Daredevil Lost and Confused Amid Numerous Superfluous Relaunches Like Some Blind Dude Alone in a Secluded Forest

Aaaaaand here we go: the Marvel hype machine prevails again. First it was announced that Daredevil would be ending in February and replaced by some stupid fuckstick cybercomic. And of course, that got my–and many others’–blood boiling. But now today, it’s been announced that additionallyDaredevil will also be relaunched… as a comic!

Yup. As a very stupid man once said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well… heh, ain’t gonna fool me again.” Unfortunately, I and many others like me were the fools in this scenario, for believing Marvel would actually end its print edition of Matt Murdock’s misadventures. Yeah, we got fooled–but it was Marvel who’s guilty of jerking us around. Why bother announcing the end of the comic, its subsequent replacement by an interwebs version, watch everyone get all pissed off and reactionary, and then smooth things over by announcing a relaunch? Oh, wait. That was the point.

Marvel has become evil geniuses when it comes to self-promotion. Whipping up this frenzy over the DD cancellation and deliberately waiting to announce they were playing with our emotions (Smokey) the whole time is, while ultimately very shitty, pretty crafty marketing. Because it means they not only knew fandom would get pissed off, they were banking on it. The question now is: with the ruse exposed, is this going to have any impact on either the relaunched comic or the cyber version? Sadly, the answer is, probably not. Sure, it would be nothing short of astounding if fandom collectively reared up and boycotted Daredevil to teach Marvel an abject lesson for treating them so callously. But it won’t happen, because as I’ve stated before, most of us comic fans are creatures of habit. We might bitch and moan about this, that, or the other when it comes to our favorite characters, but at the end of the day that’s not going to stop us from buying their comical books so we can get a taste of their latest adventure.

It’s a sad state of affairs, but y’know what? I can’t say for sure I won’t be there lined up in March for the latest issue of Daredevil myself. It is, unfortunately, the nature of the beast. And Marvel knows this, and that’s why their callous marketing tactics work.

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Does StormWatch’s Cancellation FINALLY Mean the Death of WildStorm?

And so it came to pass that DC announced the cancellation of StormWatch, the final New 52 book to bear any ties to Jim Lee’s WildStorm Univese of old. After VoodooGrifterTeam 7, and the kinda-sorta WildStorm-ish book The Ravagers all folded, StormWatch was the last man standing. And now it’s closing up shop, too.

But really, who CARES?

Here’s the thing – the WildStorm universe, by its very design, was very ’90s, very Image-y, if you will, by its very nature. The characters were all cool badasses who did cool things, spouted cool one-liners, and did it all while looking cool. And for a time in the ’90s, this was more than enough for a two key segments of fandom: teenage boys who didn’t know any better, and bubble-minded collectors who neither knew no better nor gave a shit either way so long as these “hot” new collectibles became valuable someday. Go back and read your Gen 13, your pre-Alan Moore WildCATs, your Grifter comics. Though not as offensively bad as Liefeld’s output (then or now), they simply AREN’T well-written because, as was the case with all things Image at that time, the writing was NOT the point. The cool art was.

And with that sort of mindset, it’s no wonder that the characters that were created during that time–though nostalgiacally relevant to some–are too thinly-defined to truly withstand the test of time. This is why, when Warren Ellis’s Authority hit it big, the entire Wildstorm line felt a shot in the arm and suddenly the entirety of its universe revolved around THAT book. The “more realistic,” pseudo-grown up version of WildStorm had arrived, and suddenly, you had the entire line being re-envisioned (check out Wildcats volumes 2 and 3 if you don’t believe me, or Brubaker/Phillips’ Sleeper). The trouble with that era of WildStorm is that the Authority’s popularity was hinged not necessarily on the thinly-veiled Justice League clones the characters were, but rather on Ellis’s and later Mark Millar’s writing. Once those writers left, the Authority was exposed as the hollow experience it truly was without a visionary writer steering them, and limped on for several more years, in numerous incarnations, a shell of itself and a sad reflection of the state of the entire Wildstorm U. Because without that book to tie its identity to, suddenly everyone realized the ’90s were long over and the Wildstorm Universe HAD no identity.

Which brings us to today, and the end of StormWatch, the final New 52 book to bear any ties to Wildstorm. Yesterday over at CBR, Robot 6 asked whether or not anyone really cares about these characters anymore. My reply: what the hell took you so long to NOTICE nobody cared?

What I’m Reading 0021: 11/17/13

A quick bit of housekeeping, before getting on to this week’s reviews: thank you to everybody, few though you are, who are supporting this blog. It takes more than a little of my time to maintain it, but doing so means a lot to me. So even though there’s relatively few people reading my words, the fact that you are is pretty awesome. Tell your comics-loving friends to check me out! Now, time for some comics reviews (which are, by the way, considerably sturdier than last week’s round of duds). And away we go….

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1. Astro City #6 (DC/Vertigo, W: Kurt Busiek, A: Brent Anderson). Meet Thatcher Jerome, the latest man on the street character to star in an issue of Astro City. Thatcher’s a nice enough guy–for a dude who does shakedowns for the mob, anyway. His beat is the riverfront, where the Ambassador’s big Ditko-esque interdimensional doorway plonked down back in issue one. Jerome, who lives by the creedo “if a door’s open, walk through it,” doesn’t hesitate to walk right up to that door and proceed to… knock politely. And then the Ambassador asks him in, and the two strike up a rather unusual business arrangement from there. What’s interesting about Thatcher is that at no point does he ever really come across as a bad guy; in fact if the comic didn’t outright say at one point that he collects for the mob, we’d have no reason to think he’s anything other than a decent, blue-collar joe. The type of guy you’d go have a beer with after a long day’s work. He’s not overly ambitious and is pretty happy with his lot in life, but his association with the Ambassador presents him with a unique opportunity to have more for himself. Will he or won’t he take the leap of faith required? Unfortunately, the story doesn’t trade too much in building tension over what decision Thatcher will come to, and that’s where this issue, solid though it is, makes a misstep: it’s so straightforward in embodying Thatcher’s personality type, it never actually amounts to any sort of drama from it. It’s humanity by the numbers; point A to point B and thank you sir that’s that. But this being Astro City, even a slightly off issue is still better than most. It’s certainly not the worst issue of this volume of AC to date; but its flatness and pro forma nature lead me to believe my initial assertion of this volume: that Busiek’s out of major ideas and this comic has overstayed its welcome. Score: 7/10.

