The long lost DOC episode. Sputnix, Xythe and Robareid talk about Fantastic Four, X-Men and a bunch of Amazing Spider-Man.
The long lost DOC episode. Sputnix, Xythe and Robareid talk about Fantastic Four, X-Men and a bunch of Amazing Spider-Man.
by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer
Written by Jason Aaron, Art by Jim Starlin
This is the first graphic novel for Marvel that I have reviewed, mostly because I review their individual issues rather than wait for their collections, but also because very few comics are released in this format alone. Normally they want to ‘double dip’ by getting you to buy the comic monthly (or bi-monthly) and then show you a shiny covered collectors version and get you to buy it all over again. A lot of people thought this concept would die out with the digital age dawning on comics, but personally I am the other way around. Years ago it made sense to get a trade collection because even if they were softback, they were a lot harder wearing than the paper thin comics released at the time. I have comics from the early 80s which have been shortened to pages 4-28 as through constant re-reading and re-stacking I reduced the cover and inside pages to something akin to tissue paper and Swiss cheese combined. So with the release of digital issues that never age or decay, why would one buy a trade? Well for me, it is the only version my wife will allow in the house because from their end, they look like books, but also because despite being born into the start of the digital revolution there is still part of me that likes the physical feel of paper.
Well this is not a collected version, it is a ‘graphic novel’ written specifically to be sold as one piece and not split into individual issues. My first question is ‘why?’ Ok I can accept that the format of a serialised comic can sometimes be detrimental to the flow of a book. You need a beginning and an end to each issue which means that the collected version reads like one crescendo after another, rather than a long gradual build, but the best writers build it in and in some cases you barely even notice the joins. Marvel would have surely made more money with this as a 6 issue limited series followed by a hardback collected version. However I suspect the truth is much closer to the fact that if Jim Starlin says he wants to write an original graphic novel about Thanos, then Marvel probably said ‘yes please, take as long as you want, how much money can we give you?’ Jim is a living legend,* the creator of Thanos, writer of Infinity Gauntlet and the first person to ever do a Marvel Original Graphic Novel – Death of Captain Marvel. Oh and did I mention he draws his own stuff as well? It is just a little thing I know, but normally artists who write have no depth to their stories and writers who draw have a weird and unintelligible style that covers for the fact they are not a very good artist. Jim is nothing short of amazing in both areas.
I am well known for my views on comic art, and whether you agree with me or not, I cannot be said to be anything but scrupulously consistent. Jim Starlin is a man who made me question my views and look for other answers. I have problems with anything drawn prior to 1994, especially at Marvel; I have been informed by some very knowledgeable people that it was around this time that the company purchased Malibu Comics and despite bringing with them the Ultraverse, it was primarily their printing and colouring techniques that Marvel wanted to acquire. Now my younger self believed that all old comics were drawn by people who held their pencil in their ear and coloured by people with no concept of subtly smaller than an acme 10 tonne hammer. This is obviously wrong and while styles have changed (especially people’s haircuts!) the difference between modern comics and older ones was the completely limited printing quality. Why would you bother drawing in fine detail, or using layered shading if the conversion to the printed page turned your Da’Vinci into a child’s drawing coloured with ketchup?
How does this connect to Jim Starlin you might be asking? Well if you take his work in the 80s it looks pretty poor compared to this book and the reason for that is the quality of the comic themselves. If you look at his lines and his style and his layout it is almost identical to this book. He has been this good for all those years, but it is only when you see his art in a modern product that you realise just how good he is. His art is not just ‘good for the time’ or ‘better than his contemporaries’ it is simply ‘great.’ When you read through this book you do not see anything but a polished modern comic, it does not feel like someone trying to ‘ape’ an older style like you see regularly in modern comics. For some reason modern artists think that putting in ‘mistakes’ or blocky colouring gives their work a sense of age or style; it does not, it just makes it look out of place or at worst, awful. This book is drawn by a master, with years of experience, decades of time and effort put into learning his craft and never once looking back, but taking advantage of every modern method in his work. I have no idea if Jim still works in pencils, or if he draws on a computer and it is not relevant to the end product because his characters are clean and strong even in relief, recognisable at a distance in the smallest panels and he uses the best modern inkers and colourists to make this a comic for today, rather than the past.
