Comics: New Avengers #47

First and foremost there are two things to say about the cover in regards to this issue: 1) I’m curious to know if some of the ‘pictures’ of the characters in costume are actually the creative team of the comic that are photo-shopped in.  Clearly a few of the faces portrayed are those of real people disguised as Skrulls which I think is a pretty cool concept.  2) The cover has absolutely nothing to do with the content of this issue.  By the focal point being Clint ‘Hawkeye’ Barton in a prominent pose wearing his signature costume, it leads the reader to believe at first glance that this issue will have something to do with Clint re-announcing his return to the Marvel Universe and possibly shedding his recent Ronin persona.  In fact, the whole issue is devoted to a back-story of how Luke Cage and Jessica Jones met but somehow touted as a ‘Secret Invasion’ tie-in…also somewhat of a stretch.

No Hawkeye here

No Hawkeye here

Yes, there is indeed a tie-in to Secret Invasion, particularly as it pertains to the last few pages of SI #8 and Luke and Jessica’s baby girl, but not the focal point of the issue.  It was neat to compare the last few pages of this issue to the last few pages of SI #8 as you see the event unfold from two separate vantage points and helps fill in the blanks for the reader as only Bendis can do.

Other than the last few pages the story within is again split amongst two separate pre-Invasion time frames.  We open with Luke and Jessica  speaking to each other within their apartment on how they are going to raise their daughter and the ramifications it may have on their child seeing that they are superheroes.  We witness a side of Luke in which most new fathers can identify with…how do we hold a baby, change it’s diapers, and all the other responsibilities we have no clue on.  Jessica of course lends motherly and confident logic here as she tries to quell Luke’s parental fears and points out he once fought Dr. Doom, so how hard can it be?

We are then treated to a backstory in retrospect on how Luke first came to meet Jessica Jones ina  quest to locate his estranged father and make a reconnection.  Bendis is very good on thier introductory dialogue here weaving a very serious matter to Luke with some light hearted humor from Ms. Jones.

Jessica catches up with Cage Sr.’s new home, but is stopped at the screen door by Mr. Cage’s new wife.  The dialogue goes back and forth in this manner as we learn more about the relationship with the estranged Cage Sr.  The use of the screen door and the shifting perspective between Jessica and the woman who answers the door is very well done and almost feels cinematic in nature.  The big surprise we learn towards the end of the ladies yammering is that Luke has been standing off panel the entire time and digesting everything he is hearing for the first time…speechless.

In the aftermath of this encounter we fast forward what can only be assumed to be a brief period of time (hours) in which Jessica and Luke share an emotional moment outside a local Dairy Queen of all places.  Its moments like these in comics where you forget you are reading about superheroes and begin to look at these characters as actual living, breathing people.

While issue #47 may appear to be a ‘filler’ issue at first glance, it’s actually a treat to see how the relationship between Luke and Jessica first originated and really adds a new layer of depth to them both beyond how sometimes Marvel characters can be portrayed as very one dimensional especially in the recent wake of all the non-stop action that made of the core Secret Invasion and all the other tie-ins.

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Comics: Batman Cacophony #1

Cacophony 1

Cacophony 1

I generally have a very favorable response to anything writer/director Kevin Smith touches.  I enjoy his movies immensely, although at times I find the abrasive language a bit much and sometimes overdone.  But when it comes to his comic book writing, who can deny that he helped re-elevate many DC and Marvel characters who seemed at one time very cool, but were losing their ‘it’ factor.

He helped me discover Daredevil when he took over the relaunch of that title years ago, and I still collect and read that avidly (of course M. Bendis has a lot to do with that today).  He brought Green Arrow back to the forefront of DC (although I’m not sue how that title is doing today).  And even the often delayed and criticized Spiderman & Blackcat series helped bring Felicia Hardy into her own again.

