Sunday, May 20, 2007

Stripping Down #17

Wolverine & Deadpool #137 (Panini UK)
“Enemy Of The State” by Mark Millar, John Romita Jr. & Klaus Janson (Wolverine (v2) #25)

“The Gehenna Stone Affair” by Peter David, John Buscema & Bill Sienkiewicz
(Wolverine (v1) #14)

“Great Men” by Joe Kelly, Anthony Williams & Andy Lanning (Deadpool #22)

Enemy Of The State concludes as S.H.I.E.L.D. race to foil Hydra’s plot to assassinate the US president and Wolverine faces off against his own team-mates…with fatal consequences for one. Actually, the death of an X-Man – Northstar – isn’t quite the shocking event that it probably was in the States. For UK readers, this is pretty much the former Alpha Flight stalwart’s first and last appearance as an X-Man, given that Essential X-Men have skipped the run of stories that Northstar has appeared in. As such, there’s been little chance to develop empathy for the character or understand his relationship, or contribution to, the X-Men. That said, there’s no denying that it’s a well written sequence within a wholly enjoyable series and proof (if any be needed) that writer Mark Millar is firing on all cylinders here. John Romita Jr’s art is similarly impressive, though it’s interesting to note his depiction of George Dubya as a lithe, canny, even 1970s period Charlton Heston-esque figure. Without having a clue as to Romita Jr’s political leanings, it’s difficult to know if this ‘heroic’ rendition of the US president is the result of patriotism, rose-tinted artistic licence or editorial pressure… Speaking of creative teams, the trio responsible for archive strip The Gehenna Stone Affair seem to be having fun. Writer Peter David is clearly poking at some of predecessor Chris Claremont’s more bloated narrative conceits, not least Wolverine’s questionable ‘Patch’ alias, which is wisely ditched this issue. Bill Sienkiewicz’s inking adds an abrasiveness to John Buscema’s otherwise smooth flowing visuals, to great effect. In the Deadpool strip, British artists Anthony Williams and Andy Lanning provide an excellent fill-in, as The Merc With A Mouth encounters Cable. Joe Kelly pulls together a number of plot threads in preparation for next issue’s much anticipated Dead Reckoning. Whilst frequently derided on the letters page as overly quirky or comical, Deadpool is in fact a real asset, delivering a surprising amount of light and shade, both in the stories themselves and Wolverine And Deadpool as a whole.

Wolverine & Deadpool #138 (Panini UK)
“Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” by Mark Millar, John Romita Jr. & Klaus Janson. (Wolverine (v2) #26)
“The Gehenna Stone Affair” by Peter David, John Buscema & Bill Sienkiewicz
(Wolverine (v1) #15)

“Dead Reckoning” by Joe Kelly, Walter McDaniel & various(Deadpool #23)

There’s plenty to enjoy in the lead strip, a sequel to Enemy Of The State. The story opens with a flashback to The Gorgon’s meteoric rise to power within first The Hand and then Hydra. The second half , set on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, is split between the agency’s efforts to recondition Wolverine and a climatic aerial assault by Hydra’s horde of resurrected superhumans, Elektra and Northstar included. Gripping stuff, to say the least. The penultimate episode of The Gehenna Stone Affair is pretty much an issue long melee. Still, when it’s a John Buscema drawn melee, then the fun is in spotting how many different directions the hapless opponents will be punched or flung from each panel. Finally, Deadpool faces his Dead Reckoning though Tiamat, the mother of all alien adversaries, is still lurking in the shadows. As always, Joe Kelly’s script deftly balances exposition, humour and tension, making for a fast paced tale that doesn’t leave the reader behind. Equally importantly, the script gives all of the characters, especially Deadpool and cadaver-like precognitive Montgomery, room to breathe. Walter McDaniel delivers strong pencil art, though a trio of inkers don’t really get the best out of his work. Despite that, Dead Reckoning promises to be the best of a the series so far and that’s saying something.

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