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Review: A-Force #4 (5 stars out of 5)

Although A-Force #4 is the darkest of this series so far, and I mean that in both story and drawing terms, this is a good companion to the rest of the series, maintaining the tight story and the beautiful art so far.

But this is not a standalone issue, and my 5 star rating is given with that in mind. This is very much a series that needs to be read from the beginning.

The cast of characters here is worthy of a Joss Whedon movie. These characters have been brought to life in a short amount of time, and been given reason and motivation. And most important of all, they have heart. I can feel these characters coming to life before me, and that is the hardest quality to convey in any form of literature.

For example, I never thought I would write this, but She-Hulk might be the best team leader Marvel ever had, and that includes the likes of Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Carol Danvers, and Reed Richards. She-Hulk has been around the block a few times, and knows how teams run (having been on the Avengers, Defenders, and Fantastic Four). But more importantly than that, she has the biggest heart of anyone. While she is harder on herself than anyone else could be, somewhat similar to Steve Rogers in this regard, her ultimate goal has been, and always will be, justice. That may sound like a trite cliché for a superhero, but it applies double for the trained lawyer Jennifer Walters. A-Force is driven by She-Hulk's quest to get justice for Miss America (aka America Chavez), and the A-Force team lines up behind She-Hulk with barely a question.

There is a traitor in their midst, but I won't spoil that. If the series has a flaw, it is the traitor was somewhat predictable. (I kind of suspected it from the first issue.) Fortunately, this isn't a story driven by a "whodunit" storyline.

This is a majestic story about a Camelot-style land, protected by a team of super-powered women, who are willing to put it all on the line for friends and neighbors. After A-Force, the Avengers seems almost impersonal.


Save the Fantastic Four

I have been reading the awful reviews for the newest Fantastic Four movie, and I can't say I didn't see this coming. I am amazed that Fox didn't see it coming.

Let me start by saying I have been a fan of the FF for decades. I even enjoyed the last two FF movies, although they certainly were not "Avengers class". Some of the takeaways from those movies:

1. Michael Chiklis nailed the Thing, who is, in my opinion, the most important character. He is the heart of the team. Fortunately, this is not where those movies failed.

2. Ioan Gruffudd did a reasonable job as Reed Richards, the second-most important character on the team. Reed is the brains of the team, and Ioan's work was more than adequate.

3. Chris Evans as Johnny Storm was a huge winner for those films. Evans needs to be considered as one of the best comic book film actors because of his flexibility. Anyone who can play both Johnny Storm and Captain America must be respected.

4. Sorry Jessica Alba fans, but here is your weak link in the first two films. I like Alba, and think she is gorgeous and smart. Her problem is that she is also hard-nosed, and Sue Storm is NOT a hard-nosed character (at least not until later in the series). If Alba was playing the older Sue Richards, I suspect she would be awesome. Remember, each member of the FF got a power that suited their personality, and Invisible Girl got her powers because she was somewhat shy. This is one area where I suspect the new movie may have gotten it right: Kate Mara strikes me as the right person for this role.

5. Julian McMahon's Dr. Doom was surprisingly good. Going into the first film, I couldn't see him in the role, but he made me a believer. Also, they got it right including him in the second film. No matter what the FF does, Doom always seems to be lurking in the background.

6. Galactus as a big space cloud entity? Too dumb for words.

7. The stories were ok.

It isn't that the FF can't carry a movie. But I would suggest their problem is similar to Star Trek's problem: You need at least a year or two of character development before rolling it out to the big screen. Star Trek worked in the movies because everyone knew the characters intimately by the time the first movie was made. That allowed the writers to work beyond exposition and concentrate on the one story to tell. FF needs a tv series to introduce this team to a modern audience, so they can appreciate the chemistry of this team.

But this leads us to the next problem: For a tv series to work, the FF needs to be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in order for the FF to face challenges from Marvel Comics.

Personally, I hope the new movie bombs, and Fox surrenders, or at least approaches Marvel about a partnership.


Secret Wars reviews (with spoilers!)

Before I get started, spoilers may be dropped for any or all of the following issues: Secret Wars #1-2, Battleworld #1, A-Force #1, and Spider-Verse #1.

Now on to it....

We have all read a story where you are dropped into the middle of a situation without knowing why things are happening. In the case of the new Marvel universe, this is happening everywhere. Frankly, I am getting tired of stories like this in every Marvel issue. It is getting repetitive.

What we know:

1. Dr. Doom is the totalitarian leader over all of Battleworld.

2. All the land sections of Battleworld are being run by "barons" appointed by Doom.

3. Nobody is allowed to cross from one land section of Battleworld to another, or they risk punishment from Doom.

Unfortunately, we have no clue how the world got this way (unless it was given away in a previous issue I missed somewhere).

This mystery was mildly cute the first time I read it. By the 5th issue, I'm feeling, "Enough already!"

On to my reviews...

A-Force #1 (4 stars): The best so far. I find I'm liking She-Hulk as a leader better than I expected, and I had high hopes for her. While the issue does suffer from the same problem all of the issues are suffering from, A-Force does it with feeling. The writing here is exceptional, with arguably some of the best artwork provided in any of the issues I have read so far. On a side note: She-Hulk may be the best team leader since Captain America. She is THAT good.

