Dr. Strange Review

Doctor Strange Feature

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Doctor StrangeI very rarely get to go to the cinema anymore, at first it was the cost that held me back, but more recently it is the the lack of anyone to go with. I hate going to the cinema on my own, I am not certain why, but I expect it is because going to the cinema is supposed to be a shared experience and I consider everyone else in the room to be an annoyance, so I need to bring someone less annoying with me.

I am married, but unfortunately to someone who thinks that a good film involves me being scared senseless and not being able to sleep for a week, but who also considers the idea of a ‘comic book’ film to be something slightly less palatable than manure. However in the last year I have discovered the benefit of being married, in my case, the 6 year old. As an utter coward I have mysteriously managed to raise a child who is phased only by two things, gushing blood and people kissing. So I was fairly confident that neither would be in great supply in this film.

That was my first mistake.

This is a ‘12a’ in the UK, which means that no children under the age of 12 can go unaccompanied, but anyone can go with an adult. I really should have thought about the fact that he was an MD in the beginning and there was quite a bit of blood to start with. I snuck the little one into see this film today while my wife was at work and unable to object.

That was my second mistake.

I have not only raised a child who is completely fearless about anything she sees on screen, I have also raised a child who is utterly incapable of lying and even worse, incapable of not telling both of her parents absolutely everything, especially if one of us has told her ‘don’t tell your mother.’

So as we pick my wife up from work today, the little sprog pipes up almost instantly and I braced myself for her telling on me that I had subjected her to a film full of blood, but what I got was: ‘I had sausages for lunch and we saw a strange doctor in the cinema, and he had a cape that strangled bad guys and it was really funny!’

Ironically, the one throw away gag in the film was not only the part that my daughter loved the most, I expect it will be the one moment that most people remember about the film later on. Bizarrely as a Doctor Strange fan in the comic books, his cloak is about the only thing that I have never really paid attention to, but it did rather steal the show.

I have pretty much let the cat out of the bag there, I have to admit that I am utterly biased when it comes to the ‘strange doctor’, he is one of the few early Marvel characters whose original comics I can actually read. It is probably Ditko’s art that saves that series for me, and that art crosses over so well into the medium of film. This film is a trip, a mind bending, brain twisting drug fuelled excursion into other dimensions, crossed with Inception. That for me is probably the best and worst part about this film. If Inception had never existed and I had never seen skyscrapers being twisted and folded in half, then the events of this film would have been groundbreaking however it feels a bit regurgitated, but like Spinal Tap turned up to 11. This takes what Inception did, and drags it out for what feels like half the film as New York city is bent and twisted into shapes that would have screwed with M. C. Escher’s mind.

This film hits all the beats, very much in the same way that the first Iron Man film did. You get the full origin story of the arrogant doctor, a master of his profession, the car crash that maims his hands and then his trek into the mystic east to find a cure for his broken body, only to discover that what he wants to fix is no longer important.

Where it differs so much from the original comic’s is (excluding irrelevancies like race and gender of supporting characters) is the much improved use of Baron Mordo, or Karl Mordo as he is known in this film. Gone is the scheming plotting moron from the comics, the one who like Dick Dastardly tries crazy schemes to beat his arch enemy and in its place is a much better considered, heroic character who helps rather than hinders Doctor Strange.

For me the casting in the film is brilliant. Cumberbatch is and has always been made to play this character, although I wish he had used more of his natural accent than he did here. Yes I know I am British and he is British and the character is American, but whenever that man does strong accents he always seems to hold something back, as it if the accent is more important than the acting. Fear not, this is not another Sean Connery doing a Scottish/Russian accent in the Hunt for Red October, Benedict’s accent is perfect throughout, however I fear we lost a bit of the character in order for that perfection.

Mads Mikkelsen has been a favourite actor of mine since I saw him in Casino Royal and he does not disappoint here for a moment, even with the dramatic eye make up he must have been subjected to daily. While he doesn’t have the presence or the voice to compete with a character like Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser, he brings a quiet malevolence to the character and makes me wish Marvel had cast him as Malekith.

In fact, I think we could declare this Marvel’s first ‘British’ film. I know that they have been talking about doing a Captain Britain film, and that The Dark World as set in Greenwich, London, but this film’s entire cast is British, with a Canadian and a Dane thrown in for good measure. In fact this film is so British I went to school with Baron Mordo (no seriously, I kid you not, I did a play with Chiwetel back in 1994…) It made me feel right at home watching this film, but I do wonder how that will play with the American audience. Just because Benedict’s accent can fool me, doesn’t mean it will work for people who hear a real version of that accent every day.

