Secret Invasion Part 9

Captain Britain should be coming in my shipment tomorrow, so that’ll have to be in my next set of reviews (I’m getting ELEVEN Secret Invasion books in my box tomorrow).

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

It’s the little things in life you treasure, and that’s a lot of what I enjoy about the Secret Invasion books. No stone is left unturned. This book continues the thread of Hulkling and Xavin’s attempts to reconcile themselves with the invading Super Skrull forces in New York City. We don’t see a whole lot of new, so this book is mostly focused on character development with that bit of flavor tying into one of the main themes of the tension between the Skrull monarchy and the religious sect that is leading the invasion. It’s standard fare, but it’s still good.

Secret Invasion: Front Line #2 (****)

Front Line is such a fun idea. It’s almost a microcosm of what worked with Marvels. The Marvel Universe has always been a street level universe, so why wouldn’t they make a book like this for every event? It makes perfect sense. And considering the change in direction toward “Embrace Change” and the ads we’ve been seeing post issue five of SI, I can see this book becoming VERY important for the rest of the run. Brian Reed is writing it more than competently, and this feels like an essential component of the story to show us all sides of what’s going on here.

Secret Invasion: Thor #1 (***)

It was okay. But I do agree with Billy that this doesn’t jive enough with the JMS stuff. I’m glad they’re putting it here in a separate mini instead of crowbarring it into the actual Thor ongoing. So we’ve got a Thor series that’s about Beta Ray Bill with Donald Blake sans hammer helping out the people of the local town. There’s some nice narrative work, but it doesn’t have the same pop to it that Fraction’s one shots have had. There’s potential there, especially with the Stormbreaker wrinkle, and I hope it picks up a bit.

Secret Invasion: X-Men #1 (****1/2)

Now this was surprising to me. Very similar to Black Panther from the perspective that we’re jumping back and forth between the Skrull invasion forces and the X-Men. It furthers what I like about these books, giving the Skrulls more depth than simply being a faceless marauding force. It’s the difference between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Battlestar Galactica. We need those three dimension villains to allow us to latch onto something and not blindly root for the good guys. We’ve seen this here. We’ve seen it in Black Panther. We saw it in Secret Invasion 4. And it’s what makes the entire story compelling, just like with Front Line. I do like the way the X-Men caught the Skrulls by surprise due to some older intel and got the quick upper hand. But that’s not the end of the story. This book is much more about the Skrull invaders than the X-Men so far, which seems to be a smart move considering how muddy the X Continuity is right now. Solid read with some different art that catches the eye.

Reviews: Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy and Young Avengers Presents

Only three reviews for the immediate time being (one of which is lazily short) because I’m a bit behind on my reading. I’ll be finishing the tenth Fables trade tonight or tomorrow, and I’ve read the Secret Invasion tie ins (natch), so I’ll eventually get to the rest of the books I got on Friday.

Nova #15 (*****)

What a shock. Desiato gives an issue of Nova involving Galactus five stars. I know, I know. Sometimes you just have to step out on a ledge. And by ledge I mean not a ledge. Because as I’ve been saying for the rest of this arc, this is just some solid gold damn good comics. And once again, Abnett and Lanning give Galactus the due diligence he deserves. Galactus does not speak once throughout all three issues of the arc. It was never in doubt that the planet he chose to assume would die. This is Galactus. He’s not going to be stopped by a little Green Lantern wannabe. All is as it should be. DnA also wrap up the side story of Harrow in a pretty neat way which further continues the recharacterization of Galactus as the ultimate badass. Plus, those silly Brits decided to throw in an old school Get Smart reference (“Cone of Psilence”? AWESOME!). It’s like they jacked into my brain and figured out exactly what kind of cosmic Marvel story I would want and then put pen to paper based on exactly what I need. Loved it. Loved it loved it loved it. Great little lead in for the upcoming Secret Invasion tie in(s) too. Don’t know what to make of it all yet, but it’s certainly something that could shake up Nova’s status quo if it hasn’t already.

