Marvel Trade Post: Siege, Doomwar, Captain America And Black Panther & X-Statix: Good Omens

Just about every weekend I spend a few minutes sitting in front of the twin to-read longboxes of trades I have sitting in my closet and pull out a small pile to read. I rarely get through all of them, but I tend to do pretty well. As such, I wind up reading a lot more books than I can get to when reviewing doing one, sometimes two, Trade Posts a week. So, I’m going to run through a quartet of Marvel books I’ve read in the past few months.

Siege

Siege (Marvel)
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, drawn by Oliver Coipel with Michael Lark, Lucio Parrillo & Jim Cheung
Collects Siege #1-4, Siege: The Cabal & FCBD 2009 (Avengers) #1

First up you’ve got Siege. This was the big Marvel event that came out in the beginning of 2010. If memory serves, this was the big header to the massive, ongoing story that started off with Civil War, marking a pretty dark time in the lives of that universe’s superheroes. At this point, Norman Osborn was leading H.A.M.M.E.R. which used to be S.H.I.E.L.D. after supposedly saving the world from the Skrulls at the end of Secret Invasion. Jeez, that’s a lot of continuity to remember.

The story itself revolves around Osborn — who’s bug nutty crazy, by the way — attacking the floating city of Asgard which hovers above a town in Oklahoma. This attack draws all the heroes together — both registered and unregistered, harkening back to Civil War — to help defend Asgard against Osborn’s army of Dark Avengers and villains.

At the time, I was excited to see an event comic coming in at only four issues and to see how this would lead into the more positive, less dark Heroic Age at the company. As a story, it involves all the things you’ve come to expect from comic events these days: big group shots, copious amounts of dialog from newscasters, wildly violent moments to let you know things are serious, deaths and splash-page worthy moments returning important characters to their status quos. Maybe it’s because we’re so far removed from this era of Marvel comics — which I wasn’t a huge fan of in the first place — or maybe it’s because this feels like a lot of familiar elements being perpetrated by different people, but the story didn’t do a whole lot for me. It’s beautifully composed by Coipel who’s a top notch talent. He does as well drawing Captain America talking to people as dozens of superpowered folks battling at the same time.

Basically, this book served its purpose by making the good guys good and the bad guys bad again and it’s definitely necessary if you want to know what happened between roughly 2006 and 2010 in Marvel’s books, but it doesn’t really stand out as the kind of book that needs to be revisited.

doomwarDoomwar (Marvel)
Written by Jonathan Mayberry, drawn by Scot Eaton
Collects Doomwar #1-6

I’ve written about this here and there, but I am a huge fan of Reginald Hudlin’s Black Panther series. I think it was an amazing mixture of action and drama that did a great job of cherry picking fun characters from the Marvel sandbox to play with. Because of that run, I’ve become a fan of the character and done a bit of checking in on what he’s been up to here and there.

Doomwar finds Wakanda under attack by the likes of Dr. Doom. With Storm framed for treason, the X-Men come in to help T’Challa and his sister — the then-current Black Panther — clear her name and save the country. As the story — which feels like an event, but was contained in just these six issues — progresses, the scope gets bigger and brings in more characters. I like when comic stories do this, combining an epic feel without making me buy or read a huge stack of comics.

I also like that this story works as both a continuation of the Black Panther story, but also works well as a Marvel Universe story. Doom is such a classic villain that it only makes sense to throw as many heroes at him as possible while keeping his machinations HUGE. And huge they are. I won’t spoil his end game, but it actually works and winds up changing a chunk of the Marvel U. Of course, this is comics, so that may or may not last (or might have already been changed for all I know). I also really dug Eaton’s artwork which has a dark boldness that works on everything from giant monsters to armor-covered heroes. I’ll definitely be keeping this one around.

captain america black panther flags of our fathersCaptain America & Black Panther: Flags Of Our Fathers (Marvel)
Written by Reginald Hudlin, drawn by Denys Cowan
Collects Captain America & Black Panther: Flags Of Our Fathers #1-4

Hey look, another Black Panther comic! This one also stars Captain America, a character who I have grown to love thanks to Ed Brubaker’s run on that book and teams him up with T’Challa’s dad during WWII as the pair face off against Baron Strucker, Red Skull and their band of evil Nazi supervillains. Just like his run on the regular series, Hudlin does this great thing where he grabsgreat characters — like Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos, Master Man, Tiger-Man and Warrior Woman — and just has fun with the story. These four issues basically fully tell a story more briefly mentioned in Hudlin’s early days on Black Panther.

