Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Men: Original Sin

Wolverine enlists Professor X’s help with his son Daken in this surprisingly enjoyable crossover between X-Men Legacy and Wolverine Origins.

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!

x-men original sinWriters: Daniel Way (Wolverine Origins), Mike Carey (X-Men Legacy)

Artists: Mike Deodato (Wolverine Origins), Scott Eaton (X-Men Legacy)

Issues: X-Men: Original Sin One-Shot, Wolverine Origins #28-30, X-Men Legacy #217-218

 

The plight of self-pitying, guilt-stricken Charles Xavier continues as the focus of X-Men Legacy in 2008. This time we get a surprisingly effective crossover with Wolverine Origins.

Both Logan and Charles are men with checkered pasts that they’d sooner forget – even with Logan finally regaining his memories after House of M. This story, which begins with its own One-Shot issue before intertwining both series, centers around Wolverine’s son, Daken, and his quest to fix his son’s damaged psyche with Xavier’s help.  Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Men: Original Sin”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Deadpool: The Complete Collection Vol. 1

Deadpool is in good hands with a lively art style and excellent writing that explores his delightful insanity and penchant for mayhem.

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!

Deadpool Complete Collection vol 1Writers: Daniel Way (Wolverine: Origins, Deadpool), Andy Diggle (Thunderbolts)

Artists: Steve Dillon (Wolverine: Origins), Paco Medina (#1-4, #6-12), Carlo Barberi (#4-5), Bong Dazo (Thunderbolts)

Issues: Deadpool (2008) #1-12, Thunderbolts #130-131, Wolverine: Origins #21-25

 

Ah, Deadpool. The Merc with a Mouth. Everyone’s favorite anti-hero. On the surface a GI Joe reject that constantly spouts one-liners and non-sequiturs should be the dumbest thing to come out of the 90s. Instead, Deadpool has become one of the most beloved figures in the Marvel Universe, and I’m inclined to agree. His witty retorts and likable (and somehow relatable) attitude is a refreshing change from the many brooding and angsty jerks that parade in costumes.

Coming off the very successful Cable & Deadpool run (four yeas and fifty issues, which I loved), Wade Wilson stars in his first solo series in years. While I was a bit annoyed by the constant crossovers with then-current Marvel events and other series, Deadpool is in good hands with a lively art style and excellent writing that explores his delightful insanity and penchant for mayhem.  Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Deadpool: The Complete Collection Vol. 1”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Force: The Complete Collection Vol. 1

X-Force expertly layers in several explosive, fun story beats and far-reaching plot threads while the accompanying water-color art relishes in its violently bloody melee combat.

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!

x-force complete collection vol 1 coverWriters: Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost

Artists: Clayton Crain (#1-6, #12-13), Mike Choi (#7-10), Alina Urusov (#11)

Issues: X-Force (2008) #1-13, X-Force Special: Ain’t No Dog #1, X-Force Annual #1

 

First there was House of M, in which the Scarlet Witch reduced the mutant population of the world from millions to several hundred with three little words. Several years later the epic X-Men crossover event Messiah Complex gave us the first mutant birth since that day, and everyone wanted to get their hands on this miracle child.

Knowing the depths of which evil, bigoted humans (and evil mutants) would go, and seeing their backs firmly up against the wall, Cyclops finally becomes the leader we were all waiting for. The results are actually kind of terrifying as he’s become a hard-nosed militaristic leader, and reinstates the X-Force as his own secretive and deadly black-ops team.

X-Force, a new series that launched in the wake of Messiah Complex in 2008, brings together X-23, Warpath, and Wolfsbane under Wolverine’s leadership. Cyclops gives Wolverine the missions and he keeps the rest of the X-Men completely in the dark – even to the point of using the Cuckoos (telepathic triplets) to block Emma Frost from probing his mind about it.

Their first task is to deal with the immediate threat of the Purifiers, one of the X-Men’s biggest enemies that sprung from the pages of New X-Men. Under the creative writing team of Craig Kyle and Chris Yost (who also crafted New X-Men from issue #20 on), X-Force expertly layers in several explosive, fun story beats, while the accompanying water-color style art by Clayton Crain relishes in the bloody melee combat of having so many rough and tumble fighters together on one team.

x-force #13

With former leader William Stryker dead at the end of the Purifier assault on the X-Mansion in New X-Men Volume 2, his right-hand Mathew Risman has become the de facto leader. Risman works to create a new powerful threat to the X-Men by further modifying the body of Nimrod, the mutant-hunting sentinel from the future, and forming Bastion, a humanoid robotic warrior hellbent on the X-Men’s demise.

