Sunday, May 13, 2012

Could Thanos be meant for something BIGGER than Avengers 2?

Thanos The Titan
Okay, spoiler alert for anyone who has been hiding under a rock. The big reveal at the end of the Avengers movie was that mega-baddie Thanos was a bad guy lurking in the shadows. This isn't cool because of the hype machine, Thanos is actually a really great character who came out of the cosmic titles that Jim Starlin worked on in the 1970s, which really took traditional Marvel comics to another level. To say that I'm a fan of those stories in an understatement. I'm a picky comic guy. But that old material is prime-cut and I sought it all out long before there was any buzz about it.

I'm making a prediction, I don't think Thanos is going to be the villain of Avengers 2. Follow my logic here. At the end of Iron Man we first got a cameo by Nick Fury. That gave us the first clue that there was something bigger here. That there was going to be a larger Marvel Universe. And the Avengers was bigger. But is it the endgame? Is it as big as it will get? I don't think so. Avengers 2 will be a big movie, but to top the first one in energy it's going to have to be something bigger. And why not, the Marvel Universe is bigger than The Avengers. Why would we assume that the movie Marvel Universe won't be as well?

Cover to the Infinity Gauntlet
Trade Paperback, 1st Printing
Thanos isn't really an Avengers villain. You could make the argument that he's a Captain Marvel villain or an Adam Warlock villain, but the truth be told if you look at Jim Starlin's Marvel Cosmic Saga, Thanos is the one constant. He's a more complex villain which is why he isn't just the antagonist of the series he was the star of, he also evolved into the protagonist. He wins. He sees the futility in winning it all. He loses. He starts to see the balance. This is a character, that to do it justice, a story has to focus around him.

My guess is that The Avengers 2 will feature another threat, most likely a more traditional Avengers adversary and something that will allow viewers to focus on the characters of The Avengers. And that it will be the set up for something bigger, something like an Infinity Gauntlet movie.

Wait a minute, you say, from a marketing standpoint, why would anyone name a movie something that doesn't even have a superhero name in it? Things have changed. We had a movie called Batman Begins but then we had a sequel called The Dark Knight. No studio would have not used the name of the iconic main character before that. Ten years ago no one was even reading Avengers comics. And the Avengers comics of the last decade has had almost nothing to do with the more traditional Avengers that were focused on in the movie. Iron Man was a smash hit because it took what was cool about Iron Man and did it right. And that movie was a marketing machine about what was to come. The success of the Avengers movie was part of a marketing campaign that was in the movies themselves. If there is going to be an Infinity Guantlet movie, it's not just going to be comic fans that have the inside track going into it, it's going to be everyone who watches Iron Man 3, Captain America 2, Thor 2, and The Avengers 2. And it's going to be all the buzz generated by those movies.

Now personally, I don't think The Infinity Gauntlet was the high point of Jim Starlin's cosmic epic. In my opinion the best Thanos material came even earlier in the Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock titles as well as the Avengers and Marvel Two In One annuals that featured the character. And after that it's the more recent stuff from The Infinity Abyss, Marvel Universe The End, and the Thanos series that I prefer to the 1990s material. But there is no doubt that The Infinity Gauntlet was a big and popular story and was the peak of the Thanos saga. And it was solid enough and the concept and the roots that made it up were fantastic. And an Infinity Gauntlet movie would just be a rip off of an early 1990s crossover event.

Avengers 2? Come on, what kind of build up would that be? Marvel Studios thinks bigger than those kind of two dimensional ideas. I think something bigger is coming...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

DC's Relaunch Analisis, Recommendations, and The New 52 Purge

It's been a while since I posted about comics, or posted at all for that matter, and there are few reasons for that that maybe I'll elaborate on at some point in another post, but today I'm going to scratch my comic itch. The six month mark for me is the sort of marking port for the beginning of my DC Comics New 52 purge.

I've had mixed feelings about the New 52 marketing campaign that DC started seven months ago now. For those that don't know what it means, the New 52 means that DC is restarted its entire line of comics with 52 all new series starting with a new #1 issue. The idea is that it would be a jumping on point, and, while I don't agree with relaunching Action Comics and Detective Comics, both of which have been in print and have been consistently numbered since the 1930s (for those of you who don't know DC was once called National Publications, took on the DC branding as the initials for Detective Comics, it's oldest running comic), I do think that jumping on points are good thing. Most of DC's history (more commonly referred to by comics fans as "continuity") was restarted, however some of their titles got what they refer to as a "soft reboot", basically allowing what were considered to be successful story lines to continue in the relaunch. This sort of thing can be a bit confusing, especially if your the kind of person who wants to connect all the dots and try to make sense of the larger reality in comics. It doesn't personally bother me as I've seen a number of "continuity" shifts over the years and you have to have an appreciation of suspension of disbelief when it comes to reading ongoing stories about superheroes, some of which have been in constant publication since 1938.

