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Venom #18

Review: Venom #18 – The Savage Six Get Personal

Venom #18
Writers: Rick Remender & Cullen Bunn
Art: Lan Medina [Pencils], Nelson Decastro [Inks], Chris Sotomayor [Colors]

Venom’s war with the Savage Six doesn’t take long to get personal.  Just one issue after the introduction of the Marvel Universe’s latest villainous supergroup, Jack O’Lantern is already gunning for Flash Thompson’s on-again/off-again girlfriend Betty Brant.

Following a conversation at Empire Java (what happened to the Coffee Bean?) with Peter Parker, Betty Brant is briefly harassed by Jack O’Lantern before Venom bursts through the window to save the day.  Unfortunately, though, Betty thinks Jack is an old war buddy of Flash’s and Venom was a bit out of control the last time she ran into him.

Anyhow, Flash spends much of the issue trying to get Betty to stop struggling as he protects her from two of the other Savage Six members–Megatak and Toxin–while trying to locate his mother and sister.  These are the kind of problems you run into when your enemies know your secret identity, of course.

Speaking of Toxin, pairing original Venom host Eddie Brock with the “grandchild” of the Venom symbiote is an interesting choice, especially after Brock’s anti-symbiote crusade.  There’s a plot thread planted by Toxin during the scuffle with Venom involving some sort of “spawning,” hinting that there may be more symbiotes on the way–but beyond that, I was thoroughly amused that a character whose appearance vaguely reminds me of the Violator would use the word “spawning.”  Intentional nod to Venom co-creator and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane?  Perhaps, but more than likely just a coincidence.

Seeing how Eddie Brock’s character develops in his new status quo as Toxin will be perhaps as interesting as when Spider-Man inevitably becomes involved in this situation–especially when/if he also finds out that Flash Thompson is Venom and also a Secret Avenger.  How Spidey missed out on that coffee shop brawl after being there just moments before is beyond me.

Overall, Rick Remender and Cullen Bunn deliver yet another action-packed issue that leaves just as many questions as it provides answers.  Like the last issue, there’s another big reveal on the final page that is icing on the cake after the 19 pages preceding it.

The artwork is equally impressive and full of minor details on characters and settings alike.  The last time I saw a symbiote character that made me stop and think “cool” to myself was probably when I first saw Carnage in second grade.  Lan Medina, Nelson Decastro, and Chris Sotomayor make these once-D-list villains feel menacing, and they throw a lot of emotion into the faces of Betty Brant, Peter Parker, and random civilians.

Under Remender, this book has become a must-read for me after I debated adding it to my pull list when it was announced last year.  With Cullen Bunn taking over in a few issues, I’m more excited for the character than I have been in years.

 

Avenging Spider-Man #7

Review: Avenging Spider-Man #7 – KITTY CATS!!!

Avenging Spider-Man #7
Writer: Kathryn Immonen
Pencils: Stuart Immonen [Pencils], Wade Von Grawbadger [Ink], Matt Hollingsworth [Colors]

Continuing on in the mighty Marvel Team-Up style, Avenging Spider-Man #7 sees Spider-Man teaming up with She-Hulk (the green one) to fight the ever-menacing threat of kitty cats.

No, really.

The issue opens with Spider-Man and She-Hulk taking down a weird giant fish thing in the sewer that had menaced city workers for weeks before She-Hulk, a lawyer by day, has to head off to a “work thing.”  Awkwardly attempting to accompany She-Hulk as a date, Spider-Man is turned down–but not before finding out that the “work thing” is an Egyptian gallery opening at a museum.

Seeing suspicious-looking girls in cloaks heading into the museum, Spidey tries to investigate and runs into She-Hulk again.  Somewhere along the way, She-Hulk sees a statue of an ancient Egyptian cat goddess, which decides to choose her as its herald and causes her to sprout a green tail.

Overall, Kathryn and Stuart Immonen provide Avenging Spider-Man with another fun, light-hearted Spider-Man team-up–as well as the official Marvel origin story for cats on the book’s recap page (well, the book’s editor might have come up with that, but still…).  Anyways, the banter between Spidey and She-Hulk is fantastic, as is Spider-Man’s solution to the whole cat goddess issue.

If you’re a fan of fun, not-too-serious Spider-Man stories and don’t want to worry about too much continuity–or if you’re a fan of Spider-Man in general–this done-in-one is perfect for you.

STORY: 8.5/10
ART: 9/10 

Wolverine and the X-Men #10

Review: Wolverine and the X-Men #10 – Cyclops Comes Calling

Wolverine and the X-Men #10
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Chris Bachalo [Penciler/Colorist]; Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, Al Vey, and Victor Olazaba [Inkers]

The events of Avengers Vs. X-Men had to hit home at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning sooner or later, and when Cyclops comes calling, boy do they ever.

Taking place between Avengers Vs. X-Men #2 and 3, Wolverine and the X-Men #10 provides some additional insight into what happened between the storming of Utopia and Captain America organizing teams of Avengers to search the planet for Hope Summers (and ultimately betraying Wolverine by throwing him out of a Quinjet).

To sum it up, Cyclops, Emma Frost, and Magik show up at the Jean Grey School and insult everyone there so they can recruit additional X-Men to their side.

Perhaps more interesting than the main plot, Genesis finally figures out who Apocalypse is (but remains unaware that he is a clone/reincarnation of the villain) and Angel finally realizes that he isn’t an angel, but a mutant who used to be known as Warren Worthington.  Genesis and Angel are also quickly forming a bond, which will be interesting to see play out in the months to come considering Angel was once Apocalypse’s Horseman of Death and replacement prior to losing his memory and gaining his new abilities.

