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: New Avengers #43

Captain Skrull? - Get this book.

Captain Skrull? - Get this book.

Wow.

In a word: Wow.  The whole Secret Invasion is so well executed over at Marvel right now I don’t know how they are gonna top this in the future.  The original idea was not that original, but they way Marvel is able to execute both the main story, the individual on-shots, and all the tie-in books is phenominal.  In my opinion, it just blows away last years Civil War, World War Hulk, and the prior M-day events.  The idividual talents of the writers and artists is to be highly commended because everything just seems to fit so much better than anything DC is putting out now in Final Crisis.

This issue is a great tie-in issue which further explores and explains how some of the Skrulls infiltrated the Marvel universe and took over some of the top heros and impersonated them.  Whil much of the book takes place in the Savage Land during current storyline arc, there is just enough great background and origin information in flashback sequences (ala LOST) you can really understand the motivation and depth of the Skrull Queen’s plans and mindset.  You see and understand just how much the Skrulls are willing to sacrifice and what they are willing to do to achieve their goals.  And it’s actually scary and fascinating at the same time.

There is some excellent dialogue moments with Spiderman and how he reacts to seeing Captain America (whom everyone thinks is dead) in the Savage Land.  The resoultion of these events is shocking, all the way laced with Peter’s wit and sensibilities.  I’d react the same way which just makes Peter Parker that so much more believable and acceptable to the reader.

And what was great as this was a fabulous story all contained within the Savage Land, leaving the other books to deal with the larger story.  I guess you could say this was a complimentary book in every definition of the term, but not needed, but greatly appreciated to the Secret Invasion.

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.

Comics: Mighty Avengers #15

Mighty Avengers 15

Mighty Avengers 15

I was thinking about writing in regards to Secret Invasion #3 when I happened to pick up MA #15 and was really impressed by the overall story and artwork.  I’m a big fan of John Romita Jr’s work…he has a very distinct style….some may say ‘blocky’ when it comes to character renditions, but for some reason I’ve always found it visually appealing.

It should be said that Romita is credited with the ‘breakdowns’ where two other artists do the ‘finishes’, but clearly John Romita Jr’s work beams through on most of the panels.

With that said, the story itself stood out as a great pre-cursor to Secret Invasion in just how the Skrulls were able to infiltrate and impersonate some our the Marvel Universe characters.  At first I thought this was a very unique take on the plot, but after thinking for some time, it dawned on me that one of the plot points was very similar to a scene within the Indiana Jones movie ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.  See, in the comic a young, attractive female college student is seen sitting in the audience making goo-goo eyes to Dr. Henry Pym as lectures on genomes and physics.  In RotLA, a female college student makes goo-goo eyes to Dr. Jones as he lectures on archeology in a fairly like manner.

But that’s where the parallels stop.  In MA #15 we get a glimpse of the tenuous relationship between Hank and Janet (aka ‘Wasp’) as Janet comes home one night drunk where Henry is working in his study.  I must say, Janet was looking ‘pretty good’ in her disheveled state (messed up hair, blouse unbuttoned, etc.) and as far back as I can remember this was the first time I had empathy for Hank and why he ‘may’ have a tendancy to ‘snap’ at his on-again/off-again wife.  Clearly there are two sides to every story.

As Janet gives up and leaves, we advance a few days or perhaps even a week, and shockingly Dr. Pym is shown in some very risque panels with his female student.  While tastefully done, there is some amount of ‘teasing’ the reader on Dr. Pym’s adulterous behaviors.  There are some great moments all within a few pages which you can understand just how the Skrull’s learn the weaknesses of their targets.

Without giving away the ending or ‘spoiler’, let’s just say the transition of Hank Pym now makes sense if you are a reader of The Initiative and we get a clue to the larger puzzle of how the Skrulls were able to do what they did.

As a stand alone issue, Mighty Avengers #15 won a lot a favor in my heart,