Saturday, 31 January 2015

Thoughts of the week: Marvel Universe ends and Fantastic Four trailer.


Because it's a brain... geddit?
Okay, a new regular article I plan on writing, I look at the big news this week and make some comments. I can’t say that you’ll agree, but let’s see what you think.

The more unnecessarily busy, the better! 
Marvel Universe ending but it’s totally not a reboot. Stop calling it a reboot. Why does everyone think it’s a reboot?

Okay, even though some Marvel fans are denying it left, right and centre are denying that Marvel is rebooting the universe, I’m not sure that there’s another name for it. Sure, maybe it won’t be a full-on, nothing-matters-anymore-style reboot, but the evidence is pointing towards a reboot of some kind. The big question seems to be what kind of reboot we’re talking about.

Although it would make me lose faith in Marvel for the rest of my life, I’m anticipating that Marvel will likely place the X-men, Spider-Man and Fantastic Four in a universe separate to 616. That way, Marvel can still make money off the considerable X-Men and Spider-Man fanbases without having to admit that they exist to the franchises in the MCU. It sounds pessimistic, but look at the facts; the Fantastic Four has been cancelled partially due to bad sales, partially because Marvel doesn’t care for Fox Studios. The X-Men are slowly being phased out by the Inhumans, and Spider-Man’s place in 616 isn’t as significant as it once was. We need to face facts; Marvel is by-and-large a movie studio now and comics are quickly being repurposed as commercials, no matter what Tom Brevoot says.

Oh, the reviews of movies that
nobody's seen yet...
That Fantastic Four Trailer

We spent a good long time riffing on Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot, haven’t we? But now that trailer has launched and…

Well, I’m not going to say we’re shutting up, but we’re a bit less sure about how awful it’s going to be now, aren’t we?

It’s time we just admitted that, as fans, we don’t know as much as we think we do. We thought Affleck couldn’t be an imposing Batman until the pictures dropped. We were ready to dismiss Days of Future Past and it ended up being one of the greatest X-Men films to date, and need I mention Guardians of the Galaxy, which was supposed to be Marvel’s Achilles’ heel? We’ll never learn, will we?

Personally, I get the feeling it’s going to be average- The Amazing Spider-Man-standard work. But I may find myself being blown away by it anyway. Currently, I’m intrigued about the interpretation, but don’t see myself getting blown away.

And currently, that’s all. Your thoughts?

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Green Lantern Corps Vol. 2: Alpha War (The New 52) Review


Green Lantern Corps Vol. 2: Alpha War
Hmmm... where would we find two shiny
people in a dark room...

Writer: Peter J Tomasi

Artists: Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna

Collects: Green Lantern Corps #0, 8-14

Background Information:

In the last volume, Guy Gardner and John Stewart took on an alien race called the Keepers- the ones formerly tasked with storing the green light of willpower. During that time, John was imprisoned and interrogated with other Lanterns over codes that would allow the keepers to enter Oa, the home of the Green Lantern Corps and the Guardians of the Universe. In order to stop one lantern from giving the codes away, John killed him. He then went on to take that lantern’s body to his home planet where his parents and younger brother gave him a farewell. Of course, at that point, nobody knew that the lantern died at John’s hands.

Yep, that’s totally not going to blow up in his face.

Totally won’t.

Review:

Quick, shoot the green guys... oh... wait...
The first volume of Green Lantern Corps could have been much better, even if it wasn’t bad. I seriously doubt people would be desperate for a second volume based on the previous one, were it not for the fact that the series crosses right over with the other GL titles. Good thing that Alpha War seriously ups the game in Tomasi’s New 52 run; producing a story that rewards you for slogging through the first volume and ramps up interest in the third.

This volume concerns the fallout of John Stewart’s lantern killing. The Alpha Corps (the Green Lanterns charged with policing the Green Lanterns), have footage of the dastardly deed and have come with an arrest warrant for Stewart. Naturally, Guy Gardner opposes the arrest and you can bet people are going to smash each other with green objects.

The story is deeply rooted in how bad the Guardians are, and it almost goes without saying that to people familiar with the years of GL history. There’s nothing new here in that regard, but there’s a sense here that it’s finally going to boil over and that makes the volume interesting.

