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Comics

Good comics week: Ronan, Avengers, ASM

Would be great if it weren't for Ronan dragging things down, but even that wasn't as bad as i thought it would be...

Ronan The Accuser #4
Well, the final Annihilation mini-within-a-mini is over, and while they've definitely been mixed, i'm still pretty excited to start getting the rest of the story now that it's been streamlined. Ronan was probably the worst of the four, both because the story had very little to do with Annihilation and because what it was about wasn't very good on its own, either. Interestingly, of the four of them, this was the only one i had any real expectations for, since it was written by Simon Furman. Furman wrote a very good and funny Death's Head a while back, and his UK Transformers comics are also well regarded (I have a few Transformers trades and they're pretty good). But this story didn't work very well at all.

It started off pretty strongly in the Prologue, with Ronan being falsely accused of treason to the Kree empire, and him having to go off and defend his name (it had nothing to do with the Annihilation wave, but it was a good enough concept that i was willing to go with it). But when Ronan arrives on a planet that has basically been taken over by all of Marvel's "space" women, working for Gamora, who last i read was A) dead and B) a good guy, things got a little weird. Nebula, major bad-ass who has taken on the Avengers multiple times and claims to be the grand-daughter of Thanos, working as a goon for Gamora was really odd.

But instead of really going into an explanation of what they were all doing there, we switch over to Glorian, of all people (unless the explanation is that everyone was mind-controlled by Glorian That's what i'm going with, but that's not a very good story). So who is Glorian? Glorain is gold-skinned rainbow boy. He makes your dreams come true. He's sort of the herald of the Shaper of Worlds, who is a pasty white skrull stuck in a box (Amazingly, that's the best picture of the Shaper I could find on the internets. I'll have to scan one in later.) Glorian is tired of being the herald and wants to Shape his own Worlds. So he gathers the necessary energy by, umm, mind controlling people to fight each other. That's cheesey. That's, like, Contest of Champions "let's think of a reason to have fight scenes" cheesey.

And it doesn't really go anywhere. Whatever Glorian was up to gets interrupted by the Annihilation wave, rushing in at the end of issue #3 to drag Ronan back into the main plot. Glorian sacrifices his newly created world to defeat the Annihilation wave. Ronan... fights some bugs, and finally hunts down the person who falsely accused him, who of course dies before she can tell him anything. Useless. Ronan decides he needs to warn the Kree about the bugs, which means the point of this mini-series was basically "here's what's been happening with Ronan before he finds out about the bugs". The only way this plot could somehow be relevant to Annihilation is if Annihilus himself arranged for Ronan to be falsely accused, and we don't find out about it until the main story. That's way too much subtlety for the big bugger so i don't see that happening. Which means this story was both bad and pointless.

So why do i say that this issue wasn't all that bad? Well, it was basically a big fight scene, with all the various factions fighting the bugs until Glorian's big deus ex moment, and as it turns out, the art is by Jorge Lucas (i did that joke already), who is quite good and detailed in a Future Imperfect George Perez sort of way. Additionally, the coloring is interesting. So from a visual perspective, i liked it a lot, and for a big battle scene, that makes up for a lot, even if the plot isn't very strong.

Avengers #22
I have a confession to make. Marvel says that the whole point of the Civil War concept is that both sides have valid points and it isn't a clear case of good versus evil. While they say that, it's pretty clear that Iron Man and Reed Richards are acting a little funny and Cap is the good guy (and even those going along with IM's side, like Spidey and the Thing, are having serious doubts). So unless they're setting us up for a twist, i think it's fairly clear that Cap's side is going to be shown as correct. However, i'm not with Cap on this. Oh, i don't think anyone with super powers should be forced to register with the government (that would be closer to the Mutant Registration Act). But i do think that if this were the real world, i would want anyone acting as a vigilante to be arrested. And i could accept that if there were vigilantes out there that were doing good, that they could be offered a clean slate in return for an official government job. I don't see this as a "safety vs. civil liberties" issue the way Quesada frames it (actually, he flubs it and says "freedom vs. civil liberties" but we know what he means). It's really a question of, should people be allowed to operate outside the law? Of course, that's basically the whole premise of super-hero comics, so if you question that, the way this series is, you're tearing at one of the foundations of the genre - which i think is great, as long as they realize that (and i think they are, but the framing suggests otherwise).

