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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The Girl in the Flower Dress (Review)

The first few episodes of any new show are about finding the right balance, striking the right tone. You experiment a bit, you figure out what works and what doesn’t, you try a number of new things knowing that only a few will pay off. The problem with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t that none of the show’s experiments are coming to fruition. It’s that the show seems completely afraid to try anything new at all.

The Girl in the Flower Dress is the show’s fifth episode, but it already feels like something of a reheat, taking the best parts of The Pilot and The Asset, and synthesising them into a single familiar story.

The problem is that the best bits of The Pilot and The Asset weren’t anything to write home about.

A chip off the old block...

A chip off the old block…

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Daredevil: End of Days (Review)

To celebrate the release of Thor: The Dark World towards the end of next month, we’ll be looking at some Thor and Avenger-related comics throughout September. Check back weekly for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

The Dark Knight Returns casts a pretty long shadow. In many ways, the definitive work from writer and artist Frank Miller, and – along with Watchmen – one of the books that singularly defined mainstream comics. Written by a superstar team of former Daredevil writers and artists – and a slew of in-jokes and references to a rake of others – End of Days can’t help but stand in that shadow.

The Dark Knight Returns gave us a look at a retired Bruce Wayne donning the cape and cowl once again. End of Days has a similar set-up, beginning immediately following the murder of Daredevil by his arch-foe Bullseye, and allowing us to watch the investigation conducted by dogged reporter Ben Ulrich.

This is the end...

This is the end…

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Jonathan Hickman’s Run on Ultimate Comics: Ultimates (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of Thor: The Dark World towards the end of next month, we’ll be looking at some Thor and Avenger-related comics throughout September. Check back weekly for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

There’s something to be said for keeping Marvel’s Ultimate Universe as a “do anything you want” sandbox for up-and-coming creators, a chance for writers and artists to demonstrate their ability to tell comic book stories without worrying too much about the status quo or putting everything back in something resembling the way they found it. After all, the Ultimate Universe provided a fertile starting point for creators like Mark Millar, Brian Michael Bendis and Brian K. Vaughn to demonstrate they could tell big bombastic superhero stories, with Millar and Bendis going on to radically shape  the mainstream Marvel continuity.

As such, Jonathan Hickman’s run on the awkwardly-titled Ultimate Comics: Ultimates feels like an audition. It’s very clearly a weird alternate-universe take on many of the ideas that he would carry over to his run on Avengers and New Avengers when he succeeded creator Brian Michael Bendis. Hickman’s Ultimates is bristling with big ideas, and an exciting willingness to tear down and build up without any hesitation. The only real problem is that it feels like a story sorely missing an ending.

Thor smash!

Thor smash!

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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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