Tag Archives: Steve Rogers

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #699 – Maybe it’s not so bad after all…

Amazing Spider-Man #699
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Humberto Ramos [Penciler], Victor Olazaba [Inker], Edgar Delgado [Color Art]

[HEY!  LOOK!  THIS REVIEW HAS SPOILERS, AND YOU MIGHT FEEL CHEATED IF YOU READ IT BEFORE YOU SEE THE ACTUAL BOOK!]

While I’ve calmed down about the big reveal last issue, it’s still a touchy subject.  If you missed it, a dying Doc Ock swapped brains with Peter Parker, hinting that the “new” Spider-Man in the upcoming relaunch of the book as Superior Spider-Man is actually Doc Ock in Peter’s body.

It’s not that I didn’t like the way it was written–Dan Slott’s writing makes me really want to like the story.  It’s just that there are two types of stories I hate–stories centered around mind swaps and time travel (we’ll get to that another time, maybe, because Slott has actually written a time travel story that I like).  I already know the response to this assertion, too.  It’s a comic bookScience fiction.  Real world logic and plausibility don’t apply.

Fair enough, but the limits of everyone’s suspension of disbelief are different, and this is why we probably won’t ever see Fin Fang Foom in an Iron Man film.

That said, let’s completely suspend disbelief for the rest of this review even if the concept is a bit much to wrap our heads around.  This issue, and the story as a whole, are very well-written.  Amazing Spider-Man #699 opens with Doc Ock’s body being revived following its flat-lining at the end of the last issue. Upon being revived (and spat on by a prison nurse), Peter Parker–keep in mind, again, that his mind is in Doc Ock’s body now with all of Ock’s memories and vice versa–examines the situation he’s in and begins trying to figure out how, with only hours left to live, he’s going to get out of this predicament and back into his own body.

After searching Ock’s memories, and giving us the totally unnecessary reveal that Aunt May had sex with Otto back in the day, Peter realizes that every time he used Otto’s own Octobot control helmet tech to stop him, he made his mind vulnerable.  Ock was then able to somehow put his brainwaves in the golden Octobot (seen occasionally since the end of “Ends of the Earth”), which then made its way to New York City and “hacked” Spider-Man’s mind when he was otherwise distracted by the spider signal jammers from the recent Hobgoblin story arc.

Pete then figures out that the golden Octobot had a mental link with Otto and takes control of it to put into action a plan that his life now depends on–forming his own Sinister Six–which includes Hydro-Man, Scorpion, and Paste-Pot Pete–to break him out of prison and capture Otto-Spidey.

As I said before, Slott’s writing on this story is still great despite my lack of enthusiasm over the premise.  You can tell he put a lot of time into planning this out at least as far back as the beginning of his run on the book with “Big Time,” and maybe even as far back as 2009’s Amazing Spider-Man #600. Humberto Ramos’ art in this issue is some of his best so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ve read is the best art of his career later this month in #700.

Overall, not a bad issue.  I really could have done without being presented the idea of Aunt May and Dr. Octopus having sex, though.

RATING:  7/10 (Because Aunt May having sex with anyone is just kind of gross.)

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #698 – WHY, DAN?! WHYYYYYYYYYY?!

Amazing Spider-Man #698
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Richard Elson and Antonio Fabela [Color Art]

 

WARNING:  THIS REVIEW HAS MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS FOR AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #698 AND BEYOND.  DO NOT READ IT IF YOU PLAN ON READING THE ISSUE.

Dan Slott, you broke my heart.

Ever since your run on Amazing Spider-Man began last year, I’ve been one of its biggest supporters, going so far as to compare it to the Michelinie and Stern runs.  And then you did it.  You drove that spike in my heart that was like a thousand One More Days.

Actually, that’s a terrible analogy.  I actually liked One More Day.  Comparing that spike to 1,000 Clone Sagas or Ben-Reilly-replacing-Peter-Parker scenarios or JMS runs is far more accurate.

But the point is, you shook my faith in my favorite series.  You weren’t the first, though.

When I was nine years old, I quit reading new issues for five years because of the ridiculousness of the aforementioned Clone Saga and (temporary/retconned) replacement of Peter by his clone, Ben Reilly.  What you have done here, though, may be impossible for me to recover from.

Amazing Spider-Man #698 begins with a reminder that Doc Ock is on his death bed, with only hours left to live.  He’s struggling to say something, and it turns out what he’s trying to say is, “Peter Parker.”  For the rest of the issue, longtime readers will notice that the way Slott has written Peter’s dialogue and inner monologue is strange, and we eventually find out why when Spider-Man is summoned by the Avengers to the Raft (the ultra high security prison for supervillains) because Ock’s about to die and he keeps saying the name of Spidey’s secret identity.

And then, once the two are in the room, we get the big reveal.  We now know why Peter’s words sound so strange in this issue.

It’s because one of the most ridiculous and asinine predictions for what would happen in the “Dying Wish”/Amazing Spider-Man #700 arc ended up being true–Doc Ock somehow switched his consciousness into Peter Parker’s body and vice versa, and Ock’s body dies with Peter’s mind trapped inside.

I’ll probably still buy #699 and #700 just to have a complete run up through the “final” issues of Amazing Spider-Man–and I’ll probably still buy Superior Spider-Man #1, because, well, eBay–but for the first time in about five years, I’m not all that excited about the next issue of Spider-Man.