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2. FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #5 (DC/Vertigo, W: Simon Oliver, A: Robbi Rodriguez). How the hell did Adam’s father die? Was there more to it than a simple physics accident? And what the hell’s a quantum tornado?! Good questions all, and Adam, taking a sabbatical from the FBP after the events of the book’s first arc, visits his Uncle Eli to try for some answers. Good weed, reminiscing, and a tale or two about the fateful day Adam’s father disappeared forever are all on the menu in this issue, which serves as an epilogue for the first arc. I’m really enjoying the direction this book’s taking as it builds its world. The introduction of “physics insurance” and the possibility that a company called ACI is in some way rigging the game to discredit the FBP and open up the private sector to handle physics disasters are thoughtful additions to the overall story of physics gone wild that lend a more human and political level to the story. Adam is proving to be a more nuanced character than he seemed at first; hopefully Cicero and new character Rose (introduced at the end of this issue) continue to grow as well. The flashback sequence is skillfully handled as well, showing us a time when physics breakdowns were less routine and their presence was far deadlier as a result. Vertigo has had a shot in the arm recently in terms of line-wide quality and this book has a lot to do with it. There’s no other book quite like it on the stands today, and that in and of itself is reason to check it out. Score: 8/10.

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3. The Walking Dead #116 (Image, W: Robert Kirkman, A: Charlie Adlard). No, that’s not Andrea with a pixie cut on the cover there. That’d be Holly, former girlfriend of resident badass Abraham, who was killed by the teeny-tiniest of little arrows back when this whole Negan debacle began. And guess what? Holly hasn’t forgotten that fact, although I have to confess I’d pretty much forgotten about her. Damn you, Kirkman, for introducing so many characters and having killed 75% of them! Anyway, Rick’s assault on the Saviors’ compound seems to have hit a snag as this issue begins, but Rick is able to turn that to his advantage and continues on with his plan anyway, which involves one hell of a cool strategic move that reminds us all that this book is about a world mostly populated by ZOMBIES. There’s some great action sequences, although the first of the two double-page spreads is a little superfluous (it must be noted that Kirkman LOVES his double-page spreads, regardless of whether or not they make the most sense pacing-wise). And of course, it has a guy named Jesus kicking all kinds of ass, which makes all other complaints TOTALLY worth it. Although the zombies are relatively few and far between these days, TWD is still one of the most consistently-entertaining books on the stands. You couldn’t ask for a more fun counterpoint to the dour times the TV show is currently rolling around in. Score: 9/10.

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4. All-New X-Men #18 (Marvel, W: Brian Michael Bendis, A: Stuart Immonen). It’s hard to believe that just three months ago, I was issuing a 0/10 rating to issue fifteen of this series, because this book has been given a serious shot in the arm vis-a-vis “Battle of the Atom” and this first post-issue is on FIRE. (It’s also worth mentioning that last week’s Amazing X-Men #1 had nary a mention of “Battle” despite being the first X-book to come out in its wake, whereas this issue picks up right where that crossover left off.) I thought for a second I was reading Uncanny X-Men due to the presence of Team Cyclops, but the Young X-Men’s defection to his side means that they’re the focus of this book now, and presumably Team Wolverine will take up residence in the sister book (especially now that Wolverine and the X-Men is ending in February). It’s an interesting change in dynamics, though. What that says is that this book’s stars are the Young X-Men, and whoever they happen to be hanging around at that time is entirely incidental. But we also have Kitty Pryde coming on board at Cyclops’ New Xavier School, although she suddenly seems quite non-judgemental where Cyclops’ murder of Xavier is concerned. This is quite an about-face from her position before the big team swap, and I hope it will be addressed soon. There’s all sorts of fun things to enjoy: the Young X-Men’s responses to their new home, the former headquarters of Weapon X. (“This is my room? It looks like a converted prison cell.” “That’s because it is a converted prison cell.”) Best of all, at least for old-school X-Men fans like me, there’s a great, playful sequence between Illyana and Kitty, recalling the heyday of Claremont’s mid-’80s run. It’s really nothing more than two old friends finding each other after years apart and discovering they can pick up right where they left off… but it’s great. It’s lighthearted, and reminds us that these two characters are human beings as well as superheroes (or an occasionally evil demon sorceress, in Illyana’s case). My only real gripe is the needless new costumes Immonen dreamed up for the Young X-Men. There’s really nothing wrong with them, per se (except for Beast’s stupid and pointless goggles), but it’s a cosmetic change for the mere sake of it. The Young X-Men are here to stay with Team Cyclops (at least until the next status quo-shaking crossover), and the last panel tells exactly what we need to know: there’s no looking back, only forward. Deal with it. Score: 8/10.

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5. The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #5 (Marvel, W: Nick Spencer, A: Steve Lieber). There occasionally comes a time in my What I’m Reading posts when I come across a comic that’s so good, so damn well executed, I literally can’t think of anything negative to say about it. This is one of those comics. It’s smart, well-paced, has a wicked sense of humor, and all of its characters are lived-in and believeable (okay, I’m still waiting for Overdrive to be expanded upon, but at least we get to see him in action this issue). The art is great and couldn’t be better suited to the story. If I had to name the three best comics Marvel’s publishing right now, this book would be among them. Period. Now I will say this: this is also the kind of niche book that can get the axe pretty quickly if word doesn’t spread on it and translate into sales. So DO THE RIGHT THING and read this damn comic, and buy some extra copies for your friends. Score: 10/10.

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6. X-Men Gold #1 (Marvel, W & A: Various). How do you celebrate fifty years of the X-Men? By publishing a big jam issue featuring fan-favorite writers (and one or two artists) who have impacted the X-Men over the years (mostly… I’ll get to that in a minute). Of course, there are a few names who couldn’t make it to the party: Andy Kubert, Jim Lee, and Scott Lobdell are contract DC men now; John Byrne is persona non grata (although it would have been polite to have at least mentioned him on the introduction page alongside Claremont); Dave Cockrum and Jack Kirby have both passed away; Grant Morrison is busy living in Grant Morrison Land; Neal Adams is also living in Neal Adams land; Joe Madureira is somewhere unknown jacking himself off with mad glee that he’s successfully managed to fool people into believing he has talent for almost twenty years now; Marc Silvestri is firmly entrenched at Image. Of all the no-shows, that only leaves John Romita Jr. as a big question mark. Given the guy’s typically-prolific output, it shouldn’t have been too much to ask that he contribute a few pages. Oh well.

So who does that leave, then? Well, first and foremost, we got Stan Lee scripting a plot by Louise and Walter Simonson (with Walt on the art duties) about the original five X-Men. Although, “scripting” may be too much of a stretch, as the dialogue seems to mainly consist of stock Lee-isms: “Your banal bumbling will avail you naught! To the Beast shall go the prize!” “My power is too dangerous! I must never let the girl I love get too close to me!” “I can sense his anguish! I’d move heaven and Earth to ease his pain– for only then would I ease mine, as well!” Ugh. The “story” is non-existent, too: Beast, Iceman, and Angel are locked in a race to get to the Danger Room, and the first one there gets a date with Jean. Wow, way to reduce the team’s only female character to an object of desire rather than a human. Truthfully, this story, at only five pages, is nothing more than an excuse to indulge in nostalgia and say, “Look, we got Stan Lee to write an original X-Men story!” Walt Simonson looks like he spent about five minutes on each page’s worth of art, too, which certainly doesn’t help.

