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Catching Up on Reviews, Part 8 — Fear Itself

Fear Itself #1 (Marvel) – For the record, I am a big fan of the thematic art that ties Fear Itself together. I think I like just about every single cover of the series and tie-ins. I also like the story better than any of the recent Marvel events, maybe going back to Secret Invasion. Issue one is exactly what the launch of a big event should be like. Matt Fraction’s writing really pulls us right into the story and sets up the importance of the conflict. Suart Immonen’s art is near-flawless, it takes chances and it captures the grandness of the epic. Some of the keys here are the supposed helplessness of Steve Rogers, the fall of Thor and the cryptic rise of the Serpent.

Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10

Fear Itself #2 (Marvel) – I’ll say that the hammer concept used here is just great and the idea that the Worthy are drawn from across the spectrum of good and evil is great as well. The level of the threat established here from the very beginning is awe-inspiring. How can anyone stand up to eight of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe who have all been given significant power boosts. Plus the Serpent, the one who gave them all the power boosts. Plus Odin and all of Asgard. Fraction continues to tell a great story and Immonen’s art impresses as well, particularly the new appearance of Juggernaut, which I think is one of the coolest-looking characters I’ve ever seen, and the opening shot of Blitzkreig U.S.A., which is breathtaking.

Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10

Fear Itself #3 (Marvel) – It would seem difficult for Immonen to improve his art, but in this issue, he does it. Some of the most epic battle and apocalyptic artwork to ever appear in Marvel is in this issue. Fraction also ups the ante on the story with a shocking death that you wouldn’t have expected.

Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10

Fear Itself #4 (Marvel) – While it would seem likely that four issues into a series like this, it would be prime time for a letdown and, to be fair, this issue is the weakest so far, but that’s not a knock on this issue, which is better than most things on the market, it’s just not quite as good as the previous issues, which were all superb. There is still some amazing art — Immonen’s Thor looks amazing — and a couple of great plot points towards the end, involving Tony Stark-Odin and Thor-Hulk-Thing. Issue #5 will have to be a barn-burner with a set-up like this.

Story: 9.75 Art: 9.75 Overall: 9.75

Fear Itself – Book of the Skull (Marvel) – Another example of the over-used Marvel device of extensive retcons that add backstory to current events. This one isn’t a bad one, and it helps set up Fear Itself, but I think I’ve already forgotten the point of the story, and I just put it down.

Story: 6 Art: 7 Overall: 6.5

Fear Itself – Deadpool #1 (Marvel) – Cartoonish art and a cartoonish story — and I don’t mean that in a good way — make for another bad comic in the extensive overuse and killing off of the quality of the Deadpool character.

Story: 5 Art: 5 Overall: 5

Fear Itself – Deadpool #2 (Marvel) – When the best thing about an issue is the picture on the cover of Deadpool in MC Hammer pants, you know that reading a comic would be a waste of your time.

Story: 4 Art: 5 Overall: 4.5

Fear Itself – Fearsome Four #1 (Marvel) – The art in this series is my least favorite in the past few months, but even the art is better than the story, which inexplicably teams up Howard the Duck, Frankenstein’s Monster, She-Hulk and Nighthawk and calls them “Fearsome” because they are interacting with the Man-Thing. It isn’t as coherent as it sounds.

Story: 3 Art: 4 Overall: 3.5

Fear Itself – Fearsome Four #2 (Marvel) – The art here is a little worse, almost unprofessional, but the story is a little more coherent. It’s still a bad comic and a terrible series. Has to be a very strong contender for Worst Limited Series of 2011.

Story: 4 Art: 3 Overall: 3.5

Fear Itself – FF #1 (Marvel) – Much better premise for a Fear Itself spin-off, how do the Thing’s friends deal with his conversion to a monster? The issue has great tension and a compelling story, something missing from most of the Fear Itself tie-ins. Kudos to writer Cullen Bunn.

Story: 9 Art: 7 Overall: 8

Fear Itself – Sins Past (Marvel) – I’m not a fan of these reprint issues from Marvel. While it does have a little bit of new material, it doesn’t reprint stories that are important enough or compelling enough that they should’ve wasted an issue on it.

