Friday, August 29, 2014

Original Sin: The Best Marvel Event In A While

Original Sin might be Marvel's best event crossover since Civil War.  But instead of trading on controversial character actions, Original Sin seems to be more interested in high adventure and boundless imagination (and maybe one controversial character action).

I know this picture looks like it's all the same ol' characters, but I promise it's not!

The setup was simple enough:  Someone murdered The Watcher and now someone has weaponized the secrets he accumulated over the years.  Now I'll admit, I was a little worried about this whole setup coming in.  Most of the time when someone uses the "Everything you knew was wrong" trope, everything's a little worse for wear.  Fortunately, the only big big reveal that came out of this whole thing was about Nick Fury, which I'll get to in a minute.

Anyway, with the mystery of the Watcher's murder hanging thick in the air, a ragtag group of heroes - including Moon Knight, Dr Strange, The Winter Soldier, among others - are assembled to follow the clues to find who really did it.  And I'll tell you, it was nice to see some lower tier guys get the spotlight in a big crossover like this.  Not that I don't like seeing Iron Man and Captain America mixing it up, but you know, the universe is bigger than just the Avengers.

And lemme tell you, it's fucking great!  The Punisher and Dr. Strange hanging out in a nether realm talking about the merits of murder, The Orb beating the Avengers with an eye of the Watcher, and Nick Fury being the biggest badass in the galaxy; What's not to like?

If he can't net an action figure after all this, I don't know what would

And listen, I understand if you're shaking your head at the Nick Fury stuff.

A bit of SPOILERS here, please just skip on down if you don't want this big reveal spoiled for you (more than it already has).  So, as it turns out, Nick Fury has become an old man since he got replaced (stupidly) by his long lost son Marcus 'Nick Fury Jr' Johnson - Seriously though, if you're mom got murdered while trying to protect you, wouldn't you keep her name?  What kind of asshole takes the name of his deadbeat dad instead?  I would rather they have brought over the Ultimate Nick Fury during some shitty crossover than this ridiculousness.  But, that's a deal for another day - Ahem.  Where was I?

Right.  The real Nick Fury.  So apparently the effects of giving up the last of the Infinity Formula to keep Bucky alive post-Fear Itself have finally taken their toll on the old warhorse and have made him age appropriate.  That is, he's turned into Bruce Wayne from Batman Beyond; old, crotchety, and supported by a cane.  But while that was the biggest physical reveal, it wasn't the BIG reveal.  That honor goes to Nick's reveal of his job all these years:  The Frontline Defense for Earth aka The Man on The Wall.

It's actually not a terrible setup, but one that falters a little when you think of the stuff Nick let come through.  Sure he was out there murdering rogue planets and developing inter-dimensional bullets, but he was also letting things like Maximum Security (The Earth is chosen to become an intergalactic prison), Secret Invasion (where the Skrulls nearly took over the planet while Nick was busy starring at photographs), and infinity (where Thanos made a run at Earth, landed, and fucked stuff up) happen when he probably could have stopped those from starting.

Regardless, the idea is neat, even if the last thing the Marvel Universe needs at this point is another secret society (Nick hangs with a bunch of LMDs, that's a society in my book) that's secretly running/protecting the world from stuff.  Do you think they ever got in each other's way?  Like, one group is trying to, I dunno, stop an intergalactic war by doing something that totally undermines whatever the opposite group is attempting.  Maybe that's the real reason Operation: Galactic Storm happened.

Back to the book, the only thing I'm not to hot on is the art.  Mike Deodato does some fantastic stuff with some of the craziest layouts ever, but it's totally not my thing.  I respect what he does, but it's too… muddy for me.  It's like Neal Adams' stuff fell into an inkwell but with more boobs.  

In a way, the series reminds me of The Infinity Gauntlet as something that can is very much of the era and can stand on it's own fairly well.  I mean sure, The Infinity Gauntlet had much more story lead up and had the craziest, highest stakes ever, but in the end you could just read those six issues and get nearly the full story of what was going on.  Meanwhile Original Sin, in a welcome change from other modern event crossovers, tells a full story over the course of 8 issues while giving enough motivation to any spin-off series that wants to exist.

