Monday, December 31, 2012

Marvel NOW review: Avengers Assemble #9-10, Avengers #1-2, Avengers Arena #1-2, A+X #1-2, Cable and X-Force #1-2

Avengers Assemble #9-10 by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Stefano Caselli

Avengers Assemble is one of Marvel’s best books on the stands. It’s a fun, simple book that doesn’t get weighed down by continuity. Issue nine, Tony and Bruce have a disagreement about their views on technology. When a camp in Antarctica can’t be reached after their head scientist goes missing, Tony and Bruce make a bet that each can locate the missing scientist first. Tony takes Thor with them while Bruce recruits Spider-Woman. When the teams get to the camp however, they find mysterious monsters and the bodies of the remaining scientists.

GOOD: There’s a lot of humor in issue nine either stemming from each man’s failed attempts to convince a fellow Avenger to join their team or from the rest of the team monitoring their progress. I like Captain America’s confrontation with the main bad guy on a plane and Captain Marvel saving him at the last minute. It’s just a fun two issues.

BAD: Nothing I can think of.

Avengers #1-2 by Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opena, and Dean White

When the Avengers get to Mars to stop Ex Nihlo and his crew from destroying the Earth as we know it, they are easily captured in Captain America sent back to Earth to warn them that change is coming. So Captain America does something that he and Tony have been talking about, making the Avengers roster larger. Now Captain America is going to return to Mars with reinforcements.

GOOD: I like seeing the reactions the team members had to being recruited – especially Sam and Roberto’s. I like seeing how the team comes together and I like the unique mix of characters. For a post-Avengers vs X-Men issue, I like that we don’t have to mention it. But I can’t help to think about the first time the new X-Men got together to fight Krakatoa because at the end of issue one the Avengers are all tangled up in vines.

BAD: I don’t know if it was the coloring or the artwork but it looked odd. It takes two issues to get the new team together and we don’t get to see them in action at all. With two issues to get into the action we also don’t get to see the new team members bond.

IN CONCLUSION: Not a great title. I didn’t enjoy Jonathan Hickman’s run on the Fantastic Four and I don’t think I’m going to enjoy his run on the Avengers either. Maybe I’ll check back in and a few issues to see if it’s any better, but for now I’ll stick to Avengers Assemble.

Avengers Arena #1-2 by Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker, and Frank Martin

Arcade has kidnapped 16 teenagers from the Avengers Academy, the Braddock Academy, and from their homes to participate in the new Murder World based on “a couple kids’ books” he read in prison. The rules are simple: last man standing in an environment surrounded by force fields, festooned with booby-traps, and it’s every participant for themselves. The heroes try to stop him but Arcade proves to be too powerful for them. To prove that he means business he decides to take the first life and kills Mettle in front of Hazmat.

GOOD: Arcade has always been elaborate with his games so it makes perfect sense that he might put the young heroes in a Hunger Games – type scenario. It’s also a very cool way to do something like the Hunger Games in the Marvel Universe. And taking Mettle out at the end of the first issue was a great way to tell the reader that no one is off-limits.

BAD: In the other Avengers’ titles, no one is looking for the kids. I don’t know where this issue fits into continuity but that bothered me. Also after the great setup of issue one, we have to sit through the origin of another character who may or may not make it to the end of the series. Also for a bunch of teenagers were also heroes, they aren’t exactly acting like it. I know that the writer is trying to go for an atmosphere of fear and distrust and teenagers are probably the perfect target for it, but I don’t like how quick they were to divide up and get paranoid.

IN CONCLUSION: A nice idea but there aren’t enough characters that I care about participating with the exception of maybe Darkhawk, X-23, Hazmat, and Reptil. It’s not enough to bring me back for third issue. And considering how long one year takes in the Marvel Universe, it could be a long time before we see the end of 30 days.

A+X #1-2

A+X is a title that presents two stories per issue. It is meant to show one Avenger bonding with one X-Man.

Captain America & Cable by Dan Slott & Ron Garney

Cable jumps into the past to stop Trask from altering the timeline by building Sentinels for the Nazis.

The Incredible Hulk & Wolverine by Jeph Leob & Dale Keown

Wolverine and the Hulk are arguing over the last piece of cake when Maestro and Old Man Logan jump back into the past looking for the Red Hulk.

Black Widow & Rogue by Chris Bachalo & Tim Townsend

On a rare day off, Black Widow is forced to take on a Sentinel with Rogue’s help.

Iron Man & Kitty Pryde by Peter David & Mike Del Mundo

Resilient is looking to hire Kitty Pryde but she accidentally unleashes a squad of Brood. When the Brood get ahold of some of Iron Man’s armor and Kitty phases through it, stopping the Brood and destroying the armor, Iron Man realizes that having her around, “would be like Superman having a piece of kryptonite around.”

GOOD: It’s a nice way to reinforce the new status quo by showing Avengers and X-Men working together. The Black Widow and Rogue story was the only diamond in the rock pile of stories. I liked the creative use of Rogue’s power to use Black Widow’s sniping ability with her permission. It was a very cool team up. The Cable and Captain America story was really good, but if it really happened in continuity Captain America would have remembered Cable the first time they met so it’s a fluffy story and not really substantive. The artwork from all except the Kitty Pryde and Iron Man story was great.

BAD: I already covered the Captain America story being too fluffy. The Wolverine and Hulk story had no context for me who hadn’t read the Old Man Logan story. So unless that was the beginning of an upcoming storyline, that story didn’t mean much. And as far as the Kitty and Iron Man story, despite the fact that she is “kryptonite” to him, Kitty is brilliant and would be an asset to a company and with all of her X-Men training would be an asset to the Avengers. But here’s my question: Tony trusts Bruce but Kitty is a liability? The artwork in the Kitty Pryde and Iron Man story looked too cartoon-like for me.

