Sunday, October 9, 2016

Reading Comics 199 "What I've been reading lately"

This is just a quick look at what I've been reading the last month or so.  Expanded thoughts will probably follow later...

  • 18 Days #13-14 (Graphic India)
  • Atomic Robo: The Temple of Od #2 (IDW)
  • Avatarex #2 (Graphic India)
  • Blackcross #6 (Dynamite)
  • Bloodshot Annual 2016 (Valiant)
  • Blue Beetle #1 (DC)
  • Civil War II #3, 4 (Marvel)
  • Civil War II: Ulysses #1 (Marvel)
  • The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Lives #1, 3, 4 (Valiant)
  • Doom Patrol #1 (DC's Young Animal)
  • Earth 2: Society #16 (DC)
  • Empress #4, 5 (Icon)
  • The Flash #5, 6, 7 (DC)
  • The Fuse #21 (Image)
  • Klaus #5, 6, 7 (Boom!)
  • Snotgirl #3 (Image)
  • Action Comics #964 (DC)
  • Trinity #1 (DC)
  • The Vision #11 (Marvel)
Lots of really interesting reading, for sure.  Got to have a look at some slightly older stuff I'd been reading and/or wanted to check out previously, plus catch up with material I'd been following all along, as well as great new stuff.  All of which helps begin to round out a very good year in comics so far!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Quarter Bin 100 "True Believers: Thor #1"

True Believers: Thor #1 (Marvel)
From November 2015/December 2014

writer: Jason Aaron

artist: Russell Dauterman

A total of twelve comics across four value packs, and I'm left with a decidedly familiar impression of Marvel: these guys just aren't for me.

I mean, I can read the odd Marvel and enjoy it quite a bit, but it just seems as a rule that I just don't get this company.  Case in point: this comic.

Like True Believers: Black Widow #1, it was a reprint of a comic that was older than I thought it was.  Unlike True Believers: Black Widow, however, True Believers: Thor #1 is the start of a bold new story, in which, in keeping with what Marvel has been doing across its line for a few years now (cue semi-appropriate comparisons to DC's Silver Age, or post-Infinite Crisis), changing identities, ethnicities, and sexes for a large portion of its heroes.  Basically, keeping the names and changing everything else.

How can you possibly do this with Thor?  A very-well-established Norse god?  Whose name is Thor, and whose secret identity is Thor?  Good question.  Jason Aaron still doesn't have an answer, by the way.

I used to be a huge fan of Jason Aaron.  Scalped was a work of genius.  I even liked his work when he started dabbling in Marvel comics.  But it just seems as if he's been totally overwhelmed in the years since, and will try anything, and take any suggestion from his bosses.  Such as turn Jane Foster into Thor.

I mean, if ye so lift the hammer Mjolnir, thy arst granted the power of Thor.  But become Thor?  Really?  This one just don't make no sense.

This issue doesn't even pretend to make sense of it.  It opens with some fairly generic action.  Then we spend some time with Thor absolutely not explaining what's going on, which sets the tone for the next several years' worth of stories.  And then a woman lifts the hammer.  Later, we find out it's Jane Foster (y'know, Natalie Portman), but this big concept debut issue just kind of has her wander in unannounced, at the end of the issue, and lift the hammer, and be transformed.

Jason Aaron supporters say it fits in perfectly with what he'd previously been doing.  Anyone else will be able to tell that he was merely fulfilling a Marvel mandate to make Thor a woman, for diversity's sake.  We've all seen superheroes undergo gimmick changes.  There's nothing inherently wrong with gimmick changes.  But Thor is Thor.  The hammer doesn't make the man.  Er, woman.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with diversity.  But there are female mythological characters you could introduce, Marvel.  Have a look around! 

It's a special kind of logic that in this form is twisted so badly, you really need to be drinking the kool-aid to appreciate it.  I'm a DC guy.  I've seen a lot of weird stuff.  But this is bad storytelling and publisher mandate taken to a whole new level.

So no, I'm not a Marvel guy.  I'm a DC guy.  And twelve random issues did absolutely nothing to change that.  More often than not, this DC guy just felt like he was being insulted as a reader.

For those wishing to keep score:
  • True Believers: Black Widow #1 - fail
  • Captain America: White #1 - pass
  • Captain America: Sam Wilson #1 - fail
  • Hail Hydra #1 - pass
  • Hawkeye #2 - pass
  • Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 -pass/fail
  • Karnak #1 - fail
  • Nova #1 - fail
  • Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin #1 - pass
  • Star Wars: Shattered Empire #2 - pass/fail
  • Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde #1 - pass
  • True Believers: Thor #1 - fail
That's 5 fails, 5 passes, and 2 that are somewhere in-between.  You'd think that would equate a fairly mixed bag, but batting .500 in this instance is not good.  The fails are epic.  The passes in large part exemplify what it is to be Marvel, indicating the very kind of insular reasoning Marvel fans are always accusing DC of implementing.  I don't know.  Maybe it's confirmation bias.  Maybe twelve random comics was too large a sampling.  Maybe I just take this stuff too seriously.  Maybe I'm too close to DC to judge it the same way.  I mean, I tend to read what I like (which any sane person would do), and if that seems like a much larger percentage at DC than Marvel, again, that just goes to prove that I read DC more than I read Marvel.  These were twelve random comics.  I was pleasantly surprised a few times.  That's a good thing, right?  And again, I've deliberately sought out and enjoyed plenty of Marvel over the years, some of which is reflected in this very sampling. 

