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« Comics: July 2014 | Main | Comics: September 2014 »

Comics

Understanding Comics NOW!

This again. Tom Brevoort laments the lack of quality comic reviewers. Here's what i said about that last time. And this still comes across as "Oh, no one out there understands the great works of art we're producing!" to me. But let me try to get a little more constructive this time. Brevoort complains that reviews don't bring any "critical faculties or technical knowledge or analytical thinking" to their reviews. And this is where i wish that he still had his more long form blog instead of the tumblr page (and to be clear, i really do appreciate that Brevoort continues to put himself out there and interact with fans despite the fact that so many of the questions he gets are just awful). Because i'd like to see how Brevoort thinks people should be thinking about today's comics.

Jim Shooter has on his also-defunct blog a multi-part lecture on comics that was eye opening for me, using a random Kirby issue of Human Torch Strange Tales as an example. But so much of what Shooter takes as lessons from that book, from character introductions to panel framing to sequential action, has all gone out the window. Part of the problem is that a single issue can't really be judged on its own anymore (if you look at the question Brevoort was asked this time around, i initially thought it was going to be if there was a point to reviewing a single issue at all given the decompressed nature of modern comics), and part is (charitably) due to evolving art and writing styles. So the Kirby lens is no longer applicable, and from what i remember of Scott McCloud's seminal Understanding Comics, that's really out of date by modern standards too. So i'd really love - no snark - if Brevoort or someone else could take the time to really deconstruct a few issues and show how to apply the "technical knowledge" that he thinks reviewers should be bringing. Alternatively he could point to a reviewer that he does think does a good job, but the impression i get is that there aren't any.

For my part, obviously my Timeline reviews are more functional and mostly about how things fit into continuity, which we know isn't something Brevoort cares about. And my opinions there and especially my Speed Reviews here are exactly what Brevoort complains about, just me vomiting up my immediate impressions ("Here's what i think about this comic. BLAAAARGH!"). And i know Brevoort isn't talking about people on random blog sites; in fact his complaint is that the reviews on Newsarama and CBR read like random blog posts. But i have put Understanding Comics back in the bathroom for a refresher read. And i would really love if there was some sort of lesson for modern comics that might change my opinion that the attention to craft that the old school artists and writers had isn't lost, just changed.


By fnord12 | August 29, 2014, 1:23 PM | Comics | Comments (2)| Link



Maybe this is the angle we need to play up

Unrealistically sexy female comic characters can ruin your relationships.


By fnord12 | August 27, 2014, 6:09 PM | Comics | Comments (0)| Link



SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

After what i hope didn't come across like too much of an old man rant in the post below, i've got three enjoyable comics this week. Some spoilers below!

Elektra #5 - Definitely more of a grounded issue after the recent surreal stuff, and that's a nice change of pace (although i liked the previous issues fine too). This latest assassin's limited precog ability reminded me a bit of Spider-Man's spider-sense although it must be more difficult to manage; Spider-Man gets instinctive warnings (which i imagine translates to "duck!" "dodge left!" without him knowing exactly why) whereas this guy is seeing in his head things that will happen seconds before they actually happen. So he still has to be able to react to what he's seeing. Which maybe is why this guy might be a master assassin (that we never heard of before) but he's never played in the superhero world. Anyway, i continue to like the art and i'm happy that there's some movement on the plot, some character work for Elektra, AND some nice fights this issue.

Ms. Marvel #7 - And this was just great. For once, these fill-in art issues have not been a derailment, and the Wolverine guest star fit very nicely into the theme of the book. I've been saying that this book is a lot like the early issues of Spider-Man, but it's done with with more foresight (thanks to lots of books having taken this route already, from Ultimate Spider-Man to Invincible), so that we can really see Kamala develop in a planned way. And so i really liked how this issue had her learning that in order to be a super-hero, she's going to have to sometimes hurt people (and yes, even punch giant sewer alligators in the eyeball), and seeing her come to grips with that. And if the book lasts, i can imagine her even perhaps rebelling against that convention. It's a fun book, very human, lots of in-joke humor (in the sense that she's such a fan girl of Wolverine), and of course some non in-joke humor in the villain, who is a cockatiel clone of Thomas Edison. What's interesting is the pretty delayed reveal that her powers are indeed a result of Inhumanity. There's been enough going on in this book that i'm no longer worried, as i was at first, that the book would lose its audience due to its decompressed storytelling, but it's still an unusual decision to wait this long before confirming that she's tied in with the larger Marvel universe beyond her choice of name.

