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Alternate Cover - 7th December 2006

Alternate Cover

There are some things you never expect to happen, despite all assurances. The release of Duke Nukem Forever, for instance, or the completion of Guns 'n' Rose's album, Chinese Democracy. Issue #2 of Kevin Smith's Daredevil: Target (a title so late that they're thinking of re-writing issue #1, making it the first title to ever be so late as to go backwards.) When one of these things occurs, you're left almost dumbstruck. Such was my reaction to seeing the return of Onslaught, X-Men mega-villain and plot device. To see an era so widely panned by fans and editorial alike being revisited stirs up all kinds of feelings in me. There may as well be no other comics in this column. This week it's all about Onslaught: Reborn, issue #1.

Onslaught: Reborn #1

Onslaught: Reborn #1

Publisher Marvel • Writer Jeph Loeb • Artist Rob Liefeld

There are certain things you have to realise about this comic. Firstly, it shouldn't be judged on normal standards. In part, this is because it is being drawn by Rob Liefeld, who doesn't so much break boundaries and simply neglect to acknowledge them. For those who aren't aware, Liefeld is a highly sought-after creator, due to his popularity. He pulls in readers by the shedload. At a time in the 90s, when comics were huge, he was arguably the hugest name, advertising Levi jeans and publishing what may be the best-selling indie title ever, Youngblood. All this, despite his objectively terrible artwork, writing, and chronic lateness. Imagine for a moment, that a comic artist couldn't draw ankles. Now try to find ankles in a Rob Liefeld comic. It's practically a sport. His popularity is unfathomable, and yet, here he is again, back at Marvel. The reason for this is that Marvel are celebrating the 10 year anniversary of their Onslaught crossover. Get ready for your second history lesson of the day.

Let us journey to a simpler time. A time when Spider-Man was revealed to be a cloned version of himself, Iron Man was replaced by a teenage version of himself from another universe's past, and the X-Men's Beast was being impersonated by an evil version of himself from a different another universe. A time when Civil War, House of M, and even Brian Bendis were less than a glint in anyone at Marvel's eye. A time when Marvel did a line-wide crossover involving a near-omnipotent character, Onslaught, who was the combination of Magneto and Xavier's minds, bent on vaguely-defined world domination.

To defeat him, some of Marvel's oldest heroes - The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, The Hulk - sacrificed themselves. This led to a year-long "reboot" for those characters where their titles were set in a new universe created by Franklin Richards, the all-powerful child of Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four, until they finally returned to regular Marvel continuity. The reason we get Liefeld here, now, is because his company at the time oversaw, in part, two of those titles (which Marvel outsourced.) In Liefeld's case, it was Captain America, and The Avengers. Jeph Loeb was involved in the writing of these, so when Marvel wanted to revisit the story for this limited series, who better to produce it than the original creators?

But enough about the past. What we have before us is the sequel to that. Onslaught, for vaguely defined reasons (the "House of M" catch-all explanation) is back, and he's pissed off. He immediately sets about to capture Franklin Richards who previously evaded his capture, and to accomplish this, he makes the Fantastic Four fight one another with his mind-control abilities. There's a particularly hilarious scene where a mind-controlled Mr. Fantastic tries to trick Franklin into stepping into the Negative Zone. At the end of the issue, Franklin, running out of options, escapes into the universe he created, where he is promptly met by possibly the worst character to come out of that universe - the female Bucky, as created by Liefeld.

There's just no point criticising this comic. The artwork, despite being some of Liefields best ever (After 20 years he's learning, kids!) ranges from ugly to hilarious. The writing is paper-thin. The only reason to buy this comic is if you want to see more Onslaught or (god help you) more Liefeld, and no-one's got the remotest interest in pretending otherwise. As someone who was turned into a Marvel fan (as opposed to just an X-Men fan) by the Onslaught crossover, this comic is a guilty pleasure. It's everything I expected. As I started off by saying, though, we can't judge this comic by normal standards, so with that in mind, I'm going to give it the following grade:

Stan Lee Meets Dr. Doom

Stan Lee Meets Dr. Doom

Publisher Marvel • Writer Lee/Jenkins • Artist Larocca/Buckingham

I think we can agree that the novelty is wearing off slightly. The lead story takes a similar vein to the previous installations in this series - in this case, Dr. Doom abducts Stan Lee to ask why he's such a hated figure, having decided that it's probably down to Lee's influence. While there are some hilarious moments - Doom's insistence that wanting to take over the world is just a cultural difference between Latveria and America, or Lee explaining his cameo role in the recent Fantastic Four film - it's all slighrly let down by Doom's dialogue which is surprisingly...out of character. Take Doom's parting shot to Lee: "The man is a total loser. I should’a shot him, but why waste a bullet?" Is that the Doom you remember?

