Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Silent War

The Inhumans star in this follow-up to Son of M takes that takes way too long to get going and is muddled with a distractingly bizarre art style.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

silent war coverWriter: David Hine

Artist: Frazer Irving

Issues: Silent War (2007) #1-6

I’ve never held much interest in the Inhumans, but with the way current Marvel events are heading (especially in Agents of SHIELD), learning and reading more about them is becoming increasingly necessary. I find the Inhumans to be a poor man’s mutants – only more secluded and isolationist, with a bunch of archaic social policies and royal family drama.

Silent War is a direct sequel to the events in previous Inhumans-centric limited series Son of M, where Quicksilver stole the sacred Terrigen Crystals (which give Inhumans their powers) and Black Bolt declared war on the US after the government wouldn’t return them. What could have been an action-packed affair takes way too long to get going; Black Bolt is rendered far too impotent and uncertain, and it’s all muddled with a distractedly bizarre art style that makes every character look tiny, weak, and uninteresting.

The war begins in earnest when a small team lead by Gorgon disguise themselves and infiltrate a concert hall. With Jolen the plant master’s help they disable everyone inside and attempt to tell the world about how they were wronged and the crystals were stolen. Unfortunately Jolen ends up going a bit too far and murders a bunch of innocent people left and right, and they’re quickly subduded by the Fantastic Four.

Black Bolt teleports down with a larger team trying to reach the crystals in the pentagon, but they’re deflected to Antarctica and met by the Sentry, who talks to Black Bolt about mutually assured destruction. I’ve spoken previously about how much the Sentry annoys me as the uber-powerful hero that can solve any crisis, and I was really hoping Black Bolt would wipe the floor with him.

silent war #1Unfortunately David Hine spends the majority of the story sowing doubt and uncertainty into Black Bolt’s actions. His wife Medusa can’t read his wishes any more like she used to, and he often acts irrationally and violently. It’s difficult to interpret because Black bolt can never speak. So much as a whisper causes huge amounts of destruction. Despite his lack of characterization, I always considered Black Bolt my favorite Inhuman. A stoic leader who leads by sheer will and actions rather than words, and who has the wherewithal to know when to not use his powers. It’s incredibly annoying then to have Black Bolt portrayed in such a negative, pitying light throughout the story.

The one interesting aspect to Silent War’s writing is that each issue is written from the perspective of a different character, not unlike chapters from A Song of Ice and Fire. Most are Inhumans and most are pretty boring, like Crystal who gets zero agency outside of her jerk ex-husband Quicksilver and mysterious daughter Luna, and Medusa, Black Bolt’s wife and confidant who spends her entire issue having an emotional affair with Black Bolt’s evil brother Maximus.

silent war #5Eventually the humans, lead by Maria Hill, begin experimenting with using Terrigenesis on humans, creating temporary super soldiers with a very limited life span. The Inhumans launch a full scale attack and the Mighty Avengers are soon called to defend against them, finally giving us a satisfying battle in issue #5.

The Inhumans send in a dimensional hopping member (they’re like mutants in that they can have all kinds of interesting and random powers) to free the captured team from the first issue and retrieve the crystals. The Sentry purposefully sits out of the entire fight – credit to him for believing giving them the crystals back would stop the war.

It’s not that simple, however, and the pentagon orders the newly created super soldiers to invade the Inhuman city of Attilan, currently located on the moon. Another battle takes place that’s over way too quickly, and one of the soldiers sets off a major bomb, destroying much of the city. From the ashes Black Bolt’s manipulative brother rises, having seduced Medusa and others with his ‘powers of suggestion.’ The whole thing ends in a very weird place, with only Black Bolt and Luna immune to Maximus’ will, and the evil brother seemingly becoming the new leader of the Inhumans.

As a follow-up to Son of M, Silent War does explore the war that’s so impressively teased at the end of that series, but it takes so long to get going that the majority of the story is just boring. The Inhumans’ meeting with Quicksilver is dumb and pointless (though I enjoyed the mini-guest starring by X-Factor’s Layla and Jamie). The standard Inhumans’ infighting is limited to Maximus’s effortless rise to power, and the first four issues are just a slow plod to get to the invasion that’s over in a single issue.

