July 30, 2008

Reconstructing the Marvel Universe

Admittedly, I have not been the biggest fan of Marvel Comics' recent output (with one or two exceptions) - most of it seems to be geared more towards a more adolescent attitude. The books seem to say, "Hey, look how contemporary and dark we are! We are soooooo kewl!".

(Yes, I misspelt "kewl" deliberately).

However, there are two post-Civil War books that have not only captured my attention, but that I am really enjoying immensely, perhaps because they take the reader into the "realities" of the Marvel Universe post-Civil War. Both are well-written, the art is exceptional, and most importantly - I think that the tone of both books is appropriate. One is a super-serious exploration of how the Marvel Universe has changed since WW 2; the other is a more light-hearted - but fun - investigation of the more absurd aspects.

Being such a Golden Age fanboy, I have to admit that I'm tempted to give Avengers/Invaders an automatic pass. (Hey, I read the Invaders religiously in my younger days. I have no shame). But that would do the series a disservice, because it's a much stronger series that explores the same themes than does the more slower moving The Twelve. (It helps that they have Stephen Sadowski doing the art - it's reminiscent of his work on JSA, but it gives a sense of realism about the series). Granted, it's Kreuger and Ross' usual obsessions on the nature of heroism, but its thoughtful exploration of these themes - plus the twist on time travel cliches - that makes it a really solid read.

The other book? Maybe I should be surprised/ashamed that I like this, but it's Patsy Walker: Hellcat - Agent of the Initiative. Part of why it's enjoyable is that it takes one of the more critical aspects of the Initiative and asks the question, "If every states requires a superhero team, what do you do when you have a state with little need? Or where no hero would like to go?"

And, of course, Kathryn Immonen answers that question in the most absurd - yet fun - way. (Ok, maybe it's because she's a redhead...and I like redheads. Fair's fair.) David la Fuente's art also helps in the nice, light-hearted atmosphere. In short, this is a really fun book.

Hellcat is a character with very deep roots in the Marvel Universe, and Immonen writes her in a way that simultaneously respects and subverts that history. Walker, as part of her "cover" as a fashion model, asks Iron Man where she's being stationed. And of course, he tells her.


Luckily, at no point does the story threaten to turn into a superhero version of Northern Exposure...but the great thing about it is that its sense of humor is at just the right pitch. It's not the over-the-top absurdity of Nextwave (and Marvel, please release more Nextwave with the original creative team on board), or the look-how-zany-I-am humor put out by the distinguished competition (Yes, I'm talking to you, Ambush Bug!) But it's well worth your time and money.

In short, Marvel may be getting a lot of attention due to Secret Invasion...but the best reads are the ones that are under the radar. It almost makes me want to declare, "Make Mine Marvel!"

Avengers Vs. Invaders: Highly Recommended
Patsy Walker: Hellcat - Agent of the Initiative: Highly Recommended.


Stephen said...

gonna give hellcat a shot but avengers/invaders feels so forced to me and overly complicated because of the skrulls

Jeff Smith said...

I'll give the Hellcat a read. Not sure on Avengers vs Invaders. Sounds like a title ripe for a forced Secret Invasion tie in.

Siskoid said...

Avengers/Invaders has been a disappoint to me. Probably because I can't stand the current Avengers set-up.

Hellcat however is GREAT! Loved everything about it.

Roger Owen Green said...

I LOVED the Invaders in the day. Patsy Walker, eh? Well, I may try it out.