Daredevil #7 - And this issue shows me that this book really could be my anchor book. It's an Original Sin tie-in and it also shows me what's been going on in Wakanda with the new Black Panther. And it's all done really well. I found the use of technology in Wakanda to be consistent with past appearances and appropriately handled, and the new Panther to be intriguing. And Daredevil's combination of super-heroics and negotiating tactics to be great. And i liked Waid and Rodriguez's (artist Javier Rodriguez gets a co-plotting credit) twist on what we thought the Original Sin reveal from last issue was. The memory that DD got last issue was seemingly of his father beating up his mother, but it turns out that his mom was having a postpartum depression freakout, and his father was really just defending him from her. And that sounds like it could be pretty awful, but Waid approaches it with i think the right amount of sensitivity; if anything it may come across a little too much like a PSA for postpartum disorders at the end (and the lettercol is replaced with an info sheet from Postpartum Support International). But it's still a nice twist on what we thought from last issue, which got some people pretty upset. So it's definitely an enjoyable issue and part of an enjoyable series. As far as being my anchor book, though, the problem is that it's just Daredevil! As much as Waid and team have been doing amazing work with him and as much as previous teams going back to at least Frank Miller have had great runs, he's just never been a character that i've loved. Which is why i was extra disappointed when Waid left Hulk, even if he hadn't been working the same magic there.

Bonus DC comment: Wanyas is still giving us Forever People, but it's another Giffen-less issue. It's Starlin art this time, and it's fine, but i think i really just want OMAC again and i'm not getting that here.


By fnord12 | August 26, 2014, 9:35 AM | Comics | Comments (0)| Link



Ok, Axis! Here we come!

JSFan's question hit me right after i found out that my two current favorite Marvel books were being cancelled, and so it mixed in with other thoughts that were floating around in my head, so i wanted to wait a little bit before responding.

It's worth noting that before these cancellations, creative team shifts were announced on Iron Man and the Hulk, and i wasn't interested in following the titles after that. Which already put me in a really weird spot where i'm not reading any of the "big" titles about the more obvious characters. We've stopped reading Avengers, our forays into the X-titles didn't go well, same with Fantastic Four, and i can't bring myself to read Spider-Man after Brand New Day.

At least compared to my local comic reading friends, i liked Bendis' Avengers run more than most, but even i was souring on him in the end, and the things that i soured on made me unable to enjoy his X-books. And i've never liked Dan Slott or Matt Fraction. I feel like i ought to like Jonathan Hickman but i'm unable to. And Uncanny Avengers convinced me i'm not a fan of Rick Remender. Brian Wood's x-title started off promising but we got sick of that pretty quick, too. So that pretty much leaves me off of all the core Marvel books.

And that's fine because Marvel has been admirably running a second stream of quirkier or more "indie" style books. And we had been reading a lot of those, from "FF" (where Allred's art overrode whatever i don't like about Fraction) to Superior Foes and New Warriors. And i'd also put the Waid/Samnee Daredevil in that category, and also the Hawkeye book even though that's another one i'm not getting. And this new wave of female led books: Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, She-Hulk, Elektra. But FF was cancelled, and now SFOES and New Warriors are as well, and we've decided to drop Black Widow. I'm also pretty ambivalent about Captain Marvel. I think Ms. Marvel is great and after the latest issue She-Hulk is moving up there for me, and so far Elektra has been pretty good. But my crisis of faith at the moment is that none of those books are awesome books that, by themselves, would get me to the comic store. They are books that i'd pick up while i'm at the comic store to get something great. Maybe Ms. Marvel and Daredevil should be, but i'm not feeling it at the moment. They're books i put in the middle of my pile and am always happy to read, and i usually enjoy them more than i anticipate i will, but they're not the ones that i save for last because i know i'm going to love them.

Now, i should mention that i don't actually go to the comic store. Friend Wanyas picks up my books for me. So on momentum alone i'll probably keep getting what i'm getting. But i really am feeling like i need an "anchor" book or i am going to continue to let books drop and eventually stop picking up Marvel monthlies. Especially since a lot of the books i'm getting are skirting the cancellation line.

But all of the above is just ebb and flow. At one point in the 90s i was down to just Peter David's Hulk, so it's not the first time i'm just not interested in Marvel's current output. I came back in a big way with Heroes Reborn and enthusiastically stuck around when (pre EiC) Quesada launched the Marvel Knights line. And i was pretty enthused with the Return of the Mega Crossover era (moreso beginning with Civil War than House of M) in the beginning. So it's entirely possible that Marvel turns things around in a way that gets me picking up more books again.

