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!

Black Panther Trade Post: Little Green Men & Back To Africa

BLACK PANTHER: LITTLE GREEN MEN (Marvel)
Written by Reginald Hudlin, drawn by Francis Portella, Andrea Divito & Cafu
Collects Black Panther #31-34

One of the many blog projects I started for myself but never finished was going to be a book-by-book review of Reginald Hudlin’s Black Panther book for Marvel, explaining why I thought it was awesome. If you’re curious, you can check out my reviews of volume one and two. As I explained in the first one–which, damn, I wrote two years ago–I started reading the book three or four arcs into it’s run, got hooked and then went back and collected the trades. I really enjoyed how Hudlin utilized the Marvel Universe from the history of Wakanda to putting a team of villains together that included the Rhino and Batroc the Leaper. It reminded me of how I used to play with my toys as a kid. I didn’t care what line or movie they originally came from, they all got thrown into the box and pulled out as needed. “I need a ninja! I choose you, Karate Kid ninja!”

Hudlin continued this spirit into T’Challa’s search for a mate, his wedding to Storm, his stance throughout Civil War and his eventual joining of the Fantastic Four–along with Storm–when Reed and Sue took off to repair their awful marriage after CW. However, and I can’t remember specifically why, it was around this time that the book started to lose me. It might have had something to do with the fact that Black Panther and Storm were only in about one arc of FF, but they hopped around the universe with Johnny and Ben for twice that many in Black Panther. Or maybe I just wasn’t enjoying the toys Hudlin decided to pull out of the box like a planet of Skrulls who think they’re actually 50s gangsters and a golden frog that can traverse time and space.

Whatever it was, it didn’t carry over into my reading of these issues, thankfully. I don’t have the volume before this one in my collection, but I remember that it involved them going to the Marvel Zombies universe. They now find themselves on the aforementioned Skrull planet, which apparently the Thing spent some time on as a gladiator. They don’t seem to have learned their lesson and have a similar set up in their version of NYC, but this time, there’s a new group up in Harlem: Skrulls who have taken on the look of that area from the Civil Rights Era, including Skrull Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X. I’m not sure whether I like this story idea or not, but I did find it interesting that Storm found herself talking to Skrull versions of the characters that Professor X and Magneto have been modeled after.

Anyway, it’s a fun little story with some interesting call backs that I wasn’t familiar with going in (and actually wish there were some editor notes to explain, like when Ben was on this planet). Also, even though three artists drew four issues, there’s an iconic, bold look to the book. That’s not to say the style is completely uniform, I actually like Francis Portella best of the bunch because he threw in a lot more detail. I found myself comparing Things from the different issues and his looked the craggiest.

BLACK PANTHER: BACK TO AFRICA (Marvel)
Written by Reginald Hudlin, drawn by Francis Portella, Carlos Rodriguez, Kevin Sharpe, Andrea Divito, Cafu, Larry Stroman & Ken Lashley
Collects Black Panther #35-38 and Annual #1

Thankfully, Portella winds up being the main artist in the next collection which not only brought Black Panther and Storm back to Earth, but also got at least T’Challa back home (Storm had to go deal with Messiah Complex stuff). Things aren’t all hunky dory in Wakanda, though. His sister has been captured, some of his people think he’s been neglecting his kingly duties and the man he has never beaten in battle Killmonger has taken over a neighboring country and declared war.

The continue my metaphor from above, Hudlin pulled out some fun toys that I enjoyed with this arc. I wasn’t as familiar with Killmonger, but the point was made pretty quickly. Another set of villains is also brilliantly included and there’s even callbacks to previous issues of this series with items and characters returning and being utilized when T’Challa needs help the most.

I just realized while writing this, that in addition to playing with continuity and existing characters and doing fun things with them, the real reason I like Black Panther so much is because he’s such a strong character. He’s what Superman should be, but maybe a little more arrogant. T’Challa never doubts his skills or the ability of his people to overcome whatever threat they might face. He knows that he and they are warriors of a class the world has never seen. He might be more political than Superman, but he always does the right thing and never feels bad about it. He’s also got some Batman thrown in because he always has a trick up his sleeve to take out an enemy and, let’s be honest, you tweak like three things on his costume and he’s wearing Batman’s duds.

