This week’s Bullet Reviews cover: Adventures Of August Wind #5, All-New X-Men #8, Avengers #7, Daredevil: End Of Days #6, Dark Shadows #14, Fairest #13, FF #4, Guardians Of The Galaxy #0.1, and Superior Spider-Man #5. But: Age Of Ultron #1! Marvel’s first big story of the year is just too big and controversial to just get one review here, no way!
Age Of Ultron, Marvel’s 10-issue event, is getting full coverage here at Comic Booked! Not only will we have full reviews the week that each issue comes out but we’ll also be seeing what other contributors here think. Each week an AoU book comes out they will be the lead books covered in Bullet Reviews. So let’s get to it:
AGE OF ULTRON #1 (Marvel NOW!)
Age of Ultron was just as disappointing as I had expected. But thanks to the job of reviewing comics I have to review the entire event. Don’t worry, I won’t judge the entire series as harshly as this issue. Basically this issue and the last issue I can tell right now will be crap. It seems every event these days has to show Captain America with his back against the wall hands on his face, shield destroyed all around him. The cover of this book shows all the heroes lying on the ground. Only problem: None of these heroes in the book are dead. This event will be entertaining only to see the new way the heroes (and villains) are going to stop Ultron this time around. Marvel promised an ending no one will see coming. I remember they said that about Avengers vs. X-Men and Fear Itself, and every other event from 2005 to present. I found it interesting that Spidey was making wise cracks – is Parker back to being Parker? I think that is not the case due to Cage saying we shouldn’t have gone back for him. Never calling him Parker or Spider-Man. But the funniest part of the event was seeing how Hitch is gonna draw Beast…the disoriented Alien Freak should probably be his new name. Yikes Hitch. Look for Book Two to be much more entertaining. -Nick Furious
In my opinion, the biggest hit this book takes is, well, there’s no lead in. When I think about the great event Marvel had back in the day when comic books held more value to them than ‘let’s option these characters for a movie’ they didn’t just abruptly begin, no, they had build-up that made the actual event more… solid. This book suffers from the lack of this because while it’s supposed to take place in continuity, in the 616, it simply doesn’t fit anywhere. There should have been something in the regular books to make this a real, full scale story. This just seems to be a one and done with no lasting impact on anything. But that doesn’t mean the story isn’t work reading. It has a lot of potential and even if it ends up not being in continuity it could be what Fear Itself wasn’t: fun. It’s already got something that Avengers Vs. X-Men never had: my interest. The only thing that gets me is it seems to ignore Annihilation: Conquest. It just doesn’t seem like conquering Earth would be that big a deal after conquering the Phalanx and the Kree Empire. But if that’s what Ultron wants to do the I guess we’ll just have to see what makes this such a big deal. I wasn’t planning to get this but it was almost worth the cover price and I’ll t least check out the next issue or two to see if it comes together. Or at least until I can’t stand to look at Hitch’s art. Sorry, guys, but I’ve never really been a fan of his work.
I just hope every cover isn’t a gimmick. Having an embossed foil cover for the first issue was alright but let’s not overdo it, right? -Skott Jimenez
And now the other books covered this week:
ADVENTURES OF AUGUSTA WIND #5 (IDW)
There’s something kind of perverse in reading comics like this. Like Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos’ Fairy Quest: Outlaws, Augusta Wind suffers from a naive, uncritical, and possibly self-serving view of the act of storytelling. Rather than a creation of will and determination, J.M. DeMatteis presents writing a story as a magical force — his heroine deus ex machining a way out of her battle with “the Story-Killer” (ugh) — but shows no consideration for pacing, show-don’t-tell, or even characterization, with every being in the comic existing as exposition or plot device. What little charm there is to be gleaned from Vassilis Gogtzilas’ artwork (lacking the polish of Ramos, but also not coated in ultra shiny digital coloring effects to rob his work of character) becomes lost under the comic’s pretension and a tendency to clutter the page with overly busy linework. It’s a pale imitation of Sam Kieth’s surrealism.
Augusta Wind’s real crime, however, is contempt for logic. DeMatteis even writes, “Understanding is overrated” to wave away criticism of his nonsensical plot. Instead of advocating for abstract or playful thought (“No sense? Why, that’s the first sensible thing you’ve said!”), he would rather readers didn’t think (“sense and logic must be abandoned”), which is the mantra of anti-intellectual “Real Americans.” Jenkins and Ramos use similarly braindead meta-fiction in Fairy Quest, but their “fiction as fascism” plot is a well-intended (if misfired) attempt to examine comic books, fairy tales, and literature; Augusta Wind wishes people didn’t know better. -Andrew Taylor
ALL-NEW X-MEN #8 (Marvel NOW!)
