Week In Marvel 02/20/08
Just when I thought I was out, Marvel keeps
pulling me back in. Oh, hey, look, I'm as confused as the
next guy about who knows what in the aftermath of House
of M, Civil War and One More Day, especially
when Spider-Man makes a flippant remark about the first
one. Hey, Marvel editors - if anybody else in the Avengers
remembers House of M, they know who Spider-Man
brought to you by Illusive
Comics and Games of Santa Clara
But then Marvel lets creators carve out
their own little piece of continuity to apply to just their
own title. Forget that Daniel Rand has been working with
the New Avengers, even though a couple of members have helped
him out in The Immortal Iron Fist. Ignore the rest
of the Marvel Universe, and Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker
have been teaming with a variety of artists to turn out
some of the quietly best comics Marvel produces.
Actually, Marvel must recognize this, because
they keep letting them dilly-dally in one-shots that hearken
back to the previously unknown previous Iron Fist,
Orson Randall. This week, hands down, the best book Marvel
has out is Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death.
A decades-spanning adventure obliquely
referenced in a recent issue of Iron Fist, this book
gives an affectionate look at pulp adventures of the past,
while feeling absolutely modern as a comic book. Facing
the Prince of Orphans in adventure after adventure, Orson
Randall could easily and believably have stood alongside
Doc Savage or The Shadow in his world-spanning adventurer
mode. Fraction's cleverness, though, also leaves plenty
of room for more adventures having nothing to do with the
current Iron Fist storyline. It doesn't matter that we know
things don't end well for Randall; getting there must have
been a heck of a great time.
Even if you're not a pulp fan, this is
just top-notch storytelling, with art contributed by the
Allreds, Nick Dragotta, Russ Heath and many more. The different
artists serve to mark the passage of time, and maybe that
conceit doesn't work perfectly. But it's an almost invisible
flaw in the face of a great book that deserves far more
One that got attention but is worth keeping
a spotlight on it is Greg Pak's The Incredible Hercules
#114. Again, ignoring the rest of the Marvel Universe
but using its characters, Pak throws curve after curve and
has no compunction about undermining what we believe issue
Thanks to Hydra Blood (the mythological
creature, not the villainous army), Hercules hallucinates
episodes from throughout his lifetime. You might think this
an excuse for Pak to just throw around a lot of fancy mythological
references, but it all ties together and reminds some people
that until a couple of years ago, Ares was a villain. Of
course, it may turn out that Amadeus will turn villainous,
too, especially now that the name Mastermind Excello is
getting reclaimed over in The Twelve.
It's a story that feels like it will have
repercussions for itself, and who cares what it does to
overall continuity? And you know what? That makes it interesting.
Plus Hercules beats the living snot out of everything that
All the surprises, all the twists and neat
storytelling techniques that Pak uses, they all seem
to be happening in Hulk #2. Almost everything
set up in the first issue, though, doesn't really matter
When last we left the Hulkbusters, they
had approached the imprisoned Bruce Banner for advice. This
issue, it doesn't matter what happened last issue, because
everybody's too busy wetting themselves over the Red Hulk's
seeming ability to be anywhere and everywhere it wants to
be. At least Ed McGuinness' art has never been stronger,
though Jeph Loeb may indulge McGuinness in two-page spreads
a little too often. (But then, he did write a lot for Rob
Liefeld.) My interest has been just piqued enough by one
last twist to give it another chance with issue #3, but
overall, Hulk feels like all sizzle, no steak.
Of course, I've changed my mind about books
many times, especially when they've blindsided me with that
quality storytelling and great artwork. Thus Iron
Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #26 continues making
me care about a character I don't like. Writers Daniel and
Charles Knauf have neatly brought the Mandarin into modern
spy movie villainy, and it's completely believable.
Hate Extremis? The Brothers Knauf took
care of that little problem, too. Artist Roberto De La Torre
has a style close to Butch Guice, and that may be part of
why I respond so well to this book. It's beautiful, it's
riveting, and if it were a novel, I'd still read it.
Let me go back to praising Matt Fraction,
though. The Order #8 looks to be bringing
things to a close with this series; rumor has it that the
tenth issue will be its last. That's too bad, because this
has been a great series from the get-go.
Again, it spun out of an event I didn't
like, but Fraction has made that almost negligible. Instead,
with this issue, he takes the book's basic premise and asks
the question, why didn't anybody in the Marvel Universe
try this before?
Fraction's writing just gets better and
better; thirty years from now people will be talking about
him the way people talk about guys like Steve Englehart
and Steve Gerber, producers of quirky writing that just
may be shaping the tone of a company around it.
Then there's artist Barry Kitson, always
solid and good before, but never quite this free. If he
and Mark Waid ever get around to Empire 2, it's going
to be amazing.
Doing what should be stellar work, Joss
Whedon and Michael Ryan turn out Runaways #29
this week, but it's a perfect example of how a delay can
really hurt a book. Whedon built up a complex cast of characters,
a 19th Century Marvel Universe on the streets of New York.
And after so long between issues, who can remember who they
It just takes too long to get back into
the story. Sure, it will read fine in the trade. Sure, Astonishing
X-Men has had similar delays, but there we know most
of the characters after years of adoration. When writing
a "monthly" book, the focus can't be on the trade; it has
to be on the issue after issue. Without that, you're not
going to get that paperback.
Okay, so Whedon will, because his run on
Runaways will sell on the strength of his name. It's
also a great storyline and a great concept. The team has
gone back in time to a point when Arsenic's time traveling
parents were alive and ruling the criminal gangs of New
York. But it ends with a free-for-all that's confusing for
the characters and confusing for the readers. Put this one
on a stack and read it when the next issue comes
As much as I've been enjoying The Incredible
Hercules, Greg Pak's other attempt to stretch the World
War Hulk storyline - which you may notice has had no
repercussions in any other titles - has not fared so well.
The first issue worked for me, but now Warbound #3
has just stalled out.
I often have that trouble when three issues
seem to cover less than an hour of time, and we learn no
more about the nobility of these characters than we did
when Pak introduced them, brilliantly, in Planet Hulk.
This book just kills time and fills shelf space, because
it's doubtful that even the presence of the Leader will
mean much in the long run. Get the Warbound off-planet and…well,
see, there's really nowhere to go, and that's the problem.
running in circles serves Wolverine Origins #22
pretty well. Throwing all the impetus for the series aside,
writer Daniel Way reveals that Logan spent a long period
of his life as Yosemite Sam. Everybody's favorite Merc with
a Mouth indulges his Bugs Bunny identity and makes life
hell for Logan. There's really not much point to it; it's
a series of sight gags that serve to remind that thought
Steve Dillon has only a few different faces he can draw,
he's an excellent cartoonist.
you this week at WonderCon!