On one hand, Flags Of Our Fathers works as a cool team-up story pitting heroic good guys against dastardly bad guys, but there’s also some really great dramatic and personal moments going on here. I really enjoyed seeing Howling Commando Gabriel Jones interacting with Captain America as well as T’Chaka and his people. There’s a really great dynamic there where Gabe is mentally balancing a love for his own country even while a large part of which fears and hates him. He’s even offered Wakandan citizenship, which gives him an interesting problem to mull over coming to a conclusion that isn’t super surprising, but felt natural and earned.

Cowan’s an artist whose style doesn’t always hit with me. I really enjoyed him on The Question because he let his get syper sketchy which really fit the tone of that book and I really like him on this mini series too because he reigns that sketchiness in a little bit while still retaining his style. As with Doomwar, I’ll be adding this one to my collection as fun stories featuring two of my favorite characters.

x-statix good omensX-Statix: Good Omens (Marvel)
Written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Mike Allred with Darwyn Cooke and Paul Pope
Collects X-Statix #1-5

The Peter Milligan/Mike Allred run on X-Force which quickly turned into X-Statix is one of those comics I’ve heard great things about for years, but just never got around to checking out until a few months ago when I got the Good Omens book from a Sequential Swap trade. I had forgotten that this concept actually kicked off in the pages of X-Force and wrongly assumed that this would be the beginning of the story.

The big thing about this team at the time was that they weren’t afraid to put their names out there, let the world know they were mutants and grab their share of the spotlight. This arc follows the darker side of that as a reality-warping mutant named Artie whose an obsessed superfan of the recently deceased U-Go Girl causes trouble for them while at the same time, there’s also a rival super team that offers the team more competition for the spotlight than they’ve previously known.

I should note that this is not really the best place to start reading these characters. As I mentioned, the story really started in X-Force and ran for 14 issues. Huge, huge portions of the Good Omens storylines are based on what went before it. However, even though I wasn’t completely caught up on what was going on, I never felt completely lost. In fact, I was still so interested in these characters and events that I’m trying to figure out the best way to read the whole thing. There’s an out of print omnibus that has everything, but there’s also a hardcover and two softcovers that collects the X-Force stuff as well as the four volumes of X-Statix. I guess I’m on the hunt for a few more books now!

Trade Post: Question Epitaph For A Hero, Trials Of Shazam & Buffy Omnibus Vol. 4

THE QUESTION VOL. 3: EPITAPH FOR A HERO (DC)
Written by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Denys Cowan
Collects Question #13-18
The Question’s one of those characters I never had much of an opinion about good, bad or indifferent. In the early 90s when I was coming up in comics, he wasn’t really around, which is surprising. You’d think he would have made some appearances in Batman or something, but I don’t really remember seeing him until years later. My first real exposure to him was in 52, which was fantastic and, of course, lead to his death. He was also really great in the JLU cartoon. The two of those were enough to get me interested in reading his series from the 80s. Luckily, DC started reprinting them a couple years back and now we’re up to six volumes at last count. I’ve read the first three and liked them all.

There’s an interesting subsection of DC comics from the 80s that were basically set in the real world or at least ignored the super hero aspects of the greater DCU. Mike Grell’s Green Arrow book was a lot like that and so was The Question. This volume includes the first meeting between those two versions of the characters. The stories are mostly one-offs with a political bent following the Question as he rights wrongs. What I like about the book is that it continually throws curve balls. The racist cop throws himself in front of a bullet. Green Arrow and Question don’t become buddy buddy right away. They’re not huge twists, but enough to keep the story flowing and interesting. Cowan’s art might be considered sloppy, but I think it’s got a strange energy that actually lends itself to the types of stories O’Neil tells. Personally, I’d rather see him using the style he did on Hardware, but, like I said, it works. I recommend giving the first installment of this series a look if you’re interested in more grounded mystery adventure comics with something to say without drowning you in it.

THE TRIALS OF SHAZAM VOL. 1 & 2 (DC)
Written by Judd Winick, drawn by Howard Porter and Mauro Cascioli
Collects Brave New World 1, The Trials Of Shazam #1-6 and 7-12
Captain Marvel’s another character I’ve known about, but never really felt one way or the other. He was used incredibly well in Kingdom Come, I liked him in JLI and JSA, plus a few appearances here and there. The character has gone through a lot of changes over the past few years. Infinite Crisis rewrote the laws of magic in the DCU, the Wizard died, Mary Marvel went absolutely crazy and Billy had to take over as the Wizard. That meant that someone had to take over and the mantle fell to former Captain Marvel Jr. (or CM3 as he was called for a while) Freddy Freeman, which is where this maxi-series picks up. See, Freddy has to meet up with a series of gods–the ones who make up the name SHAZAM–go through trials and get those abilities.

