Tag Archives: All-New All-Different Marvel

The Vision #11

“He said I was cool! And my mother killed him!”

Hey, all. D.C. here to throw down again, this time on Marvel’s The Vision #11.

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Highlights

First off, that cover by Michael Del Mundo is simple and great. Such a difference from the broken family we see within the book.

Tom King has been masterful in his portrayal of Vision and his makeshift family. He has written an intensely engrossing tale of humanity, prejudice, fear, and family psychology. More importantly, my biggest takeaway from King’s run was this: How does one “man,” after having removed his own emotional attachments to his memories, expect to teach humanity to his family? It was all a recipe for disaster, and King continues to up the scale in this penultimate chapter.

One of the highlights, while not surprising, was to see the Vision casually laying waste to the Avengers (albeit contradicting Agatha Harkness’ assertions that the Vision will kill them). It really hammers home just how powerful the Vision really is when he is determined to meet his goal.

 

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Vision’s wife, Virginia, steals the show once again as she degrades even further in her psychosis. From Virginia’s confession to Viv about her part in CK’s death (what will she do with that confession, I wonder?), to her broken moment’s alone, to Victor Mancha’s promised end, and everywhere in between, Tom King weaves Virginia in so many fluid ways that seems reminiscent of the engrams she is based on. I was left even more disturbed by Virginia’s nonchalant attitude throughout each moment, and especially by her dialogue with her husband. Her casual demeanor just made this story even creepier.

Lowlights

I did feel that Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s art wasn’t as up to par in this issue as I’d remembered it in previous ones. Some pages appeared less polished, less detailed, and more rushed.

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To me, the only oddity in Tom King’s writing was during Scarlet Witch’s interaction with the Vision. I’ve never seen her refer to him with any sort of nickname, so it took me off-course when she called him “V.” I didn’t know she was accustomed to using nicknames, but I could be wrong and that she’s used it in the past.

Recap

Tom King continues to amaze in Vision #11, with a striking degradation of the tenuously-knit family of the Vision. This entire series has been a pleasure to read, and I can’t wait to see how King ends it in the next issue.

END THROWDOWN.

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Overview: Starbrand and Nightmask

“…And I’m nothing…Nothing but a pretender.”

Hey, all, it’s D.C. to produce after a short hiatus. Work and life got in the way in too many ways, but we’re back to catch up and throw down on all we’ve read.

I am glad that I have branched out my tastes in recent years. It helps train that mental palette to see what’s really of worth out there in the literature and graphic world. Unfortunately, I made a mistake reading Marvel’s only trade of Starbrand and Nightmask:

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Starbrand? Nightmask?

For those unfamiliar with the characters, Starbrand and Nightmask for characters from one of Marvel Comics’ more popular alternate universe brands, New Universe (and its similar “revival,” newuniversal). They are two of a series of beings that emerge when a planet is on a growth of universal proportions. The White Event producees, among others, a Starbrand–the earth’s planetary defense system, endowed with staggering power–and a Nightmask, which serves as the Starbrand’s guide and conscience.

College student Kevin Conner mistakenly received the Starbrand during Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers run, with the “perfect human” Adam becoming the Nightmask, during a broken White Event. In this cancelled Marvel run, creative team Greg Weisman and Domo Stanton decide to take the cosmically powdered duo to college to connect with humanity.

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Expectations?

I was very much on the fence with reading this series on premise alone. Jonathan Hickman’s modern take on these two characters was fantastic. But for Greg Weisman to take them to college to connect with humanity? How often, and for how long, has a premise like that ever worked for characters of such a high power set.

Well, I can see the reason why, but I would have hoped Starbrand and Nightmask would not have to go to college (and those of us who went, know what it’s like) just to connect with humanity. You don’t see Hyperion running off to community college in his solo series to understand humans.

But with most things, I wanted to see if my instincts were wrong, so I bought Volume 1: Eternity’s Children (Attend University).

Highlights?

Highlights…highlights…

No. I don’t have any. Really.

If there’s any saving grace here, it is that Greg Weisman mostly kept Nightmask true to his character: the stoic adviser to the Starbrand. That is all.

Lowlights?

Writer Greg Weisman. He is another example of a writer who does not research the characters he is chosen to headline. Starbrand and Nightmask were given foundations via Jonathan Hickman. Kevin Conner, from what I read, was a young man barely growing into his role as the broken planetary defense system, an unworthy person granted cosmic power. Still he shows a quiet eagerness to be a team player and grow into his role. He whined a little bit, but when your first power spike causes massive death and destruction of an entire school, how would you carry yourself?

Weisman’s take on Starbrand was both grating and disappointing. Wiesman took this uncertain yet adjusting young man and turned him into a generic character with a distinct millennial streak. Starbrand wasn’t one to use the word “Dude,” especially to address Nightmask, but Wiesman has Kevin using that word so often. It’s like he was trying too hard to be one of the other kids. To that end, he lacked any individuality Hickman brought to Starbrand.

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The plot was abysmal. To a certain extent, I can understand Starbrand needing to reconnect with his humanity in the wake of exploring his cosmic level powers. Even the premise of this arc was ideal: other cosmic aspects desire to kill Starbrand in order to destroy the earth, so–surprise, surprise–the universe would meet its rightful death.

Now, the problems I have with that premise is this: after Secret Wars, in which we saw the reconstruction of the multiverse, why would there be forces trying to prematurely destroy the universe again, even when the in-story explanation was that the universe’s death was not to be for millennia to come? It just didn’t come to fruition at all.

The activation of a White Event in other parts of the universe was touched on, but it made for a shoddy story. By now we should have some understanding of why White Events occur, but how what happens when two White Event analogs meet? Weisman brings in a Kree Starbrand to answer this question, and this results:

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What was that, indeed?

It was another adolescent and ill-defined turn: that the White Event analogs inexplicably desire to mate as a failsafe against one another. Why a failsafe? Why an attraction? What would that serve, and why would the universe risk progeny of galactic proportions as the proper failsafe? What if same-gendered analogs (two male Nightmasks, for example) met up? This “failsafe” was just thrown in there as if it were panacea for the bad storyline already unfolding.

