Search

Graphic Novelty²

Tag

Brian Michael Bendis

Avengers vs X-Men

I love both the Avengers and the X-Men- but who will come out on top in this epic battle?!

I have been meaning to read this collected edition since last year when I read Uncanny X-Men: Revolution that followed this event book. I kept picking up this series but putting it back down when other graphic novels caught my eye. But when I recently read Mr. and Mrs. X, and I had forgotten that a certain character was dead because of this storyline, I knew I needed to finally make the commitment to finish it.

This story follows House of M, when Scarlet Witch utters “No more mutants!”, thus no mutants have been born in years. When the first mutant child, Hope, is born who has the ability to psychically manipulate and mimic the powers of other mutants, current mutants divide as what to do. When it is discovered that Phoenix, the powerful being that killed Jean Grey, is headed to Earth to possibly consume Hope, the heroes are torn as what to do. What it comes down to is Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men, feels that Hope is strong enough to control the Pheonix and will use its power to reignite mutantdom vs Captain America, the Avengers leader, who feels that Hope will become a threat and destroy humanity, thus she needs to be taken down.

So begins the battles- many many of them, as this graphic novel collects twelve chapters to tell the story. When you have such a large cast not everyone can properly get featured and this book follows suit. Some heroes receive small cameos, with one bit of dialogue and then they are just part of the large fighting scenes. But I was pleasantly surprised that Iron Fist had such a large role, plus Nova got a nice part too.

As I don’t wish to spoil the narrative too much, I will limit my summary. When Pheonix arrives, five mutants- Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Magik- take Hope’s place and all get considerable new powers that they use for improving the world. But we all know that’s not the end of the story. The Pheonix wants Hope and it is she and Scarlet Witch that finally subdue the Pheonix’s dark powers, but not before there is a lot of death and destruction.

There are powerful moments found within the story and some insightful and sometimes snappy dialogue, but it can be a slog to find them. Just as I found Captain Marvel unsufferable in Civil War II, so I found Cyclops. He has some extremely valid points, as mutants really have been persecuted, but I was really hating on him, plus…he’s the one who ends up getting briefly consumed by the Pheonix and doing something terrible.

Overall, the art was strong despite many different artists. While there are some style shifts in the different chapters, there is enough visual consistency when the various stories were pulled together in this collected edition. Although Hope sometimes varies between looking like a teen (which she was) and an older typical female hero hottie. I always enjoyed the crowd or battle scenes as its fun to see how the artists choose to portray everyone in mid-action.

In the large collected edition, there are also some tie-ins:

A vs X: This volume showcases personal battles amidst the war and has a whole slew of authors and artists detail how two connected heroes (or villains) duke it out. There is – Iron Man vs Magneto, Things vs Namor, Captain America vs Gambit, Spider-Man vs Colossus, Black Widow vs Magik, Daredevil vs Psylocke, Thor vs Emma Frost, Hawkeye vs Angel, Black Panther vs Storm, Hope vs Scarlet Witch, Cyclops vs Captain America, AvX: Science Battle, Captain America vs Havok, Red Hulk vs Domino, Toad vs Jarvis, Spider-Woman vs (several) X-Women, Iron Fist vs and Iceman and Squirrel Girl vs Pixie.

This is a motley grouping of short stories (some are only a page long), as some of the fights tie in with the preceding narrative, while others are just for laughs. The only one that I found truly memorable was the poignant Storm vs Black Panther battle because there is no winner as their marriage sadly crumbles because of their differences.

A-Babies vs X-Babies:  Skottie Young is well known for his variant covers of Marvel heroes, so this one-off is funny and good for a single read. On the corner of Fury Dr and Xavier Way is the peaceful neighborhood of Marvelous Meadows. Being tucked into bed is little Steve (Captain America) who is surrounded by his army themed stuffed bears. Wait- Bucky Bear is missing! Peering out the window he sees his neighbor Scott (Cyclops) taunting him with his beloved bear. Steve calls out “Avengers Assemble!” and quickly his team of baby friends has joined him. Scott calls for back up but laments he has no catchy phrase to get them there. Instead, he yells that there is an ice cream truck nearby, and the X-Men babies show up. A battle ensues for the bear between the two teams. There is a cuteness overload as baby representations of all famous Avengers & X-Men duke it out.