Anyway, this issue did a lot to make me see it from the other side, and also to make the law look alot more like an MRA than an SRA. Luke Cage, doing nothing but sitting in his home, was to be arrested because he had not registered, simply because he has powers. Which means the law is wrong.

Even regardless of that, it was a great issue. Good characterization of Luke, and the relationship between Luke and Jessica. And i like the approach of the New Avengers during Civil War - i don't know if it will continue but it seems like each issue will focus on one of the team members and their reaction to the law. That's a really good way to deal with a crossover, and it lets focus on one of Bendis' strengths - characterization - while the main action takes place elsewhere.

Amazing Spider-Man #534
Another great issue, focusing on Spider-Man's doubts about the side he's chosen. I loved the Cap/Spidey fight. I liked Spidey being kind of creeped out about Iron Man knowing about his spider-sense (in the old days, Spider-Man would jump out of the way or shout "Look out!" and everyone would be like, "how did he know we were about to be attacked?" because SM never made a point of advertising that power. I like that being referenced/acknowledged). I also liked the sort-of old-school "Want to find out what The Thing is doing here? Check out the current issue of FF!" footnote. My only complaint is that this issue takes place after the resolution of the cliff-hanger in Civil War #3, so we have a pretty good idea of how that ended up (i.e. minor spoilers for Civil War 4), but that's not a big deal.


By fnord12 | July 31, 2006, 1:13 PM | Comics | Comments (4)| Link



$12,000 for Tom Defalco to sit around and think up Speedball

Jim Shooter (from the Comic Urban Legends series on Comics Should Be Good!):

About 18 months before Marvel's 25th Anniversary, I was called to an executive staff meeting (the President, all the VPs and Directors) to discuss the Anniversary. It was decided we should have a "publishing event" to celebrate. I suggested several things, including introducing a second "new" universe. Everyone liked that idea. I was given a development budget of $120,000. Later, Tom DeFalco asked me if he could be in charge of the project. I agreed. Months passed. Tom made little progress. The only idea I can remember that he developed in that time was Speedball, the less said of which, the better. Time got short, so I took over. I came up with the concept of a science fiction super-hero universe, as opposed to the original science fantasy super-hero Marvel Universe. By this time, Marvel Comics was being shopped for sale. Suddenly, the owners (essentially the Board of Directors) were as one might expect, loathe to make any investment in the future. Nothing "useless" that took dollars off the bottom line (such as developing characters that may pay off in the future, when presumably new owners would be in place) was tolerated. My budget was cut from $120,000 to $80,000 to $40,000 to "stop all spending" in the space of a week. We had spent only about $12,000 point, much of it on Speedball, I believe.

By fnord12 | July 28, 2006, 4:00 PM | Comics | Comments (0)| Link



Aren't you guys getting ahead of yourself?

I mean, i like the Young Avengers and all, but, ummm, where's my Power Pack box set? Where's my Masters of Evil / Thunderbolts double-box set? Where's my Ego The Living Planet? How did these whippersnappers get to the front of the line? I found this picture on Tom Breevort's blog, where he goes into some weird thing about collecting toys being like worshipping graven images or something. We like them because they're toys, Tom!


By fnord12 | July 24, 2006, 5:26 PM | Comics | Comments (0)| Link



Good Comic Book Week: Nova, Eternals, Civil War, and Cable & Deadpool

This week's comic review:

Nova #4
Another Annihilation mini-within-a-mini comes to a close. This one was quite good. It started off a little shaky, i thought. The idea of Nova absorbing some ultra-powerful computer didn't sit right with me, and i was afraid that the introduction of Drax and Quasar was going to be distracting, but it all worked out very well in the end, with a nasty fight that showed what a bad-ass Annihilus was but still let Nova eek out a (minor) victory. The fact that the big bug man showed up personally definitely made this story seem a lot more meaningful to the main Annihilation story in a way that Super-Skrull didn't. I didn't have high hopes for a book written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, known to me as the guys who wrote about a million bad Marvel UK stories as well as Force Works, but i may have to re-evaluate my opinion of them (and get all the Force Works issues... yeah!). The art was really nice, too.