Speaking of ill-defined: the supporting cast was passable (nothing worth noting), but to write off Kevin’s attraction to one girl as having originated from her being the originally-destined Starbrand? How could Nightmask know that just from a conversation with a classmate? How did Nightmask even know the criteria needed to be a Starbrand? Why weren’t we, the readers, given better insight into this before it was just thrown out there as more panacea? More importantly, why is the fact that she was to be Starbrand fitting for her being attracted to the current Starbrand, and vice-versa?

None of this even made half-assed sense.

 

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Starbrand before…

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…and Starbrand NOW.

Now that I’ve exhausted myself on Greg Weisman’s immature writing, let’s discuss artist Domo Stanton.

Just awful. Starbrand may be 20 years old, but why is he drawn as if he’s 13? It was such an eyesore to see such childish, cartoonish art on characters that exude NOTHING resembling childishness. Stanton just made Starbrand foolish by way of his pencils. This sort of art may work for Power Pack, Howard the Duck, or Squirrel Girl, but not for the serious side of the Marvel Universe.

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What could’ve been better?

So much, simply put.

For one, Weisman could’ve just written a better premise. To hell with going to college to connect with humanity. Just going to a place where loss of control is almost guaranteed? It sounded like a recipe of disaster to have two cosmically-powered young men going to a place where bad decisions happen. What if Kevin got trashed or emotionally unstable and blew up this school?–granted, he DID get drunk, and it is surprising that he didn’t lose control of his powers at that time.

But to continue…much better scripts would’ve explored the White Event more, what components of the White Event were needed and missing (ie: Justice, Cipher, Spitfire), and what those missing components mean for the ascension of Earth on the scale it was meant to.

Nightmask’s extent of humanity could’ve been explored, as well as his relationship–or lack thereof–with his creator, Ex Nihilo–who, at this point, has not been shown, even though every other major player during the incursion saga returned alive.

Bringing Captain Universe back would have been a good move, too, for allowing Starbrand and Nightmask to explore the entire universe to gain some much needed maturity and perspective on their roles.

Not to mention the art. There needs to be art that benefits the elements and personalities of the characters. You can’t just dab on a cartoonish artist with cosmic-level protectors and pretend that it would work.

Recap

Starbrand and Nightmask had all the potential of a great, existential series. However, an adolescent premise, poor understanding, and piss-poor execution by Greg Weisman made this series deserving of cancellation. Too many plot elements were thrown in for no good reason, and it just made for a terrible read. Domo Stanton’s likewise adolescent art retards any aesthetics of the characters developed from Jonathan Hickman’s incursion saga. Together, this creative team made this series an arduous chore to get through (seriously, it took me a week or so to read it).

This was a poor, poor series to read, and I don’t recommend it to anyone. I have hopes that a much more mature writer and much better artist could bring these characters back into focus and to new heights.

END THROWDOWN.

Daredevil Annual #1

“What did it sound like?”

Salve, all you beautiful people!

(That’s “Hello” in Latin…heh.)

This is D.C. here to throw down on one of the books I read this week: Marvel’s Daredevil Annual #1.

First off, I’ll throw major props to artist Skottie Young for this hilariously cute variant cover. It doesn’t matter what he’s drawing, whether it’s superheroes, fantasy, or even something outlandishly vulgar like I Hate Fairyland (please read that), Young’s art always has a youthful feel.

Now, back to the content of this one-shot annual…

Kay read this before me, knowing that she’s not too familiar with Daredevil, and even less familiar with the primary character solicited in this book, Echo (whom you might remember from my favorable review before). When we discussed this book a couple of weeks ago, she pretty much ripped it apart in everything, art and dialogue.

Since Kay does have a degree in film and media studies (GO TITANS!), I took her assessment with some weight. With my more extensive knowledge of comics, and my familiarity with both Daredevil and Echo, I wanted to see what I thought of this book.

I’m with Kay.

The Story?

How do I say this…

The main story is crap. Pure, unadulterated crap. It’d been a while since I thought a book was a complete waste of money. A waste of five dollars on a comic? That is much worse.

For anyone who’s read Moon Knight in the last 4-5 years, you’d know that Maya Lopez, aka Echo (aka Ronin, when she first joined the New Avengers…it was awesome!), was killed by Count Nefaria. She’s died before in the first volume of New Avengers, but her resurrection was easily explained by way of that pesky ninja group, the Hand.

Nothing angers me more than a writer like Charles Soule reinforcing my reasons for disliking him. I hated his take on the Inhumans, and his current run on Daredevil already had me iffy, but this annual…what the hell was he thinking?

You don’t take a character who was very dead some years ago, and introduce her, alive and well, without any sort of of credible reason. Never. All we get from Soule is this:

(For those of you who can’t read the text well, my complaint is on, “Similarly mysterious circumstances have lead to the resurrection of [Echo]…”)

I’m sorry, but as a person who loves reason in his fiction, you don’t piss me off by just throw in an “Oh, by the way” comment to excuse a dead character being alive. It’s bad enough that the mechanism of Dardevil making everyone forget his identity hasn’t be revealed, but on what planet can Soule justify Echo’s resurrection with a stupid, single sentence?!

Even worse, none of this was addressed in the story presented. This already set a terrible tone.

The rest of the first story was an abomination. The antagonist, Ulysses Klaw appears out of nowhere, without warning, and without any good characterization on his part. No actual dialogue between Klaw and Echo, or even Klaw and Daredevil. Klaw’s appears was akin to a commercial. A legit, 30-second commercial.

Soule’s intro page explicitly stated that Echo and Daredevil hadn’t crossed paths in some time…well, when they cross paths, why is there such a hollow dialogue between them? She had such a fierce love and devotion to Daredevil, and this is what Soule wrote them like? That’s the best he could do? No passion, passable familiarity, no internal dialogue by Echo when she sees Daredevil and she grabs onto him…

Did he even research these characters, or did he just go rogue like he does in Uncanny Inhumans? Is Soule just writing characters to meet deadlines? Because this ran as dull as his other books.

