Saturday, March 30, 2013

Wednesdaybusiness 3/27/13

Before I get into it this week, I just want to make clear that I don't hate ALL big crossover events. Secret Wars was the comic that got me into comics, and as a kid I enjoyed being baffled by the continuity-laden Invasion! I think Barry Allen's death in Crisis On Infinite Earths is one of the most powerful moments in comic history, and I've even enjoyed a few of the recent offerings like Secret Invasion. I don't hate these things as a rule, I just get disappointed when they're boring and stupid.


Age of Ultron #3 by Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch

Age of Ultron is boring and stupid.

Every once in a while I will read a comic book and think to myself "Someday I am going to meet somebody who will tell me that this was their favorite comic book of all time, and it will make me INSTANTLY HATE THEM!" This is one of those comic books.

Not only is this book relentlessly grim and unpleasant; Not only is it dull and actionless; Not only is it being used as a springboard for some really odd commercial decisions: My biggest problem is that it is TOO SOON. This whole "AU" event is happening really quickly, given Marvel's big publication shakeup with their Marvel NOW! initiative, and the crossover is starting to bleed into books that are just starting out and just starting to pull me into the story. As an old fart who's used to the rules of the game, it's merely frustrating; but to one of the many new readers they were likely hoping to pull in, it could be a dealbreaker.


In this issue, the heroes launch their big plan, which is to knock She-Hulk unconscious and sell her to Ultron. Ultron is buying superheroes for... reasons? They're hoping to infiltrate his secret base but by the end of the issue they seem to have whizzed it.

Mostly, however, this issue was just about She-Hulk's ass. Welcome to THE AGE OF ULTRON.


Superior Spider-Man #6(AU) by Christos Gage and Dexter Soy

So we left off last issue on a cliffhanger, with the Avengers about to square off against the increasingly violent Doctor-Octopus-controlled Spider-Man. I'm pretty excited to see that. And... instead we get a super-depressing alternate universe story by a completely different creative team.

Now, I like Christos Gage a lot, and he delivers a pretty good story, especially given the limitations of this as-yet-unexplained alternate reality. Dexter Soy's art, too, is kinetic and fun. But it all just feels forced, and it feels like a big diversion from a story that had finally sucked me in and gotten me excited. I enjoyed reading this, but I didn't need to read it at all.

Why does Ultron have thousands of easily-destroyed clones? Nobody's telling us.

Fantastic Four #5(AU) by Matt Fraction and André Araújo

Yet another incredibly bleak tie-in book coming smack in the middle of a really exciting series that's still getting off the ground. Five issues into a story is NOT a good time to grind to a halt and tell an alternate-universe story about the whole team getting killed.

Also, the details of the Age of Ultron universe are either sketchy or a closely-guarded secret, and neither is conducive to knowing WTF is supposed to be going on in this world. There are just a bajillion Ultrons and that's all we know.

Like Gage and Superior Spider-Man, the fault here isn't with Fraction, who does turn out a pretty excellent "Death of the Fantastic Four" story; The fault is with the idea of jamming this really depressing crossover into the larval stages of a fun new creative team's storyline.

One thing that's noteworthy in this very well-written but EXTRAORDINARILY depressing story is the Fantastic Four presenting their wills to their kids in holographic form. The most interesting bit, and the thing that sort of redeems this whole comic for me, is that Matt Fraction chose this moment to drop a huge bombshell that has a massive effect on the origins of the group: The Thing's "death-bed" confession that he had intentionally sabotaged the college-aged Victor Von Doom's machines as a prank, likely leading to the accident that scarred his face and sent him down the path towards supervillainy. I love that Fraction took this dopey crossover event to make what feels like a fundamental change to the motivations of one of Marvel's most important characters. It turned a kind-of pointless comic into an Important Moment.

Again, though: This was a well-written and well-drawn book that has nothing to do with the actual story I've been following, and is totally skippable if you're just interested in what Matt Fraction's doing with the current Fantastic Four books.


A+X #6 by Peter David, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Michele Benevento, Mike Costa, and Stefano Caselli

Let me tell ya, A+X was a wonderful palate-cleanser after the festival of grey depression that is Age of Ultron. It felt like having a puppy lick my face after I had fallen down and scraped my knee.

