Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Posts tagged “John Romita Jr.

Revisiting The Avengers pt. II

I’ve been reading The Avengers on a monthly basis since a little before Bendis pulled the whole Disassembled thing. Looking back on it, that’s a lot of time to invest into a title. Couple that with the fact that I stuck with Bendis’ handling of the team through both the New and Mighty Avengers titles and then the “Heroic Age” relaunch and that’s a lot of time spent reading his take on the franchise. I’ll admit that for me, Bendis is the name I will probably always associate with Avengers. I’ve gone back and read most of the pivotal runs and I think only Kurt Busiek’s run matches it in density and enjoyability. Though there are some classic Silver Age moments that I quite enjoy.

I had to drop both of the Avengers titles shortly after the relaunch because of monetary issues. A lot of really good books got chopped, actually. But with the movie recently in theaters I thought it would be a good idea to re-examine some prominent Avengers stories once again and so here we are.

AVENGERS v. II
Written by Brian Michael Bendis with artwork by John Romita Jr.

This volume collects issues 6-12 of Brian Bendis’ 2010 Avengers relaunch. This time around the team is already assembled and they get thrust headfirst into the adventure. This arc, like the first six issues, has a lot of what some people would call “classic” Avengers fare. The crux of the story revolves around a villain attempting to collect all of the Infinity Gems. This time around however, the story contains a lot of the hallmarks of Bendis’ favorite tropes and schemes. For example, the villain of this piece isn’t an old schooler like Kang but a more recent invention in Parker Robbins, aka the Hood.

While our antagonist is most definitely from the new blood of Marvel, the threat of the Infinity Gems recall Avengers tales of the past. Bendis does revert to his usual shenanigans of playing around with Marvel history, drawing heavily from his Illuminati storyline. This reads almost as a mini-sequel to that event and as a result it doesn’t feel quite as new-reader friendly as the first volume. That’s not to say that the things this arc references aren’t adequately explained because they are and readers willing to go with the flow will be able to easily keep up.

The big shakeup this time around is the addition of the Red Hulk to the team. Parts of the arc seem to work as a redemption of the character who in the early days of his own title was written as so omnipowerful that he became unimaginably boring. With this story, Bendis manages to use the fact that Rulk was written as unimaginably powerful to elevate the threat level of the Hood and his quest for the Infinity Gems. It’s quite effective.

Honestly, I enjoyed this arc much more than the first. Even the artwork seemed better developed this time around. It may be a bit of personal preference, but the title seems to have found its balance with this story and the addition of the Red Hulk to the team. I can’t say everyone will have the same reaction, but this volume seems to have the right mix of the classic style with the fresh perspective of Bendis’ writing.

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Revisiting The Avengers pt. I

I’ve been reading The Avengers on a monthly basis since a little before Bendis pulled the whole Disassembled thing. Looking back on it, that’s a lot of time to invest into a title. Couple that with the fact that I stuck with Bendis’ handling of the team through both the New and Mighty Avengers titles and then the “Heroic Age” relaunch and that’s a lot of time spent reading his take on the franchise. I’ll admit that for me, Bendis is the name I will probably always associate with Avengers. I’ve gone back and read most of the pivotal runs and I think only Kurt Busiek’s run matches it in density and enjoyability. Though there are some classic Silver Age moments that I quite enjoy.

I had to drop both of the Avengers titles shortly after the relaunch because of monetary issues. A lot of really good books got chopped, actually. But with the movie recently in theaters I thought it would be a good idea to re-examine some prominent Avengers stories once again and so here we are.

AVENGERS v. I
Written by Brian Michael Bendis with artwork by John Romita Jr.

The 2010 volume of Avengers begins in the wake of Marvel’s “Siege” storyline where Norman Osborn’s reign as the leader of SHIELD/HAMMER comes to a close and the status quo reverts to something more akin to what longtime readers were familiar with, this time with Steve Rogers in the role previously filled by Nick Fury and assembling two separate Avengers teams. This volume deals with the more “traditional” Avengers featuring Iron Man, Hawkeye, Thor, etc. with holdovers from the previous volume of New Avengers in Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, and Wolverine.

The book still maintains much of what made Bendis’ run on the first volume of New Avenger such a success, ie. his dialog. He’s especially gifted at writing witty banter and makes good use of characters like Hawkeye, Spider-man, and the more garrulous members of the team. This time around however, there is less focus on grounded street level action and the plot is driven by BIG ideas that the Avengers series seem to thrive on. In this particular volume, we get a broken timestream and alternate realities. We get classic Avengers villains like Ultron and Kang. It’s everything longtime fans of the book should love.

