Here are my comics reviews for the week!
Journey Into Mystery 647 / Thor God of Thunder #003
Man, I'm really psyched that Marvel is putting these titles out, and that Journey Into Mystery is giving the same in-depth treatment to Sif as a character as it did Loki over the past few years. Journey picks up with Sif as she's just attained the ancient knowledge of how to invoke the berserker trance her forefathers used on the battlefield. Her and her kin are soon to find out she got more than she bargained for. Immonen's writing remains a tight balance of mysticism and cold realism that's perfect for an Asgardian warrior in the modern age, and Schitti is bringing it all to life wonderfully with his sense of movement, skillful choices of viewing angle, and excellently rendered facial expressions. Bellaire's color palette is a little less wide than Svorcina's is on Thor, but it really lends to the idea that Sif's new-found abilities are taking her in an unhealthy direction. I do so love it when color choices lend to story over style.
On Thor, Jason Aaron continues the tale of Thor's pursuit of the god-butcher, a killer of deities whose victims span the cosmos. The story is told from three different viewpoints in time: Thor's distant past, his present, and his future. While it does jumble the narrative at times, it also gives the reader the sense that Thor's endeavors can span eons, and that his consciousness doesn't necessarily work on the same frame of reference as us mortals. And the art...skillful layouts, action-oriented, just the right amount of detail when necessary, and just plain beautiful. I wouldn't change a thing.
Astonishing X-Men #57
Not as impressed with this effort. While Walta and Ruiz's art is competent, the styles are different enough that it jars the narrative a bit when they switch, and the color tones can change mid-page or even panel-to-panel in a way that disrupts the flow. That, and the twist to this story, essentially about Warbird being exposed to a something her culture has long feared, comes off a bit like an after-school special or Twilight Zone-style means-to-a-punchline.
Let's call this one It's a Very Barton Christmas. Not much happens in this issue, and, like the Holidays, it serves as a somewhat brief respite between major story arcs, affording Clint the opportunity to do a little soul-searching and attempt to solve some of the sideline issues plaguing his personal life and what he sees as his responsibilities. It's a very well-executed and consistent story arc, but there's not much story material to cover here. That, and the one character element belabored early in the issue, Clint's stubborn need to define his own corner of life free of his Avengers compatriots and all the glitz/glamour/fuss therein, kinda bothers the reader when the mob is targeting the people in his building in retaliation for his solo interference. Clint may be stubborn in his desire to "lone wolf" this conflict, but c'mon...a guy with a Norse god on speed-dial can't long call himself "hero" when he lets his personal desire for solitude put people in danger. The art actually works better for this type of story than it did in previous issues, however. C'mon Fraction, you gotta stay on point with the excellent storytelling of the first 5 issues...no rest for you!
Indestructible Hulk #002
What a fun read. As soon as I heard the premise for the new Hulk title under the Marvel NOW! moniker, I thought, "Teaming Hulk up with Shield is a great way to get him into the situations that we want to see him in." And it has been. Waid's writing examines Banner and Hulk equally, bringing the good doctor to light as the genius he is (which takes place too infrequently in his books) by placing him in a lab environment under the watchful eye of SHIELD. He also affords Big Green the opportunity to right the wrongs and pummel stuff real good by having SHIELD use him as a rather blunt, but powerful weapon against threats on a global scale. One of the problems facing writers of the character in times past has been getting him into the fray in the first place...after all, why would Banner/Hulk know or care if Hydra's stealing plutonium from some African country, or building a secret underwater lair in the North Atlantic? With SHIELD involved, the logic is plain. This issue sees Banner (not Hulk) setting the dominoes up to settle a score with a "most of the time" ally. It's a kind-of character examination of Banner, revealing some of the undercurrent of emotion that can bring about his change. Unlike past iterations, this isn't a Banner that's running from, or trying to eliminate his other self, it's a Banner that's embracing that self, and acting to fulfill some of those more violent urges before they internalize into a destructive force that can no longer be channeled. And unlike Fraction with Hawkeye this week, Waid doesn't forget the action. Art-wise, the line work and coloring in this issue is really good, but it looks over-inked at times...well, all the time, really. It adds weight to Hulk's bulk, but what should be Iron Man's sleek and futuristic visage ends up looking just as blunt and weighty as ol' Incredible's, and that just shouldn't be.
Captain America #002
This issue opens with Cap trapped in the pocket-dimension created by Arnim Zola, trying to escort a young ward he picked up escaping Zola's lab safely back to our own continuum. The landscape and its denizens are all very Kirby, and although I just don't take to JR Jr.'s blocky and line-driven style, it's very skillfully rendered, and he manages to impart the oppressive landscape of the alien dimension very well. Romita's a great storyteller with his art, it's just that it rubs me the wrong way style-wise, which is entirely subjective. Still waiting to see that kid turn into a man-eating beast or turn out to be Zola's child or some such twist. Overall, it's a decent read.
Man, this is starting to look like an all-Marvel week, huh? Anyway, Hickman's writing, and the art by Opena and White is pretty durn good. The Avengers have decided to "go bigger", and Captain America and Iron Man have put out the call to form a new team. This issue serves as a good reveal for the origin of their current nemeses, a trio of planet-judges, or sort of galactic gardeners bent on reshaping Earth for the better, at the expense of the current Terran status-quo and dwellers therein. I feel that the individual team member personalities are being well cared for by Hickman (was there any doubt?) and although this one is short on the bruises delivered, the story arc is taking shape nicely. "Bigger" does indeed seem to be the tone for the Avengers under NOW!
Whew! While I'm still too light on independents, it's nice to at least have both of the Big Two represented. This issue continues the H'el on Earth crossover story line, and unlike the last, seems to really cement Kara as a necessary cog in H'el's plans...plans which, given his disdain for all things non-Kryptonian, will likely result in humans getting the short end of the stick. Johnson's writing delves into more of the life experiences on Krypton which separate Kara from her earth-raised cousin, as well as her immaturity, which leave her more susceptible to H'el's influence. While Asrar's twisty style of pencil-work doesn't always flatter Kara, it does convey her relative youth well, and his facial expressions and panel layouts are spot-on. That, and the inkers (there are three) all seem to know when to add weight and shadow, and when to spare it. A good effort all around.
Before I go, I gotta mention here that Image has put out reprints of the first issues of many, if not all, of their current series, and they sell for a buck each. In case you've passed over some of the finer works such as Fatale, Thief of Thieves, and Revival, now's you're chance to test the waters before seeking out trades and back issues.
Thanks for reading!