Saturday, June 30, 2018

Reading Comics 219 "DC's 100-Page Comic Giants"

Teen Titans 100-Page Comic Giant #1

News dropped suddenly that DC was publishing four titles of these things, exclusive to Walmart, replacing the three-packs they were putting together for a few years, and I couldn't have been happier.  Besides Teen Titans there's also Justice League of America and Batman, plus Superman, which I have also checked out, below.  These are mostly reprint editions, featuring material from the early millennium, New 52, and Rebirth eras, at least so far, plus lead stories of new material which in later months will feature work from Brian Michael Bendis and Tom King, so DC is definitely taking this project seriously.

The Titans are a team I've followed somewhat loosely throughout my comics experience.  My first one was a battered copy of The New Teen Titans #39, where Dick Grayson and Wally West walk away from the team (in Dick's case in advance of adopting his new Nightwing persona during "The Judas Contract").  I read Dan Jurgens' complete run from the '90s.

That turns out to be relevant for the new story in this issue, because Jurgens is once again the writer.  The lineup is more or less the classic one, insofar as there's Robin, Beast Boy, Starfire and Raven.  No clear indication which Robin, but the costume is classic Tim Drake.  I'm still baffled that there hasn't been a push for a live action Titans movie, but there's a TV version coming up, plus a movie version of the spastic cartoon coming up. 

The first reprint in the issue is Teen Titans #1 from 2003 via Geoff Johns, in which he finally gets to explore a concept he first breached in a famous letter that got published in the waning days of the '90s Superboy comic.  He uses the book as a way to reorient all the characters, streamlining them.  The core of the team had already teamed up in Young Justice, but the approach is totally different.  Peter David's comic was basically a DC version of the teen comics other companies were doing in the '90s, rather than the version DC itself did throughout the decade.  Johns used his Titans as a pilot program for his wider efforts later, expanding on things he was doing with the Justice Society.  Wonder Girl arguably got the biggest push.  Previous to Johns she was almost more of a cosplay superhero, even wearing a wig, for whatever reason, to achieve her blonde look; Johns keeps that hair full-time. 

Next up is a reprint of Super Sons #1, which is the first time I've had a look at it.  Peter Tomasi continues his Damian Wayne experience, this time with added Jon Kent, with Jorge Jimenez on art.  I don't think it works as well, outside of Superman, the adventures of the all-new and all-different Robin and Superboy, but these are fun characters, defining new ones of the modern era, so it's always worth having them in the spotlight.

Finally there's a reprint of Sideways #1, part of the recent Age of Heroes artist-first push, most of which are versions of Marvel characters.  Sideways is a kind of Spider-Man, visually and as far as his being a high school student trying to fit in.  I've been a fan of Kenneth Rocafort since Red Hood and the Outlaws, so I'm glad to see his work get a spotlight like this.  At least as this issue goes, Sideways actually spends more time as plain old Derek James, and Rocafort absolutely sells him that way.  His work looks better that way!  I hope DC recognizes this and finds, I don't know, a Vertigo project for him in the future.

Superman 100-Page Comic Giant #1

The lead new material from Jimmy Palmiotti (who seems to have been contracted to do a lot of the new material in these things) begs the suggestion: if the DCEU wanted a solid new direction for Henry Cavill's Superman, foregoing supervillains and merely having him confront one of those classic apocalyptic weather scenarios would probably sell him really well.  Here he confronts a slew of tornados in middle America.

The next segment is a reprint of Jeph Loeb's classic Superman/Batman #1, an update of the old World's Finest comics with the stars directly in the title, which DC has revisited a few times since, sometimes with Wonder Woman substituting (which was a nice development).  President Luthor!  Bet both DC and Marvel are kicking themselves that they already did their stories like that before Trump.

Then Green Lantern #1 from 2003, the series that followed Green Lantern: Rebirth, in which Geoff Johns works to redeem Hal Jordan.  Ironically few fans seem to realize how common it is for Jordan to need redemption, which works well for his cinematic future, should DCEU ever consider going in that direction.  It's still shocking to think how far Johns truly got to push Jordan.  If it had played out just a few years later, maybe the movie would've had more momentum behind it.  Or maybe just accelerate the Sinestro arc into that first movie.  Would've made a more obvious parallel plot.

Finally, The Terrifics #1, another Age of Heroes launch, this one a Fantastic Four pastiche, featuring a stretchy dude, a smart dude, a weird-looking dude, and a lady who can become transparent.  Some variations there, but pretty clear prototypes being followed.  Jeff Lemire has been one of the most fascinating writers of the modern era, and this is an excellent new showcase for him, hopefully one that will garner him wider acclaim.  Also another chance for Mister Terrific to shine, plus welcome new opportunities for Metamorpho and Plastic Man, plus the new Phantom Girl.

