The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man’, ‘Green Lantern’ and More

For yesterday’s The Pull List, go here.

sinister-spider-man

Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #1 – Marvel $3.99

Score: 7.5

(Sings) “Spider-Man. Spider-Man. Does whatever a spider can. Stops a bank robber. Eats his arm. Kills a stripper. Frames the Mayor. Watch out. Here comes the Spider-Man.” Not exactly the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler we all know and love right? Well of course not because good old Peter Parker isn’t the Spider-Man staring in this issue.

Instead, the Sinister Spider-Man is actually Venom of the Osborn sponsored Dark Avengers, a.k.a. Mac Gargan, a.k.a. the former Scorpion. For those not very familiar with the character, despite the amount of exposure he’s been getting all over Marvel lately by being tied to both Spider-Man and Norman Osborn, the issue gives a fair amount of background about who Venom once was and now is.

The issue starts out with “Genetic Terror of the Third Reich” General Wolfram, or just a Nazi with a dead wolf carcass on his head, robbing a bank in NYC. He is promptly stopped by the cities newly liked savior, Venom posing as the black suited Spider-Man. Venom, enjoying his new found heirdom, takes a moment to soak in the applause, kiss a few girls, and grab a few butts before taking off with Wolfram where he collects the money Wolfram robbed for himself and doing his own version of “taking a bite out of crime.” In other words, he ate Wolfy’s arm.

After a little flashback to his origins as a private detective and the deal he made with now Mayor J. Jonah Jameson that ultimately turned him in to the Scorpion, Venom heads to his favorite hangout, the strip club, where he finds a new favorite dancer, having eaten a previous one. Meanwhile, JJJ deals with the public scrutiny behind his mayoral run, including the rise in crime since his administration began. He is visited by a small, quirky doctor who wants to discuss a Super Villain Rehabilitation program which JJJ promptly shoots down.

Back at Avengers tower, Venom has taken his new favorite dancer back only to get yelled at by Norman for the bank’s missing money and Wolfram’s missing arm. Venom tells himself that Norman has just made his list, but he has other fish to fry first like JjJ who finds Venom’s dead stripper friend in his bed later that night. The issue concludes with a new “villain” popping his head up with the quirky doctor donning a white mask with a symbol like the Punisher’s on it, calling himself the Redeemer who sits in front of a group of villains that Venom had recently taken down.

You can tell that Brian Reed had fun writing this issue. The whole issue plays with the “With Great Power…” and no responsibility concept behind this incarnation of Venom. He enjoys playing in the sandbox that has no real rules or limits that Venom can’t work around. He can take that extra violent step instead of just webbing up a criminal.

He can enjoy the fame of his “heroic” ways by taking advantage of the strip club he attends. Sadly, it seems as though Chris Bachalo’s art doesn’t feel the same love of the character as the only negative of the book comes from his take on Venom. The complete inconsistancy of the character could be blamed on the properties of the symbiote but that hardly feels like the case in this issue.

Bachalo’s style just doesn’t mesh well with the character as Venom’s head often looks either dented, disproportionate or even clown-like as seen by the panel where he is seen eating a bear bottle. At the same time, his work on the stripper, JJJ and the Redeemer are fantastic. While it’s sad the main character of the book isn’t properly represented, at least the entire book doesn’t suffer from the problem as some times Bachalo’s over exaggerated. style can be hit or miss with certain characters.

Recently, Gargan has grown better and better as Venom since he has really been unleashed and doesn’t adhere to the moral code that Eddie Brock once upheld. Additionally, with the increase of power and benefits he now receives as being a part of the Avengers while his malevolent tendencies are kept partially in check, Venom has returned to being one of the most interested villains in the Marvel U. Because everyone knows this story will ultimately lead to a throw down between Spider-Man and his black-suited doppelganger, the Sinister Spider-Man is a must pull for any fan of the character.

green-lantern-42Green Lantern #42 – DC – $2.99

Score: 8.0

The “Green Light Guardians” are kind of jerks. That’s the first thing that sprang to mind when I finished this issue. Obviously, I won’t say why since it’d be a spoiler but I challenge anyone to argue that statement once they finish reading this issue.

This issue, one of the final two prelude issues to “Blackest Night” along with the upcoming Green Lantern Corps #38, continues the war of the light with Larfleeze putting on the Blue ring that he stole from Hal Jordan last issue by slicing off Jordan’s hand. Much to the Orange Lantern’s dismay though, he finds that chopping off Hal’s hand was only a mirage, created by the Blue ring defending itself from someone not deemed worthy of a ring of hope. With the blue ring still powering Hal’s green ring, Hal fights fire with fire when he constructs his own group of Green Lanterns to combat Larfleeze’s army of Orange constructs.