Guardians of the Galaxy #3 (****)

Still really good. It’s a bit of a step down from the first two issues, and we’re getting even more of the original Guardians popping up in a VERY SKRULLY FASHION (cough cough), but not so much in a way that it completely takes away from the rest of the book. I do think it was a good choice to keep all the Vance Astro business back at the HEADquarters (not going to refer to Knowhere in any other fashion) and not have him go out with the rest of the team. And I definitely enjoy the continuation of the Universal Church of Truth storyline. I’m really starting to enjoy those characters as villains. So glad that they didn’t make the UCT a one off little thing in order to start off the series. They’re giving these characters some depth beyond the black hats. They have a purposes and motivations. And it’s creating a nice contrast to the silly fun that the Guardians revel in. We’ve also got an intriguing hook to segue into Secret Invasion, and it’s safe to say that a lot of havoc is about to unfurl.

Young Avengers Presents #6 (****1/2)

Yep. It’s as good as everyone said. Worth the extra three week wait to get it. Matt Fraction writing Clint Barton is SUPER FUN. Fuck, I need to buy the Young Avengers hardcover. Fuck, I can’t afford it. But you’ve already read Billy and BruceCastle talk about this bad boy. We all know it’s good. So let’s just move on.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #34 – THE GOODERS!

And now, The Gooders. These books were the cream of the crop, or as close to it as this bunch got.

1985 #2 (****): I’m really liking where this is headed. See, you can’t call me a Millar hater! Some of his stuff is utter garbage, and some of it, when he puts the research and thought in, turns out quite fantastic. Here’s hoping I’m right about this one.

Conan the Cimmerian #0 (****): Bruce Castle’s review of this was spot on. It was a very, very, VERY good sword and sandal read. Unfortunately, I think I’m done with Conan for now… or, I may pick up the first issue when it ships! I just don’t know!

Daredevil #108 (****): It just keeps getting better! Dear Greg Rucka, please never leave. No more brooding! No more Mila! No more Emo!

Fantastic Four #558 (****1/2): This was really good. Really, really good. I can see clearly now what Millar is doing and I love it. The interweaving of the subplots over multiple 4-part story arcs is finally starting to pay off. I haven’t been this excited about reading Fantastic Four since JMS first took over the book. I know I was harsh on the first couple of these, but now that the engine is revving up toward max RPMs, I couldn’t be happier. I just hope he doesn’t blow his load too soon. But, I still think the Galactus suit was a lame idea. OH! Almost forgot, little Val is a genius!

Ghost Rider # 24 (****): Love the new artist. Love the new direction. If this is what we can expect from the rest of Aaron’s Ghost Rider run, I think I can finally put myself safely in the “on board” column. It was touch and go there for a while with a couple of stinkers mixed in with the gooders, but this issue has restored my faith… for now! Ha-Hah, you just never know! Next month I could be bashing it again! Help, I’m in an abusive relationship and I can’t get out!*

Iron Fist #16 (*****): Terrific series finale, bravo to all involved, especially Matt Fraction. I can’t wait for the “Heroes For Hire” relaunch this fall… wait, what? Not cancelled? New creative team? Get OUT of here!

Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #30 (****): Still not the Knaufs, but adequate. Actually, more than adequate. This Moore guys is doing a bang-up fill-in! Overkill Mind! Star Squad! Paladin messing up Iron Man’s fascist face! YES! YES! YES!

The Punisher #58 (*****): Every month I get a little sad. New Punisher issue only serves to remind me of its imminent cancellation. Well, pretty much, right? I like the new guy, his Foolkiller was good, but no one’s ever going to top Garth Ennis. Oh, I should say something about this issue. It was really good, as usual. They always are. Sad face.

Thunderbolts #121 (*****): OH GOOD GOD! This was epic. And now it’s over. Forever. I don’t care that this book shipped once a quarter, it was totally worth it. But, I don’t think Ellis is leaving because of lateness, I think he’s just done. Is that true? Does anybody know? I’m seriously asking a serious question here…

X-Factor #32 (****1/2): In this issue, Madrox tells Cooper to get stuffed and finally takes responsibility as the father of Theressa’s baby… and just like that, *POOF*, X-Factor is a 4-5 Star book again. Why? Because we’re back to focusing on the drama, baby, and not the action. Yay! Thank you, Peter David. I don’t know what happened to you or why you had to phone the past 6 months in, but I’m glad you’re back. Now, if only I could say the same thing about She-Hulk. UGH!

