The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Amazing Spider-Man Annual’, ‘Ms. Marvel’ and ‘The Stand: American Nightmares’

Go here for yesterday’s edition of The Pull List.

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869715-asma36a_superAmazing Spider-Man Annual #36 – Marvel – #3.99
Score: 4.5

What are two things that don’t belong in a Spider-Man comic? One, forced Boston accents from all characters in dialogue boxes. And two, any mention of the Clone Saga. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The extra sized annual issue begins with a man in a house burning down around him as he fights someone who looks to be Peter Parker.

Fast forward to the modern day where Peter Parker sits at a banquet table in Boston for his Aunt May’s impending nuptuals to J. Jonah Jameson Sr. as he sits across from J. Jonah Jameson. Jameson Sr. reveals his engagement present to Aunt May, a photo of her family that she has lost touch with, before opening a door and revealing the entire family that May and Peter didn’t know still existed. And of all people to walk in with the reunited family, the man from the opening pages seen in the burning house with “Peter Parker”.

Moments later after Peter has awkwardly thought inappropriate thoughts about his newfound cousins, Peter is attacked in the restroom by the man now donning a supersuit and calling himself Raptor. What follows are a few pages of rather bland fight scenes and tons of Bah-ston speak and “Jeter sucks” shouts from the on looking crowd. Though some may consider this next part a spoiler, it’s obvious where this story was going right from the first page. Raptor isn’t after Peter Parker, he’s after Ben Reilly. (Insert ominous music here)

Yup, after we were finally rid of it, they want to bring up the Clone Saga yet again. As if the solicits for September weren’t bad enough featuring a mini-series featuring the way the Clone Saga was intended to play out, now it looks as though this drivel from Spider-Man’s past is now going to pollute his only current ongoing title yet again. For those who don’t know, the Clone Saga is the Spider-Man story that holds more animosity in the hearts of many fans than even the “One More Day” reset button that negated the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane. The greater consensus has been that the story itself was a failure and should have remained in the past as a mistake to learn from and move on. It looks like Marvel won’t be doing that.

In addition to digging up much unnecessary skeletons, Marc Guggenheim does a less than stellar job on this issue. Everything plays out exactly how the reader would expect. There are no clever twists. The “hints” are more like telegraphs made out of neon signs with a Bose speaker system blaring out, “Even the lowest common denominator will be able to figure out this mystery.” It’s a shame that Guggenheim’s work seems rushed or uninspired in this issue compared to some of the other work he has done for Amazing Spider-Man or during the Civil War crossover in Wolverine.

The Bah-ston speak in the issue is too much as well. Most writer’s only include peanut gallery commentary from people on the streets if they have something of substance that Spider-Man would pick up on and overhear during his fight. For no particular reason, Guggenheim decided to put May’s long lost family in Boston just so he had an excuse to write their accents in. When reading it, it reminds the reader of Mayor Quimby’s overblown accent on the Simpsons, but not in a good way. Pat Oliffe’s artwork is also fairly standard in this issue with nothing spectacular to write him about. Between the uninspired story, the terrible accents and the revisiting of the Clone Saga, this is definitely an annual that can be passed when making pulls.

l_2dbc417039104531910ba8abfb8d1996Ms. Marvel #41 – Marvel – $2.99
Score: 6.5

So a few issues ago, Norman Osborn’s Ms. Marvel, formerly Moonstone of the Thunderbolts, thought she killed Carol Danvers, the original Ms. Marvel. Last issue, five different colored beings of pure energy with female figures appeared around the city of New York in connection with a group of miniature M.O.D.O.K.’s that H.A.M.M.E.R. had acquired from A.I.M. (Yes, that is way too many acronyms for one sentence.)

Two of the beings appeared before Spider-Man and Wolverine, two of Danvers’ teammates on the Avengers, finally bringing them together in this issue. With all the beings in close proximity, Wolverine and Spider-Man are able to understand their speech for the first time, revealing who they really are. At the same time, A.I.M. hired the infamous Merc with the Mouth Deadpool to go in and return their property, the little M.O.D.O.K.’s, from H.A.M.M.E.R. As always, Deadpool is able to have a little fun once the killing begins. Upon finding out that Deadpool has stolen the babies, Ms. Marvel tracks down Deadpool to Los Angeles in an attempt to take them back under her own watch.

