Review: Secret Avengers, Vol. 2: The Labyrinth by Ales Kot

Secret Avengers, Vol. 2: The LabyrinthSecret Avengers, Vol. 2: The Labyrinth by Ales Kot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

 

 

This is such a fantastic comic, and I give all the credit to Ales Kot. I haven’t read a ton of stuff by him, but everything I have read, I’ve loved.
He even managed to make a volume of Suicide Squad not suck. So, it goes to figure that if you hand him an actual cool team, he could make it rock. And he does.
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And Michael Walsh’s art is just the perfect compliment to this story. It’s that kind of trippy, blurry, scratchy stuff that I didn’t always enjoy, but it’s really grown on me over the past few years.

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The highlight for me was the stuff with Deadpool and Hawkeye. Deadpool’s self-aware banter breaks the 4th wall constantly during this one. He has some of the hands-down best lines in this thing!

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So this time around the Secret Avengers are all scattered across the globe. Coulson (maybe) has PTSD and has wandered off, Hawkeye is tracking Coulson, Jessica is being introduced to some of Maria’s secrets, Fury is in a coma, and Black Widow is…in another dimension? And how does Deapool fit into all of this? Well, you’d have to ask M.O.D.O.K..

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Ok, the plot is just…wacky. There’s no need for me to go into any details, because it won’t make a bit of difference. The real fun is in the way Kot writes the dialogue between characters.
Now, I will say the the last couple of issues seemed to run off the rails a tad, and the (already) nutty storyline got a bit too screwy for my taste. It’s the only reason this didn’t make it into 5 star territory for me. Even so, I’d recommend this title to friends in a heartbeat.
Especially if they were looking for something a little different.

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Review: Secret Avengers, Vol. 1: Let’s Have a Problem by Ales Kot

Secret Avengers, Vol. 1: Let's Have a Problem (Secret Avengers #1)Secret Avengers, Vol. 1: Let’s Have a Problem by Ales Kot

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

Yep, yep, yep! This was very cool!
Not sure why I haven’t heard much about this one, but it’s really good. It’s got the same vibe as Hawkeye, but the premise is like a toned down version of the X-force for Avengers…if that even makes sense.

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Maria Hill has decided to put together a Top Secret group of heroes to take on Top Secret threats. Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, Black Widow, Spider-Woman, and (unbeknownst to everyone on the team) M.O.D.O.K. make up the team.

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Oh, and Hawkeye ends up accidentally making the roster.
He’s the Problem that the title refers to.

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Let’s Have a Problem was just fun to read.
There’s a rampaging Death-machine (ironically called Fury), satellites falling from the sky (???), a self-aware an bomb (who wants to try gelato), an assassination attempt on Hill (she probably deserved it), and a murder in M.O.D.O.K.’s mad science lab (because…shit happens).

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I didn’t realize it until I decided to look this guy up, but Ales Kot was the guy who wrote the only volume of Suicide Squad that I thought was worth a shit. And after reading this, I can say without a doubt I’ll be stalking whatever he decides to do next.
Highly Recommended!

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Review: Black Widow Vol. 1 (The Finely Woven Thread) by Nathan Edmondson & Phil Noto

Black Widow, Vol. 1: The Finely Woven ThreadBlack Widow, Vol. 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


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Buddy Reads for the Shallow Comic Readers this week is “Red” Theme…Black Widow is…a Redhead. and Russian, which is…Red. And she makes people bleed…RED. And the art is heavy on the colour…RED. And I just..RE(a)D it!

Where to start…First off, I don’t love ScarJo’s movie version of Black Widow, she just doesn’t have any gravitas or tortured soul feeling. She’s just T&A. I wish she was more.
This version of Natasha is bang on, right up my alley.

The artwork by Phil Noto is ideally suited to this book and character, so bravo to him on this. It’s got somewhat muted tones, but is heavy on the red, blood red, the colour of spies (because a heavy on the black book would be too dark lol).

I like Nathan Edmondson a lot; his Jake Ellis series was fantastic, and though he did write the less than stellar “Grifter” reboot for New 52, that wasn’t entirely awful. This, however is great.
Natasha feels like she’s worn out, far too old for her actual age, and not just a support player with the big guns. There’s a terrific section where she talks about not being a marksman, or a dude with a shield or a philanthropist with a suit of armour…she’s just a spy. So she doesn’t seek out bang bang shoot em up style action.

