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Tag Archive: Brian Michael Bendis


We’ve had a great response here at borg to our complete checklist of the variant covers for the 80th anniversary of Batman and benchmark 1000th issue of his long-standing comic book series, Detective Comics Check it out here if you missed it.  The cover art, especially when merged with the variety of historical and modern title art and legends, makes for one attractive looking book, whichever copy you go for.  At least one of the ten main covers will provide a dose of nostalgia and excitement for any Batman fan.  But for $9.99 is it worth the price?  Can you tell the book by its 84 covers?

Incorporating eleven short stories and three pin-ups with a variety of stories, themes, and eras, this anthology is tilted in favor of the modern dark knight detective over the versions of the character from his first decades in print (Batman TV fans have several Batman ’66 comic book series to turn to for the lighter fare).  Is the issue epic?  That’s in the eye of the beholder.  Groundbreaking?  Probably not.  But it’s a fun read, and using mixed pairs of writers and artists–a few classic pairs and a few nice change-ups from then and now–it’s a great exercise in searching out what works and what works really well for DC Comics’ editorial department.  Love a particular story or visual style?  Surprise–you the reader now have new creators to keep an eye on in future series.

Becky Cloonan’s Batman from Detective Comics #1000.

You might find your next favorite creators in “Batman’s Longest Case,” with writer Scott Snyder and artists Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion, the kind of story you think of when you see Batman as master detective.  Writer Kevin Smith pulled out the stops for his team-up with Jim Lee and Scott Williams in “Manufacture for Use,” including one of those great splash pages Lee/Williams fans can’t get enough of.  Artist Becky Cloonan delivered the biggest visual win with a flawless Batman: Year One-inspired Frank Miller style in one panel and a cool Bernie Wrightson caped crusader in another, matched nicely with Jordie Bellaire‘s colors in the story “The Batman’s Design.”  Tight writing and story make for an exceptional contribution from writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev called “I Know,” probably the best writing of the book.  I’ll admit I was hoping for a Jim Aparo, Gene Colan, or Marv Wolfman homage (they defined the look of the Batman of my youth), but it wasn’t to be this time.  But based on this issue, who would I like to see in an ongoing monthly?  Brian Michael Bendis and Becky Cloonan.  And my favorite part of the book?  That goes to Mikel Janin‘s take on Batman with Joker and the Riddler in his one-page pin-up, which stopped me in my tracks, and should have been a variant cover option.  More, please!

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Detective Comics, the title DC Comics took its name from, first hit the shelves of newsstands just before March 1937, 26 months before Batman would first appear in the famous Issue #27 in May 1939.  This Wednesday the monthly comic book’s landmark Issue #1000 is arriving, and it’s going to be packed with content from several writers and artists.  It’s 96 pages in all, including the first appearance outside video games of Arkham Knight.  And as you’d expect, DC Comics is releasing the issue with several covers (our count below is a whopping 84 or about a cover for each year Detective Comics has been in print!), including a standard cover, a set of decade-inspired covers, both a blank sketch cover and new black edition, retailer incentives featuring logos or no logos, and several limited, exclusive shop, convention, and creator store variants.  More than a few are simply stunning, and this is the rare mass cover event where the final regular cover set (10) includes several works as interesting or better than the exclusives (the Frank Miller with the classic title art really takes us back to the 1980s).  Check them all out below–all 100 images including art without logos–with links to where to buy them (exclusives that haven’t sold out in pre-sales).

Writers for stories in Detective Comics Issue #1000 include Brian Michael Bendis, Paul Dini, Warren Ellis, Geoff Johns, Tom King, Christopher Priest, Dennis O’Neil, Kevin Smith, Scott Snyder, Peter J. Tomasi, and James T Tynion IV.  Interior artists include Neal Adams, Greg Capullo, Tony S. Daniel, Steve Epting, Joëlle Jones, Kelley Jones, Jim Lee, Doug Mahnke, Alex Maleev, Alvaro Martinez, and Dustin Nguyen.