On the bright side, I can’t imagine this being something that sticks in the long term.  For the foreseeable future, however, it might be time to move on to something else.

RATING:  It’s gonna harsh your mellow, man…but at least the art is good.

 

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #694 – The 50th Anniversary story arc concludes!

Amazing Spider-Man #694
Writer:  Dan Slott
Art:  Humberto Ramos [Pencils], Victor Olazaba [Inks], and Edgar Delgado [Colors]

If Amazing Spider-Man #692 and 693 were about introducing Alpha, then this week’s #694 is all about setting the character up for his next chapter–whenever that may be.

Deciding to take a break from his research at Horizon Labs, Peter Parker heads out to the airport to say goodbye to his Aunt May and her husband, J. Jonah Jameson Sr., before they head back to Boston.  As is the case when he has something to do or somewhere to be, he’s interrupted.  The Avengers request his help fighting off Terminus, who’s once again intent on taking over the Earth.

The Avengers unfortunately have the bright idea of having Spider-Man summon Alpha, and the egotistical teen hero with more power than everyone else present darts across the world from Japan to lay the smackdown on Terminus.  This causes problems, as the fight takes place above the airport and Alpha’s irresponsible use of his powers short circuits all of the planes currently in the air–including the jet carrying May and Jonah Sr.  Naturally, the day is saved, but as soon as Alpha leaves, Spider-Man and the Avengers all agree his powers, created in a lab accident by Peter’s “Parker Particles,” must go.

But, irreparable damage may have already been done.

Dan Slott packs a lot of great moments into this issue, continuing to showcase Alpha as an extraordinarily unlikeable character.  At least two recurring members of Spidey’s supporting casts get apparent status quo changes here, as well.  Seeing Peter act in a more stern, almost parental-like manner was different for a change, and I especially enjoyed Dan’s nod to all of the people who are unclear as to whether or not Spider-Man is still a Future Foundation member.  Combine this with Ramos’ art and a nice lead-in to the “Danger Zone” arc and you’ve got a solid conclusion to Slott’s 50th Anniversary story arc.

RATING:  A Tantalizing Tale in the Mighty Marvel Manner!

*ALSO:  If you didn’t notice, this issue’s cover was an homage to a classic cover from when the “big two” comic publishers could play nice every now and then.

Amazing Spider-Man #700 Predictions, Speculation, and Crackpot Theories

With the 700th issue of Amazing Spider-Man coming up this December, it’s only right that I, the Comic Vault’s resident diehard Spider-Man fan, weigh in on what may or may not happen in this momentous issue.  There are a lot of crazy theories floating around right now, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Current scribe (and the best writer on the book since Roger Stern or David Michelinie in my opinion) Dan Slott stated via cell phone at Comic Con a few weeks ago that this is going to be the biggest thing he’s ever done in comics, which is saying a lot coming from the guy who penned the phenomenal Amazing Spider-Man #600 just three years ago.  It’s even been said that what he’s doing in #700 will be so controversial among fans that he’ll have to go into hiding after the issue hits stands, or that this might possibly be his final arc on the book. (Damn you, “Marvel NOW!”)

With the ’90s Clone Saga and J. Michael Straczynski’s “Sins Past” and “One More Day” story arcs, Spider-Man fans have a high threshold for controversy.  At this point, what could possibly be more controversial at this point than Peter Parker’s clone Ben Reilly being revealed as the real Peter Parker and taking his place, Norman Osborn knocking up Gwen Stacy prior to her death, or Peter and Mary Jane trading their marriage to Mephisto (the “devil”) in exchange for Aunt May’s life?

Really, Marvel?  What were you thinking?  That “o” face in the bottom left corner is the stuff of nightmares. And Gwen… You desecrated poor, sweet Gwen!

Maybe resurrecting Gwen Stacy could top the scenarios above, but Slott has already said he (thankfully) has no interest in doing that, as Gwen is much more meaningful dead.

Over at the CBR boards, members have been posting a plethora of crackpot theories regarding what will happen in the issue.  Some have taken a statement that Slott made at Comic Con regarding the future not looking good for Madame Web as a hint that the new Madame Web, Julia Carpenter, will be kicking the bucket soon.  Personally, I think they’re reading a bit much into this and Slott was just being Slott.  Madame Web is a clairvoyant and only has visions when something terrible is about to happen–of course the future doesn’t look good for her.

“The future…always…looks…TERRIBLE…to MEEEEEEEEEE!!!”

Regardless, below is a list of my favorite theories from that thread:

  • Black Cat shows up with a baby.
  • Norman Osborn is Peter’s father.
  • Peter pulls the plug on Doctor Octopus and then goes crazy.
  • Peter gets flung back in time, is stuck, and in a nod to his clone brother, names himself Ben Parker.  He then meets a lovely girl named May Reilly.
  • Peter gives up being Spider-Man to be with Mary Jane or Peter ends up getting killed, with either scenario leading to new sidekick Alpha taking his place.
  • Peter moves to Japan and gets a giant robot.
  • Peter goes crazy and becomes the new Green Goblin.
  • Kaine is the real Peter Parker.
  • Batman subcontracts Peter to become his new gadget man in Batman, Inc. as part of a cross-promotional deal between Marvel and DC.
  • J. Jonah Jameson is actually a 1940s reporter covering the war in Europe.  He is wounded by a grenade blast, which kills his soldier body guard Steve Rogers.  For two months, Jameson has been in a coma, and it’s revealed that the whole Marvel Universe is taking place in his mind.
  • Black Widow becomes Spider-Man’s new crime-fighting partner and Spider-Man has a clone baby from an alternate reality with Mystique.

