House of M: Fantastic Four/Iron Man (2006)

 

Quote:
“You just killed those people.”

“No. Not people. Mutants.”

 

This book collects two mini-series related to the House of M crossover event – Fantastic Four: House of M 1 – 3 and Iron Man: House of M 1 – 3. The creative team on the Fantastic Four series are all new to me – it was written by John Layman with pencils by Scott Eaton and inks by Don Hillsman. The Iron Man series was written by Greg Pak, whose work I know from the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk books, and the art was by another unknown to me Pat Lee.

The Fantastic Four story actually stars the Fearsome Four, a mystically powered team led by Victor von Doom with only Ben Grimm as the It surviving Reed Richards space mission to examine cosmic rays. Doom is allowed to rule Latveria under the global mutant superiority but finds himself at the beck and call of Magneto. His vanity will not allow this and he directs his scientific research to the problem of how to rid the world of the House of Magnus and install himself as world ruler only to find his plans scuppered by the one person for whom he has utter contempt.

In the Iron Man story, Tony Stark is a successful entrepreneur and competitor in Sapien Death Match – an arena sport where he battles with other humans in mechanical suits – however he finds himself constantly overshadowed, in all his pursuits, by his father. Searching for Henry Pym, a rogue scientist who was researching the mutant genome while in Stark’s employ, Stark uses a new mechanical suit that he developed in secret. He traces Pym to a hideout of the human resistance but soon finds himself in a battle with a sapien hunting sentinel controlled by his father. When Pym is revealed as a terrorist who has planted a number of devices targeted at mutants only, Stark must decide between being his own man and the future seemingly mapped out for him by his father.

For a world that is supposed to give the heroes their dreams come true neither Victor von Doom or Tony Stark are particularly happy with their lot – though this could be seen as some dormant, nagging sense that something is not right. The stories are both fine in themselves without really adding much to the central story.

Pat Lee’s art in the Iron Man story is quite strange. There is a lot of it that contains sentinels, armoured humans and other mecha and this is all really good but when it comes to the depiction of the people it just does not do it for me.

The New Avengers: Break Out (2005)

 

Quote:
“Why wouldn’t you be wearing underwear?”
“I chafe.””I want off the team.”

Collecting the first six issues of the ongoing New Avengers series, this book was written by Marvel mainstay Brian Michael Bendis with pencils by Canadian artist David Finch. Bendis has had long runs on many of Marvel’s top books including Daredevil, The Avengers, Ultimate Spider-man and has written the lead story on a number of Marvel’s crossover events including House of M. I have come across Fincher’s art before on Volume 2 of Moon Knight.

Luke Cage and SHIELD agent Jessica Drew are accompanying Matt Murdock on a visit to Sentry on the super secure penal facility the Raft when a jail break, carried out by Electro, occurs. Captain America, Spider-man and Iron Man are attracted to the spectacle and are soon joining the others in trying to contain the prisoners as best they can. In the aftermath, Captain America suggests putting together a new Avengers team to investigate the purpose of the break out and help recapture the 40 plus prisoners who managed to escape. In the course of their investigations they are led to the Savage Land, meeting up with Wolverine along the way, and run into illegal, covert SHIELD operations there.

I liked this book a lot. It had a bit of something for everyone – epic battles between heroes and villains, comedic moments between the fledgling team, intrigue and possible institutionally approved illegal activity and conspiracy theories. The book brings the team together and ends at the conclusion of their man hunt for the villain whose escape was being concealed by the mass breakout but it left plenty of loose ends to examine in further issues. I have already placed my order for volume 2 and look forward to more of the same.

Bullet Points (2007)

 

Quote:
Stop him, sir? Perhaps I wasn’t clear. […] No one has ever stopped him.

 

This book collects issues 1 – 5 of the Marvel mini-series. It was written by J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of the great Babylon 5 who now seems to have moved into comics writing with stints on Marvel characters such as the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and Thor and DC characters such as Wonder Woman and Superman as well as creating his own titles such as Rising Stars. The art was by Tommy Lee Edwards who has also worked on various Marvel and DC titles.

