Happy Halloween from the Marvel Rundown! This week we’re celebrating the season by taking a look at the all-star line-up of creative talent on the Avengers Halloween Special #1. The anthology title features stories by veteran Marvel creators, as well as some who are new to the publisher. Plus, Old Man Logan concludes after 50 issues of stabbing people in a gratuitous manner—how well does it set the stage for what comes next? Don’t miss this week’s edition of The Marvel Rundown!
Written by Jay Baruchel, Gerry Duggan, Rob Fee, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska and Robbie Thompson
Illustrated by Laura Braga, Luca Pizzari, Bob Quinn, Eoin Marron and Jonas Scharf
Colored by Mike Spicer, Arif Prianto, Michael Garland, Cris Peter and Jordan Boyd
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Alexander Jones: Joe, this week on The Marvel Rundown we’re spotlighting the Avengers Halloween Special #1. Did Marvel’s assortment of stories fill your heart with terror or make you fall asleep in a bucket of candy corn?
Joe Grunenwald: Holiday-themed anthology titles tend to be a mixed bag quality-wise, and I think the Avengers Halloween Special is no exception. That said, the good outweighed the bad for me here. What did you think?
Jones: The sugar wasn’t enough to keep me awake. I was disappointed by lots of the twists and turns the stories took. Even the ones that I enjoyed were a little too hyper-violent and amped up on caffeine for me to take them completely seriously. I wish more stories were able to dole out that over-the-top, silly feeling I feel like the special was trying to elicit from me.
Grunenwald: There’s very little silliness in the stories presented. I went in not knowing what to expect from these tales, and the first one, a Daredevil story by Rob Fee, Eoin Marron, and Mike Spicer, set a shocking tone right off the bat. I don’t know that any of the stories that followed lived up to that shock.
Jones: I think that Daredevil story was the highlight of the issue for me. The artwork was great and lined up surprisingly well with the Chris Samnee and Mark Waid era of the title…until it didn’t. I think the tale became a little too morose and would have been cuter if it was a dream sequence or something. Am I way off base here? What say you?
Grunenwald: Eoin Marron’s art in the DD story is definitely reminiscent of Chris Samnee or Paolo Rivera’s work on the character, at least in terms of how his powers are presented, and the shift in the style for the more horror-tinged elements of the story worked well for me. I also think telling the story visually from Matt’s point-of-view made the disorientation and horror of what was happening more visceral for the reader. As for making the story a dream sequence, I would agree with that angle if this were a back-up story in a regular issue of Daredevil. Given the format of this anthology, though, as a series of short ‘What If?’ scenarios, I didn’t have a problem with it. Did any of the other stories stand out to you one way or the other?
Jones: From a craft perspective, I think Rob Fee’s script and Eoin Marrin’s work was the best the issue had to offer in ‘The Eyes Have It.’ Jonas Scharf’s pencils and Jen & Sylvia Soska’s script on ‘The Thing from Another Time’ was probably the second best story for me. I still thought it was a little too edgy for its own good at the end of the day.
Grunenwald: I actually found that story to be the weakest of the bunch. Scharf’s art is solid and works well on a body horror story like this one, but the Soskas’ script didn’t do anything for me.
Jones: Aside from that entry which I found mildly amusing, the rest of the stories lost me pretty fast. What was the story that left an impression on you?
Grunenwald: I really liked the concept behind the Fantastic Four story by Gerry Duggan and Laura Braga. That one was a really fun, clever spin on the relationship between the FF and Doctor Doom. I actually found myself wishing that story had been longer. ‘Whatever Happened to the Richards Family?’ isn’t a straight-up horror story like some of the others in this book are, but I liked that it took a sort of ’50s sci-fi, Invasion of the Body-Snatchers angle. It’s a nice blend of sci-fi and horror.
Jones: That Doctor Doom story was so short that it didn’t really leave much of a lasting impression for me. I feel like Gerry Duggan and Laura Braga were starting to develop an idea before it prematurely ended without leaving something for me to think about.
Grunenwald: There’s definitely more Duggan and Braga could have done with the premise for that story. As it is now, as a six-page tale, it’s a fun diversion. I imagine it’s tough to tell stories of any great depth in so short a span of pages.
Jones: That’s about the point where the issue lost me, and it never quite found that cheesy tone matching ‘The Eyes Have It’ again. I found ‘Punisher of the Night’ to have a particularly redundant script, and ‘Haunted Mansion’ was also incredibly forgettable. At the end of the day, the issue is loaded with filler and could have served as an interesting place for Marvel to launch some new talent with all the names working on it.
Grunenwald: I appreciated the tone that writer Jay Baruchel took with the Punisher story, presenting it almost like an Edgar Allan Poe tale, but the art from Luca Pizzari didn’t match the tone of the script at all, and the whole thing ended up feeling kind of tedious. ‘Haunted Mansion’ was cute, and I liked artist Bob Quinn’s art on it quite a bit. Quinn’s work reminded me of early Humberto Ramos with a dash of Art Adams mixed in. Really solid story-telling and expressive characters. Overall, though, I think I agree with you that a majority of the stories were pretty forgettable.
