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Avengers vs. X-Men – Consequences (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine this month, we’re taking a look at some new and classic X-Men and Wolverine comics. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

Avengers vs. X-Men: Consequences feels like it really should be a light event cash-in, designed to generate some quick sales off the popularity of the latest gigantic crossover story arc. However, writer Kieron Gillen takes advantage of the five-issue miniseries’ location – situated between Avengers vs. X-Men and Marvel’s high-profile Marvel NOW relaunch – to turn the comic into something of a transition. It represents a clear shift from Kieron Gillen’s run on Uncanny X-Men to the relaunch of the book (and the spin-off All-New X-Men) by writer Brian Michael Bendis.

Oddly enough, thanks to Gillen’s skill, Consequences plays out as a character-centric storyline, capping off Gillen’s work on the mutant hero Cyclops and positioning him for his role future role in the shared Marvel universe.

Cyke out!

Cyke out!

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Digging the Claws In: The Wolverine, Superman/Batman, World Building and the Future of Blockbusters…

When you produce one of the most successful movies of all time, you change the rules of the game. The Avengers was the biggest box office hit of 2012, narrowly edging out The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall for the privilege. That means that all the other major film studies were taking note of what Disney and Marvel had done. So it’s no surprise that the majority of announcements trickling out of this year’s Comic Con feel heavily influenced by the success of that blockbuster.

Most notably, it seems like DC and Warners will be fully investing in their superhero world-building, with the sequel to Man of Steel broadening its focus from the Man of Tomorrow, announced as a Superman/Batman team-up feature that will build towards the inevitable Justice League film. It seems like The Wolverine might just be the most major stand-alone superhero feature film we’ll be seeing for quite some time.

The future is now...

The future is now…

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Civil War: X-Men (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine later in the month, we’re taking a look at some classic X-Men and Wolverine comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday here. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

Ugh. There’s nothing like Civil War: X-Men to remind you just how unkind the middle part of the last decade was to Marvel’s merry mutants. It’s a soulless cash-in the worst sense of the word, a four-issue miniseries branded with the title of the gigantic universe-spanning crossover that was going on at the moment. One would imagine that the whole Civil War crossover would provide a multitude of compelling storytelling opportunities for the X-Men as a franchise.

After all, these are superheroes whose entire schtick is based around being hated and feared by the world they try to protect. You’d imagine that they’d have a few choice words for all the superheroes finding themselves suddenly confronted by the idea that the public isn’t too keen on people with superpowers just wandering around. Instead, we get a messy jumble of a plot that doesn’t make sense on its own terms, let alone as an attempt to contextualise the involvement of the X-Men in Marvel’s Civil War crossover.

Back in black...

Back in black…

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Ultimate Comics: Divided We Fall, United We Stand – X-Men (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine later in the month, we’re taking a look at some classic X-Men and Wolverine comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday here. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

I actually like the scope of Divided We Fall. It’s a big universe-altering event spanning Marvel’s three Ultimate Universe titles, but it isn’t so granular or so tightly-wound that the three books are tripping over one another. Each of the three books involved tell their own side of the story. Each can be read independently, with no real dependence on the other two. There’s a sense that the creators involved are being allowed a reasonable degree of creative freedom, and that Brian Wood is crafting his own X-Men epic that doesn’t exist simply to tie into the headline-making decision to bump Captain America up to superhero-in-chief over in Ultimate Comics: Ultimates.

In a weird way, for a book in the middle of a gigantic crossover, Wood’s Ultimate Comics: X-Men feels like it’s seeking a fresh start, like it’s kicking off a new chapter, and relishing the status quo shattering crossover as an excuse to just get on with it.

Mutant Pryde...

Mutant Pryde…

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Civil War: Wolverine (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine later in the month, we’re taking a look at some classic X-Men and Wolverine comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday here. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

A lot of the recent big Marvel events, stretching from Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers Disassembled through to at least Avengers vs. X-Men, can be read as commentaries on post-9/11 America. In particular, they focus on questions the relationship between the power and trust held by various authorities, and how those are earned or abused. Perhaps Civil War was the most overt of these, with the conflict in the comic coming down to the clash between the demands of liberty and security.

So, I suppose, at least Marc Guggenheim’s Wolverine tie-in to the event is explicit about what it’s trying to do. It’s any even more explicit 9/11 parable, casting the famous mutant as an investigator looking for his own kind of justice in the wake of a horrifying terror attack.

Talk about seeing eye-to-eye...

Talk about seeing eye-to-eye…

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Ultimate Comics: Divided We Fall, United We Stand – Spider-Man (Review/Retrospective)

To get ready for Iron Man 3, we’ll be taking a look at some Iron Man and Avengers stories, both modern and classic. We hope to do two or three a week throughout the month, so check back regularly for the latest update.

I have to admit, I am very surprised that Marvel have yet to start issuing oversized hardcovers of writer Brian Michael Bendis’ latest Ultimate Spider-Man run. The author has been writing the writing the series since the first issue appeared on stands in October 2000. The series has been re-launched twice, for three volumes as part of the same story. The first two runs are collected in their entirety, but only bits and pieces of the third run have been collected so far. The prelude Fallout was collected with Bendis’ The Death of Spider-Man omnibus, and the crossover with the main universe has been collected in Spider-Men, and then there’s these issues here, collected as part of Divided We Fall.