But to get to JSFan's specific question, i stick with Marvel books because i'm very much invested in the Marvel universe. Not necessarily specific characters, but the universe itself. If it was just the characters i think i would be satisfied with the movies or would have switched over to the more manageable Ultimate universe. I grew up with the idea of Marvel as a contiguous ongoing story, and i like to keep in touch with that story, even if i can't or won't get all the pieces. I've said all this over in the Timeline project and elsewhere on this blog, but the huge and intertwining aspect of the Marvel universe makes it unique, intriguing, and bigger than the sum of the individual books. Even books that are pretty terrible quality wise become great because of what they add and the way they get built upon. I think that's awesome and in its own special way makes the Marvel universe "story" at least as appealing to me as an A+ quality Neil Gaiman Sandman run.

As an aside (and i'm repeating myself from older posts with this too), this is where i think Marvel has a disconnect with a certain (small, cranky) segment of its readers, me included. I've seen Tom Brevoort say things like continuity is fine but it shouldn't get in the way of a good story, and that seems to make logical sense, but i actually disagree when it comes to Marvel universe stories. The continuity is the main appeal of those stories. So when it's discarded (mistakes are one thing, and it's clear from my project that they happened all the time; i'm talking about a very conscious decision to not worry about it), the stories really do have to stand on the strength of the writing and art quality. And frankly, you can get much better standalone stories from other sources. I'm not saying it's impossible to get works of art out of ongoing super-hero comics, but it's not something you're going to achieve on a regular basis.

And that gets to a difference now compared to when i was just collecting Hulk. At that point there were enough touchpoints with the rest of the Marvel universe that i could see what was going on. I saw the changes to the Avengers line-up, i saw the various Infinity crossovers, i saw bone claw Wolverine, etc. (and by the way, guys, i picked up a lot of the stuff i skipped out on as back issues not long after the fact thanks to the market crash, so just to be clear it's not like i never read Infinity Gauntlet).

Nowadays, many of the books, especially the more "indie" books, are completely isolated from the Marvel universe. Daredevil has actually been an exception to this; thanks to that and Waid's Hulk, i was able to keep up with the more recent crossovers despite not actually getting them. But all the other books exist in a vacuum. And on top of that Tom Brevoort has been signaling to us old timers that there really isn't a Marvel universe any more and we really need to get over it. I've been unable to fully accept that, but it does have an effect. If there were a clean break of some sort - the sort of reboot that the rumors have been predicting for years now - i think i'd be more relieved than disappointed. But at this point i still feel half obligated and half genuinely still attached enough to the larger Marvel universe story to plug along with at least some books on my pull list. And along the way there have been great writers in recent years that have done some fun books that delve into Marvel "continuity" the way i like - Yost, Wells, Van Lente, Pak, Parker, Gage, Abnett/Lanning and Gillen all come to mind - and i'm sure there will be more in the future. If there isn't a reboot (release me, Marvel!).

In the meantime, i really do feel like i need a book that connects me more directly with the goings-on of the Marvel universe. And since i don't really love any of the writers of the core books, i was considering just collecting whatever the crossover of the moment was, since those are the books where things mainly "happen" nowadays and they feature most of the Marvel characters. When i suggested that to my local friends they looked at me like i had two heads, but that may nonetheless be the way to go.


By fnord12 | August 25, 2014, 3:56 PM | Comics | Comments (9)| Link



And maybe everything else, too

Pretty much the subtext of most of my conversations about comics.


By fnord12 | August 22, 2014, 11:46 AM | Comics | Comments (0)| Link



Thanks a lot, jerks

Well, my call to arms in the most recent Speed Review shows the extent of my influence. Both Superior Foes and New Warriors are cancelled.


By fnord12 | August 22, 2014, 9:23 AM | Comics | Comments (11)| Link



Marvel Sales

July.


By fnord12 | August 20, 2014, 9:28 PM | Comics | Comments (0)| Link



SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Black Widow #9 - Man, that is the saddest, schlumpiest Punisher i have ever seen.

What's wrong, was he all out of wife-beaters and cheap beer? And this was worth a splash panel? An entire page devoted to that? All of Noto's art continues to be stiff. The scene with Crossbones walking around the ship, it's like, you could do better posing action figures, and again, what a waste of space.