Kyle and Yost spend quite a bit of time on the Purifiers and their own cultish motivations and inner drama. Bastion’s methods soon sour Risman and others as he’s more than willing to kill humans as long as the ends (death of all mutants) justify the means. Risman has his own plan – letting a captured and programmed Wolfsbane be rescued by X-Force only to horrifically attack Angel and rip his wings off when they’re alone.

x-force #6She takes the wings back to the Purifiers. Using the special Apocalypse-granted bio-technology they’re able to graft steel wings onto the backs of their most devout followers and create a winged army. Instead of attacking the X-Men, however, Risman seizes his chance to swiftly attack Bastion and the other Purifiers! Meanwhile it’s all Warpath, X-23 and Wolverine can do to try and follow Angel who violently ‘hulks out’ into Archangel – the embodiment of Death that Apocalypse had transformed him into years ago.

Angel had become a super boring character for years, and X-Men writers rarely even included him in most adventures. Let’s face it, being able to fly is quickly eclipsed by just about every other combat-savvy power that the X-Men possess. Credit to X-Force then for making Angel not only a badass as the steel razor-sharp winged Archangel, but a complicated character who has to battle his inner rage of having the Death persona take control of his thoughts and actions.

That whole first arc ends in a fantastically bloody and crazy battle between Purifiers and X-Force. The plot thickens for future events when we find out that Bastion has used a sleeping Technarch force (an alien bio-organic creature) to resurrect and enslave all of the X-Men’s old political foes. In this modern era you don’t defeat the heroes by summoning a giant creature to kill them – you raise up some savvy politicians and leaders to denounce them and turn the tide of public opinion.

x-force #3

It’s an interesting commentary on this post-Civil War Marvel world and works quite well. Of course we also get some just plain awesome fight scenes between Bastion and Wolverine, and Archangel kills dozens of Purifiers in a fit of rage. X-Force is easily the most bloody and violent Marvel comic I’ve ever read, and the painting-quality art style really gives it a mature and artistic angle rather than pure exploitative and gratuitous.

In the second half of this massive collected Volume the revelation of all the old X-Men foes returning further galvanizes Cyclops’ brutal and cold decision-making (and causes Wolverine and Cyke to have some deliciously heated arguments). X-Force is sent to retrieve a deadly sample of the Legacy Virus, recently stolen by a teleporting mutant called Vanisher. The virus is a famous plot device from years ago that only targets and kills mutants.

The team soon runs into Domino, a former X-Force member, lover of Cable, and all around snarky and awesome Deadpool-esque fighter. Domino adds some much needed levity and one-liners to this normally dour and serious group. Taking on Vanisher becomes darkly humorous as the teams splits up to cover all his safe houses. He teleports to each one, getting sliced, shot, and attacked at each one before Elixir touches him mumbling an apology.

x-force #8Josh Foley, AKA Elixir is another former New X-Men. He has the power to manipulate the inner workings of the human body, mostly to heal people but can also cause great harm (he single-handedly killed Stryker). In this case, he gives Vanisher a brain tumor with the little X logo on it. Vanisher freaks out and reminds me of that classic whiny sidekick villain from a kids movie, but here done in a legitimately funny and enjoyable way. Him and Domino both are fantastic additions to the team, while Exliir is really only used as the situation dictates.

Meanwhile both Warpath and Wolfsbane are given rather strange side quests which have little to do with the main plot. Warpath decides to go visit his dead brother’s grave to collect himself, but he’s attacked by a giant demon spirit bear thing. Then Ghost Rider shows up to help him fight it. It’s seemingly random but when Warpath returns to the group he does set up the stage for upcoming X-Force crossover event X-Necrosha, regarding a new villain named Eli Bard, returning evil witch Selene, and the possibility of an army of undead.

Wolfsbane is given such horrible treatment that I was constantly annoyed with her arc throughout. Here is a character that was specifically ripped from her role in X-Factor only to be captured off screen in the first issue of X-Force, used as a pawn by the bad guys, then rendered untrustworthy by the good guys. In the second arc she’s simply left at home after they fail at deprogramming her (she still wants to kill Angel). She goes off on her own and eventually runs into some wolf-man dude from Thor’s neck of the woods, and the two share some romantic scenes. Being totally unaware of her character pre-X-Factor it did nothing for me, nor had anything to do with anything else. I love you X-Force but your treatment of Rahne Sinclair is just really crappy.

It all comes down to an exciting final few issues as X-Force tracks down the Leper Queen, one of the Bastion-resurrected and controlled foes who’s injecting mutants with the Legacy Virus and using them as human bombs. At the same time Beast has crafted special time-travel discs that can send a squad into the future to help Cable and baby Hope survive Bishop’s relentless pursuit, setting up X-Force’s immediate crossover story Messiah War.

x-force #12

So, that’s the seeds of X-Necrosha, Messiah War, and X-Force’s own main plot all interweaving together, and it’s damn impressive. Our heroes get teleported away to the future just as they reach the Leper Queen, and she just straight-up murders her most recent victim, the mutant Boom-Boom. Introducing a D-list character at the climax just to kill them off is old hat, dumb, and unnecessary, and it’s a shame that it’s the last panel of the book.

