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Ghost Rider by Jason Aaron Omnibus

You’re the divine wrath of God himself, Johnny Blaze. Yet you spend all your time cruising around the U.S. of A. Did you really think that was the only country God cared about?

– Sara, The Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance

Ghost Rider is a strange character. Created in the seventies, he saw his stock take a huge increase in value during the nineties in the era of “darker and edgier” heroes before slowly fading down to relative obscurity. The closest the character has come to mainstream success has been the god-awful Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider film. So, he makes a strange choice to receive a Marvel Omnibus, somewhat comparable to the Omnibus collecting  The Immortal Iron Fist a few years back. The prestige format is usually reserved for the best of the best, high profile runs (past and present) on characters of either historical importance or receiving a feature film in the coming year. Jason Aaron is a creator rising in prominence, but it still seems a strange choice to publish his Ghost Rider run in the format. That said, it is perhaps the best run ever written on the character.

Head-to-head, skull-to-skull...

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X-Men: Second Coming (Review/Retrospective)

This is the sixteenth in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s shared universe (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.

Second Coming is the culmination of about five years of X-Men plots. In fairness, the finale was pretty obvious from the moment that the Scarlet Witch rather infamously muttered “no more mutants” at the climax of the muddled House of M. When mutants were rendered an “endangered species” we always knew the saga would come down to one gigantic confrontation between mutants and the humans who would seek to exterminate them – while at the same time lifting the weight of extinction from the shoulders of the mutant franchise. Reflecting on the events within the Marvel universe, Cyclops comments, “Osborn is gone. The Avengers are back. And the X-Men… we can stand for something again.” And perhaps that’s the best thing to come out of all of this – the return to the status quo. If that sounds disappointing, it probably is.

Cable's gunning for the record for most kills by a one-armed mutant ever...

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Matt Fraction’s Run on Uncanny X-Men – Nation X (Review/Retrospective)

I am doing a weekly look at Marvel’s complicated crossover chronology, following various key crossovers to see if they might give me a better idea of what I’m missing by avoiding mainstream comic book continuity. While – with The Avengers due for release in 2012 – I am focusing on the stories told featuring those characters over the past five years, I also have time for the X-Men. While this isn’t strictly speaking a crossover, it is a series of issues which connect Utopia to Second Coming, so I figured it was worth a look.

Utopia ended with a heck of a plot twist. Cyclops decided that his merry band of mutants have had enough of being looked down upon in New York and , more recently, San Francisco, so he decides to build himself an island from the remains of Magneto’s “Asteroid M” just off the San Francisco Bay. Announcing the new nation of “Utopia”, he declares the island a haven for mutants. Nation X provides a hardcover collection of the issues from Matt Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men which bridge the gap between Utopia and Second Coming, as well as the four-issue Nation X anthology miniseries. And, while it’s a decidedly uneven reading experience, I have to admit that some of Fraction’s portrayal of the mutant team is a little bit interesting – even if most is slightly boring and deeply convoluted.

Magneto has a magnetic personality...

Note: This collection opens with Dark Reign tie-in X-Men: The List written by Matt Fraction and following an attempted assassination attempt on Namor by Norman Osborn. Accordingly, I think I should open this review with a link to Abhay’s quite excellent article on the issue, which – among some more serious points – suggests that Namor is starring in his own private version of You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. Seriously, check it out.

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X-Men/Dark Avengers: Utopia (Review/Retrospective)

This is the fourteenth in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s shared universe (and, in particular, 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.

There’s an essay to be written about how Marvel has so carefully and meticulously replaced the X-Men with The Avengers as their biggest A-list franchise book (in fact, there’s a quite wonderful essay written here about that). During the nineties, the big event crossovers at Marvel seemed to exist at the leisure of their mutants – Age of Apocalypse and Onslaught being two of the more obvious examples. However, since House of M, the mutants have been consciously sidelined. They continue to have their own internal events and crossovers – Messiah Complex and Second Coming the most obvious examples – but they remain largely insular and detached from the regular goings on in the Marvel Universe. Except for Wolverine, because he’s everywhere.