Story: 7 Art: 7 Overall: 7

Fear Itself – Spider-Man #1 (Marvel) – It’s pretty clear that, to date, The Spider-Man Fear Itself spin-off is the best of the mini-series. Chris Yost does an amazing job here of framing the Fear Itself story in terms of the regular people who face it and not just the super-heroes. Sure, Spidey is the lead here, but he’s really just another small figure going through this big event and not sure he’s going to be able to cope with it. Mike McKone’s art is stylish and unique and adds to the story.

Story: 10 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.75

Fear Itself – Spider-Man #2 (Marvel) – Yost’s story continues to impress, but the key in this issue is McKone’s art, which takes chances and more often than not succeeds. This issue has a lot of stunning art and a strong story to go with it.

Story: 9.25 Art: 9.75 Overall: 9.5

Fear Itself – Spider-Man #3 (Marvel) – The art isn’t quite as good in this issue, although it has its moments. The story is an interesting twist on past Spidey-FF crossovers, this time with Spidey clashing with the Thing instead of the Human Torch, who isn’t around anymore.

Story: 9.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 9

Fear Itself – The Deep #1 (Marvel) – I’m not really that big a fan of Namor and stories that focus on him frequently leave me bored, but this one has enough guest stars (Including Dr. Strange, who I like a lot) and good enough art to make it worth a read.

Story: 7 Art: 8 Overall: 7.5

Fear Itself – The Homefront #1 (Marvel) – I’m not a big fan of the Marvel anthology mini-series, either, as most of the time, the individual stories aren’t that good. That is only partially true here. The first story, starring Speedball is awfully compelling and has amazing, almost photo-realistic art. The team of Christos Gage, Mike Mayhew and Rain Beredo does a great job. The Agents of Atlas story, though, is much like the rest of the Atlas stories, in that it doesn’t really grab my attention and I forget about it right after reading it since the characters and the story don’t do much to excite me. It isn’t poorly executed, just nothing special. The final story, about the residents of Broxton, Oklahoma, after the departure of the Asgardians, is interesting if not essential.

Story: 7.5 Art: 8 Overall: 7.75

Fear Itself – The Homefront #2 (Marvel) – The first two stories in this issue are amazingly consistent with the first issue. The Speedball story is just as good and the Atlas story is just as mediocre. The third story, which is about Liz Allan and Tigershark, I think, aims high, but doesn’t quite deliver.

Story: 7 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.25

Fear Itself – The Homefront #3 (Marvel) – The Speedball story, if anything, gets better in this issue. The story in the Atlas tale is growing on me a little bit, but the art is losing me. A third tale, starring Cardiac, has a compelling tale to tell about revenge and redemption, but the art is too cartoonish for the weight of the story.

Story: 7.75 Art: 7 Overall: 7.5

Fear Itself – The Homefront #4 (Marvel) – My thought is that the Speedball story here should’ve been expanded and given its own series or one-shot and that the Atlas story, which ends here, should’ve been eliminated altogether. Some of the art in the Speedball story is amongst the best in the entire Fear Itself storyline. The third tale here, starring someone apparently known as the Blue Marvel, is puzzling. If I’m supposed to know who he is, I don’t. If I’m supposed to get something big from the story, I don’t. I’m left with nothing but question marks, mostly the one after the question “Who is Blue Marvel and why am I reading about him”?

Story: 7 Art: 8 Overall: 7.5

Fear Itself – Uncanny X-Force #1 (Marvel) – While Simone Bianchi’s art takes a lot of chances, and some of them succeed, I don’t like a lot of the detail of the characters’ faces. The story itself is only vaguely related to Fear Itself, but it is a pretty good and interesting.

Story: 9 Art: 7 Overall: 8

Fear Itself – Wolverine #1 (Marvel) – I don’t really find much about this comic compelling, not the premise, not the story and not the art. I think that Marvel (and probably DC, too), should cut back on the number of extra series that are related to their events and make sure that every series really has a good premise and a point to its creation. This one doesn’t seem to meet that.

