The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Kick-Ass’, ‘Dark Avengers / Uncanny X-Men: Exodus’ and More

Just because Monday happened to be a holiday, those lazy postal workers made us all wait an extra day to get our comics. How dare they use Labor Day as an excuse? But the wait was worth it as there were a slew of great titles hitting the shelf this week including this week’s much awaited Pull of the Week: Kick-Ass #7. (Don’t worry, Marvel’s Models Inc. was a close second Matt) Make sure to let us know your thoughts on this week’s The Pull List in the comments section as well as other books we didn’t get to review this week.

Pull of the Week:

Kick-Ass #7 – Icon – $2.99

Score: 8.5

kickassWell it’s about time someone said it. “Red Mist was a *expletive deleted*.” I never liked the kid or trusted him and the end of last issue proved why. Last issue, Kick-Ass and his partner Red Mist teamed up with Big Daddy and Hit-Girl to take it to the mob, only to be betrayed by Red Mist. As a result, this issue starts with Red Mist bashing his partner in the back of the head with the butt of a gun. Hit-Girl spells out for Kick-Ass why Red Mist betrayed him.

Spunky as ever, Hit-Girl tries to defend her beaten father only to be shot out a window by mafia leader John Genovese. And if shooting a little girl wasn’t enough, that’s when things somehow get even worse… like when Kick-Ass has to get interrogated by Bobby Bull-Buster’s shock treatment and yes, it is as brutal as it sounds. In addition, the issue gives the true origin behind Big Daddy before a few more astonishingly violent pages and ultimately the tag at the end reading “To Be Concluded”.

The only thing that I don’t like in the issue is hearing that this story is coming to an end. Yes, I know it sounds weird that I was fine with the little girl getting shot but the story feels so gritty and real for a comic book that I can let the adolescent violence slide. Every time you pick up Kick-Ass you forget it isn’t your standard superhero cape and tights story for just a moment. And then within the first few pages, someone is bloodied to a pulp and it reminds you that this isn’t Superman or Captain America in here. As much as someone can enjoy Mark Millar’s work on super hero stories with his work in books like Marvel’s Civil War, he has shown he shines in tales like Kick-Ass or Wanted.

Not kept in check by years of continuity to worry about or having to obey the laws of the mainstream Marvel and DC universes, Millar is able to create gripping and realistic worlds that are easily believable and allow the readers to feel attached to them so quickly. And with this issue, much like he did with his Marvel 1985 series, Millar proves what respect and admiration for classic comics as well without having to pander to the reader with tacky throwback style writing like a book from last week that won’t be mentioned. The callbacks that do occur in the storytelling also prove how smart Millar was for sneaking the tidbits in as something that seemingly fit perfect earlier in the series but were essential to some of these latter events of this issue.

Also a shining piece of work comes from the art of John Romita Jr. There is no better way to describe what he has done in Kick-Ass as anything except visceral. When you see Kick-Ass get punched repeatedly in the face or have his testicles hooked up to a car battery, you feel that pain. The deaths in this issue are also the most painful looking of any in the series so far. Romita has no qualms about getting up close and in your face, and in the face of the victims, as stuff really hits the fan through the issue. And colorist Dean White must have run low on red as so much of this issue is filled with it. To say this issue has a some blood in it is like saying that the Empire State building is kind of tall. Gratuitous almost doesn’t seem to cover how violent this book is.

But it all works great in the package that is Kick-Ass. As adult as the comic is, it doesn’t come across as “try hard” as some books do with too much swearing or violence just for the sake of it. Every piece of it adds to the overall story of Kick-Ass and his terrible misadventure in to the world of being a hero. Then again, the kid should have known better before putting on a green and yellow gimp suit though, right? But then it wouldn’t have made for such a great story. From the brief glimpses of the Kick-Ass movie that have leaked, I do hope it can live up to the high bar that this piece of work has set for it. It will be sad to see issue eight conclude Kick-Ass but on the plus side, it probably won’t come out for a few months anyway so the eager anticipation has lots of time to build to the conclusion of this great story.

Other Pulls:

Dark Avengers / Uncanny X-Men: Exodus – Marvel – $3..99

Score: 7.0

exodusThe cover to Dark Avengers / Uncanny X-Men: Exodus says it all. This book gives the epic showdown that everyone has been waiting the last five parts of “Utopia” to get to. After seeing Cyclops and the X-Men raise Asteroid M from the Pacific Ocean and declaring themselves their own nation, Norman rallies his forces and heads to the X-Men’s base. The Dark Avengers team with the Dark X-Men to take on the real X-Men and everyone pairs off. Wolverine and X-23 go at it with Daken and Weapon Omega. Archangel squares off with Hawkeye. Colossus and Venom get their rematch. Dani Moonstar returns from her deal with Hel to go toe to toe with Ares.

