Mythical Marvel Trade Post: Chaos War & Ares

Chaos War (Marvel)
Written by Grek Pak & Fred Van Lente, drawn by Koi Pham with Reilly Brown
Collects Chaos War #1-5, Chaos War Saga & X-Men: Curse Of The Mutants Spotlight

I’m a big fan of the Incredible Hercules series, which I’ve read most of in trade form. I actually haven’t read the few trades that lead up to Chaos War, a kind of event that saw the return of several dead heroes in a few other minis and one-shots I also haven’t read. Anyway, the main story here follows The Chaos King as he intends to lay waste to all of reality with only the combined forces of the recently returned and super duper powerful Hercules standin in his way. Herc recruits Thor, Galactus, Silver Surfer, Sersi of the Eternals, Venus from Agents of Atlas, Daimon Hellstrom and, of course, Herc’s number one pal Amadeus Cho to help him. Why this particular hodge podge of heroes? Well, the rest of the Marvel U doesn’t believe our hero when he says the world is going to end thanks to his party boy history.

In the process of trying to save all of reality, our heroes have to face off against an army of monsters and evil gods as well as the reanimated corpses of some of their former friends and foes. Like most event comics, this one has high stakes that you never really believe in because, well, the Marvel Universe isn’t going to cease existing in a comic starring Hercules. Still, I think Pak and Van Lente did a good job of making it feel like things could get bad.

Anyway, there’s lots of fighting and planning, winning and losing in the story. I won’t go into the details because, let’s face it, when dealing with a big even like this from Marvel or DC, it’s the details that make it interesting. I do think Chaos War works better if you had been reading Incredible Hercules going into it, otherwise, I’m not sure if there’s a lot besides basic superhero stuff to grab onto. However, for Hercules fans, we really get to see our guy do his thing, do it well and save existence, so that’s pretty cool. Did anyone out there read the tie-ins? I think they’re all collected in a few trades and would be interested in checking them out if you guys think it’d be worthwhile.

Ares (Marvel)
Written by Mike Avon Oeming, drawn by Travel Foreman
Collects Ares #1-5

Reading Chaos War brought me back to one of my favorite Marvel minis of the past few years: Ares by Mike Avon Oeming and Travel Foreman. There was this awesome time between 2005 and 2006 when the House of Ideas dropped a bunch of rad minis like this one, Union Jack, Agents of Atlas and Doctor Strange: The Oath. I went into this five issue series knowing absolutely nothing about the Marvel version of the Greek god of war, but I came away thinking he was a pretty gigantic bad ass. Marvel used this story as a jumping off point for bringing Ares into the Avengers and doing…things with him that I didn’t think fit with the character established in this book, but what do I know? His son also eventually became an important part of Secret Warriors.

The miniseries catches up with Ares, who ditched the world of gods because his fellow immortals had a pretty low opinion of him, yet still used him when they needed him to wage war. He now has a son named Alex who has no idea who his father really is. Things fall apart after Ares refuses to help the gods who are being assaulted by Mikaboshi an evil god from the east (and later known as the Chaos King in Chaos War). In their infinite wisdom, the Greek pantheon  decide to kidnap Alex as a way of motivating the wayward god of war. From there it’s an action-packed rager as Ares tears through enemies to get his son back.

Reading Ares for the second time this many years later was an interesting experience. First off, now that I’m a dad, I can relate to the fatherly aspect of the story much better than I could last time. I think it’s an easy story type to use because of its primal nature, but it works here. I also found it interesting because this is basically a mythical version of Taken or Commando. This got me thinking about how cool it would be if Marvel Studios simply adapted this comic into a movie. Just make it a straight ahead action flick with monsters and whatnot and you’d have a hit on your hands. Guaranteed.

In other words, I would actually pay money to see a movie where Ares lights himself on fire, has Hercules throw him into an oncoming army and murders everything in sight. That would be amazing. Anyway, if you like the idea of the sentence you just read, do yourself a favor and pick this trade up, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, especially if you dug Chaos War and want to dig a little deeper into that story’s history.

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?