So after the longest preamble I have ever written, did it have any relevance to this book? Well obviously it does and the important word is ‘History.’ There is not a lot of help given here for new readers, I had to look a few things up just to make sure as this book draws on Jim’s extensive back catalogue of characters he created for Marvel, or in a couple of cases, reinvented and resurrected. This series neatly picks up Thanos from the ending of Infinity, probably some point before his return in New Avengers given his lack of introspection in that comic. Although knowledge of Infinity Gauntlet and his other earlier comics is helpful, I would say that the ‘Thanos Rising’ limited series from 2013 gives you the best understanding of his motivations for this book and his relationship with ‘The Lady Death.’ Thanos is obsessed with his mistress, an avatar of the concept of death and dying who may, or may not actually exist, but the mere triviality of the reality of existence is a little to petty for Thanos to worry about.
Thanos, and other powerful beings, are searching for an alien box inside of which is a Talisman that leads to power, but of what sort he is unsure. His journey is watched over by many of the most powerful beings in the Marvel mutliverse** and the spirit of Adam Warlock is drawn to him. Reborn on Thanos’ ship he follows the mad titan as he fights his way through entire planets and battles The Annihilators to reach the portal behind which is everlasting power. The end 1/3 of the book is quite a mind twist and I advise reading it through a few times, not only for the story, but also to marvel at the beauty of those panels, especially the Escher inspired one, but Dante’s Inferno also deserves a mention. The resolution to this book is pretty much as good as you can get when you are dealing with cosmic concepts that really are outside of human understanding. Normally you are left feeling cheated or with questions unresolved, however this does a brilliant job of leaving some parts unanswered while giving us a more than satisfying conclusion.
If I had any criticism of this book it would be that it is a bit wordy in places with a tendency towards characters speaking their inner thoughts to no one as a means of moving the plot forwards. However this is me being picky in the extreme. I read Marvels other Graphic Novel, No More Humans, at the same time as this book and while that is a really good story, it feels like an ‘aside’ to the Marvel universe; a book where huge events happen, but because it does not occur in a comic it has to leave everyone exactly as they were found so as not to annoy the ongoing comic readers. This takes Thanos, a character who is not currently in an ongoing series, and develops him in a way that changes a lot about him, brings back a character like Adam Warlock and does some pretty dramatic things to him and then leaves other writers to pick up on his work and run with it. This is not required reading, but if Thanos is a character that you appreciate, you would be absolutely crazy to miss it. For me the entire book was about the last page, that little innocuous moment that changes the nature of Thanos completely. Read the book, look at that last page and wonder what would happen to you if all your dreams finally came true.
*For any Terry Pratchet fans out there, it is almost applicable to say he ‘is a lifetime in his own legend’; the guys been around and the best at what he does for longer than anyone else.
** And despite evidence to the contrary last year, clearly the Living Tribunal is not dead!
by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer
Written by Eric Garcia, Art by Drew Moss & Javier Fernandez
This book makes me question how I chose which comics to buy and whether that process makes a lot of sense. I am locked into buying everything that Marvel produces, because I am a mug and I have recently started on everything Grimm Fairy Tales because clearly I am a pervert.* But as for other comics I pick up, I wonder if I might as well buy books at random. Occasionally I buy a book because of the writer or artist, but that is very rare unless your name is Gail Simone or Stjepan Sejic; sometimes I pick up a book because its cover grabs my attention, or because the name sounds really intriguing. Recently I have gotten very lucky and writing reviews for books has lead me to some which I adore, but would otherwise never pick up – Lazarus, East of West, Star Wars Legacy. But if you look at the range of books I buy or borrow then I wonder if I should buy one completely randomly chosen issue every week because I think I have as good a chance of finding books I love that way as any other.
