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Review: Hunt for Wolverine The Adamantium Agenda #1

Even though he’s mainly known as a member of the X-Men, Wolverine was an Avenger for quite some time in the 2000s and was a part of Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers team. In Hunt for Wolverine: The Adamantium Agenda #1, writer Tom Taylor, artists R.B. Silva and Adriano Benedetto, and colorist Jesus Aburtov get part of the New Avengers band back together as Iron Man, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones chase down a lead that a superhero’s DNA is up for sale at a black market auction. It’s a bit of a spy caper featuring characters with outsized personalities and a unique personal connection to Wolverine that is outlined in the opening, flashback sequence. Unfortunately, the art and colors don’t match the liveliness of the writing, and the book comes across as middling at best.

Throughout Adamantium Agenda #1, Taylor chooses sharp, simple plotting over labyrinthine, continuity heavy ones. The flashback sequence is something out of the M & M ad that has been repeated ad nauseam before every movie in a major theater for the past couple years with the New Avengers trying to defuse a touch triggered bomb for Maria Hill. Because of his healing factor and “unkillableness”, Wolverine goes for the sacrifice play even over Luke Cage and his bulletproof skin that culminates in Silva, Benedetto, and Aburtov’s best sequence: a double page, green tinged explosion.

The bomb plot is an easy way to establish the characters, create an emotional bond between them and Wolverine, and even have a little bit of action. Wolverine triggers the bomb instead of Luke because he doesn’t want his daughter, Danielle, to grow up without a father, and this creates a tender moment between him and Jessica. She has never looked so sincere when she thanks him for this, and even the awkward Ben Day dots that differentiate the flashback from the present scenes can’t kill the mood. Of course, Spider-Man is all jokes and buddy buddy with Wolverine because their awkward friendship is already pretty well documented.

This flashback leads into the present, reunion mission, and Tom Taylor channels his inner Roger Moore Bond film with a bit of an underground base submarine caper. His wit sparkles, especially every time Jessica gets in a quip, with jokes about everything from BitCoin to villain “safe spaces”, and probably the best joke of all is that Spider-Man just wears his regular superhero mask to the super, sketchy masked auction.

Faces aren’t R.B. Silva’s strong suit as an artist in Adamantium Agenda #1, and Adriano Bendetto’s inks don’t seem to make much of a difference except for things like making characters’ clothes seem lived in. During moments of extreme stress and emotion, he runs away from character faces like when Tony Stark is talking to Kitty Pryde about how much Wolverine meant to him, (I.e. the previous flashback) and the verdant Canadian landscape unintentionally becomes the focus on the scene. Silva’s hit or miss facial expressions, clumsy choreography, and some bad lighting choices from him, Benedetto, and colorist Jesus Aburtov really put the onus on Taylor to keep the story entertaining. And he does, for the most part, milking all the awkward humor and explosive action out of an undercover mission featuring characters not really known for their stealth. At least, Tony is at home with the sleazy one percenters.

Adamantium Agenda #1 has one hell of a cast of characters, and Tom Taylor wastes no time having them go on an epic mission with action, jokes, and the occasional heartfelt moment. The final page takes the miniseries in a completely new direction, but Jesus Aburtov’s muddy colors and R.B Silva and Adriano Benedetto’s less than expressive, half-assed superhero house art visuals keep this from being a surefire summer blockbuster hit.

Story: Tom Taylor Art: R.B. Silva with Adriano Benedetto Colors: Jesus Aburtov
Story: 8.0 Art: 6 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: New Avengers #18

New Avengers #18

(W) Al Ewing (A) Carlo Barberi (CA) Julian Totino Tedesco
Rated T+
In Shops: Nov 30, 2016
SRP: $3.99

At the funeral of Roberto Da Costa, Advanced Idea Mechanics is declared officially dead. In the wake of their ultimate mission, the New Avengers reassess their lives…and one of them hangs up their costume for good. What could possibly follow this?

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Preview: New Avengers #17

New Avengers #17

(W) Al Ewing (A) Paco Medina (CA) Julian Totino Tedesco
Rated T+
In Shops: Oct 26, 2016
SRP: $3.99

CIVIL WAR II TIE-IN!

Once everything was new…but now – EVERYTHING IS DOOMED!

Roberto Da Costa – SHOT THROUGH THE HEAD! A.I.M. – UNDER SIEGE FROM S.H.I.E.L.D.!

Air Force One – TUMBLING FROM THE SKY LIKE A DYING SWAN!

THIS IS THE SLAM-BANG FINISH TO END THEM ALL, TRUE BELIEVER!

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Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

The Paybacks #1 CoverWednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Alex

Top Pick: The Paybacks #1 (Heavy Metal Magazine) – The first four-issue arc was superb, blending the feeling of overwhelming debt with superpowers and the humour that results from such an outrageous pairing turned into one of the best series I’d ever read from then publisher Dark Horse. Now that the Paybacks are back with Heavy Metal, I’m beyond excited to get my grubby mitts on them again.

Conan The Slayer #1 (Dark Horse) – I always get excited whenever a new Conan comic (or movie, but those are far fewer in frequency), but I inevitably stop reading them at some point – and usually I have no idea why, but a new Conan series is exactly what I want right now.

Nightwing Rebirth #1 (DC Comics) – I was never keen on the idea of Dick Grayson as a spy, and by not continuing to read his solo series post-Nightwing, apparently I missed out on a great series. But my dislike of spy heavy stories kept me away from the former Boy Wonder at first, and then there was a general reluctance to dive in after eight-plus missed issues. Now that the issue numbers are restarting, and the mask is back?

Old Man Logan #8 (Marvel) – After the last three issues left me barefoot (that’s a pretentious way of saying they blew my socks off), I have high hopes for the next arc. If it’s half as good as the last one, I’ll be happy.

Wrath Of the Eternal Warrior #9 (Valiant) – The Eternal Warrior is free from the Labyrinth and wants vengeance. I’m just happy to get another issue of my favourite series.

 

Javier

Top Pick: Nightwing Rebirth #1 (DC Comics) – Dick Grayson finally returns as one of my favorite characters, together with Tim Seeley rightfully taking back his writing duties. Looking forward to both.

Ragnarok #9 (IDW Publishing) – Walter Simonson’s latest take on Thor’s post-apocalyptic mythology is amazing. Yes, it’s old-school eighties comic book storytelling, but it’s also a pleasant escape to Valhalla—what’s left of it.

The Vision #9 (Marvel) – It’s been on my pull list since the beginning, and I’ve been raving about it since it came out. It’s now near its conclusion, and if King’s ‘Omega Men’ is a harbinger of things to come, we are in for a hell of an ending within the few remaining issues.

House of Penance #4 (Dark Horse) – Tomasi and Bertram have drafted a horror tale around the legendary Winchester House and its builders.  This nightmarish western, with and without guns, has me gasping for air.

Wacky Raceland #2 (DC Comics) – This was one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons back in the day. It was a goofy cartoon, but this most recent updated iteration is anything but. The writing is a bit rough, but the artwork is gritty and realistic, with well-drawn characters more representative of today’s diversity.

