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Hulk #1 – Review

By: Mark Waid (Writer), Mark Bagley (Pencils), Andrew Hennessy (Inks), Jason Keith (Colors), VC’s Cory Petit (Letters), Jerome Opena w/ Dean White (Cover Artists)

The Story: Banner hurt. Shadowy People in Shadows make Doctor Guy poke Banner’s brain. Hulk smash! Now Banner dumb. Dumb Banner.

The Review: It’s always interesting when a Hulk-story doesn’t necessarily feature the Hulk (and/or Bruce Banner, if we need to differentiate.) The story instead must rely on its supporting cast, its antagonists, or other elements of its world-building. And really, when that happens it makes these kinds of Hulk-stories essentially monster-stories– in any given monster-story, the monster itself does not have to be the protagonist; only its implicit presence and horror need be felt to impact the characters, plot, tone, etc.

Mark Waid gives us this kind of monster-type story, with Banner/the Hulk essentially in the background for the majority of the issue. In the beginning, the narration boxes even suggest some things about “story” in the abstract, while setting up a surgeon who is only tangentially related to Banner’s past but is now caught up in the existential horror having the Hulk’s life in his hands. The boxes shift very dramatically to remind us that “this isn’t his story,” at which point the comic brings the Hulk more actively into the story. Even still, Banner/the Hulk is merely the object of the story, not its subject– as it’s Agents Hill and Coulson who arrive to track Banner down for the last-page cliffhanger. However, perhaps this page suggests that we will return very specifically to Banner-driven drama in subsequent issues. It’s equally likely that he will remain a kind of background character, and that would create a unique tone, actually, and would make me intrigued to continue reading the series if it does.
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Uncanny X-Men #20 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer); Chris Bachalo (pencils & colors); Tim Townsend, Wayne Faucher, Jon Holdredge, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, & Al Vey (inks)

The Story: Cyclops has declared war on S.H.I.E.L.D. and his opening gambit is a ballsy one indeed.

The Review: There are two ways to look at the war between the New Xavier School and S.H.I.E.L.D. On one hand the book has been building to this moment for twenty issues, on the other it took twenty issues to get here and we still have no assurance that things will be resolved any time soon. Both are valid and illustrate one of the key issues that Bendis has on this series, balancing the future and the present.

Many of this issue’s moments don’t make sense in themselves requiring further developments or the clarity of hindsight. Mystique’s continued plotting, for instance, can intrigue but really offers very little to a reader. This same pattern plays out again and again, whether in Hijack’s home or at the New Xavier School. At the same time, however, much of Bendis’ best writing doesn’t expand the scope of the story, but deepen it. Even in the same scene I just mentioned we find biting dialogue, like when Sabertooth asks how much longer Mystique will continue impersonating Dazzler and she responds, “Until Scott Summers is a party joke and S.H.I.E.L.D. is sold for parts. So I’m thinking until next Friday.”

Even if it doesn’t rank among his best, Bendis’ dialogue lives up to his lofty reputation. When it comes to engaging a reader in the moment, this issue really is quite spectacular. Brief scenes like Scott’s confrontation with an old teammate can feel very substantial. Admittedly that example is rather text-heavy but, while there is a bit of harried visual storytelling, there’s such tension in the dialogue that you might not be able to help getting sucked in. That’s a quality that Bendis has been shooting for for a long while, but it’s very much present in this final scene and the central confrontation of the issue.

It’s clear that Bendis saw Scott’s appearance on the helicarrier as the core of this chapter. Unfortunately a side effect is that most of the rest of the issue is a bit dull, but you can’t deny the power of this sequence. There’s perhaps a little too much time spend on Director Hill’s romantic preferences, but rarely has Scott’s cult of personality been clearer or Bendis’ grasp of his characters’ psychology more apparent.
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Uncanny X-Men #19 – Review

By:  Brian Michael Bendis (writer); Chris Bachalo (pencils); Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, and Victor Olozaba (inks); Chris Bachalo and Jose Villarrubia (colors)

The Story: We heard you like Sentinels so we put Sentinels in your Sentinels…

The Review: Back in August Uncanny X-Men received a slight boost when it featured a story about Cyclops facing off against a new breed of Sentinel. In the seven months that have passed, Uncanny has been growing and changing, largely for the better. Now that it’s time to pick up that thread, will it have the same oomph that it once did?

