Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1: Cosmic Avengers (Marvel NOW!) Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1: Cosmic Avengers

Starlord wants you!... To take the
racoon seriously.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: Steve McNiven, Sara Pichelli

Collects:  Guardians of the Galaxy #1-3 and #0.1 AND Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrows Avengers #1

Background Information:

So the Guardians of the Galaxy movie opens in August, so what better time to explain who these guys are?

Peter Quill, AKA Starlord, is the son of an Earth woman and a man from the planet Spartax. Upon learning of his heritage, he took to space and now hangs out with Gamora (Daughter of Thanos), Drax the Destroyer (psycho killing-you-guy), Groot (y’know those tree things from Lord of the Rings? Kinda like that, but only says “I am Groot”).

Oh, yeah, and a talking racoon.


Would you eat an otherwise perfect chocolate cake if there was a cockroach cooked into it?
That’s kinda the feeling I get when reading Cosmic Avengers; it’s good, but there’s that one ingredient that takes it from being great to being vomit-inducing. It’s a pity, because there’s plenty to like here, but that one major failing stops me from being excited about further volumes.

So Quill’s rotten father is letting him know that the Earth is officially off-limits to interstellar visitors. That’s good, right?

For the record- we've never heard of the Power Rangers
Not so much. See, apparently saying “don’t go there” just encourages interstellar bad guys to... well... go there. Enter the Guardians (joined for the moment by Iron Man) who are trying to stop interstellar bad guys. Of course, there’s a lot more that happens in the book apart from that, but that’s as spoiler free as I can do for the moment.

Okay, it seems pretty clear at the moment that Bendis is effectively trying to reboot-without-rebooting Guardians of the Galaxy (something that seems to be a habit for All-New-All-Now-New-Now-All Marvel NOW!), but it thankfully somewhat works. The first issue treats us to an origin story for Starlord, as well as a quick introduction to Iron Man being on the team. I say somewhat, because there is still plenty we don’t know about the rest of the guardians.

But that’s pretty forgivable because the following three issues don’t suffer from the same lack of information. There’s plenty of great moments for each character to shine, Drax lives up to his title as destroyer very well; showing a brutality unrivalled by any of the other Guardians. Gamora has plenty of great sword-swinging, gun-shooting moments, and thankfully, there’s no sign of sexual exploitation on the character (although I’m suspicious that there may be in the movie). I won’t spoil Groot’s best moment here because, although you can see it coming a mile away, it’s so satisfying when you see yourself proven right.

Peter Quill comes off very much as a Han Solo-style character. He’s dismissive of authority figures, is fairly laid back, and can trash talk pretty much at will. It’s cliché, sure, but damn if it isn’t highly enjoyable to read.

Alright, fine, I’ll talk about Rocket Racoon. Honestly, I think Marvel are overestimating the character’s
Has gun. Will kill guys.
appeal, here. He’s fun to read about for sure- enjoying the killing aspect of the Guardians’ missions more than anyone else in the team (and remember, one of those other team members has “the Destroyer” in his name; let that sink in). The problem is, I just couldn’t help but think of a smaller, furrier Deadpool whenever I saw him. If you really want to see that kind of character, you’re probably better off reading Deadpool. He works well in the team though, so this isn’t a big enough problem to warrant a low score.
Artwork is done pretty seamlessly. Despite having two different artists, there’s no immediate difference in the artwork between the book’s main four issues.

Up until this point, I’ve really had no problem with the book in terms of story or art, but that’s not where Cosmic Avengers fails. No, this isn’t a bad comic, but it is a bad collection of issues.

Now, the way Marvel collects their trade paperback has always been a problem with me. On average, you can expect a Marvel trade to have five issues. That’s not bad in and of itself, but then they charge around $20 for it. Now, I can buy a DC trade for around $18 and get minimum six issues, and that feels more like my money’s worth. You can argue quality of stories all you want, but the fact remains that with Marvel, you’re paying more for less story.

But Cosmic Avengers ups the anti in this regard. See, the actual story content is only covered in three issues. Otherwise, it’s bookended by the good-but-not-significant #0.1 and the boring-and-insignificant Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers #1. Now, I know that the others stories may not match up, but reading so little actual story content (especially in the Tomorrow’s Avengers, which only acknowledges the story, rather than adding to it) left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

So here’s hoping the second volume is better collected but right now Guardians of the Galaxy get’s a three out of five issues that further the story.


