You’ve waited and waited and waited some more, and now, finally, Wolverine is really truly definitely mostly back in Return of Wolverine #1! Plus, The Avengers settle into their new headquarters – the shell of a dead Celestial – in Avengers #8, while Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 takes a trip down memory lane to remind readers of Spider-Man’s first encounter with the alien symbiote that would be Venom. It’s time for this week’s Marvel Rundown!
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Steve McNiven
Colored by Jay Leisten
Lettered by Frank Martin
Alexander Jones: Pop the claws and draw a candle. Wolverine is back! I think? Gentlemen, what were your initial impressions of Return of Wolverine #1?
AJ Frost: Wolverine is one of the trickiest characters to get a nuanced, tonal performance out of. By now, everyone knows his schtick, and his brooding is no longer a unique trope. So to do anything new with Logan inevitably means that the story has to go even more balls-to-the-wall crazy to have staying power. Charles Soule did a pretty good job here at crafting a good Wolverine tale, but not one that will really be memorable in any way.
Joe Grunenwald: It’s not entirely clear if Wolverine himself, much less the readers, will remember this story when all is said and done. After the table-setting of the Hunt for Wolverine: Dead Ends one-shot I expected the Return of Wolverine mini to hit the ground running, and I suppose it does in the sense that Wolverine is actually in it. Beyond that, though, this felt like a lot more table-setting to me.
Frost: How many times does Wolverine have to forget who is to find out his next immediate purpose?
Jones: I’m going to admit I don’t like Wolverine, and this issue is an example of why. The number of stories with the character that are super-dull and generic boggles the mind. Soule does not do a good job anchoring the story or giving us a character to root for. Mind-wiped Wolverine is not interesting and a tired trope. I thought Soule was going to do something different rather than unload the endless tropes with the character.
Frost: Looks like someone has the Adamantium knives out this week. Yeah, the story does nothing to propel Wolverine along in any meaningful way. He has amnesia, kills some drones, is told his name is Wolverine and has to save the world and then goes on his way. I think if the narrative was willing to take some risks in terms of doing something new, this might be a more engaging book. But as it is, it’s merely a regurgitation of Wolverine (and others of the anti-hero ilk) we’ve seen countless times.
Grunenwald: If you’re not already invested in Logan going into this comic, then I agree, there’s really no one to root for here. I don’t have a problem with Wolverine not remembering who he is, and I actually kind of like the illustration of the inside of Logan’s mind as a series of locked doors waiting to be opened. I think that device is where the potential for something ultimately new and interesting for the character lies.
Jones: I’ll own up to some of what I’m saying here. I liked the first 15 or so pages of the issue. Wolverine’s relationship with the scientist is a really tragic story and when Logan starts seeing some of the flashbacks I was really intrigued. When the issue started revealing its secrets I became less interested. The issue turns into a more generic action Wolverine sequence in these moments. I feel like, in this particular chapter, Soule needed to give the right amount of characterization to Persephone who still doesn’t seem very interesting.
Frost: But even so, I wonder if its the art you’re admiring more or the actual story beats?
Jones: I also don’t think Steve McNiven was at the top of his game here. What was your take on the art?
Grunenwald: I honestly didn’t recognize the art in this book as being by Steve McNiven. Granted I haven’t followed his work super-closely – the last book I read that he drew is probably Civil War – but his style here looked completely different from what I’m used to seeing from him. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I didn’t find anything hateful about it, but I also didn’t find it particularly remarkable.
Frost: I’m going to be a tad bit equivocal because I thought it was pretty good for what it was. And McNiven did a great job of conveying the disorienting energy that comes along with Wolverine. At the end of the day, though, once I close up the issue, the art isn’t going to stick around in my mind at all.
Jones: His art is definitely less detailed and realistic than the work he is known for. The work is surreal and when it works, it looks pretty good even if it doesn’t reach the highs of his past work. However, I think in some cases the art got really dull and scratchy. In general, it just isn’t quite as detailed as we have gotten in the past.
Frost: Unnecessary scratchiness seems to be the name of the game in a lot of these mainstream books. I’m not such a fan of that look when it’s overdone.