I'm more traditionally a Marvel Comics superhero fan. Marvel is the company that publishes characters like Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, The X-Men, and The Fantastic Four. I started collecting Marvel Comics first, particularly Spider-Man who was a character I could relate to and whose stories helped me survive the more traumatic experiences of my childhood. The Marvel Universe felt more familiar to me, it felt more grounded and yet more fun at the same time. But in the 1990s the quality at Marvel fell and a lot of the hype driven trends made it very difficult for me to enjoy Marvel Comics, which is the time that I started really getting into independent comics, particularly ones outside of the superhero genre. Now, since the 1990s have ended, a lot of really amazing comics have been produced by Marvel. But there is still a sense that I have at times that their continuity has advanced so far that I don't recognize many of the characters I used to enjoy, there are way too many events that make it hard for me to enjoy a single title and, while there are a few Marvel titles that I think are out of this world amazing (Winter Soldier and Daredevil are two I would strongly recommend), I have a really hard time jumping onto Marvel titles.

Despite my connection to Marvel with the comics, DC's superheroes were my introduction to superheroes with Superfriends, the Superman movies, and the Batman and Robin TV show. DC's heroes, particularly Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, are icons. And I think that DC has done a relatively good job in comparison to Marvel in treating it's characters like icons. There are a lot of things about the New 52 relaunch I really like. For example, I'm glad that Superman isn't married to Lois Lane now because part of the fun in comics is that soap opera element and if the characters have all settled, it's hard to build the same kind of romantic tension. There is that danger of going to the other extreme from where Marvel is at, where the characters play so much of tribute to themselves that it's hard to tell interesting stories with them anymore. No matter what you do you are going to upset someone. But what DC has done is very brave. The problems I have with it are specific and involve particular trends that don't appeal to me, many of which reminds of me that period in the 1990s that drove me away from superhero comics. But what DC has provided are icons that I recognize and a place where I can jump on, and enough diversity within their books that even though there is a lot I don't like, what I do like I really really like and can enjoy and feel comfortable jumping into without being bogged down by bloated continuity.

But as I've said, my New 52 purge has began and the most simple reason for this is that I have limited income. I'm a single dad whose kids live with him more than half of the time, I have lots of bills, I have other interests, and there are other comics I enjoy, not all of which involve superheroes and some of which are being published in deluxe formats that cost a lot of money. I checked out more titles from DC's New 52 than I normally would because I wanted to sample what looked good to me. And now that I have, there are some books that I love love love, some that I think are really good, some that I think are pretty good, some that I want to like more, and some that really aren't working for me. I also find that there are certain titles that I have fallen behind in reading and I only have so much time and so many things I've been meaning to get to. I also feel, as I often do with big business which has a tendency to pat themselves on the back too much, that it's important to remind DC not to take us for granted.

So what I'm going to do now is give a brief summary of the DC books I've been reading since the relaunch, and whether I recommend them or whether they're part of my purge. I'm going to be clear, most of the books I'm not recommending are not bad books. In fact, most of them are good books. But comics cost between $2.99 and $3.99, and that's the better part of a five dollar bill. My presumption is that you work hard for yoru money, that you don't have an unlimited budget, and you have other interests, so that anything short of awesome isn't worth me pushing on you. Also, keep in mind that these are only the titles that I've been following.

Action Comics
Action's first issue had the strongest start of the New 52 books and taking Superman back to his earliest roots where he had a bit more bravado and was a champion for the disenfranchised, really felt relevant in the modern world where business seems to have a parasitic relationship with both their employees and customers and cronyism and manipulators seems to run our government. But then the book just seemed to drift and explore more of the "fantastic" qualities of Superman rather than the populism that was in the first issue. I'm not purging this book yet, but now that he's in that awful costume that is so out of date, it's hard to remain enthusiastic for this book when it hasn't gone anywhere for a while. Not Purged, but Not Recommended, at this time at least.

