Monday, December 10, 2007

Hellboy II images

Over at Dark Horse, they've released a few preview images for the upcoming Hellboy II: The Golden Army movie. They look pretty awesome, and they also state: "Hellboy II is set for release on July 11, 2008."

Pardon the pun, but that Liz picture is smokin'.

Friday, December 7, 2007

What If... Vol II #33

What If... The Phoenix Rose Again?

I just happened across what is quite possibly the funniest "What If?" ever. Boy, I sure wonder what it would be like if Marvel reintroduced the Phoenix. But they'd never stoop so low as to recycle that story, would they? Oh 1992, you are so cute when you're naive.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Showcase: Sgt. Rock

Finishing off the triple threat of DC war comics, after “The War That Time Forgot” and “The Haunted Tank”, I picked up “Sgt. Rock”. Of the three, this is the one that I was the least nervous about diving into, as the great Joe Kubert is really at his best when he's working on Sgt. Rock and the Easy Company, and even in the black and white Showcase format, his pages still look great.

The one thing I am really enjoying, both in this book and the other war books, is the fantastic examples of compressed storytelling that is on display. Ten, fifteen pages, and the tale has solid characters, efficient drama, and a sound conclusion. Reading this in contrast to the books that are coming out monthly is really illustrating the trend away from self-contained tales in modern comics, and it makes me a little sad that this type of story is nearly extinct.

Scott Pilgrim vol.4

I had been sitting on this purchase for a while, just waiting for the right moment to crack it open and enjoy it. Scott Pilgrim has been one of my favorite books to read over the past couple of years, so the much anticipated new volume couldn't be wasted by reading it while on the can, so I waited until I had an evening free just to myself to really sit back and enjoy it.

Now, it hurts me to say this but, while the evening itself was quite relaxing and nice, the actual book left me a little flat. Not to say that it's not better than 80% of what's out there, but this edition just seemed too introspective,too caught up in all the little pieces of the story rather than pushing the pacing forward. I usually have this great feeling of anticipation reading Scott Pilgrim, and this time around, it was missing, and then, just like that, the book was over.

Bryan Lee O'Malley has created a great cast of characters, and I get that he's trying to give everyone their screen time, but I just feel that it should be more organic to the narrative, and not merely scenes written to feature characters. Every scene should more the story forward, and scenes that don't should be trimmed, or else, you end up with the comic equivalent of an art house film; pretty looking, but unsatisfying.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New Avengers: Illuminati #5, New look site

So I spent some time tweaking the look of the site last week. It's not as if it was a big change, but I like it, and I think now it looks a little more unique around here. If you read this over an rss feed, though, I doubt it'll matter much to you.


Moving right along, I just wanted to give a quick review of New Avengers: Illuminati #5, which came out last week, and continues to be a book I quite enjoy. Even if it does tend to be one of the more continuity-involved books in print, I know that this isn't really the title for new readers, and as I have been reading a lot of Bendis' Marvel stuff, this is right up my alley.

IGN has a preview of this issue up on their site, so if you're so inclined, you can go take a look at the first few pages and get a good grasp of the plot, to say nothing of the great art from CrossGen vet, Jimmy Cheung.

This issue is sort of a follow up on another of Bendis' books, New Avengers, answering the question "Did Spider-Woman give Iron Man the Skrull body?" and moves from there to see how Tony Stark is going to deal with it. It was a good read, with good art, and the plot twist was unexpected, but not unbelievable, which showed a good amount of planning by the writer. I also quite enjoy Namor, the Sub-Mariner in this book, as I think he is treated with respect by his peers, and in this setting we get to see more of both his honourable-warrior and his personal sides. This book also should signal the start of the next big event at Marvel, following up on "Civil War" and "World War Hulk" with "Secret Invasion: The Infiltration".

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Usagi Yojimbo

I just finished Usagi Yojimbo #'s 104-105, and damn were these two of the creepier issues I've read. I mean, it was practically reminiscent of many mid-season Buffy episodes, wherein the horror was built up, and left you dangling for a week feeling a little sick and creeped out. That is what these two comics do to you; leave you feeling a little cold and nervous for the heroes.

Stan Sakai never disappoints either, so I'm really excited to see where this is going to go. It's going to be one hell of a ride.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Comics Should be Good

The brainchild of Brian Cronin; Comics Should Be Good, which is a great comics blog that will routinely check five to ten times a week for updates. With interesting and original features, as well as a devoted following, it really is the comics blog to watch out there. It's so good, that it's practically disheartening to blog about comics on the same internet.

Be sure to check them out. Tell 'em I sent you.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

30 Days of Night: The Movie

So I went to see the movie "30 Days of Night", and just got home not too long ago. While it's still fresh in my mind, I wanted to jot down a few thoughts while they were still fresh in my mind. As I've just talked about the comic, it's a good time for a follow up.

First off, the movie wasn't bad. It was nice and creepy, and stark and a little shocking when it needed to be. It managed to really show a nice sense of isolation that exists in Barrow Alaska, and it was a good adaptation of the comic.