This film worked for me on pretty much every level, and trust me this film has lots of levels. The use of magic was dramatic, but didn’t feel silly, it wasn’t Harry Potter, no one was going around expelliarmusing their way around the set. They chose to take the magic in a more physical, superheroic way, and it really worked. They left so many references in the film for fans to pick up, I cannot wait to get the DVD and have a really good look at some of those artefacts in the sanctums, but most importantly they didn’t make them so complicated as to confuse a new audience.

My only concerns about this film is trying to sell it to the people who have loved the Avengers. It is more complicated, full of ‘serious’ actors and lacking in the ‘buddy’ elements that have worked so well for Iron Man/Rhodey or Thor/Loki. What it does have is incredible special effects, enough humorous moments to lift some of the more heavy moments and probably the best ‘gotcha’ moment I have seen in a film since the Usual Suspects.

And my 6 year old loved it, I cannot give it higher praise.

4001 A.D. – Review

4001 AD

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Matt Kindt with Art by Clayton Crain and David Mack

Published October 25, 2016

4001adSynopsis – in AD4001 New Japan is a floating city-state around Earth; its creator and controller ‘Father’ has banished his son Rai for rising against him. The young girl Lula infected the city with a virus meant for ‘Father’ but in order to counter it he has been jettisoning parts of the floating city to crash to earth. Can this son or Lula prevent the total destruction of the city, or will ‘Father’ rid his domain of the virus created to stop him?

Sometimes I am not sure what is worse; terrible plot dumps in-character, or a 3 page plot dump out of character. In some ways I completely understand why they need to do this, this comic is set almost 2000 years into the future so it is hard to give the reader a frame of context for what the book is about, but it almost tells me before I start reading that ‘this book is over complicated.’

Actually, I know exactly what is worse than 3 pages of out of character plot dump – 3 pages of out of character plot dump, followed by 8 pages of in character plot dump explaining exactly the same thing again. How stupid do the writers think we are exactly? The irony is that this book really is not that complicated at all and not in need of this much narration. Irrelevant of how good the book is, if you have completely annoyed your readers by the end of page 11, you have a massive hill to climb just to get level again.

And does it climb that hill! This book is stunning to look at; every page is a cinematic experience, from the futuristic cities, to the starscapes, the ruined temples to the glorious battle scenes. This is a fabulous Sci-Fi film waiting to be made and actually, that annoys me slightly as well.

As it escapes from its frankly pedestrian start, into an exciting middle, the feeling I start to get is that this is trying too hard to be a storyboard for a film, rather than a comic in its own right. I quite understand why creators would want to do that, clearly the money is all to be had in the films, with their tie in merchandising and potential sequels. But when you layout a comic in that fashion events move too fast. It only takes 2 pages to jump from the heroes leaving their abandonment on earth, to fighting their way back into the city in space, including a full on dialogue with the bad guy. To say that this comic ‘moves quickly’ is an understatement akin to saying that The Flash is faster than a snail.

Despite all of this, what I come back to is the fact that this book is gorgeous. The backgrounds are incredible, so much time has been put into every panel and there are no single-colour-background ‘cheating’ panels. Even when it pulls in for a close up, you still get everything behind the person fully drawn, rendered and slightly out of focus, just like if it were real. It adds a huge amount of depth to an otherwise shallow book. I say shallow in the kindest sense; there is clearly an attempt to create a great amount of background for the story, but if you scratch away at it, then it falls apart. There are too many clichés here – the big dumb loyal brute called Lemur who talks like he’s been hit on the head a few too many times and ultimately is there purely as a sacrificial plot device; the evil mad villain, drunk on power and willing to sacrifice millions to suit his end goal; the noble hero made to choose between his family and what is right. I feel I have seen all of this before, but perhaps that is because I am getting old and cynical.

Bizarrely the books stunning visuals are let down by the final chapter. There are still glimpses of the previous immaculate style, but entire pages are far rougher, as if someone else was drawing them; or the artist simply ran out of time. At the same time as being worse in places, it is also the most spectacular issue, with the dramatic climax and an extended epilogue showing the fall out of the events of the comic. The detail in those cityscapes are simply breath taking, but the characters become mere shells of how well drawn they were before. For a book that, for me, has won me over by its visuals, to have them decline so dramatically at the end is more than a letdown, it pretty much killed the comic for me.

Over all this is a decent, if stilted read. The art, for the most part, is about as stunning as you will find in a comic printed anywhere this decade; the plot is fair to good, but clichéd; and the characters well defined, but shallow. If you like Mecha, sci-fi or gloriously rendered comics, this is a book for you. If you want deep and meaningful stories with character arcs and witty dialogue, you would be better off with a Garfield strip.

