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Is It Wednesday Yet?
09 October 2007

09 October 2007 — Here we are again with another installment of your favorite comic book review series. As always the comics you're about to read about won't be released until tomorrow (10 October 2007), so these reviews are free of spoilers and should help inform your purchases on new comic book day.

Our grading scale is simple:

Buy: An excellent comic book.
Borrow: A good comic, but save yourself some money by reading a friend's copy.
Flip Through: Give it a once-over at the comic shop.
Skip: This doesn't need to be explained.

Marvel Adventures Hulk #4
Writer: Paul Benjamin
Penciler: David Nakayama
Inker: Gary Martin
Colorist: Sotocolor's A. Street
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover: David Williams

Review: Michael David Sims
Here's the problem with this book: it's dumbed down. Way down. While I fully understand that Marvel Adventures Hulk wasn't written for me — a man months shy of turning 30 — I also understand that children aren't stupid. They don't need their entertainment to be oversimplified, but that's exactly what this issue did. Hulk is good. The army is bad. End of story. Shades of grey do not exist here, which is a shame because children know that life extends beyond right and wrong — that sometimes the good guys don't wear white and the bad guys don't always twirl their mustaches.

That's not to say Marvel Adventures Hulk #4 was a bad comic, because it wasn't. It's serviceable and children will get a kick out of the fights, but the bulk of the entertainment came from David Nakayama's pencils. Radioactive Man glows ominously. The otherwise puny Madrox (yes, that Madrox) looks imposing (yet uncomfortable) in the Hulkbuster armor. General Ross is his typical ornery self. Hulk's first appearance is impressive, his strength massive and his confusion humorous. Besides a few quibbles (Rick Jones' jaw is very square, making him look like Doc Samson; some of the staging is awkward), younger readers will get a kick out of the colorful art and they'll think Hulk looks cool when he roars and smashes.

Back to the story: it's the typical "Banner wasn't doing anything wrong, the army makes Hulk mad, lives are put in danger, Hulk saves them, the army still goes after the Hulk, Hulk gets away" type tale we've seen countless times over the years. And that's fine. I understand a child of six hasn't read hundreds or even dozens or even one Hulk comic before, so this is all fresh to him. What I take issue with is it's (to reuse a word) oversimplified nature. The army doesn't change its stance, not even once Hulk proves to be heroic. One of the army's hired goons turns out to be a cackling villain. It's clichéd... even for a clichéd story.

Just because the intended audience falls somewhere between toddler and tween doesn't mean the characters should be shells. In doing so, fun is sapped right out of the pages. That's unfair to its readers, and does the industry a disservice. Though kids might have fun looking at the pictures, they're going to realize they're being talked down to here.

A few weeks ago Des and I reviewed Marvel Adventures Iron Man #5 on Earth-2.net: The Show, and, to our surprise, we loved it! The story was filled with action and danger, the characters were developed, the villains had personalities that went beyond grooming their facial hair, the art was beautiful and at one point I honesty worried about Tony Stark's wellbeing. It was a terrific read for both children and adults. That's how you write a Marvel Adventures book! Please take notice, Mr. Benjamin.

Unfortunately I have to recommend that this one be skipped, even for children. If you want fun reads for youngsters, find Fred Van Lente's age-appropriate writings (e.g. Marvel Adventures Iron Man, Fantastic Four and Power Pack) or J. Torres' Teen Titans Go!.

New Avengers #35
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Leinil Yu
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: Albert Deschesne
Cover: Leinil Yu

Review: Tim Glancy
I love New Avengers. With a passion. I love this book like people who search for werewolves love this website. I love this book like DC loves confusing stories. I love this book like I love overusing a gimmick in my writing. I really think that New Avengers is my favorite book being published right now. The first reason is that I love Luke Cage. Ever since the first time I read one of my cousin's comics, with what I thought was an African American pirate at first glance, I thought he was an interesting and underused character. The way that Bendis has taken him from a hero for hire to the leader of the Avengers is amazing.