With this issue, Jason Aaron has crafted a tie-in issue that doesn’t exist solely as an extension of the event it’s a part of and continues to develop stand-alone plot threads.  Additionally, some of these plot threads are likely to have an impact on the event as a whole–namely the entry of Gladiator and the Shi’ar Death Commandoes, who have dealt with the Phoenix and the X-Men before, into the fray.

Chris Bachalo’s art in this issue also transitions much more smoothly between panels, feeling much more in line with his earlier work on the book and his stellar art on the 2010 Amazing Spider-Man “Shed” arc.

This isn’t a perfect issue, but it’s still a damn fun ride.

STORY: 8/10
ART: 8/10 

Wolverine #306

Review: Wolverine #306 – The Doctor Is In

Wolverine #306
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Paul Pelletier [Penciler], David Meikis with Cam Smith [Inkers], Rain Beredo [Colorist]

Wolverine tracks down Dr. Rot as a federal manhunt, believing Logan responsible for a nationwide killing spree, closes in on him.

The Feds search for answers at the Jean Grey School For Higher Learning, where Kitty Pryde and Rachel Grey are still trying to find answers themselves. Later, pressing Logan’s ex-girlfriend Melita Garner for information in New York, she finally mentions Dr. Rot. Meanwhile, Wolverine is tracking the sadistic doctor down using files from Dunwich, uncovering more grisly scenes and disturbing individuals along the way.

Cullen Bunn continues a solid first arc on Wolverine, fleshing out Dr. Rot’s past–something that wasn’t really covered during Jason Aaron’s introduction of the villain in Wolverine: Weapon X #6-9. Rot is a villain who works because he gets inside Logan’s head and takes advantage of the worst parts of him, so it’s interesting to start to see a little bit of what makes him tick. Like last issue, it’s good to see the Jean Grey School continue to have a presence in this book, as well.

Rounded out by the same high-quality art that keeps the ultra-violence popping off the pages, this is another stellar issue of Wolverine for Bunn to add to his list of achievements. After being introduced to his work with these last two issues of Wolverine, his assist to Rick Remender on Venom, and the Free Comic Book Day preview of his Spider-Man: Season One graphic novel, here’s hoping Marvel keeps him around for a while.

STORY: 9/10
ART: 9/10

Uncanny X-Force #25

Review: Uncanny X-Force #25 – Final Execution Begins!

Uncanny X-Force #25
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Mike McKone, Dean White [Color Art]

The latest Uncanny X-Men story arc, “Final Execution,” kicks off with the team in a state of upheaval.

Psylocke, having processed the toll being on a mutant kill squad is taking on her psyche, is leaving the team after “satisfying her curiosity” with a one-night stand with Fantomex. Fantomex, on the other hand, is leaving because no more Warren [See last year's epic "Dark Angel Saga"] means no more money–and he’s probably sulking over being spurned by Psylocke.

Meanwhile, there’s a mysterious figure at the Jean Grey School targeting Genesis, the reformed clone of Apocalypse, and Deadpool has gone down while on a mission–which is a big deal following Deadpool #54, where Wade [YOU SHOULD READ Deadpool #54 AND FIND OUT INSTEAD OF LETTING ME SPOIL IT].

Anyways, this all culminates in a sort-of return of a long-dead X-villain.

Overall, this is a great start to Rick Remender’s latest major X-Force story arc. With a title like “Final Execution,” there are a lot of inferences that can be made. The way things have developed with all the characters on the team, as well as the people around them, will surely only help to further speculation about what that title refers to.

Regardless, Rick Remender has crafted an excellent first part to this storyline with an art team that rivals the work on any other issues of the book, and the two back-up stories are a nice look at Remender’s earlier work with artist Jerome Opeña on stories starring Wolverine and Deadpool, respectively.

STORY: 9.5/10
ART: 9.5/10

Deadpool #54

Review: Deadpool #54 – Deadpool is Dead, Long Live Deadpool

Deadpool #54
Writer: Daniel Way
Art: Ale Garza [Penciler], Sean Parsons [Inker], Dommo Sanchez Amara [Colorist]

Deadpool finally gets what he wanted, but does he still want it and is it too late to go back?

After setting off a massive goose chase for a serum that could allegedly negate mutant powers, Deadpool is finally “cured” of his healing factor–but not before some of the most dangerous people in the world find out that he was always aware that the serum only works on him. The serum, as it turns out, is made from DNA samples taken from a lock of Wade’s childhood hair. It even has some unexpected side-effects that are likely to have a huge impact on the character going forward–but I won’t spoil that here.

By altering the character in several ways, Daniel Way has shown his willingness to take a risk and step outside of the traditional Deadpool formula. Deadpool’s new status quo makes a ton of new stories possible, which will hopefully (I’ve got my fingers crossed) allow Daniel Way to stay on the book for another 50 issues.

Despite what certain people around here have to say about me never having anything bad to say about Deadpool, I stand by my belief that this book has been one of the most consistently fun, leave-your-brain-at-the-door reads on my pull list since I started picking it up four years ago. For anyone willing to put aside their “everything should be super serious and full of meaning” comic book elitism, now is as good a time as any to jump on.

STORY: 9/10
ART: 9/10

Venom #17

Review: Venom #17 – ‘Savage Six’ Begins!