 

Captain America: Civil War – Movie Revew

Captain America: Civil War

by Joshua Starnes, CMRO Editor

Civil WarCaptain America: Civil War is an abundantly entertaining piece of blockbuster entertainment which gives lie to the notion that an adventure film with lots going on must devolve into chaos. Following the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the world has become understandably concerned about gangs of super people destroying bits of the planet every so often. When Bucky Barnes (Stan) is finally brought out of hiding he becomes the catalyst to allow Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) to bring the world’s super people under control, starting with Steve Roger’s (Evans) Avengers.

Ostensibly an excuse just to get loads of super people to wail on each other for our amusement, Civil War takes the opportunity it has to delve into the people who make up its world while also at least considering the real-world problems actual superheroes (and by intimation, real-world superpowers) would pose if they did whatever they wanted.  And it really makes with the super people wailing on each other.

A big part of Civil War’s strength is its insistence on avoiding the trap of cameos even when many of its characters only show up for two or three scenes.  Instead it gives everyone something to do – from Vision (Bettany) and Scarlet Witch’s (Olsen) slow bonding to Spider-Man’s (Holland) introduction and brush with the big leagues to Black Panther’s (Boseman) dogged mission of vengeance – and something to feel (so that we feel it, too), creating a joyful smorgasbord of superhero action that is the most Marvel thing Marvel has ever made.

The list of such character based touches is almost endless and fantastic – Falcon and Bucky’s forced partnership, Tony Stark flirting with Aunt May to Peter Parker’s extreme horror, Vision trying to figure out how cooking works – with new elements melding seamlessly into the new.  Spider-Man and Black Panther are organically accepted into the whole, particularly Panther who is well connected to the main plot, as the various characters work not only within themselves but as part of the whole.

And none more so than Tony Stark.  Alone and isolated and looking back on the mistakes of his life, Civil War is as much Downey’s movie as it is Evans and it is with the pair that the filmmakers pull of their most difficult stunt; creating dueling protagonists with completely understandable but conflicting goals.

Winter Soldier directors Anthony and Joe Russo (along with returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) have brought back most of their creative team, continuing the techno thriller aesthetic of that film to create a more grounded and believable experience until it is ready to let loose with the crazy. Returning cinematographer Trent Opaloch and production designer Owen Paterson (The Matrix) manage that wonderfully with desaturated backgrounds and a gritty feel which still manages to transition to a world of bright primary colors at the halfway mark when Spider-Man arrives.

The tonal shift anticipates the films’ finest hour when hero faces hero with a tone closer to fun and optimism than complex philosophical pathos. If the final head-to-head between Stark and Rogers is the most poignant and emotional, the point where the two finally take the gloves off, the airport sequence where the Avengers finally face off against one another is the real heart of Civil War.

For one glorious reel the Russo’s throw out all assumptions about how much crap you can throw up on the screen in a show-stopping exhibition of technical prowess and raw fun.  With John Wick helmer’s David Leitch and Chad Stahelski taking over Civil War’s second unit the action sequences are crisp and energetic, filled not just with clever gags but also intrinsic characterization (which makes sense given how much time they spend fighting). Despite the fact that many characters exist only to appear in this one moment not a single one comes across as gratuitous or unnecessary; plus Ant-Man (Rudd) steals the film from everyone in those 15 minutes.

As fantastic as all that is, no movie this full could make room for everything and unfortunately most of what gets pushed to the margins in Captain America’s movie is Captain America.  Though undoubtedly the center of the film, this is really more of an Avengers movie heavily focused on Steve and Tony than a straight up Captain America installment.

Compared with the last film, most of Steve’s major character development has concluded by the time Civil War starts, which makes him an easy choice to give up screen time for but the lost is noticeable as he spends most of his time reacting while others actually develop.

Those in his orbit suffer as well, particularly VanKamp’s Sharon Carter who still has little reason to exist.  She’s the last vestige of a problem which Marvel has mostly but not always successfully skirted – doing something just because it existed in the comics without due consideration as to whether it works on the big screen.  Though Sharon Carter is an important part of the character’s comic book legacy, all of her story and character functions have long since been taken up by other characters in the film world, making her scenes forced or unnecessary.

Though Civil War doesn’t have as much synergy between character, theme and plot as its predecessor, it has plenty to enjoy on its own merits and then some.  If the worst that can be said of it is that it needs more Captain America (which pretty much is the worst that can be said of it), that’s not a bad price to pay for well-defined characters well-used within a complex plot that reaches for big ideas.

Most of all though, It’s just fun, containing moments of laugh-out-loud enjoyment which these big movies can easily miss out on while attempting to reach for stronger dramatic stakes.  Captain America: Civil War about as well-executed and fun a piece of action storytelling as has been put together in recent memory and a reminder that for all the think pieces which have (and will continue) to pop up there is still plenty of gas in this superhero thing.