Tomasi also does a fine job at digging into GL history as references to the Manhunters, Mogo and the Psions. They’re all wrapped into the story and it’s entertaining in many ways. The battles between the Alpha Lanterns and the Corps is also well-done in the way it takes advantage of that history. Let’s face it; the Alphas are able to switch off the Lantern rings, so Guy needs to pull out something pretty clever. I’m more than happy to read that, but there’s one issue that bother me.

This book is supposed to be about Guy and John- two equally awesome lanterns that work together to save the universe. Why, then, does this title seem to be almost exclusively Guy’s book? Between this and last volume, John’s position has been relegated to “person in need of rescuing”. That has to be insulting to Stewart fans, and it smacks in the face of all the work DC did at the beginning of the New 52 to diversify their line.

The cliffhanger at the end of this book, however, is worth the price of the book and definitely validates buying the next volume. I won’t spoil it, but there’s some suggestion here that Guy won’t hijack the whole title for much longer.
It never occurred to me that Guy had an even stupider
haircut at some stage.

Somehow, though Pasarin’s art was distorted and not pretty at all in the first volume, the art in this volume looks a lot better. The constipated faces aren’t there anymore, nor do they look botoxed. There is still a lot of green here, and you’re gonna’ get sick of that colour by the end of this volume, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Alpha War has successfully validated Green Lantern Corps. It gets a four out of five people in need of saving.

+ Rewards you for reading volume 1.

+ Draws on GL history.

+ Art looks better.

- Guy steals too much spotlight

Alternate Option: Green Lantern: The Return of Black Hand

If you start this series, you need to read all the GL line.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Avengers Vol.2: The Last White Event (Marvel NOW!) Review

Avengers Vol. 2: The Last White Event (Marvel NOW!)

Even The Adams Family gets a gritty
reboot.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artists: Dustin Weaver and Mike Deodato

Collects: Avengers #7-11 (mmm… slurpies…)

Background:

In the last volume, the Avengers ran into Ex Nihilo, a naked guy with horns and a god-complex. He was busy sending machines called “origin bombs”- devices which change areas and their inhabitants into something more “advanced”. The team came back with Nihilo’s “Adam”, a man who calls himself Nightshade. Nightshade is convinced that something called “the system” is broken and that “the last white event” is coming to earth.

Yep, that’s a LOT of quotation marks.

Review:

While he was in the shower, the Avengers
stole his clothes.
The way I understand it, Hickman is known for telling long stories. The kind that take up multiple volumes and cross over more than one massive event. Heading all three major Avengers books, he’s kinda’ had total control of the Marvel universe since the beginning of Marvel NOW!. As such, The Last White Event reads very much like a cog in the machine- essentially useless on its own, but not something you’d want to read Avengers or the massive Infinity event without.

So the last white event hits earth and has granted someone the Starbrand- a tattoo that allows its bearer to destroy entire planets.

That someone is Kevin Conner- a relative nobody at his college thrust into the new planetary crisis. When that thrust comes from him accidently destroying said college and everyone in it.

It sounds like a simple story; but that’s something I have to admire about Hickman; he can take a plot that some writers would finish in five issue and add so much depth and detail to it that even though his version of the same story might be fifteen issues longer, it certainly doesn’t feel dragged out.

Hickman also does an admirable job at handling such a massive cast of characters. The previous volume, Avengers World gave us a roster of 17 characters as opposed to the traditional 5-8 heroes. This should be a daunting task- it would be easy to make this book all about the movie roster and delegate the other 12 characters to the B-team. Somehow, though, Hickman avoids this; giving us a trade paperback that uses all characters to the point where none of them feel like they’re just there.

Therein, though, lies the problem with this trade; by being equally about everyone, it somehow ends up being about no one. Thanks to that, we have a story that’s event-driven rather than character-driven. You have to wonder, therefore, if this story couldn’t have been served equally well by the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Fantastic Four or even the X-Men (kidding, of course, Marvel doesn’t own the film rights to the last two). In fact, does Captain America need to be involved at all?

