The Pull List Comic Reviews: 'Kick-Ass', 'Avengers: The Initiative', 'X-Force' and More!

The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Kick-Ass’, ‘Avengers: The Initiative’, ‘X-Force’ and More!

This is the second part of John’s pull list comic reviews for the week. The first part was posted yesterday.

Kick-Ass #6 – Icon – $2.99
Score: 8.0

Kick-Ass itself is a contradiction of sorts. First, it is always one of–if not the most anticipated book of the month–even though it is usually never the best book of that month.  At the same time, it claims to be a super hero story about people in the real world, even though the actions taking place would never exist in what we consider the “real world” (or at least this writer hopes won’t actually take place).  Despite that, Kick-Ass does what all comics aspire to and sadly few consistently achieve in every issue; to please the reader and leave them wanting more.

On the surface, Kick-Ass has violence and vulgarity out the @$$ (that phrase being tamer than anything said in the entire book).  Digging down further, it is still pretty violent, but unlike a Hollywood gore film, there is substance hidden somewhere the buckets of blood and bodies, drawn with consistent art and beautifully illustrated splash pages by John Romita Jr. In the coming pages, the reader is taken through Hit Girl’s childhood and training that explain why she had no qualms about slicing and dicing criminals or loading them into car crushers in previous issues.

It’s hard not to crack an uncomfortable smile as this little girl tells her father they need to form a team, “‘Coz you’re the funnest dad in the world.” Like the rest of the series has been, this issue brings us intense imagery, including the blood-soaked cover, also from Romita, and ends on a great cliff hanger, keeping it atop everyone’s pull list for May.

Avengers: The Initiative #23 – Marvel – $2.99
Score: 7.5

This issue deals with two very different stories that both seem like they could have been split in to their own issues but are instead tied together in one because of one major event in the Marvel Universe, the end of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Norman Osborn being in charge.  The first story deals with Camp Hammond in Stamford, CT and the aftermath of Thor’s clone, Ragnorok, breaking free and the ensuing conflict which was resolved with the help of the New Warriors (the original New Warriors, not the reformed ones who could be referred to as the “new” New Warriors. But then that just gets confusing).

If there was ever a book to deter kids from wanting to become a super hero, Avengers: The Initiative would be it. But don’t take that as a bad thing. The book humanizes these super heroes and shows that they are as susceptible to things going wrong as any other person. Many of the characters in the pages of the Initiative since its start have suffered loss or been forced to sacrifice themselves at the hands of the machine.

The weakness of the Initiative, though, is in the revolving door of characters. Just when a new character has been given enough time to hit with the reader, they are either killed, quit, or are transferred out of the training program. Only a few constants have remained like Gauntlet or Baron Von Blitzschlag, who are some of the most unlikable characters in the series.  Like much of the Marvel Universe, the Initiative looks like it must prepare for some dark times ahead, which isn’t what you want to hear if you are a character in a book that is susceptible to tragedy and loss.

Guardians of the  Galaxy #13 – Marvel – $2.99
Score: 7.0

A request to the cover artists over at Marvel: Please stop putting a surprise that happens in the later part of the book on the covers. Last month, Phyla-Vell loses the quantum bands and gets a makeover on her look (as seen on the cover of Guardians of the Galaxy #12) and Richard Rider is given the quantum bands, getting himself a new look in the process (as seen on the cover of Nova). This month, a surprise appearance from the Starjammers is spoiled by not only cover art showing Havok and Phoenix but a headline saying “The Starjammers Strike”. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a strike either.

The issue revolves around the reformed Guardians of the Galaxy team with new members Jack Flagg, a newly resurrected Moondragon, and Phyla-Vell’s new dark alter ego, Martyr. The Guardians who were originally brought together to stop further damage to the fabric of the galaxy find themselves outside the War of Kings conflict between the Kree and Shi’ar. Adam Warlock lets the team know that the impending conflict will destroy the fabric of space.

The charm of the book lies in its attempt to be a space faring version of the New Avengers. If the team were a soda it’d be called “Avengers Light: Now with added Space!” These characters all have very distinct personalities but the reader just hasn’t come to love them as much as many of the principles in the Avengers stories yet.  In recent years, Marvel has taken this group of galactic characters which were so far off the map and turned it into its own strong collection of characters and books that are both engrossing and enjoyable.

This, like many issues this week, is a set up issue for bigger things. The issue doesn’t feel empty though as much of the personality of the key players is brought out, and actually not hindered by the sheer volume of the cast of the issue.  If not a galactic fan, this issue isn’t the strongest jumping-on point, as it assumes previous knowledge of many of the characters. But if you have read War of Kings, this is great supplemental material to explore a group that will hopefully play a large part in the upcoming conflict.

Star Wars: Dark Times #13 – Dark Horse – $2.99
Score: 6.0

In this issue, artist Douglas Wheatley beautifully illustrates Dass’s further decent from the Jedi order as he heads to a little known planet in the Inner Rim with a plan to infiltrate the local Slaver gang under orders from a new boss. In the mean time, Darth Vader learns of the existence of this Jedi refugee and has his thoughts consumed by it while on a menial mission for his lord, Emperor Palpatine.

The issue, while including great artwork with stupendous visual storytelling is actually very shallow in it’s content. The dialogue isn’t very engaging and the pacing of the narrative is fairly slow. The most intriguing part of the issue lies in the story arc’s title, Blue Harvest. Star Wars fans would recognize this name as the fake working title used during filming of Return of the Jedi.  Originally  i was marketed to be a horror film with the tag line, “Horror Beyond Imagination”.  Whether or not this story takes that direction remains to be seen.

X-Force #14 – Marvel – $2.99
Score. 6.5

Like the Messiah Complex crossover, Messiah War came out of the gates at full force with action and entertainment rolled in to each issue. Also like Messiah Complex, the Messiah War couldn’t keep up that pace as this issue, Chapter 3 in the Messiah War, slows down to help prepare for bigger things to come. While the issue is full of action, the story doesn’t feel like it progresses much. The X-Force, Cable, Hope and a thousand year old Deadpool confront Stryfe’s squad of minions.

Along the way, more of the back story that could have been pretty much assumed from previous issues regarding the relationship of Stryfe and Bishop is filled in as well as the first confrontation between Stryfe, Cable, Deadpool and the X-Force. The interesting part of this conflict is that Stryfe still has no idea why Bishop wants Cable dead or any of the significance of Hope, the Messiah child. Overall, the issue feels more like filler between the more vital parts of past and future stories. The most interesting character of the entire issue winds up being Archangel who is barely seen through the pages. For Warren to leave his own team in the midst of a bloody battle, he must be influenced by something big. Finally, while predictable, the end of the issue shows that the next chapter to the story is ready to ramp back up.

Be sure to check back each Wednesday for more of John’s pull list comic reviews right here at The Flickcast!