What the film added to the story was what I hoped it would, with taking the isolation and the violence of the siege of the town. It also added in some wonderfully creepy sound effects, and as much of the film's violence happened just off camera, it really added to the tale. I liked Josh Hartnett in the lead, and I thought that he was a good choice for his role, and the rest of the cast was fine too.

My criticisms are not overwhelming, but notable none the less. For a vampire movie about a month without the sun, there should have been a lot more darkness shown on screen. I get moonlight, but blackness is unsettling and underused. The vampires, for no explained reason, spoke in a "vampire language" that was unexplained and silly sounding. It was too bad, as they looked scary, and looked evil, but they sounded like drunk klingons.

Lastly, I didn't like the removal of one of the characters from the comic, a very important vampire that was the source of a great twist in the comic. He was written out, and I felt his lost in the end result.

That's all I've got tonight. Go see it, I dug it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

30 Days of Night: The Comic

My friend Pat managed to obtain a double pass to the screening of the movie for tonight, to which he cordially invited me along for. I am stoked for the movie, and I hope to have a few new additions to my Top 10: Superhero movie moments. In preparation, I reread the original comic by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith last night.

For those of you that have never seen any of it, IDW has a few preview pages of the original comic up on their site, which sets up the story and really gives you a feel of what's in store for you.

Set in Barrow, Alaska, "30 Days of Night" is basically a simple idea. In a small and isolated town where the sun sets and doesn't rise until a month later, a group of vampires show up in order to wreak havoc and give in to their baser animal instincts. Violence ensues.

First released in 2002 (and almost immediately optioned in Hollywood), it is a pretty slick idea for a horror comic from writer Steve Niles. Vampires, violence, endless night. But what really set it apart was the unbelievably moody, dark and original artwork by Templesmith (or Templesmiths, if he is to be believed). The art was unlike anything else on the comic shop walls at the time, and elevated the book to high levels. Its cult hit status isn't that of "Sin City", but it does have a following and it was an unexpected sleeper hit for IDW.

The art is exceedingly dark. You have to strain to draw out the details from it, and the work it causes you to place as it surrenders it's disturbing imagery almost like a whispered secret. It hearkens back to classic horror experiences like Alien, where the tension is ratcheted up until it bursts.

If you haven't read it yet, and you like comics, vampires or dark artwork, you should pick it up.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together

Bryan Lee O'Malley has finished the 4th edition of his Scott Pilgrim books, and just put up some preview pages for the newest book.

I've spoken about "Scott Pilgrim" before, as it is one of my favorite reads, to say nothing of my patriotism being added to my enthusiasm. O'Malley is a fellow Canuck, true, but his books are just awesomely fun reads.

Also, in the news section of his site, I found this little tidbit:
"IS THERE GOING TO BE A MOVIE?

The Scott Pilgrim series has been optioned by Universal Pictures, which means they have the "option" of making a movie based on the concept. Edgar Wright wants to direct the film. He and Michael Bacall are writing it. No "stars" are "attached" and it isn't "green-lit", but we'll let you know if any of that changes."


Really, the more Scott Pilgrim, the better.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Was the Hulk Gay?

How odd is my life that this came up in conversation amongst my friends last night?

Taken from the Wiki article:

"...according to Stan Lee, Universal changed the name because the name "Bruce Banner" sounds like a "gay character" name, and "David Banner" sounded better for the character. (However, "Bruce" was used as his middle name, as that was the case in the comics, except in the comics his first name is "Robert," not "David.")"

My pal Keith was nonplussed at my recounting this fact, saying "He's a big, muscled guy who rips out of his clothing and runs around in his underwear." which of course leads me to believe Keith has never really known any gay people, or if he has, has known very scary and odd gay people.

In any case, I think that Bruce is a perfectly honest name, with no sexuality implied either way. I also think the 70's were an odd time.

Doctor Strange DVD

I've spoken about the direct to DVD movies that Marvel and DC are putting out, and I've just recently sat down and watched the Doctor Strange movie. It was a toss up when I was at the shop between this film and the recently released Superman/Doomsday, but I've heard some less than glorious reviews from the internets about the Death of Superman, and as I quite enjoyed the Invincible Iron Man, I figured that I would give Marvel the benefit of the doubt and go with Doc Strange.

I wasn't disappointed. I thought that Stephen Strange went through a thorough yet believable transformation in personality, from self-obsessed neuro-surgeon to heroic Sorcerer Supreme, and that it seemed organic to the character as to why he was behaving a certain way at any point throughout the film. Make no mistake, this is an origin story, and it does take some liberties with the myth of Doctor Strange, but I feel that they are all for the best, serving to update and flesh out the character, setting it up to be a series I hope to see more of.

The villains are interesting and are classic foes of Strange; The Dread Dormammu and the evil Baron Mordo, and both offer good foils to the protagonist. Mordo was nicely updated to fit in with the retelling of the origin, and I liked his harder edge warrior mage image.