The principle complaint against the book is that Bendis cannot write with his trademark style and manage that sort of plotting. I would argue that this isn’t true. Working with John Romita Jr, the layouts and flow seem to work as well as they ever have with a story of this type. While the artwork does seem more sketchy and rough around the edges than I would really like out of Romita, he does a serviceable job making sure that Bendis’ story comes to life on the page.

My major issue with these six issues is that the book does seem to have too much going on for its own good. The chaos in one timestream seems to suck the energy from the parallel plot and as such the story reads somewhat uneven. It’s not a bad story, it just isn’t very even. In regards to assembling a new team, the book sets up the new status quo quite well. We get a very good idea of what the book is going to do very quickly. You just have to decide for yourself whether it is up your alley.


Weekly Comic Reviews

I Do Not Actually Look Like Jesse Custer

After another brief hiatus the reviews have returned, and I’m sure you were all so worried that I’d never get back to the weekly review schedule. Well, here I am. I can’t say much for this week’s crop of books because it was a light week all around. Picking what to review was actually the hardest part of this little endeavor because everything I picked up is in the middle of an arc and if you haven’t made up your mind on a book by part four I doubt my little review is gonna sway you either way. If you do get to part four then read my review and go “well I’m not picking that up!” maybe I need to consider a career as a hostage negotiator.

Arrivals 8-25-2010
ACTION COMICS #892 3.99
ASTONISHING X-MEN #35 2.99
AVENGERS #4 3.99
BATMAN #702 2.99
BLACK WIDOW #5 2.99
CAPTAIN AMERICA #609 3.99
FANTASTIC FOUR #582 2.99
GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #15 2.99
GREEN ARROW #3 (BRIGHTEST DAY) 2.99
SHADOWLAND MOON KNIGHT #1 (OF 3) SL 3.99
SUPERMAN SECRET ORIGIN #6 (OF 6) 3.99
THOR #613 3.99
WONDER WOMAN #602 2.99
X-MEN LEGACY #239 2.99

Now let’s get this over with.

BEHOLD....MY BEARD!
AVENGERS # 4

I praised the first issue of Avengers as a return to the classic feel of the title with a little bit of Bendis’ trademark style. Four issues in, I still get the classic vibe but I don’t so much think that Bendis’ Bendis-ey tendencies (that’s an odd rhyme) are all that suited for this sort of book. Contrast this with New Avengers where he’s really feeling his groove and hasn’t lost a beat since the last volume and you can see where he feels more comfortable. Bendis likes to do epic on a small scale. Epic as it pertains to the individual or a group of individuals. In New Avengers, it’s really Bendis’ statement on how Cage has grown as a leader and Doctor Strange’s role in the world of magic. You can boil the importance of the arc down to two characters, in essence. With Avengers it’s a little harder to do that. And while it’s still a good book and an interesting read, I’m not sure if it has Bendis’ singular focus. However, Bendis does get major brownie points with me for his use of Killraven. I mean, when was the last time we saw that guy? All I know is that its cool that he’s getting a little face time because I think he’s a great character.

Where I’m sure I’m going to lose alot of you is my feelings on the artwork. Now, I like JRJR, I think he’s a great talent and he’s practically synonymous with Marvel. That having been said, his work here looks rushed. I don’t doubt that he was rushed. But this is the Avengers we’re talking about. The Avengers should have the best art in the damned company as far as I’m concerned. New Avengers looks amazing. Avengers looks like a sketchbook that’s been colored in. There’s none of the finished nuance of his work on Amazing Spider-Man or KickAss (though Kickass took like three years to finish eight issues, so he probably wasn’t as rushed.) But all the same I would rather the book come out every five weeks to give the man some extra time than have an Avengers book that looks like it was drawn by someone with shaky hands and blurry eyes.

The book is still strong, it’s just weakened by Bendis being out of his comfort zone and Romita’s art running at about 50% his usual standard. But it’s good to have the real Avengers doing stuff that the real Avengers would do. Thor smashes a martian spacecraft in this issue. That’s the Avengers I love.

Insert Sexual Innuendo
BLACK WIDOW # 5

Marjorie Liu finishes the first arc on Black Widow as well as her tenure on the title with the fifth issue here. Next month Duane Swiercanspellhislastnameski takes over and crosses the title over with Hawkeye and Mockingbird. I don’t know what the tone shift between the two writers will be like but I’m pretty sure it’ll be minimal. This issue basically serves as a 32 page “exhibit A” as to why Black Widow is a badass. She does a lot of ass kicking here, and proves that in addition to being a spy and an Avenger she’s also a pretty good nude bondage model. (Yeah, I’ll scan that panel later, I promise.)

