Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Hello and welcome to Panel-by-Panel: A Weekly Comics Review. This is the first of what I hope to be many entries in this blog, and what better week to start than week 4? See, the fourth week of a month is ususally the heaviest, and April of 2010 is a prime example. Notably, it's a big week for Marvel, which is why nearly all of my sections hilight Marvel titles and characters. So, without further adieu, let's review.

HERO OF THE WEEK: Since Ares's being-torn-in-half in Siege, the question (well, a question) on people's mind is "What's his son going to do about it"? Siege: Secret Warriors answers that question in a story starring Phobos. We open with young Alex Aaron watching the God of War get killed by the Sentry. He recalls a talk they had earlier, where Ares says that if he dies than he will simply come back, but that in the meantime it's Phobos's job to adress his death. This takes Phobos to the White House (He's friends with Nick Fury, he can find a way into the White House), where he demands to see the President. The Secret Service, obviously, doesn't let him, as President Obama is trying to tend to the Asgard situation. Naturally, Phobos's only option is to KILL THE KCUF OUT OF THE SECRET SERVICE until he gets to the President. Seriously, this kid goes psycho on these guys while the President escapes. It ends with Phobos leaving a note to Presdent Obama saying that Ares's death will be answered for.

As a reader of Secret Warriors and Dark Avengers, I've looked forward to seeing what Phobos would do about Ares's death, and this issue did not disappoint. SW writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Alessandro Vitti deliver a crazy, badass, and gritty story that looks beautiful and reads cool. Well done.

VILLAIN OF THE WEEK: The Hood has been noticably absent from Marvel lately, which is weird since, as a member of Norman's Cabal, he has a large stake in what's going on in Siege. In New Avengers #64, he gets a starring role. A flashback shows Parker Robbins's return since getting new powers from Loki and the Norn Stones. It's established in his conversation with Norman Osborn that they are both men of their word, which is why Parker remains loyal to Norman. We cut to the present, where Asgard has come crashing down and the Void towers over the heroes. With Asgard crashing, the Hood has lost the source of his new powers and quickly escapes with his squeeze, Madame Masque, in town. The two arrive at a hotel, where Masque tells Parker that while the Avengers will be hunting him, he needs to do something to prepare.

This is something that hasn't been on my mind, but is still a welcome surprise. As usual, Brian Michael Bendis writes clever dialogue and Stuart Immonen has sharp, dynamic artwork. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens to the Hood.

ISSUE OF THE WEEK: This was a tough one. Seriously, there were a lot of good picks here. After weighing my choices, I had to give it to Secret Warrios #15, just because of the emotion of it. We open with the Secret Warriors (pre-Phobos goes ape-tish) playing poker. Daisy decides that Nick Fury was wrong in firing Druid from the team and decides to demand Fury to rehire her. Meanwhile, Nick himself meets his old flame, Contessa Velentina Allegra de Fontaine, for dinner. We know that the Contessa is an agent of Leviathan and that this is a trap. When Nick arrives, he reveals he knows of her betrayal, and they both reveal they have soldiers pointing guns at each other. Then, Nick delivers a brilliant speech:

"You know, there was a time, when I was younger, that I would have simply looked at a situation like this and made a decision that guaranteed the best possible outcome. I'm sorry, dear...the truth is that I would have had you killed. But, as i've gotten older, I find there are certain things -- about certain people -- that I need to see, I wonder how much of this is my fault? I have questions like: Were you always a liar...or did I teach you to lie, and now it's just what you do? Contessa...I need answers. 'Cause you've been keepin' secrets, dalin'...and that's somethin' I cannot abide."

The Contessa explains that while she does care for Nick, her ideology and loyalty to Leviathan supercede that. They leave each other, with Nick clearly heartbroken. As he returns to base, Daisy confronts him about Druid, and he shuts her down instantly. And this is the emotion we really see. Nick's been a grizzled old man for the whole series and we love him for it, but it's here that his heartbreak is clear to see and it's so sad.

Again, Jonathan Hickman nails it. All the character moments and voices are spot on. The only part that dipped was the portion with HYDRA, if only because Viper as one of the Hive looks stupid, but that's more the artist's fault. Speaking of which, Stephano Caselli draws amazing stuff here. The emotion is easy to see and even Viper's transformation is cool it's own "Lady with an octopus on her head" kinda way. Great, great stuff.

