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 Iron Man: The End, Wolverine #69, Daredevil #113, and Ultimatum #1!
The seventh issue of Marvel’s big 2008 event saw virtually the entire Marvel Universe thrown into a gigantic free-for-all with the Skrulls in New York’s Central Park. Whilst it amounted to little more than an issue-long fight sequence, it still managed to be one of the better issues of the series so far, as it at least delivered on the potential of the storyline’s setup to a certain extent. However, it still wasn’t really anything to write home about, and even after seven issues I think I could sum up the events of the series on the back of a beer mat.
Elsewhere, Mighty Avengers #19 brought us possibly the worst Secret Invasion tie-in yet, as the Skrull Captain Marvel got up to very little and Marvel Boy did even less. Yet Bendis still somehow managed to contradict the not-yet-months-old continuity of his own event, which must be some kind of record.
It was left to New Avengers #46 to redeem things slightly, with a Skrull-related story involving the Hood that was better than any of the character’s previous appearances in the title so far, and which set up an interesting direction for him in future. It’s just a shame that the issue ended so abruptly, just as things were getting going.
The concluding issue of Matt Fraction’s first Iron Man arc, “The Five Nightmares”, was suitably morally complex for a character who has been the focus of so much negative attention recently for his part in Civil War and the Marvel Universe’s new registration-based Initiative. With this arc, Fraction has proved that it is possible to write a compelling story with the character despite the restrictions of the current status quo, whilst also managing to make the book fairly accessible for readers who might be coming to the character via this year’s successful movie adaptation – and Salvador Larocca’s artwork ensured that everything looked great. An excellent book so far, and one that I hope is given a chance to continue to follow its own path in the aftermath of Secret Invasion.
Now that the regular MU has turned its back on the Spider-Man/Mary Jane pairing, it’s left to Ultimate Spider-Man to carry the baton for the couple. Happily, Brian Michael Bendis can write their relationship better than most, and this latest Annual was a perfect example of how he “gets” the Pete/MJ dynamic, and knows just how to combine it with a satisfying traditional superhero story, too. This was a highly enjoyable read (with great artwork from Hellcat‘s David Lafuente) and one that proved that there are some great stories that can be told with a Spidey who’s in a long-term relationship after all.
J. Michael Straczynski continues to plough his own distinctive furrow with Thor. The book might not be to everyone’s tastes, and the unreliable shipping schedule only exacerbates the slow pace of the storytelling, but there’s still enough here in the way of strong writing and polished artwork from Olivier Coipel to make it worth picking up whenever it appears. This issue saw JMS write a standout scene in which both Donald Blake and Thor speak with the spirit of Captain America, and he somehow managed to pull it off without it feeling cheesy or trite. Hopefully the book’s schedule can get back on track soon.
I’m sad to say that the last issue of “New Ways To Die” will be the last issue of Amazing Spider-Man that I’ll be buying for the foreseeable future. Whilst the storyline was admittedly one of the better stories to appear in the book since “One More Day”, there’s still something about it that felt anticlimactic and underwhelming.
The story failed to provide a payoff to many of the mystery plot strands that have been running since the Mephisto-enabled reboot, and didn’t even capitalise on the promise of the story concept, ultimately overshadowing the “Spider-Man vs. the Thunderbolts” plot with a weak reinvention of Venom and a vague suggestion that Harry Osborn might be up to no good. Oh, and we still didn’t find out who Menace was. It’s almost as though Marvel think that we should be getting the same amount of story that we used to get when Amazing Spider-Man was monthly, but now spread out over three issues per month instead of one. If only the issues cost 1/3rd as much!
I’ve been buying Amazing Spider-Man for many years, but the new wallet-draining shipping schedule, combined with a drop in quality, combined with the lingering presence of the “One More Day” reboot have finally convinced me to drop the title. Simply put, a thrice-monthly book has to be a lot better than that if it’s to be worth investing in – even if it does star my childhood hero.
It’s been a little while coming, but the next issue of “Old Man Logan” promises a more action-packed story than the slow build of the last few issues. Will the aged Wolverine pop his claws? Is Hawkeye’s errant offspring really the turncoat that she appears to be? And where will Logan’s bizarre futuristic road trip take him next? It might not be the most original tale ever told, but there’s something very compelling about the concept of this story, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.
Here are some of Steve McNiven’s gorgeously detailed artwork.
“Lady Bullseye” started off strong and hasn’t faltered yet, so I’m looking forward to seeing whether Ed Brubaker can maintain the story’s momentum with this third issue. This is a more traditional superhero story than we’ve seen in Daredevil for a long time, and it makes a nice change of pace from the more grounded, crime/noir vibe, without feeling like a complete about-face.
Billed as a major turning point for the Ultimate Universe, Ultimatum finally kicks off this month. David Finch’s art looks pretty enough, but I’m still not sold on Jeph Loeb as writer, having been disappointed by the vast majority of his recent projects.
This series might well be make or break for the Ultimate Universe, so I’m secretly hoping that Loeb has been saving something great for his story – but I can’t help but fear the worst. Let’s hope that, at the very least, the Ultimate Universe is still a viable outlet for good superhero stories once Loeb and Finch have finished with it.
IRON MAN: THE END
The latest entry in Marvel’s “The End” series of books sees Iron Man luminaries Bob Layton and David Michelinie return to the character to depict his last days. I’ll be interested to see whether it’s an Iron Man story in the classic mould, or whether more recent additions to the character will be incorporated into the pair’s take on the last Iron Man story. Either way, it should prove to be an interesting read, and a treat for fans of the pair’s past work on the character.
DAREDEVIL & CAPTAIN AMERICA: DEAD ON ARRIVAL
Dead on Arrival isn’t a new book, exactly, but this month marks the first time that it’ll be printed in English. So, us English-speaking types can finally get a look at a book that our cheeky European cousins have had access to for some time, and those readers who yearn for more Captain America stories starring Steve Rogers will be able to find some solace in this publication. As a Daredevil fan, I’ll definitely be checking this out.
THOR: MAN OF WAR
The final part of Matt Fraction’s Thor trilogy ships this month. The previous issues have been highly entertaining Asgardian yarns, with a satisfyingly arrogant and bullish portrayal of Thor set against a rich mythological backdrop. I can’t wait to see what happens when the thunder god really cuts loose under Fraction’s pen – and if the book looks as good as the previous issues have, it’ll be worth buying for the artwork alone.