Captain Marvel #2 – Review

Captain Marvel 002 b

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters with Art by Kris Anka and Matthew Wilson

Published February 2016

Captain Marvel 002 aSynopsis – Rise of the Alpha Flight Part Two

Boarding an alien vessel can be problematic, ask any Red-Shirt. But when your whole team is indispensable, it might be a risk too far.

I know I just made a Star Trek joke, but really, that is exactly what this series feels like. The whole space exploration thing has been done to death by something in the region of 750 episodes over 50 years and whenever I see it, that is all I can think about. This is not necessarily a negative comparison, just an unavoidable one.

To be honest, if I was looking at this as an episode of Star Trek, then I would be quite kind to it. The alien craft is mysterious; the action is frenetic and the dialogue is fun, all in, it would be a fantastic episode. However that does not make it a great issue of Captain Marvel. I get the impression that they do not know what to do with her; prior to Secret Wars she had had two series, both quite different and both with rave reviews from half the community and criticism from the other half. I thought the first arc of her first series was fantastic, the second half went down hill quite fast. The next volume of this title was utter garbage and this one is showing signs of improvement. The problem is, Marvel has no idea how to play her.

They have tried showing her softer side, they have tried her going solo and saving the galaxy and now they are trying to give her command (she is a Captain after all.) The problem is that all I get the impression is that Abigail Brand is both the one actually in charge and also the only logical choice to be in command. She has looked after S.W.O.R.D. for the last few years and seemed to do a darn good job, so why would this position not go to her.*

Overall, this is a mixed bag; there are parts of this I really like and parts that just don’t seem to fit. If this had been called ‘Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight’ then it would feel a lot more natural, but as it is the best parts come from the team and the focus on Carol feels forced, but perhaps it will grow on me in time.

Story – 7/10
Art – 8/10

* I know in the last issue they tried to explain it away, but it didn’t make sense.

Captain Marvel #1 Review

Captain Marvel (2016-) 001-000 b

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Captain Marvel

Issue #1

Written by Michele Fakekas and Tara Butters with Art by Kris Anka and Matthew Wilson

Published January 2016

Captain Marvel (2016-) 001-000 aSynopsis – Rise of the Alpha Flight:

Carol is off to space for two years to head up Alpha Flight leaving Rhode earthbound and pining for her.

Captain Marvel has been rather up and down for me in recent years. Back in 2012 Carol picked up the abandoned title and that was the start of my on-again-off-again love affair with this title. That initial series was fantastic as the writer Kelly Sue had such an understanding for the character.

However since that initial run, I have been much less positive about the title. The arc leading up to Secret Wars was almost unreadable with annoying side characters and the ‘flarkin’ cat being both boringly infuriating and the only amusing thing in the entire series.

So here I am again, a new start, a fresh face in the writing chair and me with a completely open mind; I have to say that Fakekas is off to a fantastic start because she immediately re-introduces two of my favourite minor characters – Puck and Abigail Brand. Puck stole the show in the last X-Force series and Abigail has the advantage of being introduced during my favourite run ever in comics, Astonishing X-Men 1-25.

To be honest, this is pretty much a fantastic start all round, with one exception (which also ends up being sort of a positive for me). I really dislike contrivance and the way the writer manages to separate Rhode and Carol is really rather warped. She agrees to go on a 2 year mission to the space station that now acts as Earth’s first line of defence, however she can fly in a vacuum and even says so on panel, but she explains it away by saying that she’s not avoiding him, she is just committed to the job. I have never understood their relationship, mainly because they are never shown in any intimate way in the comics, only as friends; for example, she doesn’t even kiss him goodbye! Hopefully this is going to be the end of this rather ‘loveless’ relationship and you never know what she might find in space.*

This issues does a fantastic job of setting up a lot of plot strands, even before the main asteroid related storyline. There are plenty of conflicts between the supposed team members and it will be fun watching them fall apart in the coming issues.