You would think that this is where Spidey would remember selling his marriage to the devil.  But then I guess that isn't an ORIGINAL sin.

I really hope this is the model of events for Marvel moving forward.  You know, assuming that they insist on doing these with increased frequency (I see that Axis starts next month… sigh) it'd be nice if the actual event was worth reading and not something utterly disappointing like the past dozen or so.  In the meantime, at least I got this one and it was pretty awesome. 


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Behold the Mighty GALACTYPUS!

YYYYEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS!


Sometimes I'm convinced that they write comics just for me.

Seriously though, now that this is a thing, can I get a mini-series or something?  I promise I'll be good...

Via issue 5 of Ultimate FF by my new heroes Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andre Araujo.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

When Did I Become an Old Man?

The other day I was griping to the wife about how the Avengers appear in other books.  

"It's always Cap, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man all hanging out in the tower when a problem pops up," I complained, "Even though they don't really share a book together and they got better things to do than hang out with each other.  I mean, what about the Unity Squad?  Hickman's freaking opus?"  (At this point I can tell The Wife checks out of "our conversation")

UGH! They're even stealing lines from the movie....
Loki: Agent of Asgard # 1 - Exhibit A
(the Black Widow is there too, she's just around the corner)
It reeks of the comics falling over themselves to be more like the movies and adapt their adaptation like some kind of weird literary turducken.  And I understand that economically it behooves a comic with a readership somewhere in the 50k range try to lure in the millions upon millions that saw the movie.  Regardless, it bothers me.

But then it hit me:  I sound like the Old Time Fans I was annoyed with back when I was a new fan.

Ugh.  When did that happen?

I remember hitting up newsgroups, and later Alvaro's Comicboards, and being shocked at the reaction to the books I loved on the stands.  The general feeling on every board was that the Marvel Universe ended in 2000 when Joe Quesada took over as E-I-C.  His loose approach to continuity, decompressed story lines, and fear of basic costumed adventures really raised the ire of those fans of the big fans prior to the year 2000.  (For the record, I was one of those fans, but I was really into the new way they were telling stories at the turn of the century).

So, here we are, thirteen-ish years later and I'm suddenly the guy complaining about a bygone era when The Avengers were a consistent team from book to book.  I'm the guy telling these new whippersnappers about what the Avengers are supposed to be.

Ugh.  Past me is so disappointed in Present me.

Me circa 2014

Whatever.  Make the Avengers more consistent!  And get off my lawn!


Monday, February 24, 2014

Deathlok In Name Only

If you keep up on your comic news and/or are a viewer of Marvel's Agents of Shield, then you might be aware that they just recently added a bonafide superhero to their ranks, namely Deathlok.  Or at least, that's what all the hype (both sanctioned and fan-generated) would have you believe going into their last new episode.  Sadly, who they introduced has about as much to do with Deathlok as they do with Captain America.

This was the least badass picture I could find.  I wanted to give poor Mike a fighting chance.


For those of you not in the know, AoS's Deathlok is Mike Peterson, the super-ish human from the pilot episode.  He ran around the pilot episode as a man corrupted by the power he was given, trying desperately to show his son he was a hero while coming off more like a monster; Standard tragic hero stuff.  For a one off, it wasn't terrible even though I personally hoped that he was someone from the Marvel catalogue and not someone made up whole cloth for the show.  

Ten episodes later, Mike showed back up as a Shield agent in training until he was assigned to a mission with the team that brought him in originally.  And of course, in the name of dramatic twists, he betrayed the team and met his apparent demise running between two exploding trucks (like you do).  Alas, he wasn't dead, just missing a leg and kinda singed with a spy camera implanted in his brain ready to blackmail him into doing more misdeeds.

Is it healthy to leave those scars exposed like that?


