Picks of the Week

Action Comics and AvengersThe first week of the month continues its recent tradition of being AMAZING! Lots of big and great comic books hit this week. We had continuation of series both old and new along the debut of the biggie, the brand spanking new Avengers book from Jonathan Hickman and boy does it not disappoint!

Across the board is has been a strong week with only one or two books being duds (I really need to drop Ultimate Comics Ultimates). Outside of what is reviewed here, over at DC the Animal Man/Swamp Thing crossover Rotworld continues to entertain while slowly moving forward. In the merry Marvel camp once again I will be reviewing most of the books I bought and that is a good thing. Marvel for me at the moment is about buying fewers book than DC but for the most part those books are of a really high quality. So thankfully it all evens out.

Anyway onto the main event!

WARNING though, there will be SPOILERS!

DC

Action Comics #15Action Comics #15 is the issue in Grant Morrison’s run where things finally start getting explained! I think a brief moment of celebration for things finally starting to make sense is in order,

MurlocDance

The gist of it is that pretty much everything that has happened is because of a whole mess that started in you guessed it, the 5th Dimension and with Mr Mxyzptlk being far to awesome for his own good.

Oh noes! Superman is in trouble!

The issue flits between multiple points in time to tell the current story and help explain events. Here is the break down for you:

  1. Clark Kent’s Prom Night (I will give you three guesses as to who his date is!)
  2. Superman talking to his landlady, Mrs. Nyxly in the present for Action Comics (but remember this is not the present for the rest of the New 52 DC Universe because Action Comics currently is set in Year Zero of the new timeline!) were she is explaining everything to him
  3. A grim future (because they are always grim) where the sun is red and the villains of the past few arcs of Action Comics are hunting Superman down
  4. A flashback retelling of the origin of Mrs. Nyxly, Mr. Mxyzptlk and new big bad Vyndktvx

Oh it also turns out that the events of the last issue with the Space Angels tie heavily into the the flashback retelling of the origins of the 5th Dimension characters. The angels are basically the points of The Million-Pointed Multispear which Vyndktvx uses to mistakenly  kill the Sad King-Thing Brpxz of Zrfff, The Fivefold Country (who also happens to be Mrs. Nyxly’s dad) instead of his true target Mr. Mxyzptlk. The Space Angels (I refuse to call them the Multitude) invade and attack hundreds of world and at multiple points in time when the King’s head is blown off by the Multispear. In our world both Jor-El and Superman manage to fight off the “point” of the spear that is attacking our universe at different points in time. One in the past on Krypton and then in the near future on Mars because as it turns out that the events of last issue actually happen in the future! And because Superman is Mr. Mxyzptlk’s favourite trick as the brilliant back-up story from Sholly Fisch and Chris Sprouse explains, Vyndktvx is determined to kill Superman as a way of getting at Mxyzptlk who at this point is still dead/missing so that is why he is working so hard to kill Superman.

Confused? YOU SHOULDN’T BE!

Meet God he is an Imp from the 5th Dimension

The big implication is that not only is Mr. Mxyzptlk even more heavily intertwined with Superman’s history than he was in the past but he is responsible for the creation of not only for our own universe but the rest of the multiverse that originally consisted of 333 worlds. But because of Mxyz’s hat being damaged it has been whittled down to 103 and we only know of two worlds that managed to resist the points of the Multipointed Spear with the fate of the others is up in the air. It all depends on how you read the explanation, one reading leads to a multiverse theory the other to the creation of the rich and varied main DC Universe.

It is a lot to take in and you have to try and think like Grant Morrison to truly understand it (which can be a painful experience that can result in nosebleeds!) but the issue takes the time to lay it all out in an understandable way. It is that moment in a Grant Morrison series were everything just clicks and it all falls into place. Your patience and attention to detail is rewarded and even things you did not even think you needed answers for are answered.

Vyndktvx! You bastard!

In this case the deaths of Ma and Pa Kent happening before Clark becomes Superman that was a major move away from the many established origin stories of the character. One that many fans were angry about. Now however there is reason for it happening, Vyndktvx  killed them as part of his war on Superman and everything he stands for. So there is a chance however unlikely that they might be brought back after all of this is over.