Anyway, this collection ends with an annual that takes a look far in the future of the Marvel U. T’Challa and Storm’s son is marrying Luke Cage’s daughter and we get to see the festivities while also learning what has happened to the heroes in the time that has passed. I read this book a little while back and don’t really remember anything about this particular comic except what I already mentioned, but I’m glad it’s in the collection for completest sake. I should also mention that this collection brings Hudlin’s run on Black Panther to an end, which is something I didn’t realize until just now. It actually makes a very fitting book end to the first trade thematically and set-up-wise. After this, Jason Aaron came on and did one of the better Secret Invasion tie-ins. I’m not sure what happened after that. I know his sister took over for a while and he’s currently doing his best to keep Hell’s Kitchen safe, but I’ve only read issues here and there for those runs.

Black Panther Is Awesome Part 2: Wild Kingdom

2009-02-25
8:38:59 pm

Part two in my argument why Black Panther is an awesome comic.

X-MEN/BLACK PANTHER: WILD KINGDOM

(Black Panther #8-9, X-Men #175-176)

Written by Reginald Hudlin & Peter Milligan, drawn by David Yardin & Salvador Larroca

X-Men/Black Panther: Wild Kingdom isn’t exactly the best example of why Black Panther is awesome. As I mentioned last time one of the big reasons I like this book so much is that it feels like it’s firmly entrenched in the Marvel U without getting too detailed or confusing. That all gets hindered when you bring in the X-Men. I know a lot of people are all about the X-Men, but I still find them to be the most difficult franchise to get into thanks to the incredibly dense history. It’s not even that Milligan’s story is all that confusing, I just have a hard time placing this story in the long history of X-Men. You’ve got Gambit and Rogue on the same team, but what’s their deal? Emma’s there too, but is this still when Astonishing was going on? None of this really matters to the story, but it is distracting. I do like how both writers handle Storm and Wolverine though, two characters who will be important in their own ways coming up.

The story of this book is that the Red Ghost wants to start a new commie ape society in Africa. There’s something about mutant animals, which gets the X-Men interested. BP of course gets involved too because this is his turf. For those of you unfamiliar with the Red Ghost, he’s a communist scientist who can turn intangible and has created super powered apes who talk. There’s another scientist guy in the story who can absorb mutant powers.

I’ll be honest, the larger story here isn’t all that interesting unless you’re a huge Red Ghost fan (and I know some people out there are). What is cool about this story is seeing Storm and Black Panther together. Like I said before I don’t know much about either character aside from what I’ve read in this book, so I’m not sure if there were any previous hints of their relationship or if this is the first readers saw of it, but I like how they are around each other, especially considering how adversarial they tend to be towards one another. It’s cool to see the beginning of their love story (even if it’s not the chronological beginning).

Oh, Dragon Man’s in the book too which is pretty cool, but, again, the overall story isn’t all that interesting. As far as my collection goes, I’m not all too concerned about adding this one to my collection, unless I can get it on Sequential Swap (a great site to get rid of some of your old trades as well as get some cool new ones). But, don’t let that deter you from checking out my future installments of Black Panther Is Awesome, as Part 3 will focus on Bad Mutha, the arc that got me interested in this book in the first place.

Black Panther Is Awesome Part 1: Who Is The Black Panther?

2009-02-19
4:00:36 am

I’ve gained a bit of a reputation around the hallowed halls of Wizard as the dude who LOVES Reggie Hudlin’s Black Panther comic. I came into it a bit late in the game (somewhere around the early teens I think), went back, got caught up and have been reading ever since. And, while I think the book got a bit weak in the over-long Fantastic Four issues (I might get to those eventually), I still think it’s a pretty great series overall both because it made me care about a character I didn’t really have any feelings toward one way or another (I never read the previous series’) and because it felt like Reggie was really utilizing the vast resources of the Marvel Universe without getting too bogged down in said history.

So, in this semi-recurring feature called Black Panther Is Awesome, I’ll be taking a trade by trade look at why this book rocks my world. So here we go with the first trade, Who Is The Black Panther?

BLACK PANTHER: WHO IS THE BLACK PANTHER?

Written by Reginald Hudlin & drawn by John Romita Jr.

Collecting Black Panther 1-6

Okay, right off the bat, I’ve got to say that this is one of the few cases in which I’ve really liked John Romita Jr.’s art. Usually it’s a little too boxy for my tastes, but for some reason it really works on this book.

