Scarlet Witch #3 – Review

Scarlet Witch 003 b

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by James Robinson with Art by Steve Dillon, Frank Martin and Chris Visions

Published February 2016

Scarlet Witch 003 aSynopsis – Ireland is dying possibly at the hands of the Emerald Warlock and the Scarlet Witch needs to put things right.

I am utterly devastated by what has happened to this series. We left last issue with the amazing styling of Marco Rudy whose usual hit and miss art was absolutely on full form and it is replaced by… Steve Dillion. I know the guy is a massive name in comics and his Preacher series is highly regarded, but honestly how does this man get work?

To call the characters in this series ‘wooden’ would be an affront to all arboreal lovers. There are close ups of the Scarlet Witch that make her look like she is having a stroke, the human mouth should not hang open limply like that. And then there is her cleavage. Honestly I am known for liking a bit of skin in my comics, heck I wrote the Grimm Fairy Tales and Lady Death reading orders on the site and I am completely unapologetic for that, but there is a time and place and this is neither the time, nor the place. On the subject of ‘places’ an attractive slim woman’s cleavage should not end somewhere below her diaphragm. I completely understand that women of a certain age or size may have cleavage that ends far lower than others, but in this instance it should not go lower than her elbows!

Having felt like I have been visually ‘motorboated’ on every page of this comic there is still a nice surprise right at the end when she enters another world and Chris Vision takes over the art. Instantaneously her bust is at a normal height and there is motion and flow to the art, it was literally like walking into another world.

It is such a shame that the art has utterly sidetracked this issue, but it is such a clear and present problem on every page that it is really hard to avoid. I really hope that we stick with Visions’ art for the rest of the series and then I can get back to enjoying this book. This is a character that has so many possibilities, and has so much history and depth that she deserves so much more than her only depth being between the gigantic glands on her chest.

Story – 7/10
Art – 0/10

 

Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies #1 – Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies

Issue #1 (BattleWorld)

Written by James Robinson with Art by Steve Pugh and Jim Charalampidis

Published: June 2015

Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies 001-1 aHave I ever mentioned that I hate zombies? I’m sure I have, but in case I haven’t here is my explanation. Firstly I really do not like the visual quality of zombies, or more to the point, their lack of quality. In fact zombies in comics is my utter anathema because whenever they exist I want to art to be ‘bad’ while at the same time utterly hating it. When I say ‘bad’ what I mean is ‘imprecise’ which to me is pretty much the same thing. I know that art is subjective, but for me the word ‘impressionist’ basically means ‘cannot be bothered to finish it.’

I say that mostly tongue in cheek because some of the really astonishing impressionists work has an effect on me, but given a choice between owning a Monet or comic page drawn by Cassaday, I’d take the latter in a heart beat.* So that is the balancing act, I hate the look of zombies so I prefer them to be blurred and imprecise, but that in turn ruins the rest of the comic for me. So Mr. Pugh manages to turn in quite a triumph in that the art in the book is pretty astonishing, but equally nondescript when it comes to the zombies themselves, quite a feat to pull that off I have to admit.

So then comes my second problem with zombies (you didn’t think it was going to be that easy did you?) and that is hope. For me an important part of a story is knowing and seeing that the characters have hope. One of my other pet hates in stories is time travel, and not just any old time travel, but the ones where they are trapped in the past or future and have no clear way back. That feeling of claustrophobia, trapped in the story, is exactly how I feel as a reader in a zombie book with no hope and hoards of the undead closing in all around.

So while this book manages to survive my first ‘test’ of a zombie book, it more than fails the second one and not just because of the zombies. The Ultron robots are just as much ‘zombies’ as the shambling rotting mounds are, you cannot reason with them, they are around in unstoppable masses and are even more relentless. When the 1872 Hank Pym is quietly and without fuss deposited over the wall for crimes against Doom, I felt that hideous loss of hope that come from a simple innocent man being lost in the teeming masses of zombies.

To be honest, the fact that the book ‘terrifies’ me in the way it does pretty much proves it is working exactly as intended. I chose to put this on the review list because I wanted to forced myself to look at this sort of title properly, rather than skim read it as fast as possible and get onto something I liked better. In one way it had the desired effect, I looked at this issue more rationally than I would do normally, and to one extent I really appreciated the book for what it brought. However on the other hand I simply hated it as much as I can hate pixels on a screen.

I you are predisposed to like zombie films/books then the chances are pretty good that you will really like this series. If however you are like me and cannot stand them, then this will do little to change your mind and if it is ok with everyone I will go back to my comfortable chair and continue to skim read the rest of the series.