And the art…god. What piss poor art. I thought it looked familiar, and then I went back to the intro page and saw why: Vanesa Del Rey, the same artist who wrote an issue of Scarlet Witch’s current book. I critiqued her work before, but I’ll say it as I said before: Vanesa is a piss-poor artist for this genre. Observe.

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This isn’t working. Del Rey made a beautiful woman like Scarlet Witch ugly, and she does the same disservice to Echo. Echo is an attractive Native American, but Del Rey just fails horrendously at drawing faces. She can get the proportions of a body down, but…you can’t go far if you can’t do a face well.

And this is Klaw? Grown to massive proportions, yes, but…all squiggly, as if this is what personifies sound? I just can’t stand Del Rey’s take on any character.

The only thing I can praise in this story was the different coloring on the music notes to show which were committed by Klaw, versus those by Echo in her effort to save scores of people from Klaw. Other than that…absolute nothing worked in this tale.

“Fragments,” the second tale that covers known Daredevil character Melvin Potter,  Gladiator, was handled somewhat better by Roger McKenzie, and drawn better by Ben Torres. Torres’ art is nothing particularly special, but it’s pulp quality works for Daredevil’s world.

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Unfortunately, the story was just too fast paced for the short amount of pages provided. I feel that Torres could’ve written a more efficient tale of the tormented Gladiator and his relationship with Daredevil. But it is what it is.

Recap

Daredevil Annual #1 is a pure piece of crap and a waste of money. That is the beginning and end of it. I’m incredibly disappointed by Charles Soule’s take on Echo, and there’s plenty of sources with which he could have used to learn about both Echo and Klaw. Worse yet, you do NOT write about a character and just magically have her alive without some fleshed out reason. EVER. This was easily one of the worst resurrections I’ve seen…or not seen, since Soule couldn’t even respect his readership enough to address the how or why.

Vanesa Del Rey…I don’t know how she is getting work with such ugly art. Perhaps she’s not a terrible artist. But she certainly isn’t a good enough artist for Daredevil or Scarlet Witch.

END THROWDOWN.

Nighthawk

Greetings, people. This is D.C. back for a throwdown on a Marvel piece.

Now, I understand the flack Marvel comics has had over the last year or so, especially with regards to its All-New, All-Different initiative. In spite of that, I try hard to give any book that interests me a shot. So when I hear there was a new Nighthawk series coming out, I had to check it out.

Who the **** is Nighthawk?

Haha. If you ask something that simple, you might get a complex answer. In the 616 universe, several versions of Nighthawk have surfaced since the 1960s Avengers run. This version, Kyle Richmond, starred in the Marvel Max version of the Squadron Supreme. It was there that the Batman-gone-wrong with a racist streak waged a violent war on crime. As the last survivor of his universe, Nighthawk and other “orphans” formed the newest iteration of the Squadron Supreme in the 616.

Why the flack for this series?

When word of Nighthawk floated the ‘net, I saw scores of people denouncing this series as inherently racist and forcing a political agenda.

It is my view that…there is NO comic book publisher that doesn’t have some sort of agenda. To complain about an agenda tells me that dissenters only complain because it’s something they don’t agree with, similar to the debate about Captain America and Hydra.

In an interview with the creative team, writer David Walker had a plan to address the sensitive racial and societal tensions that still live in our society today, and how a violent man like Nighthawk will fight this disease. Walker intended to write an angry Nighthawk who is at conflict with himself, struggling to reconcile his murderous crusade with the more pacifistic teachings of his parents.

Violence, deconstructing real life issues, and inner conflict and reflection? This story sounded promising, so what better way to see how it goes than to read?

Here’s where I got out of the first three issues.

The Art?

In a word: ugly.

In two words: ugly and inappropriate.

When you think of a violent Batman pastiche, you might expect something consistent with a crime-fighting or gritty book–dark colors, somber or tense atmosphere, art that just screams violence. Books like PunisherBatman: Arkham Asylum, Daredevil, and Sin City come to mind.

You get none of that feeling in this series. Ramon Villalobos draws a world that just looks cartoonish and in no way what I would expect a tense Chicago area to be. The colors by Tamra Bonvillain are just off-putting with a series of violence and dramatic tension. Even the blood is a cartoonish pink, rather than crimson or red. How can you take a violent series seriously when the blood spilled resembles pink Silly String or bubblegum?

 

I found many of Villalobos’ facial expressions to be inappropriate. Some characters who were attacked had expressions that didn’t reflect the acts or actions. A detective’s conversation with Nighthawk was terrible to read, just because of the expressions.

The most disappointing part is that the cover art is so, so much better than the interior art. I’ve enjoyed each cover I’ve seen, but it soured the experience even more once the book is opened. For example, the following cover: tense, dark, and colors resembling blood:

The Story?

It might be too soon to say, but David Walker has not delivered well on this series. We see tales of the violence and racial tensions, but it seems as if Nighthawk isn’t as concerned with those issues, aside from just taking on weapons sales. I don’t see any engaging dialogue or how Nighthawk sees the racism and tension in this new world he’s in, or how it might have mirrored his own. There’s so little introspection of the character.

Speaking of weak introspection…There’s very little in Nighthawk’s introspection of his actions versus the teachings by his parents. If he’s been at this for 8 months by the time the series starts, we should be getting an eyeful of his internal struggle. We get perhaps a page or two of it in one or two issues, but not much past that. That is not good building on this character that should be three-dimensional. So far, we just have violent, racist, vigilante. There’s been too little of Nighthawk’s philanthropic identity, so it feels you’re reading a book purely on Nighthawk, not of Kyle Richmond. If that is the focus, we should be getting some dialogue as to why, or how that affect Kyle’s social and personal lives.

THIS is the extent of his internal struggle…

I hate the cast. I can’t stand these characters. A story can’t go well with a shoddy cast. Nighthawk’s assistant, Tilda Johnson, is probably one of the most vapid characters I’ve seen. She has terrible and terribly consistent one-liners about wanting weapons, praising destruction, and the like. Her other quips are hardly worth reading, and that’s even worse. There is absolutely nothing engaging I got out of her. Again…vapid.

