Infinity is an apt name for this Marvel event since it seemingly goes on forever.
Seriously, I know when it comes to these big crossover events that ‘b...moreInfinity is an apt name for this Marvel event since it seemingly goes on forever.
Seriously, I know when it comes to these big crossover events that ‘big’ is the name of the game, but this collection contains the 6 issues of Infinity itself as well as about 18 issues ofAvengers and New Avengers. That’s not even including the roughly 30 other tie-in books that are part of it, too. How many comic books must I read to get one story?!?
An alien race called the Builders that were supposedly the architects of the universe itself show up and start tearing through various star systems on their way to Earth. Captain America leads most of the Avengers into space to fight beside an alliance made up of friends and former enemies like the Skrulls and the Brood. Unfortunately with most of the Avengers off planet, Thanos sees an opportunity to carry out a personal vendetta on Earth and he unleashes a full scale planetary invasion that Tony Stark and the other members of the Illuminati try to lead the defense against.
There’s a lot good sci-fi concepts here as well as some epic action with art that conveys the scale of the events. Overall Hickman’s story does a pretty nice job of shifting around to the different areas which allows him to get lots of characters doing lots of things. I also like this idea that’s spread across the Marvel books during this period of time that Earth is increasingly seen as a danger by the rest of the universe.
But the problem with these crossover events are that they seem to be built with the idea that they are for the fans reading every issue of the books involved as they come out. I have not been reading any of the recent Avengers books, but I’d been reading Guardians of the Galaxy when I hit their part of the crossover so I thought I knew enough to check it out. Wrong. Even though I read about umpteen million pages of this story, I still had to go check out the Marvel Wiki page to get the context of what happened.
When you’ve got more and more fans increasingly waiting to buy the collections or, like me, reading later via digital comics, it’s crazy when these things sprawl to the point where you can read over 600 pages that supposedly contain the core story, and it’s still not enough. If they could have boiled this down to one big 10 or 12 issue mini-series that felt like a complete storyline I would have been a lot more satisfied with it.(less)
I’m giving this two stars even though I loved parts of it because it’s a prime example of the kind of nonsense that often makes Marvel and DC comics s...moreI’m giving this two stars even though I loved parts of it because it’s a prime example of the kind of nonsense that often makes Marvel and DC comics such a frustrating mess.
I can live with making moves for marketing purposes. Hell, I can admire something slick done for marketing purposes like launching a new Guardians of the Galaxy comic with one of your most popular writers as part of the lead up to the movie version of it. That makes sense. Even though I'm a comic book geek I knew little about this team, but I’m excited about the film so I want to read something that clues me in. Putting that line-up in a book with a writer like Bendis who has a glib style similar to what the movie seems like it might be was a good idea.
Even sticking in a popular character like Iron Man for a while to spark interest is OK if it’s done well, and I was actually enjoying Tony Stark having a space adventure and interacting with characters like Rocket and Gamora.
What isn’t a good idea is taking this fledgling book where you should ideally be trying to establish the tone and bringing in another character that makes no sense solely as a marketing stunt. And unlike the inclusion of Iron Man which was at least an understandable marketing stunt, bringing in Angela does nothing but introduce a confusing element that no one cared about. Comic nerds know that Neal Gaiman finally won his legal battle to get the rights to Angela back and good for him. But what does she have to do with this comic? Was anyone really clamoring to see Angela? Does it have anything to do with the story of the Guardians or even have an angle that you could at least see as maybe a cynical but logical promotional play for the movie? Nope. So why is she here?
Adding insult to injury is that after just a half-dozen issues when little has been done other than reintroducing the team with their new buddy Tony Stark, any story momentum is sacrificed for several issues to do a tie-in to Marvel’s big Infinity crossover.
So while there were individual scenes and moments I liked quite a bit in this, it all adds up to far less than the sum of its parts because Marvel was far more concerned with flipping the bird to Todd MacFarlane and milking its latest massive storyline. Which is nothing new. But I still don’t understand why they couldn’t just give us some stories about the Guardians of the Galaxy when they’ve got a pretty big reason to do just that. (less)
This collects four digital comics Marvel did as part of re-launching Guardians of the Galaxy with Drax, Gamora, Rocket and Groot all getting short sol...moreThis collects four digital comics Marvel did as part of re-launching Guardians of the Galaxy with Drax, Gamora, Rocket and Groot all getting short solo adventure before the team is reformed. There are decent enough, but nothing groundbreaking. Since the movie trailers have given me a growing admiration for gun-toting talking raccoons it’s no surprise that my favorite story was Rocket’s.
