Monthly archives: March, 2006

The plot thickens…

Unlike Jean-Claude Van Doom, I’m looking forward to Civil War. I’m a crossover junkie, and while I think DC’s putting out a better product now, I’ll always be a Marvel Zombie at heart. However, I’ve vowed to not buy any Civil War crossovers I wouldn’t buy if it wasn’t a Civil War crossover. I passed my first test this week by skipping New Avengers: Illuminati. But apparently Marvel really wanted me to read it.

FF536Fantastic Four #536 came out Wednesday, the same day as Illuminati. It was a good story, much improved from J. Michael Stracynski’s earlier FF tales (although it would have been a hell of a lot better if I could casually browse comics sites without being spoiled about the return of Dr. Doom and Thor’s hammer). But right there in the middle was a page drawn by Alex Maleev, presumably taken directly from Illuminati. As I said, I didn’t buy it, so I’m not sure.

In that page, Iron Man brings up the Superhero Registration Act to the other members of the Illuminati (Dr. Strange, Black Bolt, Reed Richards and Namor were shown, but I’m not sure if that’s everyone in the group). There seems to be some dissention about whether it’s a good thing or not. Iron Man proposes that they should all support the act whole-heartedly.

Which is weird, because Iron Man’s alter ego Tony Stark seems to be battling tooth-and-nail over in Amazing Spider-Man against the Superhero Registration Act. Is Tony just putting on a show in Amazing? Or does he think that it’s all right to fight againstthe act, but once it gets signed into law you have to follow it without question? Either way, since his role as Tony Stark is very public and his role as Iron Man is very, very private, we have to assume the opinion he expressed as Iron Man is the one he really believes. Which means that in the Civil War, Iron Man will be on the pro-registration side and Captain America will be on the anti-registration side, with Spider-Man caught in the middle.


Snow days

No kid loves anything more than they love snow days. You get out of school. You get to go sledding. You can learn to urinate in cursive.

After college, however, snow days become the thing you despise more than anything else. It’s hard to drive, mostly because other people don’t know how to drive in snow (seriously, how can you live in Nebraska and not know how to drive in snow?). You have to shovel the driveway. You have to go to work while kids get a day off and get to go sledding. People urinate in cursive in your front lawn.

So what does any of this have to do with comics? The worst part about snow days is that if it’s in the first part of the week, it delays the shipment of comics to Trade-a-Tape. Not being able to buy comics on Wednesday is a real bummer. It’s like a Monday without WWE Raw…it’s just not right.

Stupid snow.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Three weeks later

So three weeks of “One Year Later” books have come out…and where are we?

Superman has no powers. Supergirl is apparently in the future (won’t understand that til next week) and yet also Clark’s Metropolis call-girl.

Everyone thinks the Outsiders are dead, but now their cover is blown. Meanwhile, Jason Todd has been posing as Nightwing, but now Dick is in town, bagging chicks and trying to clear Nightwing’s name.

Batman and a Robin not yet explicitly identified as Tim have returned to Gotham. Poison Ivy’s apparently back. Harvey Dent has played street vigilante. Jim Gordon is once again Gotham’s police commissioner.

Oliver Queen is now mayor, and the corporate bigwigs have hired Deathstroke to take him out.

Meanwhile in JSA, apparently nothing has changed.

Oh and we have a new Aquaman? And Firestorm didn’t die or something? (Is it obvious which books I’ve picked up?)

So far, I have to say that One Year Later has been a bit underwhelming, but I do think that in all fairness, it’s too early to judge. Schedules have obviously been thrown off a bit, because we just got the Teen Titans annual this week, which leads into last week’s issue of Teen Titans the series, which precedes IC #5, which came out how many weeks ago now?

I can’t really be too hard on DC; I mean, when literally every book is affected, it’s probably an amazing feat that so many books have come out in appropriate respective order. And considering that a lot of the books are being written as supplementary pieces (as opposed to direct chronological segments), it’s not too damaging. Still, I feel like we’re kind of treading water with a lot of this stuff.

Infinite Crisis: Secret Files and Origins was thick and interesting, yet its timing left me with a feeling of “Okay, enough already, I get it.” I felt a little guilty for that kind of reaction, particularly considering how the resurrections of so many characters over the past 10 years were given real storyline justifications. But I can’t help but think that page would have meant more tucked inside an issue of the Infinite Crisis series…

…two months ago…

Nevertheless, it’s been a fascinating ride (more to come on specific IC thoughts). It has successfully converted a die-hard Marvel fan. I now buy Green Arrow, for crying out loud. And when it’s all said and done, I’m going to sit down with a huge stack some Saturday afternoon a year or so from now and read it all and continue to be amazed. But there’s still a lot to be sorted, a lot of questions to be answered, and still a lot of groundwork to be laid.

