That’s right. The Ultimate Marvel-Now started this month, in a universe nearly destroy by two incarnations of Galactus. With Captain America dead, what heroes will rise to the challenge and defend the Ultimate Universe? Well, let’s start with writer Joshua Hale Fialkov‘s vision of an Ultimate Future Foundation: Sue Storm, Iron Man, The Falcon, Danny Ketch( who is now Machine Man after his death), and Director of the Future Foundation, Phil Coulson. It’s a wild and eclectic array of some of the surviving heroes of the Ultimate Universe, and it certainly packs the punch of intrigue after only one issue, when a long thought dead villain arises… and helps save the FF and planet again?
(Spoilers ahead) In the wake of the devastation caused by Galactus, the Ultimate Universe continues to suffer the effects of dimensional rifts due to the fracturing of the time stream, causing reality and creation to crack. With Tony Stark‘s monetary backing, the Future Foundation is there to enlist the help of the worlds smartest minds to combat this threat and save the universe. With such a right opening up right in New Jersey at the site of the Galactus event, the Future Foundations heads in to investigate. The parallel dimension has altered the DNA of ordinary citizens, creating giant monsters. Just when all hope seems lost as the Falcon, Iron Man, and Sue Storm battle these genetic anomalies, Coulson and Machine Man send in what could be a last resort, a dangerous prisoner, mind you, to help end the threat of the rift. Dr. Doom has returned to the Ultimate Universe, and promises to be a key hidden asset… if the future foundation can actually trust him and his motive.
Joshua Hale Fialkov promises, and I quote “things coming up, things that I never thought I’d be allowed to do. Abuse and adventure and sheer and utter madness ahead…” I can definitely see these words echoing true in just the first issue, with such a big return in Dr. Doom. The exotic mix of characters that parallels the main Marvel Universe’s Future Foundation book can definitely be felt in the Ultimate FF. And while Fialkov definitely seems to be in the right creative frame of mind to launch this new incarnation of a team in the Ultimate Universe, his efforts come to fruition thanks to art and color by the team of Mario Guevara, Tom Grummett, and Rachelle Rosenberg, along with inker Juan Vlasco. They have definitely nailed down some great new costume designs, and have a distinct technological look that the book is resplendent with. I was unsure at first, saying “great, another relaunch of Ultimate Marvel.” This however has gotten me excited to see what’s next for the Ultimate Future Foundation, and it definitely looks like a cornerstone piece in the brickwork of Ultimate Marvel-Now. I highly recommend Ultimate FF, even if you were not around for Cataclysm, Hunger, or anything that came before. It’s definitely a cool, fresh look with an eclectic mix of characters that promises big things to come.
Following the events concluding Infinity, a new chapter begins in the Marvel Universe for what is left of the Inhumans. Without a king, without a home, and with a queen in exile, new Inhumans will be unlocked thanks to Black Bolt‘s Terrigen Bomb. This is their story, courtesy of a fantastic creative team of writer Charles Soule (Thunderbolts), aritst-extraordinaire Joe Madureira (Avenging Spider-Man, Ultimates 3, THQ’s Darksiders), and colorist Marte Gracia. It’s the beginning of what will most likely be a major change for one of the long-standing families of the Marvel Universe, and it starts with some new faces who are barely beginning to understand the scope of their life as Inhuman.
Focusing on Kristian, a smart, angry kid from Bergen, Norway with great job and a chip on his shoulder, Dante, a musician by trade whose trying to support his sick mother and his pregnant sister, and Lash, a mysterious Inhuman who seems to owe no allegiance Black Bolt or Medusa, the stage is set as all three worlds of these characters will come clashing together, along with Queen Medusa, as they begin to experience the process of Terrigenesis… and one isn’t making it out alive. Side will be chosen. Allegiances owed. A new Inhuman culture on the cusp of formation is the crux of this game changing Marvel title, and it really needs to be checked out.
Writer Charles Soule has done phenomenal work rekindling major interest in the current Thunderbolts series, and is set to attain the same success with a new cast of characters that will form the ground work for a new Inhuman culture as they begin to have a more prevalent impact on the Marvel Universe at large. The idea of new characters grappling with change is always the hallmark of the beginnings of a great book and Charles Soule captures this with his character-centric writing. Joe Madureira’s art is perfect of the book, as the character designs are right in his wheelhouse of awesome. Big, hulking Inhuman’s battling it out, a great looking Medusa, and overall use of dark colors by Marte Gracia give the book a distinct look to complement the distinct story that’s just getting started.
Inhuman #1 is out now, and, after a lengthy delay, I am glad it is. I’m excited to see where Soule and company take the book and the new characters, as they carve out a new epic chapter for the Inhumans. Will we see new Inhuman super teams form? New Inhuman villains? How will Queen Medusa have a role in all this while in exile? The possibilities are endless, making Inhuman #1 the start of a questioning saga that’s sure to leave a stamp in the Marvel Universe. A must read.
Kicking off this past week, Batman Eternal is a massive undertaking on a weekly scale, weaving what looks like an intricate and layered Batman story that examines the Caped Crusader‘s relationship with his allies in the overall landscape of Gotham City. Now, to be fair, I was a bit skeptical on the execution of such an undertaking, thinking “How can a weekly book like this be sustained?” After reading issue #1, I recant my skepticism, as it is definitely a mystery that I can see holding my interest. This is all due to the monumental consultation, brain trust, conclave, whatever you want to call it, featuring writers of this particular issue, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, and consulting writers who will be working on the series, Ray Fawkes, John Layman, and Tim Seeley, with the first of an incredible array of artists. Jason Fabok handles are duties for issue #1, but it looks like other notables include Dustin Nguyen, Andy Clarke, and Guillem March just to name a few. Sounds to me with this type of collaborative creativity the possibilities are endless, but let’s get into a little but of what issue #1 has to offer.