Winick puts on a good story with Freeman starting off nervous about the whole thing and turning into a dog gone hero by the end. The problem is that the story’s a little long. It could have been cut down to 7 or 8 issues and been a lot tighter. Another negative thing about the book isn’t really its fault but DC’s and that’s that the character of Captain Marvel hasn’t really been used since the end of this book. I know he’s shown up a few times, but his supposed inclusion in Cry For Justice turned out to be a ruse. So, you finish reading this pretty great story, which is basically an origin story. And what’s the first thing you want to do after reading a character get set up like this? Read more of his adventures. Too bad there’s no where to turn. I’d like to see Freddy as Captain Marvel leading some kind of magic oriented team like the Shadowpact or some other concoction.

Art-wise, it’s an interesting affair. Howard Porter, whose style I loved in JLA, changed things up and it looks…I don’t really know how to describe it. Less crisp? JLA had the sharpness to it that I really liked, but this is a little sketchier. It’s not bad by any means, just not what you might be expecting from a Porter comic. He was replaced by Mauro Cascioli whose art I like, but goes from looking really awesome to really wooden sometimes from panel to panel. Overall, I liked the story and the art, but I won’t be keeping these books on my shelf.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER OMNIBUS VOL. 4 (Dark Horse)
Written and drawn by a bunch of folks
Collects Buffy #9-11, 13-15, 17-20, 50, Annual 99, Angel #1-3, Wizard 1/2, Lover’s Walk & Dark Horse Presents #141
Buffy fans who weren’t reading the Dark Horse comics back in the day while the show was on have no idea how good they’ve got it. Now, the comics flow directly from the show with Joss Whedon heading things up (at least that’s what they say) and, for the most part, are damn good. Back in the day, though, the comics weren’t so good. They weren’t bad, but they were saddled with keeping their stories set in earlier seasons so as not to interfere with or contradict the show. I bought those comics for two years and actually quit reading because of the main story in this Omnibus. It took a long time to tell, I couldn’t remember all the details and I was sick of reading about Buffy in high school when she was going off to college and having completely different adventures. I actually sold those books on eBay in past year or so.

The thing about these Omnibi is that they collect the stories in chronological order by season. It’s actually really interesting editor Scott Allie’s forwards in these books as he explains the thinking behind that and how the stories inside came to be. All that being said, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed reading this volume and got through all 368 pages in one night. The main story is called Bad Blood and features am image-obsessed vamp from an earlier comic appearance coming back and forcing a doctor to use science and magic to create a new kind of blood that made super-vampires. Reading it all together was a much more satisfying experience, but I also found a nostalgia going back and reading adventures set in Buffy’s high school, as those have turned out to be my favorite seasons.

The rest of the book has short stories here and there. I probably shouldn’t have tried to read the whole thing in one setting because the stories have a definite rhythm that gets really repetitive when you read them in a row. If you’re a Buffy fan, these are good books to pick up, but I would imagine you already have. If you’re not a Buffy fan, well, I don’t think this book will make you one.

Trade Post: JSA Strange Adventuers, Wildstorm After The Fall & Hardware The Man In The Machine

JSA STRANGE ADVENTURES (DC)
Written by Kevin J. Anderson, drawn by Barry Kitson
Collects JSA Strange Adventures #1-6
I’ve been a big fan of the JSA concept for years. I love the idea of legacy characters still kicking around in modern times offering a sense of connection to the past that can only be done in fiction when dealing with magical beings who have various elements keeping them alive for decades after they should be dead (especially when you consider how often they put themselves in danger). While I’ve read every regular issue of JSA since Geoff Johns launched the book back in 1999, but I skipped or missed a lot of the JSA minis that have come out since then. I was pretty excited about Strange Adventures because it presents a JSA story from back when they were first a team as opposed to them being the old soldiers they are today. I was looking forward to seeing the tale told from a different perspective and, while the book does offer another perspective through the eyes of Johnny Thunder, I didn’t really like this book.