Putting this entire book down several times should have been my clue that it wasn’t for me. While I am typically a sucker for these crossover event books, I have reached a fatigue level with the fighting among team members trope. While I found Civil War fresh, this and Civil War II were anything but.

-Nancy

Scarlet

Scarlet is a vigilante who is determined to fight back against a corrupt system and she uses violence for change. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, who is known for his skill in writing character’s dialogue, Scarlet is a deliberately provocative story meant to push boundaries. Originally released  in 2010, it is being re-released for it’s timely story line during this #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and Women’s March era, and I obtained a copy through NetGalley.

Scarlet is living life as a typical Portland teen when she and her boyfriend get targeted by a dirty cop’s drug pat down. When her boyfriend punches the officer and they make a run for it, they are followed and shot at. Her boyfriend dies, and Scarlet is sent to the hospital in a coma. The police cover themselves by painting the couple as drug dealers and the officers are hailed as heroes who saved the community from a drug cartel. When Scarlet awakens, she is furious and decides she wants revenge.

The gimmick is that Scarlet breaks the fourth wall and talks to the reader. Thus, the narrative is from her perspective and she is sharing what she wants you to know, so you get her spin on the action. This mostly works, but at times it’s a bit pretentious. Scarlet isn’t always likable, and can definitely be perceived as an anti-hero.  Her unsavory ‘violence is the answer’ motto is tempered by the realization that some big changes in our world have only come to fruition through violence. Martin Luther King Jr was able to further the Civil Rights Movement through love and non-violent means, but he was counterbalanced (and helped) by Malcolm X’s methods, as Gandhi was also helped by radicals. This is an uncomfortable truth that should be further delved into.

The artwork is stylized with an edgy noir vibe. Mostly drawn in black and white or with a muted earthen color palette, some splashes of color include Scarlet’s red hair, blood and occasional details such as a pride flag. The art is sketchy at times, but also includes photographic type detail. Artist Alex Maleev is fond of closeups of people’s faces, which can be hit or miss at times, but his unique style is a good match to the story.

This series is worth looking into further to see if Bendis finesses this culturally relevant story and develops Scarlet into more than a gun-toting cop killing hottie.  I look forward to Scarlet moving from vigilante to true revolutionary.

-Nancy

Uncanny X-Men: Revolution

The X-Men regroup after the devastating Phoenix event in Avengers vs X-Men, with Cyclops taking the lead of his outlaw band of mutants and establishes the New Charles Xavier School. He, Emma Frost, Magik and Magneto collect new students from around the world, as new cases of teens gaining abilities out of nowhere are popping up all over.

The Avengers hear of Cyclops’ mission and try to stop him. Being partial to the X-Men, I feel that the Avengers came off as pricks with a holier than thou vibe. They got shown up when one of the new mutants used her powers to trap them, and the X-Men made their escape. The team head to the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning where they meet up with Kitty Pride, Wolverine and Havok who are leading a second school for mutants. Their differences are established, and it is sad to see such divisions among the former teammates, but a few students there switch over to Cyclops’ new school.

In the midst of this, we learn of a mole in the Uncanny team, and later are unsure if this team member is being truthful, or if there will be further double or triple crosses. Cyclops is torn about what he did to Professor X, and his culpability level as his, Emma’s and Magneto’s powers were compromised by the Phoenix. They need new mutants as much as the new students need their guidance. The last chapter concentrates on Magik and her connection to Darkchild and the demon world. A cliff hanger is set up and this new team has their work cut out for them.

Right off, I was at a disadvantage as surprisingly I have not read A vs X (edit, now I have!), so I struggled with my background knowledge. Most comics, including this one, try to fill the reader in on past events through dialogue between characters but I had to search some Marvel Wiki pages for info to fill in my knowledge gaps. What I probably should have done, is set this book aside until I read the other book, but I was on a time crunch and soldiered on.

