It's a special week! Nick Spencer is the next big thing in comics, so we celebrate his meteoric rise with 2 of his comics!
The Review Group is a collection of posters who get together and review a new comic each week. Our threads can be found in The Outhouse's News Stand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate.
This week is a weird one, we've got two comics, Iron Man 2.0 #5 and Secret Avengers #13, both by St. Nick Spencer, the God of all comics and our own personal Jesus.
Secret Avengers #13
I won't say I was excited for this, but I will say I was expecting much more.
The book focuses on Hank "Beast" McCoy who tries to talk his dear friend Lonny out of chilling on the House floor while a freaking enemy army invades DC. We are supposed to care about Lonny because he marched beside MLK Jr., fights for the rights of coal miners and supposedly stopped congress from passing anti-mutant laws or something. At first Lonny makes up some excuse about passing a bill as the reason for why he refuses to leave, then he says it is because he wants people to see everything going as normal in the midst of a crisis, and finally it ends with him reciting Lincoln's gettysburg address from memory while he is killed in an attack by sixty year old robots.
This book is totally pointless. It adds nothing to any of the characters in the story, it isn't the least bit compelling, it is preachy, and it asks you to care about a protagonist you just met as he is killed in one of the most asinine ways as possible. The cast lacks any of the personality you're accustomed to and at least four members of the team are completely absent from the book totally. Worst of all the efforst put into making you like this Lonny character are so over the top preachy you may just want to throw up.
The only redeemable part of this book was the art, I've always enjoyed Eaton's work. He isn't my favorite but it wasn't terrible like the rest of this monstrous waste of time.
I just read secret avengers, What the fuck? I stopped reading after Beast left the battle field? Who the fuck leaves a batter to go talk to someone and then talk to someone else? And then the lincoln memorial comes to life and then the ghost of George Washington and soldiers what the fucking fuck?
Iron Man 2.0, this was a fast read and a very short comic. Half of it was spent setting up another character and not very well at all. The art was serviceable but Spencer is definitely about to hit a major wall on his climb to fame. Rhodes doesn't really belong in this comic and is in it for maybe 5 pages then it's immortal weapons and absorbing man and Iron fist. If this book was called fear itself:the Immortal weapons then this would be alright but, it's not it's Iron Man 2.0-War Machine. Give me War Machine.
I tried to read the Iron Man book. But I have no interest in superhero stories right now. I just can't bring myself to read the words. The art in this book is amazing, however. I like the fight scenes at the beginning, even though it's devoid of backgrounds. Normally this technique makes the characters look as though they are floating in a colorless void. But somehow it works here and intensifies the action. I suspect it works so well because of the lush colors. They give the characters enough weight that they don't need background details to create a three-dimensional illusion. I also love the double-page spread at the end of this book. Gorgeous. The funny thing is that the interior art looks 100 times more dynamic than the cover art. Usually the opposite is the case.
There is a lot of Iron Fist in this issue and no signs of Iron Man, as far as I can tell. That seems odd to me.
STORY: Who knows? Who cares?
OVERALL: If you must buy this comic, buy it for the art. But save the three bucks and buy beer instead.
Iron Man 2.0 #5
I don't care about War Machine. Not even a tiny little bit. The concept of Iron Man with more guns... meh. It's a good thing then that Rhodey was only in this for about 5 pages.
Rather than being a War Machine issue, what this comic really was is a return to Swierczynski-era Immortal Iron Fist stories and my only response to that can be a resounding Fuck Yeah! If it takes a second tier tie-in to a suckfest of a crossover for me to get my Immortal Weapons fix, I'll take it. Even though this issue was all setup, I had a lot of fun with it, especially the opening. Count me in for the rest of the arc.
There aren't a lot of artists I genuinely dislike, but Ariel Olivetti is at the top of that list. The over-rendering in his digital coloring completely puts me off. Add in the CG style backgrounds and it creates a distinctive and unappealing green screen effect. It's a shame that Olivetti so overuses the digital tools because his layouts and figure work are solid otherwise, it would be interesting to see the results if he were to simply pencil a book.
Secret Avengers #13
So when it was announced that Bru would be leaving Bruvengers, my initial impulse was to drop the book but after some needling from Squid and the Ellis announcement I decided to get the St. Nick fill-in issues. After the .1 issue and reading this last night, total fucking mistake. This bored the shit out of me. Where the War Machine issue we also reviewed this week served as a jumping off point into the world of the Immortal Weapons, this floundered around in Fear Itself nonsense that I'm never going to care about. Hank's couple of snarky lines were nice but overall this was just dumb. Granted it wasn't as dumb as the people making the Ben Stiller movie comparisons, those people have no one to blame but themselves for watching Ben Stiller movies. Who fucking does that? Lametards, that's who.