Venom #17
Writers:  Rick Remender and Cullen Bunn
Art:  Kev Walker [Pencils], Terry Pallot [Inks], Chris Sotomayor [Colors]

You’d think that after joining an Avengers team, things would be looking up for Flash Thompson.  Unfortunately, he’s about to get the ride of his life thanks to team of six villains (sound familiar?).

If you’ve been keeping up, Crime-Master and Jack O’Lantern know that Flash is Venom.  Deciding to end his issues with Crime-Master once and for all, Flash borrows the Venom symbiote from the Secret Avengers in order to kill the criminal mastermind.  It’s one last hit and then he’s a hero for good, or so he thinks.

About to snipe the root of his problems during a meeting between Crime-Master, Jack O’Lantern, Human Fly, Death Adder, and Megatak, Venom is interrupted by an intruding Eddie Brock–the former Venom host who has been on a one-man crusade to kill all of the symbiotes.

Needless to say, things don’t go well for Venom or Brock.

Rick Remender and Cullen Bunn do a great job of setting up how much the odds are stacked against Flash–especially in the reveal on the issue’s final page–with the perfect balance of action and exposition.  Remender in particular has made a point of having certain aspects of Flash’s role as Venom parallel aspects of Peter Parker’s role as Spider-Man, so it only makes sense that he should give Venom his own 6-villain team-up to face off against.  After reading his first issue of Wolverine last week, the fact that Bunn is involved in this, as well, is icing on the cake, as it appears they are both prepared to drag Flash (and Eddie Brock, as well) through Hell and back.

Additionally, Kev Walker’s art is a great fit for this book.  It has a gritty ’90s feel to it that works for the character and never feels too exaggerated, striking the right balance between realism and cartoon.  The inks and colors–provided by Terry Pallot and Chris Sotomayor respectively–add to that grittiness, filling out the grim and bleak feel this storyline should have.

This is the perfect jumping-on point and one of the best issues of the series so far.

RATING:  EXCELSIOR!

Amazing Spider-Man #685

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #685 – Versus the World

Amazing Spider-Man #685
Writer:  Dan Slott
Art:  Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba [Inks], Edgar Delgado [Colors]

With the promise of a permanent solution to global warming, Doctor Octopus has swayed the world and its peace-keeping forces against Spider-Man, who knows better than to trust Octavius’ word.  Meanwhile, Spidey, Silver Sable, and Black Widow are making runs to shut down all of Doc Ock’s factories in a last-ditch effort to prevent him from launching his satellites.

Meanwhile, the remaining members of Ock’s latest Sinister Six–Mysterio, Chameleon, and Rhino–are beginning to have second thoughts about seeing Octavius’ scheme through now that they have $2 billion each in their offshore accounts.  As a safety measure, Ock secretly contacts several more villains around the globe–one of whom isn’t the villain that Octavius thinks he is, and informs Spider-Man.  In turn, Spider-Man organizes global countermeasures of his own with fellow heroes Union Jack, Sabra, Kangaroo, Big Hero 6, and the aforementioned not-quite-a-villain-after-all.

Whether or not these efforts are enough to prevent Ock’s true motives from coming to light is another question entirely.

With another solid issue in his “Ends of the Earth” storyline, Dan Slott shows just how high the deck is stacked against Spider-Man–and even how far the hero is willing to go to prevent global catastrophe in a Sandman interrogation scene.  Slott also throws in another segment where the Silver Sable shows a romantic interest in Spider-Man (Anyone remember that old What If? issue where Spider-Man married Sable instead of Mary Jane?) and more hinting at the potential rekindling of the Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson relationship.

Humberto Ramos keeps the story moving at a brisk pace and the panels transitioning smoothly.  It can be easy to get lost between panels when there’s this much action going on, but Ramos avoids that pitfall for the reader entirely.

Now quit reading the reviews and go pick up the actual story!

RATING: EXCELSIOR! 

Daredevil #11

Review: Daredevil #11 – Omega Effect conclusion!

Daredevil #11
Writer:  Mark Waid
Art:  Marco Checchetto, Matt Hollingsworth [Colorist]

Mark Waid wraps up his Avenging Spider-Man/Punisher/Daredevil “Omega Effect” crossover with Greg Rucka in Daredevil #11 with all of the elements that made the first two parts of the story so damn good intact.

Daredevil, having the Omega Drive (a nigh-indestructible drive made from unstable molecules and possessing intel on all of the Marvel Universe’s “Megacrime” cartels), teamed up with Spider-Man and the two formed an uneasy alliance with the Punisher and his ally, Rachel Cole-Alves.  The goal of this alliance was simple–they would all lure out members of A.I.M., Hyrdra, Agence Byzantine, the Secret Empire, and the Exchange so that they could destroy the Omega Drive in front of them.  Also, Punisher and Alves had to promise to use rubber bullets and not kill anyone because killing isn’t really Spider-Man or Daredevil’s thing.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan.  Alves, a former Marine whose husband was murdered by the Exchange on her wedding day, double-crossed Daredevil as he was about to destroy the drive–giving him a rubber bullet to the back and escaping with the drive herself.  With Punisher covering their exit, Spider-Man and Daredevil split up to find Alves and retrieve the drive.

Waid does a stellar job of presenting the story from Daredevil’s perspective (it is DD’s book, after all), exploring how Matt Murdock feels that he failed the Punisher by never being able to pull him back from the proverbial ledge before he went all the way over.  Feeling he can do the same for Alves, we’ve seen Murdock try to talk sense into her once before in this crossover (during Rucka’s Punisher #10).  Whether or not he gets through in this issue remains to be seen.

