I Just Finished – Royals #6

I’m a bit behind on this series. I think #9 just came out. It’s not on the top of my “need to read this right now” stack, and I do have a lot of unread comics. Still, I do try to get to all of them.

I must confess that the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe is something I haven’t kept up with, and it’s gotten a bit complex and confusing for me. But, despite the fact that I’m not a royalist and hate the idea of inherited governing power, I’ve always liked the Inhumans. So I’m following this series to see what they’re up to. Black Bolt is missing and imprisoned, Medusa is terminally ill, Maximus is hanging around like a second-rate Loki. But I do enjoy Al Ewing’s writing, so this book is holding my interest. And I must admit, Ewing is making me like the character Gorgon for the first time ever. I’ve always considered him just an ass, sort of Ares to the Inhuman pantheon—a warlike, temperamental child. But writer Al Ewing has given him three dimensions and even made him a little sympathetic.

I miss Triton and Karnak, but it’s nice to see Crystal front and center. She so rarely was, in the Inhuman stories I grew up with. I had heard she had married Ronan the Accuser. I can’t see that ever happening, and I’ve been emotionally distanced from her scenes with him in this series so far, as their relationship crumbles. I just don’t feel it. Granted he’s cuddlier than Quicksilver, but this is a woman who’s loved the Human Torch. Ronan is way outside any type she’s established. Of course, she did once have a fling with a Realtor from Jersey, so…

Anyway, if you’re engaged by the Inhumans’ TV series and want to read current comics about them, this is a pretty good one. I would also recommend finding a trade collection of the original Fantastic Four issues that introduced them.

 

I Just Finished – Uncanny Avengers (2015) #28

This series continues to delight. Johnny Storm is now a billionaire, heir to Reed Richards’s patent earnings. Of course, it’s pretty clear Reed’s on his way back, but still, it’s an amusing turn. Quicksilver is being written as something other than angry, for a change. If I’m honest, Rogue as team leader still feels forced to me. Is there a female X-Man (irony unintentional) who isn’t leading her own team? I get it, it’s long overdue that we had equality on that score, but it still feels a bit forced. On the other hand, anything that puts Jean Grey, Rogue, Kitty Pryde and Polaris into the limelight is okay with me.

But my favorite part of the issue was simply the first panel in which we see the Beast’s blue, furry, smiling face as he snatches an escaped balloon and returns it to a young Avengers fan. He’s been blue and furry right on through, but ol’ Hank hasn’t smiled a lot in recent history, and that’s a bad thing.

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I Just Finished – Jean Grey #7

Jean Grey, founding member of the X-Men way long ago, has been kidnapped out of time as a teenager and brought forward to an era where her adult self is long dead, and remembered primarily for becoming the all-powerful, all-corrupt entity known as the Phoenix. Now the leader of her teenage cohorts, Jean is on a quest to learn how she can avoid following in her older counterpart’s footsteps.

In the latest issues of her solo series, Jean has been meeting up with a different denizen of the Marvel Universe each month–all the other Phoenix hosts, Namor, Thor, Psylocke, Doctor Strange–all with the goal of learning how not to become the Phoenix. She’s also being stalked by the ghost of her older self.

This issue, she meets up with the Scarlet Witch. There’s a bond between these two 1960s-born heroines, one which author Jeff Parker clearly recognized when he wrote a humorous series of adventures for the two, as teens, in the back pages of X-Men First Class several years ago. Both are mutants. Both were the only women on their teams, Wanda first in The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and later in The Avengers.

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I Just Finished – Marvel Legacy

“My shrubbery is not to be trifled with, Daniel Rand.”

Funniest line in the book. Unfortunately, it’s about 25 pages in, and not a lot happens before it that grabbed me. Actually, the whole sequence in which that line falls, which has Dr. Strange and Iron Fist visiting Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, after Norman Osborne has just tried to break into it, is funny, and the most entertaining part of the book.

Marvel Legacy has been heralded (by Marvel) as the return of many classic characters and teams. The artwork, and Axel Alonso’s notes at the end of this issue, suggest that the whole point of the effort is to bring back the glory of Bronze Age Marvel. And I’m all about that idea. I started reading comics in 1974, and the best time for comic books, in any given reader’s opinion, is usually the year or three around the time he started reading.

But the storylines that Mr. Alonso promises are coming—like Loki becoming Sorceror Supreme, or Klaw conquering Wakanda, just make me shrug. And the story which introduces this new effort does the same. If this is what Marvel Legacy is going to look like, then I’m going to go in with low expectations.

