Mighty Marvel Trade Post: Thanos Rising, Silver Surfer Vol. 1 & Avengers Vs. X-Men

thanos rising Thanos Rising (Marvel)
Written by Jason Aaron, drawn by Simone Bianchi
Collects Thanos Rising #1-5

I’ve been requesting a ridiculous number of trade paperbacks from the library recently. I’ll sign into the system with an idea about one book to put on hold and the next thing I know, I’ve got a dozen or so books in the hold section and am getting a few messages a week from the library telling me my stacks are in. In an effort to put my thoughts down and get these books back into the system, I’m going to do some brief reviews here and move along.

First up we have Thanos Rising, an origin story for one of Marvel’s most powerful villains (and the driving force behind the fantastic Guardians Of The Galaxy) written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Simone Bianchi. I think this is probably the first interior work by Bianchi that I’ve actually read and I think he did a stellar job bringing the intensity and detail seen on his covers to the interiors.

Of course, it also helps that Aaron wove a compelling story about the bad guy who’s in love with death. This story starts with Thanos’ birth and travels with him as he grows into the genocidal maniac we’ve all come to know and love in Marvel’s cosmic adventures. Heck, there were even times when I felt bad for a character who almost killed Captain America. This feels like a great book to pass to someone who’s seen a Marvel movie and might be interested in getting into comics because it’s very much unattached to the more complicated universe.

silver surfer volume 1 new dawn Silver Surfer Vol. 1: New Dawn (Marvel)
Written by Dan Slott, drawn by Mike Allred
Collects Silver Surfer #1-5

When I’m sitting on the computer trying to think of books to look up, I try to remember which runs everyone seems to love. Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s Silver Surfer popped into my head and not long after, I had it in-hand. I’ve only just started reading Slott’s excellent Amazing Spider-Man work, but Allred’s an easy sell for me because I love Madman and his work on iZombie (I reviewed volumes one, two and three and have four waiting for a read).

Silver Sufer is an Allred-illustrated book that felt more like an Allred-penned comic, which was an interesting experience. The Surfer is on a vast vacation world, hanging around with a young quirky girl who could easily be played by Zooey Deschanel and having trippy nightmares about being trapped on Earth again. There’s also an awesome appearance by SS’s Defenders teammates Dr. Strange and Hulk. The story itself wasn’t my cup of tea, but how cool is it seeing Allred draw those characters? The answer is that it’s very cool. Overall, this story didn’t really latch onto me, but I liked the art enough that I’ll probably give the second volume a look just to see where it goes.

avengers vs. x-men Avengers vs. X-Men (Marvel)
Written by Jeph Loeb, Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman & Matt Fraction; drawn by Ed McGuinness, Frank Cho, John Romita Jr., Olivier Coipel & Adam Kubert
Collects Avengers Vs. X-Men #0-12, Point One #1

Back in my days at Wizard I was fully up to date when it came to the big time Marvel and DC events. But, it’s been about five years since I got the axe and a whole lot of craziness has gone on since then. DC implemented a complete reboot and Marvel rolls out an event roughly every year (plus more character or team-based side events). As I’m trying to catch up and dive into some X-books, it seemed pertinent to check out Avengers Vs. X-Men.

And I’ve got to say, I really enjoyed this book. I worried going in that it might feel like Civil War which, no matter how hard any of the writers tried, always seemed very much in favor of Captain America’s side, but in this case both Cap and Cyclops have pertinent points. Better yet, Cyke gets possessed by the Phoenix Force, so you don’t have to worry about his side making sense. More impressively, though, were the little bits and pieces that hit home. The second issue does a great job of framing these events that might seem commonplace and making them seem cool and huge.

I was also impressed with how well these issues flowed considering six different writers and five artists were working on the issues. I’m not always the biggest fan of events because they can easily get bloated and plot-driven, abandoning character along the way, but that wasn’t the case here so it gets a big thumbs up from me. Oh, also, it resulted in more mutants, so that’s cool!

Ex Libris Trade Post: Five Fists Of Science & Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities

the five fists of scienceFive Fists Of Science (Image)
Written by Matt Fraction, drawn by Steven Sanders

A few weeks back, when writing about a trio of Marvel minis from the mid 2000s, I mentioned an intended shelf cleaning project before moving. I pulled a series of trades out of my collection to re-read and see if they continue to earn shelf space. Here’s two more of those reviews.

I scored this copy of Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders’ Image Comics OGN The Five Fists Of Science back in my early Wizard days. If there was a free trade sitting around, I was likely to grab it and give it a read, especially if it had a strange or interesting concept. And this book definitely fits the bill.

