Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Moon Knight (2006), Vol. 1-2

For a blatant Batman knock-off, Moon Knight is surprisingly interesting and enjoyable as it delves head-first into psychological issues and bloody violence.

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!

moon knight the bottomWriter: Charlie Huston

Artists: David Finch (#1-8), Mico Suayan (#9-12), Tomm Coker (#13)

Issues: Moon Knight (2006), #1-13

 

“Where to?”
“The city.”
“What do we look for?”
“Trouble.”

Despite thinking of myself as a Batman fan, I’ve barely read any actual Batman comics. I grew up with the early 90s, award-winning Batman: The Animated Series, not to mention the rise of Tim Burton’s Batman films and most recently the fantastic Batman Arkham games. The rich guy with all the toys and a traumatic past devotes his life to being a hero – who doesn’t like Batman? Even Marvel wanted to get in on that, and thus Moon Knight was born.

I’d never even heard of Moon Knight until he was listed as a playable character in Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Surprisingly created back in the 70s, the character enjoyed his first solo series in the 80s and throughout the 90s, never reaching the massive success of his DC counterpart. And make no mistake, Moon Knight is very much a Batman rip-off – he’s got the money, the underground lair, the moon-shaped weapons and vehicles. He operates at night and primarily takes out street criminals, and he enjoys making a statement and causing fear and pain even more than rescuing people.

In 2006 a new Moon Knight series was launched for the first time in years, chronicling the character’s return to action after a crippling attack with a villain. As a jumping on point it’s a bit heavy and confusing, layered in with lots of backstory and character details regarding Marc Spector, his past, and his allies and enemies.

moon knight #8b

The actual story is told in a supremely cool, gritty, and dark style. At the end of issue #1 it’s revealed that the action-packed opening scene was really just  Marc Spector reminiscing while he lay in a wheelchair popping pills and wallowing in self-pity. Psychological torture is a major theme of the series as Marc wrestles with who he is and whether or not his moon god is real or just a part of his fractured psyche.

Marc’s legs were blown out during a nasty encounter with Raoul Bushman, his nemesis and former fellow mercenary from his past. During the horribly blood encounter, which is told through flashbacks, Marc is near death but finds the strength to take Bushman down by ripping his face off with a crescent knife. This becomes a major catalyst for Marc as he begins seeing the horrifyingly faceless Bushman constantly. The grotesque ghoul identifies as Khonshu, the moon god that first resurrected Marc and bestowed his gifts.

Much of the first arc, “The Bottom,” (#1-6) is saddled with setting up Moon Knight’s new status as a retired, former vigilante and his new supporting cast of friends and enemies. Marc doesn’t even wear the costume and become Moon Knight again until issue #6 as he comes to grips with his violent and frankly sadistic personality. The theme of whether or not Marc is crazy is explored throughout, and the consensus seems to be that he’s pretty damn crazy – a surprisingly refreshing take on a Marvel hero.

moon knight #4Moon Knight’s friends and relationships are particularly well done. He still pines for ex-girlfriend Marlene, and his best friend is still his other merc buddy Jean-Paul. Jean-Paul is French and gay, and his supportive relationship with Marc and romantic relationship with another man (who later becomes Marc’s physical therapist) are handled with a refreshing amount of maturity, and given plenty of time to develop and grow.

My favorite character was one that I had to look up on wikipedia what his actual name was – Profile, who can read people instantly, learning their fears, wants, desires, etc. The hilariously quippy, chain-smoking Profile is first used by a shadowy organization who wants to get rid of Moon Knight once and for all, and they act as the primary villains for the first arc. Really though, Marc is his own worst enemy as the focus remains on his own inner demons thanks to the many taunts of faceless not-really-there Bushman.

I loved the dark-but-heroic art by the fantastic David Finch (New Avengers). It presents an effective combination of noir-ish blacks and grays with sharp punctuations of Moon Knight’s white costume. I love the emphasis on extreme close-ups and the use of sweat, tears, blood, and smoke to convey the dark themes. The effects of Profile’s abilities in reading people is also presented in a very clever, fun format as he sees neon words and signs floating around people, literally shaping who they are. Marc Spector is drawn like a chiseled, scarred 80s action-hero, which combined with his violent outbursts and mental breakdowns make him a frightening person for anyone to interact with.

