Posted tagged ‘Ed Brubaker’

Review: Captain America: Reborn

May 6, 2010

After 50 issues (of which the title character has been dead for the last 2 years worth) Ed Brubaker has brought things to a conclusion in Reborn.  It’s not a bad summation to the story (or of Captain America’s history for that matter), and it does accomplish its main goal of resurrecting Cap without resorting to too large of a deus ex machina, but it does have a pretty major plot flaw.

So, two years ago, Captain America was shot and killed by girlfriend who was being controlled by minions of the Red Skull at the time.  As it turns out what actually happened was that Cap became unstuck in time (slaughterhouse-five style) thanks to Dr. Doom’s time platform (which to be fair, had been introduced into the story before then).  And now in this book the Red Skull has launched his master plan, to bring Cap back to the present and take control of his body.

As master plans go, not so original.  And furthermore, this doesn’t really make sense as it was established pretty well in here that Cap’s time traveling was an accident because the time platform was broken.  So, after all this time Brubaker’s master plan for the Skull was this, despite tons of villainous monologuing from both the Skull and his allies about how nefarious his plan was and how people would be astonished when it was unveiled.  Yeah, not so much.

But looking past that flaw, the story’s pretty good in a widescreen action way, which isn’t a surprise with Bryan Hitch on art duties.  The man is the #1 go to guy for illustrating enormous super hero battles, and Brubaker gives him plenty to work with here.  And it does make for a pretty satisfying ending, but it is also a bit at odds with the more intricately plotted sort of espionage stories that Brubaker had been telling up until now.  Brubaker can do better, but Cap still remains one of Marvel’s best books.

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Review: Captain America: Road to Reborn

May 3, 2010

Ed Brubaker treads water a bit in this volume of the ongoing series.  I suspect a lot of that is publisher interferance though, and Brubaker makes the most of the situation, but it is what it is.

The problem is a pair of scheduling debacles.  First of all there’s the slightly contrived back-to-back anniversary issues.  This volume collects issue 50 of the current series, and which point Marvel reset the numbering to its original system, giving us issue 600.  So we have an issue dedicated to the history of Bucky (the current Captain America), and one dedicated to remembering the death of the previous one.  Both are good, but both are also filler.

Scheduling problem two, Marvel decided to take the next major story arc, in which the original Captain America returns from the dead, and pull it out into its own mini-series in an attempt to boost its prominence.  This move left the series with an extra issue to be used up, so more filler it is.  This time its an unused annual Marvel had lying around that has become Cap 601.  The issue is really meant to be a tribute to Gene Colan, one of the legends of the industry.  And on that level it works, letting the Dean come back to draw a double sized issue of Cap battling vampires, elements from two of his signature comics.  And his art is as wonderful as it ever was (although he could make do with a better colorist).  However, this is also the third issue in a row that doesn’t advance the story, and enough’s enough.

I’m being pretty harsh here I realize, and none of these comics are bad issues.  But you can pretty much skip this whole book and not notice a thing, and that’s got to matter.

Review: Immortal Iron Fist: Escape From the Eighth City

February 1, 2010

And another title bits the dust.  This time around it’s the Immortal Iron Fist.  The comic began in a blaze of glory thanks to the team of Fraction, Brubaker, and Aja, quickly becoming the best book Marvel was publishing.  But then the title was passed on to Dwayne Swierczynski and Travel Foreman, who did an able job of continuing the story, but pretty much failed to add anything to it.

Which brings me to Escape from the Eight City, a disapointingly formulaic story.  In issue 1 Iron Fist and his fellow Immortal Weapons go to Hell; in issue 2 they’re tortured for a bit, n issue 3 they break free, and in issue 4 they go home…the end.  

Fortunately Swierczynski has the opportunity to tack on a coda before the axe fell on the comic and he goes out on a high note, although one with some slightly dodgy art.  He fits an awful lot of character development into 22 pages and leaves the series at both a nice ending point, and a great place for other writer’s to pick up on the story elsewhere.  But for now the story is over, and maybe it was time.

Review: Captain America: the Man with No Face

July 27, 2009

The latest Captain America collection from Ed Brubaker and company is sadly the weakest in the series to date.  Fortunately it’s still a pretty good superhero tale, just a generic one that doesn’t further the overall plot a bit.  This story solely exists to provide Bucky Barnes one story to shine in as Cap between taking on the role in the Death of Captain America epic and having to presumably give it up in the wake of the current Reborn story.

