I took most of 2017 off from X-Men and Avengers (not because I wanted to, there was just a lot of stuff going on with travel and family and work and blah blah blah excuses.) The smart thing would’ve been to research the storylines and make an organized reading plan.
Hah. I’m not that smart.
This week I grabbed the review copies of three upcoming Marvel graphic novels in no particular order and jumped in cold. Surprisingly, I wasn’t as lost as I thought. (Pretty lost, mind you, but not that lost.)
Inhumans: Once & Future Kings
My favorite of the three was Inhumans: Once & Future Kings. It tells the story of a very young Black Bolt, Maximus, and Medusa (with frequent appearances by Karnak, Triton, Crystal, and baby Lockjaw.) These are all characters I’m not familiar with (as you’ll see in the next two reviews, I dropped out of reading Marvel at about the time the Inhumans really got going) but I still enjoyed the book.
Partly it’s that it’s a coming-of-age-in-a-decadent-royal-family story, which is always fun. The heir to the throne sees what’s being done to the Alpha Primitives and figures maybe keeping a slave race can’t be justified. There’s battles and betrayals and a teeny hint at the relationship he and Medusa will have some day, but if I’m honest what I really loved was Phil Noto’s art.
Noto’s style is at times etherial, retro, spare, detailed, monochromatic, or jewel toned, depending on the mood he’s going for. He can handle sweeping city views or underwater conversations, a battle on rooftops with Spider-Man, or Kadlec cramming his giant stupid helmet sideways into a sedan. Even if the story had gone right over my head, I still would’ve loved it for the art.
Bonus: the mini Lockjaw stories at the end. Wolverine and kittens!
Avengers & Champions: Worlds Collide
Next up was Avengers & Champions: Worlds Collide. I may be out of touch about the Inhumans, but when it comes to the Champions…I’m almost completely clueless.
I recognize most of the players (Nova, Vision’s daughter, Ms. Marvel, out-of-time Cyclops, and Ultimate Spider-Man) but I don’t have much on young Hulk’s story, and when they started talking about a “counter Earth” hiding behind the sun, I thought I’d jumped back too far and was reading the lead-up to Secret Wars.
In the end though, if you let go of the details you can enjoy it for a very relatable story of young heroes trying to prove themselves and find their way, while the older, more experienced people around them learn to let them grow up.
A lot of it is about the tricky relationship between Vision and his daughter, and the resolution to the story was very fun and interesting on a lot of levels. It made me want to finally read Little Worse Than a Man to get the whole backstory on all that, but I also really want to read what comes next.
There were several artists featured in the book, with Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba’s work on the Champions’ issues being my favorite (I’m a fan of that dynamic, clean, cartoony-in-a-good-way style, especially paired with Edgar Delgado’s strong colors.) I thought their best work was in the last issue of the book; the other issues were very good, but that last one felt like the most amount of time was put into it.
The last page of issue 673 was lovely, and I’m not sure if that was Javier Pina or Paco Diaz’s work (the art was hit or miss for me in that issue, apologies to whichever artist I’m dissing, I still liked the “miss” parts, just not as much as the “hit” parts.)
The final pages of Jesus Saiz’s work in issue 674 were wonderfully heartbreaking, with so many beautiful images in just a few pages.
Inhumans vs X-Men
Finally we had Inhumans vs. X-men. The story was fun, though as the title says it’s another “let’s take these two groups of Marvelverse people and make ’em fight” event. Between two Civil Wars, AvX, Original Sin, and now this, I think I’ve had enough of the good guys fighting each other. (Okay, technically Secret Wars and Battleworld was nothing but the good guys fighting each other, but I loved that event with all my heart.)
The story does make sense though: the Inhumans need the Terrigen Mist to awaken their powers (…or kill them, there’s no guarantees) and their whole religion is based around it. Unfortunately it kills Mutants, and there’s no way to vaccinate against it. So I understand where the disagreement comes from.
Following the events of Death of X we know that the Inhumans aren’t to be messed with: they’re no pushovers and there are a lot of them. So even though the X-Men are willing to kill to protect their kind, it’s not like they can just sweep in and attack the Inhumans.
Which, of course, is precisely what they do.
The whole book is filled with people saying “this would be a stupid thing to do” and then doing it. Attacking the Inhumans, letting Emma lead the way even though she’s clearly gone over the edge, choosing to fight instead of talk….in every situation someone says “well we know we can’t do this because that would be dumb” and then they act surprised when everything goes so very wrong.
Towards the end, upon getting a piece of information about why the X-Men went on the rampage, Medusa says “why wouldn’t they just tell me that?” Are we really supposed to think that after everything, she didn’t know they were trying to blow up the cloud? What exactly did she think their motivation was anyway? I guess she figured it was Emma getting revenge for Scott. Granted, it was, but she seemed so surprised about the cloud thing.
The artists over seven issues (counting issue #0) were Kenneth Rocafort, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Javier Garron on inks and pencils, with Dan Brown, David Curiel, Andrews Mossa, and Jay David Ramos on colors. I think Javier Garron was my favorite in this book (they always put the credits at the beginning of the book instead of the beginning of each issue, so sometimes in flipping back and forth I miscredit an artist) but I thought the quality of the art went up and down throughout the book, even when it was the same artist. I love Yu’s work but I wasn’t a fan of the final panel, it felt stiff and somehow awkward to me. And yet the page right before it was lovely.
Garron’s expressions get a little too distorted for me sometimes, but he did such a great job with the surreal landscape inside The World where they trap Karnak, and the colors on his issues were my favorite.
So I liked that collection the least of the three, but I still enjoyed it. And now I feel slightly less out of touch with the 2017 Marvelverse. (What can I say, I was reading Iron Man and Thor all year.)
Review copies provided by Marvel. Inhumans vs. X-Men is available February 13, 2018, and Inhumans: Once and Future Kings and Avengers & Champions: Worlds Collide are available February 20, 2018.