Three comic book reviews: Pull List #18 (‘Avengers Arena,’ ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Wolverine and the X-Men’)
Like I recently went with a triple feature for My Little Pony, I decided to do a pure Marvel comics Pull List. Why should IDW get all the fun? So we’re going to pretend like this is a special Marvel edition, okay? Anyway, until Beast uses bikini wax, make mine Marvel!
I’m sorry, was that weird? I read that somewhere.
Avengers Arena #11
We get a breather issue after the horrific events of issues #9 and #10, in which we had two deaths in two issues; Juston in #9 (nooooo!) and Nico in #10 (did not see that one coming). Instead of dealing with the still rampaging Apex, we catch up with Avengers Academy alumni Hazmat and Reptil, who are hanging out on a beach while the rest of the cast are running for their lives from a crazy girl who occasionally turns into her nice twin brother (it’s complicated).
Hazmat has apparently snapped in this issue; instead of homicidally, however, she’s gone to happy fun land. This actually disturbs Reptil even more than the dark type of snap would’ve; Hazmat isn’t exactly the perkiest girl on the island. However, when it turns out Nico’s last spell sent the remaining group right to their beach, Reptil is forced to deal with Hazmat’s apathy; it’s a decent story, with pretty good character moments, and, despite the evil and twisted situation they’re all in, the kids in the story decide to at least try to act like heroes, rather than contestants.
The art is by Riccardo Burchielli this time around; Kev Walker’s art is one of the draws of the series, but he’s often on-again, off-again. So, we get fill-ins, and they usually do all right, but you still miss Walker. Michael Del Mundo’s cover is also very striking.
Guardians of the Galaxy #4
Instead of Rocket Raccoon on the cover, we get Gamora this time. Unlike Rocket, Gamora is featured heavily in this issue, which is kind of a rip off. Oh, well. After finishing off their first arc, the Guardians are hitting up a space bar to celebrate. Of course, there is an intergalactic bar fight at one point.
Gamora misses it; she’s off on her own for Tony Stark related reasons, and she gets ambushed by a bounty hunter. So we’ve got space bars and bounty hunters. Brian Michael Bendis is laying on the Star Wars references pretty thick this issue. Though Rocket and Groot aren’t the spotlight characters this issue, they do serve the function of comic relief; apparently, Rocket can now understand what Groot is saying. That’s new from the last series, where Rocket was surprised to learn that Groot actually has a brain.
Frequent Bendis collaborator Sara Pichelli takes up art duties this issue; her rendition of Rocket Raccoon is not terrible, and is a marked improvement over Steve McNiven’s take. Still, could be better.
Wolverine and the X-Men #32
This issue is the second part of “The Hellfire Saga” storyline; Kade Kilgore’s Hellfire Academy is starting to shape up. The evil X-Men villains recruited for his rival school to Wolverine’s Jean Grey Academy include Sauron and Toad; Sauron doesn’t get to do much except be humorously over the top evil, while poor Toad is still stuck as janitor. However, he does get a wonderful character moment when he interrupts a teacher’s meeting to offer insight into his own brushes with supervillainy. He’s headed for new territory unexplored by his character; mild heroics.
Meanwhile, the actual X-Men are searching high and low for their missing students, which means that the school gets a new substitute teacher; Lockheed. It’s basically the comic book equivalent of a walk-on cameo, but it’s a memorable one. There’s something magical about a superhero comic book where a small purple flying dragon encourages a group of students to do their math homework.
This series by Jason Aaron is still one of my favorites, because we get those little character moments mixed in with actually funny jokes. Superheroes are somehow being taken seriously these days; it’s nice to know that a few comic writers still both realize the absurdity of their character’s lives, and at the same time see that as one of the best things about them.