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Age of Ultron #10 – Review


By: Alex Maleev, Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary, Butch Guice, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco & Roger Benet w/ Tom Palmer, David Marquez, Joe Quesada (Artists), Paul Mounts & Richard Isanove (Color Artists), VC’s Cory Petit (Letterer)

Review: I finished Naughty Dog’s PS3 magnum opus The Last of Us last night. It was terrific. I won’t spoil anything for my fellow gamers out there but suffice it to say that it’s got a pretty unexpected ending, far more ambiguous and open to interpretation than many of the potential finales fans suggested. Crowning the entertaining and tension-fueled hours that led up to that point, the ending managed to tie everything off neatly; it faithfully resolved its protagonists’ journeys and was bold enough to make like there won’t ever be a sequel – like it counted – even though such a thing is inevitable because money. That, my friends, is how it’s done. You do not do it like Age of Ultron #10.

 And why not? Because this issue winds up feeling more like a slap in the face than a fulfilling denouement. Even viewed on its own merits this is a troubled comic.
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Avengers #6 – Review


By: Jonathan Hickman (writer), Adam Kubert (art), Frank Martin (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story:  Just who is the new Captain Universe and what forboding message does she have for the Marvel Universe?

The Review:  First, the good news:  the art is very much improved from Kubert’s first issue.  Last issue, I wasn’t sure how much of the improvement was REALLY owing to Kubert’s efforts and how much of it was only thanks to the switch in colorists, given how wonderful Frank Martin’s work always is.  This month, there can be no doubt: Kubert has tightened up his pencils.  Things no longer looked at all rushed, giving us the “high-budget,” polished, top-shelf work we usually expect from Kubert.  This makes him a good fit for a book like this: I’m so used to seeing Kubert draw big event comics that at this point, my brain is basically conditioned into thinking “this is important!” when seeing his work.  Basically, I think we can put his rushed performance on Avengers #4 in the rear-view mirror now; this is the Kubert you were probably expecting.

Sadly, while the artwork is improved, I’m not really sure that I can say the same for the script.  Hickman gives us another issue largely focused on one of his new Avengers, which remains a good plan of action for the series.  The problem is that, unlike Smasher last month, this new Captain Universe just….isn’t very interesting.  Much like last month, her origin is pretty by the books but unlike last month, we don’t have a strong, sympathetic character with which to prop that up.  Stricken with a happy dose of amnesia, Tamara Devoux is simply too much of a blank slate to carry the issue on her own.  As for her the Captain Universe sentience inhabiting her body, it’s really more of a walking, talking portent more than a real, sympathetic character.
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Uncanny X-Men #1 – Review


By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Chris Bachalo (pencils & colors), Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza & Al Vey (inks), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story:  An inside man approaches Maria Hill with an offer to help take down Scott Summers.

The Review:  One of the concerns I had about this book going in was the way it would differentiate itself from All-New X-Men.  Yes, I realize it wouldn’t feature the time traveling teens, but Cyclops and his gang have appeared quite a bit in that book such that having them star in this one seemed to be some serious overlap.  Thankfully, Bendis quickly dispels this concern.  It’s not so much that Cyclops team are front and center, which they are, but rather that the tone of the book has been subtly altered.  While part of it may be due to Bachalo’s artwork, with its muddy colors and its lack of distinct, clean lines (as opposed to Immonen and Marquez on All-New), the big reason for this is the subtle change in tone.  The book feels more shadowy, more “underground,” and a touch more edgy.  The humour isn’t there and the soap opera of All-New is shifted into something that’s a little closer to twisty, spy-thriller dramatics.  All-New is the above-ground, flagship story.  Uncanny is what happens beneath and on the revolutionary fringes that Cyclops and his team currently occupy.
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Avengers #5 – Review


By: Jonathan Hickman (writer), Adam Kubert (art), Frank Martin (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story:  Get to know the new Smasher.

The Review:  I noted last week that Hickman’s Avengers was moving in a stronger, more character-focused direction, delivering a stronger script as a result; I’m happy to report that he continues in that direction, delving even more deeply into the background of one of the new recruits, this time a young farm-girl turned cosmic super-hero.

