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By fnord12 | August 30, 2007, 4:20 PM | Comics | Link



SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Hulk #109 - Earlier i asked why the Hulk didn't kill Black Bolt immediately after he defeated him. Seems he really is suffering from super-villainitis; he's keeping his enemies alive just so he can put them in a stupid death trap. This series has been great so far so we'll see where it goes but as of right now i'm advising the Hulk to stop with the stupid stuff and just kill them now. Overall, this continues to be a great story. Let's get Cho, Hercules, and Angel on their own team post-WWH (call it something better than the Rejects, though).

New Avengers #33 - Let's clear some things up. First, the Deathlolk in the vat in this issue is the original Deathlok from an alternate future, not the one who has recently appeared in Beyond and the FF. Second, the Hood and the Crimson Cowl are two different characters. I can see why you would be confused considering they both wear big red hoods. We do need to flag the fact that the Wizard is showing up here, presumably trying out a new power suit and looking for new tech after his (impending) defeat in the FF. I'm liking the Skrull paranoia thing. I'd like an explanation as to why it is affecting Luke Cage so dramatically but that could be coming up. I'm also interested in seeing more of the Hood; his appearance in Beyond humanized him a bit and made him seen like he could become less of a bad guy. I enjoyed that but was afraid of watering down his original personality - it seems we're not in danger of that here. On the downside, while Bendis writes interesting dialogue, i think this is a good example for his critics who say that basically the things he writes get inserted into the mouths of characters at random. Echo especially doesn't sound like a deaf woman raised in relative isolation, first on an indian reservation and then in the Kingpin's mansion. Still, a great issue over all - Bendis is back to having fun playing in the Marvel universe, as he was pre-Civil War.

Omega Flight #5 - Man, this poor team didn't even get to form before one of their members got stuck in a Hell dimension. I resent the fact that the Wrecking Crew were so easily defeated after losing their extra demon strength. Even without it they are still Thor-level bad guys, more than a match for the likes of US Agent. But we'll just chalk that up to post-demon strength disorientation. Good stuff over all once it got going. The sales numbers for this series seem to have surprised Marvel; hopefully this will get its ongoing status back, and hopefully Oeming won't squander it with another meandering 5 part story.

Punisher War Journal #10 - Lo, there shall be an ending. This was a fun 2 issue story, stretched out over about 100 issues. I guess because this issue something had to happen, it seemed better than the previous 99. I think i'm gonna stick it out for the next two issues, since they look like they will have to be more self-contained due to crossovers, but his series is officially On Notice.

Wraith #2 - Well, it's not ROM, so suddenly i don't care any more. This guy is just too impossibly good and his personality is essentially stolen from Clint Eastwood's The Unforgiven.

Nova #5 - I like the idea of seeing someone new inheriting the Nova Force (although it comes dangerously close to repeating the theme from Quasar). I would have went the route of "What makes Rich Rider special is his independence and tendency to fight with the Nova Force computer, whereas when a Kree soldier inherits the power, she follows its directions to the letter" and then show the plusses and minuses of that difference, but instead she also doesn't follow the computer's advice. So we'll see where this goes. It's well written in any event.

Daredevil #99 - My Silver Age readings have prepared me for quite a bit of stuff that we're seeing now. Zom in World War Hulk, Groot in Starlord, and now Mr. Fear. After a lot of legal and emotional stuff in Daredevil, i'm glad to see a more traditional super-villain story, and it is very well done. As an aside, i think the fact that Mila showed up at the Nelson & Murdoch office wearing pajamas was in answer to the criticism that she was previously shown to sleep in her underwear, which was a bit unrealistic. I guess last time she was waiting to surprise Matt, although why would a blind couple care about sexy underwear?


By fnord12 | August 13, 2007, 6:29 PM | Comics | Comments (7)| Link



Marvel, these are your critics

Found in the comments of this (totally unrelated) post on Tom Brevoort's blog:

When Editing is Needed Re the need for substantial editing:

I can understand the stance, mentioned recently, that an editor's job isn't to (re)write an issue of a comic; that's what the writer is paid to do. However, there are occasions when the plot mechanics of an issue's story are substantially flawed. Some examples from recent issues:

WORLD WAR HULK #3: Pak confuses Dr. Strange's ectoplasmic form, used for astral projection, with the psionic constructs used by telepaths. Ectoplasmic forms have no physical strength, and very little substance; whether one supposes that the Hulk's form was psionic energy or ectoplasm, the "battle" between the Hulk and Strange couldn't have occurred as shown. Pak's encounter would only be valid for two telepaths battling via avatars. Disposing of the Hulk would be a trivial task for Strange in any case.

