Happy Tuesday! This one is a bitter-sweet one. This is the last time Amazing Spider-Man will be included in Bullet Reviews. December 26th is when the final issue of the series (for now) comes out so look for some comments on that in its own review.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t have some new beginnings! Avengers Arena and Cable And X-Force both debuted last week and we take a look at both! Avengers Arena gets TWO Bullets!
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #699.1 (Marvel)
I’m not a fan of these Point One books. They don’t serve any real purpose other than allowing Marvel to get another issue out for us to buy. They were originally intended to attract new readers by giving them a ‘jumping on point’ but they don’t serve that function at all. Then we have issues like this one that are totally mislabeled. This should actually be Morbius, The Living Vampire #0.1 because it focuses on Morbius and not Spider-Man and serves as something of an introduction to the upcoming Morbius ongoing series.
So, basically what we have here is another always required ‘ret-con’ of Morbius’s origin because we have to update everything so there is no sense of history in the Marvel Universe (seriously, can’t we just leave things the way they are? What’s wrong with having a sense of history in the Marvel Universe?) This time around Morbius has a life long friend who promised to help him find a cure for his blood disorder, which now suddenly affects his bones, after a childhood accident. Using modern equipment, Morbius isn’t experimenting on himself so fast because he isn’t alone anymore and the vampire bat concept is only passingly mentioned.
Overall, the only real things that have been kept from the original continuity are the fight with a multi-armed Spider-Man and the Midnight Sons group Morbius was once a part of.
I suppose for someone who doesn’t have much knowledge of Morbius this book will come in handy but for someone like me who has been a fan for years it kind of locks me out. Once again everything that’s been established is no longer part of the story and it makes the character far less interesting… which is exactly what Marvel did with Ghost Rider, Blade, and Man-Thing. Maybe they hate their horror characters?
As a set up for the upcoming Morbius series it serves its function well, the changes in Morbius’s origin are confusing and unnecessary and only confuse long time fans but this issue is supposed to be just setting up the regular book… Sadly, it doesn’t accomplish this at all. Morbius escapes, yes, but there isn’t enough here to get me interested in the ongoing and this just feels like a set-up for a future Amazing Spider-Man story, if Amazing Spider-Man was going to be continuing into 2013 that is. I’ll still get the first issue of Morbius because I like the character and I’m curious as to what Marvel is thinking. I honestly don’t have much faith in Morbius being able to carry his own title especially when there are no other horror titles from Marvel out right now but I’ve been surprised before! – Skott Jimenez
AVENGERS ARENA #1 (Marvel NOW!)
Avengers Arena is basically the Marvel version of Hunger Games. Some guy in the creative department thought the Game Master in Hunger Games is similar to the very twisted X-Men villain Arcade. In a way they were kind of right. While I was enjoying Avenger Academy, not my favorite book, but it most certainly wasn’t the worst – near the end something strange happened. I got a little emotional that this team was nearing the end. I suppose each member got to feel freedom one more time before this treacherous event went down. Enter Murder World. It sounds like something Mojo would have put together but it is a sick twisted world built by the maniac Arcade. The book starts off on Day 29 which was able to jar my attention span long enough to read this book front to back. I don’t want to give away too many details but Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker are a great combo for this book. The art is good. The dialog is entertaining. But most of all…I did NOT see this ending coming. Avengers Arena #1 WORTH YOUR TIME! – Nick Furious
This book was an interesting read. It’s both well done and a total mess at the same time. It was well done because the concept is interesting. While many people will compare it to the currently popular Hunger Games, I saw more of the original killer competition story, Battle Royale in this. From the logo of the book to the totally unfriendly settings, this book was dripping Battle Royale. Another thing that made this nice was seeing two of my favorite characters: Cammie from Annihilation and Darkhawk from, well, Darkhawk. Anyone familiar with either BR or Hunger Games will know the basic idea behind this series. Which brings me to the ‘total mess’ part. My opinion is this concept would have worked better as an out of continuity miniseries much like Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe. I mean, if I decide to stick with this series, and the $2.99 cover price is certainly a good reason to consider it, why would I stick with a book if there’s a chance my favorite character might die? There isn’t much to invest in here. While I can deal with losing Cammie, Darkhawk has been a favorite of mine since his debut and holds a special place in my heart. Those concerns aside, the creative team here has put together something that is interesting, fun, dangerous, and (here’s something I haven’t said much with Marvel NOW!) something worth checking out. This dark story might be the sleeper hit of the Marvel NOW! Era. – Skott Jimenez
CABLE AND X-FORCE #1 (Marvel NOW!)