Secret Wars #1 (4 stars): The picture of Reed Richards losing his family (as well as a few fingers) carries enough emotional impact for two entire universes, which is what ended here. While these "stuffed with characters" stories tend to be overdone, this one was ok.

Spider-Verse #1 (3 stars): Yet another "to be revealed" later story, although this one has a particular twist: Nobody knows how they got here. They remember their lives before the end, but they don't seem to remember the end of the universe. This may be true in other stories too, but they haven't expressed it. The story here has some potential: Spider-UK and Spider-girl have a nice chemistry, and Spider-Gwen and Spider-Ham make any story better. However, the art is hit-and-miss. Every now and then, we get a panel where the characters look fat. That's ok for Spider-Ham, but Spider-Gwen and Spider-UK? Pet peeve: How come none of the regular artists assigned to draw Spider-Gwen seem to be able to do it well? Rodriguez sucks, and Araujo is inconsistent.

Battleworld #1 and Secret Wars #2 (2 stars): These are both "how did we get here? Tell you later" stories. If this is all I can expect from Secret Wars' titles, I may just wait 6 months and read this in Marvel Unlimited. No point wasting my time and money on stories that just annoy me. That said, the art is good here, which is the only saving grace.

While I appreciate the Secret Wars storylines are a way to suck money out of me, you better bring your "A" game to get it. A-Force works, but the other titles need some work.

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The UK Avengers 2 Trailer

I don't know if this has been posted or not, but here is the Avengers 2 trailer from the UK, which is slightly different. Enjoy:

On top of this, the bloody Brits get the movie on April 23rd. If there's any consolation, it is that the French get it on April 22nd. Take that Britain!


Who is this woman? [Amazing Spider-man #15 SPOILERS]

No Caption Provided

I will try to limit the spoilers from Amazing Spider-man #15 (which is the epilogue from the Spider-verse event), because it is a good read, but also an important issue for understanding a lot of what happens to the Spider-verse characters going forward. However, the picture above is taken from a scene where the next Spider-verse comic is introduced, with Spider-UK and Spider-girl (Anya Corazon) leading the "Warriors of the Great Web". The image above is supposedly one of several in the scene, hinting at the members of the team.

Based on the rest of the story in ASM #15, I suspect that is Mayday Parker of the MC2 universe. She is given her father's costume earlier, and that certainly looks like a woman in the original Spider-man costume.

But one of the big controversies recently has been about whether Mayday is on the Spider-verse team. Mike Costa, the series' writer, said this on his Twitter account: "Some wires got crossed. Anya is on the team, not Mayday." (https://twitter.com/MikeCosta/status/566401880595509248)

This issue got raised because the original Marvel solicit included a picture of Mayday (bottom left of picture below):

No Caption Provided

On top of this, Mayday's original artist Ron Frenz had this to say over at the Mayday message board (http://www.comicboards.com/spidergirl/): "[Marvel] Editorial made the call to put her into the MC2 stories as opposed to the Spider-verse Secret War stories."

In summary, it looks like that picture in ASM #15 is another "whoopsie" by Marvel. My guess is an editorial decision was made after both ASM #15 was finished and the marketing solicits had already been made.

On the other hand...

Back to the Ron Frenz post mentioned above: "[Tom DeFalco, the original Mayday writer, and I] have been approached by Marvel to produce some MC2 material for the upcoming Secret Wars event...We've been told the Secret Wars MC2 story WILL include May."

Consider this: Why couldn't they have Anya and Mayday in the same series? There is absolutely no reason they couldn't, unless...Marvel clearly has something else in mind, since they are doing something major with the MC2 universe. I have two possible theories:

First, they are destroying MC2. From a business perspective, this makes no sense, since there are still fans of it, and where there are fans, money can be made. However, there may be a larger editorial decision involved here. I don't like this, but it is possible.

Second, they are moving MC2 to some part of Battleworld. This makes sense from both an editorial and business perspective.

Then again, there may be a third theory I haven't considered. Feel free to toss it at me in the comments.


Weird Reasons to Root for Events in Comics

I find myself in an odd situation this week. When Amazing Spider-Man #13 is released on January 21st, I am rooting for Mayday Parker's Spider-Girl to make an appearance in the issue. She almost doesn't even have to do anything. Heck, she can make coffee for one frame. All she has to do is show up.

My reason for this is equally odd: It is for roleplay.

I roleplay comic book characters in Second Life (yes, it is still around), and I have been trying to apply in a Marvel-based sim for Mayday Parker's character, who I completely adore (I recently discovered her, and went on a 2 week binge reading every comic she was ever in). However, the sim has a rule that any characters not from the 616 universe (Mayday is from the 982 universe) have to appear in a 616-based comic for 6 consecutive issues, or else nobody can roleplay as the character. With ASM #13, Mayday will have been in 6 consecutive issues.

Crazy, huh?

So what is the craziest reason you ever rooted for something in a comic book?

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