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Avengers: Endless Wartime by Warren Ellis, Mike McKone & Jason Keith (Review)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

Warren Ellis is one of the great comic book writers. Ellis works in a bombastic larger-than-life style that is never too beholden to the current continuity of whatever company for which he is currently working and which remains accessible to just about anybody who might want to pick it. His Extremis remains the perfect introduction to Iron Man, while Ultimate Human is the most syner-tastic marketing tie-in ever written, its release coinciding with that of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk.

At the same time, Ellis’ work-for-hire can occasionally feel a little reigned in, a little too relaxed and too casual – lacking the energy and enthusiasm of his stronger work. Sadly, Avengers: Endless Wartime is a book that never quite measures up to its potential. An original graphic novel written by Ellis and illustrated by Mike McKone, Endless Wartime has a wealth of clever ideas, but never manages to get too excited about any of them.

Some men just want to watch the world...

Some men just want to watch the world…

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Avengers: Season One by Peter David et al (Review)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

What exactly is the point of Marvel’s Season One initiative? Is it to update the origins of classic superheroes to make them accessible to modern and casual audiences? Is it to re-tell familiar stories just with modern touches like Facebook and iPhone references? Is it to dance between the rain drops and package an adventure from the early days of our heroes’ careers without disrupting established continuity? Is it an attempt to reach beyond the core comic book audience? Is it an attempt to package some material for feature film adaptation?

It’ hard to know. Marvel has made some nods towards accessibility in recent years, but all too often these feel more like sales gimmicks than genuine attempts to court new readers. Written by comic book superstar (and successful novelist in his own right) Peter David, Avengers: Season One should be something of a slam dunk. It’s a book featuring characters from a multi-billion dollar movie franchise, in a stand-alone graphic novel, with a slew of great writers and untethered to serialised long-form storytelling.

Unfortunately, Avengers: Season One winds up feeling like a mess.

Here come the heroes...

Here come the heroes…

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Kurt Busiek’s Avengers – Avengers Assemble! Vol. 5 (The Kang Dynasty) (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

I’ll be honest. I am still not sure what to make of Kurt Busiek’s Avengers run, republished here in five lavish oversized hardcovers. The first three volumes of the set included the stellar artwork of George Perez, but the fifth and final volume contains the entire Kang Dynasty (aka Kang War) saga. For those unfamiliar with the storyline, it was a fairly massive plot told over fifteen issues and an annual, and marked the climax of Busiek’s five-year tenure on the title. For better or for worse, it’s a more than adequate conclusion to his run – complete with many of the flaws which chipped away at it, but also possessing many of the recognisable strengths.

"Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos!"

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Ex Machina: The Deluxe Edition – Volume IV (Review)

In an effort to prove that comic books aren’t just about men in spandex hitting each other really hard, this month I’m reviewing all of Brian K. Vaughan’s superb Ex Machina. And in June, I’ll be reviewing his Y: The Last Man.

What’s weird about the fourth ane penultimate volume of Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’ superb superhero political science fiction mish-mash comic book is simple how much fun it is. I’m not suggesting for a moment that the first three volumes were anything less than superb, but there’s a sense of playfulness in this volume which just makes it seem like the creators are have the time of their lives. I was worried after the last volume that the underlying “conspiracy” story would overwhelm the saga as it reached completion, but it’s still just as fascinating and unpredictable as it was back when it began.

Justice for all?

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Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne (Review)

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way. In honour of the Scottish scribe, I thought I’d review the latest chapter in his on-going Batman epic.

It’s a testament to writer Grant Morrison how much I enjoyed his weird and fantastical six-chapter “Batman lost in time” adventure epic. Between this and his superb run on Batman & Robin, Morrison might have redeemed himself for the mess that was Batman R.I.P. That said, the collection isn’t for everyone, but it marks a rich exploration of the evolution of the Batman archetype through his various iterations – a meta-textual look at the elements which make Batman who he is, and why those elements are important to him. It also, of course, features Batman in a sword fight with Cthulhu.

You know you’re reading Grant Morrison’s Batman when something like this happens…

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Superman: Secret Origin (Review/Retrospective)

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way.

I have to admit that I quite enjoyed Geoff Johns’ run on Action Comics. Johns has been one of the most influential writers working at DC over the past couple of years, so it felt right to see him tackling Superman, after years of working on titles like The Flash and Green Lantern. It was an extra special treat because he brought Richard Donner with him for the introductory arc, which restored a sense of continuity between the comic book superhero and his cinematic iteration. You ask anybody to picture Superman, and I promise you that they will imagine Christopher Reeve with his cape flapping in the wind – it feels like the definitive version of the character. And I felt that Johns really tapped into that aspect of the icon. So, I have to admit that I was pretty excited when it was announced that Geoff Johns would be returning to tell the character’s origin story, his Secret Origin, if you will.

That's one super life he's lived...

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Civil War (Review/Retrospective)

This is the fourth in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of modern continuity. Get an overview of what I’m trying to take a look at here.

Civil War was Marvel’s big event of 2006-7, and – as this lovely deluxe edition loves to remind you – it was “the industry’s best selling series in over a the decade”. The premise of the series is straight-forward enough – it’s a conflict between the heroes of the Marvel Universe (it’s all there in the title) – and perhaps that is the reason that the series has arguably had more crossover mainstream appeal than the vast majority of comic book crossovers. Marvel have produced a lovely deluxe hardcover which contains just about everything you could possibly want from the event, it’s just a shame I’m not overly impressed by the event itself.

I'm sure we can iron this out...

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