At the same time, John Stewart is stuck in a shard of sapphire with Fatality who continues preaching her message of love to Stewart, along with forgiveness before releasing him back in to the heat of the battle between the Green and Orange Corps. Back inside Hal thinks he may have a solution to dealing with the Orange Lantern’s power when he attempts to take control of Larfleeze’s Orange Battery, only to find himself quickly engrossed in the avarice it feeds off of. In a somewhat ironic moment, Hal is able to activate the blue ring that has only asked Hal to ask for what he genuinely hopes for before it would leave him.

Upon activation, the blue ring leaves Hal in search of another recipient. With the blue ring gone, the Orange Lantern halts his battle and the guardians enter. It’s at this point that my earlier comment of the guardians being jerks comes to fruition. In the book’s epilogue, The Green Lanterns Saarek and Ash continue their missions, that they originally thought were solo, to find the body of the Anti-Monitor only to find it in a very menacing location.

Geoff Johns hits the target again as he builds to “Blackest Night” in a big way. The war between the factions of light light continues to bring deaths which can only mean more potential Black Lanterns. When Hal’s blue ring is activated, he sees a moment of the future where Sinestro, head of the yellow Sinestro Corps, says that he cannot do something without Hal’s help.

All bets would point to that moment having something to do with one of the big events coming in “Blackest Night.” To get enemies like that to work together, things must begin to get pretty bad as the Black Lanterns are unleashed. With the great images he and artists Philip Tan and Eddy Barrows bring with the epilogue as well, the severity of what may come in “Blackest Night” continues to grow. The kettle has finally bubbled and what spills over is going to be big.

avengers-invaders-12Avengers / Invaders #12 – Marvel / Dynamite – $2.99

Score: 5.0

At long last, the Avengers / Invaders time traveling maxi-series has come to an end. This issue, like much of the series, was simply a very average book in terms of both storytelling and artwork — with the exception of Alex Ross’s beautifully painted covers which have been the highlights of the entire run. This issue picks up with the battle going on between the combined Invaders and Avengers disguised as heroes from the past taking on the Red Skull, who holds the power of the cosmic cube, and his Axis forces that for some reason include Thor — even though it is never revealed why Thor is on his side.

Bucky narrates the battle through his war journal as he has for the entire series as the two sides struggle over control of the cube. A few characters are killed in the process while in possession of the cube as it switches back and forth, which ultimately doesn’t make sense as the holder of the cube could make themselves immune to bullets or knives by using its powers. The ending itself is fairly predictable as the story is told somewhat outside of continuity as characters like the Wasp are still alive and Spider-Woman has not been revealed as the Skrull queen.

As with many tales involving time travel, not much really happens with long term effects. The one exception may be the return of a character much more beloved than girl Bucky (someone from Heroes Reborn, who appeared in the latest Captain America) coming back to the modern Marvel era. The unfortunate part of this series was in the amount of potential it originally had but was squandered by very average storytelling for a superstar cast of characters that have never had the opportunity to interact before.

The series, and this issue especially, features too many characters to give proper justice to any specific one. Instead, one or two characters become the focus of the issue as others are left flailing in the background. Much like Bendis’s work on Mockingbird in New Avengers or Daken in Dark Avengers, some characters only appearance in the issue comes from standing in the background or having a short quip just for the sake of having them speak instead of contributing anything useful to the story. Some characters are almost completely forgotten in the issue as well like Sgt. Fury, the Howling Commandos, and the original Black Panther.

Though given a small spotlight in the last issue, none play any significant role in this issue. Sadly, the series itself could have been told in a much shorter format as some characters like Ultron, Union Jack and Spitfire felt like they were thrown in just to extend the length of the overall series that could have been much tighter storytelling if cut down to eight or nine total issues instead of twelve. The artwork inside the book, like its storytelling, is very average.

No pages ever stand out as “wow” moments despite the supposed gravity of the scenes displayed on them like the deaths of three major characters or the sacrifice one man makes to “set things right.” Even the two-page splash that brings back tons of “Golden Age” heroes is done in an almost haphazard way as they are all seen mostly from the back, which is basically a lazy attempt at hinting about these heroes instead of giving the classics their due respect. There is also a strange moment as the modern day Avengers, though still in the past, are no longer wearing their disguises and are back in their modern garb without any explanation or fluid transition.

When the series comes out in trade, this would have to be one to recommend you pass on. If you are a fan of the classic Invaders, this series doesn’t do them the justice they deserve. Instead, picking up the various Marvel 70th Anniversary flashback books would satisfy that hunger better. The shining light of the series has been Alex Ross’s cover work. Of anyone working on the project, he is the one who gives these heroes, both classic and modern, the love that the rest of the series came up short on.

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