Namor takes the fight to the Sentry. And the leaders, Norman Osborn faces off against Cyclops. If you think that sounds like a lot to fit in to one book… you’re right. While the pairings work and are told well, they are unfortunately told quickly. Most matchups only get a page or two at most while some only receive a few panels. A lot of the pages end up being dedicated to the banter between Norman and Cyclops which is still very good or Emma’s psychic attack on the Sentry.

But as a result, this issue suffers from some of the same problems as books like the final issues of Civil War or Secret Invasion did. With so many people, it becomes hard to properly spotlight any individual fight which in some cases makes what should be a long battle look like a brief buttkicking. Certain battles, like Iceman against Mimic, often look like punk outs as the two appear to only be fighting momentarily before Iceman quickly drops Mimic out of the sky without much strategy. Some conclusions are just left off the page altogether as well. Also, a weak point of the battle comes from Daken against X-23.

These two should be able to have a bloodbath against each other but instead get a few brief panels of slashing before two characters Daken should be ready to fillet intervene. Like I’ve mentioned before, it feels like Fraction doesn’t know what to do with Daken, much like Bendis is when writing him. One thing Fraction does do fantastic though is make a big reveal about the Sentry. After all this time since his debut, a large secret about Bob and his powers is shown that slightly kicks him up as more interesting than Superman.

It was also an interesting choice to include the different artists who had worked on the different pieces of the series to get to this point all in one book. Deodato’s work covered the majority of the book while Terry Dodson’s pencils were used in the flashback pages as well as the psychic interaction between Emma and the Sentry. Deodato’s are definitely the superior pages of the book by comparison in terms of visual style and stronger pencils but Dodson’s definitely tell a stronger story as he is able to explore the characters more instead of having to deal with an overload of actions that can’t all possibly fit in the pages of the issue.

Overall, the “Utopia” crossover ended much stronger than expected after a lackluster middle and lame X-Men: Legacy tie-in issues. Like many recent crossovers, the X-Men are left with a new status quo that will hopefully last more than a year like the others have. But all in all, it is a satisfied, even if sped up, conclusion to the story. Also having the X-Men out of San Francisco feels better for the characters as they never really felt right there anyway after being on the east coast for so long. That said, Marvel isn’t waiting long before debuting their next crossover as the issue previews pages from the Necrosha one-shot coming soon. The pages look great so far but it’ll remain to be seen how the story fleshes out when it comes out later this month.

Dark Reign: The List: Avengers – Marvel – $3.99

Score: 7.5

the listMuch like his idol, Richard Nixon (who he simulates the infamous pose of in Dark Avengers / Uncanny X-Men: Exodus), Norman Osborn has composed a list. On it are the eight biggest threats to his current regime. He tells this to Ares, the god of war, as he knows that Ares is the most likely of his Avengers team to understand where Norman is coming from. He lists all these problems as difficulties that existed during his predecessors Nick Fury’s and Tony Stark’s terms as heads of S.H.I.E.L.D. and ultimately lead to their downfalls. His list includes the Hulk, Tony Stark, Clint Barton and the rest of the Avengers, Nick Fury and not surprisingly, Spider-Man.

At the same time, Clint sees how Osborn’s media is spinning the result of the X-Men declaring themselves separate from the United States as an act of mutant terrorism creating a concentration camp (even this isn’t how it plays out in Exodus) and goes back to what he has been saying for months in New Avengers. Clint wants to kill Osborn. But the rest of the Avengers are either hesitant or against it for various reasons. Even Spider-Man who has the most personal reason to kill Osborn discourages Clint from doing it.

Mockingbird tries to calm Clint by telling him she will go with him, if only to help keep him alive in his attempt. Clint sneaks out of their bed in the middle of the night and carefully waits for the Sentry to leave before he takes his battle to Norman and the whole Dark Avengers team.

As always, Bendis’ strength lies in the characters he builds and allows to speak, instead of merely considering someone a hero through their actions. Clint’s background has never allowed him to play by the books and he acts on instinct more often than not. At the same time, he is the heart of this iteration of the Avengers. Spider-Man is a loner who has wound up on this team almost by chance. Ms. Marvel, Mockingbird and Spider-Woman are all dealing with different personal issues that prevent them from standing out.