Story – 8/10
Art – 8/10

* Although given what happens in the comic, perhaps she shouldn’t hold out too much hope…

X-Men #12 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

X-Men

Issue #12

Written by Brian Wood, Art by Kris Anka & Clay Mann

Published: May  2014

X-Men #12

I have written over 250 reviews and for some reason the joke I am about to make seems vaguely familiar, so apologies if I have made it before, but it fits very well here. This is a Marvel Comic. Check. My favourite series, X-Men. Check. All the heroes and villains are women. Double Check. The art is done by someone who I know and appreciate. Check. Therefore this comic must be awesome?

Well, no, unfortunately not.

Parts of this comic are fantastic; Monet is starting to become an all time favourite character because she definitely gets all the best lines. The villains in this story with the exception of Arkea are all fascinating and fortunately given the circumstances of this comic are going to outlive it to fight another day. In fact I like all the characters that appear in this comic, so why then am I so disappointed?

This is going to take some explanation, so apologies, but bear with me. This is issue #12 of this series and there has been a really solid story arc in here, but due to other circumstances it has been butchered, pulled apart and stretched out beyond its original intention. Has anyone thought about the original Star Wars films, how they blow up a Death Star in the first film and then do it all over again in the third one? Well having read a lot of books on the history of that film it turns out that the Death Star should not have exploded in the first film at all, it was always designed to carry on to Return (Revenge) of the Jedi, but because they really needed to sell that film as it was an unknown quantity they had to steal the climax from the third film. I have always thought it made Return of the Jedi fell rather redundant, even if you forgive them for the Ewoks.

Exactly the same thing happened here; they launched this series and had 3 issues before Battle of the Atom kicked off so they had to quickly wrap it up, wait for 2 issues and then start all over again. The problem was that clearly they had a 6 issue story to tell. So issues 1 and 2 were as they wanted, issue 3 stole half the good stuff from the end. Issues 4 and 5 were the crossover which left them with 7 books still to fill. So we started all over again, broke Arkea out so they could kill her for good this time. That has left the last two issues with a lot of free space meaning that they have had to run a back up series alongside it, which has been fine, but what can you really do with 12 pages of comic beyond just filling space?

The whole premise of this storyline makes very little sense. Arkea is basically an immortal computer programme able to self replicate and grow like a virus infecting human hosts as well as machines. They built her up and up and up like some enormously terrifying creature and then took her down like she was Stilt-Man. They do not even have to make the ‘difficult’ moral choice of killing the host as well as the infection; they come up with a macguffin that can mysteriously save the host. It is fine if the host is Storm and they have to find a way of uninfecting her so she can be around next week, but for a completely unheard of person who is not vital to any story it just feels really weak.

All of this is not the writers fault, personally I blame Marvel and their timing with creating a new series which suddenly gets crammed into a crossover as soon as it is created. If they were going to do that they should have had a completely throwaway couple of issues to bond the team a bit before Battle of the Atom, or even used them as a build up to it. Once that was over they could have run this storyline uninterrupted as a really solid 6 issue arc. The story inside these 10 issues is really good, especially since they explained away the nonsense that was the creation of Lady Deathstrike and resolved it in really dramatic style; the problem is that there is not enough for 10 issues.

This is the X-Men core book, it sold over 120,000 copies for number one, but the previous issue only managed 47,000 and it has dropped way below All-New X-Men and Uncanny-X-Men both of which have been running at least 6 months longer. It is even lower than Amazing X-Men but that is dropping like a stone so it hardly counts, but as soon as the numbers for Wolverine and the X-Men hit this will be the 5 ranked X-Men team book*. The problem is this does not feel like the core X-Men book and it is selling like an also ran. What is its big draw? It is an all female team. I said it when it first came out, that is not a draw, it is a gimmick and with the big names off running their own comics, this is a team of solid characters, but no super stars and I do not think it will last much beyond 18 issues now.

