1 + 6 = Point One
I have always hated how TV shows take one or two episodes a season to review what happened in a flashback episode. It usually involves a crappy story line where the characters are forced to explain themselves to an authority figure in order to keep their job (Season 6 Episode "Disclosure" of Stargate SG-1 is a perfect example). The good news is, this book's "Framing Sequence" story is nothing like that, other than it controls the flow of the other six stories. Thus, to shamelessly work in the title of this review, 1 + 6 = Point One. :)
Overall: I thought this was a solid book, full of different stories from gritty to playful - probably something for everyone.
My Experience: I picked up both versions, 1A and 1B. I really liked the variant cover for all the Marvel characters depicted. You should know that if you try to find all the characters from the variant cover in the actual stories, you will be searching forever. I was really skeptical, but my "where's waldo" search did finally uncover the Silver Surfer (one panel depicted with the other 2012 Fraction Defenders in the Doctor Strange story).
Behold, The Watcher
By far, one of the coolest "watcher" stories I have read. I enjoyed some of the information divulged and new theories about "his kind" (Specifically the once every three year 42-minute fugue state Watchers enter in order to possibly upload their memories to a centralized neural network - or something like that...) In the end, I am excited to see where this story leads and what it might mean for Uatu. I just hope he keeps an eye out (if he can) for The Unseen!
With a phrase like, "This is more like something that would make Galactus fudge in his pants", how could you not like this story - well at least its main character, the ever witty and somewhat socially awkward Nova. Either way, who wouldn't want to watch the Phoenix Force completely destroy Planet Birj on its way through the universe... oh and take Terrax with it! This story went too fast for me. I was left asking, "That was it?". Which is great... for a teaser.
The Myth of Man
Wow. Gritty. Gruesome. I loved it. Completely different art (and feel) than the rest of the book. It is dark, lonely and graphic. I loved it. I was not familiar with the characters, at all, but that did not stop me from enjoying the mind-$#@! that ensued. Great concept, great plot - I am looking forward to gore brought on by this human team of X-Terminators. I hope you too like how William Stryker cuts to the chase...
The Scarlet Thread
Another excellent story. The art was great, the character torment was perfect and the end result was satisfying. I am not up on my Scarlet Spider, but I didn't have to be to enjoy this tale of a young clone trying to make it on his own. I am still trying to figure out why he thinks Charlotte, NC is on the way to Mexico from NYC, but I guess it is "south", so that makes it OK. :) Either way, I enjoyed the mix of playful (bad guys dressed in hero costumes that appear to have been purchased at the local Halloween store) and serious (Kaine's torment) undertones.
Yin & Yang
Very strange story, but well written and executed. It took some getting use to, reading the panels the way they want you to, but once you get it, you get it. Nice twist in the middle too. Beautiful coloring. I also like the way the two new main characters were introduced, though they may come off as lame. The combination of playful and serious did not mix as well in this story as the last. There is potential here, and I hope the story line for Coldmoon and Dragonfire is well received. I do fear that it will fall into the "meh" category as both their power types have been exploited quite a bit already (fire and ice, really?). We shall see.
The Shaman of Greenwich Village
I am super excited to see how this story continues to unveil. I am really in it for Silver Surfer's part in the Defenders, so even seeing him in the single panel was neat. Yes, I am holding out hope for that series, even though many have already disregarded it because of Fraction. Enough about the Defenders, sorry for the sidetrack... In this story, we see the good Doctor Strange walking through his favorite part of town, Greenwich Village. He reminisces and is soon sidetracked by a street 'crazy" by the name of Notebooks Joe... Though this story seemed to drag a little more than the rest, in retrospect, the content was quite good. It has some very memorable scenes and takes you through the Doc's attempt to help "free" Notebooks Joe. In the end the story line ends in a riddle, wrapped in a mystery tied up with an enigmatic bow. It is not without is levity, but for the most part it is a serious story with serious undertones, foreboding even. At least we have a good teaser for the upcoming Defenders series...
Age of Ultron
Spider-Man and Hawkeye star in a very brief (seriously, it went by so fast, I am not sure what happened) story of the savage destruction and hostile takover of NYC by Ultron... No one really uses their powers, but there is a good amount of name dropping so you know who is who (ok, you can see Hawkeye's backpack quiver and a torn Spidey costume for confirmation). This may be my least favorite of the stories, but maybe because it went by so fast and was all destruction. All action, no real story - I am hoping it is all a setup for a great story, where we learn how the Avengers will cope in the Age of Ultron...
We end our stories the way we started, with the Watcher, too bad he wasn't paying attention... or was he?!?