This is a whole comic about superheroes playing cards: Wolverine versus Captain Marvel in the first story, The Thing versus Gambit in the second. It's all well-written, well-drawn, and good clean fun.

Peter David dropped a funny enough gag into his story about Logan and Carol that I actually don't want to spoil it - my highest praise. You should check this comic out.

I kind of love the Marvel Mullet.

Astonishing X-Men #60 by Marjorie Liu, Matteo Buffagni, and Renato Arlem

The X-Termination event is actually a pretty solid example of a crossover book done well. It's telling an interesting (if a little hard to follow) story, it's incorporating characters and locales that haven't been used in a while, it's drawn my attention to some comics I wasn't even aware still existed, and - most importantly - it isn't shoving its ass into every single X-Men book on the fucking stands.

Giant blue guys. Whatcha gonna do?

Batman Incorporated #9 by Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, and Jason Masters

I read this comic because the death of Robin is being treated as pretty important in the media (Though, c'mon guys, his grandfather is Ra's al Ghul, whose ENTIRE DEAL is that he has the means to come back from the dead!), but really it felt like exactly what I expected it to feel like: Stepping into a wild Grant Morrison story halfway through.

It's never a good idea to try and just jump on to a Morrison story. I am a huge fan, but he explores some severely weird places and tells stories in a jumpy non-linear way, and it makes it nigh-impossible to follow what the heck's going on, no matter how much you think you're following the basics of the story.

However, this did inspire me to dive back in to Morrison's Bat-World. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Bat-Cow indeed.

FF #5 by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred

This comic, you guys. I love this comic.

I am really glad that the book I was most excited about from Marvel NOW! has completely lived up to my high expectations.

The surprise, to me at least, is that I was expecting FF to be a sort of X-Statix for the Fantastic Four, and it's not. I mean, Darla Deering is taking it that way slightly, but really this is basically a continuation of what Hickman was already doing with the Future Foundation. I feel like it didn't even really need to be renumbered. And that's a good thing, because I really loved Hickman's run on the book, and I feel like Fraction did too.

I feel like the best superhero comics come from a love for the past without an obsessive nostalgia getting in the way of change and growth. This book nails that down perfectly.

She ended up using an invisible forcefield, to better show off her hairstyle.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven

Howthefuck many books can Bendis write in a month?! Let the poor bastard take a nap, there are thousands of very professional writers out there who'd love to get a job at Marvel. Put Bendis on one or two books and let him give them his full attention, and I bet he'd turn out some truly amazing stuff, instead of a shitload of okay-ish stuff.

That's how I feel about the new Guardians of the Galaxy. It's okay-ish. Marvel is very obviously trying to set things in place for the movie, though in doing so they've kind of set up the Guadians of the GALAXY as the Guardians of the EARTH... and frankly, I think the Avengers can handle the Earth.

The art's pretty excellent, and I like some of the costume redesigns. I think it's kind of neat that they're putting Iron Man on the team, as one of Joe Quesada's stated goals for Marvel NOW! was to remove the strange disconnect between Marvel's "Cosmic" titles and their "Earth" titles.

ComicsAlliance has a sort of interesting review from the perspective of somebody who knows nothing about any of these characters, but to me - as somebody who's been following these guys since they first showed up in the pages of Annihilation: Conquest and knows the individual characters' backstories pretty well - this all feels targeted at someone else.

Parents, AMIRITE?

Journey Into Mystery #650 by Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti

So the Berserker-Sif storyline has come to a close, and I really really really really really hope that doesn't mean the creative team on this book is changing.

I can't really say much about this comic that I haven't already said: I love it and you should buy it. However, I will say that Immonen pulled a wonderful spin on the Dumbo story in this issue: Sif didn't need any magic, kids, she was a berserker ALL ALONG!

Go out and buy all 5 issues of this arc. Then buy it again when it comes out in trade. Then write letters to Marvel telling them how much you love it. DO IT, YOU FUCKS.

Don't piss Sif off or THIS will happen.