The second volume, featuring the story arc “Midnight Sun,” (#7-12) technically act as tie-ins to the then-ongoing superhero Civil War and afterward the Initiative. Marc (who spends a great deal of the comic series not in costume) is visited by a rotating cast of guest-stars, including Captain America, Iron Man, and Punisher. Mostly it’s a fun way to see how the rest of the Marvel Universe views Moon Knight, and in turn allow Marc to push everyone away and generally be a violent asshole to everyone. It should come as no surprise that he and Punisher have a mostly friendly chat while Punisher is busy murdering people, heh.

moon knight #10

The story falters a bit when it tries to do a Pulp Fiction, out of order narrative involving another villain from Moon Knight’s past. His former sidekick has become the villain Midnight, a very talkative, admittidly funny Joker-type that is obssessed with his former mentor. The later issues all jumble together with Moon Knight finding his lair in the sewers, attacking him, being captured and fighting back all told in a confusing, out or order style. The comic was heavy enough as it is in exploring mental issues and a very unstable protagonist; having to flip back and forth between multiple pages to try and piece the story together was a bit too much.

David Finch unfortunately left after eight issues. The new artist did a reasonable job in replicating the dark, moody style but it wasn’t quite the same. The story wraps up in issue #12 but the volume contains a final one-off in issue #13 with a completely new artist with a very bizarre style. The art becomes impossibly dark and even abstracted in parts, making it quite difficult to discern what is happening in a lot of panels. The story involves Marc going in to register for the Initiative, and it’s a fun example of how Profile’s powers can be used to manipulate others.

For a blatant Batman knock-off, Moon Knight is surprisingly interesting and enjoyable. The singular focus on Marc as a fairly horrible person who happens to be a vigilante is fascinating, and the focus on dark, bloody action separates it from most of the bright and glitzy Marvel fare. Despite some confusing story moments I’m definitely enjoying this series. I look forward to catching up on Moon Knight as apparently he sticks around permanently this time.

moon knight #3

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Avengers: The Initiative, Vol. 1-2

Avengers: The Initiative was a lot more fun that I expected but still not nearly as enjoyable as New X-Men when it comes to super-powered teenage drama and action.

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!

avengers the initiative coverWriters: Dan Slott, Christos Gage (#11-13)

Artists: Stefano Caselli, Steve Uy (#12-13)

Issues: Avengers: The Initiative #1-13, Annual #1

Out of the literal ashes of Stamford, Connecticut, the site of the devastating superhuman bomb that claimed hundreds of innocent lives, rose a new hopeful training facility for registered super-powered people. The Civil War was over. Tony Stark won, and his Fifty States Initiative plan was going into full effect – a super-powered team in every state to combat the many threats of the Marvel Universe. These teams needed a place to train and recruit, and thus Avengers: The Initiative was born.

Avengers: The Initiative was originally crafted as a six issue limited series depicting the drama and complications of the training facility. Before the first issue was even published, Marvel decided to make it an official ongoing series, making it the third Avengers title at the time (New Avengers, Mighty Avengers).

Like New X-Men, Avengers: The Initiative centers around young, inexperienced teens with extraordinary powers and the drama that ensues when you throw them together. While I enjoyed the characters and writing of New X-Men more, Initiative does have an immediacy to its plot and pacing that I found compelling.

The story begins with a new busload of recruits coming to the training facility (with some of the dorkiest superhuman names I’ve ever seen): Hardball, Cloud 9, Trauma, MVP, and Komodo. They are later joined by a few others like the Eric O’Grady version of Ant-Man (Irredeemable Ant-Man), Thor Girl, and Ultra Girl, as well as the cast of the New Warriors, though none of them are given much time to develop. Our first team is our central focus, though much of the focus is also on the training facility’s instructors: Gauntlet, Hank Pym (Yellowjacket), War Machine, Henry Gyrich, Baron Von Blitzschlag, and later Taskmaster.

avengers initiative #4For me this was a ton of mostly new characters that I had to adapt to, and Dan Slott does a decent job making me care about them. Hardball and Komodo develop an adorable teenage romance, Trauma is trained by temporary instructor Dani Moonstar (depowered and coming from New X-Men) to become a healer and therapist rather than a frontline fighter, and Cloud 9 is given the wide-eyed uncertainty that makes her the most relatable in this whole mess.