DC Comics did a nice job of pulling out creators defining each decade, with Steve Rude (1930s), Bruce Timm (1940s Detective Comics #69 homage), Michael Cho (1950s), Jim Steranko (1960s), Bernie Wrightson (1970s), Frank Miller (1980s), Tim Sale (1990s), Jock (2000s), and Greg Capullo (2010s)–all appear to only be available with the trade “Detective Comics” logo (but we’ve included images of the original art below).  DC Comics publisher Jim Lee is back again with the standard cover, a wraparound design.  The rest reflect a crazy big stack of variants by everyone and anyone, most available with the Detective Comics logo (with “trade” logo) or without logo (“virgin”), some in black and white, some with sketch art, some with foil cardstock.  The following are all the non-standard variant artists and where to get them (we heard an Andy Kubert cover may be out there, but could not confirm this): Neal Adams (three designs, NealAdams.com), Jay Anacleto (trade, virgin, and B&W) (Unknown Comic Books), Kaare Andrews (trade only, no virgin-only edition confirmed) (Third Eye), Artgerm (trade, virgin, retro) (Forbidden Planet), Lee Bermejo (virgin, trade) (Midtown), Brian Bolland (trade, virgin, B&W) (Forbidden Planet), Greg Capullo (gold foil version of his 2010s cover) (WonderCon variant), Clayton Crain (virgin, trade) (Scorpion Comics), Tony S. Daniel (trade, no virgin-only) (artist website, Comic Stop), Gabriele Dell’Otto (trade, silver virgin, and gold convention) (Bulletproof), Jason Fabok (trade, virgin, B&W) (Yesteryear Comics), Riccardo Federici (trade, virgin) (ComicXposure), Pat Gleason & Alejandro Sanchez (trade, virgin, B&W) (Newbury Comics), Adam Hughes (trade, virgin) (Frankie’s Comics), Jee-Hyung Lee (trade, virgin, B&W) (Frankie’s Comics), Dan Jurgens & Kevin Nowlan (sketch, line art, and color versions) (Dynamic Forces), Mike Lilly (trade-only, no virgin cover) (Comics Vault), Warren Louw (virgin, trade) (KRS Comics), and Doug Mahnke (trade, virgin) (Planet Comicon).

Plus there’s Francesco Mattina (trade, virgin) (Midtown), Mike Mayhew (trade, virgin) (The Comic Mint), Stewart McKenny (trade, we couldn’t locate anyone selling the virgin cover) (Comics Etc.), Dawn McTeigue (virgin, trade) (Comics Elite), Rodolfo Migliari (trade, retro trade, virgin) (BuyMeToys.com), Lucio Parrillo (trade, virgin) (Scorpion Comics), Alex Ross (two covers) (via his website), Natali Sanders (virgin, trade) (KRS Comics), Nicola Scott costume match design to her Superman image for Action Comics #1000 (trade, virgin) (Kings Comics), Bill Sienkiewicz (two designs, signed or not, one in trade, one virgin, via his website), Mico Suayan (trade, virgin) (Unknown Comic Books), Jim Lee & Scott Williams (midnight release vertical and convention silver foil, B&W, and four villain designs) (Torpedo Comics, Bedrock City Comics, Graham Crackers).

Want to see them all?  Here goes:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Happy New Year!  Let’s start the year off with a look at a great new inside look at the holiday season’s biggest hit movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseCompared to most “art of the movie” books reviewed here at borg, a new behind-the-scenes book offers up a very different, modern update to our understanding of creating concept art for the cinema.  The book is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — The Art of the Movie by Ramin Zahed, an account of the design development and visual production process for this latest Sony Pictures Animation/Marvel partnership.

Concept art, sketches, and storyboards take on a different flare when you’re in the digital animation tech of today.  But the images still reflect that powerful, colorful, and dynamic feel in their formation of a brand new superhero universe.  Readers will find hundreds of images of developmental artistry behind the film, plus read exclusive interviews with the creators, including a foreword prepared by Miles Morales co-creator Brian Michael Bendis.

As we found with George Lucas’s groundbreaking selection of screen captures or frames found in his multi-volume book Star Wars Frames (reviewed here at borg), studying the selected individual frames from the new Spider-Verse reveals a film on par with the composition of the future world of Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner–a city that is realistic, yet futuristic and still obviously sourced in comic books.  It’s a gorgeous movie–and the action sweeps by so quickly that most will miss the artistry found in Miles’ graffiti, storyboard sequences, and the nooks and crannies of each set layout.  Set decoration takes on a new approach, as does prop design, art direction, and costuming, in Into the Spider-Verse.

