“Who’d You Contract to Put It Together? An American?”

Getting a bit sick at this point, but I’d be lying if that explained why I’m delayed again. Rest of life interferes, as it likes to do. Ah, well. Anyway:

  • Armor Hunters: Aftermath #1
  • Death of Wolverine #3 (of 4)
  • Edge of Spider-Verse #3 (of 5)
  • Edge of Spider-Verse #4 (of 5)
  • Guardians 3000 #1
  • Loki, Agent of Asgard #6
  • Miracleman #11
  • Moon Knight #8
  • Silver Surfer #6
  • Spider-Man 2099 #5
  • Uncanny Avengers #25

Armor Hunters: Aftermath #1

I threw out a comment about this one-shot (miniseries? I’m still not sure) last week when the core miniseries ended, about how I hoped it might address the state of the world in the aftermath of the Armor Hunters’ attack on Earth, rather than just more of what could (nay, should) be in the separate ongoings, and it ended up a curious middle-ground.

We’re introduced to some bystanders, and talk of an upcoming revelation in a previously-closed launch site in Florida, with some behind-the-scenes discussions between Livewire and the reforming GIN-GR (Livewire having heard all of GIN-GR’s history in their previous mechanical “discussions”, understood her far better than the Hunters, whose fate GIN-GR remains unaware of…).

And so that’s what this is: how this affected the world, not in terms of devastation, but in much the same way Harbinger: Omegas is addressing how Toyo Harada’s revelation is affecting the world. There’s no way that any of the heroes involved in the conflict can be a complete secret, and so they are all dealing with that fact, their governmental associations in particular. Having put together a kind of “sizzle reel”, Ninjak is amused by the British government’s attempts (see title of this entry!), which vies with a bit of GIN-GR and Livewire’s interactions for best moment in the book.

Venditti has done the best thing that can be done with a major event: rolled it into new effects and stories, and a catalyst for them, without just escalating again to a worse threat.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: talking about the art in modern Valiant often strikes me as a pointless proposition. It’s always so stupidly good, here in the hands of Cafu, and this is no exception.

Loki, Agent of Asgard #6

I really just picked up the book because I’ve decided to give in on Sixis¹ and it’s only 6 issues in (a result, I discovered, of the 5-issue hiatus for Original Sin – Thor and Loki: The Tenth Realm).

I’ve gotta say: wow. Al Ewing is a writer that I actually stop on a few lines from here and there and think, “Wow, great call, great phrasing!” I find this funny for the stupid reason that “Al Ewing” does not sound like someone mired in Norse mythology–but after issues like #3, all I can think is that Ewing has a real handle on the feel of mythology, and cleverly works actual tales from it into the Marvel Asgardians to great effect.

This issue brings Loki back from his adventure with Thor in meeeting their sister to Verity Willis, the human lie detector. Doom travels to the far Future and meets Old/Future Loki (our protagonist in the far future, when he reverts to type), and finds Latveria a wasteland on all levels. Seeing this, he decides that he must vanquish the Trickster to prevent this future.

Meandering alongside this, we have two Latverians arguing philosophy, religion, and politics, with a pretty amusingly interesting bent, as it relates to their lives under a ruler like Doom.

Ewing makes no waste in dealing with two powerhouse Marvel figures, one obvious as protagonist, but the other as guest, too. Jorge Coelho and Lee Loughridge take over on art duties in the absence of Lee Garbett and Nolan Woodard. For a story set in Latveria and an unpleasant future, either Coelho and Loughridge are just brilliantly selected, or are brilliantly selective themselves. The strong, deep inks and bright colours of the book’s original team are replaced with thin, heavily hatched pencils and inks under a very muted palette. Certainly one of the least disappointing art team switches to come without the easy trade of a previously poor team.

Uncanny Avengers #25

Continuing out from Magneto #10/the last issue, Magneto and the handful of Uncanny Avengers (Rogue with the powers of Simon Williams, Scarlet Witch, and Havok) move to confront the Red Skull, imbued as he is with the powers of Charles Xavier, in Genosha.

Wanda Maximoff finds herself torn by the radical beliefs that she still feels some agreement with and her revulsion at them, Rogue not entirely dissimilarly, while The Red Skull and his S-Men take the four of them to task.

I’ve read a chunk of Rick Remender’s stuff at this point, and it was his involvement that pushed me to go ahead and pick up the Sixis-associated titles I wasn’t already getting. I was pretty pleased with this one, even as it mostly serves to set up the core of this event. The external view of Magneto to contrast with the one from his own book made it extra interesting. Daniel Acuña’s amuses me, as it’s quite good, but I prefer his illustration of Magneto (in costume) to Walta or Fernandez’s, but still prefer Walta’s Skull. Ah, well. The art is largely in the same muted, grungy colour scheme as Magneto is, which makes sense in light of what is basically the Red Skull’s concentration camp as a setting.

Guardians 3000 #1

I barely knew this was happening, and, indeed, kept forgetting. Dan Abnett, part of the infamous “DnA” (with Andy Lanning) that revamped the Guardians of the Galaxy name a few years ago into the incarnation the world is now familiar with, is revisiting the original Guardians of the Galaxy (from the year 3000) in this one. It gets an Alex Ross cover, with interiors by Gerardo Sandoval.