This is really the first issue of Hickman’s run that I can honestly say has something that’s been utterly lacking thus far: heart.  Our new Smasher is relatable and likable, with Hickman managing to trace her ascendancy from a girl who’d seemingly given up on her potential for more pressing concerns right up to her adventures in space and promotion by Gladiator, he of the mohawk and purple skin.  The result is a character arc that, while compressed, also feels uplifting and optimistic, emphasizing the power of the individual and his/her potential for greatness, much like any good superhero comic does.  This was really the first issue of Hickman’s that actually felt human, which is vital, as Hickman’s first arc, while it had its strengths, often felt cold, losing its emotional core in favor of all that epic scale.  As such, this closer focus on a more grounded character was well needed.  The relationship between Daring/Smasher and her grandfather was also a nice touch which led to a line repeated throughout the comic that harkened back to the running theme of Hickman’s Fantastic Four: the importance of never self-limiting and always pushing the boundaries.
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Hawkeye #7 – Review


By: Matt Fraction (writer), Steve Lieber & Jesse Hamm (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story:  In two separate stories, Clint helps a friend secure his father’s house in the face of Hurricane Sandy while Kate finds herself trapped in a swanky hotel and a downtown in lawless ruin.

The Good:  This is the sort of story that could only be delivered within the pages of Hawkeye.  There aren’t any superheroes or superpowers; instead, this is a story that focuses on real people, real drama, and real relationships.  The result is an extremely human comic, one that feels more human and grounded than you might think possible of a Marvel comic.  Clint and Kate seem barely elevated above the average Joe and, indeed, it is those average Joes who are allowed to shine.  In doing this, Fraction delivers a heart-warming message:  that the antics of fictional super-heroes are unremarkable compared to the day-to-day heroism and unity of people in the face of adversity.
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Punisher: War Zone #4 – Review


By: Greg Rucka (writer), Carmine di Giandomenico (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story:  The Punisher makes his move to break out Cole-Alves, but are the Avengers one step ahead?

The Good:  This was one of those rare Greg Rucka Big Two comics that reminded me of his days on Queen and Country.  This is purely due to the heavy emphasis on subterfuge, bait and switch, and constant twists that pull the reader along as one party is constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the other, each side trying to plan for all eventualities.  The result is an intricate cat and mouse game between Steve Rogers and the Punisher, one that closes with a pretty badassed conclusion.  The reader is always left guessing who is onto whom and who is ahead of whom, leading to a winding, engaging read.

Better still, with the issue largely focused on a prison transport of Rachel Cole-Alves, there is a really thick atmosphere of tension in the issue.  The Avengers, and we readers, all know that Frank is going to strike, we simply don’t know when or how.  But we know it’s inevitable.  What’s left is an issue where we, and the characters, almost jump at shadows, waiting for the axe to fall.  This only makes Frank’s bait-and-switch routine all the more entertaining, as it plays with our expectations to maximum effect.  That air of tension is something that Rucka has done so well throughout his Punisher run, so it’s good seeing him fall back to his strengths here.  Better still, as his plan is unveiled, that tension also once again shows Frank to be a cerebral predator.
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Avengers #4 – Review


By: Jonathan Hickman (writer), Adam Kubert (art), Frank D’Armata (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story:  The Avengers race to a newly discovered sixth impact zone from the Garden’s recent mayhem.  The problem is that this one’s in the Savage Land and everyone’s favourite bee-keeper scientists may have gotten there first.

The Review:  Hickman’s Avengers so far has been solid and refreshing, but I’m still waiting for it to fully live up to its potential.  With the start of its second arc, this feels like one step forward but also perhaps one step back (so yeah, thankfully, not two steps back).  The heartening thing is that the back-tread has nothing to do with Hickman.