Morbius #3 by Joe Keatinge and Richard Elson

Morbius can't catch a break. In this issue, he is forced to revive a crime boss that he mortally wounded. Every time he gets close, the pressure gets to him and he ends up hurting the crime boss even worse. This series is based in a lovely dark comedy, which is territory that the normally-melodramatic Morbius has never really gotten to explore before, and I quite like it.

This Guy.

Thunderbolts #7 by Daniel Way and Phil Noto

Well, I've been saying since the beginning that Steve Dillon's art was what was keeping me reading this book, and this issue doesn't have him. Phil Noto is very talented, but it was really taking the efforts of one of My Favorites to keep me paying attention.

The upshot of this issue is that, seven issues in, we've finally been told WTF the plot's supposed to be. The downside is that I'm not really finding myself caring.

Also, I'm growing increasingly bothered by Sexytimes Punisher. I know I keep repeating it, but... The Punisher is not supposed to enjoy his job. Even when this guy is riding a jet-ski through tropical waters or something, he does so with clenched teeth and his eyes on The Mission. Seeing him grinning sheepishly and getting all gooey around Elektra makes me feel like this must be a Skrull or something. It just doesn't work.

Aw, look at Frank Castle's adorable smile. WAIT, WHAT?!


Uncanny Avengers #5 by Rick Remender and Olivier Coipel

Okay, everybody, hunker down, because this book has been deemed Controversial with a capital C.

If you all didn't already know, I am both a badge-carrying officer of the PC Police, and a proud Sushi-Eating Latte-Sipping New England Liberal Intellectual Elitist... Yet I was actually kind of surprised by all of the ruckus this book stirred up.

The gist of this issue is that Captain America is ready to go public with the book's team, which is now being called The Avengers Unity Division, which I quite like. They bring on Wasp and Wonder Man to handle PR, while Wolverine goes to Japan to recruit his old friend Sunfire to the team (and bring some non-whiteness to the Unity Division, presumably). They hold a press-conference, where Havok gives a kind of dopey and privileged speech about how he considers the word "mutant" to be a slur and that he wants to fit in like everybody else.

That's where all hell broke loose. Andrew Wheeler wrote a really level-headed and intelligent article describing the problems with Havok's speech, and I'd definitely advise everyone to read it. There's a conversation to be had here, for sure. However, it seems like nobody else on the internet is capable of being so level-headed, and many people have just been getting really angry, calling Rick Remender a racist, starting email campaigns to try to get him fired from Marvel, etc. Remender, for his part, reacted with a pretty ragey Tweet, which he then apologized for on his website.

Now, I am coming from a place of white straight able-bodied middleclass cisgender male privilege, so my radar is sometimes out of tune, but I did not find the troublesome speech offensive. I found it to be misguided and dopey, but I simply chalked it up to the character of Havok being misguided and dopey (given the number of times he's switched from hero to villain and back, I think that's a fair assumption to make). I didn't actually take it as Rick Remender's personal views, I just took it at face value. Even if it DOES reflect Remender's real-life views, it still simply remains misguided and dopey, a product of privilege and certainly not of hate. I only intended to mention it in passing in my review, as there are other parts of this book that I found far more interesting (Kang the Conqueror abducted the Apocalypse Twins!), but then it became a Thing.

I think this has sparked some really interesting conversations about identity politics in the West, and that there are certainly things to be learned from all this, and I do think Remender should not have childishly lashed out at his critics (though I have no idea how I'd react if Marvel was letting me write the goddamned Avengers and suddenly people were saying I should be fired); but I don't think Remender deserves to be vilified in this whole thing. He may have some things to learn about his own privilege, but hell, so do I, and this is certainly not on the same offensiveness level as Fred Van Lente saying that he doesn't know what rape is.

So yeah. That's my Opinion about this particular Thing. The issue ended on a pretty neat cliffhanger, and I'm looking forward to the next one. I hope everyone was able to learn from all this, but I also hope that nobody loses their job over it.


Uncanny X-Force #3 by Sam Humphries and Ron Garney

I'm not feeling this book. I'm not feeling the sleazy portrayal of Puck, I'm not feeling the blocked-out cusswords, I'm not feeling the constant theme of women being tied up and gagged, and I'm REALLY not feeling the idea of Bishop being turned into a giant growling rage-monster.

