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Old 08-17-2008, 02:47 PM   #1
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[Comics] - Evil Avatar's Weekly Comic Book Reviews - Year 4 - Week 34

Welcome to Week Thirty-Four of the Official Evil Avatar Comic Book Reviews

Remember, these are NOT spoiler-free reviews.

Evil Avatar’s Weekly Comic Book Reviews – Year 4 – Week 34

Secret Invasion #5 (of 8 )
Reviewed By: Michael Chauvet (Doctor Finger)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: Leinil Yu
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Laura Martin w/ Emily Warren
Letterer: Chris Elipoulous
Editor: Tom Brevoort

Last month I called Secret Invasion #4 a set-up issue. Sort of the lull before the storm. While #5 doesn't quite show you the full fury of the storm, the skies are definitely threatening.

Like previous issues, this book tries to juggle too many narrative threads at once. We jump from Colorado, where Norman Osborne uses his silver tongue to full effect on the Skrull Captain Marvel, to Nick Fury's secret base, where his little army is preparing for the worst. The Skrulls - taking the forms of politicians, religious leaders, celebrities and superheroes - announce to the people of Earth that they're now part of the Skrull empire, and that "He Loves You." Agent Brand, having broken onto the Skrull mothership, frees Reed Richards and jettisons most of the Skrulls on board into space. An understandably pissed Richards blames himself, at least partly, for the invasion. He and Brand take control of the ship just as an angry and confused Skrull Captain Marvel attacks the fleet. Richards wants to head to New York to rescue his family, but Brand knows they need help. So they high tail it to the Savage Land, where the combined Avengers are still dealing with the cast of Marvel's I Love the 70's. Just before hostilities break out, Richards zaps the area with an energy beam, which forces the Skrulls to reveal their true nature. All of the 'classic' characters are Skrulls, although they themselves didn't seem to realize their true nature. The Avengers, already raw emotionally, kill the Skrulls. Included in that tally is Mockingbird, gunned down by a tearful Hawkeye, who vows to kill every single Skrull for what they did to him.

While this is clearly the start of the story's final act, this issue had a lot of warts. Again, too many story threads going on at once, and too many that just get a page or two. But in all of those story threads, we get no updates on the two most interesting points from last issue: the Hood bringing the villains into the fight, and that last page cliffhanger with Thor and Captain America entering the fight. If you weren't going to pay off that appearance in this issue, why not put the cliffhanger here? Why make us wait two issues (at least two issues) for that? And then there's the Mockingbird tease. That one really bugs me. I said when #2 came out, that if her return was for real it was a nice emotional moment, but if it was a swerve it was just a cheap pop. I have no particular attachment to the character, but I thought she could be a way to bring back the old Hawkeye, while setting up a neat little Mr. & Mrs. Smith-esque duo going forward in the Marvel U. Instead we get the aforementioned cheap pop, and a Hawkeye that's headed for the long road to Revengeville . Things may change in the last three issues, but so far it's been a really disappointing character arc. This is as good a place as any to mention Leinil Yu's contributions. His art has improved steadily since the start of the series, but at the same time his storytelling really hasn't. In more than a few places - Maria Hill shooting Skrull-Jarvis, Reed choking Agent Brand - he seems to be leaving the action way too vague. Whether that's intentional or not, I don't know, but it comes off as unfocused.

Bottom Line:
The story is moving forward at a good clip, but there are just too many different storylines being tracked at one time, and the overall structure suffers as a consequence.

Rating: Decent, but flip through before buying (3 out of 5 EvilEyes)

Welcome to Hoxford #1 (of 4)
Reviewed By: Michael Chauvet (Doctor Finger)
Publisher: IDW Comics
Writer & Artist: Ben Templesmith
Letterer: Robbie Robbins
Editor: Chris Ryall

In these modern times we're increasingly seeing creators that have followings almost as large as the characters they work on. BenTemplesmith is quickly becoming one of those 'name brand' creators. Most famous for his work on Warren Ellis' Fell and Steve Niles' 30 Days of Night,Templesmith is branching out, writing as well as illustration his own horror-themed series: Welcome to Hoxford.

