Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Marvel DCU Monthly Subscription - Part 3

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 more Frank Miller Daredevil as a segue to Bullseye: Greatest Hits, I sample Miller again with Marvel 1985, and then get back to Incredible Hercules. Enjoy.

Before reading this, go read Part 1, and Part 2

Written and drawn by Frank Miller
Art assists by Klaus Janson

Sometimes you’ve gotta sub in a single issue and there are worse ones to look at than this one.

I hadn’t read this issue either, it’s a pricey one to track down, and I have to say I enjoyed it. As a Frank Miller historical document, it works well. The tropes we’ve come to know and love are mostly present and it’s certainly good old fashioned Daredevil fun.

I’m surprised Elektra is introduced as this tough female lead and by the issue’s end she’s crying over the loss of Matt Murdock. It doesn’t seem to fit with the whole impression we culturally have of Elektra. Kind of threw me off a little. Otherwise, I dig the flashback. It’s about the only time we’ll get Frank Miller Romantic Comics Theatre so I had to soak it in. I like that’s it’s so compressed, gives it that emotional feel like the characters would have experienced. A year with the one you love always goes far too quickly.

Verdict – Buy It. An excellent issue, though with a few not quite highlights. All over, a great intro to the character.

Written by Daniel Way
Art by Steve Dillon

What did I think would happen in this mini? It’s called “Greatest Hits” so of course it’s going to be full of splashes of the best moments of Bullseye’s career replayed. That’s exactly what this is and while there’s a framing device it isn’t anything we haven’t kind of seen before.

I always get the vibe from Daniel Way that he’s Garth Ennis Lite and that must suck for him but it’s so true and writing these characters like this and getting Steve Dillon to draw it seriously doesn’t help the rep.

This isn’t exactly a bad mini, it certainly sets out to do what it wants to do, but it could have been 4 issues, surely. It’s a quick read, it’s got a few moments, but it ends on the most rookie mistake of all when dealing with Bullseye. Even ten year old Ryan knew:

Don’t punch Bullseye in the mouth. Sheesh.

Verdict – Byrne It. Most of this stuff we already know and can see better in the originals.

Written by Mark Millar
Art by Tommy Lee Edwards

Call me a sucker, I say I’m an optimist. I truly want to find a Mark Millar work I can like. One issue in and I’m not sure this is it, but it might be close. This book is fun, it’s goofy, it’s wearing its heart on its sleeve. The main problem with Mark Millar’s work is that you know exactly what he wants it to be. He wants this to feel like an 80s kid flick and he wants that wonder and spectacle, he wants it so bad. You can hear him spruiking it from miles away. With this project, he comes pretty close.

The trouble with wanting something so bad is you’ll use every trick to get that vibe. You’ll borrow all the tropes, and you’ll emulate all the angles. But will it have the heart? The lead boy is such a cliché; divorce threw him back into comics, he doesn’t have any friends (except the one loyal kid who sticks by him even though he knows the dangers of hanging with such a loser[wasn’t that same trope used in Kick-Ass?]), and he’s got just the right amount of nous to be the one to uncover the great plot. Supervillains have infiltrated the real world and they’re ready to take over with no superheroes to battle them. It’s Explorers meets Last Action Hero – and it’s exactly what you think that mash up will be.

The fact it’s in the ‘real world’ adds everything a layer of menace that isn’t actually present. Nothing really new happens, the Hulk and Juggernaut clash as they usually would, Sandman slides under a door, Elector electrocutes someone. These are extremely standard things for these characters to do but we’re to believe because it’s happening in kind of a new setting that it should suddenly be exciting and fresh. It’s close to nailing that mark but the Marvel U itself is real enough, the atrocities these characters commit already hit home.

It also doesn’t wash that these villains, these textured and layered characters, all come to the real world and simply cause havoc like Godzilla rising from the ocean once more all blind from the kelp in its eyes and wanting to bust a Dance Dance Revolution groove all over the town. It’s out of character and merely stating the Master is making them do it seems like a cop out. Bullseye would definitely have a field day, but the Blob wouldn’t just be eating people and the others should be after something instead of just regular carnage.

This book feels like the first act and set up are done and dusted by the end of the first issue, which is awesome. But then there’s no series of events, per se, just 3 issues of a drawn out resolution where each issue can be described by the one scene that takes place.

