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Old 03-13-2013, 04:13 PM   #1
JewishHobbit
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Default Bought/Thought - 3-13-13 Requiem :(

I bought all the issues I intended this week plus 2 extra. I've been going back and forth on Thor and decided to go ahead and get the next issue (and the previous one). Last issue was a good conclusion to the first arc and I'm eager to see where it goes. I'll talk about issue 6 in my reviews.

Thor: God of Thunder 6 - While Butch Guice is a decent artist, he's no Esad Ribic and it shows. That aside, I thought this was a great origin to the villain because it's very relatable. There are a lot of people who grow angry at God, or at the notion of God, due to the seeming disinterest that God has toward His people... if He exists at all. I'm assuming that this frustration is what Aaron is pulling Gorr's character from. That relatability could potentially make Gorr an ongoing, intriguing villain. He's not crazy, or two-dimensional, he's a villain that we can honestly understand... times ten. While I do not share this frustrated at God mindset, I can completely understand it and see where such a thing could lead to something as "evil" as Gorr. All of Marvel's best villains are the ones we can relate to and understand, characters with believable gripes. I believe that Gorr has the makings to become a villain alongside those sort of villains.

The issue itself was sad but good. I hope we learn more about the God that Gorr got his weapon from, as that was noticably left mysterious. All-in-all, this was a really good issue that got me even more interested in the title. I bought through issue 4 and enjoyed everyone but dropped it due to finances. Finances are still tight, but I feel like I enjoyed this title more than others that I'm still buying, so I decided to give it another shot. I enjoyed this reading so I'll likely keeping going for now, at least through this plot with Gorr. I find him to be an enjoyable, creepy, and engaging character.

Uncanny X-Men 3 - Others have complained here and there about Bendis' handling of people from this team, and I've seen it a little but not enough to worry about. I think this issue was the first one that I found distracting for that reason. I felt that his handling of Magik, Emma, and some of the Avengers just felt really off and none of that was helped by Chris Bachalo, who I'm ready to see leave this book. I think it's pretty obvious, for me anyhow, that Uncanny X-Men is to All New X-Men what adjectiveless Avengers was to New Avengers. New Avengers was fantastic and vastly superior to Avengers... and the same can be said about All New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men. If it wasn't for my curiosity about these characters I'd likely drop the book, but I'll give Bendis time and see where he takes the story.

As for the story itself, it was pretty bland. I think Eva is the first new mutant since AvX that I semi-like. The rest in this book are sorta boring and I don't like a single one of the new ones over in Wolverine & the X-Men, or any of the others that have shown up in other titles. Bendis typically sells me on his own creations, so maybe I'll grow to like the student body of this book. We'll see.

Wolverine & the X-Men 25 - Man, I hate to say it but this book is about done for me. I've not enjoyed a single issue since AvX, and even those were mostly just mediocre. The last really good issue was the one where Beast fought Sabretooth in space, around issue 11 or 12 or so. The only thing that keeps me buying right now is Evan and Broo... and Broo is nothing worth noting at the moment. I'm not sure Evan would be enough either save for reviews that Aaron's given regarding the Hellfire Club Saga that's coming up. It's apparently supposed to be the culmination of everything he's done on the title so far. I'm debating on sticking around for that but I don't know. I have a feeling that plot will be Aaron's swan song on the title before he leaves and someone else comes on board (because God forbid Marvel cancels an X-Men book, even after it's no longer relevant).

As for the issue itself, it was boring. I thought Dog was interestig in Origin but not here. As the abused little boy, I liked him, but as the Canadian redneck time traveler... I lose interest. I don't care about this Savage Land plot and I don't care about any of the new students. I actually groan at the thought of having to read another 3 or 4 issues of this until the Hellfire Club Saga begins. I don't know if I have it in me... groan. Plus, this art isn't that great. I miss Bradshaw, and thank God he's back for the Hellfire Club Saga.