With a team that is composed of Cable, Domino, Forge, Colossus and Dr. Nemesis I figured this was going to be a book that was so good I would have to drop one title to be able to continue this one. While it isn’t bad, it most certainly wasn’t as good as I had hoped. Dennis Hopeless doesn’t get to bring nearly as much fun to this book as say X-Men: Season One or Avengers Arena. These are mercenaries who are going to fight regardless of what the law thinks. I found it hilarious that Hope has been searching for her father all this time yet they mention nothing in Avengers vs. X-Men. I understand that Dr. Nemesis needs a book. Forge needs a book. Domino and Cable ARE X-Force so they had to be in this book, but Colossus being on this team is just kind of silly. This is where comics make me laugh sometimes; Colossus is just a replacement for the likes of Grizzly or ____________ “the super strength mutant on the team.” The one thing that is slightly promising about this series is having Hope Summers on a team that isn’t kids. The cameos all throughout the book were fun but it just wasn’t enough to really make me want more X-Force and that is a rare thing because I love X-Force. Long gone are the days of Shatterstar, Cannonball, and Warpath. This new X-Force just didn’t do it for me. Although I’m sure it will get much better this is one series this X-Junkie is going to be skipping. But I wish it the best of luck. – Nick Furious
DEMON KNIGHTS #15 (DC)
Since this is a deck-clearing exercise for Paul Cornell, leaving in the Great DC Exodus (or, in Gail Simone’s case, more of a purge) for the pastures of a Marvel NOW! Wolverine comic–which is like stepping out of the frying pan and into a George Foreman’s Lean Mean Grilling Machine, only the “lean” part is replaced with “convoluted backstory”–Demon Knights #15 is as awkward and shuffling as this sentence. A lot of what was being set up in the previous fourteen issues, including a three-way tussle between the Knights, Lucifer’s demons, and the Horde, gets taken care of really quickly so that the status quo can be restored in time for the new guy to do something. Bernard Chang gets to draw some cool stuff, including a split-screen face-off between Lucifer and the Questing Queen, but the comic as a whole lacks a lot of the personal touches that made the series enjoyable: the most Vandal Savage does, for example, is ask if he gets a pension when King Arthur officially knights the anti-heroes. Everybody else is just wrapping up story arcs and setting up new ones, with none of the self-awareness and verbal sparring that made the puppet strings of plot disappear before.
Not the worst thing DC will put out this month (by a long shot), but a disappointing way for Cornell to exit. – Andrew Taylor
FANTASTIC FOUR #2 (Marvel NOW!)
Out of all the writers who got swapped around on different titles I don’t think anyone had more of a challenge than Matt Fraction. No one can deny that Hickman had one of the most stellar runs on Fantastic Four than anyone. Ever. Hickman brought Fantastic Four back in a big way but now it’s time for Fraction to take over and after reading issue one I was sure he was the right man for the job. But after reading issue number two I am 110 percent sure he is the right man for the job. Fantastic Four was not only fun it had some silly foreshadowing moments that made the whole thing just that much more enjoyable. Also I love that Scott Lang is back in a series again. Who better to lead the Fantastic Four in the absence of Reed Richards? We know something horrible is going to happen. We know that it won’t just be 4 minutes that the Replacement Fantastic Four team will sub in. But most of all we know that adventure is on the horizon! These set-up books are hard to do but this is one that sets everything up in a nice tidy fashion. And by tidy I mean “who knows what the hell is going to happen?” But isn’t that what we want in comics!? To be surprised? To that over whelming urge for curiosity? Plus it has The Thing and She Hulk flirting while lifting weights! Getchya some Ben! – Nick Furious
THE HOLLOWS #1 (IDW)
Zombie stories hit their zenith a while ago, but they just keep coming no matter how tired their appearances become. Makes it very meta, doesn’t it? Either way, The Hollows is a kind of/sort of zombie story, but follows in the tradition of Gilbert Hernandez’s Fatima: The Blood Spinners by making the zombies* a distant last place to everything else. There’s lots of big shots of ruins or a city on the branches of a massive tree, which the nebbish hero flies out of using his man-made wings. Sam Kieth shows a lot more fascination with this surrealist Japanese setting, and his nerdy protagonist, Craig, who finds excuses to not help the people trapped outside of his treehouse gated community as they barely stave off death (whether it’s zombie or an atmosphere laden with poison). All the big shots are devoted to the tree city, of Craig flying around, and of a little girl from the apocalypse ghetto nonchalantly spraying zombies in the face with a fire extinguisher.
Whenever Kieth does draw zombies, it’s often as a mass of squiggles or stick figures. Like Hernandez, he treats them as a miniscule byproduct of a larger problem (in this case, radiation), heightening the theme of economic inequality. His casual contempt for zombies matches the girl’s statement that she exists “despite them.” Ironically, The Hollows is written/co-created by Chris Ryall, whose bibliography consists almost entirely of zombie comics (notably Zombies Vs. Robots), which leads to an interesting tension between Kieth’s playful, childlike disregard for “the Hollows” and Ryall taking them seriously. The result is something much more fascinating than it should be.
*They’re actually “hungry ghosts,” but if it looks like a zombie, etc. – Andrew Taylor
IT GIRL! AND THE ATOMICS #5 (Image)
With all the super hero action, bare butt having, Scott Pilgrim-esque fighting this book has it’s still very easy to say that It Girl is easily the only book on the stands today that is pure super hero comic book action. It’s old school, plain and simple, and with this issue it also wraps up its first story arc - It Girl Vs. The Evil Version of her formerly dead sister! And to add to that already fun idea…it takes place in the world of a video game! Yeah, a twisted version of Luna has taken It Girl into the world of her favorite video game in a bid to extract some twisted revenge on her. She’s mad because she died and It Girl lived.. I guess, dead psychos are hard to figure out and that’s what makes this fun. While It Girl fights for her life, we get the enjoyment of the other members of the Atomics and The Skunk (who walks around this whole issue with his bare butt showing because of an unfortunate ‘skunk gas explosion’ in the previous issue) as they also enter the game as regular players in an attempt to help It Girl. Thing is, these folks know about as much about playing these sort of video games as I do but they live longer than I probably would. Having read, and fully enjoyed, this first story I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up grabbing this series in trade, as well as buying the monthly books, because it’s just that much fun!
I’m being serious here, if you’re like me and you miss the days when comic books were not about how real you can make things and were just escapist entertainment then this is the book you simply must be reading! Plus: the next issue will spotlight Mr. Gum and will be drawn by one of my all time faves – Chynna Clugston Flores of Blue Monday and Scooter Girl fame! This series just keeps getting better and better! – Skott Jimenez