Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Marvel DCU Monthly Subscription - Part 5

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 The Brian Michael Bendis Grab Bag - I look at Secret War, then the whole Dark Avengers run, and I end an issue I had heard plenty about and so I just had to try Ultimate Spider-Man #13, the unmasking of Peter Parker. Enjoy.

Before reading this, go read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, and Part 4

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Gabrielle Dell’Otto

I never quite know what to make of painted comics. I worry I’m not smart enough to get the art. I wonder if it’s the way of the future, or a call back to some better past, and in the end I just have to put it all aside and like what I like and silently seethe over what I don’t. I’m not a massive fan of Gabrielle Dell’Otto’s art but I can appreciate it on many pages.

The whole premise of this book is that Nick Fury took some heroes into Latveria to do some Dirty Dozen style action and then wiped their memories of it. One year later, precisely, the past comes back to haunt them. It’s one big fight of a night and it ties back, finally, to the actual event Fury took the heroes on. It’s interesting that Fury needs to go assassinate the leader of Latveria and so he grabs a bunch of street level heroes. And mostly the most law abiding ones at that. Why Luke Cage, Cap, Daredevil, and Spider-Man were the ultimate infiltration team is beyond me. Especially when once it all comes down to the nitty gritty it is Fury’s secret weapon that does all the hard work.

Apparently, Fury wanted to use the heroes as a stand, and a symbol, to anyone else that this is how major global terrorist threats would be dealt with. Pretty much the best way to bring down the ire of the world on New York. I think the team was assembled because Bendis really likes them.

This reminds me a little of Siege in that it’s just one protracted fight sequence. There’s a little bit of story here, and the meat of it is hidden until a final issue reveal. The rest…relatively average. It should be noted this is the first appearance of Daisy Johnson from Secret Warriors. I wasn’t aware of this and I’m not sure how it gels. Obviously Bendis created her, and he technically created Secret Warriors, but I don’t see how all of it fits together. Anyway, I can move past that.

Oh, that’s right, one more thing about Daisy, she looks exactly like Angelina Jolie and spends a good dozen panels pulling the same Jolie face to the reader. It gets annoying after the fourth time, if you were wondering.

Bendis fills some of these pages with the snappy and overlapped dialogue for which he is so well known. Some of it lands, some is incredibly annoying. Speaking of annoying, Spider-Man doesn’t stop being annoying until about halfway through the book. He is just a pest for the first half, not funny, completely intrusive.

This whole thing just feels like a story put together to take Fury off the table so he can be brought back later during Secret Invasion with greater effect. And that’s exactly what this story was.

My biggest question is, what would Wolverine have done if that Fury wasn’t actually an LMD? Can Wolvie smell an LMD out? I would think so…thoughts?

Verdict – Check It. It sure is pretty but it’s nothing special.

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mike Deodato

Dark Avengers isn’t a bad comic. It’s fun, it plays to the concept as it should, and the cast really is intriguing. You want to watch these people interact and slowly melt down. You want to see inside the nut house. This is a cool call from the entire company and I’m glad it didn’t run forever. This always should have been a maxi series and hopefully it’ll satisfy. The first issues are pretty standard, lots of the usual Bendis quipping between every single person. I don’t get how everyone can share the same rhythm of speech but it gives each page a flow. You never falter, no one blocks. It’s an almost lulling rhythm to read to, it could send you to sleep.

Then, issue #3 begins and it might be massive on dialogue but it’s not the usual Bendis speak. The chat between Norman Osborn and the Sentry is one of the most mesmerising and convincing portrayals of the beauty of evil I have ever witnessed. Osborn completely owns the Sentry and it’s glorious. He speaks around and around him and you suddenly buy him as the leader of the new Avengers team. You see him leading the world into light because he tells you he will. Bendis nails this scene and for a superhero comic (where the standards and quality are different from pretty much everything else) this is a sublime scene. I give that half a comic 5 stars.

How fascinating is it to watch Bendis write some characters well and then not have any voice for others? Yet he constantly wants an ensemble book. His Osborn has elements of being good, and his Bullseye (Hawkeye) can be great (especially when letting Venom (Spider-Man) know he’s a dead man for actions he wasn’t even in control of) and then within pages he’ll drop some lines into Moonstone’s (Ms Marvel) mouth and they’re just so bland.

Bendis loves to use his teams as a Greek chorus to spout off a bunch of ‘lines’ in reaction to stuff as if this is MST3K or Whose Line Is It Anyway? It’s like Bendis must think of a dozen zingers for each situation and he can’t settle on one and so he throws them out there and attributes one to each character, no matter how out of character. Makes me wonder what he’s like in person, if he just drops five punchlines in your laps in a row.

The issue with Norman Osborn on TV, it’s good because it’s all about addressing the issue. There’s serious social ramifications to what is happening in this title and this issue addresses it all pretty head on. Hell, I’d even say Osborn is pretty damn convincing and compelling in his interview. It’s a lot of text, the sort of thing people hate Bendis for, but here it works pretty well. It has purpose and the effect is gained. He intersperses it with some other scenes, though they’re mostly just talking too, but this is one of those issues between the scenes. They’re hot off one battle and straight into another at the end.

Speaking of the end, Osborn asking for the Avengers to be put together is just hilarious. Has he never heard the rally cry of a cool ASSEMBLE? He’s missing out, man, and it’s subtle and hilarious when he flubs this moment.