My main problem is that the book didn’t feel very original. The overarching plot involves a super powered genius coming to the world and telling them he’ll fix all these problems if Green Lantern and Starman give up their power sources. When the heroes don’t, the guy turns bad and starts wreaking havoc, but only after regular people get upset with GL and Starman. There’s nothing very original there, that’s the plot of several pieces of science fiction from Twilight Zone episodes to movies. It’s boring and it was so obvious, I thought that Anderson might be messing with the constraints of that kind of story, but that didn’t happen. The only part of the story that I found really interesting was Johnny Thunder’s interactions with a pulp writer and his desire to become a writer himself. I can obviously relate to that and I love fiction that involves writing and creating in one way or another, but even that part of the story didn’t feel entirely original as Johnny Thunder has been portrayed as the newbie who wishes he could really do something before. All in all, Strange Adventures wasn’t a bad comic to read, it just wasn’t a particularly original one. Kitson’s art sure was pretty though.

WILDSTORM: AFTER THE FALL (WildStorm)
Written by Christos Gage and Russell Uttley, drawn by Trevor Hairsine, Brandon Badeaux, Ivan Reis, Mike McKone, Pete Woods, Phil Noto, Ben Oliver, Chris Sprouse, Wes Craig, Shawn Moll and John Paul Leon
Collects several WildStorm back-up stories
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of the WildStorm universe. I think it was pretty ballsy when they decided to basically destroy their Earth with the Number of the Beast miniseries and continue on with a post apocalyptic setting that has lead to a huge battle with some alien badasses, the combination of nearly ever super powered being still kicking around into one big team and then, more recently, splitting that group up into a space-faring one and one still left on Earth (Authority and WildCats respectively). Right after the big WorldStorm event that relaunched several books to varying degrees of success. In addition to kicking off new books, WildStorm also included back-up stories involving the company’s rich history of characters. All of those short stories have been collected in this After The Fall trade.

I’ve kept up on WildStorm comics for a while now, but when this happened, I wasn’t reading the back-up stories because I didn’t think I could keep up with all of them, so I’m glad they collected them all in one place. The overarching story here involves John Lynch getting the members of Team 7 back together to kill Sleeper and WildCat villain TAO. The whole thing’s very inside baseball and probably not very accessible to new readers, but I had a great time reading about characters like Deathblow, Christie Blaze and Cybernary. My only problem withe the book is that the whole thing builds up to something that doesn’t happen in this book. The TAO fight takes place eventually in, I believe, WildCats, but that means After The Fall kind of feels like the second Pirates Of The Caribbean movie in that, it’s fun in and of itself, but it’s basically a stepping stone for something else. The amazing stable of artists certainly helps the book and it’s awesome to see guys like Noto and Leon work on these characters I love.

HARDWARE: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE (Milestone/DC)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Denys Cowan and JJ Birch
Collects Hardware #1-8
Back in 1993 I was 10 and Milestone launched, a comic company that seemed focused on bringing more comics starring non-white heroes to the racks. I couldn’t afford to buy a bunch of extra books, but I was really intrigued by books like Hardware, Static and Icon and, by the time the inevitable World’s Collide crossover between the Milestone Universe and the DCU came the next year, I bought as many of the issues as I could. There was always something about the look of the books that I found very intriguing. At the time I didn’t really follow artists or even really realize they used different styles, but the kind of muted presentation of the books, especially hardware which looked painted to me, drew my interest. Jump ahead 17 years later and here I sit with a collection of the first 8 issues of Hardware. The collection really captures the art the way I remember it and the stories kept me entertained throughout the whole thing.

For those of you who might not know, the idea behind Hardware is that this super smart kid named Curtis got a benefactor in the form of a rich dude who put him through college, gave him unlimited resources in his lab, but considered the kid, now an adult, to be little more than property with a clause in his contract saying that if he quit, he couldn’t work for anyone else. After doing some digging Curtis discovers that his benefactor is actually a pretty bad dude, so he builds a high tech suit with plenty of add-on weapons (kind of like Centurions) that he uses to quash the bad guy’s criminal enterprises. It’s a fairly basic superhero concept, but I was surprised to find that Hardware actually kills some of the bad guy’s peons, something that he actually comes to question towards the end of the trade.

Overall, I really liked this book. Cowan’s art is fantastic especially when he gets to draw some of the crazier weapons and whatnot. McDuffie’s writing was pretty fun, but there were definitely some moments where I was completely confused, like in #3 when the book opens with Hardware killing the bad guy, then appearing in his girl’s place. I had no idea what that was about. For the most part, I liked the whole presentation and how they started to slowly build a big superhero universe. I hope DC continues to put out these Milestone books (I’ve got the Static one in my to-read party), especially the World’s Collide story. There’s a lot of goodness here.