Age of Ulron 2 - Where Bendis failed for me this week on Uncanny X-Men, he knocked this one out of the park. I have really enjoyed these past two issues and I feel like we're learning a little about the Ultron Invasion piece by piece throughout the series. In this issue we learn that the attack happened overnight and was pretty much decided in a day. Spider-Man slept through most of it due to how quick it was. We also saw how so much of the city was destroyed, as a large ship with an inverted bottom tore through the buildings as it glided over top of them. That'll do it every time.

I like Moon Knight and Black Widow's scenes over on the West Coast. The two of them were apparently away on a black ops mission when the attack came, explaining how they lived through it. That goes along with what Bendis says about the story, that he envisioned these survivors being around because they were off somewhere else when the attack came. Also, I liked that Cap stands up with a plan in the end. People criticised left and right about Cap being defeated and how horrible Bendis is for making him give up... and all that from 1 panel. Here we see that all he was doing was coming up with a plan... as I predicted last week. It was fairly simple actually, just another "Hey! Let's complain because it's Bendis!"

I am completely sold on this event now. I like the atmosphere, the characters, the story, and I'm real curious to see where it goes.

Batman & Robin 18 - Wow... just wow. Not a single word spoken throughout the issue, not a single word box, and it's still one of the most touching issues I've "read" in a very long time. Tomasi captures every bit of the emotion that Bruce and Alfred are going through, even to the point of getting me choked up on more than one occassion. Major props to both Tomasi and Gleason, whose pencils told the story alone and did so in an astounding way. I thought last issue was good, this one was better. Easily the best issue since the relaunch. Pure brilliance.

That said, because I have no interest in a Batman Team-Up, this will likely be the last issue of the title that I buy. It's a shame because I like the creative team, but unless this Batman And... is a temporary thing until Morrison brings Damian back at the end of Batman Incorporated (and I don't see that happening) I have no further use for this book. I just hope that Gleason eventually goes to another book that I buy, because he's one of my favorite artists in the biz.


Batman 18 - Where Tomasi tackled the aftermath of Damian's death from Bruce's point of view, Snyder tries a more askew view. His goal is to see it through Gotham's eyes, through his creation Harper Row. He does a good job but I think all the rumor and speculation of Harper being groomed to replace Damian took me out of the issue. I, and many like me, do not want another Robin, and especially some chick we're JUST meeting. Squire would make more sense than Harper. I will be very disappointed if that is indeed the direction this character takes.

That said, the issue itself was decent. Kubert has always been one of my favorites since the 90s and did fine work here. Harper comes across more likable this issue than in her last full issue and I think the art helps, though, like the last issue starring her, it had two jarringly different artists, and that was a distraction. I think Harper could make a great cast member for the book, but I just don't want to see her as Robin. Unfortunately, her training and night patrols and "Tim Drake-ish" story makes me think that is indeed the direction they're going. We'll see.


Best and Worst of the Week

Best: Batman & Robin 18 - Honestly, this is the best issue of the year for me, possibly for the whole New 52 continuity. It was just so masterfully told through silence that it really got to me. Even if you don't read this title, or Batman even, I'd recommend this issue alone to anyone. It's just a really heartfelt, difficult issue. Tomasi and Gleason better get some awards for this one.

Wolverine & the X-Men 26 - It was a toss up between this and Uncanny X-Men, and I'm still not sure I'm making the right choice. It might be a tie. The story was just so bland, Dog so uninteresting, and when all you have left is the oversaturated Wolverine and subpar art, there's just nothing to really root for. I was utterly bored.

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Old 03-13-2013, 09:45 PM   #2
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Default Re: Bought/Thought - 3-13-13 Requiem :(

I loved Thor: God of Thunder #6. Gorr's origin is essentially what happens when the ultimate atheist learns that gods irrefutably exist. That can go one of two ways: conversion or utter hatred. Gorr obviously goes with the latter. I also loved the surprise cameo at the end and how he challenged Gorr about Gorr's essentially becoming the very thing he hates, given that he has power, followers, and most of the other trappings of godhood. Unlike JewHobs, I loved Guice's art. Loved it on Captain America and I love it here. He has a pretty harsh, rugged style that perfectly suited the harsh life Gorr endures. Great stuff all around.