Chris Claremont fares better with his story, which is set roughly around Uncanny X-Men #173, just after Mariko jilted Wolverine at the altar but before Cyclops married Madelyne Pryor. Of course, anyone who has read anything from Claremont in the last 15-20 years knows how badly his writing style has aged, but that’s hardly the point. This is an exercise in nostalgia, and Claremont getting to write the team from the vaunted Paul Smith era certainly is cause for those of us old enough to remember it to say, “HOLLA!” The story revolves around a rogue Sentinel running around in China, making more, smaller versions of itself and generally being a pain in the ass for all concerned. But we also get guest appearances from the Starjammers, Lilandra, the aforementioned Maddie Pryor, and even Lockheed the dragon. It’s a fun blast for anyone with fond memories of the Claremont run (I grew up with it and for me it will always be the standard by which all other X-Men stories are measured). I only wish he could have been paired up with a better artist than his New Mutants collaborator Bob McLeod. Was this guy’s art always this bad? Yechh. Everyone looks awkward even just standing around; his action shots are stiff; his proportions are off; there’s very little dimensional depth. Despite the glaringly bad art, though, this really is the story to beat in this collection.

Roy Thomas doesn’t fare so well, and unfortunately, he gets stuck writing Banshee and Sunfire, two characters with whom he’s not associated. It’s not that his story is necessarily bad, per se, but it’s a weird choice. The two characters are en route to meet with Cyclops and Xavier just prior to the events of Giant-Size X-Men #1, but they wind up in Memphis of all places, get into a stereotypical (though mercifully brief) misunderstanding fight, indulge in horrifying cultural stereotypes (Banshee actually says “begorrah!”), and kiss and make up when they discover they both love, uh, country music. And Elvis. It’s a useless, unnecessary throwaway story with downright awful art by one Pat Oliffe (NOT an artist with any sort of historical ties to the X-Men) that is plainly a gross rip-off of John McCrea. All of which is too bad; Thomas is one of comics’ great historic writers, and he deserves better.

Len Wein gets to write a story about Wolverine’s first impressions of the team, all of which involve killing them. Yep. And while this might seem extremely out of place now, it’s important to remember that when he first joined the team, Wolverine was secretive and mistrustful of everyone around him. Hell, I don’t think he was drawn without his mask off until Byrne came on board. Also, as subsequent issues would reveal, he’d been a deadly government operative in Canada (no jokes), so it was pretty natural for him to think about ways to kill people. Wein is joined by some artist named Jorge Molina, who, like Oliffe, has no big prior connection to the X-Men and thus really has no place on this book.

Finally, the issue is rounded out by a tale by the vastly-talented, yet woefully underappreciated Fabian Nicieza, who ventures back to the moment in the “Fatal Attractions” crossover that Xavier was pushed over the edge by Magneto, tossed his scruples aside, and wiped Magneto’s mind clean, leaving him in a vegetative state (although he’d just watched his former best friend yank Wolverine’s adamantium out through his skin, so I’ve always been pretty forgiving). The story plays out like a dream, a jumble of disconnected images as Magneto’s mind slowly turns off and Xavier and Magneto, two old friends, say goodbye to one another. (Postscript: Magneto got better.) Salvador Larroca’s art is detailed and powerful, lending the story a special poignancy.

In all, this book was one hell of a mixed bag. The high points are great, but the low points range from meaningless to awful. For an anniversary issue of all things X-Men, the editors really should have taken more care to a) make sure it had good, meaningful stories, and b) had creators involved with historic ties to the X-Men. This shouldn’t have been that hard to do, and it would have made this comic quite a bit more special. In the end, it’s decent, but hardly makes a definitive statement about the heroes “sworn to defend a world that hates and fears them.” Score: 6/10.

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7. Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man #1 of 3 (Marvel, W: Brian Michael Bendis, A: David Marquez). When is a Spider-Man comic not a Spider-Man comic? When Spider-Man’s only in it for five freakin’ pages, that’s when! That’s right, we only see the title character, Mr. Miles Morales, for five pages this issue. Bendis did a great job of expanding the superheroic supporting cast in the last arc in this book (Jessica Drew, Cloak and Dagger, Bombshell), but now, that same supporting cast threatens to take over the entire comic. And also, just what kind of a comic is this? It’s less a Cataclysm tie-in than the next issue in the ongoing USM. Seriously. Neither Galactus nor any of the events of Cataclysm show up or even resonate until the final page. So that sucks, but it also leads me to believe that this isn’t the end of the Ultimate universe. Consider: why would Bendis go to all this trouble to build up and flesh out Miles’ supporting cast right before the Ultimate universe ends? Sounds pretty unlikely to me. However, to that end, points must be deducted for the noteworthy absence of Miles’ father. The guy hasn’t been seen in five or six issues, and up until “Spider-Man No More,” he was a pretty important character in this series, not to mention an interesting one. I hope Bendis isn’t forsaking the the human side of Spidey in favor of the superheroic. At any rate, like I said, this comic is less a Cataclysm tie-in and more simply the next issue of Ultimate Spider-ManWhich is not necessarily a bad thing. Score: 7/10.

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8. Thor: God of Thunder #15 (Marvel, W: Jason Aaron, A: Ron Garney). Welcome to the realm of Alfheim, land of the light elves, where it’s less Tolkien and more Candy Mountain, which is more than a little off-putting. Midway through “The Accursed,” which is Marvel and Jason Aaron’s attempt at reminding you that Malekith from Thor: The Dark World also appears in comics, the League of Realms stops off there for a few beers to lick their wounds and so Thor can try to get his disparate team on the same page. All of which is a fine idea, until it’s time to battle Malekith again in Jotunheim (land of giants, frost and otherwise) and all goes south pretty quick. This story, and this issue in particular, has proven to be a fun, if slightly featherweight, romp. Aaron knows how to play up the stock character traits of each of the various Nine Realms denizens to great effect: the trolls are surly and aren’t shy about wanting to kill everyone; the giants are humorously dimwitted; the dark elves are edgy and cold. Being a relatively new Thor reader, I’m not sure how these interpretations stack up against those of old, but it’s still damn fun. As the quest to stop Malekith continues, even Thor finds himself in doubt, which is a surprisingly human touch to bring to the God of Thunder. Malekith is a canny, crafty opponent, and brute force alone isn’t going to get the job done. Despite Ron Garney’s sloppy, undisciplined art, Jason Aaron’s crafting a quest tale that’s the total opposite of his Gorr saga in terms of tone. Now on the one hand, this shows Aaron’s range as a writer, but on the other, it makes the book uneven in the long run. But whatever. As long as it’s still consistently entertaining, I’m all in. Score: 8/10.