How Licensing Saved the Marvel Universe

Marvel Licensed Comics

by Travis Starnes, CMRO Editor

During the 70s and 80s, Marvel went licensing crazy.  Both bringing properties from other medium, most notably toy manufacturing, into comics, and licensing Marvel properties out.  But why was there a sudden explosion of licensing, and why is it different from other comics, movies, or television shows that license out their work? And how did it save Marvel Comics?

What makes the way Marvel did licensing different is pretty apparent to anyone who read comics from the two or three decades when Marvel was licensing like crazy. From the point of view of licensing out their characters, Marvel isn’t totally unique.  Many companies licensed their characters out to television, DC most notably, and even more licensing comic characters out for merchandising.

What makes Marvel stand out is how much they brought characters from other companies into the Marvel universe.  Sure, DC created comics for other company’s licenses, but they were generally stand alone and not part of the greater DC universe.  Marvel on the other hand, not only brought characters like the Micronauts, Godzilla, Shogun Warriors, and Conan (to a lesser degree) into their larger universe, but they even took the ROM license and put it at the center of a story arc that covered most the major titles at the time.

I’ve done a fair amount of searching and I can’t find any instances of licensed characters becoming the center of another companies shared universe.  And even the other licenses I mentioned had continual, although more contained, connections to Marvel.  Shield and the Fantastic Four tangled with Godzilla, the X-Men bumped into Micronauts and Crystar the Crystal Warrior multiple time, and there is a litany of Marvel UK landing in the pages of licensed comics like Transformers and Doctor Who. They even had licenses cross with other licenses, such as when Godzilla faced off against the Shogun Warriors.

When it came to licensing, Marvel did it in a way no one else did, or has done since.  But why did it blow up so big?

The short answer is, Star Wars.

The comics industry was struggling in the 70s.  The old magazine stand distribution wasn’t working any longer, since magazine stands were starting to disappear.  While Marvel would figure this out in the mid-70s by selling into hobby shops and stand-alone comic stores that started to pop up, the bottle neck caused issues for most comic published.

By 78’ DC hit the wall hard, cancelling thirty-one of its ongoing titles.  It wasn’t until the early 80s when DC came up with new ideas such as limited runs (which many comic fans curse to this day) that they managed to pull out of their nose dive.

At the same time, Marvel was also struggling.  The editorial staff was in disarray with books regularly being finished late and the non-comic magazine part of the company was losing money hand over fist.  Future Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, who was an associate editor at the time, described the company as seeming to be in a “death spiral”.

Stan Lee, who became the publisher of Marvel in 1972 when long time publisher and one time owner Martin Goodman stepped down, wanted to double down on comics featuring original characters.

This was when Charlie Lippincott and Ed Summer, who was a silent partner of George Lucas, talked to Roy Thomas about the idea of licensing Star Wars.  Thomas was known as being a major proponent of licensed comics in Marvel and had been EIC when Conan was licensed into Marvel.

Thomas liked the early artwork he saw, as this was before the movie came out. Thomas pushed the idea of licensing Star Wars, and he had one big thing in his favor.  The license would be free.  Lucas only wanted the first two issues of the adaptation of his script on newsstands before the movie came out, seeing it as a good way to publicize the movie.

To say it was a hit would be an understatement.  It went on to sell over a million copies over multiple reprints.  For context, Marvel’s best-selling book at the time, Amazing Spider-Man, sold just about a quarter of that.

Marvel’s parent company, Cadence Industries, made a boat load of money from this and the idea of licensed comics took hold.  With pressure from the parent company, and editors hoping to repeat Thomas’s magic trick, Marvel began to license comics in earnest.

At first Marvel concentrated on licensing movies, books and TV shows, such as Battle Star Galactica, John Carter of Mars, and Tarzan (once DC’s license had lapsed). But, coming into the 80s, there was a push by toy manufactures to use the now growing popularity of comics as a marketing tool.  US companies like Hasbro wanted to license their toy likes, such as a relaunching GI Joe, while Japanese toy makers were trying to break into the US market.

Thanks in no small part to the cash Star Wars continued to bring in as Marvel published ongoing stories under the license after the movie came out; they were the biggest name in the Comics industry.  DC had a significantly lower market share at this time, so much so that Marvel made a push to license all the DC characters (and imagine for a moment what that would have been like).  The deal was slowed by Bill Sarnoff, who only wanted to focus on the top 7 characters from DC, and then killed by the threat of an anti-trust lawsuit.

This left Marvel open to being the go to place for licensing comics by toy manufactures, and license they did.

The licensing boom only slowed when DC revitalized, using new ideas such as the limited series, and retook dominance of the mark, along with Marvel’s sale to New World Entertainment under Ronald Perelman.