In the latest episode, T.R.A.C.K.S, he received a fancy bionic leg and got all stone cold killer on us.  After his rampage, at the end of the episode as he's asking the people on the other side of his blackmailing camera eye if he can see his son again, the camera zooms WAY into his leg to show us that it is indeed the fabled 'PROJECT: Deathlok'.

WHY WOULD YOU NAME YOUR PROSTHETIC LEG DEATHLOK?!? ARE YOU TRYING TO GET ON A WATCHLIST?


It's just…  ugh.  Like most of Marvel's Agents of Shield, it misses the point.

You know, if this was a licensed show (like how X-Men and the Fantastic Four are licensed properties to Fox), I would be less disappointed, but it's because of Marvel Studios fantastic track record of adaptations that makes this sting.  I expect this kind of hodgepodge mentality when it comes to other executives who think they know better, but not something under the fantastic stewardship of Kevin Fiege.

Deathlok, at his core, his a character about humanity: It's a man fighting against technology to reclaim his identity.  Honestly, he's Robocop, just instead of a Detroit police officer he's a solider.  Meanwhile, Mike Peterson is a man fighting for redemption, like The Hulk.  He's made some mistakes, but always for noble reasons, and now has to prove that he's better than the monster he's made out to be.  It's a fantastic arc, but it's not a Deathlok arc.  You can't just slap a robot leg on him and call it Deathlok; that's disingenuous to the character.  Both of them.

I had really high hopes for Marvel's Agents of Shield coming into the season, but all it has done since is let me down.  The characters are bland, the stories are shoddy, and now they're not respecting the source material.  Worse, the show runners come off as smug assholes when responding to valid criticisms about the show.  

For the record, I don't really want Agents of Shield to feature a new superhero every week or am holding out hope that Tony Stark is going to show up.  I just want the show to be compelling, with interesting characters and engaging plots, but if they opt to debut a hero from the books in the show, I want them to be faithful to their core.  

So far, they're off to a terrible start.


  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Threshold

Real Talk:  Infinity is not very good.

It's cold, impersonal, and ultimately pretty boring.  Sure, it has some real epic set pieces, but that junk don't make an impact if I don't care about who or what it's impacting.  And don't even get me started on how the whole Thanos thing feels shoehorned into this over-arcing plot about The Builders and the Ex Nilhos;  it's tenuous at best, but mostly it's just terrible.

Not as advertised.


But, even though I complain and complain, I'm still going to buy the final issue next week.  Why?  Because I have the other five.  And therein lies the rub.

It was about a decade ago now when I made the conscious effort to stop buying books on inertia.  If I  wasn't enjoying the direction of the book, the creative team, or was just generally not excited about reading it anymore then I wasn't going to read it anymore.  It's a solid policy that's harder than you'd think to enforce, but aside from the odd Secret Warriors run, I've been pretty good at staying true.  
Except,  I just can never figure out the right time to stop buying a miniseries.

Take, for example, Infinity:  It's first couple of issues were good enough to warrant the buy, but after issue 4 I found myself increasingly disengaged with the story on a whole.  Culminating on the point I find myself at today:  I have five issues of a six issue miniseries, so I feel I need to see how it concludes, but I'm not really excited by it.  

I passed the point of no return and now am bound by my stupid feelings of completion to finish off the series.  It sucks.

So the question is:  Where is that Threshold?  What's the optimal number of issues to buy of a miniseries before making a true decision whether to continue or not.

Clearly, buying the first issue is a given.  It gives you a good sense of the tone, style, and hopefully has some gripping plot point that keeps you going.  A great first issue goes a long way to getting me to buy at least the next two to three issues and or looking out for the eventual trade.  A good one has me looking out for the next issue, and of course a bad one has me never going back to that well.  Seems simple enough, right?

Second issues is where things start getting dicey.  If it's no good, or just generally doesn't expand on the promise of the first, I'm out.  If it's good enough, I'll give it another go around before I opt for something more re-reading convenient.  And therein lies the dicey.  