I loved Batman #18 considerably less. Snyder's been boring me for quite some time on this series, and this was pretty much the last straw. I don't hate Harper Row--on the contrary, she's a fairly compelling character--but she's a character comprising a bunch of parts of other once-great characters who are now either missing or terrible. I'm thinking specifically in this issue of Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown. She essentially has Tim's pre-New 52 origin--plucky kid who trains hard and essentially forces him-/herself onto Batman to balance him out after the tragic loss of a previous Robin--and Stephanie's family drama, with her criminal, constantly disappointing father. The addition of her brother and the orphan angle via her dead mom do provide her with some surface variation to keep her a bit different, and her actual characterization is pretty solid. More than anything else, though, I just find myself not caring anymore. I'm down to like less than 5 DC ongoings I'm reading that aren't either ending, getting creative shakeups I'm not thrilled about soon, or just boring the crap out of me at this point. So I took this issue as a jumping-off point, more for my own personal issues with the New 52 than any overwhelmingly subpar quality of the issue itself. It's still fairly mediocre, but that's kind of the norm for Snyder at this point. Not even a Kubert can change that.

Wolverine and the X-Men #26, meanwhile, was just weird. Dog, the guy who was set up to be Sabretooth in Origin, turned out to be a red herring, and then completely disappeared for like 10 years, suddenly reappears as... a time-hopping badass out to kill Wolverine and take his place because he somehow thinks he's the hero in an epic struggle across the ages between himself and Wolverine. It's not bad, per se, it's just very odd and comes out of nowhere. Unlike other WatXM issues, there is no B-plot here; we get Dog and Wolverine fighting in the present and Dog's backstory in flashbacks and that's it. The flashbacks are very nicely done, colored with a watercolor look that evokes the wispy, illusory nature of memory. The main story is just a fight, so it's kind of standard, been-there-done-that fare. I'm intrigued about where Dog'll wind up after all this is done, but as of now this issue was just kind of wacky and I don't know what to make of it.

Avenging Spider-Man #18 is another Thor story. I have to say, even though I'm not following Superior Spider-Man itself, I've enjoyed literally all of these fish-out-of-water team-ups Ock's been having in Spider-Man's skin with various co-stars. The actual interaction between himself and Thor is a bit drier than most since Peter and Thor didn't have much of a relationship prior to Peter's death or Jacob Marley-ism or whatever, but the adventure portion makes up for it. Apparently the Avengers fought the Sinister Six at some point and Thor utterly humiliated Electro by absorbing him with Mjolnir and shooting him into space. I chuckled at that and almost kind of wanted to go back and check it out; maybe someday. But it's covered more than well enough for me to follow this issue without having read that earlier crossover. Ultimately, Thor and Spider-Ock work together to defeat Electro and Ock comes away learning a bit about self-sacrifice from ol' thunderbutt. It looks utterly glorious, given that it's drawn by the fantastically talented Marco Checchetto. Thor's characterization is a little off--once again, the writer (Yost this time) seems to be confused about that whole "learning humility" thing that was ever-so-slightly central to Thor's entire existence in the Marvel universe and writes Thor as an arrogant blowhard who refuses to even listen to Spider-Ock. Granted, it's nowhere near as bad here as it was in Fraction's Thor comics, and Thor does wise up when Electro starts kicking his ass and looks to Spider-Ock for some super-science help. Good issue overall.

I wasn't initially planning to get Wolverine #1, but I learned it was by Paul Cornell and Alan Davis so I figured I might as well try it. It's a very energetic start, to say the least--Wolverine starts with half his body melted on the first page. What follows is probably the most pointless hostage situation in history, as a guy ties everyone in a building up and then systematically executes them all while telling the cops he doesn't want anything. Wolverine takes it personally since the guy does all of this in front of his own son. Only, after Wolverine cuts the killer up, the kid then picks up the alien weapon his dad had and starts shooting everyone up himself! In short, I was utterly confused pretty much the whole way through this issue, but Wolverine seemed like Wolverine and I'm curious about what the hell's actually going on and Alan Davis makes everything look so goddamn pretty that I'll stick with it and see where it goes.

