Sigh. I’m way behind. It’s ridiculously frustrating to open my iPad and count a ton of Secret Wars comics that I’ve read and haven’t reviewed, and then realize that another ton of Secret Wars comics that I’m still reading and haven’t come close to forming an opinion on. I’m stuck.
The purpose of reviewing all these books (and committing to reviewing all these books) was to force myself into the habit of regular writing. But it’s hard to do with an active non-writing life. It’s even tougher when I have to write about something that completely confounds and disgusts me.
That something is Doctor Strange, as portrayed in Secret Wars #4.
Recap: At the end of the Marvel Universe, Doom and Dr. Strange stood and confronted the Beyonders, who were ending every universe in the multiverse for kicks. Something happened, and either Doom or Strange could have had Godlike powers in the new universe. Strange chickened out, and Doom is now God. In the process, he’s created a harsh society where rulers of the different Battleworld zones scheme for power, taken Reed Richards’s family as his own, and comdemns people to death by casting out those he doesn’t like into a world filled with Ultrons and zombies.
So, when a capsule of surviving heroes pops up, including Doom’s longtime nemesis Reed Richards, what do you think Doc Strange does? Do you think he embraces this group as the last, best chance to usurp Doom and restore the Marvel Universe?
No. Instead, he tells them all how great Doom is. He neglects telling Reed about his family being brainwashed into loving Doom, and that is mighty disgusting. If you’re my friend, and I know your lifelong nemesis has kidnapped your wife and kids and made them drink funny Kool-Aid so that they loved him and forgot you, would you think of me as a good guy? Of course you wouldn’t. You’d wonder what is wrong with me.
And it gets worse. When God Doom shows up (without the wife and kids he stole, because he’s not stupid!), Strange waves his magic hands and makes all the heroes disappear and hide. Why? Because Doom might have killed them. OF COURSE DOOM WOULD HAVE KILLED THEM, HE’S DOOM! And not crappy Fantastic Four Movie Doom (go listen to the latest episode of the GAR! podcast to hear me talk about that mess), but real Marvel Universe Doom. We all know Doom, even when he’s the Hero, is the Villain. We know that once he’s in charge, everyone else is dead. Why doesn’t Strange know this? What’s wrong with him?
Well, it doesn’t stay wrong for long, because Doom- being a BAD GUY- rips him in two. Cue ending.
I’ve been stumped for a month trying to write this. It’s a terrible, bad, no good comic. I vowed to review this series of comics, written by an author whose work I’ve always enjoyed up to now, and now I’m like huh-whuh-how-meh and it’s just no fun.
Meanwhile, the other books just PILE up. As of today, August 11th, I’ve got over 70 comics to say something interesting about. And that doesn’t count Secret Wars 5 and the other books coming out tomorrow.
So that’ll be the rest of the week. I survived the Fantastic Four Movie, I’ll survive this. Somehow…
All right, let’s get a couple of review out there! (It’s more fun when I’m behind, right? Right?) Warning: I think I gave out more Thumbs Down than normal.
Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies #1
I suspect that when picking up his Secret Wars assignments, Robinson said to Marvel management. “You know, I’m kind of tired of doing all the Golden Age stuff I’m known for. I need a change. Can you give me the goofiest concept you’ve got?”
And thus Ultron vs. Zombies. Even then, he can’t help showing off his knowledge of old comics. He knows the difference between different Ultron versions, which should make my podcast partner happy. There’s also a Timely region of Battleworld. Timely, of course, is the former name of Marvel. And Steve Pugh is on art, which makes me so happy. I met Steve once- he has the nicest handshake of any man on the planet, and he’s a fantastic artist.
As for the plot…it’s got a new version of Hank Pym that I dig, and there’s a neat surprise at the end, so why spoil it?
Verdict: THUMBS UP
Armor Wars #2
Here’s a quick hint to how I grade these. The first issue of these series has to show that the particular Battleworld concept is worth reading. The second issue has to show that the creative team is taking full advantage of the concept.
Armor Wars is basically a one-note joke- let’s put all your favorite heroes in cool armor! But it’s a good joke, and Robinson adds just enough gravitas to make it succeed. A murder mystery can be a tough device to pull off in a superhero comic (unless you’re Alan Moore writing Watchmen). but it’s effective here because we really don’t know the background of the characters enough to pre-judge who the murderer is.
I’m a bit surprised how well Marcio Takara’s art is working for this book. With a concept like Armor Wars, you’d expect an artist to use sleek, curvy lines. Takara goes the other war- chunky figures with splotchy blacks that might have been inked with a Sharpie. But it works, because this isn’t a sexy robot story. It’s a horror story, how humanity can take technology too far. It’s dystopia all the way.