The answer is an ever charming sort-of. Bendis makes no attempt to hide that the past half a year of stories were a distraction. While the events of issue seventeen are mentioned, it’s clear that this series has been off track since the last Sentinel arc. The problem is that, for the most part, the filler was far better than anything that preceded it. So while it is intriguing to return to the mystery Sentinels again, there’s a sense of a backslide that I can’t deny is worrisome. It’s also strange since the event that took us off track, “Battle of the Atom”, ended with a dramatic reveal that S.H.I.E.L.D. has Sentinels, and different Sentinels at that.

Regardless, we’re diving back into Bendis’ main story. Summoned by a surge of mutant activity, the New Xavier X-Men find themselves lured into a trap. Bendis knows his collaborators and the creative team deliver a slick futuristic take on the X-Men. These aren’t the simple androids of the Mark I, and panels like a swarm of alien-looking mutant hunters spawning from the maw of a gigantic Sentinel are powerful and eerie. Likewise, a scene inside Cerebro is the stuff of science fiction, the kind that convinced us to buy sunglasses in middle school.

These new model Sentinels present a solid challenge for the team and Bendis’ answer serves to resolve the problem while significantly deepening the mysteries surrounding it. It’s a situation that is all the more fascinating for the removal of Hijack from the team, but the answer is pretty simple. Indeed, much of the issue seems designed to highlight Chris Bachalo’s contributions.
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Black Widow #4 – Review

by Nathan Edmondson (Writer), Phil Noto (Artist)

The Story: A strong and mad Russian monk against a Russian super spy. Fight!

The Review: Black Widow is probably one of the characters who received quite a lot of attentions and the most chances from Marvel. Appearing in the 60′s, during the rise of Marvel comics, she was heavily featured in many teams, from many iterations of the Avengers down to the Champions. Appearing in many titles as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, one of Daredevil’s old flame and through various versions, she has always been a staple of this universe in many ways, yet never in ways that felt as if she was ready for a big spotlight.

Cue the Avengers movie, with Scarlett Johansson playing her in ways that not only made her cool, but also as a true character with actual potential. Enamoured with her as she kicked Chitauri butt and manipulated the very god of lies and deceit on the silver screen, the potential to make her a bigger star was there. With Nathan Edmondson primed on her series and writing it quite adequately so far, the series if off to a brilliant start, yet can it stay the course and continue a quality streak, or will a specific issue bring it down a notch?

The unfortunate answer is found in this issue, as the fourth chapter in Natasha Romanov’s saga is a good deal weaker than the first three issues, due to a certain number of problems, the first of them being the actual plot.

Focusing on Natasha chasing down a certain criminal after a botched job that didn’t even began in the right way, there is a certain lack of buildup or progression that allows for the titular character to shine or actually be of importance. While the focus on Molot, the antagonist of this issue, and his actions is a sound approach to storytelling, it would make for a lot better issue if there was more to him than just his actions.
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Secret Avengers #16 – Review

by Nick Spencer, Ales Kot (Writers), Luke Ross (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: Mockingbird gets her revenge as the weights of all the secrets may be too much for some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.

The Review: Everyone have some preconceptions when it comes to finales. Whenever something conclude, many people hope to see a closure on the important themes, that each threads will get resolved and that there will be big moments that leave fans satisfied of the whole ride. Some books do deliver, some exceed expectations, yet some unfortunately comes short of greatness, which is always a tad regrettable for those who followed the whole thing.

This finale is, in its own ways, a strange beast as it manages to be all of those things, providing a certain sense of closure to the war against Andrew Forson, yet also goes out of its way to provide for some ending to other aspects that don’t all work.

One of the weirdest, yet strangely moving part is the one with Mentallo, one of the ministers of A.I.M. who was particularly depressed in this arc. While the few pages he received earlier never did seem especially important or relevant to the overall conflict shown, it was a certain showcase of a man hit by depression, by a cage of his own design and that wanted out. In this issue, both Kot and Spencer gives him a finale that is bizarre, but also utterly touching, with him doing plenty to help the only actual friend he had as well as setting himself free in a fashion that is creative, yet also true to the character.

