11
Mar
2011
Chris' Comics Corner
Chris' Comics Corner
Chris
Hey all. Sorry for the extended absence. Let's just jump right back in shall we?

Ultimate Spider-Man #155
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Samnee

"Happy Birthday Tiger."
"What's with the Tiger?"
"I like saying Tiger."

You know, sometimes it's really, really easy to forget just how good this series is. Just a month ago, I felt my interest in USM waning, and this week, it's undoubtedly the gem of my read pile. I think USM's longevity is as much a blessing, as it is a curse. This book ran for 111 issues with the same writer/artist team, and has been running for over 155 issues (including annuals and miniseries that were integral to the narrative) with the same writer. You know what you're gonna get when you crack these covers (not to say that there aren't surprises and twists, but the tone, themes, character arcs, and dialogue remain very consistent). And when a book is remarkably consistent in producing "good" issues, sometimes it needs to knock one out of the park every once in awhile to shake away your complacency and remind you just what a treasure it really is. Is this a fair situation? Probably not, but USM #155 proves that Bendis and his creative counterparts are definitely up to the challenge of topping their already exceedingly high bar.

The bulk of this issue focuses on a conversation between Peter Parker and J. Jonah Jameson, establishing a new status quo for these two, hitherto unseen in Spider-Man comics. The remaining pages are devoted to Peter getting various aspects of his personal life in order, including a surprise birthday party and a rekindling of his relationship with Mary Jane. The various exchanges are scripted excellently and all feel very satisfying (if not bitter sweet given that the next arc is infamously titled "The Death of Spider-Man"). My one complaint would be that I feel like it would behoove Bendis to keep Peter single for more than an issue or two, as his jumping from girlfriend to girlfriend while they seem to remain perpetually single in the interim does not make him a sympathetic character.

Chris Samnee is an artist whom I've heard a lot of buzz about, and while the art in this issue is good, it didn't blow me away. Not that I can't recognize Samnee's obvious talents, but I think he is better suited for a different book, as he does not convey kinetic motion in his pencils the way I feel a Spider-Man artist needs to be able to. However the conversational portions of the issue are handled with expert craft.

This was a great issue, one that reminded of just what a special book Ultimate Spider-Man really is, and how much this title, and character will be missed if any truth can be derived from the title of the next story arc.

Grade: A-


Justice League: Generation Lost #21
Publisher: DC
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Fernando Dagnino

"Through all of this, at every turn-- YOU are the one who's saved us."

As we near the Issue #24 finish line of this excellent maxi series, the action cools down for an issue of quiet reflection, checking in on each of our characters, examining how they are coping with the a recent major tragedy and a series of losing battles against Maxwell Lord. The issue ends on a major cliffhanger, and reminds me of just how much I'm hoping that DC announces a Justice League International ongoing series with Judd Winick following the conclusion of Generation Lost.

What impresses me most about this issue, and really, this entire series to date is just how well Winick gets these characters and puts them through their paces. There's Ice, who received an updated origin and an upgraded power set under Winick's direction. Ice was never a character who interested me very much, until Winick gave her a much more plausible origin, and gave her the unique disposition of being a super hero, who because of her recent death and resurrection is afraid of dying again. Winick rehabilitated Captain Atom, a character who had been regularly abused and misused for years, when he wasn't a pawn for the military, he was turning evil, and he was kind of a snoozer. Under Winick's pen Captain Atom has become the tortured backbone of the team, enduring the hardest trials of the ordeal and witnessing firsthand the cost of failure, all the while questioning the loss of his humanity. Winick continues the great work of evolving the character of Booster Gold begun by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, and Dan Jurgens. Winick acknowledges just how far Booster has come, from self serving narcissist, to self sacrificing hero, and finally to leader, all the while reminding us that while Booster is improving, he is still flawed.

