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.

Beta Ray Bill: The Green of Eden

HAVE AT THEE! Beta Ray Bill: The Green of Eden

Kieron Gillen Dan Brereton

Beta Ray Bill is a constant favorite of mine. He is one of the things that is so cool about comics. He makes just about no sense. Try explaining him to an outsider. However, within the complex Marvel Universe, he makes so much sense that he is almost essential to validate the complexity of the universe. If there is really THAT MUCH strangeness going on, of course there are going to be bizarre hybrids. Their world has gods and aliens and robots and monsters, it only makes sense for them to all come together. The “fact” of his existence makes the Marvel Universe one big thing rather than isolated story pockets. What could drive this point even further home? If Bill married Rogue from the X-Men. No really, actually think about that for a second. It would be SO awesome. It would be another firm tie between story worlds, and it would just be awesome. Picture the bachelor party!

Anyway, Bill played a great part in Secret Invasion: Thor. There were cool oathes sworn and bad-ass declarations. A follow up wasn't demanded b any unresolved plotlines in that story. But, it did shine an big light on Bill on he huge stage of Secret Invasion and may have left a whole bunch of potential new fans clamoring for more. If this book is a test run, to see if there is enough interest to support a Bill book....count me in. THIS would finally be the cosmic Marvel book that I would actually buy.

What worked: The story was straight-forward, exciting, and plotted specifically around Bill. This stor could only be about a kinda-god in a universe of god-like beings. Sometimes these one-shots feel like they may have been pitched for a different character, and altered to fit which ever character had an opening in an editor's agenda. This is NOT just a warmed-over Black Bolt story. The main conflict arises directly from who the character is, and he resolves in a similarly suitable fashion. This story spun out of Secret Invasion, but stands on its own strength.

What did not work: A common problem with the even expanding scale of super-heroic comics is the lack of plausible villains. The real character conflict of this story would have been just as relevant if Beta Ray Bill did not have an Nth-class bad ass to throw down with....But, as fans, we demand some throw down! We need to see Bill brawl! So, it is really our fault that the physical threat posed to him seems a bit tacked on. It wasn't exactly a flaw in the story, it just didn't really flow naturally from the more emotional central conflict. Though, perhaps this is simply a genre conceit. Like in a kung-fu story, each world-view and perspective is embodied by a different kung-fu master...maybe in a Cosmic/Norse story, each point-of-view will be expressed by some slightly-random cosmic bad-ass.