I certainly look forward to more!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Back Issue Bin 122 "The Batgirl of Burnside and other Throwbacks"

Batgirl #42 (DC)
(from September 2015)

The Batgirl of Burnside will be remembered as a turning point in DC lore, not only for permanently reviving Barbara Gordon's superhero career, but as part of the youth movement that also saw Marvel introduce Kamala Khan and a whole generation of young heroes, as well as inspiring the brief DCYou era.  I was already well into a more limited comics reading experience by the time Batgirl went to Burnside, but I appreciated the idea even if I didn't get a chance to read it myself.  (There's a silly notion that just because you haven't personally enjoyed something you somehow automatically count as uninterested; that's poor perception of economics.)  The Burnside revival began in Batgirl #35, and it was as much cosmetic as approach.  Babs suddenly looked youthful again, and she was given a bold new costume and art direction, the latter of which was another primary feature of DCYou.  This issue features a different redesigned member of the Batman family, namely Batman himself, or rather Commissioner Batman, James Gordon.  Y'know, Batgirl's dad.  Commissioner Batman was also a bold creative left turn, always meant to be temporary.  It was only fitting for Batman and Batgirl to team up during this era, so I'm glad it happened.

Batman #457 (DC)
(from December 1990)

Ah!  This was Tim Drake's costumed debut!  Tim Drake, otherwise known as the third Robin, after Dick Grayson and Jason Todd.  In the Rebirth era, continued efforts to distinguish Tim led to his "death" in Detective Comics, as part of the Oz arc that eventually revealed the mystery figure to be Superman's dad Jor-El.  Tim was originally designed to be a dynamic new Robin, a faithful partner of Batman in standing with tradition, but "Knightfall" and its aftermath actually shoved him into full-fledged independence.  He eventually assumed the mantle of Red Robin in an ode to Kingdom Come, even wearing the same costume Dick does in that comic.  In the New 52, even though he was the first Robin to have his own ongoing series, Tim had to make do with leading the Teen Titans while Dick starred in Nightwing and then Grayson, and Jason in Red Hood and the Outlaws while Batman's kid Damian Wayne costarred in Batman and Robin.  For a generation of Robin fans, Tim Drake is the Boy Wonder, so this is a landmark issue.  It's the first time the traditional costume gets a complete overhaul, too!

Captain America #698 (Marvel)
(from April 2018)

Okay, so this one's pretty recent, a victim of a cover tear and subsequent banishment to the cheap bin.  I love that stuff!  This is one of Mark Waid's early comics in the post-Secret Empire revival, Marvel's effort to redeem the character after spending roughly a year with him operating as a natural born agent of Hydra.  Waid kicks off an arc where Cap wakes up after having been frozen again, with America in the grip of tyranny.  Only Captain America can save the day!  Ironically!

Earth 2 #25 (DC)
(from September 2014)

After James Robinson set up the concept, Tom Taylor took over and got to use versions of Superman and Batman.  I loved the New 52 Earth 2.  The Society continuation wrapped up in the early days of the Rebirth era, but at that point really only the DC office cared, which was too bad.  The Earth 2 Batman was actually Thomas Wayne!  I don't know if this was inspired by the Flashpoint Batman, but it was fun to see DC revive the idea in some fashion.  Obviously Batman couldn't dominate the title, even if he makes the cover this issue, at least the Batman 75th Anniversary edition.  Because the issue also features Val-Zod, the Earth 2 Superman, finally decide to embrace being Superman, so he rates the standard cover.
And there he is!  Both the Earth 2 Batman and Earth 2 Superman had unique costume variants on the classic templates.  Thomas Wayne Batman had red where Bruce Wayne typically has white, and Val-Zod sports silver where Clark Kent has red, with a red substitute as the field behind the s-shield.  As events later developed, neither Thomas Wayne nor Val-Zod were adequate substitutes for the icons who died in the first issue, but Dick Grayson later assumes the mantle of Batman in Convergence and Earth 2: Society, marking a true progression in the lineage he only gets to temporarily fulfill in regular continuity.

The Flash #48 (DC)
(from March 1991)

With no offense to William Messner-Loebs (help him here!), Wally West didn't properly become the Flash until Mark Waid started writing him.  That may have something to do with the fact that I was introduced to Wally as Flash by Waid's comics.  So I like to look into Messner-Loebs' work when I get the chance.  Among the interesting guest-stars this issue include Elongated Man Ralph Dibney (as a Flash continuity nerd it's surprising that Waid never got around to that) and a severely aged Vandal Savage (really want to read that next issue now!).  Plus Wally learning new things about his mom.  Waid was definitely part of the mythology movement that came to dominate DC, whereas Messner-Loebs embodied the more grounded ideas of the receding era that came before it.  It's not surprising their takes on Wally were different. 

