Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chain Reaction 10/07/09

Haven’t done one of these in a while, so, to keep that axe sharp and swift, let’s look at some of the books that got done made and unleashed at Marvel in September.

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The Amazing Spider-Man #607, by Joe Kelly, Mike McKone, Adriana Melo, et al. Nothing against Ms. Melo, who’s providing the artwork for five out of the last six pages here, but why not wait another week or two and let Mr. McKone finish the job? It’s a rather jarring break, and while Ms. Melo’s work is competent and clear, it also looks more than a bit rushed. Joe Kelly is getting into a groove, meanwhile. The “Long-Term Arrangement” two-parter that concludes here is easily his best work on the series, to date—a quirky, light-footed textbook example of how to show Spider-Man on one of his better days. There are some genuinely tender moments between Spider-Man and the Black Cat, and the protagonist’s reflections are insightful and authentic. Along the way, the story also convinces me that Diablo might just work as a Spider-Man villain. It’s a fun issue; shame about the inconsistent art.

(Marvel, 22 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: B-

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Invincible Iron Man #18, by Matt Fraction, Salvador Larroca, et al. Matt Fraction continues to give new meaning to the concept of “reverse-engineering.” His overall arc, which focuses on Tony Stark’s progressive mental degeneration and requires the hero to keep swapping his Iron Man armors for earlier, less advanced ones so he can still keep up with them, is a smart way of deconstructing the character. On the other hand, things are falling into place just a little bit too conveniently here, and the more stark raving mad Marvel’s current Über-villain Norman Osborn appears, the less credible he becomes as a character. I’m still interested in the overall storyline, but this isn’t one of Mr. Fraction’s stronger stories.

(Marvel, 22 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: C+

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Reborn #3 (of 5), by Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch, Jackson Guice, et al. This is the worst Ed Brubaker comic I’ve ever read. The blatant waste of storytelling space in pointless splash pages; the random, never-ending flashbacks; the generic present-day sequences—everything screams “filler” here. The internal monologues alone make you lose the will to live: “Ooo, there’s Namor when I was all frozen up, see? And now I’m in the Kree/Skrull War! And look, Captain Marvel’s here, too!” (I’m reciting from memory.) And if the jaw-droppingly bad final scene was meant to be taken seriously, as the overall tone of the story suggests, it misses the mark completely—rather than to evoke a sense of creepiness or unease, the whole sequence just collapses under its own silliness. Seriously: Yikes. This is derivative, haphazard drivel with no substance, and whatever genuine mysteries did drive the plot at an earlier point in the story have been stretched much too thin already.

(Marvel, 30 pages, $ 3.99)

Grade: D

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Thor #603, by J. Michael Straczynski, Marko Djurdjevic, et al. Mr. Straczynski has one issue left to go, but he keeps the focus on Thor’s supporting cast, rather than to do the more conventional thing and hurriedly tie up their arcs and sweep them off the deck so there’s more room for the major players. It works, so far—it’s still the quiet, leisurely character scenes I enjoy most about the book, and the creators deliver some neat ones here. On the downside, I don’t really buy this version of Doctor Doom. He lacks the arrogance and the affected air of gravity and nobility that makes up much of the character’s appeal. There’s nothing to knock your socks off here, but it’s solid, deliberate work, for the most part.

(Marvel, 21 pages, $ 3.99)

Grade: C+

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X-Factor #49, by Peter David, Valentine de Landro, et al. In which we get a rather better illustration of what’s so great about Doctor Doom: Although this iteration is well past his prime, keeps drifting in and out of lucidity and doesn’t look like he poses any threat physically, he’s still vastly more menacing—and interesting—than his counterpart in Thor. That said, the overall storyline is a little too convoluted and jumbled, for my tastes. Maybe the various disparate threads fit together better and the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts if you read it all in one go. As a string of monthly segments, there are too many characters with mysterious motivations doing mysterious things, at this stage. Mr. David still finds the time to develop at least some of the characters in fairly interesting ways, fortunately; I’ve got no idea what the story is about anymore, but that’s enough to tide me over.

(Marvel, 22 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: C+

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That’s it, for the time being. Maybe I’ll do another “Chain Reaction” for more of last month’s books, once I’ve read them.

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