What possible connection is there to this book I hear you cry? Well this is exactly the sort of book I would miss based on all the other methods I have for choosing new series. Other than Javier Fernandez I have never heard of anyone else working on this title; that does not mean I have never read anything involving them, more than I was never so enamoured by or had so much hatred for any of their work that it caused me to remember them. The cover art is good, but there is nothing about it that grabs my attention any more than 100s of other titles produced each week. The name of the book is vaguely intriguing implying some sort of Ghost in the Shell/ Matrix/ I Robot inspiration, but again not enough to make me jump at it. I had never even heard of Darby Pop before I got my hands on this book; suffice to say, I will pay a lot more attention to them in the future! It turns out that clearly I am a victim of the advertising generation; I expect good things to be force fed to me and then brainwashed into buying them.
I have read a lot of trades that I had no prior knowledge of, much the same as this one, but in every other case I came in with a distinct impression of what I was going to get. When you have a book with zombies on the cover, you know where that is heading; giant monster eating a city, it’s obvious what to expect. This gave me nothing at all, no ideas, no feeling, just a blank slate to be filled as I read. I often read these review copies in bed, falling asleep half way through and picking it up again in the morning. This book had the advantage of only being 4 issues long, but even so, it held my interest and kept me awake right through to the end. Part of its attraction was its beginning normality and humour; we start with a new civil defence system called Golden Shield which supposedly takes information from all of Los Angeles cameras and tracks in real time crimes taking place. On its first test it seems to performs admirably discovering a robbery and redirects police units as needed. I will not spoil the joke, but suffice to say it was not quite what the computer expected to be happening. The representative from Homeland Security then leaves, giving them the advice that the system has no human intuition and without it, it will be doomed to failure.
From here the book takes a darker turn with the aforesaid human intuition being built in after a terrorist attack leaves a carriage full of train passengers injured. The often used phrase for the continuing story is ‘delving down the rabbit hole’ and once you have started down there is no coming back. The series starts out feeling like the present day, but quickly evolves into a near future scenario with driverless vehicles, spider-bots and attack helicopter drones. It proves that power corrupts, but it definitely puts on hold the concept that having absolute power is a recipe for absolute corruption. To be honest this book has a little of everything, there is a romance going on between the ‘human intuition’ Ben and Chloe which is really sweet and furthers the plot as his control of the system grows. There is a lot of action, betrayals, plots, investigations, deaths and by the end out right carnage. The book cleverly wraps up the entire story with a sense of closure, yet leaves a chink of light for future stories, either way it is a satisfying conclusion.
The art in the book is absolutely perfect for the story, it is clean and precise enough to know who everyone is at a glance, and the effect used for the camera eyesight was brilliant. I remember watching Robocop as a child and this was so reminiscent that I could hear the static in my head as it fuzzes in and out. In the end you stop seeing the art as it all becomes part of the story and for me, like special effects in films, the less I ‘notice’ the art, the better the overall experience is. If I had any criticisms at all for this book it would be that this is clearly a film script, there is even a comment by an actor from Breaking Bad joking that they were offered the leading role in the film if they wrote a blurb for the comic. This does not detract in any way from this being a fantastic book, but it irks me when someone uses the medium that I love as a means to an end, rather than as the end itself.
* Obviously I am not, but if you say you buy Zenescope books for the story, then no one believes you anyway!
by Joshua Starnes, CMRO Editor
With the season premier of the CW’s ARROW a little over a month away, and filming for the season already eight weeks again, the producers have had to change to change out one of their major early casting choices. The producers announced that SIN CITY’s Devon Aoki, who had been announced back in July to be taking the part of DC anti-hero Katana for various flashbacks during the new season, had dropped out of the role due to a schedule conflict with a film she is making. She will be replaced by Japanese model-actress Rila Fukushima, most recently seen in the role of Yukio in 2013’s THE WOLVERINE (and strongly rumored to be returning in Mangold’s WOLVERINE follow up in 2017).
On the other side of the comic book TV coin, Marvel announced a new cast member for the new season of AGENTS OF SHIELD (also eight weeks into shooting) in the form of Brian Patrick Wade’s Crusher Creel, A/K/A Absorbing Man, who is set to menace Agent Coulson and his team during the shows second season opener on September 23. He will join Lucy Lawless’ Agent Isabelle Hartley as the other new character joining the ranks of SHIELD (the show, not the organization) for the new season.
Meanwhile, though filming is getting underway for much comic book television it is wrapping up for others as Netflix DAREDEVIL approaches the end of its shooting schedule, with many of the big final moments getting ready to lens according to the Kingpin himself, Vincent D’Onofrio.
