12th Apr2017

Comical Thoughts – The One Where Our Hero Read 30 Marvel Comics In One Night

by Will

So, a lot of people have thoughts on the recent remarks that Marvel Editor in Chief Axel Alonso made regarding diversity. Ultimately, he said that retailers and consumers didn’t seem to flock to the diversity push that Marvel was doing in their books. Fans came out in droves to dispute this, saying that there are other reasons that Marvel’s losing sales. Well, I’m not gonna contribute to that conversation – at least, not directly. You see, I’m about 6 months behind on Marvel books, so I’ve missed a lot of this diversity push. I mean, I go to the shop every Wednesday, and I’m buying a TON of books, but there are only so many hours in the week, so I just haven’t had the chance to read all of them. Oddly enough, I’m fairly current with a lot of the DC books I buy, mainly because they seemed to serve as better jumping-on points. I know everything happening in the Superman books and Teen Titans, but I only just read Civil War II, like, two weeks ago. Usually my Friday nights are consumed with me going on toy runs or napping, but the other day I said to myself, “Will, it’s time to read some Marvel.” I had a few thoughts on what I read, so I thought I’d share them here for anyone who’s curious.

First up, I read the full run of The Unbelievable Gwenpool to date. I read #1 when it came out, and then the book just went to the bottom of a large stack. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy that first issue. I mean, it’s written by Christopher Hastings of the hilarious The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, so I already knew that I loved his style. The Gwenpool concept, on the surface, just sounds like a cash grab. Creating a Deadpool series used to be the equivalent of printing money (not so much anymore, looking at the sales for Deadpool and the Mercs for Money). Meanwhile, everyone and their mom seemed to love the idea of Spider-Gwen when she spun out of Spider-Verse. So, it was natural to put peanut butter in your chocolate by mixing the two.

Gwen Poole actually hails from our world, where all of the Marvel characters are just characters in comics books. By some mysterious means, she transports herself into the Marvel Universe, with her wealth of comic knowledge at her disposal. So, she knows everyone’s identities, all their power sets, etc. This is similar to the Deadpool thing where he thinks of himself as a character in a comic book. Once she gets to the MU, she sets herself up as a mercenary even though she’s not necessarily good at killing. She has limited hand to hand skills, and she’s not a great shot. But she’s pretty good at blowing shit up, which is what she does. The funny thing, though, is that they’ve never really explained why she’s a killer. Maybe it’s because she knows none of it is “real”, so it doesn’t matter if she kills somebody or not. After all, they’re just fictional characters to her. Anyway, after a botched mission, she finds herself working for M.O.D.O.K (Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing) and his gang of mercenaries, which includes Captain America foe Batroc The Leaper.

Anyway, I LOVE THIS BOOK! I’m quick to talk about things I don’t like, so I have to give equal credit to the things that I do like. I love the Gwenpool character, who’s really just a perky teenage girl who likes blowing stuff up. It’s kind of refreshing to meet a female character with an encyclopedic knowledge of comic book trivia, and it’s cool to see how she employs that in her series. I’ve been a big fan of Dr McNinja for years, so I knew Hastings wouldn’t disappoint and he surely didn’t! It’s a fun comic that really gives credence to the slang term “funnybook”. If you’re looking for fun in your comic reading, then definitely check this out. The sales on it aren’t so hot, making it seem like she should’ve been left to do cameos for a while before getting her own series. That said, she’s had 13 issues by now which, sadly, is an achievement in today’s comic landscape. Don’t let them cancel my Gwenpool! Buy this book today!

Next up, I finished the whatever volume it is for Invincible Iron Man. Ya know, the Bendis one, but the one before Civil War II. This series was kind of a waste, as it went nowhere. I’m not sure if plans got derailed because of CWII or what, but it’s odd that so many issues were devoted to one story that just dead ends. Madame Masque is caught stealing items from various Stark facilities, and when Tony goes after her, he finds she’s being chased by a group of cyber ninjas. That’s pretty much it. In the end, he never finds her and never solves that mystery. They do introduce a new cyberhacker Inhuman, though. Yay. Meanwhile, there’s a B-story of Stark trying to convince Mary Jane Watson to be his assistant/life coach. I’ve had my issues with Bendis, but I’ve got to say that this is him at his worst. Sure, there’s snappy dialogue, but not much else.

So, knowing that I needed to plod through my Iron Man backlog, I begrudgingly jumped into International Iron Man. This series made up for everything that was wrong with Invincible Iron Man. My only quibble is that, at 7 issues, it should have been an arc in Invincible Iron Man instead of its own standalone series. In the previous Iron Man series (the one after Superior Iron Man, but before the Bendis Invincible Iron Man), Tony discovered that Howard and Maria Stark were not his birth parents. In this series, Tony sets out to find his real parents, interspersed with flashbacks to the story of his first love, Cassandra, who was the daughter of arms dealers who were also business rivals of his father. Cassandra was in Tony’s life around the time that Howard died, so he finds it odd that she resurfaces, now an arms dealer herself, at the same time he’s searching for his birth parents. He thinks she knows something, but she’s not talking. In the end, Tony finds his mom, Amanda Armstrong, who’s basically Annie Lenox. No, I swear Maleev used Lenox as the model for Armstrong. The last two issues tell the story of Tony’s parents’ love affair, and it’s some damn good writing. This is Bendis at his best. I want an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. arc of just this story (it’s good, but it’s not summer theatrical blockbuster good), but there’s no way they’d cover Stark stuff on TV. At the end, it says that the story will be continued in the next volume of Invincible Iron Man – ya know, the one starring Riri/Ironheart. So, I’m not quite sure how that’s gonna work. Is Amanda Armstrong going to be a supporting character in the book while her son spoiler alert is in a coma in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody? I haven’t read the Riri series yet (it’s in the pile), so don’t tell me what happens. Where Invincible left me disappointed, International proved to me that Bendis understands Tony Stark.

The interesting takeaway I had from the series, however, is that Tony Stark is a result of Nurture and not Nature. I mean, it was always assumed he was a genius because his father was a genius, and it was in his blood. Now that we know his real parents were just undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, it becomes clear that Tony was a product of his environment and upbringing, rather than possessing some inherited genius. I’m curious to see if they’ll do anything with that going forward. Ya know, when he “wakes up”.

Ya can’t love everything, though, and that’s where America comes in. I HATED that comic. I hate the character. I don’t really know where she came from, as I wasn’t reading Young Avengers at that point, but I find her obnoxious to no end. If you’re not familiar, Miss America, AKA America Chavez, is from another dimension where she had two moms who sacrificed themselves to save creation. She has the power to punch star-shaped portals between dimensions, and she’s strong, and fast, and can fly. Basically, she can do everything but project energy. Oh, and she’s a bad ass motherfucker. She can do ALL the things, and that’s kinda why I hate her. This is about to get dicey, so strap in. Ya see, a lot of people are going to say that I don’t like her just because she’s queer. There aren’t a lot of prominent queer characters in comics, so I understand her importance to representation. That said, she’s guilty of what I call the “Queer Eye-ification of Pop Culture”.