* Except for the financial value, obviously I’d take the former, sell it and buy myself a nice mansion to live in, but it would be decorated with Cassadays art!

Fantastic Four Annual #1 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Fantastic Four Annual

Issue #1

Written by James Robinson, Art by Tom Grummett

Published: December 2014

Fantastic Four Annual #1

I hate annuals. I remember years ago when I was a kid my old Transformers comics had yearly annuals. What made those so infuriating was that you would by a huge book solely to get a few pages which concluded the ongoing story from the regular comics. The rest of those books, which were hardbacks at that point, were filled with reprints, adverts and silly quizzes as well as rehashed histories of the major characters, normally written by people who knew less about the characters than the readers did.

Fortunately the modern annuals are not like this. They are a normal comic, printed the same way as all other books, but with a few extra pages and costing a £/$ more for their trouble. Often this book has nothing to do with the ongoing storyline being a standalone tale often involving a peripheral character or a throw away situation. With the exception of the Deadpool annual this year featuring Madcap I have found them all utterly pointless and irrelevant. The last Wolverine annual had me reaching for the virtual shredder and wishing the guy had died a few months early, it would have saved me £3.99 and a wasted 20 minutes as I watched Logan and Kitty bumble around in the woods scaring the locals.

To be honest, given the recent track record I might as well never buy them; more expensive for a tiny amount more pages, irrelevant to the ongoing plot, stand in artist and random writer. Is it even worth me continuing this review? Well unsurprisingly given that build up, yes it is, because other than the slightly higher cost none of those things are true about this book. While it is not intrinsic to the ongoing plot, it is highly relevant and involves a major character; the writer and artist gave not been pulled out of remedial school and can in fact create a decent narrative; but most important of all, reading it did not waste my time in any way.

I have joked in the past that there are no villains in the Marvel universe anymore, merely heroes on slightly different moral grounds. While that is not entirely true and there are still people like Zemo and the Red Skull plotting in the background, most of the ‘bad guys’ are people with believable goals that in other circumstances might well be honourable and decent. Look at the current drama in Avengers; is Steve or Tony right? Depending on your point of view one of them is the ‘bad guy’ and the other the hero*. However what is not often the case is a hero becoming a villain and for the purposes of this I do not mean Magneto who strays back and forth more often than even a genius like Beast can count. No what I mean is one of the big name heroes going flat out bad guy and levelling a city because they felt like it, endangering women and children and not caring one bit.

Sue Storm has pretty much lost the plot and understandably so. Her husband has practically abandoned her in his attempts to save the world with the Illuminati, her brother is a worthless, powerless drunk, Ben is in prison for killing his father-in-law and to top it all off, the Avengers have taken away her children as she is not fit to be a mother. All accept one who is in the strangely kind hands of a seemingly beneficent Dr. Doom. Realising that she is the only one Sue can get to she takes a jet and flies to Latveria intent on ‘rescuing’ her daughter.

Unsurprisingly this goes rather badly. The brattish 3 year old, Valeria, with a vocabulary of a pedant and the appearance of primordial achrondroplast unsurprisingly does not want to go home. She is living every little girl’s dream of being a princess including medieval jousts and LMDs to do her dirty work for her. So when her dishevelled mother is brought down by Latveria’s air defences the little brat defies her mother and starts what is for me the greatest display of unchecked power I have ever seen in a comic. Susan Storm has often been described as one of the most powerful people on planet earth and yet for decades she played fourth fiddle to a guy made of rock, one that burnt and one that was a bit floppy.

The final 10 pages of this comic are the greatest bit of role reversal I have ever seen. With Axis coming up a lot of characters are going to have a change of heart and switch sides, but this comic got here first. This is what happens when a super-powered hero goes bad and it is truly terrifying. I reviewed DC’s Injustice Gods Among Us recently and it has a very similar theme, the difference being it is set in an alternate reality whereas this is happening for real in the 616 universe. I do not want to give away too much because it is very much worth reading, but I cannot stress enough how impressive it is.

This book is not perfect and it does suffer terribly from the awful set up that the current Fantastic Four series has. All the events that lead to this moment are stupid and the way the team has fallen apart is laughable at best, however if you take all of that at face value then this is the logical conclusion. I say logical, but for me it fails on one level, Sue stopped. If it was my child then she would never have been allowed to leave in the first place (but that is the fault of the series, not of this comic) and if I were in this position then there would not have been a building left standing in Latveria, nor a shred of skin or metal on Doom’s broken body. But then perhaps Sue is a hero at heart?