A side that is also well played, yet in a way that feels a bit more true to the roots of the book is the one with the team and Maria Hill, with the secrets and the way the game is played being too much for many present in the heli-carrier. Opening with M.O.D.O.K and finishing with a term very familiar to fans of the series, those few pages encapsulate a lot of what Spencer and then Kot made work in this series. It’s a fitting ending to the current iteration of this team, with finishes on a panel focusing on Maria Hill, one of the better character of this series.
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Captain America #17 – Review

by Rick Remender (Writer), Nic Klein (Artist), Dean White (Colorist)

The Story: A groovy new villain called Dr. Mindbubble makes himself known, spelling insane doom for S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Review
: Introducing new elements has got to be hard. Presenting new characters, new concepts and making them stick for new readers must be ready, with plenty of them always ready to be cynical when approaching new things. Not all newer elements to large continuity are appreciated, with words like Midi-chlorians, Romulus and other such ”nice” ideas being conveniently forgotten by many.

However, it can be achieved if done right, with some of the ideas that Rick Remender injected in the larger Marvel continuity being particularly sound. What he brought to the character of Apocalypse, to Wolverine and to some older concepts like Deathlok and the four horsemen are really nice extrapolations combined with new interpretations that did give something exciting to read.

However, just because he did something particularly good once does not mean that he is infallible, with his run on Captain America being an example of this. While packed with some ideas that are decidedly not bad at all, there is a certain shyness in the presentation and elaboration of some of the implications that some concepts have. While it is a traditional storytelling technique to slowly reveal new elements as the story progress, it is never a good thing to make readers wait too long either when it comes to surprises.

In this issue, Remender finally presents readers the character of Dr. Mindbubble, a character that has been teased since his Uncanny X-Force run as a statue in the background. With a rather amazing concept behind his creation, that of injecting a super-soldier serum inside him along with LSD, this creates for a troubled, yet groovy types of villain that could prove to be interesting if handled right. However, while the personality of the villain proves to be a tiny bit fun, there are several problems that don’t exactly make him as good as he very well could be.
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Secret Avengers #15 – Review

by Nick Spencer, Ales Kot (Writers), Luke Ross (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: Contracts are signed, extractions are done and the secrets in the pile of mysteries are revealed.

The Review: Everyone has its limits when it comes to patience. While not always the most impatient of man, I can sometime get anxious for things to actually reach their culminating point. In story, in cooking and in a lot of areas where anticipation is key, there is a fine line in the sand when it comes to getting the awaited results.

This is how my general appreciation of this series could be summarized, with plenty of things going on, situations being built yet the climax never came with each issues. To be able to set up a threat and build it to make it interesting takes skill, yet there is slow build and then there’s teasing, which this series has been on the verge of doing in this particular arc.

It seems, however, that it had been a stratagem on the part of Ales Kot and Nick Spencer, who goes all the way in this issue to deliver not only an exciting issue, but also plenty of twists and surprise to amplify the espionage and intrigue part of the series without sacrificing the action and particular identity of the book.
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Avengers #26 – Review

by Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Salvador Larroca (Artist), Frank Martin (Colorist)

The Story: Adaptoids versus fascist Avengers from another universe. Fight!

The Review: If there’s one thing that I really enjoy about super hero comics, it’s the inherent ability of writers to bring in multiples universes in their stories. While not a norm nowadays with every series, there is a certain tendency to bring out beings and concepts from alternatives universes and dimensions to the fold that bring out twists to familiar elements that always add a touch of nostalgia and innovation in fun ways. While this concept is not exclusive to capes comics, there is always a certain appeal to see how things might have deviated from the norm with but some simple actions or changes.

With Hickman playing with those very concepts presently in his big Avengers/New Avengers story, there is a lot with which he can advance his ongoing threads in interesting ways. Having dealt with the Marvel universe at large along with its cosmology in his previous big storyline, can he manage to build things up in ways that feel good enough to entice readers to go along with the slow build for the next biggest thing?

The writer, in his ways, does a lot of interesting things in this issue, yet stumbles in a few moments as well. Where he mostly succeed is when he plays with A.I.M. and the approach this organisation has with science. The balance between mad and super science is a sound one with their scientists, with Hickman showing he has some fun with them as he builds them up to become rather big in terms of antagonists in the larger Marvel universe. The adaptoids, their purpose and how A.I.M. tests them make for some rather intriguing threads that could become very interesting down the line.
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Secret Avengers #14 – Review

by Nick Spencer, Ales Kot (Writers), Butch Guice, Joe Rubinstein (Artists), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: Mockingbird ”learns” a bit more about herself as the rest of the team are brought to their destination after being captured.

The Review
: It’s always rather sad to see something that you can personally admit that it’s smartly made, yet cannot really enjoy to its fullest. You may see the quality behind the work, yet some elements present are in the way of your personal enjoyment. It may be the characters, it may be the style, perhaps even the general tone of the whole thing, yet something doesn’t connect to allow you to make the most of the book.

