Marvel comic book review for the week of 12/29/14

First off let me say: there is only one comic book to review this week. I can’t even begin to tell you how tempted I am to write a two word review and leave it at that. But I won’t.

Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division or S.H.I.E.L.D. finally got its first comic book with the TV cast today and I have to say I’m impressed. There is one blaring omission. Skye is missing. Why you might ask? Well, there is only speculation but it’s rumored that Skye will actually become Quake and the leader of another team. But again, that is only speculation.

In this issue we learn a lot about Coulson and his fascination with Super Heroes. How far back it goes in his life and how his fascination helps him with his job.

There are some notable differences between the comic book and the show. In the comic book we are meeting the team on Coulson’s first day of a new promotion so we are meeting the team for the first time all over again. This was an unusual choice for fans of the show but understandable for first time readers or viewers.

We also are seeing a different back story for the team. In the TV show, the agents of Phil’s team have only had scrapes with minor heroes and villains. In the comic, they have met gods and other characters and interacted with them. In some ways the comic book is how viewers of the show wish the show was written.

The art in the book is fantastic. There are no fancy tricks or artsy fartsy drawings and the coloring makes everything a joy to look at.

I think the producers of the show ought to hire Mark Waid as a writer for the show. Great first issue. Grade: A.

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Marvel Comic Book Reviews for the week of 12/21/14

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to one and all. A lot of comic books were released this week. The reason? Next week is skip week! This only means that most comic book publishers will only release one or two books next week. Next week Marvel will be releasing Shield #1. I have not read enough about it to know if it will run side by side with the show but I have read that Skye (A.K.A Daisy, A.K.A Quake) may not be in the book because she becomes the head of a new Super Hero team. I will review the book next week. There are some spoilers in these reviews.
1. This week wasn’t a huge week for Marvel but it was big enough because it ended another event for them. There will be books that deal with the aftermath of the Marvel event but Axis #9 is slated to be the final of the AXIS comic books. This comic wasn’t quite the book I was hoping it would be. Marvel fell into the same trap it always seems to fall in to when releasing a Marvel comic book event. They paced it wrong. This was no different. For the first half of the event, Red Skull (Red Onslaught) was pretty much a key player in the entire event. When the inversion happened, he disappeared. Last week we learned that Captain America was harboring Red Skull because Cap understood that if any of the heroes/villains killed Red Skull, no one could be reverted back to their original state. That was a revelation that made sense, but nonetheless was still shocking.

My biggest problem with the writing was that it seemed too convenient. I had trouble believing it. The authors were asking us to believe that Red Skull was willing to reverse the inversion just because Captain America was nice to him. That was also my problem with most of the series. Over the years, I have come to expect that each of the heroes are pillars of strength. Both mentally and physically. I expected there to be some sort of resistance, but there wasn’t.

I also didn’t care for the dialogue. I thought the heroes were always trying to deliver monologues instead of trying to talk in regular every day conversations.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Not the entire series was a wash. I actually really enjoyed Axis: Carnage. Reading a serial killer try to be a good guy without changing his murderous ways was pretty hilarious. I also thought that Axis: Hobgoblin was pretty hilarious.

The art in this issue was pretty impressive but with too many artists, it wasn’t always consistent. All in all I’m giving this issue a grade of B- or C+.

2. Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #3 has the distinction of being one of a few (maybe a couple) titles where the main hero is acting evil instead of good at the beginning of a new ongoing series. It feels a bit odd to start a new series in the middle of a big event where the writing will not represent the character in a way that coincides with who he really is. It’s even stranger because Marvel just made Falcon the new Captain and we haven’t had too much time to get to know how he’s going to be different. Since this is an AXIS book and AXIS ends this week, we should get a chance to see how things will be different soon.

Most of this issue is focused on a fight between the Avengers. The strangest part of many of the tie-ins that are released is that they seem to happen before the title event books. So in other words, the tie-ins, while being tangential to the main book seem to be a week behind. That can be a little confusing. The biggest problem I have with this issue is that because it’s at the end of the AXIS series, it resolves itself too easily. I enjoy this comic but, to be honest, I don’t think this book is anywhere near as good as the other Mighty Avengers. I think it tries to be, but fails.

I didn’t think this was a bad comic, per se. But I didn’t find it compelling either. I’m giving this book a grade of a weak B. Everything about this comic was fine, but that really is it. Just fine

3. Loki Agent of Axis #009 gets my vote for one of the best covers I’ve seen since the Superior Spider-man issue where the name of the comic was written in his brain. The comic book cover looks, and reads, like comic books of yesteryear. The inside of the comic reads like it, at times too.

That actually works against the comic, in some ways. Throughout the Axis books there has been the undercurrent of characters having to prove themselves as heroes or villains. As a result, there have been a lot of monologues delivered. If the whole series was marketed as a throwback to the 50’s-60’s, it would have worked. There were moments in the book where the writing reflected the cover of the book and moments where

This story is unusual in that the events of this comic book take place immediately following the events of the last issue of Original Sin. The revelations in this book are mind blowing to say the least, and actually leave you scratching your head.