Despite some glaring mistreatment of certain characters and a lot of stories going on, I really did enjoy X-Force. It didn’t quite grab me at first and I found the art style quite jarring, but as I read I appreciated the carefully layered in plotting and pacing, and Crain’s art really grew on me. Even when the comic briefly switches artists to the slightly brighter work of Mike Choi it still meshed very well. It’s also very fun seeing several of my favorite New X-Men (which ended at Messiah Complex) used in various roles, even if they’re just captives waiting to be rescued (sorry Surge and Hellion).

Reading Messiah Complex and a good chunk of New X-Men is recommended to get the full breadth of these characters and situations, making X-Force a tricky jumping-on point for new converts. Even if you just come to see Wolverine stab dudes in the face, it’s pretty damn entertaining. Highly recommended for crafting a fun team of violent mutants and setting up some really fun plot threads for years to come.

x-force #9

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?

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Deadpool & Cable Ultimate Collection, Book 3

While the previous collected volume had its ups and downs trying to give our unlikely duo things to do, the final Ultimate Collection almost solely focuses on Deadpool’s wacky adventures, to the great benefit of the series.

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!

Deadpool & Cable ultimate collection book 3Writer: Fabian Nicieza

Artist: Reilly Brown

Issues: Cable & Deadpool #36-50, Deadpool/GLI Summer Spectacular #1

It’s the Cable & Deadpool show! Starring Nathan Summers and Wade Wilson, but mostly everyone’s favorite fourth-wall breaking, pop culture referencing, Merc With a Mouth Deadpool! While the previous collected volume had its ups and downs trying to give our unlikely duo things to do, events to crossover with and guest stars to battle, the final Ultimate Collection almost solely focuses on Deadpool’s wacky adventures, to the great benefit of the series.

Although the series retained its Cable & Deadpool titling (which then gets changed to Deadpool & Cable for these Ultimate Collections – I like to think that was Deadpool’s doing), Cable only actually appears in three total issues among the final 15 issues. Cable has a major role to play in the adjective-less X-Men series as he joins Rogue’s team in the Supernovas volume of stories.

Cable’s “Fractured” story in Cable & Deadpool (#40-42) act as a bit of an epilogue to those adventures, as well as writing him out of his own series in preparation for the mega X-Men crossover Messiah Complex. His island of Providence is attacked and he’s forced to sacrifice himself to keep Gambit and Sunfire (see “Blood of Apocalypse“) from learning any of Apocalypse’s secrets. It leads to some exciting moments, and its fun to see Cable flashing back (or is that forward?) to his past life in the future as a soldier and commander making the tough decisions.

cable & deadpool #41

That just leaves Deadpool, whom Nicieza excels at writing and definitely feels most comfortable with. Deadpool’s solo adventures first have their seeds properly planted in the first few issues of Book 3. In “Unfinished Business,” (#36-39) Deadpool is steel reeling from the physical and emotional ass-kicking he got from Civil War, and ends up grappling with Taskmaster and then the Rhino. In the latter fight he’s shrunk down with Pym particles, which leads to another few issues of tiny Deadpool hilariously taking on an entire Hydra base and holding a Hydra agent hostage with a plastic card.

That Hydra agent would go on to become Deadpool’s new sidekick Bob in one of the more brilliant and hilarious characters I’ve ever seen. Together they rescue Agent X, a previous guest-star and regular Deadpool supporting cast-member whom has been hit with an obesity ray and is now an overweight cream-puff. Deadpool gets hired on by X’s company Agency X after Cable’s ordeal, and his first mission is to rescue his previous sidekick Weasel from the Hydra base where he accidentally left him.

cable & deadpool #47

In these final eight issues Deadpool and Bob (and later Weasel) get paired with a different Marvel character every issue – literally on the cover Cable’s name is crossed out and replaced with Wolverine, Dr. Strange, the Fantastic Four, etc. Rescuing Weasel sends Deadpool and Bob hurtling through time due to Weasel’s new teleporting suit, and they team up with Captain America and Bucky in the 40s before getting into an appropriately confusing and messy time-travel plot with the Fantastic Four.