The animation is nice, if not as daring as the Iron Man art, and continues to reinforce the "look" that Marvel is creating with it's animated DVDs. The voice acting is alright, neither hindering nor adding anything special to the experience of the movie. My one complaint with the DVD is that the special features are a little light. There is an "Origin of Doctor Strange" featurette with interviews of comic creators Stan Lee, Steve Englheart, J.M. DeMatteis along with some of the production crew of the DVD, but I didn't get much out of it, as it was often more about the movie than the character's history. The comic creators they did have weren't given enough screen time, and it would have been nice to hear from an artist of two, perhaps Gene Colan, Steve Leialoha, Paul Smith, or even if it would never happen, Steve Ditko.

All in all, I would recommend this DVD, as the movie is fun and does take you on a journey, and there's enough there on screen to give it a re-watch value. Marvel has a trailer up on their site if you're still unsure and want to take a look.

Abayo.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Showcase: The War that Time Forgot

I've only just picked up the "Showcase: The War that Time Forgot" after having polished off "Showcase: The Haunted Tank", and already I'm loving it.

The basic gist of "The War" is that during the second World War, odd seismic activity is detected on an island of some tactical importance in the Pacific. Two previous recon teams have been sent to investigate, but haven't been heard from since. This time, they drop paratroopers and armoured weaponry to get some answers to the questions "What is causing the earthquakes?" and "What happened to our other men?".

The answer is solid gold:

Dinosaurs!

No, really, the Army fights Dinosaurs on a Pacific island in the middle of WWII.

I swear, this book is so good. The Army, stranded on an island, vs dinosaurs. To say nothing of the fine art by Ross Andru (of Spider-man fame), the writing of Robert Kanigher is as inspired as it is insane. The troopers take on a T-Rex with a tank, shoot down a Pteranadon with an anti-aircraft flak cannon, and use plastic explosives to free their sub from a sea-creature. And that's just in the first two issues. It's wacky and more, and it's written as if it were a completely serious war story.

More to come on this, I'm sure. I'll offer up some of the choice dialog later on.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cable & Deadpool: Bob

I'll admit, I've been picking up the latest issues of Cable & Deadpool based mainly on the excellent cover art of Skottie Young (who also draws with a PC tablet on not on paper, which is cool), but there's more to this book that the cover.

Like Bob, Agent of Hydra, who is the most awesome character to emerge this year. He's right up there with Scott Pilgrim in terms of awesome-ness. Bob is an agent who is captured by Deadpool and is eventually named lackey and he haplessly follows Wade around on his missions. In the latest story arc, Bob tags along as Deadpool infiltrates the same Hydra base that Wolverine is attacking in order to save a friend Hydra had captured. Bob's constant apologies to his former coworkers as he follows in Deadpool's wake is solid gold. Solid. Gold.

A tip of the hat to you, Fabian Nicieza, for creating the breakout character of 2007.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Avengers Classic

I just read Avengers Classic #4 yesterday, and I must say that while it's good to reread Stan and Jack's original run on the Avengers, the real reason I buy this title is because of the great cover art of Arthur Adams. His stuff has always called to me, going back nearly 20 years, and it still continues to do so.

As an added bonus, the Dwayne McDuffie/Michael Avon Oeming backup stories are also fun and fresh.

Nothing but love for Avengers Classic.

Sneak Peek: New Frontier DVD

Over at IESB, they have a 10 minute promo video for the upcoming direct to DVD "New Frontier" offering from DC. As I love the comic, love the work of Darwin Cooke, and love cartoons, I must say I'm pretty amped for this DVD.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Showcase: The Haunted Tank

I'm reading through the Showcase The Haunted Tank lately, and I'm quite enjoying it. I just finished a short story that reprinted The Brave & the Bold #52 which crossed over the Haunted Tank, Johnny Cloud and Sgt. Rock. It was, simply put, awesome.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Spider-Man: One More Day

Well, I've just read the first issue of the "One More Day" arc in Spider-Man comics, and 22 pages in, I'm quite enamored of it.

This book has been promoted for a few months now, and with my recent return to Spidey comics, I've been looking forward to it, if albeit a hint of wariness. After having read the first issue though, I am now more optimistic for the story. JMS on writing has been with Peter Parker for a long time now, and he has rolled with all the punches, and Marvel's editor in chief Joe Quesada picks up the pencils again for this book, and delivers with some very dynamic work.

I don't want to get into too many spoilers, but it's nice to see Spider-Man show that he's a top-tier hero, and doesn't get pushed around easily, even by Iron Man.

Good stuff thus far, hope it continues being so.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Ah Shortpacked, again.

Buffy Season 8, Usagi Yojimbo and Spider-Man

I just finished reading the first arc of Buffy season 8 from Dark Horse, and I liked it well enough. I feel that the writing was quite good, and again than Joss Whedon has continued to develop as a comic book writer. I also like that the book is firmly rooted in continuity, and has continued with a quick-witted dialogue and fun. The art is passable, whith good renditions of characters, though at times, I found there to be a lack of dynamic action on the page. All in all, however, the book is a must read for Buffy fans.

Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo continues to be one of my favorite books every month. Every book is a little gift, in my opinion, and the characterization is always sharp and fresh. It is one of the great mysteries to me why this title continues to only appeal to a niche, when it is consistently excellent and has great re-readability. The recent arc has him poisoned and fighting through fever dreams, and maintains the high drama and grit and quality story telling I expect from Mr. Sakai every month.