With that said I was excited to learn that Smith would be involved in a three issue series starring Batman, although I was a bit surprised Smith chose this character to tackle.  There’s been a lot of focus on Batman as of late with the Final Crisis/R.I.P storyline, All Star Batman project, Batman & The Outsiders (personal yawn), The Dark Knight movie this past summer, in addition to all the other Bat titles that DC is churning out.  I often think Batman is becoming DC’s own Wolverine….over exposed and involved in way too many titles to keep his continuity in check.

A Batman story needs to be impressive and handled well in my opinion to hold my attention, and to grab my $3.99 anymore, and I believe that Smith can usually turn out gold.  With what I personally think is becoming a fiasco over at DC with the very drawn out and sometimes confusing and continuity challenged chaos which is Final Crisis, I despretly want to like this book.

I just finished issue 1 (of three), and I’m happy to say I approve and look forward to the next two installments.  However, while it was indeed good, it was not ‘great’.

As always, Smith’s intricate dialogue and creativity are what help make this book such an enjoyable read.  Smith, like Bendis can tell a fun story with snippets of humor and dark and scary content and seem to blend the overall theme and direction fairly well.  That said, the initial setup with and backstory with the Joker and Deadshot was intriguing and a very fresh idea for once in the often rehashing of anything dealing with Arkham Asylum.  The interaction between these two is classic, both funny and disturbing at times.  However, the one gripe I have is the stated $20,000 a disgruntled guard agrees upon to sell all of Arkham’s secrets.  It should have been much higher, and the explanation as to why the guard was let go to begin with was a bit weak.

Smith’s prior creation, Onomatopoeia, also shows up to run interference with Deadshot.  Onomatopoeia, doesn’t talk, but instead, mimics the sounds of his surroundings and my first thought upon seeing his costume was a possible homage to Bullseye (Marvel).

The Joker is also portrayed a bit more disturbing than I remember him in the past, with some homosexual and necrophilia tendencies.  With Smith at the helm of writing, this doesn’t really surprise me too much, and adds an additional ‘creep’ factor to the clowned prince of crime.

There is a scene about half way through the book between Onomatopoeia and The Joker which seems to be the initial setup for act two and a hint towards Onomatopoeia’s motivations.

So by now you’re wondering, “Where is Batman in all this?”.  In an abrupt cut, Smith takes us to witness villain Zsasz commit a heinous crime, and once again Smith throws in a very disturbing moment in which Zsasz turns his back to the panel and commits self mutilation on what can only be suggested as his genatalia before Batman crashes in to take him down.   All in all, I’m not exactly sure what the point was in all this other than Smith wanting to inject a twisted moment into the book and shoehorn Batman in at this point.  It’s not that it doesn’t work and detracts from the overall story, but its placement and abrupt cut over to seemed a bit off.

That also goes for another character, Maximillian Zues, who is introduced to the story in another abrupt cut scene.  My first thought was “What?  Of all the characters to choose from, why Zues?  Well, I’ll just have to trust Smith to flesh this out in the next issue as only he can.  I just hope I won’t be scratching my head at the end of issue 2 as I am now. 

The pencils provided by Walter Flanagan also leave me a bit unsure how I feel in the end.  In some panels I think Flanagan did a fine job, especially with Jokers expressions and mannerisms.  Yet in others, the artwork felt simplistic and rushed and ‘under-developed’ like with Zsasz and Maximillian.

Overall, even with a few jarring interuptions in the flow of the book and inconsistent art, this is still a buy and already more cerebral than what happening over in Batman & The Oustiders…once a fine book that seems to have lost its way (already much like the newly revamped Titans)

Comics: Secret Invasion #4

1 of 4 covers

1 of 4 covers

While it seems that DC’s Final Crisis is taking its sweet time to come out for its next issue and taking a little criticism to boot, (I heard that first few issues had lower than expected sales and there’s a notable percentage of readers who seem to be slightly let down so far, me included) Marvel is plugging away at Secret Invasion.