Artist Chris Bachalo illustrates chapters one through four, while Frazer Irving takes over for chapter five. As the style changes dramatically in the last chapter, and not for the better, I was not happy. I liked Frazer’s backgrounds better with his swirling colors, but Bachalo’s illustrations of the heroes were far superior. If I am to read further into the series, first I must read A vs X, and then see if the art holds up in future volumes.

-Nancy

Related image
Bendis, Brian Michael, Chris Bacalo & Frazer Irving. Uncanny X-Men: Revolution. 2014.

Civil War II

Bendis, Brian Michael, David Marquez & Justin Ponsor.  Civil War II.  2017.

I truly do not know where to start on reviewing this book. My two favorite comic book authorities at Graham Crackers counseled me not to purchase this title, but I didn’t heed their warning. I should have listened!

When Civil War came out, it was an excellent story on moral responsibility, civil liberties and national security plus it tied in with current events such as the Patriot Act. This second story is all about profiling, which certainly is an issue right now with the world’s fight on terrorism, but is done so in such broad strokes as to lose it’s message.

Before I get started on the plot, I want to first say the artwork by Marquez and Ponsor is excellent, and actually is better quality than the first Civil War book. The coloring is rich, and the faces are realistic with the body types drawn more appropriately instead of unrealistic proportions than some artists do when they depict superheros. But there were some editing choices that puzzled me. There were some cool two page spreads, but some were used several times over. When the story was in issue format, they obviously liked some pictures enough to include them in different issues, but when collected into graphic novel form, they should have eliminated the redundancy. Plus, the front cover fell prey to a recurring Marvel problem – it doesn’t match the story. The wrong Spiderman costume was drawn in (Miles was in this book, not Peter), and Quill from Guardians of the Galaxy is shown on Iron Man’s side when he was actually on Captain Marvel’s side.

Quick plot recap with some spoilers: A new Inhuman, Ulysses, emerges with the ability to see into the future.  When he warns the Inhumans and Avengers that he saw a vision about the villain Thanos attacking, they are able to be proactive and are ready for him, thus thwarting a greater disaster. A hero dies, and Iron Man and Captain Marvel take different sides on whether Ulysses’s warnings are truly accurate, and if they should be used to prevent future crimes. Iron Man accuses Captain Marvel of profiling, while she feels it is more important to keep everyone safe no matter what it takes. Heroes take sides, and battles ensue. More deaths occur, with a showdown regarding how free will and one’s motives affect the possible threads of the future.

While there were some good moments with clever dialogue and the debate about the Hulk/Hawkeye issue, the rest of the book just seemed to be a hot mess.  A huge problem for me were the tie-in issues that were referenced to but not shown in this volume. I couldn’t possibly keep up with this whole merchandising “event” so I just read this novel, and was confused in spots. In the first Civil War, the X-Men sat out the battle, but in this second story everyone, and I mean everyone, showed up. The split X-Men team (a tie-in explained this, so I had no idea why half the members were with Storm and others followed Magneto), the Canadian Alpha Flight team, the Champions (young Avengers) and the flippin’ Guardians of the Galaxy showed up! What??!

But the biggest problem I had was with Captain Marvel, and her character assassination in this book. Almost all superhero movies revolve around men, with a few token women thrown in as eye candy, so the upcoming Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel movies are very important. Why would they then make her SO unlikable before her chance to shine in a movie????

Now, I am truly hoping some Marvel fans can explain these following questions to me:

When Ulysses was changed into an Inhuman, wasn’t another college student taken too? What happened to her?

What’s the deal with the dog Lockjaw? He got drawn in more than some human heroes, such as Squirrel Girl who I saw in one panel and never again.

Why were heroes on either team? There was no explanation as to why they choose their side.

Do the heroes that died in this story stay dead? Usually everyone comes back somehow and I don’t feel like reading other related issues to find out on my own.

Why is Hank McCoy now with the Inhumans?  I’m sure I’ll have more questions if I think longer on the plot, but I need to move on.

