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Panels #3: Reviews of Recent Marvel Comics

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1. Runaways #25

Can Runaways ever be the same now that Brian K. Vaughn has left the series? It can, because he’s left it to Joss Whedon, who’s claimed to be a fan of the series, and it shows. If, by some strange series of events, Joss crashed and burned on take-off, at least we have a dynamite cover by Jo Chen and magnificent work within the issue by Michael Ryan and the art team.

I don’t pay attention to who draws what as much as I’d like to, but I notice when I’m looking at something I like. I like the art of this issue, probably more than any other issue of Runaways. It’s not just the colors, but it’s how detailed every crack, joint, and strip of cloth was paid attention to.

I’ll tell you a secret. In the back of my mind, I think about what a book is worth. In the case of Runaways, I think this issue is worth full price. That’s even before I tell you about Joss Whedon taking over the book. I was scared that while he may have taken over two hours of my life each week with the Buffy and Angel TV shows, he couldn’t take on what Brian K. Vaughn has done, could he?

Yes, Whedon has done quite an outstanding job with Astonishing X-men, but the X-men has decades of history to augment his writing strength with. At the very least, I wanted him to get Molly right. It’s important to get her dialogue right.

Joss Whedon has done more than that. He’s not only made a good first step in getting the characters right, but he’s maintained their depth, and he’s put together a plot that will allow the young, anti-adult heroes to sidestep that whole Superhuman Registration Act thing.

The Runaways have gone to the right coast (everyone should at least once, maybe twice) to New York. If you’re in New York, and you’re the children of very bad people, then you’re bound to find some major league players who are interested in you. I’ll leave you to figure out who the Runaways have a dinner date with. Now, these kids have to begrudgingly have to do some growing up, in order to impress all the people who know they’ve offed their villainous rents.

This issue is the full package. There are relationship issues, verbal conflict, verbal sparring, military grade weaponry, sexuality issues, and constant confusion on my behalf. Alien-man-woman-Skrull-girlfriend what? By last page, the Runaways are faced with not one, but two violent nut cases. One is a hero, and the other is totally new to me. All right, Whedon. I’m strapped in. Floor it.

My Ruling:
Loved it!

2. Heroes for Hire #8

If you’ve got nothing else to read, then please pick up Heroes for Hire, will ya? Heroes for Hire stars the lesser-known ladies of the Marvel Universe and Black Cat. I still don’t get where Black Cat fits in. Anyway, I am still going to bat for this book, because it’s a lot of C-level fun.

The H4H are still up against the Headmen, the strangest group of baddies in the Marvel Universe. I wouldn’t have known that they have a history as Marvel Villains if I hadn’t read a book on villains that included them. Simply, the Headmen are a bunch of people who have grafted their heads on unlikely bodies. One member is just the opposite, with a red globe for a head and the body of a seductress. It’s just odd.

Add a Doombot into the mix and you’ve got exactly what the H4H is about; they’re a band of good guys who get paid to do what other superhero teams can’t, or won’t. In issue 8, one of the team members might have paid a grave price for accepting this case, and it has Shang Chi mad. I like the master of Kung Fu when he’s mad. I like him a lot. With bare fists and hands drenched with blood, Shang uses nothing more than his martial arts ability to take on all the Headmen. They’ll learn that you shouldn’t ever piss Shang Chi off.

After the smoke has cleared and the blood has been washed off, seeds of a romance begin to bud. Romance is great, but the Heroes for Hire are out for something more, something green. When they come to collect, the team learns of their next job. They get a double shock: one from the target they have to catch and the other from the one who gives them their intended target.

If my description of this issue doesn’t get you hyped and curious about this series, then the only way I can get you to check out the new Heroes for Hire is by checking out the cover! I laughed at Doombot staring on as the H4H girls stroke their phalluses and pose seductively. Who needs Emma Frost when you’ve got these four hotties?

My Ruling:
Loved it!