"My abs and I are here to dust your clock!"
A word of warning, also, to new readers; this isn’t a trade that you can read on its own. Not only do you need to read the first volume, but there won’t be a satisfactory end to the series unless you buy the Infinity collection (and that costs around $50 in paperback). So if you just want a taste of the Avengers, best not go to Hickman’s books.

Art here is great, though. Kevin Conner is drawn in a way that perfectly portrays the power contained in a body that looks so feeble otherwise. Weaver and Deodato also do a great job of portraying the strange events spiralling out of the origin bombs, which continue to become more and more interesting.

The Last White Event should not be read on its own, but taken with the whole, it’s an entertaining chapter in a larger saga. It gets a three and a half out of five quotation marks.

*** ½

+ Hickman shares the spotlight amongst characters.

+ Doesn’t feel dragged out.

- Hardly a character-driven story.

- Not recommended unless you want to commit to Avengers.

Alternate Option: Avengers: Avengers World

Start with this.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Superman Action Comics Vol. 3: At the End of Days (The New 52) Review


Superman Action Comics Vol. 3: At the End of Days (The New 52)
Man, what do we do with all these cut-up
Superman pictures... hey, I got an idea!

Writer: Grant Morrison

Artists: Rags Morales, Brad Walker, Travel Foreman, Chris Sprouse, Andre Hennesy, Mark Propst, Karl Story and Cam Smith

Collects: Superman Action Comics #13-18

Background information:

So far, Gran Morrison’s run on Action Comics has followed a younger Superman- one who is slowly finding out what he can do and learning how powerful he really is. This Superman currently has no idea that he can breathe in space or even fly. It’s one more akin to the first appearance of the character in Action Comics #1. Clark Kent rents an apartment from the earth-form of Mr Mxyzptlk’s wife, which becomes a major part of this book’s plot. In each major story arc, a small, demon-like man has appeared, making deals with each villain Clark has faced. It’s all been leading to this, and Morrison has spent two volumes leading up to a story that tears at the fabric of reality in a way only Morrison knows how.

Review:

The last two volumes of Action Comics were fun, but hardly what you would call real Morrison books. Morrison, to me, always means stories that jump back and forth in time, a Morrison story usually requires a second reading to fully appreciate, and has a real flair for Meta-storytelling.
PUPPY!!!

At the End of Days is, in every way, a real Morrison story.

After the last couple of volumes, Vyndktvx, the little imp man that we’ve seen so often is finally coming for Superman, attacking him at all stages of his life. That’s about as simple as I can go with the story without writing something akin to a novel. That said, this is a volume that brings together Morrison’s various story arcs together quite nicely. Almost every character from the last two volumes makes their appearance. Surprisingly, this happens without feeling forced- something that you think would happen in a book that has covered so much ground. And on top of that; Krypto!!!

Like I said, this is very much a Morrison book. It jumps around in time, deals with an extra-dimensional threat and resolves it with much meta-storytelling. I was worried that it would bother me (it did in Batman Inc. and Batman and Son), but found myself totally engrossed in it.

That said, a word of warning: this is the kind of book that requires a second reading to really “get” it. The whole story pays off, don’t get me wrong, but I wouldn’t call this a light read in the same way that, say, Nightwing is. There’s a good story here, but you need to be dedicated to really work it out.

My one gripe with this book story-wise, though, has to do with that dedication. I’ve read this volume about three times and I’m still trying to figure out what actually happened and what didn’t. See, like I said, this book jumps around in time. And that, supposedly, means that some things happen in the story, some didn’t. It’s hard to make a decision on that, and that does make my brain hurt a little.

I believe Superman is thinking: "Fancy that! This feels most
unpleasant"... probably not in those words, though.
Artwise- FINALLY, this book has gotten its house in order! There are still lots of artists on here, but there seems to be at least a little consistency that I must admit, was missing in previous volumes. The colours, though, are what really stand out to me. The pages look rich and vibrant and conveys action very well. I will admit, that sometimes the art style does change as the narration moves between dimensions, but that actually enhances the experience rather than diminishing it. After, all if you’re going to draw little imps- best they don’t look grim and gritty.

Overall, At the End of Days is a pretty satisfying conclusion to a Morrison one, if not a little confusing (naturally). It gets four out of five grim and gritty imps.

****

+ Art finally consistent.