I've also just recently started picking up Spider-Man again, catching the tail end of the "Back in Black" and leading into the "One More Day" arc. Following Civil War, I felt that I needed to mix up the Marvel books I was reading, dropping "Mighty Avengers" and with "Nextwave" getting canceled, I had some space to play with my pull list. Spidey seemed to be the character that had benefitted the most from the shakedown of Civil War, in term of storytelling" so I figured I'd give it a run. Amazing Spider-Man #542 has a black-costumed Spider-man hunting down the Kingpin in prison, only to unmask and give ol purple pants a humiliating beat-down in front of the crown of inmates. Peter's again in a situation where he's been pushed to his limits, and it's taken a turn for the darker. Especially nice work by penciller Ron Garney, who draws a very good fight scene.

That's all I got for now, but I expect to be making more regular postings again around here now that I've gotten a few technical issues sorted out.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Top 10: Superhero movie moments

10.
The three kryptonians wade through White House security as if it were a fun passtime in Superman II. When Zod tries out the machinegun, it seems as if he's just curious to see how it works. Awesome.

9.
The opening "Bloodbath" scene from Blade. Vampires, techno music, blood and ashes. That scene alone spawned the next 2 sequels.

8.
The fighting climax between Batman, the Phantasm and the Joker at the end of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. The big reveal, the huge fight, Mark Hamill giving a great vocal performance as the Joker. I can picture the whole fight if I close my eyes.

7.
I'm gonna take one from the list link, the "Okay, put more." scene from Unbreakable. *shiver*. Best moment in an Origin story. Ever.

6.
Black-costumed Spiderman comes to settle the score with Harry Osborne. Not exactly the greatest movie ever, but the Peter-Harry relationship culminates wonderfully, and was the the only organic plot in the whole 3rd film.

5.
Cyclops: "Prove it!"
Wolverine: "You're a dick."
Cyclops: "Okay."
from X-Men.


4.
Also from X-Men, the standoff between Magneto and Xavier outside the train station has a great sequence of escalation. Mags wins out in the end, but possessing Sabretooth to threaten to rip out Magnus' throat was really cool.

3.
Another from the linked list, the "He's just a kid." scene from Spiderman 2. Added to that the "You'll have to get through me." scene right after it where they all stand up to Doc Ock on Spidey's behalf, only to be whacked out of the way as a afterthought.

2.
Elasti-Girl infiltrates Syndrome's base in the Incredibles. So cool, and it was a toss-up between that and the "no capes" flashback from the same movie, but there was more drama in the sneaking in.

1.
The Iron Giant grumbles out "Su-per-man" as he flies off to sacrifice himself and save the town. Lump in throat, tears welling, true hero stuff.


Honorable Mentions:

"Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb!" - Batman: The Movie

Bullseye kills an old lady with a peanut. - Daredevil

The Beast meeting Leech for the first time and is just completely emotionally torn by how it made him feel. - X3

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The New Avengers: Bendis and Yu

I don't really have much time to post today, but I was talking to my friend Anthony yesterday, and I was telling him how much I was enjoying Marvel's "New Avengers", so I figured I'd break it down for you a little bit.

Post-Civil War, this book has been getting steadily more interesting, and with Leinil Francis Yu on the pencils, it is also looking fantastic. The new line-up of Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Dr. Strange, Ronin, Spider-Woman and Echo may seem a little odd at first, but there's a great mix of personalities there and for me, at least, it's fun to see them interact.

Brian Michael Bendis has been on the Avengers books for a few years, and though he's had a few slow points, as a whole I've enjoyed his run. He's swinging the title around to pick up some of the plots that he had introduced at the start of New Avengers, and in the latest issue, he brought back a fan favorite character in Clint Barton (better known as Hawkeye) and sprinkled in some conspiracy theories. I'm nicely hooked, and that's without mentioning the fact that Bendis writes a better Spidey than most.

Leinil Yu has long been a favorite of mine, back from his work on Wolverine and the X-Men, but on the New Avengers, he has really loosened up his style and it looks wonderful. He's still keeping it gritty and dark, but his poses and expressions are just a little bit more exaggerated, and it work really well for the tone of this title.

All in all, his book is giving Astonishing X-Men a run for my favorite Marvel book.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Superhero Movies: A Call

I'd like very much to start a series of film reviews on superhero movies. I'll put the word out to some colleagues and we'll screen some of the most notable or infamous of the genre, and then have a round table discussion of the movie afterwards.

Stay tuned for more.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Pride of Baghdad, Buffy Season 8

From DC's Vertigo line, I recently picked up a gorgeous hardcover edition of Brian K. Vaughn's "Pride of Baghdad". You might know Vaughn's other works in "Y: The Last Man" or "Runaways", but as much fun as I've found those two titles great fun, Pride of Baghdad was just: wow.

It's based on a news snippet from 2003, when in the initial attack on the city by American forces, a pride of four lions escaped from the Baghdad zoo. After that, though, everything is the writer's playground. Think "Lion King" meets "Watership Down" and toss it together in a bowl of current affairs, and you can start to get an idea of what Pride is.