+ Characters are great.

+ Good for new readers

- The Tomorrow’s Avengers issue is horrible.

Alternate Option: Nova Vol. 1

Not one I’ve read, but I’ve heard great things about it. And it may just be the better choice if you want something in Marvel’s cosmic realm.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Carnage: Minimum Carnage (Marvel) Review

Carnage: Minimum Carnage

Venom and Scarlet Spider really
come off as uncles to Carnage in this
Writers: Cullen Bunn and Chris Yost

Artists: Lan Medina, Khoi Pham and Declan Shalvey

Collects: Minimum Carnage: Alpha and Omega, Venom #26-27 and Scarlet Spider #10-12

Background Information

Oh, Carnage! For a character that’s really pretty basic, you sure do get a lot of love. From video games, to cartoon appearances to even more comics devoted to your name than Venom, you have popped up everywhere except the silver screen.

Maybe it’s because you’re so basic- the basic offspring of the Venom symbiote attached to serial killer Cletus Casady, your character doesn’t get more complicated than “I kill guys”. In most cases, that would be a bad thing, but here, it actually makes you pretty versatile. So it’s understandable that in an era that features two new Spider-Man-related characters, you’d pop your head up again.


Okay, I got this volume because it contained the only three issues of Scarlet Spider that I haven’t read yet (expect a retrospective review, where I’ll take on the whole series). But I’m glad I did, since it’s one of the most enjoyable Marvel books I’ve ever read and easily up there with the best of them.

So Carnage has escaped from prison again and escaped into a little kingdom of elves and fairies.

Hey, look! It's... it's... umm...
Sorry, I meant to say: a micro universe of very tiny aliens.

And fairies.

It falls to Scarlet Spider and Venom to track him down and stop him before ol’ Carnage kills everything around him.

Scarlet Spider’s tale of redemption really started with Spider Island more than his own book. It was a fairly silly affair that wasn’t afraid to point out how silly it actually was. In that light, it’s fun to see that Minimum Carnage is also a story that delights in its own silliness. A miniature universe? Silly as anything! So let’s not pretend that this is The Dark Knight-level serious and just have fun creating an out-there story.

That’s the philosophy of Minimum Carnage and it pays off in spades. Admittedly, Yost’s Scarlet Spider chapters pull this off a little better than the Venom ones, which tend to be more melodramatic, but the story is still insanely fun and offers plenty of ridiculous, even laughable moments.

It’s peppered by these great moments where both Venom and Scarlet Spider really let their personalities shine. Venom’s introspective, spends a lot of time trying to emulate Spider-Man while keeping his own demons in check. Scarlet Spider’s got his demons too, but he’s not trying to keep them in check; he’s unleashing them on everything that gets in his way. Both characters clearly aren’t fond of each other, and their opposite views on pretty much everything make Venom and Scarlet Spider a great Good Cop/Bad Cop duo.

Carnage reveals his true origin as a
glob of tinned spaghetti.
The big mistake made by the writers here is that they force that great duo apart so quickly, and it’s here that Minimum Carnage loses its momentum. It’s a short window of time, but the difference becomes felt very quickly.

Aside from that, Carnage just isn’t terribly compelling. I can see the appeal; he kills lots of people, so he’s obviously a bad guy. As a character, though, he’s incredibly shallow. I don’t see the appeal in making multiple mini-series for him, and I don’t know why it wouldn’t have been just as fine to use any other bloodthirsty villain in this series.

The art, of course, is spasmodic. That’s to be expected from a book that shoe-horns two different ongoings and two one-shots together. Thankfully, it’s all very good. The art shift tends to represent more of a tonal shift than anything, which is nicely reflected in the story as well.

Look, Minimum Carnage is really silly, but don’t let that turn you away. It gets a three and a half elves and fairies.

*** ½

+ Plenty of fun.

+ Venom and Scarlet Spider make a pretty sweet team-up.

- It’s not as fun when they’re not together.

- Carnage just isn’t terribly compelling.

Alternate Option: Spider-Man: Spider Island

If you really want to see more of Kaine and Venom together, this is a pretty good way to do it.