C

Captain Marvel: Captain Marvel/Marvel Spotlight On Captain Marvel

featuring Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman and Doug Moench

(Art by Gil Kane, John Buscema, John Romita, Wayne Boring, Dan Adkins, Frank Giacola, Frank McLaughlin, Pat Broderick and Bruce Patterson)

Marvel's Mightiest Heroes Book 38.  These stories star the Kree warrior who became Earth's defender, trapped in the Negative Zone and only able to return to Earth as a protector by bonding with the human teenager Rick Jones.

Okay, clarification first; this isn't the original Captain Marvel, who DC have since rebranded as 'Shazam', and it's not the current Captain Marvel, who got her own movie starring Brie Larson; this is Marvel's first run at the character, whose name is actually Mar-Vell.  He's probably most famous for the fact that the story of his death was the subject of Marvel's first-ever Original Graphic Novel and, reading this book, I quickly realised not only why he's not known for anything else and also why they killed him off.

In short, this is a boring and tedious series of stories which have none of the flair, drama or fun of Marvel's usual output.  Captain Marvel is an entirely generic hero, with little or nothing to make him stand out in a crowd and even going toe-to-toe with the Hulk doesn't make his story any more engaging.  I was briefly excited to see Carol Danvers (who is the current Captain Marvel, who got her own movie starring Brie Larson) appear, but she does nothing and disappears from the story after a couple of pages.

Also, I know Marvel and DC have a long history of ripping-off each other's characters but the fact that this Captain Marvel is such a clear rip-off of the original was still shocking to me in how brazen it is.  Sure, the original Captain Marvel (actually created by Fawcett Comics before DC later bought the rights) was out of copyright at this point but that doesn't make it okay to basically nick the idea.  Here a young lad, Rick Jones drawn and coloured to look exactly like Billy Batson, has to call on and swap places with Captain Marvel to save the day.  This time, however, instead of shouting "Shazam!", he has to bash his bracelets together and make them go 'Ktang!'.  *Eye roll*.  It's jarring to see just how much Marvel have stolen.

And finally, on the subject of Rick Jones, if this arrogant, jive-talking little jerk is actually what 17 year-olds were like in the 60s and 70s, then I am eternally grateful that I wasn't born until the 1980s, because he is just insufferable from start to finish.

1 out of 5

 

Chaos War: Avengers

featuring Fred van Lente, Michael Avon Oeming and J. M. DeMatteis

(Art by Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher, Stephen Segovia, Ivan Rodriguez, Danny Miki, John Wycough, Victor Olazaba, Don Ho, Brian Ching and Rick Ketcham)

A tie-in to the Chaos War event storyline, this book features three stories.  The first sees deceased Avengers who are brought back to life stepping in to protect their comatose living comrades, the second follows Ares as he confronts the Chaos King in the Underworld and the third has Thor battling an alien god called Glory.

Now this is the first and only Chaos War book I've ever read, so I went into it with very little knowledge of the set up for the story.  To any other readers in the same boat, be prepared to have to accept things on face value because it picks up and ends amid events of the Chaos War, so we get little intro and no real ending.  Ares' story suffers in particular from this and therefore feels very disjointed.  On the other hand, Thor's story is fairly self-contained but just failed to really connect with me and also was a bit too existential in its tone; trying to make serious points about prayer and God in a story about a Norse god fighting an alien god.  Frankly, it just didn't work for me.

For me the highlight of this book was 'Chaos War: Dead Avengers'.  I've always liked stories which feature B-list or underpowered heroes taking on challenges that should be dealt with by the A-listers and here we get a real team of misfit Avengers who all share the dubious honour of having been dead up until the Chaos War.  Whilst Captain Marvel (the Mar-Vell version) and Vision aren't B-list heroes, the likes of Deathcry, Swordsman, Yellowjacket and Doctor Druid are.  Each of these heroes has to face their own shortcomings, as well as come to terms with the deaths and rebirths, whilst defending the comatose Avengers like Captain America, Iron Man and Wolverine.  I would've been much happier if this entire book had focused on the Dead Avengers, instead of just the first half.

2 out of 5

 

Civil War: Marvel Universe

featuring Dan Slott, Marc Guggenheim, Robert Kirkman, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Michael Avon Oeming, Ty Templton, Paul Jenkins, Brian Michael Bendis and Warren Ellis

(Art by Paul Smith, Leinil Yu, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, David Aja, Scott Kolins, Roger Langridge, Tom Raney, Scott Hanna, Marc Silvestri and Top Cow Productions)

A tie-in to Mark Millar's 'Civil War' which features a number of minor Marvel characters and their reactions to the Superhuman Registration Act. 

