On The Panel

Apr 7, 2014 | Posted by in Comics

Another comics round up, this one isn’t too late actually, not even a week.

What If? Age of Ultron #1

The What If comics have always been fun purely because of what they are – stories that explore alternate possibilities with no consequences that affect the main Marvel universe (Universe 616 to the nerdier among us). Through these one off stories we can find out what might happen if Gwen Stacy survived or if Aunt May was killed instead of Uncle Ben. The stories themselves are hit and miss because the writers often take massive liberties since the story ultimately doesn’t really matter. In some ways it’s Marvel’s version of The Twilight Zone.

This particular entry explores an alternate possibility during the disappointing event Age of Ultron (mercifully the movie of the same name due out next year isn’t at all based on this). The possibility being: What would happen if Janet Van Dyne -AKA The Wasp- was killed before Ultron was created? The answer according to this comic is that Ultron would commit maximum genocide, wiping out every member of the human race save for its creator Hank Pym. The idea being that Hank felt that The Avengers had failed Janet so instead of designing something to help them, he designs something to replace them. What follows is what usually follows in psycho AI stories, it tries to obliterate humanity and succeeds.

The story itself takes the form of a letter that Hank is writing to Janet despite the fact that she’s too dead to read it. This letter keeps him sane as he continues on a one man quest to obliterate Ultron once and for all. All in all I find this issue to be very effective in evoking a sombre tone and it’s easy to empathise with Hank and the struggles he’s had to endure as the last man on Earth. It’s not always easy to feel sorry for Hank Pym given his colourful past but this issue nails it in that regard. The imagery is very powerful despite the fact that it makes no real difference to anything and the varying Ultron models are cool to look at, there is definitely a distinct Terminator vibe which works very well here. I also found the twist ending to be really clever and totally fits with how soullessly wicked Ultron really is. All told a solid issue and nice disposable fun.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #200

Usually a milestone issue like this culminates in some sort of high stakes “battle to end all battles” scenario but this one takes a different turn. The focus of this issue is everyone who knew the deceased Peter Parker meeting up to celebrate his life. Some people like Tony Stark are unable to make it but he makes up for it by catering the event with food from a famous TV chef. J. Jonah Jameson can’t bring himself to enter the house and drives off which brings some nice reality too it, things like this are simply too hard for some people to face.

The issue has some great moments, one hilarious highlight is Miles Morales’ friend Ganke making something for Gwen Stacy that very much impresses her. We never find out what it is but her reaction is hilarious. I really enjoyed the different scenarios that people were imagining might take place if Peter Parker had lived on. Kitty Pryde’s fantasy of Peter’s potential future is particularly memorable.

Overall as a tribute to this universe’s dead Peter Parker this hits the target dead on. The issue is moving, funny and sums up the character of Peter perfectly. Seeing how he has touched the lives of those around him is great and Gwen’s idea to honour him by doing something selfless really hits home what that character is about. Brian Michael Bendis manages to make a story full of people talking immensely fascinating and dripping with emotion. I really can’t recommend this issue enough for fans of Ultimate Spider-Man.

A short review as I don’t have much to say about it other than it’s great. The influence and presence of Peter is felt in every panel and it’s great to see Gwen, Mary Jane, Aunt May and all the rest again since they have such a reduced role in Miles Morales’ adventures.

The Punisher (2014) #4

On the whole I’ve been really enjoying this relaunched Punisher series, it’s been doing a great job of presenting Frank Castle in a way that makes him accessible to new readers while still staying true to his past.

This issue continues the arc started in the first issue of this series, at this particular point he has been captured and is being tortured by Electro who is causing Castle’s memories to surface due to the constant shocking that his brain is receiving. Exposition is never pretty, especially for a character that people know so well buy it’s necessary to catch new readers up to what’s going on. This particular trigger for the exposition is very clever and allows Castle’s past to flow naturally from the events of the story.

Using Electro is also really interesting, he’s very much a lower tier Spider-Man villain but to someone like The Punisher, who has no powers of his own Electro could be a formidable foe. Castle more than holds his own against someone with powers which shows new readers just how smart and resourceful he is.

I’ve always liked The Punisher even though he’s something of a blank canvas as far as personality goes, he’s distant and unspeakably violent but also has a code of honour that he abides by unquestionably. I really like this series and I hope that this run of quality continues.