Marco Checchetto and Matt Hollingsworth continue to deliver the goods artistically.  There really isn’t much I can say about it that I didn’t already touch on in my reviews for Avenging Spider-Man #6 and Punisher #10, so check those out, too.

What are you still reading this review for?  GO PICK UP THIS CROSSOVER!

STORY:  10/10
ART:  10/10 

Wolverine #305

Review: Wolverine #305 – Something’s Rotten in Dunwich

Wolverine #305
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art:  Paul Pelletier [Pencils], David Meikis [Inker], Rain Beredo [Colorist]

The first issue under new writer Cullen Bunn, Wolverine #306 sees the return of an antagonist from previous scribe Jason Aaron’s Wolverine: Weapon X run.

Feds are investigating a cross-country killing spree, when a child who witnessed a New York slaying from a second-story apartment window draws a crayon sketch of the killer he saw–and the killer looks a lot like Wolverine.  Cut to California and we find Logan in a bar, drowning his sorrows and shunning the advances of a server–because, you know, it’s never been that safe for “normal folks” to be around him.

He exits the bar reflecting upon this, as well as the fact that he’s been waking up in strange places, covered in gore and with no clue of what he’d done.  Only one person could be responsible for this (well, maybe a few), but Logan somehow instinctively knows that Dr. Rot is behind it.

See, back in Wolverine: Weapon X, Dr. Rot operated a mental hospital known as Dunwich Sanitorium where he had a machine powered by dozens of disembodied brains that used to control the patients.  Using this machine, he “strip-mined” Logan’s brain, leaving him unable to remember who he was or how he got there.  He wanted to use Wolverine as his own personal killer, so he could, in turn, get even more brains.

Now, Rot is at it again, and as Logan heads to the now-vacated hospital to search for answers, the feds come calling at the Jean Grey School–where Kitty Pryde and Rachel Grey are looking for answers of their own.

Too often, a character’s solo book and any team books they might be part of seem to exist in parallel universes.  Bunn begins his Wolverine run on a strong note by continuing to keep Wolverine tied to Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men by doing one of the things that Aaron did best–acknowledging that Logan’s solo adventures don’t exist in a void.  Additionally, his decision to use Dr. Rot allows him to deliver the visceral ultra-violence Wolverine is known for without just relying on that to carry the book.

The detail of Paul Pelletier, David Meikis, and Rain Beredo’s art isn’t to be overlooked, either.  The Dunwich Sanitorium is as creepy as ever, and the blood and gore pops off of the pages.

Seeing one of your favorite writers leave one of your favorite books is never easy, but if this a precursor of things to come from Cullen Bunn, I think I’ll be fine.

STORY:  9/10
ART:  9/10 

 

The Punisher #10

The Punisher #10 – Frank Castle Has Jokes

The Punisher #10
Writer:  Greg Rucka
Art:  Marco Checchetto, Matt Hollingsworth [Color Artist]

Continuing the “Omega Effect” crossover story, The Punisher #10 picks up where last weeks Avenging Spider-Man #6 left off.  Having agreed that the destruction of the Omega Drive–which contains intel on every major super-criminal organization under the sun–is the best course of action, Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Punisher, and “Punisherette” Rachel Cole-Alves set out to wreak havoc upon the New York underworld before destroying the drive for all of the organizations to see.

Greg Rucka writes a fast-paced, fun issue here.  Yes, I just used the word “fun” to describe a book starring the Punisher.  Rucka handles the Spider-banter well here, even having Frank Castle himself throw in a veiled quip at one point.  It should be noted that this is the first Punisher comic I’ve ever bought (I’m mostly familiar with him from guest appearances in other books) and I have to say that Rucka makes the breakdown of Castle’s tactics during the raids on AIM, Hydra, Hand, and Exchange operations easy to follow.

He also provides a little more insight into Sgt. Rachel Cole-Alves’ backstory for new readers and develops the character over a few more panels.  To keep it simple, though, she’s basically got a similar backstory as Frank Castle.  To round things out, Rucka parallels what each team–Spidey/Daredevil and Castle/Alves–do en route to the rendezvous, with Spider-Man and Daredevil getting caught up delivering a baby in stalled traffic and the Punishers stocking up on firearms in a hideout where an Iron Man helmet and Hawkeye bow are visible (I wonder how Frank Castle got his hands on those…).

Overall, Rucka keeps the second part of this crossover moving at the same brisk pace while maintaining the fun factor and seamless writing it began with.  Coupled with more stellar art by Marco Checchetto and Matt Hollingsworth, this is another must-read in a thus-far perfect multi-book crossover.

STORY:  10/10
ART:  10/10 

Venom #16

Venom #16 – Return of the Fly

Venom #16
Writer:  Rick Remender
Art:  Kev Walker, Chris Sotomayor [Colors]

A while back, Venom captured the D-list villain Human Fly.  This issue, he’s in charge of protecting a train transporting Human Fly to the Raft, a maximum security prison designed for super villains.

It all starts out simple enough, with Human Fly giving a sob story about how he stole a few million dollars from the Kingpin and now the Kingpin is going to kill his son.  It adds depth to the Human Fly, especially given the revelation at the end of the issue.

Before Flash can fully process any of this, though, one of the guards informs him that the Kingpin has already placed a $10 million bounty on the Fly’s head and that one of the other guards has already offered to take it.  It turns out the guard with the intel is no guard at all, but actually the Hobgoblin in disguise.  Needless to say, a battle between the three ensues and Venom is dealt another personal defeat.

