Tuesday, August 28, 2012

AVENGERS vs X-MEN = Cross-Sections

WARNING:  Reading this will spoil some of your fun/surprise if you pick up these books.

THE AVENGERS #29  (October 2012)  Brian Michael Bendis, writer.  Walter Simonson, pencils.  Scott Hanna, inks.  Jason Keith, colors. VC’s Cory Petit, letters. 

Avengers-29

This book has some great cover art by Mike Deodato & Rain Beeredo, the type that makes you want to pick up the book so you can explore further and find out what happens.  There’s only one drawback - - - events in this issue occur at the same time as those of WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #12 and AVENGERS VERSUS X-MEN #8.  So you need to suspend what you already know since A vs. X is now up to Issue #10. 

At the time of this story, the Avengers are still holed up in Wakanda and trying to work up a game plan. Spider-Woman comes up with a valid point – another advantage the X-Men have is that they have telepaths.  She recommends taking out Emma Frost and Rachel Summers first.  What follows the discussion is some very funny jabs at each other between Spider-Woman and Hawkeye (portrayed as a bit of a hound dog here).   Moondragon, the only pure telepath who was ever an Avenger also gets ruled out (mainly through Hawkeye’s objections –more past  snarky-ness.)  But Cap knows some one.

The rest of the issue relates the Avengers’ attempts to entrap Rachel Summers and (as you know if you have been reading the main title) subsequent failure.  As depicted by Walt Simonson, it’s a great romp.  I’m really glad to see him working on a regular basis again - - he’s got such a clean and fluid style, old school but very admirable.  And the telepath that Cap recruited decides he can’t go through with it and puts everyone to sleep/dream, sending a mental command to make both sides forget he was ever there. He concludes by telling Cap “please do not call me again.”  If you’ve guessed who I’m referring to, then you also know that he does get asked for help again.  Guess Cap forgot everything very well, including the last message.  It makes sense to me.

RATING FOR AVENGERS #29 - - - 3 1/2 STARS

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THE NEW AVENGERS #29  (October 2012)  Brian Michael Bendis, writer.  Mike Deodato, artist.  Rain Beredo, color art.  VC’s Joe Caramagna, letters & production.

This features more great art from Mike Deodato and a dynamite (but too brief) flashback to a WWII battleground featuring The Invaders. 

The entire rest of this issue is a board of directors meeting - - I kid you not!  But this board is composed of Captain America, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Mister Fantastic, Professor X -  with one notable absence (Namor, for obvious reasons). This board has gathered in a “secret meeting to decide the fate of the world.”  Cap still hopes that Namor will show up and he can bank on their brotherly feelings for each other to get his help to stop the music being made by the Phoenix Five.

If you told me beforehand that this book was only about a meeting where nothing gets resolved then I wouldn’t have bothered to read it.  But, I’m really glad I did.  There is some great scripting here.  I don’t want to repeat any of the dialogue, but scripter Bendis has done it right.  And Mike Deodato’s art perfectly captures rage and other emotions in the close-up expressions of each character.  When it’s done right,  a book about a fruitless board of directors’ meeting can be very entertaining.

Rating for NEW AVENGERS #29 - - - 4 STARS

uncanny xmen 17

UNCANNY X-MEN #17  (October 2012)  Kieron Gillen, writer.  Daniel Acuna & Mike Del Mundo, artists.  Diego Olmos, art assist.  VC’s Joe Caramagna, letterer. 

I’m still disappointed by the change in artist for this book.  Also, I don’t know what Mike Del Mundo did to help out Daniel Acuna on the art, nor what assist was provided by Diego Olmos.  Maybe just to help Acuna meet the deadline, because this doesn’t look that great.  Even though I don’t really like what he’s done since he took over, Acuna’s art when he works alone is better than this collaboration. 

This is the final wrap-up to the Sinister London storyline.  As much as I was excited by the prelude issue to this story arc, it has been diminishing returns since that point.  It’s still a good story but that one issue really created some great expectations that weren’t exactly met.  The sloppy art here makes it a bit confusing.  Some of the story elements get rushed in the finale and not clearly explained.  Of course, we know who’s going to win and who’s going to lose - - and it was a nice touch by Gillen to get the Phoenix Force independently involved in the final outcome.  The rest of the Phoenix Four were basically immobilized, except for Emma who could still try and play mind games with the Madeline clones.  I guess Gillen could have benefited from another issue or two to fully explore this story properly. However, since next issue is a lead-in to the final issues of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN it wasn’t meant to be.  Sorry, but some of the man’s writing credibility also suffers as a result.  My estimation of his skills has been lowered.  I’m only going to pick up the next two issues because I want to see if it backs up my “theory”. 