Anyway, the crazy thing about the first issue is that it doesn’t even feature T’Challa, the current black panther, but instead focuses on three different Black Panthers from times past repelling foreign invasions, including a pretty rad fight between T’Challa’s pops and Captain America back in World War II that looks even more vintage thanks to Romita’s pencils (not sure how that works, but it does!). We’re made aware of these past battles thanks to a small group of American politicians and military dudes trying to figure out if Wakanda poses a threat. We’re also treated to a few small scenes of bad guys talking to each other, one of which turns out to be the Klaw, who, even I know, is the guy that killed T’Challa’s dad back in the day. I do have one complaint about these flashback scenes, though. The dialogue seems way to modern at times. It’s not a huge deal, but it is the kind of thing that could pull someone out of the story.

All of this sets up a few interesting scenarios. Who’s the bad guy recruiting Klaw? What will the U.S. government try and pull? And most of all, who is the current Black Panther? We’ve seen these past ones, so what’s T’Challa like? We’ll get the answers plus more questions as things move on.

Also of interest, the footage we’ve seen of the Black Panther cartoon, which will be on BET, looks like they just animated this first issue like those old motion comic cartoons from the 70s. As you can probably guess, I’m pretty excited about that series whenever it comes out.

You know what’s crazy about the second issue? Still no T’Challa as Black Panther. We get to see T’Challa challenge his uncle for the title of Black Panther and win which is pretty rad. Along with the scenes we also get some background about Wakanda where we find out that the Panther is the god of the people and also rules them as a king. We also get treated to some more pretty cool and sometimes brutal fight scenes between T’Challa’s uncle and the challengers.

There’s also an interesting set-up in the character of Shuri, T’Challa’s sister who also wanted to try out to become the Black Panther, but was stopped by a falling opponent of her uncle’s just as T’Challa jumped into the fray. There’s some more U.S. government stuff that gets a bit old as the series moves on, but it’s still pretty interesting here. Plus, Klaw recruits a bad guy/girl named Cannibal who seems to take over bodes based on physical contact. The seeds are planted.

The third issue is kind of an origin issue with some more team building on the bad guy’s side. It seems as though Rhino and Batroq the Leaper (minus the silly costume, but still sporting the accent) have joined Klaw’s cadre of evil somewhere in Africa. It turns out that Klaw is related to one of the dudes who we saw trying to invade Wakanda and getting killed. Klaw became an assassin hired to kill T’Challa’s dad, killed him and T’Challa’s brother only to get shot by a young T’Challa. Klaw went back to Belgium where they turned him into a cyborg killing machine. We also get a glimpse of what fueled T’Challa to become the badass dude we will eventually see in the book and got a glimpse of when facing off against his uncle.

The issue is capped with a few more additions to the villain crew in the form of the Vatican’s Black Knight, who even sports an ebony blade and a ruler of a neighbor of Wakanda who is on Klaw’s side. I’m not exactly sure how this fits into the actual Black Knight’s continuity, but they did a call out to it in the most recent issue of Captain Britain (a really great book, highly recommended to all).

Finally, in issue four we get to see T’Challa in his Black Panther gear as the bad guys finally begin the assault. I don’t want to get in too many of the details because they’re pretty cool, but we get a great look at how the population of Wakanda looks up to T’Challa and how he, in turn, respects them. We also get treated to an example of the Rhino’s toughness and an aerial dog fight with the Black Knight, plus the reveal that Radioactive Man is also on Klaw’s Crew.

Issues five and six really display the throw down between BP and his people and Klaw’s Crew (I like that name, they should get uniforms made up). The U.S. government even gets involved by deploying a group of cyborg soldiers that seem to have an awful lot in common with Deathlok, though the connection isn’t made on the page. Oh, the Panther also has a freaking flight cycle. Awesome!

In the end, Panther faces off against Klaw, while his sister takes on Radioactive Man and Cannibal takes over his cousin in America (he’s a diplomat of some kind). So, even though the good guys (and girls) prevail in their own way, there’s still some lingering trouble.

So, what do I like about this book (aside from what I already mentioned)? Well, I’m pretty fascinated by Wakanda as a setting and Hudlin sets things up really well. You get to see both its technologically advanced side but also it’s older, warrior and honor based culture. It’s a really cool setting that really serves T’Challa later on and shows how he truly is a product of his environment.

I also really like this collection of somewhat classic Marvel villains. You’ve got Rhino, Klaw, Batroq the Leaper and Radiative Man all teaming up in a way that doesn’t seem forced at all. Plus, I didn’t even realize it until just now how little Black Panther is in the series and I was still really really into it. It’s pretty cool.

Okay, this was a really long post, but I had to get in why I think BP is so awesome. Look for more installments later as I’ve read the first four Black Panther trades, but haven’t read the X-Men/Black Panther trade in a while (I might just skip that one to save some time).