. . . and two if by sea . . .

THE TRIAL OF THOR (Marvel One-Shot) by Peter Milligan and Cary Nord


This was just the right stuff to tide me over until I pick up Thor Volume 2 by JMS. This takes place outside of current Thor continuity, in an untold "Tales Of Asgard" type of story from the past. Despite the title and cover showing a chained and subdued Thor, events never get brought in front of a jury. Thor gets accused of murder after too many reliable eyewitnesses see him savagely killing citizens in a seemingly berserker rage brought on by a lengthy and bloody battle between Asgardian warriors and Frost Giants. The Warriors Three make like detectives and uncover the evidence to prove his innocence.
It's a nice story that we all can predetermine the outcome but it moves along nicely rather than boring us with predictability. Credit Peter Mulligan for the well-crafted pacing. He reveals some of his personal writing style in a few instances with his character treatment. The best reason to pick up this book is the stunning artwork by Cary Nord, ably assisted with beautiful painting-like color art from Christina Strain. It's the good work in color and inking that helps make me forget about the awful art in SECRET INVASION: X-MEN. I forgive you that one, Cary. You are back in fine form.



ASTONISHING X-MEN #30 (Marvel) by Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi

WOW! This is the big payola - - the conclusion of the first story arc by new team Ellis and Bianchi. It was definitely worth waiting for. OUTSTANDING! Turn off your computer now and get thee to a comic store to pick this up! If you are overwhelmed by the glut of X-books available every month and want to follow only one - - then make ASTONISHING X-MEN your choice. It's made me excited about the X-Men again (well, at least excited about this particular title).

Let's compare two X-books. It's been almost a year since new creative teams were introduced to ASTONISHING X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN. Two very good writers = one with years of experience and credentials galore, and one quickly moving into the limelight with some impressive debuts over the past years. Two very good artists = one relatively new and one with an established portfolio. ASTONISHING usually late while UNCANNY usually arrives monthly on time. ASTONISHING consistent in story and art while UNCANNY has highs and lows and is much less uniform. Warren Ellis has been methodically working a single story line, adding layer after layer and building complexity and characterization at the same time. Matt Fraction can't seem to write more than a few pages before changing gears and slowly (oh, so slowly) adding more to a huge handful of story lines, difficult to follow without confusion and enough to make your head swim. There are no lulls or low points in the art of Simone Bianchi. It's so detailed and consistent. Put the ASTONISHING art together with story in a trade edition and everything will just flow and meld together from issue to issue. Greg Land, on the other hand (hey, that rhymes!), who needs assistance from others (or even fill-in artists) will complete some beautiful illustrations one issue (worthy of standing beside his best works at CrossGen) and get sloppy and inconsistent in the next (or sometimes in the same issue). It's worth waiting for ASTONISHING despite the lengthy gaps between issues. I really hope Ellis and Bianchi return for more story arcs; and I hope you support this book.

In ASTONISHING X-MEN #30 the previous situations with artificial mutants, ghost boxes, parallel universes with their own mutant population, and the re-emergence of Forge are all explained fully and resolved (at least for now). Forge reminds me a little of Nick Fury in that he also has been waging his own "secret war" and building/developing his own army. But unlike Nick Fury, who was seen to be mad or misguided by some, Forge appears to be definitely gonzo. Bianchi depicts this perfectly - - just check out the close-up of Forge on page 2 = several days growth of beard, frizzy hair pushed back under a headband, eyebrows arched sky-high, nose flared, head tilted back to reveal an open-mouthed glare with upper incisors exposed, yellow and blood-shot eyes wide open. That picture tells all you need to know. (By the way, I believe and it seems like some of the X-Men believe that Forge is right and the threat is real. But they take action to stop him anyway. That's the difference with these X-Men.) And Ellis adds the ranting dialogue to confirm the suspicions of madness. And after just a few moments in his presence, the X-Men carefully respond by treating him with kid gloves, afraid that he might explode into craziness at any second.

One of the best snappy retorts I've seen in a comic this month is Forge's acknowledgment of the White Queen in the group = "Emma Frost. I didn't recognize you with your legs together." And this is an entirely different X-Men under the hands of Ellis. They're forced to face the biter reality of this new world post-House Of M and it's hardened them and given them determination and resolve. The downside is that they have become single-minded and purposeful in their mission, suddenly free of emotions and memories in their decisions and actions.
It gets pretty grim at the end. As the X-Men are fleeing the site of destruction, Beast tries to make small talk with Cyclops and says . . . "Do you remember when we were kids, Scott? When everyone called you Slim, and everyone called me Hank?" Cyclops replies: "Honestly? Not so much, anymore." (Seem they no longer have time to dwell on pleasantries either.)

Finally, if I haven't convinced you to spend some time with ASTONISHING X-MEN then check out the art. If you're like me there are some books you might buy just for the art regardless of the story. (Recent case in point -- ULTIMATUM. Gorgeous art you could admire over and over but one heck of a mess for a story. What?) Bianchi brings a science-fictional European/Heavy Metal look to the book and it fits perfectly. Beyond the amazing detail in the art there is also much experimentation in the use of angular panels, panel-less art, art over-lapping panels, cutout panels with jagged edges, etc. And it all works to great effect. Maybe the art is the reason for the delay in this book. And I see that Bianchi is involved more in addition to the drawing. The credits page shows that he also worked on the coloring, as well as "ink washes" (a really neat effect).

Comments

  1. I agree that Ellis and Bianchi pulled it out at the end. The story wasn't about what I thought it was about, and I ended up liking it.

    My understanding is that Ellis will be back for more, but the new artist will be Phil Jimenez.

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  2. Yeah, unfortunately Simone Bianchi is gone. I love his work, and love seeing it anywhere that I can, but he's probably one of those artists best suited for small runs or minis done well ahead of time.

    Phil Jiminez is certainly no slouch, and his work on New X-Men with Grant Morrison was very good (he was my second favorite artist on that run, with Frank Quitely being the best--although really, I don't think there were any poor art choices on that run). So I'm sure he'll do a great job.

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