I read these on the Marvel app, and the digital design elements were cool. Rather than just showing static panels, they would often show one frame and then add in smaller panels and dialogue to it as the plot moved forward. I don’t think I’d want all my comics to be like this but it is something that shows promise in certain situations. (less)
See, I’m trying to read up on Guardians of the Galaxy before the movie comes out so I started in on Bendis era,...moreI really wanted not to like this book.
See, I’m trying to read up on Guardians of the Galaxy before the movie comes out so I started in on Bendis era, but it felt like I missed something. The last I knew the Guardians had disbanded following The Thanos Imperative, but then they were back together again with no explanation at the beginning of the new title. So after checking around I found that they had appeared in the first storyline of Avengers Assemble which is the book put together to capitalize on that movie’s popularity with the same line-up.
Thankfully I have a Marvel Ultimate subscription so it was fairly easy to jump over to this one. However, it rubbed me the wrong way that I had to go read a whole other title to try and get the full story of how the Guardians got back together. Guess what? It’s not addressed here either. The Guardians just show up to help after Thanos is on Earth causing a ruckus.
Why have them in the story at all in the early phase of launching a new Avengers title? Yeah, I know. The movies. They make billions of dollars, and you can't fault Marvel's marketing of them so far. I love ‘em too, but why does it have to be such a goddamn hassle to figure out which comics you have to find to get the whole story these days? I just want to read about a heavily armed talking space raccoon and his friends. Is that too much to ask?
So I was grumpy starting this and kinda hoping I’d dislike it so I could really rip it on a review. However, I gotta admit that it won me over. I like the line-up they used in the movie so recreating it here makes for a good team that actually seem like Avengers unlike some members these days. *cough* Wolverine *cough*
And I liked the team-up with the Guardians as well as the big cosmic threat that Thanos poses. It’s not the best thing I’ve read by Bendis, but it was fast and pretty fun. And I gotta give credit to any title that features dialogue like this from Jarvis the butler after the Guardians show up:
“How am I supposed to feed such a motley lot on such short notice? The raccoon asked if I would order a pizza from Ray’s Famous Pizza. But only the one on 52nd. He said the other Ray’s Pizza was, and I quote the raccoon, ‘Ass.’” (less)
The cosmic heavyweight team of Quasar, Gladiator, Ronan, Ikon and Beta Ray Bill are having just an average day at the office breaking up an interstell...moreThe cosmic heavyweight team of Quasar, Gladiator, Ronan, Ikon and Beta Ray Bill are having just an average day at the office breaking up an interstellar war between various factions of the Church of Universal Truth when they learn that there’s something on Earth that’s a threat to the entire universe. Their arrival trips the alarm that summons the Avengers. Gee, I sure hope that there won’t be any kind of misunderstandings that could cause a fight between two super-hero teams….
Seriously, it’s standard operating procedure in comic books to have the good guys initially fight in some kind of team-up issue, but this one is pretty ridiculous because the conversation goes something like this:
Avengers: Hey, Annihilators! What are you doing on Earth?
Annihilators: There’s no time to explain!
Avengers: Well, you’re tearing up this town of what seems to be ordinary people so we’re getting a little concerned here.
Annihilators: I told you already that there’s no time to explain!
Avengers: How about a quick summary? Ten words or less?
Annihilators: There’s no time to explain!
Avengers: Well, shit. I guess we gotta fight then.
Annihilators: Wait! A lot of us are friends who have been allies before so there's no reason you shouldn't trust us. We don’t have time to explain why it seems like we’re attacking innocent civilians, but we’re here on a matter of utmost urgency about saving the universe so could you please just give us five minutes?
Avengers: Seems like you could have explained it a little in the time it took you to say all that.
Annihilators: Perhaps, but that time has passed. Now there is no more time to explain.
Avengers: Now you’re just messing with us.
Annihilators: Why won’t you realize that there is no time to explain?
Avengers: Screw it. We’re fighting.