Brian Michael Bendis maintains the quality we’ve come to expect from this series in the latest issue of All-New X-Men, joined by David Marquez on art. Here Bendis plays to his strengths, using witty banter and non-sequitur between characters in a way that feels absolutely right. The early scenes with the two Angels, past and present, are a joy to read, and although the dialogue flows with a lightness and charm, it’s very nicely underpinned by the growing sense of horror and dread that Warren feels as he spends more time with his future self.
There’s also fantastic character moments for Kitty Pryde and Iceman, in which we see events from their perspective. An interesting device, and one well used here to both establish character and move the plot along, two things that Bendis can find difficult to do simultaneously. But the real star character here is Jean Grey who, despite featuring only very briefly, is really starting to shine through as the core of the book, and certainly the story Bendis is telling.
David Marquez’s art is beautifully clean and expressive, and he draws the impressive and cinematic action scenes in this issue with the same depth of character as he does the quieter, more dialogue heavy moments. His layouts are spectacular, showcased particularly in a double page spread whose panels form a wing shape, with one page devoted to each Angel as they battle Hydra. Marte Gracia’s colours are bold without being overpowering, an impressive feat when you consider the simple block colours that make up the look of many of these characters.
The Avengers appear in this issue to raise the stakes as the larger world slowly becomes aware of the past X-Men’s presence in the future and Beast’s meddling with the timeline. This series continues to go to interesting places, and I can’t wait to see where it takes us next. -Matthew Watson
AVENGERS #7 (Marvel NOW!)
Jonathan Hickman continues to deliver the quality, high-concept, superhero sci-fi that I just love to gobble up. However, Hickman’s work is not for everyone. It’s very dense, moves fast, and it doesn’t wait for you to catch up. What makes the story so compelling, I feel, is the conviction with which it is attacked, and also the fact that our heroes don’t know what’s going on either. We are learning as they do, and that makes it much more satisfying than another Kang or Ultron story. Not that I don’t like Kang and Ultron stories, I’m simply enjoying the current direction the book is taking, and the new concepts that are being introduced (even if some of them are old concepts with a fresh lick of paint).
Dustin Weaver joins the book on art duties, the latest artist to rotate in to the series. He does fantastic work at continuing the consistent tone, art wise, that Adam Kubert carried through from Jerome Opena. I’m impressed at how well Marvel have selected artists for Avengers so far that have managed to keep a consistent visual feel to the book. Weaver does slightly incorporate the lankier figures and almost sketched-shading of Opena’s style, whilst also making his figures smoother, with cleaner lines. Justin Ponsor provides colouring, which has been a consistent strength of these books despite changing as often as the artists. It’s no surprise that Weaver and Ponsor nail the feel of Hickman’s Avengers, as they’ve been providing covers for the series so far.
Avengers is one of the jewels in the crown of Marvel NOW, and that’s a crop of books that I have been (mostly) very impressed by so far. This is the cream of the crop, a premium book by a premium team, for premium characters. Well worth your time. -Matthew Watson
DAREDEVIL: END OF DAYS #6 (Marvel)
End of Days has been exactly what I look for in a mini series from Marvel. Compelling, Character Driven, Plot Twists, and Superbly Written. Wait, no that is what I expect from stellar television series. Usually from a Marvel mini series I just hope it doesn’t suck. To be blunt this series most certainly doesn’t suck. It is being crafted with such care and substance I can’t seem to remember to breathe. The death of Daredevil mini series continues as we find out there is a new Daredevil…or is Matt Murdock simply not dead? Even though on live tv we saw Matt Murdock get his face smashed in, no one can really be sure. The series never goes into detail about people who die coming back to life ALL THE TIME! But it doesn’t matter! They side step this question by killing off so many characters! Owl Man: DEAD Bullseye: DEAD Purpleman: DEAD Kingpin:DEAD. The body count keeps rising and Punisher is still on the loose! I never would have thought Ben Urich’s last story would be this passionate. This jaded sense of alternate reality. The story is coming to a close but I wish it weren’t so, this has been some of the best work Marvel has put out in quite sometime. Who is this new Daredevil? Or is Matt Murdock back for one final hurrah? Only two issues left! -Nick Furious
DARK SHADOWS #14 (Dynamite Entertainment)
It’s 1984 and Collinsport is under siege! The shocker is who’s been killing everyone: Barnabas Collins! Okay, so it isn’t exactly Barnabas but rather his body which is possessed by a demon, apparently thought to be the devil but I have my doubts. Anyway, ‘Barnabas’, Lockwood, and the others including David (now a vampire) and his girlfriend have run rampant and all that’s left is alive in Collinsport is a few remaining Collins family members, a family enemy, and a dead cop whose body is now inhabited by the soul of Barnabas Collins who was brought to 1984 in a last ditch effort to stop the evil killing everyone.
What continues to surprise me is how this book feels very much like the show, which shouldn’t really surprise considering it’s a direct continuation of that show, but if the book came out everyday then it would be just like the show!