It is unfortunately what this issue of Secret Avengers amounts to for me, on a personal level. I can certainly see what’s good about the issue, yet there is something that simply doesn’t make this issue as good as some of the previous ones for me.

Something that I can see that is rather ingenious is the way in which Ales Kot and Nick Spencer manage to mix a certain exploration of Andrew Forson through the brainwashing scenes with Mockingbird. Pushing forth the philosophy of the character through the learning process of the manipulated agent, the nihilistic views of Forson becomes rather intriguing, as some of the previous events and some of A.I.M.’s plans becomes that much more threatening in prospect.
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Avengers World #1 – Review

by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer (Writers), Stefano Caselli (Artist), Frank Martin (Colorist)

The Story: Problems arise in a lot of areas on Earth, as the collaboration between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers start now.

The Review: I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I first opened this issue. With this being a clear spin-off of the larger Avengers narrative of Jonathan Hickman, it’s a bit unclear what makes this book different. While it is detached from the structure that Hickman developed and it does try to connect with some of the A.I.M. threads that Nick Spencer has installed with his Secret Avengers run so far, there is a certain problem that doesn’t make the book what it could very well be.

That problem is a lack of a certain angle. It’s not particularly humorous, it’s not something that displays more character work or even something that tries to implement big new ideas. It might seem like a boring book, but it isn’t at all, despite this particular flaw.

One of the actual strength here is the use of the large roster, with both Spencer and Hickman using many characters aptly as the story is divided in multiple areas in the book. While Captain America and Bruce Banner are on a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, many teams with characters like Hyperion, Smasher, Cannonball, Hawkeye and plenty more are put on display, with most of them actually contributing through their voice or action for the story. It’s not the entire team, but it is a bit different from the regular title in the respect that not all of them are window-dressing, which is nice.
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Secret Avengers #13 – Review

by Nick Spencer, Ales Kot (Writers), Butch Guice, Joe Rubinstein, Tom Palmer (Artists), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: As things gets a bit more chaotic at A.I.M., Maria Hill and M.O.D.O.K. have a little chat.

The Review
: Not to sound too paranoid, but I think Marvel actually knew I was getting a bit bored with this series. The themes were presented well and some of the ideas were really nice, yet there never seemed to be a character I could follow in a way that made me anticipate the next issue. I like Maria Hill, sure, but characters like Marcus Johnson and Phil Coulson weren’t exactly the most interesting people to follow to begin with.

Then came in M.O.D.O.K., the character too crazy to actually exist, yet too awesome to not to be invented. While the character had been revitalized completely by Jeff Parker in his Red Hulk story in a manner that made him an actual threat, but also an interesting utilitarian figure as well. To say I really loved the character would be an understatement, but is his inclusion enough? Does the addition of this character to the general storyline actually adds anything to the book in terms of quality?

This issue, in ways, both works and doesn’t for a good number of reasons, making the issue a bit uneven in its quality. There are several great ideas at work here, but some of them aren’t focused on enough to make the issue better than it should be.

One of the bigger problems is the constant switch between scenes, which does not leave enough room to build up situations. In this issue, the spotlight jumps from M.O.D.O.K. and Maria Hill, to Taskmaster, Mockingbird, Mentallo and Marcus Johnson, with most of them not getting nearly enough panel time to have an actual impact on the readers. Their scenes do get the point across rather effectively, but a lot of these short spurts aren’t quite enough to provide greater emphasis on their roles or anything else.
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Secret Avengers #12 – Review

by Nick Spencer, Ales Kot (Writers), Butch Guice (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story
: As Mockingbird tries to fake her way through a presentation, some faction within A.I.M. wishes to make a deal with S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Review: I have to admit something right now: I don’t know how to feel about co-writers. Not only do I never really know who came up with which ideas, but it always seem to me that even though it might not show which pages or concepts were thrown by which. There were instances where it was a bit obvious, like with Brubaker and Fraction on Immortal Iron Fist or the extravaganza of talents that was 52, but in a title that plays to both writers strengths, it plays as a bit of a mystery. It makes it a bit hard to see where the strengths and weaknesses comes from which sources.

With the return to the main cast and the real storyline of the book, Nick Spencer brings along Ales Kot with him to write this issue, as the scribe of Zero (best known for his short stint on Suicide Squad) collaborates with him. Does the return to the conflict against A.I.M and the new co-writer makes this comic enjoyable, though?