Remember District X? That comic that was all about Bishop joining up with the NYPD to help solve mutant-related crimes? Yeah, that was a way better comic that this one.


Young Avengers #3 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

This is a good book to end the week on, because it is just plain fun. If you haven't been following Young Avengers then you're missing out on one of the best new comics out there.

It's got superheroes, it's got gods, it's got teenagers fighting their parents who've been turned into shapeshifting interdimensional plasma monsters.

It seems like next issue, Hawkeye-not-the-Hawkguy and Marvel Boy are going to fly in and save the day, and I am very excited about that.

The new Miss America is pretty rad too.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wednesdaybusiness 3/20/13

This was definitely a HOLYSHITGOTTOREADALLTHECOMICS sort of week, so I'ma just launch into my weekly reviews. Is this getting boring? Well fuck you, I don't care.


All-New X-Men #9 by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen

I am really happy Stuart Immonen is back on this book. As good as David Marquez is, Immonen was the reason I first picked this one up. Considering that I judge all comics on the Nextwave Standard™, the presence of Immonen's art gives this book a huge leg up.

And I really have to say - as somebody who complains about the guy a lot - Bendis is really nailing this series. It's occasionally a little slow to action, and there are often a ton of word balloons around the place, but it's absolutely the best thing he's written in quite some time.

This issue introduces the Teen X-Men to the schmancy, Holodeck-esque Danger Room, which is a great way to get some of the talky-business out of the way while also keeping the pages interesting to look at. We also get to see Mystique apparently forming a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, which is good news to me.

I'm quite enjoying this series. I'm not so thrilled by Uncanny X-Men, or any of the other books Bendis is writing right now, but this one is something I look forward to each month.

Action! In a Bendis book!

Avengers #8 by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, Hickman is bringing back the New Universe through his Avengers books, and I absolutely could not be more stoked about that.

When I was a nerdly youth, I - for some reason - followed along when they were trying to merge the New Universe books into the Marvel Universe Proper. I actually don't really remember much of that storyline, but I always wondered why nobody ever really did anything with the characters. It's good to see one of my favorite writers fixing that.

One thing I absolutely love about both of Hickman's current Avengers books is that he is telling epic, universe-in-jeopardy type stories, but with no overhyped crossovers or anything surrounding them. It's reminiscent of Grant Morrison's JLA run (very high praise, coming from me): When you have a group this big, with this much power, every day should be something massive and epic, and it doesn't necessarily have to be passed down by editors and splash all over every other comic in order to feel massive and epic.


Cable and X-Force by Dennis Hopeless and Salvador Larroca

Last issue I said I was bailing on this series, but when I saw that this one had a ton of Colossus / Shadowcat melodrama, I couldn't pass it up. I don't know why, but I really enjoy that. Scott and Jean always bored me, Rogue and Gambit usually make me want to barf, but when Piotr and Kitty get all moony I totally get into it. This is against my better judgment: Wasn't Kitty like 12 when they first hooked up? But I'm still a sucker for it.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, I tend to grade comics against the Nextwave Standard™, and this is the first comic I've seen Boom-Boom in since then where she wasn't somehow being victimized or rescued. Here she's helping her old friend Domino break into a top secret S.W.O.R.D. facility beneath The Raft, and she's back to being her fun, dippy, destructive self.

Dennis Hopeless reeled me back in, and that is absolutely to his credit.

"I gave him the explodo because I am clever."

Captain America #5 by Rick Remender and John Romita Junior

God, I don't even know if a description can do this comic justice. Cap has been stranded in Arnim Zola's "Dimension Z" for about twelve years, raising Zola's son as his own and protecting a tribe of giant mutant monsters, all while trying to hide the fact that Zola straight-up implanted a TV screen in his chest that constantly taunts him in Zola's voice.

In this issue, his hiding comes to an end, as Zola has tracked him down. Now he's gotta' fight off Zola, his armies, and his maladjusted daughter who thinks Cap is a monster who murdered her baby brother.

Guys, you're gonna' want to read this.

If this doesn't grab your interest, we shouldn't be friends anymore.