Threshold #3 was another issue that got me pretty happy. Blue Beetle (whom Giffen essentially writes the way he wrote him pre-New 52, which is wonderful) fights Jediah Caul a bit, Stealth has a proposition made to her about using the Hunted's coverage as reverse propaganda against Lady Styx's government, and Captain Carrot--sorry, "K'rot" ( )--is apparently a misogynistic dick. Pretty standard fare for a Giffen comic. But then LEGION shows up at the end, and where LEGION goes, Vril Dox usually follows. I friggin' LOVE Vril Dox thanks to Tony Bedard's excellent (for a while, at least) REBELS series a few years back, so I am all about seeing him again under the pen of someone like Giffen, who seems to not really give a f*** about the New 52 reboot. Excited!

Just when you thought Kirkman might be running out of ideas on The Walking Dead... he puts George Clinton with a tiger up in #108! All right, not really George Clinton. He's just got dreads and necklaces like him. But his name is Ezekiel, and he's apparently crowned himself king of a settlement called the Kingdom. Jesus introduces Rick to him and they indulge his wackiness because he's the only other guy with enough balls to possibly stand up to Negan. A surprise guest threatens to gum up the works, however. Overall, I've really been liking this broader world of civilized settlements Kirkman's established over the past couple years of TWD. Negan's a great villain, too; certainly the most charismatic one since the Governor, at any rate. I'm intrigued to see where it'll go.

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Old 03-13-2013, 11:19 PM   #3
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Default Re: Bought/Thought - 3-13-13 Requiem :(

Uncanny X-Men 3: I feel like Jewish Hobbit and I always flip flop on this title When I can't stand Bendis' dialog for Emma and Magik he doesn't mind it, and vice versa. In this case I loved the issue. Cyclops shows how he's the hero of the marginalized and oppressed, and is turning public opinion in favour of his rag tag group of revolutionaries. Emma has some nice sass, and some good teacher-student moments. Magik sounds more trollishly violent and troubled, as opposed to valley girl. And I'm starting to like Eva (but not really any of the other students).

I've decided that Bachelo draws Cyclops really well, and his redesign is awesome. But the women look awful and the backgrounds are so messy. With cleaner art I would have given it a 10/10.

Thor: God of Thunder #6: It was a good issue for some non Ribic art since it's Gorr's backstory, so the flow of the arc doesn't get too disrupted. Aaron made a great backstory for Gorr, since we can sympathize and relate with him, but still acknowledge his extremes and evilness. But man! What a horrible life! It really shows how good of a writer Aaron is since he's writing a story that is already at 6 issues, with little supporting cast, and basically only features the titular hero and a villain. I feel like any other writer would make this story boring, but Aaron is making it fascinating.

Fantastic Four 5: Fun issue! I'm loving these crazy space and time hopping antics. It's a really good family friendly series, but the possible cellular decay of the family adds to the drama nicely. This issue sets up a new possible supporting character. The Caesar storyline was fun, and I'm assuming he's a good guy, but the ending was strangely sinister.

Superbia #5: This issue felt like it was just treading water, and didn't blow me away like most of the other issues. I anticipate this title too much, so when not much happens it's a little disappointing. I'm still hooked though!

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Old 03-14-2013, 12:59 AM   #4
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Default Re: Bought/Thought - 3-13-13 Requiem :(

The great thing about God of Thunder is that the multiple time periods essentially allow Thor to be his own supporting cast. Young Thor, present-day Thor, and King Thor are all very different from each other, and the latter two are playing off each other well now that they're in the same time.

