Morrison uses this issue to play a commentary on the comics industry and what publishers are doing to their characters in today's market. It's very subtle in the beginning, but becomes very obvious as the issue goes on. With "Avengers" coming out this week, this issue couldn't have been released at a better time. Part of me is surprised DC allowed this to be published. Morrison's story also pokes and prods at the fan base, saying they are as much to blame as DC is when it comes to the "brand" of Superman. Dear god it's amazing to read. It's a great story in it's own right, but Morrison goes one further and makes the issue entertaining even more. These Supermen are genuinely different, and interesting at that. With so many alternate reality stories floating around these days, it's really hard for one to stand out. These stories need to "count" for fans to remember them. While this story may not "count," it's one that comic fans should read. When the issue starts, part of me thought that Morrison was going to be dealing with race, but that's thrown to the side quickly.
Gene Ha's pencils work a lot better in this issue than his recent Justice League issue. The issue is much quieter, which is Ha's strong point. Character's are very expressive. There is some action, but it flows much better. Jaws (not the shark) aren't as exaggerated, but they could still be toned down. If only Rag Morales could be this good month in and month out. Art Lyon's colors make Ha's pencils pop off the page. Luthor's gun looks great, and the futuristic scenes have the right amount of reflection off the giant neon signs.
Action Comics #9 gets 4.5/5.
Jeff Lemire spends most of this issue dealing with how the Red works. It's an entity that has been at the forefront of this book, but hasn't been explained that much. Granted, we don't learn THAT much in this issue, but enough to ease the questions that have been plaguing it. It seems like most of the questions will be answered before this arc is done with. The Baker family are still nowhere near finding Swamp Thing, but seem to be getting some help from Justice League Dark (or just John Constantine) next month. The Baker family doesn't have much to do, which is a little sad. They are one of the best families in comics, so not using them to their fullest for an issue feels like a loss. This arc, at the moment, seems to just be stalling the overall plot. It's entertaining, so it's easy to not care when the plot stalls. Side note, great job by Lemire for incorporating Grant Morrison's famous issue of Animal Man, where Buddy met Morrison.
Steve Pugh has, like his past appearances in this book, done a great job of keeping the feel of the book. He isn't Travel Foreman, but it's hard for anyone to match that level of pencils. The Red is very creepy, with the Rot bubble taking the cake as creepiest thing. His design of the Rot is inspiring, striking a great balance of interesting but also weird. With an entity as ill defined as the Rot, a good design can go a long way. Again, good job by DC for getting an artist whose style so closely resembles the previous artist.
Animal Man #9
Christos Gage starts the issue off in a strong way. I miss Hercules, so it's good to see him have a spot in the world. It's very, VERY, funny, and in perfect tone with what Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak had been writing in Herc. Then AvX comes in and bogs the story down a degree. I commend Gage for catching readers up, but with an event like AvX, this much exposition isn't needed. It could have been skipped and the issue could have more focused on the kids. Gage makes the kids clash in an interesting way, with everything being believable. Of course some kids are going to want to watch the news while others are desperately looking for a distraction. With Sebastian Shaw's recent redemption though, I was surprised to see Gage turn him bad so fast. Although the way Shaw escapes was damn clever. Even with the ever growing cast, none of the characters are lost in the shuffle, which can happen in books like this. Gage even gives two relationships some time to talk and neither feel forced.
Tom Grummett's artwork is a mixed bag. Characters are inexplicably wearing bikini's for no reason, like X-23. I'm all for a little cheesecake, but it seemed very out of place. His Hercules hits the right comedic tone that Gage is going for. While not a big deal, why isn't Hercules wearing his new costume? The entire issue evokes a throwback sense, which fits well with Gage's script. The action flows well when Finesse and X-23 fight the robots. Grummett's work has been solid on this book, but it could be a lot better. His style suits the spandex crowd great though, so Academy is a good fit.
Avengers Academy #29 gets 3/5.
I'll say this, it's good that this book is double shipped. Otherwise I'm not sure this story would work. If this series only had one issue released a month, the pacing would be all over the place. While I'm sure the double shipping was a reason to make more money, it's working well story wise as well.