You can also pick up a rare edition of the book, limited to 175 copies, complete with one of the prop comic books made for the film (pictured above) hand-inked by Marcelo Vignali and a signed tip-in sheet by Christopher Miller, Phil Lord, and artists from the film.  Check that out and the details at the Titan Books website here.  Take a look at this 12-page preview of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — The Art of the Movie, courtesy of Titan Books:

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Eighty years ago Superman first hit neighborhood newsstands in Issue #1 of Action Comics–an issue that if you kept your copy could pay off your house, car, and retirement.  The cover was dated June 1938, but it was in kids’ hands first on April 18, 1938.  DC Comics is celebrating Superman’s big anniversary this week with a celebratory issue of Action Comics numbered 1000, created by some of DC’s top writers and artists, an anthology of stories just as you’d find in Action Comics’ first 500 issues.  The 1,000 issues is spot-on with the number of Action Comics issues released, but those counting the months since 1938 will come up short:  Action Comics shifted from a monthly to a bi-weekly once upon a time, and you won’t find numbered issues #905-956, which were replaced by 52 issues of the New 52 reboot numbering 1-52.  For American comic book fans, there’s something special about holding this issue in your hands.  It’s no small feat seeing such a truly undisputed iconic character get to this point.

The 80-page giant issue is one not to pass up.  For current fans, it’s a ramp-up to Brian Michael Bendis’s writing run beginning with the complete issue #1001.  For everyone else, it’s a nostalgic trip via variant covers and dozens of classic and modern creators offering up stories about the Man of Steel.  The writers?  Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, Marv Wolfman, Paul Levitz, Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Scott Snyder, Tom King, Louise Simonson, Paul Dini, Brad Meltzer, and Brian Michael Bendis.  The artists? Dan Jurgens, Pat Gleason, Curt Swan, Neal Adams, Olivier Coipel, Rafael Albuquerque, Clay Mann, Jerry Ordway, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, John Cassaday, Jim Lee, Norm Rapmund, Butch Guice, Kurt Schaffenberger, Kevin Nowlan, Scott Williams, Hi-Fi Color, Alejandro Sanchez, Dave McCaig, Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Laura Martin, and Alex Sinclair.  Cover artists include Steve Rude, Michael Cho, Dave Gibbons, Michael Allred, Jim Steranko, Joshua Middleton, Dan Jurgens, Kevin Nowlan, Lee Bermejo, Dave Dorman, George Perez, Neal Adams, Jim Lee (providing the main cover and two variants), Curt Swan, Felipe Massafera, Nicola Scott, Jock, Oliver Coipel, Jason Fabok, Kaare Andrews, Gabrielle Dell’Otto, Artgerm, Tyler Kirkham, Pat Gleason, Francesco Mattina, Ken Haeser, Doug Mahnke, and Tony S. Daniel.  Check out images of all the variant covers below.  Our favorite?  Danielle Dell’Otto’s take on Christopher Reeve at the Fortress of Solitude, and Pat Gleason’s cover, which includes Krypto.

   

Some comic book stores are holding events to celebrate the Man of Steel’s big day.  This Saturday if you’re in the Kansas City area head on over to Elite Comics, where you can pick up copies of Issue #1000 plus a limited exclusive Superman print (shown above) by artist Bryan Fyffe, a nationally-recognized artist whose licensed works include projects for Disney and Star Wars.  Or check out your own neighborhood store.

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Phil Noto Black Widow

The last day of the year is finally here, and with that the last of our reviews of the best content of 2014.

We’ve previewed comic books each month thanks to publishers like Dynamite Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, and Image.  We sample the best of all that Marvel and DC Comics has to offer, too, and although we don’t have enough time to review everything we review those titles we think our readers might like to check out, especially those with a sci-fi, fantasy, or retro angle.  And we read plenty of books–sci-fi and fantasy, pulp and spy novels, movie and TV tie-ins, even Westerns and steampunk, as well as non-fiction books about movies, TV, and other genre topics.  This past month we have looked again at these titles, as we narrowed our selections to what we think are the very best.  So here are our picks for Best in Print for 2014.

Black-Widow-5

Best Comic Book Series — Black Widow, Marvel Comics.  We were wondering early on what would take the place of Fraction and Hollingsworth’s Hawkeye series for the most satisfying superhero fix.  It didn’t take long to see this other Marvel series looking at another superhero in a similarly personal–but very different–way.  It was a standout in a great year of comics.  Phil Noto’s art and colors were incredible and Nathan Edmondson’s story didn’t let up once.  Full of action, espionage, and intrigue.  A great series to catch-up on in a trade edition.  See our reviews of the series here and here.