This is an alternative history of the Marvel universe. The premise is that the doctor who was due to administer the super-soldier serum to Steve Rogers is assassinated by a Nazi fifth columnist before he can do it. A soldier who was protecting him, Ben Parker, is also killed and these two deaths have a rippling effect that fundamentally changes the course of some of the characters in the Marvel universe. So as no one else can administer the serum Steve Rogers volunteers instead for the army’s back up plan the Iron Man project. With no father figure after the death of his parents, Peter Parker becomes a disaffected youth and wanders into the testing range just as the gamma bomb is to be tested becoming the Hulk. Reed Richards delays his space mission to look after the health of Steve Rogers but when the mission takes finally takes place it is sabotaged and he is the only survivor and becomes the head of SHIELD. Bruce Banner, wracked with guilt at the fate of Peter Parker, tries to find a cure and is bitten by an irradiated spider. And finally when Galactus turns up with the Silver Surfer there is no Fantastic Four to thwart him and so it falls to all the superheroes and villains to do their bit in the struggle to save Earth. And it falls to the most despised of these to turn the tide.

An interesting story from Straczynski with a fresh look at some old characters. Of course he is selective in how the effects of that one bullet ripple through time and there are holes in the plot you could drive a bus through at times – such as how did a surly teenager manage to find himself in the middle of a military testing range. But if you can put that aside it is an entertaining ride with cameo shots of lots of different Marvel heroes and villains, in the climatic battle, that I have not seen for a long time such as Tigra, the Scorpion and Cloak and Dagger to name a few. I have to say that I was not a great fan of the art on this one – it comes across as very crude at times – which surprises and disappoints me as Edwards has some lovely examples of his work on his web site.

Thor (2010) – Part 3

The third and final part of the round up that I am doing consists of spin-off comics where Thor shares the spotlight with others or is just a peripheral figure to the story.

Thor and the Warriors Four (cover date: June 2010)

This is a four issue mini-series written by Alex Zalben with art by Gurihiru. We all know, I assume, Thor’s friends and comrades the Warriors Three (more of whom later) but this story concerns the Warriors Four who turn out to be Power Pack. The story has the Power family worried for their grandmother who is lying at death’s door in hospital. Being heroes they do not want to accept their grandmother’s fate but try to do something about it. Reading a book on Norse myths, Julie Power has the idea of contacting Thor to try and obtain the legendary golden apples that keep the Norse gods young and healthy. In trying to do this they run into the pet Avengers (?) and frog Thor opens a portal for them to travel to Asgard on wargs. This is a fun, cutesy story aimed at younger readers, I would guess. The art is nice and clean with an Americanised manga look to it. Not one for me to buy for myself but might be a nice introduction to Marvel for a younger relative.

Chaos War: Thor (cover date: January 2011)

This is a two issue mini-series that is part of a bigger multi-title crossover from Marvel called Chaos War. The typically restrained Marvel blurb for Chaos War #1 says:

 

Quote:
Bigger than THE INFINITY GAUNTLET! More cosmic than ANNIHILATION! Since the end of SECRET INVASION, the CHAOS KING has amassed his army of alien slave gods — and the time to strike Earth is NOW! Only the greatest Marvel heroes can oppose him — all led by the newly-returned god of heroes … HERCULES! But are even his incredible new powers enough to stand against the greatest threat the Marvel Universe has ever seen – a mad god who seeks to destroy Reality itself?