Gotham Academy #7 (DC)
(from August 2015)

Batman tends to dominate DC's publishing schedule, as he's been their most consistent seller for...fifty years?  That's about right.  So that gives him a lot of sway, and gives creators a lot of space to play in.  This concept takes place in Gotham but doesn't necessarily involve Batman, although I chose this particular issue because it features his kid, Damian Wayne.  At this point, really only Grant Morrison and Pete Tomasi had written Damian, so this was an opportunity for a fresh set of eyes.  The result is a much softer version, which stands to reason, as Gotham Academy was itself a much more kid-friendly Batman comic.

Grayson #11 (DC)
(from October 2015)
It's sometimes easy to assume Tom King ended up getting the Batman assignment because of DC's respect for his Omega Men, but it's really down to his work on Grayson, where he got to explore the Batman landscape with a writing partner (Tim Seeley, who later built on Grayson's legacy with his Nightwing Rebirth material).  And King even had Mikel Janin on art!  Janin later proved to be a signature collaborator in the pages of Batman, too, of course, which makes it all the more obvious how important Grayson was for both their careers.  This issue, with a typically fantastic cover from Janin, helps the title reach a culmination of the Spyral arc it continued from Grant Morrison's Batman Incorporated (first volume).  Really, even I sometimes underestimate the importance of this groundwork material for King.  Someday I hope to read the complete run, add it to my King collection.  I have pretty much everything else already.

The Adventures of Superman Annual #3 (DC)
(from 1991)

The Armageddon 2001 annuals arc was one of the early themed events DC did that helped set the precedent for what it would later make an annual tradition in the New 52.  In fact, this particular arc is not all that different from Futures End, a kind of fast-forward.  Waverider, a character who could really use a revival, peers into the future of every hero trying to determine who becomes the villainous Monarch.  DC lore has it that it was originally intended to be Captain Atom, who in fact does become a different Monarch years later in the pages of Extreme Justice, but in the meantime it was switched to Hawk of Hawk & Dove (soon to appear on television!).  At any rate, it was never going to be Superman, right?  This issue instead focuses on the then-recent introduction of Maxima as an alien who fancies Superman to be her ideal mate.  Ah...they're later in Dan Jurgens' Justice League together! 

Adventures of Superman #632 (DC)
(from November 2004)

There's a number of things Greg Rucka is known for in his first run with DC (Wonder Woman, Gotham Central chief among them, and eventually Batwoman), but writing Superman isn't one of them.  And yet here he is!  There are two things to know about the issue: one is that Lois has been shot and is possibly dying (hindsight says probably not), and that Ruin is trying to become the next great Superman villain (hindsight says probably not, possibly owing to the fact that he's basically Lex Luthor).  Please also note Paul Pelletier on art!

Marvel Knights: X-Men #5 (Marvel)
(from May 2014)

Industry observers hailed Marvel Knights, along with the Ultimate line, to be one of Marvel's creative saviors in the early millennium.  Somewhere along the way both of them petered out, the Ultimate comics with a bang, the Knights with a whimper.  This is one of those projects that just kind of happened.  It's an ambitious attempt by new creators to give the X-Men new creative relevance (which was the Knights mandate as a whole) without necessarily reinventing the wheel.  Maybe the results this time were a little too woolly to stick the landing, too caught up with the emerging indy aesthetic Marvel would come to try and embrace across its line.  So it didn't really stick out.  But for an X-Men comic it still looks unique.  I think the problem mostly was that it tried to introduce new characters but didn't trust them to guide the story.  The X-Men gained new life when new characters started guiding the story.  Maybe time to try that again?

Reading Comics 218 "Reading the Free Comics from FCBD 2018"

I never did get around to offering my thoughts on all the free comics I got on Free Comic Book Day this year.  Here we go!

Avengers/Captain America (Marvel)
This one previews Jason Aaron's Avengers as well as Ta-Nehisi Coates' Captain America.  Amusingly or not, but Aaron's idea closely parallels the Justice League movie, that same basic parallel it shared with Lord of the Rings, an alliance between disparate factions in the past to achieve an impossible goal that needs to be repeated in the present.  (I don't care what anyone says, I dig the Justice League movie.)  Coates, as always, leans pretty heavily into rhetoric you either agree with or don't, with hardcore American figures depicted as the bad guys.  I never understood how Marvel could've turned Captain America, of all people, into someone who represented anything less than the American ideal.  I get that the popular consensus turned toward cynicism in the Vietnam era, and that Captain America subsequently became a symbol of distrust in government, frequently on the run from the government, most recently in the original Civil War event and its movie version.  But shouldn't he also be capable of depicting a transcendence of such divisive thought?  Wasn't that the point of realizing Secret Empire probably went too far?  I don't know...

Barrier #1 (Image)
The latest concept from Brian K. Vaughan has had trouble connecting with readers since its FCBD preview.  A lot of them think the concept may just be too on-the-nose.  Vaughan attempts to tackle the current immigration troubles by bringing literal aliens into the picture.  He uses Spanish for half of the narrative to drive home his point, without translation, hoping the landscape format and Marcos Martin on art and the by-now trademark Image coloring filter will help sell everything.  What he doesn't seem to realize that all his biggest hits (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Runaways, Saga) have always depended on a sensational concept with strong lead characters to anchor them.  If he attempts to forge ahead without first establishing the appeal of the characters, above and beyond concept, he's always going to have a problem.