The more of this title I read the more I start to wonder if a massive selling title can still be smart and something special on a long basis. I think of Morrison’s work on Batman (what I’ve read of it) and then I think of every other major universe title. They are fun but they aren’t timeless. They aren’t classic. But that doesn’t make them bad. Fun and entertainment are two things I buy my comics for. Dark Avengers is mostly entertaining but it’s not great. It’s the sort of thing that can live in the 3-4 star range but it’ll never be a 5 star book.

Oh, I totally skipped the whole Utopia thing. Hope it wasn’t amazing and now I’ll never know…let me know in the comments.

The rest of the series seems to run down very quickly. There’s some Molecule Man business, which resolves far too simply, and there’s some lead in to Siege. Then it’s all done. Sadly, too soon. It feels like there’s more that could have been done. Perhaps another writer could have done more, but you have to think realistically and this title was a direct reflection of the linewide status quo and once it was changed then this book had to go. Perhaps someone will come along one day and write some Untold Tales of the Dark Avengers. Lord knows it feels like there’d be room for it. The team help Doom, battle Atlantean terrorists, and then get into the Molecule Man’s grill. How long did the Dark Reign last, about two weeks? A month, and that’s being generous?

I like Bendis’ attempts to make some issues stand around a particular character. The Osborn issue, as discussed, was pretty stellar, the Ares issue was average, and the Sentry issue certainly tries its heart out. It doesn’t quite succeed like you know it wants but there’s an A+ for effort on its report card.

The whole Siege tie-in stuff just solidifies what people think about tie-ins. The book treads water and waits for the coda it so rightly deserves to add to everything. Sadly, that coda is pretty ugly. Deodato’s work is different and not better. Everyone’s got those Polar Express dead eyes and the whole thing falls apart.

Verdict – Check It. Overall, this is a fun and simple read. What makes up the first two trades (I assume from issue numbers) is really the fun stuff and definitely deserves a Buy It. It all starts off strong and then kind of meanders. A shame, really. There’s such mixed quality and it’s all a Check It but that’s because of a lot of the Byrne It stuff towards the end. As for Bendis’ farewell page, ugh, Avoid It. Someone is going to look at that 30 years from now and cringe – cringe so hard their kids will have no neck. It’s so dumb and poorly constructed and it tries so hard. It’s embarrassing, completely and utterly. That’s no way to actually say goodbye, man.

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Huh, I thought this issue was meant to be one of the best single issues from Marvel in the past decade. It’s always had so much hype. Huh.

It’s good, don’t get me wrong, it’s just one big conversation, and the rhythm is the same as every other Bendis script, and Peter stammers a lot as he outs himself to his best friend Mary-Jane, and they kiss, and Bendis forces Mary-Jane’s most famous line back into her Ultimate mouth and it doesn’t fit the context of the conversation or the scene, but I guess it’s alright.

I won’t say this is a bad issue, it’s not, but it’s not what I would call the greatest thing ever. Perhaps you had to be there, on the ground floor, getting this monthly. Maybe it stood out. If you’ve loved this comic I’d love to hear from you in the comments. I just didn’t get it. Bendis’ teenage dialogue rings true in a false sense. He’s really good at writing exactly how teenagers are supposed to sound, not as they really do. He throws in some ticks, and plenty of repetition, but it’s all still too polished. I know we don’t buy comics to get grunting adolescents, but this felt too staged. I could handle staged but this was too polished.

As for Bagley’s art, I always liked his old Spidey run but here all I can look at is Peter’s busted haircut. Seriously, it’s a fail on those grounds alone, ha.

Verdict – Check It. Not a bad way to handle this situation, and the first kiss is sweet if overly talky, but nothing majorly special.


And that’s what I read in a month. There are a few books I wish I had gotten to but mostly I caught all I really set out to read. I can definitely see me buying a month (can you buy just a month) in the Marvel DCU again in the future. There are so many books, and they just keep adding, and it’s a fantastic way to catch a few things just like I did. There were some lowlights, and a few serious “I will go buy these” highlights and it made for one hell of a month.

What did you think of these books, and what are your thoughts on the Marvel DCU?

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collectededitions said...

Something changed on this today, didn't it? I saw on Bleeding Cool, but I didn't quite understand what the news was. Has Marvel expanded this program, or just that they're now partnered with Comixology (and weren't they before)?

Anonymous said...

I thought the whole Utopia crossover was pretty lousy. The Dark X-Men was an interesting lineup, it had some great action scenes, and the X-Men Legacy tie-ins (with art by Dustin Weaver, I believe) were excellent. Unless I'm mistaken, Matt Fraction wrote that whole arc, including the Dark Avengers issues. He's another writer whose ensemble books simply don't do it for me.

I thought the Ares issue was by far the best of Dark Avengers. It was a far more complex portrayal of Ares than I would have expected from Bendis.

Matt Duarte said...

@collectededitions: I don't think this affects the MDCU at all. It just means that the comics available previously only on the Marvel app can now be accessed via the ComiXology website.

Anonymous said...

Any chance there's a review of the service itself forthcoming? Most of the reviews I've found online are a year or two outdated. Is the service still bad about giving you only odd parts of stories/series? Random issues? I'd pay money for access to full runs, but I refuse to subscribe if they're still only offering random pieces of arcs.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Anon - I didn't want to get into the whole functionality of the thing but I would say it is pretty good right now. Most storyarcs are complete, unless they are recent and haven't had the lastest issues updated, yet. Everything I read I could read in its entirety. Even the Defenders ending to Omega the Unknown was there, that was pretty cool.

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