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Comics…Deconstructed

Why You SHOULDN’T Read Watchmen First

As a corollary to Peat Muppet’s scathing indictment of Alan Moore, read this excerpt from an interview with critic Douglas Wolk, whose Reading Comics seems to be a must read:

Wolk: I was talking with some friends recently about the common mistake of recommending Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, as great as it is, as a starting point for superhero comics–as one of them put it, that’s like recommending The Seventh Seal as someone’s first movie! For pure, unencumbered superhero joycore, I love Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All Star Superman–if you’ve heard of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, you know everything you need to know to enjoy it, and it deepens with repeated reading. Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’s cruelly witty Alias,
about a self-loathing ex-superheroine-turned-P.I., has lots of Easter eggs for the continuity-obsessed, but it probably works even better as a stand-alone story. And if you’re at all into Victorian literature and/or want to sample Moore’s work, the two volumes of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
(drawn by Kevin O’Neill) are hugely fun on their own, and also illustrate by analogy the way a lot of the best superhero comics and other pulp art work: providing metaphors to illuminate the central concerns of their moment.

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August 17, 2007 Posted by | comic books, Comics, Commentary, Graphic Novels, Watchmen | Leave a comment

Once…Twice…Three Times Amazing

IGN recently posted the following article regarding the upcoming changes in the various Marvel Spider-man titles.  All of the disparate titles are going to coalesce under the Amazing Spider-man header, creating a thrice-monthly published comic book.  Unfortunately, J. Michael Straczynski is bowing out of Spidey’s universe, opening the door for several new writers and artists.  IGN has posted some of the artwork below, but it’s anyone’s guess who one of the new artists is going to be.  Leave your speculations here or at IGN (or both) and tell us what you think about the new incarnation of the Spider-titles.

 

Spider-Man – Brand New Day: Mystery Artist Debut

IGN Exclusive – Day One: Introducing one of the creators behind Marvel’s thrice-monthly Amazing Spider-Man direction.

by Richard George

July 20, 2007 – One month ago, at Wizard World Philadelphia 2007, Marvel Comics revealed big changes were in store for Spider-Man. For months fans had heard about the epic storyline entitled “One More Day.” Drawn by Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada and scribed by J. Michael Straczynski, the four-issue arc was supposed to change Spidey’s life forever. “One More Day” would also be Straczynski’s last story; the writer has been working on Amazing Spider-Man for over six years.

But the news revealed in Philly was regarding what would come after this major storyline. Sensational and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man would be cancelled. Amazing would step in their places, shipping three times a month, creating a unified approach to the superhero drama.

However Marvel stopped there. It didn’t announce the creative teams behind this new endeavor. Rumors ran rampant, particularly with the teaser image that was released (see our related story below to view that image). But fans wouldn’t have to wait long. San Diego Comic-Con 2007 would reveal all.

But we at IGN Comics have never been the patient type. We’ve managed to secure the first interior art from the “Brand New Day” initiative (the marketing slogan attached to the new, thrice-monthly direction). Starting today, and spread throughout the next week, we’ll be unveiling pieces from one particular artist’s finished interior work. Here’s the slight catch: We can’t specifically say who it is.

 

Astute comic book aficionados are probably going to figure it out – if not today, then certainly as we reveal some more. We encourage the speculation, and if you think you know who it is, feel free to comment in our feedback thread below. More importantly, maybe determining who this is will let you see other trends with Marvel talent, and maybe you can narrow the potential talent pool even more. Regrettably, IGN knows the entire creative team, but we can’t say. But we’re doing the best we can – and wait until you see the final piece, which will be unveiled Saturday morning. To say it kicks ass isn’t doing it enough justice. And rest assured, when you finally know who’s involved, you’ll understand just how amazing Spider-Man will be.
So stay tuned to IGN all this week as we bring you more from our Mystery Artist as well as some other very cool exclusives. San Diego is right around the corner – and there are going to be some incredible announcements.

