Marvel Knight’s Hulk (2014) Review

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Writer: Joseph Keatinge
Cover Artist: Piotr Kowalski

Much of Marvel Knight’s Hulk asks the question of can man survive his destructive nature? The story slowly builds up the realization that Hulk is just another weapon of mass destruction. By the time the run reaches it’s climax, the story shows how weapons aren’t made to be controlled, rather they are meant to be used, even if it’s against the creator, inventor, soldier, villain or whoever.

The creators, Keatinge and Kowalski, wanted to begin this story with Banner in France. In order to establish this, they relied upon different storytelling techniques as well as European comic style art in order to achieve this Mise en scene. This is why the story starts off with a slow French Noir pacing and feel. However, the pacing is broken up with flashbacks to the Hulk. Kowalski transitions between the violent gamma ray bursts of the Hulk world and the surrealist art of the real world creates a good amount of tension. As the story progresses, the surrealism is all but completely smashed out by the violence and chaos of Hulk. This is portrayed in a 3D stereoscopic art style with a violent red pallet. It isn’t until Banner finally regains control does the art slip into the tranquil blues which were more prevalent in the beginning.

Another part of the story which nails down the concept is the femme fatale Nikoleta. A eugenicist project started by AIM in order to engineer the perfect killer. Just like the Hulk, AIM’s experiment became just as destructive and uncontrollable.

The last scene is truly remarkable, and it brought the story home again. When Banner apologizes and walks away alone, there’s not only a feeling of heartbreak but also of nostalgia. It evokes the closing scenes of the TV series, and it reminds us of the unique and tragic life of Bruce Banner. At the end of each struggle with Hulk, Banner must always carry the burden of the green monster by himself.

Despite dialogue in Hulk stories usually fall or kept to a minimum, Keatinge really kept his lines of dialogue sharp and defined every character quickly, rather this be through the use of subtitles, the Yankee drawls and muted consonants, to quips from a cantankerous old man. Every conversation was fun to read and didn’t make the reader want to skip ahead to the Hulk smashing action.

Overall, although the story arc kept the theme and plot in tight focus, the art, pacing and character development was unique and stylized. This book could have easily got lost in gamma radiated psychedelia, but it kept it’s vision focused and on course.

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Marvel Knight’s X Men (2014) Review

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Writer: Brahm Revel
Cover Artist: Brahm Revel

In a bayou town, children are going missing or dying, and the next victims may be two mutant children. This is the psychic dream of Rachel Summers which kicks off a mysterious road trip down to the south with Wolverine, Rogue, and Kitty who’re strangely motivated to discover the mystery behind Summers precognition.

The characterization of the three X Men felt forced. They lacked depth and through this five issue run remained flat and lacked any evolving depth or logical reaction. This may be do to the fact Revel prefers to come up with stories and work characters into the plot. However, this approach can trivialize the cast and in this case make them borderline incompetent. One of the new mutants, Nora, can cause the people around her to manifest memories of the people from their past. This becomes awkward when the X Men have to fight these manifestations. Furthermore, although pain forces Nora to stop these manifestations, nobody seems to remember this fact for the whole rest of the story. It’s a plot device that makes the story become weighted down and convoluted.

There was one fight between Wolverine and a memory of Sabertooth which was embarrassing . As Sabertooth is threatening to kill a child mutant, Wolverine states that’s out of character for even Sabertooth. Yet, Sabertooth is dressed exactly the same as he was during his Mutant Massacre time. That’s an odd oversight considering a lot of this story is supposed to focus on the character’s memories of other people. Did Wolverine forget that Sabertooth killed many mutants of all ages and kinds? If so, then why is Sabertooth even here? When Professor X shows up and starts preaching a holy ghost message, the story’s lack of focus almost becomes unbearable. In addition, there were quite a few grammatical mistakes in the dialogue. Although some of it could be seen as some type of uneducated dialect, there are other parts which were almost indecipherable and clearly lacked words.

Not only did Revel write the story, but also he managed to draw it as well. That is pretty impressive considering the art style was pretty consistent and he obviously has practice at drawing a wide range of X Men characters. Although it took sort of minimalist comic strip approach to the overall look, it still had quite a bit of detail that grabs your attention from panel to panel.