Scott Eaton's work in this was pretty cool, but it suffered greatley from Frank D'Armata shiny people syndrome. Beast's Dum Dum Dugan mustache was bizarre.
Sorry St. Nick.
Secret Avengers #13
This wasn't what I expected, but overall it wasn't a bad read actually. It was more of a personal story about Beast's friendship with Congressman Gary and Gary's feelings for his country than anything else. This personal relationship between the two men was pretty well done I thought.
I had heard before reading this issue about the Smithsonian exhibits and the statue of Lincoln coming to life as well as Washington's ghost leading and phantom army against the forces attacking Washington. That stuff made me nervous as a non-American who finds that patriotic stuff in the US media all too often falls into unenjoyable jingoism. The overall tone wasn't all that bad though. I think Congressman Leonard Gary's dialogue about how he views the US and the fact that he was a powerful mutant who was controlling the strange defenders of Washington is what saved this issue.
I'll give it a 7 out of 10.
Secret Avengers #13 Review
In a pleasant break from the monotony of superhero comics, Secret Avengers #13 is a political commentary on the destruction of America by liberals. First and most obviously, a robotic army invades Washington DC, adorned with swastikas, symbol of the Fascist liberal agenda. As these elitist liberals attempt to destroy the capital, three conservative heroes, War Machine, Ant Man, and The Beast head into the fray in an attempt to save the city through their values of fiscal responsibility and small government. Of course, the bloated liberal bureaucracy soon intervenes, pulling the Beast off of the culture war battlefield. It seems that the army has spent billions of taxpayer dollars on weapons of mass destruction, but needs it's own expensive mutant hero in order to stop one congressman who has locked himself in the House chambers.
Of course, the congressman himself is another metaphor for the arrogance and belittlement tactics of the liberal media. Since he is a member of the now Republican controlled House of Representatives, he is derided as "probably armed" and "off his nut." For daring to think against the grain and not doing as he's told by the liberal elite when ordered to evacuate, the congressman is considered a mad dog who must be put down. The Beast heads off to investigate for himself, thankfully, refusing to allow liberal group-think to cloud his individualistic judgment. After all, Beast knows the man: Leonard Gary (R).
After breaking down the solid oak doors of the liberal plutocracy, Beast finds his friend, alone in the house chambers, symbolic of the plight of the free-thinking conservative who stands alone against a throng of hive-mind liberals in modern life. It turns out that Beast and Gary have known each other since the days of the Mutant Registration Act, where the two stood together in an attempt to stop the brutal autocrat Robert Kelly (D) from passing a law requiring all mutants and political dissenters to register at fishyrumors.whitehouse.gov.
Of course, even a conservative hero like Gary is not without Blemish, as St. Nick Spencer takes the time to show us that even the most honorable politicians are subject to the corruption of American politics, as Gary is on the floor after all of the other congressmen have left, trying to ramrod through a pork bill to subsidize the health benefits of coal miners at the expense of hard-working taxpayers. Of course, this is also a commentary on the dubious subversion of the political process that resulted in the tyrannical passage of Obamacare, accentuated by the fact that Gary is indeed black, and we all know they're all pretty much the same. However, the nuances continue, as Gary was involved in the civil rights movement and even marched with Martin Luther King in the sixties, showing how conservative equality of opportunity is the true equalizer when it comes to racial disparity, not the coddling homogenization of liberals.
As the attack on the city worsens, suddenly, the monuments to American history (and the supremacy of the Constitution) come alive, as the statue of Abraham Lincoln (R) at the Lincoln memorial rises from his seat to smash the commie liberal usurpers. In another deft analogy, Spencer shows dinosaurs from the Natural History museum fighting right alongside Native American primitives, an obvious challenge to the scientific elitist theory of evolution and support of creative design. Finally, founding father himself George Washington appears to lead the army to defend the conservative values upon which America was founded and became the greatest nation in the history of the world.
Meanwhile, Congressman Gary asks the Beast to restart the television cameras, which had been shut off to prevent Gary from disseminating his conservative message, symbolizing the repressive power of the liberal mainstream media against which those with opposing viewpoints must constantly struggle against in order to be heard above the condescending voices of maniacs like Jon Stewart and Katey Couric. The Beast (symbolizing the fair and balanced Fox News) is able to restart the cameras, but not before discovering that Gary is a powerful mutant, showcasing the diversity of the glorious Republican party.