 

Anthony

Top Pick: Monstress Vol.1 TP (Image Comics) – If you missed out, now is your chance to catch up and devour one of the best titles released by anyone in 2016. Marjorie Liu has a firm, confident grasp on world-building, establishing quite a bit without feeling overburdened. The array of characters are all so well fleshed out and especially stand out from the insanely detailed artwork of Sana Takeda. Takeda’s designs are just dazzling. From the interior and exterior environments to the clothes being worn, Takeda’s illustrations never wane…you just may cry from how stunning this series is.

Kabuki Library HC Vol.3 (Dark Horse) – David Mack’s Kabuki is a very special series. Combining all sorts of art styles (watercolours, pencils, collage, etc.), Mack weaves in and out of them with a confident ease that never feels pretentious, just plain and simply amazing. These oversized ‘Library’ editions that Dark Horse has been releasing are truly the way to absorb this futuristic tale of an assassin that has been wronged. Words cannot really do justice to Kabuki. Each page is like a treasure beholden to the eye, sometimes requiring a closer examination for the full effect of its use of text (and a very interesting use of comic lettering) and image.

Descender #13 (Image Comics) – Tim-22 and Tim-21 are not getting along. Last issued revealed some backstory from Tim-22, putting some possible reasoning behind his violent tendencies compared to the doughy innocence of Tim-21. Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen have been painting a wonderful sci-fi series so far that has yet to lose any steam.

Mirror #5 (Image Comics)Mirror has been one of the most beautifully composed titles that Image has released this year. Emma Rios’s emotional script with Hwei Lim’s gorgeous, playful layouts make every single issue a treat for the eyes and mind. Every issue evokes a floating dream type of feeling that works quite well with its fantasy-like setting. A rising tension has been building from the first issue between the Synchronia and the animals of Irzah that is sure to come to a head in this final issue of the first arc.

Bloodshot Reborn #15 (Valiant Entertainment) – The first part of ‘Bloodshot Island’ was a Doctor Moreau-esque introduction to this mysterious place that Bloodshot has found himself in. With a cast of other Bloodshots that appear to have come from other eras and other specific wars all being hunted by a mysterious, powerful being, this looks to be another intriguing storyline crafted by Jeff Lemire. Plus, getting to see Mico Suayan’s incredibly detailed artwork is always a very, very good thing.

 

Mr. H

Top Pick: Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Rebirth #1 (DC Comics) – The return of Ethan Van Sciver to the GL books is such a welcome one for me. While I am not the biggest fan of Robert Vendetti’s writing the return of Ethan overshadows that for me. Plus Hal vs. Sinestro. Give me a ring and a charge, I’m going in!

Nightwing Rebirth # 1 (DC Comics) – Sad to see Grayson go, but Dick returns to the front lines again. I love the creative team on this book. Seeley and Pacquette make this a can’t miss for me. While we have the Bat Trainees going on in Detective Comics, I have a feeling Nightwing will show us why he is the first and greatest to graduate from Bat – U.Civil War II #3 (Marvel Comics) The specter of death looms high here. I have big fears that it’s going to be Tony Stark that bites the big one. However being the wrestling fan that I am and how unpredictable Marvel has been of late, I’m not ruling out the swerve here. So far the Civil War sequel has been good. I just want something to really ramp it up. Can’t have a war without deaths. Sprinkle a few Marvel!

Civil War II #3 (Marvel Comics) – The specter of death looms high here. I have big fears that it’s going to be Tony Stark that bites the big one. However being the wrestling fan that I am and how unpredictable Marvel has been of late, I’m not ruling out the swerve here. So far the Civil War sequel has been good. I just want something to really ramp it up. Can’t have a war without deaths. Sprinkle a few Marvel!Conan the Slayer #1 (Dark Horse Comics) I’ve always been a big fan of Conan both the character and late night talk show. (If they make a Conan the Slayer with the Flaming C I’d be all over it) So a new start and number one, makes this a

Conan the Slayer #1 (Dark Horse Comics) – I’ve always been a big fan of Conan both the character and late night talk show. (If they make a Conan the Slayer with the Flaming C I’d be all over it) So a new start and number one, makes this a no-brainer for me. Going to pick this one up and enjoy with some ale.

Action Comics # 959 (DC Comics) – This one just edged out this weeks Detective Comics for me, as I need to know what the heck is the deal with the 3rd Clark Kent? It he a time wraith (left over from the flash TV show) or an impostor or what? Plus my Superman’s return has been a joy and I’m always down for a tussle with Doomsday. Hope Metropolis is current on their insurance payments.

 

Brett

Top Pick: The Paybacks #1 (Heavy Metal Comics) – This was one of my favorite comic miniseries of recent years. It’s a combination of humor, action, and superheroes was beyond entertaining. The fact we’re getting more makes me jump for joy and hopefully others pick it up and find out what they’re missing. This is a series that deserves a wider audience and if you’re into superheroes with a great mix of humor, this is a series that’s a must get.

Aspen Universe Revelations #1 (Aspen Comics) – An Aspen book on my list?! Aspen is converging a few of their comic worlds into one cohesive universe and that begins here. Normally that happens on days ending with y in comics, but the fact that Josh Fialkov and JT Krul are writing it has me super stoked. Fialkov’s involvement is a coup for Aspen.

Horizon #1 (Skybound/Image Comics) – A new sci-fi series from Skybound/Image has me intrigued. That fact that it seems to be an allegory towards war and the current quagmire in the Middle East has me excited.

New Super Man #1 (DC Comics) – I’ve read the first issue and while it doesn’t completely blow me away, there’s a chance this series may be a brilliant dissection of copyright/intellectual property and the appropriation of it that goes on in China known as Shanzhai. If that’s the intention, I have no idea, but that’s how I’m reading it right now.

Rough Riders #4 (Aftershock Comics) – Just an amazing mix of history and utter weirdness.

 

Paul

Top Pick: Old Man Logan #8 (Marvel) – I have really been enjoying his book.  Wolverine was never one of my favorite characters, and not being familiar with the original Old Man Logan story, I didn’t really know what to expect from this book.  But wow, is there some good stuff going on in here.  Loving the journey Logan is on, the darker art, the grit…if you’re not reading this book, you are missing out.

Civil War II Choosing Sides #2 (Marvel) – The first issue was a lighter read, but  it is an interesting point of view to see the lesser known players in the MU taking their positions in this civil war.  I do hope it gets a little deeper though, with more thought on the characters and not just a passing glance.

New Avengers #13 (Marvel) – This title has been a let down from the get go (for me anyway).  A few characters I was excited to see really got lost in this book, and this Maker big bad hasn’t been that big a threat.  However, things have turned around with the new civil war making waves.  The team has been divided on the issue and now things are getting interesting.  The Maker is unleashing his New Revengers in this issue, so I’m looking forward to that; plus Songbird just looks kick ass on the cover, so I haven’t totally given up on this yet.

Wacky Raceland #2 (DC Comics) – The first issue was indeed a wacky ride…and I liked it!  This adaptation of an old kids cartoon is definitely more grown up; apocalyptic waste land, racers driving for their lives… and cars that talk!  I’m looking forward to the next lap of this race.

