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Thanos Annual #1 [Review]

thanosannual001Damnation and Redemption

Writer: Jim Starlin
Penciler: Ron Lim
Inker: Andy Smith
Colorist: Val Staples
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover: Dale Keown & Ive Svorcina
Assistant Editor: Jon Moisan
Editor: Wil Moss
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

It’s safe to say that Thanos is one of my favorite Marvel characters. However, perhaps that’s something to be further quantified: Thanos as written by Jim Starlin is one of my favorite Marvel characters.

While I have yet to read the entirety of Annihilation or Annihilation Conquest; or the Thanos Imperative, or even the more recent Infinity, I’ve been loosely aware of the character’s recent appearance and involvement in Marvel stuff. I’ve been sucked into buying various issues solely on the appearance of Thanos on the cover, the promise of the character within.

So it was the almost random “notice” of Jim Starlin writing and Infinity Gauntlet artist Ron Lim on art that prompted my purchase of this issue.

Despite the aforementioned favoriteness, it’s been a long time since I’ve read most of what I vaguely recall having once read–maybe 15 years since the original Infinity ____ volumes, a decade since the shortlived “ongoing” series…a fact that’s rather “idealized” Thanos for me, and coated things with that sweet nostalgia of childhood memories that so often props something up IN memory but leads to disappointment upon revisitation.

As such, I was prepared to be quite disappointed in this issue.

I’m not a fan of the standard cover…however, I opted to purchase it over any of the variants I saw. In the short term gratification sense, I probably would have preferred the Ron Lim cover…but I feel strongly enough on the “issue” of variants that I would have been quite disappointed having something LABELLED as a variant rather than the “real” cover. Particularly given the “core” creative team of this issue being Starlin and Lim, it’s truly beyond me why neither of their covers were “the” cover and instead shuffled off as variants. Starlin‘s own cover actually fits the interior story, and Lim‘s is equally as fitting visually…whereas Keown‘s cover is a generic (and not even particularly “iconic” to me) image far more suited as an interior “pin-up” page if not a variant cover instead of being the standard cover.

This issue is essentially a prologue, setup, for the forthcoming graphic novel Thanos: The Infinity Revelation. We open on Thanos upon his first major defeat in Marvel continuity–having lost the Cosmic Cube. Dealing with the massive failure, he is approached by Mephisto, but the intervention of an Infinity Gauntleted avatar of Thanos appears and takes this Thanos on a journey through time and space, as it processes various events and how they play into the younger, defeated Thanos’ future. We’re ultimately given setup for a new event in Thanos’ life, which presumably will be chronicled in the OGN this Fall.

I recall being pleasantly surprised at the ease with which Starlin brushed off several years of less-than-ideal characterization and use of Thanos in Infinity Abyss–that the appearances of Thanos in Ka-Zar, a Hulk Annual, and even a Thor-versus-Thanos arc in Thor’s own title proved to be duplicates of the ACTUAL Thanos; less than perfect at that. So this issue referencing multiple “avatars” of the Infinity Gauntlet Thanos fits right in with past precedent and gave me no pause at all, where it may have with other characters.

As a fairly simple one-off story, this worked well for me, giving me a chance to dip back in with Thanos without feeling like I actually missed anything from Infinity or anything else I didn’t feel lost, and actually quite enjoyed the touches on continuity that I recognized.

Visually, this entire issue was quite a treat. It had a feel of the familiar that I appreciated–and EXPECTED. While familiar, the coloring and such certainly showed through as “modern,” keeping this from feeling entirely like some ’90s throwback. I don’t much like Thanos’ appearance without his headgear, but having seen imagery of him without it before, everything fit. In the various detailing other than noticing how ugly he looks without the headgear, nothing of the art itself jumped out as a distraction. 

I enjoyed seeing familiar scenes and characters, and the only one I really didn’t recognize offhand was what I believe to be a “current” version of Adam Warlock that I’ve not actually read in-continuity yet.

The $4.99 price of this issue is a bit steep; I read the thing cover to cover in under 20 minutes…but then, these days, that’s par for the course to me with a Marvel issue. Steep price point for a quick read, whether it’s good or not.

To best of my knowledge, this is not a follow-up to Infinity, and that story seems to be solely referenced by the “previously” page, so you need not have read any of that to enjoy this. Similarly, if you’re looking FOR Infinity follow-up, this isn’t really gonna meet that expectation. 

However, if you’ve read or are familiar with the Thanos stories from the late-’70s and 1990s to early 2000s, and you’re a fan of Starlin‘s work in general and Thanos in particular, this should be a pretty enjoyable read and whet your appetite for an original graphic novel apparently due out in August this year.

