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From the Hoss’ Mouth 09/20/06

A huge week for comic fans.  Amongst the myriad of titles out there I covered Civil War, The Invincible Iron Man, Checkmate, X-Men: First Class, and Civil War: X-Men.  What’s the skinny on these newest books? Find out inside.

…..did I just say skinny?

Full Review:

Civil War #4
Writer: Mark Millar
Pencils: Steve McNiven

First to preface this review I will not be spoiling any major details.  Events may be discussed in a roundabout manner as it’s difficult to discuss something without actually referencing it, but to reiterate all the way back from the first “Hoss’ Mouth” I will not blatantly blow major plot points or huge reveals. 

Well it’s here and right away I can say the extended wait was not worth it from a storyline standpoint.  On McNiven’s front, I say give this guy all the time he needs because the book is simply beautiful.  I’d actually run out of adjectives to express how wonderful the art is if I try to describe it, so we’ll just leave it at this: the art’s so good it’s worth the cover price alone.  Now onwards to the verbal meat of the story.

Not cutting any corners we pick up right at the very end of #3.  Thor’s back as you should all know by now and the battle that begun with last issue is concluded in this one.  So to begin, without actually discussing specific points I will say that Thor’s return or more specifically the explanation for Thor’s return is a disappointment.  The first thought that sprang to my mind was, “Is this the best they can do?”.  It’s not like they’ve tried anything new here, in fact this plot device pops up once a week in comics.  It was probably most famously or infamously used by Marvel themselves on another of their A-list characters, and although I did enjoy that specific story most of fandom would disagree with me.  Which leaves me with my last point of discussion on the matter: Why even try to do it again?  Confused, I’m sure most of you can guess the specific character and arc I’m referring to once you’ve read this issue; the connection is all too obvious. 

Now unlike most of the tie-ins, the main series has a done a decent job of treating both sides fairly and this one proves no exception.  In this specific case things take a different turn and both sides and in particular their leaders are portrayed rather negatively.  Once you start to examine this issue I think you’ll find that, at least among Cap and Iron Man, this fight doesn’t even seem to be about registration at all.  Instead it lends itself towards a sort of unwanted petty alpha male dispute with both leaders coming off as jerks.  Honestly though, what’s the point of both of them being so irrational?  Where has this deep seated animosity between the two suddenly come from?  Doesn’t anyone actually in charge possess a sense of reason or morality anymore?  I never thought it would be possible for a writer to make a reader simultaneously hate both Cap and Iron Man, but here’s proof-positive it can be done.  Although it may be a bit bold of me to say, I think Millar has missed the boat on his two leads.  Marvel’s Civil War slogan is “Whose side are you on?” well after reading #4 I don’t want to pick a side, I hate them both.  Now granted there’s still the possibility this sort of unnatural behavior between the two was done on purpose, perhaps to throw everyone into a fit before revealing some grand master plan behind it all and if so kudos to you Marvel, but if not well then I’ll just leave it at this: Infinite Crisis made it all the way to #5 before going downhill.  On the bright side the damage done isn’t irreversible, there’s still got to be a few ways that this can be salvaged.

But enough with the bad.  There are some shining moments in this story.  Particularly those involving Nighthawk, Sue Storm, and Hank Pym and after this issue my interest in all three characters has grown quite a lot.  Also I find the villain/Thunderbolts angle to be very interesting, in fact it’s been my favorite part of this series so far and there’s a brief nod/reveal to that here that just may drive you nuts.  Take that as you will.  I can guarantee one simple thing from this story, it’s emotional.  It’s not a story that will bore you and definitely not one to pass up even though you may hate it.  This sort of comic drama, no matter how forced some of it may seem, is still exciting despite the inevitability that it may leave some a bit enraged.  Love it or hate it, after you’ve finished you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.