 

Think you know who this is? Speculate with other IGN readers by posting your comments below. Your comments are actually linked to our free message boards (which are located here, so swing by some time and chat away!

July 23, 2007 Posted by | comic books, Comics, Commentary, Marvel Comics, Spider-man | Leave a comment

All-Flash: When Just One Flash Won’t Do

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There’s nothing quite like the return of an old friend – and by this, I mean Mark Waid as much as I mean Wally West.  It’s clear from the very start of All-Flash that this is the character Mark Waid was born to write.  There’s a fluidity of language here that is missing in so much of his other work (though that “other work” ain’t shabby either). 

If there are any quibbles about the book, it’s that the art (handled by a cadre of very talented artists) is inconsistent. That’s not to say that it’s poor – rather that one artist’s idea of what a character looks like might be radically different from another’s.  This lends the issue a disjointed visual element, which fortunately Waid makes up for with a superb script and an excellent revenge against the man (boy?) ultimately responsible for Bart’s death.

Overall Rating (out of 10): 8

July 22, 2007 Posted by | comic books, Comics, Commentary, Reviews | Leave a comment

You Vote: Which Five Comic Book Characters Are Better Off Dead?

If there is one truism in comic books, it’s that no character stays dead for long.  Like soap operas, the episodic nature of comics seems to compel writers to develop (sometimes) creative ways to extricate characters from seemingly impossible situations.  Rather than generate our own list, we thought we’d ask our readers and see which characters comics fans wish would just stay in the grave.  Read the overview below, then leave your vote and comments below.  I’m sure many have been let off, so feel free to add your own to the list if you wish:

 

175px-UncannyXMen101 Jean Grey:  Many would argue that Jean Grey’s death in the pages of X-men represents one of the best moments in comic book history. The nobility of self-sacrifice in the face of overwheming odds, coupled with a love story and well-executed writing and art created a transcendent moment in comics.  Her return, while not destroying the sanctity of the Claremont/Byrne story, significantly devalued the character in what was obviously a marketing ploy.

 

 

 

 

 

160px-Deadjason Jason Todd:  Never has a character been so loathed that readers actually voted to kill him.  Thus is the original fate of the second Robin, Jason Todd.  Victim of a publicity stunt where DC allowed readers to call a 900 number and vote whether Jason lived or died after a vicious assault by the Joker, readers essentially agreed that it would be best for the Joker to beat the hell out of a young boy with a crowbar.  It is amazing, then, that DC opted to resurrect the character.  Jeph Loeb played around with this concept in his classic Hush storyline (and, in retrospect, perhaps he should have been encouraged to bring him back in those pages), but it was ultimately Judd Winick who had the cajones to return the character to DC continuity.  I’m not sure anyone is really clear about how he returned, but like it or not, he’s back!

 

 

170px-Bucky Bucky Barnes:  A few years ago, the thought of resurrecting Captain America’s long-dead partner Bucky Barnes was simply anathema to creators and fans alike.  Things change, it seems.  Bucky’s back, rechristened the Winter Soldier by scribe Ed Brubaker.  While the reaction to Bucky’s return has been decidedly mixed, there is no doubt among fans that Brubaker is in the midst of crafting some of the very best Captain America stories ever told.  Testament to this fact is that he has continued writing a riveting book even following the assassination of its title character.

 

 

 

 

200px-Mar-Vell Captain Marvel:  No, not the DC SHAZAAM! variety of Cap.  Like Bucky, Marvel has also decided to bring back a character that no fan ever thought would come back.  Mar-Vell died in a poignant story (one of the very first graphic novels, actually) ungracefully titled The Death of Captain Marvel.  Cap’s death from cancer is strangely still in Marvel continuity, since the convoluted method of resurrecting him doesn’t change any of the facts of his death (Don’t try to figure it out.  I’m confused just writing about it!).  Still, he IS back, and no one is quite sure if that’s a good thing.