Let’s take a trip back to 2003, shall we? Bravo introduced the reality show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, where 5 queer men (don’t say “gay”, because a couple of them were bi) gave schlubs makeovers. Carson changed their clothes, Kyan changed their hair, Ted changed their food, Tom changed their furnishings, and Jay…well, Jay taught them how to open CDs. No, that really happed. The principal underlying theme, however, was basically “Look, queer people are better than you in every single way! They dress better, they cook better, they have better hair, and better décor. What’s wrong with you, straight people? Why do you suck so much?“ For a while, that approach kinda worked. The show was a hit. Then I think folks got tired of the formula. We got it. They were all great at shit, but they stopped being relatable. After all, they were experts, and not just regular guys.

That’s my problem with America. She’s too good. She does it all. What are her weaknesses, her faults, her fears? I didn’t get that from her. Instead, she seems to have this false bravado of being the baddest bitch on the block, and that just doesn’t appeal to me. Is that what queer readers want? Do they want a character who seems to suffer from doing-too-much-itis? Or do they want a relatable character, like a queer Peter Parker who’s an amazing hero, but still has everyday problems? As a cis, straight male, I can’t answer that. I know what I think I would want, and this ain’t it. The market will dictate whether or not I’m wrong. Instead of the whole “Queer people are the awesomest”, maybe the more realistic approach is “Queer people are just like everyone.” I know I’m veering dangerously close to the camp of folks who say things like “Well, why isn’t there a White History Month?” I’m not trying to take anything from queer identity, but the way it’s expressed here contributes to why I don’t like that character. I fear this overcompensation is a trope commonly used as a “foot in the door” technique to get some folks to accept uncomfortable ideas, but I feel it does the queer community a disservice by reinforcing stereotypes/setting up unreal expectations.

Following this thinking leads me to the new Champions comic, which is downright irresponsible in its storytelling. Back during Civil War II, the young members of the Avengers became disenchanted with the elder members because they didn’t feel the team was doing enough to really change the world, instead spending more time in-fighting in the hero community. So, they quit the team before that story even wrapped up. As Champions picks up, Ms. Marvel reaches out to Nova (Sam Alexander – gotta specify, since there are two now) and Spider-Man (Miles Morales – gotta specify since there are two now) to convince them that they should be out doing the stuff that the Avengers refuse to do. They go on a mini recruitment drive, which results in the Hulk (Amadeus Cho – gotta specify since…you get it by now), and Viv Vision joining the team.

Champions is the wrong name for this book. Honestly, it should be the New Warriors, because they are TOTAL social justice warriors. I normally don’t even dip my toe into those labeled waters, but that’s exactly what this book is about. Ms. Marvel has created a team of other teens who do nothing but seek social justice. When older Marvel fans say that they’re tired of the diversity push, I have to believe that this is the book they’re talking about.

I say they’re irresponsible because they tackle concepts that can’t be solved by punching, yet that’s exactly how they try to solve them. They went to the Middle East to stop an extremist Muslim group from killing women who were just trying to learn. They went to a small town to face off against a racist sheriff who bombed the local mosque. Instead of facing villains, all of their “foes” are systemic issues that aren’t easy fixes. Somehow, though, they manage to “fix” things in 22 pages. To use old slang, these kids are cruising for a bruising. There’s a reason the Avengers don’t handle these sorts of things, mainly because they’re old and wise enough to know there are no easy fixes. Racism ain’t Galactus. There’s nothing to punch. The only reason I would stick with the book is that there’s GOT to be a reckoning coming to teach them a lesson. The last time a team of teens was this irresponsible resulted in the destruction of the town of Stamford, Connecticut. I HAVE to believe the Champions exist only to set up some post-Secret Empire event.

The sad thing about all of this is that I like these characters. I’ve been a Miles Morales booster since day one, and I loved Sam Alexander’s Nova from the outset. I was late to the Kamala Khan party, but she’s cool, too. I don’t like how Amadeus Cho’s Hulk is painted as a green Bro in the book, but I’m really behind on his title, so maybe that’s who he is now. And I haven’t read The Visions yet, so I don’t know anything about Viv. All that said, I’d hate to see anything bad happen to any of these guys, but that seems to be the path they’re on. It just seems like such mishandling of some great concepts. From when I was reading Captain America: Sam Wilson, the big takeaway was that there are some things you can’t fight head-on, but it seems like the Champions are gonna have to learn that the hard way.

So, I guess I did have thoughts about Marvel’s diversity after all. Is it killing books? Not necessarily. It’s just not being done well. Feels tokeny. There are a lot of great female-led books right now, like the afore-mentioned Gwenpool and Jessica Jones (which I’ll talk about another time since this has already gotten way longer than I initially expected). But the minority portrayals aren’t that strong. I’ve still got a LOT more to read, though, so maybe it gets better? We’ll just have to see.

26th Oct2016

Comical Thoughts – IDW Presents A Revolution You Can Skip

by Will

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For some time now, IDW has been the comic home of Hasbro’s biggest properties, including G.I. Joe and Transformers. They recently added MicronautsRom: SpaceKnight and UK import Action Man to the mix. So, it seems like as good a time as any to gather them all under the same umbrella in a shared universe. The mechanism for doing this is the miniseries Revolution, which will also result in a long awaited M.A.S.K. spinoff series. While this all might sound good on paper, the execution of it has been horrible. The story runs in a 5-issue miniseries, combined with various one-shots for each property involved. So far, the first 3 issues have been released, as well as the one-shots for Rom, M.A.S.K., and Micronauts. By this point, I feel justified in saying that the story is confusing, ugly, and not well planned. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

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In the first issue, we learn that the Transformers depend on a mineral called Ore-13, which has recently become unstable and is exploding. The new Action Man is investigating a stockpile of it in Mt Olympus, where he discovers former G.I. Joe member Big Ben who’s not long for the world. Big Ben tells him that he was running a mission when he was ambushed by some Joes. He doesn’t know why his former teammates would attack him, but he managed to grab one of their dog tags before the rest of his crew was slaughtered. He says it seems like they were after the Ore-13, but Action Man is snatched away before the mountain explodes with Big Ben and the rest of the Ore-13. Well, apparently, the Transformers recently proclaimed that Earth would be joining the Cybertronian community, and the humans aren’t too pleased about that, as they see the Transfomers establishing themselves as our overlords. Enter G.I. Joe, who decide to attack the Transformers during a humanitarian mission. Things are pretty much at a stalemate until Rom the SpaceKnight comes out of nowhere and kills 4 Joes, including team founder Joe Colton. Since Rom looks more Cybertronian than human, the Joes assume he’s on the Transformers’ side. So, they take this as a declaration of war. We also get a back-story from Revolution #0, which introduces M.A.S.K.’s Miles “Mayhem” Manheim. They actually do something clever here by saying that he was a member of the original Action Team with Joe Colton. It appears he’s actually got Transformer Blitzwing in captivity, who he’s harvesting for parts and technology.