Whatever Happened to Jessica Jones?

JessicaJonesNYCC

Unfortunately, Jessica Jones hasn’t had a solo series since The Pulse was cancelled in 2006, except for a special one-off for 2015’s New York Comic Con. She’s had stories featuring her as the lead character in Brian Michael BendisNew Avengers, had a solo story by Bendis and her co-creator Michael Gaydos that is all but a pitch for Alias II in the Marvel 75th Anniversary Special, and even was a co-headliner in Chris Yost and Mike McKone‘s Spider-Island: The Avengers with Carol Danvers, but there have been no ongoing or miniseries with her as protagonist.

Also, even though Bendis gave her the semblance of an arc through six years of New Avengers as she went from mom to superhero and back to mom, Jessica has sadly become defined by her relationship with her husband Luke Cage and her daughter Dani. However, along the way, he has developed her relationships with Carol Danvers, Daredevil, and even Spider-Man, who she used to have a crush on back in high school and inspired her to first put on the Jewel costume. (This story is told in a wonderful backup drawn by former Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada.)  And when Bendis was running the Avengers (and by extension) and the main Marvel events, she made appearances in such high profile storylines as Secret Invasion, Siege, and Fear Itself and the tie-ins to Civil War and Avengers vs. X-Men. With Hickman in charge of the Avengers the past couple of years and Bendis focusing on the X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy, she hasn’t appeared in any recent Marvel events, but this is going to change with Bendis penning Civil War II with artist Dave Marquez. Finally, Jessica is a consistent source of sarcasm and one-liners in the Marvel Universe making her a natural fit for the quip-heavy back and forth of the New Avengers team.

JessVows

The first defining post-Pulse event in the life of Jessica Jones as a character is her marriage to Luke Cage in New Avengers Annual #1, which acts as kind of an epilogue to The Pulse. Also, it ensured that thousands of more readers would be exposed to the relationship between Jessica and Luke, and it gives their wedding an “event” feel, like the previous high profile Marvel weddings between Reed and Sue Richards, Vision and Scarlet Witch, and Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson. Luke and Jessica were separated once when she decided to sign the Superhuman Registration Act to protect her and her baby, but they still remain married after 10 years. Bendis also doesn’t give into cliche in this issue and has the New Avengers fight the Super Adaptoid before the big day instead of having Black Widow’s replacement ruin the fun. Jessica also makes her own vows and says that Luke has inspired her and helped her not be stuck in her own head all the time, like the early arcs of Alias. It is touching climactic moment in their relationship, and artist Olivier Coipel captures it in usual clean art style and gives her a really poufy dress.

JessvsStark

The next big Jessica Jones moment (Sans her final guest spot in Young Avengers as team mentor where she gives Hawkeye’s bow to Kate Bishop and a couple appearances in Black Panther with Luke) is in New Avengers #22, which is a Civil War tie-in focused on Luke Cage deciding to not sign the Superhuman Registration Act. Bendis uses lots of loaded language and metaphors about the KKK and Jim Crow laws, but basically Luke wants to protect Harlem on his terms, not the government’s. Plus Jessica gets to call SHIELD, “the United States of corporate sellouts”. She shares a sad moment with Carol Danvers as it looks like the superhuman Civil War is going to fracture their friendship for a while, and she ends up not taking part in it going to Canada with her still unnamed daughter in tow for the duration of the event.

BabyDaniDanny

After the war, Jessica ends up on the run with the New Avengers, but instead of going on cool missions with them in Japan and fighting Japan, she stays cooped up in the Sanctum Sanctorum with Dani. Wong or Luke even does her shopping for her because of the Registration Act. Of course, this leads to some major cabin fever, and she snaps in New Avengers #33, which kicks off “The Trust” arc when the New Avengers decide to work with the Mighty Avengers to take on the Hood and a consortium of supervillains, who want to blow up Stark Tower. As a stay at home, she feels like she is suppressing who she really is, and this is confirmed in New Avengers #34 when Doctor Strange does an “imagery” spell on the team to see who they really are on the inside (and if they’re Skrulls.), and Jessica’s image is her in her Jewel costume. Bendis is foreshadowing her possible return to the superhero life, but she won’t join the New Avengers for quite a while. She does get to name her daughter, Danielle, after Danny Rand even though she jokes that the baby was named after Danny Partridge and empathizes with Luke’s paranoia that Dani is a Skrull in light of Elektra being outed as a Skrull in a previous arc.

JessWarOver

If New Avengers Annual #1 was the happiest moment for Luke and Jessica’s relationship, then New Avengers Annual #2 and its followup issue New Avengers #38, which is drawn by Michael Gaydos, is its darkest hour. In a frightening sequence of events, the Hood, who is majorly overpowered, overcomes the defenses of the Sanctum and Sanctorum causing Jessica to give Dani to Spider-Man while she runs away. She and Dani almost get sniped by Punisher villain Jigsaw, but Spidey saves them with his webs. The trauma of this attack causes Jessica to go to Avengers Tower and sign the Registration Act to protect Dani from both supervillains and Skrulls. She and Luke have a long argument where she tells him that he put his principles before being a father, and that all she cares about is Dani’s safety. He even almost gets arrested by the Mighty Avengers, but Carol does Jessica a solid and lets him go if he “thinks” about registering. Because Luke put his ideology before his family, Jessica and him separate with her staying in Avengers Tower, and him in an apartment owned by the Rand Corporation with the other New Avengers.

JessFindsLukesDad

However, thanks to a Skrull invasion and crossover event, Jessica and Luke reunite as she joins the fray in Secret Invasion #7 leaving Dani with Jarvis in Avengers Tower. This is the first time Jessica has been in action since she fought Norman Osborn in the first arc of The Pulse, and there’s nothing like a big group superhero fight to rekindle a relationship. Unfortunately, Jarvis is a Skrull and kidnaps Dani. In spite of this momentous event, Bendis even takes some time away from the action to tell a flashback story in New Avengers #47 with Michael Gaydos from her days in Alias Investigations when Luke hired Jessica (His third P.I. choice after Jessica Drew and Dakota North.) to find his dad so he can tell him that he’s not a criminal, but a hero. The flashback part is paced much like an issue of Alias with silent opening sequence and a dialogue heavy interview sequence shot with Luke emoting while Jessica is quiet and listens. Jessica does track him down and meets Luke’s step mom, who reads about his exploits as Power Man in the newspaper, and tries to show his father Luke’s good side. Sadly, they aren’t reunited, and Gaydos puts a literal screen door between them. However, Luke and Jessica grow closer and share a joke about Luke’s costume choices during the Bronze Age, and it cuts to the present where they talk about how Dani won’t have a normal life because they’re both superpowered people, but at least she’ll see the world.