And the art by Niko Henrichon was just awe inspiring. A Quebec artist himself, he really burst out on to the scene with his moody and dramatic offerings in this work. He'll be a big star, I've no doubt, should he continue to produce work of this caliber.

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I also had shipped this week the first two issues of Buffy Season 8 from Dark Horse Comics. I was nervous about this title, because even though Buffy-creator Joss Whedon is writing it, much of his previous work on Buffy comics hasn't resonated with me like the show.

Whedon has been working on "Astonishing X-Men" for the better part of two years now, and his comic-writing chops have gotten better with experience, and as such, The new Buffy comics read more like an episode, and fans of the show should be pleased that all the little quips and the timing that made the show so great read really well in the first two issues. Continuity is also a factor, and thus far it has slid easily into the gap it left when Buffy ended and Angel ran for one more season.

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There you have it. A pretty good week in comics for me, and from some unexpected sources no less.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Comic Book Movies: Big Red Cheese

I just read over at CBR that there is a "Captain Marvel" movie in the works, and reports have appeared stating that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has been sniffing around for the lead. I'm not sure how a Shazam movie would fly, especially after my distinct indifference towards the latest Superman film. But I do like the Rock.

Captain Marvel is an odd character, and for me, has really only captured my attention as a foil for Superman, be it in "Kingdom Come" or in "Justice League Unlimited". I think that's mostly because I can't name a single arch-enemy for him, not one of any consequence at least.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Movies: Spider-Man 3.

I went out to see Spider-Man 3 last night, and even now I'm having trouble putting together my thoughts about how I felt about it.

So I'm going to break it down here. If you haven't seen it, and are adverse to spoilers, you probably don't want to read any further. Consider that your *Spoiler Alert*.

I think my main issue with the movie is the same issue I had with both parts 1 and 2; I don't buy into Tobey Maguire or Kirsten Dunst as the leads. Peter Parker is played very dry, and often looking very sad sack about everything, and Mary-Jane is supposed to be a firebrand, and even if you wanted to argue that they are allowed to recreate characters for film, I believe that the guilty look on Dunst's face makes you simply resent her for even being there at all.

Maguire (or director Sam Raimi) is missing something about Peter Parker. Pete is supposed to be the "cool loser", with his issues and fear more kept to an internal conflict rather than a glassy-eyed hard luck joe. I had always cast Nicholas Brendon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) in my head because he was able to be a dork, look cool, and banter all the while giving a sense that he's covering up some pain inside. Tobey doesn't even try that, and it takes away from Spidey.

The rest of the cast is pretty well done. I like James Franco as Harry Osborne, and as the new Goblin, his fight scenes in the 3rd installment carried the most dramatic weight. It did of course have the benefit of a two movie buildup, but I thought it well executed and managed to both convey emotion and look cool at the same time.

The Sandman was an example of great economy, with motivations and origins wrapped up quickly so he could dive right into the action. I bought Thomas Hayden Church's acting, and most of his displays of power were classic and visually cool looking. Not so hot, for me, was the "sandstorm" flying power, and the giant sand creature-thing at the end. Too much CG, not enough reality there.

Venom was quite possibly the one that had me the most worried, in terms of how they were going to make him look. I personally would have gone for a more "liquid" look, but that's nitpick-y, and all in all, he looked good. Topher Grace as Eddie Brock was good too. He was a dick, plain and simple, and they didn't try and over do it with him. Venom was alright, and since I never really got excited about him in the comics, that's about as good as it gets.

The character of Ursula breaks my heart. I <3 her.

The CG was better this time around, and Spidey's web-swinging looked more interesting than in past films. The fights were still a little too chaotic, and they used the "shakey-cam" technique a little too often towards the end.

I'm still chewing on the plot, so maybe I'll get to that a little later on, but right now, I can say I liked it well enough, and it was pretty to look at, but it wasn't close to awesome, and it failed getting a real, sustained emotional response from me.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Captain America: What went wrong? (cont.)

Continuity is my favorite part of comics, but I'll be damned if it doesn't make it difficult to catch someone up on what's going on.

Picking up from where I left off last time, at the end of the "House of M" there was a short period of "normal" life in the Marvel Universe. Good guys fought bad guys, Woverine said 'bub', Cyclops was a dick. Everything was hunky dory.

The most important thing that happened to the story of Captain America was the creation of a new Avengers team. After a raid on the maximum security prison "The Raft" a group of heroes gathered by chance to fight the chaos and capture as many of the villains as they could. Once the dust settled, Cap, Iron Man, Spider-man, Wolverine, Spider-Woman, The Sentry, Ms. Marvel, Luke Cage and the mysterious Ronin were the new Avengers, and operated out of Stark Tower. They fought some bad guys for a while. Everything was great.

Then a couple of things happened.

  • The Illuminati, a secret cabal of heroes, shipped the Hulk off into space as a final solution to his rampages.
  • The New Warriors, on live television, went to bust a gang of villains. One of them, Nuke, used his power to escape, and in the process killed hundreds of people (including a nearby schoolyard-full of children and all of the New Warriors save Speedball).
The latter sets off a furor in the Marvel Universe, prompting the US government to introduce the Superhuman Registration Act, forcing any metahumans to register their powers, as well as to be trained and evaluated before they are able to use them, as a security measure to protect the civilian population from rogue heroes (like the New Warriors) getting in it too deep and resulting in another Connecticut disaster.

