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Friday, April 24, 2009



A direct sequel to the events in HULK: RAGING THUNDER, this one opens with Lyra crash-landing from the future smack dab onto Park Avenue and immediately getting into a violent confrontation with the forces of A.R.M.O.R., a S.H.I.E.L.D.-like agency that monitors incursions from alternate realities (your tax dollars at work!). But, wait a minute... Who the hell is this "Lyra" anyway? She's the "all-new Savage She-Hulk," hailing from the same alternate future that gave the Marvel Universe Thundra, a "femizon" warrior woman thought up by a a creative team — Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway — that didn't quite get what Women's Liberation was about (it was 1972, after all).

Thundra the Femizon (art by Frank Cho)
Kinda/sorta Marvel's answer to Wonder Woman, Thundra came back in time from her warlike, female-dominated future to defeat the mightiest of present-day Earth's male heroes, thus theoretically sending a message to the males of her time, and the guy she chose as her whipping boy was none other than eternal underdog Ben Grimm, aka the Thing out of the Fantastic Four (you know him; he's the rocky orange guy in the diaper). While anyone with half a brain could tell you Thundra could have easily found much tougher opponents against whom to make her point — the Hulk and Thor would have been first on my list of candidates — the truth of the matter was that she found Ben attractive and wanted to sex him up. After whipping the living monkey-snot out of him on several occasions, Thundra and Ben settled into a friendly relationship and the Femizon went on to pop up in occasional guest-shots, most recently and notably in HULK: RAGING THUNDER, where she once more came back in time and harvested some DNA from the Hulk (not in a way that would have been fun, mind you).

Anyway, that's your necessary background info, and Lyra is the genetically-engineered offspring of the Incredible Hulk and Thundra.

So now Lyra's running around wreaking havoc in modern day New York City, on a quest to find the greatest male hero of the age for reasons as yet unspecified. All we know is that in her future world, there's some kind of problem with "the Cradle," the lab system that allows the Femizons to breed test tube daughters, causing it to generate embryos with hideous deformities, so it looks like Lyra's quest is to in some way gather more super-DNA to ensure the future of her people. But standing in her way is former-Green Goblin and still full-time asshole Norman Osborn, who's apparently now the Marvel Universe's answer to Lex Luthor as well as being the leader of the Dark Avengers (a bunch of assorted superhuman mental-defectives and psychos), and a "specialist" called in by the head of A.R.M.O.R.: Jennifer Walters, better known as the present-day She-Hulk. The first issue ends with the arrival of Jennifer Walters, and I was sufficiently entertained enough to want to read further. This ain't deep stuff, but it's old school marvel fun all the way, and considering much of what that company's foisted upon an innocent general public for the past several years, I'm happy with anything decent I can have from them.


Once the imprint-wide "Secret Invasion" storyline got underway I pretty much stopped reading the majority of Marvel books — with the notable exception of THE INCREDIBLE HERCULES, but more on that soon enough — and as a result I missed a Skrull-planted virus causing all Stark technology around the globe to fail (including Tony Stark's personal Extremis armor), the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and Stark's ousting as its director), and the now Lex Luthor-like Norman Osborn starting up his own alleged peace-keeping force (H.A.M.M.E.R.) and blaming Stark for the Skrull invasion, a state of affairs that renders Stark and former S.H.I.E.L.D. deputy director Maria Hill fugitives. Stark then sets out to destroy all of his worldwide armories before the tech can fall into the wrong hands and gives the reins of Stark Industries to his good right arm, Pepper Potts, a character whose much-needed movie-related boost looks like it has carried over to the comics. As Pepper steps up, she finds that Tony has left her a special gift: her very own suit of Stark armor. When I saw the cover featuring what's clearly a female variant on the Iron Man armored template I was intrigued, so I checked out "Previously..." section to get brought up to speed and was prompted to buy this and the next issue based on the shot of Pepper discovering her made-just-for-her suit of armor:

Needless to say, Pepper suits up and embarks on her training, aided by in-suit sentient computer Jarvis, something I would have loved to witness but, in typical Marvel fashion, the most interesting plot thread is interrupted by returning to the Stark-on-the-run story. Going around the world to render his armors useless before they fall into the wrong hands… Um, wasn’t that more or less the plot of “Armor Wars (1987-1988)?” Whatever; I’ve seen it before and I’m not terribly interested in it, and as if that isn’t bad enough they also throw in the Controller, a villain I’ve been profoundly bored by since I first read about him in a Jim Starlin issue of CAPTAIN MARVEL thirty-some-odd years ago. The sole item of interest here other than Pepper armoring up is Osborn asking the Sub-Mariner to kindly do him the favor of killing Tony Stark, to which Namor answers, “Gladly,” thus guaranteeing me reading the next chapter.


Pepper continues breaking in her Mark 1616 armor — which features a 96,000-song playlist! — with impressive results (she’s a natural), discovering in the process that her gear is designed solely for “heavy rescue and recovery” — meaning it’s purely defensive/protective and features absolutely no weapons — but her efforts draw the attention of Norman Osborn, who has her unceremoniously arrested after she single-handedly saves an airliner from crashing (after it was ordered shot down by Osborn in order to test her suit’s capabilities). After that Pepper’s out of this issue and the rest of its content revolves around a gratuitous and not very interesting Stark/Namor battle that amounts to nothing, more boredom as the Controller subjugates Agent Hill with one of his back-of-the-neck disc thingies, and Norman Osborn offering a billion Euros in gold to the first super-powered mercenary to place the severed head of Tony Stark on his desk. I like that last bit of setup and love the Pepper Potts arc, so I’ll be back next month. And if Pepper is to be christened with a superhero name I’d say “Iron Maiden” was a given, but is that still under copyright to the folks who currently hold the rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents? If so, I hope they and Marvel can work something out.


