The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Dark Avengers’, ‘Thunderbolts’, ‘Gears of War’ and More!

Check out last week’s Pull List comic reviews here and here. Part two of this week’s list will be out tomorrow.

Pull of the Week

Dark Avengers #4 – Marvel – $3.99
Score: 8.0

After reading just about every Dark Reign book, one thing has become very obvious to the reader, and that is that the status quo has changed. Villains teaming with villains to take on other villains. Something about that picture just doesn’t sound right on paper… but it works in this issue. Without a single “hero” to cheer for, the reader shouldn’t be rooting for anyone in this book, not even the anti-heroes. With the exceptions of Ares and the Sentry, every other character is a murderous, psychopathic lunatic in one capacity or another. Somehow, though, writer Brian Michael Bendis makes the reader hope for the success of the centerpieces in this issue; Norman Osborn and Doctor Doom. Yes. You read that right. The guy who killed Gwen Stacey and ol’ iron face himself are the people who you are hoping win big in this issue. But like Norman likes to remind us, he did kill the Skrull queen so he can’t be THAT bad of a guy right?

Artist Mike Deodato couldn’t have been placed on more perfect a project, given his style. Many of the pages in the issue revolve more around shadow as he allows these villains to hide in plain sight. Call it a gut feeling, but this type of book most likely wouldn’t have been able to work in a style like recent issues of The Runaways, Deadpool or The Avengers: The Initiative with thick outlines and cartoonish colors. Every character’s appearance has a sense of grit and a feel of realism to them.  The cold dead stare of Hawkeye (or Bullseye, whichever you prefer) makes you believe he can–and will–kill you without a second thought.  Deodato has also done a great job with his take on Doctor Doom as he has been able to get so much expression out of a stiff iron mask.

Over the coming issues, it remains to be seen if the titular team is destined to ultimately fall apart due to outside conflict or internal quarrels.  As with many of Bendis’ stories, the issue ends, not with a cliff hanger, but a moment that leaves the reader questioning the thoughts and mentality of the issues key characters. Are they really as insane as we think they are? Is there the potential for them to do some good? Are they beyond redemption? Do they even want it?


Other Pulls:

Thunderbolts #131 – Marvel – $2.99
Score: 7.0

In a market where $2.99 books are becoming fewer and farther between, it’s almost impossible to pass up any Marvel book featuring the Merc with the Mouth for such a reasonable price. Deadpool has proven he is a character that he can elevate any book with a subpar cast (if under the right writer). Deadpool is able to rub some of his popularity on to some of the lesser known characters like the Headsman and Ghost, who have yet to be greatly explored.

Since the team’s roster change, the Thunderbolts are no longer about redemption as they once were. Instead they are a group of black ops killers at the beck and call of the highest bidder, their boss Norman Osborn. Picking up with “Deadpool”, (actually the Taskmaster in disguise),who is in the clutches of the Thunderbolts and Norman, this issue concludes the crossover arc between Deadpool and the T-Bolts. He even attempts a stirring rendition of a Bon Jovi classic. (Well, not that I could actually hear how it sounded, but I imagined the song being done in Ryan Reynolds voice.) Diggle seems to enjoy working with Ant-Man on the team as he has been given a spot as one of the more clever members of the team despite Kirkman’s creation not originally having such tactical insight.

The only real weakness of the issue that prevented it from reaching it’s real potential was the artwork. Understandably, the editors must have wanted a more lighthearted feel to the book, as opposed to the dirty, dark style of Dark Avengers, to help fit Deadpool’s insane nature. This, however, was taken too far as the issue resembled Saturday morning cartoons more than it did a comic book. The characters are surrounded by bold, thick black lines that often are so stark, they distract from the rest of the panel. Often times the characters faces and poses don’t resemble human anatomy anymore or the way a person’s body can actually move.
Gears of War #6 – Wildstorm – $3.99
Score: 6.0

I know what you are thinking. “A video game adapted into a comic book… There’s no way it can be good.” While the series has, by no means, been mind-blowing, it has been enjoyable read for any fan of the video game franchise. (One nice thing about the comic series has been the exclusion of Dom’s hopeless–and often annoying–stories about his wife that he hasn’t found in ten years that plague the narrative of the game.) The book is comfortable to read for anyone who enjoyed the game as it has a similar pacing. The group of heroes known as “the Cogs” find themselves traveling between locations only to be forced into a series of battles against the locust horde. Marcus and Dom drop a few four letter words and shoot their way out of the situation as the supporting cast comes and goes. While the story is told from the perspective Jace (one of the cogs), it is obvious that the real hero of the story is Marcus which was smart since he is the most recognizable figure of the franchise.

Scribe Joshua Ortega and artist Liam Sharp together bring this normally interactive story to the page in the same spirit as the creators of the famed Xbox 360 series.  One very interesting aspect of the book comes from the perspective of Jace as he describes his thoughts during the issue’s encounter with a Berserker. As he describes the mad locust destroyer, his sentiments echo the thoughts of many gamers who recall their similar encounter from the first Gears game.  Sharp captures the violent nature of the game in a way that it doesn’t feel gratuitous, which is surprising considering the level of bloodshed often seen hitting television screens during the game.

Gears of War as a comic, like all others come before it, inevitably faces the fact that it will be compared with its parent property. Unfortunately for the comic, this property is not known for its rich mythos and compelling characterizations. Gears of War as a whole is best if taken in small doses as a source of mindless fun action sequences. The comic carries along that tradition as well, despite attempts at the underlying emotional strings that Jace’s story tries to bring with it. A fan of the game is much more likely to enjoy Gears than a casual reader but anyone looking for a quick, violent read can enjoy the series as well.
Uncanny X-Men #509 – Marvel – $2.99
Score: 7.5

Not since Joss Whedon’s first issues of his run on Astonishing X-Men has a writer connected to an X-Men cast like Matt Fraction. Something about Fraction’s style captures many of the lesser known mutants in the series and instantly makes the reader care about them. While Northstar, Dazzler, Pixie or Hank McCoy’s genetic genius team “X-Club” won’t be receiving any series of their own any time soon, they are the ones who help drive this book. Fraction also does a great job of splitting the book in terms of character progression and action with much of the book building smoothly to the events of the final few pages.

The issue itself is layered with multiple stories going on in the X-Men saga ranging from the relocation of the group to San Francisco, a proposed mutant breeding law and the group of scientists working to reawaken the X-gene to the return of Madelyne Pryor’s villainy and Northstar’s reinstatement to the X-Men. That has always been one of the strong suits of the X-Men’s story. While they were forced to deal with immediate problems such as a power-hungry mutant’s attack on them, they were always dealing with the underlying political climate and world view of themselves at the same time.

Greg Land does a great job of bringing Fraction’s world to life with brilliant detail. The only weakness that could be seen from his illustrations are the sometimes vacant eyes of some of the characters who are often drawn without pupils. This can easily be overlooked though because of how beautiful the rest of the issue looks. Also, bonus points to Fraction and Land for the panel of Rockslide and Colossus, wearing a Gladiator helmet at an Oakland Raiders game.

While it’s hard to say which X-story is currently the best being told, it is obvious that Uncanny X-Men takes the role as being the central hub through which all other X books are tied in to. Members of every team are present as the book works to push the larger events in the lives of the characters forward. While Madelyne villainous story isn’t the most enthralling, the return of Psylocke to the main Marvel universe and the dynamic of the X-Men make this book well worth the read.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for part two of John’s reviews of comic books coming out this week. A brand new feature right here at The Flickcast.

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