Monday, May 25, 2015

On the Shelf: What hath Secret Wars wrought?

Marvel's revival of Secret Wars is a sprawling mega-event, larger in scale than the original, which was published 31 years ago. This version is a rip-off, of a sort of DC's now legendary Crisis on Infinite Earths, which in turn marks its 30th anniversary this year.

What Marvel has done is put many of their regular books on hiatus for a few months, and subbing in a few miniseries set on what is known as Battleworld, the end result of two universes being destroyed by a now godlike Dr. Victor Von Doom. On a lark, I decided to try out two of these short-run series.

A-Force is an all-female Avengers team, headed up by She-Hulk. You may need to read Secret Wars itself to get a handle on what's going on here, but if it's girl power you want, you're getting that in excelsis. Problem is, the vibe I'm getting from this book isn't that strong.

Rating: C.

Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, is back in his own series. When he was introduced 40-odd years ago, Shang was posited as the son of Dr. Fu Manchu. However, sources tell me that Marvel never obtained a license from the estate of Sax Rohmer to use Manchu or any related characters, which explains in a nutshell why you'll never see a trade paperback reprint collection of the series. Now, Shang's dad is referred to as Emperor Zu. Still a big bad, but not quite on the level of Fu Manchu.

When we first see Shang in this story, he's uncharacteristically drunk. Perhaps a call-back to Jackie Chan's "Drunken Master", for all we know. Razor Fist, an old enemy, shows up out of costume, and doesn't recognize Shang at first. But, Shang sobers up rather quickly and does what he's always done to Razor Fist. That is, hand him a whooping. I've been a Shang-Chi fan since first picking up a copy of the original series on a lark back in the day. This will be a fun thrill ride. For now.

Rating: B.

A few years ago, Marvel let Howard Chaykin create his own set of Avengers. What this did was give Chaykin the opportunity to revisit his 1970's creation, Dominic Fortune, and team him with Nick Fury, Sabretooth (!),  Kraven the Hunter (!), and Golden Age star Blonde Phantom, among others. That was fine, but where Avengers 1959 crosses the border into camp silliness is the inclusion of a British agent who bears a passing resemblance to actor Patrick MacNee, whose own iconic Avengers is a favorite of mine dating back to the early days of cable. Luckily, Chaykin avoids the pitfall of making Fortune & Fury look too much alike, as most of his male leads tend to be appearing to be off an assembly line. Nice work if you can get it, but it drags at the end.

Rating: C.

We'll leave you with the first of the trailers for incoming comics-related primetime shows. Legends of Tomorrow will arrive this winter as relief for either Arrow or The Flash in much the same way Marvel & ABC use Agent Carter to spell Agents of SHIELD. I'll be surprised if this is not the case.

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