Written by Dan Slott & Mark Waid
Art by John Romita Jr
Before I get into the review, how many times is Marvel going to start a new arc with the retelling of the origin of Spider-Man? I swear, everytime I pick up this book, there's a quick one or two page origin recap.
Regarding the New Ways to Die storyline, it's still Brand New Day, just with some hints at Venom possibly being involved in this storyline somehow and a guest appearance by Norman Osborn.
If you were hoping this would change your mind about BND or were wondering if this would kick start the new status quo, you'll be sadly disappointed.
If I had to guess, there's only one or two scenes for the non-BND faithfuls that would make this issue worthwhile. One such scene has to be the final pages of the first story, which saw Norman Osborn and the Thunderbolts (well, half of them) waiting inside Peter's apartment after some Cape Killers took Peter into custody.
Before you go nuts wondering if he knows who Spider-Man is, no, he does not. Sure, Slott hints heavily at it with this cliffhanger, but he doesn't know and this is just one big case of misdirection for hype and shock value. If he did know his identity, he would have captured him long ago. If he didn't want anyone else to know it, he wouldn't have brought all these people with him.
My money is on him simply asking his son, Harry's, best buddy, who happens to be the number one Spider-Man photographer in the world, to help them track Spidey down.
The rest of the issue revolved around BND plotlines which I have been following in the odd issues I buy and online and dealt mostly with Peter getting a new job at Frontline, where Robbie Robertson has set up shop after being fired from the DB and some Menace attacks on political figures. Nothing new or exciting and it seems the his being fired was pointless, seeing as his entire supporting cast has moved over with him. All we need is Betty Brant to join the squad and we can ignore the DB forever.
One thing I found interesting was a scene where, shortly after fighting Menace, who escaped, Peter calls Harry Osborn for some advice and we see a shot of Harry on top of a random building. What was he doing up there, exactly? Is it supposed to mean he's Menace and he just finished his escape and costume change? I can't think of any other reason for him to be up on a building like that.
Finally, there was a backup, by Mark Waid and Adi Granov, which featured Eddie Brock, who made a brief cameo in the first story. He's been magically cured of his cancer, which seems to be attributed to Mr Negative and Eddie's recent hiring at the FEAST soup kitchen.
While I didn't hate this backup, at $3.99 an issue, I could have done without it. They could have simply told us in one or two pages Eddie joined the soup kitchen staff, was free of cancer and hinted at Mr Negative's involvement and knocked a dollar off the pricetag.
Verdict - Check It. It's Brand New Day. If you liked it before this arc, you'll love this. If you didn't care for it prior to this, I doubt anything that happens here will change your mind.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #4
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Paul Pelletier
Gah, so much wasted potential. How could the Guardians of the Galaxy have a Skrull centric issue and no guest appearance by the Super Skrull? After the two Annihilation events, it just screamed Super Skrull guest appearance to me.
First thing I have to mention is that this issue drastically cut back on those annoying reality tv narration boxes DnA had been using for the first three issues of this arc. They only show up once or twice, but it's still better than the once every other page format they were using.
As for the story, it's just a simple 'who do you trust?' Skrull story setup. An excellently crafted 'who do you trust' story, but a 'who do you trust' story, nonetheless. We've seen this a dozen times now over the course of the Secret Invasion event and for the past year or so in New and Mighty Avengers. Should I be judging this story based on the fact it came out later than those early versions or should I let it stand on its own?
It's hard to justify letting it get away with telling the same story with different characters that I've read so many times before, but everything about this issue was done so much better than just about every other version of this theme that I find it hard to knock it for it.
One aspect I really liked about this setup was the use of the Knowhere setting. It adds a claustrophobic feel to the story and the simple act of limiting the number of possible suspects to this small population really ratchets up the tension. Add the destruction of the teleporters, which are the only way off the station, and it's hard not to beleive these character's reactions to the thoughts of Skrulls in their mist.
I think the biggest development of the issue, though, has to go to the revelation that Starlord and Mantis telepathically induced everyone on the team to join together without any objections. While they didn't force anyone to join, they lowered any inhibitions they may have had and it appears Drax overheard this conversation, which should lead to a major falling out in the near future.
Furthermore, like the previously three issues, unlike other comics, this 22-page book felt jam packed with story and character development. It's hard to believe it's only been four issues, but I feel like I've gotten more out of this book than a year's worth of story on some other titles.