Rick Remender has promised in recent weeks that people who like seeing Flash Thompson’s life suck would be happy in coming months, and so far, he seems to be keeping that promise.  If it’s all downhill from here, I can only imagine the depths to which he’ll take Venom before things start looking up.  Aside from giving Human Fly some of the best characterization I’ve ever read from that character, he also makes great use of the Phil Urich Hobgoblin here.  Like what he did with Jack O’Lantern early on in the series, I actually think Human Fly is more than a C- or D-lister for a change.

Another solid one-and-done from Remender this week, just in time for new readers to jump onboard for the “Savage Six” story arc.

STORY:  9/10
ART:  9/10 

Uncanny X-Force #24

Uncanny X-Force #24 – Meltdown!

Uncanny X-Force #24
Writer:  Rick Remender
Art:  Phil Noto, Dean White [Colors]

During last year’s “Dark Angel Saga,” the Age of Apocalypse’s evil version of Iceman escaped into Earth-616 (i.e. the mainstream Marvel Universe).  This was the primary reason for that reality’s Nightcrawler joining X-Force.

In Uncanny X-Force #24, he finally gets his revenge on his former friend and teammate.

While Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and Deadpool head to Madripoor to take care of AoA Iceman, Fantomex and Psylocke attend the Otherworld funeral of Psylocke’s brother, Jamie Braddock.  Here, we see Fantomex’s more human side during a brief conversation with Psylocke’s other brother, Brian (AKA Captain Britain), and learn that in order to save Fantomex during the Otherworld saga, Psylocke gave up her ability to feel sorrow or remorse.

Back in Madripoor, the fight comes down to Nightcrawler and Iceman–no powers or weapons, just two former friends fighting to the death.  Rick Remender really drives home the emotional impact of this battle via Nightcrawler’s thoughts and the banter between the two.  Additionally, Remender continues to bring some of the best Deadpool antics outside of Daniel Way’s Deadpool solo series and provides a huge leap in the Fantomex-Psylocke relationship, as well as building upon the father-son dynamic between Fantomex and Apocalypse child clone Genesis.

Phil Noto and Dean White’s art in this issue is vibrant and detailed, perhaps even my favorite art on this series thus far.  The transitions between panels are extremely fluid and easy to follow, keeping the action moving at a steady pace.

This one-and-done issue is a must-buy for fans of the series and new readers interested in the title alike.

STORY:  9.5/10
ART:  9.5/10 

 

Wolverine and the X-Men #9

Wolverine and the X-Men #9 – Cap Comes Calling

Wolverine and the X-Men #9
Writer:  Jason Aaron
Art:  Chris Bachalo [Penciler/Colorist]; Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, and Al Vey [Inkers]

As you’re probably aware (based on the banner on this issue’s cover), Wolverine and the X-Men #9 is an Avengers Vs. X-Men tie-in issue.  As such, it provides a micro-level look at the macro-level events taking place in the event’s main book.

This issue in particular takes place during the events of Avengers Vs. X-Men #1, detailing Captain America’s visit to the Jean Grey School for intel from Wolverine.

Having dealt with the Phoenix before–namely when it possessed Jean Grey and turned her into a force of destruction before she killed herself to stop it–it’s only natural that Beast would be monitoring deep space in the event that it returned.  Thus, we find out here that Beast and Wolverine were well aware of its impending return far before Steve Rogers came to tell them.

Jason Aaron also delves into the internal conflict going on with Logan, as well as that potentially brewing within the school, regarding the potential of going to war with Cyclops’ group of X-Men on Utopia.  Those X-Men, after all, are people that Wolverine and others in his school called family for years.  Unfortunately, they pretty much all–Cyclops especially–believe that Hope Summers is the “Mutant Messiah” and that the Phoenix possessing her will bring about a reawakening of the mutant species, which was mostly de-powered by the Scarlet Witch during “House of M.”

As Logan says to Captain America, “Think of Utopia as a compound full of heavily armed religious fanatics.  And you’re the feds butting in, telling them what to believe and how to live.  It won’t go well.”  Wolverine knows it’s going to come to blows and is wary about siding against the X-Men, and Captain America only convinces him to side with the Avengers by putting it in terms of saving the world.

Logan’s decision is shaky, at best.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix Force’s approach lays out two telepaths with previous connections to it–Rachel Grey and Quentin Quire–and alarms the Shi’ar Emperor Gladiator, whose son, Kid Gladiator, is a student at Logan’s school.  Gladiator and the Shi’ar are also familiar with the destructive nature of the Phoenix, and while it remains to be seen if they’ll come into play in the main series, it’s only natural that they should show up in one of the X-book tie-ins.

Chris Bachalo’s art remains hit or miss for me.  While I enjoy it here for the most part, there are a few panels, such as the psychic disturbance with Grey and Quire on page 15, that were a little confusing at first, but made sense on second viewing.  My main art gripe here is that Rachel Grey is seen standing behind Wolverine in the faculty meeting near the end of the issue after being laid up in the school’s medical facility on the previous page.

Minor art gripes aside, Aaron does with this issue what any good tie-in should do–add depth to the main story.  By adding more detail to the events of the first round of AVX and throwing in additional plot threads that allow for a stand-alone story arc.

STORY:  9/10
ART:  7/10 

Avengers Vs. X-Men #2

Avengers Vs. X-Men #2 – Cyclops has lost his mind

Avengers Vs. X-Men #2
Writer:  Jason Aaron
Art:  John Romita Jr. [Pencils], Scott Hanna [Inks], Laura Martin [Colors]

[We've tried our best to be as spoiler-free as possible here, but nobody's perfect.  Read at your own risk.]

