The Sage Welcomes You

So, here you find a blog about life in general, but with a focus on family, games, books and creativity. Other "stuff" will creep in from timt to time.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Views and reviews: Captain Marvel #1, Avenging Spider-Man #9 & Punisher #13

So, I am behind on many things, largely due to the wirlwind which was my children's swim team season.  It was another season of fun and a lot of early mornings (less fun).  But now, I need to do some catching up.  I have expanded my regular consumption of comic books from one to a startling TWO.  Not only am I subscribed at my local store (the wonderful Beyond Comics) to Greg Rucka's The Punisher (sadly to end at issue 16 and then be followed by a five issue mini-series, and then the character passes to another writer, reportedly in a team book (see Punisher Central where I first saw this story)), but also to Kelly Sue DeConnick's Captain Marvel.  As a bonus (except to my budget), Captain Marvel also guest starred in Avenging Spider-Man #9, giving me three comics to behind on writing about.

So, without further meanderings, here's what I thought about these comics.

Captain Marvel #1

Good, but not yet great.

I am happy and excitited about this comic.  Issue #1, based on my level of excitement, was a bit of a let down.  I still enjoyed the comic, but I wish different choices had been made editorially and in the writing.  DeConnick is a very talented writer, and the editor Steve Wacker is a very smart editor.  Somehow, their efforts on this launch fell a little flat.  The story was a real "back to foundations" kind of story.  What makes Carol Danvers, currently Ms. Marvel debuing a new uniform, tick? (PS I in the "I love the new uniform" camp).  She is a pilot at heart, and her heroes are female pioneers of flight.  We get a bit about her growing up, her idols, meeting the female pilot who most inspired her, things like that.  This is all good deep background.  However, it wasn't very exciting.

Other things were a bit by the numbers as well.  The comic is called "Captain Marvel."  Carol is conflicted about whether the take the name, Captain America talks her through it.  She flies into space.  She decides to take the name.  Okay, but we kind of knew that was going to happen because it is on the cover.

The other things that sort of bothered me was the by the numbers fight between the Absorbing Man and then Ms. Marvel  and Captain America.  Absorbing Man stands in the place of the sexist stooge, as well as the big dumb villain.  I realize that Carol is, and is meant to be, a female empowering icon.  An intrinsic femanist.  I am totally on board with that.  However, having Absorbing Man speak like he just stepped out of Mad Men instead of existing in the 21st Century just did not wow me.  We don't have so much of a problem with big palooka's calling women "broads" anymore.  Sure it exists, but the challenges to advancing women and girls political and social interests are much more subtle and poisonous today as I see it, and I am hoping for more depth in this book in future.

Finally, I have to comment on the art.  Much of it is beautiful and eye popping (I love Captain Marvel releasing ashes into space).  However, much of it is also muddy, unclear and hard to look at.  On balance, I am not a fan of artist Dexter Soy as he is creating now.  Maybe I am just too much of a traditionalist, but I love a clean line and sharp colors with a realistic style as my default "like."  For me, the art often distracted from my enjoyment of the comic.

So, on balance, I have hope for the title, but I was not wowed by the issue.  And I wanted to be.  I wanted Captain Marvel to fly out of the pages and punch my brain so I saw stars.  I'll be hoping for that from issue 2.

Avenging Spider-Man #9

Pure Fun

I have read a few issues of Avenging Spider-Man, and it has been a consistently fun title, with Spider-Man teaming up with a fellow Avenger for one or two issues.

This month, Spidey teams up with Carol Danvers, who at this point in continuity had taken on the mantle of Captain Marvel.  The story is set somewhat after the initial Captain Marvel arc started in Captain Marvel #1.  And this is the silver lining for Captain Marvel #1 for me.  Kelly Sue DeConnick writes this issue, and it is pure fun.  This and more of it is what I want to see in the main Captain Marvel title, and I know DeConnick can deliver.  Here, Captain Marvel is determined, sassy, brave, resourceful and self-assured.

The premise is that Carol Danvers, proud new owner of a prop engine plane, offers to fly Peter Parker to Boston.  There is a bit of "road trip" bonding in an awkward and funny way, and then stuff starts happening that requires costumes, superpowers and some punching.  Good stuff.

I don't want to provide any spoilers, just to say that DeConnick deftly tosses her two heroes into a superpowered conflict between a little Occupy Wall Street anarchy and big bank big corporate interests mercenaries.  The tone is great, the twists are fun, and this time Deconnick gets to deal with the more subtle side of 21st Century inequality, involving sexism and economic disparity.  The text is light, the sub-text is serious, and the tone is pitch-perfect.  I was really happy to read this story.

And I was really mad (in a good way) that it is a two parter.  I will have to wait until next month to see how Spidey and Captain Marvel diffuse (or punch their way out) of the situation.

Also, the book was an example of the kind of art that does not get in the way of the story and really enhances the experience of the reader.  Artists Terry and Rachel Dodson did a fantastic job with all the characters and set pieces.  I wish they were drawing Captain Marvel in many ways, though their clean bright art might not have captured parts of the story in Captain Marvel #1 that DeConnick was telling.

The comic book restored my faith, and I really liked it.

Punisher #13

Terrific!  Buy it!

So, when I first read this title, I was not aware that it was one of the last 4 issues in The Punisher regular series.   This issue is certainly an argument against cancelling the title.  However, I guess the sales numbers tell a different story, which it a great shame.

Here we see the Punisher and his ally Rachel Cole-Alves working on a operation together.  The operation is self-contained, but clearly part of a much bigger plan that the Punisher has to take down the Exchange.  This is not a smash and grab operation, but instead an infiltration with the Punisher and Cole-Alves posing as high powered criminals to attend the auction of high tech contraband.  It is clear that they have a plan (and probably multiple back up plans) to acheive their objectives.  The heist is all around fun and excitement, and it definitely leaves you wanting more and wondering just what the Punisher is planning to do with the item they acquire.

This issue was not drawn my Marco Checchetto and he was missed, but in general I thought the art by Mico Suayan was solid, though no one works this comic like Checchetto does.

It is a great issue, and I am very sad to know that only three regular issues remain in the series.

Here, as per usual, is what others have to say about this month's Punisher.

Punisher Central (A-) "The story is incredibly entertaining. From Frank and Rachel becoming imposters in formal wear to Frank allowing himself to be captured and interrogated to allow Rachel to rig the yacht to explode, there’s lots to have fun with."

IGN (8/10) "Rucka delivers yet another worthwhile standalone issue this month. Punisher #13 is both an enjoyable heist adventure in its own right, but also an issue that builds towards a larger conflict and opens new questions about Frank's war against the Exchange."

Outer Realm Comics (4/5 stars) "In Punisher #13, Rucka and co. take a detour into espionage territory . . ."

The Complete Marvel Reading Order " It’s pretty standard spy stuff, but it’s an enjoyable read and it does a fine job of furthering the character arcs."

Trinity Comics "Greg Rucka is one of those writers that always does amazing stuff but never gets the credit he deserves . . . If you have always been interested in Punisher then you need to start reading now!"

iFanboy (Story: 4-Very Good, Art: 3-Good) "This story reads like a heist. Several twists and turns and we get some pretty cool action scenes."

Splinter's reviews "All in all, #13 is a decent comic, and an acceptable chapter in the ongoing Rucka "Punisher" narrative. It does little to elevate the story so far, which has seen much more accomplished moments than the ones provided here. Hopefully, by the time they are finished with the character, Rucka and Chechetto will leave behind a complete story, that is none the worse for inclusion of outside superhero elements."

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