Winter Soldier #5 (Marvel): Is there a more clichéd Russian name in fiction than Dmitri? How about Ivan? Boris? These are the types of little things I get distracted by and think about when I find myself becoming bored with the rote plot. Isn’t it hypocritical of Nick Fury to criticize Doctor Doom so hard about him having all these Doombots running around when Fury himself has had LMDs trotting around the globe for years? I think the best part of this book is actually Butch Guice’s art, which seems to have matured over the years, at times there’s a, dare I say, Kirby-esque thing happening where he’ll play hard with figures in the foreground and then have action occurring in the background, and the juxtaposition creates a really forced perspective aesthetic. I like that. While I realize that Bucky Cap Winter Soldier Barnes has a personal connection to this mission, it still manages to feel rather generic. Rather than him and Black Widow, you could substitute in, say, Hawkeye and Spider-Woman, or Captain America and Sharon Carter, and the end result wouldn’t really be any different. That’s a generic thrillnoir espiohero story. So, what, every arc of this story will now focus on the duo going after one of the lost Project Zephyr agents? Snooze. It’s getting to the point where it doesn’t matter how much I like to imagine the raging clit boner I’d give Scarlet Johansson in my fantasies, I’d rather just point people toward Greg Rucka’s four digest-sized Queen & Country trades for some really good espionage of consequence. It’s getting to the point where it doesn’t matter how competent this book is, I’d rather have people support Antony Johnston’s The Coldest City for some Cold War artifice just on creator-owned principle alone. Grade B.
AVX #4 (Marvel): Wait, so now there’s three factions? Scott wants Hope to host the Phoenix Force. Cap wants to contain/destroy the Phoenix Force and protect Hope. Wolverine wants to kill Hope. With 12 different locales and 48 cast members listed on the roster page, you can imagine how incredibly choppy these scenes play. It’s a lot to juggle, it becomes unwieldy, and pretty soon every panel feels like it’s just quickly glossing over something else that happens somewhere else. There’s hardly ever the sense that you’re present in a given location. You know something must be rotten in Denmark when Logan just willy-nilly agrees to go with Hope even though she never explains how he could stop her if things go south with the Phoenix Force. It’s totally illogical and the arguments these characters use for coming down on the side of the Hope issue they do is usually just a bunch of talking in circles, but I guess the art is purdy in most spots so that’s ok? There’s also a bunch of mental mumbo-jumbo with Emma that isn’t terribly clear. That last scene on the moon is pretty cool though. Hmph. Grade B-.
AVX VS #2 (Marvel): I guess the “VS” concept of an extended fight sequence excerpt is an interesting experiment conceptually, but I seem to find the execution lacking. The intro text attempts to be self-effacing about the whole thing in an effort to disarm criticism, but it just comes off as Marvel Editorial laughing at their own joke, which wasn’t all that funny to begin with. The Cap vs. Gambit bout is the better of the two here, and it was a fun surprise to see Gambit hold his own longer than most pepole probably thought he could. While you expect Cap to win, I appreciate the fact that he does clearly win. As opposed to the more troubling Colossus vs. Spider-Man bout, where the lesson *should* be that in an unconfined space “fast” beats “strong,” but some weird thunderclap suddenly gives Colossus/Juggernaut (I still don’t get that) the upper hand. I don’t really like fights like this because they don’t end naturally or end when one person has clearly defeated the other, it ends just because the page count is over and one person has to basically run away abruptly. That feels incomplete. If you’re going to bother having a “fight” comic then shouldn’t they fight until one has clearly won, not until one just leaves? Daredevil leaves this fight so that Colossus and Spider-Man can fight, then he comes back and pulls Peter out of the fight. Why didn’t they just leave together in the first place, then? It doesn’t even pass the common sense test. Also, Larroca’s art in this piece wasn’t even as close to his good work on Invincible Iron Man, maybe we can blame that on the coloring? I guess this book is still going to be fun to a certain demographic, but for me it’s utterly pointless and doesn’t even seem to follow its own internal premise. Grade C+.