Sunday, December 30, 2012

Avengers Issues 1 & 2 (Marvel Now!)

written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencils by Jerome Pena

The one great thing about this Marvel Now! era is that Marvel Comics will be publishing fewer titles. Unfortunately, some really good titles are being canceled and many titles will start that need to stay in the brainstorm bins. At least there won't be 50 X Men and 50 Avengers titles. Somehow, Marvel Comics continues to confuse many of us.

Jonathan Hickman had probably the best run on Fantastic Four since John Byrne. Hickman bought back some old characters and made them relevant on the Fantastic Four. He really utilized Reed Richards in a manner that really demonstrated his genius. Hickman did the same for Susan Storm. What he did to the Human Torch really bought me in. So when I heard he would be taking over the main Avengers title, I was really excited.

When I picked up Issue #1, I noticed two characters: Manifold from Secret Warriors (a character I loved but didn't see much of in that title) and Cannonball from the New Mutants. So Marvel was really mixing it up. When I opened up the issue, I noticed the awesome Monica Lebeau who was the sister with the afro in an earlier Avengers incarnation as Captain Marvel. On the last page of Issue #1, you also see Sunspot from the New Mutants. Also Hyperion from a Marvel imprint will be on the team as a powerhouse. So I was really excited about this. This would be a brand new Avengers team. I also noticed that several members such as Sun Spot, Falcon, Captain Universe (Monica Lebeau), Shang Chi, and Manifold are people of color. I don't recall this ever happening on the Avengers.

My biggest gripe with this title is that Hickman is doing two things. The first is to line up the main Avengers with the movie. Even Captain America dons the suit from the movie. I don't think its a good idea. I know Marvel is trying to cash in on the movie but movie watchers don't make consistent comic readers. Catering to them never works. Second, Hickman does too much in the first and second issue.

The premise of the story arc is that at one point in the past, Tony Starks came up with this idea that the Avengers needed something new. He approached Steve Rogers and reminds him it was his idea. Guess what the idea is? I bet you can't guess? Get more members on the team. Wait a second, didn't we just have like 15 Avengers titles with 50 different members on each team? Didn't Rogers already execute that idea? So as Hickman brings into the main plot, he has the reader going back and forth with Rogers and Starks picking out members of the team.

The main plot reminds me of All Giant X-Men where Professor Xavier had to recruit new X-Men to save the original X-Men. The "original" Avengers from the movie go to Mars to stop this new intergalactic villain and are captured. Rogers returns to earth and assembles a new team. We learn of the new roster in Issue #2. Outside of that, the first few pages of Issue #1 are confusing.

Two things save this book. The first are the covers. The first three issues have covers that you can link together to see the entire Avengers roster for this title. Dustin Weaver and Justin Ponsor's artwork is extremely detailed. Jerome Pena's pencils are incredible. While I dig Leinil Yu's hulk, Pena's hulk makes him look scary. Then again any green behemoth who can't be reasoned with and enjoys smashing everything should look scary. Pena's Thor looks Asgardian. His battle scenes are majestic. Pena really really saves this book.

I have to reiterate that Marvel sees these Marvel Now! titles as a jumping in point for new readers. While you don't need any background info to jump into the actual story, if you are not familiar with the New Mutants, Secret Warriors, other Marvel imprints, or earlier Avengers rosters, you won't know who half these people are. I am going to stick with this title despite it's confusion because Hickman did greatwork on Secret Warriors and the Fantastic Four and he has always surprised me.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Ends Issue #1

Written and Rendered by Jeff Hewitt

While we talk and obsess over the end of the world, we don't actually think about it. Sure, many of us have prayed over it and wondered when it was coming or watched endless specials about it on the History Channel, but we really haven't thought it through. It's sort of like winning the lotto. Sure we can sit around and discuss it for hours on end, but none of us actually think it through even after we hit it big.

In Jeff Hewitt's "The Ends," we witness the same thing. It's the end of the world and although Hewitt provides the reader a bird's eye view of events, he purposely leaves the reader in the dark as to what is going on. Yes, the Supreme Being has open up a can of whip ass on the universe and no one knows what to do.

While the world is unraveling, Hewitt introduces the reader to the protagonists. First, we meet Detroit's own Peregrine. Peregrine is a vicious crime fighter who retired since his ways were just too extreme. then we meet, Alec Powers, our slacker martial artist who is called while boosting some brewski's during a power outage. Finally, we are introduced to another Martial Artist who seems to fit the bill that most of us would be hoping for. You know the spiritually balanced guy with the level head.

What I enjoyed the most about "The Ends" first issue is the medium Hewitt chose. It's a very unique feel mixing actual photos, pencils, newspaper clippings, and other things you might recognize. This style brings more character and fleshes out the story. It is sheer chaos and I think this form conveys that it is the end of the world. It is details such as these that make me enjoy indie prints so much. The writers are willing and can take risks that the major publishers refuse to take. I think that Hewitt took one, and it has paid off.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Indestructible Hulk Issue #1

Written by Mark Waid
Pencils by Leinil Yu

Originally, I was upset that Marvel was ending Jason Aaron's run on the Incredible Hulk. Aaron breathed so much life into the Incredible Hulk after Marvel introduced every colored Hulk on the color spectrum and just killed us with all these Hulks. It was mighty confusing. Aaron really bought it back to what the Hulk was: a part of Bruce Banner that he could not get rid of.