The main reason why I love this issue and Morrison’s run on Action Comics in general is that he has embraced the Golden and Silver Age trappings of Superman and worked so hard to update them and bring them in-line with modern comic books. And guess what? It has worked. We now have a good and almost plausible reason for Mr. Mxyzptlk being who he is and being able to do what he is able to do. Also many of the tweaks and changes to Superman’s origins can be put down to Vyndktvx’s vendetta and attacks against him at multiple points in time.

Perhaps most interestingly of all the issue ends with the line:

“Next: The Second Death of Superman”

Which leads me to think that The Death of Superman still happens in some form in the New 52 version of the DC Universe. Which is a good thing because The Death of Superman is arguably the most important Superman story ever made and perhaps one of the most important comic book storylines ever produced.

Next Issue: EXPLOSIONS!

Also check out:

Before Watchmen Minutemen and World's FinestBefore Watchmen: Minutemen #5 and World’s Finest #7 are the other books from DC worth checking out this week.

Before Watchmen carries on and continues to be controversial causing Alan Moore to shake with rage every time he hears about it (to be honest he shakes with wizardly rage when most things to do with comic books are mentioned to him). I have mixed feelings about the whole thing but Minutemen is the best book of the initiative and is well worth checking out if you are still on the fence. In this issue we get some more poignancy about the life and times of the cast along with the story of the Minutemen’s most important and actual comic book like adventure. Stopping a nuclear meltdown at the top of the Statue of Liberty (hint: It does not end well for all involved). We also get the reveal of who the child kidnapper is and it is kind of forced but makes sense with the story being told in Minutemen. It is great reading and Darwyn Cooke’s very strict adhesion to the nine panel structure of the original Watchmen means that a lot of story happens over twenty eight pages.

RIP Dollar Bill

World’s Finest is my other pick, while not for everyone it is a book that has slowly grown on me over the past few months. The plot is starting to thicken as Power Girl, Huntress and Damian Wayne uncover more Apokoliptian technology as they continue to track down who has been syphoning funds from Wayne Enterprises. I am enjoying the book mainly because it is tying into the slowly building New Gods storyline that several other books are also slowly adding bits and pieces to *cough* *cough* Wonder Woman *cough* Justice League Dark *cough* *cough*. We also see an interesting bond develop between Damian and Helena as it seems brother/sister bonds can cross universes. They share a lot of similar character traits and it would be interesting to see their new found friendship developed further in the future. HEY! Maybe after Batman Incorporated has finished Damian can go and be Helena’s sidekick!

Grrg Arrg

Marvel

Avengers #1Do not forget to check out my video review for Avengers #1 over on FTDiesALot for the full skinny on the overall story. I am taking the opportunity here to highlight a couple of interesting but easy to overlook parts of the book.

Another Marvel NOW! relaunch and another great start to what will hopefully be an even greater comic! Hickman kicks off his time with the Avengers with a bang! This introductory issue serves as a great starting point for readers both old and new as we are eased into Hickman’s vision for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. While nothing really earthshaking happens in the issue we do get an a brief look at the trio of godlike figures that the Avengers will be facing off against in this first arc.

Evil because they want remake the world

Their scheme is to wipe out life on Earth and start again as masters in their perfect Eden. You know that old schtick! We have Ex Nihilo (the yellow guy above) as the leader with the robotic Aleph and gothic Abyss in toe. They are interesting cosmic level deities with interesting motives that fit well with Hickman’s epic-cosmic-poetic style (it is a thing I just came up with, deal with it!). The issue also gives us a few hints as what is to come further down the line which is good to see.

Teasers!

Hickman’s Avengers is a story of Legend and as a result the little hints on the first couple of pages give us a sort of roadmap for at least the first year of stories. So we have a Hyperion focused story that will tell us how he got to the 616 Marvel Universe, an epic battle on the Moon, the current story, something to do with an ominous Light, a war in space and the fall of Iron Man. With the events obviously not happening in the order they are presented in. This is a legend so the order for now is ambiguous. Basically Tony Stark and Steve Rogers’ plan of expansion leads to these events taking place and/or the threats they present being able to be overcome.