Bendis uses Dani’s kidnapping as an opportunity to make Jessica and Luke the focus of the first post-Secret Invasion arc of New Avengers during 2009’s Dark Reign when the US government thought it was a good idea to put Norman Osborn in charge of SHIELD. After being just a mom and wife for most of his New Avengers run, Bendis and artist Philip Tan give her a more active role in the plot as she, Luke, and Wolverine interrogate a SHIELD agent, who is a Skrull after Jessica gets a Skrull detector from Invisible Woman. Then, Luke shows that he is willing to put Dani first and teams up with Norman Osborn and the Dark Avengers to get her back from the Skrulls. However, he beats up Venom and Bullseye with a crowbar to show them that he doesn’t work for Osborn, which creates a tension leading to a conflict between the New Avengers and the government sanctioned, yet utterly evil Dark Avengers.

PeterJessFriends

At her new abode of Bucky’s apartment (He’s the current Captain America.), Jessica doesn’t get to play superhero, but she has more input in the New Avengers plans, like telling them to keep their battle with the Dark Avengers out of the apartment, and starts to forge a platonic relationship with Spider-Man after he reveals his secret identity to the team. Bendis and Tan mine a lot of humor out of Jessica’s high school crush on Peter, Luke’s feigned (Or is it.) jealousy, and the fact that he only knew her as “coma girl”. Bendis and Joe Quesada explore their relationship in more depth in a backup story in Amazing Spider-Man #601 retconning a background girl in Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man #4 to be Jessica Jones as she watches Spider-Man beat up Sandman. She also gets a great line about Spider-Man starting his own religion with  “With great power comes great responsibility” and says she’ll teach Dani about that. Spider-Man talks to Jessica about showing Dani her best side, and maybe that means a return to superheroing. It’s a great backup that gives Jessica another relationship outside of Luke and Carol, but Quesada’s art is overly posed and not his best work. Jessica Jones also looks like Mary-Jane Watson with brown hair for some reason.

JessicaJonesSquadGoals

And Jessica does return into action when the Dark Avengers kidnap Luke, and Stuart Immonen ups New Avengers‘ visual quality when he becomes the new artist on the title towards the end of 2009. After shaking off some criticism from her mother, who is keeping Dani, Jessica spearheads Luke’s rescue by saying, “You don’t fucking mess with Luke Cage.”, a one-liner that should definitely be said some time in the Netflix Defenders show. And, in New Avengers #59, she assembles her own Defenders lineup of Daredevil, Hellcat (First canon meeting between Patsy and Jessica.), Dr. Voodoo, Misty Knight, The Thing, Valkyrie, and of course, Iron Fist to spring him from Norman Osborn. They rescue him easily, but in action movie villain fashion, there’s a bomb on Luke’s chest. It doesn’t detonate when Spider-Man plays it cold and blows up Osborn’s summer home again. (He probably did Harry’s homework there.) These events cause Luke and Jessica to consider their mom’s advice about finding a more normal life about Dani, and they daydream about walking through the park with Dani in her stroller and finding a place to live where they don’t have to be in hiding.

JewelisBack

Continuing the tradition of big Jessica Jones moments in New Avengers annuals, New Avengers Annual #3 features the return of the Jewel costume thanks to artist Mike Mayhew, who did the covers for The Pulse. The setup is reminiscent of DC’s Birds of Prey as the female members of the New Avengers: Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, and Mockingbird plus Jessica Jones team up to rescue Clint Barton from the Dark Avengers. They infiltrate Osborn’s helicarrier, kick around Mentallo aka the wannabe version of Mastermind, and grab Clint in a majestic fashion thanks to Mayhew’s painted art style. The successful mission has Jessica even more interested in being a superhero again and also features the return of Steve Rogers back from the dead to throw a wrench into everything as he becomes the head of SHIELD after Norman Osborn is arrested after the events of Siege, and the Superhuman Registration Act is repealed. This has a huge effect on the life of Jessica and Luke as they are no longer fugitives and take Dani on a simple walk in a New York City park in a gorgeous splash page from Bryan Hitch in New Avengers Finale #1.

But even if the happier times of the Heroic Age are upon Jessica Jones, she drew the short straw as Luke Cage got his own four issue miniseries called New Avengers: Luke Cage, written by BPRD‘s John Arcudi and drawn by Eric Canete (Martian Manhunter) and Pepe Larraz (Kanan). While Luke is off busting a crime and drug ring in Philadelphia, Arcudi writes Jessica Jones as a stereotypical nag constantly calling about him being back home instead of being sarcastically empathetic as a former superhero and private eye. To add insult to injury, Canete draws her like a teenage girl in a manga instead of an adult woman adding an air of creepiness into her all too brief scenes. Arcudi can spin a crime yarn, and Anete’s Philadelphia has real character, but their depiction of Jessica Jones is one note.

JessPunchesAgamotto

But even as she is turned into a sitcom wife in New Avengers: Luke Cage, Jessica Jones fared much better in the Heroic Age relaunch of New Avengers where Luke Cage bought Avengers Mansion from Tony Stark for $1 to house and support the New Avengers, who received a paycheck from SHIELD. Luke was still wary of getting a government paycheck because of his desire for independence, but Jessica accepted the check on his behalf and made a great quip about him being the original “hero for hire”. And she almost immediately jumps right back into battle when the Eye of Agamotto possesses Luke in New Avengers #2. Jessica punches it off him, and there is a lot of magic and possession genre stuff going like The Exorcist meets a standard superhero comic. She does get to punch ghosts and fly in Luke Cage to stop Agamotto (He’s a guy, actually.) opening a portal to scary dimensions along the way and rescue Carol Danvers from being incinerated by magical energy. You basically just want her to join the team.

JessBeatsDoombot

And she does take another step to being a full-fledged New Avenger by searching for a nanny in New Avengers #7, which features some funny Marvel D-lister cameos as Bendis and Immonen show they can deftly balance humor and action. She and Luke eventually settle on Squirrel Girl even though she has a bushy tail and a weird past with Wolverine because she can easily control her powers and is interested in working in childcare while she is a student at NYU. Getting Squirrel Girl as a nanny allows Luke and Jessica to go on their first real date possibly ever in New Avengers #8 as Daniel Acuna draws her at her most gorgeous. Luke thinks that Jessica would make a great Avenger as well as a mom and suggests the moniker “Power Woman” for her, which of course, she vetoes. In the issue, Bendis shows her torn between wanting to be present for Dani while wanting to inspire her as a superhero. And there’s a battle between her, Luke, and Doombot where she take the robot out with a fire hydrant. This is the spark that she needs to decide to join the New Avengers for real with Luke adorably saying, “Boo yah.” New Avengers #8 is the lighter counterpart to New Avengers #31 as Bendis focuses in on Jessica and Luke’s ever changing relationship and takes a break from villain plots or magical mumbo jumbo to give her a real milestone as a character even if she is technically a supporting character in the title.

