Pull of the Week:
War of Kings #6 – Marvel – $3.99
Wow. That’s the first reaction after reading this issue. Any sort of recap of the events in it would unfortunately be spoilerific due to that fact that so much happens of consequence in its pages. And with an issue this good, spoilers would take away from so many of the great moments upon reading through it. What can be told is that as expected, the war itself comes to a conclusion in this issue.
War of Kings #6 starts off with Vulcan and Black Bolt squaring off inside the t-bomb ship, Black Bolt’s weapon that if detonated would release terrigen mists throughout the universe transforming all its people in to Inhumans. The book goes back and forth between this fight and gives glimpses of others who have been pulled in to the conflict like the Inhuman royal family, Havok and Polaris, and Gladiator.
This issue revolves around emotion. Vulcan’s insane rage and overconfidence is contrasted by Black Bolt’s cold and calculated silence. The king of the Inhumans knows he was going to be on a mission there’d be no coming back from by setting off the t-bomb and the determination and fervor he fights with shows he has full intentions of following through on this.
The Inhuman royal family is filled with anger of their own as some members applaud Black Bolt’s actions while others who were unaware of his intentions violently plead to know why they were not brought up to speed. Havok, Polaris and Gladiator all look at the war in mourning, seeing what once was a great empire of the Imperium before Vulcan defiled it and the Inhuman’s assault ravaged it to a point that it may never recover from under anyone’s leadership.
Abnett and Lanning did a fantastic job on this event. While some of the middle chapters slowed, the final issue kicked in to light speed that was necessary for the success of the galactic crossover event. Though not given the level of support, and thankfully not the large number of tie-ins, that events like the “Civil War” and “Secret Invasion” were allowed, this shorter tale was told in a much tighter fashion than most event books. Keeping it at six issues preventing the story for forcibly being stretched over extra issues for the sake of sales and kept the storytelling strong and concise, though one could argue that it may have even been better told in five issues.
The only complaint of the entire issue is at one point in the fight between Black Bolt and Vulcan, the mad mutant utters, “Sweet,” in conversation as if he was Cartman from South Park. It was really jarring because of how out of character it was and takes the reader out of the story for a moment to ask, “Did Vulcan really just say ‘sweet’ in a fight to the death?” But, that aside, the characterizations of the many involved were spot on. Along with Abnett and Lanning’s writing, Paul Pelletier did a great job penciling the issue. His style is ideal for superhero comics but especially the cosmic books. The way he draws costumes and muscles is great, especially when combined with the energy given off by these galactic characters during battle.
Looking back, War of Kings was not only a great miniseries but also a great event. Having one creative team controlling all the books involved proved to be a risk worth taking as they kept all the books on tract and tied in to the rest of the event. While some books like Nova didn’t need a War of Kings tie-in, the majority were strong and added a lot to the overall plot. If you hadn’t picked up War of Kings in worries that like many Marvel events the conclusion would be lackluster, then pick up the trade. It is well worth the read when it does come out.
House of M: Masters of Evil #1 – Marvel – $3.99
There’s something about this alternate timeline of Marvel continuity that keeps readers coming back. Maybe because outside of the Age of Apocalypse it is the most thoroughly examined and interesting alternate universe Marvel has. Maybe it’s just because they’d rather read any other alternate universe to avoid any more tales from Heroes Reborn or the MU2 storylines. Whatever the reason, Marvel has continued every now and then to put out a miniseries featuring the House of M insignia.
This series takes a look at the changes to the world of villainy, much like the recent Dark Reign trend, as it relates to a world under Magneto’s rule. Much like mutants are treated in the main Marvel Universe, in the House of M homo sapiens are the minority. They are herded in to ghettos to live where their species will disappear in a few generations. They are a genetic dead end. Any powered homo sapien, be it by magic, technology or experiment gone wrong, are looked upon as terrorists.
This causes the Hood to call together a group of villains in hopes of organizing and be able to take on the House of M for their own selfish purposes. They don’t care about fighting the good fight. Instead, these criminals are ready to live up to their reputations and take what they can get from the world around them.
Much of House of M: Masters of Evil is very reminiscent of the Hood’s gathering of the troops in New Avengers before the Secret Invasion. Most of what he says is just a paraphrasing of his intentions, just replacing “Magneto” with the names of the heroes and S.H.I.E.L.D. that he had been targeted by in the main Marvel U. Even the reactions and arguments from the gathered criminals is similar to his original pitch.