I love that she’s motivated by making atonement for her earlier life, and I don’t think we need to have it spelled out for us; I really respect a writer who gives the audience credit to figure it out. She kills people, she used to kill people for the Russians, so she probably killed a lot of people who might not have deserved it. Ergo, she funnels most of her money into trust funds for those left behind. I like it. She’s got a conscience, but at no point do I ever consider her soft or weak.

She keeps people at arm’s length, because people obviously hurt her; the closest thing we see is her lawyer, a neighbour, and Maria Hill, director of SHIELD. (We even get a cameo from Hawkguy, where she looks less than enthused to see him, which I think is a great touch from Edmondson and Noto, differentiating this Black Widow from the Avengers/movie version).

Other reviewers have said that the plot isn’t intricate enough, or details enough given, but really, I think that would be a waste of time. I don’t need to be explained what her motivation is and who everyone she’s going after is, and what they did. I just know she does what she does, it’s work, and she’s damn good at it. This is probably a more accurate depiction of the assassin/spy/operative life anyhow; detached, but highly functional.

I also feel like this minimal style of plot gives us a lot more time to focus on Natasha, see her, and develop our own feelings towards her; we’re not being pressured by the writer to love her, or hate her, we’re being given an honest look, and allowed to make up our own minds. I like this approach a lot, because it doesn’t try so hard to force a character onto us. However, she’s here if we want.

Of course, the Mad Russian Monk is always fun, and it’s nice to see a hero(ine) who, although badass and deadly, isn’t indestructible like an 80s movie hero. She gets beat up, she doesn’t always win, and she doesn’t like it.

There’s so much to like here, I cannot wait to get my hands on volume 2. Also, this day in age, it’s a blast to get a strong female character written well, and independent of others. There’s enough little humour here, but I also like that a Marvel book isn’t afraid to go lighter on the funny for once. It’s not in danger of being a DC book, but it doesn’t try to fit the formula of sarcastic/self-deprication, because that wouldn’t work here at all.

It works, I really enjoyed it, and it’s a great combo of solid writing and superb art. Winner.


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Review: Indestructible Hulk Vol. 4 – Humanity Bomb; by Mark Waid

Indestructible Hulk, Vol. 4: Humanity BombIndestructible Hulk, Vol. 4: Humanity Bomb by Mark Waid
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

***Green Theme Buddy Reads, with my Shallow homies. If I have to explain how this fits, you are what Professor HULK (ie. Jeff) would call an ‘asshat’***


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I took this out of the library months ago, but Vol. 3 had yet to be ordered…luckily, the Digital Copy in every Marvel Hardcover allows you to get a copy online thru Marvel.com…and then read in Comixology. So this was my first full volume on Comixology, and my first read on my iPad! YAY! No paper cuts! And when I dropped it in the tub, I only got electrocuted a wee bit, but there was no ruined pages!

So at the end of our last adventure, HULK had repaired time like 99% accurately…by smashing the shit out of it. This time, we’re in the Inhumanity Event, where Black Bolt had his hand forced, to release Terragen Mists on Earth, in order to repopulate the latent Inhuman population after Thanos destroyed the Inhumans? I think? So the mists target people who’s DNA has any tiny marker gene for Inhumans…so if your great great granny whored it up with one…you’re fucked.

Cue Banner, working on his Bruce saves the Earth stuff, only to see Tony ‘Asshat’ Stark (copyright Jeff) beat him to it, then Reed Richards, then the Hanks (Pym and McCoy). Shockingly, he’s ANGRY as fuck about it.
Cue up Doc Randall Jessup, one of Banner’s super-scientist lab assistants. He’s apparently a Zen master, who just tells Bruce to chew some gum and count to 120 and gives him some mumbo jumbo…turns out, he talks Bruce down from HULK-ing out!

We get a short flashback to Jessup’s sad backstory, then forward to Jessup and Banner stealing invisibility cloaks to go join a SHIELD mission that Maria Hill told him to stay out of…but of course, no such luck. Jessup again keeps Hulk at bay long enough to save everyone, and manages to impress Banner tremendously.