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9. Wolverine #7-8 (Marvel, W: Paul Cornell, A: Mirco Pierfederici & Alan Davis). Wot’s this? An… actual good comic by Paul Cornell? The man who burned me countless times before, most recently on the jumbled mess that was his StormWatch, but let’s not forget his witless Lex Luthor opus in Action Comics and his overrated debut on Captain Britain and MI-13? Bottom line, Cornell is one of those writers who has been vastly overhyped across the years, yet he seems to keep getting work nonetheless. So forgive me if I was less than intrigued when last year’s initial Marvel NOW wave issued forth this Cornell-penned comic featuring everyone’s favorite Canadian occasional-berserker, especially since it was accompanied by the mandatory new volume/new #1. But lo and behold, my curiosity over Logan losing his healing factor got the better of me. Thanks to a, ahem, “sentient virus from the Microverse,” Logan no longer has his defining mutant attribute, and the results are devastating. For the first time, he’s human. He can be hurt, he can bleed. He can die. Hell, he can even get ragingly drunk, and it turns out his resistance is pretty low without that vaunted healing factor. Watching Wolverine stand hesitantly at the mirror, afraid to shave for fear of cutting himself, is one of the greatest, most human moments I’ve ever read for the character. Cornell has done a masterful job of presenting and plumbing new depths of Logan’s character, something that’s often forgotten by most scribes who would prefer to write a brainless killing machine. Issue eight sees Logan journey to Wakanda to try to track down a villain who can control viruses to use against the Microverse virus. While there, he gets into a (mostly)-psychological battle with Black Panther, who’s still being kind of an ass about ex-wife Storm. This naturally doesn’t sit too well with Logan, and fisticuffs ensure, but Cornell wisely plays off of misunderstanding-fight tropes for a much more clever payoff than simply seeing Black Panther and Wolverine hit each other. This is extremely good stuff. My one complaint is Alan Davis’s ever-increasingly sloppy art, which has over the last fifteen or so years gotten so sloppy that these days, he can barely render basic human anatomy that’s in correct proportions, and his inks are muddy and overbearing. If you like a unique, more cerebral, character-driven take on Wolverine, this is the book for you. No doubt fans of berserker-mode Wolverine hate this book, but that’s just fine with me. Score: 9/10.

…And now I’m torn between whether or not to continue this renumbered Wolverine volume, or to stick to my guns and leave any and all renumbered series on the shelf. Damn you, principled stand!!

Keep readin’ those funnybooks,

~ILL DIABLO~

Censorious New Mexican Gaiman-Hating Assholes Lie in the Smoldering Rubble of Defeat!

UPDATE TIME: The New Mexico school in Alamagordo that had removed Neil Gaiman’s book Neverwhere from its reading list due to the censorious protestations of one First Amendment-hating mom has overridden her objections and returned the book to its proper place among students, where they can CHOOSE to read it. Many thanks go out to the CBLDF for their support in this fiasco. You can read the summary of the school board’s decision here.

It’s extremely heartening to me that the school board chose to side with the First Amendment on this issue. An important fact in this case is that Nancy Wilmott, the laughably-yet-dangerously-outraged mom in question, seems to have conveniently glossed over is that Neverwhere was NEVER mandatory reading. The book could be swapped out at any time for any other book on the school’s reading list. Wilmott claimed she was never given the option for her daughter to swap the book out; reading between the lines, I get the feeling this woman was so focused on the material that was offending her that she put blinders on to every other facet of the situation.

So, good on you, Alamagordo, N.M. High school board. It’s all too easy–and unfortunately common–for pressure groups or individuals who believe they have the authority to push their beliefs onto others to sway opinion in their favor, despite the law and common sense, just because they, in their outrage, yell louder than the voices of reason. Parents like Nancy Wilmott, who was so offended that a book her sixteen-year-old daughter was reading contained–GASP!– a sex scene, are completely out of touch with reality, living in their own world as defined by Reagan-era puritanical conservatism and censorship. People like this, though certainly welcome to their own opinion, are dangerous because they think EVERYONE ELSE has a right to their opinion as well. Beware the moral majority, because the only thing they represent is their own self-interests.

Fortunately, one school board in New Mexico saw through their bullshit and lies. Let’s hope other such authority figures can see that light as well.

~ILL DIABLO~

Playing the Numbers Game

A couple days ago, I took a look at the overall trend of constant renumbering within the realm of comics, and tried to explain why it’s a negative trend but that it’s clearly not going away anytime soon. Today, I decided, mostly just for shits and giggles, to break down twenty of the biggest offenders when it comes to the numbers game. I was also just genuinely curious what number some of these books should be on had they not been rebranded, relaunched, or renumbered. This took quite a bit of research (thanks, Wiki!) and time, but I had a fun time doing it. It’s really eye-opening to have the sheer wackiness of multiple volumes and new #1s broken down right there all together.

A basic rule, however: I was looking only at comics runs that were published sequentially and uninterrupted. Therefore, the Golden Age Green Lantern book was not tabulated in with the rest of my figures, just to use that book as an example. The one exception to this rule was the Punisher, due to the sheer number of volumes he’s had over the years. Second rule: this is about sequential cover numbering, not the actual number of issues published, so -1 issues, 0.1 issues, 0 issues, and 1,000,000 issues aren’t factored into the count. With that in mind, here we go!

