Invincible Iron Man Annual #1
What a strange little tale that Matt Fraction has given us. I was really excited to hear that one of my favorite Marvel villains was returning. Anxiously I awaited this story, hoping for a big classic battle between Tony and his arch-nemesis. I was totally taken off guard by this book. There was neither hide nor hair of Tony or his alter ego. The story was all about Mandarin and his desire to make a movie about his life. In typical fashion, he kidnaps a famous director and his girl, forcing the man to tell his story the way he wants his people to see it. In other words, it's one huge propaganda film. At first I was a bit turned off by this story, but the further into it I got the more enjoyable it actually became. It wasn't the Mandarin that drew me in, though; it was the secondary character of the director that caused me to become riveted to this story. From the very beginning you know it isn't going to be a happy ending, but you can't help but root for him and his lady. Once I finished the reading it the first time I honestly couldn't tell if I liked it or not, but upon the second read through I realized just how well written this story is. Some moments are actually laugh out loud funny (especially Mandarin's choice for the actor who plays Tony Stark). The end is exactly what I saw coming but that didn't stop it from giving me a small chill and making me realize just how demented this old foe really is. I also couldn't help but notice the stark similarities that have me looking at the ruler of North Korea a little bit closer. Not the best annual I've read this year, but on the second read it impressed me much more than it could have. My Score: B
Astonishing X-Men #34
The cover shows a desperate Storm battling a swarm of Brood with glowing green eyes as she seems to be slowly becoming buried alive in the slimy creatures. That's the best part of the book; once you open it up to read it... it becomes the most boring X-Story I've read in ages. Is anyone else reading this crap? I have a love/hate relationship with Warren Ellis. When he's good, he's great, but when he's off, he's adequate at best. This, however, could possibly be some of the worst stuff he has ever written. The fact that this is out of continuity is the least of its issues. Horrible characterization, a story that makes me struggle to read every page, and a mystery villain that I could care less about makes this easily the absolute worse X-Men book on the market to date. Seriously, I'd rather read something by Rob Liefield. However! Phil Jimenez saves the book from getting an F. Awesome art here; it's unfortunate that such beauty is ruined by such horrible storytelling. My Score: D+
Now here's a book that just keeps getting better and better. Gillen could very well become one of my favorite writers on a superhero that I've always found hit or miss. Now that Siege is over and Asgard is in ruins, the story of the homeless gods could turn a bit slow, but Kieron is not about to let this happen as the story of Hela's pact with Mephisto becomes center stage. The Disir are an amazing and truly horrific foe that will obviously give Thor and his companions a battle they will not soon forget. There's a shocking moment towards the end of the first part of this adventure which ensures the readers that anything could happen. It looks like Thor is charging into Hell and I'm going to be chomping at the bit until I see what happens next. This is the Avenger who deserves a strong following right now. Of the three (Cap, Shell Head and Goldilocks) it's Odin's son that is at its strongest in both writing and art. If you're not reading this... start. My Score: A-
The Death of Dracula #1
Let's keep that good feeling going by checking out this one shot by Victor Gischler. Are you tired of vampires who mope around and moan and groan about their feelings? Looking for a good old fashioned blood sucking story with lots of intrigue, battle, and spooky moments? Look no further. Marvel may actually be pulling off the first vampire epic that is worth reading since Salem's Lot. The death of Dracula comes rather quickly in the book, which is fine since the real story happens after the big event. Will the son, Xarus, really become the Lord of all Vampires or will his brother be able to stop him? What are the plans of the nefarious night stalker and which factions of Vampires will follow him? There are enough twists and turns here to keep you guessing until the end, and it actually made me look forward to more vampire fun that will be rippling through the entire Marvel Universe. If there's one small complaint I would have here it's that some moments are so predictable that you'll see it coming a mile away. It doesn't, however, distract from the main story in the least. This is what a cool vampire story is about. Undead that want to suck your blood and damn the emo feelings crap. My Score: B+
Secret Avengers #2
I'm still on the fence with this second issue. What I like: The line-up. This book probably has the coolest group of Avengers that I've seen in a long time. It goes to show you that if you have a competent writer at the helm, you don't really need Cap, Iron Man, Thor, and Hawkeye on the team. Not only is the interaction between these team members fun, but each one stays true to themselves. The art by Mike Deodato and Will Conrad is pure comic book excellence. I'm always impressed when you can see real definition in the characters face and body even when they are drawn in the perspective of being far away. These two get that. What I don't like. The storyline first and foremost - Secret Avengers in space? This story just doesn't seem to fit what I see as a team of real espionage go getters. It's not that it isn't there, but I see them more as an Earth based team searching for the truth behind foreign and domestic government conspiracies. Searching for super villain terrorist organizations like AIM and HYDRA. I'm honestly not sure what this team's main objective is. I thought I did, but what I believed and the direction they're heading seems to be polar opposite in nature. Still, this continues to be my favorite Avengers book at the moment. My Score: B
The Amazing Spider-Ham's 25th Anniversary Issue #1
When a comic opens with: "Years ago, in an era called The 80's, Marvel Comics, the little company that could, sought to change the world of animal-based comics forever - and cash in on the plush doll craze in the process." gets my vote as joyride of the week. Legendary writer Tom DeFalco hasn't lost a step as he interweaves three different stories about Peter Porker, Mary Crane, and their daughter May Porker into one of the funniest books I've read from Marvel in a long time. Kudos to everyone involved for reminding us that comics don't always have to be dark, depressing, and full of cities that get blown up all the time. For my money, a story that shows an unsuspecting Aunt May beating the hell out of Doctor Octopussy without realizing it is worth the money. I only wish that Tom would write more of this parallel universe. Also, for the record, the story with Ducktor Doom and the Watcher's Assistant is by far the best of the bunch. Short, sweet, and deliciously macabre. If you are young enough to remember the good old days of Spider-Ham's adventures, this really is a must read. My Score: A
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