Instead, it’s Kubert that’s at fault here.  Don’t get me wrong, the artwork here isn’t bad.  I mean, it’s Adam Kubert, how bad could it be?  The problem is that, particularly compared to Jerome Opena’s hyper-detailed, hyper-polished artwork, Kubert’s work feels forgettable and bland.  Part of this may be due to Kubert’s simply being a more conventional artist than Opena, but the real problem is also that this simply isn’t Kubert’s best work.  It feels rougher than usual, perhaps even a little rushed.  Hell, the first few pages, the prologue of the issue, are particularly messy.  Frank D’Armata’s colors don’t particularly help as well, lacking the vibrance and energy needed to carry the day, opting instead to, much like Kubert’s work, not go any farther than merely getting the job done.  Regardless, there’s a pretty big gap between Kubert’s work here and Kubert’s recent work on Avengers vs. X-Men.  The result is a book that while visually functional, is also surprisingly uninspiring for its bulk, with the exception of Hyperion’s origin, which is admittedly nicely rendered.
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Uncanny Avengers #3 – Review


By: Rick Remender (story), John Cassaday (art), Laura Martin (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story:  The Red Skull whips NYC into a mutant hunting frenzy with the Uncanny Avengers caught in the middle.

The Review:  I imagine that this is going to be an incredibly divisive issue.  Remender takes some big stylistic risks that leave this one firmly entrenched in “love it or hate it” grounds.  The difficulty for me reviewing this is that, while I myself fell into the positive side of the equation, I can very much understand the argument from the other side.

The reason for all of this is that Remender has chosen to write this issue in a thoroughly retro, nostalgia-driven manner, filled with expository narration and a LOT of words on the page.  While I’m often put off by that sort of thing, I actually found myself enjoying it this time around.  I had a lot of fun visiting the past, if you will, with Remender seemingly bringing a writing style from decades past, polishing it off, and putting it in a thoroughly modern setting with slick, polished art to match.  Sure, that style is verbose, melodramatic, and maybe even a little bit cheesy, but that’s all part of the fun!  That melodramatic narration lends the book an escapist, soap opera feel, making the book’s universe feel especially comic booky and its characters iconic and larger than life.  It also elevates the stakes and the story into something grander and more timeless.
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FF #3 – Review

FF #3

By: Matt Fraction (story), Michael Allred (art), Laura Allred (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: The mysterious visitor from beyond the veil turns out to be more familiar than thought, telling tales of a horrifying (and pretty ludicrous) villain.  Also, the Yancy Street Gang strikes!

The Review:  I had high expectations for this book and as such, I ‘d be lying if I didn’t say that the first issue disappointed me a bit insofar as nothing much seemed to happen.  Then, last month, it started to click.  Now, with the third issue, I think this might stand along Hawkeye as among the very best books Marvel is currently publishing.

The reason for this is one word: fun.  That is really the best and perhaps only word I can use to describe this issue.  It’s off-kilter, it’s genuinely funny, it has a team with great chemistry, it’s thoroughly mad-cap, it’s human, and it’s clear that the creative team is having a great time putting it all together, which really shines through in their work.
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Avengers #3 – Review


By: Jonathan Hickman (writing), Jerome Opena (art), Dean White, Frank Martin, and Richard Isanove (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story:  Cap brings his new recruits to bear on the Garden, fighting the good fight on Mars to save both his friends and his planet.

The Review:  Usually when you think of a book like Avengers or Justice League, or what have you, there’s a bit of an expectation for good old fashioned superhero comics in a very specific mold.  Hickman’s Avengers is anything but.  It’s chock full of ambition and there really isn’t anything else like it on the stands.

A key reason for this is Hickman’s emphasis on scale.  Hickman makes it clear that the sheer scale of the stories and conflicts in his Avengers book are greater than they are in perhaps any other Marvel title.   As such, you could say that with ridiculous powerhouses like Hyperion and Captain Universe on the team to go along with Hulk and Thor, all of them battling entities which are, in essence, gods of a sort, Hickman’s book has taken the old line about the Avengers’ being focused on “foes no single superhero can withstand” to heart.  Here, they are battling gods and as the scale of the threat goes up, so must the size and power-level of the team.  That’s the core concept of Hickman’s run and it shines here, so while Hickman’s run feels very different, you could say that it also is perhaps truer to the core concept of the Avengers.
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All-New X-Men #5 – Review


By: Brian Michael Bendis (story), Stuart  Immonen (pencils), Wade von Grawbadger & Craig Yeung (inks), Marte Gracia & Jason Keith (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: Jean Grey enters Beast’s mind to help young Hank McCoy save old Hank McCoy.

