Tag Archives: Brian Michael Bendis

Infamous Iron Man #5

“Because now I am proud of you.”

Hey, hey. This is D.C. here. I’m up to my ears in comics (preorders are good, but costly in time-management), but I had a hankerin’ to throw down on Marvel’s Infamous Iron Man.

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Premise

With all the divisiveness over Riri Williams taking on the role of Ironheart and the erroneous belief that she is Iron Man, we have one Victor Von Doom, a new man from his experiences in Secret Wars, looking to make himself a better man by being Iron Man. With the kind of baggage and history Doom’s had, you can imagine he’s got his work cut out for him.

Impressions

The first few issues of Infamous Iron Man had me intrigued. There’s something interesting about a reformation story, especially one involving a man like Doctor Doom. How will he succeed? How will he fail? Brian Michael Bendis took Von Doom on a very interesting, yet low-key, start to his journey. Alex Maleev’s art adds a dark, gothic feel to the armored sorcerer.

At least in the beginning.

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Throughout the first issues, I was stil unclear as to why exactly Doom is targeting the other scientific villains, many of whom he felt a kinship to, as men who have squandered their talents. I doubt he killed any of them since–as always–a death unseen in comics is a death undone. Is Doom merely capturing them? Who can say? With Bendis’ lack of depth and introspection of Doom, it is hard to tell where he goes.

In Infamous Iron Man #5, Bendis adds a major kink in Doom’s path by reintroducing Cynthia Von Doom, Victor’s not-so dead mother. Why such a big thing is introduced in the middle of a vague redemption story isn’t entirely clear. Kay read this as well, and she felt that Bendis is throwing in too many different elements at once–Doom’s nascent heroism, the circumstances of Cynthia Von Doom’s return, why the events of Doctor Strange don’t seem to affect either Von Doom’s access to magic, the Maker, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s intentions with the conflict in Latveria, Amara Perera’s roles. I fear all this will muddy the overall storyline if too few things are brought in and unresolved.

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While Maleev’s art still excels, one thing threw me off during the reunion fight between Doom and his mother: Why are Cynthia’s spells written with Greek letters and hiragana? Did they think that no one would catch that? Looking below on the top panel, and the hiragana don’t seem to mean anything; nor did the Greek letters. Maleev would’ve been better off making up his own glyphs for magical spells…

(However, if anyone can read Japanese, feel free to prove me wrong. Please.)

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The big reveal of the Maker (the villainous Reed Richards of Earth-1610) at the end of the issue adds even more questions than perhaps was needed in this series, least of all is his relation to Cynthia Von Doom and his plans against the new Iron Man.

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With Infamous Iron Man, I have the same problem I’ve had with Bendis’ other series, Invincible Iron Man. Bendis’ writing is much too sparse when writing Doom. Are we to assume that a man, a thinker, a genius like Victor Von Doom, doesn’t have a million thoughts of his path? That he doesn’t wrestle with his darker impulses, the desires he’s acted upon for some 50 years? Is he supposed to be the relatively quiet type, and we’re supposed to just go along for the ride as if that is sufficient?

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I would appreciate knowing more about what’s going on in Doom’s head, especially how he sees himself and those who damn his attempts at heroism at every turn. And while Alex Maleev’s art is superb, it doesn’t suffice when words are lacking. Action can only carry a book so far. Bendis really needs to work on this in the issues to come, or I can’t see myself staying along for Doom’s rise…or his fall.

END THROWDOWN.

 

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Invincible Iron Man #2

“This is life-or-death stuff you’re training for…and I’m not messing around.”

Well, into this new year, and the fictional world is still erupting in craziness. Real life, too, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s time to throw down!

First off, picking up from Kay’s praise of the first issue, is Marvel’s Invincible Iron Man #2.

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Highlights

This issue continues the saga of Riri Williams, the newest contender (or pretender, depending on who you talk to) to the legacy of Tony Stark. What Brian Michael Bendis excels at here is telling a simple story. Simply put: Riri undergoes rigorous training with her Tony Stark-based A.I. system.

I was charmed to see a hero who is both intelligent, but understandably incompetent. Riri has no idea how to think on her feet in the heat of battle, but she manages a victory by the seat of her pants. She was inelegant, clumsy, and hardly what one would see as a “badass heroine,” but she got the work done the only way she knew how. Riri obviously has much to her learn,but her potential was made very clear in a very good way.

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Building on the highlight of this issue was Bendis’ continued intersection of Riri’s background with her present activities. After the events of last issue, we learn the emotional hardships death has had in both Riri’s and her mother’s lives. I was almost disturbed by Riri’s questioning the doctor regarding both her stepfather and her friend’s deaths, but in a good way. It shows that Riri has depths of her personality we have yet to experience…depths that, at her age, could easily lead her to one side or the other of heroism. Near the flashback’s end, we get a simple television clip that shows Riri’s inspiration. We see what has happened in her past and her present, but Bendis is clearly building the in-between, and just how she comes to her first appearance.

Well done, Bendis.