Still in their war with the Badoon, the Guardians are joined by Geena Drake, a normal human who most certainly does not share the powers or abilities of Vance Astro, Charlie-27, Yondu, Martinex, or Starhawk. We meet them all in mid-battle, with bodies strewn amidst the still rife conflict, including someone wearing the uniform of a Star-Lord. Geena watches the lot of them die, and the story leaps backward thirty minutes to a meeting with a number of familiar faces, joined in alliance against the Badoon.

Abnett’s in pretty top form here, with battle certainly being one of his fortés (the man wrote a lot of 40k stuff, after all), but also serving the grand, cosmic plots that he brought back to Marvel in the 2000s’ absence of people like Jim Starlin or Steve Englehart. Geena is clearly our perspective character, but we get a quick run through (or reminder) of who and in most functional senses, what, our protagonists are. It’s a solid issue-level story, but is primarily there to set up the book going forward, which is also does nicely.

I’m really mixed on Sandoval’s art–it reminds of of Humberto Ramos (warning lights are blinding for that), but without the low-quality inconsistencies. I do have to take umbrage with Edgar Delgado’s colouring, though. Everything is muddy and washed out, and the characters, particularly our protagonists, often fail to be visibly distinct from each other. The costumes and patterns are often “lost”–there, but indistinct in their overly-similar tones. On the one hand, it made the book feel rather appropriate for its dystopian setting, but on another, it was not a great way to be (re-)introduced to these characters, as it became difficult to separate them, even with the variations between them.

Silver Surfer #6

Dan Slott continues with his Doctor Who-inspired take on the Surfer, with Norrin first becoming frustrated with the needs of a human traveling with him (to greatly humourous effect), and then whisking her away to rectify his impatient frustrations. They end up on a planet where all beings are devoted to absolute perfection in their respective arts, whatever they may be, as their population is limited enough to sustain such peculiar choices (reminiscent, somewhat vaguely, and clearly differently, with its variety of occupations, of Farscape‘s Litgara).

Slott and Allred are both the right choices for these stories (I guess that’s a given, with Slott, since he’s writing them, but, still) in the way that they are both kind of goofy in approach–not dark, anyway–without losing all credibility for seriousness and stakes. We walk away from the story with at least one catalyst for future events, while we get a pretty decently complete little arc about what it’s like for the two of them to travel with each other.

Another solid entry in the series–if Allred’s art and a semi-serious take on Surfer are up your alley, this remains an excellent choice.

Moon Knight #8

It’s kind of interesting–Wood and Smallwood were in trouble, having to follow Ellis and Shalvey on their critically acclaimed first six issues of the latest Moon Knight series, as it was a hard act to follow in just about every sense imaginable. Spector was re-framed by their run–as episodic as it most deliberately was–and it would have been a shame to lose that, but also pretty grating to fail at continuing it.

Issue 7 was kind of a tentative stab in the dark–trying not to pretend they were the previous team, while not trying to deviate too distinctly. But here we are at issue 8: Wood and Smallwood have embraced the approach of the previous team in many senses now. The entire issue is told from the point of view of a variety of cameras–bystanders’ smartphones, Moon Knight’s own scarab drones, and surveillance cameras.

Dialogue does not occupy balloons to encourage this understanding and avoid “spoiling” the impression. Interestingly, Wood goes straight for it with the DID, and brings Marc’s other identities even more to the fore than previously–Ellis had them appear as kinds of hallucinations, and a shift in suit often meant a kind of shift, but here Moon Knight hits upon beats that are not as spaced out.

In it, we do, however, still get a bit of progression in terms of any longer arcs, which is something that does deviate from the other formula, without abandoning it utterly. It’s definitely the two of them shining, and not letting the book down after the team changed.

Edge of Spider-Verse #3: Aaron Aikman – Spider-Man

This showed up a bit late for me, but I picked it up this week.

As with previous issues, this is a (currently?) standalone alterna-Spidey story. Aaron Aikman is a brilliant scientist who experiences an origin far more in line with Miguel O’Hara’s than Peter Parker’s (a splicing-in of spider DNA, rather than a radioactive bite). His life is based around the more robotic approach to his suit (with a kind of jet boots, helmets, and more bulky web-spinners) and its heroics, as well as the life of Dr. Kaori Ikegami, with whom he works and eventually lives for far less academic reasons. Ikegami’s daughter has been in a vegetative state for something like a decade, and pursuit of a resolution to this drives the both of them, until it eventually drives them apart.

Spider-Man (in this universe) is most entangled with the villain Naamurah, who rather immediately strikes as a relative of Morlun and their kin, this time unusually involved in the more “day-to-day” workings of this Spider-Man.

