siegeSo, because I have unlimited income (read: I’m broke now), I went out and got a little crazy, picking up FOUR more Dark Reign related hardcovers to help me catch up on the Marvel Universe before the upcoming Siege event.  Check out my reviews of the previous books I read here, or by clicking the banner at right.

So what did I read?  Read all FOUR of my reviews after the jump!

The Punisher: Dark Reign

The Punisher: Dark Reign
Wow.  Just…wow.  You know, as much as I hate The Punisher as a character, he’s had some great writers and stories in his time.  Jim Lee, While Portacio, Erik Larsen, Mike Zeck, Matt Fraction, Ariel Olivetti and now, Rick Remender and Jerome Opena.  Because of it’s relation to Dark Reign (and my general distaste for the character), I didn’t pick up this series when it recently started (how many Punisher #1’s have there been in recent years, anyway?), but, based on the strength of Dark Reign – The List: Punisher, I decided to give the series a shot.

I wasn’t dissapointed.  I enjoyed Fraction’s run on Punisher War Journal, but this is probably the best Punisher I’ve read in years.  While still filled with plenty of humor (the blackest), this Punisher is dark, gritty, and intense.  The only negative I have on this read is that, reading it, it makes the recently started Vengeance of the Moon Knight seem like re-tread.  Many of the EXACT same story beats happen in the first couple of issues if The Punisher, and not only that, the artist is the same!  Not that that’s a bad thing – I’m officially a Jerome Opena fan.  His art on this series is nothing short of spectacular.

The real strength, though, is in the writing.  Rick Rememder (Fear Agent, Sorrow, XXXombies) seems to just “get” Frank Castle.  This is the smartest we’ve seen Frank in a while – cunning, ready to take on any adversary, planned ahead for any eventuality.  Almost like the Bruce Wayne Batman, really.  Remender writes a story that never lets up for the five issues contained in this trade – we get the return of a classic Punisher character, some great new supporting characters, and Punisher taking on an adversary he’s totally unmatched for – Norman Osborn.  Highly, HIGHLY recommended, especially since the second arc of the book, while without the strong arc of the first, is even more amazing, and absolutely heartbreaking for anyone familiar with the character’s tragic past.

Search for the Sorcerer Supreme

The New Avengers: Search for the Sorcerer Supreme
My favorite aspect of this storyline is that, as a result, we got the excellent Doctor Voodoo series that we’ve talked about on our podcast.  In Search for the Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange has come to realize that The Eye of Agamotto has chosen a new Sorcerer Supreme…but he doesn’t know who it is yet.  He stars seeking out different mystic members of the Marvel U, with the hope that the new SS isn’t Doctor Doom.  As we know by now, it’s not, but we get some cool guest appearances by Wiccan (from Young Avengers) and Doctor Voodoo in this storyline, and some big mystic action.

I enjoyed Search for the Sorcerer Supreme, but it wasn’t my favorite run on the book, primarily because the story felt like it missed beats that it was setting up.  We never get the Doctor Doom battle that we are expecting (because of how often he’s mentioned), but instead get a battle with The Hood which, while pretty decent, doesn’t really stick since The Hood is still doing dirty business.  I’m always fond of seeing Doctor Strange, and the pieces of storyline that are drawn by Chris Bachalo are my favorite aspects of this collection.  You just can’t beat Bachalo art, and the strength of it really makes Billy Tan’s art look weak by comparison.  I’m not a huge fan of Tan’s art on New Avengers.  It’s not bad, it’s just a little scratchy and awkward for such an important title.

As always, Bendis has some super awesome character moments in this storyline, including some great interaction between Spider-Man and Luke Cage that made me laugh out loud.  While the storyline does sideline the Avengers a bit to focus on Strange, I don’t mind.  My main complain on the book is the price tag – $20 for a 4-issue collection.  Shouldn’t trades be kind of a bargain?  If I hadn’t picked this up on sale, I would have been paying $5 per issue.  Cheaper to buy the floppies!

The covers for Secret Warriors are by the incomparable Jim Cheung.

Secret Warriors
Already one of, if not my definite, Marvel title.  Secret Warriors, co-written by Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman, has all the action of an Avengers book, with the action and intrigue we’d expect from a book with Nick Fury.  Revealed during Secret Invasion, Nick Fury’s Secret Warriors are either second-generation heroes, or young heroes in need of some direction.  Of course, that doesn’t mean Fury’s been sidelined – in fact, the team really ends up sitting on the sidelines for a good portion of the book, which is a good thing because Nick Fury in this book is the Fury we like to see  – kicking ass and … well, kicking some more ass!

At the end of the first book, Fury comes across a conspiracy that changes everything we know about the character.  The secret is so big that Fury can’t trust anyone, and pretty much has to go to war with the rest of the world – taking on both Hyrda AND Norman Osborn’s forces, while trying to build up an army of his own.  GD, this book is so good, it makes you wanna slap your grandma.  Seriously, this book is officially at the top of my read pile for as long as Hickman stays on it.  I really hope it doesn’t end when Dark Reign does.  Oh, and the art by Stefano Caselli (Hack/Slash) – gorgeous.  BUY THIS BOOK.

The art by Salvador Larroca shines in this book.

Iron Man: World’s Most Wanted, Volume I
I should have known this book was gonna be good when I saw Matt Fraction’s name was on the cover.  I ended by reading marathon with this book, and it kinda makes me sad that I passed up all of these books while they came out.  Still, I almost enjoy them more reading them collected, since I don’t have to wait a month between issues.  I mean, the cliffhangers on these things are killer!

World’s Most Wanted really almost reads like the “Empire Strikes Back” of the Iron Man saga (if such a thing existed).  Iron Man f*cked up – we all know it.  We all hated the guy during the Initiative/Civil War crap, and now he’s getting what we all knew was coming.  His company is going down – hard.  He’s been made into an outlaw.  His friends hate him, and he’s got nowhere to go anymore.  On top of things, he’s got the only database of all the secret identity’s of the world’s heroes…in his brain.  It’s inevitable that Osborn’s going to get his hands on Stark, so the only thing left to do is erase the database, by erasing his brain.  Yeah, it’s as crazy as it sounds, but Stark seems to have a plan.  This collection contains the first half of the storyline, and man … it’s intense and really has a sense of finality to it.  For the first time in a long time, I’m interested to see what’s going to happen next to the man of iron.