7.06.11 Reviews

Vengeance #1 (Marvel): Let me just say up front that I love how Joe Casey is continually able to carve out space for himself for these fringe explorations of a shared universe. He did it years ago with criminally underappreciated works like Automatic Kafka and (to a lesser extent) The Intimates, and more recently pulled it off in the Dark Reign: Zodiac series with Nathan Fox. That said, it's a treat to see him swing for the fences again in the Marvel U, this time with Nick Dragotta on art duty. Casey has to put up a few signposts in order to carve that space for himself here. He shows a WWII-era scene with Hitler and the Red Skull to tie it to Sif and Fear Itself, and even a small panel recycled from Fear Itself #1 starring Steve Rogers. Once that's out of the way, it's hallmark Casey, with the text message blurbs revealing his fascination with new media, and plenty of meta-commentary. It certainly feels contemporary with the former, but not so subtle with the latter. At times, the commentary is quite over the top, basically Casey talking directly to the reader about his own body of work. Lines like "It's getting tougher to do this gig in secret... so much for glamorizing the subversive" are really more about mirroring his own experiences than being about the characters he's tinkering with. Similarly, staging part of the action in the Pretty Woman hotel (that's the Regent Beverly Wilshire, for those of you not in Southern California) is basically Casey saying "hey, look, I live in LA raking in that Ben 10 money!" It's still fun though, and I appreciate how Casey doesn't provide any exposition. We have no idea what Ultimate Nullifier is doing in the opening club scene, we don't have any clue who's on the team, and names are slowly doled out organically... Miss America, Ms X., Sugar Kane, Nighthawk, etc. I don't know who many of these people are, but I'm certainly intrigued enough to give it another issue or two. A couple minor points of confusion: One, I thought this was kinda' solicited as a young group of villains(?) or something? But, umm, it looks like they're more wannabe heroes here(?). I guess I'm struggling with the intent of the book, but hey, let's give it time to develop. Two, I really don't understand why Magneto showed up, other than to give us one major character we know (other than Nighthawk, I guess?). Why does he care about young mutants hooking up in a threesome? Especially when it's in the privacy of their own hotel suite? How prudish of Erik. Grade A-.

Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #1 (Marvel): I couldn't resist this spin-off series featuring the gang from the best X-Men book currently being published. Rob Williams does his best Rick Remender impersonation and Simone Bianchi is, well, Simone Bianchi. It's pretty art, very stylized, but sometimes doesn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense. It's interesting that sometimes Deadpool dead-panning is more psychotic and intimidating than when he's actively mugging for the camera and trying to sound deranged. Williams really comes close to pulling off a seamless depiction of these characters, but does stray a little out of bounds. Commentary about selling action figures and the "declining ethics of the modern supehero" are too overt and basically violate the tell vs. show rule. As with typical crossover excess, it's fairly obvious that this book isn't necessary. What's the point? X-Force is tracking The Purifiers as they've done in a couple incarnations of the book. Ok. Well, let's throw in people being afraid and loosely, tangentially, BARELY tie it into Fear Itself and create yet another mini that could have been addressed in the main book. Standard money grub. Meanwhile, Bianchi's layouts and panel choices aren't as incomprehensible as I've seen before. They're mostly ok, though a couple oddities exist and it sure seemed like that kid tied up looked like Havok early on, then, well, he didn't. If you can get past that it's another fairly straighforward X-Force mission. Unfortunately, the stakes don't feel very personalized or terribly high. They're basically trying to save a nobody mutant kid we've never heard of before. If the world is ending anyway, who cares about saving one mutant nobody knows? It's not consequential in the slightest and drains the dramatic tension right out of the room. Last time the Purifiers had a kid tied up, it was Rahne Sinclair, so we all gave a shit, but I digress. All in all, it's illogical needless confection, yet, it still manages to go down pretty sweetly if you don't think too hard. I also chuckled my way through the new Punisher #1 preview, because it's obvious someone was using Morgan Freeman for photo reference, circa Se7en with Brad Pitt. Grade B+.


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