JessJoinsAvengers

Jessica’s first mission is a pretty fun espionage tinged one fitted for Mike Deodato‘s photorealistic, noir style of art as she and the New Avengers hunt down Superia, who they later find out has a briefcase with the Infinity Formula that Nick Fury alive, not too old, and strong. She gets a pretty fun moment as she actually drives a truck to take down Superia while Luke carries his with his super strength with Iron Fist in it because Danny doesn’t have a driver’s license. Later, as a tie-in to Fear Itself, Jessica gets to punch Nazi robots controlled by the Red Skull’s daughter Sin, who has godlike status. It’s nice to see Jessica have an active role in a Marvel event for once instead of running away to Canada in Civil War, or staying in some kind of domicile like in Secret Invasion and Siege. She also gets a mini-team up with Squirrel Girl, who surprises Jessica with her squirrel summoning abilities, and successfully sets up the Avengers Mansion safety protocols to protect Dani. Nothing climactic happens to her in New Avengers Annual #1, but Bendis remembers she has a friendship with Daredevil from his days as her lawyer in Alias and client for her bodyguard services in his run on Daredevil. This is why it’s fitting that she gives him an Avengers keycard and welcomes to the team for a short duration as Bendis basically gets to make the New Avengers a clubhouse of all his favorite characters.

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However, Jessica Jones’ Avengers status is less than permanent, and she completely unravels as a superhero in New Avengers #16.1, a special issue drawn by Neal Adams. Jessica is part of an escort to transfer Norman Osborn to the Raft when he becomes the Green Goblin again and threatens to kill Dani until Wolverine forces him to stand down with his claws. However, he ends up escaping, and a few issues later, Jessica confides in Luke that she is afraid to leave Dani’s side because Norman Osborn on the loose. Jessica’s concern for Dani’s safety causes her to sit out of the team’s next mission even though Squirrel Girl is there to watch the baby. Later, she uses her status as a relatively unknown superhero and tries to speak to protesters who decry the destruction left in the wake of the Avengers’ battle, but gets called a spoiled princess. This causes her to go on the run yet again with Dani and Squirrel Girl and argue with Luke for putting their daughter in harm’s way by being at Avengers Mansion. This is basically a rehashing of what went down in “Dark Reign”, but with Deodato instead of Immonen art except with Jessica quitting the Avengers team. Bendis and Deodato also make a clumsy parallel between Luke’s participation in Avengers vs. X-Men with a soldier going to war and leaving his family behind.

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Michael Gaydos makes his final (for now) return drawing the character of Jessica Jones in New Avengers #31, which is mostly a conversation between Jessica Jones and Carol Danvers, who has taken on the identity of Captain Marvel. Jessica feels like she has driven Luke to quit the New Avengers and is a “bad wife”, but Carol reassures her by telling her that it just took him a while to understand his responsibilities as a father and husband. Jessica is really happy with Carol’s new name and costume saying that it suits her as a great superhero and friend as she gets sarcastically sentimental. Even though some of the writing makes Luke seem flighty or a deadbeat dad, Bendis and Gaydos really capture what is great about Jessica and Carol’s friendship, and it’s a pity that they haven’t had much time to interact in issues after this arc of New Avengers. This is probably because Carol’s solo books, especially the past two volumes of Captain Marvel, are more concerned with cosmic threats and adventures than earthbound things. With Bendis on Civil War II, their lack of interactions will likely change, and it will be interesting to see if they resent each other after such a long absence.

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After a magically caused battle between the New Avengers and Avengers team, Jessica Jones finally says her goodbye to the team in New Avengers #34 as she, Luke, and Dani are there for the unveiling of a statue of Victoria Hand, who went from Norman Osborn’s stooge to government liaision to the Avengers, and dying heroically. It’s a pretty touching issue filled with lots of jokes about the events of previous issues, and she even gets a warm hug from Spider-Man. Deodato draws a beautiful double page spread showing all their big moments from Alias onwards as Bendis tries to make an argument that they were the heart of his New Avengers run. I could maybe see that Luke Cage was the focal point of his nine years on the family of books as he went from being a barely used supporting character in Daredevil and Alias to a team leader of both the New Avengers and the Thunderbolts. (He was more of the Tbolts’ babysitter.) However, Jessica Jones, despite her showcase issues, ended up mainly being a mom and sarcastic comic relief. For every scene where she got to punch a Doombot or joke around with Spider-Man, there’s another one where she’s standing silently with Dani on her arm with a baby bottle.

But, at least, while Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers was a key book in the Marvel Universe and led to or tied into the big summer event books, Jessica Jones got panel time. This hasn’t been the case since Jonathan Hickman and other writers have taken over the books titled Avengers and New Avengers. Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn, and Mike Hawthorne use her as a nagging wife stereotype in a couple of stories dealing with Deadpool’s team up with Luke Cage and Iron Fist against the racist supervillain, White Man. It’s a pretty funny parody of the old Power Man and Iron Fist comics, and Jessica Jones does get one great moment when she punches Deadpool out a window when he remarks on her “post baby body.”

Jessica later becomes a supporting character when Luke Cage starts yet another Avengers team in Mighty Avengers, but Al Ewing is careful not to tread on old Bendis plot points and has Luke have the team meet in an old theatre while Jessica and Dani have their own apartment. She doesn’t factor into the plot much except for a great scene where she gets to clock Superior Spider-Man (When Dr. Octopus’ brain was in Peter Parker’s body, and he was a pompous ass.), but continues to be occasional support and comic relief and gets past Blue Marvel’s hard shell to chat about his college age daughter. Jessica plays a similar supporting role in David Walker and Sanford Greene‘s Power Man and Iron Fist where she exists to say funny lines and get on Luke’s case for not spending enough time with Dani. Again, she hasn’t factored into the plot so far in the first three issues.

On a brighter note, Jessica made an appearance in the epilogue of Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #5 in an homage to her friendship with Patsy in the Jessica Jones television show, which is the equivalent of her friendship of Carol Danvers in Alias without the extra Avengers and cosmic baggage. Jessica Jones is a P.I. for Alias Investigations in Hellcat and is actually working for Patsy’s rival, Hedy, which should stir up some real drama as the comic continues. And hopefully this portrayal continues to seep into the other corners of the Marvel Universe as Jessica is supposedly playing a role in Civil War II and getting her own solo series in its aftermath, written by Bendis with art by Michael Gaydos and covers by David Mack.

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Thanks to the high status Brian Michael Bendis has had in the Marvel stable of writers since in the mid-2000s, Jessica Jones had consistent appearances in the New Avengers titles as well as appearing in Avengers when she became a New Avenger during the Heroic Age. Because of her friendship with Spider-Man, she also appeared in some issues of Amazing Spider-Man, like when the New Avengers helped in the whole “Spider-Island” situation when random New York citizens all got powers, including Dani Cage-Jones, who promptly stuck Squirrel Girl to the wall. But her myriad appearances were mostly in support of Luke Cage or the New Avengers team with the exception of the occasional “solo” issue of New Avengers that Gaydos drew, or special annual that gave her a semblance of an arc.

Fans of Jessica Jones can only hope that Marvel’s heroic character who doesn’t want to be a superhero, overcame PTSD to be a great mom and Avenger, and might have the sharpest wit in all the Marvel Universe, but cares for the little guy and often helped out civilians while the rest of the New Avengers were punching things, gets a story of her own in the years to come and doesn’t have to play second fiddle to Luke Cage. The other Jessica gets a nuanced portrayal as mother, friend, and superhero in Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez‘s Spider-Woman, and I hope Jessica Jones gets a series like that soon, especially with the critical and commercial success of her Netflix show.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Vs. A.I.M.! Civil War II Erupts in New Avengers #12!

