Marvel Month in (P)Review: December 2008/January 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 #28, Invincible Iron Man #9 and Sub-Mariner: The Depths #4!


DECEMBER REVIEW:



FANTASTIC FOUR #562

Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's run on Fantastic Four is certainly shaping up to be far better than I expected from the earlier issues. This issue saw the funeral of Sue Storm, a charged confrontation between Reed Richards and Dr. Doom, a surprising new development for the Thing, and a killer cliffhanger that introduced a new baddie to the Marvel Universe.

Hitch's usual excellent job with the artwork was matched with an above-par script from Millar, and one that suggests that this run could end up being the equal to his winning run on Ultimate Fantastic Four in terms of creativity, imagination and faithful characterisation.


SECRET INVASION #8/SECRET INVASION: DARK REIGN #1

Sadly, Secret Invasion #8 was a damp squib of a finale that managed to sap any tension by revealing the winners of the Skrull war within the first few pages, and which felt too forced and contrived as a whole for its developments to feel truly dramatic. In the end, it felt as though it only existed to set up the next big shift in the status quo of the Marvel Universe, with a cliffhanger that saw Norman Osborn take up a powerful government position, and put together a cabal of other villainous (or semi-villainous) characters.

After reading Secret Invasion #8, I felt baffled by this seemingly arbitrary team-up of villains, and hoped that the early issues of Dark Reign would provide some sort of logical explanation for the gathering that would enable the story to make more sense. Unfortunately, the Secret Invasion: Dark Reign special did nothing to suggest that the event is going to make any more sense than it first appeared. Ultimately, this issue of endless waffle punctuated by strange renderings of established Marvel characters (is that really what Namor is supposed to look like?) killed any spark of interest that I might still have in Marvel's "event" comics for the foreseeable future.


INCOGNITO #1

This scene-setting opener of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' new book managed to pack a lot of information into its first issue, introducing a complex and compelling ex-supervillain protagonist who seems to share a certain amount of DNA with Brubaker's Criminal characters.

Sean Phillips' shadowy artwork also lent the book a certain similarity to Criminal, but both writer and artist set this book apart from their previous collaboration with some more pulp-ish and explicitly superhero-related elements, which promise to attract a slightly wider audience. On the strength of this first issue, the book certainly deserves to reach as many readers as possible.


WOLVERINE #70

Wolverine #70 is the book that readers had been waiting for, ever since the start of "Old Man Logan." This is the issue that finally told us what drove Logan to give up being "Wolverine" on the night that the superheroes lost their epic battle against the super-villains -- and to give him his dues, Mark Millar didn't pull any punches in giving Logan a suitably soul-destroying and tragic reason to never again pop his claws.

Whilst there were one or two problems with the logic of the story, it packed an emotional punch that gives the entire "Old Man Logan" arc a solid dramatic core, and featured some beautiful art from Steve McNiven. One of the most brutal, gory, yet highly readable Wolverine issues of recent years.


DAREDEVIL #114

If previous issues of the "Lady Bullseye" storyline saw writer Ed Brubaker line up plot points like dominoes, this issue saw him begin to tip them over in expert fashion, bringing Matt's life crashing down around him and creating problems for both his civilian and superhero identities.

In the middle of a story arc that was already looking pretty tricky for our hero, Brubaker threw even more new problems at him from all angles, and it made for a riveting read. Between the clues as to Lady Bullseye's real agenda, the intervention of Milla's parents, the stronger hints at a significant relationship between Master Izo and Stick, and the closing cliffhanger, I can't wait to see what happens next.





JANUARY PREVIEW:



ASTONISHING X-MEN #28
After an extended gap in the shipping schedules, the core Astonishing X-Men book returns in January. Although some readers may have trouble remembering exactly what was going on in Warren Ellis' first arc, I'm keen to see how his sci-fi story involving parallel universes, "Ghost Boxes" and a mysterious group of Chinese mutants progresses. And Simone Bianchi's artwork should ensure that the book continues to look impressive.




INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #9
The one bright point of Marvel's "Dark Reign" is Invincible Iron Man. Issue #8 saw writer Matt Fraction pick up the threads from the end of Secret Invasion and run with them, putting Tony Stark in a compelling position as a result of the Skrull invasion and the rise of Norman Osborn. After last issue's cliffhanger, I can't wait to see how the trio of Stark, Pepper Potts and Maria Hill continue to fight the power.






SUB-MARINER: THE DEPTHS #4
I only just realised that this "Marvel Knights" miniseries has been extended from four issues to five. That's fine by me, as I've been enjoying the mix of undersea claustrophobia and retro-style sci-fi/fantasy that the book has provided. I've also enjoyed Esad Ribic's artwork, and I'm certainly happy that we'll be seeing another 22 pages of that.

However, the realisation that the series has been extended means that this will be the penultimate issue, rather than the final one -- so I wonder whether we'll see any of Namor in this issue, or whether writer Peter Milligan is saving him for his big finale. My only concern is whether the book can sustain the momentum that it has gathered beyond its originally-intended lifespan. Let's hope it can.


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