She-Hulk: The Complete Collection Vol 1, Dan Slott, Juan Bobillo, Paul Pelletier, Scott Kolins
It took me a while to get round to reading this, especially since the opening few pages feature what read very much like shaming Jennifer/She-Hulk for her sexuality. It makes some sense — she is partying hard and putting the other Avengers at risk (or at the very least inconveniencing them), and taking her status as an Avenger for granted. It also leads into a whole thread about her double identity, and what might be the advantage of being Jennifer Walters. (For those who don’t know, unlike her cousin, Bruce Banner, she has more control over her transformations, and spends a lot of time as She-Hulk.)
There’s also some wacky hijinks and fun plots involving law, since Jennifer Walters is a lawyer. I liked the art and colours, too, so I’m somewhat surprised now to be writing the review and not knowing quite what to say. It’s entertaining, and I enjoyed this version of the character, but I did start to feel like maybe it needed some fresh blood — and this is only the first collection! There’s another Dan Slott collection as well. Hmmm…
I asked for volume two for Christmas, so here’s hoping it stays lively and fun.
Captain Marvel: Rise of Alpha Flight, Tara Butters, Michele Fazekas, Kris Anka, Tara Guggenheim, Felipe Smith
I was a pretty unsure what to expect with this one — my first Captain Marvel comic without Kelly Sue DeConnick at the helm. To make it worse, I don’t know anything about Alpha Flight, so I was bombarded with a bunch of new characters; I don’t even know if they appeared elsewhere before? It’s times like this I feel like being a Marvel fan only since 2012ish lets me down: I don’t even know whether to cheer or groan, half the time.
(Civil War 2? Groan. If the solo Captain Marvel comics delve into that too much, I’m gonna hate it. The first one had some powerful storytelling, but twisted the characters to get them into a deadlock against each other. I can’t see a second run at it doing much good, and I don’t want to see Captain Marvel going it against the Marvel universe Tony Stark style. I can’t even remember which side Carol was on in the original Civil War.)
Anyway, Butters and crew are reasonably competent, taking us through a pretty usual story for Carol where she punches things, her phenomenal powers are damped down by something, she punches things some more, and then has to practice the joy of diplomacy. Somehow, everything turns out okay. Maybe I’m just describing all superhero comics; maybe I’m getting a bit cynical. While there were bits of this which felt good — Rhodey’s warnings to Carol, the appearance of Rocket — overall I wasn’t madly enthused. It’s fun while I’m reading it, and I’m willing to try some more, but I feel like the first few DeConnick books worked for me in a way this didn’t. (Though it is, at least, an improvement over Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps.) There’s something unmemorable about it, which probably explains why the only characters I can name without the book on hand are Rhodey, Carol and Rocket.
Ultimate X-Men: Hellfire and Brimstone, Mark Millar, Adam Kubert, Kaare Andrews
Isn’t Beast supposed to be really intelligent? I mean, I get that he feels isolated and stuff, but — argh, when a plot depends on someone being a total idiot, and on Professor Xavier not noticing what the hell’s going on with that even though he’s a telepath and we know from volume two that he wiped Bobby Drake and his girlfriend’s mind because they were a security risk?
Nope, back to two stars goes this series. It doesn’t help that the tension between Wolverine and Cyclops is just eyeroll worthy. More macho than thou and so on, fighting over Jean Grey, who… makes it pretty damn clear she loves Cyclops and was always interested in him. (Which does have some cute bits in this volume, actually, and it does help Cyclops unbend a little.)
The Jean Grey/Phoenix plotline seems a bit thrown away, considering that I know it’s a Big Thing in other versions of the X-Men. I assume it’ll recur in later volumes or something, but I don’t think I’m going to read any more of Ultimate X-Men now I’ve finished the volumes I had. Which is a shame, since Kitty Pryde just got introduced, and I did enjoy her in Ultimate Spider-man, but… this doesn’t have the same feel at all. It probably doesn’t help that it’s a team book, so there’s less time to focus on a particular character.
Ultimate X-Men: World Tour, Mark Millar, Adam Kubert, Chris Bachalo
This is an improvement on the two previous volumes, where I actually got somewhat more involved in the story. Not so much Colossus’ story, which kind of seemed out of the blue to me — he seemed pretty engaged with the X-Men and Xavier’s plan, and suddenly he… wants to go off and have a normal life, and he’s not sure about the goals of the X-Men?
But the story with Xavier’s son has genuine feeling and character development, mostly for Xavier. It takes him being the wise mentor to being a guy who can really fuck up on his own account, too. I wish he wasn’t quite so all-knowing at times, but I guess that’s the problem with your character being a telepath.
I’m not so sure about the Gambit storyline; I recall enjoying the character in an animated series or something, but how he’s supposed to be getting by in a world that hates mutants while so blatantly displaying his abilities, I don’t know. And I know the whole Cajun background is an important part of Gambit, but man, is his dialogue ever difficult to parse. That whole section isn’t much connected to the rest of the book, either…
Still, more enjoyable than the first two volumes, I think.
X-Men: Return to Weapon X, Mark Millar, Adam Kubert
I am still not sold on this — and Sabretooth is just a Wolverine knock-off, so I don’t think there’s a single scrap of tension in the scenes with him. Actually, in general the blurbs on the backs of these don’t quite seem to match the reality. Logan doesn’t “go it alone against the shadow-ops organisation that transformed him into one of the world’s most lethal killing machines”, and Sabretooth is not “a predator every bit [Wolverine’s] equal”.
I remember liking Rogue in some TV series or other, but there’s not much to get hold of here. And ugh, that phonetic accent. But Nightcrawler’s kind of cool.
