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Light Spoilers on, gentle readers.


New Avengers Annual #3

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Mike Mayhew with color by Andy Troy

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Troy Brownfield

I like the general trend in the annuals this year that has them tying into aspects of the larger narrative without being necessarily expressed as “you MUST have this”, etc.  However, both last week’s “Dark Avengers” Annual and this particular issue carry important bits of story that regular readers and long-time fans will want to see.  And that most definitely includes the final page.

But, I get ahead of myself.  This one brings to a head the storyline that began when Ronin (Clint Barton, the artist formerly known as Hawkeye) called out Norman Osborn for what he is on live television.  After attempting to kill Norman and being captured, Clint’s at the mercy of the Dark Avengers on the HAMMER Helicarrier.  When his wife, Mockingbird, finds out, she gets together with some of the other Avengers ladies, including a surprise addition, to make a break.  It all leads to a final page that is really no surprise, but will likely have fans well-ready for “Siege”.

Bendis writes a pretty strong action script for this go-round.  The opening interrogation, with Clint mocking Norman’s hair, is to be expected, but the return of a super-heroine to action and other developments are a bit more interesting.  Mayhew’s art is solid, particularly in terms of facial expression and a couple of intriguing “jam” flashbacks that incorporate art from a variety of artists across several old stories.

The issue is fairly continuity intensive; you should know what’s going on if you aim to pick it up.  Nevertheless, regulars will be happy, and some that left a while back may be enticed to return.

The Anchor #3

Written by Phil Hester

Art by Brian Churilla

Colors by Matthew Wilson

Letters by Johnny Lowe

Published by BOOM! Studios

Review by Lan Pitts

When we last left good ole Clem in issue #2, he had met a young boy named Matthew, who had been killed by a forest demon and is now a ghost. Clem is also captured by some sort of military squad that plans on "testing" him. So here we are now in The Anchor #3, and this book just gets better and better. There really isn't a huge brawl that rages on for most of the book. Clem is being tested on and actually is nicknamed "The Anchor" by his captors that are testing various weapons on him. Of course since he has only sworn to only strike supernatural threats, he stands there and takes it. We're not sure if he actually feels any of the weapons used on him, and trust me, they do the works.

Since Clem was told he'd be facing five different furies, we're up to number three. It's an interesting concept with the creature he faces off against, but as I mentioned, there isn't a huge showdown and young Matthew is the one who actually resolves the situation. Pretty creative on Phil Hester's part since it was something a bit different from the previous installments where there was an epic clash between Clem and a furie.

Maybe it's just me on a supernatural book kick at the moment, but this title is just damn cool. As of course dealing with supernatural elements, things can get a bit gory. Phil Hester has taken this holy Hellboy-like character and ran with it. Probably the most interesting fact is that there are little theological tidbits. I mean, there are a slew of supernatural characters out there from Zatanna, to Dr. Voodoo, to the Nocturnals, but none of them really have any religious aspect that the Anchor does.  The dialog doesn't drag, that action has a good pace to it, and Brian Churilla's style is simple and easy on the eyes.

The Anchor is a creative premise and off to a great start. If you haven't discovered this book by now, pick it up and give it a try.


Invincible Iron Man #21

Written by Matt Fraction

Art by Salvador Larocca

Colors by Frank D'Armata

Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

It's ironic that this issue is all about rebuilding a better Iron Man -- because in many ways, this is the most fractured and unpolished issue of Invincible Iron Man yet. While the ideas are there, the execution is a bit flawed, with continuity and characterization feeling shoved into the story rather than being organically grown.

What do I mean? Matt Fraction still moves along some of the subplots from last issue -- namely, Tony Stark fighting in his subconscious as he lies in a self-induced coma -- but certain elements of the plot feel tacked on. One of the more egregious examples is not entirely Fraction's fault: namely, two old friends of Tony's -- and I'm not talking about Bucky and Thor -- return to the fold, but have next to no set-up explaining why. But that said, weirdness in continuity and publishing schedules aside, it's too bad there isn't a bit more smoothness to these introductions -- as it stands, these scenes stand out like a sore thumb.