All Star Western
I love Jonah Hex. I think Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have done a great job with him since day one. This is a good book. Sometimes it's a great book. But I find myself falling behind in reading it. If westerns are your main thing you should check it out, but I've got it scheduled to be Purged after it's Court of Owls back stories. Still, I might pick these up as back issues down the road...

Geoff Johns has applied the magic that revived Green Lantern to Aquaman to tell straight forward superhero stories that make character relatable and cool. Recommended

One of the things I was excited about was the return of the real Batgirl, whom I consider an icon. Unfortunately the costume redesign loses everything that made Batgirl's costume both sexy and cool. Sometimes I think artists get so hung up in what they think is modern that they forget that marrying the modern with what is retro has been an enduring formula. The story is fine, but not strong enough to pull me in. Purged

This is DC's best book right now, and that's not just my opinion. Scott Snyder, who has made a name for himself on a comic called American Vampire, really gets what makes Batman work. Everyone LOVES this book. The Court of Owls storyline that is the next classic Batman story. And even though events from this storyline will spill into other titles, the story itself is complete within this title. MUST READ!!!

The draw for this book is J.H. Williams art. When he is the artist it's one of the most beautiful books DC produces. But with shakeups on the alternate art team, which didn't excite me that much in the first place, I'd much rather get this book bimonthly, than pay good money for filler. I do like the character so I suggest you Cherry Pick this one. Get the collected stories that Williams did with Greg Rucka in book form and then do the same when the first book collecting this new series comes out.

I truly believe that Guillem March is going to turn out to be one of the master artists in comics, but there is so much that makes me feel uncomfortable with this title. When sex and violence are combined in a graphic way, it disturbs me. I don't really like seeing corpses with a t-shirt so tight that their huge boobs are pushing out while having a bullet hole in their head. It makes me feel sick, and I'm a guy who would probably like the woman in that t-shirt in any other situation (even if I don't admit it out loud). If the story didn't drag on so much I'd try to get past it because I think Guillem March is more than he is usually dismissed as. Unfortunately I don't think that the stories in Catwoman are going to be the place where he's going to get to prove that.

The talk in my comic shop hasn't been favorable to this one but I'm not sure how many of those people are actually reading it. I actually like this one. It's the other side of Batman than what's shown in Batman. However, while I think Batman is a book that would appeal even to people who aren't normally into Batman, this one is I would say that if you already like Batman, I recommend this one. As far as my purge, I'm currently On The Fence with this one.

I think that Francis Manapul is showing what an artist can bring to storytelling when he's also the writer. It's a good book. But I'm finding myself falling behind reading it which means it's due to be Purged at the end of the current storyline.

Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

I loved the first storyline and I found myself going from not being into the internal art to being absorbed by it. Unfortunately there was a filler team up issue after that first story but it doesn't hurt it enough for me to Recommend it.

Green Lantern
Geoff Johns continues to do his Green Lantern magic and the interaction between Sinestro and Hal Jordan has been key to refueling this title. Unfortunately that while I enjoy reading it when I do, I'm still falling behind which means I'm just not as enthusiastic enough to spend money. Due to be Purged at the end of the current storyline.

I, Vampire
I like this one so far and I dig vampires so I'm Recommending it.

Justice League
The biggest disappointment of the DC relaunch. I am excited about the Shazam back up feature and with a new main storyline I'm hopeful that Geoff Johns will start to bring his A-game, but I'll be waiting for the trade for the Shazam feature because this one is already Purged.

Justice League Dark
The only thing I can say about this book is that the art looks great and everything else I've read by Peter Milligan has been fantastic, unfortunately while I've bought this book I'm yet to read the first issue which means that it's going to get Purged after it's coming crossover with I, Vampire. Now when I finally sit down and read it, maybe I'll absolutely love it. But I can't continue to spend money on something if I keep passing it up for other things.

Swamp Thing
Again, we get to see how amazing of a writer Scott Snyder is and with amazing art by Yanick Paquette, this one is Highly Recommended.

Wonder Woman
This isn't the Wonder Woman I wanted, but it is a Wonder Woman comic that sucked me in and that I love reading every month. Highly Recommended

Thursday, January 19, 2012

DC New 52 Review: Batman #1-5

Batman #1-5
Written by Scott Snyder
Pencils by Greg Capullo

Inks by Jonathan Glapion
Cover Price: $2.99 Each

In a nutshell:
Scott Snyder tells a new classic Batman story an adds another iconic element to the Batman mythos.

