Age of Ultron #3 by Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch
Age of Ultron is boring and stupid.
Every once in a while I will read a comic book and think to myself "Someday I am going to meet somebody who will tell me that this was their favorite comic book of all time, and it will make me INSTANTLY HATE THEM!" This is one of those comic books.
Not only is this book relentlessly grim and unpleasant; Not only is it dull and actionless; Not only is it being used as a springboard for some really odd commercial decisions: My biggest problem is that it is TOO SOON. This whole "AU" event is happening really quickly, given Marvel's big publication shakeup with their Marvel NOW! initiative, and the crossover is starting to bleed into books that are just starting out and just starting to pull me into the story. As an old fart who's used to the rules of the game, it's merely frustrating; but to one of the many new readers they were likely hoping to pull in, it could be a dealbreaker.
In this issue, the heroes launch their big plan, which is to knock She-Hulk unconscious and sell her to Ultron. Ultron is buying superheroes for... reasons? They're hoping to infiltrate his secret base but by the end of the issue they seem to have whizzed it.
Mostly, however, this issue was just about She-Hulk's ass. Welcome to THE AGE OF ULTRON.
Superior Spider-Man #6(AU) by Christos Gage and Dexter Soy
So we left off last issue on a cliffhanger, with the Avengers about to square off against the increasingly violent Doctor-Octopus-controlled Spider-Man. I'm pretty excited to see that. And... instead we get a super-depressing alternate universe story by a completely different creative team.
Now, I like Christos Gage a lot, and he delivers a pretty good story, especially given the limitations of this as-yet-unexplained alternate reality. Dexter Soy's art, too, is kinetic and fun. But it all just feels forced, and it feels like a big diversion from a story that had finally sucked me in and gotten me excited. I enjoyed reading this, but I didn't need to read it at all.
|Why does Ultron have thousands of easily-destroyed clones? Nobody's telling us.|
Fantastic Four #5(AU) by Matt Fraction and André Araújo
Yet another incredibly bleak tie-in book coming smack in the middle of a really exciting series that's still getting off the ground. Five issues into a story is NOT a good time to grind to a halt and tell an alternate-universe story about the whole team getting killed.
Also, the details of the Age of Ultron universe are either sketchy or a closely-guarded secret, and neither is conducive to knowing WTF is supposed to be going on in this world. There are just a bajillion Ultrons and that's all we know.
Like Gage and Superior Spider-Man, the fault here isn't with Fraction, who does turn out a pretty excellent "Death of the Fantastic Four" story; The fault is with the idea of jamming this really depressing crossover into the larval stages of a fun new creative team's storyline.
One thing that's noteworthy in this very well-written but EXTRAORDINARILY depressing story is the Fantastic Four presenting their wills to their kids in holographic form. The most interesting bit, and the thing that sort of redeems this whole comic for me, is that Matt Fraction chose this moment to drop a huge bombshell that has a massive effect on the origins of the group: The Thing's "death-bed" confession that he had intentionally sabotaged the college-aged Victor Von Doom's machines as a prank, likely leading to the accident that scarred his face and sent him down the path towards supervillainy. I love that Fraction took this dopey crossover event to make what feels like a fundamental change to the motivations of one of Marvel's most important characters. It turned a kind-of pointless comic into an Important Moment.
Again, though: This was a well-written and well-drawn book that has nothing to do with the actual story I've been following, and is totally skippable if you're just interested in what Matt Fraction's doing with the current Fantastic Four books.
A+X #6 by Peter David, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Michele Benevento, Mike Costa, and Stefano Caselli
Let me tell ya, A+X was a wonderful palate-cleanser after the festival of grey depression that is Age of Ultron. It felt like having a puppy lick my face after I had fallen down and scraped my knee.
This is a whole comic about superheroes playing cards: Wolverine versus Captain Marvel in the first story, The Thing versus Gambit in the second. It's all well-written, well-drawn, and good clean fun.