 

 

 

215px-Warlock-172 Adam Warlock: Not sure who Adam Warlock is?  You’re probably not alone.  One of the lesser-known characters created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Warlock began his existence known only as “Him” in the pages of The Fantastic Four.  The character suffered through several “showcase” titles and even his own lackluster title in the 70s, but it was not until Jim Starlin began working on the character that Adam Warlock became a noticeable part of the Marvel Universe.  No stranger (no pun intended) to cosmic-level stories, Starlin used the Warlock character to continue many of the themes and conflicts he developed earlier in the pages of Captain Marvel (who he would later kill, see a trend here?).  Self-sacrifice, per usual, plays a huge role in Warlock’s demise, but no good (or even mediocre) character gets much rest in the Marvel afterlife.  Starlin resurrected the character in the 80s during his extended Infinity Gauntlet storyline, and Warlock again had his own title, but it, like all the others, was short-lived.  If ever a character showed evidence of Repetitive Death Syndrome, it’s Adam Warlock.

 

175px-Green_lantern_76 Green Arrow:  Don’t mistake me here.  I LOVED Kevin Smith’s resurrection of the character in the new Green Arrow series, and I even enjoyed Brad Metzler’s follow-up Archer Quest.  The problem is that very few writers seem able to competently handle Oliver Queen.  His backstory is not terribly compelling or original, and his “rogues gallery” is virtually non-existent.  Denny O’Neil wrote Ollie superbly in the 70s by developing a radical political viewpoint for the character, but that is given relative lipservice today (odd, considering the politically-charged climate we now live in).  A recent attempt at bringing politics into a Green Arrow storyline just devolved into the usual slugfest. There’s no doubt that Green Arrow is one of the best characters in the DC Universe when properly written, but too few have been able to do just that.

 

 

250px-HAWK005 Hawkeye:  If Green Arrow is a second-rate Batman, then Hawkeye is a third-rate Green Arrow.  Wearing what is arguably the ugliest costume in superhero history, Hawkeye has bandied about from one side of the Marvel Universe to another, only to find himself killed in the now-famous Avengers Disassembled.  In an extremely quick turnaround, even by Marvel standards, Clint Barton is back again, though whether or not he will become Hawkeye again is up in the air (any bets, anyone?). 

 

 

 

 

180px-Crisis7 Supergirl: Just who the hell is Supergirl these days, anyhow?  After multiple iterations of the character (and one colossally terrible film), many are left stumbling for an answer to what should be a very simple and straightforward question.  One thing is clear: the character most recognize as the classic Supergirl DIED in the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Today we have an approximate reincarnation of the same character, which in some eyes diminishes the impact of her death in the 80s (well, if nothing else, at least her headband died).  Supergirl is ultimately a character who cannot maintain interest in her own title.  Many attempts have been made, and now she has rather mechanically been grafted onto the current Legion of Super-Heroes series.  If she dies again in the future, how will all of THAT mess be sorted out?

 

 

200px-Deathofsuperman Superman:  Let’s get controversial, shall we?  In a media circus that eclipsed even the death of Jason Todd, DC opted to kill its flagship character, Superman, in the early 90s.  Why this got so much press is beyond me, when it was more than clear from the very start that the character would be back in fine form in no time.  Still, he was technically dead for a short while, and its arguable that he should have remained dead.  Like the current death of Captain America, Superman has become more of an icon and symbol than a character.  In death, then, why not fully elevate him to symbolic, almost mythic proportions by removing his physical (but not spiritual or emotional) presence from the DCU?  Again, this is, in essence, what Ed Brubaker is attempting in the pages of Captain America.  DC could have done the same thing more than a decade earlier.  Should they have?