The issue itself is alright. Nothing really stands out as an epic moment for a non-Ms. Marvel fan. Not to say this reviewer has a grudge against either Carol Danvers or the new Ms. Marvel (although she seemed to be a bit more enjoyably psychotic and masochistic as Moonstone in the Thunderbolts), but the character just hasn’t ever done anything to really suck me in as a reader, even in her heroic or villainous presentations.

Brian Reed does a fine job writing the character but the strength of the issue comes from the barrage of cameos from the likes of Norman Osborn, Deadpool and the New Avengers. To an extent, Ms. Marvel feels like the best supporting actor role in her own series. Aside from the eye candy the current Ms. Marvel provides, there is a split attention between the two Ms. Marvel’s and the series’ main star is fairly unclear. And, as with most of the Dark Reign tie-ins that focus on a villain as the main character, it is a challenge to really get behind her as the star.

Sergio Arino’s pencils are good for the series, although he sometimes puts too much effort in having Ms. Marvel in T & A focused poses at time, but the color seems to be the weakness from the aesthetic front. Everyone seems to either be glowing or wearing metallic suits that reflect every bit of light that the character comes in contact with. As a result, all of Sergio’s pencils feel washed out by the overabundance of illumination. Not everything needs to be so shiny.

Is it a bad book? Not by any means. It just seems to be more of a hit or miss kind of book. Similar to someone like Deadpool, this character either resonates with you or she doesn’t. There have been a number of times that my own love of Deadpool has been brought in to question and it’s come down to the fact that some people love the character and others could do without him.

If you’ve liked Ms. Marvel in the past, you’d probably enjoy this story. If you have had the same problems as I have with not being able to connect, this issue won’t do much to change that. But at the very least, you get to see more Deadpool as he is fast becoming Marvel’s new Wolverine, appearing in more books each month than he can even count.

868525-4_superThe Stand: American Nightmares #4 – Marvel – $3.99
Score: 7.5

Thus far, The Stand hasn’t exactly been what you’d call an uplifting story. Actually, it’s been pretty much a terrible downer about the fate of humanity. This issue is a perfect example of it as the further culling of the world’s population continues. The super flu, Captain Tripps, took out 99% of the country’s population. And then comes the explanation of the second epidemic which killed off another 16% of the survivors through random things out of the victims hands like heart attacks to self-inflicted deaths like overdosing on heroin or accident locking themselves in a walk in freezer.

That’s got to be a terrible way to go. Knowing you survived the deadliest virus in history only to have your own stupidity kill you instead. Issue four of The Stand: American Nightmares catches up with Lloyd Henreid, a vicious killer who has been locked away in prison since before the plague broke out and is surviving only by eating a rat, roaches and contemplating cannibalism on the corpse in the cell next to him. To say Lloyd has become desperate for food and the chance to escape would be the ultimate understatement.

On the other side of the country, Stu Redman and his new companions Glen Batemen and his dog Kojak get in to a conversation about what the flu has done to society and the nightmares that Glen has been having. That night, Stu has one very similar to those he has had since Captain Tripps started, eerily similar to Glen’s. The issue concludes with Randal Flagg, the man in black who has been walking the nation, showing up at Lloyd’s cell holding a key and offering Lloyd a deal.

The miniseries based off Steven King’s masterpiece the Stand have consistently been some of the best works Marvel is producing. Though they are never the best book of the week they come out, they are always near the top of the pile. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has done a great job with the script as he was able to perfectly translate the tone from the original novel. At the same time, Artist Mike Perkins was given greater visuals to the series than could ever have been expected from the rushed eight hour ABC miniseries some years ago.

Not only is he able to cover more of the story without being set to the time restrictions the miniseries suffered from, but he is able to draw out so much more than what could be done on television. The broadcast television limitations have been lifted and the team of Aguirre-Sacasa and Perkins have taken the ball and run with it on some of the most gut wrenching scenes that until now had been limited to the readers’ imaginations. While the American Nightmares miniseries concludes next issue, there is still tons of story to be told in the upcoming volumes. This is a sure read for any horror or King fan.

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