Annihilators: Dude, I told you we need five minutes to save the universe. What's the hurry?
Avengers: Wolverine’s getting impatient. He’s got like seven other teams to go fight on today so he wants to get on with this.
Annihilators: Very well. Let us fight then. But rest assured even when we have long conversations during the various battles there still won’t be any time to explain.
Oh, and the Rocket & Groot bonus story is kinda fun, but I still think the art and tone of doing a kind of wacky cartoon adventure doesn’t really jibe with the funny talking raccoon threatening to blow someone’s head off with an enormous gun. (less)
Marvel decided to re-launch a book that ties into their latest movie offering and it just so happens to guest-star their most popular film character?...moreMarvel decided to re-launch a book that ties into their latest movie offering and it just so happens to guest-star their most popular film character?
Several decades of the highs and lows of being a comic fan have given me a thick enough skin to try and look past the stunt murders and #1 issues and shoehorning popular characters into stories they got no business in to see if anyone bothered doing something worth reading. It is, and it’s a book I’d be interested in seeing more of even if I wasn’t ridiculously excited to see a movie featuring a talking raccoon shoot aliens. You can’t put a dollar value on entertainment like that!
This is a little odd because it deliberately doesn’t show how the Guardians reformed following The Thanos Imperative, but I've heard that explanation is still forthcoming. Anyhow, they’re back and the line-up is exactly the same one as the upcoming film. (Again, I'm shocked.)
Earth has been declared off-limits to further alien interaction by a galactic council because they’ve decided that all of the previous extraterrestrial meddling has created a dangerous mix of primitive power that could be a danger to the universe. Peter Quill (a/k/a Star-Lord) doesn’t like this since he’s half-human, and his alien father, the king of his race, delivers a stern warning that even he is no longer allowed on Earth. Peter thinks this has put a giant target on his old home planet since it prevents its cosmic allies from protecting it so he leads the Guardians to find out what’s going on. On the way they bump into Iron Man because Tony Stark's idea of a vacation is building a new suit of armor he can use to jet off into deep space to get away from it all, but he runs into trouble with the evil race of the Badoons.
Overall this was an enjoyable story, and even the inclusion of Iron Man is handled pretty well. I particularly enjoyed Rocket mocking Stark as being from a backwoods planet because there’s something inherently funny about a space raccoon talking shit to a genius billionaire superhero.
While it’s still a sci-fi space opera it doesn’t have the cosmic epic feel of the timey-wimey adventures of the previous version of the title, and I hope that future issues will give us more of those kinds of things. (less)
Empire Falls, Maine is a town that’s best days are long behind it. The mill and factory that used to be the main employers have been closed for years,...moreEmpire Falls, Maine is a town that’s best days are long behind it. The mill and factory that used to be the main employers have been closed for years, and the only person around with two dimes to rub together is the very rich Francine Whiting who essentially owns and controls everything worth having in the area. Miles Robey was on the verge of earning his college degree and escaping Empire Falls forever when he returned home to care for his dying mother and ended up working for Mrs. Whiting as the manager of the Empire Grill.
Two decades later and Miles is a middle aged punching bag who probably bursts into tears every time he hears Pearl Jam’s Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town. His selfish wife Janine is divorcing Miles to marry the owner of the health club owner Walt Comeau who likes to stop by the Empire Grill every afternoon to rub it in. Miles’ father Max is the town neer-do-well who is impervious to guilt and is constantly trying to get money out of him. Town cop Jimmy Minty starts approaching Miles under the guise of friendship but has some long simmering grudge against him. Worst of all is that Miles has to report the slender profits to Mrs. Whiting even as she refuses to pay for any improvements to the increasingly shabby diner. The one bright spot in life for Miles is his teen-aged daughter Tick who he loves dearly and has a close relationship with.
This is the first book I’ve read by Russo (Although I’ve seen the movie version of Nobody’s Fool.), and I absolutely loved it. At least until the ending, but we’ll get to that shortly. The depiction of a small blue collar town slowly going under was done incredibly well from the opening that describes how Empire Falls has been ruled by the Whiting family and how heir C.B. went from his dream of wanting to be a poet and artist in Mexico to running the family business and marrying Francine.
