Pull of the Week:
Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #1 – Marvel – $3.99
Every now and then it’s a good practice to pick up something off the rack you have little knowledge of or something that hasn’t been covered extensively by the internet hype machine. A lot of those times it can pay off with something really interesting and enjoyable. A good example of that is this week’s Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter. With Bill being more of a background player, this three issue miniseries gives him a great spotlight as it sets him up to go toe to toe with some of Marvel’s biggest players.
Godhunter begins with Beta Ray Bill teaming up with Thor and his ship, Skuttlebutt, to stop a tidal wave caused by an ocean quake from destroying a seaside town. After their success, Bill asks Thor for his aid in going after the god that destroyed his home planet and the rest of his race, the devourer Galactus. Thor, thinking Bill’s idea to be suicide, passes and tries unsuccessfully to convince Bill not to go.
The issue provides a cameo for S.W.O.R.D. and Agent Brand as they are rebuilding their facility after the Skrull attack when Brand meets with Bill. In exchange for a location of Galactus, Brand asks a small favor of Bill to deal with a lesser known villain by the name of Voidian. After dealing with Voidian, Bill heads off to a distant planet where he encounters the Herald of Galactus Stardust and unveils his plan for how he will be the one to finally stop Galactus. Also included in the issue is a reprinting of The Mighty Thor #337, the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill.
One of the things I like best about this issue is that it is doing something that Marvel has done a great job as of late, letting talented creative teams take the lesser known heroes and allowing them to take bigger roles. What this does is make their appearances in the larger titles mean more to the reader because we have been given the chance to become more emotionally invested in the character and their story. A great example of this is Drax.
A few years ago, Drax was off anyone’s radar and was a large bumbling moron of a character. When Marvel took the steps to reinvent him, he evolved in to the character who would go on to kill Thanos, not a small task by any means. Now as a part of the Guardians of the Galaxy, he means more to the team than he would have if he had never grown as a character. The same seeds have been planted recently for Beta Ray Bill with his involvement with Omega Flight and his role during the Secret Invasion.
Now with this mini-series, he takes a page from Drax’s playbook and goes after one of the big dogs on the block. The book also finally provides a payoff to the Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus two issue series that came out a few years ago showing how Stardust is still taking on the task he accepted in those issues. For the readers not knowing much about Bill, the issue provides a reason to finally care for him. Some of the most important aspects of the character are recanted as Bill and Thor discuss the decimation of his home planet and his race, the time spent tortured by demons and Bill’s entrapment by the Skrulls who sought to use his own Stormbringer hammer against him. But Bill refuses to wallow in misery and instead sets off on what Thor considers a suicide mission for his Oathbrother.
Bill shows his stance on right and wrong by still going valiantly in to what some would consider certain doom in an effort to put things right, even if it costs him his life in the process. One of the other most intriguing parts of the issue comes in Bill’s plan to defeat Galactus. Without spoiling it in this review, it turns out to be one of the most creative plans used by any character thus far. From looking back on the ways Galactus has been held back, but never truly defeated, it looks like Bill is actually the first to take this method of approaching the planet eating terror.
While Kieron Gillen’s story is the hallmark of the issue, Kano’s pencils are where it lacks.
Kane is often inconsistent with either his level of detail or the simply inaccurate anatomy’s and perspective. At the same time, he also gives some amazing panels like the early pages of the book where Thor and Bill hold back the crashing wall of water. Even the color takes a little something away from the story as Stardust is colored red now instead of the ice blue recognizable to the character. Overall, Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter is a strong showing for the supporting Thor character. If things continue on with the storytelling, Beta Ray Bill may have found his niche playing with the big boys of Marvel’s cosmic series.
Amazing Spider-Man #597 – Marvel – $2.99
“American Son” keeps up its momentum as part three of this story arc kicks it in to full effect. Under the disguise of Venom, Spider-Man has gained access to Avengers Tower and takes on his nemesis’ role under Norman’s Dark Avengers team. As all signs have pointed, Norman quickly reveals to his team that they will be gaining a new member soon, his son Harry as the American Son, a new embodiment of the spirit that Captain America once brought to the Avengers team.
Meanwhile, as Spider-Man is doing everything he can think of to maintain his disguise, Harry crosses paths with his pregnant former fiancé whose body is being affected by the chemicals that turned her in to the Menace as she tells Harry that she’s worried their baby might also be effected by the changes. Across town, unknowing of her nephew’s troubles, Aunt May stays up late planning for her wedding coming in issue #600 as a villain from the past is revealed.
