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Silver Surfer #5 – Review

By: Dan Slott (story), Michael Allred (art), Laura Allred (colors)

The Story: The Lord of Nightmares has his worst nightmare.

The Review: Of all the new Marvel titles I’ve picked up this year, Silver Surfer is probably the one I find hardest to review. It’s not enough for me to say that I enjoy it, which I do consistently; if my love for chicken nuggets taught me anything, it’s that enjoyment is a poor gauge for quality. My difficulty with Silver Surfer is figuring out what kind of title it wants to be. Is there any depth to be had, or is it just straight sci-fi-adventure?

This issue pushes the series toward the latter. From front to back, the plot is completely self-explanatory and almost childishly simple: the Lord of Nightmares has fallen asleep and must be awaken before the night has ended lest the world sleepwalk in bad dreams forever. That this is a done-in-one should already tell you that Norrin and Dawn have little difficulty with his particular challenge, making the situation seem less dire than everyone hypes it up to be.
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Uncanny Avengers #23 – Review

By: Rick Remender (Writer), Sanford Greene (Penciller), Dean White (Color Artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer), Agustin Alessio (Cover Artist)

The Story: Whaddya know? Sometimes stories that say they were an event that “changes everything” actually do change pretty much everything.

The Review: The previous run on Uncanny Avengers could rightly be described as “epic,” and as I opened this issue, I was consciously hoping that we could get a more “downtime” story, as characters felt their way around its fallout and their new status quo. Thankfully, this issue was exactly what we needed.

Interestingly, the story begins a few weeks past the denouement of last issue, in case fans needed to reconcile whatever jumbled continuity got created by that a year-long story. What follows for 95% of the issue is really just characters talking to one another, but they treat each other as comrades-in-arms, as fellow veterans, as friends (or even more) as appropriate. The events of their time-traveling epic may have been erased, but that doesn’t mean they never happened, and these people have to deal with that.

Immortus, whose role in the previous arc was somewhat tenuous and thus relatively a weak link in an otherwise dense plot, shows up to offer, of all things, encouragement and promise, as long as they deal with the Red Skull, a teaser for the upcoming storyline and segue into an ominous Skull-focused cutscene. It’s an effective scene, taking the heinous Skull and matching him to the equally-heinous Ahab, throwing them both into Genosha. This is “high concept” that works, since there’s an immediate tension and horror-tinged atmosphere to lead into next issue.

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Fantastic Four #9 – Review

By: James Robinson (Writer), Marc Laming (Penciller), Scott Hanna (Inker, 4-6), Jesus Aburtov (Color Artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer), Leonard Kirk & Israel Silva (Cover Artists)

The Story: Problems are always made worse when running into your ex-girlfriend.

The Review: First of all, the cover. It’s something quite fun and exuberant, and it’s not often you can say that for today’s comics. Partly that comes from the smiles on the children’s faces, which, again, is not something that you’re likely to see on any given cover nowadays. (Assuming, of course, that Franklin’s expression is, in fact, a smile. How unfortunate that the most prominent face on the cover is also the most poorly depicted.) Also fun? The Kirby-crackle in the Human Torch’s powers, with flames that are also more bubbly instead of edgy.

Inside, it’s artist Laming’s turn to provide art, and he has a key set piece in presenting an Escher-like scientific Eden. By contrast, one of the other scenes really require much else, such as a window-paneled SHIELD headquarters and gray walls of a prison. What I’d like to see more of, overall, is some variety of expression by the characters. In general, everyone just slightly opens his/her mouth, as everyone is in a constant state of saying “uhhh….” until there is an occasional subtle smile. Push those expressions more, please, and have characters act/pose in a greater variety than simply lifting a hand to indicate they are talking.

I count a total of eight blows given by supervillains, making the first time in half a year or so that there’s been a hero-villain showdown, thanks to the Thing being imprisoned. It’s all a set-up for a surprising reveal of the She-Thing, which promises some interesting interaction for sure, at least for those that remember she was once Ms. Marvel, a member of the Fantastic Four, and love interest for Ben Grimm. (Still, some part of me wonders if there is a logical piece of the story missing– as in the actual investigation of Grimm’s accusation of murder. I get the sense that this is just taken for granted since the story that is “important” is the Thing’s life in prison, but it reflects poorly on any other aspect of the FF’s world.)

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Avengers Undercover #9 – Review

By: Dennis Hopeless (Writer), Timothy Green II (Artist), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (Color Artist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letterer), Francesco Mattina (Cover Artist)

The Story: See what happens when you don’t have an Akbar to shout out “It’s a TRAP!”?

