The Hood #1

Boy in the Hood Dark Reign; The Hood #1

Jeff Parker Kyle Hotz

Another in the group of Dark Reign minis that answers the question "What is up with THAT guy?". I think the Hood is a cool character, so I appreciate the opportunity to read about him. What worked. Kyle Hotz's artwork seems to be firing on all cylinders. He is one of this new generation of Marvel artists who you look at and say "what is HE doing working at Marvel?". Not to say that he is not talented, quite the opposite, in fact. I mean that he is one of examples that proves that there is no such thing as a Marvel "house style". Other reviews might be better at spotting influences and all that, but to me it looks exaggerated and almost cartoony like an old horror comic. This comic is some of his best work. My guess is that he is not being given as loose a reign as he might be used to. Someone, maybe writer Jeff Parker, is making Hotz get what playing he can while staying within strict guides. This is totally a guess on my part, but it seems that when Hotz is left to call the shots, he falls back on close-ups and a few other shots that he knows will work for him. This book features that wild, intense, energy...but focused and controlled. The story is good so far. It is really nice to get more panel time with this character who has recently become a very important player in Marvel comics. It is looking like it is developing into a straightforward crime story, and a bit of a character piece. And, oh yeah, the Hood has a baby daughter. It is easy to forget about that stuff when you just see him showing up in other books. This book seems to be about The Hood's conflicted nature. His exchanges with Madame Mask, his own second in command, and the demon that is all show him dealing with those who only know a small fragment of this man. But none of them show him as a complex and conflicted character as well as his late night interaction with his Baby Mama.

What did not work. For the past few months, any Marvel comic book featuring Norman Osborne, Dr. Doom, Emma Frost, Namor, Loki, or The hood has had the Dark Reign logo on it whether or not it really had a lot to do with that story line. That is fine with me. I understand that Dark Reign is more of a CONDITION that the universe is in rather than an ARC. The thing that strikes me is that this book STARS The Hood and features that nice Dark Reign logo, but it seems to less to do with Dark Reign than any of the tie-ins that i have read. The Hood was running things BEFORE Dark Reign and he is running things now. So far, in this first issue, I don't see why this is a tie-in at all. I was hoping this would not just be a story about The Hood and what he does (which is run a criminal empire) but instead about him adjusting to being the new low-man on a much higher totem pole. What is it like for this new-minted top=dog to find himself essentially, once again, an outclassed loser? The story that we get seems to be a pretty cool one, but it seems to be missing some opportunities by not exploiting the circumstances that come along with the Dark Reign logo.

Secret Warriors #4

Secret Warriors 4 Secret Warriors #4

Jonathan Hickman Brian Bendis Stefano Caselli

Ever since Nick Fury vanished at the end of Secret War a few years back, the question would occasionally pop up "where is Fury in all of this?". Something big would happen with SHIELD or Hydra or whatever and you would wonder what Nick was doing. With the Secret Invasion come and gone, Nick (like everyone else) is adapting to the new status quo. In this New World Order, Fury trusts even fewer people than he did before. That short list now includes his hand selected, unattached, agents and, as we see in this issue, the remnants of SHIELD which would not be absorbed into HAMMER. What worked. In interviews, Brian Bendis has given the credit for the actual execution of the book to his co-writer, new-comer Jonathan Hickman. So, I am sure he will not mind if I do the same. Nick's manipulations make you think that the plot is all twisted and confusing, because to him it is, but for us it is a fairly straight-forward read. The deck is stacked completely against Nick Fury. Sinister revelations have called everything he has known into doubt.....except for one thing. Nick Fury fights the bad guys. The only thing that has ever been in question is just who those bad guys are. Nick is utterly incapable of compromising who he is and what he does. How do you show a character like that developing? You let the world change around him and show him responding to changing sets of circumstances. THIS is how action comics in shared universes should be executed. The facts and tone of the universe now demand a response from certain characters, and in this book, those characters do respond. The relationship shown between the new Secret Warriors, Nick's old crew, and even the members of Hydra's inner cabal, all seem individualized and genuine. The Hydra meeting, for example, is more than just villains taking it in turn to deliver exposition. Each one expresses his or her own unique perspective on the issues that they face.