1. UNCANNY X-MEN

Volume 1: 1-545

Volume 2 (Schism era): 20

Volume 3 (post-AvX era, current): 13

SHOULD BE AT: #578

2. INCREDIBLE HULK 

Volume 1 (previously Tales to Astonish until #102): 474

Volume 2 (simply entitled Hulk): 1-11

Volume 2 (retitled Incredible Hulk): 12-112

Volume 3 (again, Hulk, but the red one): 1-25

Volume 1 continued (a.k.a. Incredible Hulks): 600-635

Volume 4 (by Jason Aaron): 1-15

Volume 5 (Indestructible Hulk, current): 1-13

SHOULD BE AT: #663

3. THOR

Volume 1 (as Journey Into Mystery): 1-125

Volume 1 (as Thor): 126-504

Volume 2 (Heroes Return): 1-85

Volume 3 (post-Civil War Straczynski era): 1-12

Volume 1 continued: 600-623

Volume 4 (as The Mighty Thor): 1-22

Volume 5 (current, as Thor: God of Thunder): 14

SHOULD BE AT: #659

4. CAPTAIN AMERICA

Volume 1 (as Tales of Suspense): 1-99

Volume 1 (as Captain America): 100-454

Volume 2 (Heroes Reborn): 1-13

Volume 3 (Heroes Return): 1-50

Volume 4 (jingoistic post-9/11 Marvel Knights edition): 1-32

Volume 5 (Brubaker era) 1-50

Volume 1 continued: 600-619

Volume 6 (second Brubaker volume): 1-19

Volume 7 (Marvel NOW era, current): 1-13

SHOULD BE AT: #651

5. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

Volume 1: 1-441

Volume 2 (Byrne, then Straczynski era): 1-58

Volume 1 continued: 500-700

Superior Spider-Man: 1-19

SHOULD BE AT: #719

6. IRON MAN

Tales of Suspense: 39-99

Volume 1: 1-332

Volume 2 (Heroes Reborn): 1-13

Volume 3 (Heroes Return): 1-89

Volume 4 (“Extremis”/Director of SHIELD): 1-35

Volume 5 (Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man): 1-33

Volume 1 continued: 500-527

Volume 6 (current): 1-17

SHOULD BE AT: #544

7. FANTASTIC FOUR 

Volume 1: 1-416

Volume 2 (Heroes Reborn): 1-13

Volume 3: (Heroes Return): 1-70

Volume 1 continued: 500-589

FF: 1-11

Volume 1 continued again: 600-611

Volume 4 (current): 14

SHOULD BE AT: #625

8. WOLVERINE (note: volume 1 was the non-sequentially published four-issue miniseries)

Volume 2: 1-189

Volume 3 (Marvel Knights): 1-74

Volume 4 (Weapon X): 1-15

Volume 5: 1-20

Volume 2 continued: 300-317

Volume 5 (current): 12

SHOULD BE AT: #329

9. AVENGERS

Volume 1: 1-402

Volume 2 (Heroes Reborn): 1-13

Volume 3 (Heroes Return): 1-88

Volume 1 continued: 500-503

New Avengers: 1-64

Volume 4 (Heroic Age): 1-36

Volume 5 (current): 1-21

SHOULD BE AT: #624

10. PUNISHER

Volume 1 (miniseries): 1-5

Volume 2: 1-104

Volume 3: 1-18

Volume 4 (1st Marvel Knights mini): 1-4

Volume 5 (1st Ennis mini): 1-12

Volume 6 (1st Ennis ongoing): 1-37

Volume 7 (1st MAX series): 1-75

Volume 8 (2nd MAX series): 1-22

Volume 9 (the Rucka series): 1-16

SHOULD BE AT: #293 (And that’s not counting Punisher War Zone, Punisher War Journal, or Punisher Armory… and there’s a new volume starting in February!)

11. Adjectiveless X-MEN

Volume 1: 1-113

New X-Men: 114-156

Volume 1 continued: 157-207

X-Men Legacy: 208-275

Volume 2: 1-41

Volume 3 (current): 1-6

SHOULD BE AT: #322

12. DAREDEVIL

Volume 1: 1-380

Volume 2 (Marvel Knights): 1-119

Volume 1 continued: 500-512

Volume 3 (current): 1-34

SHOULD BE AT: #546

13. ACTION COMICS

Volume 1: 1-904 (!)

Volume 2 (New 52, current): 1-25

SHOULD BE AT: #929

14. DETECTIVE COMICS

Volume 1: 1-881

Volume 2 (New 52, current): 1-25

SHOULD BE AT: #906

15. WONDER WOMAN

Volume 1: 1-329

Volume 2 (post-Crisis): 1-237

Volume 3: 1-44

Volume 1 continued: 600-615

Volume 4 (New 52, current): 1-25

SHOULD BE AT: #640

16. GREEN LANTERN

Volume 1: 1-199

Volume 1 (as Green Lantern Corps): 200-224

Volume 2 (post-Crisis): 1-181

Volume 3: 1-67

Volume 4 (New 52, current): 1-25

SHOULD BE AT: #597

17. BATMAN

Volume 1: 1-713

Volume 2 (New 52, current): 1-25

SHOULD BE AT: #738

18. THE FLASH

Volume 1: 1-350

Volume 2 (post-CrisisWally West as Flash): 1-247

Volume 3 (Bart Allen as Flash): 1-13

Volume 4 (Barry Allen returns): 1-13

Volume 5 (New 52, current): 1-25

SHOULD BE AT: #647

19. JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA

Volume 1: 1-261

Volume 2 (Justice League/JLI): 1-94

Volume 3 (JLA): 1-125

Volume 4: 1-60

Volume 5: (New 52, Justice League): 1-25

SHOULD BE AT: #565

20. GREEN ARROW

Volume 1: 1-137

Volume 2: 1-75

Volume 3: 1-15

Volume 4 (New 52, current): 1-25

SHOULD BE AT: #252

 

And that’s that. There are numerous other offenders which are offered new leases on life via new volumes and new #1s, but that’s because their old series was cancelled due to poor sales, rather than a decision to reboot spurred on by beancounters. (Hello, Ghost Rider!) It’s actually quite nauseating when you look at it. You’d think something like this would lead to publishers saying, “Wow, we’re really pissing off our fan base,” but of course it isn’t. This stupid trend isn’t going away anytime soon, unfortunately, and we’re all stuck suffering for it.

 

Hey, Why Don’t We Just Make EVERY Issue #1?

Like most people, I was floored when I learned yesterday that Marvel is starting Wolverine over with another new volume in February and with a big ol’ guady “#1” slapped on the cover for good measure. Not that this shock tactic is particularly surprising these days coming from the Former House of Ideas. Indeed, it comes hot on the heels of the announcement that Fantastic Four is starting over with yet another new volume/#1 early next year, too. But there’s a key difference.

Some preface first, however. Marvel has, of course, near-perpetually relaunched most if not all of their properties in the last few years with new volumes and first issues: Uncanny X-Men and Captain America twice in less than two years; Thor and the Hulk were lavished with the same treatment but the effect was “hidden” by renaming the new volume in a vain attempt to stave off criticism*, Wolverine has had more volumes and first issues than can be counted; Punisher’s even worse; Fantastic Four was abruptly changed to FF to mark a shift in the then-current storyline’s direction. That lasted twelve issues, just in time for the #600 anniversary issue event to revert to old-school numbering, only to be relaunched last year when writer Matt Fraction took the reigns for the Marvel NOW initiative. Hell, even Daredevil’s on his third volume, which is actually a pretty low number compared to some of Marvel’s other characters. Although he’ll soon be on his fourth if you want to count his upcoming digital-only adventures as a volume (and you might as well since it’s the only way Marvel will be offering new Daredevil comics for the foreseeable future).

Seeing a trend yet?

Sure, it’s callous, and it’s an obvious money- and attention-grab. But up ’til this point, the game, though rigged, was at least predictable: anytime a new writer or writer/artist team comes on board, slap a new #1 on it and hype the hell out of it. Stupid? You bet. Transparent? Hell, yes. But at the end of the day, predictable.

