Fraction and Ferry kick off their run on Thor with this much anticipated issue.

Thor 615

Story: Matt Fraction
Pencils: Pasqual Ferry
Inks: Pasqual Ferry
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth

Wins:

  • First and foremost, I’ll make no attempt to hide my love for Fraction’s work. When he was announced as the new writer of Thor, I was thrilled. Paired with Ferry, they become a veritable force.
  • Though Coipel’s Thor will always be my Thor, Pasqual Ferry turned in some beautiful pencils and inks for this issue. Amazing job on the character designs of the invading alien villains.
  • Matt Hollingsworth shows his versatility with his fantastically vibrant colors, as opposed to his work on Daredevil, where his colors are muted and used more as emphasis. It’s nice to see him on this title. He makes Ferry’s work jump off of the page.
  • As for the story, even if you’re not familiar with Thor, there isn’t much you need to know about the Thor pantheon to understand what’s happening. As advertised, this is a great place to jump on. This could be as brilliant and coveted as JMS and Coipel’s run.
  • The fact that Fraction is going for the jugular has me very excited.
  • The scene where Thor explains how he misses Loki makes the reader empathize with Thor as he’s closer to being human by expressing his grief, helping the reader relate to him, even though he’s a God.
  • I loved that Thor tells Balder to man up and be the King. What’s done is done. I think he got the point.
  • If Heimdall is as astonished as we see him in this issue…prepare for one Hel of a bloody battle.
  • The way Volstagg’s chair buckles in the last panel made me laugh. Great characterization and comedy between the scientist and Asgard’s most brilliant scientific mind.
  • With the scope of this story being immense, is Fraction laying the groundwork to bring Odin back? With such a seemingly unstoppable alien force carving a path through the nine worlds, Odin could be the ace in the hole.
  • Could the invaders be Asgardians from a parallel universe? It would certainly make sense, especially since their leader looks a lot like Odin. Dark Asgardians?

Fails:

  • The most notable fail is the fact that I haven’t blogged for 10 months.
  • What happened to the Asgardian-style font?! To me, it’s integral to a Thor book. Without it, it feels like there’s something missing.
  • The fact that Chris Eliopoulos isn’t lettering this book is a travesty. He did a fantastic job lettering Thor during the JMS/Coipel/Morales/Martin run.
  • The dialogue between Thor and Donald Blake was somewhat jarring, compared to their interactions in JMS’ run. I’m sure this will be expanded upon. Clearly Thor is furious and driven after the fall of Asgard. Blake chose the wrong time to bother Thor.
  • The restaurant scene at the beginning seemed to go on and on. I’ve read this issue at least three times, and it is easier to get through after you’ve read it once.
  • Some of Ferry’s art was abruptly chopped off on a couple of panels. It’s a pet peeve of mine. It doesn’t detract from the issue, but it is a small eyesore.

Verdict: A-

Dark Avengers 12

Uh-oh! The Dark Avengers have been trapped in nothingness by Molecule Man! What ever will they do?!

Story: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Mike Deodato
Colors: Rain Beredo
Painted Pages: Greg Horn

Wins:

  • I really dig how this issue begins. Greg Horn’s painted pages are (sadly) limited to 2 1/2 in this issue, and the first page is the best page in the book. Norman is webbed up by an evil Spidey as he pleads for his life. Horn’s painted pages in this issue and issue 11 were definitely eye candy, and worked well in the story.
  • We actually learn something new about Sentry, and apparently it’s an epiphany for him as well. After being killed by Molecule Man in the previous issue, he’s (shocking, I know) back in this issue, and is in control of himself and has a solid grasp on his powers. A little understanding can go a long way. What does this mean for Osborn?
  • There’s a moment of comedy between Victoria and Norman as he’s down for the count. I rather enjoyed it. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you read it.
  • Mike Deodato’s art is once again easy on the eyes. His layout helps the story flow and makes for nice looking pages that read fluently.
  • Moonstone references Scarlet Witch. Is Bendis dropping hints of her return or just nonchalantly mentioning her. She could be Norman’s secret weapon in Siege. Who knows?!
  • After last issue, we learned that Victoria likes to stir things up a bit, and she continues to do so in this issue when she confronts Normie about his mental health, or lack thereof.
  • The final page reveals something that most people should have seen coming, but somehow I was dumb enough to have not guessed it exactly. Remember, these are villains that we’re dealing with. I need to wise up a bit.
  • This book is finally coming out of the lull that it was treading water in for a number of months.
  • Next month: Siege! Maybe we’ll begin to unravel the mystery of how long Loki has been controlling major players in the Marvel Universe. If this is an event 7 years in the making, is he the culprit of House of M, Civil War, Secret Invasion, et cetera?