Marvel Rising #0
This one wasn't really a FCBD release, but it was still free.  Devin Grayson has finally staged her full-time comeback.  She's been drafted into writing girl comics since she started working on it, and that's what we have here, another extension of the G. Willow Wilson/Ms. Marvel era.  I think Grayson has much greater potential than being pigeonholed like this, and I wish Marvel would figure out how to do Ms. Marvel-inspired comics without trying so desperately to outright duplicate Wilson's comics.  But it's still nice to have Grayson back.

Maxwell's Demons #1 (Vault)
This was by far my biggest disappointment from FCBD 2018.  I know writer Deniz Camp from the MillarWorld forums.  He's a big Grant Morrison fan.  Maxwell's Demons is clearly his attempt to write a Grant Morrison comic.  But he's no Grant Morrison.  Sometimes there's a huge difference between being someone's fan and being able to emulate them.   There's a ton that goes into being Grant Morrison.  There's his many inspirations, his background, his early efforts, and how all of that combined to creating someone who thoroughly understands storytelling, even if it sometimes overwhelms readers.  In fact, if you really wanted to emulate Morrison, it isn't really a style but the idea of being so thoroughly immersed in a concept that it will overwhelm readers.  All Camp has is trotting after style.  When I first heard the title of the series, I hated it.  Apparently it plays off a philosophical concept.  But it still makes a lousy title for a comic.  I don't mean to bag on Camp.  I would strongly suggest he go back to the drawing board, come up with his own style, figure out what a Deniz Camp story looks like.  This is something he'd likely resent.  He's got a lot of people who've told him his current results are fantastic.  People lie. 

The Amazing Spider-Man/Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel)
Nick Spencer, hoping everyone quickly forgets the controversies of Secret Empire and how long Dan Slott wrote Spider-Man, previews his run by getting Peter Parker acquainted with his new roommate...the supervillain Boomerang.  There's also an outline of various Guardians of the Galaxy happenings.  For me it was a fun read, but other fans found an outline to be disappointing.

Starburns Presents #1 (SBI Press)
"Starburns" is a reference to Community, now Dan Harmon's second most famous cult creation, after Rick & Morty.  Given that comics came up as part of Community's vast tapestry of quirk, it seems inevitable that Harmon eventually got into them.  I had to see the results.  He and other creators, including Patton Oswalt, deliver what's essentially an underground comics anthology.  I guess that about tracks.

Baby Teeth #1 (Aftershock)
This one was one of the bonus freebies from a prior freebie event, in this instance Halloween ComicFest 2017.  Donny Cates is one of those writers who emerged after I stopped being able to read comics widely, so I never really got to experience him despite seeing his name referenced repeatedly.  Aftershock as a company has sort of been trying to become the new Image, but Baby Teeth sort of reads like a Vertigo comic, which I guess is appropriate, as Image turned into Vertigo after backing off superheroes...

Batman: Halloween ComicFest #1 (DC)
From the same ComicFest as the above, this one's a reprint of Batman #7, an issue written by Steve Orlando rather than Tom King, part of the "Night of the Monster Men" crossover event.

Hellboy and the BPRD 1953 (Dark Horse)
Another Halloween ComicFest 2017 comic.  Mike Mignola didn't just create Hellboy, he created a whole landscape, and a distinct genre of comics, and that's clear every time I read something from it.  I don't think I'd want to read it all the time, but it's always fun to dabble.

Injustice 2 (DC)
This is another freebie unrelated to FCBD, or any other specific event, just promotional material for the Injustice games and comics. 

Lady Mechanika Halloween ComicFest 2017
Joe Benitez is one of the early millennial Big Two creators who opted to go their own way.  He eventually struck on this self-published creation, which shares a lot in common with Mignola's Hellboy, and has been developing a similar cult status. 

Runaways #1 (Marvel)
Another Halloween ComicFest 2017 entry, this one reprints the first issue of Brian K. Vaughan's Runaways, the innovate title that saw young heroes emerge from the shadow of their supervillain parents.  Like the Young Avengers, the Runaways have struggled to move on from their high profile origins, which is kind of a shame.  Probably because it's hard finding the true standouts when you launch a whole team of new characters without singling out a lead character in advance.  For the Young Avengers, it turned out to be Kate Bishop's Hawkeye.   These guys?