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I Just Finished – Uncanny Avengers (2015) #27

A satisfying conclusion to the Graviton story, although the resolution of Rogue’s brief brush with madness at the climax is a little abrupt. The story celebrates teamwork, which is what the Avengers are all about. And the words “Fantastic Four” are actually uttered! Johnny Storm is a welcome member of this team, but it would be nice to have him back where he belongs. The subplot where an attorney is trying to catch up with him, and surprises him at the end of a boxer-clad battle, is appropriately funny and mixes the mundane with the fantastic in the way the best Marvel tales always have. I’m reminded of the first appearance of Henry Peter Gyrich (although that was more sinister) or the earlier Avengers tale in which Janet Van Dyne (the original Wasp, and still a member of this team) inherited her father’s millions.

I Just Finished – Generations: Hawkeye

Marvel Comics once again reaches out to its older fan base—or at least the part of its fan base that thinks fondly of the comics of 40 years ago—with a series of one-shots all built around the premise that their current, young characters meet their namesakes from the Bronze Age: Teenage, time-displaced Jean Grey meets the Phoenix, circa 1979; Amadeus Cho meets a Bruce Banner I don’t know enough about Hulk history to place, but certainly pre-1980. Carol Danvers Captain Marvel meets a pre-cancer Mar-Vell.

 

 

That last one is cheating a bit, since Carol is also a Bronze Agecharacter, and was, in fact, present in Mar-Vell’s book from the get-go. I can take or leave Hawkeye Clint and Hawkeye Kate. I like them both best when they’re on teams. Sort of the way I feel about Wolverine. But, flipping through this issue, I saw it heavily featured Clint’s mentor, the Swordsman. I’ve been fascinated with the Swordsman since I read the opening line of my first-ever issue of The Avengers. That was “The Swordsman is dead!” I was nine years old, and I didn’t really understand what was going on in that issue; but I could see that this was a story about a lot of heroes and villains who had a lot of history together, and I wanted to know more. That’s pretty much how Marvel hooked fans in my day—not with indigestible “Summer events,” but by presenting a complex universe as a sort of a puzzle to solve.

At any rate, a good, character-based story, featuring a Clint Barton Hawkeye who was probably plucked out of time shortly after the Kree-Skrull War (Avengers 97) and about the time of his defection from the Avengers for the Defenders (Avengers 109, if memory serves.) I base this on the fact that he’s in classic costume, which he was not from Avengers 63 until Avengers 109, and the fact that he doesn’t look at the Swordsman and say, “Go away! You’re dead!” which he would have after Avengers #130. Nor would he have called Sword a villain after Avengers #114, when his mentor became a regular member of the team. Okay, geek-out moment over.

Fun story, Good read. Who doesn’t love Hawkeye? Or, um, Hawkette? (Terrible name!)

I Just Finished – Marvel Team-Up (1972) #25

I have a lot of back issues, mostly bought at quarter and dollar sales. I tend to pick up series I didn’t read when I was actively reading in the 70s, series I just missed because I didn’t read many comics in the 80s, and whatever I can find cheap from the Silver Age. And then they sit there in my “Unread Comics” box… boxes… until I find time to read them. It’s getting to be daunting task. I recently sorted them into groups of 60s, 70s, 80s and “later,” to encourage myself. I have a real fondness for the comics of my childhood, so the 60s and 70s issues at the front, with their delightfully yellowed pages, cheer me.

Ironically, I picked this issue up the night its author, Len Wein, died. It’s a nice little piece of Marveliana. Spidey and Daredevil meet, manage to find a reason to fight each other (Marvel heroes almost always fought each other before realizing they had common cause) and then go to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a powerful man from the clutches of The Unholy Trio, later known as Count Nefaria’s Ani-Men. It’s a completely standalone story. MTU, by virtue of being just an excuse to put Spider-Man on another cover and maybe boost sales of other books by introducing a character casual readers didn’t know, didn’t really have a thread that spanned multiple issues. At least, it didn’t until Chris Claremont took over the book. But it was nice to read an average Marvel story, one more by Len, in his honor.

I Just Finished – Uncanny Avengers (2015) #26

I was pleasantly surprised by this issue. I haven’t been following the series since its first couple of issues. I have no patience with the “The Scarlet Witch is so sorry for her crimes” storyline that just goes on and on. The early issues just seemed to be an extension of that, played out with Rogue as the voice of all the younger fanboys and fangirls who don’t understand that Wanda Maximoff was once a really good character, and that her downfall, like Jean Grey’s, had a lot more to do with male writers’ insecurity with powerful female characters than it did with those characters being inherently flawed.

