Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Low Blows 01.18.06

"Secret War" #5 (of 5)
Marvel Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Gabriele Dell'otto

"New Avengers" #14
Marvel Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Frank Cho

I'm of a mind that I'd honestly rather have a late comic, even an extremely late comic, than a half-assed and sloppy catch-up job. Look no further than Grant Morrison's "New X-Men" run, and you'll see the disappointing result of great writing too often paired with rushed and inconsistent artwork. Rumor has it that Igor Kordey, a more-than-capable artist when given the proper opportunity to be, was tasked by Marvel editorial to crank out an entire 22-page issue of "NXM" in a week!

Which brings us to "Secret War," the quarterly miniseries that... wasn't. Marvel, probably in deference to Bendis and in recognition of past failures, didn't replace Gabrielle Dell'otto, but instead gave him the space he needed -- nearly two years! -- to complete his work.

And what a work it is. There are plenty of people upset at Bendis for the plot content of this issue (which I don't really understand, and which I'll get to in a moment), but now that I have all five issues in my hands, it's hard to fault Dell'otto for his effort in getting a great-looking comic book onto the shelves.

Now, unfortunately, due to its lateness, the lasting effects of this final issue are well-known, and have been a part of the "New Avengers" storylines for over a year now: Nick Fury has disappeared, and there is a new head of SHIELD.

I don't hold this against Bendis. I applaud his decision to carry on with the story in books like "The Pulse" and "New Avengers" without revealing exactly what had happened, which, at the very least, kept "Secret War" #5 from being a boring read.

[What's that you're whining about? You don't remember what happened in the other four issues, or you don't care anymore? Well, pull them out of the long box and re-read them, and maybe you'll be reminded of why you originally cared in the first place! Seriously, what's the point of holding on to back issues of your comics if you're not going to go back and read them again at some point?]

Anyway, some might argue with me on this, but perhaps the strongest aspect of the plot of "Secret War" lies in how it ties in with current events in the Marvel Universe. It's debatable, I guess, but I really think that this was a satisfying miniseries all by its lonesome, but even more than that, I'm thrilled by its potential aftereffects. I've heard that this character arc for Nick Fury is not an original one. Perhaps not, but it's a direction I'm interested to see him going, with "Civil War" on the horizon, and SHIELD having been revealed as diseased and crooked, if not altogether evil. I'm betting that there's at least some connection between all of these storylines.

Along the same lines, I'd also like to mention the fantastic "New Avengers" #14, in which Spider-Woman's duplicitous nature is finally revealed, and she comes clean to Steve Rogers about exactly why she's simultaneously an Avenger, a SHIELD agent, and a Hydra spy. I won't get into the details, but suffice it to say that Nick Fury's involved, it’s partly Cap’s fault, and Jessica's just doing the best job she possibly can at this point. It’s pure speculation on my part, but I don't think that she's very long for the "New Avengers" team.

Which is perfectly fine, if you ask me, because this storyline is nothing less than a well-thought-out and fascinating setup for the upcoming Bendis/Maleev "Spider-Woman" book, and I absolutely can't wait to see what Bendis has up his sleeves for these characters.

The art by Frank Cho in this issue is just as good as his guest spots in Mark Millar's "Marvel Knights Spider-Man" run were last year, if not better. There isn't anyone more skilled at writing a comic full of talking heads than Bendis, and Cho does a fine job of making them interesting to look at. I'd love to see him work on this book on a regular basis -– perhaps even more so than the incoming Mike Deodato Jr., whose work I enjoy, but isn’t exactly my favorite.

I also really enjoyed the reference to the current "Incredible Hulk" storyline in this issue (did you catch it?), as well as the gathering storm around the media's increasing awareness of the new Avengers team. What a great issue! Suffice it to say, I'm committed to these stories for the long haul, and the Avengers family and their satellite titles remain my constant favorites, month after month.

“Secret War” #5: 8 out of a possible 10.
“New Avengers” #14: 10 out of a possible 10.

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