Upon returning to their proper time, Dr. Strange enlists the help of Agency X to help with some mystical mumbo jumbo, leading to more excitingly random battles, including battling Brother Voodoo’s Zombies in Louisiana. Bob’s strategy of Run and Hide nearly steals the show from Deadpool’s own wise-cracking and violent antics and I was pretty much grinning throughout the entire arc.

cable & Deadpool #50It all ends with a trip to the Savage Land. In a neat tie-in to his former compatriot, Deadpool goes to the dino-infested jungles to get a power source for Cable’s former liberated country of Rumekistan and ends up battling Brainchild and some random mutate villains. The fun part comes at the end as they attempt to teleport an army of dinosaurs away. Deadpool picks Genosha as the destination, forgetting that Genosha was destroyed about five years ago. The dinosaurs thus get dropped into the Genoshan embassy in Manhattan, crash into the Mighty Avengers and unleash the Venom symbiote – leading to an epic final issue where Deadpool joins forces with the Avengers to defeat a bunch of dinosaur symbiote monsters rampaging New York!

This run of Cable & Deadpool marks the first time I’ve ever read a series to completion. All fifty issues, four years worth of comics, in a few months. Having the same writer and generally consistent, satisfyingly action-packed art style throughout helps immensely in rewarding loyal readers. Cable’s semi-frequent tie-ins to other ongoing Marvel events created some problems, but the series treated them amiably and mostly succeeded on Deadpool’s everlasting charisma and unique charm that makes him more lovable than irritating.

The latter half of Book 3 creates a worthy finale full of exciting scenarios and awesome guest-stars, but it never loses the funny. I was always fan of future-soldier and all-around badass Cable, but Cable & Deadpool definitely made me a huge fan of Deadpool. I look forward to exploring both characters’ solo series next.

cable & deadpool #48

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America

The death of a major character isn’t exactly treading new water. It’s happened countless times and become a bit of a running joke. Still, Captain America is just about the highest-profile character that Marvel had targeted in some time, and his death is treated with all the emotional gravitas and status-quo altering implications you would expect.

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!

fallen son coverWriter: Jeph Loeb

Artists: John Cassaday, David Finch, Ed McGuinness, John Romita, Leinil Francis Yu

Issues: Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America #1-5

Captain America’s famous death at the end of the superhero Civil War presents a bit of a tricky problem in the way I organize my Final Thoughts. I typically read a collected Volume (or several) or omnibus of a single series, then write about it.

The problem is that Cap doesn’t actually die at the end of Civil War he’s arrested after he willingly surrenders to prevent more devastation. A few months go by in Early 2007 before his trial in Captain America #25, and it’s there that he’s gunned down by a combination of Crossbone’s sniper rifle and a brainwashed Sharon Carter. That crucial issue is part of a massive collected omnibus (also titled The Death of Captain America) that begins with issue #22 (Cap’s Civil War tie-ins) all the way to #42, which covers nearly two years.

Thus I would either have to break up that omnibus into multiple Final Thoughts, or wait and talk about Cap’s important death far into the future. Neither are great options. Thankfully the solution presents itself quite nicely in the form of this lovely limited series.

Fallen Son was written as a tribute to Steve Rogers’ legacy, allowing some of the biggest heroes in Marvel to reflect and deal with his tragic death in their own ways. Each of the five issues includes a different artist, showcasing a myriad of styles (from fantastic to okay). Each issue was cleverly written to represent the classic five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Fallen son #2“Denial” stars Wolverine (perfect!) who just can’t believe Cap is really dead. With the help of Dr. Strange’s magic, he and Daredevil infiltrate the SHIELD helicarrier, interrogating Crossbones and finally seeing Cap’s body for themselves. The reeling New Avengers and newly formed, government-sanctioned Mighty Avengers crossover in the interesting “Anger” issue. Most of the issue is constructed with the two very different stories going on side-by-side, as each group supposedly works through their emotions. Iron Man’s team fights off Tiger Shark and a bunch of sea monsters, while the New Avengers tackle a less action-packed but far more intriguing poker game that nearly comes to blows between the arguing heroes.

Spider-man leaves the group in a huff, segueing nicely into the fourth issue where he visits a graveyard; all his personal losses come bubbling up in a fantastic rain-soaked cemetery. The only one that really fell flat for me was the third issue, “Bargaining,” which stars a recently resurrected Hawkeye as Iron Man offers him the job of wearing the shield and uniform of Captain America. It crosses over with some of the super lame Young Avengers and the art is the worst of the bunch.

The final issue pays off in the form of Captain America’s funeral, an impressive set-piece in Washington D.C. filled with most of the winning side of the war. Falcon, Cap’s longtime partner, gives a stirring speech that lasts nearly the length of the issue, cutting away nicely to various famous scenes of Captain America, both old and new. Tony Stark meanwhile continues to look like a complete and utter asshole, event when he’s supposed to be remorseful and guilt-stricken.

fallen son #5

The death of a major character isn’t exactly treading new water. It’s happened countless times and become a bit of a running joke. Still, Captain America is just about the highest-profile character that Marvel had targeted in some time, and his death is treated with all the emotional gravitas and status-quo altering implications you would expect. It flows out naturally from Civil War and helps set the state of the fear-mongering, government-controlled era in the Marvelverse that would persist for the next three years (Cap himself comes back in two, still an impressively long time for any hero).