They’ve done a good job with this book. Black Widow isn’t the most amazing character in the world. She’s essentially a female Jason Bourne at this point. Effecient, badass, and portrayed by an A-List actor on film. As far as the writing on the book is concerned, Marjorie Liu is able to pull together the personal narrative with the spy action well enough that you’re left wondering why Black Widow hasn’t had a monthly title for so long. If there’s one thing that she does right with Natasha it’s that she makes her an organic and viable character that has room for years worth of stories based just off of the work in this introductory arc. Whatever comes next, it won’t feel like they’re trying to cash in on the character because of her appearance in Iron Man 2 but instead because there are stories that need to be told based off of what has been established.

I’m not sure what Duane is going to bring to the book, but he has big shoes to fill. Actually, I don’t know what size shoes Marjorie Liu wears. He’s got a lot to live up to that’s for sure. I expect at least one more equally awesome cold-storage bondage moment out of him before I think he’s anywhere near Liu’s level.

Watch Me Brood, Yo
SHADOWLAND : MOON KNIGHT # 1

When I first picked up Shadowland I promised myself I wasn’t going to get the tie-ins. I was going to give Marvel the finger when it came to the side-books that had no real bearing on the actual story. Now we’re about two months in and I’ve gotten every tie-in they’ve released so far. Congrats Marvel, you’ve got your hooks so far into my hide that I can feel it in my colon. Anyhow, it’s not a bad thing because every tie-in book thus far has been worth the money. I haven’t been let down by anything in the Shadowland pantheon as of yet. I picked up this one because I was hoping to figure out where Moon Knight plays into the whole thing and how he wound up in the underground prison in the main series.

While the book does address those issues it also seems to focus on the themes presented in the Vengeance of Moon Knight book with Moony becoming a less violent hero and Khonshu taking it the wrong way, seeing as how he lives off of the blood that his avatar delivers to him through acts of vigilantism. I assume I’m getting that right, Moon Knight can be confusing sometimes. So Khonshu is haunting Moon Knight in his dreams and his waking hours in the visage of a gigantic chicken (I know he’s not really a chicken, but he looks like one and I find that funny) and another nutjob is running around as the “Shadow Knight” giving Khonshu the blood he wants and making Moon Knight feel all guilty. It’s a damned odd book but the way they weave it through the Shadowland tapestry makes it worth picking up.

Also, I guess Quesada pulled the stick out of his ass about the smoking edict because one of the characters is perpetually puffing away in this issue and that kind of made me chuckle.

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Well, that’s it for this week. I’ll be back next week with more unless I get another superflu of some sort. If that happens I swear I’ll never leave the house again.


Weekly Comic Reviews

I Do Not Actually Look Like Jesse Custer

You know what the best part of yesterday’s “Avengers Day” festivities were? Seriously? When my co-worker brought in cake. Volstagg understands where I’m coming from when I straight up tell you that even the crappiest day could be saved by cake. I mean, obviously when the zombies come and the fecal matter hits the rotating blades, cake isn’t going to make up for that, but I guarantee you that it won’t not help. That’s a promise.

ARRIVALS 5-19-2010
AVENGERS #1 HA 3.99
BRIGHTEST DAY #2 2.99
DEADPOOL #23 HA 2.99
EXECUTOR HC (MR) 19.99
GALACTA DAUGHTER OF GALACTUS #1 3.99
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #26 HA 2.99
SCALPED TP VOL 06 THE GNAWING (MR) 14.99
SUPERMAN WAR OF THE SUPERMEN #3 (OF 4) 2.99
X-FACTOR #205 XSC 2.99
X-MEN LEGACY #236 XSC 2.99
ZATANNA #1 2.99

I’m not gonna lie, dear readers…this week was slim pickin’s after last weeks full frontal assault by the big two. I will however give you what I can, as is my journalistic duty.

Avengers Assemble...Again

AVENGERS # 1

Let me get this out of the way, compared to New Avengers, this is about as Avenger-y an Avenger book can get. Sure, there’s a lot of Bendis’ trademark standing around and talking, but having recently re-read Busiek’s awesome run, there was a fair amount of expositional dialogue slinging in that era too, and I don’t know too many people who badmouth that run. Mostly out of fear that George Perez will come for them in the night and annihilate their souls with the power cosmic that he keeps stored in the lining of his Hawai’ian shirts.

Let’s see, Romita artwork? Check.
Clint Barton as Hawkeye? Check.
Steve Rogers giving an inspiring speech? Check
MOTHERF##KING KANG?!?!? CHECK!!!