In the very first issue MVP is killed by Armory, a woman with an alien gun that washes out of the program. Trauma is able to shapechange into your deepest fears (making him a Boggart from Harry Potter). When he turns into a giant spider she freaks out and starts firing everywhere, and MVP saves Cloud 9 but takes a shot in the head. His death and subsequent cloning go from mysterious side plot to action-packed main plot in the second volume.

The first volume, “Basic Training,” is mostly concerned with introducing our characters, the facility, and how the Initiative works to capture registered heroes like Spider-Man (they fail) and fight bad guys like Hydra (they win). Issue #4 suddenly ties in with World War Hulk – one of the few ongoing series to do so, and it’s actually a lot of fun. Most of the original Initiative team is sent to help clear the streets, but they get a bit high and mighty and decide to take on the Hulk and his alien buddies, which doesn’t end well.

In Issue #5 we’re introduced to the Shadow Initiative, Henry Gyrich’s personal hit squad that doesn’t exist in any records – consisting of Constrictor, Bengal, Trauma, Mutant Zero, and the Scarlet Spiders. None of them are really given any time to develop (and barely introduced) but it still manages to be a really fun issue, ending with Trauma trying to harness Hulk’s fears into various forms (Abomination, Juggernaut, Bruce Banner). It doesn’t go well, and Trauma is hospitalized for several issues. Don’t mess with Hulk.

avengers initiative #9The second volume picks up with the dead MVP thread that had been effectively layered in earlier. Cloud 9 and former instructor and New Warrior Justice had seen that he was alive and well back at home, and it’s revealed that the triplet Scarlet Spiders are also all clones. MVP is described as the Ubermensch, the perfect human who doesn’t have any actual superpowers, so he’s cloned recklessly by Blitzschlag. Eventually this leads to Pym and Blitzschlag outfitting a newly cloned MVP with Armory’s old tactigon alien weapon that they’d surgically removed. Problem is the weapon is semi-sentient, and drives the new clone insane. The newly created villain calls himself KIA (clever) and goes on a murderous rampage, putting the entire facility under attack.

KIA kills one of the Scarlet Spiders, Trauma, and Slapstick, and seriously wounds War Machine and Constrictor. The exciting plot brings together the bloated cast of the former New Warriors, our new recruits and instructors, and even Iron Man and the Mighty Avengers into a final showdown against KIA. Cloud 9 is able to stun him with a kiss (not sure if that was part of her gas powers or if the clone remembers he had a thing for her) and they slap a head device on him that scrambles his brains. By the end most of the New Warriors leave to form a Counter Initiative to make sure this kind of thing happens again.

“Killed in Action,” ends up being a really fun story with a satisfying ending, but there’s just too many characters to keep track of and care about. I liked our original recruits just fine but the New Warriors just seemed like they were in the way. The Annual issue is made up of several short stories that delve into the backstories of some of the recruits and instructors. It was interesting but mostly unnecessary – like, one of the stories is about Armory who got kicked out back in the first issue.

avengers initiative #12

Avengers: The Initiative was a lot more fun that I expected but still not nearly as enjoyable as New X-Men when it comes to super-powered teenage drama and action. Stefano Casselli’s art has a bright, youthful tone that matches well with the series, though I wasn’t a fan of the temporary art change for the last two issues in Volume 2. Everyone looked completely different, and it was horribly distracting. Issue #13 also seemed like a pointless one-off that included a whole other busload of recruits in a minor adventure.

The Initiative continues for a solid 35 issues and does tie-in to all the major Marvel Events that happen throughout the next few years, including Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, and ending with Siege in 2010. I’ll probably stick with it but seeing as how our initial team of recruits graduated in issue #12 (and are dived up into various states and teams) I don’t know how much I’ll care about future recruits.

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Ms. Marvel (2006), Vol. 3-4

Ms. Marvel puts together her own strike force to hunt down bad guys, and the series hits its stride thanks to a fun supporting cast, numerous action-movie set-pieces and the wonderful art of Aaron Lopresti.

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!

Ms Marvel vol 3Writer: Brian Reed

Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Robert De La Torre (#11-12)

Issues: Ms. Marvel (2006) #11-24

Around the time of the Superhero Civil War in 2006, Carol Danvers was enjoying a successful revival. She had her own solo series (not exactly common for any female superhero at the time) and in 2007 was hand-picked by Tony Stark to lead the new Mighty Avengers team.