Story: 6 Art: 6 Overall: 6

Fear Itself – Youth In Revolt #1 (Marvel) – I like the idea of bringing back the Initiative, it wasn’t a bad idea when it was done before and done right now, it could be a good thing. I’m not sure the characters they chose to focus on in this series are the best ones, though.

Story: 7 Art: 7 Overall: 7

Fear Itself – Youth In Revolt #2 (Marvel) – So after the first issue, which doesn’t really have great, compelling characters, the way to expand that is to bring in Frog Man? Really?

Story: 6 Art: 7 Overall: 6.5

Fear Itself – Youth In Revolt #3 (Marvel) – Much better, bring in Juggernaut, improve the art and end it with a shocking finale that makes you actually care what happens in the series.

Story: 8 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.75

Fear Itself – The Worthy #1 (Marvel) – Okay, so we know a little bit more about Sin’s background and it’s obvious why she is Worthy, but this isn’t something that is particularly memorable.

Story: 6 Art: 7 Overall: 6.5

Fear Itself – The Worthy #2 (Marvel) – To date, I think that Juggernaut is the coolest of the Worthy, but this issue doesn’t do anything to explain why and is a bit of a weak link in the Juggernaut portion of Fear Itself.

Story: 5 Art: 5 Overall: 5

Fear Itself – The Worthy #3 (Marvel) – This issue seems to give a little bit of insight as to why Titania is Worthy, but I can’t escape the feeling that she gets in because she’s dating the Absorbing Man and he’s Worthy.

Story: 6 Art: 6 Overall: 6

Fear Itself – The Worthy #4 (Marvel) – If anything, this story makes it seem like the Grey Gargoyle is unworthy. He’s a bit of a whiny loser, how does that make him a prime candidate for serving the serpent?

Story: 5 Art: 5 Overall: 5

Fear Itself – The Worthy #5 (Marvel) – Solid, if not spectacular, tale of why the Hulk is Worthy. Doesn’t tell us anything we don’t know, but could be valuable to newer readers.

Story: 7 Art: 8 Overall: 7.5

Fear Itself – The Worthy #6 (Marvel) – I’m not sure I get the point of this backstory of why Attuma is Worthy. It tells a little bit more about his background than we previously knew, but we already knew he was an evil bastard, what does this add to that?

Story: 7 Art: 6 Overall: 6.5

Fear Itself – The Worthy #7 (Marvel) – A brief bio of Absorbing Man that doesn’t tell us anything we don’t know, doesn’t explain why he’s worthy and doesn’t help the story.

Story: 6 Art: 4 Overall: 5

Fear Itself – The Worthy #8 (Marvel) – This one focuses on the last of the Worthy, the Thing, and moreso than any of the other issues, it makes it clear why the Thing becomes one of the Serpent’s servants. The only issue of this series that really adds something to the story. Too bad the art is so weak.

Story: 9 Art: 5 Overall: 7

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Friday Five — Top 5 Major Marvel Events


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So every Friday, I want to do a Top 5 list with some kind of connection. These are my opinions based solely on the comics I’ve actually read. I obviously can’t rank those works I haven’t read, but if there’s something that should be on my list that isn’t, let me know and I’ll check it out and will add it if I think it should be on the list. The idea isn’t just to give my opinion, but to open up discussion, so if you agree or disagree, let me know in comments…

This time around, I’m going to do my Top 5 Major Marvel Events…

Realm of Kings/The Thanos Imperative Honorable mention, Realm of Kings-The Thanos Imperative: This series isn’t over yet, but it has already become one of my favorites, as I described it elsewhere today: A recent battle between the Inhuman Blackbolt and the mad human mutant leader of the alien Shi’ar empire (and Cyclops’s brother) ripped a hole in the universe while killing both. That hole, called the Fault, opened a doorway to the Cancerverse, a universe ruled by the Lovecraftian “many-angled ones” where “life won out” and nothing dies (but is still quite undead-esque) and the inhabitants of that universe (including the Avengers-dopplegangers “The Revengers”) want to come to the Marvel universe to take power. The only thing that can stop them is Thanos, this universe’s avatar of death and pretty much most evil being, so the entire army of the Marvel cosmic heroes teams up with Thanos to save the day. All that with snappy dialog and funny characters, including a talking Russian telepathic dog and Rocket Raccoon, who is just what his name implies. Yeah, that’s awesome. If it ends well, it might move up the list.