AfterlifeWithArchie_07-0

Best Comic Book Mini-Series — Afterlife with Archie, Archie Comics.  Who would have guessed someone could make Archie and friends so accessible to any demographic in the 2010s?  And whose brilliant idea was doing it via a horror genre story of zombies taking over Riverdale?  Smart writing by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and spooky atmospheric illustrations by Francesco Francavilla made for a sumptuous series like no other.  Not technically a mini-series, it feels like one because of its staggered release.  See our earlier raves about the series here.

Wilds End issue 1

Best Comic Book Writing – Dan Abnett, Wild’s End, BOOM! Studios.  Abnett’s Wild’s End really caught us by surprise.  An incredible fantasy read that is truly unique from BOOM! Studios.  Anthropomorphic characters with incredible archaic dialogue that’s witty and smart.  A crazy mash-up of War of the Worlds, Christopher Robin’s neighborhood, and the dark edge and high stakes of Revival.  We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of this series.  Check out our earlier review here.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Annual 1

On the comic books shelves this month is Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1–one of those rare issues that matches a stellar cover artist with a stellar interior artist.  In this case both of those people are Frank Cho.  When Frank Cho creates a complete end-to-end book, he always provides something to attract readers, both with his stunning characters, action-packed panels, and subtle visual humor.  We saw this last year with his exciting run on the Savage Wolverine series.  That same quality of artwork is matched here with the comparable writing prowess of Marvel’s Guardians scribe, Brian Michael Bendis.  And the result is a fun, powerhouse read, and a darned-near perfect book.

Often annuals are quick stories that don’t offer much memorable.  They’re gimmicky efforts to sell another issue behind a monthly series.  The Guardians’ first annual is not like that.  It will stick with you as a story you want to know more about, with ramifications you would love to see play out in future books.

Guardians Annual 1 excerpt

The standard Guardians of The Galaxy team is here.  It’s a team both readers of the series and film fans will be familiar with, both in look and via their dialogue and mannerisms: Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot.  Added here for great fun is Ms. Marvel/Carol Danvers and Spidey-verse superhero Venom.  They encounter a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier in space, which prompts them to meet up with the likes of the classic Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan, and a team of other familiar heroes, who introduce a dark menace to the Guardians team.

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Guardians of the Galaxy new 2014 poster

Review by C.J. Bunce

In the past three hours Walt Disney Studios released a new “teaser for a trailer” that premieres Monday, May 19, 2014, and promotes a live Q&A with the cast (details below).  Guardians of the Galaxy won’t arrive in theaters until August 1, 2014, so we still have some waiting to do.  If you missed the first trailer, check it out here.  It’s one of the best previews for a superhero film we’ve seen in years.  But while you’re waiting for the movie, you’ll want to read two great trade editions of a Guardians of the Galaxy series that will give you some background for this motley band of space rogues.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Cosmic Avengers provides an update to these characters from the Marvel Comics stories of years past.  It collects the four issue “Cosmic Avengers” mini-series and the one-shot “Tomorrow’s Avengers” stories from 2013’s Marvel NOW! line.  Forget about mainstream, title-character superheroes.  The Guardians are exciting and down-right fun.  As a hook to bring these B-level heroes into the fore, Iron Man joins forces with the Guardians to protect the Earth from a nicely orchestrated attempt to eliminate Earth from the Galaxy’s stage prompted by a King from another world.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-1

That King of Spartax visited Earth 30 years ago while he was very young, had a brief encounter with a woman, and a boy was later born—Peter Quill aka Star-Lord.  Quill grows to dislike his dad, who he encounters years later.  Along the way he meets up with Gamora, the daughter of the well-known Marvel villain Thanos, known as “the most dangerous woman in the universe”.  Then there is the very large Drax the Destroyer, killer of Thanos, and a wrecking ball of an adversary. Which leaves the two best characters of the troupe, Rocket, a snarky, cocky, walking and talking raccoon with a vendetta against everything and everyone, and his trustee partner Groot, a brawny, walking and talking tree, whose only speech is the phrase “I am Groot” but who can be interpreted (via inflection, I’ll bet) to be saying any number of things by Rocket (think Han and Chewbacca).  (Can’t wait to see how Vin Diesel gets to play Groot).