Eternals #2
I've read reviews from people saying that this is is too slow, but i've been enjoying it. The exasperated, "i know it won't work but i'll try it anyway" attempts by the Deviants (<-- i assume?) to kill Ikaris are pretty funny, and the rest of it strikes a nice balance between tongue-in-cheek silliness without being goofy and earnest plot development. I'd think this would be of interest to any Gaiman fan. My only concern from a Marvel fan perspective is that it really hasn't been that long since the Eternals have been active in the MU. Gaiman's plot seems to have the Eternals as amnesiacs for some time, so it makes me worry that Gaiman is writing this as a direct sequel to Kirby's original without acknowledging anything that's happened since. It's only issue 2, so there is still time for everything to be explained, and in fact it shouldn't be explained yet... i'm just antsy. I wasn't paying that close attention, but i'm pretty sure that Gaiman was claiming that 1602 was in Marvel continuity, and if he really thinks that, from what i've seen of 1602, i think maybe he doesn't have such a good grasp of the concept... But none of that should detract that from the fact that this is a good story that is just starting, with great art from Romita to boot.

Civil War #3
Wooooooooooo! I'm so conditioned by the current trend of "decompressed" stories that i would have never expected a fight between the two groups to have occured as as early as issue #3. This is a very fun story, and is probably the best crossover Marvel has done this side of Secret Wars (is it too early to say that yet? Sorry, i'm just excited!). I was surprised to see Spider-Man and the Thing (and to a lesser degree, the Invisible Woman) showing up as part of Iron Man's team based of developments in their own books, but i'm sure that's all accounted for. It's interesting to see the X-Men sidelined in this cross-over; very unusual, in fact. I was also shocked by the super-secret shock ending of this issue; i would have never expected him to not support Cap. Can't wait to see where it all goes.

Cable & Deadpool #30
I just started reading this last issue when i heard that Cable had taken over his own country (after leading a rebellion against cheesey Mark Gruenweld character The Flag Smasher), so i was ready for a continuation of that plot and the examination of Cable in this new role. Instead we got a Civil War crossover, including a fight with the Great Lakes Avengers, who i've always hated. So i expected to be annoyed by this issue, but instead i really liked it. FabNic created Deadpool (essentially), but i thought he was funnier in the hands of Christopher Priest and Gail Simone. I thought that by throwing in the GLA, FabNic was substituting real humor for plain goofiness, but Deadpool was actually very funny here. Even better, i like Cable and the way he is working for Cap but trying to get him to withdraw from America, and the distinction between Deadpool and Cable's attitudes towards the Registration Act was well played out. Very good stuff, and making me reconsider my evaluation of FabNic as a B level writer. At the very least, i am tempted to go back and pick up the rest of this series, and i'll certainly keep it as an on-going.


By fnord12 | July 24, 2006, 10:17 AM | Comics | Comments (1)| Link



Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I ask you: Is this the face of a killer?

The Man-Thing movie wasn't very good. OK, it was awful. But you probably didn't need me to tell you that. I guess this tells you everything you need to know: "The film was originally intended for a 2004 video release, then upgraded to a theatrical release for Halloween, then back to video and later to the Sci Fi Channel television release it received in 2005."

The Elektra film gets a solid "almost OK" rating from me. More ninjas totally flipping out and killing people definitely would have helped things along, but it had reasonably true-to-the-comics versions of Stick and Typhoid Mary, so it gets credit for that. I probably would have liked it less if we hadn't fast forwarded through most of the "plot".