“The way that we’re shooting it, our Daredevil, everybody that’s in the show, is just going so well. Tonight we have a big fight scene that’s happening. It’s the first time you see my character do something physical,” he said in an interview with Screen Crush, before following up with the obligatory questions about crossovers with film projects. “”I think they have some kind of plan. I’m not really allowed to discuss what the plan is, but they have a plan. I think the beginning of the plan is series stuff with Netflix, and then they have a bigger plan to branch out, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you specifically what that is.”
by Joshua Starnes, CMRO Editor
To the surprise of very few, the sex abuse law suit which named X-MEN producer-director Bryan Singer as a co-defendant was quietly dropped this week, though the door does remain open for the complaint to be refilled in the future.
The plaintiff, Michael Egan III, sued a batch of Hollywood power players in the waning days of August – including David Neuman, Garth Ancier and Gary Goddar – alleging that they and Singer had taken part in several Hollywood parties which involved unsolicited alcohol and sexual advances on the young man in 1999, then 17 years old.
Though the statute of limitations for the lawsuit had run out in California several years prior Egan, a current resident of Hawaii, was able to file them in Honolulu where the statute of limitations did not run out until the end of April, just a handful of weeks before the opening of Singer’s latest film, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, leaving many to speculate the filing may have been a push for a quick settlement to keep bad publicity from damaging the opening.
Despite a swath of initial publicity the case moved no further after the initial filing and mid-May Egan’s attorney Jeff Herman removed himself from the case, leaving Egan with no legal representation, leading to last week’s decision to drop the case based on “a consequence of the current circumstances regarding my case, my lack of legal counsel, and my inability to proceed in this matter acting on my own behalf,” according to the filing.
Singer’s attorney filed to have the lawsuit dismissed with prejudice, which would keep it from being able to be brought back up again, but the motion was denied by US District Judge Susan Oki Mollway who stated that “Any alleged damage to defendant’s reputation may well be ameliorated by plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal of the action.”
And though the charges could potentially return to plague Singer again currently “We’re pleased that it’s over,” his attorney said in a statement to the Associated Press.
by Joshua Starnes, CMRO Editor
With CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER bowing on home video this past week, many of the films creators have been out dishing about the film, this year’s most successful domestic US release to date. And considering that many of the same people who made it are on tap to work on the follow up, CAPTAIN AMERICA 3, due May 3, 2016, many questions have naturally come up about what the next film in the franchise will hold, and none are in a better position to answer that question than co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo.
“It is a hard question to answer because it gets to the specific of where the narratives are going. I will say this: yes, for satisfying storytelling, you want a beginning, middle and end. That’s the natural arc that we all thrive off of in narrative,” Anthony said in an interview with MTV, adding “The great thing about the Marvel universe, just like the publishing, it’s a very vast, inter-connected universe, where characters will have their rise and fall, so to speak, and hand off to other characters,” he continued. “As the cinematic universe moves forward, you may start to see the cinematic universe adopt that same pattern, as the publishing has, where there’s closure with some characters and new beginnings with other characters. How those hand-offs are made is always part of the fun.”
This has led many to speculate that somewhere within the various Captain America plans includes one where Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers hands the shield off to someone else, the most obvious candidate being Sebastian Stan’s Bucky (who does have an obscene number of potential appearances in his contract), just as happened during the Ed Brubaker run of the comics.
However considering that Evans still has two more films left on his current contract, one of which is almost certainly AVENGERS 3 which will hit theaters probably two years after CAPTAIN AMERICA 3 (but before any fourth CAP film), it seems unlikely to occur in the third film, a point of view obliquely agreed to by writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFreely in another interview.
Other than that, “Certainly Captain America will be back,” Joe Russo said in a separate interview to ComicBook.com. “The expectation would be that Bucky will be back and there’s certain characters in the Marvel Universe that Cap has a strong connection to but we’ve also got some tricks up our sleeve for this one and we’re hard at work.”
by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer
Written by Charles Soule, Art by Javier Pulido
Published: June 2014
She-Hulk continues to be a fast-paced and off-beat series that entertains. She-Hulk #3 presents Jennifer Walters’ fledgling law office with its first case – to secure political asylum for Kristoff von Doom. In other words, Doombots ahoy!