The first 10 issues (Volumes 1-2) of Ms. Marvel were a mixed bag as the series struggled to find its footing while dealing with the Civil War event. In volumes three and four we get a more proactive Carol as she puts together her own strike force to hunt down bad guys, and the series hits its stride thanks to a fun supporting cast, numerous action-movie set-pieces and the wonderful art of Aaron Lopresti.

Most of Volume Three includes the subtitling of The Initiative – referring to the period directly following the Civil War. Tony Stark wants Carol Danvers to lead his new official Avengers team. Carol agrees on one condition: that she be given her own special SHIELD taskforce. Carol’s a natural born leader but she’s also full of self-doubt and constantly pushing herself to be better, creating an interesting dynamic between her dialogue and her inner monologue.

Ms. Marvel’s desire to hunt bad guys before they become a threat stems from the first two issues, which revives old Avengers, AIM-baddie Doomsday Man. It mostly involves a lot of straightforward fighting, including against a bunch of zombified agents as well as the giant mech-body of Doomsday Man, and it’s fun as hell. Unfortunately Ms. Marvel’s spunky teenage sidekick that we met back during the Civil War issues in Volume Two (Araña) loses her fight and gets her carapace brutally torn off. Carol vows to hunt down villains before they can become major threats.

ms marvel #17 punch

Her first task is actually a selfish one, but it does tie up the loose end that is Arachne (Julia Carpenter), the superhero Spider-Woman that she apprehended during her Civil War tie-ins. Julia agrees to register and is released from the Negative Zone prison, and Carol helps her find her daughter. It’s fairly boring and unnecessary – I had enough of Arachne’s woes in the previous volume, but the side plot involving AIM and a DNA bomb nicely sets up the next exciting arc, and the first real test of Operation Lightning Storm.

In “Ready, A.I.M., Fire!” (#15-17) Ms. Marvel and her crew of SHIELD agents (and her frequent ally and co-star, the incredibly lame Wonder Man) go after a leader-less AIM group. Some of them are trying to protect and restore a dying MODOK, while others want to bring AIM into a new era. We’re introduced to some interesting inner workings of AIM and MODOK is always a fun, old-school mustache-twirling villain, but the real antagonist comes in the surprise form of MODOK’s son, the usurper of AIM.

ms marvel #17Ms. Marvel is able to defeat MODOK though she’s blasted with the DNA bomb, and once again we see her turn blue and miraculously heal, just as she did did while fighting zombies in the earlier story. She begins to suspect that something fishy may have happened in her encounter with the powerful blue alien named Cru in the very first volume. Brian Reed has a knack for rewarding his readers, weaving in numerous previous plot threads, characters, and events.

Volume Four, “Monster Smash,” includes two action-packed and fun stories that effectively showcase Ms. Marvel’s team and their globe-trotting agenda. “Puppets” (#18-20) trots out a very old Fantastic Four villain, Puppet Master.

He’s currently living out his retirement in a South American country doing what he does best – enslaving people using his clay voodoo statues. Though it’s not explicitly explained, it’s heavily implied that he’s keeping an inordinate amount of enslaved women for human trafficking. This doesn’t sit too well with Ms. Marvel, and she lets loose with an awesome fury, though first she has to battle through a few of Puppet Master’s enslaved superheroines.

The real treat is the introduction to Ms. Marvel’s new team additions. Since her run-in with AIM put one of her field agents in the hospital (and she’s still not comfortable with Araña joining her), she’s requested some super-powered help and receives the snarky android Machine Man and alien Sleepwalker. Sleepwalker is an alien host that lives in the dreams of Rick Sheridan (meaning he can only come out when Rick’s asleep or passed out) while Machine Man is basically Bender from Futurama. They’re both fantastic and entertaining and along with Agent Sum, Araña, and even Wonder Man create quite the motley crew.

ms marvel #20In a dark twist, Ms. Marvel defeats Puppet Master by actually letting him commit suicide via explosion (Dear villains: You can’t kill Ms. Marvel with explosions, she absorbs energy). She’s incredibly angry about what he did to those women and she ends up lying about what went down in her report. It’s a fascinating moment that makes her character all the more human, and I can’t help but continue to root for her every step of the way.

Her blue healing powers finally get explained in the incredibly action-packed second arc, “Monster and Marvel” (#21-24). The blue alien Cru from way back in her first issue had been partially absorbed, and she (it’s a she apparently) spends a lot of time inside Carol’s mind. She shows her destruction of her homeworld by the Brood and Ms. Marvel is taken to Monster Island where the two team-up to defeat the Brood that have made a nest there.