Love them or hate them, licensed comics may have saved Marvel from an earlier sale, a break up, or even a loss of the company entirely.  So for every bad licensed comic you read from the 70s and 80s, just remember that they might be responsible for keeping Captain America and Spider-Man with us.

Market Report – January 2016

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by Chrys, CMRO User



Welcome to the first official edition of Market Report, in which I comment the direct market data for comics released the month before. I’m going to start with some introductory notes:

– The rankings and percentages discussed here refer only to the direct market. That means they’re not about sales to the reader, but about orders made by retailers to the distributor, Diamond. They reflect what comic shops think will sell plus what their customers have pre-ordered. (Retailers also over-order to get some deals, like buying an X amount of comic Y in order to be eligible to get variant Z.)
– The numbers discussed here aren’t actual figures, but estimates made by Comichron based on Diamond’s chart. We don’t have actual numbers for sales or orders – this is all we have.
– Direct market isn’t the only channel affecting a title’s commercial health. There are also the digital market, the foreign markets, trades etc.

Now, I still find it interesting to analyze these numbers, especially comparatively, but please bear these caveats in mind and remember the numbers of orders are the shakiest part of the data. One more thing: this is focused on Marvel comics since it’s what I know best and follow more closely. Okay, let’s take a look at January 2016.

 

Top Comics

1 Walking Dead 150 $2.99 Image 156,166
2 Secret Wars 9 $4.99 Marvel 149,028
3 Spider-Man Deadpool 1 $3.99 Marvel 133,813
4 Star Wars 14 $3.99 Marvel 118,471
5 Star Wars 15 $3.99 Marvel 107,858
6 Old Man Logan 1 $4.99 Marvel 104,362
7 Obi-Wan and Anakin 1 $3.99 Marvel 102,861
8 Batman 48 $3.99 DC 100,962
9 Darth Vader 15 $3.99 Marvel 98,405
10 Uncanny X-Men 1 $3.99 Marvel 93,252

January was another massive win for Marvel: they doubled DC’s market share in both dollars and units, 44% and 48% against DC’s 22% and 24%, respectively. On top of that, they dominated the charts: 22 issues in the Top 25, with DC only grabbing 2 spots and Image, 1. There are 35 Marvel issues in the Top 50 – the remaining are 11 DC, 3 Image, and 1 Boom.

Image grabbed the top spot, though, with The Walking Dead #150 getting an appropriate 150k orders. DC got the 8th spot with Batman and nearly 101k. Marvel got the remaining 8 spots like this: 4 Star Wars issues, 3 debuts, and the last issue of Secret Wars. Secret Wars #9 grabbed #2 with an amazing 149k, cementing their position as one of the most successful event books from Marvel. It was a strong Top Ten, with all books over 90k and 8 over 100k.

Debuts

Marvel’s biggest debut in January was Spider-Man/Deadpool, #3 with nearly 134k, which is no surprise given they’re huge sellers on their own and popular as a pair. Old Man Logan debuted with 104k (#6), which is a 15k increase over Wolverine’s last volume debut in February 2014. Uncanny X-Men debuted at #10 with 93k, down 84k from the last volume in February 2013 – but with a very different cast, premise and circumstances, it still seems a good debut. Issue 2 sold 70k.

Outside the Top Ten, we have:

A-Force at #12 with 65k: down almost 49k from the Battleworld mini last May;
Rocket Raccoon and Groot at #15 with 59k;
Silver Surfer at #17 with 57k: down 7k from the last volume debut in March 2014;
Captain Marvel at #22 with nearly 53k: up 8k from last debut also in March 2014;
Agents of Shield at #50 with 35k: this is the only really shaky debut in January: it’s also down 59k from the previous Shield book’s debut numbers, in Dec 2014.

Marvel Spotlights

Most books haven’t stabilized yet. Mighty Thor #3 got a healthy #13 spot with a near 10k drop. Deadpool and ANAD Avengers both double-shipped with steady numbers: issues 5 and 6 of Deadpool around 59k, and issues 3 and 4 of Avengers around 57k.

More surprising is how well Doctor Strange is doing so far: issue #4 got #23 in the chart and 52k. That’s looking really great for a character that hasn’t had a book in forever – and that’s awesome news, because it’s a great book. One of my favorites in this new batch.

Three other solos doing relatively well at spots #27-9: All-New Wolverine #4 with a mere 1k drop to 49.9k, Invincible Iron Man #5 with an 8k drop to 49k, and Spider-Gwen #4 with a 6k drop to 48.6k.

All-New X-Men #3 grabbed the 25th spot with 50k and Extraordinary X-Men #5-6 got spots #31-2 with 47k. Meanwhile, Daredevil #3 was 36th with 45.8k.

