The best of the best comics from February 27th, 2013. Ironically, this week mirrors that of January 25th in some detail!
Book of the Week: Uncanny Avengers #4
Despite running roughly a month behind schedule, this series is as close to a "flagship" title that the new "Marvel NOW" editorial push has. It was the first released last fall as well as one being written by the red hot Rick Remender ("Secret Avengers", "Venom") and by A-list artist John Cassaday ("Astonishing X-Men", "Planetary"), alongside colors by Laura Martin. It embodies the current editorial spirit, which is to better mingle the worlds of Marvel's currently top franchise in the Avengers with their former top franchise of the 90's and early 2000's, the X-Men. Built upon the ashes of "Avengers vs. X-Men", this opening arc has seen six characters best known for both franchises (although such distinctions blur with Wolverine these days) unite to handle a crisis from a revived Red Skull.
In the previous issue, Red Skull has made horrific use of the psychic powers he has literally stolen from the brain of the deceased Professor X. He and his gang of genetically altered S-Men have led an assault upon NYC inciting mobs of anti-mutant hysteria and violence in the cloned Nazi villain's latest attempt of a "Reich Eternal". Things go from dire to catastrophic when Thor is under the Skull's sway and the entire island of Manhattan devolves into violent chaos. With even Wolverine down for the count, the remaining heroes (Havok, Capt. America, Rogue, and Scarlet Witch) have to pull it together to undo a psychic Nazi nightmare. While writer Ed Brubaker did great work for years with Red Skull, which climaxed in "Captain America Reborn", Remender has found an equally if not superior voice for the timeless villain. He captures the full brutal horror of the character, yet maintains a level of sophistication that makes him able to steal a scene without him becoming redeemed or noble. The highlight of the issue is clearly when Red Skull attempts to psychically convince Cap that their causes parallel more now than ever before, as current America is far from the ideals of yesteryear - a scene made all the more horrible when it seems that the Red Skull isn't entirely wrong about the state of the nation. Seeds for future stories are sewn with a final page which borders on both the awesome and the ridiculous. Homage is paid to the "days of future past" story from Uncanny X-Men, perhaps the hundredth time such an homage has been made since.
The art by Cassaday is up to his usual standard. Some of the costume designs are bland and he does have a tendency to make all his faces look "samey". On the upside, he usually excels at action and his rendition of Red Skull is certainly unique. The colors are also up to their usual high standard. The next issue will see Oliver Coipel take over the reigns of pencils, which is a boon since Cassaday has often struggled with any monthly scheduled comic. While this may not be a perfect opening arc to a team book, Remender does make sure to give every character their own voice as well as define that this is not a team which is together due to them being friends, but due to the necessity of the situation - bonds of friendship may follow, but only after it is formed in some iron and flame. The next issue promises more members and more of Remender's bizarre imagination, which should be good for readers all around.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret History of the Foot Clan #3: The spare mini-series to IDW Comics' main TMNT comic book series with the title that just rolls off the tongue. As usual for IDW's side series, it seeks to flesh out an element of the Ninja Turtles' world which the regular title doesn't quite have the time for. The first "micro-series" covered the heroes, and this four issue series is covering the titular Foot Clan in general and the Shredder in particular. Dr. Miller, a history professor teaching at the college which April and Casey attend has dug up new secrets about the Foot Clan. Little does the professor know that the clan didn't die out with Feudal Japan, and he is quickly snatched up by the villains for use in their cabal. The Turtles and their human allies quickly mount a rescue, which includes a rematch against the Shredder, his grand daughter Karai and even the ninja fox mutant Alopex. Mateus Santolouco draws and co-writes this series alongside co-writer Erik Burnham and colorist Joao Vieira, and this issue is quite the action packed one. The spirit of the core series is maintained, and this issue ends with the professor in good hands while the bloody history of the Shredder's rise to power continues to unfold. It provides a fair parallel to the sci-fi epic currently happening in the regular series.
Young Avengers #2: Marvel's first foray into a regular Young Avengers ongoing series in nearly seven years continues along its merry and very quickly way as February comes to a close. Writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton (with colorist Matt Wilson) continue to weave a brilliantly drawn yet bizarre adventure involving cross dimensional alternate mothers and adults who just don't get it. Wiccan's attempt to "wish" back the dead mother of his boyfriend Hulkling has resulted in the invitation of a dimensional parasite which seems to have dire consequences for their reality. Not even the adult Avengers are reliable as allies, as the pair quickly have to form a devil's alliance with the newer and younger manifestation of Loki - who acts more like a magical Amadeus Cho than the old school "god of evil". Hulking continues to get some much needed focus here, and there's a clever scene in which the art makes good use of panels for a magical prison. Half the team doesn't appear in this issue, but if that was always a demerit for a team superhero series then Brian M. Bendis wouldn't have a career. The series' energetic tone is maintained despite the bizarre adventure and the art is virtually as much of a draw as the story here. It looks like the team will be united by the second issue and whole some old time members are gone for the moment, these initial issues are onto some terrific stuff.
Read last week's comic book reviews here!