Rating for UNCANNY X-MEN #17 - - - 3 STARS

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AVENGERS ASSEMBLE #6  (October 2012)  Brian Michael Bendis, writer. Mark Bagley, penciler. Danny Miki, inker.  Paul Mounts, colors.  VC’s Clayton Cowles, letterer.

In my spotlight review last month I said that if you only want to read one Avengers book, then AVENGERS ASSEMBLE is a good choice.  It’s also going to end up as one of the shortest-lived monthlies. That makes it a good pick for thrifty-minded readers who don’t want to invest too much time or money.  This book ends with Issue #8 to make way for the huge batch of new MARVEL NOW titles.

That leaves us with this issue plus two more to wrap up the opening storyline of Thanos’ efforts to acquire those items (cubes, gems, rings, etc)  of massive cosmic power.  The Avengers, now teamed up with the Guardians Of The Galaxy, are determined to stop him.  I trust Bendis to wrap this up in the appropriate way.  However,  his inclusion of constant joking remarks every few panels is a bit too much of a good thing.  It stops being amusing and becomes annoying.  I realize that individuals will make jokes in times of dire peril in order to stay calm and focused, but this is over the top.

This issue centers around a massive battle in space with the Avengers and Guardians in a huge skirmish with the Badoon (now serving as Thanos’ front lines).  All you need to know is that this battle is the reason you should pick up this book - - to see what the art team does!  Bagley has never been better. Wow!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Avengers VS. X-Men, Round 10 = There is still Hope

AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #10  (October 2012)  Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman = story.  Ed Brubaker = script.  Adam Kubert = pencils.  John Dell = inks. Laura Martin w/Larry Molinar = colors. Chris Eliopoulos = letters.

Spoiler Warning:  This review is spoiled rotten to the root, and riddled with reveals

At the end of Issue #9 the Avengers safe haven of K’un Lun is found out through the Phoenix-enhanced  eavesdropping abilities of Emma Frost, who shares this tidbit of information with Cyclops.  He rushes off there to demand that Hope be returned to his custody.

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K’un Lun is the main battleground this issue and where the majority of the action takes place, with some very short interludes with some other Avengers in Russia and some X-Men secondary forces in Utopia.

The Russia interlude is very short, just one page and just enough space for us to learn that Professor X, who swung his allegiance over to the Avengers and assisted in the break-out from Magik’s hellish prison, has decided to pursue his own path without the Avengers. He now wants to ensure that “mutant kind doesn’t fall with them” (meaning Scott and Emma’s corruption by the Phoenix Force). There’s some confusing art that might have made this moment more meaningful but seems to have the reverse effect. I believe that artist Kubert’s pencils had some lines drawn on the faces of Professor X and Captain America that were meant to indicate severe stress and battle fatigue. However, the ink and color team didn’t seem to get the message.  What was penciled in as popping veins and stress lines on Professor X’s face end up looking like star tattoos on his head and a port wine discoloration on his cheek once the art team finishes with it. Likewise, what should have indicated Captain America’s facial expressions of disbelief and later disappointment at Professor X’s decision instead look like scorn/pouting and then indifference.  The latter panel is even more confusing in that it looks like a tear running down Captain America’s face while he still has this faraway look.  I think Kubert also intended to make it look like stress lines and perhaps some sweat coming out of Cap’s headpiece.  If Captain America was indeed meant to be shown crying, I don’t think Kubert would have drawn such a stone-like face/gaze. Also, what seems to be meant as a torn piece of face mask also looks like another port wine stain in the hands of the art team.  Shame!   This page is ruined for me.

The Utopia interlude is a little longer and more effective.  It reveals that Emma is just as corrupted and power-obsessed as Scott as she makes an example of the usually high-powered Magneto, here reduced to a whipping post.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch (K’un Lun) Iron Fist, Iron Man, the bandaged and Weary Three (Thor, Hawkeye, andA v X 11 Thing) all have a shot at stopping the now god-like Cyclops - - all to no avail. Only Hope rises to the occasion with a little dragon assist. Cyclops is hurt but not defeated, only made to disappear for awhile.  He then concludes that he needs more power and rushes off to sponge it off Emma.