Jones: I think the issue could have benefited from having more Avengers stories and a little more cohesion across the board. DC and Marvel are putting out a lot of these anthologies these days and this issue can lazily join the fray.
Grunenwald: The title is somewhat misleading. There are surprisingly few Avengers in this comic. Just call it the Marvel Halloween Special and be done with it.
Jones: I completely agree with you. Are you ready to give the issue a final verdict?
Grunenwald: This comic, like I said at the beginning, is something of a mixed bag. The Daredevil story that opens the issue is great, and the remaining stories are generally interesting ideas executed to varying degrees of success. At the end of the day, though, this is a $5 comic, so mileage will definitely vary on whether people want to pick it up or not. I’d give it a WEAK BROWSE.
Jones: I think you can safely tuck this one under the welcome mat and serve your Trick-or-Treaters some real candy. SKIP.
Final Verdict: The Rundown is unenthused. Joe says WEAK BROWSE, Alexander says SKIP.
Written by Ed Brisson
Illustrated by Ibraim Roberson and Neil Edwards
Colored by Carlos Lopez
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Alexander Jones: AJ, Old Man Logan #50 is here and it is good again! What did you think about the milestone issue?
AJ Frost: Hey there, Alex. Nice speaking with you again! Old Man Logan is one of those Marvel properties that really fluctuates in terms of quality. Some runs are brilliant, others are downright ludicrous. I think that this issue is a bit of both. I found the story to be absolutely off-the-walls bonkers, but I was really absorbed with the artwork. So, all in all, kinda a mixed bag.
Jones: I feel like I know what this issue is trying to do, and it is almost compelling, but Maestro isn’t as captivating as writer Ed Brisson wants us to think he is. That being said, the aesthetic and direction of the issue is fascinating and exactly the kind of risk I want Marvel to be taking with Old Man Logan. If this character is really different from the original Wolverine, show us why!
Frost: Yeah, totally. Marvel seems to have some kind of sadistic fetish with Old Man Logan. He’s always bound up in something. Of course, in this book, he’s also bound up in a revolution, which I thought was a pretty interesting development. Maestro’s arc was not the most compelling, but he’s amusing in an old-fashioned villain type of a way. There’s no nuance to him, he’s just bad, which is a nice contrast to Old Man Logan’s ambiguous ideological leanings. It made for some good tension.
Jones: I definitely enjoyed the direction Brisson was trying to take with the title and high concept for Maestro being king of Fort Wells, Canada. This issue had some strong fight scenes that were really well drawn by the creative team, but I found them lacking a certain amount of tension.
Frost: The art was good. Reminded me so much of the art that Andrea Sorrentino did on his run with Jeff Lemire (which remains a highlight run for me). I think harking back to that style created a sort of accessibility with those jumping in between runs. For what it’s worth, I definitely enjoyed the art more than the narrative for this book.
Jones: While I appreciated what both Ibraim Roberson and Neil Edwards brought to the issue from an artistic perspective, they didn’t quite carry the sheer perspective and aesthetic that Sorrentino brings to every single comic he works on. I wasn’t looking for something oozing with style, but something that evokes an emotion on a completely different wavelength from the artistic team. Maybe my standards are just too high, what do you think?
Frost: You definitely have high standards, but you should have them anyway. I thought the art was reminiscent of Sorrentino more than being a straight copy. Great mix of big action and some quieter moments, but the highlights were all in the splash pages. What this book lacks in substance, it definitely has in machismo.
Jones: I think that this comic has a lot of great things going for it. The one big issue I can see is how Brisson did not take the time to set up Maestro’s operation more in-depth. It would have been great to really get into the nitty-gritty of the issue and understand how he came to rule these people. As it stands, there is some tension with Maestro but I never felt it hit a breaking point as I’ve seen in other books or great seasons of television.
Frost: Because this was the 50th issue, I felt that the creative team tried to cram a bunch of different story threads to make a chaotic whole. Do you think this was the case?
Jones: I think the status quo was definitely forced, but I did like the direction the title was attempting to pull off. I feel this set of creators was maybe not as strong or experienced enough to execute the final sequences in the book. I really like where the issue ended up and think that a shake-up could be what the comic needed after all.
Frost: Agreed. I thought there was a lot of oomph in this comic, but also a lot of blandness in the storytelling. An interesting divergence. So, what’s your verdict on this book?
Jones: I think it’s a good title with lots of ambition. I give it a BORROW.
Frost: I’m in the same frame of mind. I think a BROWSE is good for this milestone issue.
Final Verdict: The Rundown stands united on the merits of Old Man Logan #50 with a BROWSE verdict.
Next week, celebrate the return of Marvel Knights with us!