After convinced he has fit in to the dark team, Spider-Man goes to monitor duty where he is attacked by Daken who had known from the start that it wasn’t Venom. What comes in the final pages of the issue are shocking to say the least as battle lines are drawn clearly by all the players in the story as well as what would appear to be a clear cut final page that doesn’t leave much to the imagination.
As it had been said before, this arc is one of the best stories in any Spider-Man comic in years and it continues to do so in this issue. It is without a doubt the best use of the rotating creative teams since Brand New Day. One can only hope that this team gets put on a much more consistent rotation. Writer Joe Kelly gets Spider-Man. He understands the internal monologue that Spidey tells so well and how he varies his speech when interacting with others around him.
It seems like he may also have a much better handle on the character of Daken than Brian Bendis does as well as he puts him to good use as Bendis has kept him quiet and in the background in much of the Dark Avengers series. Here, Daken is the ruthless psychopath that was created in Wolverine: Origins. The best part may come in Kelly’s interpretation of Norman Osborn. It is entirely believable that Norman has schemed his way to his current position of power when seeing how he handles the situation presented in this issue.
If forced to find a weakness in the book, it’d have to be how some members of the team are underutilized, like Ares or Captain Marvel, but since the story revolves so tightly around Norman and Spider-Man, pushing those other characters in to the story would have likely felt more of a force than anything else. Artist Marco Chechetto also does an outstanding job on the issue, especially on the two page spread first revealing the American Son armor and the shocking last page.
While many comics try to have shocking final pages, the effect is often only on the level of a “that’s cool” reaction. Very few comics leave the reader wondering where the story can be taken next or how the creative team can get themselves out of the current problem presented in the final pages anymore to the point that the reader simply cannot wait to get a hold on the next issue. This issue completely accomplishes that. The story is told in a way that leaves the reader wanting more, not because it felt like the issue itself was lacking, but because it was so well done and left on such a strong cliffhanger that it’s near impossible for a fan of the series not to wonder where it could be going next.
Even the cover of the issue with Norman standing over Spider-Man in his Iron Patriot armor lets the reader know the events of the issue don’t bode well for Spider-Man. If the team is able to keep up this pace and excitement, there is no doubt that this will be the Spider-Man story that everything will be compared back to over the next few years. Spider-Man is facing his ultimate foe who he could never truly finish off one on one, and now with Norman’s Dark Avengers, the odds are even farther out of his favor.
To say the days ahead of Spider-Man are bound to get darker would be an understatement.
American McGee’s Grimm #2 – IDW – $3.99
After a standout first issue, American McGee’s Grimm chooses a new target as the disgruntled title character takes out his frustrations on a genre of comics even more absurd to him than superhero tales: romance comics. Taking a classic tale of a boy who has admired a girl from afar before confessing his love and allowing them to live happily ever after, Grimm sees what really lies ahead for the young man as he will instead be stuck home babysitting children as his wife goes off gallivanting for days at a time.
He takes it upon himself to intervene out of the goodness of his heart and intercept the relationship to save the man who would never really get the chance to grow a pair and save himself. Using his unique brand of mischief, Grimm takes to the printed page, sending the lovers running off in a scare only to be briefly fended off by the young man. Determined not to let true love take full effect, Grimm does what he can to make sure the fairy tale ending he despises so much not come to pass.
Much like the last issue, American McGee’s Grimm does a fantastic job of examining a genre of comics and shouting out the ridiculous standards that are just accepted as a part of it because they have been going on for so long. While romance comics aren’t nearly as prevalent as last month’s target of superhero comics are, writer Dwight MacPherson was able to find his fair share of romance comic staples to sink his teeth into, especially the overly sappy inner monologues of the main characters and the overdramatic interaction between the young man and women when they do finally cross paths for the first time.
More than anything else, it makes the reader glad they aren’t into something as silly and trivial as romance comics (or feel almost embarrassed if they are). Also like last issue, the unique art style helps Grimm stand out from the crowd with its mix of 3D-esque artwork mixed with the “classic” comic pages done in a dot matrix printer look. Grimm is the kind of story for someone to read if they are bored with the standard fare of comics on the shelves today. It’s simple and almost cartoonish style keeps it light, even over the fairly dark and murderous undertones of the main character.
It is also a book that isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. While it pokes fun at conventions of simple genres, it leaves itself open for jabs. Sometimes the spots are left so wide open, it takes the jab on itself as seen in this issue with the thought bubbles commentary from Grimm. Being able to laugh at itself enables the reader to also laugh at the rest of the comic book medium in a respectful way. Not everything can be as deep as Preacher or Watchmen. Grimm understands this and just gives a comical experience for the reader with what can only be described as a quality anti-comic book.