Kristoff is a fairly obscure character, but one who has been in the Marvel Universe for more than 30 years now. He serves as a good reminder as to how many depths the fictional universe has to plumb for writers who are willing to dig into the more obscure areas of continuity. The son of Doom has been a villain and ally to the Fantastic Four over the years. Here, he’s presented as a spoiled brat who can barely keep his dates straight, but who wants to get out from under his father’s thumb through any means necessary.
There are two catches to Kristoff’s flight for freedom. First is the fact that he’s delayed it long enough that he needs to get into court this very day in order to have any hope of asylum. Secondly, as most would predict, he’s hampered at every turn by Doombots and Dr. Doom’s own controlling nature. This leads to a lot of fun chase scenes and a ruse to get Kristoff into court that, while somewhat predictable, is still very fun to see (and a great way to get Hellcat involved in the series again).
It usually takes a while for a new series to find its footing, but three issues in it looks like She-Hulk has already set its tone very well. In a lot of ways, this is like the Ace Attorney video game franchise set in the Marvel Universe. If you like fast-paced stories and light-hearted action with a good dose of snark and comedy, this is the place for you. Javier Pulido’s art continues to be something you’ll either love or hate, but I really think it works well in this series. A more realistic art style probably wouldn’t set the tone quite as well as what we have.
In short, what you’ve seen so far in the first couple of issues of this series is what you’ll get here. I could nitpick about the characterization of Kristoff and Doom here and argue that they’re inconsistent with previous appearances, but these guys have been all over the map in terms of personality over the decades. (And, let’s face it, for all we know this is just a bunch of Doombots messing with Jen for some odd reason.) But overall, She-Hulk #3 is a fun book and a good continuation to what is shaping up to be a strong series.
by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer
Written by Gail Simone, Art by Fernando Pasarin & Daniel Sampere
If you have read any of my other reviews you might well have picked up a slight bias in my comic reading habits. Actually, that’s a lie; it is a gigantic bias of planetary sized proportions towards Marvel and away from DC. Now my reasons for this are irrelevant and probably like any prejudice, utterly wrong and stupid, but there is another smaller but more pervasive bias in my reading habits; I like well written, strong, beautifully drawn women. So who is the best writer of female characters currently in comics? A few names pop to mind, but most of them are just generally good writers, but for the realistic female persona you cannot beat Gail Simone. So despite my silly bias I already owned the comics that make up this trade before I was asked to review it, and this would have been a DC trade that I rated extremely highly if it were not for one utterly stupid decision by the publishers.
I know that the review copies I get set are not necessarily the end product, I certainly know the cover art I was sent did not end up being on the final version, but I have spent a good 45 minutes double checking this and here is my problem; this book collects issues 19-25 of the ongoing Batgirl series, plus the villains week special ‘Ventriloquist’ who is sort of the main villain in the book. The book starts with a few ‘one shot’ comics which are building into something bigger, all ending in the finale that is Batgirl: Wanted a three issue arc that ties up all those lose ends and lends its name to the title of this collected volume. So when you reach the end of issue 24 with the huge cliffhanger you discover that issue 25 is a Zero Year flashback issue and Wanted is concluded in issue 26. That for me sums up part of my hate of DC comics, they did that before in another trade I reviewed – Injustice Gods Among Us – which ended right in the middle of a fight; it is the bean-counter method of producing comics. You get your ongoing series and every 6 issues you bundle them up together into a trade and sell it, it does not matter if that works or makes any logical sense to the narrative. What should have happened was that this book ended with issue 26 and either 25 went into the next one, or it was left out of the Batgirl collection and put into a Zero Year trade. If I had bought this, I would have wanted my money back! There is nothing wrong with a collection’s ending setting up the next volume, but leaving the story in the middle is heinous.