 

230px-Dd181 

Elektra:  Of all the characters listed here, none has had as wild a ride as Elektra.  Dead and buried after Frank Miller’s Daredevil run, she remained out of the Marvel Universe for years and years.  Interest certainly never waned for the character; in fact, her death at the hands of Bullseye became the stuff of comic book legend.  Still, Miller couldn’t let her stay dead, and chose to resurrect her in an extremely oblique way in the graphic novel Elektra Lives Again (and we won’t even try to comprehend the significance of the Miller/Sienkiewicz Elektra: Assassin mini-series).  The character continues to show up throughout the Marvel Universe, even inhabiting her own ongoing series for a time.  The question must be asked, however – was she better off dead?

 

There’s the list.  Again, we want to know what you think.  Post your comments, votes and suggestions below.

July 17, 2007 Posted by | Comics, Commentary, Graphic Novels | Leave a comment

New Feature: The Weekly Pete

As The Pete continues to develop, we thought we’d add a bit more substance to the mix by including brief reviews of the comics we’re reading each week.  Sometimes these will be the latest releases; other times they might include classics or just a series we haven’t had time to read before.  In any case, enjoy, and leave us some feedback.

 

ASM541_SM Amazing Spider-Man 541:  The Back in Black storyline, if you want to call it that, has been lackluster in all but this one core Spidey title.  Clearly, the entire idea was conceived as a clever marketing ploy to tie the comics more closely to the events of Spider-Man 3.  Fortunately, J. Michael Strazynski has the good sense to realize that simply putting Pete in the black tights isn’t enough.  Instead, he focuses on the rage inside the title character, a facet that has not been explored enough in the pages of these comics; an amazing statement, really, given the sheer number of stories written about Peter Parker and his alter-ego.  I’m not a Ron Garney fan (are there any?), and he continues to underwhelm me.  His art suffices this grand story, but little else.

WWH 

World War Hulk 1 and Hulk 107:  The basic idea is simple and generally well-executed:  have a secretive and clandestine top-tier of Marvel characters conspire to banish the Hulk to another planet, have said Hulk develop a genuine existence and a good life there, then strip it all away and send Hulk back to Earth to kick some Illuminati ass.  It’s enjoyable in an old-fashioned, kids-on-a-playground-argument kind of way.  That said, however, there’s virtually no character development present, at least not yet, and no attempt at revealing anything about the Hulk except that he’s angry (and yeah, we GET that!).  And why, oh why, is our green friend saddled with the alien “warbound” group of friends, none of whom have any characteristics to make them either likable or dislikable?  It’s a mixed bag, but I’ll stick along for the ride for the same reason most others will – to see Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, Iron Man and Professor X get what’s coming to them. 

More of the Weekly Pete in our next post….

July 2, 2007 Posted by | Comics, Commentary | 2 Comments

Everything Old is New Again

That is, as long as you’re DC Comics.  Yes, friends, the Multiverse has returned with a vengeance, leaving some of us old veterans of comics scratching our heads.  You see, WAY back yonder in 1985 DC had this plan to eliminate all of the confusion created by their multiple-Earth mess.  At that point, there were a ridiculous number of Earths co-existing in the DC universe, causing both new and old fans to either give in to the madness or just give up on reading DC.  Thus, Crisis on Infinite Earths was born, and while by today’s standards it looks and reads rather crudely (the visuals are certainly terrific, but the paper quality and coloring standards of the time neutered Perez’s pencils) the series certainly trumped the Marvel event that was happening at roughly the same moment (Secret Wars).  For the first time in ages, the DC universe had a linear timeline and ONE Earth.  Alas, it took another ground-breaking event, 52, to send us all the way back to the beginning.

To be fair, it doesn’t look as if things are going to be quite as confusing as they once were.  Instead of a limitless number of universes, now there is a definite limit of 52.  How this will impact storytelling, no one knows quite yet, but aren’t 52 universes just as potentially confusing as a theoretically limitless multiverse?  And, as is often the case, what happens when the writers who invented this new-old transformation either leave DC or move to other projects?  I certainly trust the DC universe to the more than capable hands of Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, etc, but what about the teeming hordes of writers who will follow them?  Is DC condeming itself to this sort of contract-expand paradigm for the rest of its publishing life? 

