Saturday, November 17, 2012

Revisiting Wolverine and the X-Men

My first take on Wolverine and the X-Men was less than positive.  I was not impressed by the first issue at all, but I stuck with it.  I'm reading the Avengers Vs. X-Men stuff now, and I have to say that the title has done nothing but improve.

If I have any complaint about the series it is one that is common to far too many comics these days: the art is sometimes hard to follow.  Extreme close-ups of action sequences do not "put you in the action," they confuse the reader and make it hard to follow the story.  The issue with Beast in outer space really hammered that home.  I don't want to pick on one artist for this because it is an issue with many artists, but if you are guilty of it -- stop.

There are moments in this new series that make that complaint easier to tolerate, however.  Wolverine's take on Hope.  Krakoa.  Genesis.  Kitty's "pregnancy."  Space gambling.  In some cases this title is starting to feel more like the Uncanny X-men of old.  The types of stories the series is doing seems unlikely to change now, too, with the series becoming part of the Marvel Now! lineup.  That is good news.  The bad news?  It's part of the Marvel Now! lineup, which feels like a limp attempt to cash in on DC's new fame.  What does that mean?  For now nothing, but it does make me wonder what will happen when the inevitable killing off of titles occurs.  Will sales be strong enough to keep this one going?  Only time will tell.  Until that happens, however, I'm going to continue with the title ... unless it reverts back to its first issue shenanigans.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for this and clicking on a link may earn me some scratch.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cover Review: Strikeforce: Morituri #22

What I'm about to write bears no judgment on Strikeforce: Morituri as a series.  It has nothing to do with the planet I live on facing some kind of meteor threat.  It has everything to do with the testicles the creature is wearing on his(?) face.

I get the idea that a comic book cover is meant to sell a story.  It's there to grab someone's attention.  It's there to entice a new reader or suck back in someone who let the series go.  Sometimes a cover will target a certain demographic.  Thirteen-year-old boys like big-chested women wearing next to nothing.  Intellectually stunted emo girls like a weepy looking guy.  What demographic, pray tell, is drawn to alien men(?) with testicles growing off their faces?  Not even the most testicle-fixated man or woman could view this cover and think, "I have to buy this."

There is nothing else about the cover that looks vaguely sexual.  There are not strange vagina-like plants.  No woman eating a banana or dribbling milk down her chin.  There isn't a man holding a log in a strange place while a boy looks on in excitement.  None of that.  Testicle Chin stands alone as the cover's high weirdness.  I wonder how many issues this sold beyond the title's core readers?  My guess is very few.

At least we should be thankful Testicle Chin wasn't starting to grow a beard.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mark Waid's Daredevil

I have been a fan of Daredevil since the 1970s.  Since the character's inception, Daredevil (Matt Murdock, lawyer) has gone through many changes.  He's been carefree and wisecracking, he's been dark and brooding, and he's gone insane.  Of all the superhero characters I can think of, his is the one that has been written with the most depth.  His love of women has led to him being labeled a bit of a womanizer, but as witnessed when the women closest to him die, he has troubles dealing with the losses.  His friends and allies constantly question his mental stability, and his fellow heroes have grown to distrust him.  His civilian identity has been learned by his greatest nemesis, sold out by a female he once loved who got hooked on drugs and turned to porn.  This was his first break with reality.  Decades later, his civilian identity was revealed to the world, and this led to yet another series of downward spirals in Daredevil's life. 

For Daredevil fans, it has been a hell of a ride.  And now the character has come back full circle with writer Mark Waid taking over the title in 2011.  Many fans and critics agree: The title has never been better.

I had to admit I was hesitant to embrace the new old Daredevil.  Gone was the depression and insanity.  Gone was Daredevil tossing villians out third story windows.  Instead, all this was replaced with a hero who cracked jokes and seemed to be having fun with his life.  He was rebuilding.  He was mending bridges.  He was getting to do the things most people would want to do with their lives had they had the chance to do it again.

I started reading the new series, unconvinced I would like it.  Daredevil was deep.  Yes, he started out as a fairly standard hero, but along the way he had grown.  He had a foundation in religion (fairly rare in comics), he had known insanity, he had tortured.  Taking him back to square one seemed not only like a bad idea, but also it felt unrealistic.  I know the idea of having realism in a comic seems ridiculous, but the best stories and characters have a basis in realism, and Waid making the character a blind Spider-Man felt wrong to me.  I read it with an open mind, however, and I was pleased.  Very pleased.

