Chris' Comics Corner
Chris' Comics Corner
Couple quick programming notes.

-Marvel recently announced that they were launching a new initiative called "Big Shots" where three characters with a common denominator would all be given a new push, with some A-List creative talent behind them. The first was Moon Knight by Bendis and Maleev. Now Marvel has announced that the other two characters are none other than Daredevil and Punisher. Anyone like to hazard a guess on who will be writing/drawing these books? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

-Slight change to the review format. Each review will now begin with a line from the book that I thought was either A.) a great line, or B.) Really encapsulated the current state of the story/issue/series.

-Next week I may forgo reviews in favor of a column that reviews the recent history and the current state of Marvel's Ultimate imprint. That may change if something really big is released though.

Alrighty. Now let the great Reviewing experiment begin!

Avengers Academy #9
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Mike McKone

"Daredevil versus Bullseye on live TV? That's what ya got fer me? Your generation. If it ain't on the internet, it don't exist."

Another great issue of a great series. Last issue ended with Tigra expelling 3 of the 6 Avengers Academy Students in retaliation for their rather brutal televised beat down of a powerless super villain. This sparks an internal debate among the faculty about how the situation should be resolved, leaving the students largely unmonitored. Finesse takes advantage of this distraction, and slips away to track down and confront the super villain Taskmaster, because given their shared power set (skill absorption through observation) and Finesse's background, she strongly suspects Taskmaster might be her biological father. Their showdown does not disappoint. Gage writes a great Taskmaster, and the exchanges between the two about where and how they picked up their respective moves is really quite clever and fun.

I have said it before, and I will say it again. This book boasts the most interesting team ensemble in recent memory. And while the demands of a large cast and Gage's writing style pushes all but 2 or 3 or the 12 main players to the background each issue, the way he puts these characters through their paces and plays them off each other is so satisfying that I am happy to sit back and wait patiently while each gets their turn in the spotlight. This issue features a great verbal confrontation between Tigra and Quicksilver, where despite being the jerk that we love to hate and continuing to make poor decisions, Quicksilver proves that he possibly has the most valuable insight into what the students are going through, and surprisingly ends up being the most compelling voice of reason. Gage also pens a surprisingly touching moment between Finesse and Taskmaster at the end of their fight, and left me hoping that we have more Taskmaster appearances to look forward to in this series.

This is Mike McKone's last issue on the title, and while I am very depressed to see him go, I'm happy we had him at all to begin with. Considering that McKone is a very high profile artist who could easily land a flagship title, and that he ran the risk of becoming pigeonholed as an artist of teen characters, already having penciled an extended run on Teen Titans, there were many reasons for him to pass on a book about a group of mostly B-list Avengers and new teen heroes. I'm glad that both he and Marvel recognized the strength of the material and realized that this book needed an artist of McKone's caliber to give it the buzz and polish it so rightfully deserved. McKone will indeed be missed, but the beautifully choreographed Taskmaster/Finesse fight scene was a hell of a bang to go out on.

Grade: A-

Amazing Spider-Man #654.1
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Dan Slott
Artisit: Humberto Ramos

"This again? Can't I be the new Spider-Man?"

Just when the .1 issue of Iron Man had me convinced that Marvel's new reader friendly initiative had struck the right balance between giving new readers an accessible entry point to ongoing titles while also providing an entertaining read for those of us who had been following all along, Amazing Spider-Man #654.1 hits the stands, and shoots the whole initiative right square in the foot.

Don't get me wrong this is a really solid issue. Good writing, good art, a well paced standalone story. So what's the problem you ask?

Well, in an issue that is supposed to catch you up on the most recent adventures of Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, the titular protagonist only appears in one panel of the actual story, and in the two page year-to-come teaser at the end of the book. Make no mistake, this is not Amazing Spider-Man #654.1, this is #0.1 of Rick Remender's new Venom series.

The plot features of the first two missions of the new Venom. The symbiote has been acquired by the U.S. military, bonded to Iraqi war vet, and Peter Parker's close friend: Flash Thompson, and is being deployed against terrorist groups all over the world. The issue does a really nice job of giving readers a taste of what Venom will be like, and the challenges that the character will endure, trying to master a weapon as deadly as the symbiote. Like, I said, on its own merits, it really is a good read.

However when viewing this issue in terms of the .1 initiative, it's hard to call it a success. Had I not already been invested in Amazing Spider-Man, I can't see how this issue would help or encourage me to start reading the series (aside from the aforementioned teaser at the end). And after Marvel's senior editors assured readers that these issues would be important to and advance the overall narratives of their respective series, it's disappointing that this issue proved to be nothing of the sort and rather acts as a promo for another book entirely, with little or no relation to Amazing Spider-Man and it's ongoing narrative..

Grade: B (Only cuz I personally don't care about these jumping on initiatives.)

S.H.I.E.L.D. #6
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Johnathan Hickman
Artist: Dustin Weaver

"Is he talking to us, or to the bird?"
"He's talking to the bird."

Leonid desperately tries to stop the civil war between the forces of Isaac Newton and the forces of Leonardo DaVinci for control of the soul of the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization. In the far future, Nathaniel Richards (Mr. Fantastic's father) and Howard Stark (Iron Man's father) strike an uneasy truce with their arch-enemy, the Night Machine aka Nikola Tessla. Last but certainly not least, the Forever Man reveals that he is none other than Michelangelo.

If that doesn't make you want to read this book, I don't know what will.

I sincerely hope that artist Dustin Weaver is allowed to finish this project before he is snatched up and offered Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men or whatever other prime A-list assignment he could want and so rightly deserves.

Grade: A-

Where Do We Go From Here

So DC recently launched their "Drawing the line at 2.99 campaign" which is a solid across the board price cap at 2.99 for titles just when it looked like a 3.99 price jump was inevitable. This decision prompted Marvel to follow suit, and helped a lot of fans keep a lot of great books on their pull lists.

DC is making the price cap work by reducing the standard length of stories from 22 pages to 20 (rumor is Marvel has a different solution, but more on that once the rumor is confirmed). While this might seem like an insignificant change, some fans have been complaining online about the stories feeling significantly shorter (I don't think they have a right to complain, but hey, it's the Internet, that's what it's there for).

I do think this is an easy fix though. DC should encourage their artists to use less full and double splash pages (one image spread across one or two full pages respectively). While this image really allows an artist to cut loose, it also eats up valuable space that could be used to advance the plot. Cutting down on the use of splash pages would make the issues feel like they are packed with more story, and return the dramatic weight to the use of splash pages that has been a bit diminished by some rampant overuse of the technique in recent years (by Marvel too if not more so).

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