Once again Ms. Marvel is separated from her team, as she and Cru do a bunch of mind-melding stuff while they hunt the Brood Queen while the rest of the team plays catch-up only to fight a swarm of Brood. Brian Reed does his best Aliens impression with the Brood Queen, and Cru unlocks Carol’s cosmic-level powers, temporarily turning her into her goddess-like Binary persona.

ms marvel #24

The action is satisfyingly large-scale and epic, and a wonderful finale to Ms. Marvel’s Operation Lighting Storm adventures (assuming they come to an end – the next volume are her Secret Invasion tie-ins). I generally enjoyed Reed’s story-telling and characterization of Carol Danvers. She’s a very public and powerful hero but she’s also extremely relatable and grounded. Her strike force helps give her something to do rather than just fall into a random series of adventures and I liked the large variety in locations and villains.

It also helps that I adore Aaron Lopresti’s art, who seems particularly well-suited to drawing aliens like the Brood (I loved his work on Planet Hulk). The same can’t be said of Greg Horn’s sexy Barbie-doll cover art, however. Thankfully it’s just the cover art but it also gives off the wrong impression both to the comic’s style and tone. If you enjoy Avengers-style action and want to see more of Ms. Marvel at her highest and lowest points, her solo series has proven more than satisfactory.

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Mighty Avengers (2007), Vol. 1-2

Iron Man’s officially government-sanctioned Avengers team is born from the ashes of the Civil War, and it’s mostly stupid 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!

mighty avengers 2007 coverWriter: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: Frank Cho, Mark Bagley

Issues: Mighty Avengers (2007) #1-11

At the end of the superhero Civil War the rebellious New Avengers were defeated and went into hiding, spurring new SHIELD Director Tony Stark to sanction his own official Avengers team. He dubbed them the Mighty Avengers – inadvertently coined by Ms. Marvel.

Stark of course joins the team making him a bit of a Wolverine in this era in terms of how spread out he is: here in Mighty Avengers, his own solo Iron Man series, as a major character in Captain America, etc. He chooses Ms. Marvel to actually lead the team (given her military background and experience), and together the two pick and choose the best of the best.

In New Avengers the team came together organically over a major crisis – a supervillain prison breakout, and the heroes that showed up and worked together ended up forming a team amidst the chaos. None of that happens in Mighty Avengers; instead it goes the Armageddon route and simply goes around recruiting people in a page by page montage (with flashbacks to their recruitment throughout the first few issues). Carol and Tony discuss people like they’re trading cards (“we need a Wolverine”) and then go recruit them. It’s all a bit silly and not terribly interesting, but at least they select a fairly varied team in terms of power level and background.

The initial team that joins Ms. Marvel and Iron Man are The Wasp, The Sentry, Wonder Man, Black Widow and Ares (“He’s a Wolverine and a Thor!” Ugh). Before they can even get an official Welcome to the Group meeting, Iron Man is suddenly melted and transformed into a weird, naked lady version of Ultron after a seemingly random attack by Mole-man. In the “Ultron Initiative” (#1-6) Fem-Ultron hijacks some weather satellites and tries to wreck havoc on the whole planet, while our heroes unsuccessfully hurl themselves at it.

As a side note, I completely hate the Sentry. What started off as an interesting take on a Superman-level powerful hero with severe mental issues has devolved into a Get Out of Situation Free card for comic writers. He has the power of a thousand exploding suns! Great.

Mighty Avengers #1b

The story is incredibly dumb and I detest the way Bendis writes each panel. He includes the inner thought bubble of all our heroes, sometimes in the middle of them talking. This makes every page have an insane amount of words and often makes just trying to suss out a single dialogue session a confusing mess. I generally like Bendis’ dialogue and writing but this method just fails spectacularly. Trying to do the inner monologue thing (normally reserved for solo books or single character focuses) for half a dozen characters is a nightmare and doesn’t add anything to the story.

I’m also not a fan of Frank Cho’s art work. It’s not terrible but it’s just slightly worse than what I consider base-line brightly colored action-adventure comic fair, and includes a hefty does of constant T&A from the women heroes that I wasn’t a big fan of.