But now we come to the new-new volume of Wolverine. It’s only been a year since the ol’ Canucklehead was relaunched yet again as part of the first wave of Marvel NOW. Writer Paul Cornell took the reigns, and Marvel had a publishing initiative to hype, and who doesn’t like Wolverine, so why the hell not? But now, a year later, they’re doing it again…. and guess what? Paul Cornell’s still writing it. Sure, there’s a new artist, but the man is merely writing the next arc in his ongoing story and they decided to push a new volume for it. This is a shocking new low in the comics numbers game, and it’s unfortunately a sign of things to come.

A year or two ago, I read an article–I forget where–about the then-current state of affairs with comics renumbering. The gist of the article was: do numbers even matter anymore? (No. They do not. Not to the publishers, at least.) The article went on to hypothesize that comics were actually going to shift into a more “season-based” numbering system, with each arc representing a season on a TV show in order to more effectively lure new readers in. I initially scoffed at this idea, but then, as evidence continued to mount in this trend, the smoking gun was finally found: in an article published today regarding the new volume of Wolverine, Paul Cornell actually uses the term “season” when referring to the new volume. So it would seem we traditionalists, who are steeped in decades of comics lore and love and who understand that the large number on the cover is in fact significant**–are being ignored and hung out to dry. All hail the shortening of attention spans, even among comic readers.

Marvel isn’t alone in being guilty of the numbers game. DC, of course, relaunched their entire damn line in 2011 as the New 52 when they “soft-rebooted” their continuity, with new #1s across the board–even on sacrosanct books like Action and Detective Comics. Action Comics was the big daddy of them all amongst American comics and had just crossed the #900 mark; Detective was just shy of the same number; and their third-oldest book, plain ol’ Batman, had recently crossed the #700 line. And yet DC had the balls to go against all conventional wisdom and reboot these books with new #1s, justifiably raising the hackles of fans everywhere. They’ve since gone on to “celebrate” what would have been the next big anniversary issue in the series (Detective #900 was marked in volume two’s super-size #19), but anybody who thinks that’s the same thing is absolutely either fooling themselves or just doesn’t understand the argument. But to DC’s credit, they didn’t use the anniversary as a callous means of reverting to the old numbering just to goose sales as Marvel would have. Also to their credit: they’ve stuck to their guns with their renumbering across the board, despite near-constant online pressure and harping and among numerous creative team changes. Marvel would have certainly used the opportunity of a new writer coming onboard to relaunch with a sexy new #1. (Although, given the number of creative changes some DC books have undergone in the last two years, some comics would be on their fourth or fifth volume already.) So DC isn’t afraid to play the game but at least in their case they only played it once, had the gonads to apply the new rules of engagement line-wide, and have stood buy their decision since, without jumping on the delirious and sickening merry-go-round of relaunched #1s.

The writing’s on the wall: this trend isn’t going away or even lessening anytime soon. If anything, it’s only getting worse. If we numerical traditionalists want our voices to be heard, the only way to do it is to hit Marvel where it hurts most: the wallet. From here on, you can count me out of any new relaunches, no matter how beloved the character, no matter how intriguing the new direction, no matter how great the writer. If there’s a #1 on the cover of a character that’s been around longer than my dad has, my money’s going nowhere near it.

I suspect this means there will be quite a few less Marvel titles in my future, which makes me sad. But at a certain point, we fans have to be willing to send the company a message and say: “Enough. I see what you’re doing, it’s shallow, it’s callous, I’m no starry-eyed mark hypnotized by your meaningless first issue, and I’ll have no part of it.”

~ILL DIABLO~

*Thor has actually had several changes in the last seven years: in 2006 he was relaunched with his own adjectiveless, eponymous title; that book’s numbering changed once it reached the #600 mark under the old, first volume’s numbering (this was the third volume by this point). Fifteen issues into that, and Thor was rebranded (or is it retrograded?) back to its original Journey Into Mystery and continued under the classic numbering while the former title character received a new #1 under the guise of The Mighty Thor. Twenty-odd issues later, that book was changed to Thor: God of Thunder to coincide with the arrival of new writer Jason Aaron, and, of course, to hype the book as a first issue. Poor Hulk has had just about as many volumes in just as short an amount of time. He’s currently running amok under the banner (no pun intended) of Indestrucible Hulk, a book which was preceded by Hulk, which ran a paltry fifteen issues before moving on to the next iteration.

**Why is a large issue number significant? Everyone has their own opinion, but for me, it’s a badge of honor for the particular comic. Having a #600 or #700 on the cover says: “This book has withstood the test of time. It is important, and it matters.” Revisionists like Joe Quesada try to defend the opposite stance by stating that the high number on the cover actually scares away potential new readers, who would fear they needed to buy every single prior issue in order to understand the story. However, I’ve never met anyone stupid enough to believe this. So you can slap as many #1s on your comic as you want, but that in no way makes it special or even mean anything. It’s just a throwback to ’90s collector bubble mentality, which is a dangerous place to go.

What I’m Reading 0020: 11/10/13

Something of an odd week, this, in that no one or two books stood out as being particularly mind-blowing or even strong. In fact, there’s actually a few crap books that sneaked their way into my wares! Such is life, though. You can’t always know what you’re getting into and occasionally even the best creators let you down. With that in mind, let’s get down to business with the latest X-Men book to infiltrate the masses.

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1. Amazing X-Men #1 (Marvel, W: Jason Aaron, A: Ed McGuinness). I guess Marvel couldn’t bring itself to go too long without publishing a book with the adjective “amazing” in its title. (Note to the Spider-Man office: fuck you.) And because Marvel also can’t go too long without walking through the revolving door of death it’s currently embraced, this needless spin-off of Wolverine and the X-Men jumps right into the pool head-first by bringing the much-missed Nightcrawler back from the beyond. Readers may recall Nightcrawler bit the dust back in ’08 during the “Second Coming” crossover, the victim of a Nimrod-class Sentinel. It was a powerful, shocking moment: I had to actually turn the pages back and reread them to fully register what had just happened. It was also completely needless, and a testament to how casually Marvel treats death anymore. Anymore, the company line is this: “We want you to shell out your money for the event of the sudden death of this character you love, and then we want your money a second time when we make an event out of their return.” Thus, instead of working Nightcrawler’s return into the framework of Wolverine and the X-Men–which could have easily been done–we’re treated to this spin-off book instead, all in the name of a) increasing profits by producing a new book, and b) getting the excess hype to go alongside a new #1. With all that in mind, then, I entered this comic very, very hesitantly, because I have an extremely difficult time buying into a comic that I know is more a product of corporate groupthink and marketing than of genuine creative impulse.

