TAG TEAM REVIEW: Vengeance #2

A comic review article by: Kyle Garret, Jamil Scalese
Kyle Garret: Dear Marvel: Please note that I am currently only reading two titles that you produce, but that this is exactly two more titles than I was reading from you, say, two months ago. Also, please note what these two titles (Vengeance and Daredevil) have in common: they stand on their own. They aren’t involved in crossovers. They aren’t hampered by, well, the corporate beast.

Jamil Scalese: As a heavy investor in big events like Fear Itself, I feel similarly to you, Kyle -- I want superhero comics to do something different with the played-out format. I’m sick of the cyclical rise of fall of every big name character, and the perpetual alternating between brand new directions and returns to the "standard."

Kyle: Perhaps that sounds a bit extreme, but my love for Vengeance knows no bounds. Besides, I love the Marvel Universe, and I would love to read books that take place in that universe, but for the last few years the bulk of what goes on there has bored me to tears. It’s the same rehashed soap opera played out over and over again across way more books than are necessary. I need something fresh, something new, something different.

Jamil: The Marvel Universe is a remarkable place where all types of stories can be told. Vengeance celebrates the hell out of that. It operates in the cracks and fault lines between the Avengers, X-Men and Spider-Man. The main star of this thing is a raver named Ultimate Nullifier! She-Hulk might be the most recognizable character!

Kyle: The Young Masters are extremely creepy and have already established themselves as some of the best villains around. I love the idea that the Teen Brigade has been helping the world in the background for some time now, and it would be great to see some of those moments at some point down the road. It was also nice to see The "Last" Defenders again (from Casey’s series of the same name), particularly since we’re getting an entirely different team from Marvel in just a few months.

Jamil: The Masters are clearly the stars of the book and the success of this second issue was due to Casey shining some light on a group of characters that briefly featured in one panel in the previous issue. After that hectic first chapter we can kind of see that this story will hone in on the Young Masters, Teen Brigade and the Last Defenders with a myriad of tangent characters and plot connections. Casey even finds room for Devlin D’Angelo, a throwaway thug from back in his late 90’s Incredible Hulk run! (Yeah, I definitely looked that up, you caught me.)

The prevailing theme that keeps smacking me at every turn is legacy. The names and titles of some of Marvel’s greatest legends stock the involved teams, from Miss America, to Black Knight, to Nighthawk. If you look at Defenders in particular all the members are heirs to Hulk, Namor, Satan and the original Nighthawk, respectively. The new Black Knight brings up this idea of legacy and it’s something that deserves examination in a world where mantles are passed on in so many different ways. This is spearheaded by the appearance of Lady Bullseye and her eventual dry-humping of her namesake’s corpse.

I loved that scene in particular because of the great art and the great respect given to one of the best and most consistent villains in the stable. Executioner’s reverence for a man who "fought wars in the streets" was an excellent touch to gain perspective on the mindset and mission of the Young Masters. However on a second read I realized that it seems the Masters were there to kill Bullseye. Executioner makes mention to the Fisher King, an enigmatic character who is the wounded protector of the Holy Grail. Without assuming too much I take feel like this mention of the Arthurian legend is an important clue about the larger game and the philosophy of the Young Masters. My personal interpretation is Executioner believes that if they kill Bullseye they will usurp his evilness, his legacy, and reinvigorate villainy, the Holy Grail, to its previous glory.

Kyle: While questions remain about who funds both the Teen Brigade and the Young Masters, as well as who is supplying the Teen Brigade with their information, the biggest question mark has to go next to the Red Skull. The scenes with the Skull are the only flashback moments in the series so far, but as of yet nothing has really connected to the present. But given how quickly Casey managed to bring together the elements from last issue into just a few threads in this one, I have faith that he’ll pull it all together.

Jamil: You are wrong my friend, the biggest question so far is who the hell is the cosmic-stone person from Issue One? That has been the most out of place thing we’ve seen yet. Or who was the homeless dude on the first page? But yes, the Red Skull scenes are a mystery given their detachment. This whole venture has been about giving us only pieces and right now only the Defenders seem to have a sense of mission.

Kyle: Haha! I’d actually FORGOTTEN about that guy! Talk about a great example of how complicated the first issue was! Of course, this book wouldn’t be nearly so enjoyable if it weren’t for the art of Nick Dragotta. Dragotta manages to cover a lot of ground on every page and the full page spread on page 17 is just phenomenal, conveying the frenetic energy of a fight scene in just one page.

Jamil: In all honesty, if Dragotta wasn’t on art I don’t know if I would have grabbed this issue. His sturdy, intricate panels are fantastic and his sense of paneling and story telling compliments what Joe Casey is trying to do. There are a few pages where there are 9-12 panels and yet nothing feels crowded and it looks magnificent.

Kyle: Please, Marvel, use Vengeance as guide post for the future. Given those of us who love the Marvel universe and don’t want all the mess more options. There are a lot of us, and we’re right here for the taking.

Jamil: I like this book in a weird, exciting way. It does all type of non-traditional things with the most traditional template in comics. However, as I said in the Slugfest for Vengeance #1, it’s still not completely together and will probably read better in trade. I’m not at all scared that Casey has thought this one out and we’ll have a great book on our hands in a few months, but I am still trying to figure out where and when the concept of "vengeance" will come reveal itself.

Kyle Garret is the author of I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At," available now from Hellgate Press. His short fiction has been published in the Ginosko Literary Journal, Literary Town Hall, Children, Churches, & Daddies and Falling Into Place. He writes comic book reviews here at Comic Bulletin and blogs for PopMatters. He can be found at KyleGarret.com and on Twitter as @kylegarret.

Jamil Scalese is just like you -- an avid comics fan and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, lover of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation.

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