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In the second issue, it’s the Transformers vs Rom, as they’re pissed at him for “blowing up their spot”. They had formed something of an uneasy alliance with the humans, and Rom’s actions had just undone that by murdering those Joes. Rom, however, insists that he murdered no humans. Rom tells them that he is hunting the Dire Wraiths, who have managed to infiltrate world governments. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the M.A.S.K. team, and the new Black Matt Trakker. Aileron and Kup face off against the M.A.S.K. team, whose vehicles were built using Cybertronian technology, resulting in Kup being captured. Trakker, however, has second thoughts about what they’ve done when he realizes the Transformers are sentient, and more than mere machines. At the end, we find out that Micronauts’ Baron Karza is behind the unstable Ore-13, as he’s been stealing it via a transdimensional space bridge in order to save the Microspace. Um, OK.

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The third issue brings a whole bunch of confusing Micronauts stuff, ’cause I know nothing about that franchise. It seems like the “heroes” of that world have formed an uneasy alliance with the villain Karza in order to save their universe. It’s Optimus Prime vs Rom because Rom’s mission is to defeat the Dire Wraiths, while Prime insists that Earth must be their primary concern. At the end of the day, Prime determines that, while Earth is important, the Microspace must also be preserved. Meanwhile, the autopsy results are in and the Joes realize their fallen friends weren’t human after all. Since they don’t know who they can trust, Scarlett puts in a call to “somebody we haven’t talked to in a while.” I think we all know who she means. Karza does some shit. Rom does some shit. And the issue ends with an entrance by Snake-Eyes.

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Revolution M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand #1 is the only one-shot I’ve bought from the series. It introduces us to the rest of the M.A.S.K. team, as we watch as they’re recruited and how they handle basic training. We also get hints that some of them aren’t as virtuous as they should be, yet those personalities align with team leader Miles “Mayhem” Manheim. Nothing here is original. Some recruits die in training, as “collateral damage”. The team is tasked with an impossible rescue mission. You’ve seen all of this before. Yet, it’s a serviceable introduction to the team and franchise. That said, I think all of this could’ve been possible without it taking place within the clunky Revolution storyline, as nothing in the special ties into present events – it’s a prequel story.

So, what are my problems with the series? Well, first of all, it’s a terrible jumping-on point for new readers. There’s WAY too much backstory with the Transformers and G.I. Joe books for this to go smoothly. Now, IDW did release a The Road to Revolution discount trade paperback with 5 stories that they felt were crucial to making the story a richer experience, but there shouldn’t have been required reading. A successful crossover like this should be accessible to all. To give you an idea of the problems here, IDW has had the Transformers license for ELEVEN YEARS. They’ve had the G.I. Joe license for EIGHT YEARS. In that span of time, the G.I. Joe comic has been rebooted four times, while most of the early Transformers comics were just a series of miniseries. I was IDW’s Diamond brand manager at the time of the early Transformers books, and even I didn’t really know what was going on. For folks with a cursory knowledge of the brands, this series opens with a ton of questions: Why’s Soundwave with the good guys? Where’s Bumblebee? Why is Scarlett the team leader? Where’s Flint and Duke and the Joes people care about? What about Cobra?

Something like this seems like it would be better served by a reboot of the existing brands instead of trying to get them to mesh with the newcomers. It doesn’t feel like they’re bringing their truest, core representations to the party. G.I. Joe isn’t just the military, as it’s used here. Their primary mission was to fight Cobra. Without Cobra, what are they? Here, they’re a shoot first, ask questions later sort of organization, which doesn’t really line up with what we’ve known them to be. If they’d been the least bit diplomatic, then this whole battle wouldn’t have even taken place. Like, why is Scarlett so pissed? And Snake-Eyes is a lot less cool/mysterious when he’s TEXTING! What happened before this miniseries to make her like this? As a new-ish reader, I can’t help but feel that I’m missing a lot. This miniseries might be a rich experience for those who’ve been following the series recently, but it’s just not a fulfilling experience for casual readers.

Another problem is that it seems actual story is taking place in the one-shots, which isn’t how these things are done. One-shots in an “event series” are supplemental material, stories going at the periphery of the action. Here, though, you open up Revolution #3, and Rom is suddenly just chilling with the Transformers like the events of the past issue never happened, and there’s an editor’s note of “See Rom : Revolution #1.” NO! That’s not how you do this. Major team shifts, side switches, etc don’t happen in the one-shots. You leave the meat and potatoes for the main series.

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Finally, the art’s just ugly. I’m not sure if IDW has a stable of “exclusive” artists, but you’d want the best on something this high profile. They do a capable job of handling the tech, such as the Transformers and the M.A.S.K. vehicles, but the humans are rough and inconsistent from panel to panel. They also look a bit cartoony for the subject matter. I realize all of these properties are toylines, but they’re being introduced in a story with some pretty high stakes. Imagine if Marvel’s Civil War had been drawn by an Archie artist. That’s what you’ve got here.

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After saying all that, I’ll probably stick with it since there are only 2 core issues left. That said, it hasn’t been an enjoyable experience. If this had just been a one-off thing, I’d probably give it a pass. It’s not, though. This miniseries is meant to set up the future of the Hasbro properties at IDW, and that just doesn’t seem like a good thing at this point. This series is a mess, so it doesn’t make me too optimistic about the future. If you’re a die-hard Transformers or Joe fan, I guess you’ve got to read it, but if you’ve just got casual interest, this is a revolution you can skip.

 

04th Jun2015

Comical Thoughts – Batman, and Archie, and Jem! Oh, My!

by Will

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So, I did something that I haven’t done in a LONG time – I actually read all of my Wednesday comics on release day. For the past few months, I’ve been visiting the shop religiously, but really only keeping up with Miles MoralesUltimate Spider-Man and Letter 44. Everything else was just stacking up in a pile. Well, I’ve done some reading, and I’ve got thoughts!

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First up, I finally read the “Endgame” storyline that was recently running in the Batman series. I had actually read the first 3 issues as they were released, and then I just sort of stopped caring. So, I had to reread those issues before jumping into the second half of the storyline.

In case you’re not familiar with it, The Joker comes back to Gotham and wages what’s supposed to be his final fight against Batman. It starts out with so much promise, as a battle-suited Batman is forced to fight his Jokerized Justice League teammates. That battle takes all of 1.5 issues, and then it’s done away with. Sure, we’ve seen Batman vs. The Justice League battles before – most notably in JLA‘s “Tower of Babel” storyline, but this one just seemed like it was wrapped up too quickly. In fact, that’s the main problem with the entire story: pacing. It feels like so much happens and so little happens all at once. Certain story aspects were wrapped up too quicky (like the JL fight), while the story itself felt like it was too long at 6 issues. On top of those 6 issues, the Batman family titles also had “Endgame” specials that were tangentially related to the main storyline.

