Current Reviews


Secret War #4

Posted: Thursday, April 7, 2005
By: Shawn Hill

“Book Four of Five”

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Dell’ Otto

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot: In Latveria a year ago, Fury led a group of under-informed heroes on a secret mission against an unknown threat. Then he apparently wiped their minds of it. In the present, Wolverine is attacked on the X-mansion grounds by Mandroids, while all the “secret” players fight for their lives in Western New York or somewhere. The point? Exoskeletons are bad.

Comments on art: Another murky, chaotic, unreadable issue from inexplicable fan fave Dell’Otto. His is the worst sort of comic book painting, the kind that reads as dark, monochrome and ugly on the page. On top of that, his poor command of composition, anatomy and perspective weakens his already muddy storytelling ability. Standards have slipped mightily if this passes for professional work these days.

Let’s look at a few examples. The cover: what’s happening with Natasha’s right arm? You would think it is foreshortened, with her fist at that angle at the furthest point away from both her body and our view. Instead, her lower arm somehow bends forward and then back again, making the hand clutching the knife spatially ambiguous.

Page 2: similar problems with Wolverine’s left arm. At that angle, viewing him from above, either his lower or upper arm would be foreshortened. Not both however, because he has that anatomical wonder known as an elbow to bend. His shoulders also fail to attach believably to his body. Are we in front of him or above him?

Page 4-5: Big action spread, but where is it taking place? The burning building in the distance should be in perspective, but isn’t. The varying sizes of the figures looks like a jumble of Goliaths and Ant-men, rather than like an array of humans spread over our field of vision at varying distances. Daredevil, apparently, can now fly, just as Fury will seem to later in the issue.

Page 8-9: Speaking of Daredevil, just what is going on in this martial arts move? Flying again, delivering two kicks with flexed feet, one would think. Except his toes are extended, not flexed. This is a good position for a ballerina to be in for Pointe shoes (providing someone is carrying her), but it makes little sense as a combative move. These concave arches leave the minimum area of each foot to make contact with his foes, tip of heel and toe somehow hitting simultaneously I suppose. Why not flexed flat feet delivering more powerful blows, as he usually does (see any Frank Miller issue)?

Page 16-17: Great, our uber-foe turns out to be the Borg Queen. Was Lady Deathstryke busy?

Page 17-18: Why isn’t Sue following Reed’s order, and containing everyone in force bubbles? Of what use is inserting an empty sphere in between two of her foes? The depiction of her powers makes it look like she doesn’t understand what she’s fighting in this battle.

Page 20: As in this scene, where her failing partial shield somehow isn’t spherical but also protects people flying above it, maybe.

Writing comments: I really do see what Bendis is getting at these days. The Avengers cope with the aftermath of Fury’s private war, and are in a good place to do so, at lean and mean fighting strength. The Pulse deals with the human element, playing with the possibility of telling the “secret” publicly. This sort of interconnectedness used to be called continuity, and was a fun way of paying homage to other creators and tying the universe together from book to book.

But it’s just hubris when it’s all by one guy, stretching an endless story out over three of the books he’s writing. The origin of this entire furore the protracted story that only works as a mystery because I can’t remember what happened in the last issue, is rife with clichés. Not only is Sue ordered about like a novice by Reed, she even utters a classic 60s throwback “Reeeed! I can’t!” as her powers fail. Silly girl. Everything old truly is new again.

And worse, the villain is a disfigured woman acting out of presumably personal vengeance against Nick. Great. Ultimate evil is another motivation free femme-fatale, with explosions. We’d know the motivation if Bendis would ever tell us, but that’s being saved for the last issue, as usual.

At least Bendis has patterns. They should really pipe him over to DC, and let him revive Dr. Cyber in epic battle with Wonder Woman. A woman who hates beauty because she’s been made ugly is right up his ally. Bendis is the David E. Kelly of comic books. This is the worst comic I've read this year.

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