Warning Lights

Now let’s move to the more worrisome titles. Totally Awesome Hulk #2 was 40th with 39.4k. No Hulk has sold well in quite a while, but a 35k drop to below 40k in the second issue might be a nosedive sign.

New Avengers isn’t falling fast anymore, but #5 is already selling in the low 30s. On one side, it’s a low-tier cast, but on the other, it’s an Avengers book, so sales expectations are complicated here. Also complicated is the situation of Captain America: Sam Wilson – #5 sold only 29k, but had a mere 400 copies drop from the previous issue, which might be a sign of stabilization.

Last month I said: “To my infinite amusement, Guardians of Infinity was the big launch with 121k. There’s no way this book won’t drop like a stone.” And will you look at that, #2 had a 94k plunge to 27k sales and a 73rd spot. I love being right.

Here are some more candidates to keep diving: All-New Inhumans #3 got 25k with an 8k drop, Scarlet Witch #2 got 25k with a 32k drop, and Star-Lord #3 got 22k with a 3k drop. Quill is not happening, Marvel.

Relegation Zone

These are the books selling less than 20k and potentially in danger of being cancelled. Last month Marvel only had one book here – now it’s 10. The new books are marked with an asterisk. All of these sold less than a collection of reprinted Deadpool stories. Pretty much none of these are surprising.

*115. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4: 19,923 (5k drop)
*118. Illuminati #3: 19,025 (4k drop)
*120. Angela Queen of Hel #4: 18,917 (2k drop)
*121. Drax #3: 18,837 (4k drop)
*125. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #3: 18,424 (3k drop)
*128. Weirdworld #2: 17,759 (12k drop)

*131. Black Knight #3: 17,118 (almost 5k drop) – This is the first (and, so far, only) cancelled title post-Secret Wars. It ends on issue 5 already. No idea why Marvel thought there could be a market for it – pretty much all its hooks are covered by other books that aren’t selling well either.
*139. Hercules #3: 16,310 (4k drop) – Now this is criminal. This is such a great book!

Under 15k, selling less than My Little Pony:

154. Howling Commandos of Shield #4: 14,091 (down almost 4k)
*166. Starbrand and Nightmask #2: 11,677 (16k drop)

And on its second issue, Starbrand and Nightmask is already the lowest seller. From the announcement, this has been a puzzling choice. It’s hard to imagine what the editors thought when they greenlit this title, as the duo seemed to have very little appeal even at the height of their involvement in Hickman’s Avengers. Starring a book many months later, coupling nondescript newcomers with what seemed a cosmic fish-out-of-water kids in college premise? Extremely hard sell among so many shiny new titles.

Cancellation Watch

This is where I talk about DC comics not many people are buying, to people who mostly read Marvel. Last month I said things looked really bad and more cancellations had to be coming. Turns out they aren’t coming, because they’re going to have something called Rebirth – most likely a line-wide relaunch/shake-up.

The Watch went down to 13 issues from 18 in December, but that’s mostly because several low sellers ended that month. In fact, only one title saved itself: Sinestro, with a 3k increase. We have 1 newcomer and 1 returning title, both marked with an asterisk.

119. Cyborg #7: 18,975 (1k increase)
123. Martian Manhunter #8: 18,655 (2.6k increase)
127. Constantine The Hellblazer #8: 17,853 (down 700. Crazy for such a good title)
*144. Black Canary #7: 15,758 (almost 6k drop, debuting in the Watch with a plunge)
146. Gotham Academy #14: 15,023 (down 7k from an event issue. Down only 800 from #13)

151. Catwoman #48: 14,408 (down 600)
157. Secret Six #10: 13,888 (down 700)
158. Justice League 3001 #8: 13,283 (down almost 700)
*165. We Are Robin #8: 12,086 (returning to the Watch after a higher than usual event issue with stronger titles: down 16k, and a 7k drop from the last regular issue, #6)
168. Doctor Fate #8: 11,109 (down 800)
174. Midnighter #8: 10,408 (down 800 – I want to believe this won’t be cancelled, but one look at this and it just doesn’t seem possible…)

183. Omega Men #8: 8,864 (down nearly 400 – the critical darling managed to avoid the Spot of Shame for one more month. Cancelled, 4 issues to go.)
195. Telos #4: 7,735 (a 1.8k drop – mini, 2 issues to go.)

 

And this is it for January. If you have something to say or ask, click the Join the Conversation button and shoot.

 

Invincible Iron Man #6 – Review

Invincible Iron Man 006 b

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Brian Michael Bendis with Art by Mike Deodato and Frank Martin

Published February 2016

Invincible Iron Man 006 aSynopsis – The War Machines

Doctor Doom is trying to be nice, but Tony is not buying it. Meanwhile Rhodey is off to Japan chasing after Madame Masque and some techno-ninjas.