Grunenwald: I will say that, like Alex, I really enjoyed the opening sequence with Logan and Delacroix. There are great visuals in those pages and enough mystery in the writing to get me interested. And then it doesn’t really go anywhere after that. Let’s get some action in this Wolverine comic!
Jones: The part with the action was the boring part though, right?
Grunenwald: Which part, Alex? The dull flashback towards the end, or the inexplicable motorcycle sequence that makes no sense and goes nowhere?
Frost: Once we get out of the prologue and into the meat of the story, can’t say that too much exciting stuff happens.
Jones: Oh man. I was already kind of tepid going into the return of Wolverine series and this installment I think just sucked the air out of the room. What are your final thoughts?
Frost: Solidly mundane. I wish there was more intensity and more excitement with Wolverine. But he’s such a bore and this conspiracy is so run of the mill.
Grunenwald: I like Charles Soule a lot, and after the Hunt for Wolverine: Dead Ends one-shot I was excited to see what he did with the proper return of Wolvie, but after an exciting dozen or so pages, this issue just goes nowhere. The potential is there, I think, but we haven’t gotten there yet. This is a SKIP for me.
Jones: I’m echoing Joe’s sentiments and going with a SKIP. I’m disappointed here because I feel like they were onto something with the past couple issues.
Frost: I’m with y’all. SKIP it.
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by David Marquez
Colored by Justin Ponsor
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Alexander Jones: It’s been a long time coming boys but here we are, ready to talk about Avengers again. I’m going to put my feelings down here and admit that I wanted to like the first six issues more than I did. After the last installment and this issue, the book is definitely expanding the direction of the tone and art. What were your first thoughts on Avengers #8?
AJ Frost: Jason Aaron has mastered the art of capturing the essence of superheroes and making them relatable, down-to-earth, dysfunctional heroes without veering off into the fetish of the grimdark. Avengers #8 was a refreshingly light (in terms of aesthetic, not content) and witty story that can be accessible to regular readers of the comics and fans of the MCU.
Joe Grunenwald: I’m not really sure where to start with Avengers #8 other than I loved it. It’s a complete 180 from where I was after the first issue of this series. There were moments in the issue that reminded me of a Grant Morrison-written JLA comic, and others that reminded me of Wolfman & Pérez’s classic New Teen Titans work. The character dynamics are wonderful, and the visuals are beautiful. This is the good stuff right here.
Jones: This feels like an entirely different Jason Aaron than we have gotten in past installments. The jokes here feel much more natural and less forced. Ed McGuiness’s work should have been a good vehicle for Aaron as well, so I’m not quite sure what to make of the whole thing. This issue felt effortless and wonderful from the debut page for me. Aaron’s take on Robbie Reyes was a particular standout for me.
Frost: It was a lot of fun and lots of banter that made the Avengers not feel like distant demi-gods (except Thor, I s’pose) but flawed people trying to do the best they can. It was refreshing, to say the least!
Grunenwald: And even Thor’s just trying to find the bathroom.
Jones: This is a story about a man searching for a bathroom and finding so much more.
Frost: That may not sound like much, but it’s an amusing sidequest that’s also a sly way for us to explore the Avengers’ new digs.
Grunenwald: Alex hit the nail on the head, though: “effortless” is the best word to describe this issue. Maybe Aaron was working out the kinks for those first few issues. Now that the team’s established we can see how they work together. I particularly liked the scene between Iron Man and Captain Marvel. The logic for why Tony wants to keep Carol around is sound and mature, and the gag at the end made me chuckle.
Frost: That was probably my favorite scene in the book, Joe. It’s nice to see the tables turned every now and again.
Jones: Do you guys have any theories as to why the previous issues were so dull? Is it just the great work of David Marquez that was missing?
Grunenwald: In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t read all of the previous issues, so I couldn’t fully comment on that. I do think Marquez’s work, which is a little more subdued than Ed McGuinness’s, helped me enjoy this issue more than I did the issues I read previously. I don’t even necessarily dislike the bombast of McGuinness on occasion, but something about it paired with Aaron’s writing didn’t do anything for me.