I also love the way that the characters in this book interact. Even though this team hasn't been together for very long, they already act like a family. Of course, it helps that there are a lot of preexisting relationships here. Cage and Iron Fist, Spider-Man and Spider-Woman, Cage and Jessica Jones, Ronin and Dr. Strange: they all have history. And best of all is how someone like Echo views this, because she has no history with any of these characters.

Best of all, and the greatest thing about this issue, is that Bendis can do away with all of these relationships for a month and still craft a supremely interesting story. This month, instead of heroes, we focus on villains — the Hood's gang in particular — and what they are going to do in this post-Civil War world. The Hood seems to say what fans have been thinking for years, that the villains were playing too fair. Now, under his leadership, we get to see a new, vicious side to the villains, and this is clearly demonstrated by the end of the issue. This is an extremely interesting take on the villains in the Marvel Universe, and will hopefully change the status quo not just of this book, but for the entire universe.

You can really tell why Bendis is such a huge fan favorite by reading this book. He clearly respects these characters, and the fans respect him for it. Leinil Yu, however, splits readers right down the middle. Some people hate his sketchy style. Others love its freshness, especially on these street level characters. I'm somewhere in the middle. At times I'm astounded by his art. Other times it confuses me, leaving me begging for the book to end. This issue is actually one of his better efforts, but it's not without its flaws. When there are large groups of characters, Yu's weaknesses, especially where detail is concerned, shine through, as you can't really make anyone out from the person sitting next to them. Sometimes, even on the same page, the characters appearances will change and it can become very confusing for the reader, because you can't tell that you are looking at the same character two panels in a row.

As a whole, however, the writing and mostly great art make up for any faults I find in Yu's pencils. This is a book and arc that, probably, will be very important going forward in the Marvel Universe, so please buy this issue. Especially if you want to see something different from the usual suspects.

Punisher #51
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Goran Parlov
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Cory Petit
Cover: Tim Bradstreet

Review: Tim Glancy
I am huge believer in the rights of creators. They should be allowed to express themselves by telling their stories, uncensored. Video games, films, television shows or comic books: as long as the product is marketed to the right audience, I don't have a problem with anything. If I don't like it, I am big enough to not buy it. That's the power of the consumer.

That said, despite his hard edge, dark past in Vietnam, the brutal death of his family and the slaughtering of countless mobsters, for years Marvel tried to shoehorn the Punisher into the mainstream Marvel Universe. From the start he should have been marketed towards adults, but he got his start in Amazing Spider-Man — thus setting him firmly alongside the title character, as well as Captain America, Beast and hundreds of other superheroes. As his popularity rose over the decades, he was spun into his own comic, then another and another until the concept and character were watered-down. After a brief hiatus, Marvel saw the light and re-launched the Punisher in a mature / adults-only comic written by the legendary Garth Ennis. Since then, we have seen Castle take on Russians, slave traffickers, more Russians and Barracuda.

Ah, Barracuda. Barracuda is something of a breakthrough character from this series. If you haven't read anything with Barracuda yet, nothing I can write here will give you an adequate idea of what he is and what he does. Go pick up The Punisher, volume six: Barracuda and / or his spinoff miniseries Punisher Presents: Barracuda. It's tremendous.

Despite how Castle left him at the end of their previous encounter (RE: for dead), Barracuda is back! And he has vengeance on his mind. The plan he has enacted is one of the more devious schemes in comics in years. This is one of those plans that comes close to crossing the line, but it's kept (somewhat) light — so you never feel disgusted or embarrassed to be reading it.

