Uncanny Avengers Annual (2014) Review

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STORY BY Rick Remender

ART BY Paul Renaud

Rick Remender takes a break from his reality splitting, time hopping madness of his Apocalypse Twins story arc. Instead, Remender gives us a satire about the entertainment industry while using Mojo as his surrogate. The story begins with Mojo trying to pitch his new high concept story arc to a room full of statistic vomiting board members until they finally green light a story about the Uncanny Avengers being attacked by their supernatural counterparts. Sound familiar because it should. This is a nod to the DC crossover event, Forever Evil, which was kicked off by Justice League and Justice League Dark fighting each other before they united to confront a larger antagonist, the Crime Syndicate. This metafictional nod sets the tone for the whole rest of the issue while Remender consistently makes fun of the poor choices the artists, editors, writers, and critics have been guilty of making in the Comic Book if not Entertainment Industry as a whole.

It’s interesting when the board members tell Mojo the story needs more highschool type drama in order for its target demographic to better relate to the characters. This is a self-referential sucker punch to Young Avengers, Jean Grey’s School, Hellfire Club, Avengers Academy. It has become increasingly frustrating watching the story arc play second fiddle to the love quadrangles. Brian Michael Bendis has admitted that the relationship between Emma Frost and Scott Summers made little sense. Storm is now with Wolverine instead of Black Panther. Does it matter? Nope, but the writers will still use this gossip to world build like it was one of Grandma’s daytime soap operas. Seriously, Logan is old, hairy, short, broke, angry, alcoholic, who had killed his “one true love” who he was having an affair with. Yet, Wolverine has slept with more people that would make even Emma Frost blush. If Wolverine didn’t have the healing factor, 80% of Marvel’s female population would have STD’s because of him.

However, the big jab is towards audiences in general. Remender comments how today critics are too afraid to say they don’t understand a plot. Instead, they will take the opposite approach and compliment the story no matter how indecipherable the story may be. No one wants to appear stupid so everyone goes along with the flow. In addition, if the story is too straight forward, people will whine about how boring it is. Basically, Rick Remender has boiled critics down to an adolescent child who suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder.

Quite honestly, how can we argue? Plot twists, action, and relationships being shoveled in just to keep peoples attention doesn’t equal good writing. Soon, it turns into a tangled mess and like Rogue in this story warns, “don’t pull too hard at the loose plot strings”; otherwise, it will cause the whole story to unravel. Perhaps the audience should dare to question the integrity of these stories. Hang on Mark Waid. How’s Daredevil able to jump around a city without killing the little girl with a bomb inside her gut or Hulk jumping around the city with his brain hanging out? Let’s not even get into the babbling nonsense of Faction’s Inhumanity or Spenser and Kot’s Secret Avengers.

In addition, it’s always a pleasure when writers stab at marketing research which force writers to curve their writing towards what is hot and trending in order to connect with their target demographic. For example, using a Marvel version of twitter in place of dialogue boxes even though it slows the pacing to a grueling stop is just as tacky as when the 80’s Teen Titans would reference Michael Jackson or product slogans. Yep, here’s looking at you Brian Bendis and Kieron Gillen.

Rick Remender has given us a fun commentary about the state of the Comic Book Industry. Although it came out of nowhere, it is nice that an A list writer validates the back slide of comic book standards. Although a critic can now be anyone with an internet connection, a 7th grade level of education, and a working knowledge of pop culture, doesn’t mean the industry should lower their own standards. Somebody should take accountability for the quality and content.

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Secret Avengers: Save the Empire (2014) Review

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STORY BY Ales Kot

ART BY Michael Walsh

Those goofy and out of this world Avengers gotten themselves into a sticky mess this time. Hawkguy is being chased by the evil A.I.M. before he runs in and like totally ruins Black Widow and Spider Woman’s girl day at the day spa. Meanwhile, Fury and Colson are uncharacteristically bromancing all over S.H.I.E.L.D’s damaged Satellite. Only to be attacked by The Fury. Wait there’s two Fury’s sharing the same scene? Moving on. To make matters worse, creepy M.O.D.O.K’ is trying to get his war game on with Director Hill before her lovely S.H.I.E.L.D HQ gets infiltrated. Really, the plot is just something to carry the reader from one tongue and cheek joke to the next slapstick hijinks.

It’s Ales Kot’s uncanny characterization skills which highlight the funniest moments. In addition, it’s fantastic one of Marvel’s series have finally adopted Fraction’s incarnation of Hawkeye. One of Marvel’s draw backs is writers will portray the same character an infinite amount of different ways.

Therefore, within one month Hawkeye’s personality will run the gamut with his 16 point personality profile. However, with Fraction’s Hawkeye getting nods from various awards, it’s clear which one incarnation is coming out on top. Hopefully, this means Hawkguy will no longer suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Yet, the same can’t be said for the other characters. Black Widow is less femme fatale and more valley girl. Nick Fury is less Sam L and more creepy sex predator. Agent Colson is less Agent Colson and more Maxwell Smart, and so on. Ales Kot’s characters are inconsistent with the rest of the rest of the MU series. One can’t help but wonder if they are parodies of themselves. The story spirals off in several directions and begins to have larger holes than the one bumbling Colson blasts through S.H.I.E.L.D’s satellite. Maybe this too is self referential. If it is, the story lacks focus or clear parallels to other story arcs. Because of the exaggerated situations with popular Marvel players, it’s hard not to read this as some sort of Mad Magazine parody, which is completely fine. Self referential humor and irony is always trendy, but Kot’s delivery isn’t punching through.

Furthermore, Marvel is starting to diminish the novelty of their other lines such as Superior Foes and Hawkeye. Marvel is creating a formula by taking a comic book writer known for their postmodernist and nonlinear style of storytelling and wrapping it up with minimalist artwork. When they first announced Ales Kot taking over Secret Avenger’s it should have been safe to assume this was going to be something similar to what he did with Suicide Squad or Wild Children. A thematic and cerebral plot which had fourth wall breaking characters who kept it fun and sexy the whole ride through. Instead, Kot somehow delivered a functional parody which at best is derivative and at worst a mad house.

Darkness: Vicious Traditions (2014) Review

darknessAlex Kot is mostly known for writing cerebral social commentary, and this one shot doesn’t deviate from his favorite theme. The story begins shortly after Romans have conquered a northern tribe. Estacado, a descendent of the Darkness, awakes among a slaughtered heap of bodies. He begins a quest to seek out the Roman commander Legatus to avenge the death of his brother and tribe. This is a quick paced story splattered with gray mud and gore. What makes this story Kot’s is the internal monologue which kicks against the fourth wall and makes it read like an anti-war sermon. Although Dean Ormston’s backgrounds lack the world building detail, the artistic demonstrations of the death and supernatural quickly remind its readers what comic books can get away with. Besides, with its video games, ongoing and the Top Cow crossovers, the world building isn’t necessary. It still has plenty of other details to absorb. For example, the thick shadows blacking out panels when the Darkness powers begin to seep through is a nice touch. With its writers and fresh artists, Top Cow is a publisher to be reckoned with and this quick one shot is no exception. Just like its big brother Image, it doesn’t matter if you are picking up Artifacts, Darkness, Cyber-Force, or any other Top Cow title. They will all be solid and beautiful reads.