That’s a lot of outlandishness to digest, huh?  As promised in the first paragraph, though, I also have my own predictions as to what might happen in #700.

The cover for Amazing Spider-Man #700 is a preexisting collage by a French artist named Pascal Garcin.  You could say that this makes the presence of certain characters on the cover arbitrary, but I like to think that Marvel chose to use this cover for that issue for specific reasons.  If you look closely near the bottom, to the left of the center, there’s a Carnage hidden among all of the Spider-Mans.

Hey, look…It’s a schooner!

This leads me to believe that Carnage has some involvement in this issue, perhaps killing a beloved character like Mary Jane Watson.  Despite wreaking havoc in Spider-Man’s world in two mini-series over the last two years and continuing to do so in an upcoming Venom/Scarlet Spider crossover, it’s been years since Carnage has committed mass murder in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man.  This site’s owner, Matt Sardo, even claimed to me in an e-mail that during Comic Con’s Spider-Man panel, “[The panelists] were asked what character they wanted to work with or draw. [Humberto Ramos] mentioned Carnage and then said, ‘Oh, wait.  I’ve drawn Carnage,’ and then he got dirty looks.”  What better time for Carnage to show up and do something chaotic than the book’s 700th issue, 24 years after the character’s “father,” Venom, debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #300?

Speaking of Venom, the border of the eyes on that collage is composed of the character.  I’m going to go ahead and also predict that if Peter doesn’t find out by then that Flash is the guy wearing the Venom symbiote by #700, he’ll probably find out there.

If I’m wrong about Carnage, then the next likely scenario is that the Roderick Kingsley Hobgoblin, rumored to return in the upcoming “Danger Zone” arc, shows up and kills someone.  Either way, I think someone is dying in #700.  Mary Jane is a likely choice, though I’d rather not see that happen.  Sardo wants Aunt May to die, and I have yet to figure out what he has against sweet, little old ladies.  Her husband, J. Jonah Jameson, Sr. may be a more likely candidate for the grave, or possibly other characters that have grown on fans in recent years–like NYPD forensic detective/most recent Peter Parker ex Carlie Cooper or Daily Bugle reporter Norah Winters.

Or maybe in their infinite wisdom, Marvel, seeing that it worked so well in Ultimate Spider-Man, actually do decide to kill off mainstream (Earth-616 for you nerds out there) Peter and replace him with his new sidekick Alpha, at which point they’ll lose me as a reader.  Just because something worked in one universe doesn’t mean it should be spread to the others.

But seriously… Keep any sweet, elderly women you hold dear away from this man.

Happy 4th of July America!

The Comic Vault wishes you a great 4th of July. Enjoy your BBQ, comics and America!

Captain America is a fictional character, a superhero who appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character first appeared in Captain America Comics #1 (cover-dated March 1941), from Marvel Comics’ 1940s predecessor, Timely Comics,[1] and was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. As of 2007, an estimated 210 million copies of “Captain America” comic books had been sold in 75 countries.[2] For nearly all of the character’s publication history, Captain America was the alter ego of Steve Rogers, a frail young man who was enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum in order to aid the United States war effort. Captain America wears a costume that bears an American flag motif, and is armed with an indestructible shield that can be thrown as a weapon.[3]
An intentionally patriotic creation who was often depicted fighting the Axis powers of World War II, Captain America was Timely Comics’ most popular character during the wartime period. After the war ended, the character’s popularity waned and he disappeared by the 1950s aside from an ill-fated revival in 1953. Captain America was reintroduced during the Silver Age of comics when he was revived from suspended animation by the superhero team the Avengers in The Avengers #4 (March 1964). Since then, Captain America has often led the team, as well as starring in his own series.
Steve Rogers was purportedly assassinated in Captain America vol. 5, #25 (March 2007), although he was later revealed to be alive. The comic-book series Captain America continued to be published,[4] with Rogers’ former sidekick, James “Bucky” Barnes, having taken up the mantle, and keeping it at the insistence of Rogers, who upon his return began operating as an intelligence agent in the Secret Avengers title, and in the limited series Steve Rogers: Super Soldier, before resuming the identity after Bucky was killed in the line of duty.
Captain America was the first Marvel Comics character adapted into another medium with the release of the 1944 movie serial Captain America. Since then, the character has been featured in several other films and television series, including Chris Evans’ portrayal in Captain America: The First Avenger, released on July 22, 2011, and The Avengers, released on May 4, 2012. Captain America was ranked sixth on IGN’s Top 100 Comic Book Heroes in 2011.

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #687 – As the World Burns

Amazing Spider-Man #687
Writer:  Dan Slott
Art:  Stefano Caselli, Frank Martin Jr. [Color Art] 

HEY!  WAIT A MINUTE!
If you haven’t read the rest of this story arc, this review will spoil a few plot developments, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?  The end of this issue isn’t spoiled, though, so you’re safe there.

Victory is once again within Doctor Octopus’ grasp and the only people who can stop him are Spider-Man, Black Widow, Silver Sable, and Mysterio–who switched sides last issue, natch!  Unfortunately, they’ll have to go through the (mind-controlled) Avengers first.