Five Fists revolves around Mark Twain teaming up with his good friend Nikola Tesla and his one-handed assistant Timothy Boone to create a giant, robotic war machine that can be sold to every nation on Earth to ensure peace (the ol’ mutually assured destruction concept). They join forces with Baroness Bertha Von Suttner who introduces them to all the right people. Meanwhile, a group including J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi are erecting a building to help bring demons into our realm. See what I meant when I said “strange” and “interesting?”

The book features a nice mix of historical characters, many of them who were quite eccentric even when not dealing with demons and robots, with made-up ones to tell the kind of story you’re just not going to get anywhere else. Though, for what it’s worth, I do think this would make a ridiculously fun movie int he vein of the Sherlock Holmes films. Anyway, Fraction did a great job of make this story fun, exciting, strange and adventurous, which gets the thumbs up in my book. My only complaint is that Sanders’ art comes through a bit muddy. I’m not sure if this was a printing, inking or coloring problem, but there were a few pages here and there that were difficult to parse. It’s possible this has been change in the new printing (linked above), but I don’t know for sure as I have the one from 2006. All in all though, I had a great time revisiting this book and will be keeping it in the collection. If you’re looking for something to pass to a friend who’s into science, this is definitely on the list of passable materials.

billy the kid's old timey oddities Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities Volume 1 (Dark Horse)
Written by Eric Powell, drawn by Kyle Hotz
Collects Billy The Kid’s Old-Timey Oddities #1-4

Another Wizard acquisition, Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities comes from Goon creator Eric Powell and artist Kyle Hotz. I believe this was the first book written by Powell that I actually read as it wound up taking me years to get around to The Goon: Fancy Pants Edition Volume 1.

This book finds a freak show owner approaching Billy the Kid, who’s supposed to be dead, and offering him a job accompanying some of his performers on a mission to Europe to recover a Gollum’s heart. Said performers include the Alligator Man, the Tattooed Woman, the Wolf Boy, Watta the Wild Man and the Miniature Boy. As it turns out, the artifact is currently in the possession of another character thought long-dead: Dr. Frankenstein, who has gotten even crazier in his experiments.

One of the most impressive elements of a book like this is how Powell sucked me into the story and got me to like these characters so quickly. I mean, you’re dealing with just four issues and yet, every time someone had a nice moment I smiled and every time someone wound up on the wrong side of a monster, I felt bad. That’s just darn good yarn-weaving, right there.

Hotz deserves a lot of the credit for that as well. He does an amazing job of conveying emotion, terror, humor and action all while rendering these fantastical and monstrous looking characters. To my mind, he’s got a Kelley Jones vibe (who I love), but with his own unique, sometimes grotesque style. He and Powell not only made a fun comic I’ll be holding onto, but also two more volumes I want to check out.

Immortal Iron Fist Trade Post: Volumes 1 & 2

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST VOLUME 1: THE LAST IRON FIST STORY (Marvel)
Written by Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction, drawn by David Aja, Travel Foreman, Russ Heath, John Severin & Sal Buscema
Collects Immortal Iron Fist #1-6, excerpt from Civil War: Choosing Sides
After re-reading all the post-Rebirth Green Lantern comics in Books Of Oa and all ten volumes of Ex Machina, I wanted to re-read another recent favorite but one that wasn’t quite so involved. I’ve had the first three Immortal Iron Fist books sitting around for a while now and figured it would make a great candidate. Even though the comic suffered from timeliness issues if memory serves, they came out with a few one-shots here and there to fill the gabs and really broaden the idea that Danny Rand is but one of 66 Iron Fists from throughout history. As it turns out, Danny’s predecessor, dubbed the Golden Age Iron Fist Orson Randall who also had a Doc Savage kind of a thing going on for a while, is still alive.

As this first volume progresses we not only learn more about Randall and some of the other previous Iron Fists, the present story involves Danny and Orson teaming up to fight the newly powered Davos (his old enemy called the Steel Serpent) along with an army of Hydra agents. The seeds are also laid for the next arc including an evil businessman blackmailing the guy that run’s Danny’s company Jeryn into arranging for some trains to be built. Fraction and Brubaker also mention six other celestial cities like K’un L’un where he became Iron Fist which have their own immortal weapons all of whom fight in a tournament.