The Review: Interestingly, the cover of this issue does not feature any of the regular cast of Avengers Undercover. It’s still a dramatic and energetic picture, but it’s a telling sign how things have really shifted in this series, how the stakes have been raised, and how there are all kinds of wheels within wheels that the regular cast simply hasn’t seen.

And yet, the story does not abandon them. It’s still really about the young heroes of Avengers Academy/Arena/Etc., even with all the larger plots and machinations flying around them. This creates some tension and empathy for our characters, although it also contributes to a very rushed feeling as well. Some momentum is fine, and as a reader maybe even preferable, but here there are times when I wish the various story beats deserved a bit more room to breathe.   

This issue’s “point of view” is from Anachronism. There’s no ambiguity about that question, unlike the previous issue. There’s a panel with only him and a caption saying “This is me.” OK, gotcha.  And yet, this trick of using characters’ captions as a narrative frame worked for other issues, and it gets dropped here pretty quickly. The scenes are shifting to too many other characters and the plot is being driven so hard that it’s not longer a defining feature of the book. And then, suddenly, an omniscient narrator’s caption is telling me Cammi is breaking the fourth wall in order to shush me? That’s a bit too sudden a stylistic shift and ruins what could be a more effective cliffhanger.

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Daredevil #7 – Review

By: Mark Waid (story) Javier Rodriguez (art), Alvaro Lopez (inks)

The Story: It’s a jungle out there. Daredevil and confusion everywhere.

The Review: I tend to dread it when writers—specifically comic book writers and superhero writers especially—bring in political dimensions to their stories. Politics are an impenetrable morass of complications and the higher up you go, the worse it becomes. Once you get to the international stage, forget it; you need to be committed to understanding this stuff 24/7 before you can truly understand it. Superhero writers invariably oversimplify things and it almost always reflects poorly on the story.

Not even a great like Waid is immune. I confess I’m not up to speed on Wakandan politics, this being the side-effect of not being a total Marvel devotee. But I really don’t understand why, if Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, it would need to outsource its research to the U.S. at all. Even setting that aside, the plan to extradite the three protesting nun who didn’t actually expose Wakanda’s doings strikes me as overly complicated. Shuri justifies herself thusly, “Those women risked embarrassing Wakanda. If I declare that to be a crime, then it is.” She’s the Queen of Hearts in full-body black spandex.

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All-New X-Factor #12

By: Peter David (Writer), Carmine Di Giandomenico (Penciller), Lee Loughridge (Color Artist), VC’s Cory Petit (Letterer), Kris Anka & Jared Fletcher (Cover Artist)

Peter David’s name has become firmly associated with key characters of the Marvel Universe, and most specifically the characters of X-Factor. He is credited with creating many of the definitive takes on them, and most specifically that of Quicksilver. This issue promises to be one of them.

It hearkens back to another of those early definitive takes, almost 25 years ago, in X-Factor volume 1 #72, 1991, in which the US government-sponsored version of X-Factor held a press conference to introduce their team to the public. Here, the corporate-sponsored version of X-Factor does the same. Knowing this gives the issue a bit of resonance, but there’s enough character building and genuine pathos that even if you are unaware of the parallels, you get a satisfying reading experience.

Quicksilver is arguably the star player here, as his development takes both the beginning and end scenes of the book. The former perhaps foreshadows more conflict to come, but the ending offers him a chance to rest in the moment, perhaps incongruously for a speedster character, and to receive affirmation from a surprising source, his daughter. This fits in line with what X-Factor is really giving us right now– themes revolving around the question of what it really means to be a hero, as well as around the question of what “family” is all about.

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Magneto #8 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Javier Fernandez (artist), Dan Brown (colorist)

The Story: That is no country for old men…

The Review: While Magneto’s first ongoing series has been rather impressive, it can sometimes feels more like a series of monologues than a running plot. This issue actually proves both an example of and an exception to this trend. While the issue is still focused around Magneto’s inner monologue, the story makes good on the promises of last month, beginning to build a larger story out of these individual adventures.

Cullen Bunn begins to introduce some fascinating shades of grey. It’s always fun to watch Magneto hand out some righteous fury, but this month he isn’t dealing with the same monsters as he found in Hong Kong. There’s something undeniably petty about these criminals, they’re not sharks, they’re the remoras on the belly.

There’s something inherently appealing, or perhaps enjoyably unappealing, about the dynamic that develops, the terrorist legend facing down a small fish who thinks he’s the new wave. Unfortunately, as much as the dialogue carries you along, there are moments where it feels like our antagonist is only stupid enough to bully the world’s baddest mutant because Bunn wants a clear reason for Magneto to simmer or angst.
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