Heroes across the board are conflicted about this, and quickly polarize towards either supporting the act and the security it brings or acting against it, seeing it as an affront to freedom. They fall in with the two icons on either side of the debate, Iron Man (pro) and Captain America (con). Things rapidly degenerate when military force is used to capture unregistered heroes at midnight on the day of the act becoming law. Captain America, Falcon, Luke Cage and a handful of others are assaulted and retreat into hiding, trying to marshal up a resistance force.

------------------------------

I'll take a break here to express some thoughts.

Captain America, the greatest hero the United States has ever had, is against the act. He seemed to be taking a passive resistance towards it, sitting quietly as the deadline passed. Who's brilliant idea was it to send a tactical military force to detain him at 12:01?

Also, Tony Stark really starts acting like a dick here. He turns on his friends, trying to manipulate them and bully them into siding with him. He personally turns friend on friend, and alienates his closest allies in doing so. He and Reed Richards begin to play chess with their friends and family, and it gets vicious and perverse very quickly. Tony's a smart guy, and I can't help but think he's got some plan down the road, but it mostly seems as if he is just amassing power for himself. The General consensus on the internet is "Iron Man is a tool", and with every passing month, he seems to be digging deeper and deeper.

------------------------------

Flash forward through the "Civil War" event, there were a few milestones here to cover:
  • At Iron Man's urging Peter Parker revealed to the world he was Spider-Man. This was an attempt to show the transparency of the Act.
  • Peter was attacked on all sides by his enemies, forcing Aunt May and Mary-Jane to move into Stark Tower for their own protection.
  • Reed Richards cloned Thor, and this clone (Clor!) killed Black Goliath in a showdown between Cap and Iron Man's forces.
  • The FF broke up, mostly because Reed was acting without even talking things over with his wife.
  • Namor, Black Bolt and Black Panther all strained their US relations in some way as a result of the registration act.
  • Spider-Man joined Cap's side after seeing how far Tony was ready to go, specifically killing another hero in Black Lightning.
  • The government formed an officially sanctioned super-team to track down renegades in the Thunderbolts. The team included registered metas Green Goblin, Bullseye and Venom amongst others.
  • Iron Man and Reed Richards created a super-prison in the neutral zone to hold non-conformists.
  • Cap and his team attacked the prison, freeing everyone within and an epic battle began.
There is a lot more that happened in the series, but that's up to you to read. Again, wikipedia has it all summarized in great detail.

The important thing to remember is that real questions were being asked about the Marvel Universe's civil freedoms and how much were they worth when compared to the promise of security.

The Civil War ends when, mid-battle, Captain America realises that the collateral damage being caused by this mid-Manhattan brawl is too great, with hundreds dead and millions in damages, and surrenders to Iron Man.

Yeah, he just gives up.

And goes to jail.

That's how Civil War ends.

Back in his own book, he is taken to court, and upon making his exit, Sharon Carter (under the influence/manipulation of the Red Skull) snipes Captain America, shooting him 4 times with a high-caliber rifle and killing him on the steps of the court house.

Just like that.

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An interesting addendum to this is that Marvel leaked news of this story to the media the day the book hit the stands, so many readers heard about it in the paper or on the radio before they could get to the comic shop with nary a spoiler warning in sight.

The issue also sold out very quickly due to the interest generated by the press. I myself was not able to get a copy, the stores in my area selling out before I had a chance to get to the shop.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Captain America: What went wrong?

When a comic book makes news, every fanboy begins to get asked to fill their non-reader friends in on what's going on. Some hidden need to feel a sense of belonging through knowledge kicks is, and worried about perhaps saying something ill-informed down the line and even though they will in all likelihood never read the comic in question, they must know.

The was the case with Captain America when news of his death was published in the news papers the morning issue 25 was released. I was asked to tell my friends and coworkers what was going on, feeling a little like a front-line analyst with a khaki vest and rugged five o'clock shadow.

Now, it's not at all that I mind talking about comics, but rather the opposite. If I could, I would surrounds myself with interested people and talk comics all day long, so when asked to break down the events leading up to the death of Cap here, I was on that like white on rice. White rice. But, as is customary, I must provide the standard spoiler alert, as I will be going into the plots in order to cover what happened.

*Spoiler Alert*

There. Sigh. Huh, now that I'm at the part of this post where I'm actually going to write about the comics, I'm no longer sure of where to start. Captain America has been around since 1941, so there's a lot of Cap history. Between his own book, being in the Avengers, and all the appearances he's made in other titles, he's got a huge library already written about him. I'm just going to assume you all know his origin and skip right up to more recent events.

