Is It Wednesday Yet?: Press Embargo Edition
01 November 2007
01 November 2007 — Whoa. Whoa. Whoa! If this review series is entitled Is It Wednesday Yet?, why are these reviews hitting the site on Thursday? Simply put, the two reviews you're going to read today had a press embargo placed on them. For the uninformed, a press embargo is when your source asks you to hold onto certain information (in this case, reviews) until a certain date. Due to the fact that the following two comics play major parts in Marvel's forthcoming landscape, one can understand their position: they didn't want spoilers to leak in the days before the books actually hit the shelves.
With all that boringness out of the way, allow me to say that these comics were released yesterday (31 October 2007), but spoilers have been kept to a minimum.
Our grading scale is simple:
Buy: An excellent comic book.
Borrow: A good comic, but save yourself some money by reading a friend's copy.
Flip Through: Give it a once-over at the comic shop.
Skip: This doesn't need to be explained.
Annihilation: Conquest - Quasar #4
Writer: Christos Gage
Penciler: Mike Lilly
Inker: Bob Almond
Colorist: Stephane Peru
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Cover: Matt Wilson
Review: Tim Glancy
If you've been reading this review series for any length of time, you know my love for Annihilation: Conquest — Wraith, which I actually just finished. Despite the somewhat lackluster conclusion, I'm hopeful things will pick up for the character as we build towards bigger and better things in the Annihilation: Conquest saga. In an effort to keep up with the rest of the Annihilation: Conquest line, I've flipped through the Star-Lord (fun) and Nova (skip) tie-ins, as well as Quasar. Much to my surprise, I was pleased with the latter.
Previously, I have been less than kind to Marvel's over saturation of the marketplace with tie-ins and miniseries, and I will continue to do so because I think it is a bullshit way to publish comics. But every so often a book will catch a break, due mostly to its quality. Quasar is one of those books. From go, this is less of a space epic and more of a personal, touching story set in the backdrop of space. It would have been tremendously easy for Marvel to throw four confusing, action-heavy issues out there, but instead the company decided to tell a story that deals with issues everyone can relate to. Who hasn't felt lost in a relationship, especially when one person suddenly changes? Sure, that person might not have changed into a big ass dragon, but you see my point. Who hasn't taken a new job and felt overwhelmed? Despite being set in space, these are very relatable situations and characters. Even during the heaviest moments of combat, personal demons are still being fought. In this issue especially, there are some absolutely tremendous moments between Quasar and Moondragon where the dialog — in the middle of space surrounded by chaos — is spot on. You feel for them and their personal plight, but you never lose sight of the impending doom.
Christos Gage, who wrote the underrated Union Jack miniseries, is the writer here. Every little thing that you can do right in a comic book, Gage does it. He is telling a love story, an action story, a coming of age story and a space story all in one book — while also managing to tie it into a larger event. And he hits on every single point.
Honestly, I could go on and on about the writing here, and I would feel justified in doing so, but the book speaks for itself. From the epic battles to the love story to the characters to the dialog, everything in this book is enjoyable. Hopefully Gage can keep this style up and receive some more high profile assignments, because I can't get enough of him.
And hopefully we can keep the band together. It's rare to find an art team that can handle both heavy action and soft, personal moments, but Mike Lilly, Bob Almond and Stephane Peru accomplish just that. No matter how big or small, their attention to detail is impeccable; be it during a battle or a tender moment, these artists draw readers into the comic. They also did a splendid job with Quasar's power — more specifically, how its brightness can be used to create drama in a dark, moody moment.
Everything about this book, from the writing to the art to the jaw-dropping conclusion, points towards a buy. Quasar is one of the best tie-ins Marvel has produced in years. Better yet, it can easily stand on its own.