The object lesson here is, I should quit trying to make this so hard.  I like comics.  All comics follow peculiar logic.  All stories do.  I'm not going to like all of it.  That's it.  The end.  Nod, nod.  Wink, wink.  Say no more...

Monday, October 3, 2016

Quarter Bin 99 "Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde #1"

Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde #1 (Marvel)
From September 2015

writer: Sam Humphries

artist: Alti Firmansyah

The benefit of all the Secret Wars nuttiness is that it opened opportunities for some unexpectedly good storytelling.  I mean, the best thing to come out of Secret Wars was definitely the Secret Wars version of a sequel to Civil War, but there was other good stuff, too, even stuff that fully embraced the nuttiness, like Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde.

Listen, I had no idea these two had any kind of history together.  It probably happened when Brian Michael Bendis was writing both Guardians of the Galaxy and All-New X-Men.  Anyway, thanks to Secret Wars nuttiness, not only do they get a reprise, but only one of them knows their history together, and Star-Lord gets to do a lot of crazy stuff along the way, too.

Such as: Calling himself Steve Rogers.  Singing Disney songs (corporate synergy, thy name is Marvel!).  Especially singing Disney songs.  Because in the reality where Star-Lord finds himself, Disney songs don't exist.  (Never mind that people usually love to hear music they already know.)

This is the kind of nuttiness that works because it thoroughly embraces its nuttiness.  Not in a Deadpool way, that doesn't take anything seriously.  Or any other wacky Marvel character currently embracing the Deadpool conceit (there's lots of them, folks).  No, this is good old-fashioned storytelling.

And I'm absolutely not surprised to see Sam Humphries writing it.  Granted, my experience with Humphries is still fairly limited and recent, but this totally makes sense as a Sam Humphries project.  He may vary considerably in tone, but the Humphries pattern begins to emerge: he totally embraces whatever it is he's writing.  This is a very, very good thing.

Even when it's complete nuttiness.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Quarter Bin 98 "Star Wars: Shattered Empire #2"

Star Wars: Shattered Empire #2 (Marvel)
From December 2015

writer: Greg Rucka

artist: Marco Checchetto, Angel Unzueta, Emilio Laiso

Thanks to a deliberate purchase and then an incidental one (in one of those convenient packs this issue also came from) of the first issue, I know how this mini-series began, twice, but until now hadn't read further into the story.  Finally!

Shattered Empire is part of the new initiative that replaces all the other stories that tried to flesh out what happened after Return of the Jedi.  In fact, Shattered Empire starts immediately at the end of Return of the Jedi, with the parents of The Force Awakens character Poe Dameron participating in the Battle of Endor.

That's all well and good.  Greg Rucka usually writes strong female characters, and so his focus is squarely on Poe's mum, Shara.  This issue she's drafted to escort Princess Leia to Naboo.  Yes, this is a story that not only takes the prequels seriously, but remembers that Leia's mum was Queen Amidala.  I like the prequels.  I like stories that make nice logical connections, too.

The part of this comic that doesn't work nearly as well for me is the Emperor having a fail-safe program that's more or less a complete duplicate of Order 66, which indicates to all surviving Imperial forces that they must eradicate the Rebellion.  Listen, if this had been remotely possible, that would've happened well before the events depicted in A New Hope.  It's this very kind of shoddy storytelling that the Disney canon was theoretically envisioned to replace.

Frankly, I'm surprised to see someone like Rucka participating in it.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Quarter Bin 97 "Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin #1"

Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin #1 (Marvel)
From March 2016

writer: Charles Soule

artist: Marco Checcetto

Charles Soule, otherwise known as one of my favorite new writers of the past few years, very easily.  I was crushed when he left DC for Marvel, but relieved when I saw him work on quality projects at his new home, including the excellent Lando Calrissian mini-series.  So here he is again, bringing his trademark grasp of character back to Star Wars and...characters as depicted and depicted in the prequel era???

The horror!  Except for someone like me, who inexplicably likes the prequels, and is happy that not only is Marvel dipping its toes into those waters, but allowing someone the caliber of Soule to not only do it for them, but do it brilliantly.

As if there was ever any doubt.

The relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker is one of the most important ones in all of Star Wars lore.  Their hellacious fight in Revenge of the Sith was long a part of franchise legend, even before the movie ever existed, and its sequel in A New Hope leant the very first movie considerable emotional depth.  And yet, their relationship was otherwise one of friendship.  Obi-Wan was the one person, besides Padme, who took Anakin seriously, warts and all.  So Soule can be comfortable allowing Anakin to voice the same kinds of doubts and theories that would lead to Darth Vader we'd previously only seen between him and Padme, and Obi-Wan accept it in stride.

The best part, the big twist, of this issue however, is the Jedi ending up on a world that has no place for their kind, and in fact has no idea what a Jedi even is.  It's an irony that the Jedi-heavy prequels alienated fans, while the Jedi-light originals, and The Force Awakens, have been such fan-favorites.  One would almost venture to assume that it's Jedi the fans don't like.  They like their lone wolves, thank you very much. 

So putting a couple of prequel-era characters into a situation ripe for that kind of storytelling is yet another sign of Soule's genius.  I love that guy.  He might actually get some readers to be okay with the prequels.  Such a feat is worthy of a Jedi.