Thursday, October 18, 2012

Christian's Week in Comics 17/10/12: Marvel Point One, Harbinger #5, Captain Marvel #5

Marvel NOW! Point One
Writers: Various
Artists: Various

So since I enjoyed Uncanny Avengers a lot more than I expected, I've decided to give some of the Marvel NOW! books a chance, starting with the latest Point One issue.  First off, holy crap. This thing cost $5.99! I don't care if it's 64 pgs. For something that is basically just a glorified Previews catalog, I'm stunned. I bought it, because I'm a sucker, but damn Marvel.

So what did I think? Well, let's just say that out of the six titles previewed in this issue, at least four are on my Watch List and two are instant buys when their first issues come out. All in all, I thought it was pretty okay.

Nick Spencer and Luke Ross' Secret Avengers story didn't interest me in the least. This didn't surprise me, as I'm no fan of Spencer's writing in general. It's an overly talky scene that tries too hard to be clever and doesn't leave me wanting more. Moving on: Bendis and McNiven's Guardians of the Galaxy teased the new origins of Peter Quill, Starlord, but didn't leave me wanting more either. Instead, it just left me wondering why Bendis is writing Marvel Cosmic stories. Hmm. Is it just me, or have the Skrull's uniforms and weapons been retconned to make them look more like the Chitauri?

A big surprise for me was Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness' take on the new, kid-friendly Nova. I was expecting to hate this, but as it turns out, it was one of my favorite stories in the book. A small, self-contained adventure with Nova squaring off against one of his predecessors enemies, Diamondhead. Loeb seems to be having fun with this character, and that exuberance also comes across in McGuiness' cartooning, which is in fine form. I never thought I'd be saying this, but I am excited for a Jeph Loeb comic.

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton's Young Avengers was the highlight of the issue for me. Watching Miss America throttle Kid Loki over a plate of Korean BBQ was a thing of beauty. As it stands, this is one of my most anticipated titles of the relaunch. I will buy this without hesitation.

Matt Fraction and The Allred's FF story featuring Scott Lang as Ant-Man was a tragicomic story with some great art, but the more I thought about the odd storytelling choices and character motivations, the more I decided I didn't like it as much as my first impressions suggested. Lang wants revenge at Dr. Doom for killing his daughter, and he decides to vandalize his art show? Really? I love Mike and Laura Allred's work, but Fraction is on thin ice with me. This is a wait-and-see title.

Closing out this issue was a story previewing Cable and the X-Force by Dennis Hopeless and Gabriel Hernandez Walta, which is weird, because I'm pretty sure Salvador Larocca is scheduled to be the artist on the actual series. Again, I have to admit I'm shocked. Cable and the X-Force was not a comic I was looking forward to at all, but this weird little story featuring a future-shocked Forge repairing his own broken mind (I think?) and then ending the story with Cable and his little withered arm, was a strange but pleasant little surprise. This is definitely a title I'll be looking into when it debuts in December, and I haven't been excited about Cable since I was 10.

So there you have it. At $5.99, this is a steeply priced set of Previews, but at least 65% of the book was worth it, and now I'm excited about a handful of titles that I'm now looking forward to.

Harbinger #5
Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artist: Khari Evans

Five issues in, and I think it's safe to say that Harbinger is my favorite title of the Valiant relaunch. Everything about this book excites me. The complicated drama, the intense level of emotion poured into the characters, the awesome display of psychic powers, and the complex real-world politics that the book deals with on a regular basis.

This was the most intense, action-filled issue of Harbinger yet. Grieving and full of rage after discovering the body of his murdered friend Joe, Pete Stanchek takes the fight directly to Harada, but of course things get more complicated than that. For more of this series, I have been very critical of Pete's actions and have found him to be a very selfish and destructive character. And yet, when he tells Harada, "the thing you've never understood about me Harada, [is] I was born to die" struck me as such a tragic statement that completely underscores where Pete is coming from.

As a person who has spent most of his life in institutions and struggling to survive in poverty on the streets, Pete's entire life has been one of desperate, leading towards death. He's never really known love (except when he forced Kris to love him), and barely knows how to respond to basic kindness. Pete is a damaged person, but he isn't worthless and he can't just be used like some pawn on a giant chess board. Pete's always known that life was a brutal game and he's been on the losing team since birth.

That's a long way of saying you should definitely be reading Harbinger. It is one of the best comics on the stands currently, and is more essential and relevant than anything being currently published by Marvel or DC.

Captain Marvel #5
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick 
Artist: Emma Rios

I was very critical of the first issue of the relaunched Captain Marvel series. Unfairly so. I am happy to report that this comic has been steadily improving with every issue. This issue continues where the last one left off, with Carol Danvers trapped in the past and trying to befriend her hero, who sees her more as competition than a comrade. The writing in this book has gotten much better. The rhetoric I complained of in the first issue has been toned down considerably, but this book is no less about women kicking ass in World War II. It's awesome.

Another improvement in this issue is the art by Emma Rios. Hers is the kind of expressive, impressionist art I'd expect more from an Image book than a Marvel comic. I love it, with one caveat: what the hell is wrong with Carol's face? Seriously. I am over the costume. I think the costume is bad-ass. Seeing photos of people cosplaying in the new Captain Marvel suit convinced me that it is an improvement over the Ms. Marvel getup. Seriously though, Carol's face in this issue is messed up.

I've been reading comics with a domino-mask wearing Danvers for years, and I never had a hard time recognizing her face. In this issue, there were several times when I lost track of who the hell she was. I understand that each artist wants to put their own individual stamp on the character, I get that, but at least try to make the character's facial features somewhat consistent with past appearances.

These minor gripes aside, this was a pretty good book, and makes me hope that someone at Marvel Studios has plans for Carol Danvers. I would love to see Captain Marvel in Avengers 2 or Guardians of the Galaxy.

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