I’m disappointed that this story, which should tie in with upcoming Marvel movies, was just not any good. They did no favors to the franchise with how many of the characters were portrayed. A marketing line for the novel, “The Marvel comic event everyone will be talking about” proved true- but not for the reasons they had hoped.

-Nancy

House of M

house-of-m
Bendis, Brian Michael & Oliver Coipel. House of M. 2006.

I haven’t reviewed a Marvel book in awhile, and it feels good to be back!

The book opens with Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, giving birth to her and Vision’s twins who are later retconned to Wiccan and Speed. But this touching scene is destroyed by Professor X who insists that this is not reality and demands that Wanda put the world back to how it originally was, for it is revealed that she killed several Avengers with her reality-warping abilities during a mental breakdown six months prior.

Wanda’s father, Magneto, and Professor X discuss how she is a danger to them all, as her unstable mind has the potential to destroy them all. Some of the Avengers and X-Men meet together secretly to discuss what to do about her, with Emma Frost suggesting that Wanda be killed, while Captain America counsels for other humane options. This cross-over group remains divided, and they decide to travel to see Wanda themselves before they make a final decision. Upon arriving in her father’s kingdom of Genosha, they can not find her, for Wanda’s twin brother Quicksilver had warned his father of the incoming group. As the group explores the area, a white light surrounds them and they disappear.

houseofm6

We are then introduced to a new reality for all the heroes, in which Wanda supposedly changed everyone’s reality to reflect their secret desires. I have a problem with this. A few I can deal with: Cyclops and Emma are married, Spidey is married to Gwen instead of MJ and has a toddler son, Dazzler is a talk show host, and many of the mutants are celebrities. But there were some glaring mistakes: there should be no Cloak without Dagger and no Luke without Jessica. Kitty Pryde should not be a put upon teacher, Captain America shouldn’t be an old man living in a rundown building in the Bronx (what?!) and downgrading Gambit to a criminal were all bad changes. Plus, why wouldn’t Vision be brought back to life, for he was the Scarlet Witch’s husband and father to the twins?? And where is Professor X? There are too many inconsistencies for me to deal with here.

Wolverine is the first to sense that something is off and investigates. He meets with Luke Cage and crew and meets a mysterious teen named Layla who has abilities to see between different realities and get inside people’s heads. After Layla helps Emma Frost see the truth, Wolverine assembles the group again trying to deal with this problem. They head to crash the party Magnus/Magneto is having, and all hell breaks loose. Doctor Strange tries to reach Wanda and have her restore the old reality, but a semi-incestuous talk she had with Quicksilver is shown as confusing her further.

We end with possibly yet another reality-  and the mutants deal with the fallout from Wanda’s last utterance, “No more mutants!”. What was real? What has changed? Is one reality better than the other? The fade-out sets up a new incoming problem- for now, that many mutants have lost their powers, Sir Isaac Newton’s law is quoted, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. What will be the reaction going forth?  But ultimately, if the Marvel universe doesn’t make sense, or there are inconsistencies to the characters and timelines in this book or others- don’t worry- everything will be scrambled in the Secret Wars,  where basically anything goes on the planet of Battleworld in an alternate universe. (Sigh)

The artwork, was usual Marvel type, with the women drawn better than the weirdly necked men. At times the narrative was hard to follow, for the flow of panels was confusing. Should I read left to right, or start-up and then track downwards? It was inconsistent, and at times I had to backtrack because I was following the oddly broken up panels in the wrong order. The front cover was misleading, with some heroes shown prominently that played little to no part in the story. I have noticed this on other Marvel covers, and I don’t like it.

Despite my criticisms, this was a great Marvel novel and sets up issues and plots that can be addressed in future House of M issues or other Marvel spinoff stories.  When you read it, look for the big themes, don’t get bogged down with little details, as I am apt to do 😉

-Nancy

house_of_magnus2
Love this House of Magnus look, but why aren’t the twins dressed in finery also, instead of like little Damien’s from The Omen?

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