Secret Invasion 5. Secret Invasion: I know some people don’t like this one as well and I think the ending is a bit anticlimactic, but the sense of paranoia and fear of conspiracy that permeated this series to me was so well done that I’d have to rate it this high. The Skrulls coming in on top of the string of events (Civil War, World War Hulk, Decimation, House of M, Avengers Disassembled, Secret War) that the Marvel Universe had just gone through, to me, was a perfect choice and it was very well-written.

Days of Future Past 4. Days of Future Past: This story was one of the key tales in terms of launching the Marvel multiverse and it set in motion a string of events and characters that would impact Marvel comics for years to come. I’m a sucker for dystopian post-apocalyptic stories and the X-Men, so a story that combines the two is just great. It would be higher on the list if it weren’t just two issues long.

Civil War 3. Civil War: Certainly the best examination of politics that the Marvel universe has ever done, this one was a direct commentary on the issues raised by the war on terror and the actions of the George W. Bush administration. Some people complained that they didn’t like the way some characters reacted to the situation and thought it was inconsistent with the characters’ past behavior, but I disagree, I think the characters were all quite well-written in the scenario. It would be higher on the list but, like most other recent Marvel cross-overs, it’s too big and involves way too many mini-series and one-shots.

Secret Wars 2. Secret Wars: It wasn’t the first of the company-wide crossovers, Contest of Champions beat it to the punch, but Secret Wars really set the tone for how crossovers would work in comics. It is to comic crossovers what movies like Jaws and Star Wars are to blockbuster movies. It had a great storyline that was well-plotted and it had no shortage of shocking moments and real changes to characters that re-wrote the Marvel universe at the time. It had some weaknesses, as the writers didn’t quite figure out how to fully develop so many characters and a number of the characterizations were false (such as the Wasp and the X-Men), but overall, it is still the gold standard for Marvel (although DC would almost immediately eclipse it with Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was bigger and better).

The Dark Phoenix Saga 1. The Dark Phoenix Saga: This is the story that made me a comic book devotee for life. It was played out over time and developed slowly, but surely, and the whole story was developed more like a novel than your run-of-the-mill comic book plot. The greatest group of characters in comics at the time (and the most diverse) was put through the most difficult and gut-wrenching story that centered around the very nature of power itself, betrayal, love, sacrifice, and cosmos-spanning action. All of the elements you would like of a great comic story are here — great plot, great characters, great dialog, great art and a story that stays with you long after you are done reading it. And it stands up well, it has just as much impact now as it did in the 1970s-80s. This is what made the X-Men a phenomenon and was part of one of the greatest comic book runs ever, the run on the Uncanny X-Men written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Dave Cockrum and John Byrne.

S.H.I.E.L.D. DataCore

Marvel Comics has embraced the idea of Alternate Reality Games with their “Embrace Change” campaign for their recent Secret Invasion event.  From websites, print ads, and even television Marvel has looked towards media and especially new media to promote their series and events.  It is with little surprise that a new campaign is stirring with their Dark Reign thread permeating their books over the next year.

After the events of Secret Invasion the villains have take over as Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) has become the National Director of Security for the U.S. and is now overseeing all super human activity and in charge of the Shield replacement, Hammer.

Dark Reign: New Nation, which came out this past week, promoted the new upcoming series sprouting up from this new status quo.  After the teaser story for Secret Warriors a website is given, http://www.agentofnothing.com/.  The series protagonists have been described as terrorists in various interviews as they are up against the legitimized former villains.

If anyone has the password to crack this site post up here, but I look forward to seeing what Marvel has up their sleave both in story line and extension of it online.

Choice Quotes

Secret Invasion #8

Teddy – Kate, even with the little I know about my heritage, I know this isn’t what the Skrull empire stands for.  The was extremism.  This was terrorism.