I tend to pick comics by their authors these days, but I always flip through an issue that features a favorite character. So, though I’ve never read Jim Zub’s work, I was drawn by this issue which proudly proclaimed, “The Witch is back! Wanda made some covers of Secret Empire, but really had nothing to do in that plodding and over-written story. So her taking center stage would, indeed, be refreshing.

An initial flip through the book suggested just more Wanda/Rogue angst, but I’m glad I decided to grab it anyway.

One of the things I always loved about The Avengers was its pacing. Throughout its first 300 issues, the characters took time to have lives, as well as adventurous careers, and we saw them doing simple things like shopping, going on dates, sitting around the mansion shooting the shit and contemplating life. They felt like people. “Big Blazing Battle Issues” did not attract me. Stories where real lives were interrupted by cosmic events did.

Unfortunately, for decades now, the Avengers have largely been written to cater to the Big Blazing Battle Issue!!!! crowd. Way too much plot, way too little characterization, and, strangely, very little happening in any given issue. Even Mark Waid’s latest run on the main Avengers title has seemed prey to this.

But Zub, Izaakse and Bonvillain’s tale in this issue feels like a classic story from days gone by. Graviton shows up with a somewhat philosophical (if maniacal) plan, but first there’s time for the characters to pause and be people. And the anti-Wanda angst is there, but not overplayed. Indeed, the clash between Wanda and Rogue is organic, and reminiscent of the first time Graviton showed up, an issue which opened with the Vision and Wonder Man slugging it out because Vizh was dealing with jealousy for the first time in his synthetic life. Best of all, the art looks like comic-book art, and not the weird fusion of photo-realism and impressionism that’s been draining the life out of the characters in the main title.

I Just Finished – Secret Empire #10

This was a terrible let-down. The series was mildly interesting, but, ultimately, the problem with the Hydra Cap story is not that it made Cap a fascist, it’s that it was the setup for a thinly veiled anti-Trump rant. A poor successor to the real Secret Empire story, and a cheap excuse for Big Damn Deaths of the Year. It’s odd, because I understand Nick Spencer is not particularly leftist, but the “stand and fight fascism” mantra that permeates the final battle, laced with all the talk about how “we let this happen,” and how half the people supported Hydra Cap, can’t really come off as anything else but a blatant partisan statement.

Steve Engelhart’s first “Secret Empire” storyline, 40 years gone, was not an anti-Nixon rant or an anti-Republican rant, much as Englehart probably disapproved of both. That story was about secrecy and lack of transparency in government as a concept. A much subtler, much less divisive tale. The original was also groundbreaking, and this new one is not. There’s nothing wrong with not being groundbreaking, assuming that you’re not pushing your product as an earth-shaking “event” series.

Definitely, in the end, not worth the interruptions of good storylines in many other comics this summer. I found most of those tie-ins very disappointing as well.

I Just Finished – Champions (2016) #12

I promised to share what I’ve been reading, watching and listening to. Here’s the first entry. Going for daily. Will post them under “I Just Finished…” Please jump in with your thoughts. 

Cyclops loses it! Well, he doesn’t lose that. 

Champions has strayed occasionally into the preachy, just a little. When the story opened with the team getting a call to handle a riot in Denver, I cringed a bit. Fortunately, the riot was not caused by the orange rays emanating from the President, but by a classic supervillain from a more innocent time–Psychoman.

Slim Summers takes a point blank shot of Psychoman’s emotional manipulation force, and spends the issue running the gamut of extreme emotions in a very fun way. A fun story about a fun team. Hopefully a new trend after the deadly dull tie-ins with Secret Empire these past couple issues. Marvel’s marketing arm still did everything they could to try and tie this standalone tale into Secret Empire. Their hype for this issue? “SECRET EMPIRE AFTERMATH! The Champions team was born from a fracture inside the Avengers. Now the events of SECRET EMPIRE have divided the Champions — and which ones are still with the team may surprise you!”

Really, Marvel?

The Champions / Avengers War storyline starting next issue looks promising, with hints that Mark Waid is in control and free of Summer Tie-In restraints. I look forward to his tribute to the original “Summer Tie-In,” the Avengers / Defenders War of 45 years ago.