Thursday, January 7, 2010

Weekly Comic Book Reviews for 1/6/10

Siege #1

Creative Team
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Laura Martin

Story – Siege on Asgard

Brian Bendis last two events, House of M and Secret Invasion, have been very underwhelming. Also Bendis work in the core Marvel Universe over the past couple of years have been average, but his Ultimate Spider-Man even in the relaunch has been spectacular. The biggest reason for Bendis producing average work in the core Marvel Universe is because he has been focusing his attention on writing the Avengers books even though his strength is solo books and not team books with a large set of main characters. Because of all of this I have largely stayed away from all of the Dark Reign titles with the only title that I have read that deal with Dark Reign has been Invincible Iron Man along with one story arc in Amazing Spider-Man ("American Son") and Diggle current use of Dark Reign backdrop on Daredevil. So coming into Siege I have very low expectations for this event since, unlike Blackest Night, I have not be immersed with all the build up to the Siege.

And after reading Siege #1 I am going to give Bendis credit for making this as new reader friendly as possible as a reader can come in knowing the basics of this event being Norman and Loki teaming up to get Asgard off Earth and understand what is going on. Even though Bendis and Marvel have said that this event has been seven years in the making you don't get that from this issue which can be seen as both the strength and weakness of this issue.

And I am going to give Bendis credit for writing a very good version of Norman Osborn and Loki. I liked how Bendis wrote both characters in Siege: The Cabal and he continued that here. From the get go we know who the villains of this story are, their motivation, and their endgame all in the first issue. For a event that is only four issues long I am glad Bendis is not wasting time presenting all of these ideas as he has been known to do with most of his titles in the slow burn approach he usually takes. The way he used Norman and Loki was a big factor in this issue being much more faster pace issue as the villains were the focus of this issue and not the heroes.

The problem I did have with how Bendis used Norman and Loki was the narration of the incident at Soldier Field. It was just such a forced event, and I do not mean Norman and Loki orchestrating the incident to happen. I should dislike it for being a blatant copy of how Mark Millar started Civil War but what I hated about this opening scene was Norman and Loki narrating the incident.

Unlike Millar opened Civil War this opening scene in Siege does not feel like it is happening in real time and Bendis does not give any dialogue about Volstagg and him being the sacrificial lamb. Also we do not see any of the people who are killed in this incident so we are just told that many people died instead of seeing it. A big reason that the opening scene in Civil War had such a resonance with me was because we actually saw all the people especially the children that where killed because of Nitro blowing up. And Bendis does not provide such a scene as Norman and Loki prove to be more of a distraction from what happened in Chicago than helping the scene.

Now going beyond the opening scene, like I previously mentioned, I did like how Bendis wrote Norman. Outside of showing his motivation and endgame to make sure he stays in power we also
saw that there are plenty of weaknesses in Norman's plans. Bendis quickly showed that what Norman is doing is not something that is for the better of the country but for himself and for him to keep his power. As we saw the President (Obama?) has no tolerance for Norman. With the meeting the President had with Steve in Who Will Wield the Shield? I am going to guess that somehow the President will help out Steve, secretly, to take down Norman as the President does not like that Norman is doing without his approval.

Also I did like that Bendis had Ares play a semi-big role in this issue. I have always liked Marvel's version of Ares since the Ares: God of War mini-series from a few years ago. And Bendis used the character very well in this issue by having him lead Norman's Avengers and the Initiative into battle against all of Asgard. Norman doesn't have a better man or woman to lead his troops against god-like characters than Ares and I really liked his speech to all of the troops and how he called them Warriors was great.

Now I think the biggest weakness of this issue is the Siege on Asgard, specifically how quickly Norman and the crew he gathered took down Thor. After spending so much time on setting the battle against Thor up in not only this issue but also in Siege: The Cabal Bendis just completely rushed things at the end. While it was cool to see Thor just swat away Sentry like he was nothing it is hard to believe that Norman and a bunch of D-list characters, none of the Dark Avengers where in the scene of the battle Thor, could take Thor out so quickly.

Bendis actually took away all of the build-up away and made the first two-thirds of the issue feel like his typical Bendis-speak as Thor should not have been taken down so quickly. And Steve appearance at the end felt so forced. I know that this even is supposed to revolve around the big comeback of Marvel's Trinity in Tony, Steve, and Thor but that is no excuse for making one of
the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe look like he was nothing. It is almost similar to the way Bendis has been using Sentry in the Avengers books and how DC typically uses Superman in their events by taking out the heaviest hitter the heroes got very quickly in order to convey the threat the villain poses. It is just a weak way to move the story forward that someone of Bendis's talents should not be using in his big event that he has preach has been building for 7 years since Avengers: Dissassembled. It is just weak writing. I would have preferred seeing the battle extended instead of getting the "bonus" content of Norman's secret meeting with the Dark Avengers which I did not care for what so ever.

Also I really dislike how Bendis seemingly does not care about what other writers in Marvel have been doing with various characters and just using characters as it benefits his stories. I hated how we saw Steve in his Captain America costume even though Brubaker clearly showed that Steve passed down the mantle of Captain America and the shield to Bucky to wear in Who Will Wield the Shiled. Also he spoiled what is going to happen in Fraction's "Stark Disassembled." And with this issue I have actually decided to drop Invincible Iron Man not only because of it being spoiled but because of how slow and boring that story is, as was the previous "World's Most Wanted," that I already know that Tony will be waking up in Siege and not at the end of "Stark Disassembled."

