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Alternate Cover - 23rd April 2006

Alternate Cover

A far more conservative tenner spent on comics this week nonetheless ensures a healthy mix of titles. Though I did somehow convince myself to buy some graphic novels off eBay... Still, let's not dwell on the eccentricities of my buying habits. In addition to these comics, I also bought an issue of Simpsons Comics, which you can find in its own review soon. On with the show.

New Avengers #18

New Avengers #18

Publisher Marvel • Writer Brian Bendis • Pencils Mike Deodato • Inks Joe Pimentel

The increased interconnectivity between Marvel titles in recent years has really revitalised my interest in a large number of titles, and I'm having to really strain not to let Civil War bleed me completely dry. New Avengers #18 shows a good example of how that interconnectivity can work to both further an overall story and stand alone - if you didn't read House of M, this storyline should still make plenty of sense based on the information that's been provided in New Avengers alone.

Of course, if you're an X-Men reader, it might be even more interesting because you'll get to see just what exactly happened to all those mutant powers that disappoeared overnight. A big theme of magic and power is that the cause and effect must be properly managed - Wanda took away the powers of almost all mutants - but where did she put them? The answer, apparently, is Michael.

This issue is yet another of those that has it all, the epic moments, such as the Sentry arriving, the character moments (Wolverine helping Carol out) the humour (Spider-Mobile!) and the nods to history (Carol's Binary powers). The only criticism I can level against it is that there are a couple of nods to a status quo I wasn't aware of. Last I saw Vision, he was ripped in half by She-Hulk - I feel as if there should've been a throwaway line that, since they're showing up for the first time in the title, why Vision is back and why the Young Avengers are living in Stark's Avengers base. Once again, the lack of footnotes causes trouble. Small criticism for what's inarguably one of the best title's Marvel's releasing at the moment. A+.

X-Men #185, Cover by Salvador Larocca

X-Men #185

Publisher Marvel • Writer Pete Milligan • Pencils Salvador Larocca

While I've been looking forward to the return of Apocalypse and generally enjoying Milligan's take on things, this issue it's starting to go a little sour. Previously the most amusing part of the arc, Milligan's quirky sense of humour is starting to snap me out of the story. Most jarringly, in a scene following Apocalypse;s suggestion to the UN that the world leaders cull 90% of all humans, Val Cooper explains to the X-Men that they're actually considering it. While, yes, we're all aware that the leaders of the free world are pretty much all psychopaths in some way ot another, there's no chance any of them would agree to Apocalypse's demand and however much Milligan's humour or politics can reconcile that suggestion, and it really breaks the immersion of the story to have such a glaring misstep.

Even so, the scene where Apocalypse suggests this to the world leaders is both in-character and brilliantly executed, as he strides into the building (through a wall) and makes his demands, then leaves without incident. Apocalypse is always best when used as a hands-on, nigh-unstoppable nutcase obsessed with the concept of natural selection, rather than some grand behind-the-scenes mastermind, and this scene suits that profile perfectly. Though again, Milligan's humour snaps me out of the story because the speech Apocalypse interrupts is an American politician denying that the US is planning to invade Canada. It's not even funny as a throwaway line.

There's plenty else going on in this issue as well. Not all of it is especially good, but for onec there can be no claims about decompression. Polaris is revealed as the latest incarnation of Pestilence (see last issue's reviews for my thoughts on turning X-Men into Horsemen), we're introduced to two new O*N*E sentinals (Yawn), Apocalypse's original plan is thwarted prompting him to move to a new method, and Gambit's transformation to Death is given good pagetime. The last of those is really what I was interested in, and I'm not entirely convinced it was a good idea. If nothing else, Rogue's reaction to it seems incredibly artificial (she begins spouting bad dialogue in an attempt to reach Gambit) and despite being a Horseman, he's not actually that good at fighting and needs to be prompted to use his own powers. He makes an interesting stooge for Apocalypse given the personality conflict, but that relationship seems unlikely to stick past next issue.

Larocca's art is as strong as ever, though as I've said before I'm looking forward to a change - the washes he's been doing instead of traditional inks/colour aren't really doing it for me. Again, it's not a terrible issue, but when you see what people like Whedon can do with the X-Men, you wonder why it should ever get this dodgy.C+

Daredevil #84

Daredevil #84

Publisher Marvel • Writer Ed Brubaker • Artists Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano

I'll say it again: Brubaker's really taking things to the next level following the conclusion of Bendis' run. The mystery of the new Daredevil is slowly expanded on by Dakota North and Ben Urich's investigation which is beginning to tie itself to Murdock's plot. Meanwhile, inside Ryker's, Matt is continuing the charade of normality in public while openly beating the crap out of anyone who gets in his way while no-one's looking, just so he can stay alive while he investigates the murder of Foggy. And as if things weren't bad enough, Bullseye AND the Kingpin both turn up at Ryker's, and judging by the final page, Frank Castle's next. Be still my fanboy heart.

There's so much being packed into this storyline, I can't help but feel it's going to be impossible to top. Brubaker's throwing in so much that it's serving incredibly well as the resolution to Bendis' build up, and the launching point for whatever Brubaker's got cooked up, but then, what's left to do? It all depends on how long Matt's going to be in prison and what we discover about whoever's taken on the role of Daredevil.

I'd never have thought it a few years ago, but following the Marvel Knights relaunch of the character, this book has gone from strength to strength barely faltering (we'll forgive that second Echo arc that was clearly an Echo miniseries being shoved in the pages of Daredevil) - for those who thought that the title would never reach the heights of the Frank Miller years, well, this should be proving you wrong. Everything from writing to art has been top notch, and the new team is continuing that trend. A+.

Spider-Woman: Origin #5, Cover by The Luna Bros.

Spider-Woman Origin #5

Publisher Marvel • Writers Brian Reed & Brian Bendis • Artwork The Luna Bros.

The series draws to a close announcing the new series "Coming in 2007." To which I immediately went 2007? I was operating under the expectation it'd be a month or two. I'm not sure I can handle a wait of that length, since having spent five issues learning the character's (revised) origin, I'm ready to see some new action. Gah.

That doesn't, however, detract from the book itself. It's all a pretty standard wrap up, not really any surprises left. The only real mystery is whether her father's still alive or not - to my knowledge that thread hasn't been resolved and it'd be foolish for them not to revisit it, having just set it up. The story ends with Jessica more or less announcing she's going to set up i San Francisco, which is where her original series took place, though it seems doubtful the new one will.

While there's nothing particularly brilliant about the story this issue, since we're well past all the twists and turns, there is a good amount of wrap up which establishes the relationship between SHIELD, Jessica and Hydra which is essential to the character. Most of all, I'm finding myself glad that in the story isn't going to be serviced by the Luna Brothers' art - I'm most definitely not a fan. Reed and Bendis, on the other hand, seem to be best apart than together juding by their own bodies of work. Perhaps Reed has simply improved since this was written, but while it's perfectly competent in execution, it's nowhere near the levels of his work on Ms. Marvel.

As I may have said before, this series has provided me with an adequate understanding of who Jessica is, why she's like that and where she got her powers, now I'm just looking forward to seeing more about her. In 2007. Gah. B.

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