The Review:  All-New X-Men has been by far the biggest surprise for me thus far of Marvel NOW.  Despite generally being a fan of Bendis, I didn’t have high hopes.  The last couple of years of Avengers comics have been rough and I wasn’t sold on the concept.  I found the first issue “meh,” but then as the issues went by, I found myself continually wanting more as, gradually, the book crept to the top of my stack.  There’s something inexplicably addictive about this book that has led to me devouring each issue and it’s something I’ve been trying to puzzle out for these last couple of weeks.

With this issue, I think I know what it is, finally: Bendis has nailed the “soap opera” vibe and the result is a terribly addictive comic book.  He’s managed this through a combination of excellent dialogue (which is remarkably light on his usual tics), solid character-work, and FUN character dynamics, particularly with respect to the excellent use Bendis has made of the original five X-Men.  This month, the dynamics they share with their present-day selves positively crackle.  Iceman/Iceman continues to be absolutely hilarious and watching Beast argue and debate himself is a real pleasure.  Meanwhile, Bendis does a solid job of building up the dread for the inevitable day where Warren meets…”Angel.”
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Iron Man #5 – Review


By: Kieron Gillen (story), Greg Land (pencils), Jay Leisten (inks), Guru EFX (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Tony hunts down the last batch of Extremis, but what happens when he discovers that it’s in the hands of someone who might actually be making good use of it?

The Review: I really wish that I could like this this title more than I do.  Part of that is due to my being a huge fan of Matt Fraction’s run just prior and the other part is that it’s clear that Kieron Gillen has a very good handle on Tony Stark’s voice and character.

Tony oozes charm and is very much…him.  Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the character will recognize him.  He’s charismatic, likable, and intelligent under Gillen’s hand.  Moreover, Gillen does a great job of explaining Tony’s rationale for heading off into the final frontier of space.  It makes total sense for the character and allows Gillen to write some solid stuff relating to Tony’s constant concern about his legacy and his need to always be pushing boundaries.  It’s all very true to the character and it’s solid character-work overall.  Clearly that need to keep pushing higher and farther is pivotal to Gillen’s understanding of Tony Stark and I think that he’s definitely on the mark there.  I’ll also add that Tony’s new AI for his new away-from-home space armor was a very nice touch.
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Daredevil #20 – Review

By: Mark Waid (story), Chris Samnee (art), Javier Rodriguez (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Coyote’s grotesque criminal enterprise is revealed as Daredevil tries to get himself together.

The Review:  For me, a huge part of what’s made Mark Waid’s Daredevil such a revelation has been his expansion of what constitutes the “Daredevil story.”  With each arc, Waid tries to extend Murdock into a slightly different genre while still maintaining the core “Daredevil” essence.  This arc has certainly been among the most successful of these experiments thus far, giving us a very effective horror comic with a pulpy vibe that provides that particular brand of fun only to be had in comics.
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Hawkeye #4 – Review

By: Matt Fraction (story), Javier Pulido (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story:  There’s a tape out there of Clint doing some very bad things for SHIELD and someone has put it up for auction.

The Review:  Matt Fraction is a pretty divisive writer among the online comics intelligentsia, particularly since Fear Itself.  He’s not at Bendis-levels yet, but he’s getting there.  Of course, the problem for those with a firm distaste for Fraction is that Hawkeye has been an excellent comic book.  So what to do?  After all, Matt Fraction can’t write a good Marvel comic!  The explanation was simple:  the book was only good thanks to David Aja’s efforts.  Everything that made this book a good one could be attributed to Aja.