Now, i have to be careful here, but Fantastic Four may have actually been "pretty good". I caution you, i had just sat through Man-Thing and Elektra, so it's possible that even Nothing But Trouble would have seemed like a good movie by comparison*, but i actually enjoyed FF. Sure, the Dr. Doom character was terrible, sure the Thing looked absolutely awful, sure the plot made very little sense... wait, was i saying this movie was good? Well, it was a fun dumb action movie, let's just leave it at that.


*No way.


By fnord12 | July 23, 2006, 10:22 AM | Comics & Movies | Comments (2)| Link



Goram Gruenwald

If you followed through the links in my previous post, you read about Vibro (if you didn't, you missed some funny stuff), but you may not have read this in the comments:

I once met Denny O'Neil at a convention and he told me that he wasn't really interested in creating villains so much as exploring Tony Stark's alcoholism, so Mark Gruenwald (the series' then editor) would come up with characters like Vibro.

I just read through a huge stack of Denny O'Neil Iron Mans, and they definitely read like that -- here's some interesting and serious stuff about Stark's alcoholism, here's some interesting stuff about Rhodey learning to be Iron Man, and oh, i guess we'd better throw in some lame villain, too. I thought it was just O'Neil bowing to comic book convention. Now that i know it was Mark Gruenweld, king of cheese, forcing those characters on O'Neil it makes even more sense. The saddest part you can tell from the previous issue's teaser and that blurb on the cover that he was really excited about this new character he'd come up, like he'd created the next Magneto or something.


By fnord12 | July 20, 2006, 9:13 PM | Comics | Comments (0)| Link



Lame-Ass Villains

Bored at work? (i know you are)
Love reading about comic books? (i know you do)

Go check out Dave's Long Box's Lame-Ass Villian Compendium. And don't worry, they're mostly all Marvel characters.


By fnord12 | July 20, 2006, 4:30 PM | Comics | Comments (4)| Link



X-Poll

Your opinion solicited:

Should the X-Men comics focus primarily on themes like prejudice using the mutant concept as a metaphor, or should they be primarily super-hero comics like, say, the Avengers, that occasionally deal with the mutant theme as an extra layer?


By fnord12 | July 20, 2006, 11:57 AM | Comics | Comments (47)| Link



Brought To You By The Letter 'R'

Rod sometimes mentions a comic he read where Doctor Octopus stole the Letter H. To illustrate the severity of this, all the Hs in the comic were missing. In the end, Spider-Man stopped him. It would appear that there is one other person in the entire world who has also read that comic.
Link

A consonant-loving thief has police and business owners baffled after dozens of Rs were stolen from signs around the community.

"We've lost our Rs. And we want them back," said Randall Jones, president of Headley Hardware.

...

Putnam Inn manager Jane Hansen isn't sure how the thief climbed more than 6 feet off the ground to take Rs from a sign in front of her motel.

It wouldn't be so hard for a thief with 4 octopus-like robotic arms, now, would it?


By min | July 20, 2006, 10:35 AM | Comics & Ummm... Other? | Comments (19)| Link



When you are surrounded by madmen, keep your mouth shut

A Peter David story found on an old message board:

> It's always nice to see a creator posting on here,
> particularly one so renowned for being a loose
> cannon (at least as far as loose cannons go at Marvel.
> I recently read about your long-forgotten
> plans to kill off JJJ and let theKingpin take over the
> Daily Bugle, Peter. That's a 'what if?' story I'd gladly buy.

Well, before THAT rumor gets out of control, let me clarify that that came out of a discussion I was having with Tom DeFalco while in Jim Owsley's office, and it wasn't serious. Tom--who, by the way, is a good friend and I adore the guy--was illustrating the importance of not writing stories that make it impossible for subsequent writers to continue the series in the same spirit. And he said, "I could write this fantastic story in which we kill off JJJ, and have this heartbreaking death scene with him and Peter in which they finally come to terms, and then JJJ is dead. But what do you do then?"