Seriously, is there anything I think of as being more of an Avengers staple than Kang? No! Because he’s the most ludicrous Avengers villain of all time. He embodies the over-the-top grandiose nature of the book in ways that Dr. Doom or Ultron simply cannot. I know that’s a matter of opinion, but I would consider it to be fact, because that’s just how big my goddamned ego is. Kang has the sort of absurd over the top nature that could only be found within the pages of a comic book. I mean that with all the love and respect it entails. Comics as a medium have the ability to take the completely batshit insane and make it work the way that if you tried it on television or on film, you would be laughed at like a gimpy orangutan in a sailor outfit. Oh, the laughs you would garner if you tried to throw a time traveling despot into the workings of even the most out-there television show you could find. If Kang showed up in his purple helmet on the island on LOST, people would groan and punch themselves in the groin. Well, I would make a high pitched shrieking sound and bounce around the room like a walaby on angeldust, but that’s because I like things that nobody else likes.

The fact of the matter is that Bendis has gone back and made an Avengers book for the people who spent the last six years complaining that his books didn’t feel like they were Avengers books. Are those people really going to be able to make those claims when Kang shows up sporting a doomsday device that was supposedly built by a future version of Tony Stark and tells them that the future of the world depends on their new team triumphing over seemingly insurmountable odds? No, those people will have to eat their words like a slice of spongey Avengers Day cake. How does it taste, people? The answer should be chocolate.

Wanna guess how many sentences I get before I mention fishnets?
ZATANNA # 1

Wanna guess what I love more in comics than Kang? Give up?

Fishnets!

Yeah, I went there. You think I stuck around through all of Green Arrow/Black Canary because I enjoyed the story. Nope. It’s because I am bound by honor to purchase any and all comics featuring a character whose costume involves fishnets. My brain is hard wired that way. Is that shallow? Maybe. How many people bought Power Girl just because of the boobage? I bought it because I love the character. The boobs are only a fraction of that element, so I suppose that makes me better than everyone else. That’s me, champion of ethics.

Anyway, this issue begins with Zatanna in full bondage mode, chained to a gigantic St. Andrew’s cross while the Joker is set to ram a gigantic drill through her torso. Fan service? You bet your ass. It’s all a swerve, of course. It’s a Zatanna book, nothing is going to be exactly what it seems like. But do you think anybody who just flipped open the book to see a hot brunette in fishnets and sexy boots bound and gagged in pure fetish fuel fashion is gonna put the book back on the rack after that? No. They’ll buy it. They have to. Unless they’re a female who can’t appreciate how friggin’ hot that opening page is. But take a closer look femi-nazis, that panel is all about the empowerment of the female form, that when we view a woman at her most helpless she’s truly always in control. Satisfied? I hope so, because I don’t really wantto overanalyze the book. It all really boils down to the fishnets. Let’s be honest.

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Sorry, that’s all for this week. I would have more had I bothered to pick up that new #1 issue of Legion, but I’ve been burned by that book too many times to give a damn again. So until next time…

Film Review – Kickass

I have this framed in my room....

A while back, I reviewed the entirety of Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass series, from issue 1 to the finale and I famously did not like it. I felt that it was fairly pedestrian and not at all exciting or innovative, which I think is more of a critique on the way Mark Millar hyped it to the fans than anything, but with a book like Kick-Ass, that hype is tied to the book in such a way that they feel like intertwined strands of DNA. I did however make one claim that I have been waiting to either see proven or disproven with the release of Matthew Vaughn’s film adaptation. I said; “All that having been said, everything that works against this book will work FOR it as a movie. Trust me on this one.” I honestly believed that. The concept was solid, the shock value was there. Mainstream audiences would eat this shit up. Was I right?

I believe I was.

The film version of Kick-Ass works infinitely better than its source material. The absurdity of it all leaps off the screen in ways that it never did on the page, and I think that the writers and especially director Matthew Vaughn understood what could be done with the concept presented in the original comic. One of the main gripes that the internet community had with the book was that it diverged from the original concept of “what if someone really became a street-level superhero” around the same time Hit-Girl showed up and went all Frank Miller on some bad guys. From then on out it was just another comic book, really. Once again, this is more of a gripe at Millar’s hyping of the concept than the book itself, as expectations were raised and then shut down with no regard to the actual quality of the book. In the film version that same divergent path is followed, with realism being thrown out the door headfirst. For the movie however, this doesn’t seem to be a problem, as all the marketing didn’t lead you to believe that this would be a serious look at real-world superheroes. When that first trailer hit and showed little Chloe Moretz jumping around like a spider-monkey wielding sharp pointy objects, people knew what to expect.
I think that’s what the movie boils down to in the long run; expectations.
Whereas the comic failed to deliver on the premise that Mark Millar sold us on in the promotional circuit, the film lives up to its promises in every possible way. It’s a violent fanservice film that fanboys should eat up if they don’t get caught up in the minutia of what was changed from panel to film. At the same time it’s a well made, and dare I say it, fun action film that general audiences should get a kick out of as well if they don’t get offended by all the swearing or violence.