Hoxford is a prison, a private, for-profit prison run by a Russian conglomerate. It's pretty much the last stop for the worst of the absolute worst, including Raymond Delgado. Ray's history is summed up in a few quick pages depicting abuse, horror and degradation. So it's no surprise that Ray grows into a hideous serial killer with a penchant for biting. When we're seeing the world through Ray's eyes everything is in shades of red, yellow and orange. Even through the eyes of other characters, Ray seems to almost glow with a malevolent burnt-orange glow. After snapping the neck of his prison roommate - not to mention biting out his carotid artery in the process - Ray is shipped toHoxford . He's sent up with rapists, murders and necrophiliacs, with the expectation that he'll never leave those walls again. But unlike all of the other prisoners, Ray has someone looking after him: his former prison psychologist, Dr. JessicaAinley. She comes to Hoxford - which is almost always drawn with blues and greys - to make sure her patient is cared for. But Hoxford's creepy Warden Baker does not want to let her in, seeing as it's a private facility. The tension up to this point was spot on. You knew something was up atHoxford , but not exactly what. That is until the Warden and his lead guard break out a chunk of raw flesh and start chowing down. That's right kiddies, it's a cannibal prison. After Ray and another inmate do a number on a mass murderer, he's brought to a meat locker and left on a hook to dry age.

In case you couldn't tell, this one is not for the kiddies. Templesmith's characters are almost universally grotesque inside and out. All of the prisoners are monsters, and the guards are even worse. His use of color is really interesting and different. A lot of panels are intentionally left uncolored on the periphery, producing and odd sort of negative space effect. He's a better illustrator at this point than a sequential artist, but he's improving on that point as well. The story is mildly interesting, but also somewhat paint-by-numbers. He wisely holds off on revealing what's up at the prison - and I'm sure we haven't seen everything quite yet - but it's still a very basic setup with generic characters. The Dr.Ainley character seems tacked on and seems to be there only to contrast the other monsters in the book. Still, the whole of the book is entertaining and moody. It falls into the 'they made a comic to sell a movie' category to some extent, but that doesn't detract from an otherwise fun horror book.

Bottom Line:
Fascinatingly illustrated and moody horror that does enough to rise above the cliched characters.

Rating: Worth the time and money (4 out of 5 EvilEyes)

The Last Defenders #6 (of 6)
Reviewed By: Michael Chauvet (Doctor Finger)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Joe Casey
Penciller: Jim Muniz
Inker: Cam Smith
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Albert Deschene
Editor: Stephen Wacker

Violent Evolution

When is a team, not a team? According to Marvel, when they're Defenders. Ever since the early 70's, when powerhouses like Doctor Strange, Hulk,Namor and the Silver Surfer were paired with perennial third- and fourth-stringers like Son of Satan and Nighthawk the Defenders have been an odd concept. The team has been revamped, retooled and revived many, many times over the years, but no iteration of the concept has ever stuck for very long. So Marvel decided to bite the bullet and make the Last Defenders.

But what, or who, are the "Last Defenders?" In this story we find that the people who'd been thought of as Defenders for so long were not who Fate really wants for the team. Hulk, Doctor Strange,Namor and Nighthawk were all slight deviations from Fate's idea of the ultimate team of Defenders. Instead you have She-Hulk (not as purely powerful as her cousin, but more stable),Hellstorm (Son of Satan, who's potentially more powerful than Strange), Krang (a pure-blood Atlantean and former rival of the Sub Mariner) and Nighthawk (instead of the normal Kyle Richmond, it's instead his friend and former SHIELD agent Joachim Pennyworth). The main MarvelU's Kyle Richmond has been pulled to this alternate earth where the true Defenders operate as a well oiled machine. After years and years of trying, and failing, to keep the Defenders going, he finally finds the right formula, only to discover he's not an integral part of it. After a perfunctory battle with some Squadron Supreme duplicates, Kyle returns to the main Universe with a plan. He'd screwed up with SHIELD and Tony Stark, so he can't operate as Nighthawk any longer, but he doesn't want to be a fugitive either. So he gathers his team and splits the difference. They'll operate outside of the Initiative, but not in opposition to them. She-Hulk andHellstorm can remain registered heroes, but the team can still save lives without the bureaucracy. Finally, Richmond gives the Nighthawk identity to Pennyworth, with Kyle serving as money man and leader. Ultimately all of this has been the result of manipulations by an old foe of the Defenders:Yandroth. He knows that this team of Defenders is reality's greatest hope and it's greatest liability.

