Why Aren't You Reading...
By Alan Donald
Oh man, I can't believe I'm recommending this. I hate the Avengers, they suck as a team and you need a PhD in Marvel studies to understand what the Hell is going on...normally.
I've been dropping in and out of this title for a while now and it has had the odd good issue but just lately... It was the 'Nuff Said that did it. A great piece of visual story telling that would have been ruined completely by a typical Avengers script. The world has just lost an intergalactic war. Washington DC has been destroyed and America has surrendered. Powerful stuff. It doesn't stop there. The latest issue focuses on just two Avengers in a prison camp, it's a simple story well told and it packs an emotional punch.
Ok so this whole story line will be a Bobby in the shower or someone will do a bit of time travel (this is Kang they are against after all) and undo all of this (big giveaway, if you are listening Marvel, I don't notice any alien invasion in Spider-Man and it's a different alien force threatening the world in the X-Men) but who cares. Sometimes it's nice just to enjoy good writing. I hope this quality and accessibility continues after the current storyline.
Oh just shoot me already! It's the Avengers again! This is the best new thing around. Remember when the Ultimate X-Men were fresh and everything they did was new and fantastic (oh, about 6 months to a year ago, modern society is so fickle)? Well there is that buzz about The Ultimates too. The first issue showed that the creative team isn't afraid to do things differently. Instead of the usual "Meet the team" issue they focused entirely on Captain America's last mission retelling it and along the way redefining and rebuilding a character that has been needing a facelift for some time.
The first issue particularly featured some awesome visuals and fantastic fine artwork. The art has continued to be as good in the second issue and all bodes well for the future.
The second issue neatly tied up the plot threads left behind from the Ultimate Team-Up book, Iron Man's new armour is introduced, Bruce Banner surveys the damage he did in the Hulk team up and the Fantastic Four are discussed. Every characterisation is spot on and the creators keep us hooked without having to resort to shock tactics.
If this book continues with this quality it could well become an all time favourite of mine.
I know, I know. The Superbooks are an odd kettle of fish. It doesn't matter who the creative team is or which title you are looking at for the last few years there has been a distinct trend...THEY CAN'T KEEP IT CONSISTANT!!! The Superbooks are not bad reads, they are not bad visually and they all work well together BUT sometimes they are just about the (if not THE) BEST titles on the shelves and other times they are just mediocre superhero fayre. I don't get it, it's the most frustrating thing going because trust me when they get it right WOW (point in fact it's a recent Superman story that has topped Wizards best single issue poll)!!!
This week's Action Comics is a great example. It ain't fantastic but it's still good enough for me to recommend for anyone to read. After all what could be wrong with an issue that features Superman Vs Dracula and the return of the Creature Commandos!?
This is a camp romp well acted by all the players. The ongoing soap opera is progressed well and things are set up for the future. I laughed out loud at some parts of this issue due to their campness (I hope they were set up that way!) and the very funny way the writers did a typical DC (ie bringing back precrisis stuff in a new way). The art is a joy to behold with Detective Comics-like colouring for a lot of the issue to give a mood to it and beautifully detailed pencils all the way through.
Superman may be vulnerable to magic but vampires still get burnt by the...nah! You read it.
This won't be to everyone's tastes. Cage is the latest dark, violent and nasty title to hit the shelf. Much like the tone of the story the artwork will either be loved or loathed. This is the latest take on Luke Cage, hero for hire. What we get is an title that isn't afraid to avoid the PC line and that is prepared to try and "tell it like it is". I'm not entirely sure they manage it and I feel more than a few stereotypes creeping in but that could just be the fact I'm a pathetic liberal. This is an excellent title that I would recommend for those who like the Punisher, Fury, Hellblazer, 100 Bullets and Hitman.
This is a read that goes from strength to strength. Batgirl is definitely one of the best character finds of the last 2 decades and this is one of the best titles on the shelf (rant moment! In the latest issue Oracle claims Batgirl is the only person to ever take down Shiva, rubbish, Brucie has done it. He had help from Jason in "A Death in the Family" but he could have had her easily. Before that he took her down and since then I'm sure he's had her or at least proven he could without any great effort). Is Batgirl metahuman? Possibly. Spoiler raises the question in her mind in the latest issue. It's possible that she just appears to be so in the same way Batman does.
Batgirl has had a rough ride and she has been punishing herself for her sins as a child. A year ago Batgirl turned to the vicious assasin Shiva to help her regain her incredible fighting abilities, the pay off was a fight to the death a year later. The time came last issue and it was a blast. Shiva had spent the year learning a technique to kill someone with one blow and then bring them back to life with another. She used it. The deal was honoured. They then fought, really fought.
This issue follows the aftermath. Batgirl won, she lies in a meditative trance for virtually all of the day but it's not over, Shiva had disciples that need taking care of. Enter Spoiler. A crappy little wannabe that used to follow Robin around a) 'cause she fancied him and b) because her dad was the Cluemaster and she wanted to stop him. Both Batman and Robin ignored her and told her to go home but she pressed on. eventually Robin began to train her on the quiet to try and stop her from being killed. The shock came when Batman actually decided to let her into the club and started to give her the REAL training. She learned quickly. Find out how much she has learned this issue.
This is a title that has yet to have a single duff issue. A must for everyone.
A little while back I attacked all the major US comic companies for refusing to come to Comics 2002 in Bristol. At that time the official line from all of them was that they were not coming and this was backed up by sources of mine within each of the companies. Since my article hit the site there has been a rather big change and DC and Marvel have both announced that they will be coming this year. DC have always made a good show in the past and it wouldn't have been the same without them but Marvel have never made the effort for as long as I've been attending so this is something I'm really looking forward to (Joe Q himself is coming!).
Basically sorry guys I should never have doubted you.
Thank you for reading my article. Now have you been to the message boards? Why not! Join in or start a discussion on your favourite titles, start a poll or maybe just see what everyone else has to say. Down on the Spider-Man section of the Marvel Board there's an ongoing story that everyone is welcome to join in with. WAY down on the SBC Education Board you can join in a highbrow discussion on V for Vendetta, or way up on the Soapbox Board you can slag me off for a terrible article. The choice is yours!
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