technology do look sweet. It’s still amazing how Fraction manages to write this cast so well. Tony, Maria and Pepper are so lovable even though they’re definitely human and flawed. You know what else is in this issue? Comedy! I’ve said a thousand times but I’ll say it again, if you liked the movie you’ll enjoy this. Last thing, Osborn is the new Skrull. It’s only been two weeks and already I realize how much I’ll type the name Osborn in the coming months.

God-Sized

Thor: God-Sized #1 (****)

The writing is great. The art is great. There are four art teams working on this thing and yet they’re all pretty cool. I enjoyed the part three artist the most. It was very old-school, cartoony, and fun. So this is a quality issue, but I’m sure a lot of you will ask, “What’s the point?” It’s a tribute. Along with the 38 new pages, you’ll also receive a reprint of the classic Thor #362. Walt Simonson had one of the best runs on Thor ever. It easily rivals the Lee/Kirby era. But you know what? You can’t even get a trade that contains Thor #362. They were reprinted in trades but they’re sold out now. That’s why this issue is important. If you haven’t read Walt’s run, it’ll let you know what you’re missing. If you have read his run, you’ll quickly be reminded how great it was. The reason why I loved part three so much was because you got to see all the classic Simonson costumes, Balder in his armor, Thor with his beard, and so on. Of course this issue isn’t all about Simonson, it’s also about Skurge. He was a tragic and important part of the Thor mythos. I highly recommend this issue.

Bruce Castle Presents: Ultimatum Is Almost Here!

Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3

Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3 (*****)

This was the best issue of Ultimate Spider-Man in a long time. This series has been a bit disappointing lately with the new Venom arc, but this was a refreshing return to greatness. I’m sad that Mark Brooks wasn’t providing the art. I actually thought that Brooks would have made a better replacement for Bagley. Lafuente does a decent job though. He has a super cartoony style that mostly works well here due to the large quantity of laughs. That’s right folks! USM is hilarious again! That’s what was so great about this issue. It wasn’t the action or the new Ultimate character (It’s a villain. I won’t give away any more. It will remain a mystery until you read it), it was the high-dose of laughter and those oh so lovable teen moments. Peter and MJ talk about sex (There I spoiled something, happy?)! Hey! What did this have to do with Ultimatum? Unless that new villain is the reason, I have no idea why this was an Ultimatum tie-in. Oh and I loved that moment when the girl dressed as 616 Spider-Woman screams “Embrace change! Embrace change!” So awesome!

Ultimate Captain America Annual #1

Ultimate Captain America Annual #1 (***1/2)

I don’t know, but I think Ultimatum might actually be pretty cool. First off, this is such an awesome teaser.

C’mon! How can you not be excited after seeing that!? Anyway, this wasn’t really a Captain America comic. It was really about Black Panther. It’s pretty much his origin and then it explains how he got to Ultimates 3 and such. I don’t know if Loeb just had to get his bearings or if it really was intentional that most of Ultimates 3 seemed so off. At first, it was like Loeb had never read an Ultimates book, but in the last installment of Ultimates 3 and again in this issue, you can tell the man knows his stuff. Continuity is thrown at us in a totally accessible way. I rarely get to see Marko Djurdjevic on interiors, but he provides some stunning work here. There is also a new Ultimate character and the usual Loeb humor (Fury uses a Hulk cutout shooting target. Ha!). This comic is mostly about explanation, but it does plant some seeds that I’m sure we’ll see pop up like daisies soon.