I’m a sucker for superheroes with a legacy, so the idea that a character who, as far as I knew, was the first of his kind, had this long ranging history with all kinds of story potential was right in my wheelhouse. Thankfully, the book also proved to be pretty damn good. Sure, there’s action elements that don’t always work because of the constraints of the form. I’ve recently realized that action, especially fisticuffs are really difficult to convey in comics. Sometimes it’s the art, sometimes it’s the eye not catching all the things it’s supposed to. One thing that artist Aja does to help get rid of some of that confusion is putting red circles around impact points. It might seem a little obvious, but the redness zooms the attention from one crack to another, just like in a great action flick. Aja’s my favorite of the many artists in the book. Some fit really well with whatever story they were tasked with while others leave me wanting more. All in all, this volume not only adds a depth to an existing character (I knew nothing about Iron Fist when I started reading this book, so don’t worry about not knowing what’s going on) and tells a great action story where two kung fu masters fight an army of goons and a few legit fighters, but also gives you plenty to look at and even includes some behind the scenes sketch material from Aja. Best of all, though, is that the collection does it’s job in making me want to move right on to the next volume. Oh, my only complaint is that Heroes For Hire Luke Cage, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing come off a little too 70s blaxploitation for my tastes, but that’s all I got.

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST VOLUME 2: THE SEVEN CAPITAL CITIES OF HEAVEN (Marvel)
Written by Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker, drawn by David Aja, Roy Allan Martinez, Scott Koblish, Kano, Javier Pulido, Tonci Zonjic, Howard Chaykin, Dan Brereton & Jelena Kevic Djurdevic
Collects Immortal Iron Fist #8-14 & Annual #1
While the first volume of IIF was a lot like a 70s kung fu movie with some pulp elements thrown in and a butt-ton of (for lack of a better word) ninjas throwing down, the second one focused more on the fantasy elements of the character, his fellow immortal weapons and his former home K’un-L’un. As it happens, every so many years all seven Capital Cities of Heaven come together and have a tournament where each of the seven immortal weapons (Iron Fist, Steel Phoenix, Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter, Dog Brother #1, Fat Cobra, Prince Of Orphans and Bride Of 9 Spiders) all fight each other using rad sounding moves like The Black Milk Of Hell and Burning Chi Thunderfoot, but the larger story revolves around Danny trying to find out more about Orson Randall’s life and teaming up with his former trainer The Thunderer to plan a revolution in K’un-L’un.

Brubaker and Fraction really know how to pack a lot into a comic because, in addition to the elements I mentioned already, this volume also has repeated flashbacks to Danny’s father training to become Iron Fist (SPOILER, he fails) and his relationship with Davos which turns a little quicker from friend to enemy than seems realistic, but that’s more of a nitpick. Danny also escapes to Earth to meet with some of Orson’s friends and learn more about his history AND the guy with the trains from the last volume is causing more trouble, this time trying to shoot a train full of explosives at K’un-L’un in an attempt to destroy ALL the cities. Oh and a more toned down Heroes For Hire are there too, trying to help. Seriously, the issues are just packed with goodness.

I don’t want to get into too much spoiler territory here because I want everyone to go into these books fresh, but I found it really interesting how the tournament ended and then even more so how the volume ended. I also read the third volume but since this review is running a bit long, I’ll save that for another day and a pretty good amount of the issues after that, but not the Immortal Weapons series. I know the creative team changed, so I’m curious to see how the excellent set-up played out. Speaking of which, what’s the deal with Iron Fist right now? Where’s he at?

Youthful Marvel Heroes Trade Post: Secret Warriors Vol. 1 & Young Avengers Presents