Captain Marvel # 11 by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Christopher Sebela, and Felipe Andrade

It will likely surprise absolutely nobody that I'm enjoying this comic. Carol Danvers is one of my favorite characters, and Kelly Sue DeConnick is one of my favorite writers, so it's kind of a no-brainer.

Captain Marvel is being prevented from flying - the one thing real constant in her life - by the risk of an aneurism in her alien-modified brain. It's some complicated fakey medical stuff, just go with it. She's learning how to super-strength jump, and Captain America gave her one of his old flying motorcycles, but she's still not handling it well. And she's fighting Deathbird, a character whose ENTIRE THING is flying.

Except it's not really the Deathbird we've seen the past few years in War of Kings and whatnot. It's some sort of mid-1980s Deathbird, which is a mystery that Captain Marvel needs to solve.

Beyond all the superhero stuff, I really love the supporting cast that DeConnick is assembling for Captain Marvel. She's pulling people from her military career, her time as editor of Woman Magazine, and her various Avengers stints. This issue also brings in Dakota North, a character that I don't think gets used anywhere near often enough. I think the last time she showed up in a comic was during Ed Brubaker's amazing and oft-slept-on Daredevil run of a few years ago. She's teaching Carol how to drive a flying motorcycle. I gladly welcome her back into my superhero life.

I love it when a sound-effect is used so well.


Constantine #1 by Ray Fawkes, Jeff Lemire, and Renato Guedes

Okay kids, brace yourself: I read a Nü52 book this week and I didn't hate it. I KNOW, RIGHT?!

I picked this book up at the urging of MC Lovely, who is an avid Nü52 supporter and the only person who really keeps me informed of what's going on in DC Comics nowadays.

While the book still has that disorienting Nü52 alternate-universe feel, the character of Constantine is spot-on. It's definitely a "T for Teen" book, so he doesn't quite smoke or curse enough, but he sloppily cobbles together spells and lets his friends get gruesomely murdered like an asshole, so that's alright. There's nothing quite so excellent as the time Swamp Thing popped out of his weed stash and he straight-up smoked a piece of Swamp Thing... but that's a high bar to hit.

The art also avoids the Nü52 retro-1990s feel, and is actually a bit more loose and reminiscent of the oldschool Vertigo books, which is really how John Constantine looks best. The super-crisp picture of him on the cover just doesn't look RIGHT to me.

Anyway, if there are any DC books that you're way into, drop me a line in the comments. I really don't like how Marvel-centric this blog is, but they're the ones putting out most of the best cape comics right now.

I wish I'd find a bulletproof cape. Then I'd show EVERYBODY.

Dark Avengers #188 by Jeff Parker and Neil Edwards

As far as the storyline of this book goes, I'm just going to repeat what I said last issue:
At this point, this book is so deep into the plot that it wouldn't make any sense at all to a new reader. That being said, I really look forward to this book every month, and think Jeff Parker is fucking excellent. I'd advise everybody to go back to the beginning of this series and start reading it, because it's been a good, solid, fun comic the whole way through.
To those that have been following along: We're finally starting to get a feel for what's going on with this alternate reality stuff. And it is wacky A.I.M. shit! I am totally serious when I say that I absolutely never, ever get tired of seeing wacky A.I.M. shit turn up in my Marvel comics. I feel like the Marvel NOW! initiative has had the unintended consequence of creating a sort of A.I.M. renaissance, and I am really happy about that.

Karl's Quantum Positioner didn't re-synch fast enough.

Indestructible Hulk #5 by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu

This is easily one of my favorite comics in a long time, and in this issue the Hulk manages to defeat Attuma in a way that is so clever that I genuinely don't want to spoil it here. Go read this thing. It's a good one.

This issue also features some INCREDIBLE supervillain monologues from Attuma, the would-be ruler of Atlantis. I really enjoyed how melodramatic he's being: Is it weird that I only like the character of Attuma when he's ranting?

Also, I've been seeing Walt Simonson posting art from the next arc on his Facebook page, and it seems to involve the Hulk wielding Thor's hammer. I'm pretty siked for that.