 

The comic is written by J.M. DeMatteis who I know best from books published in the late eighties and early nineties such as Moonshadow, Blood: A Tale and an excellent run on Doctor Fate where he reinvented the character. The art is handled by more unknowns to me – Brian Ching and Rick Ketcham. The story starts on a cosmic scale with Thor battling a powerful god called Glory but then both combatants neutralise each other and fall to Earth. Thor reverts to human form and is found by a troubled woman living alone searching for answers to the death of her family. When Thor comes to he has lost his memory and spends some time with the woman before being found by the reawakened Glory. I’m not really a fan of big event storylines that crossover into books that I would never normally read – especially when books I do read get caught up in them. The question is really can this book be written so that it satisfies as a standalone story without getting tied in knots with the continuity in the wider story? Well probably not is the answer. DeMatteis does a good job of turning a large scale cosmic event into an insular search for awareness and spiritual enlightenment – themes he explored in the books I read in the eighties – but in the end it would have been better if he could have written his own standalone story and not have the Chaos War backdrop. So an oddity within the continuity of the Chaos War but it did leave wanting more of those stories I remember from 20 years ago.

Iron Man/Thor: God Complex (cover date: January 2011)

This is a four part series written by long time collaborators Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning – stalwarts of various Marvel UK titles and 2000AD – with art by Scot Eaton and Jaime Mendoza. This is a strange book to me because it involves a number of characters that I am not familiar with not being a huge reader of Marvel comics – such as Baron Mordo, Crimson Dynamo, Ulik and the High Evolutionary. However having spent most of the first issue cutting from scene to scene to finally set up the premise to looks as though it might well be very entertaining. I think I would need to read issue 2 to get a better feel if I really want to pursue it to the end. But I can’t help being cynical in thinking that Marvel have brought these characters together now (outside of their being team mates in the Avengers) to associate the successful movie franchise, Iron Man, with the forthcoming Thor movie.

Warriors Three (cover date: January 2011)

 

I had high hopes going into this one as it is written by Bill Willingham, whose Fables series for Vertigo is fantastic, and I thought the pairing of Willingham with the characters of the Warriors Three would be perfect. Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out like that straight from the off. The story starts with a killing spree by Fenris Wolf in which a small town is slaughtered. Then we are introduced to each of the warriors in turn – first the philanderer Fandral who is pushed out of a window before the return of a husband; next Volstagg who has cleaned out a diner an all you can eat for $14.99 lunch as a challenge; and finally Hogun who has laid out most men in a bar for laughing at his hat. The Asgardians are summoned back to Asgard to learn the news of Fenris Wolf’s escape and to be sent off to hunt him down and place him back into captivity. Thor tells the three that he would understand if they stayed behind to safeguard Asgard rather than join the hunt but they reject this and go to the place where he was held prisoner to find clues only to be overrun by trolls. The story was good enough but it didn’t have the same spark as his own series does – maybe he doesn’t have enough freedom to play with the characters or maybe the story is just slow getting started. It is a four issue mini-series so I would be interested in reading it all when it is complete but it will be somewhere in the middle of my list of things to buy.

Loki (cover date: December 2010)

This is another four issue mini-series featuring Thor’s jealous half-brother Loki. The story starts with Loki in hiding from Asgard but he is found and Thor comes to speak with him. Thor wants to discover why Loki has done his latest misdeed but instead Loki talks of past injustices and resentments that have helped shaped his character. Again the story and art are fine enough without being exceptional. Loki is portrayed at his lowest ebb and so is not as fiendish and tricky, or so it seems, as he is in other stories where he has the upper hand. I usually like Loki as a villain but he needs to have more energy about him than he has in this story. Another one to keep an eye on and see how it develops before buying, I think.

Iron Man

[ Scared Mood: Scared ]
[ Listening to BBC Radio Scotland Currently: Listening to BBC Radio Scotland ]
Went to see the Iron Man movie at the weekend with the rest of the family. I thought it was great. RDJ did a great job as Tony Stark and the Iron Man armour was awesome.

My two boys (ages 6 and 9) were disappointed that there wasn’t enough action on the screen. It is a common complaint with them about comic book movies that they want non-stop action and people in uniform all the time – no talky bits and definitely no smoochy bits.

My wife, on the otherhand, was embarrassed to be one of the about 10% of the audience who knew about/bothered to wait through the credits for the extra scene. Geeks r us.

I suppose the blockbuster of the summer I am looking forward to the most is The Dark Knight. I loved Batman Begins and Heath Ledger looks superb as a psychotic Joker.