Garth Ennis, of course, is tremendous at creating a completely fucked up story and making it readable and fun. Sure, he's a vulgar, disgusting writer, but he is incredibly funny and adds a human touch to all his stories. Ennis is tremendous at taking a character you should hate and making him enjoyable. He's done it with Tommy Monaghan, Jesse Custer and now here with the Punisher. Even with all the great writers who have taken on Castle over the years, he has never felt this human or enjoyable. I have a ton of collections (both TPB and hardcover), but I have more Ennis-written Punisher books than any other creator / character combo — and this issue is a great example of why. We see that Frank, for all his violence and craziness, is a hell of a man and is someone that sticks to his principles. Other writers neglect to infuse that into the character, Ennis, however, brings it to the forefront.

The art from Parlov and Loughridge is very good as well, but the characters do seem a little disproportionate from time to time. Especially when Castle is shown shirtless or straining — he looks entirely too muscular for a character like the Punisher. However, this is a minor complaint, because there are also panels when the art is brilliant. This team knows which angles to establish and what scenes to explore in each panel; you see exactly what you're meant to see. Though it's not the best art in the world, it's still quite good and fits the overall tone of the comic.

So, unless you have a weak stomach or are under the age of 17, go ahead and give this a buy.

Wolverine #58
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Howard Chaykin
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Cory Petit
Cover: Arthur Suydam

Review: Tim Glancy
Like any book, Wolverine has had its ups and downs, but it's mostly been an excellent title. In the last few years we've seen one superstar creative team tackle the character after the next: Greg Rucka and Darick Robertson re-launched the series in 2003, Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. crafted the mind-blowing "Enemy of the State" and "Agent of SHIELD" storylines, then Marc Guggenheim and Humberto Ramos had the unenviable task of working Wolverine into Civil War and they crafted one of the only excellent tie-ins.

After that, Jeph Loeb was brought in. I am a pretty big Loeb fan, but his run on Wolverine was one of the worst runs I have ever read by a major writer on a major book. The direction in which he took Wolverine was so drastically different from where he had been before, that it really did a disservice to one of Marvels most important characters. To be honest, I had given up on this book entirely. Loeb's run was that damn bad. I really hope it's later revealed that his run was a dream or LSD trip or alternate reality or something, because I hate to think it's in continuity.

However, much to my relief, Marc Guggenheim is now back on the book and he is picking up one of the more interesting threads that he had left dangling from his first run. The question of what happens when Wolverine is close to death is an interesting one, as is how a comic book character comes back from the dead. We are delving into both questions in this arc. Way back in issue 48 we learned that Wolverine fought a battle every time he was near death, and he always won. This issue brings that concept to the forefront, and we learn who the person is, how he and Wolverine became entwined with one another, as well as what could cause Wolverine to actually bite the bullet. Guggenheim manages to tie all this not only to his previous storyline, but also to current Marvel events. Thanks to two high-powered guest stars, we learn a little more about Wolverine's reputation in the Marvel Universe. And with him being in no less than every book each month, it's important to know how those in the universe feel about him.

Guggenheim also manages to make this enjoyable for both new and old readers. Too often the creative team either forgets elements from previous issues (angering longtime readers), or they make it so the book is too continuity heavy (dissuading new readers from continuing). Guggenheim splits the difference here. I loved picking up the little bits from his "Vendetta" storyline, but never did I feel like I had to reread it.

The art is handled by the legendary Howard Chaykin, and his art looks as beautiful as ever. The thing I have always enjoyed about Chaykin's work is his attention to the details. Everything from his characters to his backgrounds are tremendous and have a very live, fluid feeling. The battle scenes in this book are second to none, yet he never forgets how to handle anatomy. The colors, from Edgar Delgado, compliment Chaykin's art perfectly, really helping the characters and battles to pop off the page.

My suggestion to Marvel is this: keep Guggenheim, Chaykin and Delgado together for years to come!

My suggestion to you is this: make sure to buy Wolverine #58 and the previous issue, because a creative team like this deserves to look at some high sales numbers. Plus this is a damn good story!

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To hear reviews of First Born #2, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #24, New Warriors #5, Punisher War Journal #12 and Runaways #28, download Earth-2.net: The Show, episode 162.

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