Luke Cage has fallen back in to a team player role instead of the head hancho and Bucky-Cap isn’t the leader that Steve Rogers once was. In turn, Clint as the only legacy Avenger on the team falls perfectly in to line as their driving force, even if he is driving them towards a direction they are not in favor of. Bendis also captures the driven insanity of Norman Osborn, probably from the amount of time he worked on the carbon-copy Ultimate version.

And ever since “Avengers: Dissembled” where he killed off Hawkeye and brought him back through the House of M, Bendis continues the redemption of the Clint Barton character. Barton’s one man assault on Avengers Tower is nothing short of miraculous.

Marko’s Djurdjevic’s pencils are much stronger in the action sequences than they are during the standard “team meetings” that often are so important to any New Avengers story. Djurdjevic’s work always feels like it needs a lot of motion which is why these talk heavy scene’s don’t come across as strong. On the flipside, the entire sequence from Barton’s break in of Avengers Tower like throwing Venom out a window up until he confronts Osborn face to face are fantastic.

Dark Reign: The List: Avengers is a mix for me. The basic premise is what it would appear on paper but the execution is where the pleasant surprise comes in. Instead of going at the whole Avengers team, one Avenger takes it to Osborn in turn proving his need for the list to exist on the first place (though he calls a Must Do list as opposed to a Hit list).

This has been the best one-shot to come under the Dark Reign banner and just behind the Amazing Spider-Man “American Son” and Invincible Iron Man “World’s Most Wanted” as the best overall stories from “Dark Reign”. If the rest of The List one-shots can all have this much quality behind them, there’s no reason they all shouldn’t be on everyone’s Pull Lists.

The Life and Times of Savior 28 #5 – IDW – $3.99

Score: 7.5

savior 28For those that hadn’t been following the IDW miniseries, it was another take on the hero gone wrong storyline. But unlike Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, Savior 28 had taken a path of peace. Unfortunately, Savior 28’s naiveté and simple mind would turn him in to an outcast as he tried to wage peace by shaking hands with some of the most reviled people on the planet, from Saddam Hussein to two of his former nemeses who had both tried to destroy much of the world multiple times. Showing up with these two former villains at the United Nations and giving a speech, Savior 28 expected a world to unite behind him.

Instead, he was met with silence. As time passed, Savior fell in to a pit of alcoholism and self-pity while trying to still fix the world, all while still feeling guilty that he had failed the world when 9/11 hit because he was passed out drunk. In the end, this lead his former sidekick to be the one who shot and killed him with a bullet that Savior knew existed to prevent him from becoming the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. Or at least that’s how it looked on the surface. Reading the issue itself reveals so much more behind this “Bucky’s” decisions for taking out his own personal hero.

J.M. DeMatteis’s The Life and Times of Savior 28 started out as a random pull when it came out. Always looking to expand my horizons, the cover of the first issue caught my attention with a hero who looked like the amalgam of Superman and Captain America shot dead on the cover of his own book. And while we have seen Cap’s hand covered in blood or the torn cape of Superman hanging in effigy before, something about the book brought me in and has kept me through the miniseries. Though there is no big action sequence as the death of Savior happens in the first issue, the emotional ride that his former sidekick takes us through that ultimately lead to the assassination is well worth the read.

At times, you feel completely against what was done but as the story progresses you begin to understand the motives behind it and begrudgingly condone the action. More so than anything else, you feel sorry for this man who was seemingly invincible on the surface but horrible broken in so many ways. It’s always great to get that kind of emotion about a character you really aren’t familiar with in such a short time span. It’s not like Savior 28 was Captain America who had been around in comics since the 40’s. Getting that kind of reaction from a reader is a great testament to the quality of the book.

It has been great reading The Life and Times of Savior 28 and it is sad to see it is already over. But with the main character dead, it wouldn’t be a very easy series to continue. Savior’s old adventures referenced seemed like cookie cutter Superman-esque tales so doing an “origins” style book for him is just unnecessary. Still, comparing the book monthly to the events Boom! Studio’s Irredeemable made each book more attractive as you saw the two paths further diverging from each other.

One ultimately leaves you feeling good while the other… well, let’s face it. There is nothing “feel good” about the actions of anyone in Irredeemable. If you didn’t follow this series, this is definitely a trade to keep an eye out for. It has taught me one thing though should I ever try to become a superhero and that is to not bother with sidekicks. Between Bucky coming back brainwashed to try and take out Cap as the Winter Soldier, Jason Todd coming back to Batman pretty damned insane and Savior 28’s own sidekick killing him, they just aren’t worth the trouble.

  • Chris Ullrich
    September 12, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Really enjoying the Kick-Ass. Glad its back for another issue.

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