Fails:

  • Some people may think that having two artists’ work in one book would detract from it, but I think it works in this instance. That said, I thought it worked much better in the last issue.
  • The dialogue near the end of the issue was a bit wasteful with all of the “ums” and “uhs” I know that the rest of the Dark Avengers are dumbfounded, I can see the looks on their faces. I guess I just wanted more of a conclusive ending to the scene. I suppose they were all too shocked to speak.
  • In this issue, we see Venom (posing as Spider-Man) looking “normal” in public. In previous issues he’s been drawn in full Venom symbiote freak out mode when in public, even if not in battle. The lack of consistency is a bit jarring.
  • A few of the panels were re-used a bit cheaply for effect.
  • When I saw Horn’s name on the cover, I was looking forward to a chunk of painted pages from him, but his art was used sparingly. At least the first page was delicious.
  • Deodato must be married to a female contortionist. His women, especially Victoria Hand, twist their bodies into pretzels and have the consistency of a Stretch Armstrong doll.
  • This story arc just ended, as far as I can tell, and I feel like we spent 2 issues meandering when we could have been having more fun with Molecule Man and his imaginary/molecular “friends”.

Verdict: B

Doom is about to unleash a fury of Asgardian Doombots on the world. Would the real Asgardians please stand up? This is the debut issue of Kieron Gillen and Billy Tan’s run on Thor.

Incredible Hulk 605

The return of Tyrannus! Moloids attack! Manhattan crumbles! Can Banner and son save the day?

Story: Greg Pak
Art: Ariel Olivetti
Pencils: Paul Pelletier
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: Chris Sotomayor

Wins:

  • This is an excellent way to end the first big storyline of this run of Incredible Hulk.
  • Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’ve really enjoyed this arc. Bruce Banner can’t Hulk-out and is training his son, Skaar, to kill Hulk the next time he gets angry. I love all of the gadgets that Banner has in his infinite knapsack. His smack-talking demeanor is a clever change of pace.
  • This issue is a well constructed story that segues into Fall of the Hulks quite nicely.
  • Pak’s pacing and dialogue is pitch perfect and portrays each character with ease. I really love Greg Pak, and am very satisfied with his work on this book.
  • Pak goes back to his days writing Planet Hulk to tie together how Mole Man came to be the leader of Moloids from the planet Sakaar.
  • Olivetti’s art is lovely, as always. His version of Human Torch is unique, and I like how he draws Mr. Fantastic. I just wish that he’d do every page of every issue. I’m sure it comes down to time constraints that he can’t meet, so maybe having another guest artist helps to keep the book on time. Paul Pelletier does half a dozen pages in this one.
  • I dug the Fantastic Four team-up, if you can call it that. They would have been there to battle Mole Man anyway. Bruce Banner has lost Reed Richards’ trust when Bruce nearly admits that he staged the fight to train Skaar and knew that Tyrannus had stolen the dome technology.
  • I love how it’s nearly a free-for-all between all parties. If they aren’t physically battling, they’re verbally battling. Pak wrote a nifty little four-way chess match to end this story arc.

Fails:

  • This is bound to be the last Incredible Hulk issue where Bruce Banner can’t Hulk-out. I was hoping it would last for a few story arcs. We now return you to “HULK SMASH!!!”. Bah!
  • Some of Olivetti’s backgrounds are a bit cumbersome and lack ambiance.
  • This book would be in my top 3 favorites if Olivetti did the artwork on every page.
  • I prefer Giuseppe Camuncoli as the secondary artist. If Olivetti moves on, I’d love for Camuncoli to take his place. Camuncoli has some pages in Incredible Hulk 604 if you’re curious to see some of his work.
  • The Savage She-Hulk sub-story is something that I could go without. The art is decent, the writing isn’t bad, but I just don’t see the relevance quite yet. Maybe Lyra’s role in Fall of the Hulks will change my mind.

Verdict: A-

New Avengers Annual 3

The chicks suit up to save Clint Barton in an estrogen-laden annual.