I really liked the art in this book. It reflected the cover art very well.

The ending of this book promises us a HUGE reveal for next month. Grade:B

4. Uncanny X-men #029 might be one of the best Marvel titles this week because it starts to answer a question that has been on my mind since All New X-men started A Vs. X ended: What if one of the X-men traveled to the past and warned Charles Xavier that Cyclops was going to kill him and that the mutant he had put psychic blocks on had returned and his powers were back?

There is a lot happening in this book. Both Magneto and Cyclops court Matthew Malloy and neither do a very convincing job. Beast makes a startling discovery that puts his fellow X-men in danger as a result of his actions. And S.H.I.E.L.D…. well let’s just say Maria Hill will be dealing with the repercussions of her actions for a while, unless…. Well that would be too much of a spoiler.

The opening of this comic book might be my favorite part of it. The conversation, and circumstances, Ilyana Rasputin finds herself in with Doctor Strange are very humorous.

The writing in this book is great. I have always thought that Brian Michael Bendis had a very strong grasp of the X-universe and it really shows here. Time travel issues have never been my favorite type of books because the stories end up being very convoluted but this issue presents readers with some very important possibilities for the X-men. Where I wasn’t hanging on every word of the other comics this week, I was with this book. The only gripe I have with this book is that the cover is misleading. There is no Will reading in this book. Grade: A

5. Magneto #013 was another great issue for the series and something I’ve not seen done before. This book examines the feelings of people who have become peripheral damage as a result of Magneto’s crusade. The writing in this book is phenomenal. It shows the scope of fanaticism and the pain of being an unwitting participant in a crusade that may, or may not, be yours.
This book focuses almost solely on Briar Raleigh, the mysterious benefactor who lost a leg as result of an attack by Magneto. There is no real indication as to why she is bankrolling him.
There is really not a lot more to say about this book. The writing is very solid and the art is also really good. I highly recommend this book. Grade: A.
6. The difficulty with She-Hulk as a comic book is that she, more often times than not, gets portrayed as comedic. One of the problems with portraying a hero in a comedic way is that you give permission to the readers to not take the comic book seriously. When that happens and the art does not portray the character as a strong female lead, readers lose interest. American Manga is not a good medium to portray a muscle bound woman.

She-Hulk #011 didn’t have the strength of writing that I’ve come to expect from Charles Soule. He is one of my favorite writers in comic books but this issue felt like he knew his run with the comic was coming to an end. Grade: B-

7. All New X-men Annual #001 was a joy to read from beginning to end. The story began in another annual and has only gotten better. Eva Bell is new student at the New Xavier School with the power of manipulating time by creating bubbles that freeze time. When she is put in pressurized situations she loses control of her power. That causes her to get displaced in time and trying to get back home to her time.

This book is just as unusual as the last chapter, but as intriguing to read. However, the real joy of this Annual is the art work. There are panels in this story that are pretty stunning to look at.

Brian Michael Bendis once again does an amazing job with the writing. His grasp of the characters and their emotions are once again spot on. I always look forward to his books and there have been very few bad ones.

8. The last book I read this week was Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy #007. Where I didn’t care for the writing in She-Hulk, I absolutely loved the writing in this series. Charles Soule did a great job combining the Legacy story line with the Weapon X story line. The main characters in the Weapon X program are holding Sabretooth, Daken, X-23, Lady Deathstrike, Mystique and Elixir hostage because they believed that they have the cure for their powers. The weapon X refugees don’t want to hurt their captives, they want help in finding an object that will help them be reverted to their normal selves.

There is a cliffhanger here that is supposed to be continued in Wolverines #1. This was an enjoyable story. Grade: B+

My thoughts on Christmas

Do any of you remember the wonder of Christmas? If you were like many families, it started with television commercials. Watching kids playing games and coveting them. Then it moved to newspaper ads and catalogs. The next step was sitting down with mom or dad with a piece of typing paper folded to look like a greeting a card and a crayon. You sat there writing out what you wanted to Santa, occasionally glancing over at your parent to see if you were spelling it right. Then it was a trek to the post office to mail your letter to the North Pole.

The wonder of Christmas didn’t end there. Dad or mom went out to get a tree and you watched them drag it into the house, the pine needles dragging behind as he took it to the tree stand. It usually took some time for them to force the trunk into the green or red metal tree stand but, once it stood tall, it was usually a breath taking sight.

What you probably didn’t know was that your dad crawled into a crawl space to dig out the Christmas decorations. The boxes were waiting by the tree and usually contained the decorations your family had either made or bought over the years and then hung on the tree. My favorite part was throwing the tinsel on the tree and watching it rest gently on the tree as it floated to it’s final destination. Anticipating the lights that were strung on the tree was also great too.

The last thing we hung up at our house were the stockings on the Fireplace. They were great decorations of mystery because as time got closer to Christmas they became bulky and heavier.

I’m not sure how you did it at your house, but at our house Christmas gifts trickled in as we got closer to Christmas day. If you hadn’t already traipsed through the house hunting for unwrapped gifts, the room with the tree became a place where you could be anxious for the coming day. You already had been counting down the day with your advent calendar so the extra gifts appearing only added to the excitement.