How’s Amazing X-Men stack up, then? Well, in a word? “Meh.” As I stated, this story could easily be fit into the framework of its parent book, Wolverine and the X-Men. The setting is the same, the characters are the same, the writer is the same, and the seeds for this yarn were planted in that book. Sure, by slapping a #1 on the cover and throwing (dubiously-talented) superstar artist Ed McGuinness into the mix, Marvel’s guaranteed a sales bump. But the story is pure Jason Aaron: a good mix of familiar characters thrown into a wildly PG-13 Ennis-style situation that’s handled in an ultimately fun way. And that’s the key positive takeaway for this book: it’s damn fun, provided you don’t think too hard about it. Unfortunately, I do tend to overthink this stuff. We open up with Nightcrawler in Heaven, and it doesn’t take too long for him to get into some swashbuckling antics when some demons, lead by his father Azazel, show up to get into some mysteriously-motivated shenanigans. (Props to Aaron for having the balls to bring Azazel back, the focus of one of if not the most-hated X-Men story of all time, “The Draco.”) All of this coincides with the bamf infestation at the Jean Grey institute reaching a breaking point with Beast, who, determined to flush them out once and for all, uncovers a portal secreted into the building, which of course is never a good thing. This is the origin point of the bamfs, and it turns out to be the link to… wherever Nightcrawler is. In between we have hijinks, demons, antics, humor, inappropriate casual sex-talk between Wolverine and Storm (no I DO NOT like this out-of-character bullshit “plot twist”), and the sudden and utterly meaningless appearance of…. Firestar?… at the Jean Grey Institute to join their staff. And here’s where the whole shebang falls apart for me: Firestar has no history with the X-Men, outside of briefly being a member of the Hellions back in the day. She’s more associated with the New Warriors, and even once the Avengers. So what’s the point of throwing her into the X-Men as though she’s always been there? It’s completely illogical, considering she’s NOT a popular, fan-favorite character whose presence will be guaranteed to draw attention/sales. Similarly, when the team begins poking and prodding at the bamfs’ mystery portal, it’s Wolverine and Northstar, of all people, who fall through and discover the flying pirate ship that may or may not be captained by Nightcrawler. Wolverine makes sense, because he and Nightcrawler are bestest buddies, so their tearful yet macho reunion is highly anticipated. But Northstar? Why? They HAVE NO PERSONAL CONNECTION! Why not Storm, Kitty Pryde, or Colossus? This is every bit as random and nonsensical as the Firestar business.

Summing up, it strikes me that Aaron was given all the leeway in the world to tell whatever the hell story he wanted, regardless of whether or not it made sense. It’s self-indulgence at the expense of logic and cohesion. And unfortunately, that makes this book one hell of a swing and a miss, despite its more fun aspects. Hopefully these flubs are righted as the story continues, because the return of Nightcrawler is something that should be celebrated, not overburdened. Score: 5/10.

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2. Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #1 of 5 (Marvel, W: Brian Michael Bendis, A: Mark Bagley). And so the (almost-certain) destruction of the Ultimate universe begins. It’s been thirteen years since this pocket world of 21st-century interpretations of classic characters broke all the rules and, in subsequent years, got bogged down in its own continuity and ever-increasing obsolescence. And now it seems it’s time to close the books on this chapter of Marvel. Galactus is in the house, and after making short work of the Vision in last week’s 0.1 prelude issue, it’s time to chow down like a freakishly skinny Japanese guy in a hotdog-eating contest. His arrival is met with the kind of large-scale mass panic you’d expect. After all, nothing like this has ever been seen in the Ultimate U, which hearkens back to the kind of overwhelming dread and desperation first seen back in Lee and Kirby’s seminal Galactus Trilogy. SHIELD is outmatched, Spider-Man is utterly lost, and the Ultimates are as about as threatening as flies biting at a horse, which just goes to show that this “more realistic” version of the Avengers just doesn’t have squat on the real thing. Bendis’s writing feels slight, but that’s due to the fact that the dives right in to the chaos and fear resulting from this catastrophe. It’s go-go-go right from the start. The problem is, that approach leaves the issue itself feeling pretty thin on actual content. Unfortunately, that happens on occasion with Bendis when he breaks into full-on action mode. If anything’s truly off-kilter, it’s Mark Bagley’s art, which comes off as sketchy and rushed, possibly due to the scrachy Art Thibert-style inks of Andrew Hennessy. Or maybe, I dunno, Bagley just wants a paycheck, although I’d hate to think that of one of my favorite artists. In all, a taut, effectively-written (though thin) read, and it opens up the very real possibility that this is… THE END. Dunt dunt dunnnnnnnn!!! Score: 6/10.

captainamerica13

3. Captain America #13 (Marvel, W: Rick Remender, A: Nic Klein). I guess Carlos Pacheco was told his sucky art was too sucky for this book, because out of nowhere, here comes penciller Nic Klein to save the day. Klein’s an artist of a different color than Pacheco, rougher around the edges, with a bit of the ol’ Klaus Janson-style inks thrown on top for good measure. This issue sees Cap get off his sad-sack and start doing what he does best again: kicking ass for ‘MURIKA! ’80s-relic Nuke is on the loose in eastern Europe, killing at will in a fictitious country that supposedly wronged the United States in some way that makes sense only to him. (Nuke is essentially the worst-case scenario of a jingoistic, deluded ultra-right-winger with an automatic weapon.) And anyone who’s ever read Miller’s “Born Again” story knows that Nuke’s one bad mofo when it comes to battle, and he’s pretty indiscriminate about outright murder in the name of his country. This is Cap’s first foray into combat since returning from Dimension Z, and boy, does he have some issues to resolve. (Death of his adopted son? Death of Sharon Carter? Back to that man-out-of-time feeling he wrestled with for years after getting out of the deep freeze in the first place? Check, check, and check.) Nuke’s pretty much the ideal opponent, except in one regard: he kicks Cap’s ass at every turn! The battle turns more desperate as the pages turn on, as Cap realizes he’s outmatched, even with Falcon at his side. Meanwhile, we get some more insight into the Iron Nail, a former SHIELD agent gone rogue and is out to… well, do bad things, essentially. His plan isn’t exactly made concrete yet, but we are treated to a great flashback sequence featuring the REAL Nick Fury, Dum-Dum Dugan, and, yup, even the Winter Soldier, all dolled up in his Soviet-assassin persona. Too bad this sequence is a glaring CONTINUITY ERROR, since his interaction with Fury is a direct contradiction to his introduction back in the early issues of Brubaker’s run, wherein Fury stated that the Winter Soldier was nothing more than a Cold War myth, which of course means that Fury has never had any interaction with him. Whoops! I’m sure they’ll either a) gloss over their mistake by saying Fury lied on the outset, or b) pretend there was no error to begin with. Silly editors! What’re they supposed to do about stuff like this, anyway? Oh wait IT’S THEIR JOB TO CATCH THINGS LIKE THIS!!! Ah well, we live in a world where somehow, within the confines of “continuity,” Cap can be on the other side of the universe in Infinity, funny and deaf over in Uncanny Avengers, and getting his ass kicked in eastern Europe here. Does this make it okay? No. Sadly, it just makes it expected. Otherwise, this was an extremely solid book, much more focused than Remender’s work in Uncanny Avengers and rolling forward with a quickness. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Cap hasn’t been this good in years, and yes, that includes the last couple of years on Brubaker’s otherwise-seminal run. Score: 7/10.

