Ms. Marvel: Best Of The Best, Civil War, Operation Lighting Storm, Monster Smash, Secret Invasion, Ascension, Dark Reign, War Of The Marvels, Best You Can Be
This was a well-intentioned effort on Marvel’s part to bolster their ranks of prominent female heroes a few years back. Ms. Marvel’s history goes back all the way to the mid 1970s, but to even call her a B-list character would be giving far more credit than she deserves. She’s worse than a B-list character; she’s a female ripoff of a B-list character. After the events of House Of M (Middling Marvel cross-over event that we’ll get to later) Marvel felt that the character could use a push, and enlisted Brian Reed to make it happen. I remember this series starting well, but also remember it losing steam about half-way through. I was wrong. This series never had any steam to lose. The premise is sound: A B-list hero who has never fully realized her potential decides to become the A-list leader she always new she could be. That’s a good premise, but Reed seems to forget about it almost immediately after coming up with the idea. And so plot lines regarding publicists and career juggling are dropped almost immediately, and this becomes just another run-of-the-mill superhero title quite quickly. Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there, and frequent artist changes, as well Reed’s misguided attempts to make the title always fit into current Marvel continuity scuttle the book completely. I should give some kudos to the stunningly sexy covers by Frank Cho, though unfortunately they’re not enough to save the series from the dreaded CULL.
Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E.
Warren Ellis is considered one of the very best writers in the recent history of mainstream comic books. And there is much evidence to support that. All you need to read are Planetary, Fell, or Global Frequency (not to mention The Authority or Transmetropolitan) to realize that the man has a serious talent.
But you’d never know it by reading his work for Marvel and DC.
Why? Because the man has a very unique and specific voice. And writers that have very unique voices rarely succeed in mainstream superhero books (The two BIGGEST exceptions to this are Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Claremont, both of whom have very distinctive dialogue styles, and both of whom have been extremely successful). And while he’s one of my favourite writers, I don’t believe he continues to get Marvel and DC work because his work for them is that good, I believe he continues to get it because HE”S WARREN ELLIS. So when you hire him to do X-Men, you get WARREN ELLIS. And when you hire him to do Batman, you get WARREN ELLIS. And those stories are never quite as good as when he’s playing with characters and concepts that are wholly his.
I’m not complaining at all, I’m just saying that I’m not sure why a man with such a unique voice, and such interesting ideas, even bothers with franchise characters that don’t lend themselves well to what he can bring to the table. And so enter Nextwave. Nextwave was basically Ellis’ attempt to play in the Marvel sandbox while giving himself as much freedom as possible. And so we get an over-the-top comedy action book featuring a bunch of characters so bush league that they make Ms. Marvel look like Spider-Man.
This is a fun book, but it’s also one that’s fairly disposable. It’s huge, funny, violent, and not big on plot. It’s basically Ellis reworking his Authority concept, but played for laughs. Get it if you’re an Ellis completist, or for the fantastic art of Stuart Immonen.
New Mutants – New Mutants Graphic Novel
Mutants are the Marvel version of corn. Marvel creates so many of them that they end up putting out mediocre book after mediocre book just to feature them all, even though all we really want is one GOOD book. This 80’s graphic novel was one of Marvels MANY attempts at skewing their X franchises at a younger demographic, as well as an attempt at duplicating the success they had a few years earlier with their “new” X-Men. The story is quite pedestrian: Charles Xavier doesn’t want to train any more mutants, but they keep showing up, and so he does. The end. The New Mutants would go on to actually have some very good and very interesting stories in the 1980’s, but this one, their first, wasn’t one of them.
NewUniversal: Everything Went White
Yet another attempt at a Marvel book by Warren Ellis, and it’s one that takes some explaining. In the mid 80’s, then Marvel EIC Jim Shooter launched something called The New Universe, a half-assed attempt to create a whole bunch of new IPs that Marvel could exploit for decades to come. Good idea, except that Shooter forgot the first rule of superhero comic books: People who like superhero comics fear change. He also forgot the second rule of superhero comic books: People who like superhero comics always want something new. Now, if you can figure out how to make Rule 1 work with Rule 2, then you’re a better person than 98% of the people who have ever worked in the comic book industry.
Suffice it to say, the New Universe fizzled out, but for some reason Marvel decided a few years back to get Warren Ellis to revamp it. And I would say that he did a nice job. Not necessarily nice enough that I want to see a dozen comic books based on his concepts, but nice enough that I wouldn’t mind seeing another 10 or 15 issues just to wrap everything up in a bow. This is basically Ellis introducing superpowers into a non-superpowered world, and he’s introducing concepts that will be familiar to anyone that’s read his Planetary or Authority books. While I’m not sure that this is different enough from those landmarks to justify owning it, it’s still an entertaining enough origin story, and one that stands up quite well.
Nick Fury: Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
If you look at any list of the greatest comic books of the 1960’s, Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury is pretty much always going to be high on that list. And for good reason. Any comic that can blow me away with its action sequences at the same time that my wife is peaking over my shoulder to steal furniture ideas for our home HAS to be special. And this one is. This is a pop art masterpiece disguised as a James Bond pastiche, and probably more of a product of its times than pretty much any Marvel comic before or since. And so the number one characteristic that the book has going for it, is also its biggest drawback. This thing is so dated that it makes Watergate look timely. As negatives go it’s a minor one, but one to watch out for nonetheless.
Next up: Nova, The Pulse, and The Punisher!