It’s a case of hit and miss, really, as some of the best aspects of this run are on display here, with some new high and lows showing to spice things up.
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Wolverine and the X-Men #38 – Review

By: Jason Aaron (writer), Pepe Larraz (artist), Matt Milla (color artist)

The Story: Maria Hill proves she has no appreciation for anything awesome in comics, forcing Wolverine to turn to Carlos Danger.

The Review: I’ll say this for Jason Aaron, he’s very good at writing beginnings. And so, in the vein of Wolverine and the X-Men #1, this issue sets the stage for what seems to be the next and final season of this title.

This book is only twenty-pages long, but it feels massive. While some of that may be the psychological effect of having a preview attached to the back, it’s hard to deny that Aaron gets mileage out of this issue. Wolverine and his staff now know that S.H.I.E.L.D. has Sentinels and they are not pleased, but Maria Hill isn’t exactly pleased with their part in Battle of the Atom, either. While critics of Wolverine and the X-Men might point to the jokey tone of the series, not incorrectly, Aaron does a well above average job of channeling his trademark humor into the drama of the scene and, in fact, the entire issue.

Amid this backdrop, Broo takes a pair of new students on a tour of the Jean Grey School. It’s hardly the first time that Aaron has used this device, but it’s easily one of the best. The school definitely feels different since the last time we saw it. It feels like the start of a new semester. Honestly, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense when that would have happened, but it’s just what the book has needed.
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Secret Avengers #11 – Review

by Ed Brisson (Writer), Luke Ross (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: A new inhuman has arrived on the scene! It’s a pity he’s hostile to S.H.I.E.L.D. agents though.

The Review
: The latest issue of this series was kind of a letdown, with a replacement writer trying to tie-in to the larger Infinity event. Bringing a new character with him, Ed Brisson had the unenviable task of trying to set up the biggest spy agency in this rather colossal event, tying many of its events into its narrative while telling a story. It was, however, a story in two parts, with this issue being the conclusion. Does he actually fares better this time around, though?

In some ways, Brisson does keep around some of the elements that he made work in the previous issue, with Sarah Garza still retaining her great approach at getting superpowers and being thrown in a situation of high stress. The way she sees things and how she tries her best, yet cannot seem to fathom how she should do things is something that shows good characterization.

Not all characters are written as well, though, with Phil Coulson coming of as rather boring with the low amount of dialogue he has and Marcus Johnson who comes off as a poor planner and a bit stiff in terms of characterization. The way Brisson handles Maria Hill is not half-bad, though, showing her more angry and stressed-out scene, which does help in setting the dire situation the world is in right now.
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Secret Avengers #10 – Review

by Ed Brisson (Writer), Luke Ross (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story
: There’s a new recruits for field work at S.H.I.E.L.D. and she’s one of the new inhumans. It’s a pity for her that Infinity is still going on…

The Review: It’s not necessarily the fairest or most positive thing to say, but there is a reason why most people hate even tie-ins. Shoehorning elements or characters important to the main book, stopping the natural narrative flow for elements that will be untouched further along and many more are possible reasons for the general dislike those issues receive. There are some rare cases where it can produce something of quality, like when Jason Aaron took on Black Panther during Secret Invasion, yet those are few and far between.

This is one of those issues, as regular writer Nick Spencer is replaced by Ed Brisson in order to show readers what S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing during Thanos invasion in Infinity. Set right after the terrigenesis, this shows how a young agent gets turned into an inhuman and then gets sent to the field right away. While this concept could actually give way for a satisfying story, this issue doesn’t really use it very well as it rushes along.
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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S01E01 – Review

By: Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen (story)

The Story: Introducing the heroes’ heroes.

The Review: Given the enormous popularity of the Marvel movies, you can be easily forgiven for getting inordinately excited about the prospect of a weekly TV series revolving around the Marvel universe.  Why should DC have all the fun?  But allow me to be the voice of cautious optimism.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should be viewed as a colorful supplement to the Marvel cinematic canon, not a way to have a summer blockbuster come into your home every week.

Still, a smaller medium in no way puts a cap on the entertainment possibilities a show like this can have.  Only a lack of imagination can do that.  And although a pilot obviously doesn’t determine the fate and direction of a whole series, it’s still concerning when the first episode seems so dependent on predictable and safe television conventions and is riddled with some awkward bits of writing besides.  Agent Grant Ward’s explanation of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s purpose—to Agent Maria Hill,* of all people—captures both of these defects:
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Secret Avengers #9 – Review

by Nick Spencer (Writer), Butch Guice (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: Daisy Johnson deals with the fact that she is no longer the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. , with some help from her friends.