Verdict: THUMBS UP
Black Widow #19
So this is as close to a Red Skies book as Secret Wars has had. Supposedly, this is one of the Last Days Of books that shows how the heroes cope as the Marvel Universe ends…but we only get one page of that. Instead, it’s a story of Black Widow’s past set in Cuba. I felt like I was missing some details in the issues that came before it, so I don’t feel qualified to grade it. It didn’t thrill me for what it was, but it’s not fair to give it a Thumbs Down when I haven’t read the other stories, so…
Verdict: THUMBS TWIDDLING
Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #9
I LOVED this issue. Simple and effective concept: How do the Mighty Avengers spend their final minutes on Marvel-616? Doing hero stuff.
Forget Secret Wars #1- this is the real Last Minutes of the Marvel Universe. Every hero takes on the Incursion from the Ultimate Universe. Obama speaks to America, asking us all to believe in the heroes. Monica has to ask herself if she can go through with killing everyone in the Ultimate Universe to save Marvel-616. Every hero goes out fighting- heck, every human on earth goes out fighting. It’s a fantastic end to the Marvel Universe, and is a must read for Secret Wars fans. (And Marvel announced today that the series is continuing post-SW as the Ultimates, and I’m so happy to hear we’re getting more Al Ewing!)
Verdict: THUMBS UP
Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #2
Nope, still not laughing. Sorry. If you love Secret Wars in-jokes…well, I’m still not sure you’ll like this book. Blegh.
Verdict: THUMBS HOLDING MY NOSE AT HOW BAD THIS BOOK IS
E is for Extinction #1
The high concept: Take Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, add a twist to take out Xavier (and do it in two panels for maximum impact), and show what it’d be like in a few years if the concept played out. Add in an artist doing his best Frank Quitely impression, and stir.
Hey- it works! Granted, it wouldn’t work if Chris Burnham didn’t understand the source material so well, and if Ramon Villalobos didn’t do a damn good job of aping Quitely. It doesn’t hurt that the original material were fantastic comics, as good as anything in the X-Men line since Claremont and Byrne’s heyday (and maybe better). Burnham’s on fire here, adding extra snark whenever necessary (hint: always) and laying down tons of plot lines in this issue.
By the way: forget Old Man Logan. I want Old, Busted Healing Factor, Cool Jacket Logan in post-Secret Wars. Please?
Verdict: THUMBS UP
Infinity Gauntlet #2
Oof. What happened here? Everything that worked in the first issue falls apart in the second issue. Bickering parents, multiple Thanoses (Thanosii?), a Guardians of the Galaxy pairing that’s evil…there’s no charm, nothing likeable, nothing that pulls you in to the story. And no, that includes Nova Dog. Sorry, this one just lost me.
Verdict: THUMBS DOWN
Korvac Saga #1
On the podcast, Glenn and I both talked about how we both didn’t care for the original Korvac Saga in Avengers 167-177. This version isn’t much better, despite the best efforts of Dan Abnett and Otto Schmidt. As much fun as the original Guardians can be, it’s not fun to read neutered versions who don’t know about stars because of Doom’s machinations as creator of everything. There’s also quite a bit of fake sci-fi speak (“Holy Flark!” and “weaponized meme”), and the fight scene runs incredibly long to little consequence. It’s a book that tries to be of consequence but fails.
Also, I don’t like Michael Korvac. And why is Simon Williams dressed like Captain Marvel? Did they need to refresh a trademark or something?
Verdict: THUMBS DOWN
Loki: Agent of Asgard #15
Why Al Ewing Is A Genius- Reason #102
In the middle of a fight between Asgardia and Hel at the end of the Marvel Universe, Ewing works in the origin story of Verity Willis, a girl who swallows a magic ring as a baby and thus can always tell when people are lying to her. He uses a story element from an old Walt Simonson Thor to pull this off. In the process, he makes Verity as interesting a character as there is in the Marvel U. Seriously, I would pay good money for a Verity Willis comic book post-Secret Wars.
And this doesn’t hurt either:
Verdict: THUMBS UP
Okay, that’s nine books down, another ten to go. See you later in the week!
I am 44. In 1992, I was 21 and a member of Generation X. Here is a partial list of things that people alive in 1992 need to apologize to future generations for:
Billy Ray Cyrus. (Miley’s okay, but Billy Ray is a sin against music.)
Mad About You.
Barney the Purple Dinosaur.
Overwritten X-Men comics.
You can argue the first four- I was not a TV or music executive in the 1990s. But I bought a lot of those exposition-laden X-Men comics with the scratchy lines and the impossible anatomy. Those books were the cutting edge of superhero books, despite the fact that, in retrospect, they were terrible. We didn’t care. We bought the books by the metric ton. And as a result, Fox made a cartoon about the X-Men, and that was also, in my opinion, hot garbage.
Chad Bowers and Chris Sims clearly disagree with my opinion. They must, because X-Men ’92 is a loving, worshipful tribute to the comics and show of that era. I knew Chris Sims loved the show, because he wrote an extensive episode guide on Comics Alliance. But I never realized that he and Chad were so devoted to the show until I read the books.
