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The Comics Corner - Week of 02/15/2011

The Comics Corner
Welcome to the Comics Corner! Despite a rather underwhelming week of new releases the Corner is finally here in an attempt to shine a light a few of the comic bright spots this week. We’ve got some super heroics from Spider-Man and Hawkeye in Avenging Spider-Man and a pair of comics offering much more than meets the eye. No, not Transformers, its Planet of the Apes and Super Dinosaur! So come inside as the Comics Corner tries to make the best of a bad situation all the way to the Top of the Stack!

Avenging Spider-Man #4

4 Stars

“…unless you have a smelling salt arrow.”

There was certainly no shortage of Spider-Man related choices from Marvel Comics this week. The titular character in two of this week’s releases the web-head is well on his way to becoming the next Wolverine or Deadpool.

Personally, I don’t see that as a problem.

What I do have a problem with is the continued misuse of the Marvel’s “.1” concept. Intended to be obvious jumping on points, safe for new readers, the “.1” issues have seldom lived up to their intended potential and sadly this week was no different. However the real problem this week was that Marvel released the perfect “.1” concept with this issue of Avenging Spider-Man but it was Amazing Spider-Man that got the “.1” treatment. The allegedly ‘new reader friendly’ Amazing Spider-Man referenced numerous plot points from the series over the last several months and focused on a variety of characters and plots that would be completely foreign to any new readers.

While I believe that there is never a bad time to start reading a series, most comic book readers do have a hard time ‘jumping in’ and when a company markets themselves and individual issues as new reader friendly the least they could do is actually make it new reader friendly.

As I mentioned, what makes everything worse is that Avenging Spider-Man was everything a new reader could want. A fun, one and done story that showcases Spider-Man, and Hawkeye, in a superhero team-up filled with plenty of banter and action. Hawkeye is also starring in The Avengers this summer, another reason you would think that Marvel would want to draw attention to this issue.

The concept of the true ‘one and done’ issue is a relic of another period in comics history but to see the idea captured so well in this issue was terrific. Nothing out of the ordinary as far as the plot is concerned. Captain America orders fellow Avengers, Spider-Man and Hawkeye to go on patrol together, the heroes argue, fight some bad guys, argue some more before fighting more bad guys and eventually save the day. The end. But that was always the point of the ol’ fashioned team-up. Seeing two characters that don’t normally pair up, take down a surprisingly enjoyable villain of the week. This week: Sidewinder, of the Serpent Society! And despite the reduced page count of today’s comics, versus the days of yore during the team-up issue heyday, writer Zeb Wells even manages to squeeze in a few down-to-earth, hero-to-hero moments. This wasn’t just a great jumping on point for potential Spider-Man or Hawkeye fans but it was also a love letter to days when team-up books were fun and much more prevalent.

With Amazing Spider-Man continuing to wander aimlessly between events Avenging Spider-Man has become my favorite spider-title. In fact, even Scarlet Spider is better than Amazing Spider-Man at the moment! So if you’re going to spend your hard earned money on only one spider-comic this week, ignore the “.1” and get to Avengerin’ with Spider-Man and Hawkeye.

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Planet of the Apes #11

4 Stars

“It’s a boy.”

As a general rule, I avoid talking about politics. I don’t talk about politics in this column, online and pretty much in life in general.

But with the long-running, and recently resurgent, franchise that is Planet of the Apes, it’s downright impossible. Planet of the Apes was overloaded with political and social commentary at its inception in 1968, when the film first hit theaters, and that trend remains to this day with BOOM! Studios’ increasing offerings of Planet of the Apes related material. The current series is an explosion of social and political commentary but not without plenty of action as explosions take on a much more literal meaning by the end of the issue.

Despite the will and voice of the people, power belongs to but a few and those few exert their will and influence regardless of public need or want.

Maybe it’s just easier to take this manner of commentary when half the cast is made up of talking gorillas and chimpanzees. Or maybe it’s the fact that these trends are universal, no matter what you believe, there are truths you can’t avoid and in this world it does not matter if you are man or ape – those in power will do what they want, regardless of the voice of the people. And when those voices are unheard, or are outright ignored, the people will do whatever they deem necessary to get themselves noticed.

As if all this political relevance and commentary wasn’t enough, the eleventh issue of Planet of the Apes makes all of these points against an action-packed backdrop that escalates the tension, advances the story and creates an entirely new status quo.

In other words, there is a lot going on in this issue.

Readers can take Planet of the Apes as a political and social commentary, an action-packed adventure of man versus monkey, or both. It’s those lofty ideals, against a simplistic animal dominated action environment, that has fueled this franchise for over four decades.

Super Dinosaur #8

4 Stars

“Good! I welcome another chance to destroy you!”

If Super Dinosaur were any more fun, I’m afraid it would be illegal.

The over the top action and excitement that fills each and every page of Super Dinosaur is completely infectious. Robert Kirkman’s intentionally clichéd and over dramatic dialogue combined with Jason Howard’s unique cartoon style transforms the fun concept into an absolute must read for comic fans of any age.

The secret to Super Dinosaur’s success is that it works on a variety of levels and requires whatever amount of commitment the reader chooses to bestow upon it. Every character, concept and story is presented in its simplest and most basic form. But when a reader chooses to go deeper into the story at hand they will begin to notice that these characters are wonderfully conceived and the story features plenty of twists, turns and potential surprises.

Even Jason Howard’s artwork invokes this same perception of simple yet complex. Howard’s cartoon style is quickly recognizable as fun, a perfect fit for this series but like the accompanying story, Howard takes time to employ the little touches that add depth and substance to the art, making it just as important as the rest of the comic.

Finally, I will close out this review with yet another reminded that ‘all ages’ does not simply mean ‘for kids’. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Super Dinosaur, or any all ages book for that matter, is somehow beneath you or not worth your time.

Who doesn’t have time for T-Rex that wears tennis shoes and battles in a suit of armor with more missiles than a battleship? You’ve got time for that!

  Agree? Disagree? Discuss this in our forum!

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