IN CONCLUSION: This is another Avengers/X-Men book but doesn’t add anything to the overall books. I understand the AvX books that this is modeled after did add background to the Avengers vs X-Men miniseries but this book is all over the place in terms of tone and continuity. I would be more interested in seeing this type of interaction in a book like Peter David’s X-Factor where this mix of characters is getting to know one another while beating up bad guys.

Cable and X-Force #1-2 by Dennis Hopeless & Salvador Larroca

Hope and cable are reunited as X-Force embarks on their newest mission but they have to do it fast because cable is dying (again).

GOOD: Finally Hope is interesting again. She’s every bit as tough and resilient as Cable taught her to be.

BAD: I don’t know what X-Force’s mission is. And Cable dying is extremely boring at this point – he’s been dying since the day he was created. With the exception of Domino and Colossus, there’s no one on the team I care about. Domino I just find interesting but Colossus has been less interesting since telling his sister that he would kill her if he ever saw her again. And did I mention that title seems pointless?

IN CONCLUSION: A good Cable story is rare and I didn’t think this title would be great but I gave it a try. I will be back for the next issue.

Captain America #1-2 by Rick Remender, John Romita, Klaus Janson, and Dean White

Captain America and Sharon investigate the subway car traveling in ancient line abandon decades ago when he is captured and transported to Dimension Z by Arnim Zola. A year later Captain America and the baby he saved, Arnim Zola’s son, are trying to survive in an environment that is constantly trying to kill them.

GOOD: This is a very interesting story and of course John Romita’s art is fantastic.

BAD: I don’t notify by a story in which Captain America is marooned in Dimension Z for a year. Also, he doesn’t seem too worried about the humans that were also in the subway car.

IN CONCLUSION: If Captain America has been taking care of a child for a year I expect that to have real consequences once he rejoins the mainstream Marvel Universe. It would be great if he and Sharon adopted the boy as they were talking about marriage in the first issue. Though I am pretty sick of all the little-kid bad-guy clones floating around - the Fantastic Four have one, the X-Men have one, and now Captain America has his very own.

This is a pretty good book if only for the reason that I’m interested in the consequences of this adventure and the impact protecting or losing the kid will have on him. I’m also interested in seeing Captain America and Sharon take it to the next level. I might be back for the third issue.

Fantastic Four #1-2 by Matt Fraction, Mark Bagley, Mark Farmer, and Paul Mounts

Reed Richards’ body is breaking apart at a molecular level. What’s worse is that he suspects the rest of the teams bodies might be doing the same. With no known cure the solution seems obvious: explore unknown universes looking for the cure. Reed sells this to the team as a one-year family vacation with Franklin and Valeria and keeps them in the dark about his condition.

GOOD: Each teammate find their own replacements while they go on vacation (which was only supposed to be for four minutes). Those conversations were a lot of fun to watch. Finally a title with just the six family members and not the Army of supporting cast we’ve also had to read about.

BAD: So let’s see… Cable, Beast, Peter Parker, and the Fantastic Four are dying? I can already see my vote for most overused storyline of 2012. I understand why he doesn’t tell the rest of the family spare them and the kids from worrying. I just wish he was just taking a vacation with the kids for a year without looking for some kind of cure.

IN CONCLUSION: The added specter of death doesn’t do anything to up the ante in this title. Like I said, dying has been played with a lot this year. If it was just the team and the kids’s exploring new universes for a year it would be a fresh storyline but adding the search for a cure in makes the story feel less important. Of course it is Reed Richards, and he’s a pretty impersonal person (he created Mombots to take care of Franklin and Valeria when he and Sue are not there) so I completely see him being more interested in exploring and spending time with his family. After the last few years of storylines it would’ve been nice to have seen a more cheerful beginning.

FF  #1-2 by Matt Fraction, Michael & Laura Allred

Reed Richards calculated that the year they spent exploring would only feel like four minutes in the real world. So the Fantastic Four found people who could take their place for the four minutes they were gone. But something obviously went wrong with Reed’s plan so Antman, She Hulk, Medusa, and Torch’s popstar girlfriend, Darla Deering will have to be the Fantastic Four longer than they’d planned.

GOOD: We get to see the original FF team’s conversations with the new team from a different angle. I like that Antman has a strong negative reaction to taking care of kids after losing his daughter and the thought of taking care of the children at the Future Foundation for even four minutes is unthinkable. I like that he’s now in a position where he has to take care of them so that should be very interesting to watch. I also like the selection of Johnny’s popstar girlfriend as one of the team who suits up in a Thing-like suit of armor.

BAD: Some people are really big fans of Michael Allred’s artwork but I’m not. If I only had to put up with it for an issue I would let it go but it looks like he’ll be the regular artist. And when some version of the Human Torch comes out of the portal and obliterates it behind him, suggesting that the rest of the team is dead, I think I yawned.

IN CONCLUSION: With some version of the Human Torch alive, there’s no need for Darla Deering to be on the team and, honestly, reading more about her on the team would’ve been really interesting. And the whole, “Reed is dying,” “the Fantastic Four are dead,” stuff is old and used up. In the Marvel Universe – no body = no death. And even when there is a body, there’s always a way to bring the character back to life. There isn’t enough interest in either new Fantastic Four title to pick up a third issue. I just want a writer to tap what makes that team truly great which is that they are a family that has a real life outside of being superheroes and how much fun that can be.
The covers to Avengers #1, 2, 3

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