ILLUMINATI #4: Xavier's (patronizing) lecture on the difficulty of altering human behavior ignores the fact that Noh-Varr is an alien. One would expect important physical differences. If Noh-Varr was to be written as if he were a troublesome human teenager, then why call him an alien (an alien from another dimension, at that)? The term "alien" should actually mean something.

MIGHTY AVENGERS #4: Bendis's apparently poor understanding of the concepts of artificial intelligence, data networks, and computer hardware is demonstrated by the misuse of technical terms throughout the issue. Much of the dialogue should have been rewritten so that terms were used correctly or avoided. The supposition that launch control centers can be hacked into is invalid.

ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST -- STARLORD #1: The "version" (sarcasm intended) of Mantis appearing in the issue, based on the dialogue relevant to her, is decades out of date. Parodying an outdated interpretation of a character is pointless.

Ms. MARVEL #18: The Puppet Master's plan to traffic in women is similar to superhero porn. It's possible that Reed is unaware that superhero porn stories routinely have villains using mind control to capture, market, and abuse women, but it's more likely that the resemblance to porn isn't accidental.

If flaws such as these are to be corrected, each plot would have to be substantially revised. If the issue's writer can't see the problem, or refuses to see the problem, then the editor will have to dictate how the problem is fixed. I'd hate to think that just getting stuff onto the pages is more important than fixing obvious problems with plots.

SRS

Posted by Steven R. Stahl on 2007-08-12 14:36:57

I guess this response pretty much sums it up:

Stahl... My ectoplasmic form is very strong and has much substance, much more so than my psionic projection. Also, mind-controlling an alien species has always proven to be much more difficult for me than mind-controlling humans. Therefore, I have always tried to tell people how mind control on humans is much more difficult than they think, and I usually let them infer how much more difficult it would be on aliens. About Launch Control centers, I have hacked fourteen of them. It is quite easy if you control all computer networks in the world like Ultron and I do. You are so cute with your linear thinking...quantum is where its at, baby.

Hey, dude, go get in the convention line and scream at somebody because Hugh Jackman is too tall to play wolverine or that Robert Downey Jr has brown eyes, not blue.

Posted by bigdaddyhub2 on 2007-08-12 17:01:30.

(P.S. - I know you've come here eagerly anticipating my weekly Speed Reviews. I left them on my home computer so you'll just have to wait until tonight.)


By fnord12 | August 13, 2007, 9:47 AM | Comics | Comments (2)| Link



Really?

Link:

Hasbro's line of Marvel toys has widely been considered a disaster by toy insiders - instead of sticking with the industry standard size, they went smaller size, pleasing neither collectors nor the children who allegedly play with the figures.

I didn't realize that the new line of Marvel toys was smaller. I've pretty much stopped buying Marvel toys because the new ones are out of scale with my older ones. Is there anyone good that i've passed on thinking they would be too big? Maybe i can single-handedly turn Hasbro's financial woes around.


By fnord12 | August 7, 2007, 2:51 PM | Comics | Link



SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Ant-Man #11 - I guess i was a little disappointed to see Mitch Carson turn out to be such a cretin. I liked him better as 'ordinary SHIELD agent whose life was ruined by our main character who is a very bad man'. But it was still funny to see Eric turn things around on him (and screw over his buddy the Black Fox) in order to clear his own name. There's got to be something of twist considering there's still one issue left. Again, i've enjoyed this but i'm not sad to see it go. I do hope Marvel does find something else for both Kirkman and Hester to work on; they are both talented

Spider-Man / Red Sonja #1 - Back in like 2004 or so, comics were excruciatingly slow. The policy of 'writing for the trade' was in full effect and reading the single issues was like watching a half hour television show in five minute increments over the course of six months. In slow motion. Since then most writers seem to have learned to write well paced single issues that still work together as a part of a collectable six issue arc. Oeming, while a very good writer, seems to be the exception to that, judging from Omega Flight and this first issue of Spider-Man/Red Sonja (everything else i've read by Oeming has been in trade format so i guess i hadn't noticed) (Straczynski, judging by Thor and the Back in Black story in Spider-Man, seems to have a similar problem. Actually he seems to be relapsing since his previous Spider-Man stories were well paced). Variations of this Red Sonja story were essentially done very well in a single issue in the 70s and in two issues in the 80s. There doesn't seem to be enough content here for a 5 issue mini. But i should wait and see. Besides, any story featuring Kulan Gath is worth having.

