2.04.2009

2.04.09 Reviews (Part 2 of 3)

Invincible Iron Man #10 (Marvel): The opening press conference is quite good at illustrating the slimy politician Osborn can be; he’s dodging questions, refracting blame, employing double speak, sticking to his company line in the face of reason, and there’s an air of self-righteous attitude about him. Matt Fraction is depicting, perfectly and pointedly, a man simply serving his own agenda. He tosses in a nice callback to Futurepharm from Ellis’ Extremis run with Adi Granov. Aided by Salvador Larroca on pencils, it all flows with ease and is uber-enjoyable to read. MARIA AND TONY HOOK UP! Yes, I love it! Not only is it just a hot scene, but Pepper’s already in a tough spot, when she finds out about this, and I’m sure she will – Fraction knows about putting his characters where they least like to be in order to get the most dramatic tension out of them – it’s going to be crazy! Tony as public enemy number one has now been cemented with Osborn’s global media show. This issue is full of twists and turns, both nuanced and bold. Fraction is creating one of those definitive runs of a character that people will talk about years from now. It’ll be said in the same vein as “Claremont’s X-Men;” they’ll say “Fraction’s Iron Man run.” There’s another stray line here that’s just masterful: "Here’s my #!%^#@ warrant, hippie.” It’s the way that word is used – hippie. It’s implying that Stark and those in his employ seem to hold no respect for the law, they’ve been marginalized and can be summed up with a single inaccurate pejorative. This is particularly troubling, knowing that those in power, the ones driving the law, are now flawed and evil. It begs the question, does the law matter when it’s not right? I love that we have a stable creative team who is adept at proving that the drama and personal relationships are as fascinating (if not moreso) than any sort of action sequence. Add in some political and socially relevant themes, and what more do you want from a modern superhero comic? This is a total aside, but I’m wondering if the Marvel Universe right now is, either intentionally or unwittingly, following the basic arc of the Star Wars Universe. The “Good Guys” were once in charge a long, long time ago, Evil Emperor figure usurps control, “Good Guys” become outlaws on the run, banding together to depose the evildoers and retake the throne. It seems to me that Tony Stark, Maria Hill, Pepper Potts, Nick Fury, and The Secret Warriors are basically the Rebel Alliance at the moment. How long before they hook up and – hell, let’s even throw a returned Cap (Steve Rogers) into this mix – how long before they all get organized and try to overthrow Norman Osborn and HAMMER? Also included here is a surprisingly fun War of Kings preview, dug the lines from Lorna (probably my… let’s see, third favorite X-character?) which showed a nice flair for Marvel history. Grade A+.

Punisher #2 (Marvel): Rick Remender and Fear Agent collaborator Jerome Opena have succeeded in returning the appropriate level of “cool” to the Punisher. He’s not quite the uber-killer that Garth Ennis showed us in the MAX line and he's also not grounded in the level of camp that was frequently found in Fraction’s Punisher War Journal. Here he sits somewhere in the middle of that continuum and it feels just about right. With his self-deprecating and truthful internal monologues, we’ve been given a gritty Han Solo/Heath Huston smack dab in the middle of the Marvel Universe. I always thought that one of the challenges with writing Punisher would be that when all’s said and done, he’s actually a pretty one dimensional character. The mob killed his family, so he kills bad guys. That’s it. So what makes a “good” Punisher book go is defined not so much by him, but by what’s going on around him. It’s the sweep of the larger plots he’s caught up in, the intrigue of his adversaries, and his unlikely friends. In this world we see that the adversaries are many, so he takes his few friends where he can get them. On the art side of the equation, Opena is really turning in the pencils of his career here. He’s aided by Dan Brown, who deserves a nod for fantastic coloring that nails the tone of the series. I enjoyed Opena’s Fear Agent work immensely, where he used a sleek, stylized approach that breathed life into the 1950’s pulp throwback feel necessary for that title. Here, like a true craftsman, he adapts his style to become a darker, grittier, street level feel right at home for this particular character and this scribe’s treatment. This is first rate, proving that any great creative team can infuse even relatively simplistic characters with enduring legs in the market. Grade A.

I Am Legion #1 (Devil’s Due Publishing): I don’t know the details of the DC/Humanoids partnership that collapsed; all I know is that I bought issue #1 of this already in a glossy prestige format sort of package and then never saw it again. Let’s hope that DDP can continue to publish something that Humanoids still holds the rights to with some sort of regularity and conclusion (though the house ad for issue #2 in February somehow doesn't inspire much confidence). It’s a very intriguing tale of a WWII era European murder mystery, complete with Nazi’s, government investigative teams, and vampiric overtones. The real treat though is the art by John Cassaday; he could basically illustrate the phone book and I’d be in line to purchase it. Grade A.

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