The big problem with this issue is Cap's characterization. I was a little surprised considering Ed Brubaker wrote the script for this issue. He's very violent fast. It seems like he was forced into this so that he will "see that he was wrong" by the end of the story. This hint is dropped when Iron Man speaks to Steve, and it does invoke a Civil War feel. Having Wolverine in the center (much like Spider-Man in Civil War) is a great decision. The way he gets there though, doesn't work. When using the Marvel AR app, Brubaker said in a video that the fight didn't end up the way he originally planned. With this issue focused on Cap and Wolverine, I was hoping to be able to say "This was clearly written by Ed Brubaker" by the end of it. But I couldn't. His voice was molded to fit the norm of the event. While not a bad thing overall, this single issue suffers. The rest of the issue is entertaining as usual. Having Cyclops surrender, then trick them was a good plan. There isn't much fighting, but it had to take a break sometime.
John Romita Jr's artwork continues to be a big selling point for this series. Characters are much more expressive and detailed than previous issues. The big double page spread of characters is one of the highlights. His Ben Grimm has never looked better. But Spider-Woman still has The big Cap vs Wolverine action scene looked beautiful. With the right inker and colorist, his artwork can be perfect. Scott Hanna (inks) and Laura Martin (colors) are doing a great job. Martin has always been the go to colorist for events, and that continues here.
Avengers vs X-Men #3 gets 3/5 (Cap's characterization really stuck with me more in the second and third read, so the score went down from 4/5).
Mark Waid delivers what seems to be another .1 issue for his series. This issue deals with Matt's history with Foggy, as well as his first date with the Assistant D.A., Kirsten McDuffie. I use this adjective to often with this series, but the balance between the two stories is brilliant. Waid shows us how far Matt has come from his law school days, while also showing us how far Matt and Foggy have come. The story is touching, with the right amount of humor. The date storyline is also rather touching. Waid writes McDuffie as a great balance to Matt, and maybe the first level headed woman he has dated in a long while. That story is more on the humor side, with some great jokes near the beginning of the issue. The ending looks to finally end the Omega Effect, which should have happened in Daredevil #11. Yes, I'm still bitter over that. Daredevil continues to be the only book where I'm laughing hard, then suddenly worried, because Waid has thrown Matt into another suspenseful situation.
Chris Samnee makes his Daredevil debut, and his artwork is beautiful on every level. His character's are expressive and even look strangely lifelike at some points. His pencils fit the lighthearted tone that Waid has given this book. Samnee sells the jokes that Waid puts in the first few pages. Samnee goes with the little things to show the difference in age of Matt. Like his hair, or style of red glasses. The same with Foggy. With Marcos Martin seemingly gone from the book, Samnee is a great choice to fill that hole. His and Rivera's pencils contrast well. So now I have another artist to give nothing but praise for their work.
Daredevil #12 gets 5/5.
Fraction bring the vast Iron Fist mythos crashing down on the Defenders. Fans of his Immortal Iron Fist series will know everything that is referenced, but others will be very lost. As I am a big fan of that series, I understood everything. Fraction peppers the script with the whimsical humor that has become the norm with this book. The plot does get stranger, but in a good way. Fraction delves into the history of these weird engines again, and it just whets the appetite for the reader. As with the past few issues focusing on single members, the overall story keeps moving along well. While it might not be making huge leaps forward, it's make some time of progress. Fraction is known for slow burn stories, so I'm ready to wait for this story to show it's end game. It's good to see the team interacting with the rest of the Marvel universe too, even if it's only a few panels. Many have been complaining about this book, with many fan-people crying that it should be cancelled. I disagree. Defenders is one of the few books that doesn't take itself all that seriously, and it's a little out there. Defenders stands out amongst the rest of my pull list, and is a treat each month to read.
Victor Ibanez takes over art duties this month, and his art suits the Immortal Weapons well. The artwork has the same feel as the Immortal Iron Fist had when Aja was penciling. John Aman's kung fu moves look great. That is the only action though, with the majority of the issue being talking heads. These panels do look good, with Ibanez getting to focus more on the reactions and expressions. John Aman's entrance was handled well, and even hit the comedic punch well.
Defenders #6 gets 4/5.
Exiled is very rooted in the Journey Into Mystery book. But with Mephisto attached to the New Mutants, might as well bring them along. The first issue of this mini-event is very enjoyable. It has the classic DnA witt, but also the fantasy that Kieron Gillen has been infusing into Journey. DnA and Gillen have the same writing style, so it's natural that any reader would have a problem guessing who wrote which page. While the two books occupy very different aspects of the Marvel universe, the book works very well. It mostly plays off Loki and his dealings with the Disir, and the hell hounds. The only thing that worries me about this event, and it's more about a specific book, is that Journey Into Mystery is going from mini-event to mini-event. Isn't that what brought down Herc last year? There is a lot going on in this issue, which is going to turn off quite a few people. But the people who have been reading these books (and you should be reading these books), will find a good tale, and a good start to the event.