Frost: I’m with Joe. Don’t have an honest opinion either way.
Grunenwald: What do you think the difference is, Alex?
Jones: Honestly, I think the jokes in this issue are better. Plus, look at David Marquez. His pencils bring out the best of the issue and paired very nicely with the visual gags of the story. There were lots of great expressions and intimate moments strengthened by his contributions.
Frost: The art in this issue was excellent. Nice smooth lines and a more fluid sense of character movement.
Grunenwald: I love the team’s new headquarters. It’s perfectly insane.
Jones: I liked how this issue slowed down and took a break from the action, but I would be lying if I wasn’t worried about what’s coming next. The cliffhanger for the issue barely qualifies as such and teases a really generic tone this issue was supposed to get away from.
Frost: But the ride before the cliffhanger was most enjoyable. It’ll be interesting to see if the good vibes continue into the next issue, but I’m optimistic. If the dynamics lasts, we’re in good hands.
Grunenwald: Surprisingly for me, I really liked the cliffhanger. It’s a character I’ve never been all that interested in, but he also has a long history with the Avengers, so I like the nod to that by including him in their next storyline.
Jones: It came out of nowhere though? It was literally a character just showing up and the issue ending. I think Aaron should have had something to say.
Frost: Chalk it up to the editors!
Grunenwald: It did come out of nowhere, but I was okay with it since it’s basically a tease for what’s to come. I’m sure Aaron will have more to say with that character in the next few issues.
Jones: This book is really hit or miss so I’m concerned, to say the least.
Grunenwald: That’s understandable. I err on the side of cautious optimism.
Jones: Any last words on the issue?
Frost: This is a great crossover book that will appeal to casual Marvel fans and regular readers alike. Not too serious, but not fluff either. It strikes the perfect balance. This is a BUY!
Grunenwald: Agreed. This is a solid team book that’s set up some nice dynamics and interesting directions for the characters, and it looks great to boot. It’s the Avengers book I’ve been waiting for, and it’s a BUY for me.
Jones: Avengers #8 is a great issue with a wonderful story and beautiful artwork. BUY.
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Art by Garry Brown
Colored by Lee Loughridge
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
Curiously enough, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 takes place in the distant past, examining an interesting time period in the character’s history. This is, of course, right after the original Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars event in the ’80s, when Peter Parker first donned the black alien suit. Parker already has enough problems, and this issue shows how the suit created a whole heck of a lot more for him.
Writer Saladin Ahmed picks the character up in a particularly interesting place in the Spider-Man mythology, showing a side to the character we don’t usually get the chance to witness. This is a more seasoned Peter Parker who has interesting relationships and a little more going on than what might appear at first in the issue. Ahmed does an exceptional job filling readers in on some of the details surrounding the time period they might have missed. Ahmed also tactfully depicts the melodrama the Alien Symbiote contributes to Peter’s personal life without taking the idea too far and avoiding the pitfalls from the infamous Spider-Man 3.
Artist Garry Brown’s visceral and dynamic approach to pencils is a solid fit to a more gritty Spider-Man story. Seeing him interpret some of the slower scenes with a sense of horror is a great visual direction. Getting the chance to witness the Marvel Universe of the ’80s depicted through the more loose, fluid sense of Brown’s pencils is a delight. Brown’s visuals on the symbiote’s adventures in Peter’s body are a particularly great use of his talent. The last few pages also add a surprising element of horror to the series. Brown’s individual cast members can suffer from not feeling distinctive enough from each other. It is also interesting to see how the artist interprets some of the members of Hammerhead’s gang. The heroes take on a cartoonish, horror vibe that fits the narrative like a glove.
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 is a curious tale that does a solid job mining some interesting story content from a certain time in Spidey’s life. Marvel’s approach to expanding on origin stories in annuals is interesting and paired with the recent Silver Surfer Annual, both titles make for a great argument to the approach of the story. The ending for the issue was slightly conventional but interpreted history in an interesting manner.
Final Verdict: Buy. Brown and Ahmed mine interesting story content from an infamous moment in the past via Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1.
Next week, Insomniac’s Spider-Man makes his comic book debut with Spider-Geddon #0!