The Review: Real-world politics is hard to do right in a super hero universe. In a setting where some people can bench-press Manhattan or fly to the moon, it can be difficult for a writer to make the shadowy and downright secret aspects of international terrorism and secret agencies count for something interesting and relevant. It’s certainly not an impossible task, mind you, but it does mean there is supposed to be a balance between the surrealistic and normalcy.

So far, Nick Spencer did a pretty good job at incorporating the super heroic to the conflict between S.H.I.E.L.D. and A.I.M. with the inclusion of several staples of the Marvel universe. However, this issue deals a bit more with the regular folks with a tale that is starring Daisy Johnson, the recently demoted director of the world’s premiere spy agency. With a focus less on the fantastical and on a character that hasn’t been seen very much since the beginning of the series, does this issue continue the quality streak established?

Curiously, it’s a bit of a hit-and-miss, as there are some particularly strong moments in this issue, yet there doesn’t seem to be much accomplished or any piece moving in a direction that seems particularly exciting for this issue alone.* It uses some of the previous concepts established in other titles smartly and it provides a lot of materials for future issues, yet on its own it’s not that exciting.
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Captain America #11 – Review

Rick Remender (Writer) Carlos Pacheco, Klaus Janson (Artists), Dean White (Colorist)

The Story: Returning to present-day America, both Steve and Jet needs to adjust themselves a bit after all these crazy sci-fi adventures.

The Review
: ”Bold new direction” are words that many readers are used to hear in the past few years. Whenever a new creative team, or at least a new writer comes in for the ride, those words, or at least synonyms, are pronounced, but aren’t always exactly respected in ways that actually live up to the ”bold” part of the statement.

Rick Remender, however, really went there as he picked up the title from Ed Brubaker, moving away from the espionage corner to something more akin to Jack Kirby: crazy sci-fi. The adventure of Steve Rogers in Dimension Z were a far cry to the political and world-war II inspired stories that preceded them, which did cement the fact that this was an actual new take on the character. However, now that the first mega-arc has concluded, where will Remender go with the character?

This issue do try to answer that question, giving a slower pace with more character moments in order to counteract the high-octane action and ideas that permeated the previous chapter. Remender takes a lot more time with Steve and Rogers, showing how they react to both old and new encounters with Steve being healed by Bruce Banner and Hank Pym, while Jet Black gets interrogated by Marcus Johnson. The weariness of Steve and the impetuous attitude of Jet comes off as natural to their characters, considering what they went through.
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Uncanny X-Men #11 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Frazer Irving & Kris Anka (art)

The Story: The next stage in Sentinel technology takes on its human counterpart.

The Review: I think that it’s safe to say that Cyclops’ story is one of the most interesting threads that Bendis is playing with on this series. As he drifts dangerously close to Magneto’s viewpoint, how can the man who killed Charles Xavier honestly see himself as the man’s successor?

Bendis hasn’t been spending too much time answering that question, but this week he gives us a glimpse into Scott Summer’s mind. I expect that reactions to Scott’s inner thoughts will vary as much as they did to he and Wolverine’s schism, if not more, however I also think that the writing Bendis commits to these thoughts are a step above what this title has been getting.

For the first time we see Scott’s walls start to crumble. The responsibilities of being a leader to the mutant movement, the shame and joy of his students’ control rivaling his own, and the cruelty of a world that has finally given him the slightest glimmer of hope weigh heavily on this issue. Little things like Scott’s thoughts on having Angel on his team and his musings about what would happen if he died really bring out the best in him and anchor a character who’s found the only thing to lead with more responsibilities than a nation.

That said, it sometimes seems like Bendis is too close to this story. The opening page begins with a short monologue by Scott which begins, “Human cowards. You never learn.” That sounds like Magneto. That sounds like a particularly one-dimensional Magneto. What’s more, on that same page, Scott expresses confusion when the sentinel refers to him as a terrorist. It’s clear that Bendis at least sympathizes with this character, but sometimes it seems like he’s either blind to differing views or chooses not to bring them into Scott’s title.
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Secret Avengers #7 – Review

Nick Spencer (Writer), Butch Guice, Steve Epting, Brian Theis, Rick Magyar (Artists), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: Maria Hill needs to take control of an operation that has gone too far, one that had been ordained by Daisy Johnson herself.