Marvel Now: All-New X-Men #s 2-5

allnewxmen002Of all of the Marvel Now books, All-New X-Men has been by far my favorite. I enjoyed the first issue quite a bit, and from the second issue on, the ride’s kept moving at a nice pace–other than the $3.99 price point, I’m actually quite enjoying the double-shipping.

The issue by issue pacing has been a little quick…I’m glad to get into the story more, but I do wish the single issues had a bit more content to them.

The preview that so thoroughly hooked me for the first issue had turned out to be the final several pages of the issue–a little disappointing, but it left me eager for #2. Getting into the second issue was a real treat–the writing is a definite “hit” for me from Bendis, and the art’s been thoroughly enjoyable. allnewxmen003Seeing the younger X-Men in the present and the reactions–theirs as well as the adults–worked very well…especially Wolverine’s reaction to Jean (and vice versa).

The third issue almost seems likely to be a backdoor pilot for Uncanny X-Men; though I have no complaint about the issue having a good look at Cyclops, Magneto, and their group…except it seemed a bit out of place after the first two issues–almost like it should’ve been something else. As a single issue, it sticks out; but the inevitable “graphic novel” collected edition will probably read just fine with the pacing.

allnewxmen004The fourth issue finally sees the intended consequence of the original X-Men being brought forward in time as Cyclops is stunned by their presence and tries to figure out what happened. And of course, the fifth issue seems to bring the first arc to a loose close, while solidifying the status quo.

And as has been all over the place, the fifth issue sees the Beast’s Next Mutation, which–after something like 11 years of getting used to “feline-Beast” is rather jarring and not much to my liking.

As said above–I’m really digging Immonen‘s art, and the rest of the art team is doing a superb job with giving a great-looking issue each time out. allnewxmen005I’ve yet to sit down and re-read the whole arc, but everything’s fit pretty well together visually.

The very concept of this title should leave me disliking it, but this is the original X-Men I read at the start of my freshman year of college in an Essential volume, meeting up with the present-day X-Men after 20 years I’ve followed them to some degree or another. And while the high concept shouldn’t seem to be sustainable–I once said that Lost, Prison Break, and Castle didn’t seem like [tv] series that should go beyond one season, so I’m open to seeing what’s done with this.

And with Bendis on the book, hopefully we get to see at least a couple years of this title, if not a good long run in general with something old bringing something new to the contemporary Marvel Universe.

AvX: Consequences #4 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

AvX: Consequences #3 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Avengers: X-Sanction [Review]

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Ed McGuinness
Inker: Dexter Vines
Colorist: Morry Hollowell
Lettering: Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne
Cover Art: Ed McGuiness, Dexter Vines & Morry Hollowell
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $24.99

I found this volume at a Half-Price Books last weekend, and wound up buying it. Not the best deal I’ve ever found–especially for something as skinny as this volume–but not the worst.

As single issues, this story came out I believe December 2011 to March 2012, essentially leading into AvX.

Last year, I was both put off yet intrigued at a new story focusing on Cable. Though the character had supposedly died at the end of 2010’s Second Coming, here he was, back after less than 2 years; barely a year and a half (in other measure: less than 3 6-issue arcs’ time). From what I recall, despite some mild interest in Cable’s return and dealing with the Avengers…it was this being a mini-series priced at $3.99 that really put me off. And then learning it wasn’t even to be a self-contained story, but lead into a major 2012 event. So I passed on it as singles.

Though this only contains 4 issues, it’s priced at $24.99–essentially $6.25 per issue of content (makes $3.99 per issue seem like a steal). Granted, this is an oversized hardcover, and a 4-issue premiere hardcover might be $19.99 (basically $5 per issue of content), so the oversized format could “justify” a higher price. But this sort of pricing is absolutely NOT worthwhile for only four issues, and this story in particular.

I’m actually somewhat regretting paying half of that $24.99 for this as-is.

The Ed McGuiness art is not bad–I liked his work on some of the Superman and then Superman/Batman stuff, and while I wouldn’t consider it exactly “ideal” for this story, it works.

The story itself seems overly simple and “decompressed” to a large degree and really comes out of nowhere. Cable draws Falcon off from a fight and incapacitates him, knowing Captain America would follow. The two fight, and Cap is incapacitated. Next, Iron Man shows up and he, too, is incapacitated. Then Red Hulk shows up, followed by Cyclops, Wolverine, and Hope herself. We learn amidst all this that Cable apparently did not actually die, but reunited with Blaquesmith, and learns that the destroyed world they’re in could be prevented if Hope had lived–having apparently died due to the Avengers. So with just hours to live until the techno-organic ravaging his body kills him, Cable travels to the past to take out the Avengers so that Hope can live and save the world.

