Thursday, July 28, 2011

Marvel DCU Monthly Subscription - Part 2

I had a one-month subscription to the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited (DCU) program. It was awesome because it was a free trial but it also meant I had to make the most of it. My aim, to sample the books I might never have bought but have always been intrigued to read. I had 30 days to see what I could chew through, hit the jump to see where I went and what I thought of it all. These are kind of like reviews and kind of like train of thought entries. Some smarter and better than others. If I wrote a massive review on each one I’d never make it out of the month alive.

Up for today's pleasure is some Doctor Voodoo, a smattering of one-shots, Ares, some Incredible Hercules, and the longest stratch of an Ultimate comic I've ever read and all for Brian K Vaughan. Enjoy.

Before reading this, go read Part 1

Written by Rick Remender
Art by Jefte Palo

If you’re a fan of those strange corners of the Marvel U then this book should be right up your alley. It isn’t perfect and these books s rarely are. But they are weird and fun and packed full of ideas and concepts that you want to know how they play out. Doctor Voodoo holds this book together pretty well but he’s ably supported by Doctor Doom and some other strange denizens of the seedier side of things.

Remender does some cool stuff on the book but most of the time it’s just fun to kick back and enjoy Jefte Palo’s work on apparitions, spells, and outright spooky details. This suffers from feeling a little decompressed but overall there’s enough packed into these 5 issues to intrigue and delight. I really want to know what else these lads had in store for our new Sorcerer Supreme.

Verdict – Buy It. Y’know, I’d be happy if Marvel stuck to printing books like this and didn’t have an Avengers team ever again. I’d be very happy and buying more, for sure.

Written by Brian K Vaughan
Art by Staz Johnson

It’s some old Brian K Vaughan, you had to know I’d get there eventually, right?

This guy is my writing idol, a genius at what he does. So it is so hard to see him struggle here. He writes the witty and silly Yorick Brown so well and yet his Spider-quips just don’t quite make the distance. His battle banter is sub-par more often than not. It’s hard to swallow.

However, the usual well research BKV is on display at many moments be it through captions or his character’s mouths. You get the feeling to write this book he read a few tomes on spiders, octopi, photography, and New York. This is just what BKV does and he does it well here, but it feels kind of out of place in a Marvel book. It’s crazy, but it’s true.

This tale, when you step back and really look at it, isn’t about much. Some stuff happens, sure, but there isn’t much meat on the bone. The lead character, a new photographer named Haight, has a bit of an arc but it’s not grand, and half the time we don’t care what happens to him because he’s so self-centred and whiney. It’s a strange hook to hang your book on.

The art feels like the standard hack stuff you get, not bad nor good, and overall you’ll forget about this mini because though elements of BKV’s writing style show through they aren’t strong enough to wrestle this limp tale into anything memorable.

Verdict – Byrne It. Absolutely nothing special here. Not much to recommend, even for the BKV die hard like me.

Written by Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction, Rick Remender, Kieron Gillen, Peter Milligan
Art by Adi Granov, Daniel Acuna, Max Fiumara, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Tonci Zonjic

It’s little one-shots like this that are easy and fun to catch up on. This only took a few minutes and with the writers attached I just had to know.

Hickman handles a daydream from Doom and it’s interesting but not really anything insightful. The fact Doom would subjugate Loki (within Sif’s body – a concept I never really hated) and Emma Frost as monuments to Return of the Jedi is probably the most fascinating thing in the whole tale.

Fraction’s Emma Frost script merely reads as a quick update on those not familiar with the character. And then it shows her to have heart. I guess everyone knows Doom, not everyone knows the White Queen who doesn’t wear much. Fair enough, but it doesn’t make for a great story. Fraction kind of gets her voice but it isn’t used to great effect. So far this comic has been mildly interesting but nothing majorly worthwhile.

Remender’s Hood tale is good, it’s still a character study like the other ones but this one feels just a touch more new and insightful. It’s helpful it also wavers over a mystery as to whose body is in the coffin. A smart little trick that keeps you engaged. My only problem is how much the Hood has changed since BKV introduced him. He went from this dumb guy to powerhouse gangster quoting classics and it doesn’t fit like a linear tale. Apart from that, good story.

Has Gillen written Namor before? He writes a very good regal, why is that? This Namor tale is about him settling an Atlantean divorce custody battle and it’s far more interesting than that might sound. It’s convenient and quick but it’s still good. Namor’s voice can carry any sort of tale, I’d read him in any genre.

Milligan’s Loki is a set up quickly made very cool and then the pay off means something leading right into the next issue of Thor, by Gillen. An interesting way to handle the short tale but satisfying nonetheless. He also writes a good Doom. Marvel writers must love getting to handle Doom.

