Let the monkey row: Douglas dips into some 12/17 Marvels

THOR GOD-SIZE SPECIAL #1 is a very pretty-looking comic, and I don't mind paying the $4 Marvel toll, even for a series I don't normally read, to get a 38-page Matt Fraction story plus a Walt Simonson reprint. (A 22-page story, on the other hand... well, I suspect I won't be buying certain titles much longer.) It's a Fraction riff on a particularly charged scene from 1985's THOR #362, which is the backup reprint, and it's got fancy high-gloss artwork from Dan Brereton, Doug Braithwaite and the previously-unknown-to-me Miguelángel Sepulveda, as well as Mike and Laura Allred doing their Allred thing. But only the Allreds' section looks anywhere near as interesting as the splintery power and scenery-chewing grandeur of the 23-year-old Simonson artwork; the other three artists are pretty much channeling a "painterly" look that I associate with the sub-Frazetta cover artwork of third-rate fantasy paperbacks from the '70s. And after I re-read the Simonson story, it started to bug me even more that Fraction's story was getting basically all its juice from nostalgia for a sequence that Simonson did perfectly well in six pages. EH, overall.

MIGHTY AVENGERS #20: Bendis's one-incident-per-issue schema for the Avengers tie-ins to Secret Invasion had its moments, but it ended up leaving a lot to be desired. This issue could have fleshed out the ending of SI, or set up something with Nick Fury's team of larvae that didn't end up doing much in SI proper, or given some kind of dramatic closure to the "government-affiliated Avengers team" concept that this series barely even touched under Bendis despite that being its ostensible premise, or clarified the multiple-stranded flashback structure of Bendis's SI material (within the story, rather than in Tom Brevoort's blog), or... anything. Instead, what happens? Hank berates Tony at Janet's funeral. That's it--and the five straight pages of clip-reel "remember our last few Big Event Comics?" in the middle are particularly maddening. AWFUL.

THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8: This, on the other hand is GOOD Fraction and a good setup for Dark Reign, even though my suspension cable snapped instantly at Dark Reign's premise. The obligatory action scene isn't much to speak of (Tony lifts a heavy thing! It doesn't go well!), but Fraction packs a lot of other lively stuff in there--a nice character sketch of Maria Hill, a heavily freighted moment between Tony and Pepper, Tony and Maria snark-flirting, Tony and Norman Osborn playing Number Six and New Number Two, and the setup of a credible conflict to drive the new storyline, accompanied by the eating of Chinese takeout. It snaps right along. I'm still not totally sold on Salvador Larroca's artwork--a little photo-ref, a little CGI-type near-reality, a little more photo-ref--but I'm getting used to it as the look of this series.