The ensuing battle is among the best-written team battles to take place in Spider-Man (or a lot of other books) in recent memory.  Dan Slott takes advantage of the various characters involved, as well as plot points from previous issues in the last few years, to showcase everyone (with the exception of Black Widow and Hawkeye, but they were knocked out early on).  The Spider-Man/Spider-Woman fight and the bit with Thor’s Mjolnir were nice touches, but the turncoat Mysterio was the true standout in these pages as he showcased his mastery of illusion and quipped about leaving the super villain business for television.

This being the final part of the story arc, Spider-Man does finally confront the still-dying Doc Ock in his underwater base (where do these guys get the funds for this stuff?).  Octavius’ intentions are, indeed, to purge the Earth using his Octavian Lens, and with the doctor so close to death and the Rhino still on Ock’s side, Spider-Man’s pact of “no one dies” may finally be forced to end.  The people who (seemingly) die here just aren’t the ones you’d expect.

Overall, Slott gives what is thus far his best Spider-Man “event” story a fitting end.  The action stays on point, the dialogue stays fresh while referencing previous issues, the (seeming) deaths don’t feel meaningless, and several threads are left open for later.  In particular, it will be interesting to see whether or not Horizon Labs was ever able to figure out that a lot of Ock’s tech was developed by them–and Peter Parker, in particular–and what repercussions that may have.  Stefano Caselli and Frank Martin, Jr. continue to deliver the goods as well, especially with what might be the most menacing-looking incarnation of Doc Ock.

As with every other issue of this arc, if you haven’t read it, GO BUY IT NOW!

RATING:  EXCELSIOR!

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #686 – Something You Expected, and Something You Didn’t

Amazing Spider-Man #686
Writer:  Dan Slott
Art:  Stefano Caselli, Frank Martin Jr. [Color Art]

[SIMPERIN’ SPOILER ALERT:  Reading this rollicking review might spoil certain exciting elements of this book’s pulse-pounding plot for you, oh consummate Comic Vault reader!  You’ve been warned!] 

An entire hemisphere of Earth, including Silver Sable’s native Symkaria, has been destroyed at the hands of Doctor Octopus!

Or has it?

Given the ending to Amazing Spider-Man #685, one might think that Spider-Man, Silver Sable, and the Black Widow had failed in their bid to prevent Octavius from destroying the world once and for all in his final dastardly deed before death.  However, one might think wrong–especially given that two of the other members of the Sinister Six still remaining at that point were well-versed in illusion.  Longtime Spidey fans could probably see where this was going, but it would be a crime not to use such a scenario with Mysterio and Chameleon both on the same team.

That said, as Spidey and Co. continue to disrupt Otto’s dying wish, both sides begin finding that they are victims of wavering allegiances.

Again, Dan Slott provides an issue that stands up not just to the rest of the arc, but to the classics, as well.  While one of the big allegiance shifts here was a no-brainer following the orbital octobot crisis from Amazing Spider-Man #680-681 (plus the cover to #687), the other was a total surprise.

It’s also been nice to see Spider-Man written in a team role as a leader as opposed to comic relief, and the way Pete asserts himself in this arc has been phenomenal.  That’s not to say the old Peter Parker neuroses aren’t there, though.  It will be interesting to see the aftermath of Spider-Man having realized that Doc Ock’s tech has been supplemented by technology he developed as Peter Parker for Horizon Labs–especially if that connection is made by Horizon, as well.

The rotating art on this story has also surprisingly not been as jarring as one would expect.  Stefano Caselli returns for the last two issues of the arc after getting a two-issue break from Humberto Ramos, but the switch barely registered to me either time.  Sure, Caselli’s art veers more toward the realistic than Ramos’ more animated style, but both artists have grown on me to the point that I’m glad to see either on a story.

If you’re a spider-fan and you haven’t been keeping up, you’re missing out.

RATING:  EXCELSIOR! 

The Avengers film: Whedon strikes out when it counts

This will go down as one of the most hated movie reviews in comic book geek-land, but Joss Whedon’s Avengers was a beautiful film in the same way that James Cameron’s Avatar was an amazing film. Both films had great visuals but no substance.

The biggest criticism of the Marvel films so far is that they’re too campy. Not every comic book movie needs to be Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, but they do need to have a balance of serious and light moments. Maybe I want too much but I was not inspired to join the Avengers after the film. There is no moment in the film where I feel like the Avengers will ever lose. No suspense in a $250 million budget film means that they forgot to pay the writers when they were planning to blow-up Ohio. Which is a waste because the film is well casted and the actors bring their A-game.

The Avengers will make a billion dollars and kids will love it, but is wrong to ask for just a little more. The set-up of the film was good and the movie paced well for two plus hours but when the going gets tough and the Avengers need to rise up to save the day, the moment was hollow. This happens because Nick Fury cons them into the moment instead of Captain America kicking some ass. How hard is to write a Captain America inspirational speech?

The Avengers film does nothing to progress Steve Rogers as a character. When the film ends you learn nothing new about the character that you didn’t know already from the “Captain America” film. Rogers is the heart of the Avengers and whether is was the writers fault or the actors fault, there was no inspiration. There is a scene in the film when Captain America gets shot with a laser and Thor is getting tired, this could have been the instant when the Avengers pulled themselves up by their boot straps and make an inspirational moment but Whedon doesn’t swing the bat. Whedon directed the film very light and never attempted a suspenseful moment. The problem is there are at least five moments in the film when Whedon could stepped in and said, ”Hey guys, this is our Oscar moment so let make it happen.” The most inspiring moments are in the trailer and those moments are inspiring because the way the trailer is editing not the way the lines are delivered in the film.