Well, bad news folks; David Aja is out of the picture this month and you know what?  This book still rocks.
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Avengers #34 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (story), Brandon Peterson,  Mike Mayhew, Jim Cheung, Leinil Yu, Mark Morales, Mike Deodato, Olivier Coipel, Terry Dodson & Walter Simonson (art), Scott Hanna & Rachel Dodson (inks), Jason Keith, Laura Martin & Paul Mounts (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story:  The Avengers work to escape the microverse after one more big fight with centaur kingpin Lord Gouzar.

The Review:  I’m a big fan of Bendis and, as such, I’ve stuck with his Avengers books for a long, long time now.  Suffice it to say, it’s been a rocky road with highs and lows.  With that said, he’s done a lot for the franchise and so I really do wish I could give a glowing review for this giant-sized farewell issue.  I mean, the sheer amount of heart he puts into his lengthy farewell letter at the end of the issue makes me really want this issue to be a great one.  But it isn’t.

Quite honestly, it’s been pretty clear for a while now that Bendis perhaps overstayed his welcome on Avengers; ideas were being recycled, certain issues felt phoned in, and this issue really only evidences that fact.  Everything just feels so derivative and phoned in that it’s hard to believe much passion and effort went into its creation from Bendis.  Given how sincere his farewell letter was, you’d figure that he’d really try to blow us away with this issue, but perhaps he just doesn’t have it in him anymore.
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Captain America #1 – Review

By: Rick Remender (story), John Romita Jr. (pencils), Klaus Janson (inks), Dean White (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story:  Steve Rogers unwittingly escapes the prospect of marriage by hopping onto a train to…..DIMENSION Z!!!!!

The Review:  “Bold new direction” is sort of a buzz-line that is a dime a dozen in comics solicitations and promotion and, more often than not, it’s a gross exaggeration, if not an outright lie.  Frankly, of all the Marvel NOW relaunches thus far, Thor: God of Thunder has been the only one to live up to that phrase thus far.  Well, you can now add Captain America to that list.

Ed Brubaker, having been on Cap for 8 years, basically established what felt like “the Captain America story.”  It was all too easy to see Cap fall to the same pattern that Daredevil did pre-Waid, with new writers working within a particular mold with ever diminishing returns.  I’m glad we were able to skip all that creative quicksand this time around, jumping headfirst into the paradigm shifting run that reshapes the property’s landscape entirely.
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New Avengers #33 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (story), Michael Avon Oeming (art), Rain Beredo (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Daniel Drumm continues to wreak havoc as Dr. Strange looks increasingly murderous to SHIELD.

The Review:  Without a doubt, the star of this issue is the artwork.  Of course, I’m also left thinking how bloody WEIRD this arc is going to look when it’s collected, as we’ve gone from artists as wildly different from each other as Michael Gaydos to Carlos Pacheco to, now, Michael Avon Oeming.  And apparently next issue, we’re going to Mike Deodato, because why not?
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Fantastic Four #1 – Review

By: Matt Fraction (story), Mark Bagley (pencils), Mark Farmer (inks), Paul Mounts (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: Welcome to the next era of the family four.  Meet the family and learn all about their new mission, which will have them sailing off to the unknown corners of the universe.

The Review:  In many ways, the issue is structured as something of a reassurance for readers of Jonathan Hickman’s seminal run.  Matt Fraction knows he has big shoes to fill so he takes baby steps here, showing that he’s not ditching any of the strong elements that Hickman introduced.

At the same time, the issue has a very clear structure:  each of the four gets one scene where Fraction basically shows us how he understands each character and his take on their respective core essences.  All told, each scene hits the mark.  Reed and his habit of taking on burdens, Sue’s role as the mother of the team, and Johnny and Ben’s respective brands of comic relief all go off quite well.  There is an argument to be made that perhaps Fraction goes a little far with Johnny and Ben, who feel a bit over-the-top and a bit like caricatures of themselves to an extent, but honestly, given how funny I found their respective scenes, it’s hard to really fault Fraction for this.  I mean, sure their personalities were a little exaggerated, but I still enjoyed the hell out of their portions of the issue and fun is the ultimate objective, right?  And there’s no mistaking that Hickman’s Ben and Johnny are pretty darned funny.
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New Avengers #32 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (story), Carlos Pacheco (pencils), Roger Martinez, Cam Smith, & Scott Hanna (inks), Rain Beredo (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story:  Our mysterious body-snatching villain wreaks absolute chaos at Avengers Mansion.  Also, someone dies.