Next up, Banner returns to the lab to see Asshat Pym and Asshat Stark trying to figure out the Terragen Mists…Banner tells them to fuck off out of his lab, they act super condescending, before he points out that he just happens to be the expert on radiation and its effects on people (Gamma Rays…Hulk…ringing any bells there Stark?) Then Tony gives Bruce 24 hrs to finish his solution.

They show up early, and bring Hank #2 with them (McCoy, Beast). Hank 2 isn’t an asshat, he’s just cautious, and I like that Waid didn’t give him the same personality of a phallus that he did to Pym and Stark. Beast would relate more to Banner on the effects of changes to the self than the other 2.

Of course, the name of this volume is Humanity BOMB…so yes, Bruce has built a BOMB to save HUMANITY from INHUMANITY! See how easily that works? If Waid comes up with his own titles, he deserves a raise. Of course the asshats overreact and that leads to HULK freaking out and running off with the BOMB.
Way to go Iron McAsshat!

So the Hanks and Asshat chase him, and Pym breaks his arm trying to wrestle the bomb from Hulk, and Hulk gets it back…amidst all the chaos, Hank #2 asks the simplest question: Tony, what if the bomb works?
Then goes on to cry Mea Culpa, that he and the Asshats were arrogant not to trust Bruce, and leaves it up to Iron McAsshy to decide what to do…or not do…

So…ya. Long story short, Bomb goes off, freezes time to see if the Terragen Mists will dissipate or lose their effects…turns out…it doesn’t work…but only because it was made by Black Bolt and not on Earth, so different physics and such. In the aftermath, there’s some explosions, and Hulk and the 3 musketeers save as many as they can, and then they all pseudo apologize for being dicks, but I think only McCoy can be pardoned for this one.

Remember Jessup? ya…things don’t go so well for him…Terragen Mists and whatnot…turns out his Zen powers end up counteracting the Hulk’s Anger…which is difficult for Banner when shit goes south…he has to resort to more basic methods…

Then there’s a run in with some super evil scientists experimenting on Terragnen Mist victims…including trying Jessup, but Hulk and the team won’t stand for it…SMASH, team up with Jessup’s Inhuman Monster form, yadda yadda yadda…people die, no more team for Banner at SHIELD, Hill says she might have to “Terminate” Him…he smirks.

Cue Cliffhanger Ending involving Bruce Banner!!!!

Then there’s the Annual, which has Tony and Bruce going after a mad scientist on an island in the middle of nowhere that’s been totally weaponized…this guy was big on influencing both of them to go into weapons work with the military (the way for smart dudes to get $$) even though he wasn’t a nice dude. It’s a decent enough team up, even though Tony is an asshat to Bruce most of the time, they’re actually closer than many think…

This takes place BEFORE the events in Vol. 4 I believe…

So all in all, a solid volume, but it focuses more on the lab people and Jessup, but I think that’s to show how Bruce holds himself responsible for everything bad that happens, even though he can’t be. The stuff with the Hanks and Asshat is the stronger stuff in the volume, and the art is a step in the right direction after volume 3, but it still doesn’t compare to Yu’s volume 1 work.

Sadly, this is also the end of the series…WAHHHH!!! HULK SAD! I’m guessing there’s another one to pick up, but…Waid had a great handle on Banner and Hulk, and I hope that’s not it for him writing it. I also love the interactions with others, epsecially Daredevil and Iron Man and the Hanks.


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Wolverine: Killable by Paul Cornell (art by Alan Davis)

Wolverine, Vol. 2: KillableWolverine, Vol. 2: Killable by Paul Cornell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I feel very wishy-washy on this one…the concept I like; Wolverine having to reassess how he does things due to losing his healing factor.

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What? I’m as surprised as you were Cary…though I already knew about this, and read Vol. 1 of this title, I didn’t recall that taking place…shows how well it was written that a major thing like that happens and I don’t remember.

Cornell is hit and miss, but mostly miss. This is 2.5 Stars

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Yup. So Beast gets all sad that Logan is now Human, and boohoohoo. Everyone thinks he’s going off, and he does, so Kitty follows him.

