And now, ladies and gents, a historic event: I believe this will be the first ever all-Marvel edition of Chappy's Blue Plate Specials. Enjoy!
War of Kings Darkhawk #2
We'll start today's meal with a tie-in to Marvel's current cosmic crossover/event du jour, War of Kings. Continuing from last issue, our hero Darkhawk has just had his family's house blown up real good by someone wearing armor very similar to his, with more bad mojo hot on the new guy's heels. We learn here that Darkhawk's two younger brothers are OK but his mom's in bad shape (coma, I guess...? She's in intensive care at issue's end, but we'll get to that), the new guy is called Talon, and he's being trailed by some kind of hunter drone. The 2 team up and beat the drone, and Darkhawk learns of some new powers his suit has. It seems that Darkhawk (or at least the amulet & armor) belong to a space corps called the Fraternity of Raptors, whose job it is to help guide and advance galactic races' fate, or some such drive. They're sort of a mix of cosmic guardians, warriors, pruners, shapers, etc as I gathered it, and the universe has been without these Raptors for a while until recently, causing a rise in galactic chaos and unrest (thus leading us to the ongoing War of Kings). Now Talon and Darkhawk are the last two left, and Talon takes it upon himself to train Darkhawk and quickly get him invested in the Fraternity's purpose and mission. Unfortunately, we also learn that the amulet/armor's tech was never meant for Chris Powell, and is mostly incompatible with the human body; as such, Chris's continued bond with it has slowly driven him insane and caused him great anger management problems. This leads him to fight Talon briefly (who he blames for hurting his family), before Talon says he can help fix this, and Chris agrees to leave Earth and join him in fulfilling his role. He meets with the Loners one last time and asks them to watch out for his family, and then he and Talon leave for the Negative Zone. *Whew* That's a lot of spoilers...
Anyway, I admit to never being a Darkhawk fan. The character always seemed too generic to me. As a guy who isn't very invested in the character, I don't really know what to make of the new "origin"/status quo retcon...it works I guess, and gives Darkhawk a purpose, but seems awfully similar to the Nova Corps or Green Lantern Corps and may just be unnecessary. I don't know...I'll leave that to actual DH fans to decide. On the technical side...meh. The art was fine for faces and quieter moments, but I didn't think this issue conveyed the action scenes well at ALL. If the accompanying dialogue hadn't told me what was going on, I wouldn't have known during the fight scenes. Writing was fine enough, and I think it should lead into some interesting stuff in the actual War of Kings mini, but as a mini itself, WoK Darkhawk just failed for me. It wasn't necessarily bad, but it really wasn't very good either. Very much just there...I didn't particularly like it.
Capt. America #48
More great art from Butch Guice and Luke Ross, more perfectly competent storytelling from Bru, more of a story I just can't make myself care about anymore. So once again, BuckCap takes on some thoroughly average odds and needs help from multiple other superheroes just to keep from getting killed...THIS is supposed to have been the world's greatest silent assassin for the last however many years? Prof. Chin's master plot is revealed (it's a rip-off of Ra's al Ghul), Bucky whines that they should let Namor go, they all learn that Namor is resistant/immune to Chin's android Torch-derived human spontaneous combustion virus (which remains one of the dumber evil weapons I've heard of in a while), Black Widow storms in and rescues Namor and Bucky, we fight a little with Namor doing all the heavy lifting, we chase a little, Chin dies of a heart attack (I think...cause was unclear to me, but he sure is dead), Bucky stops the virus-spreader device (yes, I'm purposely being a bit mocking now...) by breaking off the virus canister with his shield just as the countdown timer reaches 1, the man With No Face weeps over Chin just long enough to allow Namor to snap his neck, then we talk a little. Namor gets off some funny haughty lines, we see a proper burial/funeral for the Torch, and Buck ends it with some overly sentimental lines about wanting "to save something good from the past" which don't make any sense because he really didn't save anything. Well, other than half the world's population I guess...
Again, technically speaking, this issue, like pretty much all 47 that came before it, is fine. Good. Maybe even better than good. But I personally just don't care anymore. This book has gotten a little bit worse every issue for me since the Skull's lame defeat at the end of the Man Who Stole America arc, and it's all making me like Bucky less rather than more the more I see him stumble around pretending to be Cap and having to get his hash saved by supporting cast members every issue rather than doing it himself. I didn't hate it, but I didn't particularly like it, either.
NOW let the rave reviews begin. This book is just fantastic. Rich has 48 hours to live. He's no longer a Nova Centurionm, but his probably unworthy little brother dangerously is. Worldmind is the root of a lot of problems. Ego's presence is causing weather problems. The War of Kings is breaking out. H.A.M.M.E.R. has taken over Project: Pegasus, fired Dr. Necker, and put Dr. Gruenwald in custody. Now Rich discovers that Dr. Necker "sometimes works for A.I.M." (She’s trying to help him anyway, they smooch, but he still doesn't trust her), and by issue's end he's somehow become bonded with Wendell Vaughn's energy form (now complete with quantum bands...see this week's GotG issue for more on that) and takes the form of a new Quasar.
DnA continue ratcheting up the drama in this book, as stuff comes at our hero faster and more furious, and good ol' Rich feels and looks to be in a bit over his head. Yet with all the different stuff going on, we still get some great character moments as well, both for Rich, and for pretty much all the supporting cast, from Dr. Necker to Robbie to the rest of the new Centurions. And now with the gorgeous art of Andrea DiVito, this is pretty much a near-perfect comic series. I loved it.
Mighty Avengers #23
Slott, you sneaky bastard...I didn't see that ending coming. This issue wraps up Slott's first arc, and it's pretty by-the-numbers superhero action (not that there's ANYTHING wrong with that). Tony (dick) Stark comes in and bosses the Avengers around, verbally smacks Hank around, and runs off with Hercules and U.S. Agent to try and stop Chthon by themselves ("a god and a super-soldier; that's all the Avengers I need." Yeah, whatever, Tony...). They of course fail, and it's up to Hank and his reject Avengers to save the day, which they do, trapping Chthon back in the Darkhold and freeing Quicksilver. Through it all, Pym goes from universally doubted to near-universally praised (but as he's warned, one good day doesn't make him a legend), and gets treated FAIRLY by a writer (both his good AND bad traits dealt with and brought forward equally) for the first time in a long time. Then, after an issue full of standard stuff, Slott springs his trap for us...right after we hear the Iron Patriot denounce these "Avengers", we learn that it wasn't really Wanda who assembled this team, but Loki in disguise. A fine twist that both hearkens back to Avengers #1, but also shows that maybe Norman's cabal may not be as stable and under his thumb as it first appeared (thus quelling some of my own personal issues with the whole Dark Reign thing anyway).
I still wish somebody (much) better than Pham was on the art, but that's my only complaint. The lineup is great, the action is plentiful, there's an old-school feel with good characterization (even though Tony seems out-of-character between these issues and his current state in Invincible, that discrepancy is at least mentioned by Pym...that acknowledgement's all I need to be satisfied), and the swerve at the end adds the last ingredient the new status quo needed...an underlying hook of sorts beyond just "generic grouping of Avengers". I loved it.