The art is good, if not without flaws. Some of the facial expressions are a little off in places. But as always when a series maintains a bi-monthly output, I'm more than willing to forgive small flaws when weighed against the overall strength of the finished product. The fact is that these three rotating artists have been remarkably consistent and each issue has been remarkably consistent and polished. Francis Dagnino has shown the most growth over the course of this series, and I would be more than happy to see him or Aaron Lopressti at the helm of the hypothetical JLI ongoing that I hope against hope will materialize in the next few months.

Grade: B+


New Avengers #10
Publisher: Marvel
Wrtier: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mike Deodato Jr. and Howard Chaykin

"So"¦ They told you about my healing factor."
"He heals?"

When Marvel announced the dawn of the "Heroic Age" it was also announced that Marvel's new flagship franchise, The Avengers would relaunch with four ongoing titles: Avengers, New Avengers, Secret Avengers, and Avengers Academy. Avengers focused on the big names and heavy hitters of the Marvel Universe. Secret Avengers is Steve Rogers's personal black ops force. Avengers Academy follows a group of young heroes in danger of jumping over to the dark side. Which left New Avengers and their author ascribed mandate of "protecting the world however they see fit." New Avengers suffered from not being able to distinguish itself from its sister titles, especially Avengers seeing as how both books are penned by Brian Michael Bendis. Halfway into the second arc it still feels like the only reason this title exists is because Bendis couldn't narrow the number of characters he wanted to use into just one manageable Avengers roster, and therefore needed a second book to accommodate all of his favorite characters. In situations such as this, I'm always in favor of a writer making one single book go bi-monthly as opposed to having two books that might step on each other's feet.

Two issues into this arc, and it looks like the New Avengers will still be fighting the same faceless henchmen and C-Level Super Villianess next issue. The A-plot feels like its almost plodding along, while the flashbacks which do not feature actual Avengers are mildly more interesting but only due to the phenomenal art by industry legend Howard Chaykin.

It's a shame that the book once considered to be the flagship of not only the franchise, but the company itself is now so visibly floundering.

Grade: C+

Belated Review
Fantastic Four #588

Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Nick Dragotta, Mark Brooks

"Hey, Spider-Man"¦"
"Yes?"
"What was your Uncle's name?"
"His name was Ben."

Seeing as this is the last issue of Fantastic Four we're likely to see for quite sometime, I thought I'd do something unique and countdown four reasons why this issue rocked!

4. Dr. Doom attends Johnny Storm's funeral. The biggest bad of the Marvel Universe proves that being the ultimate evil doesn't preclude one from being a total class act.

3. Two very poignant, silent scenes illustrate Sue Storm's mourning process. In the first scene, Sue sits alone on her bed in the dark. Reed reaches out to comfort her, but is blocked by her force field. Reed's fingers stretch around the force bubble searching for an opening but there is none. Sue's grief is too great to let anyone else in yet. A month later, standing at Johnny's grave, Sue takes Reed's hand, interlacing her fingers in his, finally ready to start the healing process.

2. Thor and Hulk call a meeting with Thing to deliver a holographic last will and testament from Johnny Storm. Thing is still reeling from Johnny's death, almost more than the others. See thanks to a cure created by the super genius students Reed has been tutoring, Ben was trapped in human form when Johnny was killed, and only transformed back into the Thing when it was too late. Ben isn't ready to be confronted with his friends final words, and pushes Thor away. Thor blocks him from leaving with a bolt of lightning. Hulk steps in. Thing punches him several times, Thor moves in to break up the fight but the Hulk holds up a hand, and continues to let the Thing beat on him. Finally exhausted, Thing falls to the ground sobbing. Hulk embraces his grieving friend.

1. A frustrated Reed Richards confronts Annihilus demanding that he hand over Johnny Storm, hoping against hope that his brother-in-law is still alive. He is of course wrong. What matters is how Reed confronted Annihilus, by pointing the freaking ULTIMATE NULLIFIER in his face. This is a device capable of destroying entire universes and Reed leveled it at Annihilus like it was a glock. This is the most bad ass Reed Richards moment ever!

This was a great issue and a fitting end to the first act of Jonathan Hickman's grand plan for Marvel's first family.

Grade: A


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