Civil War is about as required reading as you can get, and Fallen Son acts as both a wonderfully somber epilogue to those events, as well as a fitting tribute to one of Marvel’s greatest all time heroes. Rest in Peace, Cap.

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-23: Target X

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!

x-23 target xWriters: Craig Kyle, Chris Yost

Artist: Michael Choi

Issues: X-23: Target X #1-6

Laura Kinney was made from the modified DNA of the original Weapon X, Wolverine. The organization could only duplicate the X chromosome and so doubled it, essentially creating a cloned daughter of Weapon X. A geneticist named Sarah Kinney, newly brought on to the program, offered to carry the child, and when born she was immediately conditioned to be an emotionless assassin, as the mother struggled with her duties to science and her job and basic human empathy with her daughter.

That whole story is told in the amazing limited series X-23: Innocence Lost, which details her birth and childhood at the Weapon X facility, training as a brutal killing machine and eventual escape. X-23’s first appearance was actually in the animated series X-Men: Evolution and has since become a popular comic book character, not unlike DC Comic’s Harley Quinn.

I skipped writing about Innocence Lost as I was in the middle of lots of other comics at the time, but I definitely want to give special mention to Target X, as I was blown away by just how gripping the story was and the fantastic art style.

The story picks up right where Innocence Lost left off – Laura has murdered her mother after she was exposed to the trigger scent that causes her to kill with mindless ferocity, just after escaping and destroying the facility that was her horrifying home throughout her childhood. Reinforcements show up to try and apprehend her, but she kills them, and buries Kimura (X-23’s sadistic and indestructible handler) under an avalanche of snow.

Laura goes to the only place she knows of outside of the facility: her Aunt’s family in San Francisco. During the events of Innocence Lost, Laura had saved her little cousin Megan from a child predator, and the memory drives her to find sanctuary there.

x-23 target x #2Megan is now a young teenager and a troubled one – she’s haunted by memories of the abduction, dressing in a goth-style and generally acting sullen and moody. Her relationship with her parents is strained, but Laura’s sudden arrival helps her out of her mental shell and the two become friends – as friendly as an emotionally damaged young woman and a trained killer can be. Their relationship is a nice focus of the middle of the story, and there’s some funny bits as Laura proves her frightening real world knowledge of languages, anatomy and military structure to her horrified teachers at school.

Pretending to be a somewhat normal teenager is destined to fail, and the organization that created X-23 aren’t about to give up on her. Turns out that Megan’s mom and Laura’s aunt’s boyfriend Desmond is an undercover operative, and he plans to use the trigger scent to make X-23 kill them. It doesn’t go exactly as planned: he drug’s the aunt’s tea but it also gets splashed on himself when Megan and Laura come home. X-23’s eyes go red and she brutally kills him, while Megan grabs her mom and rushes to the shower in one of the tensest scenes I’ve ever thumbed through in a comic.

x-23 target x #5Having Laura’s major weakness as a chemical that turns her into a mindless killing machine is both terrifying and intriguing. She can never fully trust herself and knows she’s a danger to others. After defeating waves of soldiers and the return of Kimura, Laura escapes with Megan and her mom, getting them across the Canadian border before they have to say their tearful goodbyes. Laura’s emotions are often stunted and she rarely speaks, but in this rain-soaked scene she emotes with gut-wrenching pain, regret and sacrifice as she says her goodbyes to the only people that ever cared about her (minus her mom I guess, though that was complicated).

The story wraps up after five issues but a final epilogue in the sixth has X-23 confront Wolverine, the reason for existence, outside of the mansion. Since it’s a comic book they immediately fight, and X-23 mostly kicks his ass in a spectacularly well-constructed fight scene (to be fair, Logan doesn’t really want to fight her). Turns out Wolverine knows all about her story, as her mom sent him a letter of her confession detailing the events at the facility. He suggests she join Xavier’s as a place she’ll be both safe (ha) and happy (eh).

The invitation is cut short when SHIELD arrives and Captain America personally captures her while Wolverine tries to draw them off. The entire series is written as Laura telling these events to Steve Rogers and Matt Murdock (Daredevil, as her counsel) as they grill her about what happened, and more importantly if she takes responsibility for the countless lives she’s taken. It’s a fun way to frame the story, and eventually Rogers and Murdock fight about what to do with this young killer.