With these scheduling issues, though, I just really hope that 52 doesn’t end up getting nicknamed 107 or something.

Why I won’t buy an issue of Civil War

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Summer is approaching, which means the trees are budding, flowers are in bloom, swim suits are coming out of storage and Marvel is preparing to blow all of us away with yet another SERIES THAT YOU MUST READ!!! As the summer of ’05 with “House of M” and summer of ’04 with “Avengers: Disassembled,” the summer of ’06 will be memorialized in song and interpretive dance as the summer of Civil War.

What, you say? That was the summer of ’63, as in 1863? Well, forget that Mr. Stodgypants, this is the Civil War that matters.

Except it doesn’t. If there’s anything I’ve learned while contributing a good chunk of personal income to Marvel’s coffers over the past few years, it’s that nothing really matters. What is the lasting impact of the past two HUGE events? Uh, the Scarlet Witch is off the map (for now), there are less mutants (which Joss Whedon was going to do anyway) and Hawkeye is dead (wink).

And now we have “Civil War,” which starts from a single event of careless heroes accidentally causing many deaths, leading to a mutant registration act (oops, meant superhero registration act) coming down from Capitol Hill. Why won’t I pick up a single issue, even though I have mad love for series writer Mark Millar’s work (and his “The Ultimates” is oh-so-similar to this territory)?

For starters, “Civil War” has no basis. It hasn’t been built up to. It’s just happening. There has been absolutely zilch in a single Marvel series about the government stepping in and middling with heroes (unless there’s some vast conspiracy involving the disappearances of Nick Fury and Charles Xavier that I’m missing). The only build up has been Tony Stark turning Peter Parker into Iron Spider (which had something to do with The Other, right? Anybody? Oh, okay. Nevermind).

And as for “government meddling with hero affairs” stories, I’m sure Marvel heads thought they were being really clever and timely by picking the topic for MBSBB (Marvel’s big summer blockbuster). Heck, the New York Times even thought so. But this ground has been covered, starting with Alan Moore’s standard, “The Watchmen,” as well as DC’s “The New Frontier” and “Kingdom Come.”

I’m also worried that the ever-diminishing group of Marvel books (Young Avengers, Captain America, Wolverine and a couple others) I read will be pulled into the MBSBB muck, cutting apart storylines that I’d been enjoying.

So I’m just going to ignore the whole shebang, content that it’s ramifications will mean little. If I want to be entertained by the Civil War, I’ll look to Ken Burns. Or these guys:
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5 Reasons I love…this week’s Marvels

FNSM 6Writers! Robert Kirkman, Warren Ellis, Paul Jenkins, Brian K. Vaughan, and Peter David. Not a bad set of comic writers. Combined, they do the funny, the emotional, the action-packed and the weird better than any other five writers you could lump together. Yet none of them are “superstars” like Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar or Geoff Johns.

Continuity! Not the universe-wide kind, the subtle kind. I still don’t know where Ultimate Galactus fits in the grand scheme of things. But for the first time since Mark Millar ended his MK Spidey run more than a year ago, someone brought up the fact that J. Jonah Jameson thinks his son is Spider-Man. Over in Ultimate X-Men, Fury drops a dangerously-powerful mutant who can’t control his powers on Xavier’s doorstep, and Wolverine remarks “What makes this one worth saving?” alluding to a story a long time ago in UXM when Fury has Wolverine kill a new mutant because his powers were too dangerous. Neither instance smacks you over the head with it, so it’s really just an extra thrown in for the loyal readers.

Ultimate X-Men 68Twists! As everyone probably did, I assumed the silver guy with wings in Ultimate Extinction was Ultimate Silver Surfer. Turns out, he’s not. At least he’s not the only Ultimate Silver Surfer. The entire issue of Runaways alludes to a return of Alex Wilder, the team traitor that sided with his parents. Instead we get a return of a young, and clearly much angrier, Geoffrey Wilder, Alex’s evil father.