The characters are another big selling point because there’s a lot more than I described in the brief summary above, and all of them seem rich and fully developed. It’s to Russo’s credit that he was able to make a cast that includes some absolutely infuriating and unpleasant people and make you at least understand all of them. There were times where I wished that Miles would push his father out of a moving car or toss a pan full of hot grease into the face of Walt, but there was also a certain obnoxious charm to them most of the time.
Miles is the heart of the book, and I was a little worried that I wasn’t going to like him much in the early going. I’m generally not a fan of passive characters that are so wrapped up in regrets and unearned guilt that they’re essentially just pawns for anyone looking to use them, and Miles fits this description to a T. Being raised Catholic by his selfless mother has convinced him that wanting anything for himself is practically a sin, and he’s almost pathologically incapable of standing up for himself. However, Miles’ brother is constantly calling him out for taking the path of least resistance and urging him to at least try to change his circumstances. That awareness of his nature and the flashes of backbone that Miles shows at times make him sympathetic despite being pretty much a doormat.
As far as the ending (view spoiler)[ I loved that Mrs. Whiting had essentially turned Miles into an indentured servant because of the affair his mother had with her husband. Miles seemed exceptionally slow on the uptake there, but the hardest place to see a trap is from inside it.
However, I was less pleased with the ending. John Voss shooting the people in the high school was the kind of dramatic moment that it would take for Miles to make a big gesture like leaving Empire Falls to protect Tick. So while I wasn’t sold on the idea of this character driven story about small town secrets and regrets turning into a ripped-from-the-headlines tragedy, it made sense in that respect. But I didn’t like how everything got kind of deus ex machina after that. Mrs. Whiting drowns, Jimmy Minty is disgraced, Zach gets shipped off to Seattle, Janine leaves Walt all while David and Bea get the new restaurant going. That all just seemed a little too convenient for Miles. (hide spoiler)]
Despite those complaints this was still an exceptionally well written book with that did a great job establishing and exploring all the tangled relationships in one dying town, and it has enough humor to keep everything from getting overly grim and depressing for the most part. It’s easy to see why it won a Pulitzer. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I noticed the ads for this here on Goodreads and thought the premise sounded interesting, but I wasn’t in any great hurry to check it out. Then it was...moreI noticed the ads for this here on Goodreads and thought the premise sounded interesting, but I wasn’t in any great hurry to check it out. Then it was one of those super cheap deals on my Kindle so I figured I’d give it a shot.
And that’s how they get you. Well played, Amazon. Well played indeed.
This does have a great hook for a story. Seventy-two year old Stanley Peke and his wife Rose have accumulated a house full of valuables and memories over the years, but they want to move to a smaller more manageable place in California so they hire a moving company to transport their stuff across the country. After almost everything they own has been packed, loaded and driven off, the Pekes learn that they’ve been the victim of a clever scheme in which a gang of thieves show up before the real movers and take off with an entire house worth of loot.
Next time just buy your friends some pizza and beer to con them into helping you, Stanley.
Most people would cash their insurance check and grieve for the loss of the mementos that can’t be replaced, but Stanley isn’t your average silver fox. He spent his childhood hiding from Nazis in the woods of Poland and came to America after the war with no family and not a penny to his name. The theft of the things he spent a lifetime acquiring as part of his building a family is something that he refuses to abide and when he sees a chance to track down the thief who led the crew Stanley decides to get it all back without involving the cops. However, the ringleader Nick had his own hard-luck upbringing as an orphaned street kid which has left with a ruthless nature and the firm belief that whatever he steals is now his so the clash between the two strong-willed men become about more than who ends up with the stuff.
This is marketed as a thriller, and there are definitely a lot of those elements and enough action to make it part of that category. But it actually doesn’t read like a thriller for most of the book. A large part of it is spent inside Stanley’s head as he reflects on his past, how it shaped him and the life he’s lived since. Stone was far more concerned with Stanley and Nick as characters than how the plot would be resolved.
That makes the book more ‘literary’ (For lack of a better term.) than what I was expecting, and at first I was pleasantly surprised at the many facets that Stone was exploring with Stanley about being a Jewish survivor of the Nazis who came to America and lived the ultimate immigrant success story.