Verdict – Byrne It. All in all, a decent one-shot but nothing insanely awesome. It doesn’t feel like an anthology because these aren’t tales so much as character pieces.

Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Mike Deodato

Huh, this story is strange. I’m not sure in a good way. It’s Wolvie versus a howling Navajo coyote spirit seeking revenge for the sins of the past. Wolvie enters a town torn apart, people deaf, and he’s the only guy who can regenerate his ear drums to take on this monster.

It’s a standard wandering samurai narrative, though it does include Wolvie killing a kid. NO matter how you spin that it’s not pleasant. Deodato can use all the silhouette he likes, we know what’s going on.

Verdict – Byrne It. This isn’t bad, it’s well written, but it’s not always good. Huh.

Wha…Huh? #1

Written by The New Bullpen
Art by Their Lackeys

I really didn’t enjoy this. It’s just kind of…dumb. But I used to love all the What The…?! Issues and yet this one barely made me smirk. Maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. But even BKV writing Galactus taking a galactic dump and having his herald source a massive toilet didn’t amuse me.

Verdict – Avoid It. Ugh.

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by

Ares is a cool character, no doubt about it. The guy’s a bad ass and when written well you get that vibe without it feeling posed. Gillen, however, manages to revel in the vibe because of the posturing. This is one of the best action flick comics I’ve read in some time and that’s because it glorifies the excess of war and tough men but there’s also a narrative at its heart. It’s a slightly thin narrative but it’s enough to get the weapons used and the characters thinking on their feet.

Gillen writes a meathead Ares who knows all there is to know about war but he also writes a smart Ares, one who understands tactics, and then Gillen builds a smart comic around this titular character. This is warfare like we don’t always see in the Marvel U. It’s bloody and nasty and it’s not about superpowered characters not fulfilling the promise of their powers but rather it’s a tale with everything on the line. Something the human soldiers being trained by Ares learn all too well. I like their fate though it seems to escalate far too quickly and with little pause for the drama of it all.

Verdict – Must Read. If you want war, and its god, then you’ll get no better representation than right here.

Written by Brian K Vaughan
Art by Brandon Peterson, Andy Kubert, Steve Dillon, Stuart Immonen

So, Sinister is a muscle freak in a beanie, wife-beater, and sleeve tats? Really?

That’s the first thing I notice and it’s not a great start. I hate the Ultimate U, always have and every time I dip in I never enjoy it, so I think I always will. But I love BKV. I’ve sworn never to put money towards these books but I’m keen to read them. Now is possibly my only chance as my library never seems to have the trades. I’m willing to be brave and dip a toe but I need the character’s visual revamps to not be dumb.

Oh, yeah, Iceman still wears a do-rag. What the hell?

At least Wolvie lost the soul patch.

But Gambit got some 80s metal perm. Nasty.

You know what’s awesome? Gambit charging up Wolverine’s adamantium around his skeleton. That’s awesome. You know what’s kind of uncomfortable? Gambit “shoving” his “magic wand” in Wolverine’s “mouth.” Now take away the quotes and just read the sentence for what it is because that’s what happens. It’s a very strange page.

The rest of the Gambit arc plays out like a Gambit arc and that’s not something I dig on. However, the big thing I can’t abide is how whiny every single character is. They just prattle on and whinge and complain. It’s really not enjoyable. Let it be known if this were not BKV writing anymore I would completely stop reading this title and never ever come back. At least I know I won’t secretly love it and want to buy the trades to read them again. This is crap.

How can the man who I class as a genius writer, who has written some of my favourite things ever, have penned this? It makes no sense.

Ooh, and then suddenly in walks Messers Immonen and Von Grawbadger.

I like this The Most Dangerous Game arc, with Longshot and Mojo, it’s a good set up and not badly executed except for the dialogue. I can’t stand half of these mutants. It’s like a mutant tween soap opera. I still cannot comprehend how this is BKV. He hasn’t even snuck in a great line in issues. The arc is good overall, passable, much better than the Gambit arc, but it’s nothing special.

I’m starting to wonder how many more issues of this dreck BKV wrote. How much longer am I trapped in this title? I don’t want to go on to anything else because I’ll never want to come back. Ugh.

Oh, thank Crom, I’m in the home stretch.

The one-shot of Xavier in the bank being robbed by Syndicate is pretty cool. It’s on the scale of very good, but it’s not great. Then there’s the return of Wolverine and I’m sure he’s doing heaps of cool stuff but all I can see is Immonen drawing him like a cross between Jack White and Carol Brady. The hair, my lord, the hair.