Although Marvel Knights are supposed to be read as an indie form of Marvel, this run’s lack of editing, polish, or oversight reflects poorly upon the larger editorial staff of Marvel. Yes, it’s commendable to give indie artist and writers the freedom to realize their Marvel story. However, some of this story could have been reigned in and edited down or at least proof read. Not every Marvel Knight story is going to be a Cinderella story, but Marvel could at least try to prevent some casualties. Overall, the story lacked a significant amount of focus and somehow became a borderline PSA about drug addiction and finding healthy ways of dealing with loss. Hey, Marvel has produced much worse PSA’s during the 80’s and 90’s which covered the same material, but at least the readers knew what they were getting into back then. Regardless, it’s remarkable Revel was able to juggle the writing and artwork for this five issue run, and hopefully we can at least see some of his art-style come back for some more.

Wolverine: Smoke ‘Em If Ya Got ‘Em (2014) April Fool’s Review

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Writer

Garth Ennis

Artist

Gabriele Dell’Otto

The issue begins with a splash page depiction of Armageddon showing Logan in a final showdown with Legion. This is apparently the result of an X Force operation gone horribly wrong. As Legion is incinerating Logan’s flesh and mind wiping his brain, Legion says, “Freud says once you experience a trauma you’re doomed to repeat it. Why do you keep coming back to life, Logan?” Jerome Otto cleverly fades the close up of Wolverine’s corpse and Legion out to a dark monochrome. Logan wakes up in a cell with who is quickly revealed to be the red-headed Typhoid Mary. After watching a feral Logan spring back to life, Wolverine’s claws pop out and leap for Mary before we can only assume Typhoid sets Wolverine on fire, for the panel shows only a close up of her eyes sparkling with fire and a scream coming from Wolverine. Otto and Ennis do an interesting job of using parallelism by showing the same awakening scene happen again. Except this time we see the close up of Mary’s eyes before Wolverine pops his claws. Instead of leaping towards her, he asks her where they are who she is and more importantly who he is. We discover this same scenario has been happening for weeks while his body has been healing.

As the story progresses, we learn that Logan’s memory only lasts as long as he is awake, and any recollections from the past are at best fading dreams or a sense of Deja vu. After Mary makes a remark about how people can’t remember their dreams in color, it begins to make sense why Ennis and Otto chose to let most of the story remain colorless except for fire and blood. Although Logan can’t remember his past, he can remember how to do the one thing he does best and they decide to use their skills together in order to escape their prison. There’s a beautiful and violent scene which perfectly illustrates this approach. As Wolverine quickly snkts and kills many guards with trained precision, Typhoid Mary begins dancing, singing, and wrapping the screaming guards in blankets of fire. Blood drips and splashes from one panel to the next sequential panel, while Mary’s burning chaos are wide blazing panels. Even the pacing of the panels shows the dichotomy between their killing rhythm. Logan’s being three slices of panels followed by Typhoid’s stretched blazing panel interconnected with Mary’s burning lyrics singing across the tops. It isn’t until Logan smells the singed hair and sizzling fat of the guards does he pause his rage to witness Typhoid Mary’s blood lust. The following splash page is practically glowing and dripping from their fire and carnage. What is also interesting about this fight is the finesse of Wolverine’s attacks and defense. Wolverine doesn’t have the option to lay unconscious from a sentinel blast and a few seconds later jump right back into the fight. Because being knocked unconscious would erase Logan’s memory, Logan no longer has the option of running at bullets and using himself as a meat shield. Instead, we’re seeing the primal as well as the trained instincts of an immortal warrior.

Although the story doesn’t have any extra layers of plot or drama, it’s stripped down make your escape has always been the most suitable for Wolverine. Unlike many other incarnations of Wolverine, this story does not apologize for Logan’s killer instinct. With the narrative and dialogues, we learn this is a story about different aspects of killers. There’s Legion who is the Righteous Killer and always believes it’s a justified or merciful kill. Or there’s Mary. Because of her abusive and tragic past, Typhoid Mary became a sociopath for catharsis and defense. Then, there’s Logan who is a Darwinian soldier who survives by drawing first blood. It isn’t nice, but Logan’s the best at it.

Furthermore, Ennis’ Max series with Punisher and Fury, Ennis has proven that he knows what grit and grime can be found underneath the killers trigger, and that’s why this issue is the antithesis of what Wolverine had become over the last decade or two. Because of Wolverine’s popularity, he has been shoved into every corner of Marvel Universe. Now, not only does Logan have a past, but also it’s a messy one. Although it was nice House of M allowed writers to dive into unexplored aspects of Wolverine, it’s about time for the genie to be put back in the bottle. Instead of turning him into some Pseudo Xavier or Nick Fury, it would be nice for writers to remember the original Wolverine archetype, the immortal unknown soldier who is the best at what he does. Hopefully, much like what Born did for Punisher, this new Wolverine one-shot could hopefully re-calibrate Wolverine for future writers.