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This Week In Marvel 01/03/08
brought to you by Illusive Comics and Games of Santa Clara

The cold, early days of January bring weight loss resolutions, then after a Christmas flurry of special events and one-shots, a blissful week of not much in the comic book store. Of course, this year we need that empty time to try to swallow "One More Day," as it still isn't going down as smoothly as Marvel wants.

Nor, apparently, have the Annihilation books been garnering much attention. This week, Annihilation Conquest #3 hits, continuing the return of Adam Warlock. In the right hands, Warlock could be interesting, but almost every time he gets a revival, it's really just a rehash of what has gone before. Writers Abnett and Lanning infuse a little bit of the energy of Greg Pak's shot at the character a couple of years back, but it still doesn't bring anything new to what's going on.

Starlord also confuses me, as one of the characters that instantly recognizes Ultron. For a guy that spent most of his adult life fighting for justice on the far side of the galaxy, it seems odd that Peter Jason Quill knows his heretofore Earth-bound villains. Someone correct me on that one, please. Overall, it's a competent enough story, as Abnett and Lanning write great space opera. But if you didn't read all the other tie-in books, it's hard to find an emotional hook. Characters appear, get dealt a temporary fate, and then disappear. By virtue of the whole event's set-up, it's just too sprawling.

Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter makes her return to comics with issue #7, after several months off while Marvel regrouped things on the title. They broke off at an odd point, but what's there to really say? Brett Booth's artwork still doesn't have much variation to it, but at least provides a bridge to next issue's debut of Ron Lim. Hopefully, Lim will be able to pull things over into the realm of artistic satisfaction and provide an actual reason to buy this book if you're not a Hamilton fan. Right now, it's just barely above the level of softcore doodling in an anime fan's Math binder.

Speaking of Guilty Pleasures, Marvel releases an Exiles one-shot, Exiles: Days of Then and Now to bridge between the end of one series and the launch of a new one written by Chris Claremont. This book provides a good jumping-on point, reliving highlights of the previous team's adventures while playing with its basic premise.

A variety of artists handle different chapters, letting Marvel try out a few new pencilers and inkers without too many people noticing. Most of it stands above competent, and the main "alternate reality" featured feels like a classic What If -- ? situation that perhaps should have been saved for an actual What If -- ? special. It may also ask the question "What if Warren Ellis finished Newuniversal?"

Another question plaguing me is "Who cares about Moon Knight?" Mark Texeira has been doing some of the best work of his career on a book that has simultaneously been just unpleasant at best. A new writer has come aboard, with Moon Knight #14 being mainly a check-in of the status quo of all the characters. For some reason, Moon Knight has registered with the government and beyond that, um, he's still pretty vicious and violent while being goaded on by the walking corpse of his benefactor, the god Khonshu. I think I may have just saved you $2.99.

Certainly not unpleasant is Ms. Marvel #23, even though I maintain that the current plotline has to logically run afoul of World War Hulk. All of Carol Danvers' past incarnations collide together as she tries to wipe out a Brood nest that apparently the Brood in Hulk's Warbound cannot sense.

Series Brian Reed has taken the basic premise of an insecure superhero and done the very wise thing of not making her ridiculously unsure of her abilities. Instead, he has put her into situation after situation where she barely has time to think, and surrounded Ms. Marvel with a great supporting cast that almost even makes me like Arana. Throw in the caustic Machine Man stuck on a Photon LMD body - an image that should surely haunt all our dreams - and Sleepwalker finally being effective in the mainstream Marvel Universe, and you've got a fun if not particularly earth-shattering book.

Not particularly fun but surely someday we will regard it as literate, Omega the Unknown #4 continues being as obtuse as people remember Steve Gerber's original series. Yet some of it feels very realistic, keeping me going trying to figure out what all the outlandish elements are going to mean. If nothing else, this is a noble experiment, giving series artist Farel Dalrymple a good mainstream showcase and allowing writer Jonathan Lethem an indulgent tribute to comics before he goes back to the novel-writing upon which he has made his reputation.

And because we cannot escape it, here comes Thunderbolts #118. Finally, Warren Ellis deals with the reality that eventually the public will notice that this super-team are all pretty violent criminals, and they're not really okay with that. The symbiote that turned Scorpion into Venom turns on him, Doc Samson seems to make a breakthrough with Penance, and everything turns south. Luckily, nobody told Ellis about One More Day, so he can play freely with Norman Osborne until somebody figures out just how recent events in Spider-Man books change everything for him.

As I said when Ellis and Mike Deodato first took over this book, it provided a great set-up for a limited series, commenting on the concept but ultimately with a very clear ending. It's headed there now, and issue after issue has kept that promise of good writing, good characterization and a sense of finality.

Yet I can't shake the feeling Marvel has an escape clause somewhere, and that's the thing keeping me from truly loving any mainstream book from Marvel or DC right now - I've got no sense that anything will be permanent, that anything will be let to stand.

But at least Spidey has his mechanical web-shooters back…

Derek McCaw


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