There's sort of a timeline of "events" that set Captain America towards his fate, and they are as follows:

*Secret War
*Avengers Disassembled
*House of M
*Civil War

If you would like a detailed account of those story lines, I don't think I could do it better than the wikipedia articles, so don't don't be afraid to take advantage of the hyper-text, it's good reading. Basically, Nick Fury took some heroes on a covert mission and then mind wiped them. Then the Scarlet Witch lost her mind and in the ensuing battle between her and the Avengers, with her reality warping hex magic going wild, Hawkeye, Ant-Man and Vision were killed and Captain Britain and Wasp were badly hurt, and She-Hulk was taken into custody after hulking out and ripping Vision in half in a rage.

They beat her, and gave her over to Professor X and Doctor Strange to tend to her now shattered mind. When all hop had been lost, a discussion about what to do with her led to some dark suggestions, and her brother, Quicksilver, decided to wake her up. Bereft with guilt over what she had done, Wanda decided to call a big "do over" on the world, and ushered in the "House of M".

Boy, this is long. It's taken me like a week just to get this far.

In the House of M, Wanda remade the entire world, trying to give the people she knew what they wanted from life. Magneto was a king and mutants were revered, Spider-man was happy, Hawkeye was alive, and Wolverine was the head of SHEILD, etc. But cracks in reality started to show and a band of heroes realised that this world was fake. The went after Scarlet Witch, and had to cut through her father's forces to get to her, but when it was all said and done, she returned the world to normal, disappeared and all but a few hundred mutants had their powers, down from the millions they numbered before her meddling. Notable mutants to lose their powers were Xavier, Iceman, Quicksilver and the Blob.

Okay, I'll get to Civil War and Cap's murder in the next post.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Comic Book Ramblings: Conan, X-Men

I had some friends over last night, and one of them grabbed a copy of "Conan" I had lying around as we waited for supper to be ready. It got me thinking that "Conan" from Dark Horse is really one of the easiest comics for non comic readers to get into. There is no convoluted continuity that would prevent you from diving right into the story, but read sequentially the plots do flow into one another. Every issue offers the reader what he or she wants from Conan. Sword and sorcery, Conan fights something, and sinister plots unfold.

He sat there reading without looking up to ask me "Who's this guy?" or "What's that?" as other books would have caused him to be lost in the narrative. Aside from that, Cary Nord is a brilliantly gifted artist, whose work has really evolved whilst on Conan and just makes it that much easier to slip into.

So if you're not reading it, why not? It's fun, it looks great, and it's easy to get into.

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I used to be such an X-Junkie. Now, I'm only reading "Astonishing X-Men" and that only comes out once every couple of months. What happened? How did such a fan of the series drop the books without remorse?

I'll try and break it down.

Saturation. Too many damn x-books out there made it too hard to follow what was going on from month to month. Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, X-Men Unlimited, New X-Men, Excalibur, X-Factor, Wolverine and Cable/Deadpool are just too many titles to follow. Even at my peak, I wasn't able to pick them all up.

Quality. I'll be damned if the books didn't take a nosedive over the past five years in terms of their quality. Rotating creative teams and a lack of a-list talent on many of the books sapped my excitement from month to month, eventually losing their spots on my pull list to titles that seemed to give a damn. I would be on the message boards commiserating with other fans about how much we longed for the good old days and invariably someone would appear in the thread and say "Then why are you still reading them if they leave you so unsatisfied?" Why indeed.

Characters. I say "X-Men" to the people in my office, and they think "Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm." They don't think "Polaris, Mystique and Bishop." There is a place for second-tier X-Men, but you have to keep the marquee players in play, or else the branding fails. The books have the teams watered down to a point where there are so spread out, it's hardly worth it to read about them any more.

Marvel, if you want to steal me back to the X-Books, you had better realize that Astonishing has it right, and that once it's over, if you don't have the big hitters lined up to replace Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, I'll be long gone.

My suggestions: Cut back to three team books and Wolverine and Cable/Deadpool. Uncanny X-Men, X-Men and New Mutants. Get one of your top writers on one of the books. Bendis, Heinberg, Vaughn or Millar. Get a stable artist on each of the books. Regulate the look of them and lock them in for a couple of years. Have editorial stop all the roster changes. When I read Spider-Man, I know Spider-Man is the star. X-Men should be the same. Don't be afraid of Wolverine, but don't overdo it either.

That's all for now, folks.

Friday, April 20, 2007

52 - Love it or Hate it?

I've been reading "52" from DC Comics since its inception. It was a bit of a mixed bag for me, since I had been reading "Infinite Crisis", but hadn't really cared for any of the "One Year Later" stuff. It was the creative team that tipped the scales and had me add it to my pull list, though, as Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Mark Waid and Greg Rucka are all favorites of mine, and Pat Oliffe ("Untold Tales of Spider-Man") was gonna be doing some of the penciling, and I've always liked his stuff.

Since it began however, I've been very hot and cold on the book. I'm not really sure, even now after 50 issues, of how I feel about it. An issue a week for a year is great fun, and really keeps you excited, but there were so many plot lines running that even the frantic weekly schedule didn't seem fast enough. I think all that I can do is open the floor up for debate, and as I am the sole master debater on the internet, I am forced to debate my self.

So, here's why "52" is great:

"52" gathers DC's top writers to work on filling in the gap left by their "One Year Later" event, showcasing some of the DCU's b-list heroes. The writing team have formed a great unit, not succumbing to their egos, and drawing on the strengths of each to really define the DCU today.