Fearless Defenders #2 was okay. Just okay. I feel like I should like this series more, but it's got a few factors working against it. First and foremost is Will Sliney's art. He drew the Farscape comics for Boom, so I was familiar with him long before this series; didn't like his work then, don't like it now. There's just a dull lifelessness to everything. Also, he has some real consistency issues; Valkyrie's armbands disappear for a page when she comes to Asgardia, then reappear on the next page. Body proportions shift from panel to panel. Did nobody notice this stuff throughout the whole process of putting the book together? Weird. Another issue I have with it is that it kind of feels like a retread of something we just saw. Kieron Gillen just gave us a great story about a prior band of Valkyries gone bad called the Disir. Now Cullen Bunn is giving us another story about another band of Valkyries gone bad, only these are the Doommaidens. Also, there are minor errors peppered throughout the issue. Valkyrie's not the last shieldmaiden; Sif's still around over in Journey Into Mystery. The other current Valkyries just disappeared and this is the first we're hearing of it? What? The Allmother instructed Valkyrie to recruit human women? Why? Valkyries have always been goddesses chosen by Odin, Bunn's retarded new origin for Brunnhilde be damned. I don't know. I want to like this story--desperately, in fact, because the idea of Brunnhilde bringing a bunch of mortal women together as a new Valkyrior is a solid one and could help to make Valkyrie less of a C-lister who kind of just shows up now and then--but it just feels like all of the subtler details are all wrong and the more I think about literally anything that happens in the book, the less I like it. And, on top of that, it's ugly. Mark Brooks' covers are great, though, which kind of makes me feel bad for people who pick it up based on those, only to find vastly inferior art inside. A different style between cover and interiors is one thing, but the interiors of this are literally just a whole lot of steps crappier than the covers in pretty much every way. If only Brooks still did interiors. He'd be a great artist for this series, as his covers show. Bleh. This series is exponentially worse than just a bad comic to me because it really does feel fairly bursting with wasted potential. Sad.

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Old 03-14-2013, 07:15 AM   #5
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Default Re: Bought/Thought - 3-13-13 Requiem :(

The more I think about it the more I think I liked Uncanny X-Men 3. I liked how Cyclops called Captain America and Iron Man out on the X-Men's going crazy during AvX, stating how it was Iron Man's fault for splitting the Phoenix, leading to the X-Men being forced to become hosts, and Cap's fault for poking at them when they were just trying to do good, leading to them losing their minds. I thought that was fantastic. The revelation that Magneto isn't actually betraying the team was good.

Overall, I think it was much better than I originally considered it to be. I think the art just really turned me off and then I'm still not a fan of Magik's dialogue, and maybe Emma's, though I don't think she was as bad as I originally thought. I'll have to reread the issue.

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Old 03-14-2013, 09:41 AM   #6
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Default Re: Bought/Thought - 3-13-13 Requiem :(

[QUOTE=JewishHobbit;25382377]
It was fairly simple actually, just another "Hey! Let's complain because it's Bendis!"

Although I enjoyed the first 60 issues of New Avengers and am currently enjoing AoU, the vast majority of complaints people have about Bendis' writing are completely justifiable. The man clearly has a formulaic approach to writing, be it the types of characters given attention, a stronger focus on concept rather than execution, and dialogue that is so monotoned and simplistic to the point where it is easily, and often, mimicked. Additionally, his lack of attention to continuity or respect for prior characterizations is understandably frustrating to many long-time readers. True the writer gets some unfair criticism and but what is more irritating: people blindly criticizing or blindly defending? All writers have their shortcomings - some more than others. To focus on such shortcomings is just as tiresome as refusing to acknowledge them.

That said, I personally feel that Age of Ultron has proven be well-above average but not quite great. That's enough for me to keep happily buying this event mini-series. Does it change my opinion that Bendis ultimately failed at writing Avengers? No. Does it convince me that Bendis is a competent writer capable of crafting a good story? Yes. So, for now at least, I would recommend AoU to anyone who enjoys a good apocalyptic story or wants to see a classic Avengers villain get some of the respect he so much deserves. However, if this does end of being completely out of continuuity, I take all of this back.

