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Secret Warriors Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

There are plans within plans… wheels within wheels. The old order is waking from a deep sleep any my masters… they hunger for knowledge of this new world.

– Leviathan Disciple

Secret Warriors is an interesting ride. It’s a rather bold narrative, crafted with a great deal of skill by author Jonathan Hickman, exploring an interesting underbelly of the Marvel Universe, while providing a pretty compelling exploration of Marvel’s super-spy Nick Fury. It reads like a densely-packed pulpy espionage thriller, with Hickman cleverly layering the story and gradually peeling back the skin to reveal wheels within wheels. While the climax of the story isn’t as strong as it should be, Secret Warriors still makes for an interesting read, a relatively long-running series that was carefully planned out from the beginning and executed with considerable style.

Secret Agent Man!

Note: There will be spoilers in this here review. Don’t worry, I’ll flag them before we reach them, but given the twisty nature of the narrative, I thought I’d let you know up-front.

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Ultimate Marvel Team-Up (Review/Retrospective)

Ultimate Marvel Team-Up occupies a strange place in Marvel canon. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by a rake of top-tier talent, it was essentially a series designed to showcase these impressive artists while adding a bit of depth and breadth to the then-fledgeling Ultimate Marvel Universe. Essentially a continuity that had been launched from scratch, with the goal of attracting new fans put off by decades of back story in the regular shared universe, Brian Michael Bendis had pioneered the line with his superb Ultimate Spider-Man, a book that he is still writing today (albeit in a slightly different form). Due to its nature, Ultimate Marvel Team-Up is a somewhat disjointed effort, where quality varies almost from issue-to-issue, but it’s still worth a look for anybody with any interest in Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man work.

Who says there aren’t crocodiles in the sewer?

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Captain America: The New Deal (Review/Retrospective)

Oh, God — How could this happen here?

– Steve Rogers, Captain America #1

It seemed inevitable that Captain America would have to respond to September 11th. After all, the terrorist atrocities were an attack on the American way of life, and the iconic superhero was perhaps the hero best equipped to explore the scars left by the still-recent attacks upon the American psyche, much as his Secret Empire plot allowed him to respond to the Watergate Scandal. Unfortunately, John Ney Rieber’s work on the character is – while well-intentioned – clumsy, awkward, groan-inducing and cliché-ridden. Even the fantastic artwork of John Cassaday cannot salvage the run from its own tired and trite pseudo-philosophical ramblings.

Subtle.

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The Avengers: The Crossing Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

“One of the nineties’ most notorious narratives!”

– well, the back cover wasn’t lying

The Crossing has become a watch-word for nineties excesses. Essentially a gigantic crossover between The Avengers and the various Iron Man books (including War Machine and Force Works), it is renowned for its clumsy editorial mandate: the event was designed to replaced Tony Stark with a younger version of himself. Fans have come to reflect on The Crossing as one of the most awful comic book storylines ever concocted, an example of the mess that Marvel had made of their line of books during a decade not exactly renowned for its taste.

I know it’s fashionable to trash The Crossing, and I know that it is every bit as ridiculously nineties and forced as its editorial mandate would suggest, but I can’t help but think there are some nice ideas to be found here, if one wades in deep enough into the crap. Don’t get me wrong, there’s not nearly enough to justify the tangled bloated mess of a plot, and I’m not going to argue the consensus is wrong, but I do think the massive catastrophic failure of The Crossing was one of execution, rather than one of ideas.

Shockingly bad?

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Avengers Disassembled: Iron Man – The Singularity (Review/Retrospective)

And so I’ve finished my trek through the tie-ins to Avengers Disassembled. And it was surprisingly painful. Sure, Robert Kirkman’s Captain America at least made sense if you looked at it from the right angle, and Mike Oeming’s Thor was one of the best stories to feature the character, but the Invincible Iron Man and Captain America & Falcon tie-ins serve to illustrate just how lost some of Marvel’s top books were at the time. The Invincible Iron Man actually had two arcs tying into the big event, from two very different creative teams, perhaps illustrating that Marvel was aware of this fundamental dysfunction. Unfortunately, neither is especially impressive, and both feel like they are simply treading water, waiting for Avengers Disassembled to put the book out of its misery.

Things look Stark…

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Avengers Disassembled: Thor (Review/Retrospective)

Thor: Disassembled is easily the strongest solo arc to stem from the events in Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers Disassembled. It’s  full of interesting and clever ideas about the nature of stories, and serves to wrap up Thor’s story fairly efficiently, leading into the big reshuffle of the Marvel Universe. Rather than merely treading water waiting for J. Michael Straczynski’s Thor, writer Mike Avon Oeming takes advantage of the unique set of circumstances before him to present that rarest type of superhero story: one with an ending.

Thunderbolts and lightening, very, very frighteningly…

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Acts of Vengeance: Fantastic Four vs. Congress (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.”

In celebration of the release of The Avengers, this weekend we’re taking a look at the massive 1989-90 crossover “Acts of Vengeance”, which pitted various villains against some unlikely heroes. I’ll be looking at some of the most fun match-ups. This arc is collected in the companion omnibus.

The more I read of Acts of Vengeance and its related crossovers, the more I think that the collections work best as a slice of Marvel, capturing a couple of issues from a vast array of creative teams working on a huge number of titles, to give a sampling of Marvel’s output at the time. Walt Simonson’s Fantastic Four is very highly regarded by quite a few fans of the comic book series. While it arguably hasn’t become as popular as John Byrne’s Fantastic Four or even Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four, I have to admit that I’m delighted to be able to sample three issues collected in a nice oversized hardcover. Simonson seems to gently (or not-so-gently) mock the premise of the event itself, but his three issue story arc here is fascinating and decades ahead of its time.

No, Ben, we ain’t…

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