Is this Marvel's best ongoing book? I can't answer that since I don't read many Marvel books these days (with good reason), but I'd vote it the most entertaining. Consistently good on all fronts, it's a welcome throwback to the days when Marvel books contained equal parts characterization, action and humor, and I eagerly await each new issue. This chapter gives us more Olympian family dysfunction as Hera somehow manages to be even more of bitch than ever, the origin of Athena is recounted, and our hapless trio of Hercules, Athena and Amadeus Cho are caught between the out-for-blood factions of Hera (who's backed-up with an assortment of Greek mythological badasses) and Norman Osborn's mentally-unstable Dark Avengers.


The battle that was about to kick off at the end of the previous chapter ignites in earnest, and the rest of the issue is nothing but a fun and out-of-control melee that includes my choice for winner of "Comic Book Dialogue of the Year." Can't wait for the next issue!


I first read the proposal for this series some seven years ago during my time in Vertigo editorial and even then I could tell it was a dog. How's this for a concept intended for publication from what's supposed to be the most "cutting edge" imprint in American comics: What if the Beatles were superheroes?


No, seriously. That's about how much thought went into this turd and the results serve to point out just conceptually bankrupt it is. I thought it sucked back in 2002 and I stand firm in that opinion, but feeling sorrow at the considerable talents of Glenn (SLAINE) Fabry being wasted on six issues of such mindless, boring dreck whose script literally fizzles out before the reader's eyes. Though not the most pointless and worthless project ever shat out by Vertigo, GREATEST HITS is a near-total waste of time, money and trees that I urge you to avoid when its inevitable trade paperback collection comes out (probably within a month). They print shit like this when they could put out a collected edition of the excellent and woefully neglected FINALS... I just don't understand the thought process.


One of the headlining strips in the UK's ultra-tasteless and delightfully offensive VIZ humor magazine, THE FAT SLAGS chronicles the drunken adventures of two corpulent , chip-scarfing nymphomaniacs, Sandra Burke and Tracey Tunstall — better known as San and Tray — and this collection gives readers a good look at the series' general grotty tropes. Quite accurately described on the cover as "An All-New Orgy of Sex, Chips & Swearing," it's nothing but the girls engaging in sleazy adventures for page-upon-page, and much of it is quite funny if you enjoy unrelentingly-vulgar humor (which I certainly do). Vile, sophomoric and at times downright stupid, the girls' adventures remind me of a less-sophisticated version of the kind of thing Shary (TROTS & BONNIE) Flenniken used to do for NATIONAL LAMPOON back in the days, especially a story entitled "The Pudding Club," in which San discovers she's pregnant by one of her innumerable pickups and carries the baby to term. While holding her newborn daughter in her arms, San vows to be a good mother and give her little one everything she never had when she was growing up, but that fleeting moment of maternal concern flies out the window when Tray reminds her pal that she can't go hanging out in pubs anymore now that she's got a kid. Realizing she'll have to stay at home and actually look after her daughter for the next eighteen years, San exclaims, "Eh?...Stay in...? Fuck that!" and immediately demands the nurse to take the kid away and put it up for adoption. Ah, nothing like a comic that celebrates traditional British family values...


I reviewed the first issue of KICK-ASS when it came out and absolutely hated it with a loathing usually reserved for child-molesters or Nazi war criminals, vowing never to spend cash on another issue. Since I wrote those words I've found gratis copies of each subsequent issue of KICK-ASS in the stacks of comics I receive from various industry sources — IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER! No, I'm not selling the non-keepers on eBay; I give them away to the guys who run the Hispanic meat market around the corner from my apartment building (Chato's a huge fan of 100 BULLETS) — and have read each one, still finding no fault with John Romita Jr.'s art (although Hit-Girl's head is lollipop-on-a-stick disproportionate to her body) and still thinking Mark Millar is doing nothing worthy of the acclaim the book continues to garner (to say nothing of the book already landing a movie deal based on the strength of said kudos). The one thing I like in the entire narrative is the lethal team of Hit-Girl and Big Daddy, a pair that brings to mind what would have happened if the Punisher had adopted Dick Grayson, and this issue provides readers with their backstory. It's nothing we haven't seen before — elements of Hit-Girl's formative years read a lot like what Garth Ennis came up with for Tulip O'Hare in PREACHER, a story still quite fresh in the memory since it came out only a decade ago — but this issue gets my vote as the most genuinely entertaining thus far, and the cliff-hanger does have me curious to see how the characters get out of the situation they're stuck in.


This first volume of the Punisher collecting the stuff that came after Garth Ennis' excellent four-year run was something of a disappointment for me following the character-rich work Garth turned in issue-after-issue, returning Frank Castle to an implacable juggernaut of destruction who merely wanders from one violent encounter to another. Admittedly, crime novelist Greg Hurwitz has a very tough act to follow and I've definitely read worse, but the Punisher didn't emotionally register with me here, leaving Laurence Campbell's capable art to hold my attention. I'll give THE PUNISHER one more story arc to convince me to stay or drop it, but if it continues with this volumes tone I think I'm gonna bail.


Chris T said...

Are the Iron Man comics by Brubaker? I'm digging his Captain America run.

Bunche (pop culture ronin) said...

THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN is being scripted by Matt Fraction. And Brubaker's Captain America is good, but I've decided to hold out for the next huge omnibus collection.

John Bligh said...

I got the first issue of KICK-ASS and I honestly have completely forgotten everything about it. I just remember hating it.