And I instantly said, "Well, I'd have the Kingpin buy the Daily Bugle." And I started rattling off this whole storyline with growing excitement. Poor Tom's standing there going, "No, no, Peter, you're missing the point" and I'm jumping up and down and saying, "Owz! Owz! This could be great! Let's do it! Let's kill off JJJ!" But I was never really serious and it didn't go beyond that.

The karmic revenge came some years later when I was at an X-writers' retreat (doing X-Factor at the time) and we were discussing Magneto's imminent return and him facing off against Wolverine. And I said, "Y'know, I don't know why Magneto even bothers with Wolverine. Why doesn't he just rip out Wolverine's metal skeleton and be done with him." And Bob Harras and the guys all looked at each other and said, "What a GREAT IDEA!" And I immediately said, "No, guys, no, I was kidding, it's a terrible idea. Wolverine can't survive that." And they're going, "No, it could work, 'cause he's got a healing factor." And I'm screaming, "Healing factor?!? He'd HAVE NO BONES! He'd be a healed puddle of flesh!!! Are you all INSANE?!?"

And they went and did it. My major contribution to X-mythos, and it stemmed from one dumb remark that I tried to recant and couldn't.

PAD


By fnord12 | July 19, 2006, 3:54 PM | Comics | Comments (1)| Link



Bad comic book week: Super-Skrull, Silver Surfer, and X-Men

This week's comic review:

Super-Skrull #4
The Annihilation mini-series have been majorly disappointing. There's been some good character moments, but they've moved at a ponderous pace and have done nothing to advance the story i read in the Annihilation Prologue. The Super-Skrull is one of my favorite characters from a pure "his powers are cool" perspective, and i've always liked examples of him using the FF's powers (he has the powers of all the members of the Fantastic Four) in "evil" ways that the FF never would (like using the Invisible Woman's forcefields to suffocate people). But like any villain that's been around for years, i guess people felt he started to become a joke, because villains can never actually win in comic books. So after a constant string of losses, the character looks like a loser. This book looked like it was going to address that and at the same time advance the main Annihilation plot by having the Super-Skrull weaken a key piece of Annihilus' weaponry too.

So how to address the "loser villain" issue? One option is to let the bad guys actually win every once in a while. The problem with this is it can distrupt the comic book's status quo in a big way, killing off heroes or conquering a planet or whatever. Unless you're prepared for the villain's win to be a major event, instead of the "villain of the month" story, you can't do that too often.

Another option is to let the villain be successful elsewhere - just not when the heroes are around. There's been some evidence that for low level earthbound villains, they generally make a good life for themselves robbing banks and whatnot in the parts of the US where the heroes don't congregate. With a character like the Super-Skrull, who acts mainly off planet, this could have been even easier. He could be a prominent general of the Skrull army who just can't handle Earth's super-heroes (which is no shame - even Galactus, Thanos, etc., get beaten by Earth's heroes). But the writer of the Super-Skrull mini (Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the writer of the TV show Lost, which, for some unfathomable reason, isn't a sequel to The Land of the Lost) decided to not go this route, i guess because he wanted to explore the idea of a loser super-villain who has to now prove himself a hero.

It's an ok theme to explore, i guess, and it starts off ok, except for being very, very slow. The problem is, after establishing the Super-Skrull as a ruthless and efficient strategist, it turned things around with a really cliched betrayal plot twist. The betrayal doesn't even make sense from a character perspective - when you have a character speaking to the audience in the first person in issue #2, you can't turn it around and pretend it was all a ruse in issue #4. This issue, showing Super-Skrull developing feelings for the pawns he's been using and then trying to sacrifice himself to save them (i think? I got bored and stopped reading so closely and the art was annoyingly unclear), was just sappy and out of place in a story about one of Marvel's great villains. All in all, some decent moments but ultimately not worth it. As far as advancing the overall Annihilation plot, Annihilus doesn't even appear in this story. The Silver-Skrull managed to destroy the Harvester of Sorrow weapon, but we don't even get Annihilus' reaction to that, so it doesn't feel like it was that important.