If you’re an adult and reading this, you’re probably looking at this post from a different perspective. You see the list of things to be done. The not-so-subtle hints from your kids or the time you have to sit with your kids meticulously spelling out words and guiding them as they draw out the letters so that they’re being drawn right.

The annual trip to the post office to drop off the letter and waiting in line behind a myriad of adults dressed in their winter coats with scarves draped around their necks while holding the hands of their children who are just trying to make sure their letters are read by Santa.

Going to the mall waiting in line for your son or daughter to sit in the lap of some complete stranger dressed like Santa Claus. You stood their patiently while you listened to impatient children or toddlers screaming in fright as they were placed in the lap of that complete stranger dressed like Santa Claus.

There was plenty of work dragging out all of the decorations in the house and putting them where they belonged. Unwrapping each piece of the manger scene from the newspaper it was encased in. Wrapping the tree in lights and then unwrapping it to find the one bulb that was causing all the other bulbs to stop working.

The countless hours of wrapping gifts only to have the kids rip open the gifts in mere seconds.

There was cookie making and ham baking and shopping and the list never seemed to end. You did it for the kids but, nevertheless it was still tiring .

As years went by, some of the traditions were laid by the wayside. The kids grew older and the amount of work to be done may have dwindled some. But you’re older too so you still get as tired.

Believe it or not the Bible talks about that kind of tired and finding the things in life that are important.

Luke 10:38-42:

While Jesus and his followers were traveling, Jesus went into a town. A woman named Martha let Jesus stay at her house. Martha had a sister named Mary, who was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him teach. But Martha was busy with all the work to be done. She went in and said, “Lord don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work? Tell her to help me.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha you are worried and upset about many things. Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.”

Let’s look at this passage for a moment. Martha and Mary are two different people. Vastly different. If I were to guess Martha is a type A kind of person. Everything has its place. Mary is not that type of person. I noticed something about this story as I was reading it. In verse 38:

While Jesus and his followers were traveling, Jesus went into a town. A woman named Martha let Jesus stay at her house.

I might be making a mountain out of a mole hill but, that’s a pretty strong word to use if the Messiah is coming to your house. Martha didn’t have time for Jesus. She was busy. She had other things to do. He was only a guest.

Mary understood. This was someone who had been prophesied. If that was true, she knew sitting down with him was important.

Martha was upset. Mary was being lazy. She even called out Mary in front of Jesus. When I read that, I’m a bit astounded at Martha’s gall. But Jesus corrected her.

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t put your best foot forward at Christmas time. Of course, you should. Be there for your kids( if you have them). What I am saying is that if the preparation becomes too much and distracts you from the meaning of Christmas, it’s time to slow down. I can already hear a few readers saying “but I can’t slow down!” Yes, you can. How busy you are is your choice. Slowing down could simply mean that you need to take some time to read the Christmas story with your family.

When I started writing this devotional, I knew I wanted to use this story. I have had too many conversations about how the commercialization of Christmas has dulled their sense of wonder for the holidays. That everything was too rushed. I have heard others say that they hate Christmas because it doesn’t mean anything anymore.

It seems that every year things get faster. Sales come sooner. Pressure builds to buy the perfect gift. I’m going to let you in on a secret. The perfect gift will be nice but it will never be enough. How do I know? Ever watch a kid play with something he just opened? He’ll be done playing with it in 20 minutes and on to the next thing.

Psalms 46:10 starts by saying “Be Still and know that I am God.” Try it. This Christmas, stop everything for a few minutes and focus on the miracle of a baby that would be born to take away the sins of the world. Take a minute to find what’s important. Merry Christmas.

Sent from my iPhone

No reviews this week but….

Last night I wrote on my Facebook that I thought that 2 of the 3 major comic book companies feel like they’re phoning in their books. Both Marvel and DC trap their users into reading by creating events that span many of their titles. The titles that are offshoots are often times completely unnecessary. Examples: Spider-Verse has mentioned every iteration of Spidey ( including the ones in print commercials).

Time runs out is way too complicated and drops so much scientific babble to be completely un-understandable.

And to be honest, I’ve not been able to figure out what I’ve not enjoyed AXIS. The second half has been good but it still feels like Marvel’s need to have a Forever Evil series of their own.

DC has Futures End which I quit reading because it’s steeped so deeply into character history that I was instantly lost. The same is true of Batman Eternal.

That being said, there are a number of comics that are well worth your time that are outside of the Events.

1. Deathlok- Expertly written. In many ways it’s replaced secret avengers when it wasn’t riddled with silly humor.

2. Black Widow- written like a spy novel and just as well. The art in this book is very different. Water colors are used. Stylistically, very different but nonetheless, pretty cool

3. Moon Knight- otherworldly . As good as when Ellis wrote it. Spooky book about a vigilante that is inhabited with an Egyptian God

4. Spider Woman – I recommend this book for the art alone. Greg Land is a master of art.

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