It's always great to see cult or fan-favorite characters grab a little of the limelight. Lobo and Animal Man, Renee Montoya and the Question, Elongated Man, The Metal Men, Lex Luthor and Black Adam all shine and serve to add depth to the DCU, displaying the variety of toys that the creators have at their fingertips. Each writer leaves his fingerprints on the work, and there is a lot of fun and excitement to be had.

The weekly schedule is great. DC knows this and has another weekly title lined up for the next year ("Countdown"), and I'm sorely tempted to add it to my pull. Knowing I have at least one book every week draws me back to my shop to keep up to date, and once there, the siren song of the impulse buy is ever-present.

If you aren't reading "52", then the DCU is being redefined in every aspect and you're just being left behind.

-

Why Scott is so wrong, and how "52" is a lemon:

Well, I do sound pretty smart, so I won't fault you for listening to me earlier, but it's now time to listen to me.

"52" was such a big "almost great" book, spectacularly failing to really say anything. A book designed to set the ground rules for the DC Universe should actually have some interaction with it, rather than being limited to bland guest-stars making token appearances awkwardly jammed into the stories.

For "52" to really make the impact the hype said it was going to do, it had to be less isolated on the pet "b-listers" the writers chose to work with. Sure, everyone likes a little campy fun, but I just don't care about the new Infinity Inc. or Batwoman, and all the horrible things that happen to them miss touching me emotionally in any way. For that, I blame the writers.


Each of them have stated that they have all loved working with one another, but I can see in the finished product far too much compromise from each of them, preventing them from really cutting loose. Morrison's stuff isn't odd enough, Rucka doesn't get enough time to flush out his drama, Waid doesn't get through with the richness of the DCU and Johns can't get the momentum he needs to run away with his plots. Great ingredients do not always make a great soup, and there have been too many times where I was reading pages hoping to get back to something I gave a damn about.

Also, just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many plots spoil the drama. What good is a cliffhanger if it is dropped aside for so long that all sense of drama is lost. The payoff is often only given long after the tension has worn off, giving me more of a "Oh yeah, that's what was going on with that guy." sense of revelation. There were some good scenes in individual books, but characters are left on the shelf and forgotten about by the readers.

I'm terribly worried that I'm being played, and "52" is going to wrap up much in the way that "Infinite Crisis" did; with moderate ramifications for mediocre characters, and a half-hearted "oh, I guess." reaction from me.

-

So there you have it: "52" I love it or hate it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Comics Blog - Day One

Several years later, I'm back. It's been a hard time with out a place to rail and rant about comics, but after a few other opportunities died on the table, I figured I would have to take matters into my own hands and, *gasp* start a blog about them myself.

If you're looking for my old archive, you can find it here. Though it is a few years old, there's still some fun there.

To the matter at hand: comic books.

Well, what can I say? I love comics. Stories of action and adventure, very nice art, modern allegory and nostalgia all play into the medium. I haven't had cable TV in years, but I have to have my comics. I'm a fanboy, and there's nothing you can do to fix that.

I'll start of simple, I guess, and tell you what I'm reading these days. I'll get more structured later on, or less structured, or, well, I'll get more interesting, but I think my pull list is a good place to start.

52 - DC Comics
Mighty Avengers - Marvel
New Avengers - Marvel
Avengers: The Initiative - Marvel
Conan - Dark Horse
The Goon - Dark Horse
The Spirit - DC Comics
Savage Dragon - Image
Justice League of America - DC Comics
Star Wars: Legacy - Dark Horse
Usagi Yojimbo - Dark Horse
Astonishing X-Men - Marvel

As well, I always am on the lookout for a spicy looking trade paperback to add to my book case.

So you can see, I have what I would like to consider a wide variety of taste in genres for my comics. I started out an x-fan, but most of the new books fail to call to me. I'm not historically an Avengers fan, but Brian Bendis brought me on board a few years ago, just like Geoff Johns did for his stuff at DC. Also, in the spirit of clairity, I didn't get "Identity Crisis", but got "House of M". I also got "Infinite Crisis" and "52" over "Civil War". What does that say about me? I'll let you decide.

All right. I suppose I should say something here that has some content.

I declare 2007 the year of Iron Man. He is the most prominent comic book hero thus far, and I believe he will continue to be a major catalyst for a long time to come. Sure, everyone thinks he's a jerk and a bully, but I like the way he's being written. He's a guy who made a bad decision, but said so much about it, that he cannot back down from it without losing face. Like that time I grew really huge mutton-chop sideburns. I talked the talk, and then I had to wear them for weeks longer than I wanted to.

Iron Man will continue to be the focal point of the Marvel Universe for a good long while. Tony's stepped up his game and taken on the mantle of the elite hero, the first amongst Avengers, and leader of the most powerful people on the Earth. Watching him scramble and fight to stay there will be a lot of fun. New Avengers #29 had Danny Rand and his lawyer shut Iron Man down like nobody's business in one of the best scenes I read in weeks. I don't want to spoil it, but it was fun.

So I'm calling it now. The biggest story of 2007 will be the fall of Tony Stark.