Perhaps I've grown up recognising Byrne's version of the Doom above Lee's original take, but of all of Lee's stories in this series, this is the only one where I can't imagine the lead character speaking the lines he does. Lee, by contrast, is as charming, as self-promoting as ever, and Larocca's artwork is brilliant, showing just what he can do if he self-colours and almost making me forgive the lacklustre appearance of his artwork at the end of his X-Men run.

The extra strips mean, as always, that it's not a bad package at all, but the format's starting to run a little stale. Jenkins' story seems oddly self-congratulatory, for something that's presumably supposed to be about how Lee inspires him. We can probably assume he enjoyed his appearance in New Avengers so much that he decided to give himself an origin story. The Spider-Man/Silver Surfer reprint, a Lee/Buscema classic, is great, though. It's been fun, but at this point it's seeming like a good job there's only one more left.

Black Panther #22

Black Panther #22

Publisher Marvel • Writer Reggie Hudlin • Artist Manuel Garcia

Last time I bought a Black Panther comic, it was an incredibly old-school X-Men crossover story that re-introduced the idea of the Panther and Storm as a couple. Since then the two of them have done got hitched and are strutting around the planet visiting other monarchs and world leaders on their "honeymoon" tour of the Marvel Universe.

In this case, they've arrived in the US. Good use is made of the political situation there at the moment, as Storm is requested to register herself upon entry as a gesture of goodwill. Needless to say, she refuses, and takes time out to berate the rest of the X-Men for letting this happen under their noses (the official X-People line being 'this time, it's not our fight'.)

The problem is, despite the heavy focus on Storm, it's still a Black Panther book. He's a character I find abrasively pompous and arrogant, and worse, he's got virtually no interesting hook. Hudlin's writing, for all its tendancy to attract criticism, doesn't seem to be the cause of that. It's just that the Panther's a dick. He could yet prove an interesting foil for Iron Man and, presumably, Captain America, and for such a political story, his presence is almost required, but not even dressing him up in a suit of armour and giving him a magic sword makes me interested.

Flick-Through Reviews

American Virgin #9 - Seagle/Cloonan
In what comes as something as a shock to me, this issue sees Adam finally catch up with the object of his obsession, the man that killed his girlfriend Cassie, and get a chance to exact his vengeance. In some ways, it's unfortunate that the chance for Adam to exact this vengeance is taken away from him before we see exactly what he might've done. The character development of Adam is the most interesting focus of the title, so it's kind of a pity that the big moment which could've shown just how much he's changed was sidestepped. The ending twist has some great dialogue over it, and I'm genuinely intrigued about where this is going. The idea of a plane crash makes it seem a bit Lost-esque, but the execution could, and probably will, be wildly different.

X-Men #193 - Carey/Bachalo
Rogue's team defeats the evil villains who are just shy of being an interesting concept. So far, the most interesting character in the title - Karima, one of Bastion's Prime Sentinels - hasn't had much page-time, but remains an intriguing presence. Rogue also makes the decision to take the team out of the mansion with this issue. It's not the first time there's been an X-Men splinter group, but the first time I've found the concept intriguing - it's a team full of wild cards, and their agenda could go almost anywhere. Bachalo's inconsistent art is the only thing holding the title back at this point - mainstream comics shouldn't be this incomprehensible.

About this entry


Re: Rob Liefield. You must have seen that infamous image of his big-chested Captain America, haven't you?

Bachalo's inconsistent art is the only thing holding the title back at this point - mainstream comics shouldn't be this incomprehensible.

Shut up, Chris Bachalo is the best artist ever! (Well, OK, "one of my favourites".) He played a large part in making Assault on Weapon Plus one of the highlights of Grant Morrison's X-Men run, and made Ultimate War as much fun as it was, in its own over-the-top way. Sometimes his details and compositions a little hard to make out, but he always keeps the energy up in his action scenes, and those big-nosed, big-chinned, tiny-eyed faces are brilliant. When I grow up, I wanna draw just like him. :)

By Anonymous
December 11, 2006 @ 2:18 pm

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I used to really like Bachalo - especially the Death stuff he did for Vertigo - but he really has lost the plot over the last few years. Ironically enough, one of the things you cite - Assault on Weapon Plus was one of the strongest indications of the sheer incomprehensibility of his current work.

I just don't think he can do action. When he has the time to sit and ponder, the style of people he draws is lovely. But whenever I've seen him do an actiony superhero book - and this is going back to that arc he did on Ultimate X-Men - it's been all over the place.

As for Liefeld... it's hard NOT to have seen that image, really. I wouldn't be surprised if he has it in his portfolio. Actually, I would, because that would suggest he had a self-deprecatory and knowing sense of humour.

By Seb
December 11, 2006 @ 3:02 pm

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