The fourth issue progresses things and Toby’s sojourn to the Marvel U to enlist help is cute in a heavily winking way but it’s back at the ranch you get a glimpse of what this comic could have been but missed out on. The villains are tearing the town apart, they are all there, even the C-Listers, and they’re killing like it’s going out of fashion at midnight. This could have become a wicked little horror tale, you follow the people, and you throw villains at them from the shadows. Instead, what we get are captions informing us of gangs of villains we know doing things we can’t see but are told are cool. There was the opportunity for suspense but it’s missed in lieu of name dropping.

OH MY GOD, it's sad to say it, but the ending of this book sucks. It’s not just bad, it’s not just that I didn’t like it, it is that it sucks. It sucks so hard. I try to be professional in my journalism but there's no other truthful way to discuss this book. As a resolution it is so weak wet paper bags are lining up to take its lunch money. It’s incredibly simple and silly and not worth the time at all. I can’t believe Millar throws that in after 5 issues and people are supposed to buy it. What a piece of garbage.

However, the coda is exceptionally perfect. It’s sweet and makes sense, to a degree, with the logic of the tale offered. It’s enough to make you smile.

Then there’s the art. If you bought this book I’d say you still got a good deal because Tommy Lee Edwards does an exceptional job on everything handed to him. He gets to draw just about everyone from the Marvel U, well most of the quality Avengers and those stemming from that centre, and he brings true majesty to all the creatures great and small, and good and evil. His storytelling is tight but it’s just the sheer awesomeness of his pages that will wow you every time you crack this one open.

You can consider this a really cool sketch book for Edwards because you can pretty much ignore the story. In fact, why doesn’t Millar just commission artists to draw characters he likes, and stand alone bitching scenes, and then he wouldn’t need to worry about little things like story and logic. I’m sure he could still sell those commissions as a collection; not a story, a collection.

Verdict – Check It. Based on the art, Must Read, based on the story, I’ll say Byrne It because it is fun in parts but that resolution is the biggest %#$ &^%*$& ^(%% ever.

Written by Fred Van Lente & Greg Pak
Art by Reilly Brown

Alright, I’m back to it. I heard plenty of good things about this Replacement Thor arc so I’m jumping right in. That means I’m skipping a few issues, seems like they were just tie in stuff, whatever, the book is lucky I came back for it at all. Let’s see how this new arc treats me.

Now this is the Hercules I came to see. This arc is fun and light and while the stakes feel high they also feel free – like they can be reset or modified at any chance. This feel like narrative on the fly and things will happen as they may. If a joke is wanted then it shall be inserted. And the jokes are actually funny. This is just so much fun.

Seeing Hercules run headstrong into the role of Thor is golden. Every opportunity to play the juxtaposition between the two is perfectly dropped by forwarding the story and still entertaining. It’s all so flippant in a Golden Age way. This feels a lot like those old Superman tales we laugh about now. Except its better written to be purposefully laughed at.

The recap pages are hilarious, not something to be missed. It catches the audience up but also gives them something extra that’s not just what occurred. This is how more series should do it – more fun series. It wouldn’t work at the start of Brubaker’s run on anything, ha.

The showdown between Hercules and Thor isn’t built up for too long, the whole arc rockets along. Thor, as Hercules, turns up and throws down a challenge. A Svartlheim elf pops into panel to check the papers of the challenge, they’re all in order. It’s great.

I haven’t mentioned the sound effects but they really are inventive and special. Herc, as Thor, starts the fight a little early with a SUKKKAPUNCH. That’s good fun. Man, I would have lost my mind over this book as a kid. Hell, I’m kind of losing my mind over it right now.

The way this all wraps together, playing the dual personalities against each other to a sneaky resolution is smart, though fairly telegraphed, and the sort of thing a Hercules comic should definitely do. In the end, these two characters fighting isn’t a worry, it’s a grand event. The men settle down with mead afterwards and nothing is broken, no one is hurt (physically or emotionally). This is what you should think of when you think of good fun comics.

Verdict – Must Read. I would still buy this arc. It’s just about perfect in the unrelenting amount of fun it delivers. You’ll laugh, you’ll laugh some more, and then you’ll chuckle heartily afterwards. I can’t think of any better value for money. Track this arc down, it’s golden.


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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Don Winslow said...

I knew you would get on board with Thorcules. Everyone does.

I liked 1985 well enough. It's really the low point of that era of Millar titles.

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