Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Avengers, Spider-Man and Thor trade reviews — oh my!

It's been all trailer reviews all the time here recently. And with "Avengers: Age of Ultron" coming out Friday, I'm sure my blog will heavy with op-eds inspired by the Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

The front cover of the AVENGERS ASSEMBLE:
trade paperback
So for the time being I'm getting back to my bread and butter — trade paperback reviews. The following are four- to six-sentence reviews of collections featuring The Avengers, Spider-Man and Thor.

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE: SCIENCE BROS — Collecting issues 9-13 and AVENGERS ASSEMBLE ANNUAL No. 1, this trade is a fast and fun read. As a big fan and advocate of late Silver Age and Bronze Age comics, what I appreciate most of these three stories is they respective last three, two and one issues — all of which are an adequate time to tell a complete story.

Tony Stark/Iron Man and Bruce Banner/The Hulk make a friendly wager about whose team can track down a scientist first in the first story (the basis for the title of this trade) while the two-parter focuses on Black Widow redeeming herself for the red markers she had as a KGB assassin — and not surprisingly, each story pulls from themes established from the first "Avengers" movie.

The team roster is identical to the movie version, which is delightfully supplemented by Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman in the first two stories and in the annual (essentially a Vision story featuring The Avengers), Giant-Man, Quicksilver and Vision.

The last three pages of the "Science Bros" story has one of the most joyous, not to mention hysterical and fun-filled conclusion (without being cheesy) that I've read in a lot a of years. The lesson Banner and Stark should learn is simple: Be careful what your bet is and don't forget what resources your teammates have. Grades — Nos. 9-11: A, Nos. 12-13: B+, annual: B

SPIDER-MAN VS. THE BLACK CAT — These are the kinds of trades at which Marvel Comics excels — what I call themed collections. Here it's the earliest and first appearances by Black Cat (in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 194-195, 204-205 and 226-227). I bought this so I could learn more about Felicia Hardy, who honestly makes a better, yet not completely trustworthy, partner for Spider-Man than she does a villain. Black Cat always has seemed like Marvel's weak sister version of Catwoman and this collection confirms my assumption. Her fascination with Spider-Man just doesn't ring true and seems forced — as does Spidey's attraction to the shapely cat burglar.

The creative teams (writers Marv Wolfman, David Michelinie and Roger Stern and artists Keith Pollard, Pablo Marcos and John Romita Jr.) are top notch, even though the stories aren't what I considered classic or must-read material. Grade: B 
I had the pleasure of spending many unhurried minutes talking to
and interviewing comic book writer Roger Stern (left)
 at the 2013 Lexington (Ky.) Comic & Toy Con.

A sixth- and seventh-sentence bonus: I've met Pollard, Stern and Wolfman at different comic book conventions in the last two-plus years. All three men are down to earth, approachable and as nice as they can be — especially Stern; I just wish I'd had my picture taken with Pollard.

THOR: FIRST THUNDER — Since I haven't read very much of Thor's early stories, I can't say how accurate this story is to other tellings of his "first year on Earth." Once again, Loki seeks vengeance, but like so many Thor stories it's hard to say what's bothering the god of mischief this time.

Most interestingly, Thor and Donald Blake each have "daddy issues" and are estranged from their fathers. Blake often speaks to Thor, much like Professor Stein does with Ronnie Raymond, who has control the body of DC Comics' Firestorm, but I can't say it adds anything to the story, much less Thor's characterization. Grade: C

In the end, I'd recommend you buy SCIENCE BROS (especially if you can find it at a cheap price), check out VS. THE BLACK CAT from your local library and completely skip FIRST THUNDER.

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