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The story starts in a weird place because it’s leading out of the yearlong, weekly Batman Eternal series that only the most die-hard Batman fans even kept up with. I was not one of those fans. So, you’re left with a ton of questions as things open up: Why are they in a Bat base? What happened to the manor? Alfred has a daughter? And she’s Black?! SO MANY QUESTIONS! Before anything is answered, the fight with the Justice League starts. That’s the first issue, but we’re even cheated out of that, as we never get to see attacks from Green Lantern or Cyborg. It’s almost like “footage” was cut for time or space concerns.

As the story rolls along at a breakneck pace, a ton of stuff happens. The city gets Jokerized. We meet up with Duke Thomas – a character introduced during the horrid “Zero Year” story – who we’ve seen may become Robin in the future (due to the Future’s End one-shot). We find out that The Joker might be immortal. Then, bad stuff happens to Alfred. And then Batman needs the help of his villains to take down The Joker. Then, they fight. I won’t spoil the ending, but I thought it sucked. Then again, I’m just not a fan of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo on this book. I feel like I’m alone in this, as everyone else acts like this is the definitive run on Batman, while I just find it to be kinda meh. Snyder has one trick, and it’s “dancing between the raindrops of continuity”. It’s all “I bet you didn’t know this happened!” And he’s been doing it since the beginning. Bruce Wayne has a secret brother. Dick Grayson was enlisted by the Court of Owls. The Court of Owls has been running Gotham for hundreds of years. He even dialed back the clock with Zero Year to create an entire storyline during a period that’s not even supposed to *exist* based on the standard Batman timeline. I mean, what the Hell is a “zero year” anyway?

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On top of being disappointed by Snyder, I really don’t think Capullo’s a great artist. This may sound like sacrilege to some, but I feel like Tony Daniel was a better artist, even though his style just evolved into a Jim Lee clone. Capullo is not good with action scenes, as was proven by the fights in Endgame On top of that, he brings nothing to the table in terms of distinguishing the characters out of their suits. There’s a scene with Dick Grayson that might as well have been with Jason Todd or Tim Drake because there is nothing special about how he’s drawn. I noticed this back during “Court of Owls”, as there was a scene with all the Robins in their civilian garb, and it just looked like the same white guy, wearing the same tux, at three different heights. No distinction between any of them. Maybe it was meant to emphasize the fact that Bruce recruits the same type of kid for his Robins, but I don’t think it really accomplished that. Instead, it just looked lazy. I liked what Capullo brought to other series, like Image’s Haunt, but I’ve just found his Batman work has left me wanting.

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Now that it’s been revealed that Commissioner Gordon is the new Batman, I’m just waiting to be disappointed again. Sure, I could stop buying, but I’m a Batman fan, and I keep hoping it’ll get better. One thing I wish Snyder would realize is that not every Batman story need to be an “event”. Just have him solve some shit. Francis Manapul over on Detective Comics seems to understand this, as he’s cranking out some good mysteries. Meanwhile, everything Snyder does is like he wants to reinvent the wheel. I once read an interview with him where he said that you never know how long you have to write Batman, so you have to get out all of your ideas while you have the chance. I kinda understand that, but I need him to really get to the core of the character, which is something I don’t think he’s ever really done. He uses Batman as a prop in his stories, rather than as an actual character.

Speaking of upcoming DC stories, DC has launched an initiative called DC You, implying that there’s something for everyone in their new mix of books coming out. They even released a trailer of the new storylines, which was very Marvel of them. That said, I’m more curious about the books that they’re just glossing over. Sure, they’re telling us about Starfire and Cyborg, but they’re saying nothing about Red Hood/Arsenal or Martian Manhunter. They’re boosting Batman Beyond and even Deathstroke, but there’s nothing about Dr. Fate or Green Lantern: The Lost Army. Are these the dogs of the bunch? Should we start taking bets on their cancellation already?

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Since I mentioned Batman Beyond, let me just say that I HATE the new direction they’re going in with that character. If you’re not in the know, Batman Beyond followed Terry McGinnis who becomes Batman roughly 35 years in the future. He wasn’t Bruce Wayne’s initial choice as a successor, as Terry stole the Batsuit in order to bring his father’s murderer to justice. There was a whole 3-season cartoon about it. Well, a few years back, DC decided to bring Terry into comic continuity, though his adventures roughly followed what had been laid out in the cartoon. In the recent Future’s End series, however, they unceremoniously killed Terry and gave his suit to former Batman sidekick, Tim Drake. So now Tim is 35 years in the future, trying to carry the Batman mantle. However, due to the events of Future’s End, the future timeline isn’t what it was when Terry was there. So, in one fell swoop, DC wiped out Terry, wiped out most of his supporting cast, and apparently his rogues. See all those familiar folks in that cover image? Yeah, they’re not in the book. The future that Tim experiences isn’t the same as Terry’s world, as characters have been changed in drastic ways. On top of that, the entire plotline was basically lifted from Power Rangers: RPM, as an evil computer virus has taken over the whole world except for Gotham, which is somehow shielded from detection. I’ll keep reading for now, as I’m curious to see if anything is left of the old Batman Beyond world, but I feel this move is a slap in the face to the fans who had come to love Terry’s Gotham. Just the changes to Superman and Barbara Gordon alone are angering, as both characters had experienced a lot of growth in that world. Now, it’s like it just never happened. Due to the events of Convergence, I’d like to think that Terry’s world is still out there somewhere, but it doesn’t really matter if no one’s writing stories about it.

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One book I read last night was Archie #666, which is the final issue of the long-running series. In July, it’ll be relaunched with a new #1 and an updated look. I haven’t really read Archie books since I first got into comics, but I felt like this was a great series finale. It’s somewhat brief, but it gets to the heart of what Archie’s all about: he’s a good-natured kid who really cares about his friends. As I’ve seen previews of the upcoming series, I’m curious to see if this spirit will still exist in the new books. They say that the “familiar” style will still exist in digest form (ya know, the kind you buy at the supermarket), but the New Look is the main comic going forward. I trust Mark Waid and Fiona Staples, so I’ll definitely be checking it out. I’m just glad it had a fitting final issue, especially after the travesty that’s the current Archie vs. Predator miniseries.

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Not all cartoon characters can have great comics, however. A few weeks ago, children of the 80s had a fit when they saw the trailer of the upcoming Jem and the Holograms movie. What they saw bore no resemblance to the cartoon they watched as children. There were no Misfits, seemingly no powers, and it was just a teenybopper movie about a girl “trying to find her voice”. Meanwhile, IDW recently began publishing a Jem comic book, and I feel like it’s no more comforting than that trailer. At least the book involves hologram technology, and there are Misfits, but it seems like it’s just gearing up to be a battle of the bands. Now, I don’t remember a whole lot about Jem, but I felt like there was a lot more at stake than a simple battle of the bands, right? Was that what the cartoon was about? I mean, it’s been so long, and it’s not like I was a religious viewer anyway. I’m only 2 issues into the series (I still need to read the third), but this isn’t shaping up to be the exciting to me. Maybe it’s just not for me, and that’s OK.

