Marvel Month in (P)Review: November/December 2008

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Marvel Month in (P)review highlights the Marvel Comics' month that was and previews the Marvel Comics' month that will be. This month's column features previews of X Men Noir #1, Criminal #7 and Marvels: Eye of the Camera #1!



It's always nice to see Marvel try to inject some fresh blood into their superhero universe, and this series looks like it'll provide the launchpad for quite an interesting new character, and one that has strong links to both established Marvel Universe continuity and real-world history. The titular Blue Marvel is a 1960s superhero whose activities were quashed by the government because he's black - and because they thought that the idea of a super-powered "negro" could cause public panic.

With fairly decent art and an interesting premise, I'm quite looking forward to seeing how this series progresses. I only hope that the book starts to concentrate more attention on the more original Civil Rights elements and less on the more familiar superhero retcon plot (which is fairly reminiscent of the Sentry's introduction a few years ago). One to watch.


Another issue of Age of the Sentry brought two more kitsch, retro-styled stories of the Silver Age adventures of Robert Reynolds. Whilst I quite enjoy these pastiches of old-fashioned comics, I can't help but feel that it's a bit of a one-note premise, and one that is having trouble supporting a dedicated miniseries. I would rather have seen the series provide a little more variety - perhaps by moving forwards through comics history, and reflecting the different aesthetic trends and styles of storytelling that were popular in each era. As it is, it's a fairly repetitive book, and one that doesn't provide a lot of entertainment beyond its Silver Age parody elements.


Daredevil #113 saw the "Lady Bullseye" arc plough onwards with its third chapter, adding further intrigue to its core plot at the same time as writer Ed Brubaker built up some interesting secondary plot strands in preparation for the arc's finale. The story is shaping up to be a real crowd-pleaser, weaving classic superhero elements into a story that also benefits from Brubaker and his artists' knack for establishing mood and atmosphere, and setting it all against a satisfying noir backdrop. If you're a fan of street-level superhero comics that are rooted in the real world, with fully-realised characters and well thought-out plots, you really should be reading this book.


Fantastic Four #561 saw the conclusion of "The Death of the Invisible Woman", a story that had been billed as the second four-issue arc of Millar and Hitch's run on the book. Now that the arc is over, however, it's possible to view all eight issues published so far as one single story that stands as more than the sum of its parts. Millar tied up most of his outstanding plot points here with satisfying, logical and natural solutions, and even found time to tie this story into his "Old Man Logan" arc currently running in Wolverine. By now, readers know what they're getting with Millar and Hitch's Fantastic Four: this is the FF as a high-concept action/sci-fi summer blockbuster, and it works well, playing to the strengths of both creators.


This issue of Invincible Iron Man achieved that rare thing: a decent post-"One More Day" Spider-Man story. Writer Matt Fraction wisely sidestepped the continuity-melting implications of Mephisto's reality-fiddling in favour of a good old-fashioned superhero team-up. That said, the story did hint at some possible ways to resolve the plotholes that have been created by everyone forgetting that Spider-Man unmasked during Civil War, and also explored the ongoing division between Spidey and Stark over superhero registration.

More than that, though, this was a solid, complex portrait of Stark as a troubled leader of a peacekeeping organisation who can't hope to stop every terrorist attack or super-villain onslaught before lives are lost. Based on Marvel's hints that major changes are coming for the character as a result of Secret Invasion's conclusion, this quiet, contemplative story could be the last issue of its kind for quite a while -- so it may be one to savour.


This issue of Wolverine was an improvement on the previous one in that it moved several of its plot strands forwards, whilst still finding time to provide a fair amount of action and spectacle, and a slight deepening of the intrigue concerning what happened to Logan on the night that the heroes were defeated. Steve McNiven continues to provide highly impressive artwork that makes the book worth buying for the visuals alone, and I'm hopeful that Millar's resolution of this issue's cliffhanger in issue #70 will really start to deliver on the story's potential.


Christos Gage's retro-flavoured take on Spider-Man and the X-Men was an enjoyable first issue that was firmly and unashamedly rooted in the Marvel Universe of the 1960s and early '70s. Gage captures the storytelling style of that era well, with some snappy dialogue, brisk plotting, and faithful characterisation of his leads and their supporting casts, and Italian artist Mario Alberti provides some pretty, painted visuals that complement the tone of Gage's script well. Even if it's not going to change the world of comics, the whole thing comes together as a fluffy and pretty (if ultimately disposable) blast of nostalgia for the Marvel Universe of old.



As seems to be the way nowadays, the end of one big crossover event means the start of another. This time around, Secret Invasion gives way to Dark Reign, an idea that spins out of the ending of Brian Bendis' crossover miniseries and promises to have a profound effect on the Marvel Universe as a whole. Whether you buy into this will depend to a great extent on whether you've enjoyed the Secret Invasion event and its conclusion. Personally, unless Secret Invasion #8 absolutely knocks our socks off, I can't see myself being particularly interested in this.

Criminal and Incognito are two very different comics that I've grouped together for the simple reason that they're both produced by the creative team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. With this month's issue of Criminal billed as its final issue for a little while, I'll be looking forward to seeing whether the book can go out on a high, and whether Brubaker can deliver on the promise of a dark psychological twist that he's been hinting at since the start of his arc. Luckily for fans of the team, they won't have long to wait for their next project. The first issue of Incognito also ships in December, bringing us the story of a super-villain in the witness protection program. I can't wait.

Following up a well-loved series like Marvels with a sequel is a risky move. At best, it'll be looked upon favourably as a sold continuation of the original book. At worst, however, it'll be derided as a cash-in that doesn't live up to the original, and could even taint it by virtue of its very existence. I'll be hoping for the former. Based on the art previews, it at least appears that it'll look good, with Jay Anacleto's visuals maintaining the highly realistic painted look of Alex Ross' art in the original series. I just wonder whether, having made his point so elegantly with the original series, Busiek will have anything left to say.

Marvel's out-of-continuity books can be as entertaining as their regular titles, allowing creators the chance to do something genuinely new and original with established franchises that have fallen into predictable holding patterns. X Men Noir and Spider Man Noir look as though they'll transpose the characters of two of Marvel's biggest franchises into retro noir settings, and I'll be interested to see how well the idea will work. Whilst I can imagine how certain characters may be used (Jean Grey as a femme fatale? Norman Osborn as a villainous businessman whose seedy past catches up with him?), I'm still not quite sure how the series concepts as a whole will work, exactly. But I'm intrigued.

I know nothing about this adaptation of L. Frank Baum's well-loved novel bar the promotional art that I've seen -- but even that is enough to pique my interest. I admire Marvel for their continued dedication to bringing classic literature to life in comics form, and I'll be very interested to see how the world of Oz is realised by creators Eric Shanower and Skottie Young.

It's that time of year again! Another round of What If? issues hits stores this month, seemingly concentrating on Marvel's more visible events of late (including such unwieldy titles as "What if Scarlet Witch ended the House of M by saying, 'No More Powers'?", and such meaningless rhetoricals as "What if? Fallen Son").

Marvel has also seen fit to have one of their “What if?” stories -- "What if the Runaways became the Young Avengers?" -- run as a serialised back-up feature in every issue, a practice that I find irritating, as it guarantees that the story will be incomplete unless you buy every one of the What if? books this month. Personally, that's a gimmick that's more likely to deter me from picking the books up.

After last issue's cliffhanger, Mark Millar had better not let us down with this issue. Supposedly, this chapter of "Old Man Logan" will reveal what happened on the night that the heroes were defeated, and Wolverine was reduced to a mere shadow of his former self. I can't wait.

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