However, despite the high profile decision to create a new Spider-Man, generating considerable press coverage, Marvel has yet to begin collecting nice oversized hardcovers of Bendis’ latest run. As a result, the issues collected here give a rather scattershot coverage of Bendis’ run on the iconic web-crawler, which is a bit of a shame. As with the Ultimates and Ultimate X-Men comics tying into this big event, context is a vital part of this gigantic crossover, with Bendis’ story only really resonating as part of an on-going story featuring the development of a new version of Spider-Man, Bendis’ own creation.

Who says there's no such thing as bad publicity?

Who says there’s no such thing as bad publicity?

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Ultimate Comics: Divided We Fall, United We Stand – Ultimates (Review/Retrospective)

To get ready for Iron Man 3, we’ll be taking a look at some Iron Man and Avengers stories, both modern and classic. We hope to do two or three a week throughout the month, so check back regularly for the latest update.

There was a time when Marvel’s Ultimate Universe was the place to be. Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates were among the best-reviewed and best-selling books published at Marvel in the early part of the last decade, offering a fresh new take on classic comic book characters, and offering readers an opportunity to engage with a continuity-free world just as the super-hero movie craze took off. I’ll always be fond of the Ultimate Universe, because without The Ultimates and Ultimate Spider-Man, I simply wouldn’t be a comic book fan today.

However, in the last number of years, for any number of reasons, the line has wavered a little bit. Despite attracting Mark Millar back to write Ultimate Comics: Avengers, and Brian Michael Bendis generating massive headlines by writing The Death of Spider-Man, it seemed like the publishing brand was fading a bit. There have been several attempts to re-energise the line. Divided We Fall is just the most recent one, a crossover between the three books currently making up the Ultimate imprint.

The story of America falling apart, told from three different perspectives, it’s certainly timely. And, as crossovers go, shrewdly constructed. While Divided We Fall suffers a bit from the fact that Marvel is no longer consistently collecting the books leading into it, it is still an interesting comic book story, and one that takes advantage of the Ultimate Universe setting to tell a story that would be impossible in the mainstream Marvel brand.

President Cap...

President Cap…

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Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers – Avengers Assemble (Review/Retrospective)

To get ready for Iron Man 3, we’ll be taking a look at some Iron Man and Avengers stories, both modern and classic. We hope to do two or three a week throughout the month, so check back regularly for the latest update.

How do you cash in on the success of a big-budget blockbuster comic movie? Especially a film that has gone on to be the most successful film of 2012, and one of the most successful films of all time? It’s a tough question, and I’d like to imagine that Marvel thought long and hard about how to capitalise off the success of The Avengers. After all, comics are a medium that have been trying any number of desperate ploys to maintain sales and to attract fans over the past decade, so it would be stupid not to try to turn some of the cinema-goers into comic book fans. I made the transition, so it can’t be that tough.

Avengers Assemble, an eight-issue miniseries, seems to have been created as an answer to that question. Not only does it carry the name used by the film in several international markets, it uses the iconic roster from the film, tries to tell what appears to be a continuity-light tale and comes from a high-profile creative team. Unfortunately, these factors all feel rather cynical, rather than a genuine attempt to court new readers.

Hey, it's that guy, from that thing!

Hey, it’s that guy, from that thing!

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Dan Slott’s Run on The Amazing Spider-Man – Ends of the Earth (Review)

While Ends of the Earth might not work quite as well as Dan Slott’s other epic from his Amazing Spider-Man run, Spider-Island, it does succeed in playing to the writer’s strengths with the character. It seems like Slott is fascinated with how Spider-Man interacts with the world – both in terms of the other fictional constructs of the shared Marvel Universe, but also in how the character tries to make his world a better place through more than beating up bad guys. Apocryphally, Stan Lee once argued that comic book fans don’t want change, but “the illusion of change”, and Slott manages to do something which almost seems impossible. He offers a take on the web-crawling wonder that is by turns classic and yet boldly new.

The last sand…

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Ultimate Spider-Man – Vol. 12 (Hardcover) (Review)

You know, Jeph Loeb actually managed to make quite the impression on Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics. While his Ultimatum was intended to serve as a “shot in the arm” to a comic book line with waning sales and interest, it’s telling that Marvel organised another event almost directly afterwards, with The Death of Spider-Man serving to reorganise that fictional universe once again. This collection, the twelfth in the Ultimate Spider-Man line, sees author Brian Michael Bendis guiding the book between Ultimatum and The Death of Spider-Man. (Indeed, the next book in the set is the Death of Spider-Man omnibus collection.)

As such, it’s not too surprising that these fourteen issues feel a bit disjointed and uneven, as Bendis deals with the aftermath of one radical status quo change while gearing up for another. That said, I still think that Ultimate Spider-Man represents the single most consistent run on the title, and Bendis still manages to keep things interesting, even if this collection doesn’t quite compile the author’s strongest run of issues.

Spider-Men…

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