SECRET WARRIORS VOLUME 1 (Marvel) Written by Brian Bendis and Jonathan Hickman, drawn by Stefano Caselli Collects Dark Reign: New Nation excerpts, Secret Warriors #1-6 One of my all-time favorite comic book characters is Nick Fury. I love the old Steranko stuff and pretty much anything else the guy appears in. Unfortunately after the sub-par Secret War miniseries, my boy disappeared for a while, but eventually popped back up in Secret Invasion and got his own book again during Dark Reign. I think I’ve gone on record as saying that I haven’t been a big fan of the huge sweeping events that have plagued Marvel from Civil War on. It’s so hard to pick up a trade and try to figure out when the hell it fits in with all that nonsense. It takes away the classicness of some really good stories and lead to even more bad stories. Lucky, Secret Warriors was a damn good book, though I’m not a big fan of the basis behind the book itself: Hydra has been running S.H.I.E.L.D. from the beginning. I’m getting sick of stories that pull that “Everything you knew was a lie!” comics. But, that’s not enough to keep me away, hell they did something similar to this story back in Nick Fury Vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. Fury’s in this bad boy being all cool and secretive, training a group of young super powered people related to familiar heroes and villains, but also putting an army together made up of former S.H.I.E.L.D. guys, so you get a great mix of storylines from the missions to the relationships of the characters. I read this book pretty regularly when I was still at Wizard and even a little while after, but left off at some point. I always felt like this book should have been more important in the eyes of the greater Marvel Universe, but as far as I know it never turned out to be that. Ah well, I still dug the story and Caselli’s art is absolutely amazing. It’s stylized and a little cartoony, but still has an edge that integrates the multiple elements I mentioned. I’d check out anything this guy draws. For now, I’m keeping this book in my collection because it’s Fury and I dig the story, but I might get rid of it if the later volumes turn out to suck. We shall see. YOUNG AVENGERS PRESENTS (Marvel) Written by Ed Brubaker, Brian Reed, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Paul Cornell, Kevin Grevioux and Matt Fraction. Drawn by Paco Medina, Harvey Talibao, Alina Urusov, Mark Brooks, Mitch Breitweiser and Alan Davis. Collects Young Avengers Presents: Patriot, Hulkling, Wiccan & Speed, Vision, Stature and Hawkeye. Another team of young superheroes related in some way to other heroes, Young Avengers was fun when it came out. And by that I mean that original writer Alan Heinberg did a great job, but the book was SO late that it got really frustrating. Anyway, instead of getting forgotten or only featured in their own book like The Runaways were the Young Avengers were integrated into the rest of the Marvel U, including Civil War and the following events. Some even chose different sides of the Registration Act to support, effectively breaking the team up. this series of one shots came out to bring the focus back to the teen characters with a murderer’s row of Marvel’s hottest writers. Overall? The book suffers from the “when does this take place?” syndrome I mentioned above. It’s cool that they got Captain America writer Brubaker to write the Patriot story and Ms. Marvel‘s Brian Reed to write a story featuring the time displaced Captain Marvel meeting his supposed son Hulkling. I believe it turned out that Captain Marvel was a Skrull which kid of cuts the legs out from the story, but at least Hulkling’s emotions ring true. Aside from that, the book adds a few nice bits to the characters, but I’ve got to say that they would have been better off in an ongoing or a series of minis. Instead, this feels too little too late. I believe Heinberg’s coming back to the team which should be interesting. I’ll come back for that (after finishing this trade, I went back and re-read the original 12 issues which were pretty great still, I love how it seemed like they were related to some Avengers, but were actually related to others).

Iron Mongering: Invincible Iron Man Vol. 1

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN VOL. 1: THE FIVE NIGHTMARES (Marvel)
Written by Matt Fraction, drawn by Salvador Larroca
Collects Invincible Iron Man #1-7
It’s been a while since I’ve read a new Iron Man trade and I’ve been hearing a lot of good stuff about Invincible Iron Man, but thanks to Ben letting me borrow I can now no longer say either of those things. I was at Wizard when this book first kicked off. I was pretty excited to read a good Iron Man comic (this was after or around the movie and during the post-Civil War comics that ruined Iron Man for a lot of people including me), but I don’t think I even got through the first issue. I wanted a brand new Iron Man comic that was doing something new and here I was given a villain who is the son of old Iron Man villain Obidiah Stane. Yawn, no thanks. So, I didn’t read anymore, but I wish I had.

The book is pretty good, but not great by any means. It felt similar to Warren Ellis’ attempt to reboot the character with his Extremis arc, with the idea that Tony Stark needs to be ahead of the curve and not falling into a technological rut. Frankly, this shouldn’t be something that needs to be said, it should just always be done, so I’m not giving it a ton of credit for doing the thing that an Iron Man book should.

I will give the book credit for coming up with what turned out to be a pretty good villain. Zeke Stane has taken his father’s anger towards Iron Man/Tony Star and used it to fuel his genius which he aims like a gun at taking them down using Stark’s own tech. There’s a huge dearth of good new heroes and villains being created in comics right now either because reader’s just want to read the same old characters knocking each other out or because writers are too devoted to the old and not wanting to create new. Stane seems like a pretty good addition that we’ll probably see again soon.

The seventh issue in the book has Spider-Man following Iron Man around while Iron Man ties up some loose ends from the main arc. It’s an okay story, but felt kind of pointless to me. I’m all in favor for doing one-off issues, but this one didn’t seem like it added much to the story as a whole or offer any unique takes that made me smile. Plus, Fraction doesn’t write a great Spidey.

Finally, am I the only one who liked Larroca’s art way better in the 90s? He had that rad, cartoony style and now, well, now I’m not quite sure what he does. It’s not bad, in fact it’s very crisp, but it reminds me too much of McNiven but with more celebrities popping up. Anyway, click here, here and here for what Larroca used to look like.