Carmine Di Giandomencico's pencils are usually a mixed bag with me. Some stories, like his Spider-Man: Noir and Invincible Iron Man Annual #1, are great work. But then there are times like Iron Man 2.0, where it's just blah. But this book seems to be more of the former. Character's are expressive, and he hits the fantasy atmosphere that Gillen has brought to Journey into Mystery. His pencils seem a tad out of place when it comes to the New Mutants aspects, but only slightly. Hell looks great, with the bridge of eyeball making me take a second look at it (see what I did there). The only thing I don't like is his Warlock. For some reason, he just doesn't look right.
Exiled #1 gets 4/5.
As said in my Defenders #6 review, Matt Fraction is very much a slow burn writer. It's not decompression, it's the fact that these stories work better when everything is slowed down. Especially in Iron Man, where every arc is one big chess game between Tony and someone else. While the arc title suggests that things are only going to get worse for Tony, but he is going to go out in his own way. And that's where this book has always excelled. It takes the reader into unknown territory with Iron Man each and every arc. The Mandarin's and Ezekiel Stane's side arc, about Stane hating the Mandarin now, is starting to make it's fruition. But the big reveal is who Spymaster was in Tony's company. It's been a long time coming (over two years worth of issues ago). Fraction treats us long time readers, and the scene is very heartfelt. The issue really builds up the fact that Tony thinks he is coming back, but who really knows what will happen.
Salvador Larroca's pencils are what you would expect after doing nearly fifty issues with Fraciton. Suits look amazing, and faces leave something to be desired. But with the last few months, his faces have been starting to improve. And that is they're not as weirdly shiny and look more human. The suit battles have looked great as always.
Invincible Iron Man #516 gets 4.5/5.
A lot of the relaunched books are starting to stall in their respective plots, but Swamp Thing isn't. Ok, it is to a degree, but it's more entertaining than most of the books anyways. Scott Snyder writes one big battle scene, but it shows the true power of the Rot. It can be used for good, as shown by Abigail. It turns the tide in the entire book, but also in Animal Man, if the ramifications are indeed that vast. With the plot moving along fairly regularly in every issue, it's ok for #9 to hit the brakes and slow down. The ending opens up a whole new barrel of monkeys for Swamp Thing to face. Part of the story doesn't pop as much as the first few pages, but that might be the problem with the art, and not the story. One surprising thing is that Snyder hans't mentioned Animal Man at all, when Animal Man has been mentioning this book every month for some time now.
Yanick Paquette and Marco Rudy split this issue. Paquette is on his game, as usual. The panels flow in an organic way, while also looking much like a plant. But Rudy's pencils don't live up to the story. Snyder's script doesn't work as well because of Rudy's pencils are very muddled. It makes it hard to understand what is going on. The last few pages are great, and the organic panel flow rivals Paquette's. A better idea would to have Rudy pencil the entire issue, so Paquette could have the time off to pencil the entire next issue. Having the two split the time isn't bad, but it does damper the issue.
Swamp Thing #9 gets 4.5/5.
Venom, while always being a Spidey meets Punisher style book, really throws each of those to the extreme this month. Most of the issue revolves around Flash trying to take down Crime Master to save his family. For a fairly thin plot, it's very entertaining. Crime Master is a witty bastard, spouting one line that made me laugh really hard. Eddie Brock comes back, and wow does the ending set up a lot of things. Cullen Bunn helps Rick Remender this month, and their voices mesh well together. A reader can't tell who is writing what. It helps their style is somewhat similar. The idea of Flash having his own Sinister Six is a great one, and makes this book more like Spider-Man, while also doing it's own thing. Spider-Man fans should be reading this book.
Kev Walker's style works more this month. With a symbiote in the book, it gives Walker much more to pencil. His pencils are very suited for crazy things, and Eddie Brock as Scream is great looking. Walker nails the more personal panels, with the reader easily being able to see the desperation in Flash's face. While Remender has done a great job of making the reader care for Flash, artists like Walker have done a great job of selling that fact even more. Some of the panels look similar to Tony Moore's, which is a high compliment to give any penciler.
Venom #17 gets 5/5.