What did not work. I am not entirely certain what was decided at the aforementioned meeting. Something evil, to be sure. I am just not certain what it was. Also, I could have used the standard Marvel who's-who and what-happened page. I can follow the events of the story clearly enough, I just don't have a handle on all of these new characters yet.

New Avengers: The Reunion #3

New Avengers: The Reunion #3 Jim McCann David Lopez

The newly returned Mockingbird continues her reintroduction to the Marvel Universe and her estranged husband Clint (Hawkeye/Ronin) Barton by leading us all on an international spy-chase to uproot the latest AIM game. What worked. This book is so deeply rooted in twists and layers of Marvel continuity the it is practically un-sumarizable. Just explaining who Barton is or is not at the moment is more than enough to turn away most non-readers. And then you factor in his past with Mockingbird, the Secret Invasion, Dark Reign....it is just too much to handle. But I do not mean that as criticism. Not every book should be written as a "jumping on point". This book is fully immersed in continuity and it acts like it. This is clearly not a re-purposed Catwoman/Batman pitch. Not only doe sit only work with these two characters, it only works at this specific moment of continuity. And, if you aware of that continuity, it is wonderful to see stories like this which weave exciting action and rich character drama in and around it. The actual plot moves deftly through points A, B, and C. A fairly straightforward espionage story with the usual exciting twists. What makes this story pop, however, is the character interaction. Mockingbird is actually pretty cool. Oh yeah, we recall, she is kind of bad-ass and really knows her stuff. Suddenly we don't quite recall what we may or may not have read in West Coast Avengers. She's tough and she certainly has it in for someone. Who, exactly, is hard to tell, just because her current position is so complex and convoluted. She is out to settle SOME score and Clint is out to figure out just where he stands with his wife/ex/friend(?)/or whatever she might end up being. These last few, confusing, sentences are exactly what is so compelling about this series. It is impossible to knw what is coming next for these two because it is impossible to get your head around their current situation(s). Clint, especially, comes off as pleasingly complex. He is obviously falling back into an adventure posture to try to cozy back in with Mockingbird. He acts the dumb himbo to charm her, but it is obviously an act and he can't help letting his competency and experience shine through when the situation calls for it.

What did not work. This story has had several flashbacks illuminating various key moments in the checkered past of the two leads. These moments have been wonderful in their fragmentedness. They leave us, the reader, desperate for the missing piece or firm footing from which to view this new again relationship. One particular sequence in this issue goes as far as to introduce the voice of a new narrator. And that is what pushes it too far. It can't possibly be the memories of either of our leads, because it is being told from a new, green, point of view. Though the story in this section is cool, and delivers needed info, the style of it is quite jarring.

Avengers Free Comic Book Day

Some assembly required The Avengers Free Comic Book Day

Brian Bendis Jim Cheung

This past Saturday , coinciding with the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, was Free Comic Book Day 2009. One of Marvel's offerings was Avengers. This year it is a completely original comic, without any of the usual re-printed or re-purposed materials we have seen in previous years. The comic is simply titled "The Avengers" without specifying which adjective-designated team will actually star in the story.

What worked: The opening shot of Spidey leaping through a blizzard-swept New York street is just plain exciting. Jimmy Cheung caught something great with it. In some way that artists know, the composition of that pael tells me something awesome is going to happen. Or, maybe I am just retro-excited about it when I look back because i know that something awesome DID happen. The story hook lands hard onb the very next page and it charges straight through to the end, only pausing briefly for impressive group shots if the two featured Avengers teams. The story was a quick, plausible, actions story which brough fan-favorite Thor back to the Avengers for a few pages. The conflict between the New Avengers and the Dark Avengers was not foced, and more importantly neither was the resolution. This was an exciting little story that bolsters current continuity without making itself indispensable. The art is beautifully expressive and he story is just a lot of fun. The shot of the silent face off between Cap and Osborn, and the Luke Cage/Wolverine "fastball special" were worth the Saturday morning walk to the comics store all by themselves. What did not work. For the scale of the struggle we are seeing in this comic book, the action leading up to the final resolution could have been a bit more problematic. But, considering the size constraints of this comic, I am glad it was the slug-fest which was pared down rather than the character and mood building elements,