Defying Captain America’s request to take Hope Summers into custody last issue, Cyclops fired the first shot in the X-Men’s war on the Avengers against the Star-Spangled Hero himself.

As the Avengers take Utopia’s beach, Emma Frost moves Hope inside–assuming the girl, with more questions than answers regarding the Phoenix and what its return means regarding her, will stay put.  In short order, the most epic battle in comics since the end of 2008′s Secret Invasion or 2006′s Civil War commences.

Jason Aaron sets up several of the fights to take place in the accompanying Avengers Vs. X-Men: Versus mini-series beginning next week, with several moments in this issue hinting at the outcomes of those fights.  He brings Quicksilver into the fray, revealing where the son of Magneto stands in the fight (HINT:  There isn’t going to be a reunion of the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants anytime soon), and teases the entrance of Magneto’s daughter, the Scarlet Witch, with no hint of who she’ll side with.

The highlight of this issue is arguably Aaron’s insights into the match-ups, like calling Emma Frost’s organic diamond form punching Tony Stark’s multi-billion dollar armor the “most expensive punch in history,” playing up the marital dramatics in a fight between Storm and the Black Panther, or pointing out that Wolverine is fighting against an island of characters he once called family.

This initial battle is all for naught, but it does skirt on the idea that Cyclops might potentially become a villain.  Much of what he says in this issue sounds like things reformed X-Men über-villain Magneto would say, and he does have his own Juggernaut now in Colossus.  With 10 issues to go, the only things that are certain are that several characters are bound to switch sides, Civil War-style, (Hell, it’s even teased in the Cap vs. Wolverine cover for AVX #3) and that things will spiral further out of control.

At this point, my biggest hope (aside from wanting a Cyclops villain turn) is that we at least get a Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 video game out of this in a year or two.

- Roger Riddell

Follow me on Twitter @RRiddell3 

Mike DeVivo’s take forthcoming

Alright Roger Ive Assembled here!

So, two issues into Avengers Vs. X-Men and I can say I’m underwhelmed. What I thought was largely going to be a collaborative effort in bringing two different teams and their vantage points to light has thus far turned into “Cyclops is crazy and the Avengers aren’t.” I don’t buy the angle that Cyclops is losing his mind, or that he’s taking things too far. It paints every X-Man and woman as blind sheep fighting for the cause of a crazy man. Maybe I’m rooting for the little guys, in which case i feel the X-Men are warranted to protect one of their own. The characterization feels off, especially with Cyclops and Wolverine. Again, maybe it’s because I’m in Cyclops’ camp here, but I can’t help but feel like this story feels off.

I do love John Romita Jr.’s work in this series so far. His facial work with females has improved very much. His pencils give all of the energy and intensity you’d expect between a battle of the two most recognizable factions in Marvel.  Aaron’s script does provide great narration as Avengers and X-Men beat the hell out of each other. Also, kudos for him creating the Magnetic Fastball Special. Those moments are what I’ve enjoyed about this series so far. He also gave Emma the best line in this issue reflecting the tone I think most X-Men have towards their Avenger counterparts. After Iron Man refers to Hope as “the girl,” Emma responds by telling him that the girl’s name is Hope and that they never requested help in the first place.

We get quick glimpses of Quicksilver and Wanda ,with Quicksilver rushing to join his Avengers team and Wanda walking away from her journal not joining the fight just yet. The journal by the way is called “Wanda’s Dream Journal” (slap forehead with hand) there are more than a few of these moments in this issue that make you cringe. As I said in my opinion this book hasn’t delivered the goods just yet with the story. It’s a pain to see characters like Quicksilver, who was actually  insane (anyone remember House of M?), fighting along side Avenger’s while Cyclops is characterized as a mad man losing touch with his reality.

I’m hoping next issue improves a bit and makes the reason for this fight a bit less one-sided. With the cover to issue #3 showing Cap fighting Wolverine, it will be interesting to see why he defends the X-Men after dropping down and beating up the same students he defended during Schism.  As I said, as a fight book this is fun. As an event that is supposed to change Marvel’s landscape for the next year…not so much.

- Mike DeVivo

Follow me on Twitter @pandasandrobots


 

Amazing Spider-Man #684

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #684 – Saharan Sandman!

Amazing Spider-Man #684
Writer:  Dan Slott
Art:  Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba [Inks], Edgar Delgado [Colors]

Certain that he had thought of everything possible while preparing to fight the latest incarnation of the Sinister Six (Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Electro, Mysterio, Rhino, and Chameleon), there was one thing Spider-Man didn’t account for–Doc Ock doing the same thing and making short work of the Avengers.

Despite taking out one of the Sinister Six when Thor shot Electro into orbit, the Avengers–Captain America, Iron Man, Red Hulk, Hawkeye, Spider-Woman, and the aforementioned God of Thunder–are taken down quite easily and their Quinjet, with Black Widow inside, is crashed.  Spider-Man, with his new spider armor crippled, is left at Octavius’ mercy.

Fortunately for him, Symkarian mercenary Silver Sable has been following him and the Avengers since the G8 Summit and is able to rescue Spidey and the Black Widow.

The Sinister Six escape with the rest of the downed Avengers in tow and Ock begins negotiating with the world’s leaders.  In exchange for clean records and $2 billion for each of the other five members of the Sinister Six, Octavius will stop global warming with the “Octavian Lense” his octobots can create in Earth’s atmosphere.  Spider-Man, Silver Sable, and Black Widow are able to patch into these transmissions via help from Horizon Labs and the Symkarian prime minister, and head off to an abandoned AIM facility in the Sahara Desert that they figure out is in use by Doc Ock.