Silver Surfer #4
Another concluding Annihilation mini. This one took a surprising turn for the better in issue #3, in revealing some interesting peers of Galactus, and then in making the Silver Surfer return to his original role as Galactus' herald. Some very neat ideas that i was looking forward to seeing developed here. Well, this issue took about a minute and a half to read. It was all very cool... Thanos talking to the new cosmic beings (even his little pixie thing got more interesting) and Silver Surfer being all cold and distant and super-badassed. But the whole book was a fight scene, and it didn't feel like there was much of a resolution. If you can take the end of the fight to mean that Annihilus' super-powered general is now out of the picture, i guess that's as much of a set-back as the Silver Surfer's destruction of the Harvester of Sorrow, but it looked to me like the guy was just kind of resting on a bit of planetary debris - not dead, not banished back to the Negative Zone, not restrained in any way, not even unconscious. I guess since the writer - Keith Giffen - will also be writing the main Annihilation story after the 4 mini-series(es) conclude, he felt that he could just pick up on the story from there, but it's a pretty unsatisfying conclusion to the Silver Surfer story, especially after the great set-up last issue. Again, no real advancement of the larger plot - Thanos had been hanging out with Annihilus but he left to talk with the Galactus peers, and you don't see the conclusion of his conversation with them, either. It's all been set-up, which isn't a good way to conclude a mini-series.

X-Men #188
A new creative team takes over the X-Men, and since the writer is Mike Carey, the guy who's been writing the excellent Lucifer, i thought i'd give it a go. Well, the story seems like it might be interesting, but the art is atrocious. Not from a "the characters don't look good" perspective. They do. But from a "i can't tell what the heck is going on from scene to scene" persepective, it's really, really bad. One example: Sabretooth is holding a hostage. A Sentinel approaches, ready to fry both Sabretooth and the hostage. Cannonball steps up, tells the Sentinel to back off. Rogue says "Sam, you know you'll just bounce off the Sentinel's armor", Cannonball says "Did you ever see me play pool?". In the next panel, Iceman is holding the hostage.

As far as the story goes, the idea is that this team is going to be the "rapid response team," and it's going to be lead by Rogue. Isn't every super hero team a rapid response team? I mean, the idea is that they sit around their headquarters and when they're trouble they quickly mobilize and respond. The other option is the pro-active team that hunts down the bad guys before they do anything, which is a concept i love in theory but which has never really been executed well. I guess you also have super-heroes who patrol, actively looking for bad guys doing bad things, like Spider-Man, and explorers like the Fantastic Four who go to bizarre places and run into trouble with the locals, but i think "rapid response team" is actually the norm. But i think the idea is that this team might be the ones to do the dirty sort of black-ops work that the regular X-Teams might not want to get their hands dirty with. Which is a good way to distinguish them from the other X-Books, and could be a good idea. And it's an interesting group of team members: Rogue, Cannonball, Iceman, and Mystique so far. The little corner box (yay! the return of the corner box!) also shows Cable and Sabertooth. The cover art also shows Aurora (from Alpha Flight) and Lady Mastermind (who i think is a character Claremont created because they killed off the original Mastermind with the Legacy virus). So there should be some interesting dynamics between Cable and former pupil Cannonball, and Mystique and foster daughter Rogue. Also interesting that on a team of 3 former team leaders (Cable, Mystique, Cannonball), Rogue, typically a loner, will be leading the group. Yep, it all could be quite interesting, if only the art wouldn't suck. As it is, i'll pass on this series, unless the artist changes.


By fnord12 | July 17, 2006, 1:08 PM | Comics | Comments (0)| Link



Xorn and Magneto

The same person who provided the Civil War scripts also gave me an explanation on the whole Xorn/Magento mess.

First thing it is important to know is that the Scarlet Witch has been super-powered by Loki since the beginning of the Disassembled arc, which is how she got her reality alterning powers. Loki was responsible for creating the Avengers and he needed to destroy them for closure as his part of his ultimate plan with Surtur and the forge of Mjolnir was reaching fruition (in addition to keep them from aiding Thor).