This is a really packed book, I feel like I have read two comics going through it. We have the full on action comic with War Machine and some ridiculous hardware (seriously, where do those guns disappear to? Right now I think that Rhodey must have one heck a wedgy.) On the other side we have an almost spy-thriller aspect as Tony and his new ‘friend’ are stalked by Victor von Doom.

I really liked the first arc of this book, but I am not entirely convinced about this issue. To be fair it is an ‘in-between’ issue which is closing up some of the threads of the first arc and opening up the new ones, but even still, it is rather disappointing. The artist from the first arc was utterly amazing (David Marquez) and while I like Mike Deodato, by comparison he does not cut it. to be honest there are places in this book where Tony just does not look like Tony at all, if anything, he looks like Doctor Strange. I also find it very off putting that his new ‘lady friend’ appears to have been modelled on Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones) when in the last issue she was definitely Indian*.

For me I think that most of my issues stem from the art, or more precisely, from how different the art was to the previous issue. I can forgive the slightly bizarre looking Tony Stark, it is his comic and everyone knows who he is supposed to be, but when you are introducing new characters (face-mask-less Doctor Doom and Doctor Amara Perera) you really need them to actually look like the character did the last time you saw them, otherwise you just assume it is someone else.

Unfortunately I think this issue is spoilt by some very unsubtle photo-tracing, but Bendis is still writing a good story. Perhaps this will improve in the coming issues, or maybe I need to wait for the artist to change before I can enjoy this book again without playing ‘spot the reference.’

Story – 8/10
Art – 5/10

* I always fall foul of international naming conversions, by ‘Indian’ I mean – coming from the Indian Sub-continent, not the Native American variety.

 

Nova #4 – Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Sean Ryan with Art by Cory Smith and David Curiel

Published February 2016

Nova 004 aSynopsis – The Nova/Miles/ Khan team up is in full swing beating up monsters, fighting with mole-persons and generally wrecking the underground.

There is nothing about this book that could ever top the cover. I don’t care if it was the greatest piece of writing ever, or a complete steaming pile of trash, the cover makes me love this book. If you are not familiar with it I will explain; it is a play on the cover of Fantastic Four #1, the start of the Silver age of Marvel comics, the issue that created everything we now think of as ‘Marvel.’

That cover has specific meaning for me, as well as in its own right. The site I write for is the Complete Marvel Reading Order, it’s there to help people read from start to finish the complete history of Marvel comics. Because this is the first issue in the line, it is an image I have seen 1000’s of times, every time I look at the order, it is the first picture I see. And this cover homages it perfectly.

So onto the issue at hand, the comic inside that modern classic cover; it’s ok. Bit of a let down with that sort of build up I will grant you. It starts off feeling like another Avengers team up, but you start to realise that the other two are merely window dressing. It quickly devolves into the standard Nova getting himself into trouble routine that this book has become, which is not intrinsically bad, but it is getting a bit repetitious. Nova gets into trouble, Nova is rescued/escapes, Nova goes home to learn he has screwed up his family again, Nova learns his lesson and comes back to fight the bad guy. Every arc of the book has followed that exact pattern.

I think my biggest issue is that this series, along with Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man an a whole host of recent series revolving around teenage heroes is that we are crying out for another Avengers Academy series. The X-Men books have had so much success with ‘school’ books where the young mutants can raise havoc without being constantly required to worry about their home life. Of course some of that is entertaining and some young mutants have been left to fend for themselves, but when it happens in every single ‘young’ Avengers series, it gets a bit tiresome.

Story – 7/10
Art – 8/10 (cover gets 10/10)

 

Uncanny X-Men #3 – Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Cullen Bunn with Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Nolan Woodard

Published February 2016

Uncanny X-Men 003 aSynopsis – In their quest to save the mutant healers from the ravages of ‘The Riders’ Magneto has to get his hands dirty.

I am starting to really like this series and that is surprising because I was quite on the fence at first. They have an interesting team that has been pulled together by circumstance rather than by any innate connection between them and that leads to all manner of conflicts.

This is actually quite a dream team up, both in the comic and in the real world. Cullen Bunn is on the cusp of becoming one of Marvels mainstay writers and having an X-team in his hands is a really exciting prospect. On the other hand Greg Land has a terrible reputation, however it has been completely unfounded so far in this series. Gone are the long lingering looks at full frontal female nudity* and in are wide thin panels that focus on the characters faces. However his reputation for ‘copying’ seems deminished in this series as the faces are all character appropriate and very consistent.

