Marvel Graphic Novel Catch-Up: Fearless Defenders, Avengers, and Thor

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Three new Marvel NOW collections that I’ve read and enjoyed recently. I had my doubts about the new re-launch/re-boot, but I have actually rather enjoyed the stories themselves (despite, sometimes, only have movie knowledge to get me situated…).

Reviewed: Avengers, Fearless Defenders, Thor: God of Thunder

FEARLESS DEFENDERS, Vol.1 – “Doom Maidens”

FearlessDefenders-Vol.01Writer: Cullen Bunn | Artist: Will Sliney | Colors: Veronica Gandini

New team! New villains! New creators!Valkyrie and Misty Knight are the Fearless Defenders, and not since Power Man and Iron Fist has an unlikely duo kicked this much – well, you know.

Collects: Fearless Defenders #1-6

Cullen Bunn offers up  an all-female team of super-heroines, with a distinctly mythological slant. The story is fun and quirky, with Bunn’s signature, gentle humour often on display – witty asides, amusing narrative moments, and pretty great characterisation. I wasn’t wholly gripped, as I have been with some of his other work (The Sixth Gun remains one of my favourite series of all time). The artwork is good, sometimes a little exaggerated (think Marvel in the 1990s, perhaps). There’s some darkness in the story, too, which offered a nice balance to the levity, although I think I would have preferred to see that a little more developed. By the end, I thought I knew the characters rather well, but that the story had been a bit thin.

It was recently announced, I think, that this is being cancelled. That’s a pity, as I think this could have grown into something pretty cool, if given time. I’ll certainly be reading the remaining issues, though.

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AVENGERS, Vol.1 – “Avengers World”

Avengers-Vol.01Writer: Jonathan Hickman | Artist: Jerome Opeña (#1-3), Adam Kubert (#4-6) | Colors: Dean White, Justin Ponsor, Morry Hollowell, Frank Martin, Richard Isanove (#1-3), Frank D’Armata (#4), Frank Martin (#5-6)

The greatest heroes in comics together on one unbeatable team! The Avengers “go large”, expanding their roster and their sphere of influence to a global and even interplanetary level. When Captain America puts out his call – who will answer? Big threats, big ideas, big idealism – these are the Avengers NOW!

Collects: Avengers #1-6

Captain America and Iron Man are rebuilding the Avengers. They’re using a more sophisticated organisational model, this time (it’s not as dull to read about as that sounds…). Meanwhile, Ex Nihilo, Abyss and Aleph have been terra-forming Mars and lobbing “evolution bombs” at Earth, re-writing Evolution. As you do. And, collaterally, killing whole bunches of people all over the world. Naturally, this irks the Avengers. After the core Avengers team confronted them at the start, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor and Hawkeye are held captive by these new baddies. Ex Nihilo likes to monologue. Cap is sent back to Earth to “bring everyone”. And then… We get one of the most anti-climactic conclusions in issue/chapter 3. It’s a total deus-ex-machina, couldn’t-be-bothered moment. Sadly fails to deliver, and I felt rather disappointed.

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Recruiting, Avengers-Style

The second story in the book looks at the clean-up after the evolution bombs, from different perspectives, coupled with the backgrounds of some newer Avengers recruits (new for me, at any rate). First, Hyperion (a rather emo-God-type from another dimension, who seems to miss his former station on his world). Second, Smasher (a female “guardian”, or “subguardian” – basically, a Green Lantern with cool tech, a mask instead of a ring, and attached to the Shi’ar Empire, rather than the, uh, Guardians…). And third, Captain Universe (who appears to be a god… or perhaps the origin of all things… It’s not entirely clear…).

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Three Moments of Levity: Bruce Banner explains himself (top), Thor confuses Tony (bottom, left),
and Thor is unimpressed by puny human’s idea of “Godlike”…

Overall, though, this isn’t a bad start to the new Avengers series. There’s a lot of rather cryptic information. Certainly, the Avengers are going Bigger. Hopefully it won’t become too silly in the future, but I am looking forward to reading Vol.2, “The White Event”. The artwork is pretty fantastic, too. Lots of great detail, rich colors, and it really pops throughout.