Peter David dropped a funny enough gag into his story about Logan and Carol that I actually don't want to spoil it - my highest praise. You should check this comic out.
|I kind of love the Marvel Mullet.|
Astonishing X-Men #60 by Marjorie Liu, Matteo Buffagni, and Renato Arlem
The X-Termination event is actually a pretty solid example of a crossover book done well. It's telling an interesting (if a little hard to follow) story, it's incorporating characters and locales that haven't been used in a while, it's drawn my attention to some comics I wasn't even aware still existed, and - most importantly - it isn't shoving its ass into every single X-Men book on the fucking stands.
|Giant blue guys. Whatcha gonna do?|
Batman Incorporated #9 by Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, and Jason Masters
I read this comic because the death of Robin is being treated as pretty important in the media (Though, c'mon guys, his grandfather is Ra's al Ghul, whose ENTIRE DEAL is that he has the means to come back from the dead!), but really it felt like exactly what I expected it to feel like: Stepping into a wild Grant Morrison story halfway through.
It's never a good idea to try and just jump on to a Morrison story. I am a huge fan, but he explores some severely weird places and tells stories in a jumpy non-linear way, and it makes it nigh-impossible to follow what the heck's going on, no matter how much you think you're following the basics of the story.
However, this did inspire me to dive back in to Morrison's Bat-World. I have a lot of catching up to do.
FF #5 by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred
This comic, you guys. I love this comic.
I am really glad that the book I was most excited about from Marvel NOW! has completely lived up to my high expectations.
The surprise, to me at least, is that I was expecting FF to be a sort of X-Statix for the Fantastic Four, and it's not. I mean, Darla Deering is taking it that way slightly, but really this is basically a continuation of what Hickman was already doing with the Future Foundation. I feel like it didn't even really need to be renumbered. And that's a good thing, because I really loved Hickman's run on the book, and I feel like Fraction did too.
I feel like the best superhero comics come from a love for the past without an obsessive nostalgia getting in the way of change and growth. This book nails that down perfectly.
|She ended up using an invisible forcefield, to better show off her hairstyle.|
Guardians of the Galaxy #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven
Howthefuck many books can Bendis write in a month?! Let the poor bastard take a nap, there are thousands of very professional writers out there who'd love to get a job at Marvel. Put Bendis on one or two books and let him give them his full attention, and I bet he'd turn out some truly amazing stuff, instead of a shitload of okay-ish stuff.
That's how I feel about the new Guardians of the Galaxy. It's okay-ish. Marvel is very obviously trying to set things in place for the movie, though in doing so they've kind of set up the Guadians of the GALAXY as the Guardians of the EARTH... and frankly, I think the Avengers can handle the Earth.
The art's pretty excellent, and I like some of the costume redesigns. I think it's kind of neat that they're putting Iron Man on the team, as one of Joe Quesada's stated goals for Marvel NOW! was to remove the strange disconnect between Marvel's "Cosmic" titles and their "Earth" titles.
ComicsAlliance has a sort of interesting review from the perspective of somebody who knows nothing about any of these characters, but to me - as somebody who's been following these guys since they first showed up in the pages of Annihilation: Conquest and knows the individual characters' backstories pretty well - this all feels targeted at someone else.
Journey Into Mystery #650 by Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti
So the Berserker-Sif storyline has come to a close, and I really really really really really hope that doesn't mean the creative team on this book is changing.
I can't really say much about this comic that I haven't already said: I love it and you should buy it. However, I will say that Immonen pulled a wonderful spin on the Dumbo story in this issue: Sif didn't need any magic, kids, she was a berserker ALL ALONG!
Go out and buy all 5 issues of this arc. Then buy it again when it comes out in trade. Then write letters to Marvel telling them how much you love it. DO IT, YOU FUCKS.
|Don't piss Sif off or THIS will happen.|
Morbius #3 by Joe Keatinge and Richard Elson
Morbius can't catch a break. In this issue, he is forced to revive a crime boss that he mortally wounded. Every time he gets close, the pressure gets to him and he ends up hurting the crime boss even worse. This series is based in a lovely dark comedy, which is territory that the normally-melodramatic Morbius has never really gotten to explore before, and I quite like it.
Thunderbolts #7 by Daniel Way and Phil Noto
Well, I've been saying since the beginning that Steve Dillon's art was what was keeping me reading this book, and this issue doesn't have him. Phil Noto is very talented, but it was really taking the efforts of one of My Favorites to keep me paying attention.