* And anyone with a brain can see that Steve is wrong…

Fantastic Four #1 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Fantastic Four

Issue #1

Written by James Robinson, Art by Leonard Kirk

Published: April 2014

Fantastic Four #1

I very rarely read the editors page, or the letters page, or whatever the particular comic has this time around, but this one was red and looked eye catching. I have never laughed so hard in my entire life, but I am not certain that was its intention. It is written by Mark Paniccia who is the new editor for this comic and this particular part amused me so much; ‘When he [James] turned in the first script it was like he’d been writing these characters all his life. James made me feel like I was back home (or school) with the magic of those early issues. Powerful. Emotional. Fantastic.’ Well they turned the Fantastic Fours’ costumes red in this series so I know he has some powerful rose tinted spectacles, but even still that comment is hilarious. The early issues of the Fantastic Four are laughable, if incredibly important historically. Sure to a child (and one born the best part of 50 years ago) they probably did seem fantastic, but it is the ‘emotional’ that made me chuckle as those early comics are anything but that. Stan’s grasp on human interactions is terrible, only made to look better because of how badly he wrote female characters.

So now I have unveiled myself as a hater of old Fantastic Four comics, where does this new book take us? Firstly, it is a heck of a lot better than the first issues from the 60’s! If we start with the art, which is my personal bench mark for a comic, then this is a really effective comic. They have changed the costumes from the traditional blue, or more recently their white ones, which while my personal favourite, did make them look a bit sterile. Other than looking like a rip off of the rip off, The Incredibles, the costumes are more than passable even if I find their completely skin tight outfits a bit extreme. In fact the artist appears to be having the same thoughts that I am, if your costume is so figure hugging that you can see Sue’s belly button, then it is going to reveal a lot more just a little bit lower. In order to counter act that the artist has managed to never show the groin section of any character in anything but an extreme distance shot using every trick in the book to hide it; shadows on Ben, Reed always stretching out at that point, Jonny’s fire starting at his waist, word bubbles covering Sue’s modesty and a heck of a lot of butt shots. With costumes that revealing it is no wonder Sue only has one thing on her mind.*

I am wondering if in recent years anyone has told a straight forward story with the Fantastic Four. I will be honest; I struggle with their books in a similar way that I struggle with the Hulk. The Hulk I find difficult to read because I find he is almost never the protagonist of his own story, he is the fulcrum on which the story turns and that is product of his creation in the 60’s. In a similar way I find the Fantastic Four stories very difficult because they try to balance this level of complex made-up science, with off the wall bizarre events and try and keep the characters sane all at the same time. For me it feels like wanting to use Deadpool and Batman in the same comic and keep both sides working; Deadpool being a mad 4th wall breaking joker and Batman being grim and serious; the two concepts would conflict. Sure it would make for an interesting one shot, but not for an ongoing concept. This is how I feel about most Fantastic Four comics; they take a hugely complex storyline, throw in a wacky villain, have a party on the moon and then try to make you feel sad that everyone is going to die, it never sits well with me. However I know that some people utterly love the way they are written, so, they will probably be disappointed with this series.

This is another Fantastic Four time skipping story; at least the issue starts in the future and then skips back to see how they got there. Well, not quite because we leave this issue far away from the disaster that it starts with, we have a lot of issues to go before we reach that point. Fing Fang is rampaging throughout the city and the Fantastic Four swing into action to stop him. It feels absolutely out of character for him and fortunately Reed calls it as well so this does not feel like the random-monster-of-the-week comic that it could have been. But how are we getting from this point to the disaster that Sue is describing at the beginning?

This is a Fantastic Four book that I think I will like, but as I alluded to above, that probably means that it is less like one of their normal books and more like the sort of comics that I prefer. I hope this is not the case and that this is just a well crafted story that everyone can enjoy. This book sets up so much for the later issues to pick up on that it is little wonder Marvel is using this same trick over and over again in its comics with the cold future opening before the snap back to the present.

* And honestly that is the worst panel in the entire comic, she looks either short sighted or constipated in that picture.

All-New Invaders #1 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

All-New Invaders

Issue #1

Written by James Robinson, Art by Steve Pugh

Published: March 2014

All-New Invaders #1

I really wanted to write about this comic even before I knew what it was going to entail. I am a big fan of team books, much more so than solos because I feel they give a much longer period of storytelling before they start to feel stale. Now do not get me wrong, I love some of the solo books as well, Deadpool is a very good example of that, but I find that the best solo books end up forming a team around the lead character and so the difference starts to become one of name only. I was looking forward to this because it was another team book and it was one with the longest of pedigrees being the predecessor of all the Marvels team books as the All-Winners Squad back in the time when Marvel was Timely Comics. However I had forgotten one vital fact and that was Captain America.