To put a cherry on this ill-conceived return of Ultron (who mostly just stands there for five issues and occasionally throws a charging hero to the ground), they enlist the help of Hank Pym, Wasp’s ex-husband, to create a computer virus and introduce it to Ultron.

Yep, they Independence Day Ultron. Good job guys.

mighty avengers #2

 

As a side note I really enjoy how Bendis writes Hank and his dialogue with Janet is especially delicious, but even his enjoyable guest-starring isn’t enough to save this train-wreck of an opening story.

Volume 2, “Venom Bomb” (#7-11) is a massive improvement, picking up right after the last panel of New Avengers #31. Issue #7 has Spider-Woman showing up at Stark’s bedside with the glaring body of Skrull-Elektra. The titling of the issue has the Secret Invasion stamp on it, acting as an early prologue to the upcoming event. The entire issue is mostly just Stark and Jessica Drew talking about the ramifications of a possible secret Skrull invasion, and it’s actually pretty great.

Their talks end with Spider-Woman officially joining the Mighty Avengers, effectively switching sides, and Stark grants her a slot much to many of the team’s chagrin. Before anyone can really voice a complaint, something suspicious falls to earth from the wreckage of Stark’s weather satellites from the previous story arc. It’s a venom-style symbiote! Only this one acts like a virus and beings mutating everyone in New York City into Venom/Carnage monsters.

The Mighty Avengers are on the scene, and finally we get some action-packed scenes of our heroes kicking ass. Granted they soon have to pull up once they realize that all the monsters are really just possessed people. To create more chaos the New Avengers show up also as venom symbiote monsters (save Luke Cage), and there’s a funny bit where Wolverine’s healing factor keeps trying to push out the symbiote. Poor Wolverine.

Mighty avengers #8

The whole thing is over in a single issue as Stark simply goes to his lab and synthesizes a cure, then blasts it over New York. Very anti-climactic and short, but it leads to the team discovering the “Venom Bomb” belonged to Dr. Doom, so it’s off to Latveria! As if battling hundreds of symbiotes weren’t enough our heroes throw down with hundreds of doom bots after Ares crashes a plane right into Doom’s castle.

No less than three full two-page spreads of the team fighting off doombots jump out as a lovely feast for the eyes. Mark Bagley is an improvement in the art department, and it’s very much that classic modern comic book feel that is very appropriate to the tone and feel of the series.

The attack on Doom (whom quickly becomes one of my favorite villains and I adore Bendis’ treatment of him) leads to he, Iron Man and Sentry being thrust back in time to the 60s via Doom’s time-travel device. While an opportunity for some funny and cheesy moments are mostly wasted, I did love the old Jack Kirby, Silver Age style in which the time-travel issue is drawn.

Like all their problems it’s solved with a combination of Stark’s ideas and Sentry’s insane power level and they quickly return to their time an issue later. The entire story arc of Volume 2 is a rapid fire of big events happening every single issue. If the idea was to make up for the lackluster and boring “Ultron Initiative” it definitely succeeds.

mighty avengers #9

Dr. Doom is finally apprehended as Iron Man gets his Respect Mah Authority moment. I’m annoyed that throughout these two first volumes the focus centers on Iron Man more than anyone else. I get that he’s obviously the most popular hero (although Ms. Marvel was also gaining popularity at this time with her own solo series) but as I mentioned before, Iron Man is damn near everywhere. As stupid as heroes like Ares and Wonder Man are (answer = very, very stupid) I wouldn’t mind seeing at least a bit more team dynamic, drama, in-fighting and characterization that’s in every other successful team-up book.

With too much focus on Iron Man, a silly team and a terrible first outing, Mighty Avengers is off to a very shaky start. It definitely feels like the Michael Bay of comic stories – some fun action if you can mostly shut your brain down. I did like the way that it incorporates the greater continuity and the nonstop action in the second volume is an admittedly fun ride. But, come on Tony, let the rest of the team do something every once in awhile.

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – New Avengers (2005), Vol. 6

With the death of Captain America and the passing of the Superhero Registration Act, the New Avengers are still reeling in the aftermath of the Civil War.

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!

New Avengers Vol. 6Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: Leinil Francis Yu, Alex Maleev (#26)

Issues: New Avengers (2005) #26-31

With the death of Captain America and the passing of the Superhero Registration Act, the New Avengers are still reeling in the aftermath of the Civil War. During the time period known as The Initiative (most of 2007) many Marvel books had tie-ins that followed the fallout from the Superhero Civil War and how the registration act affected other heroes.