I am very excited because of all this and more in the issue! Seriously just go pick it up it is worth your time and cash!

It is also worth pointing out the team logo images at the start and end of the issue. Apart from being another brilliant piece of graphic design from design-nut Hickman they give us further subtle hints as to what is to come with this new expanded Avengers team.

Here is the first one from the start of the issue:

Avengers Core Team Roster

In the centre with have the ever-present Avengers logo with icons for the “Core Team” surrounding it. With the Core Team being the one featured in that recent movie you may have seen. So we have going clockwise from the top: Cap, Thor, Black Widow, Iron Man, Hawkeye and The Hulk. This is the team that is brought together to confront Ex Nihilo and Co. on Mars during this issue (getting their asses kicked in the process).

This is the one from the end of the issue:

Expanded Roster and Sub-Teams 1

Thankfully the guys over at iFanboy have done the hard work for me and matched up the new logos to their respective heroes and explaining who they all are. I’m sure they will not mind me showing it here provided I provide lots and lots of links to the article they originally featured in.

“Again, starting clockwise from the top:

  • Smasher – best known as a member of the Shi’Ar Imperial guard, the title of Smasher has been held by several people. This is the latest Smasher
  • Captain Universe – holder of the Uni-Power, several hosts have been Captain Universe. We’re guessing that the former Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau is the current host. Especially when it could be guessed that she was looking out at Avengers Tower after Captain America’s call went out
  • Hyperion – originally a Superman rip off character in the villainous group the Squadron Sinister, Hyperion is a member of Squadron Supreme, from an alternate universe. It’s unknown what universe or what version of Hyperion is present here.
  • Cannonball – Long time member of the New Mutants, X-Force and the X-Men
  • Sunspot- Also a long time member of the New Mutants, X-Force and the X-Men
  • Spider-Man – Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man
  • Wolverine – Cause running a school in Westchester doesn’t take up his time
  • Eden Fesi – With reality bending powers, Eden Fesi was under the guidance of the mutant Gateway and then recruited to be one of the Secret Warriors
  • Shang Chi – Master of Kung-Fu
  • Falcon – Longtime Avenger and parter to Captain America
  • Captain Marvel – Long time Avenger
  • Spider-Woman – Long time Avenger and sometime Hydra double (or triple) agent

Not sure who some of those names are? Well, fear not, we took the liberty of matching their logos to the characters in the last page of Avengers #1, so when Avengers #2 comes out, you know who’s who (and I hope that we’re not wrong about any of these):

AVG_3

One thing the iFanboy crew have missed though is the graphic is also showing the make-up of the sub-teams within the image.

Allow me to explain…

Sub-Teams

At the end of the issue Captain America issues the call to arms and summons the first batch of Avengers from the expanded roster to come with him to Mars to defeat Ex Nihilo and free Hawkeye, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow and Iron Man who have all been captured. Their current inactive status is indicated by their logos being greyed out. All the Avengers Cap has summoned are coloured in blue. They are all the current active members of the team. Simples! But what about all the random arms, offshoots and dotted lines on the graphic? Well they are the various sub-teams that will make up this larger grouping of Avengers. Hickman has said in several interviews that he will alternate between doing big stories featuring all members of the Avengers and smaller stories focusing on smaller teams. Well here is the first hint as to who will be in which teams.