RETURN TO THEORY TIME:   . . . . And that concluding decision by Cyclops would seem to support my theory on how this is going to end.  The next issue preview panel shows Scott and Emma in fierce battle with each other.  Also, the smaller preview panel for Uncanny X-Men #18 & 19 shows Emma in a Phoenix-fired embrace by Scott  (a kiss before dying, perhaps?)   I will definitely be picking up those issues to find out if I am right.

Now that we readers have come this far, it’s time to see it through and find out what the big pay-off will be.  As much as I have enjoyed this series,  I’m ready for it to end and see how Marvel picks up the pieces from here.  I certainly hope the journey will lead to new treasure.  Yes, I have Hope.

Monday, August 13, 2012

July 2012 Best Sellers

I just wanted to share some interesting Information I learned via the Comics Price Guide news source regarding the top selling comics for July 2012.

THE TOP TEN =

1. The Walking Dead # 100, which featured 12 different covers - - one of which is now fetching an unheard of re-sell price of $250.

2. Avengers Versus X-Men #7.

3. Avengers Versus X- Men #8.

4. Batman #11.

5. Justice League #11.

6. Detective Comics #11.

7. AVX: VS #4.

8. Green Lantern #11.

9. Action Comics #11.

10. Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1.

It's interesting to me to see that almost one year after the introduction of The New 52 that DC dominates by placing six books in The Top Ten. If Marvel didn't have Avengers VS. X-Men in current circulation might that number be even larger? We'll see what happens when it ends.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Avengers VS. X-Men, Round 9 = Spider-man steps up

WARNING !!!  Spoilers are everywhere, with some crazy-ass speculation that, if it turns out to be accurate, could really spoil your dinner.

AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #9  (October 2012)  Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman = story.  Jason Aaron = script.  Adam Kubert = pencils.  John Dell = inks.  Laura Martin with Larry Molinar = colors. Chris Eliopoulos = letters.

Say what you will about this mega-event and whether or not it really matters in the lengthy Marvel universe saga - - it has always provided a good story.  It entertains while offering small insights into some of the characters. Every issue is action-packed, but does not sacrifice the script to the screenplay (I wanted to say panel-play but not everybody would make the connection). 

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The art has also been consistently good.  While I would have preferred to see every single issue illustrated by John Romita, Jr, Adam Kubert also deserves credit for his fine work on the last several issues.  As the story gets a little more involved as it moves into the final chapter, the panels need to be a little more compressed in order to get the necessary captions and word-balloons inserted.  Kubert just hasn’t had the same bigger-panel allowance as Romita. Who knows?  Had the situation been reversed, I might be complimenting Kubert before Romita.  Check out the big panel take-down of Thor by Colossus and Magik for some Kubert excellence.   What I am enjoying is the use of a horizontal sequence of panels across two pages instead of the standard single page top to bottom approach.  It gives it more of a (dare I say it) cinematic feel, but the wider panels also allow the artist to get a little more depiction/action into individual panels.

Spider-Man takes center stage in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #9 and doesn’t disappoint.  I’m happy to see his character get fleshed out a little more than it usually is in the various “team” books where Spider-Man plays a role.  I’m sure that Dan Slott and other writers of the main Spider-Man books are doing a good job at portraying the character of Spider-Man / Peter Parker.  But, I never get to see that as I quit reading the Spider-Man titles some years ago. (For mostly economic purposes- - just too darn many books.)   In the team books  (especially if scripted by Bendis) Spider-Man always seems to be the comedic relief - - cracking  jokes and making smart-aleck comments  to the amusement and sometimes annoyance of the other team members - - but rarely getting a major role in the outcome of whatever conflict the team is involved in.

Spider-Man steps up big in Issue #9.  While he does get the snot beat out of him, he still scores a victory through use of not his physical skills - - but his brain-power.  His knowledge of psychology and family dysfunction/competitiveness allows him to make some key observations regarding his attackers that ends up turning the tables on some Phoenix Four  members.   Tony Stark spends sleepless days/nights wracking his brain for a solution - - - “The Phoenix.  Wanda’s Hex Magic.  Hope.  The Iron Fist. Somehow it all fits together . . . Somehow.”  (Perhaps that’s a tip-off / clue for readers as to how this will play out.)   But, it’s Spider-Man who, through his problem-solving this issue, may be pointing the finger on the root.  Take them down one or two at a time until there is only one Phoenix-powered mutant left to deal with.  Sure, they get stronger but it still whittles the numbers down - - and there are still more Avengers left to gang up on the one.