So he powered up the Scarlet Witch, and tormented her with her father Magneto's death, driving her crazy and causing her to destroy the Avengers. At the end of Disassembled, Scarlet Witch used her new reality altering powers to effectively recreate her father, bringing him back from the dead in his most rational state, and later depowering him to preserve his sanity (since it's known that Magneto's use of his powers affect his mental state). In order to restore his repuation, she also created another Xorn entity, separate from Magneto, thus alleviating Magneto from any guilt over his recent attack on Manhattan.

Doom, now attuned to Asgardian energies due to his recent escape from Hell, has been tapping into Scarlet Witch's powers as part of his Project 42 scheme, the result of which is causing some of her creations to become unstable, leading to the recent merging of her House of M energies and Xorn, and Xorn's seeking out and attacking Magneto. One result of Civil War will be Doom's restoration of the Scarlet Witch's sanity and normal power levels as Doom does will not allow such a power to exist on his planet (prior to making a few big changes using her powers that will serve as a red herring that the heroes will fight to reverse while Doom preserves a few smaller changes. But i don't want to give too much away!).


By fnord12 | July 13, 2006, 10:12 AM | Comics | Comments (0)| Link



Civil War Spoilers

Last night i was provided with the script for the last few pages of Civil War #5 and the first few of Civil War #6:

SCENE: It is NIGHT. A group of HOMELESS PEOPLE are fleeing out of a sewer pipe into an open reservoir. They are led by a GIANT cloaked in rags.

Suddenly a squadron of SHIELD agents emerge from the pipe. They open fire with machine guns and a flame thrower. The homeless people fall to the ground, apparently dead. The GIANT emerges from the carnage, his rags in flames. He tears them off, revealing himself as the ABOMINATION. He looks at the homeless people, screams in horror, and attacks the SHIELD agents, scattering them. Filled with rage, he is about the kill an agent when MS. MARVEL appears, looking arrogant, with a second SHIELD squad, armed with gamma cannons.

The shot moves back, revealing the overall battlefield. In the top left corner of the panel, a shooting star is moving towards the earth. In the next several panels, as MS. MARVEL approaches the ABOMINATION, the comet approaches the earth, and in the last panel there is an EXPLOSION.

SCENE:
A sophisticated lab. MR. FANTASTIC, wearing a lab coat over his uniform, is working silently along side IRON MAN, with his visor open to reveal Tony Stark. A monitor in the background displays "Project 42." As we watch Reed work, a shadow falls over him. He turns, horrified, and attempts to stretch away but he is held by a pair of huge green arms. The next page reveals a full splash panel of the HULK, huge and savage but with a gleam of intelligence in his eyes. MR. FANTASTIC is attempting to slip away, but the HULK will not release him and Reed is hopelessly contorted. In the next panel, IRON MAN lifts his arms to fire his repulsor rays, but another green hand covers his head, crushing his helmet. It is the ABOMINATION. As the HULK stretches MR. FANTASTIC beyond his limits, accompanied by a *CRACK*. IRON MAN struggles to get free. The HULK approaches IRON MAN, who begins to fire up his unibeam. The HULK covers IRON MAN's chestplate with his hands and squeezes, and there is an EXPLOSION.

END Book 5.

BEGINING Book 6.
SCENE:
A sophisticated lab reduced to rubble. MR. FANTASTIC lays on the ground, contorted in impossible ways. IRON MAN lays nearby. His helmet is crushed and his chestplate destroyed. He is laying in a pool of blood. Slowly, MR. FANTASTIC opens his eyes and lays silently on the ground for a moment. Then he pulls his body back together and stands. A moment later, he touches his left glove, and his body begins to transform, revealing DR. DOOM. DOOM walks towards IRON MAN's body and presses another button on his gauntlet. IRON MAN transforms, revealing KANG, but still in broken armor and apparently dead. DOOM makes another adjustment on his armor and KANG disappears. He then walks to another part of the lab and clears away some of the rubble, revealing a computer monitor displaying "Project 42". Next to the monitor is a red button. Scene ends with DOOM's finger touching the button.

