Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Savage Axe of Ares #1

The Savage Axe of Ares #1
Red Mercury by Gregg Hurwitz & C P Smith
The Gods Answer All Prayers by John Barber & Jefte Palo
Bonebomb Babylon by Ted McKeever
Wojna by Duane Swierczynski

*Contains minor spoilers for The Savage Axe of Ares and a major one for Siege #2*

Red Mercury opens up this anthology, and is probably my favourite of the bunch. The story follows a pair of “soviet turncoats” trying to get to the Yankees to sell them some McGuffin or other with Ares playing the role of their grim guardian angel. It feels like something from Weird War Tales and is the better for it if you ask me, it’s a creepy little tale, with a twist in the end that you can probably see from a mile away, but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment. The art was a bit uneven in places, but I felt it complimented the creepy ‘real-world’ feel of the story nicely.

Making the most of the fact that our swarthy protagonist has been around since before Mary’s unplanned pregnancy The Gods Answer All Prayers is set in the distant past. As Ash pointed out, this is more like a classic Conan tale, but if Conan was even more of a bastard. Conan (a typo-but that says it all really) battles a giant snake and wins a Pyrrhic victory for a capricious princess. It’s a bit too much like a Conan tale to be honest, but it has got a nice commentary from Ares.

Thirdly comes the insanely titled Bonebomb Babylon, Ted McKeever’s contribution to this curate’s egg. I know that Ted McKeever’s artwork has its fans but I can’t say I number among them. I’ll admit it has a certain frenetic charm, but well, it’s ugly. Really, really ugly. He actually seems to be reigning in the ugly a bit here, but I doubt he’ll win over many new fans with his additions to the Marvel Magazines. The story’s quite light and quite Hellboy, I can’t imagine people will be talking about it for years to come.

This brings us to Wojna, the illustrated text piece, which, (alongside the monochrome nature of the issues) is what makes Marvel’s magazines stand out from the multitude of one-shots and anthologies that are released in any given month. I must admit, I’ve skipped them in the previous magazines I’ve read and probably would have again were I not reading this to review. Set far in the past again and taking the same approach to the character as seen in Red Mercury, we see Ares, the twisted guardian, seen through the eyes of a less than great soldier, a technique which, when used too regularly, runs the risk of turning the lead into little more than a host for other people’s stories, like The Crypt Keeper or more relevantly, Death in Weird War Tales. In the accompanying illustrations, Leonardo Manco, proves again that he draws a mean Ares, delivering the best rendition of the character here.

This anthology feels like a tryout for the character’s future direction if/when he’s returned to life in the Marvel universe. There are a lot of possibilities, but I wonder if Ares could sustain a series of his own. Much like Namor, he is a great addition to Marvel universe as an obnoxious sod who finds himself fighting on the side of the angels when it suits him, but he’s not quite likeable enough to hold this reader’s interest for too long. Perhaps this is why we are shown him through another’s eyes for the majority of this issue. Taken out of the context of the Marvel universe as he is here, he’s a bit of a one-note sword and sorcery-type, and I found myself comparing him to other more famous characters too often.

I give it three and a half blood-stained battle axes out of five; a good read but not essential by any means.

Action Ash
Red Mercury didn't actually impress me as much as my co-reviewer here. The story is ok but the twist is totally obvious, as Valhallahan pointed out. The art was good for the characters but some of the back grounds were appalling. Whack!

The Gods answer all prayers was my personal favourite. Although Ares is completely interchangeable with Conan, or every other sword and sorcery bad ass, I really enjoyed it. I admit I be biased due to being a massive Conan fan but I think it's a great little story. Also, Palo's art is pretty damn good and I'd like to see him do something else of this ilk in the future.

Bonebomb Babylon was how Val described it. The only thing I want to add is WTF!?!? The Golden Fleece as a giant monster? As a bit of a mythology geek I thought this was just stupid. Totally Lame! No points to McKeever!

Wojna = tl;dr

Three slaughtered hoplites out of Five


René Reiche said...

I just read "Ares" the 5-part mini-series from Michael Avon Oeming.
Have you guys read that one? AAAAWEEESOME stuff! TOTALLY! You guys really should check that.
Haven't read the Dark Reign Ares yet...but I will...in a month or so