This book is one of the best examples of why a monthly book (we don’t call them ‘floppies’ around here) works best in a serialized format. For the cost, it’s one of the best vampire series on the racks today. -Skott Jimenez
FAIREST #13 (Vertigo)
The big finale of Rapunzel’s return to Japan to find her children. A search that found her in the middle of a war between two factions of Japanese Fables and, well add Bigby and Totenkinder to the mix and you’ve got a highly volatile situation that erupts into full scale war on the streets! This is the sort of issue that shows that the Fables are more than just traditional adventurers, the world is also capable of big time action. As this issue went on, and as more and more characters came to the frontline, it became one of the more action packed Fables books I’ve read in a long time. The ultimate question became would Rapunzel be able to convince Tomoko that she tried to help her and get the Foxfire back all those years ago.
But beyond this is the situation involving Rapunzel’s real children and why her mother, Totenkinder, took them away. Se mentions an enemy that would use them to bring down all the Fables. I have to say I’m very curious about this and wonder when we’ll learn more.
And, heck, we also get more Jack!
This was a very interesting and entertaining story that really did go a long way in adding new layers to Rapunzel’s character. She was always a ‘kind of’ favorite of mine but now I’m looking forward to seeing more of her and if Lauren Beukes is writing her story then I’ll be right there is minute my LCS opens to pick it up! -Skott Jimenez
FF #4 (Marvel NOW!)
You know how in a lot of sitcoms, there will always be the characters (or group of characters) who really like an attractive guy/girl, only to discover s/he is going on a date with someone also very attractive? And there’s an attempt to sabotage the date, only to cause it to go HILARIOUSLY right? Yeah, that’s the bulk of this issue.
Sure, there’s some promising work in here: Mike and Laura Allred get to do a splash page of She-Hulk and Wyatt Wingfoot dancing (with a callback to their batusi cover for Solo #7), or the discordant panels of the Moloids and Bentley’s failed use of a giant monster laid atop those of the couple’s carefree walk through snow-covered Central Park. It makes for beautiful Pop. Too bad Matt Fraction’s script is a time-killer, stumbling from an opening where Ant-Man is called out for wanting to topple Dr. Doom’s regime based on dubious information (yet another way-too-late Iraq allegory) into what could be assumed to be a rejected script for How I Met Your Mother, meant to go with last month’s not-Bill Murray-related holiday. Fraction’s Hawkeye #8 also had a Valentine’s theme going on, but was carefully constructed around it, where this comes across slapped together by the demands of a heavy workload and limited time. There’s none of that emotional core from the first three issues, the adult fear of screwing up as a parent, when Ant-Man tells Alex Power “Get out” or Medusa expresses doubts about the identity of an aged Human Torch, just a facile storytelling device. Everything else is just waiting for a laugh track. -Andrew Taylor
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #0.1 (Marvel NOW!)
I expected this issue to be absolute crap. I mean anytime something has a point in the number it is usually just a massive filler piece meant to make me buy it without actually giving me anything. But this issue was well worth the money. Essentially a Star-Lord origin story which we kinda knew was gonna happen thanks to Marvel Now .1 but we didn’t realize that the story would actually be a very character driven piece. It had a lot of heart. What drives a man to become Star-Lord? I won’t spoil it but I will say it isn’t really all that surprising but a very nice revisit to find out more about Star-Lord or should I call it reeducate people on who exactly Star-Lord is and what he is all about. Seeing as marvel has slapped Tony Stark with the Guardians it makes me wonder if Tony Stark is going to be in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie? Either way Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven are a great, no, STELLAR team to do something the likes of GotG. Next Month issue number one, impress Marvel. Good Luck -Nick Furious
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #5 (Marvel NOW!)
Before Amazing Spider-Man #700 even came out we all had a pretty good idea who was gonna be the new Spider-Man. Some of us boycotted Superior Spider-Man, others of us used this as a chance to see how far Slott would throw us down the Rabbit Hole. If you had even an ounce of intelligence you would know TRUST IN SLOTT. HE WILL DELIVER! As we continue the name of Spider-Man advances to be rebranded in a “lethal enforcer” but not like our favorite brain eater (remember that? haha) he has made Spider-Man a legitimate threat that I don’t think the Avengers are going to approve of much longer. Peter Parker is forced to sit back and watch the city approve and applaud the actions of this new lethal Spider-Man that executes villains rather than arrest them. It is the age old question: Is it wrong to kill a man if you know you can save thousands of lives? This question doesn’t exactly become a question to someone like Octavious as he has killed many before and will continue to be the killer he has always been. He has continued to be a better Spider-Man than Parker ever could have. But the stakes keep getting higher, the cards keep stacking, the questions keep rising, eventually the deck is gonna topple over and Octavious is gonna be SOL. But I just hope it doesn’t happen for at least another year! This has been an insanely entertaining ride. LONG LIVE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN! -Nick Furious