Marvel Worth Reading: Web of Romance, Young Avengers #10, She-Hulk #5, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #3, Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk #2, Nextwave #1
- Posted by Johanna on February 26, 2006 at 3:18 pm
- Category: Superhero Reviews
- PUBLISHER: Marvel
Given that most superhero comics from DC and Marvel are simply atrocious these days, wrapped up in pointless crossovers that turn on tasteless plot points selected for shock value, I thought it would be nice to talk about which of their comics I’ve found worth reading recently. Please note that you aren’t going to see any “big name” flagship books here. As usual, the best work is being done in the fringe titles, because those are allowed to have a sense of humor and some creativity. (Also note that I don’t rush to read these comics as soon as I get them, so some of what I mention may have come out a week or two ago.)
I was going to include X-Factor #3, but I wrote so much I made it its own post. That’s definitely my current favorite Marvel title.
I Heart Marvel: Web of Romance — It doesn’t surprise me that Marvel didn’t know that “I heart” is often used sarcastically, especially online. The majority of titles in this ill-conceived event have been of no interest to me (and I’m one of the few people I know who like both superhero and romance comics enough to even consider trying one of them). This one, however, was written by Tom Beland (True Story Swear to God). Even though he prefers to call them “autobiographical”, the man knows how to write a romance comic.
This is a lovely story about Spider-Man trying to find the right gift for his wife for Valentine’s Day. It’s a subject that anyone who’s ever been in a couple can relate to, and Beland puts the right superhero spin on it, with Spidey wise-cracking about possibilities to the Mandrill (a villain I’ve never heard of, but one I can easily believe Marvel published) as he captures him.
I like the way Beland also gives Mary Jane personality. Too often she is treated as a prize, showing that Spider-Man does some things right, or an object for him to rescue or simply someone who cares waiting at home for him to return so her life can resume. Here, she’s watching sports with some of the male Avengers, demonstrating an interest of her own that Spidey doesn’t share. (It would have been nice if they had all been identified by superhero name, but Beland’s not used to working with characters with multiple identities, since you don’t get a lot of that in the real world. And really, the identity of the only one who matters in the scene is given to the reader.)
Cory Walker (Invincible) and Cliff Rathburn do a nice, comforting job on the art, with smooth lines and simple layouts. The only thing they get wrong is Mary Jane. A supermodel is not supposed to look like a pig with tired eyes and facial scarring. Beland wanders a bit afield into character history that’s not entirely relevant to this story, but that’s forgivable when a long-time fan gets to play with the big toys. He does provide clever, unexpected uses of character powers, and more to the point, he resolves the central conflict in a way that demonstrates just why these two characters, Spider-Man and Mary Jane, belong together and love each other. It’s too bad that his gift will probably never be mentioned again — it’s too cool and unusual and full of exciting possibility to fit into the unpleasant angst-fest that the regular Spider-titles have become.
Young Avengers #10 (Written by Allan Heinberg, pencilled by Jim Cheung, inked by Cheung and three others) — This title is too in love with Marvel continuity for me to feel entirely comfortable with it, but I do like the characters, even when they go through some very standard plots. Before attempting to rescue their captured teammate (Hulkling is being held by the Super-Skrull), the group breaks a super-speedster out of juvie jail in an attempt to beef up their ranks. It took a long-time Marvel fan to educate me on why it’s significant that the boy witch and the fast kid are named Billy and Tommy, and why people keep commenting on their resemblance to each other. (White-text speculation: Thomas and William were apparently the names of the Scarlet Witch’s no-longer-existent children, and her brother was a super-speedster, accounting for both sets of powers.)
It’s unfortunate that the art doesn’t always show me what I need to understand the story. This is most obvious when the speedster runs up on the Super-Skrull. We go from speedster preparing to attack to speedster recoiling with blood flying. The text later clarifies what happened, but it would have been nice to have seen more of a hint.