The AIM facility ends up being a trap, however, and the three are left to face Sandman, who has the entire Sahara Desert at his disposal.

Dan Slott continues to weave his epic event, keeping Ock’s true intentions in the dark, as well as what he has promised various members of the Sinister Six in exchange for their help.  Additionally, the Sandman battle in this issue is by far the most interesting in years.  Typically, Spider-Man stops Sandman by using a nearby water source to wash him away or turn him into mud, or bakes him into glass.  It’s one thing for Spider-Man to fight the Sandman on a beach or in a quarry or construction site, but another beast entirely in the middle of the world’s largest desert.  The means by which Slott has Spider-Man, Silver Sable, and the Black Widow defeat the Sandman (with help from Horizon Labs) here is fairly brilliant.

Aside from being a great premise for a fight in this story, the Sahara Desert fight also offers a huge opportunity for impressive visuals and Humberto Ramos doesn’t disappoint.  I know I’ve said this before in other reviews, but Ramos’ work grows on me every time I see it.  It’s honestly gotten even better in the last year and a half, becoming a combination of his older style (which, to me, has more of an anime feel) and traditional comic art.  Some of his faces even bring Todd McFarlane to mind.  Like Stefano Caselli on the first two issues of this arc, Ramos brings his A-game here.

In a year that has Amazing Spider-Man #700 on the way, as well as at least two more big story arcs, I’m wondering how Dan Slott and Co. can top what they’re doing right now.

STORY AND ART:  Excelsior!

Avenging Spider-Man #6

Review: Avenging Spider-Man #6 – “Omega Effect” Begins!

Avenging Spider-Man #6
Writers:  Greg Rucka and Mark Waid
Art:  Marco Checchetto, Matt Hollingsworth [Color Art]

Recently, Daredevil acquired an item called the “Omega Drive” that is full of intel on “mega-crime cartels” like AIM, Hydra, Black Spectre, Agence Byzantine, and the Secret Empire.  All of these organizations, and others, want the drive.

The issue opens with panels alternating between Spider-Man fighting Hand ninjas–who are everywhere these days–and flashbacks of Reed Richards explaining the Omega Drive to him.  The ninjas, of course, were staking out the rooftop across from Matt Murdock’s law office because, as mentioned in the book, Daredevil has the worst-kept secret identity in the world.

It turns out the Punisher wants the drive, as well.  He and his new partner, former marine Rachel Cole-Alves (who has a “my family was massacred” back story similar to the Punisher), pay Murdock a visit and attempt to take the drive for their own uses.  It isn’t long before Spider-Man and the ninjas crash the party, leading to–you guessed it–a team-up.

This is a flawless start to the Avenging Spider-Man/Daredevil/Punisher “Omega Effect” crossover.  The writing is tight, and has some of the best Spider-Man one-liners I’ve seen in any book, and I’m really fighting the urge not to spoil any of them because they’re just that good.  If you’re not a regular Daredevil or Punisher reader, there’s enough context here to bring you up to speed and prevent any confusion.  The tone, detail, and overall flow of the art is on par with the writing, as well, making this issue a definite “must buy.”

STORY:  10/10
ART:  10/10 

 

Wolverine #304

Review: Wolverine #304 – Jason Aaron’s Final Issue

Wolverine #304
Writer:  Jason Aaron
Art:  Steve Dillon, Ron Garney, Paul Pelletier with Dave Meikis, Mike Perkins, Jefte Palo, Daniel Acuña, Steven Sanders, and Renato Guedes
Color Art:  Matthew Wilson, Matt Milla, Rain Beredo, Andy Troy, and Chris Sotomayor

Jason Aaron goes out with a bang on his final Wolverine solo issue, finding a way to feature just about every character from his run and then some.

As the newly appointed secret assassin lord of the entire eastern hemisphere, Sabretooth takes it upon himself to throw a party featuring a who’s who of Wolverine antagonists.  Among the attendees are Mystique, Daken, Lord and Lady Deathstrike, Silver Samurai, Sauron, Tiger Shark, Blob, Soulstriker, Jade Claw, and the Hellfire Club’s new White Queen.  Dr. Rot is also shown being turned away by security at one point.

Naturally, Wolverine has caught wind of the party.  I guess super villains don’t have these sorts of gatherings without leaking word to whoever it is they want to kill, you know?  Anyhow, Wolverine contacts Maverick, who is in a much lower place than we last saw him, for more information.

This is just the first of several scenes we get that tie up loose ends and plant new plot threads.  While Dr. Rot’s appearance was a tease for an upcoming Wolverine story, several of these cameos could carry over into Wolverine and the X-Men, which Aaron is still writing.  We see Kade Kilgore, the pint-sized Hellfire Club Black King, arriving on a deserted island and shooting Blackwater’s disgraced CEO before hiring two of the three remaining Blackwater “Adamantium Men” as his bodyguards.  The remaining Buzzard Brother is shown eating a freshly-killed wolverine in the Canadian Wilderness, clippings about Wolverine and the Jean Grey School pinned to the walls around him.  Wolverine’s murdered children are shown in Hell with his father, and ex-girlfriend Melita Garner is given a new status quo.  There’s even a joke thrown in about furries for good measure during a scene with Logan’s on-again/off-again ninja girlfriend and his adopted daughter.

Then, there’s the inevitable brawl that happens when Wolverine shows up at Sabretooth’s party.  I hate to feel like I’m spoiling anything (and I may already have done so), but there’s a catch here involving an old Sabretooth tradition.