He's dynamically swinging around to grab Black Widow's gun in that final panel, in case you can't tell. Clearly you would frame that shot at close range with no background so that you can't tell exactly what's happening. All of the art is like this. Storywise, i guess it's a basic, albeit content-lite, spy plot, except Black Widow's whole mission here is a cluster and she learns nothing, and there's a scene with her i guess? maybe? capturing the Punisher at the end that is left to our imagination. Continuity-wise, the last time i saw the Black Widow interact with the Punisher, it ended in a pretty bitter fight and the Punisher getting imprisoned by the Avengers. But none of that is mentioned here. It's like, we should be excited to see these characters but we shouldn't expect them to act at all they've ever appeared before. All in all, pretty lame. I don't know how we got nine issues into this series already. Min? Can we drop this?

She-Hulk #7 - It was pretty clever of Marvel to give us two issues of the worst art i've ever seen in a comic book so that when we get back to the quirky weirdness of Pulido i'm willing to embrace it wholeheartedly. This issue actually is exactly what this book should be. A fun "case" for She-Hulk showing both her legal and super-hero sides, and with some good interaction between her and Hellcat. A fun story. Hellcat trying to use Henry Pym's helmet to talk to ants: "It's like talking to a million ten year olds! All they want is sugar!" Since i've already got my scanner fired up, let me use it to highlight some art that i think is interesting instead of just bitching about Noto's bad Widow art.

Captain Marvel #6 - I have been liking this better since we actually got into the heart of what the Spartaxians wanted the planet for. The resolution here is pretty obvious, but it's a fun bit of space battle and basic politics. We saw the Guardians of the Galaxy movie this past weekend, and one of things that struck me was how in the movieverse, the Spartaxians are as non-relevant as they were in the comics before Bendis' GotG comic. At the very end, Starlord is identified as being half-human and half something that the Xandarians aren't familiar with, and that's it. I assumed that the Spartaxians would play a much larger role in the movie, hence Bendis' revision. The fact that that isn't the case as all makes Bendis' decision - and the fallout here - all the more bizarre. Anyway, i only mention that here since this comic takes an obvious cue from the GotG movie by having Captain Marvel flying away listening to a mix tape. In any event, next issue promises to be about the flerken cat so i suppose it's worth sticking around for that.

New Warriors #8 - This continues to be fun. As long as Hummingbird says something like "I'm going to fight you with my brain" every issue, i'm good. I am a little disappointed to see the whole issue devoted to these new Inhumans and just waiting until the last panel to advance the Maelstrom's Minions plot or anything else that's going on. But i guess it was good to wrap that part up for now, and i definitely enjoyed the issue.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #14 - By the way, this book and New Warriors, definitely my two favorite books right now, are selling less than 20,000 copies each on the direct market. I am obviously not a good gauge of what most people like. But in my humble opinion, this issue is just fantastic. This is a comedy heist book, but since we're talking about art, let's just take a random scene to show some actual sequential art that i can only wish existed in the actual action comics.

And that's in addition to lots of little breaks to do funny stuff like this.

And on top of that, humor and intrigue that anyone who likes movies like Ocean's Eleven or Guy Ritchie's early films would enjoy. Except since it's in the Marvel universe, it's about stealing things like a portrait of an unmasked Dr. Doom or the (still alive) head of Silvermane. So that's my pitch. If everyone reading this blog goes out and adds this to their pull list, we can move that 17,826 number up to like 17,831 or so. We can do it!


By fnord12 | August 19, 2014, 6:38 PM | Comics | Comments (7)| Link



How i know i'm living the dream

There is a peach pie literally cooling on the window sill, like i'm in a cartoon, plus the pie is surrounded by comic books.


By fnord12 | August 16, 2014, 6:59 PM | Comics & My stupid life | Comments (2)| Link



Marvel Sales

June.


By fnord12 | August 12, 2014, 10:38 AM | Comics | Comments (0)| Link



1988

Just in case anyone's lurking out there or using the RSS feed waiting for an update on my Marvel comics timeline, 1988 is wrapped up for now (there will still be pushbacks and such). Taking a little break and reading through all of Inferno before starting up on 1989.


By fnord12 | August 11, 2014, 8:48 PM | Comics | Comments (0)| Link



Spinjas

Protectors of gravity or just great dancers?


By fnord12 | August 10, 2014, 3:30 PM | Comics & Ummm... Other? | Comments (6)| Link



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