The Review: Back in the days, I only had a single thought when it came to S.H.I.E.L.D. as an agency in the Marvel universe: pity. When an antagonist needed to be shown as a big menace, S.H.I.E.L.D. was always there to provide token ”good guys” being beaten badly in order to set up a scope for the story itself. Rarely had I seen a series that took that agency as being particularly effective or being the actual source that is able to solve a problem.* Secret Invasion, Civil War, Marvel Boy, Captain America by Brubaker and so forth all portray S.H.I.E.L.D. as either being antagonistic or just plain ineffectual, which does not bode well for an organisation that is supposed to be the prime spy agency and the thing that binds the metahuman community together.

It’s a good thing then that some authors like Jonathan Hickman, Mark Waid and Nick Spencer came along to go a bit further in showing the prime spy agency as being actually useful or at least active in several parts. While the discovery of S.H.I.E.L.D. thanks to the marvel cinematic universe has been a boon to the credibility of the agency, in the comics format, Secret Avengers has been another huge bonus thanks to its direction mixing espionage, politics and super heroics.

This issue, in many ways, is a great example of just why this series can work, even though it has still some rough spots here and there. One of the best aspect, though, is the fact that they show how ”the spying game” is played, which makes for a pretty effective comparison to other superheroes book on the market and those made by Marvel itself. It’s a fun thing to see that despite the high action, the jokes, the big hero moments and all, there are other scenes which shows that they clearly cannot remain the supposed ”good guys” in the eyes of the world if they go en masse and attack a whole island without any backing from the U.N of the government. It was a very neat way that allow the readers to differentiates just how an agency like S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to work if they can get several important backing and so forth.
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Uncanny X-Men #10 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Frazer Irving (art)

The Story: Apparently the revolution will be televised.

The Review: Oh Uncanny X-Men, what will we do with you?

It’s been clear from the beginning that this would be a somewhat different incarnation of the X-Men’s flagship title. Brian Michael Bendis has shown a clear enthusiasm for the idea of Cyclops as a revolutionary and the idea of focusing a relaunch of the original X-Men title around, debatably, an incarnation of the Brotherhood sounds absolutely fascinating. So where are things going wrong?

Well, firstly this issue is too dialogue-driven. Some of you may be rolling your eyes at another review calling Bendis wordy, but I assure you that this is an anomaly, even for him. It’s not that Bendis engages in his trademark banter, but rather that very little actually occurs in this issue.

The lack of action doesn’t stop the characters from talking about it, though. Cyclops’ training session is actually quite interesting but it would probably be even more so if Bendis would trust the events of the story to speak for themselves. He’s not telling rather than showing, but he chooses to both show and tell a single action rather than making time for more to happen.
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Uncanny X-Men #9 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Chris Bachalo (pencils/colors), Tim Townsend; Mark Irwin; Al Vey; & Jaime Mendoza (inks)

The Story: As S.H.I.E.L.D. takes neutrality off the table, mutants begin to turn on eachother…over their haircuts!

The Review: Last time the New Xavier School lost one student only to gain another. This month we find them much as we left them. Cyclops has his hands full training his next generation of mutants, including new recruit, Hijack, and Fabio Medina finds himself faced with Dazzler: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. The two stories don’t take long to intersect and therein lies the fun.

Though it’s certainly a more active issue than the last, Bendis finds plenty of time to introduce humor into the mix. It’s not the same sort as in All-New X-Men, where there are likely to be entirely comedic pages, but this issue definitely reminds you that mutants are teenagers, with all the wonderful and terrible things that come with that. I think that’s been missing from a lot of titles lately, and it’s nice to see Bendis putting it into play. Not to mention that I can’t find character in recent memory with a better ratio of actions taken in a first issue to love I have for them than Fabio’s disco-loving sister.

