Saturday, May 7, 2011

FCBD - - What about the super-heroes? - - - more previews part 5

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2011 SPIDER-MAN #1  (Marvel, May 2011) “The Way Of The Spider” Dan Slott, writer. Humberto Ramos, pencils. Carlos Cuevas & Victor Olazaba, inks. Edgar Delgado, colors. VC’s Joe Caramagna, letters.

If you have strayed away from following the Spider-Man titles for awhile  (as I have), then this FCBD edition is essential reading to bring you up to date with the present world of Peter Parker - - and serves as an excellent jumping on point.

Spidey FCBD

In the opening page  Spider-Man directly addresses the reader and recounts his latest mishap at Horizon Labs where his experiments/inventions caused him to lose his spider-sense.  As Madame Web the psychic observes a battle between Spider-Man  and Spider-Woman (controlled by the Mandrill’s powerful pheromones)  she obliges us with a brief but succinct two page account of Spidey’s origin.   Then, poor Peter gets his butt handed to him by Jessica until he comes up with a non-violent solution to the problem.  This leads to Spidey’s accepting the guidance of Shang-Chi - - who uses  martial arts knowledge  to help Peter learn some additional fighting styles to compensate for his new limitations.  As things wrap up Madame Web warns of some new competition as it seems everyone in Manhattan has developed spider-powers of one type or another.  This leads into the “Spider Island” story arc which begins in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #666.

It’s a fast and fun read  - - but it didn’t leave me wanting more the same way some of the other FCBD preview books have.  I haven’t read anything by Dan Slott in some time, but I was  big fan of his work on AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE and then the Henry Pym led MIGHTY AVENGERS (before Bendis re-booted everything).  This FCBD story is told well and reads easily enough, but the old magic I remember doesn’t seem to be there.  Even the wise-cracks and slightly engaging dialogue between Spidey and friends seems a bit stale.   I just may be jaded after decades of reading Spider-Man stories.

Also, it seems like Slott is trying to do too much at once with this book.  The loss of Peter’s spider-sense ought to be a good enough theme/background for several story arcs of good material.  I can’t see complicating things with the “Spider-Island” situation at the same time.

The art by Humbertos Ramos is fun to follow and appears to have improved since the last time I’ve looked at anything by him.  His figures don’t appear to be quite as “manga-ish” as before, and I’m also noticing that he’s learned not to exaggerate every males’ forearms quite so much.  I especially like the web-strands used as frames on several two-page montages.  But I can’t get used to the way the characters look so awkward and un-coordinated in the action scenes.  Just look at that cover - - Spider-Man is going to get a hernia twisting himself around like that. 

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2011 THOR & CAPTAIN AMERICA: MIGHTY FIGHTING AVENGERS  (Marvel, May 2011)  “Once And Future Avengers!”  Roger Langridge, writer. Chris Samnee, artist.  Matthew Wilson, colorist. VC’s Rus Wooton, letterer.

Cap Thor FCBD

Both art and story here are deliberately oriented towards a younger audience, but this story is delightful enough for all readers.  Unlike the Spider-Man FCBD preview, this tale left me wanting to check out more of Roger Langridge’s work at Marvel.  I’d heard his THOR: THE MIGHTY AVENGER books recommended several times and now I know why.  This is both light-hearted and entertaining while it hues tightly to the mythic structure of Thor (and Captain America).

During a lull in action during WWII, Captain America unknowingly picks up a mythic drinking cup while exploring the artifacts within the Red Skull’s secret laboratory.  In present day, Thor handles the same drinking vessel/chalice while unpacking and examining stored items at a War Memorial Museum.  Both are transported via the cup back to the days of King Arthur, where Loki has been impersonating Merlin while trying to learn his secrets.

Thor and Captain America meet some of the fabled Knights of the Round Table and accompany them to Camelot, where they thwart Loki’s machinations before returning to their former locations/times.  During the process, they strike up a friendship and compliment each other very well during the fighting.  I hate to use the words “old-fashioned storytelling” here but Langridge scripts  a superhero story like I fondly remember them.  It’s  a fun and refreshing read.

There’s a lot of detail and dialogue to work into 22 pages, most of which are crowded multi-panel affairs.  Nevertheless, artist Samnee does a great job detailing the action in these smaller panels in an appealing style that reminds me of a blend of early Don Heck with Mike Mignola, the main difference being the colorist uses a much brighter and broader palette than is used with Mignola’s darker works.

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