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ThorGodOfThunder-Vol.01Thor: God of Thunder, Vol.1 – “The God Butcher”

Writer: Jason Aaron | Artist: Esad Ribic | Colors: Dean White (#1), Ive Svorcina (#2-5)

Throughout the ages, gods have been vanishing, their mortal worshippers left in chaos. Now, Thor follows a trail of blood that threatens to consume his past, present and future. The only hope for these ravaged worlds is for Thor to unravel the gruesome mystery of the God Butcher!

In the distant past, Thor follows the bloody wake of murdered gods across the depths of space. In the present, the Thunder God discovers a forgotten cave that echoes with the cries of tortured gods… and is shocked to find himself among them! And thousands of years from now, the last god-king of a ruined Asgard makes his final stand against the God Butcher’s beserker legions. As three Thors from three eras race to stop the God Butcher, the full extent of his vicious scheme takes terrifying shape!

Collects: Thor – God of Thunder #1-5

Another great start to a new Marvel NOW series. This is the first Thor solo series I’ve ever read, and I think Aaron does a great job of offering a starting point – given that the story hops between three times (past, present, and very far future), there’s no need to be greatly versed in the Thor mythology (Norse or Marvel’s). We see the character develop a bit, and a millennia-long struggle against the God Butcher, who – true to his name – has been working his way through the various pantheons of the universe, culling the numbers of deities. Thor, the only one to give him much of a challenge, has been chosen as the Last, in order that he sees his fellow gods killed, one-by-one.

It’s a solid story, and I’m certainly going to try to stick with the series for a little while. The writing is great, the story and artwork complement each other brilliantly, too. Definitely recommend this one to anyone who either likes the character already, or wants somewhere to jump on.

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Trailer: “THOR: THE DARK WORLD” Movie

Really looking forward to this! I enjoyed the first Thor movie a lot more than I anticipated (to be fair, I didn’t know much about the Marvel version of the character).

Upcoming: “Avengers: Endless Wartime” (Marvel)

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This is just a badass image. One of my favourite, recent pieces

In October 2013, Marvel will be releasing the first in a new series of original graphic novels. For those of us who tend to wait for collected editions of the monthly series, this is a great development. We’ll get a decent, “movie-length epic” (according to the press release). Here’s the premise for the first book, Avengers: Endless Wartime:

An abomination, long thought buried, has resurfaced in a war-torn land – but now it wears an American flag. Faced with another nightmare reborn, Captain America will not stand for yet more death at the hands of a ghost from his past. Haunted by his greatest shame, Thor must renew the hunt for a familiar beast. Side by side with the great Super Heroes the world has seen, united to end the threats no one of them could face alone, the Avengers will stare down the greatest threat the team has ever faced. But is even their combined might enough to overcome a force of pure evil?

So, that’s a little vague, but couple this synopsis, the title, the fact that it’s written by Warren Ellis, and also the cover (below), and I think this is going to be pretty awesome. “Chart-topping” artist Mike McKone is providing the illustrations and, while I don’t recall reading any of his work previously, the preview pages suggest an interesting, attractive and clean art-style for the book.

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Warren Ellis, whose recent novel Gun Machine has received rave reviews for all corners of the reviewing public, had this to say on the project:

“When Marvel asked me to help re-launch their original graphic novel line, I had to say yes. Their total commitment, from story to design, made it a project I wanted to be part of.”

The graphic novel is bookended by an introduction from Clark Gregg, better known as fan-favourite character Agent Phil Coulson from The Avengers (and other Marvel Studios movies). There will also be an afterword from Stan Lee, who is one of the co-creators of the Avengers.

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There’s something about Captain America’s character that really
lends itself to moody, cinematic shots.

Avengers: Endless Wartime will also be released simultaneously worldwide in North America, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Brazil, Finland and Turkey. Every international edition will be translated into each their respective nation’s primary language. Which is a pretty cool initiative, and something that should be encouraged. (This is apparently the first time this will be done.)

And, finally, and as-normal-for-Marvel, the graphic novel will also include a free code for a bonus, digital edition of the book, redeemable through the Marvel Comics App and online in the Marvel Digital Comics Shop.

I’m really looking forward to trying this out. Roll on October.