While I enjoy Mark Waid tremendously with his "Irredeemable" and all the work he did on Daredevil. I mean to follow Ed Brubaker is a tough sell. Waid did his thing and bought Daredevil back after the wonderful and underrated "Shadowland" story arc. Waid's run on Daredevil is a must have. Again, Marvel did a bad thing by ending that. I still didn't think that Waid could follow up after Aaron.

Banner realizes that he has been thinking this Hulk thing all wrong. No matter what he does, Banner and the Hulk go together like Bobby and Whitney. Banner realizes that he can't escape this. The best thing to do is embrace it and make the better of it. Banner also realizes that he wants to leave a legacy. He doesn't want to be known as the Hulk that smashes everything. He recognizes his genius and wants to utilize that to the fullest.

Banner approaches Maria Hill, the current head of S.H.I.E.L.D., and offers to be an agent of SHIELD as long as he is given all the resources and staff needed to invent things that will help mankind. This is a very dope premise. Of course, Hill believes Banner is on some new drug but the idea of the Hulk as an agent of SHIELD is too good to pass up. So Hill takes up Banner's offer on a probationary status.

Waid wastes no time and plows the Hulk into battle for SHIELD. If you are going to start off a new series, this is how you do it. If anyone can draw the Hulk smashing and the Chaos that flies from that, Leinil Yu is that dude (check Secret Invasion and Super Crooks). Yu is yet another artist that Marvel has in it's arsenal.

With Waid writing for the Indestructible Hulk, this new series looks very promising. Of all the Marvel Now! titles this is the only one that the reader will not need background information on to catch up with. Any new reader can jump in to this story and not be left behind.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

All New X-Men Issues 1 -3

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils by Stuart Immonen

I know I am not the first to say that I am skeptical of this Marvel Now! era of Marvel comics. It comes right after the DC New 52 reboot. While Marvel consistently hammers in the idea that this is not a reboot, once all of the issues are released we shall be the judge of that.

When I heard about the premise of All New X-Men, I really became skeptical. How can you have All New X-Men with the original cast of the X-Men in the story? After the events of AVX and AVX: Consequences, Scott Summers (Cyclops) and many of the X-Men who are on the run are saving and recruiting all the new mutants that are popping up all over the globe. Wolverine and his X-Men decide to hunt him down. Meanwhile, the Beast has the idea of going back in time and bringing back the original X-Men team. I really thought this would not work. I must point out that I am a huge fan of Brian Michael Bendis. I was very sad to see the end of his run on most of the Avengers titles and his run on Ultimate Spider Man is probably one of the best series out there across the board. I still had my doubts.

Issue one of All New X-Men is so far the best of the Marvel Now! era. Uncanny Avengers is at a close second. Bendis does not disappoint. Stuart Immonen, like Leinil Yiu, is one of Marvel's best kept secrets when it comes to breakdowns. While Marvel's Siege left much to be desired, Immonen's pencils really stood out. I felt that his pencils were wasted on a lackluster story. Immonen does a wonderful job of portraying the chaos that is the post AVX world. Cyclops has return in full force and he stays getting on everyone's nerves.

The Beast goes back just in the nick of time. He shows up the moment before his past self is about the quit the X-Men. At first, the X-Men are wary and are ready to refuse jumping into the future especially after Beast admits that the technology he used is based off of Dr. Doom's inventions. Once he tells them that the future Cyclops is the complete opposite of his former self, the original X-Men decide to go with him.

In Issue #2, Beast returns to the Jean Grey School which is headed by Wolverine. When the current X-Men find out about Beast's idea, they immediately sequester their past selves. It's important to note that Beast picks up the past Jean Grey before she even knew she had telepathic powers. Once she learns that she will soon manifest these powers, they slowly come on line. Issue #2 is better than the first issue since we see how the current X-Men treat their old selves forgetting who they once were. This is were Bendis really shines.

Imagine your 19 year old self pops up at your door. I can remember my crazy 19 year old self and quite honestly, I wouldn't keep my eyes off of him. Now tell your 19 year old self that the man you considered a father and mentor is killed by one of the people you would consider like a brother. You couldn't expect your 19 year old self to sit still now would you? That's the mistake the current X-Men make.

Issue #3 shows how Cyclops was able to convince the other fugitive X-Men to join his side after the events of AVX. While it gets muddled here and Bendis doesn't really explain how Emma Frost returns to fight with Cyclops as his right hand, I am sure he will answer that later on.

I am really impressed with this new series and I came into it with many doubts. My only gripe is that if you are coming into in now without reading previous story lines and cross overs such as X-Men Schism and AVX, then you will be lost. I explained the premise to many people and they are all confused. Not to mention the fact that I have to fill them in on what happened to several X-Men who are no longer on the roster such as Jubilee and Professor Xavier. So if you are looking for a jumping off point back into the X-Men, I don't recommend this title until you've read previous story lines.