The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Dark Reign: The Cabal’, ‘G.I. Joe: Origins’, ‘Nova’ and More!

This is the second part of the Pull List reviews for this week’s comics. Read part one here.

Dark Reign: The Cabal – Marvel – $3.99
Overall Score: 5.5

Since Dark Reign: The Cabal is actually five smaller stories produced by completely different writing/art teams, there will be a short review for each piece, as opposed to trying to explain it as a whole.

“Doctor Doom:… And I’ll Get The Land”
Written by Jonathan Hickman and beautifully painted by Adi Granov, this vignette helps give insight into Doctor Doom’s thoughts of the Cabal and its future. While these thoughts and actions won’t be much surprise to someone who has followed the good Doctor, they are a great jumping on point for those not familiar with the character and his feelings of the current state of the Marvel U.

“Emma Frost: How I Survived Apocalyptic Fire”
Expert X-Scribe, Matt Fraction, teams with Daniel Acuna to present another recanting of what could be considered Emma Frost’s origin. Fraction doesn’t just show the reader what happened, he explains the effect of it on Emma and how that ties in to her current place in the Cabal.

“The Hood: Family Trust”
Now Marvel exclusive writer Rick Remender brings the reader to a private funeral with the Hood and the union of villains working under him. The story shows the Hood from two very different perspectives, the devout boyfriend and protective father who knows that his family is his top priority and the inspiring leader who gives a speech to keep his gang ready for what may come. One of the best aspects of the Hood is how relatively new the character is. Unlike classic villains like the Kingpin or Magneto that have been doing the same things for years, the Hood is still a wild card in the Marvel world. The short story does a tremendous job of helping build interest for his upcoming miniseries, Dark Reign: The Hood.

“Namor – The Sub-Mariner: The Judgment of Namor”
Playing off the story of the wise King Solomon, Namor sits in front of an Atlantean Court to hear a custody dispute between a militaristic father and pacifist mother over their mutant child. Though he has played the role of hero and villain in the past, Namor’s actions reflect he is neither, just a King and servant to his subjects. Of all the stories in Dark Reign: The Cabal, this is the only one where the art distracts from the story with Carmine Di Giandomenico’s somewhat loose and overly relaxed style. While providing insight in to a member of the Cabal, it gives only a brief connection to Namor’s involvement in the group.

“Loki: Dinner with Doom”
Writer Peter Milligan uses the mutual involvement of Loki and Doom in the Cabal as a tool for the two to communicate with each other about matters not concerning Osborn. Loki’s underhanded dealings with Doom do more to promote future issues of Thor than anything else.

Overall, Dark Reign: The Cabal provides small character building pieces of the members of the Cabal in short, easy to digest pieces. Unfortunately, they come across as more of a meager snack than a full meal due to their short length.  The stories read so fast but offer little in the way of satisfaction, they leave the reader wanting more than what the format of the issue could offer.

G.I. Joe: Origins #3 – IDW – $3.99
Score: 5.0

As it has been since IDW re-launched the G.I. Joe series, Origins remains the lesser of the three titles. While the core G.I. Joe title is action packed and G.I. Joe: Cobra has a covert spy drama feel, Origins doesn’t fit either category. This issue stays the course with slow pacing as it introduces Duke, Scarlett, Stalker and Snake Eyes to their new teammates, Heavy Duty, Rock & Roll, and Breaker. The reader also gets a more of a look at the series’ antagonist, Chimera, and his somewhat unmotivated and bland plan. The issue has a distinct second act feel to it as it is building to the first confrontation in issue 4 between the team (still yet to be christened “G.I. Joe”) but the dragging pace of the issue that only introduced Heavy Duty and Rock & Rock as stereotypical chauvinists did little to keep a strong connection to the reader.

While artist Mike Hawthorne does a respectable job on many parts of the book, others fall far off the mark. Contrary to the cover with Heavy Duty and Rock & Roll looking great in the midst of battle, the reader is greeted on the first page of the issue with Heavy Duty looking more like an extra wide refrigerator than the linebacker he was meant to be.  The art itself varies between pages as sometimes panels look unfinished because of the stark lack of detail compared to beautiful and “complete” sequences seen just pages before.