Young Avengers Presents: Hawkeye #6 (****): This was easily the best of the series. Fraction is just on fire this month (although his Punisher still sucks ass). I loved how much of a dick Clint is when he makes Kate cry. Ha-Ha! But then, it was just Clint teaching her a lesson all along! Oh snap! Shit, I wish Clint had his own team book or something. He works well as mentor/father figure… FUCK, why isn’t he leading the New Avengers? He’s got the attitude, the skill and the experience. Maybe that’s one of the changes Bendis has lined up for after Secret Invasion? I hope so. I’ve always loved me some Hawkeye. Oh, and when the hell is Young Avengers Volume 2 coming out? These characters are way cooler than the Titans and those shitters have two books, both equally shitty!

Hmm, got surly there at the end. Ah, well. Tomorrow, Planetary Series Review (honest) and on Wednesday, maybe a Spoiler Re view… if something cool comes out.

 

*That one was for VsRealms.

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?

 

Bruce Castle Quickies 5

4 stars = Stop reading review and go buy now!!!!
3 and a half stars = Great issue and make room on your trade shelf someday soon
3 stars = Recommended and maybe even trade worthy
2 and a half stars = Recommended
2 stars= Not the best, not the worst, not recommended
1 and a half star = Terrible issue and vocalize your disgust at your next social event
1 star = Awful awful awful and you may want to consider dropping this title
0 stars = Next con you attend where the writer and/or artist are present you should throw this issue in their face

 

Immortal Iron Fist #16– This is the last Fraction/Brubaker issue, or Fraction issue I guess, Brubaker left a few issues ago. Anyway, this has been a great run. It turned a character that a lot of people didn’t care about into something they could love. This issue doesn’t really break the trend. You get some nice moments in Danny’s life including training kids, his business life, and you even get some Misty Knight moments too. What threw me, was the ominous downer ending. I was kind of expecting more of a finale instead of a set-up for the next Iron Fist run. Oh well, Fraction was being nice to Duane Swierczynski I guess. Anyway, I’m going to miss Fraction on this book. 3 stars

 

Ultimate Spider-Man #123– Well, this is the first issue of the new venom arc. It definitely has that first issue feel.  Remember that Ultimate Spider-Man video game that was supposed to actually have continuity in the Ultimate universe but then never did? Well, they finally kind of tie that in. There’s nothing spectacular here, mostly just setup. The last page did make me laugh though. 3 stars

 

Thor Reign of Blood #1– I don’t think a lot of people like these one-shots at much as I do, but I love them! I so wish that Fraction was writing the regular Thor series. It seems like Fraction wants to. Oh well, maybe someday. At least I still have another one-shot and the Secret Invasion tie-in to look forward too. 4 stars

 

Young Avengers Presents Hawkeye #6– Who else but me could squeeze three Fraction comics into one review? Yes, I haven’t read the rest of this series and bought this issue only because Fraction was on it. And Alan Davis, he is a great artist and he shines here as well. As mentioned earlier, I haven’t read every Young Avengers story, but this was really good. Like, really, really good, it almost makes me want to read the whole series….Nah. 3 and a half stars

 

Uncanny X-Men #499– Sorry guys, this isn’t the right cover. This was last issues’ cover. Don’t blame me though, blame Marvel, this is the only pic I could find and I don’t have a scanner. I’m still loving Mike Choi’s art in this arc and I can’t wait till he gets on board X-Force. This issue was ok. The San Francisco thing still seems like it could have been explained in one issue. The Russian story is a lot better but it seems a bit pointless. It seems that Brubaker had one thing he needed to say in this arc, the rest is mostly filler. It took him five issues to say what he wanted to say! They said the same damn thing in the free comic book day issue and that was free! What the hell?! That said this certainly wasn’t terrible. It’s hard to recommend it though. I hope this title gets a lot better with issue 500. Brubaker/Fraction go! 2 stars

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.