First off is a story about She-Hulk.  She's torn by her support of the Act as She-Hulk and her obligations as the lawyer charged with protecting the rights of superhumans.  Next up is a Venom, who decides to rack up a few more bodies before signing up to serve in the Government-sanctioned Thunderbolts.  The Irredeemable Ant-Man is then called to act as a hero to protect an innocent caught between the two sides of the Civil War.  In the next story Iron Fist agrees to become Daredevil to fight in the Civil War.  The fifth story features U.S.Agent as he too is torn, this time between his duty and his dislike of Tony Stark. 

Things take a lighter tone as the irrascible Howard the Duck reluctantly queues up for registration.  Then, in 'Civil War: The Return' Captain Marvel is torn from another timeline and tasked with guarding the superhero prison in the Negative Zone, whilst the Sentry struggles with both his conscience and the Absorbing Man.  Finally, 'Civil War: The Initiative' shows us the aftermath of the Civil War as Tony Stark attempts to rebuild the Avengers, a new super team is gathered in Canada, the ex-villain Thunderbolts revel in their new sanctioned positions and Ms. Marvel encounters the fugitive Spider-Woman. 

Overall, I didn't really like this book too much.  The stories are so short that they never manage to fully develop their better elements and the characters featured (with the possible exception of U.S.Agent) just aren't ones that interest me.  Also, very little of the political and moral tension so prevalent in the other Civil War books is apparent here. 

It comes to something when the best story offered here is the tongue-in-cheek Howard the Duck one ("You're a duck..." "And you're a civil servant. Let's not let our prejudices get in the way of civil discourse.")

2 out of 5

 

Civil War: X-Men Universe

featuring Peter David and Fabian Nicieza

(Art by Dennis Calero, Staz Johnson, Klaus Janson and John Stanisci)

Two stories tying in to 'Civil War' by Mark Millar, in which the Superhero Registration Act drives a wedge between the heroes of the Marvel Universe. 

The first is about X-Factor and shows how they learn that the X-Men have been lying to them about the events of M-Day.  The ensuing sense of betrayal leads them to choose the side of Quicksilver, the architecht of M-Day, over that of their former allies. 

The second story is the better of the two and features Cable and Deadpool.  When the latter is hired by the U.S Government to hunt down heroes avoiding the registration, it brings him into conflict with his friend and ally (Cable) who has chosen the side of the rebel heroes.  This latter story manages to perfectly balance the poignancy of its political statements against its madcap humour.  I particularly enjoyed Deadpool's reaction to getting his ass kicked by Squirrel Girl.

4 out of 5

 

Cyclops: Cyclops - Odyssey/X-Men Origins - Cyclops

featuring Brian K. Vaughan and Stuart Moore

(Art by Mark Texeira, Jimmy Palmiotti, Jesse Delperdang and Andy Lanning)

Marvel's Mightiest Heroes Book 20.  Two stories, one of which sees Cyclops separated from the X-Men and facing a vengeful foe and one which reveals details of Scott Summers' early life.

In 'Odyssey' by Vaughan, Cyclops is sent on vacation by Professor X but is immediately targeted by a psychopath calling himself Ulysses.  It's a pretty cliched set-up for a story, with tales of superheroes who are usually part of a team having a self-contained mini-adventure all on their own being a staple of comic books for decades.  I also found Ulysses to be a totally one-dimensional villain, when he could easily have simply been misguided and therefore sympathetic.

One thing I did enjoy, however, was the way that every situation he finds himself in reminds Scott of axioms from military leaders like General MacArthur or Sun Tzu.  Having this almost-encyclopaedic knowledge of historical leaders seemed very appropriate for Scott, since he definitely seems like the type to spend time seriously researching how to be a better leader.

The second story, by Moore, didn't really tell me anything about Cyclops' origins that I didn't already know.  Perhaps it wasn't meant to and was just intended as an updated retelling for new readers, but for me it just felt a bit pointless.  It didn't help that I had read the Marvel's Mightiest Heroes' 'The X-Men' (reviewed here) immediately before this book and Moore's story directly retells and contradicts parts of the stories told there.

2 out of 5