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Mirror Broken (IDW)
This is a FCBD comic, but from 2017 rather than 2018.  I wish IDW had been able to maintain its tight creative focus from its first years publishing Star Trek comics.  Over time that focus slipped.  When I first heard there was going to be a Next Generation Mirror Universe comic, I immediately slapped my forehead; we know what this era of the Mirror Universe looks like, thanks to Deep Space Nine, and there really isn't much room for the classic Mirror Universe in it.  Humans have basically become outlaws and slaves.  Mirror Broken skirts this by suggesting there was some kind of Imperial remnant cut off from the rest of the galaxy.  But it feels like an excuse; this comic is clearly written to evoke the "Mirror, Mirror" concept rather than the greater Mirror Universe. 

Star Wars: Darth Maul (Marvel)
Another Halloween ComicFest 2017 comic, it features the dude who officially marked his return in Solo: A Star Wars Story (predated by the Clone Wars cartoons).  This comic uneasily attempts to reconcile the Darth Maul who serves Palpatine with a self-determined dude.

Star Wars Reads (Marvel)
A standalone free preview of various Marvel Star Wars comics.  It didn't take long for Marvel to try and add a major new character of its own to the saga.  But I still have no idea why I should care about Doctor Aphra.  Here she references that she used to work for Vader.  Don't really know how to take that.

The Mighty Thor #1 (Marvel)
One last comic, one last entry from Halloween ComicFest 2017, featuring classic reprint material from Walt Simonson.

Back Issue Bin 121 "DC 3-Packs Again"

As far as I can tell, DC quit its Walmart 3-pack initiative  sometime last year.  I kept hoping to find new packs, but they were eventually outright pulled from the shelves at my local store, only to recently resurface, all the familiar stock they had the last time the packs were available.  I figured I'd pick some of those up just for argument's sake.  Three more packs, nine comics, here's the results:

Batman #1 (Batman #9)
This is the start of Tom King's second arc, "I Am Suicide," and I really don't mind reading it again, as it's a great issue, a walkthrough of his recruits for a private Suicide Squad including Ventriloquist, Bronze Tiger, Punch & Jewlee, and Catwoman.  The issue holds a lot of nice little tidbits, including one of King's early Kite Man appearances, not to mention a direct reference to "War of Jokes and Riddles" (at that point two arcs away), an appearance by a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes (probably) locked up in Arkham, and of course the start of King's Catwoman arc, where readers were initially shocked to learn she was suddenly a mass murderer.  Of course, we later learn that she was covering for a friend, Holly Robinson, which itself becomes a running subplot.  The Legion arc is still a ways away, as evidenced by several months worth of advance solicitations here in 2018 still yet to feature a follow-up, not to mention that "Suicide" is also part of King's long-term plans for Gotham Girl, which likewise have seen no advancement with the focus shifting to Batman's upcoming nuptials to Catwoman.  "Suicide" was the start of Bane's appearances in the series, so far culminating in the later "I Am Bane" arc.  "Suicide" also features King's addition to Batman's origin that the young Bruce Wayne was in fact suicidal prior to making his vow of a war on crime.  This arc was actually the start of massive complaints against King's Batman, which have never affected sales.  I don't really get readers not appreciating all this, especially with such a strong kickoff.  Too many readers, I think, don't let the work carry its obvious momentum.  Then again, there are plenty of readers who do.  The wedding is a clear lure, and buzz is crucial for all forms of popular entertainment, usually crushing any immediate backlash.  And hopefully in the future all this will be duly appreciated for the landmark work it is.

I'm not sure whether this is the first time I've obtained the Walmart variant (minus the "I Am Suicide" arc dressing in the Rebirth banner, and the numbering as indicated), but it's at least the third time I've read the issue, including the original publication and the later I Am Suicide collection.

Batman/Superman #31
(from July 2016)

Part of Pete Tomasi's "Final Days of Superman," what turned out to be a New 52 Death of Superman arc, far less heralded in the media than the 1992 version. 

Bizarro #3
(from October 2015)

A humor title launched in the DCYou initiative inspired by the success of "the Batgirl of Burnside" and coinciding with, among other things, the launch of King's Omega Men.

Convergence: Harley Quinn #2
(from July 2015)

I loved Convergence as an event.  Turns out the whole idea was probably executed mostly to help DC move to California with minimal publication disruption (insofar as material was still be released, just not regular series material) for a couple of months.  Captain Carrot appears here, part of an unlikely revival for the character that included appearances in Grant Morrison's Multiversity.  The Divergence title previewed in the issue is Garth Ennis's Section Eight.  I remain uninterested in Garth Ennis comics.

Infinity Man and the Forever People: Futures End
(from November 2014)

This is another 3-pack alum I suspect I've gotten before but not in the past half-year.  Anyway, as with all Futures End specials, its story jumps five years into the future but not necessarily related to the events of the weekly Futures End itself.  Beautiful Dreamer finds herself cursed to try and escape the pain of the team's destruction.  With the right creative approach, all of Jack Kirby's New Gods concepts could have massive breakout appeal, including the Forever People.  I'm glad DC keeps plugging away at its periodic attempts.