I guess it takes away some of the moral dilemma by making the pro-registration side bad guys in disguise, and turns the whole Civil War into a typical superhero story, but i can't say i'm disappointed.


By fnord12 | July 13, 2006, 10:04 AM | Comics | Comments (1)| Link



Covers - not worth the effort

Ok, that's not quite what Tom B. says, but it's pretty close:

So let's talk about covers a little bit.

It used to be, back when comic books were sold exclusively on the newsstand, that the cover was what sold the magazine. That's why so much attention and effort was spent on the cover image. There was no advertising, no promotion, no Wizard magazine or Previews catalogue or Newsarama to let people know what was coming out months in advance. In fact, other than if it might have been mentioned on the Bullpen Bulletins page, or shown in a house ad, you didn't have any idea that a new book was coming until it arrived. So the cover was a crucial component in making your title sell.

We still put crazy amounts of effort into our covers--but one of the unspoken truths of the industry at this point is that the cover is no longer responsible for selling the magazine, and may in fact have a negligible effect on the total sales. Sure, a really good cover may be able to hook a few extra people into picking up the book off the racks, assuming it's there for them to find, but the whole mechanism of our distribution and retail system makes the cover close to superfluous. Retailers order their books months in advance from the Previews catalogue, as do a great deal of the customer base through pull lists. And once you get outside the big coastal cities especially, the amount of display space a given shop has is relatively miniscule. I don't know what proportion of the average shop's books are sold off the rack as opposed to through pull list subscriptions and advance orders, but I'd hazard a conservative guess that it's probably half.

There was a time not so long ago when it was Marvel policy that every cover should have a single iconic figure, and no direct relevance to the story in that given issue. And fans far and wide screamed about it--yet it did nothing to hurt sales overall. And now that we've returned to mixing up the cover approach, it hasn't materially affected sales either. I regularly hear from a small group of people who don't like the mostly-iconic covers we've been running on NEW AVENGERS, but those covers clearly have not been hurting the sales on that book--and the more story-driven covers on, say, THING didn't materially increase the sales on that book.

The place where cover art can help or hurt your book's sales these days is really the Previews catalogue, the tool that retailers and readers use to advance order their books. So it's not like the cover art is irrelevant or anything. But even within that venue, just having a strong image isn't enough in most cases to sell the magazine--other factors such as story content, creative team, relevance to the larger Marvel Universe, and the amount of coverage given seem to be more important elements in making a decision for most retailers and fans. I'd hazard a guess that, were we to solicit a new ULTIMATE project with, let's say, Brian Bendis writing and Greg Land penciling, but we didn't show any image at all, it would still be ordered quite well--retailers would be very upset with us, because they hate having to take a position on any title without the maximum amount of information they can get, but I expect that most of them would weigh the factors they did have--especially if the story content promised important elements for the ULTIMATE line--and would order acordingly.

So, does the cover matter anymore? Well, everything matters. It's just a question of degree. And at this point, the cover no longer has to shoulder the promotional weight that it once did--so it matters perhaps a little less than it once did.

Covers have always upset people. Most of them depicted things that never actually happened in the comic. Often they were drawn by a better artist than the one responsible for the interior, which is misleading. Many had word balloons, which Wayne says is an absolute no-no. And lately they've been doing what Tom calls the 'iconic' covers - covers that are just generic pictures of characters that have nothing to do with the plot of the comic. Obviously even the iconic covers take a lot of work - it's just that they can stock them up in advance and use them as needed. I like the iconic covers the least. Every once in a while is ok, but 12 months in a row of "Punisher stands in front of a wall" is too much, and those early New Avengers comics featured characters that weren't even on the team yet (and they weren't drawn by the interior artist, so that matches 3 of the above negatives). But if the thinking is that the cover doesn't affect the sale anymore, then i don't see them changing their policies any. Although for what it is worth, the house ad for Annihilation, showing the four (iconic) covers of the four miniseries, was probably the main reason i decided to get that event.


By fnord12 | July 12, 2006, 3:33 PM | Comics | Comments (0)| Link



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