Creationism! Ultimate Shi’ar is a religion that worships the Phoenix. Instead of just saying “Phoenix is God” and leaving it at that, Robert Kirkman creates an entire belief system, including a creation-of-the-world scenario that’s not entirely un-scientific and their own messiah (Ultimate Jean Grey=Ultimate Jesus).

Old people dating! Aunt May and Jarvis finally decide to go out on a date (Aunt May asked). I can’t wait until the awkward moment when Peter catches them in bed together.


Lately I’ve been avoiding advanced solicits as more often than not they end up spoiling the story for you (Deadly Genesis, anyone?). But I was browsing Newsarama the other day and happened upon the June DC solicits, and this caught my eye:

Written by Frank Miller
Art and cover by Jim Lee & Scott Williams
Variant cover by Miller
To show the world that super-heroes police their own, Superman has assembled a “Justice League of America.” Can the Earth’s most powerful heroes rescue the kidnapped Dick Grayson and save Gotham from the clutches of a Dark Knight who has obviously gone mad? Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers by Jim Lee & Scott Williams and Frank Miller. Please see the retailer order form for details.
On sale June 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Now I dropped ASSBAR after the second issue, so I have no idea what’s going on in the title, but based on that solicit it seems like I made the right decision.

First of all, Batman is the villain in his own book? And Superman and the JLA is guest-starring? Wasn’t the All-Star line supposed to be more streamlined, telling stories without a lot of complex continuity? Wasn’t it supposed to draw in casual fans by giving them easy to follow stories featuring the characters they know from TV and movies? How does a villainous Batman and a crapload of ancillary characters accomplish that? And is this the same Superman that Grant Morrison is writing? I’m not quite certain if there’s an All-Star universe of if each title exists separately from each other, but that’s damn confusing to a casual fan. Hell, I’m confused, and I’m by no means a casual comic fan.

Now it’s only issue #6 and they’ve already added Batgirl to the title. That’s not a good sign. There’s three things you do when you’ve run out of ideas. First you make a female version. Then you make a robot version. Then you put them into outer space. Ten bucks says Ultimate All-Star Batman’s fighting Robo-Bat on the moon by issue #20.

I miss Mark Bagley

Bagley1I’ve been reading Amazing Spider-Man for about as long as I could read. When I was younger, my mom would take me to the Belmont public library, which had a subscription to the title, and I’d check out dozens of issues at a time. I started reading in the era of the “superstar” artists, guys like Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen. But Spider-Man never seemed to to look as good as he did when Mark Bagley took over.

I’m not quite sure what it was. Maybe it’s because the stories were better, so the art seemed better by relation. Maybe it’s because I had gotten to the age when I could really start to appreciate the art. Maybe it’s because Spidey stopped bending in ways it wasn’t possible to bend. Or maybe it’s because Mark Bagley could draw Peter Parker just as well as he could draw Spider-Man. Whatever it was, Spider-Man looked “right,” and Mark Bagley became the gold standard to which I compared all other Spider-Man artists.

Bagley2I stopped reading the Spider-Man stories once the whole “Peter Parker is the clone/Ben Reilly is Spider-Man” thing started up. I had suffered through the clone saga along with everyone else, but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to follow Spider-Man if good ol’ Pete wasn’t behind the mask. I only picked up an issue of Amazing again when it crossed over with the Onslaught storyline. By that time, there was only a month or two left before Peter Parker would return as Spider-Man. Unfortunately, Avengers and the Fantastic Four leaving the Marvel Universe and Peter Parker returning as Spider-Man happened to coincide with Mark Bagley leaving Amazing Spider-Man.

Bagley3A few months went by and a new comic showed up that Mark Bagley co-created. I remember the day I saw Thunderbolts #1 sitting on the shelf at Trade-a-Tape and thought to myself “What the heck.” Up until that point, I’d never bought a comic based on the artist. In fact, I don’t think I’d bought one based on the creators at all. It was still all about the characters to me, but Mark Bagley and Thunderbolts changed all that. I took a chance on a great artist, secretly hoping that Spider-Man would guest-star, and discovered an amazing story that happened to include one of the greatest endings of any comic book I’d ever read (Kurt Busiek’s writing certainly didn’t hurt, but at this point he was just some random comic writer to me).

Bagley4Bagley had a long, great run on Thunderbolts, but eventually he left the book that had by no coincidence grown to be my favorite title. Turns out he was going to be starting another new title with another supposedly great writer I’d never heard of, and it just happened to be starring Spider-Man! I could barely contain my excitement as I learned more and more about this “Ultimate” Spider-Man book.