While it’s long since become a moot point…I continue to find myself curious about Cable’s techno-organic virus; recalling that in #100 of his series back in the early 2000s, the character made a concerted effort and managed to excise the virus, removing it as a factor in his life. Seeing it back here and playing such a pivotal role seems rather contradictory.

I’m also not convinced that this needed to be its own separate series…if it was really so important, it might have been worth an issue or two of an Avengers title or even one of the X-books. At the least, it could probably have been “compressed” to fit a double-sized one-shot rather than be stretched into 4 issues.

Ultimately, this is a fairly mediocre series/story/volume, and way too quick a read for $25. If you can find it for half (preferably more)-off, the art at least is worth looking at, and while I don’t recall what material is contained in the It’s Coming tpb preceding AvX, this seems like it would have been much better served being billed as a specific prequel to AvXrather than some stand-alone thing.

AvX: Consequences #2 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

AvX: Consequences #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Avengers: Season One [Review]

Writer: Peter David
Artists: Andrea DiVito, Jon Buran, Nigel Raynor, Mike Bowden, Walden Wong
Color Artist: Wil Quintana
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Art: Adi Granov
Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas
Associate Editor: Lauren Sankovitch
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Published by: Marvel Comics

When I heard that Avengers Season One was going to be included with the Walmart edition of the DVD/Bluray, I was pretty much “sold” on the spot. By the time this came out, though, I’d resigned myself to some sort of DVD-case-digest-size book, probably on crummy paperstock and not at all reasonably worth the added cost (though if it was one of these sets priced the same as the non-set package, it’d totally be worth it!)

The package felt suitably heavy, though, when I finally bought it the morning the thing was available. When I opened the package, seeing the pages-out, I was ready to be incensed at the actual packaging…until I slid out a full-size TPB volume that would easily command a $14.99+ cover price if it were being sold by itself. Even at some “bargain” $9.99 price, in and of itself the book makes the added cost worthwhile if you’re interested in the book itself.

The physical package is your average Marvel paperback. The cover stock and pages, and dimensions are as any other Marvel volume that this would be indistinguishable as an ‘exclusive’ if it wasn’t for the notice on the cover where the pricing would be “Custom Edition Not For Resale.” (That, and that this is a paperback where I believe thus far the other Season One books have been only in hardback).

The writing is solid–and I’d expect no less of David‘s work. He knows these characters and it shows–though in a way it reminds me that I myself do not know these characters particularly well in their pre-1990s iterations. While the writing is solid–it manages to capture these characters in a suitably generic sort of way–they’re recognizable without being placed entirely in the silver age nor the modern age. The relationships seem familiar to what I know of them in the comics, while bordering on adapting the movie versions.

Visually, much of the book is the same way. There are multiple artists (depicting different scenes/settings) which works fairly well as it differentiates what each character is seeing/doing through the story. Though it works, I got a distinct sense that I’m supposed to associate these comics with the characters from the movies, that this story is supposed to fit either the comics or the movie universe according to primary experience.

Sure, that works well enough–it is a tie-in product, after all. But the fact it evoked the movie characters as much as it did took me out of the story and left me unsure where the story’s supposed to be set, and I probably didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have if it felt like it was more based in the traditional comics story. I suspect I was also soured a bit by a one-shot I read earlier this year that was set in the movie universe that itself felt like a waste of time.

If this was a $15 paperback or $20+ hardcover being sold by itself, I’d be pretty disappointed despite the creative talent involved and wondering if there’d be some way to get a refund. Standing solely on its own this–to me–is not something worth seeking out specifically.

But as a bonus included with a blu-ray I was already planning to buy, this gets points as a decent read, with art that never felt bad or out of place. And though it’s the size of 4-5ish single issues, I don’t think I paid more for this package than the cost of two standard Marvel comics in addition to the actual blu-ray pack.

All that said–you get a complete story in this volume. There’s no cliffhanger directing you into some other volume or series of volumes; this is not a prologue to a crossover/event nor some epilogue/continuation of a crossover/event. You have the characters, you see their adventure, the threat(s) they face, and you have resolution.

If you’ve seen the movie, the characters don’t particularly contradict the film. Or if you read this and then watch the film, stuff works overall.

And really, on the whole, I’m glad I went with the Walmart purchase for this book. If you can still find the blu-ray/DVD package with this graphic novel at your local Walmart, and want the Avengers film anyway, this is definitely a worthwhile purchase.

Avengers vs. X-Men #12 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Avengers vs. X-Men #11 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 2.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3/5

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