Yes, Daredevil is more upbeat, but the past hasn't been forgotten.  This new variant on Murdock feels real.  It seems like he is trying to make his life better.  He is enjoying every moment, but ... there is something underneath it.  The insanity still comes up when people think of him.  He can't dodge the past with the outing of his civilian identity.  And you get the idea that this could end for him at any moment and in a really big way.  Sure, the original Daredevil is back, but all the stuff that happened between then and now is still there, and that somehow makes this take on the character not only more tenenous, but also more dangerous.  If it all falls apart now, after he's tried to get his life back on track, it could ruin him permanently.  Marvel would not let the character just fade away, but if handled improperly after something like that which could happen, readers would leave.  Waid has advanced the story, advanced the character, and has advanced the readers' expectations of what they can expect in the character.  That's what a good writer does.

Waid won't write this character forever.  I'm a bit behind on the title, so he could even be gone by now.  What I do feel justified in saying, though, is that when he leaves the title, his name will be up there with the other great writers on the series.  Miller.  Bendis.  Brubaker.  Smith.  Diggle.  Waid.  This skeptic has been cured.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cover Review: Avengers #25

Since the Avengers movie is such a hot commodity these days, I thought I'd go way back in the vault to check out the cover to issue number 25.  Those of you who only know the Avengers through the movie may be a bit puzzled by this one.  You recognize Captain America, and think that maybe that one guy with the bow is Hawkeye (it is), but who are the other two?  That's Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, mutants, Avengers.

These four heroes are being startled by none other than the Fantastic Four menace known as ... wait for it ... Dr. Doom!  He is a total bad ass, but the Avengers' reaction is a bit peculiar.

From the way everyone is standing, it appears that the Avengers were just strolling down a street in Latvia when they encountered Doom standing dramatically.  The Avengers' reaction?  "What the --!?" And then they struck surprised poses.  Captain America even seems ready to let loose some Kirby-esque karate on Doom's metal butt.

If you were reading Marvel comics at the time, this cover, with an overuse of the color blue making everything seem calmer than it should, this issue must have seemed pretty cool.  The Avengers up against a FF villain with the FF thrown in for good measure?  Excellent!  If you weren't reading Marvel comics, though, this just had to seem kind of lame.

Dr. Doom seems like a cool figure.  All metal and green, standing undaunted before four kind of wimpy looking heroes.  It hardly seems like a cover that would grab the readers' attention and make them want to buy the book or even open it up.  The blurb says, "In this great issue," but the cover screams otherwise.

The Avengers has had far better covers.  Most of them came in the '70s.  This one probably turned away more new readers than it drew in.  It obviously didn't tank the series, though, or you wouldn't have seen the movie five times already.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Savage Dragon

I was recently at my local dollar store and happened across a box of polybagged comics.  They came from some company whose name escapes me at the moment, but they looked worth getting.  Each pack had two comics (you could only see the front cover of one of the two) and a card.  Each pack was a buck.  I ended up picking up five packs because I could tell by the comic I could see that I wanted to add it to my collection.  The very first bag I opened had issue #45 of DC Comics Presents.  That is why I picked it up.  While I'm not a Superman fan, I did enjoy that series.  It was the second issue that stunned me, however.  The Savage Dragon #3 ... with the coupon in it!

Oddly enough, I have seen this title for up to $13 on auction sites.  Mine is a first printing, and I must admit I found it to be a strange find as these are usually surplus comics that are available in these packs.

I haven't opened the other packs yet, but I am tempted to go buy up the rest of the store's supply.  I know there were some Valiant titles in there, along with more '80s Marvel and DC issues, which is what I was mainly after.

Best find ever?  Not even close, but I bought those packs thinking I would be getting some utter junk.  And while I'm not a Savage Dragon fan, I do know the early issues can go for some bucks.  I think I need to head back out to that store.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


It was bound to happen.  My daughter discovered the Teen Titans animated show through the wonders of Boomerang.  Her favorite character?  Raven, of course.

When I ask her why Raven seems to have caught her attention, I get the usual run of answers.  She's dark, goth, strong, cool -- you name it.  Admittedly, of the Titans, she is the most interesting on the show.  There are worse characters she could like.  Faust.  Foolkiller.  That creepy Charlton clown who shot a kid.  Squirrel Girl.  Raven, on the whole, seems ... wholesome.

I'm not complaining about this newfound admiration of Raven.  In fact, I think it is kind of neat.  She's had an interest in Phoenix, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Storm, Nightcrawler, Batman ... but Raven is the one she talks about the most (it's also the wallpaper on her computer).  When she asks me to find things on eBay ... it's all Raven.  (And for the record, the Teen Titans Go comics are way overpriced on eBay.)  So now I'm on a search to find her all the Raven products I can.  If any of you reading this know of any cool ones (statues, toys, books -- whatever), let me know.  It's a new quest of sorts ... at least until she's onto the next thing.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Burying Children With Daredevil

My earliest memory of Daredevil is also one of my most disturbing childhood comic book memories (on par with the clown that killed a child in a Charlton book), and it set me on course as a lifelong fan of the series.  The issue in question was 130, and it was a tale that dealt with voodoo.