Ultimately Captain America decides to hand her over to SHIELD, and Laura goes willingly. On the way he realizes that SHIELD will most likely use her as the weapon she was designed to be, and decides to let her go. Bit of a risky move considering she is deadly and lacks basic human moral fiber, but Target X does do a great job giving her a bit of humanity and making it impossible not to cheer for her.

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By filling in the gaps between Innocence Lost and when Laura joins the New X-Men, we get an entertaining and informative glimpse into who she is. Michael Choi’s art is phenomenal, particularly how he draws faces and soulful eyes. Steve Rogers has never looked so thoughtful. I’m beginning to really enjoy these limited series, with their well-paced storylines and intriguing character focus (see also Son of M and X-Men: Deadly Genesis). If you’re at all interested in learning more about X-23, I highly recommend X-23: Target X, though you may want to start with X-23: Innocence Lost so you’re not lost on previous events.

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Wolverine: Origins, Vol. 1-3

Thanks to 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!

born in bloodWriter: Daniel Way

Artist: Steve Dillon

Issues: Wolverine: Origins #1-15

Just about the only positive thing to come out of House of M for our poor beleaguered mutants was that Wolverine suddenly got all his memories back. For a dude that’s over 100 years old that’s quite a lot to process, and Marvel responded by giving Wolverine an additional solo series called Wolverine: Origins, which launched in the Summer of 2006 and went on to run for four years and 50 issues. At the time Wolverine was also a New Avenger, part of at least one X-Men team and had his own solo series – this is the time of Wolverine overload that would last for years.

But I happen to love that furry Canadian so I wanted to give this series a try. The first volume (#1-6), “Born in Blood,” is a terrible start as Wolverine starts to carve a bloody path against those that wronged him – specifically the shadowy organization that used him as a brain-washable assassin.

One of his first steps is to attack the White House looking for a secretary with ties to the group, which immediately makes him a wanted man by SHIELD (which makes no sense in regards to other Marvel continuity). Eventually they send another reprogrammed soldier after him: Nuke, a G.I. Joe reject Logan tussled with in Vietnam. Soon Captain America and the Astonishing X-Men show up to bring Logan down and it ends in a fairly lame fight thanks to some of the worst artwork I’ve ever seen in a comic book.

Normally when I don’t like the art I chalk it up to style preference. I know what I like and don’t like, and certain styles I really enjoy while others can cause me to completely skip an arc or even a series. The latter nearly happened here as Steve Diilon’s art looks like it was made with clipart from Photoshop and MS Paint. Every character looks horrible and it meshes terribly with the bloody, serious tone of the story.

wolverine origins #10Things do get a little better (writing wise anyway) in the second story arc, “Savior” (#7-10). At the end of the last fight Emma Frost dropped a bomb – Wolverine has a son who’s being manipulated by the same people Logan is after. SHIELD is still chasing him (lead by Dum Dum Dugan) as he makes his way to Europe to obtain some Carbonadium – a special synthetic that slows down his healing factor (thinking he’ll need it to subdue his son). There’s some fun guest stars here, including Omega Red, Black Widow and a now powerless Jubilee, and we get more glimpses into Logan’s terribly dark and violent past.

Wolverine is forced to surrender to SHIELD when Jubilee is hurt in a fight with Omega Red, and we get our first glimpse of Daken, his son, as he walks up to his shackled father, disembowels him, and walks away. Logan’s hunt for his son finally becomes the focus of the third volume, “Swift and Terrible,” (#11-15) and we actually get a decent amount of scenes and background on Daken.

If Daken’s supposed to be completely despicable then Way has succeeded. Daken is tattooed, mohawk’d and sporting some black fingernail polish – he just screams ‘trying too hard.’ His dialogue and attitude is super angsty, immature and just plain cruel. If he’s supposed to be Logan without any moral compunction or friends they went a little overboard. At least his claw designs, like X-23’s (Logan’s cloned daughter and a vastly superior character) are slightly different with two claws on top of the hand and the third under the palm.

They meet up again at the bank vault where Logan has tracked the Carbonadium, but their initial fight (which Daken very much kicks his father’s ass) is interrupted by Cyber, a resurrected Wolverine villain that’s given quite a bit of backstory and screentime in the story arc before he drops in to enact some revenge of his own.

swift and terrible
If only the inner artwork looked anything like the covers.

Daken runs off while Logan is able to subdue Cyber and force him to help find his son again. What once started as an interesting tale on revenge and Logan’s crazy backstory has devolved a bit into an awkward father-son re-connection with a wholly unlikable character. From glancing at future covers it looks like Daken takes a backseat for awhile and we go back to tracing more of Logan’s past. I’ll stick with it, but frankly I’m more looking forward to when the primary artist changes at issue #25.