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THEORY-TIME:  So how is  AVENGERS VS. X-MEN going to end?   I’m sure there is already speculation/buzz circulating on various comics and fan web sites and blogs.  I’ve been avoiding them because I don’t want to be influenced or “spoiled” by what they say.  Here’s my theory:  While history has shown a link between K’un Lun, redheads, Iron Fist, and the Phoenix force - - the Avengers are going to place less emphasis on training Hope in the mystical city because they simply don’t know how she can defeat the Phoenix and therefore don’t really know what to teach her.   (Please notice I did not take advantage of an opportunity to make a bad pun and say the Avengers have “abandoned Hope'”.)   Captain America in particular is acting very impatient, in direct contrast to his normal optimistic and patient self - - and he will urge the Avengers to do something, anything sooner rather than later.  They will adopt the Spider-Man one-at-a-time approach and focus their efforts on one of the two remaining Phoenix enhanced mutants - - Emma Frost.  Why?  Because she is the most powerful of the two - - by taking her out next it should be easier to deal with a Phoenix force flowing through Cyclops.  (Again – just theory because what happens at the end of Issue #9 would indicate that the Avengers may not get the opportunity to work that plan of attack.

It could play out that  they will not get that far because something is going to happen before that battle can occur.  There are signs and scenes throughout this issue that reveal that many mutants are having second thoughts about which side is right.  Even they can see that the Phoenix Force, while being presently employed primarily as a force for good, has indeed “corrupted” those that it powers. Storm switches sides (again).  There is a pivotal scene in Issue #9 where Emma calls for a meeting with Scott - - and he chides her for lacking focus.  She tells him that she’s found Hope’s location, and Cyclops leaves in a rush.  He took off before she could confide that she’s worried about what she might do next. 

As we approach the final rounds in the AVENGERS VS. X-MEN the Marvel “bullpen” of scripters on this title surely realize that they must incorporate some significant outcome into the story in order justify the previous months of mega-crossovers, etc.   By now, we have come to expect that - - while at the same time our expectations have been lowered based on previous “event” storylines. .  Just as a very promising SECRET INVASION ended up with less than a handful of characters dying and only one of real significance (the Wasp), the Marvel faithful are expecting at least one to fall as AVENGERS VS. X-MEN wraps up. 

If you get your monthly comics from ordering through PREVIEWS then you already that know what comes next is MARVEL NOW, with this AVENGERS  VS. X-MEN min-series being the trailblazer/pathfinder.  It’s been described as what comes “next” or “now” rather than a re-boot of the Marvel Universe along the lines of DC’s NEW 52.   What this means is that the Avengers have prevailed and in the new world order both mutants and super-humans have made peace and vowed to work together - - a la the new integrated team books like UNCANNY AVENGERS, etc.

So, who is taking the rap and going down permanently? (Or for a couple years anyway until the standard comic resurrection).  I vote for Cyclops.  I believe that Emma Frost will interrupt his assault on K’un Lun and try to stop him.  In a battle-rage Cyclops will  “accidentally” kill her.    All the power of the Phoenix Force will flow into him – but instead of corrupting him completely it disorients and fragments his thinking.  He is full of this god-like force but has just killed his wife through mis-use of his new powers.  He considers anew the righteousness and/or aimlessness of his mission along with thoughts of suicide/punishment for his crime against his own.  These distractions allow the Avengers to take him down, and Wolverine finishes it.

Don’t like that outcome?  Then consider Plan B.  Emma Frost does stop Cyclops.  She doesn’t kill him completely (similar to when Namor was stripped of his share of the Phoenix power).  However, all the Phoenix Power then flows into Emma Frost.  But before she can defeat the Avengers by simply “reaching inside their heads right now and simply turn them off. Just like flicking a switch . . .”  the Scarlet Witch steps in and turns that power back against Emma Frost, who then switches herself off.

I think the first outcome is more likely to occur.  I also prefer a world with Cyclops more than a world without Emma Frost.  Bye, bye Cyclops.  See you again in a few years.