The villain of this arc, a serial killer called the Revelator, doesn’t even seem to be Nighthawk’s focus. He will talk about him, but it doesn’t even seem as if Nighthawk’s making an effort to hunt down this killer, because the Revelator is murdering white people. The dialogue doesn’t fit the effort in this book. I would like to see more of the Revelator’s psychology revealed, so we’d get a better feel of just who we’re experiencing.

The Verdict?

The Nighthawk series deserves plenty of flack. Writer David Walker has so far failed to deliver on an engaging crimefighter and an engaging environment. The issues Walker promised are addressed, but with little strength, emotion, or evaluation. The protagonist of the series is likewise not evaluated well, even in these beginning issues. The supporting cast leaves so little to be desired. With subpar art by Ramon Villalobos, this series is not even worthy of the character Nighthawk.

Subpar writing, subpar art, subpar colors, subpar cast, subpar protagonist. Nothing redeeming.

Going forward, I would hope that these issues do get recitified and that Walker can deliver on an organic character that is authentically struggling to reconcile his past and present. I need to see a better focus of how Nighthawk’s flawed character affect his own actions and mindset. I need to see this character really reflect on his own merit, not to just have snippets to show it’s there.

I am sorely disappointed by the execution thus far, but I will give this series at least till the end of this arc to see if the creative team can finally step up.

END THROWDOWN.

Scarlet Witch, Vol. 1

“Witchcraft is sick. Witchcraft is ailing.”

Hej hej (there’s some Swedish for ya), this is D.C. back to  catch up on even more throwdowns after a very dry July. Tonight let’s discuss my thoughts on this one:

Scarlet Witch is just one of the many series to come out of Marvel’s All-New, All-Different initiative. I picked up Vol. 1: Witches’ Road and barreled through.

Lesson time!

This isn’t your Scarlet Witch from the Marvel films. Wanda Maximoff was the mutant daughter of Magneto, a long-time Avenger, and prolific magic user. She has had a long, sordid history, and her mental instability has resulted in the Avengers disbanding (Avengers Disassembled) and nearly made mutants extinct (House of M and Decimation).

Unresolved history is certain trope of Wanda’s: once a mutant and constantly having her family background questioned and retconned, recent stories have resulted in her no longer being a mutant, let alone Magneto’s birth daughter.

Highlights

Vol. 1: Witches’ Road takes Wanda’s life in a different direction far away from the Avengers, and deeper into the world of witchcraft. Not the world of magic like in Dr. Strange, but witchcraft. Writer James Robinson does a great job of building up Wanda’s world with stories of witchcraft and the price of using it.

I enjoyed Robinson’s portrayal of the Scarlet Witch. He reminds the reader that she is aware of her own mental illness, yet she is still a strong woman with confidence in her skills and prowess apart from the Avengers that she’s been so tightly tethered to for most of her history.

It seemed as if Robinson really did his research in presenting the lore in Scarlet Witch, including Greek and Irish lore. I’ve always had a love for folklore and mythology, so I was very much drawn in by Robinson’s efforts.

The cover art is certain worth mentioning, too. Most of it was just plain great.

Lowlights: The Art

Volume 1 had five issues, and a different artist in every issue. Different artists often means different art styles. I’ve never liked when a book had different artists every issue. It makes the flow and feel of a trade, which usually covers an arc, disjointed.

The best artist by far was Marco Rudy. His painted art was beautifully rendered and gave a perfect picture of the dark and hidden world of witchcraft. Rudy has a great mastery of anatomy, which is always a great thing. I think Rudy definitely captured the essence of what Scarlet Witch is.

Every other artist I didn’t like at all.

Vanesa Del Rey’s art didn’t fit well at all for Scarlet Witch, seeming more appropriate for a “pulp fiction” type. Worse was her terrible facial depictions in this book, especially the eyes. Scarlet Witch always has been a beautiful woman, and Del Rey makes her look haggard. Javier Pulido suffers from the same downfall as Del Rey, bad eyes and facials, with art that is just mismatched for the feel of a mystic title. Pulido’s art is more fitting elsewhere, but I’m not sure where.

Del Rey’s portrayal…

…and Pulido’s.

Steve Dillon…His art has always been smooth and was better than most of the others, but I’ve never been keen on his art. I’m only realizing now that Dillon has a real thing with accenting the philtrum–the area between the nose and upper lip. It always looks weird. I don’t like how he does teeth as well–the black areas make it look like everyone has gaps. These things just scream at me in a book like Scarlet Witch. It may work for The Punisher, but not here.

Chris Visions fared a little better, but that’s because his art works just well in the supernatural realm called Witches’ Road. When the setting changes from plane to plane, it’s nice to see a shift in art style to reflect it; Visions’ art worked adequately in those parts, but I wish it had a more mystical feel, rather than just being different. The colors and art together didn’t quite suffice.

 

Lowlights 2: Story

Well, the story overall was good. Again, Robinson did an adquate job painting Scarlet Witch’s world. What bothered me was the revelation in the Witches’ Road that, for the umpteenth time, revised Wanda’s family relations. How many times must we read that Wanda’s supposed parents aren’t what we were led to believe. Unresolved history should not be a consistent plotline for a character. Hopefully Robinson can let this be laid to rest once and for all.

Recap

For those who like the supernatural side of fiction, Scarlet Witch, Vol. 1: Witches’ Road does a great job of touching on not just magic, but witchcraft. James Robinson really knows how to capture the essence of Wanda Maximoff as she tackles this side of the Marvel universe.

The cycle of artists did an overall disservice to the overall arc by giving it a disjointed feel. Marco Rudy by far did a fantastic job, but the others were simply not up to par. Hopefully the next trade and issues have a more steady artist.

Regardless of my issues with this series, the mystical aspect alone may force me to buy the next book to come.

END THROWDOWN!

 

Review of 3: Book of Death, Cyborg, Invincible Iron Man

Hey, all, D.C. here. I’ve spent so much time reading and so little writing, that I think I will throwdown in a different way with quick reviews on some of my reads to play catch-up.