Fantastic Four #548 - I liked seeing the T'Challa out-think Reed a little in the beginning of this issue. The Frightful Four seemed a little too panicked at the prospect of fighting their Fantastic counterparts, although i guess it's actually writing them more intelligently to have them not be overconfident considering the way things have usually worked out for them (Although the Frightful Four used to be a really formidable team in the early days. They were the one group of villains that could claim a clear victory over the FF.) Also granted it's not fair since the team is currently a Fantastic Six with the Black Panther and Storm still hanging around. I was surprised at how bloodthirsty Sue seemed to be, although i suppose with her family threatened and presumed killed it makes sense. Also there was a geeky moment for me that i'm sure McDuffie threw in there deliberately: Black Panther's attempted warnings about Hydro Man surely were due to his experience fighting him during Christopher Priest's run. Overall, very good, and i'm always happy to see Klaw return. Some people are thinking McDuffie will use this Klaw appearances to clean up some continuity mess Hudlin made during his revisionist period on Black Panther, but i just want him to say "Soup-oop-oop".

Illuminati #4 - Great opening sequence with the guys reflecting on their lady friends. Unfortunately I have no idea when this issue is supposed to take place. Considering that this series is all about doing some Untold Tales that take place at various points within Marvel history, i'd it's pretty important to be able to clearly communicate when things are happening. Clea left Dr. Strange to become the ruler of the Dark Dimension in the 1980s (realtime, making it several years ago, Marvel Time). But Noh-Varr first appeared in Grant Morrision's Marvel Boy story from 2000. Recently, Marvel Boy appeared in the Runaways/Young Avengers Civil War mini-series. His status quo at the beginning of the Civil War story was the same as where Grant Morrison left him (imprisoned in the Cube). At the end, he was in control of the Cube he had been imprisoned in. So, firstly, I don't see how the Illuminati can be considering what to do with Marvel Boy at the same time that Strange is lamenting his recent break-up with Clea (unless they broke up again more recently. That may have to be the ruling in this case. The other option is that Morrison's story took place a long time ago*.), and I'm not sure how this can fit in to Marvel Boy's history, unless they are saying that the Illuminati's influence had no ultimate impact on Noh-Varr's decisions. Despite all that, this was a really good issue in its own right. We'll just have to wait and see what they do with Marvel Boy going forward and try to cram this story in accordingly.


(*I've also heard that Morrison's story is not in continuity, with the idea that something like it but not quite the same did actually happen. This is supported somewhat due to the fact that no one in this issue is mentioning the fact that Marvel Boy is actually a Kree from an alternate dimension (pay close attention) and therefore might not even be familiar with Captain Mar-Vell. I was hoping very much to not have to throw that story out of continuity but it looks like they may be operating from that philosophy).

World War Hulk #3 - Hey, Hulk, please don't make the other super-heroes fight each other in gladitorial combat. That's just so super-villain-y. It doesn't suit you. You should just smash them. But i'm sure even if you do go that route, it'll be great because everything about this issue was awesome.


By fnord12 | August 6, 2007, 11:45 AM | Comics | Comments (2)| Link



Marvel Continuity - it's been there from the beginning

I see these sort of comments a lot on the comic boards and blogs:

Also, given that the really strict inter-book continuity didn't come until the Thomas/Engelhart/etc. era of the late '60s and early '70s, it's pretty disingenuous to claim it's a foundation of the Marvel Universe. Stan and Jack (and Steve) were pretty much making that stuff up as they went along, and would frequently change/ignore things on a whim.

It's totally wrong. While the second wave of Marvel creators definitely kicked up the 'shared universe' thing a notch (almost going too far by having, for example, the X-Men fight a random group of second tier super-villains from other heroes' rogues galleries), the original Stan Lee written stuff was extremely tight.

