Current Reviews


Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular #2

Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2009
By: David Wallace

Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular #2 arrives in stores tomorrow, April 29.

"Big Assist"

The second of Marvel's Assistant-Sized Spectacular issues brings another trio of unusual Marvel stories, inspired by the original "Assistant Editor's Month" stunt from 1984.

As with the first issue, it's very much a mixed bag of characters and styles, held together by a thin framing structure that sees Marvel's Assistant Editors gather to share stories that they haven't been able to get published yet. It's a fairly self-indulgent concept, and one that's peppered with in-jokes that probably won't be appreciated by anyone outside of Marvel's offices. However, it's also an excuse for Marvel to give some new talent a chance to hone their writing and illustrating skills, and to push their characters into some fairly unusual places, making for a less predictable read than many of their superhero titles can offer.

As with many anthology titles, there tends to be one story in every issue that rises above the others to stand out as an above-average yarn. Last issue it was the American Eagle short story, and this issue it's the debut of "Galacta" in a tale penned by Adam Warren (of Empowered fame) and illustrated by Hector Sevilla Lujan. The concept of Galactus having a daughter who lives on Earth and disguises herself in human form is a fun one, but it's made even more enjoyable by Warren's decision to make her an abstemious, neurotic young girl who will only ingest Earth's non-native lifeforms, thus helping to protect the planet from alien invaders. There's techno-speak worthy of Warren Ellis, great-looking painted art in a manga-esque style, some fun characterisation of the lead (I love the way that she can't help but see the estimated calorific yield of anything she looks at) and an intriguing cliffhanger that definitely has me interested to read more.

My second favourite story sees writer Chris Yost and artist Joh James do their best nextwave impression in an Elsa Bloodstone story called "Daddy's Little Girl." It's a straightforward monster-hunter vs. monsters story that (as the title suggests) also allows Elsa to explore her daddy issues. Yost's script is heavy on internal narration and light on dialogue, which helps to give the action a sense of speed and urgency. James's artwork is a little reminiscent of Stuart Immonen (with perhaps a touch of Chris Bachalo thrown in), with angular character designs and funky layouts that give the story a distinctive visual identity.

Lastly, there's the Luke Cage story by Wyatt Cenac and Todd Nauck, which sees Cage approached to run as "Borough President" for Brooklyn. Its greatest success is in capturing the rapport between Luke and his wife Jessica, with plenty of banter and one-liners that give their relationship a zing and energy that's been lacking in their regular MU appearances lately. However, the rest of the story is more straightforward, dealing with a super-villain threat thatís tied to a local government conspiracy, much of which relies on off-panel events that are hastily explained in an infodump of exposition at the end of the story. It's not the worst story in the world, and the artwork is strong enough that it wouldn't feel out of place in the likes of New Avengers, but it ultimately feels pretty inconsequential, never really getting stuck into the political ideas that it seeks to promote (although I do like the idea that Cage is motivated to act by the loss of his favourite sandwich shop).

As with the first Assistant-Sized Spectacular, this is a fun read that probably won't stick in your head for very long, but which gives lesser-known creators a chance to have some fun with established Marvel concepts. It's nice to see that books like this are still given the chance to exist in a market that seems to be dominated by big events and a heavy emphasis on continuity-driven books, and I can certainly see some of the creators featured here going on to bigger and better things in future.

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