The problem is that this is all gone over a little too much with clear conclusions drawn and laid out for the reader. Stone wants to make sure we understand every angle and by kicking over every rock he really hasn’t left the reader anything to think about. It’s not a case of full-on anvil dropping (view spoiler)[although the ending with Stanley leaving the woods while shedding a Nazi uniform was pretty on the nose (hide spoiler)], but there’s little sub-text left by the end of it.
So it’s got the pieces of a good crime story with an interesting lead character that was aiming to be a bit more than your average thriller, but it is so concerned with making sure that we got the point that it laid out all it’s themes like a road map which left me feeling like someone who considered me slightly stupid had been slowly explaining himself to me for several hours.
Also posted at Kemper's Book Blog.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Anybody else find it odd that a team of heroes dedicated to saving the universe would be called Annihilators?
Following the events of The Thanos Impera...moreAnybody else find it odd that a team of heroes dedicated to saving the universe would be called Annihilators?
Following the events of The Thanos Imperative, Cosmo the telepathic dog (Just go with it.) recruits some serious muscle to stand watch over space-time. The Silver Surfer, Quasar, Beta-Ray Bill, Gladiator and Ronan are brought together just in time to deal with the threat of the Dire Wraiths. There’s also a second story featuring Rocket Raccoon and Groot having their own adventure.
Reading this immediately after Abnett and Lanning’s epic storylines like War of Kings and The Thanos Imperative was probably a bad idea because it seems distinctly small in comparison to those. It definitely feels limited for a story that features several heavy-weight heroes like this, and I found the sub-plot of Quasar’s lack of self-confidence more annoying than anything. Yeah, yeah. You died. Who hasn’t in this universe? Get over it and go punch somebody.
The bonus story with Rocket and Groot was a lot more fun, but it did seem a little too cartoonish. I know it’s a talking raccoon and a walking tree and this is actually touches on several points from the original run of Rocket's mini-series from the mid '80s, but Guardians of the Galaxy always gave these characters some genuine weight. While there are good moments like seeing that Rocket was so badly stunned by the events of Thanos Imperative that he has given up galaxy saving for a job as a mail room clerk, the art style and several goofy elements undercut both him and Groot as serious superheroes who have helped save the universe.(less)
A rift called the Fault caused by all the recent space shenanigans is a doorway to another universe in which Death was killed. You’d think a universe...moreA rift called the Fault caused by all the recent space shenanigans is a doorway to another universe in which Death was killed. You’d think a universe with no death would be a good thing, but this was brought about by letting a bunch of Cthulhu like ancient creatures take charge.
Now this Cancerverse wants to spread out and take over new territory so a cast of cosmic heavy weights including the likes of Galactus and Silver Surfer fight to push back the forces pouring through the Fault including dark versions of well-known Marvel characters. I only wish that they all had goatees to really let us know that these are the evil twins to the superheroes.
Peter Quill leads the Guardians on a desperate mission to bring death’s herald from their universe to the Cancerverse and end the threat. Unfortunately, the herald of death is Thanos who isn’t exactly known as being stable, rational or trustworthy so this plan has more than a few risks attached to it. You know you’re in trouble when you have to depend on an insane supervillain who is in so love with the incarnation of Death that he once wiped out half the life in the universe to get her attention.
This is another big cosmic blow-out story from Abentt and Lanning who have a talent for coming up with epic stories balanced by giving us relatable characters to root for during them. I especially loved the twist of unbridled life being a threat and having to use Thanos as the weapon against it. The ending is especially good and one of the more touching things I’ve seen in a big Marvel crossover. (view spoiler)[The final splash panel with Rocket and Quasar standing in front of the memorial statue of Star-Lord and Nova with Rocket making a heartfelt comment was an especially nice touch. (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I need to thank Marvel for the seemingly odd choice to make a movie based on the Guardians of the Galaxy. I have no idea if the film will work (althou...moreI need to thank Marvel for the seemingly odd choice to make a movie based on the Guardians of the Galaxy. I have no idea if the film will work (although the trailers are selling the concept well), but even if it’s a stinker it got me to check out these comics which I have thoroughly enjoyed. It also made me aware that I’ve been wanting to see a talking raccoon fire large guns for my entire life and just never realized it until now.
The Guardians are still reeling from the devastating losses they incurred by stopping the War of Kings, but when protecting the galaxy is your gig then you rarely get a day off. A new rift between universes brings more trouble just as the Guardians are feuding with their landlords, another group of would-be galaxy protectors and the Universal Church of Truth.