Kate – I don’t understand why they want the Earth so badly.  Didn’t you say they have a dozen planets?

Teddy –  They do.

Skrull – We do not.  Tragedy has decimated our people.  Our planets no longer exist.  Our faith was our last chance.  This was our last chance.

Marvel’s Secret Invasion and the Middle East

With use of words like jihad and schism between the Skrulls in their religious beliefs it has been clear Marvel’s Secret Invasion cross over has drawn inspiration from Islam and the current war on terror with Al-Qaeda.  Wizard Magazine has an article with Brian Michael Bendis on the latest issue of Secret Invasion #7 and Bendis touches on this point:

And as a final beat, we see Jarvis turning into the Skrull with the baby.
BENDIS: Now we’re getting that little bit of dialogue from Jarvis that sets up something that’s been beaten into our head in America. Why can’t we win the Middle East? Why can’t we reach them? And they always say it’s because we don’t think like them. We just don’t get it. There’s another thought process going on here that’s so foreign to us. That’s fascinating to me. So, not to say I’m making a statement about the Middle East peace process, but I am fascinated that there’d be such a cultural divide that the war cannot be won.

So, I kind of applied it here a little bit. And we also get the Jarvis turning into a Skrull face with the baby. And now I can say that the baby was a big red herring. We literally at one point had the baby’s green eyes staring at the reader in New Avengers. That was never the case, but for the purpose of the story it made you doubt everyone and everything. Even the baby could have been a Skrull. And I will now admit that I laughed when I saw the way Leinil drew the baby turning and looking at the camera. When I saw it drawn, it was so f–king hilarious to me. It’s like the end of “the Omen.” [hums "Omen" theme] I was just on the floor. It just felt so over-the-top.

Once the series has concluded we’ll be covering a longer entry looking at these parallels and what the writers are saying about the current state of global politics.

Skrulls Issue a Press Release

Official Press Release

To all of Earth, we are the alien race you know as Skrulls. We wish to offer a few words to you about recent events. You have so much potential. You have so much to offer. Your future can be bright and without war, poverty, and fear. All you have to do is let us help. We come not as an alien armada. We are not invading your lands as conquerors. We are here to help you. We can cure all that is wasting this world. We bring with us a message, one that can be easily translated into any language. Please share this with your brothers and sisters, for it is a simple message that can help us all in the days to come: EMBRACE CHANGE.

Last night we made our appeal to you on ESPN2. Today, MTV embraces the change that we offer and have chosen to re-air our groundbreaking television commercial. You can find it at this link.

To learn more about our message, please visit http://www.embracechange.org. There you will find the tools to help create a better tomorrow. You will find the path to Embrace Change.

With those simple words, and the actions that they entail, all can be resolved– we can finally put an end to aggression, violence, and strife. Remember, He loves you all so very much.

The Skrulls are a displaced race of aliens, whose homeworld has been destroyed, and have come to Earth as part of their prophecy that the Earth is their planet by divine right. With the ability to mimic any human, language, or power, these shape-changers have resources of over 5,000 characteristics, and are focused on utilizing these to bring forward a message of change to those around the world. Areas of emphasis include containing disease, disarmament of all countries, elimination of international debts and poverty, food and shelter for all citizens, and cessation of bigotry and violence. Rooted in their scriptures, theirs is a belief of change and the knowledge that “He” loves you. Their current advances into Earth have been chronicled by Eisner Award-Winning writer Brian Michael Bendis, and rendered by artists Leinil Yu, Mark Morales, and Laura Martin and published by Marvel Comics. Although their actions seem skewed through these Earthling’s lenses, the Skrulls’ strategy is to leverage its message of change in a growing array of opportunities around the world. For additional information visit http://www.embracechange.org.

Secret Invasion a Parable on Iraq?