It is possible that if this were the only Joe book on the shelves, it’d be more engrossing but with two other pieces of work to compare against featuring mostly the same characters, themes and title, Origins has a lot to live up to and only manages to come up average at best. Hopefully the book can redeem itself in the coming issues as it finally reaches an action point which G.I. Joe has been based around. If not, it may be losing its place on the monthly pull list sooner than later.

Nova #24 – Marvel – $2.99
Score: 7.5

This issue picks up with the Nova Corp making their way to battle on one of the Kree worlds under Shi’ar control. While he would have liked to be on the front lines, Richard Rider’s younger brother Robbie is assigned to systems operations, handling the tactical aspects of the battle. Through the issue, he keeps in constant contact with one of the rookie Centurions who obviously has no place on the battlefield. As he speaks with her and continues to watch the grizzly events playing out, this becomes more and more obvious. Meanwhile, the new Protector of the Universe Richard Rider (maybe they will start calling him Quasar now too?) and the ghost of Wendell Vaughn head to stop the Worldmind from sending thousands of recruits to the deaths as cannon fodder.

Overall, Nova is one of the books that consistently gives a strong and entertaining read. While the reader isn’t as invested with Robbie Rider and the new Nova Corp recruits as they are with Richard, Robbie and the newbies are the focus of more of the issue. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning do a great job bringing the emotions forward of these little known characters that leaves the reader caring about their fate in the face of insurmountable odds.  At the same time, it doesn’t feel odd that Richard Rider, the main character of the series thus far, takes a backup role in the issue as it appears this arc will reach one hell of a payoff in the book’s 25th issue next month.

Avengers/Invaders #10 – Marvel/Dynamite – $2.99
Score: 6.5

One of the hardest things for the reader of any series that includes characters beloved to them is to really care when an issue or miniseries has no potential for long lasting effects on those involved. Such is the folly of Avengers/Invaders. While it was originally written in continuity, it is not to be taken as canon. Knowing where many of these characters are now, such as the Wasp being killed in the Secret Invasion and this Spider-Woman being revealed as the Skrull queen, it is hard to care about what happens in the pages of this story. At the same time, Jim Krueger puts out a valiant effort to bring the story he and Alex Ross created to life in joining some of the current day’s most iconic Avengers with the unforgettable team of Invaders. Krueger also does a great job of integrating other Golden Age heroes in to the story as the Avengers must blend in as heroes of the time such as the Black Avenger, the Challenger and Captain Terror.

The issue itself helps lead our heroes, some misplaced in time but all misplaced in an alternate version of their timeline, on their way to a confrontation with the holder of the Cosmic Cube, the Red Skull. Using the Cube, the Skull has turned the tide of the second World War with the Axis successfully conquering America as seen in the last issue. Forces gather with heroes of the present teaming with not only the Invaders but Spitfire, Union Jack, the era’s Black Panther and a young Nick Fury and his commandos as well. Like many other issues seemed to be this week, this issue felt like more of a building block for an upcoming larger encounter in the final two upcoming issues.  All the while, the man responsible for the Cube coming back from the present and being turned over to the Skull lays near dead, knowing that while saving the lives of a few friends, he may have ultimately damned everyone else including himself in the process.

The idea behind Avengers/Invaders is ultimately one that plays out better in the hearts of the reader better than it does in practice. The length of the macro-series is also questionable as it seems to drag in places or is filled with sub-stories and characters that could have been either left out or told in a shorter timeframe. That all said, the series is a fun read if taken with a grain of salt and while knowing that there won’t be long term effects on any of the characters, it is interesting to see their take on the situation at hand as many get the opportunity to team with the men and women who paved the way for them, not only in storyline but in our real world by establishing a genre that has survived for more than the better half of a century.

Check back every Thursday and Friday for our weekly Comic Book Pull List, exclusively here at The Flickcast!

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