When the issue finally hit, I made sure to pick a copy up as soon as I could. The art was…amazing. The writing…not so much. I flipped through the second issue the next month at the comic shop, but no matter how great it looked, a still complete lack of any actual Spider-Man made me put it back on the rack. I’ve given Ultimate Spider-Man two more chances since then in trade form, but the horrendous story was just too much for the spectacular art to overcome.

Bagley5So here it is, nearly 100 issues later, and Mark Bagley’s still doing Ultimate Spider-Man. Which means it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to enjoy his art. Sure, he’s done the random issue here or there, and the first few issues of the Pulse, but they’re few and far between. Reading the reprints in the back of Tunderbolts #100 reminded me of just how much I’ve missed seeing his art on a monthly basis. And since Brian Michael Bendis and Bagley intend to break Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s uninterrupted run record, it’s going to be a good long while until I’ll get to again.

Like I needed another reason to hate Bendis.

Book of the Week: Invincible #29

Invincible 29It says it right there on the cover to the book: “Probably the Best Superhero Comic Book in the Universe.” Honestly, I can’t think of another comic that could reasonably challenge that. Invincibles’ got everything: Action, drama, humor, romance, depth, subtlety. And when it’s called for, it has some of the biggest and best fights this side of Infinite Crisis.

Take this issue, the end of the current arc. In one of the series’ earlier arcs, Invincible learns that Omni-Man, his superhero dad, is actually part of a race of world-conquering aliens called the Viltrumites who had sent Invincible’s dad to Earth to prepare it for conquest. Omni-Man nearly kills his son in the brutal fight that ensues, and flees Earth. Months down the road, Invincible receives a distress call from an alien planet and goes to help. There he finds Omni-Man ruling over a race of bug-people, along with his new stepmom (a bug-person) and half-brother (not), and learns why he was called there. The Viltrumites are coming to take over the planet, and Omni-Man wants Invincible’s help in saving the world that he’s come to love. This issue is the final fight between Omni-Man, Invincible and three Viltrumites. So essentially, it’s Superman and Superboy vs. Superman, Superman and Superman. And it’s brutal.

Invincible splash

Yes, it’s bloody, and it’s certainly not appropriate for kids (although most of the rest of the series has been), but this is how a fight between Supermen would look. Sure, these guys are nearly invulnerable, but when you’re up against guys who are equally invulnerable, this is what would happen. It wouldn’t end in a stalemate like when ceratin Supermen fought recently. It would continue on and on and on until everyone was so bloody and battered that they simply couldn’t continue beating each other senseless.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t commend Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, Bill Crabtree and Rus Wooton for putting together such a fantastic comic. I’d say they can drop the “Probably” now.

Q&A with Frank Espinosa of “Rocketo”

I caught up with Frank Espinosa over the phone at his California home today. He’d been busy this afternoon mailing out thank you notes for the people who helped him publish the first Rocketo trade, which is just hitting shelves. It collects the first seven issues of Journey to the Hidden Sea, the story about an explorer (Rocketo Garrison) setting out into a future world that’s been torn apart. Rocketo is one of the most different books out there, and in the best possible way. It’s fun, interesting and the art is like a Darwyn Cooke acid trip. We talked for about an hour, in part discussing the recent closure of Rocketo’s first publisher (Speakeasy) and the move to Image, but mostly we talked about the creative background of the comic.

Image hosting by PhotobucketQ – Where did the story come from? What were the influences?

Frank Espinosa – You know, Rocketo’s inspiration, in my head, started with everything I ever liked as a kid. Flash Gordon serials, “The Thief of Baghdad.” Everything that had fantasy and sci fi I picked up. Rocketo is kind of a thank you to that.

Q – How did it develop from there?

FE – I still am a big mythology buff. I started to figure out, if the world was destroyed, what kind of new mythology would take it’s place?
Influences? There’s a lot. I’d been reading a lot about explorers: Marco Polo’s travels, Shackleton. I had been reading those guys and how the world … we don’t seem to have that freedom … to look at a map and have all those exes [unexplored areas]. Rocketo’s mission is to re-explore this planet. My first thought was to put it in outer space. That seemed kind of hokey. And “Star Wars” sort of did that already.
I wanted to build the earth as the center of the action. Once I destroyed Africa it was all easy. Then the world was really interesting. I started at year zero.
And I kept a sci fi injection. (more…)