Now for some quick shots-

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1- This felt like a What If? comic. I mean, I guess all of the Secret Wars tie-in books kinda feel that way, but this really felt like one. It was interesting to see the modern storylines they allude to, such as the Rykers outbreak that caused the formation of the New Avengers, as well as the idea of MJ and Peter moving into Avengers Mansion. Still, despite those modern references, something about it felt very 90s. Oh, and Andy Kubert really phoned in that art. There’s a panel of Peter where he looks like a caveman. This really looked like a rush job.

Groot #1 – This was a cute read. Not something I’d normally pick up, but I was kinda speculating. I remember that Rocket Raccoon #1 became a sought after book, so I figured the same might be true of his partner in crime’s book. I might just wait until this is collected, as I’d like to see where it goes, but I don’t know if I wanna spend $3.99 a month on it.

Years of Future Past #1 – I had to choose between this and the X-Tinction Agenda book. Since I never read the original X-Tinction Agenda, I figured this was the safer bet. It’s an interesting premise: Colossus and Kitty have a teenage daughter, and we’re back in the somewhat familiar Days of Future Past reality (or a version of it), while incorporating the idea of assassinating President Kelly. It was interesting, but I’m not sure I’m gonna stick with it. There are simply too many Secret Wars tie-in books and, frankly, some of them look more exciting to me.

Secret Wars #3 – Well, this was much more interesting than #2. We got to meet God, as well as see a few familiar faces from before the final incursion. I’m really engaged by this story, and everything I learn just keeps me wanting more. I thought it was important that Doctor Strange pointed out that they had basically perfected how to get folks to acknowledge the merged timelines. I feel like this will be important for when they reshape things into the new Marvel Universe. Still, I can’t helped but feel like I’m missing out on certain characters’ motivations because I skipped Hickman’s runs on Avengers and New Avengers. And we find out that 8 years have passed since the Doom reshaped the world. I tend to hate time jumps, as they are a cop-out. Rarely are those missing time periods ever explained, but I guess enough time needed to have passed in order for the societies to be as stable as they are. Still, I hope we get some insight into those 8 years, as I’m already dreading the reported 8 month time jump that the characters will have experienced once Secret Wars is over.

So, that’s me. What did you all read this week?

19th Feb2014

Comical Thoughts – 2/19/14

by Will

comicalI haven’t really discussed comics too much lately, even though I’ve still been reading a few. Here are some thoughts on what I’ve read recently.

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She-Hulk #1: good issue, but I’m not sure if this is a monthly for me. The one odd thing, however, was that the opening spread contains a pic of her drinking with Tony Stark and Thor. Um…Tony’s an alcoholic, though he’s clearly drinking a martini. It’s funny that Marvel can make sure that nobody smokes, but no one caught that? Anyway, the art works well for the story, even though I’m not really in love with it.

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Batman #28: a flash forward issue. Can I just go on record and say that I hate EVERYTHING that Scott Snyder has brought to the Batman mythos? There must be something wrong with me, as everyone else raves over his work, and I just don’t see it. I’m tired of Zero Year and I really don’t know if I’m onboard for this Batman Eternal weekly. Anyway, I hope the Spoiler fans will finally shut up after this issue.

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Red Hood and the Outlaws #25: This was important because it’s a Zero Year tie-in. Since Zero Year takes place six years in the past, and Jason Todd is 15, that makes him 21 now. We’ll come back to this later. It also links Talia to the weird mystical mumbo jumbo that Jason studied after his “death”.

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Cataclysm: Ultimate Comics X-Men #3: What an utter waste of a miniseries. Clearly, Marvel felt that every Ultimate title needed a Cataclysm spinoff, but this one did absolutely nothing for me. They spend three issues in a pocket universe, where Galactus isn’t even a threat to them. Wasted potential.

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Earth 2 Annual #2: I dropped the Earth 2 series early on because it wasn’t the “real Earth”. Still, I became fascinated when I heard they were introducing a new Batman, since that Earth’s original Batman died during the events of the first issue. Well, the new Batman turns out to be Thomas Wayne, and we’re given a different view of Bruce’s origin than we’ve had in the past. Thomas Wayne is essentially the Earth-2 Hourman, who happens to wear the Batman suit to honor the son he disappointed. I’m intrigued enough that I might give this book another shot.

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Batman and Robin Annual #2: this issue features the New 52 interpretation of Dick Grayson’s first mission as Robin, as told through flashbacks. The important thing about this is that Dick becomes Robin at the age of 16 in the New 52 and not much younger, as in other incarnations. Let’s say Batman took Dick on as Robin in the second year of his mission, so that’s 5 years ago, making Dick 21 – just like Jason. So, this probably helped the “visual continuity” of Robin, as the replacement looked to be the exact age of the Robin who left to become Nightwing. To criminals and Gothamites, it would look like Robin has been the same guy the entire time, even though there were two different people behind the mask. This is a lot less jarring than Batman replacing an 18 year old with another 12 year old. This seems like one of the rare benefits of the new streamlined New 52 timeline.

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Black Widow: I can’t decide if I like this book or not. Basically, it seems like Marvel wants to repeat the Hawkeye formula: here’s what an Avengers does on days off from the team. Sadly, I don’t find Natasha’s life that interesting. The art, by Phil Noto, is beautiful but the stories are pretty formulaic. She goes on a mission, she kills some folks, there’s a twist, and she comes back home. It also seems odd that she does this because I seem to remember that the Avengers have something of a morality clause. In Hawkeye, Clint got arrested and was reminded of said clause. How does that not apply to Natasha, out and about murdering people?

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Another problem is that I feel like I’ve read this story before. You see, back when Wizard tried their hand at publishing comics through Black Bull, they had a book called Beautiful Killer. It was about a redheaded assassin who happened to be drawn by Phil Noto. The book was clearly influenced by Black Widow and Spider-Woman, so to have Noto on the actual Black Widow almost seems like a retread. Each issue is self contained, so I can’t say that this series would probably read better in trade form. Four issues in, I just don’t know if this is a monthly obligation for me.

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Deadpool #23: I love this series so much. It’s funny because I never really liked the 90s Deadpool stuff, but I’ve been onboard since the Daniel Way series. I loved how Coulson was part of this story arc, and the Watchmen reference on the last page was pretty funny.

origin22Origin II #2: I’m not sure what to think of this mini yet. I’m wondering if it’s like its predecessor, in that Origin was really only a great reading experience after it was collected. To read it issue by issue made it feel disjointed in a way. Two issues in, it’s not grabbing me, even if Mr. Sinister happens to be a main character. I also wonder if Kieron Gillen is the perfect choice to write this. After all, this was Paul Jenkins’s territory, as he wrote the first series, as well as the bookend Wolverine: The End. Also, I haven’t really enjoyed anything that Gillen has brought to the Marvel Universe. He was great on his indie stuff, like Phonogram, but his mainstream work has left me disappointed. I think I might drop this in single issues and come back once it’s been collected.