So yeah, still not sold on this, and will someone tell the artist that breasts just don’t look like that? Like, they’re not shiny globes with one point of attachment to the female body. In some of these panels, it just looks like Jean and Ororo are holding pairs of melons in front of them via Jean’s telekinesis.
Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kelly Thompson, David Lopez, Laura Braga
This is… actually quite a disappointing volume. I mean, okay, the Banshees (or Carol Corps) are pretty badass, of course, but it’s a tie-in to Secret Wars? I think? And it’s really not clear what the background is. I don’t read most event comics, and when I do it’s just for the characters I love and follow. Sometimes a skilled writer manages to keep things comprehensible, and sometimes not — for a Captain Marvel fan, most of this makes no sense… and has no impact on the character. It’s not clear what the significance of any of it is.
To add to that feeling of it being a rip-off, there’s four issues here which are new… and the final issue is Captain Marvel #17, which I already own, in context, in the proper TPB. Here it’s completely random and doesn’t continue or add to the story of the Carol Corps arc at all. Worse, it’s the Felipe Andrade art — so it looks (to me anyway) absolutely terrible.
I do love Kelly Sue’s take on Captain Marvel in general, but… skip this one.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power, Ryan North, Erica Henderson
I haven’t come across Squirrel Girl before, but this comic is self-aware and fun; in some ways, the style reminded me of the recent run of Young Avengers. (Which is getting less and less recent all the time, but you know what I mean. The most recent, by McKelvie and Gillen.) Little snippets of facebook interaction between heroes, meta commentary below each page, and all kinds of dorkiness. Squirrel Girl is a lot of fun, and what’s also nice is that she doesn’t primarily set out to beat up villains — she also figures out how to talk things out and fix things in another way.
I’m not a huge fan of the art — it’s a bit too cartoony for my usual tastes — but does suit the style. And I love things like the Squirrel Suit and the Iron Squirrel and Doreen being tongue-tied around guys.
Not a favourite, but fun as a change.
Spider-Woman: New Duds, Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez
I liked the redesign for Jessica Drew in this volume, and I do prefer Rodriguez’ art to Greg Land’s (even though I don’t quite get the antipathy some people had towards it). This volume feels a lot more fun than the first one, in line with Jessica’s decision to get away from the Avengers and be an ordinary person (ish) for a while. Ben Urich also has a key role, which is fun too. Unfortunately, it feels somewhat truncated because just as the first volume took Jessica Drew out of one Marvel event (Spider-verse), the last part of this volume pulls her off her detective agency job and back into the Avengers for Secret Wars. Yay.
I don’t know what Marvel thinks they’re doing, constantly crippling the solo comics with these ensemble events that a lot of people don’t even like. It’s alright when they’re a novelty, but when one TPB is bookended by two big universe-wide events, ugh, it’s far too much. Jessica Drew’s little detective story is fun enough but very light, and one could wish we get to see a bit more of her. It’s an interesting plotline, though perhaps somewhat predictable — or I dunno, I felt like I’d read something like it before, anyway.
Still not groundbreaking, but Jessica is still awesome.
Spider-Gwen: Most Wanted?, Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez
In the Spider-verse event, it turned out there was a world in which Gwen Stacey was bitten by the radioactive spider, and in the end Peter Parker actually died. The origins are a little murky, because thankfully they don’t rehash the origin story, leaving it just sketched in and suggested. This book has Gwen back in her own universe, leading her normal life… and leading her cop father an awful dance while she’s caped up. Her costume design is really cool (love the hood), and Rodriguez’s art works well — and it was a relief reading this so soon after The Movement, which was typically DC-ian in its gloomy colour palettes.
The story itself doesn’t really get on its feet here, I think; we’re still trying to get used to who Gwen is here and how her world has changed. Like, it turns out Mary Jane Watson is… a bit of a diva. And she and Gwen are in a rock band together. Which Gwen has been kind of letting down and might quit? Maybe? But then she turns up and it’s all good.
At times, it’s a little bit goofy — it might be less so if you’ve read Spider-verse, but suddenly having Spider-Ham (a version of Peter Parker who is a pig, no I am not kidding) appear as Gwen’s conscience is a bit outta nowhere from my point of view.
It’s not groundbreaking, except that it’s another female character stepping up and taking on a big role, and dealing in different ways with the same problems. I loved that Gwen went to speak to Aunt May, for example, and the way they talked things over. It’s not the level of quality of, say, Ms Marvel, but it’s fun and I’m looking forward to the next TPB. (And wondering why my pull list on Comixology has disappeared…)
Hawkeye: Rio Bravo, Matt Fraction, David Aja
I know that everyone thinks Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run has been the best thing since sliced bread, and I wish I could feel it too. I can see objectively that it’s good — I like Aja’s art, I like the inclusion of Kate Bishop as Hawkeye, I like that Clint’s a doofus and I love the experimental storytelling like the issue from Pizza-Dog’s point of view and showing Clint’s sign language. Hell, I love the inclusion of Clint’s brother, the way Fraction re-introduces Clint’s deafness (which I think was originally a story in the 70s?).
But somehow it just doesn’t quite come together for me — possibly because there’s a lot of visual storytelling, and I am a dunce when it comes to visual skills. I can’t even imagine rotating a simple shape, or picture someone’s face in my non-existent mind’s eye, so even if I spoke American Sign Language (which I don’t and wouldn’t, since when I learn it I’ll learn British Sign Language) I wouldn’t be able to read Clint’s signs, and… the dialogue in a comic really helps to orientate me.
I still think this run on Hawkeye is fun, but I just don’t appreciate it in the way other people do, and I’m sure there are awesome parts I’m not even appreciating. I suppose that’s, in part, why I’m an unlikely comics fan. Still, I get some enjoyment out of it, and I do see why this run has been so popular!