I don't think I have the issue anymore, and I really don't remember much about it, but there is one scene (a panel, really) that stands out in my memory.  I don't remember what lead up to it, but that doesn't really matter, the end result was a close up panel of a young African-American boy buried up to his neck in the dirt, mouth open in sobs and tears coming from his eyes.

It was the mid-Seventies when this came out.  I was young.  Maybe between five and seven.  Possibly a bit older.  Either way, it didn't matter.  This image has stuck with me for decades.  I'm sure I bought the issue (or had my father buy it) because of the cover, but that was nothing compared to the inside horror of a child buried alive.

Voodoo was big in America at that time thanks to Live and Let Die and an interest in all things "occult."  To find it covered in comic books is no real surprise.  Daredevil was a mainstream title, though, put out by one of the two big publishers.  To find that sort of image still strikes me as odd.  I don't remember any other comics from Marvel or DC pulling off something quite like that.

I still read Daredevil today, but there has not been a panel to compare with that one.  Writers and artists have come and gone.  There's been great storylines and forgettable ones.  But that single panel has managed to worm its way deep inside my mind and has never left.  That's quite an accomplishment considering all the horrific things I've seen and read.  Kudos to the creators of this for creating something so powerful.  Unfortunately, the fact that I can't remember who they were or what the story was about doesn't speak well to the rest of the issue, but if success were based on a single panel alone, I'd have to say they were the most successful team in comics.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this issue for free, and if you click on a link I may earn a commission.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Revamping the Uncanny X-Men

It's a move that reeked of the usual sales desperation.  The Uncanny X-Men had lost its way (again).  Events in the mutant series of books dictated that this had to happen.  So on and so forth.  What it really boils down to is a fool and his money are soon parted, and I'm a fool missing some money.

I've been an Uncanny X-Men fan since the early 1980s.  I've been through good.  I've been through bad.  And worse yet, I've been through the boring.  I've been saddened by Claremont leaving, and horrified when he returned.  I've seen Wolverine undergo about 936 different variations.  I've watched my favorite characters killed ... and many brought back to life.  I've witnessed some incredible storytelling and have watched Marvel pander to the almighty dollar.  For a title that has been around in one form or another since the 1960s, this is not unexpected.  To start its numbering over with issue one ... well, that is worth looking at.  Let's look at some of the arguments that have been made.

"It's just a number."  That's what one fellow fan said to me.  He's right. It's just a number.  It doesn't detract from the issues that have come before it.  It erases none of those stories from my memory.  It does, however, give new readers no clue as to what has come before them.  Therefore a sense of history is erased almost like Orwell wrote it himself.  Yes, the stories are still out there, and a search of eBay shows you can get all the back issues.  But the days are gone when some new reader sees issue #143 and thinks, "Wow, what has gone before I got here?"

"The stories got too convoluted."  Yes.  Yes they did.  All the X-titles became a huge mess, dictated by a publisher that cared more about squeezing out every last dollar than it did making sure writers stuck to something cohesive.  All it takes, however, is good writing to fix those problems.  A relaunch just guarantees the same thing will happen again ... especially when you have about 50 other X-titles going.  It will get messy ... again.  The titles do, it must be said, clean house from time to time without relaunching a book.  It could've been done here, as well.  Marvel just saw dollars and decided that a lame attempt to boost sales could make some people forget how lame the attempt would actually be in the grand scheme of things.

"The direction the various mutants split in made this a necessity."  No it didn't.  It made it so that there were new stories that could be told.  Uncanny X-Men has been filled with direction changes.  They have been handled with various degrees of success.  Each time they have been done with a relaunch, they have not stuck and have been handled with all the finesse of a bull on meth.  Will this time be different?  Only time will tell, but I'm actually enjoying it so far despite all my complaints.

Yes, that's right, I'm enjoying the title.  Just a few months into its run, and I have to say it isn't bad.  It also didn't need to be relaunched, however.  We could be at issue #548 telling the same story.  This new direction didn't merit a total relaunch of the title.  It was pointless and unnecessary.  Perhaps a few new readers were picked up, but I can't help but wonder how many people said enough is enough and dropped it.  Probably not many.  If they are like me they know the title will go through cycles of various degrees of greatness, and when it's good it's really good ... and that's always worth waiting around for.

Besides, it'll probably revert back to its old numbering in a year or so anyway.