Well, that’s me. What have y’all been reading lately?

01st Apr2013

Comical Thoughts – Changing The Way I Think About Comics

by Will

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While I understand today’s date makes one question everything read, I assure that this is not a joke. This was actually a hard conclusion to come to, as I’ve been dealing with this for the past few months. Anyway, I have decided that the time has come to get rid of the bulk of my comic collection. While the show was a laughing stock of a disaster, there was one thing that I took away from Elyse Luray’s Collection Intervention: it’s important to curate a collection. We live in an age where everyone with a Twitter account thinks they’re a “curator of pop culture” and the like, but it all boils down to the fact that they’ve got certain taste, and what they follow should adhere to that. It’s all too simple for collecting to simply turn into hoarding. I’ve realized that I really haven’t collected in years. Actually, all I was doing was keeping, without any regard to whether or not possession was warranted. Eventually, the “collection” grew to 20 longboxes spread between two houses. I don’t know what I have anymore. All the covers bleed together, and I’ve got no sort of filing system. Long story short, I had about 10,000 books with nothing to really show for it. Something had to change.

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Let’s be honest here: none of these things are worth anything. The general rule is that, with a few exceptions, nothing printed in the past 25 years is worth anything. Think of it this way: those comics were printed under the guise of one day being collectible. The books that are worth money hail from an age when comics were a disposable pastime, purchased for a nickel. People abused those books, and few survived, so those that did are worth money. Fast forward to the 80s and the evolution of the “direct market”. Instead of buying Superman at the newsstand, there were now comic shops – whole businesses dedicated to the sale of what was once disposable. It’s like if a network of POG stores had arisen in the early 90s. To keep people coming back, and to promote the longevity of the medium, the collectability of comics was promoted. Instead of the old approach of “you should read this because it’s fun”, comics became “you should buy this because it’s an investment.” Notice how I didn’t say “read” in that last sentence. It didn’t matter if you read them. Hell, reading them actually hurt their value. No, instead you were to buy them, get minimal fingerprints on them, and get them safely into a bag, with a backing board for support. That’s why every first issue released in the late 80s/early 90s had “#1 Collector’s Item Issue” emblazoned next to whatever die-cut/hologram/prismatic/scratch & sniff cover gimmick they were using that month. I’ve admitted it before, but I fell for all of that.

Fast forward to when I worked for Diamond. This was before budget cuts at publishers, so comps were still being sent out. I amassed a ton of books I’d never actually buy from Image, Dynamite Entertainment, and even Marvel. I got all of World War Hulk that way, and I don’t think I’d ever spent money on a Hulk comic at that point. After a while, I wasn’t really collecting things I liked. Instead, I was just keeping things that I kinda loathed. There were series I despised, yet kept buying because I felt more fulfilled by knowing that I had a complete run of the series. What does that mean, really? Honestly, it simply cost me space and sanity. To look at it in real estate terms, the crap books were lowering the property value of the good ones. As I started focusing on Will’s World of Wonder, I had a lot less time for comics. I stopped going to the shop every Wednesday, and when I did buy comics (usually from Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million for convenience), they sat around, unread for months. The only books that I actually looked forward to getting were the Marvel Ultimate Universe books and Deadpool. Basically, comics just got in the way. As therapeutic as I find bagging & boarding (I do!), the books are just stacked in corners and in steamer trunks. That’s not how things should be.

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Then, the reboots happened. First, DC threw out their universe during Flashpoint (written about here), and restarted with The New 52. Yeah, except the books I was reading didn’t change anything. See, DC felt that took much work had been put into the Green Lantern and Batman franchises, so their events basically remained unchanged, yet were now forced into the compressed timeline of this new universe. So, I had to learn a new universe, while also trying to make it work with what I already knew. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I’d been reading the Bat books, but really didn’t enjoy them. People are prepared to give Scott Snyder their firstborn, while I’m simply not impressed by the non-event events he keeps forcing into the book. And I just don’t have it in me to reacquaint myself with characters I knew, yet apparently don’t know anymore. The first DC hero I loved wasn’t Batman, but it was actually Tim Drake’s Robin. My first trade paperback was “Robin: A Hero Reborn”. Now, however, he apparently was never Robin. Great…

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Meanwhile, Marvel hopped aboard the “clean slate” train, and gave us Marvel NOW – most of the books restarting at #1, with “bold, new directions”. Or Marvel just wants the comics to look like the movies. Whatever it is, I’m still in Marvel THEN. I haven’t read any of their gimmicks, from the recent “death” of Peter Parker, to the new flagship team of “Uncanny Avengers”, I just don’t have it in me. Why should I care? Once I get comfortable, they’ll just change everything for the sake of change. It’s like going back to a boyfriend who beats you. They don’t care about me, as long as I hate myself enough to keep giving them $4 (FOUR DOLLARS?!!) per book, per month. Something had to change.

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So, here we are. What am I saying? Well, over the past 6 months, I have offloaded about 2,000 books from the collections via Craigslist. Though it may seem like a drop in the bucket, it’s very freeing. I didn’t make a fortune off of them. In fact, I only got about $0.10 per book. Yup, I ended up getting 1969 retail for $2.99-$3.99 books. But I didn’t care. They were already a sunk cost, especially since they’re non-returnable. There are folks in the area who are getting back into comics, and they love the idea of a cheap, ready-made collection. Sure, the fanboy investor in me still kept a lot of the #1s, but I got rid of a bunch of junk. At the same time, it was more about the redistribution of space. Oddly enough, a 6-issue trade paperback takes up a lot less space than those same 6 issues individually. Plus, the TPB can go on a shelf, while the books have to go in something, taking up space. Also, I’ve always been impressed by people who talk about rereading favorite story arcs and series. Do you know how hard it is to reread comics that are in stacked longboxes, individually bagged and boarded, with scotch tape? There are times I’ve wanted to revisit an old tale, and then end up tired just thinking about all the work it’d take to get to the books. Collected editions are simply easier to read, easier to store, and easier to handle.

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So, I initiated Operation: Trade Up. Over winter break (I love working in education!), I used Christmas and birthday money, as well as whatever was in my Paypal (it’s not “real” money until it’s in a bank account) to find the cheapest trade paperbacks I could find. You see, there were stories that I enjoyed, but just didn’t need to have in their “original” versions. As for condition, trade paperbacks don’t have to be in great shape. They’re, by nature, reprints, so they could be beat to Hell as long as they’re intact. My only qualification was that the spine needed to be intact so that I can easily identify the book on the shelf. Other than that, the cheaper the better. I went through all the boxes, and got rid of everything I felt didn’t really belong in my “collection”. Books that held no special meaning, books I’d gotten for free, incomplete miniseries, and stories that have since been retconned. That’s how I got to the initial 2,000. I say initial because I’m not done. At the end of the day, I’d like to be down to no more than 10 longboxes. Seeing as how they each hold approximately 350 comics, we’re looking at 3,500 comics. That may sound crazy, but it’s not too bad when you remember I’ve been doing this for 20 years. That’s roughly 15 books/month purchased over that 20 year period, which isn’t absurd. And I think I can actually pare it down even further than that.