Story: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mike Mayhew
Inks: Mike Mayhew
Colors: Andy Troy

Wins:  

  • For me, there are two reasons to pick up this issue, the first is Mike Mayhew’s art. It’s everything I’d like to see when it comes to character portrayal, fluidity, and aesthetics. It’s very crisp, easy to follow, and looks gorgeous and life-like.
  • The second reason is for the reveal on the final page. Steve Rogers appears in the stars and bars and asks his cronies if they’re ready for battle.
  • Barton finally apologizes to Spider-Man for losing his cool in The List one-shot.
  • Mentallo is revealed as an Osborn conspirator who tortures Clint by forcing him to relive his deaths in Avengers: Disassembled and House of M.
  • Sentry doesn’t die! He’s 2 for 2 in annuals this year. Has Bendis turned over a new leaf?
  • Osborn and Co. are foiled again in their attempts to capture the elusive New Avengers when they arrive moments after they’ve abandoned their hideout. Who doesn’t love to see Osborn go ape over yet another failure as the man in charge.
  • This does set the stage for Siege much better than Siege: The Cabal does. Buy this and Dark Avengers Annual 1 instead.

Fails:  

  • On the cover in the solicits, Jewel (Jessica Jones)’s face is different than it is on the actual cover. Why the change, Marvel? The first cover was much prettier. Maybe that was why they opted to change it.
  • In some of Mayhew’s frames he drew Spider-Woman with the webbing under her arms and in other frames he drew her sans webbing. Some consistency would have been nice.
  • The fact that Avengers: Dark Reign – The List came out when it did really screwed up the story flow in New Avengers. This annual resolves what happened in The List one-shot which came out September 9. Poor planning on Marvel’s part. Especially since Clint Barton was in the three issues in between The List and the annual and was not in custody.
  • The New Avengers are homeless once again after Sentry destroyed Bucky’s abode.
  • As in Dark Avengers Annual 1, Venom (posing as Spider-Man) is in full slaughter mode. Not very believable if he’s trying to be the real Spider-Man.
  • You could argue that the consumer paid $5 for the one page reveal at the end. I don’t exactly feel that way because I enjoyed this issue, but the argument could be made.

Verdict: B

Dark Avengers Annual 1

Holy balls! It's Marvel Boy aka Noh-Varr!

Story: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, Al Vey
Colors:
Antonio Fabela & Chris Bachalo

Wins:

  • We finally learn where Marvel Boy has been since he went AWOL.
  • If you’re a fan of Noh-Varr, the fact that Bendis souped him up in this annual means he has the potential to be a key player in the near future.
  • Bachalo’s art is quite nice. I know there are plenty of Bachalo fans out there, so you’ll be pleased with the art he turned in for this one (with a few exceptions).
  • The character interactions between Annie and Noh-Varr are excellent. This is where Bendis’ strengths lie as a writer. Let’s hope he keeps her as a constant character.
  • The battle between Noh-Varr and Sentry was pretty sweet, and shockingly, Sentry DOESN’T DIE!
  • This does set the stage for Siege much better than Siege: The Cabal does. Buy this and New Avengers Annual 3 instead.

Fails:

  • Marvel Boy’s new costume is absolutely ridiculous. He looks like Space Ghost. What was wrong with his old outfit? At least his appearance wasn’t ambiguous. His identifiable white hair should have been left exposed.
  • The fact that Bendis is making Noh-Varr a more powerful character means that there should be more Marvel Boy appearances. For readers who didn’t know who he was before are going to have no idea who he is when they see him in his new outfit. They’ll be asking themselves: “who is this character and why should we care?!”.
  • Some of Bachalo’s sans background frames leave something to be desired.
  • Why is Venom, who’s supposed to be gallivanting as Spider-Man, in full freak mode in the streets? Clearly the real Spider-Man can’t manipulate his shape as the Venom symbiote can.
  • The reveal at the very end really underlines the debacle that Marvel has created with a certain mini-series that is near its conclusion. It has to do with a certain Avenger *cough, Cap, cough.

Verdict: B-

My favorite group of anti-heroes are back at it again. Mister X is thirsty for some blood. Ant-Man provides us with some comic relief. And of course, there’s plenty of backstabbing and treachery.

Johnny, Ben, and the kids go vacationing in Nu-World, but find that things are not exactly they way they hoped they’d be.

Hydra is out to recruit Jessica Drew in Madripoor. But what motivation does she have to join them? And how could Hydra benefit from having Spider-Woman as a loyalist?

Here are my nominees for this month’s crop of delicious covers.

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