Batman and the Justice League: Outbreak #1 (Justice League #10)

The lead comics in these packs all had altered covers to varying degrees.  Many of them were calculated to broaden their appeal, hence the League lining up with Batman's popularity.  This was part of Bryan Hitch's run, which recently came to an end in favor of Scott Snyder's revival.  Hitch was good for fairly standard League material, but the outsize quality Grant Morrison popularized and DC keeps chasing is definitely something Snyder is interested in delivering.  The whole Dark Nights: Metal event turned out to be a League story, demonstrating how wild they can be. 

Red Hood and the Outlaws #34
(from October 2014)

Scott Lobdell's work in this series and its sequels has never gotten the respect its due, mainly because of Kenneth Rocafort's early artwork, his depiction of Starfire, which was part of the renewed culture wars we're still enjoying today.  This later issue is a Starfire spotlight (no Rocafort in sight), featuring her backstory of having once been a slave. 

Swamp Thing #37
(from February 2015)

I've been amazed to find Charles Soule's reputation evaporate so quickly during his tenure at Marvel; at DC he'd been considered one of the fastest rising stars in comics, thanks in part to stuff like his Swamp Thing.  This issue features the birth of the Machine Queen, part of the tapestry of kingdoms that was the focus of the New 52 Swamp King mythology.  A lot of fans seem to have been turned off by the kingdom concept in the Dark titles, especially the "Rotworld" crossover arc and related material, thinking it took up too much attention.  But I consider focus to be a good thing, putting things into perspective, and I find the kingdoms fascinating.  I'm often at odds with the logic of other fans...

Batman: Trinity #1 (Trinity #1)

Here was the last of the headlining acts, as evidenced by the variable title.  This was, aside from all other considerations, the launch of Francis Manapul's title focusing on Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, offering his insights into their character at the start of the Rebirth era, all of them still trying to make sense of Superman's new status quo.  While Manapul's art had apparently once again begun to evolve, it's still his recognizable hopeful style, "hopeful" insofar as it invites the reader in as a friend of these characters, which is always, for me, a good thing.

Unless new packs appear, I think I'm probably done buying these things.  Fun ride while it lasted.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Adjusted Box Office

Recently I got into the whole concept of the adjusted box office as a window into comparative popularity between eras.  I thought it'd be fun to see what that looks like for DC's and Marvel's movies.  Box Office Mojo's got a list I'll draw on,  This will be an incomplete list. (Numbering indicates where it falls on the list as of 6/5/18; M = millions)

29. Marvel's The Avengers (2012)
($623M unadjusted)
Surprisingly the first big MCU culmination point is still the most successful.

30. Black Panther (2018)
Second most successful is this surprise breakout from earlier in the year.

32. The Dark Knight (2008)
($534M unadjusted)
Christopher Nolan's second Batman flick casts a very long shadow.

38. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The fourth most successful is the second big MCU culmination point.

40. Spider-Man (2002)
($403M unadjusted)
Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man set the tone for wide superhero acceptance.

55. Batman (1989)
($251M unadjusted)
Tim Burton made it okay to like superheroes again, and even to take them seriously njow and again.

62. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
($373M unadjusted)
A lot of fans still consider this the perfect superhero sequel.

70. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
($448M unadjusted)
Nolan's third Batman flick is not as often seen that way.

72. Superman (1978)
($134M unadjusted)
For at least a decade, the completely unchallenged king of superhero movies.

96. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
($459M unadjusted)
It's in the adjusted results you see how this one earned its reputation as a disappointment.

112. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
($336M unadjusted)
You can see the hierarchy of popularity, and unpopularity, begin to form at this point.

113. Iron Man 3 (2013)
($409M unadjusted)
And you can see what fans don't want to admit, too.

123. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
($408M unadjusted)
It always surprises me to see this one considered in divisive terms; guess it shouldn't.

127. Wonder Woman (2017)
($412M unadjusted)
The most successful of the DCEU movies.

140. Iron Man (2008)
($318M unadjusted)
Is it surprising that the first, breakthrough film in the MCU is actually this low on the list?

148. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
($389M unadjusted)
Unadjusted it looks like the Guardians are massive successes.  Adjusted?  Not as much.

161. Batman Forever (1995)
($184M unadjusted)
The adjusted results give Schumacher's first Batman a big bounce over the unadjusted results versus Burton's second.

162. Deadpool (2016)
($363M unadjusted)
The bigger surprise than Iron Man is this one.

172. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
($333M unadjusted)
You can see the cult level emerge around here.

189. Iron Man 2 (2010)
($312M unadjusted)
Ironically one of the least popular MCU entries lands here.

195. Batman Returns (1992)
($162M unadjusted)
Burton with his natural instincts unleashed definitely feels right to be described at the cult level.

198. Superman II (1981)
($108M unadjusted)
"Kneel before Zod" feels right at cult level.

202. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
($330M unadjusted)
Once the hysteria of comparing MCU to DCEU subsides, cult status seems just about right for this one.