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Where am I now? Well, as I mentioned above, I’ve gotten rid of about 2100 books, and that’s just since I really started to focus on getting rid of books. I’d been doing 50 here, 100 there for the past 5 years or so. Meanwhile, I’ve foolishly had to repurchase storylines that, in many cases, I’d already purchased. Still, many of them were cheap enough that I had clearly spent more on worse. Just as before, I looked at the venture as an investment, only this time I wasn’t look at them for financial gain. Instead, this was an investment in sanity, space, and order. Over the course of the last 4 months, those 2100 books have been replaced by 112 TPBs. Not all stories were worthy of being rebought, while I’m still seeking a few others. Space isn’t really a concern, as I already have 2 IKEA Billy bookcases, and have the wall space for another, if needed. I think I’m heading in the right direction, even if the whole “rebuying” thing sounds questionable.

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Now, where does that leave me with current books? I’m not really sure. I’ve already soured on most of the new stuff coming out of the publishers, but I think I have the biggest problem with the price point. These things just aren’t worth $4 each. Same gimmicks, same bait & switch. Comics have succeeded in regressing back to being disposable. Lucikily, as I discussed here, I’ve found a cheaper alternative: $1 boxes at hotel shows. They’re recent books, and it’s just a dollar. How many things can you get for that price anymore? So far, I’ve taken advantage of it for the first issues of a lot of Marvel NOW. If I like what I see, I might keep buying. If it’s really great, I may upgrade to the collected edition once it becomes available. As with all things, the future’s unwritten, and always changing, but I think I’ve finally gotten a handle on the past. And that’s a good feeling. I’m done simply amassing, and I’m going to explore what it really means to collect again.

26th Feb2013

Comical Thoughts – Nova #1

by Will

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I don’t usually review contemporary comics. The reason for that is that everyone does it, so why get lost in the shuffle? That said, I happened to read Nova #1 from the whole Marvel NOW kerfuffle and I just had to write about it. Because IT’S REALLY GOOD! At first glance, one wouldn’t think it would be good because it’s written by Jeph Loeb. Loeb’s name is spoken by fanboys with a disdain so heavy you’d think they’d said “Kardashian”. In recent years, he’s gotten a bad rap as a hack and a dream killer, and a rapist of childhoods (I heard he and Michael Bay were roommates at Childhood Rape Camp). One thing people seem to have forgotten, though, is that he’s actually a pretty good writer. I think I’ve figured out what his deal is: Jeph Loeb is not equipped for “event” storytelling, but he’s great at writing timeless stories.

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Nova #1 is instantly engaging. It reads like every great teen movie of the 80s. Kid is tired of living in bumblefuck town, and he’s bullied because his father is the janitor at the local high school. All he seems to want to do is leave that one horse town behind him, but he fears he’ll end up just like his alcoholic dad. Oh, and did I mention that his dad used to be a member of the Nova Corps? If only anyone believed him. Family members seem to humor the Nova stories as the wishful thinking of a depressed drunk. Oh, there are so many 80s movie tropes even though it’s a contemporary tale. Again, with the exception of the Suicide Girls-ish “cutest girl in school”, this seems like the foundation of a timeless Marvel tale. If only Marvel cared about “timeless”.

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Jeph Loeb’s most lauded material was done at DC Comics. He’s best known for his work with artist Tim Sale, which includes Superman For All Seasons, Batman: The Long Halloween, and Batman: Dark Victory. These are stories that are routinely included on lists of the greatest stories told about those characters. Even though they tended to focus on the early days of the heroes, they have come to be revered as timeless tales that really embody the core of who those heroes have become. Someone (maybe Loeb himself) decided “Ya know, maybe he’d be just as good on contemporary event comics.” That person was wrong. We first saw this when he penned the “Hush” storyline in Batman. Most fans have pretty much written this off as a Jim Lee showcase, as the story wasn’t good. It established Hush as a character who would be better used by other writers, but nothing about him was too special in this first storyline. This led to him teaming up with Ed McGuinness to launch Superman/Batman, which was basically DC’s equivalent of Astonishing X-Men: in continuity stories that were the springboard of “event seedlings”, like the introduction of the new Supergirl, and the end of President Luthor’s time in office. While not in the thick of event storytelling, Loeb’s DC stories were always on the fringe of the Next Big Thing. Soon, he left for Marvel, where he jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

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Once at Marvel, Loeb was used in yet another attempt to inject life into the Ultimate Universe. He wrote Ultimates 3, with returning fanboy fave artist Joe Madureira. And it was bad. There were so many things wrong with it that it’s really not fair to blame it all on Loeb. First  off, it was the first Ultimates series not written by original writer Mark Millar. Next, Madureira had spent so many years in the video game industry that his art seemed rusty, literally. Everything had a muddy, kinetic red hue about it. The Ultimates had never been an ongoing series, as each iteration was meant to be its own little event. As I mentioned before, Loeb just isn’t the guy for “big things storytelling”. There was some crazy storyline about a bullet that traveled at superspeed, killing Scarlet Witch. Instead of focusing on the espionage angles of the original Ultimates stories, this tried to be a 616 Avengers story set in the Ultimate Universe, and the styles just didn’t mesh. That didn’t stop him, however, from his next failure: Ultimatum. Ya see, when Ultimates 3 didn’t work, they went “scorched Earth” on the Ultimates Universe, basically saying, “Kill ’em all and let editors sort ’em out!” The death toll topped out around 29 characters, across 5 issues, and most of them were X-Men and other mutants. Fans did NOT like this, especially those who had never read an Ultimate Universe book but had just decided to hate it anyway. But Marvel wasn’t done with him yet. No, next they put him on a Wolverine storyline that was set to feature the death of Sabretooth. They even teamed him with artist Simone Bianchi, whose style was completely wrong for this story, yet Marvel had dubbed him one of their “Young Guns”. Again, fans hated it. You’d think Marvel would learn their lesson by then; this clearly wasn’t a great fit. No, instead, THEY PROMOTED HIM!