As for these first three volumes, I just can’t recommend them except for the most die-hard fans of Wolverine, or if you’re just insanely curious about when Daken is introduced (who does become a semi-major player in future events). With good, or at least halfway decent art work the second volume would be pretty spiffy, but as is it’s a slog to get through all these issues. Wolverine, you deserved better and Daken, you deserved nothing at all.

 

 

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – New Avengers (2005), Vol. 1-3

Thanks to 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!

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis new avengers issue 1

Artists: David Finch, Steve Mcniven, Frank Cho

Issues: New Avengers (2005) #1-15

The Avengers have disassembled – long live the New Avengers!

I was honestly never a big Avengers guy until the Marvel Cinematic Universe came along and suddenly made me care about the likes of Iron Man and Captain America. In 2004 Marvel kicked off what would be the first of many large-scale events and shake-ups with “Avengers: Disassembled,” a story arc that would finish off the then prolific Avengers series after some notable deaths.

Of course no way Marvel actually goes without an ongoing Avengers series, and thus the New Avengers were started, with now main Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis at the helm. Our new team comes together by sheer happenstance in the first story arc, “Breakout,” when a high-tech supervillian prison known as The Raft is shut down by Electro and dozens of villains begin escaping. Matt Murdock (Daredevil) and Luke Cage are there to meet up with an unknown superhero that may be imprisoned there, The Sentry (which foreshadows the next story arc), while SHIELD Agent Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) escorts them. When the prison begins its exciting breakout, Captain America arrives with more SHIELD agents, Spider-man tags along to help out, and finally Iron Man shows up to see what all the hubbub is about.

While it leads to some silly comic moments of “Hey! I’m here to help out and fight bad guys with y’all,” the prison scene is still an exciting backdrop and a fun opportunity for some harrowing fights. Carnage was one of the escapees, and begins kicking the crap out of Luke Cage, Spider-Woman and Daredevil before The Sentry mysteriously grabs him and flings him into space. Spider-man gets thrown into the prison and literally surrounded by various minor and random villains, savagely beaten and left with a broken arm before Cap and company can fight their way in.

new avengers issue 2

By the end of the ordeal they tally that over 40 supervillains have escaped the prison. Based on the way this group of heroes were able to quickly lock down the situation, Cap proposes that they form a new Avengers team to help track down the loose ends. Their first lead takes them to the Savage Land and Karl Lykos, a.k.a. Sauron. The team stumbles upon Wolverine who’s there because of reasons and the whole group is swiftly captured, and then fights a bunch of Savage Land Mutates. Other SHIELD agents show up and there appears to be a vast conspiracy with something they’re mining in the Savage Land before it all blows up.

“Breakout” serves as an exciting jumping on point for this new team of Avengers that includes a few fresh faces as well as a hodgepodge of famous heroes. The team itself isn’t super balanced ability-wise. Cap, Cage and Wolverine are all melee fighters, while Iron Man provides the only real firepower (Daredevil turns the team down during the official recruitment issue, presumably to stick with his own successful solo series at the time). Spider-Man provides all the comic relief you’d expect while Spider-Woman fills the role of the token woman…at least until her ongoing shadowy side plot is further explored in the third story arc, “Secrets and Lies.”

New avengers issue 9After “Breakout” the team digs into the mystery surrounding the superhero The Sentry in the next story arc, aptly titled “Sentry.” Turns out the Sentry is an extremely powerful hero that had his mind wiped by Mastermine, as well as the minds of anyone that ever meets him. The New Avengers want to recruit him into the fold, but first they have to unlock his mind. They call in Emma Frost of the X-Men, and we’re treated to a cavalcade of cameos as the X-Men, Inhumans and Fantastic Four help battle The Sentry’s terrifyingly manifested demons as Emma works to heal his mind.

“Sentry” also introduces to the Illuminati, a group of the world’s most powerful figures (all men, sadly) that make major decisions in secrecy. The Illuminati is composed of Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, Professor X, Black Bolt and Namor, and we get some fun scenes as Iron Man attempts to explain his new Avengers team.

new avengers issue 7 illuminati

Volume 3, “Secrets and Lies” follows the trail of one of our villainous escapees from the Raft, The Silver Samurai. The evil ninja clan The Hand brought him back to Japan and wants to prop him up as their figurehead, but Harada was simply imprisoned without trial or explanation by SHIELD and wants no part of it. The plot is mostly our heroes fighting a bunch of ninjas as they introduce a new mysterious ninja-hero known as Ronin, but quickly takes a backseat to exploring where Jessica’s loyalties lie as she seemingly makes contact with HYDRA.