The Review:  Anyone who’s followed Bendis’ Avengers books for an extended period of time know that it’s been an uneven ride and often a rough one.  That being said, I proudly confess to being a fan of the man, willing to give a look at just about anything the man does.  Given that he’s written three of my favourite comic runs of all time (Alias, Powers, and Daredevil), I feel I owe it to the man.  As such, I’m really happy to see that he’s closing out his New Avengers run in style.

This arc of New Avengers really does deliver Bendis’ strengths without the weaknesses – the characters feel human, more friends than team-mates, and there’s a personal touch to the characters throughout.  I also love the fact that it’s a mystic storyline.  Bendis ramps that aspect of the story up this month, with battles in the astral plane and even a light touch of horror, as mind controlled persons are forced to do bad things to themselves and others.
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Avengers #33 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (story), Terry Dodson (pencils), Rachel Dodson (inks), Jason Keith (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story:  The Avengers try to save the Wasp from Lord Gouzar and leave behind the Microverse once and for all.

The Review:  Comics like this are really frustrating, particularly when it comes to reviewing, let alone grading them.  What the hell do you do with a comic that is so perfectly inoffensive?  Bendis and the Dodsons give us that this month, providing us with an issue that is completely passable on every front but not a whole lot more than that.  There’s not a lot to praise, but there’s also nothing to really gripe about either.

That being said, in giving us a by the numbers “fun” Avengers story, it can definitely be argued that this issue feels a bit like comfort food.  It’s archetypal “big” superhero comics and everything is adequately and professionally done.  As such, it’s a nice, easy read and a fun way to pass the time, without causing any real irritation or frustration.

At the very least, Bendis gives us a nicely balanced comic here – there’s a good amount of action, plot progression, snappy dialogue, and humour, as well as genuine emotion in the reunion of the Pyms.  Overall, it’s a fairly rounded experience that never drags.
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A + X #1 – Review

By: Dan Slott, Jeph Loeb (Writer), Ron Garney, Dale Keown (Artist), Danny Miki, Cam Smith, Mark Morales (Inker), Wil Quintana, Frank D’Armata (Colorist), Clayton Cowles, Albert Deschesne (Letterer)

The Review: Buying this book was a somewhat difficult decision; lotta great books out this week but only so much cash in my pocket. I’d collected all of AvX Vs alongside the main event book and felt like I’d reasonably gotten my money’s worth, though the $3.99 price point sometimes caused a heavy sigh. The execution is very similar here with a mix of creative teams delivering two done-in-one stories per issue, though in this case the featured Avengers and X-Men have joined forces instead of butting heads. As such, this is pretty much as close to a Marvel Team-Up book as we can get right now and perhaps that’s reason enough to consider a purchase. But does this first issue do enough to entice us back for a few more?

Let’s take a look:

Captain America + Cable: First, forget Cable, they should have called this segment Captain America + Ron Garney! I would pay good money to read an entire issue of Garney drawing nothing but Cap taking a 12 hour snooze or painting a fence. He was (as has often been said) born to draw the character, and with editorial wisely pairing him with Dan Slott, the result is a story that captures some of that classic Waid/Garney magic. With Cap and Bucky taking on a deadly mission behind enemy lines during WWII, Cable drops in through the time stream to lend a hand against Atticus Trask’s diabolical Nazi Sentinels – a perfect set-up.

Slott’s definitely in his element; he writes an assured Captain America who effortlessly orchestrates spontaneous feats of strategy with his sidekick, and styles a brash, cocky Cable for him to spar with. A new twist on the Sleeper concept, Germans getting called “Fritz, and a sly reference to Bucky’s future as the Winter Soldier – brilliant fun. It’s a lean, compact little story without an ounce of fat, packing a satisfying beginning, middle and end within a tight 11-page window.
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New Avengers #31 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Michael Gaydos (art), Rain Beredo (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story:  The New Avengers reel from the news of Cage and Jessica’s departure while a mysterious mystic enemy takes possession of a friend, intent on hunting down the Marvel Universe’s folks of mystic inclinations.