I've just read through all my Marvel comics from 1962 to 1967, which is pretty much the pure Stan Lee era (Roy Thomas starts creeping in during '66), in chronological order, and it was much more rewarding that i thought it would be. I didn't expect to really see the tight inter-book continuity until the Jim Shooter era but it really is right there in the beginning. Stan Lee was creating an actual universe from the very start. It is one of the two distinguishing features of the early Silver Age marvel books (the other being the increased realism / flawed hero concept).

Other than building an overall brand loyalty (gotta follow all the Marvel books because you don't want to miss a part of the story), this wasn't directly a marketing thing. Referring back to older issues of other comics in your line or having Spider-Man villains appear in an Iron Man story may have sent readers back to the newstands looking for older issues but in the days before comic book shops they weren't likely to find any, and even if they were i don't believe Marvel would have seen any of that money, having already sold the issues to the newstand. Stan also did the more obvious "Spider-Man appears in an early issue of Daredevil in order to increase sales on a new book" stuff, but we're not talking about that here.

This post was sparked by an article on Comics Should Be Good advocating that if a writer doesn't like something that happened in a character's history, they should disregard it (the line quoted above is in the comments). It's one thing if Captain Vegan eats a meatball sub in issue #7 and we think that was bad writing and we never again refer to the fact that he ate that sub. It's OK because that doesn't mean it didn't happen; it just means that we don't have to keep picking at that old wound. It's not ok if Captain Vegan gets turned into a giant warthog in his own series, but the writer for The Dirty Hippies, of which Captain Vegan is a member, doesn't like the idea so he does not depict Vegan as a warthog in his book. This causes a... discontinuity, in the most basic sense, between the books - the two versions of Captain Vegan are no longer the same character and instead of the two books depicting glimpses into a substantial fictional universe, i'm just reading a bunch of crappy comics about guys/warthogs in tights eating meatballs. If you have no interest in telling stories that are part of that universe, if you just want to make an artistic Vertigo-style self-contained Meatball Oddessey, that's easy. Simply don't write for in-continuity characters. But self-contained books have a much harder time with sales. One of the reasons for that is that the concept of the shared universe is actually quite popular among current comic book readers. So don't go screwing it up.

Sorry for the tangent. The relevance is that while i like to defend continuity on its own merits, others, rightfully, bring up the fact that for the Marvel Universe specifically, it is one of the foundations and therefore to start dropping that concept is to basically remove one of the appeals of Marvel. (I don't read DC comics regularly but i'm somewhat aware of the crises that they have from time to time and i know that they started at something of a disadvantage in that they had been publishing stories of varying degrees of silliness since the Golden Age whereas Marvel got to come in and basically start things from scratch, under the direction of a single writer, in the 60s. I think it's possible that DC and other comic companies may in fact benefit from what the Comics Should Be Good guy is advocating here but i'll leave that to other, shorter, individuals to discuss). So i'm trying to show what type of continuity is under attack and also show that it has been there from the beginning. I don't know if i've succeeded because this post is turning out to be very long and full of asides and it's getting near quitting time.

Here is an example of the what i consider to be tight continuity within the early MU:

  • Within the first few issues of the Avengers, the Hulk joins the team, and then quits because the other members don't trust him. He quickly turns around and teams up with the Sub-Mariner (a Golden Age character re-introduced to the MU in the Fantastic Four) to fight the Avengers. The Team-Up doesn't go very well and the Hulk and Namor go their separate ways.
  • Soon after, in a great two issue arc in the Fantastic Four, the Hulk finds out that his partner, Rick Jones, has left him to hang out with Captain America. The Hulk returns to New York to extract vengeance on Cap and the Avengers, but bumps into the FF instead. Later, the Avengers show up because they feel responsible for him, having driven him away and stolen his partner. This is the first meeting between the FF and the Avengers and it is written as such.
  • A year or so later, a new roster of Avengers go off and try to recruit the Hulk onto their team at the direction of Iron Man before he resigns (both because he and the other original Avengers feel responsible for the Hulk and because the new team is lacking in raw power). However, they wind up not finding the Hulk because he has recently been captured by the Leader (as depicted in his own book). Instead they wind up in conflict with a different monster - one of the Mole Man's pets (the Mole Man was originally introduced in the FF).
  • Meanwhile, in the X-Men, Magneto proposes a partnership with Namor, but Namor is hesitant because the last time he entered a partnership with someone (the Hulk) it didn't work out very well.

