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.

Continue reading

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 – 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.

Age of Ultron – The ‘Bot Himself

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Official-TrailerI’ve read a couple of reviews of Age of Ultron which criticize the character of the villain, the murderous AI named Ultron. One called him “generic.” Another suggested that he wasn’t as clever a treatise on the dangers of artificial intelligence as some other film which was released recently.

Ultron, as is pretty clear from my last entry’s discussion of his “son,” the Vision, is, after all, only half a treatise on artificial intelligence. And the Vision, is not a treatise on its dangers, but on its wonderful potential. Dangers? Let’s be honest, everything that’s wrong with Ultron as an intellect is also wrong with a lot of humans. And that gets me to my refutation of that other accusation: that Ultron is generic. Ultron is, indeed, a deeply personal menace to the Avengers. For not only are his failings also theirs, he is, in fact, born of the hubris of one of their own. Tony Start believes he can enforce the perfect peace by building an AI, and he seizes on the technology behind Loki’s alien scepter to do that.

Continue reading

Age of Ultron – Vision Quest

vision_AOUSo my favorite Marvel film has been taking a pounding this week, from the usual nay-sayers who wanted it to be Batman, or who wanted it to be just the first one again (suggestion – watch the first one again!) I’ve heard Ultron called a generic villain, and read that Evan Peters was a better Quicksilver in Days of Future Past.

Continue reading

Age of Ultron – Who ARE These People? Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch

avengers_age_of_ultron_2015Okay, I’m not going to review this film. Because, if I were to review this film, you’d get about 1800 words, all of which were various combinations and permutations of these: “Oh”, “My”, “God”, “This”, “Film”, “F___ing”, and “Rocks.”

This is my favorite Marvel Studios film to date. None of them have been bad. A couple (Iron Man 2, Thor 2) were not what I wished they could have been. I’ll still watch them any day over, say, Ben Affleck in Daredevil or Man of Steel and any of its ill-begotten spawn. But Age of Ultron is my dream Avengers movie.

Continue reading

More thoughts on Jim Shooter’s first run on Avengers

Continuing my review (Part One was last week) of the first six Avengers issues written by comics legend Jim Shooter… For those who just want to dive in without reading part one, know that I like Jim Shooter. He did phenomenal work on the Legion of Super-Heroes as a very young teen, and he did a nice job with these issues. But, later, he wrote some phenomenally bad Avengers issues. I’ve often wondered why his second visit to the Mansion was so unsuccessful. So I revisited some of those early, favorite stories of mine to see if I could see the seeds of the bad in what I thought was the good.

Avengers_Vol_1_161_Variant Continue reading

Some thoughts on Jim Shooter’s first run on Avengers

(Total comic geekiness this week. No need to look within for any profound reflections on life. Sorry!)

I started reading Marvel’s premier team book, The Avengers (AKA, unofficially, The Mighty Avengers and sometimes The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes) in 1974. I grew up with it as one of my top favorite comics. As I grew peripherally aware of who was writing the scripts, who was drawing the pictures, I came to see Jim Shooter’s first tour as author of the Mighty Assemblers’ adventures as something of a golden age for the team. But then, to be fair, I pretty much considered the entire run, from about ten issues after I started reading and figured out what was going on, to the time seven years later when I just felt I’d gotten too old for comic books, to be a golden age. (Too old for comic books at 15. I know, right? Y’see, there was this girl…)

But Jim Shooter, the still-very-young writer who, at age 13, had taken over DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes a few years earlier and made it a fan favorite, brought some very special moments to the team’s history, especially when he was working with George Perez, arguably the greatest artist ever to draw the Avengers. (And that’s saying something, when you consider they were also drawn by Neal Adams, Don Heck, John Buscema and Jack Kirby, to name a few.) Continue reading

REACTION: A vs X #0 from Marvel Comics

The tell-off. It’s one of our favorite dramatic devices, isn’t it? It’s so satisfying. Great tell-offs which come to mind include everything from Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence to Louise Jefferson telling off the snotty bigot-of-the week; from Flo telling Mel “Kiss my grits!” to James T. Kirk telling Khan to… Oh yeah, he just said “Khhhhhaaannnnnn!”

But we knew what he meant, and we loved it.  (And wow, I just dated myself!)

But there’s a problem with most tell-offs, excepting Thomas Jefferson’s… they don’t actually accomplish a damn thing.  In most cases, they don’t even make us feel better. They may seem satisfying, if you don’t think too hard; but in truth…? Telling off someone, be it a co-worker, family member or friend, creates animosity and hurt feelings; it damages relationships and often makes working or living together impossible. Really, it’s something from the realm of wish-fulfillment fantasy (“I’d like to tell him off!”) that has no place in practical reality.

So should it really be one of our favorite dramatic devices?

Continue reading