Book of Death

Valiant’s 2015 event Book of Death picks up some time after The Valiant storyline. This time around, a new Geomancer is being manipulated by one of Valiant’s most enduring villains in an effort tear the world asunder. Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior and Tama, a time-displaced Geomancer, race to stop the catastrophic events detailed in Tama’s Book of the Geomancers from coming to pass. Of course, the Eternal Warrior’s allies in Unity believe Tama is the cause of dozens of murders, and seek to put her and Gilad down.

Like The Valiant, Book of Death is a very quick read, with Robert Venditti using the members of Unity pretty nicely. Venditti does not waste time and paper in this book, such as Eternal Warrior handing his allies their asses in entertaining fashion. It is pleasing to see an isolated tale that simply cranks out the story while maintaining sufficient (and sometimes compelling) interactions between the warring protagonists and antagonist.

Robert Gill’s art is nothing particularly special in my eyes, but his appropriate facial expressions, body language, and gestures are an adequate job. This is focused well on a rough and desperate Gilad Anni-Padda, who is driven to prevent further failure of his duty. The ending was written just as simply with satisfaction and finality. It twists the fate of an immortal warrior on its head, but also sets the tone for the follow-up series, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior.

Cyborg, Vol. 1: Unplugged

I finally decided to crank out DC’s Cyborg, Vol. 1: Unplugged. David F. Walker does a good job focusing on the thoughts and insecurities of Cyborg in the New 52, and one of–in my eyes–seriously intelligent black characters in comics.

Walker adequately delved into the layers of Victor Stone: his friendships and rivalries; his superheroic identity, his internal conflict about how he sees himself and how he is viewed by others; his dysfunctional upbringing…and how they all serve to evolve Cyborg, literally and figuratively.

It was good to see Cyborg in his own element, and in his hometown, interacting with people only he would know. I thought some parts of Walker’s portrayal came off as silly, but that might have been an intentional show of Cyborg’s crass and non-very humorous sense of humor. Not everyone can be very funny, right?

Ivan Reis primarily does the art for this first volume, and he does a great job presenting smooth and detailed art. Reis shows wonderfully intricate detail to the cybernetics on Cyborg and his antagonists.

I don’t get to read many black-centric comic characters, and this was one that did a character like Cyborg some justice.

Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1: Reboot

Marvel’s flagship All-New, All-Different Marvel title was something I was waiting to tackle. Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1: Reboot delves right into Tony Stark’s attempts to reinvent himself after a mid-life crisis style…crisis…when his ingenuity is questioned and challenged.

I enjoyed the new cast in Invincible Iron Man. For the most part. David Marquez’s art is great. He draws a new, vivaciously intelligent woman in Stark’s life who challenges his bravado in big ways. Dr. Doom’s return post-Secret Wars was portrayed very well, yet there is still much mystery as to Doom’s motivations and machinations. Madame Masque’s unmitigated insanity is always a pleasure to read.

What really started soured this experience, though, was Brian Michael Bendis’ portrayal of Iron Man. It seemed obvious, to me, that Bendis was trying much too hard to capitalize on the Marvel Cinematic Universe films and trying to invoke Robert Downey, Jr.too much. The comedy quickly lost its luster. Much of the story arc was honestly forget to me, aside from Madame Masque, so I think Bendis needs to find a spark that will give weight to this book.

Mary Jane Watson’s inclusion in Invincible Iron Man is of no problem to me. I have always believed that characters don’t “belong” in a particular book, and that they can find a place in any place, in any book, with the right reasons and writer. It changes the dynamics. And you can see the dynamics start to shift for both MJ and Iron Man. The curse of continuity changes reared its ugly head when Tony introduced himself to MJ. How is it that they don’t know one another when Spider-Man was an Avenger, when MJ lived in Stark Tower for a time? Even after Spider-Man’s One More Day storyline, there should be no reason these two would introduce themselves. And that moment soured the experience even more.

Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1 has much to offer, but it also leaves much to be desired. I hope Bendis and polish his portrayal of Iron Man without trying to copy-paste Robert Downey, Jr. on paper. If I wanted that, I’d save money and watch the MCU films.

Hm…three quick reviews? There will be more to come. Tune in next time, folks.

END THROWDOWN!

The Ultimates

“What lies outside imagination? Only the unimaginable.”

Hey, all, D.C. here for a throwdown. I’ve been playing catch up with the All-New, All-Different Marvel (and DC Rebirth, by the way), but I was particularly drawn to The Ultimates.

 

Who are the Ultimates?

These aren’t your Earth-1610 Ultimates. In Earth-616, the Ultimates consist of: Captain Marvel, dimension-walker Miss America, antimatter genius Blue Marvel, Black Panther, and Spectrum. By the creative team of Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort, the Ultimates are more than superheroes: they specialize in proactive solutions in the universe. The ultimate solution to the galaxy’s problems.

I read through issues #1-8, and some thoughts on what this series is about, and what can we look forward to.

The Pluses

Al Ewing

Al Ewing is writing a very dynamic and intricate story. With this much fictional science in the book, you can only imagine how much homework needs to be done with understanding thermodynamics, quantum physics, or any science, and to twist and spin it with fiction to make a series work. I think Ewing does it very well thus far.

The cast?

I think the cast is great. Unless you’re reading a black-majority comic like Black Panther, it is very uncommon to see any primary cast as anything other than Caucasian. Captain Marvel is the only (primary) white character, but I did not think it felt forced at all. We have strong, intelligent powerhouses on the team, and they’re not white. How often can you see that?

A great aspect to The Ultimates so far is the growing cast of supporting and guest characters. Puck? Raz Malhotra, the new Giant-Man? Anti-Man, who I have no experience with? Blue Marvel’s prodigious and powerful children? There was someone different almost every issue, that it was exciting. Who will show up next? Will any of these be mainstays or supporting characters? I look forward to that.

The plot?

I have a degree in biological science, and a master’s degree in forensics. I like to think I am an intelligent person. I love, love LOVE the scientific aspects of this book. The abundance of science, thanks to Black Panther and Blue Marvel, keeps me interested in this series in a different way, and how the Ultimates’ solutions–or their tampering–can affect the universe. This book is clearly of the superhero genre, but thanks to the science and action, it is much more.