The Review:  Bendis has been on New Avengers, whatever the numbering, for one hell of a long time.  As is so often the case in massively long runs, it’s been a bumpy road, one that often had me thinking that Bendis may have, whether he realized it or not, exhausted his Avengers repertoire and overstayed his welcome.  Well, I’m happy to say that at the very least, New Avengers looks intent on closing the show in fine form.

Reading this first issue, it really does feel like the beginning of an apt farewell for Bendis.  I say this because this one issue basically encapsulates all of the unique strengths of Bendis’ run.  For instance, I was really drawn by the strong human element present here, as Bendis really does a fantastic job in his writing of the teams’ varied reactions to Luke and Jessica’s departure, as well as their own emotions as they say goodbye.  In many ways, with Jessica and Cage being Bendis staples (or creation, in the former case), Jessica and Cage’s leaving the team in some way feels like Bendis himself saying goodbye.  Naturally, this also leads to the New Avengers wondering if the team can continue without them – much as the New Avengers comic can only be dramatically different without the man who created it.

This meta-commentary aside, the couple’s impending departure brings out the best in Bendis, allowing him once again to portray the team as a family, a bunch of close friends more than anything else.  It’s not just a group in spandex who fly out to pound out the bad guys – these are living, breathing people attempting to deal with the relationships and bonds forged between them over the years.  It’s retrospective and it’s very sincere.  And, of course, in a highly personal, character-driven issue of Bendis’ Avengers, you know there are going to be some funny bits as well.
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Daredevil #19 – Review

by Mark Waid (writer), Chris Samnee (artist), Javier Rodriguez (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer)

The Story:  As Matt’s mind falls apart, he finally figures out who’s behind all the insanity.

The Review:  While it’s not always had the same amount of success, one thing I’ve loved and respected Waid for doing in this series is truly experimenting and expanding on the type of stories that can be told with Daredevil.  With guys like Miller, Bendis, and Brubaker defining the “Daredevil comic,” we got to a point where the “Daredevil comic” was by definition a gritty noir affair.  Throughout his run, Waid has tried to break free of that mold, throwing the Man Without Fear into different genres.

This month, he tosses Daredevil a bit more into the horror genre (right in time for Hallowe’en!).  It’s a subtle, toes in the water move at this point, but it’s definitely palpable, and it definitely works.  Having a main character who is just as unsure as the reader is about what is and what isn’t real makes for a turbulent read that keeps the reader engaged and just a little unsettled.  Matt’s lack of vision and his radar sense also become vulnerabilities in themselves and as things pop in and out of reality and the Spot’s power mess around with Matt’s surroundings, there is also something distinctly creepy about the way Samnee illustrations Matt’s radar-vision of the world.

Where the horror element really kicks in though his with returning villain, the Spot, now new and improved with a distinctly horror-movie appearance.  Waid and Samnee do a great job of emphasizing the creepier aspects of the villain’s powers, leading to some really great panels.  There’s just something naturally disturbing about scores of disembodied hands reaching out to grasp Matt from black portals.  I don’t know what it is, but it just gives me the heebie-jeebies.  The ending of the issue is also great – it’s completely ridiculous, visually, but is a classic sort of “muhuhaha” horror moment.

All this being said, I’ll admit: I have an axe to grind with this issue.  I thought Waid’s use of Foggy this month was nothing less than deplorable.  What Waid has Foggy do this month is complete and utter betrayal of Matt.  That, in itself, runs completely contrary to who Foggy Nelson is.  I don’t care that Foggy thought he was doing it for Matt’s own good or that he was drunk – it’s a massive betrayal and, as such, it cuts to the core of Foggy’s character and it, well, it just isn’t Foggy.  Frankly, we’ve seen Matt in direr straits than this during Bendis and Brubaker’s runs and never once did Foggy even think of betraying Matt in this manner.  Foggy’s actions this month are really out of the blue and make the character difficult to like and genuinely irritating, which is a very bad look for Foggy and one which he was never meant to have.  Given what he and Matt have been through and who Foggy is, it also makes little sense.
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Hawkeye #3 – Review

by Matt Fraction (writer), David Aja (artist), Matt Hollingsworth (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer)

