Marvel Studio’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is the second movie in the Captain America series, is very much the best movie in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man and The Avengers come very close, but The Winter Soldier is a well-balanced mix of action and intrigue that superhero movies in general would do well to emulate. And it gets even better in comparison with its predecessor, Captain America: The First Avenger, which was a very lackluster and subdued affair with a boring villain and a boring plot. As such, the studio’s latest, Captain America: Civil War had a lot to live up too, and while it didn’t disappoint, it also left much to be desired.
Captain America: Civil War builds forward from the end of The Avengers: Age of Ultron from last year, and takes the overall story of the MCU forward in a plot that sees conflicts develop between the team members, conflicts that were hinted at in The Avengers and which are now magnified from several angles. As a pure action movie, Civil War does not fail to entertain and is right on point. But as an adaptation of the infamous Civil War storyline from the comics, it is unsuccessful and unsatisfactory.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers for the movie and even some for the original comics the movie is adapted from, so read at your own peril.
The previous issues of Black Widow have been pretty spectacular, as has been the norm on the title since its launch early last year. Natasha’s investigations into the organization CHAOS that has been causing all sorts of problems for SHIELD of late yielded some surprising results back in #15 and it made for a really interesting change of pace as far as the story was concerned. It also gave artist Phil Noto a chance to really go to town with the visuals and none of that seems to be headed for a slowdown in any way.
The two most recent issues, Black Widow #16 and Black Widow #17 are all about what CHAOS really is and what plans they have for Natasha and others like her all over the world. The reveal about CHAOS is something that really twists the head in ways you wouldn’t expect. Nathan manipulates the story in a really deft way and he shows some really mad skills as he has Natasha navigate the web of lies and half-truths being peddled by CHAOS. Supporting him, Phil also does a pretty incredible job and though some of the scenes were a bit more low-key than usual, his own mad skills were never in doubt I’d say.
There haven’t been any “Comics Picks of the Week” articles for a while, and the major reason for that is because I’ve just been too caught up with other stuff and I just can’t be… well bothered. It just takes too much out of my time to keep these titles going, especially when Wednesdays also see me trying to get through two TV shows and doing reviews for them. Though, that situation has kind of abated now.
Anyway, this week’s surprise hits were Batman: Arkham Knight #2 and Gotham Central Book 1 from DC. It was a relatively small week for me since I didn’t read all that many new titles and most of those were middling. Ongoing greats were Django/Zorro #4, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4, Fantastic Four #643 , Inhuman #12, Aquaman #39 , Catwoman #39 , and He-Man: The Eternity War #3 among others .
Nathan Edmondson has been going full out with Black Widow of late, backing the SHIELD agent into a corner of hell and making her work doubly hard. Recently, she finally infiltrated a high-level meeting of CHAOS, the group that has been causing problems for SHIELD and for her right from the first issue of the series last year, and she didn’t exactly come out of it without a scratch. It has been a pretty incredible journey so far in this series, and with the addition of yet another guest star this past week, things look set to get even more crazy.
Black Widow #15 deals with the aftermath of Natasha’s infiltration of a high-level CHAOS meeting, a meeting that she forced to happen so that she could finally face her enemies. But things didn’t go according to plan since it turns out that CHAOS has hired soldiers who can, effectively, turn invisible. Problematic for sure, and much of this issue focuses on how Black Widow beats these guys, with some expert help of course. And that’s where the true fun of this book is, since each guest appearance so far has been handled artfully, and that looks set to continue with this one too.
Recently writer Ales Kot turned Secret Avengers on its head when he revealed that Modok had actually been the one to have planned all the bad stuff that had been happening to the Secret Avengers and Maria Hill, and that at the same time his favoured henchman Snapper had also been quite actively involved in his master’s machinations. It was truly a head-twisting moment, as far as I’m concerned, and it helped put into perspective certain other things that the series had been developing of late. And all of that went hand-in-hand with the excellent art that the series art team had been putting out, especially of late.
In Secret Avengers #12 we see some more momentous things. The revelation about Modok has certainly been a game-changer, but events elsewhere have already gained steam and this issue deals largely with the fallout of such. If you are a fan of Secret Avengers in general or the characters found herein in particular, then this is an absolute must-read issue because we finally learn some of what goes on in Modok’s mind, and that’s more valuable than almost anything else.
Another week of a “Magic 40”, though no graphic novels.
This week’s surprise hits were Ivar, Timewalker #1 from Valiant, Mortal Kombat X #4 from DC, and Twilight Zone: Shadow And Substance #1 from Dynamite. The disappointments of the week were Spider-Woman #3 from Dynamite and Spider-Verse #2 and The Amazing Spider-Man #13 from Marvel and Vampirella: Feary Tales #4 from Dynamite. Ongoing greats were Wonder Woman ’77 #3 , The Flash: Season Zero #11 and Supergirl #38 from DC, Black Widow #14 and Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #4 from Marvel, and, Grimm Fairy Tales: Realm War #6 from Zenescope among others.
