Jumping into Comics

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Secret War

Just to piss off Hook, I'm going to start my little regime here at JiC by reviewing not only a Bendis book, but a Bendis book that accentuates what failings he has but also highlights his strengths that annoy Hook ... and one that was insanely late.

The first and most blatant aspect of this book has to be its lateness. It's hard to miss and it actually impacts stories outside of itself. The first issue hit the shelves in April of 04 with #5 not seeing the light of day until December of 05. That's a wee bit shy of two years for a five issue series. Granted, it's a fully painted book, but, come on, two years? How many late books does it take to make Marvel Editorial learn that you don't solicit these kinds of books until the artist is extremely close to or is totally finished.

Now, aside from the pain in the ass it is to have to wait two years for a five issue story to end, the end to this particular story has a huge impact on the rest of the MU. After all is said and down, Nick Fury, arguably the glue that holds Marvel's Earthbound heroes together, was forced to go underground and leave SHIELD in the dark.

Aside from the fact that the grandmaster of dealings in superhuman politics has gone AWOL, his absence plays a huge role in the current state of Spider-Woman. Bendis (and thereby Marvel) has been pushing Spider-Woman into the big leagues for a while now. Not that I have any special affinity for Ms. Drew, I have to admit to biting on the hype. I dig her in the New Avengers and I even picked up the first issue of her origin miniseries (based more on checking out the Luna Bros.' art, but the book shows promise). I probably won't be getting her ongoing in 2006 but that's due to my being a poor college student.

Anyway, due to shipping schedules, we actually saw Fury making contact with the Avengers for the first time after going underground before we saw him go undergone. NA #14 shipped a week before SW #5. In effect, the end of SW was a flashback, which is ironic considering SW itself was a flashback story.

And here we step into another problem. I have no problem with flashback stories. On the contrary, I think they can make a generic story more interesting and can even be twisted into a mind-bending masterpiece like the film "Memento." However, the problem here arises in one of Bendis's trademark styles - decompression. Flashback stories are designed to add suspense and action to a story that may not have much to begin with. Put this in the hands of a writer whose strength is not action and you get some mixed results.

Making it even worse is making Captain America and Fury the only two who know what the hell are going on. The two of them bicker back and forth and the reader feels like Spider-Man in that we have no idea what's going on, but more like Cage in that we're in a coma with people talking over our unmoving body.

I went back and reread the series with #5's release and even though it works much better as one piece of fiction (as much of what Bendis writes does), there is still a lot wrong with this book. I'll ignore my Fanboy Urges and not go into detail with Logan's grossly out of character behavior on the plane. Another issue I had was this book was basically a primer to New Avengers. Not only does it lead directly into several NA storylines, but its style mimics NA to the panel. I wonder if this is on purpose or if this is simply the only kind of team/action story Bendis can write. Lord knows his action is better in Ultimate Spider-Man, but a solo hero (and a teenaged one at that) is a totally different dynamic.

As important as art is in any book, it's even more of note in SW. it was the art that delayed the book this long because we already know Bendis can write like 68 books a month. I'm not as enamored by painted book as others, tho I have no serious problems with them. I mean, Marvels and Kingdom Come are beautiful books. Secret War, not so much.

Dell'Otto's style is quite obviously very European. It retains a tightrope between uberrealistic and artistic almost to the point of cartoony. Nothing wrong with this style per se, it's just not my cup of tea. His group shots do seem kind of muddled tho, especially the espionage scenes with the Secret Warriors (oh, yes, they're a whole new team now!) attacking the group of Mechwarriors (their archenemies?).

And speaking of the Mechwarriors, the inherent problem in any story involving a mass of villains is that it's going to have to be a large group of villains that most people don't know nor really care about. I mean, a new version of Goldbug? Oooh, Captain America, a man who has stared down the Hulk, is really trembling. The only alternative is new people taking over established mantles, like the new Doc Ock rip off Lady Octopus. Hardly terrifying to Spider-Man who has beaten the REAL Ock countless times.

For all the problems the book has, it isn't entirely bad. It has some great espionage and political aspects with Fury talking to the President of the U.S. and the Black Widow undercover in Latveria. I'm kind of wondering when Latveria turned into a democracy and began electing a Prime Minister. Would Doom actually allow this? Is he still supposedly dead after Unthinkable? Some interesting questions here, but alas, no answers.

I also liked the realism in Fury's actions. He freely admits that there's a possibility he's being manipulated into acting outside of SHIELD protocols. He knows the President might want this situation taken care of militarily, but can't lose face on the world political scene.

However, no matter how well scripted or interesting the political aspects, this book languishes in the storytelling. More time is spent on getting Spider-Man or Daredevil to Cage's hospital room to tell the story or in Captain America fighting with Fury than is spent telling us what the hell went on in Latveria.

In essence, this story is really about the fallout of an event. The problem is, the event in question isn't a preexisting story like the Kree/Skrull War or Inferno. Instead, Bendis tries to cram in both the attack on Latveria and the political and practical fallout of the attack. It's quite obvious that the fallout and aftermath of the event is his main thrust of the story, and rightly so as it is more interesting, but there is nowhere near enough time explaining to us what actually went on a year prior. Without us knowing what happened, any aftermath, as interesting as it may be, holds zero impact.


At 5:14 PM, Blogger Gokitalo said...

I enjoyed Secret War overall, but the 5th issue, particularly the revelation of what Fury did, was a bit underwhelming. I don't quite remember what he said at the moment, but Fury's reasoning made me wonder why he didn't apply this reasoning to other tryannical rulers as well.

I was hoping Wolverine's drunk state would be explained (since his healing factor's advanced to such a point that he can't actually get drunk), but sadly, it wasn't. I suppose Logan was just faking to (a) avoid suspicion and (b) to hit on the flight attendant.

And the lateness of the book was very crippling, I think: if the title had been released on time, some of these new villains could have been used in other titles. *sighs* oh well.

As for Doom... who knows. Both of Doom's appearances after "Unthinkable" were false alarms, so either he's in hiding or we've truly seen the last of Victor Von Doom.


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