I was also surprised to see so much page space given to this brand-new character (who doesn’t have as much of a personality as I’d like) and so little given to the team actually rescuing their teammate. It’s as though a new star took over the book, and since I don’t care much for him, it’s unfortunate that he’s taking so much space from the existing characters. I wonder if this is inexperienced plotting by a writer new to comics or editorial fiat (because taking the focus off the existing characters would mean getting away from subjects unpleasant to the company like rape and gay romance)?
The continuing storylines and use of existing Marvel characters (Skrulls, Krees, Avengers, Kang) mean I can’t recommend this to the wider audience, but those with the historical knowledge to remember a better Marvel should love this book.
She-Hulk #5 (Written by Dan Slott, art by Juan Bobillo and Marcelo Sosa) — Again, it’s the characters that make the series worth reading for me. Specifically in this case, Awesome Andy. The mute android with a block for a head and a chalkboard for conversation is so touching, especially when he’s unselfishly helping those who don’t care enough about him.
Meanwhile, She-Hulk’s brought the Two-Gun Kid back to the future with her, where he attempts to settle in at her firm. (I didn’t know that the cowboy hero was also a lawyer, but that’s far from the most unbelievable thing about this comic, which plays with realism like Silly Putty.) After some jokes about time distortion, the Kid has to find a place for himself in today’s world.
This isn’t the team’s best issue, since it mostly seems to be getting from here to there without any other purpose, but I’m glad to get the focus on Andy since I love him so. It’s just a shame that the questions raised about him this issue are set aside without solution in order to do more cowboy stuff.
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #3 — Dumb title aside, this has turned into quite the amusing high school soap opera. Mary Jane, just discovering an interest in theater, gets the lead role in the new play, making the former teen queen of the drama department jealous. To get revenge, she takes up with MJ’s ex-boyfriend, not caring who she hurts in the process. Peter Parker finds out about her plans and works to make things better.
The plot isn’t the point, and writer Sean McKeever’s pedestrian dialogue gets the job done without any flourishes. It’s Takeshi Miyazawa’s art that makes this such a pleasant read, since the teens look like kids and are expressive enough to make obvious the emotions that carry the story. I’m sorry to see that Spider-Man will be showing up more prominently next issue, since there’s potential for this to be a fine book with any superheroing — if only Marvel would still publish it then.
Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk #2 (Written by Damon Lindelof, art by Leinil Francis Yu) — I had no expectations to like this, and I’m not even sure why I looked at it in the first place, but it’s a surprisingly good portrayal of the Hulk the way he should be, a force of nature with the idiot savant ability to sum things up into one elemental phrase.
We open on Bruce Banner, about to be killed for things the Hulk did in the Ultimates series a while back. As you might suspect, though, even a nuclear bomb can’t stop the Hulk, who’s thrown clear while thinking “Hulk no fly.” Landing in the ocean, he ponders briefly what brought him there, before being distracted by a whale. (“Oooh! Fishie!!!”)
I’ve described the opening in such detail because it’s a great indicator of whether you’ll appreciate this comic. There’s a lot more to this issue, combining Hulk humor and history as well as background on Banner and his motivating relationship with Betty. If you liked the scene I described, get it. Oh, and as for the title, Logan shows up on the last page.
Nextwave #1 — I think Warren Ellis is making fun of himself. Here we have the foul-mouthed jerk who doesn’t take superheroes seriously; a gorgeous anti-American Brit who drinks lots of tea; tough guy Dirk Anger who complains to newbies about how old he is, how tough he is, and how good his drugs are; a telephone receiver given a fancy acronymic pseudo-technological name; and a super-spaceship named after a famous cyberpunk novel.
Turns out the Brit is Elsa Bloodstone, a Buffy ripoff (but not by Ellis; she was that before he took her), and teamed up with Captain Marvel (the black female one whose presence is now inconvenient to the regular Marvel universe) and the robot Machine Man, they’re going to save a town from Fin Fang Foom (who’s given a more sexual interpretation).
It’s exactly what you should expect if I tell you that Ellis is writing a parody superhero comic illustrated beautifully by Stuart Immonen. No one takes anything seriously, least of all the creators, and they’re all in love with themselves and their powers. Highly refreshing.