The way I see Marvel comics now is as a victim of its own success. They have two major divides in the main universe between ‘Avengers’ and ‘X-Men’ with Spider-Man, the Hulk and the Fantastic four providing some high selling, but not very diverse titles as well. Anything that gets published has to fall into these categories or it seems to fall rapidly away because it has no supporting titles to provide marketing opportunities. Fearless Defenders was a victim of this; one of the best stories with some fantastic art but it had no A-list character leading the team and no supporting stories to bring in more readers. To be honest if it had been called the ‘Fearless Avengers’ then I expect it would have had much higher sales and survived beyond its meagre 12 issue run.

So are the Invaders are going to suffer the same fate then? Well it could well be cancelled after 12 issues, but it would not be for the same reason because this comic is lead by Captain America and therefore simply becomes another Avengers title. Therein lies the problem for me. I recently reviewed Avengers Assemble #22-23 and this was so much fun because it was a group nominally under the ‘Avengers’ banner, but comprised of Black Widow, Spider-Woman and Spider-Girl which is something I have never seen before and I do not think has been done before. Unfortunately that will not get a series because no one is going to read it even if it was written by a reincarnated Shakespeare an illustrated by Rembrandt.

Onto the review of All-New Invading Avengers. They are clearly taking the long build up method for this team comic and this issue introduces the Human Torch. No, not that one, the other one, the one that is a walking oxymoron on the grounds that he is not human at all, but an android. He is however more entertaining that the other Human Torch and, as this comic shows, actually has more humanity to him that you would imagine. He has been hiding out in a rural community working as an assistant in a garage and eating his way through a bite of pie and a sip of coffee to maintain his illusion of that humanity. That all comes to a grinding halt as Tanalth the Pursuer decides to destroy his facade and kill anyone who gets in her way.

I have to be honest here; I have no idea where this series is going, or how Cap and Bucky are already together or what the flashback means because the comic seems to imply it is a flashback to an event that did not happen. As is often the way with comics with extensive backgrounds, unless you have read all of them it is impossible to tell what is a ‘real’ historical moment and one that was manufactured for the comic itself. Admittedly in this age of the internet it is a lot easier to find out, but I neither have the time, nor the inclination and for a major series launch I found this too confusing to follow. Seeing as how I have read every comic Marvel has put out for the last two years (save for the Ultimate universe, I do have some dignity) if I do not know about it then I am pretty damn sure that a large proportion of their readership will not know either.

This series could be great or it could be as dull as anything, I just do not know based on this comic. Usually I know from the first issue if I am going to enjoy a series or not, or as often happens I like the first three of four issues and then the story trails away, but I very rarely come away feeling completely neutral about a comic.

Superman: War of the Supermen #0 Review

by Lindsay Young, CMRO Contributing Writer

Superman: War of the Supermen

Issue #0

Written by James Robinson & Sterling Gates, Art by Eddy Barrows

Published: June 2010

Superman: War of the Superman #0

When Superman learns of Zod’s plan for New Krypton to declare war on Earth, he takes immediate action to stop him. But with the yellow sun levelling the playing field, Superman is just one of one hundred-thousand—can he even hope to stop Zod’s war on Earth? And will Earth even accept him as their savior?

This is more prologue than anything, but it works well in establishing the stakes and developing real, effective tension. It works as one big confrontation, very cinematic in scope, and on that score, it satisfies. The dialogue is especially good, especially when it comes to Zod, who speaks with alarming logic and paints himself as smart, capable, and worthy of inspiring loyalty. He’s a strong adversary here, possessing both intelligence and charisma, and it’s no mystery why the Kryptonians follow him. The blend of the personal and political makes Zod a formidable foe here, and the central conflicts are both engaging and exciting.

The art has a great sense of motion and strong action. Hits really feel like they hit, strong and hard, so much so that I had a few sympathy winces as I read. Superman is very growling and furious here—for good reason—and that intensity is reflected nicely in the expressions. Superman: War of the Supermen #0 is very cinematic, and though it’s short, it plays out in much the same way as the beginning of a third act in any given Marvel film. That said, I wouldn’t mind seeing this as part of a future Superman film. A fun read.