In the end, however, this is just the beginning of this storyarc and, with everything that happened, it's hard to believe this was just a setup issue and the real Skrull infiltration story doesn't start until next month!
Verdict - Must Read. Abnett and Lanning fixed my biggest complaint this issue - the narration - and I think it made a huge difference in my enjoyment of the book. While a cliched 'who do you trust' themed story, the setting and characterization elevate it above the rest of the rabble and make this a standout must read story.
INCREDIBLE HERCULES #120
Written by Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Art by Rafa Sandoval
Goddamn it, Marvel, why wasn't this a part of the main Secret Invasion storyline? Let's ignore the fact it's a hundred times better than the Bendis written event and focus on the fact that Hercules kills the freaking Skrull's god, Kly'bn. You know, the "He" from the "He loves you." the Skrulls have been quoting since they got to Earth. Yeah, that Skrull god. Dead. You'd think that might be noteworthy or worth at least a single panel's mention in the main event, but I'm sure Bendis will ignore it and have some other god or meaning revealed for the whole, "he loves you", nonsense.
Let's ignore the whole Secret Invasion snub this excellent storyline has gotten for a minute. This issue wraps up the whole God Squad storyline with Hercules doing what he does best - kicking ass and taking names.
After a quick origin for Kly'bn (he's an Eternal Skrull, much like Ajak is an Eternal from Earth) and he convinced the Deviant Skrulls (real Skrulls can't shapeshift, Deviant Skrulls killed them all off) to embrace him as their God, which seems to have worked out for him. The hideous freakshow partner seen with him is his wife, who has decided to embrace change and honour Kly'bn by constantly changing shape as an opposite to Kly'bn's single form, which will 'remind' the shapeshifting race what they really look like (aka bullshit baffles brains and Kly'bn pulled a fast one on the Skrulls to become a God).
Don't get me wrong, this was all very interesting and worth knowing and reading, but the real show began shortly after that with the showdown between the God Squad and the Skrull gods, which ended with Hercules killing Kly'bn, Ajak having his head blown off, Mikaboshi "dying" and Atum getting a life threatening case of indigestion after trying to eat Sl'gur't, Kly'bn's wife. Oh, and Snowbird was revealed to be alive.
As for Mikaboshi's "death", apparently, he kill Sl'gur't and replaced her when the two were shapeshifting during their fight. Athena, who was watching on from Earth, seemed pleased with the development of Mikaboshi's replacement, but I'm still unsure as to what her goal was for sending the team to kill this Skrull god, especially after seeing her reaction at the end of the issue.
Verdict - Must Read. Hercules kills the Skrull's God. Not much else needs to be said. It even showed the events in Secret Invasion that came about because of this killing, namely, as soon as Kly'bn died, it was announced that Reed Richards was freed and, basically, all of their plans went to hell because of it. Good job, Herc. You saved Earth and are responsible for stopping the invasion and won't even appear in that story.
MARVEL 1985 #4
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Tommy Lee Edwards
There are a couple of problems that come up with 1985 #4 that impacted my enjoyment of the issue in comparison to the previous three.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still loving this series, but this is the 'setup' issue where the writer realizes he has to finish this story and wasted too much time on the opening issues, so he just goes through the motions, moving the story and characters into position.
Add to this the fact the whole wonder and nostolgia factor of this trip down memory lane is wearing thin after four issues and it leaves the issue lacking a real draw this month.
However, the ending to this issue, which sees young Toby stumbling into the basement of the Wyncham House and discovering how these villains came to our reality - a secret portal in the basement, was amazing. Toby enters the portal and it transports him to the Marvel Universe, complete with drastic change in artstyle to reflect this by Edwards, which was a nice touch.
Verdict - Check It. The series is still great, but the slow pacing made it necessary for an issue where we spend rush to bring in the Marvel heroes to save the day, leaving little time to focus on the setting or characters. Probably won't even be noticeable come trade time.
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Rick Leonardi
First off, that cover has nothing to do with this issue. The real cover features Red Robin on the cover with 'Red' scribbled above the Robin logo, exactly like the one Salieri linked to in this week's previews.
Along with the cover change came a creative team change. Originally slated as a Chuck Dixon story, it is now written by Fabian Nicieza, similar to how the last several issues have seen Dixon scrapped in favour of Fabian.