What’s your take on the return of the multiverse?  Leave your message after the beep…..

June 4, 2007 Posted by | Comics, Commentary | 1 Comment

World War III Bored Me To Tears

Sad to say, really, considering what a monstrous DC Comics fan I am, but I cannot find it within myself to say anything good about DC’s latest World War III event (if a four issue series can be considered an event at all).  I’ve enjoyed 52, warts and all, but attempting to cram every plot point that was not covered in that gargantuan series into a four-issue mini seems arduous at best, and ridiculous at worst.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that DC only deigned to assign this series to B and C-list writing and penciling talent.  The result was four books that very nearly put me to sleep, and which I wish I never spent the time to read.  Did anyone really think anything substantive would come of Black Adam’s war against…well…everyone, I suppose?  Call me subversive, but the scribes of 52 actually led me to hope that the Black Adam Family might actually be a lasting change in the DC universe.  It was refreshing and different – a Marvel Family with an edge and big problems with family dynamics.  But no, this was not to be.  Ultimately, we ended up with Adam right where he was before, if not a bit angrier (if that is indeed possible) – and a few minor characters dead.  Speaking of which, I haven’t been reading Teen Titans, but was there really a character on the team named “Young Frankenstein”?  No wonder they killed him.

I’ll reserve judgment on the conclusion of 52.  I’m only an issue away from completing it, and I certainly hope it leaves me with a better taste in my mouth than World War III did.  Actually, if it leave me conscious, that will be a good start.

May 6, 2007 Posted by | Comics, Commentary | Leave a comment

Captain Castle????

LiveJournal tags:

I  had a bad feeling about this.  I mean a really, really bad feeling.  Ever since the Punisher picked up Captain America’s mask in the final pages of Civil War, I knew something was going to happen.  Something synergistic….and capitalistic….and maybe just downright crass.  So here we have it: the debut of Frank Castle’s new costume, incorporating elements of, guess what, Captain America’s uniform.  I’ll reserve judgment until I read the issue where all of this happens (see below), but for the moment all I can hear is Steve Rogers spinning in his grave. 

Frank Castle becomes the new Captain America…?

Source: Punisher War Journal #7 Preview
Originally published on Wed, 18 Apr 2007 00:53:00 GMT

 

April 18, 2007 Posted by | Comics, Commentary | Leave a comment

Fanboys Destroy Spider-man Weekend

 

Cable television has been littered with ads for the Web Slinger Weekends at Target, Walmart and Toys R Us, so I suppose I should have anticipated the fanboy reaction even before my wife and I decided to check out the spider-offerings at our local Target (our sad little home town can’t even support a Toys R Us, and we won’t darken the door of a Walmart). I’m naïve, I suppose; I actually thought there would be SOMETHING left on the shelves. Unfortunately, that was not the case, as clearly the snot-slinging, zit-popping armies of mint-condition spider-groupies must have descended on the store right as it opened. At most, I wanted to pick up maybe one toy (a black-outfitted Spidey for my office), so it wasn’t all that crushing a moment for me. Instead, I started thinking about all of the kids who were excited about picking up the new Spider-man toys, only to find that all of them were already gone before even 10am. I’m for a free market economy and all, but don’t you think the store managers could have put the kibosh on the uber-geeks who bought the entire shipment?

March 27, 2007 Posted by | Commentary | 1 Comment

Starry Starry Knight

An excellent treatise on the 60s-70s treatment of superheroes in popular media versus the new “golden age” of comics movies can be read here:

http://circumstantial.wordpress.com/2007/03/10/the-joy-of-cheese-and-stars/

While I don’t necessarily subscribe to all of the author’s views, it’s an interesting read – and I certainly think the James Robinson/Tony Harris era Starman would make a decent television show.

March 11, 2007 Posted by | Comics, Commentary | 1 Comment