Oh, and then Bobby CCs Kitty into a sad sack email he sends Rogue. Man, this just gets worse. I hate seeing technology used wrong in comics because they’re always these silly mistakes that would not ever rally happen. Accicdentally CCing your current girl into the email to the ex, year right. That doesn’t just happen by accident at all. It’s Sweet Valley Mutants up in here. BKV, you’re breaking my Tuscaloosa heart.

Alright, the scene between Havok and Polaris at the fire is actually pretty great. This just got a little better. The drama was tense, the characters well defined and not annoying, the problem serious, and the resolution near heartbreaking. Nice work, BKV, you’ve won me back but your batting average is still low.

I wonder how many runs on the X-Men don’t include Magneto in any way? Whedon/Cassaday didn’t touch on him, did they?

The Magneto run kind of acts like the last Magneto run…before the new one, if that makes sense. It’s Magneto doing his old schtick for the last time. He says so at the end, it’s time for something new. Is that a challenge from BKV for people to start using him differently, even if only in the Ultimate U? It’s actually quite a good way for BKV to end his run – and thank god it’s over. When it’s all said and done I’d say it was a 2-3 star affair, weighted well towards the 2. BKV is a guy who just doesn’t work so well within the sandboxes of others. Such a shame, really.

I’m glad I’ve read his run but I doubt I’ll ever come back for any of it again.

Verdict – Byrne It. I sure did.

Incredible Hercules Against The World, Sacred Invasion,

Written by Fred Van Lente & Greg Pak
Art by Khoi Pham, Rafa Sandoval, Clayton Henry

I needed to cleanse my palette after that so I figured I’d go with something that seems to garner unanimous praise while also being something I think I will dig.

How strange then that I don’t massively dig the first issue. It’s good, definitely, but not what I came in expecting. I thought this title was frivolous fun. This isn’t fun, it’s actually quite smart. I guess that isn’t much of a complaint, ha.

The opening arc is good but it’s a reaction to one tale and a set up for another. Considering I’m not reading either of those tales right now that makes this arc sit in a strange place for me. It’s definitely well put together but it feels disjointed on its own. That’s a shame when a title is only able to stand when it leans on a bigger story.

However, I was not dissuaded and so forged into the second arc, Sacred Invasion. It was good, but it had that sci-fi world building stuff I usually don’t dig on. It was epic in scope but didn’t feel like it held much character. I think maybe my hopes were too high, I was sold on this series being insanely awesome and instead it’s just passable.

The Love and War arc is certainly fun. It’s only really here that the fun and silliness ramps up and that’s what I thought this book was going to be all along. The Atlantean jostling for attention, the frivolous alternate realities, everything here is damn fun. But by the time I get here I’m a little burnt out. I think I need a break. At least the Mighty Thorcules arc is still to come so I know I’ll be back.

Verdict – Check It. There’s some fun here but I’m not wowed like I was assured I would be. Hmm.


Have you read these books? What did you think about them? And have you used the Marvel DCU, what are your thoughts of that? Hit me up in the comments with your views.

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Simon DelMonte's Escape Hatch said...

I read one of the Herc TPBs. I can't remember which, but then nothing about it was memorable to me. After months of endless praise, I thought I would find something special and just found a mildly interesting lead and very annoying Amadeus Cho and a plot that I can't recall.

Daryll B. said...

OK from the top:

Doctor Voodoo is like DR The Hood, DR Zodiac and DR Elektra to me; series that I thumbed my nose at in the beginning, got to LOVE through word of mouth then reading. Finally, loathed because of how the character (in the case of Zodiac not) handled in their next appearance after the mini. All the potential here...wasted...

Spidey / Doc Ock is an example of a writer trying too hard to be Spidey funny. BKV is good at sarcasm but Spidey is a straight up comedian imo... Can't fake it..

I'll skip the next three selections because I don't want to be

DA: Ares was amazing because I don't like the character but the story gripped me. The soldiers under his command are blind idiots but they were valiant blind idiots if you catch my drift....

Ryan, the Ultimate X-Men are like the Teen Titans from Infinite Crisis on. There is only so much angst I could take without ANY characters actually ENJOYING having their powers. I stuck it out for as long as possible but had to drop the book. I have my own probs w/o taking on those of fictional characters.

Hercules was a love hate thing with me. The beginning was cool but weighed down by the World War Hulk bs. Sacred Invasion read like a Godly Dirty Dozen but then the Secret Invasion macguffin reared its head. Love and War was straight up cool and added bonus was that these issues came out the same week as Wonder Woman usually did, giving a myth geek like me plenty of chances to look up names and places. Although I will say that Cho is just as annoying as Damian Wayne but the Herc 'thumbs up'for him makes him tolerable.

Logan said...

I did enjoy the Incredible Thorcules arc so stick around for that at least

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