The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘New Avengers’, ‘Sinister Spider-Man’ & ‘Marvel Zombies 4’

cover-largeFor yesterday’s The Pull List, go here.

New Avengers #55 – Marvel – $3.99

Score: 7.5

Though beaten out by another Marvel team book this week for Pull of the Week, New Avengers is still a great read. Coming off the “Who is the next Sorcerer Supreme?” storyline, this issue finds the Avengers back in New York where they continue their gauntlet with the Hood’s forces. As dissension grows amongst the Hood’s forces, the Wrecking Crew vocally airs their disappointment in their current arrangement. The Hood defends his position along with the help of his girlfriend, Madame Masque. Another of the Hood’s men, Chemistro, finds a piece of Stark-tech that would effectively disable the heroes powers, had it not been destroyed in their battle with the New Avengers.

Instead of giving the tech to his boss, the Hood, Chemistro takes it to Doctor Harrow hoping to reverse engineer it for their own purposes. The issue also follows up on the actions of Clint Barton after having called out Norman Osborn to the world as the former Green Goblin who has now been placed in charge of the nation’s security. A meeting of the Avengers has been called and Clint apologizes for his actions and going about them without talking to the team first. He then throws down his endgame plan… to kill Norman Osborn. This idea becomes the focus of the discussion between the underground Avengers until they receive word that a villain is letting loose in Times Square, Chemistro.

Coming off the not so surprising choice of Brother Voodoo as the new Sorcerer Supreme, this issue acts as a link back four issues before all the magical nonsense took place. The New Avengers are still up against this generation’s Masters of Evil, the Hood’s gang, and the events from a previous battle between the two have started to show some repercussions. No huge revelations occur within it but New Avengers #55 acts as a great setup issue for what is to come in the series. Solicits have shown that something big is going to happen between these two factions (don’t worry, we won’t spoil what they are) and this issue, from Bendis’s great dialogue amongst the Hood’s gang to the bleak cover showing a pile of New Avengers corpses laid out do a fantastic job of continuing the hype machine behind this series.

Bendis and Immonen continue to be a perfect team for the series as well. Immomen is able to take Bendis’s unusual style of focusing so much of a superhero action comic on the dialogue occurring during a team meeting and keep it interesting with his visual storytelling style from the actions of the heroes to his great page layouts. As always, Bendis continues to prove that the New Avengers sitting around doing nothing but speaking is more interesting than many of the other great action packed or physiologically heavy books on the market.

One of the best parts of the New Avengers is that it has consistently been one of the best books out during much its fifty-five issue run. Even during the Secret Invasion when it was able to explain all the little hints Bendis had placed during the series, it still felt like there had been a payoff for the smaller storytelling pieces that were sometimes left unexplained. Right now, it feels like the book does however lack that larger goal. Bendis claimed he had Secret Invasion planned since issue one of the New Avengers and had been planting seeds to get there. While it’s unlikely Marvel has let one of its top titles move forward without a plan, it is not yet clear to the reader what that is. A little bit of that cohesiveness present during the Secret Invasion build still feels missing during the recent issues of the book. But, even without that plan abundantly clear to the reader, New Avengers #55 is one of the top reads of the week and the month of July.

prv3097_covMarvel Zombies 4 #4 – Marvel – $3.99

Score: 5.5

And finally, the saga of the Marvel Zombies comes to its lackluster conclusion. With no alternative to save her life in the last issue, Jennifer Kale allows herself to be possessed by Dormammu. In the process, Dormammu gains control over the sentience of the plague cloud that has enveloped the island. Yes, the virus from the original masterpiece by Robert Kirkman has apparently mutated and gained sentience. It is as ridiculous as it sounds. Morbius, Werewolf by Night, Daiman Hellstrom and the Hood, who has lost his power as Dormammu is inhabiting Kale, try to concoct a plan to suppress the plague that could decimate their world in just a few days if it were to escape the island they are on. This issue doesn’t do much to progress the “Marvel Zombies” story in any way. Instead, it leads to spinoff series like Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth featuring Zombie Deadpool’s head and a Midnight Sons series of monster hunters.