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Old 03-14-2013, 10:30 AM   #7
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Default Re: Bought/Thought - 3-13-13 Requiem :(

Quote:
Originally Posted by StreetWarrior View Post
Although I enjoyed the first 60 issues of New Avengers and am currently enjoing AoU, the vast majority of complaints people have about Bendis' writing are completely justifiable. The man clearly has a formulaic approach to writing, be it the types of characters given attention, a stronger focus on concept rather than execution, and dialogue that is so monotoned and simplistic to the point where it is easily, and often, mimicked. Additionally, his lack of attention to continuity or respect for prior characterizations is understandably frustrating to many long-time readers.
Oh, I don't question this. I've called Bendis out on quite a few errors over the years. If it fits it fits, just make sure it fits. People have become so jaded toward Bendis that, more times than not, they criticise everything, including things that have no bearing on what is actually happening. This was just one of those situations.

Quote:
True the writer gets some unfair criticism and but what is more irritating: people blindly criticizing or blindly defending? All writers have their shortcomings - some more than others. To focus on such shortcomings is just as tiresome as refusing to acknowledge them.
I defend Bendis when people are accusing him of something that isn't actually happening. In this situation, people were accusing Bendis of horribly writing Captain America as having given up. Yet, all we saw was one page of him sitting with his head down. The page even said that he was thinking up their next plan. Then in issue 2 he walks in with the plan. Where in that is it showing him giving up? Yet, there were quite a few after issue 1 faulting Bendis for his horrible characterisation of Captain America. It was stupid.

You don't see me defending Hawkeye's blatant killing do you? No, because I understand that beef if anyone has it, despite that the setting makes me personally feel that it's acceptable. I undestand if others criticise it. Heck, I criticise Bendis' Uncanny X-Men nearly every issue and often call his adjectiveless Avengers run crap. I was all over his continuity errors during Siege so bad that posters were off put by it. No blindly defending here. Only when criticms toward him are misdirected or blindly accused... and I would be like that for any writer.

Quote:
However, if this does end of being completely out of continuuity, I take all of this back.
Why? What does it matter if it's out of continuity? I'd actually like this as a stand alone, out of continuity story. It won't be, as Marvel has stated flat out that it isn't. I will be disappointed in Marvel's lying about it, but that wouldn't change the quality of the project.

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Old 03-14-2013, 10:45 AM   #8
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Default Re: Bought/Thought - 3-13-13 Requiem :(

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Originally Posted by JewishHobbit View Post
Oh, I don't question this. I've called Bendis out on quite a few errors over the years. If it fits it fits, just make sure it fits. People have become so jaded toward Bendis that, more times than not, they criticise everything, including things that have no bearing on what is actually happening. This was just one of those situations.



I defend Bendis when people are accusing him of something that isn't actually happening. In this situation, people were accusing Bendis of horribly writing Captain America as having given up. Yet, all we saw was one page of him sitting with his head down. The page even said that he was thinking up their next plan. Then in issue 2 he walks in with the plan. Where in that is it showing him giving up? Yet, there were quite a few after issue 1 faulting Bendis for his horrible characterisation of Captain America. It was stupid.

You don't see me defending Hawkeye's blatant killing do you? No, because I understand that beef if anyone has it, despite that the setting makes me personally feel that it's acceptable. I undestand if others criticise it. Heck, I criticise Bendis' Uncanny X-Men nearly every issue and often call his adjectiveless Avengers run crap. I was all over his continuity errors during Siege so bad that posters were off put by it. No blindly defending here. Only when criticms toward him are misdirected or blindly accused... and I would be like that for any writer.



