This is the second of our guest The Pull List columns for this week. For the previous installment, go here. — Ed.
Invincible Iron Man # 18 – 2.99
To be honest, I haven’t found many recent Iron Man solo stories that engaging. The character seems to have more “big” moments in every other book than his. Matt Fraction, Salvador Larocca, and Frank D’Armata’s run on this book has changed my opinion completely. Invincible Iron Man continues to be one of the best comics on the stands on right now. This issue is no exception.
The penultimate chapter in the “World’s Most Wanted” arc puts all the pieces in place for next issue’s finale. As Stark’s smarts have regressed so has his ability to use his more advanced armors. This takes him back to the where it all started for him, the original armor. Meanwhile, the situation involving Black Widow and Maria Hill being captured by H.A.M.M.E.R. moves along with a turn I didn’t see coming.
Fraction continues to do a great job in writing Tony’s loss of intelligence. There is one scene which feels a bit forced. But it does an adequate job of reminding us of Stark’s past sins. The strongest part of the book is the advancement of the Black Widow and Maria Hill situation. The setup of last issue pays off in this one and sets up the endgame in a very interesting way.
Larocca’s art can be slightly inconsistent at times, but not enough to distract from the story. His strongest moment of this issue is his depiction Tony donning the original armor. D’Armata’s colors are not as strong as they normally are, but again this doesn’t take anything away from the book.
The buildup is complete and after a year we will finally get the confrontation between Stark and Osborn next issue. This looks to be one those great moments in Iron Man history, and I personally am looking forward to seeing how this gets resolved.
This is my pick of the week (month, year, etc.). The book is a setup issue, so if you haven’t read any the previous ones you might be lost. If you have been reading this series so far, this issue continues a great character-defining run.
Captain America Reborn # 3 – 3.99
I never thought of Captain America as being a “science-fiction” character. His character seems better suited for more mainstream superhero and espionage flavored stories. So I really wasn’t behind the story driving Reborn. Cap being lost in time and jumping through all the important moments in his life seemed a little silly. Though the execution is still flawed it does give us some nice flashbacks in this issue.
Steve Roger’s journey through his own memories takes us to some of the key moments of his history and emphasis his connections to the larger Marvel universe. As Steve is busy trying to figure out what’s going on, Hank Pym, Reed Richards, and Namor are investigating exactly what happened when he died. It makes for an interesting mystery, but not the easiest to follow.
On top of all that this issue also gives some attention to the captured “Bucky” Cap, and The Falcon and Black Widow’s ongoing attempts to save him. This issue isn’t all about the heroes though, as the Red Skull, Sin, and Crossbones are definitely up to something. As you can see, this book has a pretty large cast, but Brubaker does a good job of keeping everything in order and giving everyone just enough attention to keep us interested in what their purpose is.
Brubaker’s usual twist and turns are present, but where it fails is his handling of Roger’s adventure through time. The writer is somewhat vague of why and how this happening to the original Cap. This may be because it is all tied into the Red Skull’s plan (also extremely vague) which we assume will climax in issue # 5. Roger’s memories are the books strongest parts when they are isolated, but they are also the weakest due to their lack of a solid explanation.
As for the art on this book, it suffers in a very similar way that the writing does. The combination of Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice are capable of some truly amazing work, but there are other parts that feel extremely rushed. The art really comes through on the flashback sequences. The team’s depiction of the Kree-Skrull is one of the coolest interior images I’ve seen in a while.
Yet, when we get to the scenes set in the present day they seem like they were drawn by a different team. They’re not bad per se, but are a bit of a letdown when compared to the time jumps. It might be that the flashbacks are the most important part of the book, so extra attention was given to them. That’s no reason to have the rest of the book suffer.
With two more issues to go on this series this marks the mid-point of the story. Yes, the plot did move forward but it failed in shedding any light on Steve’s predicament. Overall this issue has some great moments and some gorgeous art, but a confusing plot and rushed art hurts the book. Perhaps when the Red Skull’s true plan is revealed this whole series should be revisited and read with that in mind.
Amazing Spider-Man # 605 – 3.99
This issue of Amazing is a mixed bag at best. A double sized issue with three separate stories that revolve around Peter Parker and the former love of his life, Mary Jane Watson (no Parker!).
This comic is a follow-up to the recent three-part “Red-Headed Stranger” story. RHS returned MJ to the title and gave us a small hint as to what happened that drove her and Peter apart. The first story slightly expands upon that. It reveals where MJ has been for the past year and sets her up for future stories. It is told by Fred Van Lente and Javier Pulido. They do a decent job at giving us a reason to care about where MJ was and why her relationship with a fellow movie star failed.
The weakest part of the story is a bizarre sequence that attempts to squeeze some action into the story. It attempts to portray MJ as hero herself. It just didn’t work and felt out of place. The artwork of Pulido does an adequate job of showing us an exaggerated, cartoony version of Hollywood. Where the story shines is the glimpses of the event that fractured the relationship between MJ and Peter. I wish we got more of this, but it does give me hope that we will see this down the line.
In the second story, Van Lente teams with Luke Ross and Rick Magyar on art and shifts the focus onto Peter and his recent fling with his roommate Michelle Gonzales. The Chameleon didn’t help the situation with his impersonating of Peter. This story clears up the situation, in one of the funnier moments of the book.
To remind readers of other ongoing plots and hints at future stories, we get a glimpse of The Raptor, who has connections to the dreaded Clone Saga, and a hint that we may see the return of The Black Cat soon. We also get to see the growing relationships between Harry Osborn and Peter’s cousins. Overall, it seems this story is setting things up for future issues and sets up a new problem in Peter’s living arrangements. It’s a pretty mediocre story that doesn’t have anything very memorable about it.
Brian Reed writes the third story, while Yanick Paquette and Mark Farmer handle the art. This one is the best out of the bunch. Harry gets Peter to try out online dating service, while Spidey tries to get a date of his own. It’s a fun story that reminds us why Peter is such a likeable character. Paquette and Farmer’s art is very clean and dynamic at the same time. In my own humble opinion, Paquette is an underrated artist. He should have a regular gig on a monthly book.
As a break between storylines, this one seemed like a bit of a fill-in. The Van Lente stories are ok, but nothing special. The book gave us a hint at what happened and what might happen, it still felt a little flat. Not horrible, just not worth the 3.99 price tag.