Monday, March 21, 2011

Taking Marvel by Fractions: FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWAREGO!!

You read the title! FUNNYBOOKS are, indeed, once again GO!! So let’s get on with it…


Thor #620
by Matt Fraction and Pascual Ferry

So how bad-ass is Matt Fraction’s Thor run? Well, this issue, Odin makes it RAIN FREAKING BLOOD! There’s also the beginning of the final battle with the World Eaters, and that’s pretty bad-ass, too. But, man.

RAIN.
OF.
BLOOD.

Honestly… ‘Nuff said.

Grade: A

And, as long as we’re talking about Matt Fraction…

Iron Man #501 & 502
by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca

In kind of a refreshing change from this book’s on-going corporate soap opera format, these issues see Iron Man dealing with an honest-to-goodness super villain threat. But, true to form, series writer Matt Fraction doesn’t resort to a simple slugfest. Instead, he delivers a battle of wits and wills that reveals character. Which is not to say that this story isn’t fun, because I had a blast reading it. The plot and dialogue both are snappy in a way that this book often isn’t. And the villain is one of my all-time favorites, too: Dr. Otto Octavius, aka Spider-Man arch-foe Doctor Octopus. Doc Ock captures Tony Stark, holding New York hostage with a nuclear device in an attempt to make Stark admit that he’s incapable of fixing the degenerative brain damage that’s killing Octavius.

Yes, you read that right. Ock doesn’t want Stark to fix him. Not really. I mean, if he can, great. But what he really wants is for Stark to try to fix him, and have to admit defeat. He feels such simmering hatred for Our Hero that he’s willing to hold a nuke over New York’s head just to humiliate him. You’d think he’d reserve such extreme actions for, say, Spider-Man. But it seems that dear Otto is trying to settle old scores before he dies, and he hates Stark dating back to before either of them were in the super powers game. Now, I have no idea if this is an invention of Fraction’s, or if he’s just expanding on something from a previous Iron Man / Doc Ock encounter, but either way it’s good stuff.

The flashback to whatever technology conference at which the pre-powers altercation took place is a classic nerd vs. cool kid confrontation, with Stark coming off like a drunken asshole. If Octavius himself weren’t such an annoying douche bag at the same time, I’d feel bad for the guy. As it is, Otto’s just asking for a verbal drubbing, and Stark’s the only guy in the room who’s bold enough to call him on it. But, Tony being Tony, he takes it too far, which years later leads to… Nuke over New York.

Now you’d think that, in this dire circumstance, Tony would look into the data that Octavius has provided him and admit defeat. But, no. Tony still being fucking Tony, he heaps verbal abuse on Ock the whole time, and makes excuses for why he can’t find a solution to the problem (“I’m not a doctor, you know!”). Now, in Tony’s defense, Octavius is (once again) asking for it. He’s had Electro and the Sandman kidnap one of Stark’s employees and hold him hostage as further insurance. You know, just in case the nuke wasn’t enough. And I suppose it’s just possible that Tony’s trying to make Otto angry enough to make a mistake. But honestly, I ain‘t buying that. The sad fact of the matter is that Stark’s just as much of an egotist as Octavius thinks he is. So even when he obviously doesn’t know what to do, Tony still tells Ock that he’s found the “god number” to his problem: asking somebody else. Which… Please! He just hates Octavius, and always has, and isn’t willing to admit defeat.

All of which brings me back my original point: even when he’s writing an old-fashioned hero vs villain conflict, Fraction can’t help but construct it to reveal character. And, in this case, it’s not a very nice thing he’s saying about Our Hero, either. Not that Stark’s willing to let New York burn just to save his own ego, of course; he’s flawed, but he’s still a hero. Still. What an asshole!

Grade: A

Keeping things in the family…

Osborn: Evil Incarcerated #3 (of 5)
by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

Here we have the most recent issue of the Norman Osborn mini-series, which is being written by Matt Fraction‘s wife. And it’s kind of like a combo of his Iron Man and Thor: character-driven, but with awesome action sequences to boot. Which (good as Kelly Sue’s script is) brings me to the series’ real star: Emma Rios. Working in a style that’s part manga, part Paul Pope, part… Hrm. Y’know, as I look through this issue for particularly good sequences to praise, it occurs to me… I reviewed this already, didn’t I? I think I may have even scanned in some pictures. So, uhm… I’ll just wrap this up, then.

Osborn is one of my favorite things coming out from Marvel right now. While it’s not perfect, the story’s good and the art is even better. If you’re not reading it… What the hell’s wrong with you?! Go get it NOW!

Grade: A-

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