Dustin Weaver has sole credit for the core work on the book, other than Clayton Cowles covering the lettering. His pencils are a bit JRJr-y, but I particularly love his approach to Aikman. Aikman wears his hair like one of the largely-ignored-by-audiences, hip characters in a Showa-Eiga Godzilla movie: pronounced sideburns and a mop-top. There’s no poking fun at it, and so it just comes out fun in a weird way. A lot of his panels are very, very detailed, but with a lighter touch to colouring–not lighter in the sense of detail, but in the sense of hue. There’s what may well be an Akira reference tucked away in there, too, which doesn’t seem at all odd considering the other bits and pieces of Japan woven in here–like, oh, I don’t know–a robotically-oriented Spider-Suit?

If there’s another contender for “could have at least a pretty quick miniseries or canceled-after-a-few-issues ongoing”, it’s probably Aaron. It’s an interesting take that deviates pretty significantly.

Edge of Spider-Verse #4: “I Walked with a Spider”

As the cover implies, this is an E.C.-styled re-telling of Spider-Man, bearing the three character indicators and the top-right circular indicia so familiar in the post-SuspenStories-era E.C. books.

And so we have Uncle Ted, rather than Ben, and Patton Parnel, rather than Peter Parker, and Sara Jane, rather than Mary Jane (and even “Gene” rather than Flash, which is the smallest of deviations, of course–he’s just got no nickname!). Our introduction to Patton has him as, honestly, quite the little psychopath. His detached, cruel experimentation on ants is only a hint at what is to come. Rather than raising him kindly, Ted is abusive, and Sara Jane is openly pitying but largely uninterested in Patton (a minor tweak from Liz or Gwen).

Clay McLeod Chapman doesn’t drive the E.C. connection too hard, but the omniscient narration that opens things is most definitely reminiscent of it, with its “You might think you’ve seen this before, but look closer…” tone (well, and, words) and the progression of the story that makes no bones about Patton’s nature as a person (pretty awful!), while still going for a kind of surprise to it. It’s pretty fascinating by the time it loops back into the Morlun-kin storyline, as it’s one of the most complete deviations, like they’ve walked into a universe they have no reason to be in, which serves the “all instances within the multiverse” fiction that much more.

Elia Bonetti doesn’t go all Jack Davis or Wally Wood, or Johnny Craig or anything, and that would’ve been neat, but probably taking it too far–thus a good choice, like Chapman’s avoidance of diving too deep into the gory-camp of the original E.C. books. Actually, the “realistic” approach works really well here to highlight the horrific elements, as the mutation of Patton is more unsettling, attached as it is to a normal looking person.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that this one isn’t for the faint of heart, but that’s kind of what makes it fun and unique–really taking the “alternate Spider-Man story” way out into left field (or perhaps into the dark, unnoticed cobwebs and dirt under the bleachers…).

Spider-Man 2099 #1

We last left Miguel following his grandfather from the past (our present–well, 616’s present, anyway) to Trans-Sabal, where Tiberius Stone (the aforementioned ancestor) is arranging deals for Spider-Slayer technology to be sold to a dictator there. Miguel just ran into Mac Gargan in his latest Scorpion suit (hey! pedipalps!) under said dictator’s employ.

Stone is left to wrestle with the rebels in Trans-Sabal–philosophically, rather than physically–while Miguel tries to figure out how to deal with a robotic army and a slightly stupid super-villain with a lot of technological power.

Peter David’s still keeping this book going very well and very strong, making Liz, Miguel, Tiberius, and the relationships between the lot of them interesting.

Will Sliney’s work I feel as if I haven’t properly acknowledged previously–he makes interesting choices in perspective, and does facial expressions and movements in the freeze-frame style of folks like Adi Granov, but with the looser detail that befits an interior (solid Granov interiors can be distracting, I find, however good). He’s not Maguire or anything, but he also has a good grasp on multi-panel expression changes and conveying character appropriately for them, which is always a good thing for a book’s storytelling.

Death of Wolverine #3 (of 4)

Initialy, I was going to refrain from engaging this event. Not out of angry, high-minded principles, but because I just didn’t particularly care right now. Running into some first prints of the first two issues by chance made me sigh and go for it–why not, after all, when it’s only four issues?

It’s Charles Soule, too, who has been impressing me mightily of late. So far, Logan has discovered there’s a price on his head, and, as the cover indicates, met up with Kitty Pryde, in Madripoor (natch!) where he has pursued what leads he has in an attempt to prevent any further collateral damage.

Soule and Steve McNiven are doing quite well so far–there’s no exploitative feel to the story, no rush or wobble to what could easily be cheap and stupid. Kitty and Logan seem very much themselves, and, more importantly, themselves in the context of Logan’s mortality. Kitty is the more adult woman she’s been recently, but still has her affections for Logan that can begin to crack practicality, while not losing the skilled threat that Kitty is.

It’s been nice to see some familiar faces (Deathstrike, particularly, showing up here, as well as a bit from Cyber) that don’t strike as “Quick! Jam everyone in before it’s over!” so much as completely plot-relevant characters. So far, I’m actually pretty satisfied. We’ll see how the two of them conclude things, though.

Today’s title is described in the reviews above. What, didn’t you read it?

¹If you don’t know yet, I know it’s “AXIS”, but that ambigram design just screams “SIXIS” every time look at it, so I am going to obnoxiously ignore the real title.

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