204. Suicide Squad (2016)
($325M unadjusted)
Same as above.

214. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
($334M unadjusted)
The third cinematic Spider-Man seems less impressive this way.

229. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
($234M unadjusted)
Especially when you realize we're reaching unpopular territory.

231. X2: X-Men United (2003)
($214M unadjusted)
The truth is, no X-Men movie has ever been a huge draw.

234. Man of Steel (2013)
($291M unadjusted)
The first DCEU movie landed poorly.

245. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
($315M unadjusted)
Watching this one in theaters I was really convinced it would spark a backlash against the MCU; looking at this ranking I'm still surprised it didn't.

255. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
($262M unadjusted)
The first of the two movies featuring the second Spider-Man, for comparison with the above statement.

276. Batman Begins (2005)
($206M unadjusted)
Here's where it really looks fascinating.  Nolan's first Batman was considered a return to form, but it really wasn't, as far as real money was concerned.

292. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
($259M unadjusted)
One of the great ironies of the MCU is that it's built on relatively unpopular movies.

I could dig around for a more complete list, but this is a pretty good survey as it is.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

FCBD 2018

Another Free Comic Book Day has come and gone, and I got to participate again, visiting a couple shops here in sunny Tampa.  The first was Nerd Out Comics, my first visit there, and then Comics & Stuff, where I've been a number of times since last fall.  I was there for Nerd Out's opening, a little past Comics & Stuff's, and both were very different from what I've come to know over the years on FCBD.  No cosplay!  I've seen that in Colorado and Maine.  No lines.  I've seen that everywhere!  So a lot of the essential comics chatter was missing, congregating, an "event feel."  There were certainly people who showed up, and I wasn't there for too long at either just felt more subdued, so that was weird. 

I picked up two comics (the limit) at Nerd Out, and four at Comics & Stuff (the limit).  But despite the negative(ish) takeaways I've mentioned, Nerd Out managed to surprise me with something new!  They had not one but two tables, outside their shop, one for the 2018 FCBD comics and...leftover freebies from past FCBDs, Halloween ComicFest, and assorted other releases.  That was awesome!  Picked up ten additional comics that way, plus one for my niece.  Also bought ten dollar comics there, because I love rifling through cheapy bins.

Of the 2018 material, this is what I scored:
  • Avengers/Captain America (Marvel) Spotlighting Jason Aaron's new Avengers comic and Ta-Nehisi Coates' new Captain America.
  • Barrier (Image) New from Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin.
  • Marvel Rising (Marvel) Not actually a FCBD release, but I still scooped it up, as it was free, and Devin Grayson material!
  • Maxwell's Demons (Vault) I spend a lot of time at the MillarWorld forums these days, and so I knew about this comic from MillarWorld Annual 2016 winner Deniz Camp (he wrote the Starlight short).  It was one of my targets, so I scooped it up at Nerd Out.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel) Featuring Nick Spencer's new Amazing Spider-Man.
  • Starburns Presents (SBI Press) Dan Harmon, currently best known for Rick & Morty, was previously best known for Community, where one of the recurring background characters was a dude named Starburns.  So that's the secret origin of that.  This was my other target.  Because of the 2 comic limit at Nerd Out, I missed out on Valiant's Shadowman, as Comics & Stuff didn't have it.
Lots of Marvel, yeah.  While I may not be a Marvel diehard, FCBD has been pretty good for Marvel material over the years, including how I ended up experiencing the start of Civil War II, which is still one of my favorite recent comics memories.  Hopefully some good reading material in this lot!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Reading Comics 217 "DC Essential Graphic Novels 2018"

DC's been putting together Essential Graphic Novel guides for a number of years now, freebie catalogs that are the next evolution of the lists they've been making for years now.  Here's what they're currently listing as the 25 Essential Graphic Novels:

Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench
Geoff Johns produced the material that saw Aquaman once and for elevated to movie star status, and clearly that's why this collection is included. 

Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls
I may not always be enamored of Scott Snyder's work, but he's clearly energized both fans and DC in general in ways that have been seldom experienced, and his Batman was the most consistently embraced facet of the New 52 era.

Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham
Readers may be gobbling up Tom King's comics, but so far DC's found it elusive to find that universal praise it keeps hyping.  It may be a matter of time before King's Batman work is dropped from these lists in favor of his Mister Miracle.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Frank Miller's enduring legacy, even while his other seminal works begin to fall by the wayside.  Fans might have begun questioning even this, based on sour memories of some of the sequel material, but the recent DK3: The Master Race seems to have begun mitigating that.

Batman: The Dark Knight - The Master Race

Batman: Hush
Jeph Loeb's most enduring work is this bombastic collaboration with Jim Lee. 

Batman: The Killing Joke
If it were up to me, this one would be dropped from the canon.  I realize Moore's importance to superhero comics, but with Barbara Gordon officially not being depicted as paralyzed, a huge piece of its legacy has been removed, and all we have are an argument that it's the perfect Joker story, and that it's built around him doing a truly unnecessarily and truly uncharacteristic crime against Babs.