The Avengers is a very solid B+ film, but they had many chances to hit the grand slam and struck out looking at the plate.

The best part is this film is that it will make and insane amount of money and a sequel will come out in a few years.

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 – 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


 

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!

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 

Review: Venom #15 – Flash Thompson, Secret Avenger

Venom #15
Writer:  Rick Remender
Art:  Lan Medina [Pencils], Nelson Decastro with Terry Pallot [Inks], Andres Mossa [Colors]

After saving Las Vegas from Blackheart, Venom is pardoned and made a member of the Secret Avengers by Captain America.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Flash Thompson gets to keep the symbiote 24/7.  Hank Pym and Beast have worked out a sedative to keep the creature from permanently bonding to Flash when he’s using it for official Avengers business.  If he needs the symbiote at a moment’s notice (like if Jack O’Lantern or one of the other enemies he’s picked up in the last 14 issues comes calling), he simply has to dial a number and the suit will be shrunken down into Pym particles and broadcast from the Secret Avengers’ space station through his earpiece.

Seems simple enough, right?  It’s comic technology.  Don’t think too hard about it.

Once Flash is finally teleported back to his apartment, he arrives to Peter Parker knocking on his door.  Pete, a longtime friend of Flash’s recently-dumped girlfriend, Betty Brant, wants to know what’s going on with him.  The two go out for coffee and Flash is ready to tell Peter everything when he’s interrupted by a call from his sister and mother–two more people he’s neglected.

With this issue establishing that his home life is in tatters, Flash appears seemingly ready to bury himself in his newfound role as a Secret Avenger.

Meanwhile, Eddie Brock, the Venom symbiote’s former host, is hunting symbiotes.  As the book opens, we see him taking out Hybrid, and we later see him kill Scream.   This plot thread started shortly after Brock gave up the Anti-Venom symbiote to help cure New York City during “Spider-Island” and I’m excited to see how it plays out.

There’s one continuity issue here, however, as the Hybrid symbiote has also appeared recently in Zeb Wells’ Carnage U.S.A. mini-series, no longer bonded to Scott Washington, but separated into four symbiotes for use by a special ops team.  Of course, that story takes place after Venom becomes a Secret Avenger (despite being only one issue away from finishing), so it’s possible that perhaps Eddie Brock’s “killing” of the symbiotes themselves doesn’t really work and the government is still able to somehow get their hands on the Hybrid symbiote.  Maybe this will all be explained eventually.

This book’s last story arc, “Circle of Four,” didn’t really do much for me on the first read through (I really need to read it again in one sitting), but Rick Remender followed it with what might be my favorite issue of this series so far.  Remender sets up Venom’s status quo as a Secret Avenger, explains how Flash will use the suit if he is in an emergency situation, and plants a plot thread regarding what could happen if use of the symbiote is abused.  He sets up some romantic tension between Flash and Valkyrie, teases the question of how Spider-Man will react to Venom being an Avenger if he finds out, hints at Flash potentially telling Peter (who he doesn’t know is Spider-Man) anyways, and sets up a future conflict with Eddie Brock.  Plus, he keeps a certain amount of turmoil in Flash’s home life for the time being.

The art on this issue is also great, with Lan Medina packing in an extraordinary amount of detail in everything from facial expressions to backgrounds.

In short, Venom is still one of Marvel’s best kept secrets.

STORY:  9/10
ART:  9/10 

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #683 – Spider-Man punches Al Gore!

Amazing Spider-Man #683
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Stefano Caselli, Frank Martin Jr. [Colors]

[SPOILER ALERT: Reading this review might spoil certain plot points for you, oh noble Chicago Comic Vault reader.]


Close to death, Doctor Octopus has–with the help of the latest incarnation of the Sinister Six–set his final master plan in motion, developing technology that can destroy the ozone layer.  Ock, however, has convinced the world’s leaders and greatest scientific minds that his intentions are altruistic and that he simply wishes to preserve the Earth with an artificial ozone layer.

Spider-Man, who has spent the last several months developing all-new spider armor specifically for taking on the Sinister Six, rallies the Avengers and they travel to an emergency G8 summit in Rome to try to talk some sense into the world at large.  Among those shown debating Octavius’ intentions are Stephen Hawking, Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Al Gore–who Spider-Man punches squarely in the jaw for voicing his support of Doc Ock.

That’s right.  Spider-Man gets a Cap-punching-Hitler moment.

Take that, Global Warming!

Or does he?

As it turns out, “Al Gore” is really just the Chameleon in disguise.  His hand played, Doc Ock is forced to reveal the full potential of his “Octavian Lens”…to stop global warming.

Convinced even more of Doc Ock’s Grinch-like altruistic turn, the world leaders let the Chameleon go–but the Avengers aren’t fooled so easily.  With the aid of a spider tracer, they follow him to a remote beach where he is met by the Sinister Six.

Spider-Man hasn’t been the only one preparing for this battle, though.  Doc Ock has had Electro, Rhino, Sandman, and Chameleon steal StarkTech, the fang of Jörmungandr, and Hulk-busting technology developed by the Leader.  Making quick work of the Avengers (but not without losing Mysterio and Electro), Doc Ock now has Spider-Man right where he wants him.