Marvel announces Dark Avengers on Ice!

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X-Men: Messiah Complex (Review/Retrospective)

This is the seventh in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s core continuity (and in particular 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.

It has been commonly accepted that the “golden days” of X-Men crossovers are behind us. Of course, “golden days” is a subjective term – for every Age of Apocalypse, there was an Onslaught Saga – but there’s no way to argue that the mutants didn’t dominate Marvel’s output in the nineties. One would have thought that with Bryan Singer’s X-Men helping give birth to the superhero genre, this past decade might have been an even better one for the franchise, but it was not to be. In fact, The Avengers seem to have replaced the X-Men as the engine driving Marvel’s storytelling universe. Some might suggest that it is so blatant that it looks intentional (prompting a movie-related “conspiracy theory”), although Marvel have casually denied it – with vice president Tom Brevoort stating “these things tend to go in waves”. However, Messiah Complex is the first of a series of crossovers with the X-Men titles following House of Mwhich would chart the franchise’s gradual return to the status quo.

Cyclops has warmed to Ms. Frost…

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The Immortal Iron Fist Omnibus

My name is Daniel Rand. I am the Immortal Iron Fist. And though it may be in chaos, my world just got a little bigger. My sense of self has grown ten thousandfold.

– Danny Rand reflects on the first half of his run

Who the hell is the Immortal Iron Fist, I hear you ask? It’s a good question. The character traces his roots back to 1974, with Marvel attempting to work off the success of the period’s kung-fu films with a line of martial arts comics. Just like they used to have western comics and war comics and so on. However, the character – despite enjoying success at the time and creating a vocal supportive fan base – never really breached pop culture consciousness in the same way that the truly big comic book characters did. He remained mostly a cult figure, beloved of some and virtually unknown to others. Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker, two very talented comic book creators who had recently found a home at Marvel, decided to stage a revival of the character in the middle of the last decade. Apparently Marvel was so happen with the result that they omnibus’ed it, releasing it in one giant collection.

Okay, maybe ‘giant’ is exaggerating, but it’s certainly impressive.

Everybody was kung-fu fighting...

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Matt Fraction’s Run on The Invincible Iron Man – Vol. 1 (Hardcover)

Released just in time for you to play catchup before Iron Man 2 hits the cinemas, Marvel have published the first nineteen issues of Matt Fraction’s run on The Invincible Iron Man. It’s a big book. Unfortunately, it only contains two storylines (it looks like the era of decompression isn’t quite over), but despite some storytelling issues it manages to be a fairly entertaining read. Mostly because Fraction seems to have a fairly solid handle on the man inside the suit of armour.

Iron Woman...

Note: I do feel a little bit robbed. I bought this on amazon.com advertised as a Marvel Omnibus. It arrives at my door as a slightly larger than usual hardcover. There are next-to-no extras or commentaries or anything. I was looking forward to shelving this with my cool Omnibus collection – they do just look better. It isn’t any smaller than the Death of Captain America Omnibus or the second Brubaker Daredevil Omnibus. I’m a little bit ticked off. But I’ll get over it.

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Daredevil: Yellow (Review)

The rest of the story you know too well. It’s been told a lot of ways, with many other people in my life, but this is the way I choose to remember it when I think of you.

– Matt Murdock

The first part of Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb’s informal ‘colours’ trilogy (Spiderman: Blue and Hulk: Grey being the rest of it), Daredevil: Yellow has a lot going for it beyond the two talents behind a trilogy of iconic Batman stories (Haunted Knight, The Long Halloween, Dark Victory). Cynics would describe it as the last classic that Loeb wrote. The truth is that it offers a wonderful eulogy for the carefree comic book stories of old, simple and ridiculous fare with simple storylines and clear-cut good guys and bad guys. It’s a nostalgia trip – which means it isn’t quite as compelling as the duo’s work on Batman – but it does lend the collection a nice feel to it. If you are in anyway interested in the olden days of comic books without the retro-post-modernism that typically accompanies such fare, this is the story for you.

Daredevil's come on leaps and bounds from his early days...

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