As I said before, the Defenders are a hard concept to build a team around, story-wise. They're not the Earth's Greatest Heroes like the Avengers, they're not hated and feared by the people they save like the X-Men. They've always been a rather ill-fitting collection of heroes slapped together into a book for the sake of having them in a book together. And to a great extent, that hasn't changed after this mini series. However, I like the conceit of this team. That destiny was trying to build the ultimate team of Defenders, but was just off by a matter of degrees. Casey makes the four team members - five if you count their now benefactor Richmond - distinct and interesting (although I would have liked to see a little more of Blazing Skull after the first two issues). I really thought he was working towards a sexual relationship between Richmond and Pennyworth - and frankly that would have made a little more sense considering their interactions earlier in the series - but nothing came of it here. I'm not so sure it would work as an ongoing book, but I woulddefinitely pick up another Defenders mini from this crew.

Bottom Line:
The Last Defenders doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it breathes a little life into the Defenders concept

Rating: Decent, but flip through before buying (3 out of 5 EvilEyes)

Quick Hits
Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #1 - I loves me some Atomic Robo, once again kicking Axis ass, this time in 1943 Sicily as he tries to stop some walking tanks. Just pure, simple fun.
Action Comics #868 - I don't know about you, but this Brainiac arc has me bored stiff. He's clearly more of a physical threat to Superman, but he's no more interesting than any other version of the character.
Fall of Chtulhu: Godwar #1 - A somewhat interesting setup, but I would have liked a little more information. Still, it's good enough to get me to stick around.
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Old 08-17-2008, 03:05 PM   #2
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Holy crap. Great reviews all around, but Welcome To Hoxford has officially jumped onto my list. It sounds so intriguing that I'm going to have to stop by the shop on my way home to see if they have it.

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Old 08-17-2008, 03:19 PM   #3
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SI #5 felt like a mid-way-point issue in every way. Bendis had to bridge the story between "Heroes Get Asses Kicked" and "Heroes Kick Ass" somehow and it's really not the most exciting thing. This series has had some of the greatest last panels ever and I really liked this one. And at least they're pretty much done with the Savage Land.

I've heard much talk about the Braniac arc in Action Comics but honestly I don't see what the big deal is. So in the end, Braniac is just some big, green-skinned dude? That's really the best they could do? Just some guy? yawn!
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Old 08-17-2008, 08:03 PM   #4
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Crap. I forgot to snag Welcome To Hoxford this week. I love Templesmith's stuff. I might just wait for this to be collected in a trade though.

If you like Templesmith's solo stuff, I cannot recommend his Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse series highly enough. It's quite funny and is probably the best showcase of Templesmith's art outside of Fell. Plus it has leprechaun strippers.

Astonishing wasn't half bad this week. I'm still not a fan of the art, though I love the guy's backgrounds (that 2-page splash of the spaceship graveyard was gorgeous). The humans, on the other hand... Not a fan. The story was great though and I'm quite interested to see where Ellis is taking this.
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Old 08-17-2008, 10:07 PM   #5
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Nice review on SI #5.... but.. is there something wrong with your "space" button ?

A lot of wordsaretogether...
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Old 08-18-2008, 06:20 AM   #6
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It sounds like Welcome To Huxford might be worth a read, but I must say that I'm always extremely skeptical when artists decide to be writers. As a guy that values writing over art, nothing turns me off like a crap ass story with pretty art.

I *just* finished reading all the books I picked up at Wizard World back in June. Now, I haven't really been trying very hard to finish them since I've been trying to delay any new purchases for a while, but it was also a fairly big stack of books. I'm almost caught up in Hellblazer trades (just been picking up random trades for a couple years, which means i've been reading them out of order), and it will be nice to have that out of the way. It is truly amazing how different writes have really taken that book into wildly different places over the years. Have to say though that, while I love his other stuff, Azzarello's run just didn't impress me much. I'm re-reading the first Iron Fist trade now, however, and remembing just how awesome that series is.
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Old 08-18-2008, 07:40 AM   #7
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Hm. I may not even take a look at Secret Invasion in trade. Dr.F, have you given any issue higher than 3 eyes? I don't remember.

..and holy crap of all that is holy and craps! Atomic Robo!
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Old 08-18-2008, 07:49 AM   #8
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I liked the first 3 issues of SI more than the last 2. It's been meandering a bit, but overall I'm enjoying the story.
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Old 08-18-2008, 02:42 PM   #9
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I read the first three issues if Secret Invasion, but bailed on it after that. Bendis is good for small personal stories but this story is just to "big" for his writing style.
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