New Avengers #4 by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting

It's probably getting tiresome, but I really can't stop gushing about Hickman's Avengers books right now. As I said above, they're weaving a self-contained universe-spanning crossover, and it's a lot of fun.

The Illuminati have crossed the threshold to another Earth, to see what can be done to prevent the destruction of Earth-616... only to find it being devoured by that universe's Galactus.

Black Bolt is the first to notice the presence of the World-Devourer, and - being the Silent King of the Inhumans - he opts to point it out to the others in a two-panel sequence that made me laugh really hard. I may be mistaken, but I think this may have been the first time Black Bolt's ever been funny to me (even with the name Blackagar Boltagon, I usually take him pretty seriously). It was beautiful. Kudos to Hickman and Epting for managing to pull of such a subtle-yet-fun moment.

I may make a GIF of this.

Nova #2 by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness

Still surprised to find myself reading a Loeb/McGuinness joint. Still alarmed to find myself enjoying it quite a bit. I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing where this story goes.

Shockingly, I feel the same way.

Savage Wolverine #3 by Frank Cho

As much as I usually like the character, I feel like the inclusion of Amadeus Cho in this series is sort of gumming up the pulp fun with a whole bunch of pop-culture references. He's too modern a character for this book, which last month I said was "like The Phantom with adamantium claws."

However, it's still a very fun comic, both silly and way-overly-serious in perfectly equal measures.

It was a tough choice between this image, and one of Wolvie getting his head eaten by a dinosaur.

Superior Spider-Man #6 by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos

 I probably got WAY TOO EXCITED to see Humberto Ramos back on Spider-Man. Sometimes I have a tendency to get WAY TOO EXCITED about things. But there are certain artists that I just think fit with certain characters - Steve Dillon with The Punisher, Steve Epting with Captain America, Tim Sale with Batman, etc. - and Ramos absolutely feels that way when he's drawing Spidey.

In this issue, Superior Spidey finds himself up against a couple of Amazing Spidey's goofier foes, and as we well know from decades of comics, Otto Octavius does not take humiliation well. Consequently, he beats the FUCK out of them. This represents an interesting turning-point for the comic, because the character of Screwball tends to live-stream her "pranks" on the internet, so everybody saw Spidey go apeshit. Now the Avengers are looking to take him down. FUN!

One small concern: The ad copy for this issue read "The new super villain duo, JESTER & SCREWBALL, are punking heroes across the internet." With all of the controversy that surrounded the wonky sexual politics of the first two issues of this series, do you REALLY want to go and use prison-rape slang in your promo materials, Marvel? FUCKING GET WITH IT YOU GUYS.


X-Termination Part One by David Lapham, Marjorie Liu, Greg Pak, and David Lopez

This comic's a bit of a question-mark for me. I picked it up because it's a Big Event Comic in the X-Verse, and I really like what's been going on in the X-Verse lately. But... I didn't actually realize how many X-Men comics there WERE. I genuinely had NO IDEA that X-Treme X-Men was still a thing, let alone a thing where Dazzler leads a team of extra-dimensional mutants, which is a thing that I'd totally be reading. I also didn't know that Astonishing X-Men was still ongoing, either. There are characters in this thing that I've literally never seen before in my life, and I thought I was doing a really good job keeping up with the X-Men right now!

So in a nutshell, Wolverine is leading a slightly ragtag group of X-Men (who are apparently the team he leads in the Astonishing series?) to track down the asshole Nightcrawler from the Age of Apocalypse universe for all the jerkface shit he pulled during Uncanny X-Force. Meanwhile, Nightcrawler goes to Dark Beast - the only person he knows from his dimension - to try and find a way home.

Dark Beast hatches a plan involving the bigass unconscious Celestial that alleged-genius Neil Gaiman plopped down in San Francisco during his unreadably-boring Eternals series and never actually did anything with. Nightcrawler and McCoy teleport into the thing's head, McCoy does some mad science to it, and a portal opens up. But then the X-Men show up and wreck the deal, tearing the universe a new space-hole. Now there are a fuckton of X-Characters from a handful of different dimensions all panicking about it, and we're left on a cliffhanger.

All in all, pretty good stuff. I feel like I might have some catching up to do on my X-Books, though.