Verdict:  Overall my own personal reaction is mixed, but I will say to go ahead and give it a shot.  McNiven’s art alone guarantees you’ll be pleased with half the book.  As for the other half, despite its laundry list of problems, nothing else comes remotely close in the magnitude of this book’s importance this week, which I’m sure is what Marvel’s betting on. Note:  The solicited cover here is not the actual cover.

Quick Reviews:

The Invincible Iron Man #12:  I picked this book simply because I love Granov’s covers.  As for the story…. well it falls a bit flat.  We get an all too hurried conclusion and for those of us not keeping track of every Iron Man armor ever designed the big finale fight loses a lot of its potential.  I’m sure true hardcore Iron Fans will be giddy over it though.  Last but not least the book has a forced CW moment that fits given the circumstances of this issue but regardless seems out of place, particularly with the oft-used gun metaphor that I’ve tired of.  The pencils by Zircher are stellar.  The guy’s action scenes are excellent.  I love the angles he’s chosen as well as the broad sweeping shots that provide so much detail.

Verdict: A great issue for Shellheads, for the rest of us though I’d recommend passing on it and waiting for the beginning of the next arc.

Checkmate #6:  My sole DC review choice and why is that?  Because this issue sees the return of the Suicide Squad.  I was hesitant about this title after the first couple of issues lost me with the complications of Checkmate hierarchy, but now that I’m 6 issues in I’m nice and comfortable.  This issue sees the return of a new Suicide Squad so to speak and they look good though as you’ll find out not for very long.  Also we find that Amanda Waller is still up to her old devious ways despite her lack of Black Queen status.  Waller has become a favorite character of mine as of late and I can’t seem to get enough of her or her political machinations.  The art could use some clean-up and the choice of guest penciller Cliff Richards looks like it may have been a bad one.  Though I’ll give the man credit for trying, being a fill-in is always a difficult task.

Verdict:  Highly recommended for those keeping up.  Otherwise steer clear unless you’re prepared to get the back issues, though you’d really only need to get 4 & 5.

X-Men: First Class:  A new X-Title???  Unbelievable!  In all seriousness though, this book was fun.  Bobby Drake handles the narration and keeps the story moving.  His insight, though not providing anything really important, does give us an entertaining overview of his first impressions on Xavier’s first class of students.  The rest of the story isn’t serious or particularly involving but in a week where almost every book I read was trying too hard for the shock and awe factor, this one proves to be a simple light-hearted fun read.  It’s also a self-contained one-shot.  The art is colorful, sharp, and detailed leaving nothing to complain about plus it’s got a great cover.

Verdict:  Looking for some simple amusing fun?  This is your best bet this week.

This week’s loser:

X-Men: Civil War #3:  Actually not a bad book at all.  The reason it occupies the loser spot is simply because this book is not a Civil War tie-in.  Despite what the cover says it’s merely 198 part deux, and after the last couple pages it’s fairly obvious everything will be tied up with no actual impact on Civil War at all.  The mutants have succeeded in staying neutral, and honestly I’m glad.  Having them get involved would just muddle up Civil War even more.  I will say this though, despite the myriad of differences between their members the mutants know how to stick together and put those differences behind them to see the big picture.  In a week where no title, even the Flash, was blatantly bad not being a true tie-in is enough to net this spot.

Verdict:  If you like books with X’s, this one’s not bad, but just don’t expect your favorite mutants to actually join in the CW ruckus.

Ewww….you stepped in Hoss crap:

There were simply too many books released this week:  The high points: Flash (surprisingly this book decided to go somewhere), Ion, Sensational Spider-Man, Wolverine (who’d have thought corporate sabotage could be fun), X-Factor, Moon Knight (loves me some Finch), Robin, Shadowpact, Superman (some great action, not so good ending), AXM, and Exiles (always a winner), The Walking Dead, Deadman, and Hellblazer.  The lows:  Birds of Prey, Catwoman, and The Incompetent Ghost Rider.  Last but not least the mediocre: Runaways, Nextwave, 52, Army of Darkness, and Wetworks.
 

 

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