* If you include non-team books it ranks below Wolverine, Origins II and only beat X-Force by about 500 issues meaning that it is the 7th best selling X-title currently and in a couple of months at this rate, it will be below Deadpool as well.

Uncanny X-Men #15 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Uncanny X-Men

Issue #15

Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Kris Anka

Published: January 2014

Uncanny X-Men #15

I keep having people force books like ‘Hawkeye’ down my throat saying that it is a wonderful deconstruction of the Super Hero genre and that I just do not understand it. It is supposed to be what happens to an Avenger when he is not being an Avenger, but for me, this utterly misses the point. This book is what happens when the X-Men take some time off and try to stop being X-Men; all the girls go shopping and because they have a teleporter, they come to London just to do a spot a retail therapy. The difference between this book and Hawkeye is that this works; it shows exactly what it is like to have a day off as an X-(Wo)man and the answer is, it is no different to any other day. Having time off as a superhero is frankly an oxymoron. We see Spider-Man trying it all the time and whenever he gets to the point where he is about to relax, someone cries for help and off he goes again.

There is a wonderful line in this comic and I can put it in here without spoilering anything because frankly, it could be said by anyone – “The best way to defeat the mutants is to leave them be. Let them do it themselves.” That basically sums up this comic; a bunch of super powered 18-30s are wandering through London buying up all the clothes they can with the White Queens money and all hell breaks loose “just ‘cos it can.” They are in the wrong place at the wrong time as always, but then again that often turns out to be the right place, given time and a lot of hindsight.

This is another one of those joining issues, I think I said the same last week as well, but for some reason they work in this comic. There is a big enough team that they can focus on different characters at different times and tell a ‘done in one’ type story without ruining the flow of the comic. Last time was a feed through from the end of Battle of the Atom and this week is a ‘Inh’ issue meaning that it is a tie in to Inhumanity. However I am certain that these sort of issues end with this one because the teaser for next time is a big one and it revolves around a character who has been visible by his absence for the last few issues.

Bendis has utterly nailed down the humour in the last few books and this one is no exception. Some of the gags are purely visual, but I suspect that the writer had a good deal to do with plotting those out as well, but I will not take all credit away from Anka. I associate images of Emma Frost in bed with ones from Astonishing X-Men and All New X-Men where she is half dressed and draped artfully over Cyclops’ chest in beautiful full page renderings of a gigantic bedroom with picture windows and rolling landscapes. Nothing could be further away from the image in this book and it is hilarious. It is worth buying this comic simply for that page, but there is far more humour than just that.

I like Anka’s art, but I have to say this comic is not the best example of it. It seems to have been done in a bit of a rush and certain pages appear to have had far more time spent on them than others. At first I thought it was a case that when there was a close up, there was lots of detail and distant pictures had very little. However this does not hold up as you read through the comic, it seems as if he just really enjoyed drawing Magik’s abs, but really was not bothered by Kitty’s face.

This comic has set up an interesting precedent, and one that I am not sure if they intended or not. Given the very specific language they used, I think I have the right idea, but I will hold my final opinion until we see something specific about it later. At one point in the comic something happens to Emma Frost and the sentence is “shut down [her] central nervous system. Rebooting [her] system, quite something.” Now we are the best part of a year out of AvX and they have pretty much forgotten about the whole ‘screwed up powers’ part for everyone except Cyclops. Colossus seems fine with this new suit; Magik appears to have become more powerful, not less; and Namor seems to have completely forgotten about the experience entirely. This leaves Emma who has been inconsistent with her power loss and Cyclops whose powers are controlled by the needs of the plot. I wonder if this is how they will sort out Emma once and for all, with her entire system reset will they simply allow her old powers to fully resurface now?

I really like this comic, it is everything I hope for in an X-Men issue and seeing as how it is an issue with exactly zero Wolverine in it, that is even more of a positive. There is a lot riding on where this takes the story next, but Bendis seems to have this all in hand, so fingers crossed he will not screw it up.

