How Does Marvel's Mangaverse Measure Up? Part 2 (

By:Arnold T. Blumberg
Date: Saturday, January 26, 2002

Last time, we began our feature review of the six one-shots that comprise the initial foundation of the Marvel Mangaverse with a look at SPIDER-MAN, THE PUNISHER, and THE X-MEN. This time we explore the remaining three single issue debuts: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!, FANTASTIC FOUR, AND GHOST RIDERS.

Note: In order to keep things straight, we will refer to the classic Marvel Universe as the Marvel Universe Prime so that there's no confusion. So without further ado, here's a closer look at the first three of six one-shots that comprise the Marvel Mangaverse launch, in no particular order...

A team bound by fate experiences a new kind of origin in the Mangaverse version of FANTASTIC FOUR #1.

Go Go Iron Men!

Tony Stark, diagnosed with malignant spinal cancer, probably yearns for the Prime Universe, where the most he had to worry about was a weak ticker and a penchant for Absolut. But this is the Mangaverse, and instead of donning the distinctive armor of Iron Man, this Stark serves as benefactor to a team of overly adorned heroes who function as the Avengers of this reality. Most of them fall in to familiar roles, although the Vision of this universe is quite a bit different from the android we all know and love. But when the looming threat of the Hulk - a Godzilla-like figure who appears in each of the six Mangaverse titles - convinces Stark that the normal Avengers won't be enough, he decides to reveal the existence of the Iron Avengers, a group of super machines that will transform the team, collectively, into one huge-ass hero. Think Voltron with the visage of ol' Shellhead and you've got it.

The adaptation of Iron Man into a "giant robot" is a stroke of genius, and the final battle sequence between Iron Man and Apocalypse, in which the two yell out their various powers upon activation as in all good anime series ("Shield of Fury! Iron Fist!" Cute, huh?) is a joy. It's a pity, though, that the rest of the issue isn't up to that level. True, this one was clearly not meant to be a character-driven book, but an ensemble piece with plenty of action set-pieces. Because of that, however, it's a bit thin on plot. Still, if that's what you're after, AVENGERS ASSEMBLE! more than fits the bill. Having defeated Apocalypse at the close of this issue, this new team looks set to beat the Hulk back from their shores with a vengeance. But will they succeed? Unfortunately, we won't find out just yet...


Grade: B-

Issue: No. 1

Authors: Ken Siu-Chong, Alvin Lee, Arnold Tsang, Omar Dogan, Shane Law

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $2.25


The Marvel Mangaverse version of the Fantastic Four

Demonic adventure with really large letters

It's hard to get past those large letters. Taking a cue from other manga-style titles, this particular issue uses a lettering approach that just looks too amateurish and distracting; it's difficult to ignore it. There's also a greater tension between the overt attempts at light-hearted humor and dire, demonic drama, and the two moods just don't mesh as well as they did in THE PUNISHER. In fact, much of this book plays like filler rather than a story of its own. There are large passages with very little dialogue and a generic hodge-podge of demons on loan from about a dozen other third-rate publishers. While some of the repartee is cute, it's a bit too cute, as is just about everything else in this issue.

As the Hulk continues his rampage, Damon Hellstorm tries to convince a youthful Johnny Blaze that they are siblings, and that along with Satana they represent a force spawned by evil. They also have to destroy their sister, or evil will consume the globe...or something. And that's it. Really. The rest of the issue is taken up with some demon-fighting, a scantily-clad Satana, and so much quipping that you begin to wonder how these guys ever get anything done.

While Chuck Austen is undeniably a powerhouse, having just recently churned out a weekly series of WAR MACHINE for the MAX line, his artwork suffers here. Best suited to a black and white, quick-and-dirty type of series, Austen's illustration is buried here in rich color and computer generated backgrounds and elements that fight his rough, almost effortless line work every step of the way. The monochrome look would probably have helped the mood of the story as well, so it's a shame we don't get to see Austen's art in its purest form.


Grade: C+

Issue: No. 1

Authors: Brian Smith, Chuck Austen

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $2.25


Look, flying in the sky, it's giant robots! The Mangaverse AVENGERS #1 arrives in comic shops.

Demonic adventure with really large letters

While there are a plethora of moments in this new line when familiar elements of Marvel Universe Prime are turned on their ear or otherwise altered for surprise effect, there's something particularly jarring - and thrilling as well - about our first look at the Mangaverse version of the Baxter Building. Twisting into the air like a braid of technology, it seems the very symbol of the sort of adherence to pure science that always characterized our Reed Richards. Considering that the original Baxter Building remains an enduring icon of the Prime Universe's heroic power center, the image is doubly impressive. This ain't your father's FF, buddy.

This is the most enjoyable installment in the "let's reinterpret classic characters" sweepstakes, perhaps because the FF is after all the original template upon which the whole of the Marvel Universe was developed. The new FANTASTIC FOUR centers on a dynamic response team led by folks like Reed Richards (who stretches his brain, not his body), Agatha Harkness (no, she's much younger here and one of Reed's bedmates), Sioux and Jonatha Storm (yup, sex change for Johnny), and Benjamin Grimm as they fend off an alien attack by a bogey code-named "Annihilus." Thankfully, the FF has power to spare.

Not only do we get some spectacular action, but each character is effectively introduced with his or her own battle sequence, spotlighting their abilities and their distinctive personalities via their reaction to the threat and some flashbacks in a "Real World" interview style. Then it's a team effort as Reed deduces the solution to the Annihilus threat and the xenoculture attack is thwarted. Kudos to the Mega-Scale Metatalent Response Team: Fantastic Four, and to the creative team behind this sharply scripted adventure. It's appropriate that in the launch of a new Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four is still the team that sets the standards by which other heroes must be judged.


Grade: A

Issue: No. 1

Authors: Adam Warren, Armada, Keron Grant, Rob Stull

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $2.25