There is so much interrelated, cross-comic stuff in the above example that i feel sorry for anyone who just reads a run of the FF or Avengers instead of reading it all together, because they're only getting a percentage of the over-all story that is being told. We are drawing on plot points and/or characterization from 5 books (Hulk, Avengers, FF, Tales to Astonish, X-Men) plus Namor's Golden Age stories. The reason that it works so well is because Stan Lee keeps track of where all his characters are, what their motivations are, and considers how their past experiences affect their current decisions. He gets some of the details wrong, like calling Bruce Banner Bob all through one of the FF issues, and this is what people point to when they say that Stan Lee played fast and loose and that early Silver Age continuity wasn't tight, but in terms of the stuff that matters, he is totally on the ball. The Avengers' guilt in driving the Hulk away, the Hulk's distrust of people, and Namor's skepticism in taking allies are pieces of characterization that develop across various books and over time.

Some other, hopefully quicker, examples:

  • Paste Pot Pete is released early from jail in an issue of Strange Tales because he helped the Avengers figure out a way to dissolve Baron Zemo's Adhesive X in an Avengers issue.
  • Hercules, travelling across the country in between two issues of Thor, winds up facing the Hulk in an issue of Tales to Astonish. Hercules' appearance in the TTA story is not advertised in the Thor issues, nor are the Thor issues even referenced in TTA.
  • Having been deported in an older issue of Amazing Spider-Man, the Chameleon and Kraven the Hunter sneak back into the country and wind up on the property of Stark Industries in an issue of Tales of Suspense. Kraven is captured by Iron Man and jailed. In order to rescue his friend, the Chameleon takes advantage of the fact that Captain America has very recently joined the Avengers, and he impersonates Cap in order to get Cap and Iron Man fighting. Note that this issue of TOS is building on stories from two separate sources: Spider-Man and the Avengers.

Does that fact that Marvel started off with a strong sense of continuity between books dictate that it must always have a strong continuity? Is it possible to keep up what Stan and others accomplished now that we have multiple writers, multiple editors and an ever increasing back-story? I would argue (again and again) that it is valuable and possible, but we can debate that. But stop saying that there was no sense of continuity in the early Marvel days. There was, and it was very strong.


By fnord12 | August 3, 2007, 3:06 PM | Comics | Comments (4)| Link



The Meme dies here

Robn invited me to do one of them internet meme things you see on blog sites that actually have readers.

My ability to make predictions is terrible, mainly due to the fact that people are insane and irrational. I was sure, in 2003, that Howard Dean was going to be our next president, for example. Instead the primary voters nominated a solid block of wood. Min will also tell you that i'm constantly stunned by how stupid people are: i keep expecting people to act in ways that make sense.

But for fun, here's my guesses (actually, fears and hopes don't count as predictions, so i'm covered when they all turn out to be wrong) about what i see happening 15 years from now:

What do you fear we'll likely see in fifteen years?

  • A world completely dominated by corporations. Republican administrations do everything in their power to weaken the federal government's power to regulate, and Democratic administrations basically spend their time ineffectually trying to repair the damage but not actually making any forward progress (being generous about the Dems actually, since while they may be slightly left-of-center on social issues, they tend to be just as "pro-business" as Republicans). The movement to privatize basic public services and resources continues with little organized protests, putting more of the things we take for granted under the control of people who are only interested in maximizing profits. Meanwhile, corporations are becoming more and more global, making puny single-country governments less and less relevant. Irrational fears of a New World Order conspiracy, and the belief in American exceptionalism, prevent us from strengthening the power of the UN into a functional world government. I think the change will be subtle. We will continue to elect our government reps, but these people will have less and less ability to make changes that benefit us. Hell, this may have already happened.

  • Hand in hand with the point above, we'll see our country become less and less democratic, with more and more of our civil liberties eroding. As corporations become more powerful, they'll need puppet governments to keep us in line while they extract our resources and keep us working. Again, this will be subtle. I don't see us turning into a 1980s style latin american dictatorship over night, but the effects will be similar.