+ KRYPTO!!!

+ Wraps up the Morrison’s run excellently.

+ Very much a Morrison book…

- … Which can get confusing.

Alternate Option: Superman Action Comics: Superman and the Men of Steel

Art issues aside, it’s still my favourite of the lot.

Monday, 12 January 2015

An open letter to Marvel

Please note: This was meant to be published not long after my DC article, but I had computer troubles.
Great as they are, they could be greater.
Dear Marvel,

Sorry, I already admitted that DC was my favourite, but if it’s any consolation, you’re what got me started on comics. I remember buying an issue of Wolverine when I was nine, and feeling like I was holding pure gold- and this was the notorious 90s. The first graphic novel I ever read was the first volume of Ultimate Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider Vol. 1: Life After Death. So yes, while DC is my favourite, I have a deep love for Marvel’s work.

That said, there are some things I really hope to see from you. Call it my wishlist, if you will, I did the same thing with DC yesterday, but if my favourite publisher has things I think they could do better, so do you.

Lower the prices

One day, I'll have enough money for either this or the
Inhumanity Hardcover.
$US4.99 is too much for a portion of a story. $20.00 is too much for a trade paperback that only contains five issues. To illustrate my point, a DC TPB, relatively new, costs around 17-19 dollars. It contains six issues, on average and often some preliminary sketches along with full-page variant covers. The best-value trade paperback I ever bought had to be Superman Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel. It contained 8 issues, back-up stories and sketches with commentary from the creators.

In a Marvel trade, however, I get five issues (one or two of which are sometimes taken from another series… infinite comics Guardians of the Galaxy… urgh!), and some variant covers, usually 2-4 covers a page. Yes, I know, you’ve put in all that stuff with the AR app- but an electronic addition that rarely works doesn’t justify the pricetag. Lower the price, plain and simple.
Oh, Great, I thought to myself. There goes my favourite
Marvel book...

Stop the guest-stars thing.

I’m glad Wolverine’s dead; at least for a little while. He’s appeared in way too many books that weren’t his to appear in and when it’s happened, you could often count that particular title as dead to rights.

So here’s my suggestion; don’t bring us a new Wolverine. I would be just as irritated, possibly more, if you started having Thor, Captain America, or (and I’m gonna go underline this one) Iron Man appearing in every book as a way to temporarily inflate sales. It doesn’t fix anything and tends to disappoint readers.

Care about your non-cinema properties

I know this makes Kevin Feige cry, but seriously?
I don’t think you cancelled Fantastic Four to spite FOX- that’s ridiculous. I think you cancelled it because you don’t care about it anymore. You can’t make highly lucrative movies based on the characters, so there seems to be little point in continuing the series. And sure, dwindling sales make cancelling a title a little easier too; you have something to blame other than the fact that, face it, your focus isn’t so much on the comics these days.

I mean, how else could you justify having, by my count, nine titles with the word “Avengers” in it since the beginning of Marvel NOW!? I know, X-Men have just as many, but the concept of the X-franchise lends itself to multiple books. All of these Avengers teams- that aren’t even in different locations- are there for one reason, and one only: Avengers is making money in Hollywood.

It’s time to care about all of your titles. Care only about your movie properties and you’ll alienate a large portion of your fanbase.

Diversify your creative teams

Looking diverse is different to being diverse.
Yay, a black Captain America!

Yipee, a female Thor!

Both books are written by white males!... wait…

You really want to reach non-whites and non-males? Hire more of them! It’s that simple. I’m not even gonna write anything more on that.

Stop sexualising characters

Sad part is: this is the covered-up version of this character.
Read my open letter to DC here. That gives the sum of it, but if you want specifically Marvel examples, that Milo Manara cover for Spider-Woman was kinda disgusting. The costumes for Magick and Emma Frost in Uncannny X-Men aren’t exactly hallmarks for gender equality and there should NEVER have been the swimsuit covers.

And, yes, you sexualise men too- Chris Hemsworth’s abs have nothing to do with Thor’s story, nor does Captain America need to be shirtless at any time. This is not to say that the sexualisation of women is therefore okay just because men are sexualised. Actually, it means the exact opposite. Stop sexualising people and just write compelling characters, dammit!