With the exception of a few members being added like Batroc the Leper, Sandman and the Absorbing Man, even the Hood’s gang consists of many of the same members. This retreading of both storytelling and members is the biggest weakness this issue suffers from. It feels like it has been read before. While the characters do feel like the “alternate reality” versions of themselves, it becomes very hard to tell if these are different people at all since the story is just so similar to something printed two years ago. The most interesting pieces of the issue do come from the Hood himself and the changes to his relationships with Sara and his daughter, his cousin John and his mother. Aside from those, not much has changed in the world for these characters.
Manuel Garcia’s pencils are great in the issue as he captures the distinct looks of so many of Marvel’s iconic B-List villains. The disappointment however comes from the fact that so all the characters look exactly the same as they did in regular continuity. In other books such as House of M: Spider-Man or the Incredible Hulk, costumes and personas were redesigned, even if only through subtle changes.
That was part of the intrigue to the alternate reality story about how even things like a person’s costume can change because of the different world developing around them. While it is a fun read, likely more so for someone who missed the Hood’s gang’s formation in the pages of New Avengers, there isn’t anything new to cling to in the pages of this book. From similar villains and identical costumes, House of M: Masters of Evil falls short of the mark in more ways than one.
Ghost Rider: Heaven’s on Fire #1 – Marvel – $3.99
Instead of just continuing the current run of the Ghost Rider monthly on-going series, Marvel decided to change it to a miniseries which picks up right where the last issue of Ghost Rider left off. It’s likely that this decision was financially motivated be it that the ongoing series wasn’t selling as well as needed to keep the title afloat and it needed the publicity associated with a miniseries as well as the extra dollar per issue that could be charged by including a piece of the original Ghost Rider #1 in the back few pages as well. That aside, on to the story of this issue.
A few weeks ago, before hell broke loose in Heaven, a group of angels had slaughtered a monastery that’s goal was to breed the next Anti-Christ. One young boy was able to escape. Now, the Son of Satan is on the boy’s trail to do everything in his power to stop the young boy from bringing the apocalypse to pass as Biblical scripture predicts. Now, both of the Ghost Riders Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch have been left by the wayside on earth as Zadkiel continues his assault on Heaven.
While Danny has gone off on his own, Johnny and Sister Sara, the last remaining Caretaker, try to find their way in to Heaven to defeat Zadkiel by starting their journey at a new age gift show known as Angelic Affirmations. There, the Ghost Rider and Caretaker face off against two of Zadkiel’s followers as they try to learn just what the angel’s ultimate plan is. And before the issue closes, the reader finds out that the little Anti-Christ in training has appeared on Wall Street and the return of a once thought dead Ghost Rider villain who is set to make his return.
Like I said earlier, this is not a new Ghost Rider story. It is instead just a limited series continuing what had already been set up in the ongoing series over the previous year. So far, it has been filled with twists very unsuspected of a book about a character once thought to be an agent of hell. The twists keep coming in this issue as Zadkiel’s plan continues to be revealed piece by piece. It also looks like there will inevitably be either a team-up between Ghost Rider and the Son of Satan before the end of this six issue series, or a confrontation between them with regard to the Anti-Christ.
Otherwise, why else would Jason Aaron put the gun (Son of Satan) in the first act? Aaron continues to have fun writing religious fanatics as well in this issue between Zadkiel’s followers in Angelic Affirmations as well as the monk explaining the plight of the Anti-Christ to Hellstrom. You can tell there is some sick little pleasure he has exploiting the fervor of these characters to show just how insane many fanatics sound about their faith.
Unlike some miniseries, this one may be hard to jump on for newer Ghost Rider readers or anyone who has missed the past two years of the series. Since so much of this tale comes from the events of the previous series, it isn’t much of a standalone story. Instead, anyone interested in it should try and pick up some of the more recent Ghost Rider trades. Also like the most recent series, there is nothing spectacular so far in this series.
It stands away from much of the mainstream Marvel universe. The rest of the super heroes fight Skrulls in Central Park while Ghost Rider tries to stop a rouge angel from overtaking heaven. The two don’t really have many points of intersection. The artwork continues to be a good fit for the character and the series which fits the overall theme of a good book that doesn’t really do anything to set itself apart from the pack.
COMING TOMORROW: ABSOLUTION #1, EXILES #5 and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON 8 #27