  • Oil scarcity. Despite reading a lot of de-bunkings, i'm still a (somewhat skeptical) believer in the peak oil theories. I think oil will become more and more difficult to extract and process as we move to the more unconventional sources such as tar sands. Therefore oil prices will increase dramatically and become less affordable to ordinary people.

  • I'm the only person (except record company executives) in the world who thinks this is a bad thing, but i think the internet will continue to replace conventional methods for music distribution. This will result in the amateur-ization of music since it's impossible to support a full time devotion to music when you are providing your content for free. It will also result in a sea of mediocrity as it becomes impossible for listeners to find new music and for the truly great musicians to bubble to the top and have an impact. I know you don't agree and i'll admit i can see some positive aspects of this as well but i'm an old man who fears change.

  • The collapse of the concept of a shared universe at Marvel comics. With creators seemingly feeling increasingly restrained by continuity issues, the (wrong) philosophy that long histories are a barrier to new readers, and the fact that the entire US comics market seems to teeter on the brink of disaster, i worry that the thing i love most about comics is not long for the world.

  • The beginnings of an apocalyptic future dominated by spam-generating supercomputers, which will culminate in the great Chrono-War of 2038.

What do you hope we'll likely see in fifteen years?

  • Assuming the peak oil thing happens, i'd like to see it turned into a positive, getting people to live more locally and sustainably - find jobs near where they live, supporting food growers near where they live, building houses that don't require a constant flow of artificial heating to stay warm. Sort of a "from the post-apocalyptic ashes" kind of hope, but it's the best sort of thing that i can muster.

  • It's always possible that the netroots thing actually goes somewhere. I'd like to see a takeover of the Democratic party from the left the way the christian right and other conservative groups took over and redefined the Republican party in the late 70s. I think it can happen. I think that the leaders of the netroots movement need to be less supportive of the current democrats in order for it to work, but they can be influenced by their readers so it's a possibility. I think that, plus changes in demographics in the south, will cause significant changes in the democratic party, but the question is, will it happen in time?

  • The one thing we're still good at is gadgets. We don't use our technological power to create solar powered homes or viable mass transit, but we can build neat toys. It's hard to imagine something better than an 80 gig iPod, but what about being able to download your entire musical library directly into your brain? Virtual reality porn (what, you think they aren't working on it?)? A computer that's even faster than the one you have now!! Eh? Eh?!???

  • The past decade or so has seen a resurgence in Godzilla movies. The special effects keep getting better, but they have lost the charm of the movies from the 70s. I think someone is bound to realize this and find a way to put the fun back into Godzilla. I am not predicting more Godzilla movies. Instead I am predicting a weekly televised sporting event, similar to professional wrestling, except with everyone in rubber monster suits fighting on miniaturized sets. And that's a really positive development, so don't go saying i'm pessimistic or something.

What do you think you'll be doing in fifteen years?
God, in fifteen years i'll be... old. Who cares what i'll be doing?

Ok, let's see:

Least likely, most desired: My immortality and related body-altering super-powers kick in. I leave the planet, exploring the vast mysteries of outer space. Eventually i return to earth and conquer it, imposing my terrible-but-just vision upon the masses.

Vaguely likely, desired: Min and i build our earthship lakehouse in the mountains. We grow a percentage of our own food and run a vegan bed & breakfast to pay the rest of the way, leaving only to tour with our band.

Most likely, least desired: Saddled with debt from a half-completed earthship, i am forced to return to my corporate job only to find that i am no longer qualified for my old position. I spend the rest of my life in mindless middle-management positions...

...uh, who gave me this assignment? They are in big trouble. This is depressing.

The way these memes are supposed to work is after i'm done i'm supposed to name 5 people to answer the same questions on their blogs. But (also due in part to a lack of readership) i'm not naming anybody. I don't care what you think - you people are crazy. So, much like my family tree, this branch of the meme dies with me.

Update: I mean no slight to my small but loyal group of actual, non-imaginary readers. But you're crazy too, and you know it.


By fnord12 | August 2, 2007, 3:17 PM | Comics & Godzilla & Liberal Outrage & Music & My stupid life & Science | Comments (2)| Link



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