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In 2010, Jeph Loeb was promoted to Head of Television for Marvel. So, the guy who wasn’t great at Event Storytelling in Comics would now be in charge of Event Storytelling for television – a much more important, and crucial marketplace than comics. He’s failing upwards! But it’s not Loeb’s fault. He’s just not suited for this type of storytelling. He’s a timeless guy, he’s not Event Guy. Very few people are both. Grant Morrison is both, Geoff Johns is both, but few others. Some folks are JUST event guys: Bendis (love the guy, but he has yet to write a “timeless” tale. He’s a talented journeyman. He’s all about NOW), Mark Millar – these are the guys who you call in when you need a tentpole event. Sure, their Q-ratings rise and fall, but these aren’t typically the guys you just stick on a title expecting a “definitive” storyline. Then, you have your timeless guys, like Loeb and Alex Ross – they give you the definitive storylines, usually focusing on a time gone by, and not wrapped up in the convoluted continuity of the regular ongoing comics. They’re left to their own schedule and devices, and they only do minis and projects, so as to not overstay their welcome. They come in on a mission, and they accomplish it. Analogy Time: By trying to change who Loeb is, Marvel is essentially trying to “turn a ho into a housewife”. He’s not supposed to cuddle with you. He’s supposed to make love to you so sweet and tenderly that it reminds you of your first love, and makes you think he actually has feelings for you. You’re not supposed to put a ring on it. But that’s what Marvel’s done.

Back to what I was saying, Nova #1 felt like the first “timeless” story Loeb has ever done for Marvel. It’s sentimental, and it’s so engaging that I can’t wait for the next issue. I don’t remember how long it’s been since I felt that way about a comics – especially a Loeb-penned comic. My only fear, though, is that Marvel doesn’t always do “timeless”. Sure. there are the “color” books that Loeb and Sale did after their DC work, including Spider-Man: Blue, Hulk: Grey, Daredevil: Yellow, etc, but those follow that format I described: minis outside of continuity. If you want someone constantly stroking themselves over the past, you go to DC. They’re the “legacy” guys. With Nova, I feel it’s only a matter of time before it’s co-opted by Guardians of the Galaxy and Marvel’s rumored summer space crossover. Whatever happens, we can at least say that it all started in a good place. I guess I’ll just have to trust Marvel and Loeb to know what they’re doing. Man, you don’t know how hard it was for me to type that last sentence!

 

05th Dec2012

Comical Thoughts – When You’re A Spy…

by Will

It’s been awhile since one of these. Actually, it hasn’t. I mean, my AvX post could’ve easily been a Comical Thoughts post, but I got lazy with my branding. Anyway, we’re back and I’ve got a great, new logo (courtesy of Brian over at coolandcollected.com). I haven’t been as knee-deep in comics lately, so I didn’t have much to say. I’ve been catching up recently, though, so a few things have occurred to me.

I was surprised to realize that one of my favorite books from The New 52 was Red Hood and The Outlaws. I mean, on paper, it’s a terrible idea, and the whole shitstorm surrounding slutty Starfire got panties in a bunch. Hell, I went on record saying I hated the first issue. Now, at issue #13, I can honestly say it has become a shining star to me in a sea of mediocrity. And now I know why: it’s Burn Notice.

I LOVE Burn Notice! If you’re not familiar with that show, disgraced spy Michael Westen tries to reclaim his life with the help of ex-girlfriend (and former arms dealer) Fiona and pal (and former Navy SEAL who did bad things) Sam. In RHatO, Starfire is clearly Fiona, while Arsenal is Sam and Red Hood is Michael. Sure, in this version, “Sam” is banging “Fiona”, but that’s only a minor difference.Formerly “bad” people just trying to do the right thing.  Once I realized that, it made it an even more enjoyable experience.

 

I do not like this new Iron Man series. I’ve never been a Kieron Gillen fan, honestly. He’s that indie wunderkind who got his break in the majors, while still possessing indie ideas. I read Phonogram. It was different. Quirky. Haven’t liked anything he’s done mainstream, though. HATED Generation Hope and dropped Uncanny X-Men once he came aboard.

I’ve been with Iron Man since the old Extremis arc through Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. on through all of Invincible Iron Man. Through all of that, I grew to like the character. I don’t like him now, and it’s not like anything has fundamentally changed. A big part of the problem is Greg Land. Who the Hell keeps getting him to “draw” like he does? Another problem is that the series launched into stagnancy. It’s like it’s in a holding pattern in order to sync up with the rest off the staggered MarvelNOW launches. You see, the Invincible Iron Man series ended with Tony needing new challenges, and taking off for the stars. the new series starts, and Tony’s already back on Earth. He’s not talking about space, and the main plot point is based on a 6 year old storyline. If not for the passing reference that Pepper is still CEO of Resilient, you could almost assume that Invincible Iron Man never happened. The space stuff is the SECOND arc, so that it matches with the launch of the Guardians of the Galaxy series. It also doesn’t help that I have no clue what color the suit is. Is that shading? Is it really black and yellow? Fraction did a lot with that character, and I can understand Gillen’s desire to do something new, but he doesn’t seem to respect what came immediately before.

I’ve still got some lingering Batman family questions:

– How/when did Lucius recover from his stroke?

– What exactly happened to Commissioner Akins?

– How did Jim Gordon & Bullock come back to the force?

– What was the fallout of Bruce Wayne announcing he was Batman’s financial backer?

– So, were there any repercussions for Leslie Thompkins?

If you read the Bat books for any length of time before the New 52 reboot, you’ll understand those questions.  If not, don’t worry about it.

Speaking of Batman, one of my recent favorite podcast discoveries is Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman. I usually tend to hate celebrity podcasts, which is why I only listen to this and Aisha Tyler’s Girl on Guy. However, Fatman on Batman is great if you’ve ever wanted to hear people get truly emotional about Batman. It’s a concept that a lot of people just don’t get, but the show features actors and creators as they really just talk about the profound impact that Batman has had on their lives and/or careers. It’s interesting to see equally important figures in the mythos have different opinions on things. For example, Diedrich Bader (voice of Batman in The Brave and the Bold) played up Batman’s sense of humor, and he said that during Batman’s inner monologues he would use the “Bruce Wayne” voice. This contrasts with Paul Dini’s take that Batman has no sense of humor, and the Batman Beyond reveal that Bruce doesn’t call himself “Bruce” in his head. Both takes are equally important, without one being “right”. They’re still Batman. It’s odd I feel that way, though, as I still feel that the Nolanverse is NOT Batman. The difference is that they animated versions pay homage to different renditions of Batman, while the Nolan Batman appends the name to a completely different construct. Anyway, I’m getting off topic. If you’re a Batman fan, definitely check out Fatman on Batman.

Finally, I’ve got a bit of a conundrum when it comes to how I go about reading comics. I read AvX on my Nook, but didn’t love the experience. That said, I’m getting tired of paying $4 an issue for something that just takes up space. I’m starting to wonder if I really need to keep the issues. Then, something else happened: I started going back to the local hotel comic shows, and there’s always a dealer with recent books for $1. We’re not talking about old books, either – these are books that came out that same week. I haven’t done the Wednesday ritual in some time, so now I’m trying to figure out if I should just wait for the hotel shows and pay $1. Sure, the important stuff will end up being spoiled online, but the really important stuff is gonna be spoiled by the publishers anyway.  So, do I just play the clearance waiting game? Thoughts?