The upshot of this issue is that, seven issues in, we've finally been told WTF the plot's supposed to be. The downside is that I'm not really finding myself caring.
Also, I'm growing increasingly bothered by Sexytimes Punisher. I know I keep repeating it, but... The Punisher is not supposed to enjoy his job. Even when this guy is riding a jet-ski through tropical waters or something, he does so with clenched teeth and his eyes on The Mission. Seeing him grinning sheepishly and getting all gooey around Elektra makes me feel like this must be a Skrull or something. It just doesn't work.
|Aw, look at Frank Castle's adorable smile. WAIT, WHAT?!|
Uncanny Avengers #5 by Rick Remender and Olivier Coipel
Okay, everybody, hunker down, because this book has been deemed Controversial with a capital C.
If you all didn't already know, I am both a badge-carrying officer of the PC Police, and a proud Sushi-Eating Latte-Sipping New England Liberal Intellectual Elitist... Yet I was actually kind of surprised by all of the ruckus this book stirred up.
The gist of this issue is that Captain America is ready to go public with the book's team, which is now being called The Avengers Unity Division, which I quite like. They bring on Wasp and Wonder Man to handle PR, while Wolverine goes to Japan to recruit his old friend Sunfire to the team (and bring some non-whiteness to the Unity Division, presumably). They hold a press-conference, where Havok gives a kind of dopey and privileged speech about how he considers the word "mutant" to be a slur and that he wants to fit in like everybody else.
That's where all hell broke loose. Andrew Wheeler wrote a really level-headed and intelligent article describing the problems with Havok's speech, and I'd definitely advise everyone to read it. There's a conversation to be had here, for sure. However, it seems like nobody else on the internet is capable of being so level-headed, and many people have just been getting really angry, calling Rick Remender a racist, starting email campaigns to try to get him fired from Marvel, etc. Remender, for his part, reacted with a pretty ragey Tweet, which he then apologized for on his website.
Now, I am coming from a place of white straight able-bodied middleclass cisgender male privilege, so my radar is sometimes out of tune, but I did not find the troublesome speech offensive. I found it to be misguided and dopey, but I simply chalked it up to the character of Havok being misguided and dopey (given the number of times he's switched from hero to villain and back, I think that's a fair assumption to make). I didn't actually take it as Rick Remender's personal views, I just took it at face value. Even if it DOES reflect Remender's real-life views, it still simply remains misguided and dopey, a product of privilege and certainly not of hate. I only intended to mention it in passing in my review, as there are other parts of this book that I found far more interesting (Kang the Conqueror abducted the Apocalypse Twins!), but then it became a Thing.
I think this has sparked some really interesting conversations about identity politics in the West, and that there are certainly things to be learned from all this, and I do think Remender should not have childishly lashed out at his critics (though I have no idea how I'd react if Marvel was letting me write the goddamned Avengers and suddenly people were saying I should be fired); but I don't think Remender deserves to be vilified in this whole thing. He may have some things to learn about his own privilege, but hell, so do I, and this is certainly not on the same offensiveness level as Fred Van Lente saying that he doesn't know what rape is.
So yeah. That's my Opinion about this particular Thing. The issue ended on a pretty neat cliffhanger, and I'm looking forward to the next one. I hope everyone was able to learn from all this, but I also hope that nobody loses their job over it.
Uncanny X-Force #3 by Sam Humphries and Ron Garney
I'm not feeling this book. I'm not feeling the sleazy portrayal of Puck, I'm not feeling the blocked-out cusswords, I'm not feeling the constant theme of women being tied up and gagged, and I'm REALLY not feeling the idea of Bishop being turned into a giant growling rage-monster.
Remember District X? That comic that was all about Bishop joining up with the NYPD to help solve mutant-related crimes? Yeah, that was a way better comic that this one.
Young Avengers #3 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
This is a good book to end the week on, because it is just plain fun. If you haven't been following Young Avengers then you're missing out on one of the best new comics out there.
It's got superheroes, it's got gods, it's got teenagers fighting their parents who've been turned into shapeshifting interdimensional plasma monsters.
It seems like next issue, Hawkeye-not-the-Hawkguy and Marvel Boy are going to fly in and save the day, and I am very excited about that.
|The new Miss America is pretty rad too.|