Each arm that comes out of the central Core Team is a Sub-Team and the people with larger logos are the leaders of those Sub-Teams. So here is a breakdown of the various temas for your reading pleasure:

  • The Core Team: Captain America (co-teamleader), Thor, Black Widow, Iron Man (co-teamleader), Hawkeye and The Hulk
  • Team 1: Captain America (teamleader), Spider-Woman, Captain Marvel, Falcon, Shang Chi and an unidentified sixth member with a large logo who I am guessing will be a secondary leader for when Cap is not with them i.e. when he is with the Core Team
  • Team 2: Thor, Smasher, Captain Universe (teamleader), Hyperion and an unidentified fifth member
  • Team 3: Iron Man (teamleader), Connonball, Sunspot, Spider-Man, Wolverine and an unidentified sixth member with a large logo who will be a secondary leader for when Iron Man is not with them is not with them i.e. when he is with the Core Team
  • Team 4: Hawkeye, Eden Fesi (teamleader) and three unidentified members

Each team also has a theme to it such as Team 1 being made up of characters with close ties to Captain America and/or SHIELD (they are people he can trust). Team 2 being big heavy hitters that can kick some serious ass. Team 3 being made up of a lot of Mutants also Iron Man and Spider-Man have a history of working together and Spidey and Wolverine are alway a good team-up! The only team that is unknown is Team 4 which still needs to be fleshed out. It is a pretty cool idea and it will be interesting to see who the secondary leaders and missing members will end up being. The only thing I cannot quite put my finger on is the purpose of the dotted lines…

Oh and The Hulk and Black Widow are not on other teams because The Hulk is meant to be working directly with SHIELD over in Indestructible Hulk and Black Widow is a member of the Secret Avengers. (Hawkeye is allowed on another team as well as the Secret Avengers because Marvel seem to really be pushing him to the forefront at the moment)

Also check out:

Amazing Spider-Man and All-New X-MenAmazing Spider-Man #699 and All-New X-Men 3 are two other very good reads worth picking up this week.

I did another quick reaction video to ASM #699 over on YouTube if you want to check it out. The issue itself was another gripping read as we see Peter (who is in Doc Ock’s) body be temporarily saved from death by a crash team. He then accesses Ock’s memories and initiates a prison break which has mixed results. We do not see what Doc Ock-Spider-Man is up to in this issue as it focuses on Peter’s plight but I am now super excited for issue #700 now. The setup is out of the way so the last bumper sized issue can deal with telling an epic story where anything could happen. Doc Ock’s body is minuets away from permanent death and Peter still has to work out how he is going to get back into his own body!

The Sinister Four!

All-New X-Men also continues to be awesome as a few new wrinkles are added to the current state of affairs as the issue focuses on the other side of the fence with Cyclops and Magneto’s “evil” X-Men. We see them start to setup shop in their new base of operations; the former Weapon X facility that birthed Wolverine and them breaking Emma Frost out of captivity. Interestingly we see that Cyclops, Magneto and Emma Frost’s powers are on the fritz as a consequence of using the Phoenix Force (or in Magneto’s case hanging around Scott to much while he was all god like). This issue ends with Cyclops and Magneto going to recruit another new mutant but being confronted with the original X-Men form the past! So yeah, it is all going to kick off in the next issue! We also see tensions between Cyclops and Magneto star to rise which could lead to interesting tings further down the line.

FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

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5 thoughts on “Picks of the Week

  1. I’d recommend picking up Hawkeye, its one of Marvel’s best at the moment along with Journey into Mystery. I was worried about changing the spotlight to Sif, but they knocked the first issue out of the ball park.
    Hickmans Avengers was rock solid, I’m expecting nothing but good things from this run. I wonder who they’ll get to replace Opena though.

    1. I’ve read the first couple of issues of Hawkeye and it hasn’t really grabbed me. However people keep talking it up so I might give it another go 🙂

  2. Despite my misgivings over the whole Marvel Now! range, so far most issues have pretty darn good. I was totally taken by surprise with how much i enjoyed ‘Indestructible Hulk’. The only let downs so far have been the X-Titles (although i’m so looking forward to Uncanny X-Force) and Iron Man. Despite Gillen been a great writer, I just can’t get past Greg Lands god awful art. Larroca on Invincible Iron Man was bad enough but this guys just killed it for me.
    On the plus side ‘Thor’ has been frigging awesome so far, although Dean White’s colouring is starting to wear a little thin.

    My pick for upcoming title to keep an eye on: Young Avengers

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