Batman discovers a secret society called The Court of Owls that claims to have been in place since the beginning of Gotham City centuries ago. The Owls have their own parallels to the history of Bruce Wayne's family and they claim to be running Gotham from the shadows. It is unknown who is a member of the group but it is implied that there are many high up in society. Batman is resistant to the idea. When he was younger he was obsessed with his parents deaths and he refused to believe that it could have been a random act of violence and he started investigating (even as a boy) the existence of a secret society. The conclusion that he came up with as a boy was that the evidence showed that there wasn't a court of owls. And as an adult he seems to be having a hard time accepting that he could have been wrong about that, perhaps because the "unknown assassin" of his parents kept him from finding resolution which feeds his need to be Batman. Perhaps it is because he has obsessive control issues and has a need to be on top of everything, to not be wrong. Regardless, this case affects Batman in a very personal way.

Why did I pick it up?
I didn't pick this book up when it first came out. I didn't know who Scott Snyder was yet and I had a kind of prejudice against Greg Capullo because I associated him with Todd McFarlane's Spawn and some early issues of X-Force, none of which impressed me much. But the word of mouth at the comic shop praising this book got so loud I couldn't ignore it and by the time the third issue was released I was caught up.

The Good:

This is one of those Batman stories like Year One, Long Halloween, The Killing Joke, and Hush, that not only will be remembered as a classic Batman story, but is bound to add something iconic to the mythos that will stick. The Court of Owls' assassin, The Talon, is an intriguing villain (villains?) and very visually cool. The relationship between Bats and Owls offers interesting parallels to the story and the connection to the Wayne family history is also intriguing. I keep coming up with ideas of what the connection is, did the Court kill his parents? My favorite but most far fetched theory is that the court killed the original Bruce Wayne at birth and replaced him with the Bruce Wayne we know who is actually a sleeper "Talon" programmed to be an assassin for them. Regardless, this is a story that gets you wondering what's really going on here which really enjoying the ride. And after reading an issue, and prejudice I had about Greg Capullo's art is gone. Story and art, this story stands right up there with all the other classic iconic Batman stories.

The latest issue, #6, follows a disorientated Batman and the way the art is placed on the pages plays with the experience Batman is going through. It's touches like this that add something special to what is already a great book.

The Bad:
In the coming months DC will be raising the price of the book to $3.99. Now, they are adding a 10 page backup story so you're actually paying less for those ten additional pages than you did for the 20 pages of the main story at $2.99. But in general I'm not a big fan of backup stories. They're generally disposable and I hate the idea of paying extra for them. That said, Snyder is writing the backup stories and they're said to relate to the main story so they might be more relevant to what's going on in the comic, but I'd still rather the full story be contained in the main story and the bigger issue I have with this is that an extra dollar per comic means I can only afford to buy less comics per month with a tighter budget than I had ten years ago.

Is it worth it?
Even with the upcoming price hike, this is one of those Batman stories you should be reading if you have any interest in the character at all. If you don't want to read it as single issues then I highly recommend buying the collected story when it's eventually released as a softcover or hardcover. Personally, this is one I wouldn't want to wait for. Recommended for comic collectors and for people who don't read comics but have an interest in the characters.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Diary of a Millionaire Bully


Multimillionaire Jeff Kinney, the creator of the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book series, suing the very small publisher Antarctic Press for copyright infringement for producing an obvious parody, "Diary of a Zombie Kid", is a perfect example of the greed of the rich run amok. We live in a country where millionaires and big business ask for less regulations of their practices, and yet they use the government to create a fence around their intellectual properties. "Diary of Wimpy Kid" has become a household name and in doing so it's going to get spoofed. Lots of companies are spoofed all the time. And it's unlikely that Jeff Kinney will win. But here is the strategy of Jeff Kinney and other parasites like him, the millionaire attacks the little guy, outspends the little guy to the degree that the little guy is seriously damaged just by fighting back threatens the little guy with the loss of money to the extent that it would bankrupt him. The cost of defending yourself is so much worse than giving in, that most won't fight these kinds of bullies back. And that's exactly what Jeff Kinney is, not a "wimpy kid", but a bully.

This is exactly what the term "parody" describes. I admit it's an imperfect parody as the art is much better in the parody (which may be what this is really about, Jeff Kinney feeling insecure and threatened by a better artist), but lets be honest here, this parody does nothing that damages Jeff Kinney or his intellectual property which has become way more successful than it deserves to be. This man got lucky and he's let his success go to his head. And because of his strong-arm tactics and greed he won't get one bloody dollar more from me or my kids.