Finally, even liberal outlets like the BBC and terrorist mouthpieces like Al Jazeera are forced to hear the message of Gary as he recites the famous salute to American Exceptonalism from noted Republican Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address. In the end, the intolerance of liberals is shown to still be a menace, as the very idea of dissenting political thought is so offensive to the minds of liberals that they destroy the building, killing Gary in an attempt to silence him. Of, the final analogy we are left with is of Jesus Christ (R) himself, the greatest conservative, who gave his live to become the savior of both our immortal souls and the immortal soul of the United States of America. Amen.
American Exceptionalism: 10/10
Secret Avengers #X vs Iron Man 2.0 #Y
I wouldn't call SA Jingoistic, but I would say it was like a ten year old mashed up Night at the Museum with Mr Smith Goes to Washington and was prepared to shoehorn it into the first comic that vaguely fit. Who cares about the Beast simply allowing an incredibly powerful mutant to die after spending so much time and effort trying to save as many as possible. Who cares that no-one in the comic seems even a little afraid, despite that being the hook of the badly photoshopped crossover we're lumped with here. The art is OK, but the faces aren't always 'good' or 'pleasing to look at' as is the style of the times. This was not good.
I liked Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker's Iron Fist. I liked it was more than any comic featuring Rhodey and evidently so did Nick Spencer because the first chance he gets the title character (Except he's not even that really is he?) gets shuffled to the side in favour of some awesome kung fu guys. So that makes two out of two Nick Spencer comics this week featuring him telling the stories he wants to regardless of the comic they should be appearing in. Also it was pretty dull for a comic featuring so many awesome kung fu guys. Art was probably Ok, but even the nicest drawing of some poo is still gonna be shit.
Combined score of 1 because I think maybe I am being harsh because I disliked these comics so much.
Iron Man 2.0 #5
Story - I'm of two minds on issue 5 of Iron Man 2.0, on the one hand, I'm a huge fan of what Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and later Duane Swierczynski did with Iron Fist, and the creation of the Immortal Weapons, so therefore I was immensely please to see them return, and to see that return written by a writer who's work I am enjoying immensely in Nick Spencer. But on the other hand, this issue was not only an interruption of the ongoing plotline of 'Palmer Addley is dead', but barely features War Machine at all.
I think in the end, my opinion of this issue will be shaped by what comes next in this story arc. If Spencer can manage to fit in plenty of Iron Fist and Immortal Weapon action in alongside and not at the expense of War Machine's starring role, then this issue will be worth it as useful set-up. But if that set-up doesn't pay off... then I'll remember this issue as being bad. Does that make sense? It's a shame I have to provide a grading now, as I feel it's hard to judge what is only set-up.
But what set-up we do get is decent enough. We are introduced to a new character, Sun Wukong, or The Handsome Monkey King. A bad-ass kung-fu guy who lives in the mystical 8th city, and demonstrates how bad-ass he is by doing kung-fu. I think that these kung-fu ideas really let a writer let loose and you can see how much fun Spencer is having with lines like 'I stole the Royal Wine from the very lips of the Jade Emperor!'. They may be meaningless one-liners, but they were awesome one-liners. After Handsome Monkey King defeats some goons, we get the crossover invasion, as a Fear Itself Hammer smashes into a nearby mountain.
It's only then, after 10 pages, that War Machine actually shows up. He's also embroiled in Fear Itself, at the very epicentre of 'Blitzkrieg USA', fighting alongside some of the other Secret Avengers against Nazi Robots. He and John Aman (aka the Prince Of Orphans) are transported to someplace mystical, presumably the 8th city, where the Hammer fell. This all happens fairly quickly, and for no real reason. But thankfully Spencer is aware of that, and has Rhodey himself ask why the hell he is there alongside Fat Cobra and the rest of them. The fact that Spencer addresses this makes me feel he will have a good explanation and that this story will be good.
In the final scenes of the issue, Iron Fist shows up. I felt Spencer did really well here in having Danny Rand's inner monologue mirror Rhodey's early on, providing a useful link which makes the story feel more complete than it really is at the moment. Oh yeah, and Titania (already all Hammered-up) and Crusher Creel are there too.
This issue, as I said, is pretty much all set-up for what's to come in this arc, but it is juicy set-up. Spencer has a lot of characters in play here, we've got War Machine, we've got Iron Fist and the other Immortal Weapons, we've got Sun Wukong, and we've also got Absorbing Man and Titania. This issue promises something epic, and I really hope we get it. Of course I am a bit miffed that the main plot threads of Iron Man 2.0 have been dismissed after really only just getting started, but that's the nature of crossovers. I'm glad that Spencer is using Fear Itself as an opportunity to use some awesome characters, and not just tell deleted scenes from the main series. Let's just hope he sticks the landing.