Super spies take on super science this June as Civil War II comes to Sunspot and his team! Only some wars are less civil than others. Marvel has released a first look at New Avengers #12 – a tie-in to Civil War II! Writer Al Ewing and artist Paco Medina are here to unleash the sky-hi spy-fi on the Marvel Universe. But as Civil War II rages, who’s paying attention to W.H.I.S.P.E.R. and their sinister leader, the Maker? He and his New Revengers are out to put down the New Avengers once and for all – unless S.H.I.E.L.D. does it first!

NEW AVENGERS #12 (APR160900)
Written by AL EWING
Art by PACO MEDINA
Cover by JULIAN TOTINO TEDESCO
Black Panther 50th Anniversary Variant Cover by DENYS COWAN (APR160901)
Civil War Reenactment Variant by GREG LAND (APR160902)
FOC – 05/16/16, On-Sale – 06/08/16

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Review: New Avengers #11

1In the wake of Standoff, the New Avengers and A.I.M. have to pick up the pieces and move on in the new directions they have been sent in.  This issue focuses on Wiccan/Demiurge, Hulkling and Squirrel Girl trying to figure out how to be the new New Avengers, and unfortunately, the beginning of the journey is not an exciting one.

New Avengers #11 is broken down into mini ‘chapters’, following the trio as they try to figure out what their next move will be. The first stop is to the Scarlet Witch, the sort of mother to Wiccan/Demiurge (and for that to be explained, you should read The Children’s Crusade story in Young Avengers..so good!) discussing mostly the upcoming marriage of Billy to Teddy, the change to Billy’s codename and the offer to help him with his powers. It was a very strange exchange that felt very out of sorts. We also catch up with Hawkeye (Clint, not Kate) and how he is dealing with his situation after Standoff. Songbird then pays him an unexpected visit, that feels quite tense after what happened (read Standoff, I don’t want to spoil anything). We then have the villain of the issue make their appearance that brings the few characters together and gives us, what looks like to be the new New Avengers.

I have to be honest, this issue was a huge let down after the Standoff tie in issues.  With the events of that arc, things were moving in new directions that looked to be promising…but it seems this title is moving right back to what it was and not what it could have been.  Al Ewing gives a pretty dull story and some of the characterizations are way off from what we know these characters to be; Scarlet Witch was TOTALLY off…especially her flip comment about ridding mutants off the planet. Her feelings on that matter have been explored quite a bit, and I doubt she would make such an off hand remark. And the brief appearance of Captain America (Steve Rogers) had me wondering if he was maybe a Skrull or something as again, it didn’t seem like the character readers know. And WOW was the villain just bad. I’m not familiar with The Plunderer, but it was painful to read his dialogue.

I was also a little disappointed to see Gerardo Sandoval back doing art for the title.  Not that I don’t like his work…I just haven’t been the biggest fan of his depictions of these characters.  During Standoff, Marcus To did a fantastic job of bringing life to these characters; and Sandoval just brings odd proportions and strange facial expressions.  He handled the battle scene well enough, but I definitely felt something lacking.

Overall, I was let down by this issue. Standoff seemed to spark something in this book that really had me thinking ‘ok NOW we’re going somewhere’ and this just feels pretty much where it left off before those events. Yeah, there’s a little information dropped at the end about a character, but it induced an eye roll rather then any genuine excitement or satisfaction. I really am disappointed this title fell so far from its Standoff tie ins, and I hold little hope that it can reclaim what could have been.

*apologies for the number of times Standoff appears.

Story: Al Ewing Art: Gerardo Sandoval
Story: 5 Art: 6 Overall: 5.5 Recommendation: Pass

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Dept H #1 CoverWednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Patrick

Top Pick: Dept. H #1 (Dark Horse) – Matt Kindt’s work would be enjoyable even if they published the book with all the words spelled backwards. His visual storytelling inspires the mind and the inner artist. His new direction with this book is very exciting.

All-New Hawkeye #4 (Marvel) – Do you ever feel like people who read Hawkeye hit you over the head with how good it is? That they just don’t shut up about? Because if you’re not reading Hawkeye, somebody SHOULD be hitting you over the head until you are. Notify me and I’ll get someone on that. I’ve been very happy with this Lemire’s work following Faction’s run.

BEK: Black-Eyed Kids #1 (Aftershock) – I have really been enjoying Aftershock each month. Their new book will hopefully be as creepy and unnerving as the cover.

Clean Room #7 (Vertigo) – There’s something about Clean Room, something about it’s grotesque imagery yet clean visuals that allows this horror story to really stand out. I enjoyed the first arc and I really feel like Gail Simone has built a strong foundation to build upon.

Tokyo Ghost #6 (Image) – If Sean Murphy keyed my car once a month, I would still look forward to seeing it. If Rick Remender was telling him what to do with the key, I would not only continue to pay $4 a month to see how it had turned out, I would gladly explain it all to Hyundai when my lease was up.

 

Alex

Top Pick: Divinity II #1 (Valiant) – I’ve only just finished the first Divinity, and it was phenomenal. I can’t wait to get started on this. Cannot bloody wait.

Bloodshot Reborn #12 (Valiant) – The current story arc, The Analog Man, features some of the best looking artwork out there. It’s also a cool story with a very Mad Max aesthetic.

Howard The Duck #6 (Marvel) – Always a treat to read this series; Zdarsky’s humour is right up my alley.

Huck #6 (Image) – The first of two Superman like characters on this list, Huck is one of the better Millar books of recent times (of course I haven’t read the Jupiter series yet). Even though this s the final issue, I have no idea how it’ll all wrap up, especially because it feels like it’s only just about begun.

Hyperion #2 (Marvel) – Is here for the same reason it was last month. Hyperion may hit someone with a transfer truck swung like a baseball bat.

 

Paul

Top Pick: Extraordinary X-Men #9 (Marvel) – I have been really enjoying this book from the get go, and I’ll admit when I heard time travel in the story, I rolled my eyes. HOWEVER, I am really looking forward to see the X-Men in the future, joined by their teacher, facing off against Apocalypse and his horsemen; I always enjoy seeing new mutants imagined as horsemen and how they fit the roles of war, famine, pestilence and death.  I’m sure we won’t be disappointed.

Captain Marvel #4 (Marvel) – I’m a huge fan of Carol, and Abigail Brand is always a welcome addition to any title…but to be honest, my biggest draw to this book is Alpha Flight!  Well the three members we have; Aurora, Sasquatch and Puck have been out of the pages for far too long.  All the reboots and re-launches going on, why hasn’t anyone taken a look at Alpha Flight?  There is major potential there…just saying.

New Avengers #10 (Marvel) – Even with the American Kaiju and the New Avenger’s Power Rangers inspired mecha robot *yawn*, this title has definitely picked up steam with the tie in to Pleasant Hill.  These Avengers are fighting in the name of A.I.M., we should be rooting for them, right?  Lines are being drawn, not just with the team, but all the Avengers, and it’s a pleasant surprise to see this title stepping up.