There’s one decent passage where Thor comes down to drink with Logan and tells him that he loves Midgarders so much because they’re mortal, and that with time, Logan will realize what a great gift it is. Frankly, I think Logan as written by most GOOD writers would have him make a few snide remarks, but file that away as decent advice. Cornell has him start a fight with Thor…while NOT able to heal…ya. Good idea.

There’s some stuff about SHIELD and a virus from the microverse (how Wolvie lost the healing in the first place) taking over Earth, and that leaves Nick Fury Jr. to look like a dolt and have TERRIBLE dialogue.

“We’re Facing Impossible Odds!”
“There’s Just Too Many of Them!”

So in a Mall in Alberta (because of course, they’ve built a mall over the site where James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine grew up) Kitty and Logan fight off Hand ninjas (did you know that Sabretooth is the head of the Hand now?) and spend way too much time in stupid arguments with mall cops about how “Muties” are so bad news…Muties? is it 1987?

Anyhow, Alongside Victor Creed we’ve got Mystique, Silver Samurai, and Lord Deathstrike (not Lady, but Lord..he’s kinda…dumb). All fighting and way too much talking from Kitty’s inner monologue…

Sabretooth shows up, and to prove he’s REALLY EVIL he tells Logan he won’t kill him even though he’s totally defeated, because he wants to let it sink in that he’s much better than Wolverine, and he wants Logan to get old and fall apart and then he’ll maybe put him out of his misery in a nursing home…

So the title is apt: Wolverine IS Killable. But not in this volume.

Missed opportunity here…could have been GREAT in a better writer’s hands.

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Review: Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread

Black Widow, Vol. 1: The Finely Woven ThreadBlack Widow, Vol. 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nathan Edmondson has probably created my favorite “version” of Natasha Romanov with Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread. The espionage angle really appealed to me. I have always enjoyed stories about clever spooks and deadly assassins and Nate definitely put aspects of both types into this one. Natasha comes across as a no nonsense, professional that is focused on whatever the job at hand is. She won’t allow herself to have a life outside of the mission and keeps most people at arms-length in order to do so. I think Edmondson does a good job at showing what life for someone like Natasha might really be like. How being unable to put down roots, have lasting relationships, or allowing anyone else to get to know you would effect a person. It’s all part of her self-inflicted penance for past sins. She sort of reminds me of Ennis’s Punisher in that regard. It’s similar to Frank’s strict, single-minded focus on the mission and allowing himself little else. Natasha’s reaction to Hawkeye’s brief cameo is evidence of this.

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Review: Wolverine and the X-Men Vol. 8, by Jason Aaron

Wolverine and the X-Men, Vol. 8Wolverine and the X-Men, Vol. 8 by Jason Aaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well…the time had to come…nothing lasts forever, and one of the brightest, fun-loving, yet still important titles of the last few years has come to a close.

Jason Aaron’s run on Wolverine and the X-Men should serve as a how-to guide for DC to reinvent themselves, and re-embrace the idea that you can have fun and still kick ass, laugh and still be taken seriously, and not have to be grey, dark, and gritty to be a great series.

Wolverine leaves the X-Men of Utopia after a philosophical disagreement with Cyclops, and founds a school on the grounds of the old Xavier School. Wolverine as a headmaster and administrator just wrote it’s own jokes.

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Review: Indestructible Hulk – Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol. 1 by Mark Waid

Indestructible Hulk, Vol. 1: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.Indestructible Hulk, Vol. 1: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Mark Waid

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’d been wanting to read this since I first heard about it; Mark Waid (one of my favourites, who really looks at heroes in a different way – Incorruptible/Irredeemable is a fantastic mirror series for anyone who’s never read it), Indestructible!, and Agent of SHIELD!

Sadly, I rely on my local library (support your local library peeps, there’s all kinds of great stuff there, and I can’t tell you how many people are shocked when I tell them the library has comics! Current Movies! CDs! eBooks, you name it! I have saved SOOO much $$$ thanks to a library 1 block from my home) for most of my comic/graphic novel reads, and this has not shown up on their buying list as of yet (though, oddly, they already have Volumes 2 & 4…). However, I ended up with a gift card to a bookstore (yes, a store that sells books and it’s NOT Amazon!) and spent a good hour debating what to buy in the comic section, and since I’m writing this review…well you know what I got.

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