Overall, this issue continues what is sure to become (until he outdoes himself again) Dan Slott’s magnum opus on Amazing Spider-Man.  Not only is this fun, but the story feels like it has weight to it.  At the heart of this story is a battle of figurative chess between two of the Marvel Universe’s greatest minds.  That it takes place on the world stage instead of just New York adds that much more to this.

Stefano Caselli produces more of the best work of his career here, as well.  When you see Doc Ock in these pages, it’s believable that he’s really dying.  Characters pop off of the pages.  The facial expressions are spot on.  And the detail!

It’s another perfect issue, and a damn good time to be a Spider-Fan.

STORY:  10/10
ART:  10/10 

Review: Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 – ‘Nuff Said

Avengers Vs. X-Men #1
Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Art:  John Romita Jr. [Pencils], Scott Hanna [Inks], Laura Martin [Colors]

After what has felt like an eternity of build-up (but was really more like just over six months), the event to end all Marvel events has finally arrived on shelves–but was all of the hype worth it?

So far, it’s a toss-up.

The premise, in case you’ve been living under a rock or reading some other company’s books, is that the Phoenix is coming to Earth and has chosen the would-be-mutant-messiah Hope Summers as its host.  Hey, she looks like Jean Grey, so who else is it gonna pick, right?  Anyhow, the Phoenix is a cosmic firebird that leaves devastation in its wake on a planetary scale wherever it goes in the Universe.  It chose Jean Grey as its host once and she almost destroyed Earth, but that’s “The Dark Phoenix” saga and you can read about that elsewhere.

Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 opens with the Avengers hanging around Avengers Tower doing the sorts of things you’d expect powerful people in tights to do (but not those things, sicko!) when all of a sudden, the intergalactic superhero Nova conveniently crashlands in New York City after falling from space.  He warns the Avengers that “it’s coming,” and Iron Man deduces that he’s referring to the Phoenix.  He and Captain America then brief the President on the danger.

Meanwhile, Cyclops–who has known all along that the Phoenix was on its way back–is training Hope and trying to prepare her in the hope that she’ll be able to control its power when it does return.  This entire conflict centers around the Avengers’ belief that the Phoenix will use Hope Summers as its vessel to try to destroy the world again versus Scott’s belief that if Hope can somehow control the Phoenix’s power, then she can undo the “no more mutants” spell that Scarlet Witch decimated the mutant population with.

Scott believes that Hope is the savior of the mutant race, and he’ll stop at nothing to see her fulfill that destiny–perhaps to the point of taking things too far during his particularly ruthless training sessions.  During the time that has passed since he joined the X-Men, Magneto has pointed out that Scott is growing more and more like him than his mentor, Charles Xavier.  This trend continues here, as Magneto–watching the training from a distance–comments to Emma Frost regarding the difference between “taking it seriously” and “compulsion,” perhaps foreshadowing things to come.

Anyhow, Hope is finally pushed far enough and releases a flare of Phoenix-like energy strong enough that the Avengers notice it.  Traveling to Utopia to see about taking Hope into Avengers custody until the Phoenix situation is figured out, Captain America is greeted by a particularly hostile Cyclops.

Thus, the first shots in the battle are fired, so to speak.

Over all, this is a solid start to the event, but it is by no means perfect.  Despite being packed with action, the dialogue pulled me out of the story on a few occasions, most notably during the conversation Captain America has with Wolverine regarding the Phoenix.  Given Wolverine’s history with Jean Grey and how he felt about her, I have a hard time believing that he wouldn’t just refer to her by her first name.  Using her entire name felt a little unnatural, especially after the previous scene already established her history.

Aside from that, though, anything else I noticed here would just be nitpicking.  Bendis’ first chapter draws you in and gives new readers a primer on what’s going on, and the art here is phenomenal.  The facial expressions of everyone standing in the vicinity when the first blow of this battle is landed were perhaps the highlight of the entire issue.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, especially when your bluff is being called, and that panel alone sells that idea absolutely.

After event fatigue had fully set in following last year’s Fear Itself (which, no offense to Matt Fraction, fell short of expectations), I swore I’d never drop $3.99 an issue on another “event” book again.  Despite being highly skeptical of the idea of Avengers Vs. X-Men, I have to say I’m impressed so far and actually looking forward to where this goes from here.

STORY:  8/10
ART:  9.5/10 

Review: Avenging Spider-Man #5 – Captain America, Art School Student

Avenging Spider-Man #5
Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan [Inker], Sunny Gho [Color Art]

The latest issue of Zeb Wells’ Spider-Man team-up book sees Spider-Man pairing off with Captain America–because, well, they’re both Avengers and that’s kind of the point of this book.  Also, both characters have movies coming out in the next few months.

At the beginning of the issue, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hawkeye, and Spider-Woman are in Avengers Mansion reading a reprint of an old comic strip in the Daily Bugle.  The comic strip, it turns out, was drawn by a pre-super soldier serum Captain America, who, as it turns out, wasn’t just scrawny and weak–he was an art school kid.  The Avengers are all joking around about the comic having “liberty bonds” in every sentence (Hey, it was World War II, you know?) and Cap himself walks in right as Spider-Man sticks his foot in his mouth.

Captain America tells the Avengers that they’re going to round up the rest of the Serpent Society, who were causing trouble in the last issue of Avenging Spider-Man (and who also caused trouble this week in Avengers vs. X-Men #0, because they are omnipresent or something).