The story doesn’t even tie itself up nicely in the end either. There are still dangling plot points which look like they won’t be addressed in the future Marvel Zombies Return series of one-shots. Instead, a reader will have to look to whatever the Midnight Sons get featured in to find out what happens to the “beloved” team… Yes, massive amounts of sarcasm. The team did nothing to ever endear themselves to the reader or to each other. There are no comical hijinks to remember fondly or interpersonal bonds built between the members. Instead it is just a team of monsters. Take it for face value and that is exactly what this story delivers. Like saying the sky is blue, there is no deep, metaphorical argument that can be associated with it. You look up and you see the sky is blue. You look at the Midnight Sons and you see a team of monsters.

The only real chance this franchise has lies in Marvel Zombies Returns going back to the core characters that made the first five issue miniseries so good. Even as it began lacking in the latter issues, it was all still good. It focused on a darker side of Marvel heroes that are so beloved and put them at their worst. They struggled to avoid becoming the things they fought their entire lives and failed. Marvel Zombies 4 had none of that. And, much to the disgust of this reviewer, in today’s edition of Marvel Previews, Marvel Zombies will be visiting the world of Marvel Apes in a Halloween Spectacular issue… It is pretty safe to say that will not be on the Pull List when it is released.

896141-2_superSinister Spider-Man #2 – Marvel – $3.99

Score: 6.5

How do you follow up with a poorly executed plan of leaving a dead stripper in the mayor’s bedroom? That is interestingly enough one of the questions explored in this Venom-centric miniseries. Like many of his fellow maniac members of Norman Osborn’s Avengers, Mac Gargan can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble whether it’s eating various body parts of criminals he has stopped to killing the strippers dumb enough to go home with him. Despite the fact that he has been given a golden ticket and a get out of jail free card, he still continues to cause trouble and sets his sights on J. Jonah Jameson, the aforementioned mayor who had the dead stripper left in his bed which the local media instead referred to as a hooker.

Mac and JJJ had a long history starting back when JJJ convinced him to undergo a procedure that would turn him in to the Scorpion. After Mac failed to take down Spider-Man, JJJ still made money with stories and pictures of Mac looking like a fool. But Mac can’t be satisfied with just leaving a dead stripper (yes, I like writing that phrase) in JJJ’s bed. He decides to start a war between New York’s two most violent non-super powered gangs. This war he starts leads to a very interesting situation for New York’s not so friendly wall crawler. While this is happening, the Redeemer continues his support group for victim’s of the new Spider-Man’s crime busting. With a group therapy session, Redeemer sets his patients up with the perfect ways to help redeem Spider-Man for all he’s done to them.

Much like the Dark Reign: Hawkeye series, even though this book focuses on a villain, it is still a very enjoyable series because it is funny. He’s sick. He’s twisted. He eats strippers. You can’t help but laugh along with this version of Venom. No longer held back by Eddie Brock’s shades of grey about what’s right and what’s wrong, Venom indulges in whatever he pleases and makes no qualms about it. Even though Venom often doesn’t have the sharpest wit when around other members of his team, his inner monologue can often be quite funny in this series as well, despite the insanity it coincides with. Something about this series seems to be a lot of fun for writer Brian Reed. Writers are so used to writing hero-centric tales that they finally get to go wild and think about what they’d want to do with the bad guys finally having the upper hand. Brian has also been able to add more personality to a character like Mac Gargan who has been around for almost thirty-five years which is no small feat by any means.

Chris Bachalo’s artwork again comes down to a matter of taste. In some instances, it can feel like the perfect style for this book like when Mac is communing with nature, sitting up in a tree and playing with a squirrel in the early pages. Other times like seeing Mac out of Venom-mode and in his public Spider-Man persona, the images look silly and off-putting. Fans of realistic artwork will likely not enjoy the look and feel of this series.

Off the miniseries created under the Dark Reign banner, Sinister Spider-Man has been one of the more enjoyable. It has introduced some quirky characters like the Redeemer, explored the origins of Hippo, and furthered the insanity that revolves around Mac Gargan. With so many comics taking themselves so seriously lately, this is a good book to kick off your shoes and laugh along with… and see dead strippers.

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