The Initiative affected the New Avengers more than anyone. Though Steve Rogers surrendered, many of his allies went underground and continued to oppose the Registration Act. Previous New Avengers members Spider-man, Wolverine, Luke Cage and Spider-woman are joined by Iron Fist, Dr. Strange and a different Ronin ninja who’s eventually revealed to be Hawkeye in a nifty bit of flashbacking.

Issue #26 drops in with the newly resurrected Hawkeye – last seen sacrificing himself at the end of Avengers “Disassembled” in 2004 and brought back by Scarlet Witch during the House of M event in 2005. Hawkeye goes to Dr. Strange looking for answers, then hunts down Wanda Maximoff – whom at the end of House of M we saw had magically lobotomized herself to forget her powers and who she was. Clint ends up in a romantic fling with her, and decides revenge for House of M is no longer an appropriate course of action.

New Avengers #26I really dug Alex Maleev’s art style in this one-off issue. The whole comic is drawn as if carefully constructed by water color painting, and the panels are frequently light on dialogue and heavy on intense human emotion. It works quite well given there’s very little action in the issue, and the style really carries the brief but interesting story along.

The full story of “Revolution” begins in #27, though it almost feels like a one-off as well. The previous mysterious ninja known as Ronin, Maya Lopez, was given the mission to stay in Japan and monitor the Hand while everyone else was fighting the Civil War. She gets herself captured and tortured by current Hand-leader Elektra, and it’s up to the rest of the team to save her. Eventually.

First the New Avengers have to deal directly with their underground status as rebels, and the newly christened, officially government-sanctioned team the Mighty Avengers (Final Thoughts coming soon) actively hunt them throughout the volume. The New Avengers hide out thanks to Dr. Strange’s magic, and there’s some tense moments as his magic masks them even while Iron Man and company are exploring the house they’re hiding in.

At one point the Mighty Avengers manage to draw them out using Steve’s fake body as bait (“That was dirty pool, man” – Spider-Man), and they’re able to escape thanks again to Dr. Strange’s incredibly useful and always ill-defined magic powers. The big battle they tease between the two super-teams never does happen, though to be fair we kind of got our fill of that during the whole Civil War event. The rebels quickly realize they’re no longer safe in the US, and flee to Japan where they rescue Maya and battle lots of Hand ninjas – essentially rehashing the battles of New Avengers Volume 3.

new avengers #29

While I respect that writer Brian Michael Bendis weaves the backstory of the New Avengers struggling against the Mighty Avengers with their ninja battles, it does get quite muddled and confusing to read from panel to panel. Yu’s art style is also quite unique and somewhat distracting. It’s extremely heavy on the pencils and shading. Normally I’d dig it but the characters themselves are drawn with a somewhat cartoonish and exaggerated look that I don’t quite mesh with. I like that the art is different enough to make the title really stand out from the rest (especially the bright and very traditional Mighty Avengers) but I still haven’t quite decided if I actually enjoy it or not.

Although the art is dark and the stories somewhat bleak, the dialogue is still snappy – almost jarringly so. Spider-Man, Wolverine and Luke Cage compete for biggest wise-ass as they constantly fire off comments and one-liners during every scene. It fits their personality and nicely balances the series and the team members – though I wonder what the hell Spider-Man and Wolverine are still doing on this hunted team.

At the end of the bland ninja fighting story, Maya rebels against her brainwashing and stabs Elektra. As she dies she suddenly reverts to her true form of a skrull! Dun Dun Dunnnn! Knowing what I know of Marvel continuity this must be an early and nifty tease of the next big crossover event Secret Invasion in 2008, and it’s definitely shocking and satisfying.

Even more enjoyable was the neat little twist about Hawkeye joining the team as the new Ronin. I guess training with a bow carries over to sword skills? Either way it’s cool for Clint Barton to have a nifty new role, and be an Avenger again. Even more poignant that he would choose to join the rebels after he was directly offered the role of being the new Captain America by Iron Man himself.

new avengers #30

I find it fascinating that Marvel kept the New Avengers team together and the series ongoing during The Initiative time period and beyond, even as multiple Avengers-focused series were being launched. New Avengers succeeds with its own distinct art style and fun team dynamic that is far, far more like-able and interesting than the Mighty Avengers’ ensemble. And who doesn’t love rooting for the rebels?