Marvel’s Avengers & X-Men: AXIS event has been a right headache for me. The whole “hero morality-inversion” really messed things up for a lot of characters, and none more so than Queen Medusa of New Attilan, the leader of the Inhumans and NuHumans. She became war-like and aggressive, deliberately courting disaster from the world powers while her people suffered and it was the only thing in Charles Soule’s recent issues that I didn’t like, the rest of the story and the art being pretty high on my list.
Last week’s Inhuman #11 brings an end to the whole inversion thing and it feels like such a letdown since for Medusa things are over in a snap and she’s back to her old self. Which just makes the whole inversion thing for her seem really contrived and pointless in the end. Thankfully, the arc with Reader and Xiaoyi was given the focus this time and ended up being really well done. And of course, Ryan Stegman and Richard Isanove’s art continued being great, so that was something to look forward as well.
Black Widow ended on a great note last month, with the ongoing storyline of what happens when the global media at large learns of Natasha’s various activities, both covert and otherwise, and then proceeds to vilify her and question what her role with SHIELD and the Avengers really is. This also then segued into some bread-crumbs that Nathan Edmondson had left behind in his early issues, and we saw more glimpses of the manipulators behind some of Natasha’s recent missions. All very spy-ish and all, which was fantastic.
Black Widow #14 continues Natasha’s search for answers and it is a tale of a vengeful superspy who is out for blood and damn the consequences. In a world where almost everyone she knows has a superpower, barring a very small handful of people, it would be easy to consider her nowhere near as proficient at them in getting things done, but that’s far from the reality. She has her own methodology and this issue shows just how effective that really is. And Phil Noto’s artwork is as pleasingly beautiful as always, a big plus as always.
The last week of comics of 2014, that is, the week of 31.12.2014, saw the release of SHIELD #1, a new comics series from Marvel that is presumably set in its own continuity and also contains characters from Agents of SHIELD, Marvel’s first live-action show that is currently in its second season. To see characters like Agents Simmons and Fitz, or Agent Melinda “The Cavalry” May among others is a great feeling, and the first issue two weeks back was a lot of fun indeed, with its focus on Phil Coulson and his particular strengths as a SHIELD agent.
In last week’s SHIELD #2, we got to see some different things than in the first issue, particularly since this issue starred Marvel’s biggest hit character of 2014, Kamala Khan aka Miss Marvel. And the best thing was that we got to see Kamala interact with Jemma Simmons and even bond. That’s pretty fantastic. The comics version of Jemma is of course quite different from her live-action counterpart, but that has little bearing on the matter here since she is so much more immediately awesome here. The art was different this time as the art team is different, but it was still pretty fun, and the final one-page backup with Fitz and May was hilarious.
No “Magic 40” in the first week of the new year, but the second week definitely sees me hit that landmark number, and with graphic novels mixed in to boot!
This week’s surprise hits were Angry Birds/Transformers #2 from IDW Publishing, Ares & Aphrodite #1 from Oni Press, Operation: S.I.N. #1 and Wolverines #1 from Marvel. The disappointments of the week were Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #2 and Ant-Man #1 from Marvel and Future’s End #36 from DC. Ongoing greats like Swamp Thing #38 and Detective Comics #38 from DC, Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #3 from Marvel, and John Carter: Warlord of Mars #3 from Dynamite to name a few were just as I expected them to be: superb.
As mentioned above, the graphic novels for the week were Legends of Red Sonja Volume 1 from Dynamite and Quest: Age of Darkness Volume 1 from Zenescope. The former was a fun book where Gail Simone brought together several different female prose writers, paired them with different artists, and wrote a grand, sweeping Red Sonja story. The latter was part of the publisher’s Age of Darkness event and was more a prequel story.
The next couple of movies from Marvel are going to be Avengers: Age of Ultron in May this year and then Ant Man in July this year. The latter will close out Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and we will then have to wait till next year’s Captain America: Civil War for the next phase. Ant-Man will leave the MCU in a rather interesting place, what with the hero being a reformed thief who wears a Sci-fi suit that can shrink him down to the size of an ant and he goes around riding on top of ants as his shtick. Rather interesting premise, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing this movie.
This is where Ant-Man #1, out this week, comes in. As with many other comics released recently by Marvel, this too is meant to highlight the titular hero, who also goes by the name Scott Lang, so that fans old and new alike can grow comfortable with him by the time the movie rolls around in about 7 months. The first size, with almost ten extra pages than a regular comic, does some interesting things, but it also feels like a going-through-the-motions kind of comic. The art is actually pretty decent here, but the story, not so much.