Now as for the art, I am going to say I am a bit disappointed in Oliver Coipel's artwork in this issue. The first half of this issue looked like he was rushing through his pages and did not have the same epic look as his work on Thor did. I will say that his artwork did get much better in the latter half of the issue. I did like the subtle things that Coipel added to the issue to show Norman is not completely in control like the small bits of sweat on his face and his expressions. It was subtle but a very good addition to the early part of the issue. My favorite part though was his
artwork at the end in the battle at Asgard as the fight look, even though it was a brief action scene.

Issue Rating
Story: 5.3/10 – Though Bendis makes this issue new reader friendly and did some nice work with Norman and Loki the flaws in this issue where many compared to the little strengths this issue had. Also his Bendis speak got in the way of this issue that made the last half of this very rushed.
Art: 7.2/10 – The art at the beginning of the issue looked very rushed and not up to the standard of Coipel's artwork that he set in Thor though the art did get better as the issue went on.
Overall: 6.25/10 – Siege #1 is the example of how not to start an event that is said to be 7 years in the making. The issue was just too rushed. Though the issue had its good parts the flaws of this issue outweighed the strengths the issue had. Still Bendis did an good enough job that because this is only a four part event and now only three issues to go I will stick around to pick up the last three issue of Siege.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #6

Creative Team
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Lafuente
Colorist: Justin Ponsor

Story – The New World According to Peter Parker: Part 6

Will you look at that two Bendis issues in one week that I pick up. I don't remember the last time that happened.

Anyways, this issue ends this first arc of the relaunch of Ultimate Spider-Man and Bendis did a fantastic job yet again on this issue as he has done in every issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and most of his run on Ultimate Spider-Man. And this issue was just some great characterization by Bendis as he has Aunt May's house basically become the home base of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends with Johnny Storm and Bobby Drake officially moving in and getting secret identities. Aunt May has really become the MVP of the Ultimate Universe and I love how Bendis continues to show that Ultimate Aunt May is a much stronger version of the typical frail 616-version of the character.

I love how Bendis has returned to building Peter's supporting cast as the best aspect of a Spider-Man book has always been the great supporting cast the character has. The only thing that has really been missing has been Jonah and the cast at the Daily Bugle which I am not bother that we have yet to see in this relaunch though I would like to see them return soon.

In any case Bendis does a great job making the additions of Johnny and Bobby feel natural and not just forced into the title. The interactions between them and Peter was awesome especially when revealing Johnny and Bobby's new secret identities of being Peter's "cousins." There is a lot of stories that can be explored with these two now added to the supporting cast especially with both characters having to go to a public school which Bendis previously explored, albeit shortly, in the "Superstars" arc in USM. It is actually new ground for both superhero characters and like the addition of Kitty to Peter's school it will be fun to see where Bendis goes with this idea

The addition of these two characters allows Bendis to show the differences between Peter and the other heroes in the Ultimate Universe. Unlike Peter Johnny and Bobby were in places where they could freely use their powers, Baxter Building and Professor X's mansion. For Peter he has had to hide his Spider-Man identity from the rest of the school, save for MJ, Gwen, and Kitty. Bendis showed this difference in upbringing for the young heroes with Mysterio's Spider-Slayer attacking the school with Peter having to tell Johnny and Bobby not to jump in and use their powers in front of the school as they would reveal their identities. This is an interesting situation for Peter to be in as for once Peter will have to take on a leadership type role and show Johnny and Bobby how they have to act in their new surroundings.

And to make things better not only does Bendis do an excellent job with quality character work but he also perfectly mixes in some action to serve as a perfect balance between strong character work and fun action sequences. And I am going to admit that I have always been a fan of the Spider-Slayers and I like that Mysterio has used them to find out who Spider-Man is by using Spider-Man's DNA and implanted them into the Spider-Slayers to find Spider-Man. The action and destruction the action caused the school was fun.

Also, we finally found out who the Shroud is as we see that it is actually Kitty, which I completely guessed it was going to be. The only thing that I question is how Kitty got super strength because when she saved MJ from some muggers a few issues ago she clearly crushed the car the muggers where in when she jumped down on it. In any case it will be interesting to see how long Kitty will be able to keep this a secret from Peter and their friends.

Again David Lafuente's manga influenced artwork continues to be a standout of this series. His artwork gives this title a very distinct look that allows the stories that Bendis is telling to feel fresh and new. Lafuente does a great job with both the talking heads and action scenes in this series as well as having a great chemistry with the writing of this issue. The transitions between not only scenes but panels is great as there is a natural flow to the look of the issue.

Issue Rating
Story: 9/10 – Bendis continues to turn in one great issue of UCSM after another that continued his great writing in USM. This opening arc did a great job in building up Peter's supporting cast for this new relaunched title.
Art: 9.6/10 – Lafuente's artwork continues to be just awesome. Lafuente makes this issue one of the better and dynamic looking comic books on the stands.
Overall: 9.3/10 – Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #6 was another spectacular issue. Both the writing and artwork continue to be top notch on this series. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is one of the best comics on the stands right now. I look forward to seeing what happens in this series next month as Takeshi Miyazawa comes in to fill in on the art duties.


p.golowatschew said...

Concerning Kitty's super strength:
In the last Ultimate FF/X-Men crossover a future version of Kitty was able to slap Ultimate Ben Grimm around by becoming super dense.
I suppose UCSM Kitty can do the same.

Kevin said...

@p.galowatschew: I forgot about that. Thanks for the info. I guess Kitty learned how to do that during the 6-month time skip.