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

I’ve gotten in and out of reading comic books several times in my life.  I couldn’t tell you where the comic book store was when I lived in Columbia, MO.  I found one when I lived in Delaware.  There wasn’t one for miles when I lived in the mountains (but I found a baseball card shop).  I knew of and visited at least six comic book stores when I lived in Kansas City and I visit about the same number in Los Angeles.  I’ve visited them when I’ve made brief stops in London, England and Austin, Texas.  I had subscriptions to several Marvel titles when I was in junior high and didn’t have to worry about getting my parents to take me to the comic store.  One day a comic would arrive in my mailbox covered in the plain brown paper wrapping that I would later associate closely with either comics or porn.

A map of comic book stores across the U.S.

Still, every walk into a store is like a step into a colorful, inedible candy shop and I start to wonder, what I’m going to take home in my brown paper bag.  I like recommendations quite a bit when I look for new things (and that’s why on Free Comic Book Day as I went to a few of my favorite stores, I picked up All-Star Western and Justice League Dark) but since my time in Kansas City, my main focus for when I look on the shelves of whichever store I find myself in, is new material by past favorite authors.  That’s why on Free Comic Book Day I also picked up Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, who has entertained me in several stories like Pride of Baghdad, Runaways and Y: The Last Man.  Saga looks to be a great start to another captivating yarn as I ripped through both issues I bought as I curled up to relax on Sunday night.

However, I must ask myself, is using the past a logical way to pursue entertainment?  Are past performances indicative of future returns, unlike financial instruments?  How can you tell when to jump off the creative train of a favorite author?

This reminds me of a game a friend and I play every now again based on the Fellini movie, 8 1/2.  The film deals with the creative process and my friend and I used it as a jumping off point to analyze the careers of creative people by asking, “Does X have eight unarguable classics to their name?”

It’s tougher than you think.  To be able to create eight works of art is an accomplishment in and of itself, and to make eight super-duper terrific things, well, that’s a rarefied air.  Of course, everyone has a different opinion of what a “classic” is, but we generally know that Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark are both Steven Spielberg classics, where War of the Worlds and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull don’t come close to reaching the same height.  Even though I’m not a huge Spielberg fan, he gets to eight relatively easily as you could add E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Catch Me if You Can to Jaws and Raiders and you get seven, though there are a few flaws, but I quibble.  Finding an eighth movie among The Color Purple, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Munich and Jurassic Park should be easy.  George Lucas on the other hand, I think he’s lucky to get two.  I suppose I’m saying that at this point, going to see a Spielberg film may be a bit more of a question mark than it was in the 90s, but if you gave me a choice between Spielberg and Lucas right now, there’s no question I would choose to see a Spielberg film.

Looking at my favorite movies over the past few years, Midnight in Paris has reinvigorated my belief in Woody Allen and I’m more likely to see his next film.  The quality of Marvel’s movies Thor, Captain America and The Avengers makes me more likely to go see non-sequels put out by Marvel Studios.  (Iron Man 2 still leaves a poor taste in my mouth. That’s what I get for licking the screen).  True Grit cemented my love of the Coen brothers, which I had before the movie as I’ve seen every one of their films.

My point?  If you like the creative work of a person, you’ll probably like their other work.  Looking at my bookshelf filled with several novels from Kurt Vonnegut, quite a few selections from Alan Moore and most every film by Wes Anderson, I probably didn’t need to do much thinking about it.  Still, it’s nice to come to that conclusion and know that when I roll into a comic store, I can find some Brian Michael Bendis, some Matt Fraction, some J. Michael Straczynski, some Neil Gaiman, some Jason, some Craig Thompson, some Daniel Clowes, some Kurt Busiek or many others and be happy when I get home, turn on the lamp and snuggle beneath my covers.  Plus, there’s always a chance I can stumble onto many more authors in the future through sheer luck, the recommendations of friends or the recommendations of the people I meet while wandering the aisles at my local comic book stores.

Review by C.J. Bunce

Last week we reported on the early release of eagerly awaited new series Avengers vs. X-Men.  With the first issue upon us of Avengers vs X-Men we get to see Round One of the twelve rounds to be featured over 24 weeks in the main series, with 19 main issues, and 20 other Marvel Comics titles tying in to this AvX event.  Here are two checklists to help you keep track (click to enlarge):

        

Spoilers ahead!