X-Men: Messiah Complex
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Inker: Joe Weems with Marco Galli
Colorist: Frank D'Armata
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover A: Marc Silvestri
Cover B: David Finch
As the launch pad for this season's big Messiah Complex crossover, which covers every November and December X-title, this one-shot has a single, specific purpose: to set the table and stand back. The issue accomplishes just that — when Charles Xavier senses a new power in Cerebra, the first manifestation of a new mutant since Wanda Maximoff went loony, he's quick to act. Xavier dispenses a team of heavy hitters to the scene and hopes for the best, but the situation they find is anything but friendly.
Writer Ed Brubaker's contribution to the issue is serviceable throughout, although nothing about it really struck me as being particularly outstanding, either. I'm not sure if I'd blame Brubaker for that or a first chapter's natural tendency to hold the big events back for later, but the problem is noticeable. For all of its flair and promises, this really is a very slow-moving, do-nothing story. Sure, a few mild revelations are doled out between the covers, but the majority of the issue simply follows a high profile group of X-Men as they chase a dangling plotline with minimal results. It's a chase scene without a conclusion, a lot of standing around, huffing, puffing and needlessly flaunting mutant abilities without a confrontation.
Within the scope of the Marvel Universe, the potential of the tale is there. It's been a long time since House of M nearly eliminated the mutant population, so it's nice to see the potential of some progress on that front, but I just don't see anything here that's going to keep me interested for the duration of a multi-issue storyline. Where the events surrounding Wanda's breakdown were presented as a landmark event that concerned the entire world, Messiah Complex feels like it's just another run-of-the-mill X-Men story. These books may change out the cast of characters from time to time, but they keep spinning the same kind of yarn.
I used to count Marc Silvestri among my favorite artists, even through his later works, but I just can't get behind what he's bringing to the table in this issue. This is a guy who used to illustrate Wolverine effortlessly, month after month, during his lengthy run on Logan's own series. Today, I can't even recognize Silvestri's take on that cornerstone character. Logan doesn't look war-worn or hard-edged, like he used to under the artist's watch — he seems downright cherubic. Emma Frost comes off as vacant, expressionless and overly sexed-up throughout the issue, which is a difficult feat considering the general acceptance of her usual wardrobe. Without the constant presence of his tail, I don't think I'd have even identified Nightcrawler. These are characters I think I know very well, having followed the X-books fairly regularly in the past, but they all seem distant and foreign to me in the modern Silvestri's hands. His style has largely abandoned the rough, sketched personality it once embraced, in favor of a stiffer, stereotypically over-muscled approach.
It's like he's gone from being a trendsetter to an imposter. Where before, there wasn't another artist on the planet quite like him, today's Marc Silvestri feels like a weak David Finch impression. While he can still impress when he really puts his mind to it, as evidenced by the scene-setting landscapes within the issue's slower pages, a few stylized action panels or the infrequent silhouettes he seems to throw in on a whim, I found the majority of his work here fairly lacking. The man's lost a step or two, I'm sorry to report. While in the past I'd have to say that his worst was better than most artists' best, today Silvestri's worst is much more decidedly average.
That seems to be a theme for this issue: great creative minds coming together to underachieve in unison. When he's on, Brubaker can write a gorgeously compelling, intelligent drama in 22 short pages. He's kept me on the edge of my seat for over a year in Daredevil, and held me at attention in Criminal — but something isn't working here. The characters don't relate with each other as members of a tightly knit family, like they used to. They're just teammates, objects ordering one another around the battlefield. Brubaker is great when he's spinning ten plates at the same time, dedicating just enough attention to each storyline as necessary. When he's tasked with a single, straight-laced narrative, as he is here, much of the magic turns up missing.
Don't be fooled by the inflated price and deceptively padded page count in this issue: in the end it's just another X-crossover. Worse than that, it's just a lead-in to another X-crossover, not even the real meat and potatoes. If you're a hardcore X-Men fan, I'd say you should borrow this from a friend, just to make sure you aren't missing anything before the real show gets off the ground. If you're a casual visitor to the mutant books, flip through it in the store instead. It's a lot of fluff with a few minor talking points sprinkled throughout.