So there you go; here’s to what’s hopefully a great 2015, and all the best, Marvel!

Sincerely,

Tom

Saturday, 3 January 2015

An Open Letter to DC

Some great stuff here, but improvements are needed.
Dear DC,

I don’t hate you guys; in fact, I really don’t hate you guys. In fact, you’re my favourite publisher. The New 52 has been great for me in ways that Marvel NOW! hasn’t. It’s been, in my opinion, a pretty fun ride from Green Lantern, Superman Action Comics, Batman, Aquaman, The Flash, Talon, Nightwing and even Justice League have very much entertained me.

I’ve also loved, I repeat, LOVED Arrow. It’s been a great series with a thoroughly entertaining take on the characters. I even loved Man of Steel. I realise that will lose me my seat at the cool kids’ table, but I did.

There are, however, certain things I really REALLY want you to do with 2015. Below is my… well… wish list for this year. I hope that most of these things will happen, if not all.


I'm not satisfied by Greyson
in the place of this.
Bring back Nightwing


Look, I know there are artistic reasons for it, but cancelling Higgins’ Nightwing felt like the ultimate betrayal to someone who got into DC precisely because of this title. And yes, I’m sure Greyson is great, but be honest- it’s not like having a Nightwing book. I’m sure he will return, but make it soon!

There are more than one way of doing this; I wrote an article a while back on how Nightwing could still be Nightwing post-Forever Evil. Any one of those ideas could be fine, or you could come out and do something totally unexpected (I’m hoping Convergence will allow for Nightwing to return), but please, I need a Nightwing series!

Diversify Superman

This would be MUCH better
that Supergirl's current design
This year saw you do some truly amazing things with Batman, Batgirl, Gotham by Midnight and Gotham Academy saw the Bat-books become something amazing- there was some stylistic diversity that reinvigorated the title. Batgirl’s look was fresh and contemporary without making her look like what some perverts hope girls will cosplay as; and Gotham Academy, by all reports, is more-or-less superhero-free.

There’s no other way of saying this; apply this thinking to the Superman family of books. There’s no reason not to revamp Supergirl’s costume, or to bring back Superboy with a bold new direction. You can even bring other Super-characters into the mix. I would pay to read a Krypto book, or even a Mon-El ongoing.

Put Good Writers on Diverse Titles

This guy deserves better.
When you started the New 52, you had good intentions, books like Blue Beetle, Static Shock and Mr Terrific were all books that you made a show of caring about to make you look like you gave a damn about diversity of characters in comics. Unfortunately, they didn’t last long. Not because these aren’t characters that couldn’t hold audience interest, but because (in Mr. Terrific and Static’s case) they didn’t have that great creative team.

So here’s what I propose; get the most well-loved creators on these books. I defy anyone to tell me that a Grant Morrison-written Mr. Terrific wouldn’t sell. As for Static? What about Tomasi? He’s proven himself with Batman and Robin, give him a shot. As for Blue Beetle, just bring it back!

Give Teen Titans a rest


How many more strikes do
these guys need against them?
So, we can cancel the okay titles, like Batwing but titles that have been terrible, like Teen Titans need to be kept alive? Two series since the New 52 began and they haven’t gotten better. It’s time to put the franchise away for a while. If you really have to have teenage super heroes, considering putting them all together in a Young Justice title.

I’m talking all the teen characters together- the Titans, the Ravagers, Legion Lost, all of them. This would allow you to maintain copyright and might placate the fans reeling over the cancellation of the Young Justice cartoon. Just…


Sadly, this isn't the worst of it.
Stop Sexualising Characters

There’s a reason I’m not buying Greyson, as much as I love the character: I cannot feel comfortable reading a comic near my wife and kids that features a one-page spread of a woman in orgasm. I wish I could say that that was the worst of sexualised characters from you guys, but it isn’t. Catwoman, Starfire, and a swathe of other female characters are dressed I-wish-it-was-only-half-naked with impossible poses bent (no pun intended) on emphasising lady parts. You’ve shown us that Batgirl can be just as, or even more successful when sexed-down, time to apply that logic to other female characters.