OTHER THINGS OF NOTE: Ultimate Avengers 2 #1 almost makes up for UA #6 from last week, but not quite. It opens with classic Mark Millar, with the Punisher shooting up gangsters like crazy. This is the same kind of writing we saw in Wanted, Kick-Ass, and Nemesis, just crazy over-the-top violence. Millar also works in making the Ultimates Punisher different from his 616 counterpart: Whereas the old Frank Castle has a code and mercy for some people, this one will kill anybody involved with mobsters, and even take a few to a place dubbed "Baby Guantanamo". The action is really spot-on and artwork from Lenil Francis Yu supports it. I have high hopes for this series.

Green Lantern Corps. #47 shows Oa recovering from the Blackest Night. I'd recap it, but a lot of stuff goes on. Standout character moments involve Vath Sarn, Mogo, Kilowog, Arisia, Salaak, and of course, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner. Pat Gleason's artwork kinda falls off here, with facial expressions that just look goofy. Still, it's great fun and I recommend it to anyone who wants a good lanten story.

Cowboy Ninja Viking #5 was the end of the first arc in CNV. It's pretty clear that AJ Lieberman and Riley Rossmo expected this to be a 4-issue story, as this seems very rushed at times. It's got the comedy and charm you'd expect, but moves faster than expected. It ends on a cool note, though, as we meet the new SPP team: Duncan (Cowboy/Ninja/Viking), Ammo (Pirate/Gladiator/Oceanographer), Grear (Sniper/Chef/Samurai), Steed (Hitman/Navy Seal/Roadie), Dr. Sebastian Ghislain (Scientist/Cripple/Baldy), and Sara Nix (Secret Agent/Hot/In over her head). Rossmo's art is still sketchy and a treat to look at and the interplay between the various Triplets is great. Volume 1 is coming out soon and I highly recommend it.

Detective Comics #864 had a strong contendor for VotW. Jeremiah Arkham, former head psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, was revealed to be the new top gangster in Gotham City, Black Mask, and was thus sent to his own Asylum. He quickly becomes top dog, having something over all of the inmates, and even manipulates Batman when he comes knocking. If the last part of the story made any sense at all, Jerry would have taken it. As it stands, he's just too crazy to be taken seriously.

Mighty Avengers #36 should not be read if you plan on reading Siege #4, because an important plot element is spoiled here. And it's stupid at a lot of parts. C'mon, writer Dan Slott! You're better than this!

And now it's time for QUOTE OF THE WEEK! This week's quote comes from Cowboy Ninja Viking #4:

"So no one in their right mind would look at us and think it was a good idea to have us try to save the world, though if you were looking for a band of ridiculously disturbed but highly effective assassins, who better to start with than a cowboy, ninja, and viking...or a pirate...or gladiator...or oceanographer...a sniper...a chef...hitman...Navy seal...roadie..."

But wait, there's more! As an added bonus, i'm introducing two new segments! As it's the end of the month, i'm going to say who my favorite creatives were of the past four weeks in our first ever writer and artist of the month.

WRITER OF THE MONTH: This one is a tough choice. Folks like Mark Waid, Mark Millar, Jonathan Hickman, Brian Bendis, and Gail Simone were all in the running. In the end, I had to give it to DC's biggest of the big dogs, Geoff Johns. Green Lantern and Brightest Day have proved his talents for writing books with large casts of characters, while Superman: Secret Origin snuck in and hilighted a specific character. However, what really put him over was the Flash, his long-awaited return to writing the Scarlet Speedster, and boy did he deliver, with strong character moments and organic, believable dialogue. He's one of the best out there today, and he shows it off with everything he writes.

ARTIST OF THE MONTH: This one was even tougher than WotM, with big names like Stephano Caselli, Mark Bagley, David Lafuente, Ig Guara, Georges Jeanty, and Scott Kolins all in the mix. In the end, the most memorable was Frances Manapul. Yeah, it's another DC guy, but Manapul's artwork really is breathtaking. It's sketchy, but warm and inviting, and really helps fall in love with the characters. The Flash showed off another side of his work: dynamic actions scenes, which show off the main character's speed and is very kinetic storytelling. He also contributed portraits for The Flash: Secret Origins and Files, which, of course, looked awesome. It's absolutely gorgeous and i'm looking forward to his work on the Flash.


And that was my stuff for this week! Next week, i'll be back with another review. Until then, spread the word about the blog. Tell your friends, your enemies, your frenemies, your casual aquaintences, your family, your pets, and anyone else you know. Thanks for reading and i'll see you next week.

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