It’s challenging the reader to understand.

All dat science-y stuff…

 

The scientific aspects also plays a big part in this story. With the Ultimates playing at proactive solutions, it is only a matter of time when their actions will draw the alarm and ire of other races (like the Shi’ar). They have intelligent members, and interdimensional knowledge through Miss America, but they do not have full understanding of the forces, laws, and roles in the universe. Their actions will put Earth at odds with the other worlds at some point.

Heck…with Galactus’ new, forced role by the Ultimates, what does that spell for in the galaxy? Galactus had a vital role as a world destroyer. Now that he’s no longer the devourer, what does that do to the laws of the universe? Will someone else take on the role of the devourer? Do the Ultimates even understand why Galactus was the devourer?

THE LIFEGIVER

Dan Brown, colorist

You see for yourself. Dan Brown does some great and vivid coloring in this series. I feel they are appropriate with a sci-fi, superhero series.

The Minuses

This is more of a subjective minus:

Kay read through issues #1-5 and admitted that she was lost in the science aspect. So, I warn you: for those who are very bad at understanding scientific concepts (like Kay), even from a fictional perspective, you might have trouble. For those of you, like me, who either have an education in or love of science, you’re good to go.

Now for the real minus:

Kenneth Rocafort

Rocafort is a great artist. His art is crisp, neat, detailed, and proportional. But as I read more and more issues of The Ultimates, I noticed one glaring detail:

Rocafort is not good at facial expressions.

Observe Captain Marvel:

Above is a great drawing of Carol Danvers, but outside of this, her normal expressions are often these:

 

Blue Marvel’s and Spectrum’s facial expressions likewise don’t change much. Blue Marvel usually looks like he’s smirking. When they’re happy, normal, or even in combat, those facials don’t deviate enough. Their emotions aren’t conveyed well as a result. It is a very big bother, and I hope Rocafort can develop further and rectify this. My further enjoyment of this book hinges on that.

Development?

Many of these characters are “fully developed,” depending on your meaning. I liked Ewing’s nod to Spectrum’s developed powers and what that means for her humanity. But I do hope that with this type of series, that the other characters will get further developed. I have such little experience with Blue Marvel and Miss America, and I hope to see more from them. Miss America especially, given her youth compared to the adults she is teamed up with.

…I’m in love…

Recap

The Ultimates is a good series. I think a team focused on solutions over battles presents a better balance to the overall Marvel Universe, and the overall line of books published right now. Al Ewing has a tough role in presenting the universe from a scientific aspect, but he is taking on this role in stellar fashion. Kenneth Rocafort’s art is great, but he really needs to work on expressing emotion better with these characters.

With a series that goes from earth to the end of the universe, there are ripe stories waiting to be told with the Ultimates and the many species in the Marvel Universe. I have enjoyed this series so far, and look forward to how the Ultimates develop as individuals and as a team.

END THROWDOWN.

Uncanny Inhumans, Vol. 1

Welcome, all. This is D. C. here to throw down yet again on a book I was hopeful for.

(Don’t miss Kay’s review on the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles miniseries today, too!).

Coming off of my enjoyment over Jae Lee’s fantastic take on the Inhumans, I decided to give this a shot:

What’s the plot?

Uncanny Avengers, Vol. 1: Time Crush covers the first few issues by Charles Soule and Steve McNiven, known for their collaboration on Death of Wolverine. Like all other All-New, All-Different Marvel books, takes place 8 months after the end of Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars event (my review on that can be seen here). The Inhumans, who are very publicly advocating good will and integration with the rest of the human world, aid former king Black Bolt as he rectifies a past deal he made with time-travelling villain Kang the Conqueror–a move that causes obvious conflict between Kang and the Inhumans.

How’s the creative team?

Charles Soule. I enjoyed his primal and simple script in Death of Wolverine. I have found his take on the current Daredevil series adequate; I think he characterizes Matt Murdock well.

I do not like his portrayal of the cast of Uncanny Inhumans at all.

Perhaps I am biased because I thought Jae Lee portrayed the Inhumans in his 1999 series extremely well. They were distinct individuals with idiosyncrasies of their own, even Lockjaw and Black Bolt. When you see a stellar portrayal, it is difficult to move from that. It is also impossible to completely replicate another writer (possibly). But you would hope that a writer will consider the intricacies and nuances that a prior writer gave a character to give said character both life and individuality.

I do not feel Charles Soule’s take shows that. The characters all speak the same, with the obvious exception of former X-Man Beast. The Inhumans and the Nuhumans all speak similarly. Even the Inhuman Royal Family lacks diction and behavior one would expect of a regal line. They don’t come off as individuals to me. Just a throng of…plain people. Boring, plain, similar people. Even the Human Torch.

I appreciate Soule making use of the Nuhumans, but even they aren’t compelling to me. I don’t find any of these characters interesting. They’re just the latest set of neophytes brought to the Marvel universe.

No, I take that back. I did take a liking to Reader, even if he came off as whiny and combatant. I liked the severe limitations of his abilities. Limitations of one’s powers is always something I enjoyed, because it lends something to his or her character and development.

And who doesn’t like a pet-lover?

However, it was the story that carried me through Volume 1. Black Bolt’s effort to liberate his son Ahura from Kang was a valiant effort that any parent (presumably) can relate to, even if he was reneging on his deal. I also enjoyed Kang’s portrayal in this arc very much. Soule really wrote him as a honorable, vindictive, skillful and calculating man. I give Soule props for an exciting villain.

 

Steve McNiven’s art is a plus for this series. I always liked his sharp and clear pencils when it comes to characters and anatomy. McNiven really tackles the high volume of detail you might expect when dealing with a villain like Kang.