 

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Artist Stefano Caselli and colorist Marte Garcia continue to work their magic to make a commendable issue on a fledgling hero. The times we see Riri’s face is where Caselli excels at emoting our protagonist. She is both stoic, confused and pained, all at once in the flashback. It works so well.

Lowlights

I have a strong personal opinion that captions can enhance a story in many ways. It may be seen as an archaic and dying practice, but captions can aid in the reader understanding who the character is more than just what we see them do.

I feel that the absence of captions in Bendis’ work was a true detriment this time around. While I enjoyed this issue, I feel that there was a missed opportunity to truly understand Riri when it mattered most: during her training and to intersect her thoughts now with the flashback. We see much of Riri’s actions, but what about her feelings, her thoughts, her rage? For a character no one really knows about, I think she could’ve been cared about even more if Bendis were to dig into his character, to throw out those emotions to the reader.

Like I said, i think it was truly a missed opportunity to elevate an otherwise good story.

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Recap

Invincible Iron Man #2 continues to pump up Riri at a good pace. Bendis wrote a great and sufficient tale of Riri’s struggles as a hero, only made better by the art by Caselli and Garcia. I do believe that Bendis really dropped the ball at the chance to provide greater depth to Riri, but the story still served to set up both the protagonist’s capabilities and the potential rogues gallery to come. I look forward to what comes next, and what improvements Bendis may bring. And I hope you do, too.

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!

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.

Daredevil: Out

This is D.C. here to finally throw down on this:

Daredevil, Volume 5: Out, by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev.

It seems silly to even give a small intro, but for those who don’t know…Daredevil is Matt Murdock, a lawyer who was blinded by a radioactive isotope, but which also gave him superhuman senses and a radar similar to echolocation. Daredevil was eventually trained as a ninja and protects the gritty part of New York, Hell’s Kitchen. He is known as the Man Without Fear…oh, and he has an awful, awful relationship history.

Volume 5: Out covers how Daredevil struggles to gain some semblance of control after his secret identity is sold to the press. The stress in Matt’s personal and vigilante lives from the outing is further complicated by his defending the first White Tiger, Hector Ayala, who is under trial for murder.

The Pluses

For those who’ve watched Netflix’s Daredevil, you see how masochistic and self-destructive the titular character is. You see that in spades in the comics as well. Brian Michael Bendis tackled the tormented mindset of Daredevil, and especially the unbridled anger and sociopathy lurking beneath the surface. Even better, it was refreshing to read Foggy Nelson rip into Matt for how everything that’s happened up to this point has been his own fault.

 

Brian Michael Bendis writes nearly every guest character to my liking: you see Spider-Man’s typical wisecracking bravado; Elektra’s sense of enigma; even Black Widow’s uncertain mastery of English when she says, “How do you say…” It was a trip t0 read Bendis’ take on each character.

However, I found it interesting how proper Luke Cage and Jessica Jones were written. I expected much more gruff language out of those two. Not Marvel Max level of profanity, but still.

Alex Maleev did a phenomenal job with his art and captured the essence of what one would imagine reading Daredevil. It’s not cute, cartoonish, or even horrific. It’s just raw and human, sort of how I imagine a pulp, street-level hero like Daredevil to be portrayed.

The murder trial of the first White Tiger, Hector Ayala was just gripping and rough to read. It was fantastic to read a trial that only Matt Murdock can take on. It was as sensational as you can expect any murder trial to go, with the Marvel flair sprinkled in.

Matt, the best there is at what he does

Finally, the covers for these issues were about as fantastic and fitting as the interior art.

The Minuses

Really? The only things I didn’t like were very minor inconsistencies in Alex Maleev’s penciling of both Black Widow and Matt Murdock. One word used during the White Tiger’s trial.

I’m a forensics person (seriously; I have a master’s degree in it), and the fact that the term “blood splatter” is used in Ayala’s trial instead of the correct term, “blood spatter,” it just burns my butthole. It’s improper, but it’s just a wrinkle in the overall storyline.

The Verdict?

Daredevil, Volume 5 was a fantastic read. You get action, but the with the knowledge that the action is NOT important to the overall plot of this story. You get even more insight into Matt Murdock’s mentality and how he takes getting his identity sold out to the public. You see just how self-destructive Murdock actually is. You also see emotion, and how lost and uncertain Matt feels.

Maleev’s art is perfect for capturing the essence and world of Daredevil. I definitely look forward to reading and finding more of Bendis and Maleev’s Daredevil run.

END THROWDOWN.

The Caption Reads..?

Hey, everyone. This is D.C. back for something I want to open up for discussion. I’ve not finished any comic reviews (adult life, you know), but I have several in the works, and just as many questions I want to ask the readers.

Let me state the obvious again: I have read comic books for most of my life. Since comic books have existed, there have been literary devices used in them as often as any other literary work. When my comic book addiction (yes, ADDICTION) was rekindled in full swing, I’ve picked up old and new books alike to indulge in my vice.

