Avengers: The Initiative #5 Review (World War Hulk)

by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Avengers: The Initiative

Issue #5

Written by Dan Slott, Art by Stefano Caselli

Published: October 2007

Last time in Avengers: The Initiative, some members of the group broke ranks to charge into Manhattan and take on the Hulk. It didn’t go well, as we find out here.

Avengers: The Initiative #5 begins with Henry Gyrich, now the government’s Secretary of the Superhuman Armed Forces, assembling a “Shadow Initiative” to sneak into New York and rescue the kids that got trounced by the Hulk and his Warbound. Considering that the Hulk’s arrival last issue was the big cliffhanger that was supposed to bring us back next time, it’s pretty anticlimactic to see the entire fight relegated to two pages of exposition as Gyrich explains to his team that the kids got beaten. However, this issue does happen to be a better story than last time, even though it has many of the same problems as its predecessor.

If you’re not well-versed in Marvel lore, good luck trying to decipher the entirety of this issue. Like last time, where we were given a group of obscure characters with little information about them, this time we’ve got a whole new cast of characters which new readers have likely never seen before. At least this time, though, the book seems intent on setting up mysteries and future character development. For example, we get Mutant Zero, whose identity is a mystery, and Trauma, who has the power to transform into somebody’s deepest fears but hopes to be more than just the weapon that Gyrich wants him to be.

The actual mission is a bit refreshing, changing a little from the formula used in a typical World War Hulk tie-in in which some heroes try to stop the Hulk only to get their butts kicked. This time it’s an infiltration mission, as Gyrich wants the members of the Initiative recovered while the Hulk is distracted with his fight against the military over in World War Hulk #3. The Hulk doesn’t stay out of things entirely, showing up in the end as the group retreats and going toe-to-toe against Trauma, who shifts through a couple of the Hulk’s villains before taking the shape of Bruce Banner’s abusive father and finally Banner himself. None of these tricks work, though, as it seems that the Hulk has no fears left. Trauma winds up in the, uh…trauma ward.

(As a fan retcon, I’m going to pretend that Trauma’s powers weren’t working properly, since Planet Hulk and World War Hulk have indicated that the Hulk does have one big fear: himself.)

To a newcomer, Avengers: The Initiative #5 is going to be confusing. There are just too many characters to keep track of. Happily, this issue does give us a couple of characters to latch onto, specifically Trauma, who goes through a bit of a character arc as he shows that he is not the ultimate weapon Gyrich wants him to be. Instead, by the end of the issue, he shows that he can use his powers to help people face and overcome his fears, in a nice little scene with Cloud Nine who nearly killed one of the Hulk’s Warbound in retaliation for her imprisonment.

To a Marvel veteran who can handle complex continuity well, this issue is a pretty decent one-shot that plants some seeds that may come to fruition later in the series. It’s not flawless, but Avengers: The Initiative #5 is worth a read to those readers who know the Marvel Universe but who are looking for something aside from the typical group of iconic characters to follow.

The New Avengers #21

by Nick Walden, CMRO Contributing Writer

The New Avengers

Issue #21

Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Renato Guedes

Published: April 2012

Um hold on for a slight letdown people. I really liked how the last book was going but this one is suffering from a lesser bit of plot and drive to the action. But at least we have Storm showing why she is Avenger’s material! Oh wait. Bonk! Never mind she is out of action. Sigh. Maybe that was my biggest disappointment that started me off on the wrong foot. I wanted to see more Storm but she gets K.O.’d early.

What I do like is that the Avengers are getting taken out in smaller groups by Osborn who seems to be using his brain to use the proper chess moves with his minions to win. In this case the Vision is the Queen for the Avengers and he manages to get his behind off the board and avoid capture. We are missing a little more substance and punch leaving this as an action type issue. But as an action issue it does okay. Perhaps I am just suffering from high expectations.

For the art we have Renato Guedes stepping in and basically doing a 180 on the style. Guedes is more of a classic style a la Kirby. While his art is very solid and reminds me more of my 80’s intro into comics, it is a lot different so I am sure some fans will be turned off.

So I will put this book at a solid 7.5 out of 10 which is a little off the 8 from the last book. I still really like the series and after getting used to the art change I enjoyed it for what it was which is classical to me. I think Bendis has a solid idea of how he is going to get to the HAMMER war and it looks like we can reach it in a steady pace without cramming too much in at once.

