Every now and again I throw a challenge to a nearby personage to hit me up with five graphic novels from my collection they’d like me to review. This time it’s Lord 15’s buddy Zac who happened to be in the wrong room at the wrong time. Let’s see what I thought of the ones he picked out while I was shouting at him to hurry up.
Avengers: Age of Ultron.
More of Bendis’ convoluted, maze-like overarching plotlines stretched until you can hear them creaking, covered up with nine hundred million billion characters all cracking wise at each other in the same voice and the occasional moment of great woe zoomed past at a million miles an hour so we don;t make the mistake of pausing too long to think about it. And, of course, it works its arse off. This is genuinely fun stuff, spoiled only by the inevitable big-red-reset-button that we all know to expect when a superhero book gets way too consequency. At least this big-red-reset-button has consequences of its own, even if they turn out to be minor in the long run, and covered in other books. Great stuff, on a par with The Age of Apocalypse, with pretty much the exact same level of meaning in the long run of things.
Spiderman: Kraven’s Last Hunt.
A classic it was, and a classic it remains. If Marvel could have resisted the temptation to bring Kraven back from the dead in a series of diminishing returns over the next 30 years (although his stint as a Squirrel Girl sidekick is fabulous!), this would be one of the best things Marvel has ever produced. As it is, it remains uncompromising, brutal, and satisfyingly shocking. It’s a high-point in the all too often overrated Spiderman canon, and one every fan should read.
Green Lanterns Vol 2: Phantom Lantern.
The most pointless Green Lanterns ever written maintain their pointlessness. There’s more backstory to at least provide some timely cultural context for Simon Baz, and the inclusion of a female Green Lantern is beyond about time, but honestly, I just wish they’d pushed them together to make one good one. This is a mildly entertaining run in the weakest sense, but it’s never going to force me to choose between it and a Hal Jordan GN. The problem with writing about second-stringers is always going to be the availability of first-stringers, and if your second-stringers aren’t significantly more enjoyable (waves Hi to the Giffen-era JLA) you’re going to struggle. This isn’t, and it does.
Another classic. Given the depths to which Marvel has plumbed every spare moment of Wolverine’s past; present; future; alternative lives; other alternative lives; alternative lives intersecting with the past, present, and future; dreams; nightmares; and takeaway orders in the last thirty years, this loses some impact. And it hasn’t aged well in the way it approaches Japanese culture. But it remains a watershed in the character’s development, and in the X-Universe, so it’s still worth reading, if only to see how much more refined the character, and the treatment of him, has become in the meantime.
Venom vs Carnage.
Some supporting characters have more than enough weight to carry an ongoing series in their own right: John Constantine, The Punisher, and Wolverine all immediately spring to mind. Venom is not one of those characters. And this volume is an utter mess, both narratively and artistically. It reads like it was thrown together on a particularly boozy fanfic convention Saturday. It’s drawn (rendered?) in a confusing vomit of hyperactive colours that conform to no known rules of persepective or readability. It feels designed by eight year olds for eight year olds. The fact that so much of the awful recent Venom movie has its roots in this throwaway bin liner explains a large part of what was so bad about it — not all, because let’s be honest, it was a dumpster fire from go to whoa to pleasegodjuststop, but some. A badly conceived idea badly realised, in all ways.