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Secret War #2

Posted: Tuesday, June 1, 2004
By: Shawn Hill



“Part Two of Five”

Writer: Brian Bendis
Artist: Gabriele Dell’Otto

Publisher: Marvel

Plot:
Something about gathering a motley crew and sending them off to Latveria; hard to follow due to horrendous art.

What’s Interesting:
Bendis’ usual dialogue skills are in full play here, aptly locating Peter Parker as the “everyman” in unusual circumstances. Bendis is clearly trying to do a believable, espionage tale, downplaying the wacky situations and spandex goofiness of the original two series. These prickly characters have been assembled for real reasons, with no need for artificially contrived fisticuffs. The idea that Latveria is supplying all the techno-villains of the Marvel Universe with their amazing toys is a good one, comic-book centered and continuity rich on a Busiek level.

Not so interesting:
I’d be able to enjoy this a lot more if I could see it. I’ve never been a fan of painted comics, but Dell’Otto makes me long for the days of John J. Muth and the guy who did the Vampire Lestat mini-series. No one looks like themselves, totally undercutting the big-budget moments that are meant to be reveals in the script. It took me quite awhile to parse that the maid whose face falls off was meant to be a disguise for Nick Fury. The sequence is so cheesy (and really, a hoary cliché); I at first had no idea what was meant to be going on.

At another point, Natasha jokes about how hot she is in her Latverian burka, but it makes no sense because she’s neither hot nor recognizable as Natasha. The Angelina Jolie clone on the plane might be intriguing, if there were any tension or even hints involving her identity. Steve Rogers looks like angry frat boy, not an experienced soldier. I still can’t figure out where his hand went, or how exactly he hit fury, in a supposedly climactic final scene. Dell’Otto’s Wolverine is the most recognizable, but, really, who can mess up on Wolverine?

His command of anatomy is as poor as his storytelling, with expressive shortcuts taken that make his figures look deformed and as if their joints don’t attach to their limbs. Someone like Brereton can get away with this because he has an overall design style and color sense, but Dell’Otto’s only overall quality is a useless penchant for pin-up poses (emphasized in a sequence on his cover designs; well, he’s better than Horn I suppose) and a dark muddy tone that obscures rather than informs.

There were brief glinting moments of homage to Steranko in the last issue (especially when he was representing Fury and Valentina), but Steranko knew something about composition, layout and ratios of light and shadow that Dell’Otto can’t equal.

As there’s been no action to speak of yet in the story, there’s nothing really to distract from the shortcomings in the art. This book is a disappointment, one that would benefit greatly from competent inking and more conventional coloring.



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