Third issues are trouble because typically (at least with the newer 6-issue series) this is where something big happens that makes you (or me at least) feel the need to buy the next issue.  Then suddenly your four issues into a series you weren't sure about that's going to end in another issue and you might as well keep the train moving.

In other words, we end up where I am with Infinity.  Bleh.

Ugh.  Just stop.

I find myself at a loss.  I don't know how to solve this little conundrum.  So, how do you get around this?  How do you decide when to stop buying a middling miniseries?  Or better, when do you decide to stop buying single issues and just switch to trades?  

I'm curious if any of you have any tips for me and my issues with issues.


Also, does anyone really like Infinity?  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Um... What?


Well...  Looks like I just found something new for my reading list.  Let's hope I can trust Harlan Ellison on this one.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cocaine's a Hell of a Drug



Before you know it, it'll have you dressed up like a 20-something Santa Claus looking to spread a new gospel.

Just say no.  You know, unless you're into that kind of thing.

From Steve Englehart and Joe Stanton's New Guardians #2 via Comics Should Be Good

Friday, October 11, 2013

If I Was In Charge...

As a life long comic fan, I have strong opinions about the directions my favorite books have taken.  More than often, I'm really happy with how things turn out or at least am surprised by the proceedings.  Sometimes though, I can't help but to yearn for things to turn out differently.  So today we're going to give into ego and delve deep into what I would have done if I was in charge of comics:

- I would have given Young Avengers the title of New Avengers coming out of Disassembled.  Further, I would let these new heroes inspire the old before relaunching a new Mighty Avengers series, essentially following the trajectory of what Bendis wrote.

- I never would have brought back Barry Allen.  He only serves to remind readers of the boring old days while sidelining the truly interesting Flash, Wally West.  Instead, if they really wanted a Barry Allen series, I would have launched a 'Tales of the Flash' series, set in the past and staring Barry.  Then everyone wins…  but I would win more.

- If I was in charge, Spider-Man would still be married.  Call me a sucker for the MJ/Peter love story, but I can't imagine Peter with anyone else.  The only thing that happened when they magically divorced those two was resetting the timer to when they'd get back together.  My money's on 2016.

- I would have Harry Osborn be the mastermind behind the Clone Saga and subsequently becoming the Lex Luthor of the Marvel Universe.  Not only would it make sense in the scope of the story (Harry was behind the Peter's parents are robots plot), but it would have made for a great legacy of villainy for Peter to combat.  Way better than the coffee shop owner/American Son nonsense that we got…

- I never would have cancelled Darkhawk.  He was the greatest hero of the 90s, and didn't deserve the obscurity that he got!

- Instead of relaunching Spider-Girl with the same creative team three times, I would have (on that third try) tried a different team.  Mayday Parker is a great character that didn't deserve the languishing sales and stagnant story progression that she got.  I get that Defalco created her, but you know, even Stan Lee had to give up Spider-Man eventually.

- Assuming that I still went through with the New 52 thing, I would have made a clean break from the past continuity.  If you're going to do something as drastic as the new 52, it doesn't make ANY sense to hold on to bits and pieces.  You may think that you're appealing to the fans, but really you're just making it harder on yourself.

- Honestly, if I was in charge, I never would have done the New 52.  Drastic universe reboots are a surefire way to alienate fans and make it harder to explain stuff to new fans.  "Oh, do you mean Pre-Crisis Batman?  Or Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint?"  Ridiculous!

- I would have canned Chuck Austen after his terrible Romeo and Juliette riff in Uncanny X-Men and would have kept him far away from New X-Men after Morrison left.  That was the worst!


Those are what I would have done.  What about you?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

About That Man of Steel Ending...

I'm sure most of you, being that this is a comics blog, watched that new Superman movie that hit theaters last week.  And if you did, I'm sure you came away with some opinions.  To say that it's a movie that invites debate is putting it mildly.  

My short, non-spoilery take on the movie is thusly:  At least it was better than Superman Returns.  Then again, it's not hard to be better than a movie that turned the godfather of all superheroes into a creepy date rapist; the bar wasn't that high to begin with.  

