Alternate Cover - 1st November 2006
The Civil War cash-ins never end as Choosing Sides gets its fast-track release and New Avengers shows us what happens when the man with the power of a million exploding suns wants to go sit down and have a think about things. Luckily, Ultimate Spider-Man doesn't have a Civil War anywhere near it, though there's still plenty of ways they can screw it up...
Civil War: Choosing Sides
Publisher Marvel • Writer Various • Artist Various
This one-shot was literally announced as a plug-the-gap rush job when it emerged that Civil War #4 would ship late and take the rest of the line with it. Rather than take comics off the shelves and let the competition suck up the customer's money, Marvel put out a series of specials designed to fill in where a delay could have otherwise left the shelves devoid of Marvel product. In theory, nothing screams "bad comic" as much as this. It's flown from concept to execution in a fraction of the usual time it takes to make an issue of something, and it's a whole bunch of stories trying to claim importance while overshadowed by the fact that a few weeks ago they weren't even going to be told at all.
However, this is actually pretty good. Much better than it has any right to be, at least. Okay, admittedly it's not the finest example of comics but it is a nice sampler for certain writers, characters and artists. Where else can you discover that Lenil Francis Yu draws simultaneously the best Venom and the worst Songbird? Or Ty Templeton doing a Howard the Duck story? There's an Ant-Man story of reasonable quality, a "Daredevil" (Iron Fist) story that makes you believe that the Iron Fist series might even be worth getting, a USAgent story that appears to be a prologue to Omega Flight, and, er, part of the Guiding Light tie-in, which as a UK resident, I have no interest in. X-Men/Eastenders, now that'd be a different story.
It's a bit of a guilty pleasure, this one. The quality is variable, the content is pretty inconsequential, and the price tag is easily too high, but the stories in it, while being Civil War-related, are nice little curios that answer a few otherwise ignored questions. I wouldn't put up with this sort of thing all the time, but given the circumstances, well, worse comics have sprung from better beginnings.
New Avengers #24
Publisher Marvel • Writer Brian Bendis • Artist Pasqual Ferry
The spotlight for part 4 of "New Avengers: Disassembled" is turned on The Sentry. As one of Marvel's most powerful characters, his participation could tip the balance of the Civil War scales with incredible ease. More's the worry, then, that in previous appearances he's opted to join up on the side of the jackbooted Pro-Reg team.
Plagued by self-doubt, Reynolds, the Sentry, takes refuge on the moon and unwittingly encounters the Inhumans. What follows is the latest chapter in the Inhuman Cold War first introduced in the Son of M miniseries, as well as a brilliant coda to the original Sentry series as we get a few looks at an "untold tale" of the Sentry and the Inhumans. The material regarding the Inhumans makes it look like this thread, which has been weaving briefly in and out of the Marvel Universe, will soon make its appearance at the forefront. I'm actually quite glad, because, shock horror, it's almost threatening to make the Inhumans an interesting bunch of characters.
It's still not really clear to me, at the end of the issue, why The Sentry comes down on the side of the Pro-Reg heroes. What is made clear is that he's deeply troubled by the events, and would prefer to withdraw from them entirely. If Bendis' writing is ambiguous, Pasqual Ferry's artwork is at least undeniably great. the title has a pedigree of brilliant artists and Ferry stands alongside them comfortably.
Ultimate Spider-Man #101
Publisher Marvel • Writer Brian Bendis • Artist Mark Bagley
The Ultimate Clone Saga is now 5 parts in and suddenly it's starting to feel like it might be getting desperate. As twist ramps upon twist it's looking less and less likely we'll see satisfying explanations any time soon. Nick Fury now has wind of the situation and he's arrived to
shut down the X-Files stop Peter from being Spider-Man anymore, but luckily the Fantastic Four are on hand to help out. It's a cool action sequence with some real "Hell yes!" moments but the rest of the issue lets things down somewhat.
For me, the cardinal sin is broken when, at the end of the issue, MJ turns into a giant monster. Personally, I think that part of MJ's character should be that she stays apart from the world of Spider-Man - an observer, and at worst, a victim, but turning her into a monster as the end of the issue does seems like a bad decision, as it will, potentially in then tuture, put her on a similar level to Peter, giving her access to experiences that previously left her isolated from him in a very profound way, as evidenced by his relationship with the X-Men's Kitty Pryde, who by contrast IS part of that world.
I don't believe Bendis would write himself into a corner, and I'm sure it'll lead to good things, but write now I'm feeling like I felt at the end of Galactica Series 2 - with the situation so desperate and inexplicable, can things ever go back to the way they were?
Captain America #23 - Brubaker/Perkins
Ever wanted to know how Civil War is affecting Bucky, the "Winter Soldier"? No, me neither. However, what I do care about far more than that, is just what Nick Fury's doing during all this. While he appears only in voiceover (and as a SHIELD LMD, 'natch) his presence and the foreshadowing surrounding it save what could've been as mediocre an issue as last month's. I'm not yet won over by the Winter Soldier character, but Fury appearance aside, the epilogue/interlude with Dr. Doom and the Red Skull promises some great material in the future.
Stan Lee Meets.... The Thing - Lee/Weeks/Various
This Thing issue is as funny as the others, the tone for the series now more than set. I'm running out of new ways to praise these but it is worth noting that the character of Thing, being heavily linked to Kirby, could've been used for something far more poignant.... if Lee had wanted, anyway. He's never been the first to address some of the criticism surrounding his partnership with Kirby, so it's not surprising that the Thing is played entirely straight rather than as some kind of analogue. The combination of a great lead story and an entertaining clutch of backup material (including a classic FF issue) make this great, but you should know by now if you're liking the format or not. What more can be said?
X-Men #192 - Carey/Bachalo
The new team finally assembles, much to Cyclops' horror. Rogue, of course, points out that she gave him the mandate to form a team out of whomever she chose, and the fact that it's about 50% villain shouldn't be a problem for him. A hilarious situation and a brilliant team dynamic already in the offering. Chris Bachalo on art was also having one of his clearer months when writing this and it's turned out looking brilliant. Very hard to complain about things once a series hits its stride like this.