Anyways, realizing that both he and Captain America were nerds, Spider-Man calls dibs on teaming with Captain America and then annoys him with his trademark banter.  Ultimately, the two have a bonding experience later in the issue, which I guess is different from when they were pretty close friends during Spider-Man’s time living in Avengers Tower prior to 2006’s “Civil War” story.  Back then (during Straczynski’s “The Other” storyline in Amazing Spider-Man), they were sparring partners and Captain America taught Spider-Man how to catch a bullet with his bare hands instead of just dodging it, because Captain America can do that, too.  For the record, neither of them ever really spend much time catching bullets with their bare hands, but that’s beside the point.

Wells does a great job here of furthering the idea that Spider-Man can’t help but be a pain in the ass to his fellow heroes, as has been the case since he first became a member of the Avengers.  Unlike other writers who handle Spider-Man in an Avengers setting, though, Spider-Man isn’t just written as a wise-cracking idiot here.  As much as he annoys the others, you an see that they acknowledge what he contributes to the team and that there’s a certain level of respect for him–although in the case of characters like Wolverine and Captain America, their respect has long been established).  That Wells also manages to add something more to the Captain America mythos with the art school comic strip is icing on the cake.

The art in this issue strikes a nice balance between realistic and traditional, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Sunny Gho on more books.  My only real complaint here would be that Spider-Man seems to have gotten a bit shorter, only coming up to Captain America’s shoulder in one panel (Spider-Woman, by comparison, appears just a few inches shorter than Cap on the same page).  It just kind of makes Spider-Man look like a little kid by comparison, when he’s actually around his mid-20s–not to mention it makes me wonder just how short Wolverine is supposed to be, since he’s shorter than Spider-Man.

Regardless, Avenging Spider-Man continues to be fun and, so far, offers a lot of easy jumping-on points for new readers who might be uncomfortable just diving right into the character’s flagship book.

STORY: 9/10
ART: 9/10 

 

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #682 – ‘Ends of the Earth’ Begins!

Amazing Spider-Man #682
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Stefano Caselli, Frank Martin Jr. [Colors]

On the verge of death, Dr. Otto Octavius has initiated his final diabolical plan. Using a towering structure that rises from his base beneath the sea (Where do these guys get the funding and materials for these things?), he has positioned an array of satellites in Earth’s orbit to create an “Octavian lens” that will…stop global warming?

After threatening to burn the half of the world currently facing the sun (and giving Chicago a sweet cameo), Octavius pulls a 180 and tells everyone via satellite feed that he is merely showing them the Earth they are leaving to their great-grandchildren and actually intends to preserve the planet as his final act. It would seem noble enough, if the other five villains rounding out the latest incarnation of the Sinister Six (Sandman, Mysterio, Electro, Rhino, and the Chameleon) weren’t smirking behind him.

Though many of New York’s citizens (and even a few Avengers) are buying the idea that perhaps Doc Ock might have good intentions for a change, Peter Parker–who has spent the last several months preparing new gadgets for just such an occasion in his lab at Horizon–isn’t convinced.

Meanwhile, New York’s Mayor, J. Jonah Jameson, has vowed to shut down Horizon Labs at any and all cost following the peril his astronaut son was in onboard the company’s space station in Amazing Spider-Man #680 and 681, setting up a subplot that could potentially complicate Peter Parker’s life again and expanding Jameson’s personal crusade against Spider-Man to include Horizon founder Max Modell.

Overall, this is a great first issue to Dan Slott’s much-hyped “Ends of the Earth” saga. Not only do we see yet another cool new suit that Peter has designed to help him as Spider-Man, but Slott establishes a sense that the technology Pete developed has been put to practical, “real-world” use in the Marvel Universe. This, of course, keeps in tradition with the idea that the book is just as much about Peter Parker as it is about his alter ego.

Furthermore, Stefano Caselli’s art feels as briskly paced as the story without sacrificing detail. The opening pages, with Spider-Man stealing a few tricks out of an old enemy’s bag, are especially fun.

If the rest of this arc is this good, “Spider-Island” will have tough competition for “Best Spider-Man Event of the Last Decade.”

STORY: 10/10
ART: 10/10 

Review: Carnage U.S.A. #4 – Venom Assembles

Carnage U.S.A. #4 of 5
Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Clayton Crain

Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain’s Carnage U.S.A. begins to wind down this month as  Spider-Man rallies Doverton’s survivors and Venom joins the fray.

Last issue, Captain America was able to break free of the Carnage symbiote’s control long enough to call for help from Venom (who is now a member of the Secret Avengers if you’re out of the loop).  Of course, Venom shows up this issue right as the government task force powered by the de-amalgamated Hybrid symbiote is failing and Carnage is about to tear Spider-Man’s eyes out through his mask (while promising it will be “like your skull is givin’ birth!”).

Unfortunately, Spider-Man stops Venom from blowing Carnage’s head off, giving Carnage a moment to regain the upper hand (and control of Captain America, Wolverine, Hawkeye, and the Thing) before Tanis Nieves (AKA the most recent addition to Marvel’s long list of symbiote characters, Scorn) uses a bulldozer to push both Carnage and Venom into a…silo of some sort? Whatever it is, it causes the symbiotes to leave both men and run off, and leaves Venom’s host, Flash Thompson, in a compromising situation with mass murderer Cletus Kasady.