As to why I didn't enjoy this new take on Supes, you'll have to cross the desert of knowledge into Spoiler territory.  I got a jet plane, I'll meet you there.

Oh, and no, this isn't about the amount of destruction during those fights.  That's just kinda whatever.



For the record, I don't have a big issue with the redesigned logo.  I think it's looks appropriately alien.


Okay, so, at the big epic (and kinda boring) battle between Zod and Superman ends with Supes straight up killing Zod.  Snapping his neck, in fact, while Zod threatens to incinerate some screaming family.  And that's when the movie lost me.

You see, the whole movie had pretty explicitly set up the idea that Superman was some kind of Space Jesus here to give us an example to look up to and save us from ourselves.  I think the line from Jor-El (the defacto Space-God, I suppose) is something like: "You will give the people an ideal to strive towards."

As long as he doesn't sing, I have no problem with him being a Space-God.

So by killing Zod in front of everyone, the 'ideal to strive towards' Superman has given the people writ large is that it's cool to kill.  Nice message there, Space Jesus.

And you know, it didn't have to be that way.  In fact, they still could have had Zod die at Superman's hands, but not make it as mundane and altogether awful as a neck snap.  In fact, I really thought they were going to do it there for a second too.

Let's take a step back to talk about Zod for a second.  He's established in the movie as putting the prosperity of his people above his own well being, which is a pretty cool motivation.  The reason he tries to overthrow Krypton in the first place is because he feels like the powers that be are driving the society into a new dark age.  We've all been there, I get it.  Then, after he escapes from prison (to put it simply), he's in search of two things to ensure his people survive: a new home world and the genetic macguffin that ensures proper Kryptonian births that was stolen and jettisoned by Jor El.  Later, when Zod finds Superman he learns that the macguffin was encoded into Supes' DNA, making him the be-all-end-all of Krypton.  And, you know, the fight ensues.

Fast forward to the end of the movie, Superman (along with some military friends) have defeated the marauding Kryptonians, leaving Zod alone with a pile of ash.  As he runs his hands through that pile of destroyed dreams, he screams something like "This was all we were.  This was all that was left of Krypton, the thing I was sworn to protect, and now it's gone.  I have nothing to live for!"  Or something like that.

If I had it my way, this would be his one expression for the entire movie.

Now, here's the thing.  In the movie as it plays, Zod rushes Superman and they proceed to punch the shit out of each other for twenty (long) minutes.  However, it struck me that it would make more sense for Superman to point out that, in fact, Superman represents the entirety of the Kryptonian people and therefore Zod should not freak out.

Don't get me wrong, in this fantasy scenario, I still see a big fight occurring, but instead of it just being a verbal tennis match of "I'll stop you", it could have been Superman trying to be the bigger man and trying to stop Zod from hurting himself.

Like, you know, show Superman using his brains and compassion to end the situation instead of just his fists.  Or, to put it another way, to give us an example of how to fight someone that doesn't involve physical superiority.  Or you know, like Jor El said: "Give [us] an ideal to strive towards"

"What should we do, Superman!?!" "Kill'em.  Let my Dad sort'em out."  My hero...

To me, that's the biggest sin of Man of Steel: they spend so much time telling me he's supposed to inspire us, but they never show him doing anything worthy of inspiration.  Sure, he saved some people, but that's just common decency.  What makes someone worthy of idolization is not how they do the simple things, but how they handle the tough problems.  And what Man of Steel told me is that when put in a tough situation, Superman will solve it the easiest way possible:  By killing.


And that is not what Superman is about.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Heroes for Hire: The Movie!



Or at least an approximation of what the movie post could/would look like if it was a 70s style Grindhouse feature. This may come as a surprise, but if I could will one thing into existence it would be this.

Here's hoping the HoH get some love from Marvel Studios Phase 3!

This chunk of dreams comes from KharyRandolph over on the Deviantart.