3. Cable & Deadpool #38

I don’t care if you don’t find Deadpool funny! I do! The cover was odd, with a zero-chinned Deadpool; at least he’s wielding some fucking hot ass uzis in each hand. If you just happened to pick this book up, Deady’s scarred doppelganger, Alex Hayden, AKA Agent X, is on a mission, continuing his work-for-hire business he had in Agent X.

I didn’t get to read the end of the Agent X series, so I didn’t now how that was resolved. Guess I do now. I would have thought this guy was Deadpool all along, but whatever. What makes Agent X different from Deadpool? Well, he uses a broadsword instead of a katana, and his thought boxes are in the form of scraps of paper. Oh yeah, he also wears a totally different outfit and he has an “X” scar on his face.

Usually, I can’t stand a clone, but I can live with Agent X existing in the Marvel U. We need more funnymen, even if they’re not original funnymen. Agent X gets in a bad spot with Hydra, and his busty pals come to Deadpool for help. Problem is, Deadpool’s still tiny after his fight with Rhino. There are some benefits to being small. For example, when you have some ample-breasted women over as guests, everything looks much larger.

So Li’l Deadpool goes on a rampage in a Hydra stronghold, with the usual hilarious results. When you have Hydra soldiers as cannon fodder, the sky’s the limit for hijinks. Since Deadpool’s adventures are played for laughs, lots of unexpected things happen, to Agent X in particular. At the last page, Deadpool has yet another problem to worry about. My only problem is that there’s no Cable in this book as well. Guess he’s too busy in X-men.

My Ruling:
Loved it!

4. Wolverine #52

Them frickin’ Europeans. They’re so different from how we Red, White and Blues operate, and it’s never more evident than in how they draw. If this story arc is not winning you over, then I dare you to not appreciate Simone Bianchi’s work. By the way, no, Simone is not a woman. Those frickin’ Europeans again, with their strange names.

I was tempted to read Wolverine when he was caught up in Civil War, but now I had to pick up this arc because it is going to finally clear up what the whole Sabertooth/Wolverine connection is. I suppose that the head-choppin’ flashbacks with feral warriors going at it is supposed to give us a clue as to what makes guys like ‘Tooth and Wolvie unique, but it could also just be a symbolic dream sequence.

Can I just take a moment to note Bianchi’s art? I guess I can, ‘cause it’s my column. While it’s really, really hard to accept Simone Bianchi’s version of Wolverine, I love, love, love the way he puts together a page. This book isn’t any bigger than the average comic you can buy off a rack, yet a single page feels so much bigger and full than your joe schmoe Marvel title.

So maybe he does make Logan (James Howlett now, is it?) look more like Gérard Depardieu Gerard Deipardu than Hugh Jackman, but I think I can forgive him when the art is this good. I also don’t like the way he draws Black Panther’s outfit, but again, forgiven. At least Storm looks beautiful as ever.

This issue takes place mostly in the nation of Wakanda, where Sabertooth’s visit to the hidden African nation surely isn’t welcome. Black Panther, his wife Storm, and Wolverine chase him around. Sabertooth has no mercy for anyone who gets in his way, and Wolverine has no love lost for Sabertooth.

There is one flashback to when Wolverine encountered Sabertooth in Japan. Wolverine with a katana is the only thing that is near as cool as Wolverine gutting people with his claws. Now, although Sabertooth and Wolverine do tangle a couple times in this issue, this is just a single step towards some major revelations, so I can’t call it a total winner.

On the other hand, you have good writing by Jeph Loeb, the aforementioned excellence that is Simone Bianchi, and that still makes this issue of Wolverine a good read. I’m just anxious. When I hear that we’re getting answers and bombshells, I’m itching for them, and I can’t wait too long.

My Ruling:
On the fence.