And I wish I could say it was just the women, but the men get similar treat (although, yes, not as much). There is NO reason for a lingering shot on Henry Cavil’s abs and Steven Amell can do every one of those cool exercises with his shirt on. See, sexulisation isn’t bad because you shouldn’t do it to women. It’s not bad because you shouldn’t do it to men. Sexualisation is bad because people deserve to be admired for their character, not how they look naked.

So that’s it. I’m still along for the ride, DC, and I’m looking forward to a good one, but if these issues aren’t addressed, I’m may find myself disillusioned.

Monday, 29 December 2014

All-New X-Men Vol.2: Here to Stay (Marvel NOW!) Review


All-New X-Men Vol.2: Here to Stay (Marvel NOW!)

Guys, it's getting kinda' squashy in this
corner...
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: David Marquez and Stuart Immonen

Collects: All-New X-Men #6-10

Background Information:

In Avengers VS X-Men (which, if there was honesty in advertising, would be called Stop Liking X-Men and Like The Avengers Instead) X-Men leader Cyclops not only became the new perceivably-evil-dude, but he also killed mentor Professor Xavier and became the most hated figure in the Marvel Universe. Beast, tortured by the fact that his leader and former besty (bestie? Is there a way to say that? Can someone find me a white girl to ask?) is now the least nice mutant out there (and considering that wolverine fronts the other team, is saying something), decides to bring the original X-Men from the past with the sole purpose of making Cyclops feel bad. It doesn’t sound particularly coherent, but there’s a good story here.

Review:

Okay, the first volume of All-New X-Men was fantastic. It was a set-up unlike any other. Young X-men confronted their future selves, or lack thereof and ended up fairly traumatised. Volume 2, Here to Stay does build on that trauma, and the story does develop.

It just doesn’t feel that way throughout the whole book.

Man, I'm a Gen Y, and even I agree with Cyclops!
It’s hard to say exactly what the story is here, as multiple things seem to be happening, but basically, it boils down to this: young Jean is scared of her newfound powers, young Cyclops is trying to find out where he went wrong and young Angel wants to know why nobody will talk about what happened to him. Iceman is busy being funny and Beast is… almost absent in this volume- which is weird, since he was a huge part of last volume. In the meantime, Mystique is gathering mutants to create self-satisfying chaos.

I know, it’s probably unfair to make comparisons to the last volume, but there’s really a dip here. It was nice having a volume that had a story structure. It doesn’t feel like that’s happening in this volume. This is more of a “day in the life of very unhappy teenagers”. Not that it isn’t entertaining; just that it feels like not much happens.

See, Here to Stay is a relatively actionless volume. Sure, there’s the odd skirmish, but never are the fights significant to the story- they almost needn’t be there at all. I’m not one to think that comics need to have fights all the way through, by now we need to see the stakes get raised and this volume just doesn’t do that.

It’s not all negative, though, because Bendis’ writing here is awesome. Iceman steals nearly every scene he’s in- be he young or old. You just get the vibe that Bendis loves the character. Young Iceman’s interactions with Kitty Pryde are especially entertaining, considering that she is in love with his older self.

Oh, did I mention old Cyclops has a new costume? Well,
he does.
By far, though, the jewel of this collection is issue 8; where Captain America argues with old Beast about bringing the past X-Men to the present. Here, you don’t actually hear the two discuss much, instead, you get Kitty and Old Iceman mockingly mimicking the two. It’s a great moment of comedy and the kind of scene you want to read again and again. I get annoyed by the amount of focus given to the Avengers in Marvel NOW!, and it’s really great to see Bendis not being afraid to joke at the Avengers’ expense.

The art by Stuart Immonen and David Marquez is just as on point as it was in the last volume. They love drawing these characters just as much as Bendis loves writing them. It’s phenomenal art, and you can’t, I repeat, CAN’T miss it.

Here to Stay doesn’t achieve much, but it’s a fun bout of non-achievement. It gets a three out of five ways to spell besti (seriously, how do you spell that? White girls?).

***

+ Iceman is perfect.

+ If nothing else, issue 8 makes the volume worth buying.

- Not much happens.

Alternate Option: All-New X-Men: Yesterday’s X-Men

You can’t read Here to Stay without reading this one.