However, something started to nag at me as I read more modern books. It was an itch at the forefront of my brain that wouldn’t stop. What was bothering me about the comic books today that did not bother me before? When I came across Ed Brubaker’s The Fade Out (you can read Kay G.’s blog on The Fade Out HERE), that annoyance I felt about modern comics made itself known.

Modern comics have NO captions in their books.

Let me rephrase: the majority of modern comic books I’ve been reading have NO captions in their books, and the others aren’t using them effectively.

Now, for me, as a comic lover and a lover of reading (as any well-meaning adult should be), I like literary devices in my books. I like the writer to show me his/her skill in describing imagery while throwing out alliterations, similes, and metaphors. As I stated in my blog on Miracleman, literary devices give life to a book.

Why are writers these days shying away from captions? Let’s ask some questions:

Do writers just not prefer captions?

If that were the case, then I would hope writers would show how skillful they are at writing so readers can understand the nuances and idiosyncrasies that give each character their own identities. I’ve seen some lack in that. Case in point:

*SNIKT!*

From the onset, Laura Kinney, formerly X-23 and now Wolverine, was portrayed as a killing machine who struggles to understand emotions and to just be a girl. More importantly, Laura’s speech style was distinct. It was one you would expect of born-and-bred assassin: succinct, calculated, tactless, and completely devoid of social grace:

When I next see Laura Kinney, she’s in the company of the young, time-lost X-Men in All-New X-Men. Worse yet, she’s talking like this:

 

 

X-23 in  The Trial of Jean Grey

And like this:

 


Now, why in the nine circles of hell is Brian Michael Bendis writing X-23 like this? Did he never pick up any X-23 or New X-Men books she was featured in before taking the reins on her?

I’m very open to changes, and I can understand Laura trying to smoothen out her own edges to feel more normal, but this quickly? Why is she speaking so colloquially now? Where did Laura’s eloquence go? Why does she use contractions when it was something she never did? It goes against her entire character, her essence, and her upbringing, no matter how heinous it was. And like real life, we rarely, if ever, change the essential parts of what makes us, us.

Did Laura ever go through an evolution in which she made attempts to break her mold? Was she shown actively trying, and failing sometimes, to “normalize” herself? Was there a progression, or did this all happen spontaneously?

Not only do I feel X-23 lost her essential parts under Bendis (neglecting her standard hack-and-slash), but she lost what made Laura distinct. She sounds generic.

Hm. I went a little tangental there, so rant over on that.

Just kidding. Rant continues!

Real writing?

Let’s take a look at how I feel “real” writers write:

Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing

Alan Moore’s 1982 run of Miracleman

 

 

Brubaker’s 2015 book The Fade Out

 

Looking at the top three examples…need I really explain what makes the captions satisfying? They delve beyond the characters’ words or thoughts. They give life to the worlds in which they live and to the situations in which they find themselves.

 

Jim Zub’s Wayward

Jim Zaub uses captions in Wayward, but they serve little more than thoughts rattling in the characters’ heads. If you’re using captions as thought bubbles without ever going beyond simple thoughts, why bother? You’re doing NOTHING special.

Even simple captioning is effective. Charles Soule’s Death of Wolverine is proof of that. Throughout the book, Soule wrote captions with simple words or phrases that, to me, conveyed primal emotions and perceptions characteristic of what an animal might perceive.

Death of Wolverine by Charles Soule

Are writers inept at caption-writing?

I will enjoy comics unto my death, but honestly? Yes. I believe the majority of today’s writers are showing that they’re inept at their expertise. If they ARE adept at caption-writing, then why isn’t it being used? It’s not enough to just show a character speaking or thinking (if they can even muster that anymore).

How about telling us what the characters feel? What do they see and think?

No, scratch that. We KNOW what the characters see and think. Better yet, how about you tell me what the characters perceive from their actions, choices, and their environments? That requires skill.

As Zaub’s Wayward proved, there’s nothing skillful about replacing thought bubbles with captions. That does not suffice for one hungry for literary skill.

Is there some stigma around caption-writing, or is it because writers believe the readers don’t want it?

On the latter point: I hope we as readers are not being taken for fools. I would hope, too, that my fellow readers are smarter than this, and are looking critically at the quality of their comics in every facet.

On the former point…We can see that that simply can’t be so, given how modern writers like Ed Brubaker, Mark Waid, and Charles Soule employ captions effectively. If they prove that it can still be done to this day, then what is the silent, apparent aversion?

Recap and reflection

Can we get more from the books we read? Can we get more quality and more skill from those who claim to be writers? I am assuming that they don’t polish their skills through lessons and workshops, which is an admittedly gross stretch on my part, but let’s consider the possibility: If those of us who work in the professional world are expected to remain up-to-date in our profession via training and workshops, is it a stretch to expect writers to be held to the same standard?

Comics are still good to me, and some writers have gotten away with writing and selling well without using captions (or with little literary skill in general, I suspect), but if you can do better, why not?

I ask again once more: Is it really too much to ask our comic writers to be writers?

END THROWDOWN.