(Spoilers ahead) Eerily beginning at what looks to be the end of Batman’s life, nailed to a broken bat signal, the first issue focuses on a Detroit Police Department transfer, hand selected by Commissioner Gordon, Jason Bard. A new addition to the MCU Unit, Bard is in for a hell of a first night. When Professor Pyg has Gordon and a group of kidnapped children pinned down under heavy gunfire, Batman makes a timely entrance to save the day, and captures Pyg. While all this is going on, Lieutenant Bard gets acquainted with Major Forbes, whose not the biggest fan of the way Gordon is handling things at the department. When Bard tags along on a back up call from Gordon, who has a mysterious, transparent criminal, holding a gun, pinned down in a Gotham railway terminal, all hell breaks loose when Gordon fires and destroys a fuse box that causes a massive train collision, resulting in numerous deaths. Batman witnesses all of this, but it’s too late. Gordon sends him to continue to help the people who need him. Gordon is eventually arrested by Major Forbes, who accuses him of the death of many. The arresting officer? New recruit Jason Bard, who is reminded by Gordon that helping the people of Gotham is his priority. The issue ends with allusions to a “grand design” perpetrated by Batman’s shadowy enemy. Who could it be?
So, it looks like Batman Eternal is going to be the multi-layered drama and detective story that we so deserve. Whether the focus pulls away from Batman and focuses more on his allies among the Gotham populace remains to be seen, or whether a healthy balance will be struck between the focus on both. Either way, I can say this is a good start to a weekly book, and has me intrigued as to the direction it is headed. With such a large-scale creative influence overseeing the book, the possibilities seem limitless week to week, and with the depth and breadth the story seems to already be forming, Snyder, Tynion, and company may have quite possibly the most unique book in the DC roster, and a powerful companion piece to the flagship Batman title. Definitely worth checking out, as I will be for at least the next two month. It’s out now in shops and on comixology
Last year, Marvel and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released Iron Man: Rise of Technovore which attempted to capitalize on the late night Marvel Japanese animation cartoons that were done a couple of years back. While it looked great thanks to the production of Madhouse Inc., it failed to capture my interest, in particular because of the mish mash of characters, the focus wholly on highly stylized action, and the general complexity of the story which seemed to be a tough sell to western audiences.
This year, Sony, Marvel and Madhouse return with another animated, character heavy entry Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher. Now the title in and of itself is deceptive, because in reality it doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with the Avengers as much as it has to do with Black Widow, Punisher, and S.H.I.E.L.D. That alone should have been the title. Oh yes, the Avengers are in it… for about then percent of the movie, if that. And while it is marginally better than last years Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, it by no means is the great animated film I wanted it to be, particularly because of the title going in one direction, and the story and action going in the other. Considering the Avengers tried to take down the Punisher in the Punisher: War Zone limited series recently, I don’t see how Frank Castle is now teaming up with them, and while Black Widow may have a checkered past, and they may gel well together as two characters who tend to shoot first, I still think that the Punisher would be hauled off in cuffs by the Avengers if he showed his face near them. In short, I question the branding of this particular entry with its title and characterization contained within.
The story is pretty simple. Frank Castle is ins Seattle, trying to take down a man called Cain, a gun runner who is selling illegal high-tech weapons which happen to contain S.H.I.E.L.D. technology in them. When he runs into Black Widow, he is captured and Nick Fury sends both of them to Slorenia, where the terrorist group Leviathan, led by Orion, is trafficking in these weapons with Cain who escapes Castle’s grasp at the beginning. What’s worse, when Widow and Castle arrive, they find Leviathan creating an army of genetically altered super soldiers, thanks to blood vials that contain Avenger DNA taken by Elias, Black Widow’s love interest who now happens to be working for Leviathan and Orion. After some lengthy battle sequences, Widow and Castle seek out Amadeus Cho, who tries to decrypt Cain’s cell phone, brought back after their mission. The technology contained inside has the power to brainwash people, and Castle is its next victim. He is locked up by S.H.I.E.L.D., causing Black Widow to see thing through to the ends, and find out where Leviathan is having their next big arms sale. Feeling conflicted however, she released Frank and they head to Hong Kong where an old informant who owes the Punisher reveals that the arms sale is taking place in Madripoor. This leads to final showdown with Elias, Orion, the whole of Leviathan, and super villains such as Graviton, Grim Reaper, and others who happen to be there for the sale. But, of course, they don’t go it alone when Hulk, Hawkeye, War Machine, Iron Man, Thor and Captain Marvel show up, leading to a mind-boggling ten minutes of relentless, hard to follow action.
“Why are we here again?”
That’s the story in more than a nutshell, and the film ends up being 80 percent action 20 percent story in my opinion. It’s hard to complete a lot in an hour and twenty minutes, but this is the second Japanese inspired marvel anime film that has failed to grasp my attention. I love that all these characters are presented in such a unique art style, and Madhouse Inc. is incredible when it comes to animation. It’s just the execution that leaves a sour taste in my mouth, especially when punching and stylized action take precedence over story. If you must check this out, I recommend netflixing or redboxing it if available. One notable thing is that if you purchase the film on Blu-ray or DVD, you get a ten-dollar movie credit to the Amazing Spider-Man 2. That would, to me be the only incentive for buying this less than stellar attempt at Marvel properties, anime style.