Wednesday, October 17, 2012



"Everything Burns" comes to a conclusion with Loki and Thor outwitting Surtur and halting his nihilistic plan. After meticulously weaving their summer crossover, the co-writers try to ambitiously wrap it up, settling for an ending akin to a typical coda for a "Journey to Mystery" story. The crossover certainly needed a wider and grander exit, but there is still a chance that the upcoming last issues of both Thor and Loki's titles will be able to smoothen the anti-climax.

The co-writers are certainly to be lauded for having Wilson and his Engels play a role in the Muspelheim gambit. Since coming to the fore, Surtur has largely overshadowed the other parts of the conflict, thus it makes sense that one of his allies would end up being key in his downfall. Unfortunately, the underrepresented Vanir receive no such coda, being relegating to the thematic resolution between Odin and "Frigga".

The focus on Surtur comes as no surprise given the threat he represents. Since Walt Simonson reintroduced the character as a major foe for the first third of his run, the publisher has been in a unique situation. The writer/artist had produced a  villain on the scale of Galactus, at the same time forcing Marvel into the same situation regarding the cosmic level threat. His rare appearances in the following decades attest to the fact that it's hard to find a story that justifies the scope involving the ultimate nihilist, with each defeat doing away with a bit of credibility when it comes to the threat he poses for the Nine Worlds.

Having the character use the phrase "I am your doom" twice in the space of two pages (no matter the emphasis) almost relegates him to a cartoon villain. Confining him to Muspelheim's caves and attacking the Asgardian armies with Twilight sword does little but establish him as a fire giant. His defeat is a foregone conclusion, and the heroes seem more concerned with where they will store the energy released in his fall.

Without the only visible losses once again relegated to a rare panel depicting the battles in the other realms, the co-writers have effectively put all their strengths into the trickery involved with bringing victory to Asgardia. Alan Davis certainly tries his best to make the scenes suitably epic, but the lack of proper dramatization relegates all his efforts to a reading of the script visualized in his style. The bizarre visual of Twilight's shadow grafted onto Mjolnir is a poor substitute for a heroic conclusion.

The trickery that the protagonists resort to amounts to a couple of overly verbose scenes tackling the mechanisms of Surtur's plot that have barely been mentioned since the story began. A crucial conversation between Loki and Wilson draws on the previous "Journey to Mystery" and quickly dissolves into endless exposition regarding the internal logic that seems primarily of interest to Gillen and Fraction. It doesn't help that Davis has trouble adjusting to Richard Elson's design of Wilson, with the scene saved primarily by the veteran artist's command of body language.

The co-writers make an effort to have Thor devise the final part of the plan, resulting in a scene that determines Odin's role following the crossover. The stylized dialogue is to blame for robbing the sequence of its proper impact, but even this is overshadowed by the increasingly experimental conclusion. Three whole pages are devoted to nothing more than a gag setting up the epilogue with a few irreverent lines and no art.

What follows basically sets up Loki's last adventure in the next issue of "Journey to Mystery", and feels largely extraneous to the wider crossover. Having Hellstorm, an unlikely supporting character in Gillen's run on the title announce that Thor's half-brother still has a one final crisis to, while hinting at the character's true nature has little bearing on the immediate aftermath of the mini-event. A true reunion with Volstagg and the rest of Asgardians would have provided for a more natural ending to the crossover.

As it stands, Marvel will likely be collecting the final issues of both "the Mighty Thor" and this iteration of "Journey to Mystery" along with the bulk of the mini-event, explaining the somewhat truncated ending of the crossover proper. Hopefully, Gillen will find space for more scenes involving Leah, as her interactions with Loki have been a highlight of this issue, possessing a human quality lacking in the interactions between the rest of the cast.


What started out as a tedious mini-event has, after the largely entertaining sophomore issue, turned once more in the direction of randomness and irrelevance. At this point, the story seems scattered, with the primary players scattered around Microverse, a fantasy locale wholly unprepared for the symbiotic horrors.

The story tries to reassert Carnage as the chaotic murderer who does away with his Microverse hosts, with Bunn content to dismiss with the characters before the reader is has gotten accustomed to their strange character designs. Shalvey, the regular artist of "Venom" proves particularly adept at illustrating Kasady, whose elongated body is constantly boiling with madness. The writer/artist seems somewhat less convincing when called to illustrate fight scenes featuring Micronauts (calling themselves "Enigma Force", as per the recent Hulk mini-series), leading to dense pages with unclear layouts.

Both Venom and Scarlet Spider narrate their own scenes, with Venom's creative team being a chief factor in individualizing this chapter of "Minimum Carnage". The writer instills more of a challenge in Flash's scenes, given that symbiotes seem to be harmful to Microverse, but even than the conflict seems obligatory. Having Bunn make the protagonists comment on the arbitrary nature of their predicament has the opposite of the intended effect, and brings to the fore the main problems with the crossover.

Why are these characters interacting with Microverse? The story tries to link the alien nature of their symbiotes to the science fiction world they found themselves in, but the remits of the crossover preclude the creator's ability to do the requisite world building. In theory, placing Carnage in Microverse means that the character can do much more damage when compared to the confines of Marvel's New York centric universe, but so far the mini-event hasn't really been able to exploit this.

The chief source of intrigue in the story so far stems from the role of the ambiguous Redeemer, who instills a dose of mystery regarding his identity and the role in the wider story. To arrive to the middle point of the crossover and still be largely kept in the dark regarding the stakes and importance of the story beyond the need to get the Spider-Man supporting characters together and have them exit the dimension is very curious. On one hand, Marvel seems willing to slowly reintroduce the Micronauts characters to their broader audience, but "Minimum Carnage" is surely the wrong place for it (not to mention that a ongoing "Enigma Force" title could hardly be expected to succeed in the current market).

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