I like sharing panels of comics with you, my beloved audience, but you might want to turn your heads or scroll down, because if you’re not cool with overwrought verbiage, your head will explode at the gnarliness of these comics:
I’m not complaining about this book. If you’re going to do a book called X-Men ’92, this is how you do it. You get X-Men fanboys obsessed with the sheer ludicrousness of those books and take it to the nth degree. This comic is as X-Men ’92ish as anything can be. It’s absurd performance art, and everyone involved should be applauded for it. But Marvel, please don’t do it again, or I’m siccing Tabitha Soren and the surviving member of Kriss Kross on you all.
I’ve given very few Thumbs Down verdicts in Secret Wars, but damn it if Ultimate End doesn’t just keep piling them up.
Here’s the story beats for this book. Ready?
The Thors all come together and tell the combined Ultimate/616 charactes to do nothing. Seriously. Nothing. The 616 Hawkeye complains, so the Thors kill him. And by extension, Bendis has killed more Hawkeyes than anyone else on the planet.
616 Tony Stark tells Ultimate Iron Man to stop drinking. So he does.
616 Peter Parker says hi to Ultimate Aunt May, which would be charming, except we’ve seen this before in Spider-Men a few years ago. This book is way too late.
616 Hulk and Ultimate Hulk have a fight near the Raft, and inadvertently break out Ultimate Punisher.
That’s the book. Yep. $3.99 for all of that.
Verdict: THUMBS DOWN.
Weirdworld #1 (Note- this review is peppered with foul language. You’ll see why in a moment.)
OK, so here’s a warning. I record GAR! this week with Glenn, probably on Wednesday night (I’m typing this on Tuesday). We never plan ahead. The podcast is completely off-the-cuff, no notes, no plans. We just riff off whatever we feel like.
But this week (if my podcast partner lets me get away with it), I’m going to read as much of Weirdworld #1 out loud as I can. Because Weirdworld #1 is FUCKING AWESOME.
It’s not just the concept (“Hi! I’m Arkon, and I’m going to run around a strange land and have adventures!”). It’s not just Mike Del Mundo channeling Bill Sienkiewicz.
It’s Jason Aaron. Jason Aaron gives Arkon the most pulpy inner dialogue I’ve ever seen. It’s sharp, crisp, masculine, and muscular. It’s also paranoid, exhausted, and cranky, just like Arkon is after weeks of running around the insanity that is Weirdworld.
This book is like the methed out husk of PKD merged with Robert E. Howard. It’s insane, and it’s the new contender for best Secret Wars book. The hill just got steeper.
I don’t curse much on this blog, but fuck it.
Verdict: GODDAMN. STOP READING THIS AND GO BUY IT.
Where Monsters Dwell #1
I love Garth Ennis’s writing.
I love Russ Braun’s artwork.
I love crazy time-displaced stories about ne’er-do-wells trying to fly in a strange land who are also trying to get in bed with a smarter-than-she-looks bombshell.
I love dinosaurs.
Verdict: THUMBS UP.
X-Tinction Agenda #1
Did you know that in the original X-Tinction Agenda, Genosha had the power to digitize people, transport them by phone line (copper landlines!), and force them into a live of slavery?
Here’s where it gets interesting. The human body contains 150 Zetabytes (a real thing!) of genetic data. If you scrub the data for redundancy, you could compress that data to about 1.5 GB (again, according to the Internet, and what would it lie?) The fastest modem in 1988 was probably 9600 baud. So it would take about a half-year to send over a fully compressed human being in real life (if it were possible to do that to a human being).
Sadly, that’s a more interesting fact than anything here. This book isn’t for me.
Verdict: THUMBS DOWN.
Years of Future Past #1
Marguerite Bennett might be the new Charles Soule. She’s writing a LOT of books. This is good, because writers need practice and paychecks, and (hopefully) she’s getting a lot of it. All of her published work have come in the last two years.
What’s amazing is that I can’t think of a bad book she’s written. Look at all of that material in two years time. She’s still coming up with tons of fresh material despite her workload. It’s amazing. Look- she has Wolverine punch a tiger!
Look at that panel. She doesn’t overwrite the thing- Wolverine pops in, punches the tiger, and by the next page, we’ve moved on to exposition. That’s how you’re supposed to write fun, punchy comics (and by punchy, I mean “having an immediate impact”, not just tiger-bashing).
Getting to play in the “Days of Future Past” toybox sounds like a plum assignment for most writers, but really, it’s not. I’ve read tons of bad rehashes of the classic Byrne/Claremont story. Some writers will make Katherine Pryde too dry. Some will overplay the “old Wolverine” hand (sadly, like Bendis does in Old Man Logan). Some writers will try to build up the Sentinels as a daunting threat, forgetting that the Sentinels are a tired concept in 2015.
Bennett takes what she’s given and comes up with a fresh plot. She gives what could have been a dull retake a fantastic plot twist. She gets great work out of her artist, Mike Norton. And she gives us Wolverine punching a tiger.
And that’s why Marguerite Bennett has written a ton of books in the last two years, and why she’s a writer worth paying attention to.
Verdict: THUMBS UP.
And with that, folks, I’m finally caught up! Next Monday, I’ll be reviewing the new slate of Secret Wars stuff. Don’t miss out!