Another shocker for this issue was the fact it takes place after Batman RIP. Yes, this issue 'spoils' the ending to RIP in a vague way, simply stating Batman is "gone" and crime has escalated with his departure. This could be a case of Bruce taking a break or simply needing time to recover, but it's odd Nightwing wasn't asked to step in for the time being while Bruce was gone. Even odder is that DC is doing its best to ruin every major storyline they have with stuff like this.
Continuing wiht the shocking themes, Red Robin isn't Jason Todd. No, the Red Robin in this issue was seen multiple times stalking Jason, who is consolidating power in Batman's absense by taking control of the numerous gangs. He claims to Robin that he is doing this to help out while Batman is gone and this will thin the herd by pitting these gangs against each other and the crooked cops, but it sure seems like he's a badguy here to me.
Eventually, just as Todd is about to kill Robin, Red Robin interferes, distracting Todd enough for one of his henchmen to shoot him in the leg, which defuses the situation and sees Jason arrested(?).
Finally, as if all these developments weren't shocking enough, we see Spoiler hiring someone (couldn't recognize the girl or her costume pieces scattered about, but she claims to have killed a Robin before) to kill Robin with a $500,000 down payment, which seems out of her league. Imposter? Some kind of setup, similar to the Penquin deal from two issues ago?
Verdict - Must Read. If you want a glimpse at the future of the Bat titles post-RIP, this is a great jumping on point, which sounds ridiculous saying, seeing as RIP hasn't even ended yet.
X-FACTOR: LAYLA MILLER #1
Written by Peter David
Art by Valentine De Landro
Spinning out of the events of Messiah Complex comes this Layla Miller one-shot. While a tad late for any sales boost or non-X-Factor fan interest, this issue still picks up one of the few loose ends from that event in the form of Layla Miller and her being trapped a concentration camp in the future.
While I loved this issue, your enjoyment will be limited to how much you like Layla's character and her knowledge of 'stuff' because this issue focuses heavily on her and David even fleshes out her vague powers / knowledge (still no definitive explanation though).
Personally, I love Layla and I loved this issue. However, if you do happen to hate her character for some reason, this issue also features the events of the fabled Summers Rebellion, which first saw mention way back around the time Bishop was first introduced in the 80's or early 90's (can't recall the exact issue it was mentioned). As such, this issue acts like a Days of Future Past or other X-Men future based story and fills in many of the details of this tumultuous time period.
The issue does this through a series of events, all premeditated by Layla and her knowledge of 'stuff', starting with one of the best prison break scenes ever. Layla draws an X on the ground near a fence and stands there for 10 days straight, never moving from it. The guards were going to move her back to a cell, but ended up taking bets on how long the crazy mutant would stand there. On the tenth day, we find out some random space debris, which the government lost track of over time, had its orbit decay and it landed right next to where Layla was standing, killing her guards and providing her an escape. It sounds a bit hookey, but it's pure Layla and this issue features a lot of great 'Layla moments' like this.
From there, Layla goes about setting into motion the events that led to the Summers Rebellion, including the leaking of false / half true knowledge of a government initiative to round up any normal humans with a history of mutants in their family's background.
She also meets up with, as you may have suspected, Scott Summers and his daughter, Ruby, who will be the catalysts of this rebellion. Yes, Scott is our Cyclops and he's been turned into a cyborg of sorts, supposedly done to him by humans. His daughter's mother, while not named, seems to be Emma Frost from what I can tell, but, again, no confirmation.
There's a great scene with Scott and Layla where he tears into her for not telling them all the 'stuff' she knows and Scott blaming her for the world turning out the way it is. It leads to Layla breaking down crying and explaining how she knows things, but can't do anything about them, like a chess piece that can see who's moving her, but is still unable to make any new or different moves with the knowledge. I think a fair comparison would be that she is akin to Dr Manhattan, of Watchmen fame, and his ability to know what is going to happen, but unable to change it at the same time.
In the end, the rebellion goes off without a hitch and we see the catalyst for it with Ruby Summers leading the charge in defense of the humans, whom the government has sicced Sentinels on for the previously mentioned rounding ups. Off topic, but I think Ruby may be the mysterious baby from Messiah Complex all grown up and merely a Summers by name with no blood relation, but the issue doesn't spend nearly enough time on them to confirm nor deny it. Meanwhile, Layla slips off panel, still trapped in the future for the time being.
Verdict - Must Read. Even without the Layla centered focus, this is the kind of stuff X-Factor has been missing since Messiah Complex ended and it gives me a little more resolve to stick with the sagging X-Factor title with hopes of her return in the near future.