As I mentioned, I own the original issues this comes from, I know how good this story should have been because I have read the ending that should have been in this book and therefore I will give the review it should have had. There is clearly a very different storytelling ethos over at DC where you tell multiple stories at the same time that cross in and out of one another. There are three completely independent stories being told in this book that occasionally touch on each other only to be put to one side as something else surfaces. In many ways it is like real life, if you are sick the other things around you do not stop, your children do not get put on hold until you get better and work does not stop bothering you. A lot of comic storytelling is like that, you have a problem and all of your energy for 6 issues goes into solving that problem and then mysteriously another one pops up just when that was resolved. Here we start with Barbara Gordon bataranging her deranged brother into the sea after threatening her mother with a gun, only to find her father, Commissioner Gordon, saw the whole thing and now wants to arrest Batgirl for the death of his son. If you had not guessed it is another one of these tiny facemasks that means that a father cannot recognise his own daughter. My daughter could put on a silly voice and wear a full balaclava and I would know it was her, but let’s not get hung up on reality here.
All of the family pain is put to one side as the villain introduced for this book is brought to the fore. She is a ridiculously freaky character and were it not for her never ending power creep, she would be a fantastic nemesis. We see her performing on a talent show looking like a heroin addict with Chucky from Childsplay. Now the ‘Simon Cowell’ member of the judging panel makes a flippant remark about her lips moving while she performed and it turns out that the freaky doll is more alive than the girl is and for good measure has drill bits in the palms of his hands. There is then a lot of freaky stuff that goes on and it appears that the ‘Ventriloquist’ has some ability to create zombies, or it might just be the puppet, that’s never made clear, but it is a satisfying mid series climax. The book moves on through Barbara’s one legged reformed car-jacker boy friend, through her loss of faith in her ‘Bat’ persona and on into ‘Knightfall’ which sweeps up her father again into her life.
For me, this is probably the best written female character currently in print. The guys over at Zenescope actually do a fantastic job of writing their characters, but then they get put into such ‘wondrous’ situations that that realism is forcibly put on hold. The only comic that came close was the previous volume of Captain Marvel, unsurprisingly also created by a female writer Kelly Sue Deconnick, but he current run has too many very annoying characters. Strangely enough if I had a comparison that worked for this book, it would be Marvel’s Hawkeye, but with one main difference. Both of these books focus on the characters non-heroic life, the one that they would probably prefer you did not see, but whereas Hawkeye never shows you the ‘superhero’ stuff this comic gives us both aspects of the heroine.
If I am reviewing the Bat-Girl series, with Gail Simone writing it and Daniel Sampere drawing it, then it is a 5 star comic no questions. The later art by Fernando Pasarin is good, but not as beautiful as Sampere’s work even if he does conspire to draw her half naked getting dressed in every issue. However if I am reviewing this book as a whole, or more importantly, as the mis-match of issues that it turns out to be, then it loses something as it is a series of parts without an ending. In the end I have to say ‘sorry Gail, but blame the publisher for butchering your work, you could not have done any better.’
by Lindsay Young, CMRO Contributing Writer
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Nick Bradshaw
The Free Comic Book Day Guardians title pretty much functions as an introduction to the characters, as exposited by Tony Stark to Flash Thompson, aka Agent Venom.
The proposed team-up is intriguing, and but to put things simply, the exposition is too obvious. It reads less like an Avengers briefing and more like a character description on a Wikipedia page. It tries really, really hard to get us to think that the guardians are just so cool, and it’s a little bit obnoxious, because they’re just so great and so cool and they’re totally heroes and pirates! It feels too aware of the reader, as though it’s literally shaking you and asking, “don’t you want to read this?! Aren’t these guys awesome?!” rather than trusting the characters to be fun and engaging on their own merits.
If you’re already on board with the guardians, you probably already think they’re cool. There’s no reason at all to pick up this issue because it offers basically no new information and doesn’t set up anything that won’t be reiterated in following issues. It’s all business, and there aren’t any team interactions or conversations that might be fun just for the sake of fun, either.
But as a free comic book, the intent is definitely to intrigue new fans. If you’re curious then it might do something for you, but if that’s the case, chances are you’ve already seen the movie, which can probably offer just as much if not more insight than this. If you want some post-movie Tony Stark/Peter Quill interaction, you’ll probably be disappointed too, because he spends more time talking about them than to them.
It’s not a bad issue by any means, but it doesn’t really offer anything worth recommending, nor do I think it’s a particularly engaging tease of an upcoming series.