This is for me, a perfect anti-hero X-Men series; Magneto doing anything he can to get the job done, a tormented Creed trying to go straight and Psylocke acting as the conscience and heart of the team. Given Elizabeth’s ‘chequered’ past you can understand why having her as the teams conscience makes this quite an entertaining prospect.

What I really appreciate here is the ‘reality’ of what is going on, Magneto is not pulling his punches, he quite literally rips a man in half on panel in this issue. I like it when comics do that and we are not left with the bad guys licking their wounds and running away with the heroes shaking their fists at them as they go. This is the sort of effect that you would get if you put together an arch angel, psychic assassin, master of magnetism and a caged animal into one team; carnage, death and destruction.

This is definitely my favourite X-Men book in print at the moment, although given how few of them there are currently around, that is not as big a compliment as it used to be. I want more of the same and if the epilogue to this issue is followed up on, then it looks like things can only get better.

Story – 9/10
Art – 9/10

* Obviously not actual nudity, but when they are in skin tight costumes, its merely the colouring that gives us the illusion of clothing…

Captain Marvel #2 – Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters with Art by Kris Anka and Matthew Wilson

Published February 2016

Captain Marvel 002 aSynopsis – Rise of the Alpha Flight Part Two

Boarding an alien vessel can be problematic, ask any Red-Shirt. But when your whole team is indispensable, it might be a risk too far.

I know I just made a Star Trek joke, but really, that is exactly what this series feels like. The whole space exploration thing has been done to death by something in the region of 750 episodes over 50 years and whenever I see it, that is all I can think about. This is not necessarily a negative comparison, just an unavoidable one.

To be honest, if I was looking at this as an episode of Star Trek, then I would be quite kind to it. The alien craft is mysterious; the action is frenetic and the dialogue is fun, all in, it would be a fantastic episode. However that does not make it a great issue of Captain Marvel. I get the impression that they do not know what to do with her; prior to Secret Wars she had had two series, both quite different and both with rave reviews from half the community and criticism from the other half. I thought the first arc of her first series was fantastic, the second half went down hill quite fast. The next volume of this title was utter garbage and this one is showing signs of improvement. The problem is, Marvel has no idea how to play her.

They have tried showing her softer side, they have tried her going solo and saving the galaxy and now they are trying to give her command (she is a Captain after all.) The problem is that all I get the impression is that Abigail Brand is both the one actually in charge and also the only logical choice to be in command. She has looked after S.W.O.R.D. for the last few years and seemed to do a darn good job, so why would this position not go to her.*

Overall, this is a mixed bag; there are parts of this I really like and parts that just don’t seem to fit. If this had been called ‘Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight’ then it would feel a lot more natural, but as it is the best parts come from the team and the focus on Carol feels forced, but perhaps it will grow on me in time.

Story – 7/10
Art – 8/10

* I know in the last issue they tried to explain it away, but it didn’t make sense.

Scarlet Witch #3 – Review

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by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor

Written by James Robinson with Art by Steve Dillon, Frank Martin and Chris Visions

Published February 2016

Scarlet Witch 003 aSynopsis – Ireland is dying possibly at the hands of the Emerald Warlock and the Scarlet Witch needs to put things right.

I am utterly devastated by what has happened to this series. We left last issue with the amazing styling of Marco Rudy whose usual hit and miss art was absolutely on full form and it is replaced by… Steve Dillion. I know the guy is a massive name in comics and his Preacher series is highly regarded, but honestly how does this man get work?

To call the characters in this series ‘wooden’ would be an affront to all arboreal lovers. There are close ups of the Scarlet Witch that make her look like she is having a stroke, the human mouth should not hang open limply like that. And then there is her cleavage. Honestly I am known for liking a bit of skin in my comics, heck I wrote the Grimm Fairy Tales and Lady Death reading orders on the site and I am completely unapologetic for that, but there is a time and place and this is neither the time, nor the place. On the subject of ‘places’ an attractive slim woman’s cleavage should not end somewhere below her diaphragm. I completely understand that women of a certain age or size may have cleavage that ends far lower than others, but in this instance it should not go lower than her elbows!

Having felt like I have been visually ‘motorboated’ on every page of this comic there is still a nice surprise right at the end when she enters another world and Chris Vision takes over the art. Instantaneously her bust is at a normal height and there is motion and flow to the art, it was literally like walking into another world.

It is such a shame that the art has utterly sidetracked this issue, but it is such a clear and present problem on every page that it is really hard to avoid. I really hope that we stick with Visions’ art for the rest of the series and then I can get back to enjoying this book. This is a character that has so many possibilities, and has so much history and depth that she deserves so much more than her only depth being between the gigantic glands on her chest.

Story – 7/10
Art – 0/10