Avengers #22 Review

by Nick Walden, CMRO Contributing Writer

Avengers

Issue #22

Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Renato Guedes

Published: April 2012

Bam goes the H.A.M.M.E.R. down on the Avengers. Things are really getting interesting with this cross series arc that has Norman Osborn beating down the Avengers left and right. Overall I am pretty happy with how this big arc is playing out across the Avengers. I think Brian Bendis is making a solid choice to actually pit the Avengers against a foe big enough to completely annihilate them which adds a danger element. Unlike other cross issue arcs, like the Fear Itself, this is all Avengers contained giving Bendis control.

There is a little lack of reality in the story of the world being so accepting of Norman’s rhetoric, but I will let that pass because good press can go a long ways (just ask any people with political aspirations). Maybe the Avengers need a new Public Relations super hero to counter back with.

Renato Guedes again does his combination of good and amazing work on the pencils that generally leaves me happy as a clam. I love that I can always rely on him for good work across a whole book and then he sometimes creates the spectacular like his Madama Hydra in this issue. That is exactly the type of art I hope to see in all the books I collect but he is one of the few to consistently give it.

So I am curious how the story will continue to turn. While it seems that Norman has everything going his way with public perception and even a little Presidential backing, we all know it sounds too good to be true. My big question is how will Bendis bring the story around to the eventual Avengers triumph? Will he have a good reason for people suddenly siding with Osborn or not? Overall this is a solid 7.5 out of 10 getting a good bump in the rating for art versus serious story work.

Incredible Hulk #109 Review (World War Hulk)

by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

The Incredible Hulk

Issue #109

Written by Greg Pak, Art by Carlo Pagulayan

Published: November 2007

Coming after an issue that looked at the different connections that Rick Jones and Miek have toward the Hulk, Incredible Hulk #109 picks back up with Amadeus Cho and his band of Renegades as they confront an angry Hulk. Anybody reading directly from issue #107 might feeling like this issue was meant as a direct follow-up to that tale rather than the previous months’ story, and they’d be right. Incredible Hulk #108 takes place sometime during the late parts of #107 and the early parts of #109, while #109 takes place somewhere between the panels of World War Hulk #2 and #3, and…well, crossovers get confusing sometimes.

Ignoring the briar patch of continuity, the important thing to note in this issue is that the Hulk has just been confronted by a group of folks that hail him as a hero rather than a monster. We follow what has become a recurring theme of World War Hulk with somebody talking some sense into the Hulk only to have somebody else attack our green-hued hero at an inopportune time. In this case, it’s General Ross and the military, whose fate we see in World War Hulk #3.

Following the Hulk’s departure from this book, SHIELD agent Gabe Jones arrives and commandeers Cho and his band as well as Rick Jones, drafting them into emergency service. This is really the meat of the story, as we see Amadeus initially refusing to join with SHIELD, insisting that the Hulk is not a menace due to the lives he’s saved. Rick, the guy who has been with the Hulk since day one, counters by saying that Banner saved those lives, not the Hulk. It’s interesting to see how many people have different views of the Hulk and his relationship with Banner – Cho doesn’t care about Banner at all and sees the Hulk as a hero, while Rick sees Banner as the hero and Hulk as more of a monster. The flaw to the story is that Rick Jones is as close an authority on the Hulk as you can get – heck, he even became the Hulk for a little while back in the 1980s. As a result, his voice carries more authority than Amadeus Cho’s.

Cho eventually relents, and he is charged by SHIELD with infiltrating the Hulk’s base. He does so and finds Reed Richards and Tony Stark, captives of the Hulk in what is shaping up to be a replica of the Great Arena of Sakaar, where the Hulk fought and nearly died. Cho refuses to believe that the Hulk is really going to make his prisoners fight to the death, as the Hulk isn’t a killer. Or is he? The issue ends with the Hulk himself appearing, looking mighty mean and asking Cho, “Wanna bet?”

While I initially found writer Greg Pak’s pet character annoying, this is around the point where Amadeus Cho develops into something useful on a literary level. For starters, we don’t get the obligatory mention that he’s the seventh smartest person in the world, which is nice. More significantly, people are actually challenging his perception of what the Hulk is. Cho sees the Hulk only as a hero, but Rick Jones is quick to point out that he has a dangerous side to him as well. Ultimately, this is the crux of World War Hulk, and the question that has been present since the Hulk’s debut in 1962: is he a man? Is he a monster? Or is he both?

The heart of World War Hulk is the moral ambiguity on both sides. The Illuminati deserve punishment for what they did, but the Hulk is going too far. Despite lacking the title character for at least half the issue, Incredible Hulk #109 is a valuable addition to the story of World War Hulk, raising the important question of whether the Hulk is a hero or a monster. The story has yet to provide an answer to that key question, but ultimately that’s something the readers need to decide for themselves.