Art - Ariel Olivetti is a bit of an acquired taste I find, some readers find his computer-generated backgrounds a bit hard to stomach, but I don't really mind them, especially when his figure work is so strong. I just find the way he draws people to be wonderfully idiosyncratic, and his take on War Machine's new suit is top-drawer. I doubt he can draw Immortal Weapon kung-fu fighting to the standards of David Aja, but we shall see. It's just good to have some artistic consistency on this book, the first 3 issues were a mish-mash.
Best Line - Choose any of Sun Wukong's smack-talk put-downs, choose all of them!
Secret Avengers #13
Story - So it's finally here, at long last it's come. The first bad comic I have read by Nick Spencer. I suppose it's for the best it's come here, rather than in say the last issue of Morning Glories, or the first issue of Spencer's revolutionary Spider-Man relaunch alongside Todd McFarlane. This is just an event tie-in and fill-in, in the long run it doesn't matter if it was bad.
But it was bad. Maybe it's down to where I come from. I am not an American, I am British, and therefore I didn't have the reaction Spencer was probably going for when he had Abraham Lincoln and George Washington come to life and start killing Nazis with the power of patriotism. I didn't have the reaction I probably should have when Congressman Gary started quoting Lincoln. I don't have that cultural connection to it. Sure, I like America, I've visited it a few times and enjoyed myself, but I wasn't caught up in this web of Americana.
To be honest, I just found it laughable, it reminded me of Night At The Museum, it reminded me of that episode of South Park with David Blaine and the Super Best Friends (How do you stop a giant stone Abraham Lincoln? A giant stone John Wilkes Booth), it was just weird. I wonder if the events of this issue will appear in the main Fear Itself mini-series? That would be out of place.
Maybe it's my fault, maybe this issue reduced all red-blooded right-thinking Americans to tears and caused them to enlist in the army. But I am not red-blooded or right-thinking, I'm a cynical yellow-toothed pale-skinned Englishman, and this kind of patriotism rubs me the wrong way, whatever country it's from. You'd never get Captain Britain fighting alongside Winston Churchill and D'Israeli in such a way, only if it was a joke. Stuff like this embarrasses most Brits I feel.
That's not to say this issue was all bad, Spencer has a good handle on the Beast, and it made sense that he'd have friends in the American government, and Spencer tied in the idea of Mutant Rights with that of Civil Rights really well. I also enjoyed Ant-Man's dialogue with War Machine, I feel Spencer writes Eric O'Grady really well.
So yeah, this issue was not for me, it was too American, too preachy, and too damn silly. But of course it's not Nick Spencer's job to write for British people, the vast majority of his work is being read by Americans, so maybe it's not my place to judge your cultural heritage and touchstones.
Art - Scot Eaton is an artist I always enjoy, his work is perfectly suited to mainstream superheroics, and this issue looked really good. He managed to ground some of the ridiculousness of the Dinosaurs and the Giant Stone Lincoln and almost make it make sense.
Best Line - 'Don't-tell-girls-you-fought-in-this-one bad'
I dunno, this might be the painkillers talking but I enjoyed both these issues for what they were, as lateral tie-ins to a lame event. In fact, one of the best things they had going for them was a minimal amount of hammers, end of IM 2.0 notwithstanding. Actually even with the hammer at the end I quite liked Iron Man 2.0. The art was cool, Sun Wukong, if that was his name, was a fun new character, in fact the immortal weapons are mostly new to me as well and I thought the guy John Aman(?) in this issue was interesting too. Little cuts to the
Fear Itself battle, but not too much. I've always liked both villains at the end, so maybe I'll read the next issue to see where it goes.
For IM 2.0: 8.5
I don't really expect to enjoy these Marvel event tie-ins as much as Spencer's best work elsewhere, if for no other reason than I don't read much Marvel at all these days. One thing, I wish someone had told Adi Granov what this issue was actually about or who was actually in it, but that's the nature of work-for-hire projects like this I guess. I didn't have any big patriotic feelings or anything but hey if some kids maybe reading this got to read some Abe Lincoln I'm okay with that. Would I rather they read Abe or Bendis? Hmm, let me think..
For SA: 7.5
Oh wow, it looks like the Nicklash is really here. Iron Man 2.0 gets a 5.57, whereas Secret Avengers got a 4.49. Eep, so much for being the All-Father of Comics. Read the whole thread here. Next week is back to normal, with SHIELD #1.
Written or Contributed by: Niam Suggitt