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Rick Remender’s Venom (Review/Retrospective)

This April, to celebrate the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we are taking a look at some classic and modern comics featuring Spider-Man (and friends). Check back daily for the latest review.

Venom demonstrates Rick Remender’s talent with nineties comic concepts. Like Remender’s work on Uncanny X-Force, there’s a sense that the author is taking a dysfunctional and somewhat outdated comic book concept and finding a way to make it work. Uncanny X-Force is the best use of the “X-Force” concept ever put on paper, and Remender’s Venom stands out as the best work to feature the Spider-Man baddie as a protagonist.

Venom doesn’t work quite as well as Uncanny X-Force. The run is a bit shorter and less well developed, and gets caught in a couple of crossovers that split focus a little. Still, the twenty-odd-issue run is a fascinating piece of work from Remender, who was one of Marvel’s most promising emerging talents at the time. Like Uncanny X-Force, it is fundamentally a story about fathers and sons. However Venom also feels like an examination of also-rans, a look at those characters who tend to get a little lost in the crossfire.

Can he swing from a web?

Can he swing from a web?

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Rick Remender’s Run on Secret Avengers – Avengers vs. X-Men (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.

Secret Avengers manages one of the strongest tie-ins to Avengers vs. X-Men. I will confess that I am not normally a fan of comic book event tie-ins. They tend to distract from on-going narratives crafted by long-term writers in order to assure a cynical short-term sales boost. At worst, they can feel like vacuous filler, comics full of nonsense that are impossible to decipher unless you’re reading the giant crossover of the month. Both Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man lost a lot of momentum thanks to crossovers.

On the other hand, I’ll concede that good writers can shrewdly use crossovers to tell their own stories. Perhaps the most obvious example is Alan Moore’s wonderful Swamp Thing tie-in to Crisis on Infinite Earths – stories that can be read (and be quite entertaining) on their own terms, without requiring the reader to constantly flick back or forth. Kieron Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men tie-in to Avengers vs. X-Men manages to retain its own identity and tell its own story, and Rick Remender’s Secret Avengers makes a valiant attempt.

Into the fire...

Into the fire…

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Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force (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.

Between Uncanny X-Force and Venom (and arguably his run on The Punisher), Rick Remender seems to have built a comic book career out of rehabilitating symbols of nineties excess. Taking a bunch of grim and nihilistic concepts that were very popular in mainstream comics during the nineties, Remender uses them to craft a compelling story about the wages of vengeance. Its premise and pedigree might lead you to believe that Uncanny X-Force is another throwaway comic about gratuitous violence. Instead, it’s a masterpiece about profound consequences.

Welcome to the World...

Welcome to the World…

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Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost’s Run on X-Force – X-Necrosha (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 have a bit of a soft-spot for Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost’s X-Force. It’s nowhere near as good as Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, and I’m not even sure that it’s good comics. However, it does capture the mood of the X-Men comics between House of M and Second Coming remarkably well.

Being frank, I think that the editorial direction of the X-Men line between House of M and Second Coming was a disaster. In fact, the work of Kieron Gillen on Uncanny X-Men and Jason Aaron on Wolverine & The X-Men following Schism demonstrates that the franchise spent six long years running in a gigantic circle to get back to where Grant Morrison’s New X-Men and Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men had left it.

However, Yost and Kyle’s X-Force captures the mood of the line a lot better than Ed Brubaker or Matt Fraction’s work on Uncanny X-Men, willing to embrace the cynically and nihilitistically nineties vibe of the entire line.

Country of the dead...

Country of the dead…

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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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Jason Aaron’s Run on Wolverine & The X-Men – Avengers vs. 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.

Wolverine and the X-Men is one of the best comics that is being published by Marvel at present. Along with Waid’s Daredevil and Fraction’s Hawkeye, it’s a celebration of the strange and surreal side of comics. Jason Aaron doesn’t get enough credit for his character work, but his handle on the wonderfully wacky side of the X-Men mythos makes Wolverine and the X-Men a joy to read for anybody with an open mind and a willingness to try something a bit different.

Although the Avengers vs. X-Men tie-in issues are hardly the best place to witness Aaron’s artful approach to the franchise, often feeling a little disjointed and more all-over-the-map than usual, they still contain a lot of what makes Aaron’s work with the characters so appealing.

Burn, baby, burn...

Burn, baby, burn…

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Avengers vs. X-Men (Review/Retrospective)

To get ready for Iron Man 3, we’ll be taking a look at some Iron Man and Avengers stories, both modern and classic. We hope to do two or three a week throughout the month, so check back regularly for the latest update.

I’ll admit, I’ve always been broadly curious about how the Avengers and the X-Men franchises fit together. I’m not normally a massive fan of over-thinking the whole “shared universe” aspect of superhero comics. After all, how can Spider-Man continue to have it so tough when there’s a bunch of wealthy and well-loved superheroes who could vouch for him? Why wouldn’t Batman use Superman or Green Lantern for back-up all the time? It’s best not to dwell on the implication that all these comic books are unfolding at the same time, despite how fun the occasional crossover might be.

Still, I’ve always found it interesting that the X-Men books apparently share a continuity with Marvel’s publishing line. After all, the merry mutants are frequent victims of persecution and attempted genocide, the subjects of institutionalised racism and seem to spend the majority of their time as pariahs or outlaws. You’d assume that at least Captain America – the Sentinel of Liberty and all that – would probably want to take an interest in mutant affairs, or try to help them out a little.

Avengers vs. X-Men is a massive line-wide crossover between Marvel’s two largest and most iconic franchises. It is – as you might expect – mostly an excuse to throw the two sets of toys against each other, but it still has its fair share of interesting ideas. It doesn’t necessarily develop those interesting ideas in the most satisfactory direction, but it is surprisingly coherent for a twelve-issue series from five of Marvel’s highest profile writers and three of the company’s most respected artists.

Exactly what it says on the tin...

Exactly what it says on the tin…

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