Aaron ends his acclaimed run the way any long-term gig on a book like this should be wrapped up–tying up loose ends and leaving good openings for future stories, whether they be by incoming writer Cullen Bunn or carried over to Wolverine and the X-Men.

Just about every artist who worked with Aaron during the last few years worked on Wolverine #304, as well.  The result is an issue where every other page has a different style.  It isn’t as jarring as it sounds, but there are moments where the transition pulls you out of the story briefly.

Regardless, this is fun, fast-paced, gritty, and a great jumping-on point for new readers (it even has a checklist for anyone wanting to get caught up on Aaron’s run), as well as a nice cap to the last few years of Wolverine solo stories.

STORY:  9/10
ART:  7/10 (This is due to a couple of jarring transitions.)

 

Deadpool #53

Review: Deadpool #53 – Marked For Death

Deadpool #53
Writer:  Daniel Way
Art:  Ale Garza [Penciler], Sean Parsons [Inker], Dommo Sanchez Amara [Colorist]

After setting in motion a plan that involved his X-Force teammates, HYDRA Bob, Kingpin, Daken, and Tombstone before quickly spiraling out of control, Deadpool has finally been injected with a serum that can make him killable.

Having been seemingly betrayed by his best friend, HYDRA Bob, Deadpool teleports (with Bob) to an undisclosed location shortly before Tombstone can snipe him.  Bob reveals that, having seen the mayhem Deadpool was creating, he could take no more.  For some reason, he thought giving Wade mortality would make him step back from the ledge.  (Remember, Deadpool wants to die.)

Anyways, the Merc With a Mouth telports out of the conversation with Bob long enough to gloat to X-Force about how he won, and to apologize for Wolverine getting shot with the “mutant-negating” serum, as well.  Wolverine, however, is alive and well, and he and the rest of X-Force–now in on the lie–inform Wade that the serum only works on him.

Now with his X-Force teammates out to kill him, as well, Deadpool teleports back to Bob, who brings him around to the realization that he hasn’t considered how his death will impact others.  Bob, for one, will most likely be killed by Tombstone, since the deal he made to get the serum centered around Bob setting Deadpool up for the kill.

This scene in particular has anti-suicide undertones in it, and they’re done pretty well.  One thing Daniel Way does well when the opportunity arises is inserting subtle morals in these stories, which isn’t something you’d expect when you’re reading a comic about a hideously deformed paranoid schizophrenic mercenary with a Wolverine-like healing factor.

While the web of disaster that Deadpool has tangled himself in here can be hard to summarize in words, it has also been expertly spun by Way.  It’s a lot to digest and could have been extraordinarily confusing, but he’s laid it all out in a way that is extremely easy to follow.  Paired with what might be my favorite art on this entire series so far, and “Dead” continues to be the highlight of Way’s run with the character.

STORY:  9/10
ART:  9/10 

 

Carnage U.S.A. #5

Review: Carnage U.S.A. #5 – Double-Amputees Battle to the Death!

Carnage U.S.A. #5 (of 5)
Writer:  Zeb Wells
Art:  Clayton Crain

So here’s the recap:  Carnage takes over a small town in Colorado.  Spider-Man and a group of Avengers (Captain America, Hawkeye, Wolverine, and Thing) go there to stop him.  Unbeknownst to them, the Carnage symbiote ate a ton of cows at a meat-packing plant and expanded exponentially, allowing its host, serial killer Cletus Kasady, to control the town’s occupants like puppets.  This also allows the Carnage symbiote to possess Cap, Hawkeye, Wolverine, and Thing in the same manner.

Spider-Man narrowly escapes, finding the town’s survivors in a compound/private zoo owned by the now-dead owner of the meat packing plant.  The government sends in the cybernetic symbiote Scorn (see last year’s Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain mini-series Carnage] and a spec ops team augmented by the four symbiotes that once composed the symbiote Hybrid, and Cap breaks free of Carnage’s control long enough to call in the newest Secret Avenger, Venom.  Scorn manages to trap Carnage (and Venom) in some sort of sonic machine that scares away their symbiotes.

That brings us to this week’s final issue of Carnage U.S.A., which opens with Cletus Kasady (complete with cybernetic legs) preparing to kill double-amputee Venom host Flash Thompson.  Fortunately for Thompson, Kasady’s legs were partially powered by the Carnage symbiote and the machine fries their circuits in short order.  The result is (and I’m making an assumption here) the first fight to the death between double amputees in a comic not published by Avatar Press.  This fight gets nasty pretty quick–I’m talking blades impaling arms, biting, and meathooks to the rib cage.  It’s exactly what you’d expect to see in a book starring Carnage.

Meanwhile, the Venom and Carnage symbiotes have gone rogue.  Remember that private zoo I mentioned earlier?  Yeah, you can see where this is going:  Avengers vs. Animal Kingdom.

For what it’s worth, Carnage U.S.A. (and last year’s Carnage) have been the best story involving Cletus Kasady I’ve ever read.  Wells has successfully revamped a character that, for many people, was run into the ground during the ’90s in a lot of cheesy, over-the-top stories.  In all fairness, though, comics were still fairly PC at the time, with the darkest the Spider-Man books had gone probably being Gwen Stacy’s death, Harry Osborn’s drug addiction, and “Kraven’s Last Hunt.”

This story is as fun as it is dark, and Crain’s art, though it doesn’t always have the most detailed backgrounds, compliments it perfectly.  I think I’ll pretend “Maximum Carnage” never happened in favor of this.

STORY:  9/10
ART:  9/10