But rest assured, this is hardly Wolverine and the X-Men. Bendis packs this issue with contention and heady considerations of what it means to be part of an oppressed minority. The drama of the whole mess is expertly mined, but I can’t help but feel that these aren’t the best arguments for the various cases. In this title at least, Cyclops may be right, but that often seems dependant on the Marvel universe being hopelessly bigoted. While I’ve learned to never be surprised by just how plentiful awful people may be, I feel pretty comfortable saying that the struggle of mutants in Bendis’ titles it a bit excessive. Despite being a well-loved character, Dazzler easily slips into some pretty indefensible positions as the plot demands.
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Secret Avengers #6 – Review

Nick Spencer (Writer), Butch Guice, Rick Magyar (Artists), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: James Rhodes gain access to an army, several agents tries to compromise A.I.M as some directorial tension sets in at S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Review: Characters can be everything for a successful comic. If you don’t have some fan-favourites on your title, it can mean an early demise as people might not be interested in the adventures of a C or D-lister. However, having an A-lister on a book can also be some kind of curse, as these characters cannot necessarily evolve in any way, mostly due to the heavy editorial handling they surely have, which can be somewhat problematic for some writers.

Secret Avengers does not seem to have that problem, despite the fact that it possesses big players like Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow, due to the fact that it mixes these characters with other fan-favourites like James Rhodes, Taskmaster, Mockingbird among others. With a cast as diverse as this one, Spencer manage to make the most of it by juggling with several plot and sub-plots with ease, thanks to a switching of characters in some issues, with this one more dedicated to Taskmaster, Mockingbird, Maria Hill and James Rhodes.

Right out of the gate, Spencer goes back toward a character he knows very well, using him in a way that is quite smart, yet also feels true to the character: James Rhodes, who is also known as War Machine. Here, the writer makes a smart use of the military and armor-based history of the character to propel him forward in a new role that not only suits the character, but also connect him to the story in a way that feels natural and exciting. He is perhaps one of the most interesting character of the issue, although he is not the only one.

Another character that is genuinely interesting, which always come as a surprise to me on a personal level, is Maria Hill. No doubt, many were like me in my initial dislike of the character when she first appeared in the Marvel universe, being the bossy new kid on the block who seemed like a cold-hearted women ready to do anything in order to be efficient at her job. I hated her for these characteristic, yet much to my dismay, I find myself liking her exactly because of these character traits. The reason for that is mainly due to the fact that due to the espionage and political aspect of the title, the character feels much more at home in such an environment, making use of these traits in order to serve the story, not just to set her as being the bossy woman. Serving as a connection to what happens in most of the issue, it is through the internal situation in S.H.I.E.L.D where she shines the most. There is a scene where she deals with a new addition to the agency with some troubling ideas where she shows how she actually fits in such a context. It is an uneasy, yet very tense scene that this issue shows that Maria Hill will become an even better character through this series.
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Indestructible Hulk #8 – Review

INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #8

By: Mark Waid (Writer), Walter Simonson (Artist), Bob Wiacek (Ink Assist), Jim Charalampidis (Colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer)

The Review: And so, as with all good things, Mark Waid and Walt Simonson’s Gods and Monsters story arc comes to an end. So far this story has offered a whip-smart marriage of science and magic and this issue is no exception, even going so far as to add a heady dose of comic book nerdery into the bargain. There’s action, there’s laughs, there’s drama, and it all blends seamlessly. There’s even a touching scene of Hulk-on-Thor man-love…more on that later.

One definite strength of this story is how there’s been a lot going on at all times but nothing has ever gotten too muddled. Banner and his crew of scientists are still on mission to extract a sizeable amount of Eiderdűrm for their research purposes, and on that front Viteri has his own enjoyable team-up with Thor. The two work out a way to extract the element from a Jotunheim waterfall by way of using Mjolnir for “Electrostatic separation,”…I ain’t got a brain for science but this seems pretty legit, so this comic gets extra marks for teaching me more than just how to smash Frost Giants.
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Secret Avengers #4 – Review

SECRET AVENGERS #4

By: Nick Spencer (Writer) Luke Ross (Artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist)

The Story: S.H.I.E.L.D needs to take care of a platoon of sentient Iron Patriot armors, cue Bruce Banner.

The Review: I had another idea on how to summarize this story, one that would not have actually told what essentially happens, yet it would have been perfect in tone: ‘’S.H.I.E.L.D strikes back’’. In the two past issues of this title, we had seen how A.I.M had become a whole new thing, as we were presented to an organisation with a completely new and more focused vision, spearheaded by Andrew Forson, the scientist supreme.

Taking just where the last issue left us, we now get a fascinating concept about giving personality to a suit of armor, giving it sentience in order to accomplish some goals. With A.I.M having done so with the help of Mentallo, they try to create a situation in which S.H.I.E.L.D could look disastrous. This then leads to some scenes that shows just how Spencer can handle this title and how much it differentiates itself from other titles with ‘’Avengers’’ in their name.
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