Uncanny Inhumans #7 (Marvel) – I’m really liking the idea of Black Bolt’s ‘Quiet Room’, and really enjoyed that last issue showing the various Inhumans helping him keep the piece in his club.  And now there is an investigation under way…and the Capo., thought dead, is making a play to regain his power.  Never a dull moment for ol’ Black Bolt.

 

Javier

Top Pick: Clean Room #7 (Vertigo) – I only read it with the lights on. This sure to be disturbing issue is an Astrid stand alone story.

East of West #25 (Image) – Year two comes to an end after three years. Wait that does’t sound right. Double-checked, it’s an accurate statement. Hickman and Dragotta get a pass because it is damn good apocalyptic storytelling.

Gutter Magic #4 (IDW Publishing) – The end to another good story. Only four issues of this epic sci-fi/fantasy alternative history epic. I got my fingers crosses for future arcs.

Karnak #3 (Marvel) – If you are going to make me wait for like five months, then it better be good. This new philosophically bent Karnak is a blast to read—that is when an issue finally makes it to market.

 

Brett

Top Pick: Superman: American Alien #6/Superman: Lois and Clark #7 (DC Comics) – The best two Superman comics DC has going right now. Both in their own ways are great explorations of the characters and both show off what makes him great.

Captain Canuck #8 (Chapter House Comics) – Every issue is fun and entertaining. Great superhero comics without the gritty grim.

Carver: Paris Story #3 (Z2 Comics) – Just awesome gritty noir.

Dept H #1 (Dark Horse) – Matt Kindt’s new series? Done! Did you read his Mind MGMT from Dark Horse? It’s excellent. This first issue is excellent. An absolutely must buy.

Divinity II #1 (Valiant) – The first volume was absolutely amazing and this is a series I’ve been looking forward to since its announcement. I’m expecting nothing but excellence here.

Feeling the Pulse #12-13

portrait_incredibleFeeling the Pulse is a weekly issue by issue look at the follow-up series to Alias featuring Jessica Jones and a team of reporters at the Daily Bugle, who investigate and report on superhero related stories.  In this installment of Feeling the Pulse, I will be covering The Pulse #12-13 (2005-2006) written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Michael Gaydos with colors from Matt Hollingsworth.

In The Pulse #12-13, which concludes the three part “Fear” storyline, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos continue to have a two plot structure with Ben Urich investigating and writing a story on D-Man while Jessica Jones goes into labor, gets discriminated against by an anti-mutant hospital administrator, but gets swooped up in the nick of time by the New Avengers. (Luke being on the team is super helpful.) Getting Gaydos and colorist Matt Hollingsworth back for this pivotal moment in Jessica Jones’ life is a true coup as her raw emotions are on display while they show just how much Luke cares for her as he runs through the streets of New York (breaking up a drug deal along the way) and leaps into a Quinjet just to be with his girlfriend, who will hopefully become his wife.

The Pulse #12 opens frantically with Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel at this time) flying Jessica to the nearest hospital where she is peppered with questions about her mutant and radioactive status. This is while Luke Cage is stuck in the New York traffic and can’t catch a cab so Wasp does the old “Avengers Assemble” thing so he can be with Jessica. While this is happening, Ben Urich continues his titanic struggle with J. Jonah Jameson, who finds D-Man’s name and backstory to be amusing, but quickly backpedals when he thinks that this story is a cover for trying to keep Daredevil safe because he is currently being investigated by the feds after his secret identity is outed in Daredevil. Urich does end up doing the story, finds out that D-Man (whose real name is Dennis Dunphy) has been arrested for vagrancy multiple times, and ends up meeting him in the sewers after one of the shopkeepers he’s robbed tells him that he uses it for travel. Back at the hospital, an administrator basically says that Jessica can’t deliver her mutant abomination under her care, but the New Avengers show up in the nick of time and take her to the best doctor around, Stephen Strange.

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The Pulse #13 deals with the birth of Jessica and Luke’s daughter as well as Ben Urich interviewing and helping D-Man. Bendis and Gaydos show that Jessica and Luke are non-conventional parents when Jessica keeps swearing and also makes a leaning on the fourth wall reference to Alias when she tells Dr. Strange about her mouth “a few years ago” while Luke asks for Public Enemy and not soft music to be played in the delivery room. And then the press decides to show up overwhelming Dr. Strange’s valet, Wong so Captain America takes over the PR duties and lets Kat Farrell come through because Jessica signed an exclusive with the Daily Bugle to cover the birth of her child. However, Jessica refuses to talk to Kat and let the Bugle have the story because they lambasted Luke Cage in the paper back in New Avengers #15.

Speaking of the press, D-Man takes Ben Urich to his sewer home after complimenting his news stories about Daredevil and offering him a stale cupcake. There is some voiceover narration (Ben typing the story) about D-Man refusing to join the Avengers to be a hero for the homeless, but now he is just alone. Ben confronts him about stealing the jewelry, and it is clear that D-Man isn’t in his right mind as he thinks that the pieces of jewelry are Infinity Gems. And finally Jessica has her baby while J. Jonah Jameson is furious that he got scooped by the Daily Globe and printed a story about D-Man instead. Urich says he shouldn’t have disrespected her, and it flashes back to Urich getting in contact with Daredevil, who gets D-Man the help he needs. The issue closes with Jessica and Luke holding their baby when Luke proposes to her.

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The D-Man and Jessica giving birth plotlines in The Pulse #12-#13 aren’t super suspenseful, but they tie together nicely through the shared theme of empathy or the lack of it. Whether they are homeless petty thieves or celebrities (Superhero news stories are the celebrity gossip of the Marvel Universe.), these superpowered beings are human beings, who just want to make ends meet or start a family while helping others. Ben Urich chooses to listen to D-Man’s problems and not just use him for a story about a fallen story or as a joke, finds out that he respects Daredevil tremendously, and uses his connection with Daredevil to find him some kind of help or shelter.

And I don’t recall reading any of D-Man’s appearances in the past ten years, but currently, he is an important supporting character in Nick Spencer’s Captain America: Sam Wilson so perhaps Urich did some good. His actions are one final example of his belief that superheroes (even masked ones) are a force for good in society that is the complete opposite of his editor J. Jonah Jameson and fellow Pulse reporter Kat Farrell’s view that they’re good front page fodder to sell newspapers. Jessica Jones drives this point home more emphatically when she yells on the phone that Jameson is a mustache sporting Nazi while giving birth. Ouch, indeed.

On the other hand, with Jessica’s pregnancy, The Pulse #12-13 is a true example of superheroes cooperating to help one of their own even if they have different backgrounds from the retired Avenger Janet Van Dyne making the initial call to Carol Danvers being an amazing friend and holding Jessica’s hand and literally carrying her through this ordeal and finally to the New Avengers and Doctor Strange. Each New Avenger or guest hero (With the exception of Spider-Woman even though she and Jessica teamed up back in Alias.) has a great moment or line in support of Jessica.