The tale takes Cap, Black Widow, and guest star Namor to China to confront some lose ends from Cap’s days as the Winter Soldier, namely the villain from the title (who can only be a knock off of the long deceased Daredevil villain, Deathstalker).  Brubaker also finds a way to bring in and salvage perennial joke villain, Batroc the Leaper.  Now I’ve always liked Batroc and it’s great to see that all it took to make him a more serious was to make it so he actually spoke French, eensted of talking like zis.

This isn’t a bad book by any means, it’s just that you can skip this 6 issues and be none the wiser.

Review: The Death of Captain America Vol.3

April 20, 2009

Happy government workers in Mass. get an extra day off day (a.k.a. Patriot’s Day).  It seemed appropriate to finally finally finish up the Death of Captain America today.  Not that these issues actualy wrap anything up.  At story’s end Cap is still dead and most of the villains are still at large.  But what this book does is cement Bucky in place as the new Captain America.

Since taking over the book Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting have maintained the book’s quality without missing a beat.  Many reviewers have noted that the book has been so constant that it’s become difficult to review.  We’re nearly 50 issues into what is essentially a single story arc now with no end in site, but nothing feels like it’s padded and the tale certainly isn’t dragging on.  

This is just a massive superhero epic unlike anything else being written at the moment.

Review: The Immortal Iron Fist Vol.4

March 31, 2009

It’s almost enough simply to say that Iron Fist is still worth buying with the latest volume, the first without the amazing creative team of Brubaker, Fraction, and Aja.  I cannot think of another instance in which an incoming team had bigger shoes to fill.  And fortunately Dwayne Swierczynski, Travel Foreman and Russ Heath manage to come in without missing a beat.

It helps that the incoming and outgoing teams clearly worked together to make the transition as smooth as possible.  The story here seemlessly flows out of what came before, showing Iron Fist’s battle with the creature who has murdered each of his ancestors in their 33rd year.  But more importantly, Swierczynski actually maintains the sensibilities of the previous writers, continuing to include the pulp-inflected flashbacks that made the early issues of the series so distinctive.

So I’m still happy to report that the title remains one one Marvel’s best, and the lead in to the next story in which the Immortal Weapons go to Hell makes it look like that standard is going to continue.

Review: The Immortal Iron Fist Vol.3

October 25, 2008

The book marks the end of one of the best collaborations in the history of Marvel comics.  Together Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and David Aja have managed to take a b-list 70’s character and elevate him to greatness.

Volume 3, collects a series of stand alone tales under the title, the Book of the Iron Fist.  These stories are focused on the history of the Immortal Iron Fist, so named because the title is transfered to a new inheritor upon each Iron Fist’s death.  The first story tells the history of Wu Ao-Shi, the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay, who was the only woman to have been the Iron Fist.  Next up is Bei Bang-Wen, who used his skills to defend China from the British in 1860.

But the real highlight of this book is Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death, which is worth the cover price alone.  Orson Randall, the previous Iron Fist to Danny Rand, has appeared throughout the series as the last of the pulp adventurers, which gives the creative team tons to play with.  The issue contains four chapters from throughout Orson’s career, with the presence of the John Aman (a recently revived character that can be traced back to 1939) as the connecting thread.  But really the book is just a chance to tell a bunch of stories the likes of which are rarely seen nowadays.  Nick Dragotta & Mike Allread illustrate the first portion dealing with a stage magician, followed by legendary artist Russ Heath for a western tale, then it’s Lewis LaRosa for a brief battle with Frankenstein, and finally Mitch Breitweiser for the redemption of the Prince of Orphans.  This issue was my favorite story to be published last year and it’s an enormous shame that Matt Fraction will not be writing another like it anytime soon.

Which brings me to the final story here, which wraps up the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja run on the series and serves to hand it off to the next creative team.  It’s a great touch that Marvel decided to collect the series in such a way that the stories about the character’s history are bookended by one dealing with his future.  It’s a nice story, but a very odd note for the creative team to end on.  One which only makes sense when you read the follow-up by Duane Swierczynski and Travel Foreman, which thankfully has maintained both the high standard for this series so far and its pulp leanings.