The Story:  Clint decides it’s time to label his arrows and goes out to buy some tape.  Not only is the store out of tape, but he meets a woman with an awesome car, buys said car, and ends up in a wild car chase through town as Eastern European “bros” with fully automatic weapons try their best to make him and his new friend dead.  Just another day in the life of Clint Barton.

The Review:  Lots of new series put out a fantastic first issue and then gradually slide into routine, descending into a more mediocre level of quality.  Three issues in now and Hawkeye is as much of a revelation as the very first issue.  Much as was the case with the second issue, this issue is just as good as the first and may very well be better.  Regardless, it’s remarkable that Fraction and Aja have kept the level of quality so ridiculously high, particularly given that once again, this is a done-in-one story.  Put simply, this comic is pure craftsmanship by two masters of the medium.

With respect to Fraction’s script, the characterization absolutely sparkles.  Clint is the lovable rogue, flying by the seat of his pants, and it’s impossible not to love him.  He’s the classic character who can’t help but stumble into trouble no matter, even when going about the most mundane activities.  Fraction’s Barton is just so damned likable and, frankly, if Clint were always written like this, I don’t think you’d ever hear ANYONE talk about his being boring.  Moreover, Kate Bishop is a fantastic asset for this series.  Her back-and-forth dynamic with Clint is absolute gold and had me laughing and smiling throughout the issue.  The two have an incredible chemistry and their dialogue is one of dueling wits and light-hearted ribbing.  Their dynamic really sets the tone for this issue: fun.

On a more technical level, I also loved the care that Fraction took in structuring this issue.  Through being so meticulous, he gets so much done in one issue, telling a complete story, with a seeming passing remark about a boomerang arrow at the very start of the issue becoming crucial to its ending…coming back like, well, a boomerang.  Fraction also jumps back and forth in time in a manner that is effortless and, surprisingly, never jarring or confusing.  He mostly manages this through structuring the issue around Clint narrating a list of stupid things he’s done in one day.  It only emphasizes Clint’s bumbling rogue nature while also serving to keep this beast of an issue on the rails, keeping it a tight, narrative machine.

As for Aja’s art, what can be said?  It’s wonderfully evocative of the seventies action tone that Fraction wants.  Aja’s action scenes are incredible, his layouts, particularly his use of small panels to relay details of the overall action, is genius and, much like Fraction’s script, there’s a constant wink and nod sense of humour to his work.  Like Fraction’s script, Aja’s work is geared towards creating a fun comic that keeps you smiling throughout.  Also, the fact that he gets to draw an extended car chase is awesome: Aja’s action always rules and this car chase will have you on the edge of your seat throughout the issue.  Also: trick arrows.  Both Aja and Fraction manage to use a huge barrage of these to emphasize just how ludicrous an archer character can be…while also making it creative and badass.
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Avengers #31 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Brandon Peterson & Mike Mayhew (art), Jason Keith (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story:  In the day after the Phoenix calamity, a lost Avenger triggers her emergency beacon.

The Review:  This review is a tough one to write due to the fact that I could easily come at it from two different angles, one positive and the other negative.  Let’s do the former first.

On the one hand, I really enjoyed the feeling of “the morning after.”  After all the AvX craziness, Bendis does a good job of giving the feeling of a new day having dawned and our heroes relaxing in their own unique ways, finally able to unwind and release tension.  As a reader, reading this, I sort of shared that and reading this issue felt like letting out a giant sigh and getting comfy in readiness for the next thing.  And hey, there’s a Wolverine beer joke, which is always good.  I will also say that Mike Mayhew’s art during these portions also suit that tone perfectly.  His photo-realistic, almost painterly style has that natural lack of tension, that grandiose, relaxed tone that matches Bendis’ script.
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