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Alternate Cover - 23rd May 2006

Alternate Cover

After weeks of Brian Wood-less comics, I'm glad to see him back on the racks with DMZ #7. You can rely on Wood to turn out a decent issue. However, variety is the spice of life, so following my success with younger-readers title, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, I've picked up Marvel Adventures Avengers, the new "Avengers" comic targetted at the newsracks. Traditionally, this kind of comic is invariably gash, but will MA:A buck the trend?

DMZ #7

DMZ #7

Publisher Vertigo • Writer Brian Wood • Art Ricardo Burchielli

Yay! It's time for some more Brian Wood ass-kissing. In this arc, Wood is exploding the world Matty lives in by placing him on an insane ride and letting us sit up alongside. In a twist I never saw coming a mile off, Matty is actually taken out of the DMZ and back home by the government in this issue, who then allow him back to Manhatten with a bunch of all-new equipment and medicines, which he realises just in time is not quite the luck it seems like.

Zee turns up again in her recurring role and just as Matty sees her as someone he can go to when things get tough, as I reader I enjoy seeing her turn up as she's the first human connection we made in the DMZ. Not to mention she's more well-rounded a character than even Matty. Matty's lack of a personality is addressed a bit more in this issue as we find out a little of his background and upbringing. Angry middle-class white-boy grows a spine is a plot Wood has used before to some degree (in his Oni series, Pounded, with Steve Rolston) but the context being so radicallly different makes it forgivable

Every month I find Burchielli's art looks better and better. He's shaping up as one of my favourite artists, certainly I would go so far as to say he's my favourite artist working doing an ongoing comic right now. Wood himself has taken a break from doing interior pages in favour of illustrating an entire issue himself when this arc is over. I can barely contain my glee at that concept. I have a suspicion that I'll need to revise the grading scale just to accommodate it. For now, though, there's no dispute: A+

Ms. Marvel #3

Ms. Marvel #3

Publisher Marvel • Writer Brian Reed • Pencils Roberto De La Torre • Inks Jimmy Palmiotti

I was shocked to discover that the opening story appears to end with this issue. A 3-issue opening arc for a story that could've easily been artificially padded to fill 6? Surely not! The arc's clearly geared towards a return of the main villain, and there's not a huge amount of thematic wrap up of the earlier concerns raised about her public standing, but one assumes these are ongoing subplots rather than initial launching points for the series.

It has to be said, I'm enjoying this series a hell of a lot. In very similar ways to Bendis' Daredevil series, Ms. Marvel is taking the format and putting an excessively modern spin on things. In Daredevil that means noirish grit, in Ms. Marvel that means celebrity and empowerment, but wrap those concepts around the superhero model and you're getting some of the finest comics of that genre coming straight out of Marvel. The art continues to look great, as well, if Marvel has any sense they'll grab onto De La Torre with both hands. If all comics were this good, there'd be no need for DVDs. A

X-men #186

X-Men #186

Publisher Marvel • Writer Pete Milligan • Art Salvador Larocca

On the other hand, we're finally coming to the end of Pete Milligan's Apocalypse story. It's been all over the place, this one, with issues alternating between decent and dire. It can't be denied that Milligan's version of Apocalypse, a Darwinian lunatic mostly concerned with keeping things fair than giving mutantcy a helping hand, works far better then many other recent appearances. However, it's a pity his X-Men can't show the same characterisation.

And speaking of that, it'd be nice if new character Pulse could get fleshed out a little. So far he's been used as little more than a "Rogue can touch him" plot device but he hasn't really even done much in that capacity. He's just...there. And then at the end of the issue, following Gambit's abduction by Sunfire, Rogue and Pulse walk off into the sunset. For some reason. Between abductions, sunsets, and the dangling plot thread of Apocalypse's deal with the Celestials, one gets the feeling that once he learnt he was leaving,Milligan forced some of his plans though,
and simply abandoned the others. The deal Apocalypse made could provide great material, if only Milligan was around to actually write it. There's no longer even any guarantee it'll be followed up on.

For what was once one of Marvel's flagship titles, it seems like it should be able to do better than "Could try harder" but the style mismatch between Milligan and the X-Men format seems to have doomed his run to some kind of compromise-dictated mediocrity. C

Marvel Adventures Avengers #1

Marvel Adventures Avengers #1

Publisher Marvel • Writer Jeff Parker • Pencils Manuel Garcia

The first thing that strikes you (me) about this comic is the Avengers lineup. First you've got obvious Avengers mainstays, Iron Man, Captain America and The Wasp (sort of..) alongside New Avengers favourites Spider-Man and Wolverine. Er, and you've also got the Hulk, who was an Avenger before, I guess, and, well, Storm, who hasn't ever been an Avenger but she is in that nice X-Men film that's out soon, I suppose, only quite what she's doing here instead of the more obvious choice of a Marvel Adventures X-Men comic god only knows. This is supposed to be an Avengers comic, right? *checks cover*

What you've just read is a reasonably accurate portrayal of how my comprehension of the first page of this comic went, and that's before we've even got to the first line of dialogue...

To be fair, I should point out that there's a really good reason that this lineup doesn't make too much sense - this is supposed to be an out-of-continuity title aimed at younger readers, and it seems they've decided that the Avengers should consist of Marvel's most recognisable heroes, though far more bizarrely, it seems that they've decided Storm qualifies. The Hulk, who would be an odd fit for a team book like this, is shoehorned in as a docile and childlike, well-meaning creature, and actually has some of the funnier lines in the issue as a result. multiple interpretations of the Hulk isn't really a problem and this one works fine. The best part of the lineup has to be the appearance of Janet Van Dyne, not as the Wasp, but as Giant Girl. It's an original take on the character that I like so much, I wish that it'd be written into regular continuity.

Sadly, the rest of the issue can't really keep up with that single great idea. The plot consists of this team of Avengers smashing up robots that comprise a new "Ultron" system designed to actually replace them. It's all a bit predictable, though I feel incredibly stupid claiming that while knowing that this title is aimed at younger readers. Hilariously, as soon as it's switched on, the Ultron system rebels against its creators, and I get more than a tiny bit of metatextual sniggering from writer Jeff Parker as Spider-Man remarks "Wow, that's got to be an everything-went-wrong speed record!" since it seems pretty clear that one of the mandates for this series is going to be that it should rely on self-contained single-issue stories - more's the pity, then, that the story starts to drag and I found myself wanting to skip to the end.

Any title called Marvel Adventures Avengers clearly isn't going to be Shakespeare. I'm sure the target audience will enjoy it far more than I did, it's just that there are some children's comics which genuinely are "all-ages" and can be enjoyed even as an adult - in my opinion, this comic is not one of them. Jeff Parker does seem to have some original ideas and a talent for snappy dialogue, so I'd love to see him doing something in the mainstream MU that doesn't feel like The Dumbed-Down Avengers. The title is a victim of circumstance rather than the creators.C-

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it seems they've decided that the Avengers should consist of Marvel's most recognisable heroes, though far more bizarrely, it seems that they've decided Storm qualifies.

By all accounts, though, Storm has a quite prominent role in X3 (far more so than in the second one), so I would presume it's a fairly deliberate piece of timing...

By Seb
May 24, 2006 @ 10:00 am

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yeah, that combined with the general media push around the bordering-on-racist Black Panther marriage is undoubtedly a contributing factor. It's kind of concerning, though, that Storm's the best Marvel can do for a recognisable heroine.

By James H
May 24, 2006 @ 12:23 pm

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