The only bad thing is that this was the end of this version of the Guardians comic as written by Abnett and Lanning who showed a real knack for crafting big cosmic crossover stories that while heavy on the sci-fi concepts were also funny and had relatable characters. And since this series only ran for 25 issues it makes Marvel’s decision to use it as the basis for one of its movies seem even weirder, but I guess when Iron Man, Thor and Captain America are making you billions of dollars you can take a chance or two.
Reading Guardians of the Galaxy now has me interested in Marvel’s space stories, and I’ll be checking out more of the related titles and events like Nova and The Thanos Imperative. (less)
When I saw that there was going to be an origin retelling of Batman I had the same kind of disappointed feeling you get when you’ve been eating the sa...moreWhen I saw that there was going to be an origin retelling of Batman I had the same kind of disappointed feeling you get when you’ve been eating the same leftovers. Sure that meatloaf was tasty the first night and it reheated well for dinner the following day, but when you pull it out of the fridge the next time it’s not looking very appetizing.
Fortunately, Scott Snyder shows up and takes that cold brown lump of blah with its congealed sauce, reheats it perfectly, slices it, adds a few secret spices and then serves it up on some toasted sourdough bread to give you one damn fine meatloaf sandwich. Yeah, it’s still leftover meatloaf, but now it doesn’t seem like the same thing you’ve eaten twice already.
Instead of rehashing the murder of Bruce’s parents Snyder smartly realizes that we know that already and there really isn’t anything to be gained by once again showing us the Waynes getting gunned down. Instead he picks up the story as Bruce, declared legally dead following a long unexplained absence, has secretly returned to Gotham where he plans on waging an underground war on crime using the skills he’s picked up traveling around the world. He may know how to fight, but he doesn’t have a strategy so Bruce’s attempts aren’t going so well. Making things worse is a crime wave started by the Red Hood gang with its leader embarking on a campaign seemingly designed to make life in Gotham worse for everyone.
One thing that helps this origin reboot out is that it probably was actually time to overhaul it. Frank Miller’s Year One has stood as the definitive story of how Bruce became Batman for over 25 years now, and Christopher Nolan used it as a template for the Dark Knight movie trilogy. However, DC has decided that it’s OK for Batman to be a comic book character again so revamping things to tone down the dark troubled vigilante vibe and play up the more colorful aspects was probably necessary. Snyder himself outlines this in the opening to the script that’s included in this volume where he notes that Year One is a comic classic, but that this needs to be something different. He still manages to incorporate a nice nod to Miller’s story with the sequence of Bruce’s bat inspiration though.
Another element breaking from the Miller way of doing Batman is that Bruce Wayne is treated as more than just the cover persona Batman uses. Here, Bruce originally plans to continue playing dead and doesn’t want to reveal himself to the public while fighting crime. His eventual realization that Gotham needs more than a guy punching criminals in alleys is a large part of the character arc.
This not only gives us a fresh and less grim take on how Bruce decided that wearing a cape and a mask with pointy ears was the way to fight crime, it also does a great job of introducing characters like the Riddler and James Gordon as well as this guy leading the Red Hood gang who seems like he may be important in some way later…
Oh, and there’s also a tease of things going to hell in a major way in Gotham shortly into Batman’s career that I can’t wait to see play out. (less)
So here we are at the end of Matt Fraction’s run of Iron Man. Or at least I think it’s the end of his run. It’s the end of the series as Invincible Ir...moreSo here we are at the end of Matt Fraction’s run of Iron Man. Or at least I think it’s the end of his run. It’s the end of the series as Invincible Iron Man at least which was, of course, cause for another #1 book as they re-launched the series yet again with a new writer. Was that part of Marvel NOW? Sweet jebus who can keep up with this stuff? I need a nap….
Anyhow this is a very solid conclusion to the storylines that had been going for some time with Tony being held hostage and forced to help the Mandarin, but you can’t keep a good Iron Man down so there’s the inevitable giant battle with Tony getting some help from unlikely sources.
I particularly liked the final issue of this which shows a depressed Tony being burned out and tired of the superhero life and all the crap that comes with it and coming up with a typically bold and outrageous way of reinvigorating himself.