Daredevil #9 Review

by Nick Walden, CMRO Contributing Writer

Daredevil

Issue #9

Written by Mark Waid, Art by Paolo Rivera

Published: April 2012

Sweet! Paolo and Joe Rivera have jumped back on the pencils for this issue. Sometimes when opening a book I feel like a kid in the candy store! I am starting with the art because it immediately jumped out at me from the cover and first few pages all the way to the last. There was specific attention to small details that I absolutely love in a comic like Daredevil. With his lack of super powers (yes he has some but rather weak compared to a Spider Man) it is the small details of a story and the art that really makes the book tick.

Now on to the actual story! I said it before and I will keep saying it until it changes; Mark Waid is doing a fantastic job in this series. He makes each story multi-dimensional. He involves Matt Murdock, Daredevil, Matt’s life, and the bad guy into the whole issue. There is no ‘all or nothing’ mentality but rather a combination of Matt’s life which is what I always like to see.

Plus this issue adds a little something that I haven’t seen before with Matt getting frazzled. There is a difference between an angry or vengeful hero compared to one that loses it much like I would in a similar situation. I guess it is the way this book is so easily relatable to me as if I was in Matt’s shoes, that is probably what I would do and how I would react.

This book is another 9.5 out of 10 continuing a steady stream of high ratings. If you are a comic fan you should be reading this series. Each issue is solid and complex without having to be over the top fantastic battles against super powered super foes.

World War Hulk: Front Line #3 Review

by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

World War Hulk: Front Lines

Issue #3

Written by Paul Jenkins, Art by Ramon Bachs

Published: November 2007

As we head into our third issue of World War Hulk: Front Line, the biggest virtue of this miniseries is that Sally Floyd and Ben Urich haven’t committed a serious breach of reporting ethics as they did in Civil War: Front Line. Unfortunately, the two main stories here aren’t providing any change-ups in terms of plot, pacing, or characterization, and it’s starting to wear a little thin.

As with the previous issues, this tale is told in two parts, with a third small story serving for some  humor. First up is “Embedded: Behind Enemy Lines,” a continuation of Ben and Sally’s journey through abandoned New York and their view on the fringes of World War Hulk. This one takes place during World War Hulk #3, when the military is launching an assault against the Hulk. We don’t see the Hulk at all here, but we do see Ben and Sally try to report on the events as they happen. I question whether this is remotely reflective of real journalism, but I’ll let that slide, since we’re dealing with alien invasions and all. Early on in this story, Sally sees an old women who refuses to leave her home.

What is intended to be the story’s “wham moment” is when a helicopter goes down over the city, landing on the woman’s home and killing her cats. We end with a full-page shot of her standing outside her house with her head bowed as our protagonists look on.

While I get that Front Line is trying to show the casualties of war that we don’t think about when the Hulk is smashing up New York, I think this issue is off in its execution. The old lady we’re supposed to feel bad for barely appears in this comic. She’s really nothing more than a caricature of a crazy cat woman, so it’s hard to feel that bad for her. If the story wanted to really deliver a moment like that, then we should have been following this woman’s perspective on the war, rather than seeing Ben and Sally traipse all over New York before finally seeing her again. For crying out loud, we never even get the woman’s name!

The second story, “Costume Division: Death of an Android,” has the more interesting premise, but is also getting stale as nothing has changed over three issues. Danny Granville and Korg the Kronan are still looking for the murderer of Arch-E, the Hulk’s robotic ally. It’s a potentially good mystery, but writer Paul Jenkins is violating one of the rules of mystery writing by not giving the reader any sort of clues that can be put together. We do get one hint when we find that somebody supposedly dropped a bomb on Arch-E, but other than that we’re left with little more than idle banter between Danny and Korg. There’s also the odd plot point where Korg mentions that if they don’t find Arch-E’s killer, then their lives are forfeit. I don’t buy that for a moment – whether the Hulk is a killer is debatable, but he’s not going to murder his own Warbound ally.

Finally, we have “War is Heck,” a two-page joke about the state of Rhode Island holding tryouts for their own superhero team. I’ll spoil the ending for you and tell you that they choose “Miles Flatt and his amazing guitar of death.” I just don’t get this story. Maybe it’s because I’m not from Rhode Island. If you happen to be raised in the Rhode Island area, this might be the joke for you.

Overall, World War Hulk: Front Line #3 is at the same level of quality as its predecessors, but the story is starting to get a little stale. We haven’t learned anything significant in Ben and Sally’s story, and we haven’t made any progress in Danny and Korg’s mystery. I don’t think it’s worth passing up if you like the Front Line stories, but it’s getting close to becoming dull, which is not something you want in a crossover called World War Hulk.