Why? What does it matter if it's out of continuity? I'd actually like this as a stand alone, out of continuity story. It won't be, as Marvel has stated flat out that it isn't. I will be disappointed in Marvel's lying about it, but that wouldn't change the quality of the project.
Your points are valid and I agree. Bendis is hardly the first writer to have a broken-spirited Captain America (Avengers Forever anyone?). He does get some unfair criticisms and I'm personally guilty of being too harsh on him at times. I often forget that I have enjoyed some of his work in the past. A miss or even string of misses does not invalidate past acomplishments.

As far as my final comment went, I personally hate stories that exist outside of continuity. It seems to dimish their value. Everything should have some impact on the continuing operation of the Marvel universe as a whole. That's why I typically avoid anything outside of the 616, such as the Ultimate universe. I just feel that stories must have some sort of effect. House of M, although an alternate reality, had lasting impact in the furture of the MU. Age of Apocalypse gave us new characters and many dimensional travel stories. If, at the end of this event, the world is 100% returned to normal, I'll have wasted $40. Interviews suggested that there will be some form of reprecussions on the "real" MU and that's the only reason I'm comfortable spending the extra money. This economy is awful - adding another title that ships 3x a month and has tie-ins is rough when I budget $40-$50 a month for comics (trades not included).

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Old 03-14-2013, 11:42 AM   #9
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Default Re: Bought/Thought - 3-13-13 Requiem :(

I can agree with you on that. I tend to dodge alternate reality stories myself unless they seem to have a lasting impact on the MU or the characters involved, such as with the stories you mentioned. That's been promised with Age of Ultron so that's why I tried it.

Matt Fraction's Defenders is an example of a series that ticked me off. It wasn't really outstanding or anything but I liked Iron Fist and read it for his storyline (along with the Prince of Orphans), then in the last issue the whole series is wiped clean. None of it mattered when it was all said and done and I wasted $48 or so dollars and a year on it.

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Old 03-16-2013, 12:05 AM   #10
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Exclamation Re: Bought/Thought - 3-13-13 Requiem :(

Short week, and mostly a bit of a "meh" week. Spoilers ahead!

DREAD'S BOUGHT/THOUGHT for 3/13/13:

ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #8: When tasked with relaunching Valiant Entertainment's former 1990's property, writer Fred Van Lente applied the same craft and skills to it that he employed for years co-writing "Incredible Hercules" for Marvel Comics. Thus, a franchise which was essentially a buddy action/comedy which involved immortals, mythology, conspiracies and one destiny prone teenager seemed a natural fit. This issue is the penultimate issue of his second arc on this series, alongside Emanuela Lupacchino ("X-Factor") on pencils, Guillermo Ortego on inks and Matt Milla's on colors. As usual the plot involves no less than the fate of the world itself involving ancient secrets and exaggerations of cabals and other real life figures. While this saga has started with the immortal drunken poet Armstrong and the naive teenage religious assassin Archer, it has subsequently grown to include additional characters. This arc has seen the introduction of the Geomancer, a figure who can literally speak to the earth itself, who has been guarded throughout history by Gilad, Armstrong's equally immortal and far more violent brother.

Picking up from last month's issue, the titular duo have united with Gilad and the newest Geomancer, former corporate spokeswoman Kay McHenry. Their enemies are her former employers at Zorn Capital, who are part of a cult involving "the Null" - who have sought to literally unmake reality since 212 B.C. Gilad has also sought to end this threat since ancient times, but now everything seems to be coming to a head. Our heroes manage to breach the cult at their remote golf course resort in Greenland to try to essentially stop the un-making of existence. Unfortunately, Mr. Zorn manages to unleash what appears to be a living virus into the mind of Archer, which operates to set up the process with which "the Null" erases reality. Meanwhile, the perpetually hilarious murderous Wall Street tycoons, "The One Percent", manage to make an ally of someone from the previous arc.