Batman: The Long Halloween
Loeb and Tim Sale established an enduring collaboration, although it seems to have collapsed over the years back to Long Halloween itself.

Batman: Year One
Frank Miller's origin story remains the most artful.

Batman Adventures: Mad Love Deluxe Edition
The more Harley Quinn goes mainstream, the longer she extends the legacy of Batman: The Animated Series.

Dark Knight: A True Batman Story
Paul Dini's harrowing account of recovery from a vicious mugging has given DC an interesting new way to celebrate Batman.

DC Super Hero Girls: Finals Crisis
A concession to young reader accessibility.  Highly unlikely to have a long shelf-life.

DC Universe: Rebirth
Johns keeps getting shuffled in his lasting contributions, but this is hugely relevant to the modern comics, so of course it's listed.

The Flash Vol. 1: Move Forward
Influential as material for the current TV show, and one of the more accessible collections for the speedster.

Identity Crisis
Brad Meltzer's hugely consequential story, I think, might one day supplant Watchmen as the seminal superhero crime saga.

Injustice: Gods Among Us:  Year One - The Complete Collection
I don't know how many readers are that beholden to these comics, but the game has become a self-sustaining pocket universe of DC lore, and so perhaps has carved out a kind of enduring legacy.  At least for now.

Justice League Vol. 1: Origin
The first collection of the Johns New 52 series, featuring Jim Lee art.  No argument here.  It's also nice to know that even though it ended up inspiring an unpopular movie (likewise called Justice League) it hasn't been dropped from the canon.

Preacher: Book One
Garth Ennis scored the biggest hit of the second wave of Vertigo comics, and the series has since been adapted into a TV show.  I may find it to be crass nonsense, but this is what appeals to people...

The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
Unlike Justice League Vol. 1 a naked bid to get readers to read the whole thing, because if they were selecting the best overall collection this wouldn't be it.  But deservedly still counted as a classic even though Neil Gaiman's legacy has begun to drift to other material.

The Sandman: Overture
As a standalone volume, even if it doesn't really reflect what was best about the original series, Overture may prove to be the easiest Sandman selling point in the future.

All-Star Superman
I find it interesting that this is what's being embraced as Grant Morrison's best work.  Personally I infinitely prefer the later New 52 Action Comics material, as far as his Superman goes.

Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman
Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason deserve their spot, though I wish it were for their superior Batman and Robin work.

V for Vendetta
Moore again, perhaps at his most pure: righteous anarchy.

The most consistently touted superhero comic of the past thirty-odd years.  I may think it's overrated, but to a lot of fans it justifies the medium, and I guess that's not a bad legacy.

Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood
Brian Azzarello's work in the title may not have proven wildly popular, but it's arguably the most respectable work Wonder Woman has ever been featured in, and so DC's right to continue plugging it.

Now, clearly, most of this list is either to promote the material due to current relevance or because of its popularity.  "Essential" doesn't necessarily equate "best of."  My essential DC material would be a best of.  To wit:

  • 52 (Not merely the best weekly series DC has published, but some of DC's best material ever, period.)
  • Air (G. Willow Wilson's best work.)
  • Animal Man: Deus Ex Machina (Grant Morrison breaks the fourth wall.)
  • Batman and Robin (Tomasi and Gleason's complete run.)
  • The Challengers of the Unknown Must Die! (Loeb and Sale's best work.)
  • Crisis On Infinite Earths (The seminal event comic.)
  • The Final Night (Kesel and Immonen's introspective event.)
  • The Flash: The Return of Barry Allen (Without Mark Waid, Flash would never have become as significant as he is today, and this is Waid's best material.)
  • Flashpoint (After Waid, this is the essential Flash comic.)
  • Geoff Johns' Green Lantern (The complete run.)
  • Joe the Barbarian (Grant Morrison's best nonsuperhero work for DC to date.)
  • Justice League Vol. 1: Origin (Johns and Lee establish a truly epic League origin.)
  • Kingdom Come (Waid and Ross's epic vision of the future.)
  • The Multiversity (Morrison's most epic superhero vision to date.)
  • The Omega Men (Tom King's best work to date.)
  • The Sandman (Arguably the best comic book ever written.)
  • Seven Soldiers of Victory (Morrison's attempt at a Jack Kirby New Gods-style epic.)
  • Sheriff of Babylon (Tom King's second best work to date.)
  • Superboy and the Ravers (As-yet uncollected work of teenage comics genius.)
  • The Death of Superman (The most important in-continuity comic ever.)
  • Superman: End of the Century (Stuart Immonen's vision of Superman, concise.)
  • Grant Morrison's Action Comics (His best Superman.)
  • Superman: American Alien (Max Landis's Superman origin.)
  • New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (Wolfman and Perez make the Titans cool.)
  • Before Watchmen: Comedian (This is better.)