Fraction took on a tough chore with this series since it started as Tony was one of the most reviled people in the Marvel world because of his actions during and immediately after the Civil War. This was around the time that the first movie hit and turned Iron Man into the cornerstone of the Marvel film universe so they needed to get Tony back to being a ‘good guy’ without ret-conning all the recent history.
Fraction did a great job of coming with stories that swung Tony back from the dark side, but left enough of the fall-out in place to give Stark a new sense of purpose. This was also a series that did a great job of making Tony an interesting character as a brilliant guy who wanted to do the right thing, but whose ego often made him his own worst enemy. (less)
Maybe we Americans were just a little bit hasty when we said that we won the Cold War? ‘Cause it’s seeming more and more like that we were really just...moreMaybe we Americans were just a little bit hasty when we said that we won the Cold War? ‘Cause it’s seeming more and more like that we were really just leading at halftime.
Modern Russia with Vladimer Putin running the show is essentially the Soviet Union with a better public relations department, and the old spy games between their Foreign Intelligence Service and the American Central Intelligence Agency are back with a vengeance. Young and ambitious CIA officer Nate Nash is the Moscow handler of a highly placed Russian code-named MARBLE. When a planned meeting goes sideways, Nash manages to save his asset, but blows his own cover so badly that he’s exiled to Helsinki where he sulks about the setback his career has suffered. Russian intelligence knows it has a leak and is desperate to find it so they send junior agent Dominika Egorova to see if she can pry loose the name of the mole from Nash.
Dominika was a talented ballerina as well as a true believer in the new Russia. She is also secretly a synesthete who sees sound as colors as well as auras around people that clue her into their mental state. When her dancing career was derailed she is sucked into the spy business by her uncle who promises her position but really sees her as just a beautiful woman that he can whore out for his own purposes. Despite how her uncle uses her and the bureaucracy that thinks she only has value on her back, Dominika manages to earn a place in the intelligence service with her brains and will as she nurses hidden grudges at the way the system has treated her. After Nate and Dominika meet a delicate dance of manipulation begins, but who is recruiting who?
I’m a big fan of FX’s The Americans as well as currently being surrounded by a bunch of Russian consultants at the office. I’m convinced they must be secret agents running honeypot operations because there’s just no way that many good looking people are a representative sample of the Russian population. (Or I’m just jealous that they’re making us American office drones look like jeans wearing mole-people by comparison. Seriously, if the Cold War is really kicking off again, I’m putting my money on them.)
The point is that I was in the mood for a good spy vs. spy novel, and this one delivered. It won the 2014 Edgar Award for best first novel, and the author Jason Matthews is reportedly a former CIA officer who had over 30 years of service. The book is filled with the kind of details about spy operations that just feel authentic, but it never devolves into a Tom Clancy-style recitation of hardware and proper procedures because it’s got plenty of human drama as well.
Dominika is the engine that runs the rest of the book. She’s an intriguing character because of the anger and frustration she feels as someone who just wants to be permitted to do her job but is constantly used and humiliated by brutal men of limited imagination. The only false note to her is that it feels like Matthews wrote her synesthesia as giving her almost telepathic abilities when it comes to reading people. Why couldn't she just be smart and institutive instead of using a neurological disorder as a way of making her ‘special’? It’s becoming an overused fictional trope these days.
Another minor nitpick is that Matthews uses a gimmick of having the characters constantly eating or preparing food and then putting the recipe for what they had at the end of a chapter. This was kind of a neat touch at first, but after a while it felt like he was really straining to find new dishes to shoehorn into the action. Also, (This spoiler does not give away the ending but does involve a major character introduced halfway through the book.) (view spoiler)[ I initially enjoyed the female American senator character who sells secrets to the Russians. She’s a complete narcissist who is so self-involved and annoyed at any potential inconveniences that she refuses to take the most basic security precautions. This seemed like the kind of motivation you might find in a traitor in the age of Facebook. However, after a while with her relentlessly bashing the US intelligence agencies at every opportunity it left me wondering if Matthews suffered at the hands of some politicians during his career and was getting a bit of fictional revenge by portraying such a character as a villain completely devoid of conscience. What started as interesting became an over the top cartoon. (hide spoiler)]
Still, none of my complaints seriously hurt my enjoyment of the book which was filled with great characters playing tense spy games for high stakes.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)