Lupacchino's pencils follow well from the work of the last arc's artist, Clayton Henry. The lines are smooth and there is plenty of detail without the art seeming too stiff to flow when action starts. Naturally, most artists who work with Van Lente have to also be capable of drawing physical comedy on occasion (especially with facial expressions), and Lupacchino shines in this regard. Much like with many great titles, Van Lente manages to keep his arcs short (four issues a pop) while having enough progress happen per issue to please monthly readers as well as "trade waiters". Most of the comedy is in the dialogue, and with more characters to bounce lines off of play to Van Lente's strengths. Yet at the same time, as showcased in works such as "Incredible Hercules" or "Taskmaster", Van Lente can change tone on a dime to suspense or drama without the story skipping a beat.

"Incredible Hercules" made many critics "best of" lists back when it was running, yet "Archer & Armstrong" has seemed to slip through the cracks due to being part of a lessor known company like Valiant. Yet this series has so far been just as fun and exciting as that prior work has been, and is free to go along its own path in a fairly smaller universe. So long as one is willing to see real life religious iconography or organizations exaggerated into comic book plots without being offended, "Archer & Armstrong" is a romp every issue.

AGE OF ULTRON #2: Marvel Comics' latest event du jour continues on as a weekly item, written by perennial "event" writer Brian M. Bendis and vaulted-but-slow artist Bryan Hitch (alongside Paul Neary's inks and Paul Mounts' colors). The gist is that Ultron has somehow successfully destroyed and conquered the world, leaving much of it in ruins and leaving only a few rag tag survivors. The mystery of course is how, which is a good way to come up with "cool moments" and then work backwards - the traditional way "events" are written. This issue splits its focus between a scarred Black Widow and a grizzled Moon Knight who are holed up in one of Nick Fury's safe houses in San Francisco, and the rest of the cast in NYC. What is left of the Avengers in NYC go over with Spidey what they think happened to them, and Capt. America stops moping and stands up in the last page.

Considering how acclaimed Hitch's artwork has been for over a decade, it is a little disturbing that some of his faces seem a bit "samey". This issue reads very quickly and the story seems to be progressing a little slowly for a series which is sold at $3.99 an issue. The weekly schedule mitigates this somewhat, and this issue sees things coming together slowly from the previous one. Still, the dilemma here is that this is a stunt first, a premise second, and a narrative a distant third.

FEARLESS DEFENDERS #2: Another of the recent "Marvel NOW" launches, it is the second title to bare the name "Defenders" in its title within less than six month's time. It bares no resemblance to the last "Defenders" series written by Matt Fraction which was cancelled last year, and its only tie to the longtime franchise in general is the appearance of one of the team's members. Cullen Bunn ("Venom") has been writing a story in which Valkyrie is attempting to prevent the threat of the "Doommaiden" which is essentially involving at least one additional female Marvel superhero per issue. In the debut issue Valkyrie (Brunhilde) ran into Misty Knight and her archeologist friend Dr. Annabelle Riggs dealing with a MacGuffin which rose zombie vikings from their graves. The plot involves a mysterious group run by the equally mysterious Caroline LeFey, who kidnaps former "New Mutants" character Dani Moonstar to attempt to leach onto her past as a Valkyrie herself. The other heroines make their way to Asgardia, a floating city of Asgardians via Thor's title, where they encounter other figures such as Hela (Norse goddess of the underworld) and Hippolyta, Greek queen of the Amazons. The art is by Will Sliney and the colors are by Veronica Gandini.

Two issues in, this title is a prime example of a new launch which seems to be neither terrible or excellent, and seems to be missing just a few cogs to make it the latter. Part of the dilemma is that the plot about a lost race of "older Valkyrie" who are now a threat resembles Kieron Gillen's run on "Thor" circa 2010 about the Disir. It also suggests that Valkyrie is the last of her kind present on Midguard, which ignores Sif over in "Journey into Mystery". The angle of Valkyrie being tasked with forming an alliance of female warriors and never being able to get around to it before a disaster happened is interesting and has ties back to the "Lady Liberators" story of the silver age, and Bunn has a good voice for his characters. Sliney's artwork is fine although it does rely on some awkward poses. It took Bunn a couple of arcs on "Venom" to find his footing; hopefully it doesn't take as long here.

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