Part of the reason why this film will resonate so well with people is that, I believe that n making the film, they were smart in casting people who didn’t look down on the script. Nicholas Cage is admittedly a huge nerd, so he has no reason not to hold back and I think I enjoyed him in this film more than anything since Raising Arizona. Our lead hero played by Aaron Johnson has that Michael Cera-esque everyman feel without being as annoying as Michael Cera. McLovin puts in a good turn as the Red Mist, almost making us forget he was McLovin for a little bit. And Mark Strong who could play every villain in every movie ever (not a stretch really, in a few weeks he’ll be the baddie in Russel Crowe’s Robin Hood flick) and I would never get tired of it. The cast just connects in this one, I don’t think anybody is going to argue that point.

But what everybody is going to talk about will be Hit-Girl. I read somewhere that she would be the “Hans Landa” of 2010. In terms of a breakout role, I absolutely agree. She may not win an academy award for it, but Chloe Moretz just became the go-to girl under fifteen for any role that requires any sort of heavy lifting whatsoever. After a film like this, anything else would be a cakewalk and I expect to see her have a great career ahead of her.
I really enjoyed this film. More than I thought I would. There had been some negative word of mouth coming my way from people who had checked out advance screenings and even a few from assholes who bootlegged it off the net, but I loved the hell out of this movie and will probably see it again in the theaters before all is said and done.

I won’t give it a perfect score, but I have to admit, it’s pretty close.


Arc Review : KICKASS

KICKASS

The final issue of Kickass hit stands last week after a very long delay. I had let the last few issues pile up unread, not sure when the arc would ever conclude. I figured it would happen before the film hit theaters, but the specifics were pretty much unknown and so I put the book to the back of my mind and waited patiently for the climax to hit stands. So with the book finally complete, I decided it was time to read it from cover to cover, starting all the way at issue one.

I would like to begin this review by giving a little bit of my take on Mark Millar as a writer. I think that Mark Millar is a competant writer. He’s not a revolutionary, a visionary, or a sign of what comics should or will be. I have enjoyed his comics about as often as I have slapped myself in the face wondering what the hell he was thinking putting such schlock on the page. I think Civil War was a great idea tarnished by shoddy execution but The Ultimates is one of the best comic works of the last decade. Now, regardless of my opinions of the man as a writer, Mark Millar is most assuredly one of the best hype-men in the business. Even if half of what he says never comes to fruition (he once proclaimed that Kickass would be a modern day Watchmen), he can sell a project like no other in the game.

I think that Millar’s hyping of this particular project led to my eventual decision to forego reading it on a monthly basis and wait until it’s conclusion to read it in it’s entirety. He repeatedly described the story to be one thing and then delivered something that was basically 180 degrees off what was promised.

So, reading the book in it’s entirety, and putting aside what the writer intended the book to be and looking at it for what it is, the book seems oddly reminescent of one of Millar’s earlier works, that of WANTED. It has that same juvenile “fuck authority” attitude as well as an irreverant poke-in-the-eye outlook toward the comic industry itself. In Kickass, Millar makes little jokes at the expense of the books on the stands and the culture surrounding them, (fairly accurately, I might add. The message-board nerd fights are pretty much spot on) whereas he actively played with superhero/supervillain tropes in Wanted.

I am not going to say that Kickass isn’t a decent book, because it works on some level as pure fun and is content to stand tall in it’s own self-concious absurdity. It’s like if Kill Bill were written by Dane Cook. It certainly appeals to a certain audience on more than a few levels, but the book is flawed in one major way. Because it is so derivitive of other comic schemes and tropes, while it makes a tongue in cheek statement about such comics, it does nothing to elevate it above what it attempts to satirize.

And in the end, that is what the book is. A sort of “well, almost” approach to satirizing the over-the top, post-Frank Miller world of comics. The fact that the book LOOKS absolutely amazing, and has Romita Jr. drawing the sort of crap you’d normally never get the chance to see him draw, gives the book another notch in the postive column, but if the story had the panache of a more skilled writer, I wouldn’t be so down on it as a whole.

All that having been said, everything that works against this book will work FOR it as a movie. Trust me on this one.