 

Other issues that burned my @$$

As I wrote this, I realized there were more issues I had with Uncanny Inhumans. Here we go:

  1. The only issue I had with Kang’s portrayal was in what Beast said regarding himself. Beast claimed to be attuned to time alterations, given how many times he’s mucked with it. But when the Inhumans time travel to a pivotal moment, even if their doubles are present, how is it that Kang, with years of experience and expertise ahead of Beast in time travel and manipulation, was unable to detect them? That is a hole I find unsettling.
  2. Where is this book going? What is its goal as a series? The Inhumans are certainly fulfilling their goal of integration and being a part of the world. The world seems to be well-acclimated to them already. So…beyond that, what is their aim? Simply safe haven for the Nuhumans? I just don’t see a real, long-term goal.
  3. The surprising relationship between Medusa and Johnny Storm. Seriously? That doesn’t even feel like it should be a thing. Their relationship lacks passion and depth to me. Certainly the depth you’d have seen between Black Bolt and Medusa…or the depth that’s been seen between Johnny and Crystal, Medusa sister. Isn’t there a girl code about dating exes, even among the Inhumans?

Violation! (Or sloppy seconds?)

But the most unsettling part of this series? I ignored the rants on social media that the Inhumans were substituting the X-Men in every way. Any praise and rants I would take with a grain of salt and judge a piece of work on my own.

And you know what? The Inhumans really do seem to be substituting the X-Men in almost every way:

  • A segregated, disenfranchised group that expanded in number: dispersing the Phoenix Force for the X-Men, release of the terrigen mist for the Inhumans.
  • Said disenfranchised group trying to make themselves a closer part of humanity through heroics: for the X-Men, it was during Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run and when they relocated to San Francisco in Manifest Destiny; for the Inhumans, it is now.
  • Both groups having dealt with sinister forces trying to make use of newly emerged members of their species: X-Men, it’s happened to Cannonball and others; you see the same happening in Uncanny Avengers.
  • Both groups having segregated in general: the Inhumans, for most of their history; the X-Men, now in Limbo due to the M-Pox…the umpteenth culprit in their annihilation.

Recap

I had high hopes for Uncanny Inhumans, given my experience with the Inhumans. Charles Soule did write a compelling villain, and Steve McNiven’s art is as satisfying as always. However, I found the Inhumans as a whole to be uninteresting and severely lacking in individualism.

I’m also disheartened to see that Marvel is switching the Inhumans for the X-Men. And in my eyes, Soule is simply not up to par with making the Inhumans very interesting in the long run. Nothing in this book implies a real end goal, other than just to pump out issues.

Perhaps I need to read his prior Marvel Now! iteration of the Inhumans to find interesting characters. Because this arc was not a very encouraging jumping on point for me.

END THROWDOWN.

 

 

New Avengers: The Illuminati

“Reed Richards…I expected more from you.”

Hey, hey, everyone. D.C. here to share my thoughts with you on more comics.

I’ve talked before about my thoughts on what should have happened in the All-New, All-Different Marvel, but with all the talk about Marvel’s Civil War II event (which I’ve enjoyed thus far), I had a sense of nostalgia and decided to read probably one of the quintessential starters to any Civil War:

While the Avengers: Illuminati one-shot is a tie-in to Marvel’s first Civil War event, it’s also a prequel to other storylines. This book is chronologically set after the Kree-Skrull War, and sets up Planet Hulk, Civil War, World War Hulk, and perhaps others storylines.

Why is this book even good? For one, Brian Michael Bendis writes a very, very compelling story of what we already know: in every society, there is always a group of persons who deem themselves worthy to pave the road to success. Whether it be politicians, kinds, doctors, or some other expert, they take it upon themselves to be the ultimate protectors, the ultimate shepherds of the world.

 

After the Kree-Skrull War, six heroes met and saw themselves fit to meet in secret and to decide the fate and safety of Earth: Professor X of the X-Men; Mr. Fantastic; Namor the Sub-Mariner; Iron Man; Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme; and Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans. They met in the Black Panther’s nation of Wakanda to decide whether the formation of their little faction of experts would be for the best of the world.

Black Panther, the only dissident at the time, put it perfectly: “You just decided all by yourselves that you are the earth’s protectors…What happens when you disagree?”

The book answers just that. These secret six (haha, see what I did there?) decide not to trust their associates, families, and friends, and take it upon themselves to tackle any threat to Earth. But when the Hulk’s latest rampage results in deaths, a schism finally forms. The Superhuman Registration Act which caused the first Civil War broke them until the end of the multiverse mitigated their reformation.

The Illuminati saw several different members since World War Hulk, but the same issues always remained: a group of protectors that could never truly agree on those morally ambiguous methods of safeguarding. Whether it was the Skrull threat, or the Scarlet With, or the X-Men, or the incursions that brought out the All-New, All-Different Marvel setting, these people could never support one another’s decisions. Nor could anyone ever sanction theirs.

I loved the Illuminati’s role in the Marvel Universe all the way to the end Time Runs Out. The moral dilemma seen–the sheer realism–is the perfect darkness you need in a world of heroes. Why, then, has the superhero community let the Illuminati live with impunity? They’d been scrutinized for the most part, but always  welcome back. Why is Iron Man still revered as a member of the Avengers, is if his actions in the Illuminati were his ONLY transgression?

Why are Black Bolt and Black Panther still welcome in their own lands? Why is Namor the only one having been hunted by the Squadron Supreme? Would a group like the Captain Britain Corps had approved of the Illuminati’s efforts?

In the All-New, All-Different Marvel, I would have expected the fallout of the Illuminati to extend past just Black Bolt and Namor’s contact with the Squadron Supreme, and beyond Time Runs Out. I would hope that the last members of the Illuminati to be hunted down and at least made to answer to their hubris and actions.

Perhaps that is what should be happening more in this new Marvel initiative?

END THROWDOWN.

The Steve Rogers/Hydra Issue

Welcome, all. This is D.C. here to throwdown on what everyone seems to be throwing down on. I thought it was time I wrote my own take on this.

As many of you know, read, or heard, Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 came out this week. The end of the issue featured a single page, and a single sentence that seems to be throwing this whole country for a loop.

Dun dun dun…

 

 

What a visceral reaction this generated. What a visceral reaction it generated before people even got to read the issue.

True to my nature, I took the news with intrigue, I took the new articles with a grain of salt, and I disregarded the overwhelming rage sweeping the web and nerdom. I bought Issue #1 to see how this call came about, and how I would feel about it, taking into account my feelings towards Steve Rogers the character, and my almost 30-year experience with him.