5. Black Panther #26

Well it was either this or Fantastic Four. I had to at least taste the hype before I cried foul. This “new” Fantastic Four was hyped a bit during the last months of Civil War, so I made a last minute decision to pick it up. I’ve been off and on Black Panther, reading random issues that looked interesting. I want the book to do good, and I want the character to get more play in the Marvel Universe, but I found myself not getting to invested in the goings-on in Wakanda. With marrying Storm, one of my favorite X-men, and now teaming up with the Fantastic Four, I couldn’t resist reading one of these issues.

This temporary team-up comes about when Mr. and Mrs. Reed Richards decide to take some time off together in light of how much their relationship was tried during Civil War. So, because Black Panther and Storm’s embassy has been blown to bits anyway, the Wakanadan royal couple have nothing to lose in deciding to put up shop temporarily in FF headquarters .

Iron Man, as the new head of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a bit of a problem with Panther being in America, but I think Iron Man should worry about the crazy bug creatures running wild in the Negative Zone where S.H.I.E.L.D. is newly occupied. On Panther and Storm’s side, she has to presume her role as a part of Wakandan leadership. Doesn’t look like she’s having much fun with it. As much as I like action, I also appreciate having Wakanda as a setting for a book. There’s so much attention paid to New York and whatnot, that you want to focus on a place that isn’t already established structurally. Wakanda’s still a land that can be played with and you can add new characters to it.

Speaking of new characters, of all the people I thought I would see, Brother Voodoo makes an appearance in this issue. Brother Voodoo? I had only heard of him, but I never expected him to show up in a story now. I guess they’re going to attempt to make the character relevant and cool again, if he was ever cool at all to start with. I don’t know whether I can gather up enough energy to be interested in this story arc. I am leaning on not picking up the next issue, evne though the art is sharp and some of the writing is on point.

My Ruling:
Liked it.

6. Omega Flight #1 (of 5)

“Wolverine’s a Canadian. Everybody likes Wolverine!” That’s my imitation of someone trying to sell the Omega Flight idea to Marvel. Will people embrace this team of Canadians and Americans? I couldn’t tell you from reading this first issue. Like Cable & Deadpool or Heroes For Hire these heroes will most likely take on some tough villains, some tough, C-list villains.

Omega Flight’s premise is that with Civil War ending in the Superhuman Registration Act, many of America’s super-powered villain runoff is hitting Canada’s borders? What’s a Canuck to do? Well, if Alpha Flight hadn’t been killed by some crazy super-powered entity, the solution would be obvious.

With Alpha Flight gone, there is only one alternative: rebuild. Dr. Walter Langowski, who was known in a previous life as Sasquatch, faces his life after his Alpha Flight teammates have died. It must be horrible to be called a “clone” and “the guy who didn’t die” by a bunch of school kids. After visiting an elementary school class as a visitor, another visitor shows up, but he isn’t doing “show and tell.”

Agent Brown, of the C.S.I.S. (whatever that spells) wants a new team of heroes to repel the threats invading Canada. Sasquatch is reluctant to get back into superheroing full time. As a human, he’s a sloop-shouldered sad sack, and the C.S.I.S.’ suggestion of who will join this new team isn’t raising his spirits any. At least Sasquatch gets a say in one member being added. Problem is, she’s reluctant to be part of Omega Flight also.

In this debut episode of Omega Flight, the team is not neatly formed. We don’t get to see any of the team in action besides Sasquatch, and he wasn’t even promoted as part of the team before this issue came out! I’m honestly confused. What’s Sasquatch’s role in this book if he’s not even on the cover? I hope he’s team leader, because he’s a good character to experience the book through. Plus, he puts up a good fight against the trouble-making Wrecking Crew in this ish.

The action’s awesome, the art is better than I expect from the average book, and the cover makes me want to read more. The problem is that I don’t know how much more I can honestly stick with Omega Flight after the first arc is done. I never thought to read any Alpha Flight, so why should this be any different? This is still the beginning, so by the end of the year, my opinion probably could swing over to loving this book over every Marvel comic I read now. Maybe when I review next month’s books, I’ll have Omega in my stack.

My Ruling:
Liked it.

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