If my description of the plot sounds a bit chaotic, that’s because this issue moved along at breakneck speed. That’s not to say the writing suffered–it didn’t. Wells’ Carnage gets more and more maniacal with every issue he writes the character, and his Spider-Man stays well in-line with the “No One Dies” status quo Dan Slott has set for the character.

Most of the backgrounds remain relatively sparse, but that’s to be expected when each frame is painted by hand on a monthly title and features the amount of character detail that Crain includes here. It really works in his favor that this story is set in a small Midwest town because there isn’t really anything to see in a place like that, anyways.

I’m excited to see how this one wraps up (and hopefully get more of an explanation for that big silo thing).

STORY: 9/10
ART: 9/10

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Review : Secret Avengers #23 Changes and heartbreak await for Hawkeye’s Team

Secret Avengers #23

Story By: Rick Remender

Art By: Gabriel Hardman

Review Score : 8/10

After the big reveal of the Adaptoids last issue Remender focuses largely on ust a few characters this issue . The main story centers around Ant man who Hawkeye had shrunk and jump onto one of the Adaptoids last issue.  Remender uses Ant Man well here having him explain to himself and the reader that he hasn’t ever really felt comfortable being a “hero” mainly because at the start of his career he was anything but that.  It’s a nice character moment that gets touched on towards the end of the issue in truly heartbreaking fashion.

Back at base Hawkeye has been up questioning his choices and generally lashing out at every one of his team mates , including Captain America. Steve Rogers believes that adding Flash Thompson (The New Venom ) to the team would greatly help Hawkeyes chances of turning his current failed mission around. Hawkeye takes offense at the notion and takes the rest of the team to go after Ant Man.

Easily my favorite character now that Remender is writing the book is Beast. Remender fills Beast full of Witty comebacks and one liners in the beginning of this issue. While towards the end has Beast take charge and remind Hawkeye not only how lucky he is to be in the Team Leader of the group but also that if he continues acting over aggressive and barking orders that he may lose Beast in the process.

Gabriel Hardman’s art is really starting to grow on me . It may not be the most detailed art around, but he tells a very clean and concise story. Facial expressions are spot on and he does well in both the Action scenes and quieter moments in the book which Remender mixes perfectly together.

I wont spoil anything for you but the end of this issue is truly heartbreaking stuff. The scenes I refer to are all done very real and through the images as well as the dialogue coming out of the character you get a sense that he’s in the middle of a fight he’s not going to win. I’m sold on this book. Even though there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the Adaptoids , Remender has made them a clear threat. I love the Team put together in this book and Remender clearly has a voice in mind for each character . Hardman’s art doesn’t disappoint and when you put that together with Remenders storytelling Marvel has another Home run book on their hands.

Mike DeVivo

Follow me on Twitter @pandasandrobots

 

Review: Carnage U.S.A. #3 – Symbiote dogs and moral dilemmas

Carnage U.S.A. #3 of 5
Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Clayton Crain

When Cletus Kasady, aka the symbiote-enhanced mass murderer Carnage, takes over a small Colorado town and compromises an Avengers task force, there’s only one thing the government can do–and it doesn’t involve napalm.

They assemble a top secret, symbiote-enhanced task force of their own.

Last issue, we were introduced to said task force, powered by the four de-amalgamated symbiotes that once comprised Hybrid.  The coolest among these is the symbiote-enhanced military dog Lasher, who has a confrontation with Carnage’s pet, the Doppelganger (remember him?), at the beginning of the issue.

Zeb Wells keeps the dark tone in place throughout, with Kasady–dressed as a priest–holding much of the town’s population in a church and demanding they each remove their teeth with pliers as a sacrifice to him.  Meanwhile, he’s demanded that the wife of the town’s sheriff, leader of a small camp of survivors where Spider-Man has found refuge, kill her husband lest he should kill their children.

Of course, he’s also using them as puppets via the Carnage symbiote, and Spider-Man intervenes as soon as things take a turn for the ugly.  This creates a moral dilemma, though, as Spider-Man finds himself having to fight off two Carnage-possessed children.  To Spider-Man’s relief, Kasady becomes angered that Sheriff Morell’s wife still won’t kill him and calls the sheriff’s family back to the church.

If writers had created these types of deranged moral dilemmas back in the ’90s when Carnage was first created, perhaps he wouldn’t have been so one-dimensional.

On that note, Carnage isn’t going to kill the sheriff’s kids himself if he can scar someone else’s psyche in the process.  Attempting to get the symbiote-possessed Captain America to do the dirty work backfires, though, as Cap fights back and is able to free himself from Carnage’s control long enough to radio for help from “Code Name 4563.”

Given recent developments in Secret Avengers (Carnage U.S.A. takes place after the events of Secret Avengers #23), fans probably already know who Cap was calling in…

Overall, this series is still moving along at a great pace with enough nods to (and improvements upon) the past to keep longtime readers engaged while not alienating anyone new to the characters.  Crain’s artwork still fits the story’s dark tone, although a lot of his backgrounds are very plain, if there’s anything in them at all.  Of course, this story is set in the Midwest, where there really isn’t much to see to begin with, and Crain paints everything, making extremely detailed backgrounds in every panel something that would be quite a bit more time-consuming.

This is still required reading for any 90s kids who like to go on and on about how awesome Carnage is, or anyone who hated symbiotes after Marvel stuffed them down everyone’s throats during that same time period.

STORY: 9/10
ART: 9/10

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