All-New X-Men Special #1 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

All-New X-Men Special

Issue #1

Written by Mike Costa, Art by Kris Anka

Published: December 2013

I am sorry to say that this issue makes me sad. Not in anyway because of this comic, which I have completely disparate feelings over, but because of what it represents. This series is a set of ‘fill in’ comics set between the time that the young X-Men were pulled into the future, after Angel had left, but before the Battle of the Atom crossover takes place. I might be reading something into this that is utterly wrong, but for me the only reason why they are doing this is because we are soon to say goodbye to these characters. With the Battle of the Atom drawing to a close in a month’s time I am fairly certain that at least a few of them are going to be going home. I have no proof of this, other than a feeling that their story has been told and that they cause far more problems than they solve by staying.

Buy why am I worrying over things that have not yet come to pass? What we have here is a clever, witty and down right mind bending comic. As we all (should) know the X-Men were a comic started in the 60’s with the team as teenagers. Now, although 50 years have passed, the members of this team are only in their late 20’s to early 30’s due to the effects of ‘Marvel Time. ’ I could write an entire thesis on what Marvel time is, but the short version is that those 50 years of comics only happened in 10-15 years of time in the stories. Now this brings up a whole heap of unwanted problems when you have links to WWII or the various Presidents that they have met, but this comic hints at it in the most subtle and beautiful of ways. The first panel has Bobby looking at a New York Subway map in confusion with Hank chipping in the background ‘It’s the same as it’s always been.’ One line, two panels and it gives so much to those that get the joke, and takes nothing away from those that do not understand the history.

I have to praise the artist on this comic as well. It is not an art style that I would like in all circumstances as it is soft, rounded and has a very faint anime hint to it, especially in the expressions. But what it offers to this comic is a youthful and idealised version of the world, so fitting for this naive and inexperienced group. Later in the issue, when Spider-man arrives, he is drawn differently from the rest, no soft edges or roundness and absolutely no movement from his facemask. I have a habit of throwing around superlatives which I need to break, but I shall allow myself one more indulgence. This is a stunning book to look at with details that you only notice when you are intensely looking for them, but that work even when you are not.

I may have inadvertently given away a major plot point there, but I need to in order to give the story some explanation. While the X-Men are out enjoying a day off from school in New York they are distracted first by some girls, then by a mugger, and then by a girl again. Turns out she is a bit of an egg head, so being right up Hanks alley she takes him back to a darkened lab. Now at this point, I was expecting a trap and for her to suddenly turn into an evil alien and start dissecting him, but what happens is far more shocking and surprising; the lab is ripped open by Doctor Octopus (admittedly if you read the tag line for the comic, this is not actually all that surprising). Now at this point my brain did some mental gymnastics and came to the conclusion that was was about 1 week when this comic was being produced, and the Superior Spider-man had not started yet so I thought this might just about fit into continuity. So who swings in next? That would be our unfriendly neighbourhood Spider-man.

I have no idea how the writers are going to get us out of this mess, and a proper mess it is too because even the ‘real’ Doc Oc does not understand how it is happening. There is a possibility of a mistake in this comic at this point. Seeing as how much care and attention there has been on the rest of the comic, I am going to assume it was not a mistake, and in which case it is exceeding interesting. Octo-Spider-man says the line ‘Plus he would have destroyed the FIVE of you.’ Now this could be a mistake which has gotten through the editors who forgot that Angel was not there and that there were only four X-Men, or it could be evidence that this arrival of an alternate Doctor Octopus has actually unhinged the original. He could be referring to himself in the third person and including ‘Spider-man’ in that five. For me, I really hope it is not a mistake, because that is an exceedingly interesting development.

I really hope I have not given away too much of this comic, I just find it fascinating that this Special issue opens up so many different questions. These events have already happened in continuity and therefore cannot have long term consequences, or at least, not debilitating ones. Unfortunately for me, this is followed up by a Hulk Special, but I shall have to put aside my dislike for the Big Ugly so I can see where this is going.