With issue 4 now out, (and four different covers) it seems there’s a brief sidestep of the agressive soryline that the first three issues really delivered on.  That’s not to say there is no action here in issue 4, we just aren’t hit with any new revelations or jaw dropping panels.  It seems that the heroes are taking a quick breath to collect their wits after what transpired in the Savage Land and the intense battle with the all new Super Skrulls downtown Manhattan.

We open with a captured Reed Richards being stretched out and interogated by the Skrulls, and a few panels updating readers the major hotspots.

Natasha Romanov (aka Black Widow) spies a confused Tony Stark and Jessica Drew (aka Spider Woman) Skrull imposter as Tony tries to repair his armor in a secluded area of the Savage Land (BTW: Where the heck did Ka-za and Sheena go?)  Natasha chases the fake Jessica away and tries to snap Tony out of his mental paraylsis when Wolverine comes on the scene.  Natasha has a few great lines here as she confronts the identity of Wolverine (I won’t give it away, but it’s classic Bendis).

In Manhattan it seems Nick Fury arrives with the calvary ( a group of new amateur/green heroes who just debuted last month) and helps the heroes limp away so they can regroup.  It appears many of the heroes are surprised by his return, and not quite sure if they can trust him or not wondering if this is just another Skrull imposter and another trap is about to be sprung.  For me, this story line and overall arc is a great way to bring Fury back into the mainstream Marvel universe.  Probably one of the best overall re-treatments of a character in a long, long time.

The one exciting moment for me, while brief, was the was the villain The Hood reacts to the Skrull invasion.  While his minions are happy to see the heroes duke it out with the Skrulls, he sees the bigger picture and to The Hood, it’s not about the heroes right now.  It’s about the humans and the Skrulls, and no way are the Skrulls taking over his territory.  So it looks like The Hood and his goons are going to join the fray on the sides of humanity,….another great way to take a B-list villian and not only flesh him out but elevate him in a way a reader would not normally expect.  Go Bendis!!

We close this chapter with everything in flux, but the last panel shows a sneak peak of what can only be Capt. America.  But which one?  Is it the new Bucky?  Is it an alien imposter?  Is it the time displaced Cap. from Secret Invaders?  Or is it our beloved Steve Rogers back from the presumed dead?

Comics: New Avengers #40

I’m becoming more and more impressed and geeking out to the likes of Marvel’s Secret Invasion and all the tie-ins.  While I am not collecting every single cross over issue, I really feel as if Marvel is doing a stellar job in keeping this years major story arc much more cohesive and fun to read than previous attempts (IMHO: Civil War, while conceptually compelling, fell flat on logic and continuity issues).

But then again it may all be Brian M Bendis.  This stand alone issue, very similar to Mighty Avengers 15 (that focuses on Hank Pym and his Skrull imitator), does an extraordinary job of weaving together past dialogue and back issue panels into the current Secret Invasion story for today.  Finally we see where and what Spider Woman (aka Jessica Drew) has been up to since her thrust into the spotlight a few years back from obscurity into the pages of the Mighty Avengers.

While I am not a big fan for paying for rehashed content (i.e. some of the dialogue and panels are ‘borrowed’ from past Avengers issues), this time I was really down with it, didn’t mind it at all, and actually excited to turn the page.  That is the sign of an excellent story…the fact you are excited to turn the page to see how everything fits together even though 20-25% of the book is a copy from earlier issues.

I’m totally enjoying how Bendis is portraying Nick Fury both past and present, and his treatment on Jessica Drew, Hydra, and the Skrull conspiracy.  The few moments between the Skrull Queen and her Earthbound infiltrators is ‘creepy’ in a good way, and makes the whole Invasion concept that more chilling and does a fine job of explaining how things like M-Day, Civil War, and the Initiative played out from the Skrull point of view.  Needless to say, these issues are a great compliment to the Secret Invasion series and I only wish DC could inspire me the same way with their latest Final Crisis wrap up.