How was Issue #1?

First off, let me say that I thought the first issue was okay. Steve’s costume, like anyone’s that changes, will always take time to get accustomed to. I have no malice towards the design, but I think the coloring on the costume wasn’t consistent with that on Jesus Saiz’s cover art it in general.

The dialogue of Cap’s supporting cast really needs work. I think writer Nick Spencer needs to take more time to read up on and to understand the psychology and the idiosyncracies of each character beyond Sharon Carter and Steve Rogers (both of whom were done well, in my eyes).

What pleased me was Nick Spencer’s internal dialogue of Steve Rogers. It showed that this twist in Cap’s association still appears to be rooted in the same values Rogers always had: nobility, altruism, and the belief that one person to change the world.

I was surprised by Sharon Carter’s appearance. When the hell did she get so old? There’s obviously something I missed in between the last books I read, so it’s time for me to do some backtracking.

Why all the hate?

Oh, we all know why there’s so much hate, but is it justified? I guess it depends on who you’re asking. I think critical assessment is what is missing in the discussion about Cap being a Hydra member. Common arguments are:

1. “That’s like saying Batman was responsible for his parents’ deaths!”

That comment has become trendy in the last couple of days. I don’t think I’m even going to dignify that incongruous comment with an analysis. It’s an asinine analogy. It’s illogical, and it’s nonsensical. Please don’t use this in an otherwise meaningful discussion.

2. So Steve’s a Nazi now? That’s stupid!

No. There was no indication that Steve Rogers is, or has ever been, a Nazi. Even if he were affiliated with Hydra from youth, those two points are not mutually inclusive. One does not become a Nazi by becoming a Hydra member, and vice-versa.

Why does that make sense?

Was there not a suicide bomber in issue #1 that wore a swastika and shacked up with white supremacists? Did that make him a white supremacist, or did he join up because he needed protection while in prison? Was it not stated that he had no problem with non-whites? Did that suicide bomber not have difficulty with his associates beating a non-white man to death?

It might be odd to say it, being a black man, but one does not need to wear a swastika to be a Nazi, neo-Nazi, supremacist, or whatever derivative that exists.

Does make the affiliation any less reprehensible? I want to see if that gets answered for Steve Rogers. 

But black-and-white is the way our world wants to work sometimes.

People forget that many, many people join a group or cause not because they believe in everything a group does, but because something in that cause resonates with their fear, anger, hate, love, and desires. One doesn’t need to agree with genocide or the horrific, ugly words; one only needs to agree with any number of beautiful, powerful or manipulative words that may come out of a speaker’s mouths.

(If anyone has seen “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” you understand my message. Beautiful and gripping film, by the way.)

So, no. Until further notice, I disagree with the argument that Rogers is a Nazi. They may have had leading members and done acts that one would liken to Nazism, but think about it like in the real world: does that mean EVERY member of a group do EVERYTHING good and bad related to that group?

3. “Steve Rogers stands up for [insert American value here], and this destroys everything about him/his core ideas!”

First off, we’re adults. Even if you’re not an adult, I would expect us all to argue points without ridiculous hyperbole. It makes you sound emotional, and emotional is a fast track to losing your point in any argument. It is the internet, and I’ll have to accept that people say very emotional things. But that doesn’t mean I’ll take anyone who uses hyperbole like “destroys everything” seriously in a debate.

I don’t like political debate, but I’ll tiptoe as best as I can. For anyone who says that Captain America stands for x, y, and z, and the values of America, I ask this:

If Cap is supposed to embody the ideas of America, which America are we talking about? Whose America? Because I can guarantee you that, from the past until now, people interpret what America was/is very differently. Some have seen America as utopia, but some have seen America as hell. It’s an uncomfortable thought, but that doesn’t make it any less probable.

But as for my view: America is imperfect. It has flaws, just as every person and nation does. Just as Captain America is. America is complex, and it should stand that Steve Rogers would be the same. Many “fans” and other outspoken opponents to this issue believe Cap should not have changed.

There have been times when Steve Rogers didn’t even know what America was anymore. The most recent example I can recall was in the Siege storyline, when Rogers allowed Bucky to keep the shield and identity of Captain America. What’s Rogers’ view of America been since then? Does anyone know for certain?

What is Captain America in an America that is constantly changing? What ARE America’s values now, as opposed to what they WERE?

Most importantly, how should those values and views of America be expressed? Should we damn or shy away from any expression that appears unfavorable to our sensibilities, no matter how possible it could be? Is that an American thing to do?

963095-17_captain_america__who_will_wield__the_shield__one_shot_1

4. “This is a crap/bad story!”

This goes right up there with my issues with hyperbole. I’ll make the argument against this type of comment very simple:

This is the first issue of a book, and the start of an arc. One issue does not make a crap book or arc. If you decide the entirety of a creative team’s run and the entirety of a character off of one page, then you are not a critical thinker at all. You are not properly vetting the book in any significant form, no matter how many issues of Captain America you’ve amassed, or how extensive you think your comic knowledge is.

Like I said before, Steve’s nobility and core values seem present to me still. Twisted, perhaps, but still. I hope he comes out of this better than now.

5. “This is liberal, destructive bulls#**!”

This is not an argument that has any sort of sense. But for the sake of argument…is a supportive view of Cap’s new status quo unpatriotic or “liberal?”

Well, I had a conversation with a coworker today about Cap’s new status. That coworker is a very proud former Navy man, and an extremely proud conservative. And yet, he explained to me the sensibility in Cap being a Hydra member. So…without going further, I think that fact alone would eliminate the “liberal” argument right there.

Nonetheless, I would expect intelligent people to take time to understand what is happening in this book, and no one can have complete understanding from one issue. I expect us to to do more than cry foul and spout purely subjective and nebulous reasons for why something is “uniformly” bad.

I think Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 had a very interesting and disconcerting twist on Steve’s life. If and when this status is reversed, I do hope there are lasting and real repercussions for Steve, his outlook on America, and how Americans see him.

What is your view of it?

END THROWNDOWN.