Marvel Month in (P)Review: May/June 2009

A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: David Wallace
Marvel Month in (P)review highlights the Marvel Comics' month that was and previews the Marvel Comics' month that will be. This month's column features previews of Astonishing X-Men #30, Dark Avengers #5, Daredevil: Noir #3, Captain Britain and MI:13 Annual and Ultimatum #4!



MAY REVIEW:


THE STAND: AMERICAN NIGHTMARES #3


Unlike previous issues of The Stand: American Nightmares, the vast majority of this issue concentrated on just two characters, Larry and Rita, and their attempt to escape from a superflu-ravaged New York via the Lincoln Tunnel -- which just happens to be packed with the bodies of the dead victims of the virus.

This was one of the most effectively horrific chapters of the series yet. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and his artist, Mike Perkins, built up a tense, horror-movie atmosphere to the Lincoln Tunnel sequence, with long sections of darkness punctuated only by occasional visions of the dead, illuminated by Larry's cigarette lighter.

Not only was this one of the most focused, chilling issues of The Stand yet, but it was also a great jumping-on point for new readers. However, for established readers of the book, it was a high point of the story so far, and one that perfectly encapsulated the grim horror and unpleasantness that has permeated the rest of the series.


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #595


The first chapter of "American Son" saw Spider-Man finally begin to come to terms with Norman Osborn's ascension to the head of the Dark Avengers, making for one of the most tense and enjoyable issues of the book in quite some time.

Writer Joe Kelly has a good handle on the book's cast, there's a decent mix of long-running subplots and the central storyline, and Phil Jiminez's artwork was very solid, with clear storytelling throughout, and some powerful action scenes.

This was an enjoyable and well-written issue that suggests that the "American Son" storyline is going to be an interesting one.


ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #132


Ultimate Spider-Man #132 saw Brian Michael Bendis wisely avoid any close links between his story and the plot of the main Ultimatum miniseries, taking the basic premise of that series' first issue -- that Manhattan has been devastated by Magneto's gigantic tidal wave -- as merely a jumping-off point for his own story, which turns it into a worst-case-scenario for Spider-Man.

The result was a great against-the-odds superhero story that saw Spidey continue to soldier on, despite struggling to keep on top of the onslaught of problems that his writer threw at him.

There was also some great art from Bendis' artistic collaborator Stuart Immonen, who brought the writer's nightmarish visions to life effectively. My advice? Ignore the main Ultimatum series and its tie-ins, and treat this book as the main event instead.


WOLVERINE #72


The penultimate issue of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's "Old Man Logan" again saw Millar pack plenty of ideas into his dystopian vision of the future Marvel Universe, whilst also making time for an exciting showdown between Logan and the Red Skull, who is now president of the U.S.A.

Having Wolverine take on the Red Skull with the gadgets of all the other superheroes at his disposal was an inspired move, and the final few pages were a real punch in the gut. After this issue's cliffhanger, I can't wait to see how "Old Man Logan" wraps up -- although the fact that the concluding chapter hasn't been solicited yet, leads me to suspect that we won't see it until at least September.


DARK TOWER: THE FALL OF GILEAD #1


The latest Dark Tower miniseries, Fall of Gilead kicked off this month, with a strong first issue that set up the rest of the series well. Admittedly, Roland Deschain's own story barely moved on at all in this issue, but this is forgivable, as there's a sense that this miniseries is going to present a story with a larger cast than we've been used to in the previous minis.

Richard Isanove took over the art chores in their entirety, without his usual penciller Jae Lee. However, Isanove's artwork was stylistically similar enough that most readers probably won't even see the join.

It's not as accessible as you might expect from a "#1" issue, but as a direct continuation of the Dark Tower story so far, it's a satisfying read.



JUNE PREVIEW:



ASTONISHING X-MEN #30
Is it me, or does the next issue of Astonishing X-Men seem to have come around more quickly than usual? Perhaps I'm just not paying much attention to its shipping dates any more, having consigned it to that list of comics that I'll read if and when they appear, but won't worry about in the meantime.

Anyway, despite Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi's story taking a bit of a left-turn over the course of the last couple of issues, I'm still looking forward to seeing how the "Ghost Box" story is resolved in this final issue -- and whether we'll get any clues as to where Ellis plans to take the characters for his next storyline.




ULTIMATUM #4
Ultimatum is a car-crash comic that's difficult to turn away from, in spite of its many flaws. Having enjoyed many of the early Ultimate titles, it's saddening to see so many of their characters unceremoniously done away with in one fell swoop by Jeph Loeb and David Finch, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who's secretly hoping for a big fat reset button at the end of the series, which can be used to undo the damage done by the bloodthirsty creators.

Advance marketing for this issue has hinted at the death of Ultimate Spider-Man, but I can't really believe that Marvel would be happy to despatch their most successful Ultimate hero for the sake of a little extra drama in a series that's already overloaded with "shocking" moments and disastrous events. We'll see, I guess.




DARK AVENGERS #5
Brian Michael Bendis's Dark Avengers has been a frustratingly inconsistent book. After a fairly decent scene-setting opener, the book spent three issues on an excursion to Latveria that saw Norman Osborn team up with Dr. Doom to fight Morgana Le Fay, with nonsensical and illogical results.

However, now that that storyline is over, it looks as though Bendis is keen on exploring Osborn from a public-relations point of view, with the actions of the New Avengers forcing him to defend his new position as head of the "official" Avengers. As these preview pages show, that's an element of the book that's ripe for exploration, and I look forward to seeing whether Bendis can recapture some of the magic of Warren Ellis' Thunderbolts run, and make Osborn a true love-to-hate villain again.




DAREDEVIL: NOIR #3
The best "noir" series yet released by Marvel continues this month with Daredevil: Noir #3. Having greatly enjoyed the first couple of issues of Alexander Irvine and Tom Coker's prohibition-era private-investigator pulp noir tale, I'm looking forward to seeing where their third chapter takes the story.

Earlier issues have teased readers with hints of the "Bullseye killer”: perhaps we'll finally get to meet him this issue. And with Bullseye in the picture, can Elektra be far behind?





CAPTAIN BRITAIN & MI:13 ANNUAL
It's with a heavy heart that I end this column, as since I last wrote about Captain Britain & MI-13, we've all heard the sad news that the book is to be cancelled in a few months. Still, let's not let that news dampen our enthusiasm for the book.

This Annual promises to shed some more light on one of the most important members of the book's supporting cast, whilst also delving into that most British of pastimes: cricket. I can't wait to read it.


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