Turns out she’s working for an off-the-grid Nick Fury directly and implanted as a mole to help HYDRA, even though HYDRA were able to restore her waning powers. By the end of the arc we’re still not completely sure if she’s playing both sides or ultimately working for one and betraying the other, but the double agent duty certainly takes its toll on her psychologically, and there’s a touching scene between her and Captain America where he’s both firm and sympathetic. I fully expected Spider-Woman to be nothing more than the eye-candy token female hero and was pleasantly surprised to find that she’s by far the most interesting character on the roster.

Despite using three different artists in the first fifteen issues, the art remains consistent and pleasantly comic book-y, that is with just enough exaggerated cartoon style that I dig it. The art and writing together aren’t anything to write home about but the New Avengers provides a wonderful baseline experience for simple fun comic book action and character development. I’m perfectly fine with other series’ experimenting with art and storytelling or delving deep into individual character psyche’s, but New Avengers is definitely more of a fun Summer blockbuster, and a big reason why comics are just plain fun in the first place.

With writer Bendis at the helm the series was lovingly mired in current Marvel events and continuity, making it one of the main ongoing series to read throughout the years it was active (an impressive six years and 64 issues). I definitely plan on sticking with the entire run, and using it when I want to turn my thinking cap down a few notches and just enjoy the ride.

New Avengers issue 15

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Men: Blood of Apocalypse

Thanks to 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!

Writer: Peter Milligan x-men blood of apocalypse

Artist: Salvador Larroca

Issues: X-Men #182-187

Though Salvador’s Larroca’s art style immediately turned me off “The Day After” storyline in Decimation, I wanted to soldier on through the X-Men series as it comes to an end with the epic X-Men: Messiah Complex in another twenty issues. I was looking forward to “Blood of Apocalypse” as not only is the infamous villain an absolute classic but I also really enjoyed the two-issue preview build-up that was served in issues 26-27 of Cable & Deadpool (Final Thoughts coming soon).

Unfortunately the return of one of the X-Men’s most powerful villains is completely and utterly lame. Apocalypse shows up in a giant sphinx that acts as both a ship and base of operations and lands right outside Xavier’s mansion. Naturally the X-Men begin freaking out and attack it, and Apocalypse unleashes his first of four horseman – Famine, formerly the crippled Sunfire. I was immediately rolling my eyes at the notion that, despite a new tactic of wanting to save mutantkind from the brink of extinction (by killing most humans), he simply regurgitates past encounters and unleashes new thematic horsemen as minor villains for our heroes to defeat.

Famine is defeated (and somehow reverts back to Sunfire, though he keeps his powers and legs, convenient) and Apocalypse makes a show of force by destroying all the sentinels of the O*N*E that have been assigned to peacekeeping duties at the mansion since the events of House of M. I did appreciate that events are closely tied to the continuity and current events of the X-Men at the time, though it still doesn’t amount to much. With the sentinels destroyed many of the refugee mutants side with Apocalypse, though that also doesn’t amount to much.

Apocalypse’s sniveling sidekick Ozymandias (wait, since when does Apocalypse need a sniveling henchman) betrays his master and leads the X-Men into the sphinx where they can launch an attack. Battles ensue and our heroes discover that Gambit had gone willingly to Apocalypse to be transformed into the horseman Death (I hadn’t read any X-Men before Decimation, so I was unaware of Gambit’s woes with the team).

The X-Men manage to destroy much of Apocalypse’s blood, which acts as a cure to the plague he plans to unleash via Pestilence (a transformed Polaris). After they retreat, Apocalypse crashes into the United Nations and gives a pithy Bond villain-esque declaration on how humanity needs to cull themselves lest he do it for them. Since when does Apocalypse deign to make demands and threats? If you can’t tell, I abhorred his characterization and motivations throughout the story.

x-men 183

Apocalypse is finally defeated when some new heroes join the fray (namely Iron Man and Captain America) as well as a pair of fancy new sentinels that reminded me of the jaegars from Pacific Rim. The sphinx ends up in the East River and Apocalypse ends up escaping via some sort of space portal. Polaris is rescued, though Sunfire takes off with Gambit-Death, and the epilogue issue attempts to make us care about their plight, as well as the tiresome Yes, Our Villain Will Return ending.

The art is actually much better than “The Day After,” less manga-ish but still much too cartoony for my tastes. The worst part of “Blood of Apocalypse” is definitely the story, and lame story plus art I don’t like equals a pretty terrible experience. Even the side plots are lame, with awful love triangles involving Polaris-Iceman-Havok and Rogue-Gambit-Pulse that reek of Young Adult novel clichés.

I can’t recommend “Blood of Apocalypse” at all, but thankfully it looks like it was Larroca’s last stint on X-Men. I’ll still try to read all the storylines between now and Messiah Complex, but I’m much more looking forward to the stories in Uncanny X-Men and X-Factor (two series that I’ve found far more superior thus far).

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