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Marvel 1602: The New World (Review/Retrospective)

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!

One of the more frustrating things about the major comic book producers is the general reluctance to let any potential franchise or brand die with dignity. Marvel Zombies was an amusing gag, but the company ran it into the ground fairly quickly – although they did work to keep Robert Kirkham and Sean Phillips around for at least one of the sequels. Marvel Apes went from a vaguely witty cover gag into a spin-off universe of its own. Those two side projects eventually (and inevitably) overlapped.

Neil Gaiman’s Marvel 1602 was a curiosity. It was a rather simple gimmick, transposing the modern-day Marvel Universe to the seventeenth century. It afforded Gaiman to make some of his typical meta-commentary and was an excuse to play around with novel twists on classic characters. The Marvel Universe is big enough and vast enough that even a rather basic concept like that can be maintained across eight issues.

A smashing time...

A smashing time…

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Red Skull: Incarnate (Review/Retrospective)

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!

Incarnate is something of a companion piece to Greg Pak’s Testament. Testament was a miniseries following the life of a young boy named Erik during the Holocaust. Of course, Erik would grow up to become the supervillain known as Magneto, but Pak was more fascinated in the history surrounding the character – his origins as a Holocaust survivor. The series was beautifully written and well received, prompting Marvel to hire Pak to produce a companion piece.

Incarnate is effectively the origin story of the Red Skull, Captain America’s arch-enemy and a character Pak himself describes in the afterword as “the Marvel Universe’s most evil villain.” Setting the story in late twenties and thirties Germany, Pak sets the character’s origins against the rise of Nazism and the decline of the Weimer Republic.

A slice of life...

A slice of life…

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Greg Pak’s Run on The Incredible Hulk (With Jeff Parker) – Fall of the Hulks (Review)

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.” Today, I’m focusing on one in particular, the Incredible Hulk.

I have to confess, it’s quite difficult to find nice hardcover collections featuring The Incredible Hulk that you can recommend to non-comic-book fans. Given the character’s fairly massive impact on popular culture, you’d imagine that Marvel would produce any number of easily accessible collected editions featuring the not-so-jolly green giant. He has, after all, featured in two movies in the space of ten years, an iconic television show and a whole host of other media. Unfortunately, Fall of the Hulks is unlikely to be that collection, and is unlikely to prove accessible to new readers looking to pick up a book featuring The Incredible Hulk. While it undoubtedly has quite a few qualities to recommend it, it is certainly not for those unfamiliar with the character.

Men of action...

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World War Hulk (Review/Retrospective)

This is the sixth in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s continuity (and particularly their “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 continuity. Get an overview of what I’m trying to take a look at here.

Forget sides. They’re all screwed when the Hulk gets back.

– a popular internet meme which puts Civil War in perspective

I have to admit, World War Hulk reads like something of a guilty pleasure. The fantastic artwork from John Romita Jr. (whose fantastical character designs work much better here than in Kick-Ass or even Enemy of the State) certainly helps, as does the relative brevity of the miniseries. It’s a relatively self-contained five-issue storyline, as opposed to the large House of M or Civil War which directly preceded it and Secret Invasion which would follow – it also helps that the tie-in issues seem a lot less essential (and certainly less omni-present) than they did for any of those series. World War Hulk is pretty far from perfect, but it’s an enjoyable little arc from a writer who is clearly familiar with the Incredible Hulk.

Hulk makes quite an impact...

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Planet Hulk (Review/Retrospective)

This is the second 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 continuity. We’re taking a bit of a detour this week, but it’ll feed into Marvel’s event-driven central narrative fairly shortly. Get an overview of what I’m trying to take a look at here.

Finally. Hulk knows who to smash.

– Hulk, less than ten pages into the event

Planet Hulk is perhaps a prime example of the type of event-driven storytelling that has become increasingly common at Marvel in recent years. It isn’t really an event of itself, but there’s a strong smell of editorial mandate behind the plot. The key objective – and one conceded by the powers that be – was to isolate the Hulk character from the greater Marvel Universe during the Civil War event (which he would arguably have considerably complicated) and position him for the follow-up event World War Hulk. As such, exiling the Hulk to a foreign planet and watching him play out his own version of Gladiator isn’t exactly the most fluid storytelling direction. However, it’s to the credit of author Greg Pak that the story works as well as it does.

A smashing good time...

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