Issue #1 starts out with a bang, a big bang, as the Phoenix Force is launched from far away on a trajectory toward Earth.  In front of that force hurtling toward our planet is Nova, a character long-feared dead who ends up causing the destruction of the Empire State Building in New York City as he plunges to the Earth’s surface, taking an airliner down with him.  The status of any lives taken is unknown, but the Avengers, including Ms. Marvel, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Protector, Black Widow, Beast, Captain Britain, Valkyrie and a few others, do their best to quickly mitigate the losses.

Meanwhile we learn that Cyclops is busy training Hope, who was the focus of the prologue for Avengers vs. X-Men in Issue #0.  Hope is understandably frustrated, believing that the Phoenix Force is somehow targeting her, and the X-Men will not help her adequately with answers.  Hope carries an energy signature similar to that of the Phoenix Force, and when she gets angry she sets this off, and the blast that is caused tips off the Avengers that they need to take some kind of action.

Captain America and Iron Man meet with the President and the joint chiefs in Washington, DC and explain the nature of the threat.

Captain America enlists the support of Wolverine and heads to the island of Utopia to take Hope into protective custody, but Cyclops has other plans.  Cyclops was once in love with Jean Grey, who became part of Phoenix and killed herself trying to contain the immense power of the Phoenix Force years ago.  So Cyclops thinks there is some special meaning in the arrival of the Phoenix Force, like it might be a good thing.  And there is no way he will release Hope to the Avengers.

The X-Men, including Emma Frost, Magneto, Colossus, and Namor, stand behind Cyclops’s effort to keep Captain America from taking Hope away.  Captain America is thrown back by Cyclops’s rays, but he has brought with him a ship full of the Avengers, and as this first issue concludes the first battle is upon us–a fight between the Avengers and the X-Men, over Hope.

This first chapter scripted by Brian Michael Bendis, but created by all the “Marvel Architects”–Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, and Matt Fraction–is well-paced.  The steps that occur are not complicated so there is no confusion and the story is easy to follow.  Despite the volume of characters, they, too, are easy to keep track of.  I wasn’t dazzled by John Romita, Jr.’s artwork in this issue–everything seems to “just happen” visually with little stylization, and there are no memorable single images that stand out.  But neither does the art stand in the way of the story, which has a lot to cram into the single issue page count.  All-in-all, so far, so good.  I’m reminded of the Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars limited series from decades ago, where readers get the pleasure of seeing the whole cast of characters in the Marvel Universe all as part of a common cause.

The crazy stand-out of this first issue are the several versions printed, including all these variants, some selling for $175 and up for the 1 in 200 exclusives.  Hopefully the hype settles and the coming issues simply take readers on a good ride.

Here is a checklist of the Avengers vs X-Men Issue #1 cover variations for all you completists out there:

Regular cover by Jim Cheung - Price $3.99

Avengers Team Common Variant - Price $3.99

X-Men Team Common Variant - Price $3.99

Sketch Cover Common Variant - $3.99

Midtown Comics Exclusive Wraparound Cover Side 1 - Price $8.00

Midtown Comics Exclusive Wraparound Cover Side 2 - Price $8.00

Ryan Stegman Incentive Variant Cover - Price $85

Hastings Stores Variant Cover - Price $8.00

Ryan Stegman Rare 1:200 Incentive Sketch Variant Cover - Price $175

John Romita, Jr. 1:25 Incentive Variant Cover - Price $15.00

Dynamic Forces Exclusive Variant Signed by Stan Lee (image may vary) - Price $399

Dynamic Forces John Romita, Sr. Signed Cover Edition (image may vary) - Price $69.99

Which version did I buy?  I got the first issue that Jason Aaron signed, with a note by Jason on the sketch cover version…

Review by C.J. Bunce

The world needs more Frank Cho.  Frank Cho got me interested in Ms. Marvel and The Mighty Avengers when I hadn’t bought a Marvel comic book in years.  And now Frank Cho has caused me to want to read more about the Scarlet Witch, Spider Woman, and a more recent X-Woman named Hope (actually they call her an X-Man, but that doesn’t quite work for me).