Worst of all is the odd art style. Characters are washed out and tiny in every frame, and I wished the cover artist had been used to do the actual comic, as a good (or at least decent) art style can certainly save a mediocre story. With both story and art being so disappointing, it’s difficult to recommend Silent War to all but the biggest Inhuman fans.

silent war #6

 

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Black Panther (2005), Vol. 4-5

T’Challa and his new temporary team of half the Fantastic Four are dropped into increasingly insane scenarios and situations that range from crazy stupid to crazy fun.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

black panther cover four the hard wayWriter: Reginald Hudlin

Artist: Francis Portela

Issues: Black Panther (2005) #26-34

The young but resolute Wakandian king went through a flurry of activity in the previous two volumes: a largely publicized but loving marriage to Storm of the X-Men, joining with Captain America and the anti-SRA rebels in the Civil War, and going on a globe-trotting political world tour to several major powers and factions.

Unfortunately these next two volumes illustrate that nobody really knows what to do with Black Panther when there’s not a major crossover event happening for him to join and lend his incredible resources. Reginald Hudlin puts T’Challa and his new temporary team of half the Fantastic Four in increasingly insane scenarios and situations that range from crazy stupid to crazy fun.

In “Four the Hard Way” (#26-30) T’Challa and Ororo join the Fantastic Four as the new husband-wife replacements for Reed and Sue (who are taking a little vacation after their spat during the Civil War). I don’t read Fantastic Four, and issue #27 takes place after an arc in FF that leaves the group with these weird golden teleporting frogs. A monstrous insect figure breaks out of Stark’s Negative Zone prison and terrorizes the Baxter Building, and the team gets teleported away during the fight.

black panther #26

They land on a skrull planet in the crazy alternate Marvel Zombies Universe. I don’t mind zombies but there’s a weird disconnect with the gore-less Marvel. Also the zombies were far more verbose than I had assumed they would be, making it more silly and dumb than anything. For my first foray into the Marvel Zombies, it was not great, and we spend far too much time with them as they eat all the poor skrulls.

“Little Green Men” (#31-34) starts with the tiresome mind-fuck villain of Psycho Man that gets into T’Challa’s head, but his love for Storm is too strong to turn them against each other. Cheesy, sure, but I do appreciate their genuinely solid relationship.

black panther #32The story picks up considerably as the frogs teleport them again – this time to the correct universe but a different planet. A skrull planet that has modeled itself after 30s era gangsters on one half, and 60 eras Civil Rights movement on the other.

Apparently the Fantastic Four have been here before, and Thing fought in the gladiatorial battles. Just to recap – alien world with anachronistic prohibition era gangsters in flying cars with alien gladiators. Most of the team is captured save for Storm, who joins up with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to lead the revolution. It’s completely insane and wacky, but at least a lot more fun and interesting than the zombie thing.

Francis Portela’s style isn’t bad but it’s mostly forgettable. The bright colors and lack of shading fit the tone of the light-hearted silliness of their alternate world/universe adventures, though it also exacerbates the problem with the Avenger Zombies. The action sequences are a lot of fun though, particuarly T’Challa fighting in the alien arena, and the team fighting the skrull (and later skrull-zombified) Fantastic Four. Storm is also given several opportunities to unleash the awesome destructive potential of her powers, and it’s pretty damn satisfying.

Both volumes are incredibly forgettable and pretty dumb. It’s a disappointing follow-up to what I thought was an increase in Black Panther becoming more of a major character in the wider Marvel Universe. Joining the Fantastic Four is an interesting move, but immediately puts them in situations that remind me why I don’t read FF – silly plots (even for comic standards) involving alternate universes and golden teleporting frogs that may or may not be malevolent. As far as solo series go, Black Panther is becoming increasingly skippable. This whole series would only last another six issues, ending during the 2008 crossover event Secret Invasion.