Friday, February 08, 2008

The Shortbox 2/8/08

Captain America #34
writer: Ed Brubaker
artist: Steve Epting
Marvel Comics, released 1-30-08
By now, those of you that follow the comic industry probably know what has occurred in this particular issue -- a new Cap has emerged. Who is it? Well, I'll let you read the book or another site to find out, but in this humble reviewer's opinion, Brubaker has written another fantastic issue. Looking past the hype, it's a solid individual story. It sets the stage for the next arc while displaying what the new Captain America can do, including a few things Steve Rogers either couldn't or wouldn't have done. Steve Epting may be my favorite artist in mainstream comics right now, and this issue is a great example of why. Say what you will about the design of the new Cap outfit, but taken for what it is, Epting draws it well. But really it's his action scenes that shine over all aspects of this book. The man was born to draw Captain America throw that shield. This is definitely an issue worth owning.
9 out 10

Ms. Marvel #23
writer: Brian Reed
artist: Aaron Lopresti
Marvel Comics, released 1-2-08
I'm sure that there have been fans of Carol Danvers since her inception years ago, but the modern take on her introduced by Bendis in Alias and his House of M series has increased her profile immensely. As discussed previously at LowBrowMedia, Ms. Marvel has decided to mold herself into the greatest superhero on the planet, the title she held in the House of M universe. It's a fascinating and ultimately refreshing take for a superhero book to go on a quest of self improvement in the age of desconstructionalist approaches ala Frank Miller.
After the less-than-inspiring Civil War arc, this book has gotten back on track as of late. Reed is mixing together a very eclectic cast for Ms. Marvel, consisting of potential boyfriend Wonder Man, Sleepwalker, sidekick Arana, the hilarious Machine Man, and the surprisingly mysterious Agent Sum. Sum should have died several issues ago, but has an unexplained healing power. He is a very impressive leader in the field and, apparently, a high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. officer. His backstory is one I've become very interested in, perhaps even more so than Carol's personal mission. However, because of Ms. Marvel's inevitable involvement in the upcoming Secret Invasion event, he is also a potential skrull risk. I would be pretty disappointed in that revelation, but only because I feel his value as a support character in this book is greater than most.
In any event, this issue is strong with action, humor, emotional depth, character history and a couple of very nice twists. Lopesti hits it out of the park with his art and is a welcome contributor to the title. I assume that his new duties as regular artist on D.C.'s Wonder Woman will mean that he won't return to this book any time soon, but I hope he does. And I don't want to forget to mention Greg Horn's covers, which continue to impress. It's a solid book worth your attention.
8 out of 10

The Mighty Avengers #8
writer: Brian Michael Bendis
artist: Mark Bagley
Marvel Comics, released 1-30-08
Bendis and Bagley are back together again, and the team that brought us Ultimate Spider-Man for 110 issues combine forces for the best issue of The Mighty Avengers yet. Before this issue, I hadn't gotten very excited for this title thus far. Coupled with the long delays, the unconventional use of thought balloons, and a team full of mostly heavy hitters, the book just was really not my cup of tea. I'm a big fan of the work of Brian Michael Bendis, so this was definitely a surprise to me. I much prefer the more street-level feel of the current New Avenger squad since the split of the teams. That said, they are much more suited to deal with the symbiote problem in this issue. I've always loved Venom and Carnage (many of my first comics read as a young teen involved the original symbiote characters), so a slightly new spin on it was welcomed. Each panel had a lot of crazy action going on in it, and Bagley is well-suited for such a task. But the real treat of this issue is the interaction between the Mighty and New Avenger teams. The tension when the groups stand on either side of the same street is extraordinary, especially considering it all occurs on one page. I also have to congratulate Bendis on his use of thought balloons. Thus far, he has utilized the internal thought balloon in an almost Faulknerian manner, showing us more of their subconscious thoughts than the classic conscious monologues made famous in comic books of yesteryear. I haven't decided yet if I've gotten used to them or if he is simply doing a better job writing them, but issue 8 was the first time where I felt that they did not distract from the story.
Overall, this is my favorite issue of The Mighty Avengers. I still feel it could be better, but now I know that I'm not dropping it until after Secret Invasion at the earliest.
8.5 out of 10

The Overman #2
writer: Scott Reed
artist: Shane White
Image Comics, released 1-2-08
The tag line at the top of this comic is "Welcome to the end of the future." It's the kind of thing you'd expect to see on a one-sheet of a Sci-Fi Channel original movie, but I'm not even sure a screenplay of this mini series would be optioned. This issue was better than the first installment, but that's not saying much. The first issue was bizarrely complicated and a clear example of how not to introduce your reader's first glimpse into a new world. It wants us to think of it as a high-concept science fiction epic, but I just haven't seen actual examples of it yet. I'll check back in with this one after it concludes, and maybe it will live up to its creator's ambitions. For now, give another independent book a chance instead.
5 out of 10

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