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Carol’s shining moment comes straight out of the gates as she flies between New York skyscrapers and ensures Jessica checks into a hospital as quickly as possible and is followed by Wasp saying “Avengers assemble” as she immediately goes from chit chatting about fashion with Luke Cage to getting him a ride to the hospital. Wolverine gets to basically tell the anti-mutant hospital administrator to go to hell, Spider-Man makes awkward, badly timed jokes about the Vision and Scarlet Witch’s kids, and Iron Man flies the Quinjet moving Jessica from a hospital run by a bigot to the Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange. And Captain America pays forward Jessica’s saving of his reputation back in the first arc of Alias by being a literal shield for the hordes of press surrounding Dr. Strange’s house.

Cap gives a measured speech as Gaydos zooms into the star on his chest showing that he’s a champion for his fellow heroes whether they’re facing aliens, mind control, or journalists. Matt Hollingsworth’s color palette is usually pretty faded on Alias, but he makes the panels just a tad brighter when the various superheroes show up even Daredevil, whose red acts as a light to lead D-Man out of squalor and into a better life. Hollingsworth’s colors also stand out when Luke Cage is running to be with Jessica as she’s in labor and the street around him is all yellow because of the taxi cabs. Yellow has been Luke’s color since his Power Man days in the 1970s, and the use of color in both his shirt and surroundings shows his determination to be with the women he loves as she brings his daughter into the world. Their relationship continues to be the center of the story as he helps her get through the pains of labor holding his hand as she starts her contractions. (It was vice versa, but the unbreakable skin did more harm than good.)

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As I mentioned last week, Michael Gaydos’ return was super timely as he draw the dark corridors of the New York City sewers as well as the emotions that are running high as Jessica Jones has her daughter. Most of his facial expressions are pained as Jessica goes into labor while being hounded by doctors and various hospital people, who are asking about her mutant status, her superpowers, and kick Carol Danvers out because of her energy based powers. However, it gets better in The Pulse #13 when Carol, Luke, and Cap are there to soothe her as the pain increases, and the censored profanity increases. Even though he’s not allowed to show the actual words because this is a comic set in the mainstream Marvel universe, Bendis uses profanity in a manner similar to Alias to show Jessica’s raw feelings as she is about to experience a life changing moment. And Gaydos’ depiction of Jessica with her newborn daughter is quite touching as he goes away from the grid filled double page spreads that he uses to show the verbal tete a tetes that Jessica, Ben Urich, J. Jonah Jameson, and other characters have engaged in throughout Alias and The Pulse to back to back full page spreads. Also, the final page with Luke and Jessica is pure bliss with well-earned smiles everywhere. Of course, we don’t hear her answer to his proposal because Bendis has to leave one thread untied for next issue’s finale. (Jessica’s reaction to the proposal is priceless and ambiguous though.)

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J. Jonah Jameson detests it and mentions taking legal action while continuing to denigrate Ben Urich as less than a reporter, but the D-Man story that Ben Urich writes is what Jameson had in mind for The Pulse when he first came up with the idea. These articles that are in-depth, analysis pieces on superheroes that every day people can connect to, like human interest stories with a side of colorful costumes and punching. And this is the kind of story that Urich excels at writing even though he’s best known for investigative journalism about the Kingpin and Norman Osborn as D-Man talks about the “layers” he gave Daredevil, and how his writing style brought the Man without Fear close to a struggling superhero and wrestler, like him.

I’m not saying that Ben Urich is a self-insert character for Brian Michael Bendis, but it is handy to have a writer character in your story to  expound your ideas on a certain topic: superheroes in this case. In his superhero comics from Ultimate Spider-Man to Daredevil, Avengers, and way too many event miniseries, Bendis finds a kind of middle ground between deconstruction and reconstruction. He can write a character like Jessica Jones, who rejects the superhero life as painting too much in broad strokes and not looking at the big picture, or he can write Ultimate Peter Parker, who is the embodiment of heroism mingled with teen angst and optimism. Bendis’ best work and characterization has definitely come with the solo street level heroes, like Spider-Man, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, and he does better at telling dialogue driven stories focusing on the human side heroes with splashes of action even though he has a couple of cool concepts in him, like House of M alternate reality, Nick Fury’s Secret War, and bringing the original 1960s X-Men to the current time period.

The Pulse #12-13 has plenty of emotional payoff for the characters of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage as they overcome discrimination and just the usual fears of bringing a child into the world with the help of their superhero friends. And in the B-plot, Bendis and Gaydos continue to show why Ben Urich is one of the most underappreciated supporting characters in the Marvel Universe as he uses his skills as journalism to not only tell the truth about the world around him, but also to create empathy for his fellow human beings even smelly, homeless Z-list superhero dropouts, who happen to be people with dreams, aspirations, and ideals too.

Review: New Avengers #8

New Avengers 8The New Avengers make their presence known in the latest event from Marvel, Standoff.  I thought I was sure which way this team would lean in the coming stand-off (pardon the pun), but I didn’t guess it would come out the way it did.

*I don’t want to give away any spoilers to anyone who hasn’t started reading the event, so I’ll keep specifics out of this review.

The New Avengers receive a message that lets them know what Maria Hill and S.H.I.E.L.D. has been up to regarding Pleasant Hill.  Roberto has the team assembled, along with all of AIM island patched in, and gives them all the chance to vote on how they will react to the information they have received.  The result is for the New Avengers to get involved and do what they can…which means operating on US soil and risking their actions to be seen as an act of war.  Not all of the team agree with this course of action, and those who vote NO are sent away from the team…and told they now represent The New Avengers.  The remaining team makes their move on S.H.I.E.L.D. and reveals themselves to them, as well as the government who does indeed take their actions as an act of war.

Al Ewing does a great job of making this a tie-in issue that feels part of the whole event, instead of some throw away like so many other tie-ins that just want to make the characters presence known.  The team takes a new turn, which will impact the title as it moves forward, giving a very interesting direction I look forward to following.  And to turn it up, he throws in an unexpected reveal that caught me off guard that has me excited to see how the inevitable revelation will again change this team.  In the negative column, the government’s response to the New Avengers actions made me roll my eyes…hard.  It just came off as silly, seeing a government official make such a serious declaration with, what I thought, was a ridiculous response.

I was more than impressed with Marcus To’s art, and think he is a very welcome addition to this book.  From the beginning of this title, I didn’t really feel that Gerardo Sandoval was a great fit; I wasn’t a fan of his interpretations of the characters, and as a whole, it made the book feel to ‘Saturday morning cartoon’ for me.  To, on the other hand, really brings a more natural feeling to the characters.  It really felt like a better fit with the tone of this story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this new arc for the book, especially after what I thought was a less than stellar arc with Wiccan or Demiurge or whatever he’s calling himself now and that space wizard (I don’t remember the name; actually I am choosing not to remember).  The events in this book take the team in an interesting new direction, and I am looking forward to see how it moves forward. I am also looking forward to seeing how the members who were sent away carry on as Avengers.  And lastly, I really hope Marcus To sticks around as the artist on this book.  His work, along with this story, really renewed my faith in this book and hope it stays the course.

Story: Al Ewing Art: Marcus To
Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

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