Yet there's a bigger problem here -- namely, this issue is mostly talk, with little action. For example, last issue I complained about Pepper Potts' sudden doubts about reviving Tony -- in this issue, Fraction gives a little bit more background to it, but uses the trite "I'm writing this down to say how I feel" method of telling us how she feels, rather than showing. In a lot of ways, that's endemic to the whole issue, and it flat-tires some of the more interesting moments, such as the various crazy steps to bringing Tony back online.

In terms of the art, Salvador Larocca and Frank D'Armata still produce the same standard of solid craftsmanship that they have every issue -- but in a lot of ways, they're also struggling with Fraction's script. There's a lot of talking, and hugging, and explaining... which doesn't give a lot of visual energy to the piece. Tony's hallucination scenes -- as well as his expressions on his pre-recorded message to his friends -- are certainly the highlight of the book, with D'Armata's colors and Larocca's expressions really popping. There are a few other nice touches as well -- namely, watching a friend of Tony's sitting on a couch, nonchalantly stripping the Rescue suit for spare parts -- but ultimately, there's not a lot of material to work with here.

I don't like saying this about Invincible Iron Man. I've by and large dug everything that Fraction has done with the title thus far -- even if it occasionally felt a little stretched or a little slow. But this chapter not only spoils the conclusions of two other series, but the overall structure of the piece feels so jumpy and inorganic -- and ultimately, doesn't even give us an explanation of what where Tony Stark is at the end, whether good, bad, or indifferent -- that it's hard to recommend this particular issue. I know there's a lot of talent behind this book, so I'm going to write this issue off as a fluke -- but if next issue's seams are as visible as this chapter's, reassembling Tony Stark is going to be more difficult than anyone thought.

Days Missing #5

Written by Phil Hester

Art by Frazier Irving

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Archaia

Review by David Pepose

One of the central challenges of Days Missing hasn't been plagues, war, or forbidden science -- it's been that of human nature. Yet the final issue of this miniseries takes it a step further: what happens when the Steward of humanity is outgunned? What happens if he fails, time and time again?

Ultimately, it's a good showing by Phil Hester, who really give this final issue a unique voice. As a nanotechnological globule turns into a towering behemoth intent on absorbing the planet, Hester gives his hero a double-barreled challenge -- not only does he have to convince the project scientists that he is the real deal, but he also has to deal with this unsettling creature.

While occasionally overwritten, the Steward, having lived through this before, is able to give some great shorthand characterization to the scientists -- one, for example, needs to be sedated, and another one goes mad when the creature gains sentience. The narration in particular has a great feel to it: "I've never seen you like this. Desperate. Frightened. Bloodied. Beaten. And I must say... I find it exhilirating." I second the motion.

Frazer Irving, meanwhile, makes the story work. There's a real sense of theatricality to the threat, as the Steward stands, bloodied but unbowed, in the palm of a giant monster. Irving's color work is also sublime -- the creature is black and white, but there's a green field outside of it that really draws the eye, and keeps the action interesting. Sometimes his action sequences are a little off -- there's a panel of the Steward throwing someone that feels a little weak -- but his expressiveness and character design all looks great.

Last month, I said that Days Missing was a premise that deserved an ongoing, and if the ending of this book is any indication, I'm hoping that Archaia smiles on that request. With all of human history -- and all our potential for self-destruction -- this is a concept that works. Sometimes it's overwritten -- and the idea of "everything being a miracle" is not quite as fresh as it was in Watchmen in 1987 -- but the art and tone and moodiness Hester and Irving give this piece makes it a fun one to watch.

Phonogram: The Singles Club #6 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose): An interesting prose-packed issue that has a lot of ideas, even as there's half the book is Jamie McKevlie art, with the other half being cut-up "photo" montages. Lloyd -- er, Mr. Logos -- is a bit of a failed Phonomancer himself, and seeing his plan revealed again doesn't give a lot of weight. What does work, however, is Kieron Gillen showing us the other characters through Lloyd's eyes, whether it's the "immaculate and monstrous and perfect" Penny, or the "dark mind" of Laura, who turned him down last issue. The back-up, in many ways, conveys Gillen's ideas a bit more smoothly, with the power of music being tied to the love of music, and the failure to be true to that in turn being the failure of being true to oneself. In other words, if you've dug the past few issues of Phonogram, pick this up -- if you're not a believer, though, this might not be the place to start.

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