We’ll explore this idea further in a more fleshed out post, but the parallels are something I noticed in the latest issue of Secret Invasion.  It seems I’m not the only one.  In a round up of Secret Invasion #6, Wizard Magazine has this exchange with it’s writer Brian Michael Bendis:

Despite the recent drawbacks the Skrull Queen still seems rather confident of their campaign.
BENDIS: They’re still on the winning side of the fight. Obviously, she’s not being stupid about it, but don’t start whining that it’s over because it’s not over. It’s hard. As they said, “We’ve done this before. This is what it feels like.” And I think we can all relate to invading a country taking a long time and having ups and down and debating of whether or not we should have been there in the first place.

That does sound familiar.
BENDIS: Huh? What?

Choice Quotes

A very light week for quotes.  There is one thing that consistently crossed my mind reading all of Marvel’s Secret Invasion tie-ins this week.  I couldn’t help but notice similarities between the motivation of the Skrulls and a certain real world religion.

Secret Invasion: X-Men #1

This is Holy war we’ve embarked on.  A crusade.  Only the very best — The bravest, the strongest, the most radiant in virtue — are fit to fight in a crusade.

To break it down more the Skrulls seem to be split into two factions who don’t get along and one is much more extreme and on a quest to liberate humanity from the oppression it views the super human community brings it.

Invading Skrulls = Al Qaeda?

Super Humans = the West/U.S.?

Hmmm….

Are Obama and McCain Skrulls? Can We Trust Them?

From Secret Invasion #5, this spread depicts the Skrulls informing Earth that they’ve been invaded for their own good.  Marvel made sure to include some of the important politicos of our time, Barack Obama, John McCain, and even Steven Colbert (notice the Colbert ’08 sign in the center).

IGN asked Marvel’s Executive Editor Tom Brevoort about this:


IGN Comics: There’s generally been a trend in comics not to show politicians for fear of dating comics to a particular era. Yet the double-page spread shows many real life people, including Barack Obama and John McCain. Any particular reason for this or was that simply the preference of Brian Bendis and Leinil Yu?

Brevoort: I certainly understand the concerns about not wanting the work to date, but at the same time, if you’re trying to tell a story set in the here-and-now, and one with some relevance to the world the readers live in, you’ve got to represent that world accurately, as it is.  Those specific character choices were Leinil’s—Brian’s script was more general.

Have fun looking at the spread and all of the individuals depicted!

The Enemy Within

Last week Marvel comics launch it’s 8 month epic series Secret Invasion. Secret Invasion #1The political subtext leading up to this 3 years in the making event goes further than the “Colbert 08″ t-shirt snuck into one of the panels in issue number 1.

Secret Invasion is the continuation of a story started 3 years ago involving the invasion of Earth and replacement of some of Marvel’s most powerful heroes by alien shape shifters call Skrulls. This feeling of sleeper cells amongst us was no accident. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the series writer Brian Michael Bendis said:

The Skrulls were invented back in the day when Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the Cold War were a big part of the [Marvel] universe. And we’re kind of back in that: The subtext of this story is not knowing if you can trust your friends or family. Years after 9/11, we go on a plane and start scanning the crowd…we can’t help it.

As Bendis describes above the original story of the Skrulls focused on Cold War hysteria, this new story updates it for the post 9/11 era, just replace Skrull for Al-Qaeda and you see where I’m going with this. Following the events of Marvel’s previous event Civil War, covered here, as well as the limited series Secret War, dealing with super power terrorism, Secret Invasion leaves the Earth’s protectors wondering who they can trust. Much like Civil War’s dealing with restrictions on liberty and freedom, Secret Invasion focuses on the paranoia of the unknown. Not knowing if you’re neighbor or friend is really a terrorist preparing to strike. The first issue saw numerous sleeper agents activated resulting in a global orchestrated terrorist strike, and calling into question various actions by some major characters over the past 3 years (ugh, I’m going to have to go back, re-read, and dissect).

The series takes on extra meaning with the recent news of convictions of a Chinese sleeper agent who had been the United States for two decades. An interesting time frame since (spoiler) the final panel of issue 1 reveals many of Marvel’s super heroes returning in their late 70’s/early 80’s uniforms. Weird coincidence, of course they could just be Skrulls as well.

Now this is just the first issue and judging by it, there’ll be tons to dissect over the next 8 months (at least). Bendis will make sure of that.

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