I was immediately surprised and pleased when I saw the display for the new prologue to Avengers vs. X-Men, Issue #0, because it is reminiscent of one of Frank Cho’s all-time best covers, that of the Scarlet Witch in the trade edition of Ultimates 3; Who Killed the Scarlet Witch, which I have not managed to pick up yet to read from the back issue stack.

So what I hope is that Avengers vs. X-Men will focus heavily on the focus of this prologue–equal parts redemption of the Scarlet Witch, who betrayed her husband Vision when we last saw her and devastated the mutant community, and the rest about a girl named Hope Summers, the so-called Mutant Messiah, whose story here follows a coming of age, breakaway from the status quo that feels very similar to Batgirl’s journey in DC Comics’ New 52 line-up.

What I thought this issue would cover is a lot of over-the-top brawling between Thor and Hulk and Iron Man and Wolverine, etc.  I was very happily surprised that wasn’t the case.  Since it does not appear that Frank Cho will be doing all the interiors for the actual AvX series, I just hope I am not disappointed in what comes next.

AvX #0 sold out practically instantly Wednesday across the country but no doubt the reprints will follow soon enough if you missed it.  It is a nice standalone issue, and can go firmly on the shelf next to the best of Cho’s Marvel pages.  You hear that writers write to the strength of the artists that they partner with, and it seems unlikely that Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron didn’t also follow suit here.   This book is chock full of what Cho draws best–not just voluptuous women, but superhero females in action, acting smart, acting tough, being cool in every way.  As I mentioned above, that means Scarlet Witch, Hope Summer, and Spider Woman, but it also means Ms. Marvel and Emma Frost make a solid appearance.  It also means that Bendis sent Cho a few lay-ups, with some dinosaur-tipped rockets fired at the Scarlet Witch courtesy of M.O.D.O.K. (that’s Mobile Organism Designed Only for Killing).  I think only Cho could pull that off, and he did it here.  If this work is what partially delayed Cho’s Guns & Dinos series, there was a great reason for the diversion, and his fans will be pleased with this latest entry.

There is some alpha and omega, yin and yang going on here, as Hope was the first mutant born after the Scarlet Witch turned all the mutants (except 198) into mere mortals.  Will these two get to deal with each other in the pages of AvX going forward?  I hope so.

In this issue, we had split writing duties, with Jason Aaron taking on the frustration of Hope against the always whiny and wimpy (and often annoying) Cyclops.  Brian Michael Bendis wrote the story of Scarlet Witch in her return to Marvel’s pages from a bit of a hiatus.  Both writers balance the story well and Cho’s art further keeps the issue cohesive.  It would be great if this trio took the reins for the entire series, but that is not the case.

What’s the coolest thing about Hope?  Along with having an interesting character voice, she has one of the best powers around–she can mimic the powers of others.  I remember thinking this was a great ability when I watched Peter use this power in the Heroes TV series.  Hope uses these powers to both use Cyclops’s rays against himself and to take out a motley group of baddies at the end of the book.  She also uses the classic head-butt maneuver to good effect in a classic scene found in this issue.  Aaron’s writing includes a number of funny and quirky moments for Hope–she is endearing.  And you instantly must side with Hope Summers against Scott Summers.  It’s the same style of writing that makes Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men successful.

Cho's original cover art is sadly partially obliterated by the AvX logo. Check out the angel in the background. Doesn't it look like the angel from the Fearless series?

Scarlet Witch–Wanda–never looked better (you just know she wears a Beltsville shirt in her down time).  She is back but wants to stay away from the Avengers.  But Carol Danvers aka Ms. Marvel insists she accompany her and Spider-Woman back to their friends.  The result is a long-and-coming encounter with her husband who turns her away, to the anger of Ms. Marvel, but the acceptance of Logan and Tony Stark.  Bendis is really good–you really feel bad for Wanda here in a short number of pages, both from the story and Cho’s visual portrayal.  And we are left with this prophecy that Hope will have to face the Phoenix… that she senses is coming toward her from far away.  Cho shows us that it is not just a prophecy but will be addressed in issues to come.

For AvX, this is a great start, using the powerhouse writing and art trio of Bendis/Aaron/Cho upfront.  Hopefully the rest of the creators at Marvel Comics will keep the momentum going as we will find out with the premiere of Issue #1 next week.  And more than anything this issue has made me want to catch up on past Cho trade books: Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn, Fear Itself: The Fearless, and The New Avengers.