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4. Guardians of the Galaxy #6-8 (Marvel, W: Brian Michael Bendis, A: Sara Pichelli, Olivier Coipel, and Francisco Francavilla). I admit it: I don’t immediately get the critical love this book is receiving. After scoping out the first two issues and not being particularly impressed, I decided to give it a second chance thanks to the inclusion of amazing artist Francisco Francavilla in number eight. Y’know what? Still don’t get it. Issues six and seven deal with the arrival of Angela in the Marvel Universe, which is one of those things that’s kinda a big deal if you were reading Spawn twenty years ago and/or like your angels in the sexy variety. (I’m sure there are those who do; after all, this is a day and age where dinosaur erotica flourishes.) Or if you just like Neil Gaiman giving Todd MacFarlane his comeuppance. Count me among the latter. Back to the issues at hand: issues six and seven are mainly Angela and Gamorra tussling, with an epilogue of Peter Quill deciding that she really wasn’t doing anything wrong and letting her go after his cheap-ass shot to the back takes her down. So basically, the whole sequence, for two issues, boils down to a misunderstanding fight, with no real evidence given as to why we should care that Angela’s here in the Marvel U. So for those two issues, I’m throwing a cumulative score of 6/10, based more on the strength of the Sara Pichelli and Olivier Coipel art than anything else.

However, the ship rights itself to a certain degree with issue eight, an Infinity tie-in. Sure, event comic tie-ins are a dime a dozen, and most of them aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. But this puppy is a pretty well-crafted yarn in and of itself, focusing on the Guardians being summoned to SWORD HQ to rescue it from Thanos’ forces (of evil!). The Guardians take their time, plan their attack, and damned if they don’t pull it off, with more than a little of that A New Hope rescue-the-princess flair. Of course the real star of this show is Francavilla, who, although not the most obvious choice for a cosmic space opera, turns out to be PERFECT at creating that grand, sweeping feel that’s part of what makes the original Star Wars films so awesome. He has a fine eye for the details that truly matter, and uses empty space perfectly to convey the vastness of space. If only this guy weren’t so in-demand, he’d be a shoo-in for regular artist on this book, which would leave me incapable of not purchasing it monthly. As it stands, I’m still not sold on its necessity other than as a mandatory hype-builder for the upcoming movie. The characters, though fun, are fairly thin. (“I am Groot” got old FAST. Does this guy ever actually DO anything?) Gamorra and Drax are badass warriors. Peter Quill is the hesitant, yet natural, roguish leader. Rocket Raccoon is the comic relief. Groot is Groot. But why do these characters exist together? What is it about them that makes this book anything other than an advertisement for Marvel’s film division? In three issues, I really couldn’t tell. There was nothing about the plot that made it particularly compelling, other than it was just… fun. And for my $3.99 a pop, I’d like a little more than just “fun” for a book where I really don’t care about the characters. By contrast, Savage Dragon is fun, but Erik Larsen has taken great pains to make me care about the characters over the years. Superior Foes of Spider-Man is fun, but it also has brains and a mean sense of humor. And maybe Bendis will eventually get there, but he hasn’t docked at that particular spaceport just yet to make me feel this book is at all necessary. Issue 8 Score: 7/10, Averaged Score for all three issues: 6.5/10.

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4. Green Arrow #25 (DC, W: Jeff Lemire, A: Andrea Sorrentino). Aaaaand speaking of books that are unnecessary tie-ins, I give you Green Arrow #25, a COMPLETELY unnecessary tie in to the “Zero Year” festivities currently plaguing the Bat-books. As if it weren’t bad enough that formerly-talented writer Scott Snyder is trying to remake the wheel so capably immortalized in Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s “Year One” arc lo so many years ago, now the geniuses in DC’s editorial loony bin are dragging not only this book into it, but also The Flash, Green Lantern Corps, and Action Comics. Way to milk it, guys! Bravo. There’s no better way to say, “This story is IMPORTANT!” than to have it spill into books that would better be left alone. So what we’re left with is the brakes being put on Jeff Lemire’s greater GA story AGAIN (the first time happened in September’s inane Villains Month, although I have to admit that Lemire at least pulled off one of the few truly good issues) so that DC can wank itself just a bit more. The tale here takes place six years ago, when Gotham was plunged into a city-wide blackout that coincided with a not-at-all-like-Sandy superstorm rolled through, resulting in mass chaos. This chaos was when Batman first showed up on the scene, his legend arose, blah, blah, blah. These goings-on also JUST HAPPEN TO COINCIDE with Oliver Queen returning to life after being presumed dead for a year while he was trapped on that island learning how to get his Hawkeye on. Even more coincidentally, just as he returns, he discovers his mom is actually in Gotham, playing nursemaid to those dispossessed by the superstorm. And, hell, even more coincidentally than THAT, his mom gets kidnapped, he shows up to bow-and-quiver the hell out of the situation, and then, most coincidentally of all, MEETS BATMAN FOR THE FIRST TIME. Holy cow, that’s a lot of coincidence. It’s almost like Lemire climbed to the tip-top of Bullshit Mountain (thank you Jon Stewart) for this issue. Oh wait, that’s COMPLETELY what it’s like. It sucks seeing such a capable (though Canadian!) writer as Lemire at the mercy of editorial mandate; I can only imagine the ridiculous conversation that took place leading up to this issue:

LEMIRE: “Okay! I’ve got all these kick-ass plans for Green Arrow, eh. It’s really going to reinvigorate the character, and put him a bit more in lockstep with the TV version.”

EDITOR: “Great! Can’t wait to see it. Oh wait, do you mind shoehorning a flashback issue in where he meets Batman? Like right as Batman’s getting started?”

LEMIRE: “Uh… that really doesn’t make sense. Green Arrow’s a relatively young kid and hasn’t been operating as long as Batman, eh.”

EDITOR: “So? Line-wide sales are down because nobody likes our New 52 universe. We know it’s bullshit but y’know, what can you do? We’re two years in at this point so there’s no turning back. In for a penny, in for a pound.”

LEMIRE: “Yeah, but, throwing a flashback issue in just two issues after you guys made me detour for Villains Month is going to REALLY throw the forward momentum of my story off, eh.”

EDITOR: “Look… it’s okay. Nobody cares about stuff like that! What they care about is BATMAN being in the book.”

LEMIRE: “I’m pretty sure they care about the book because it’s about Green Arrow, not Batman. If they wanted a Batman book, why not just buy one of those, eh?”

[Editor pauses, thinking.] EDITOR: “…Nah. Just do it, okay? Or we’ll bring Ann Nocenti back to write this thing, or possibly get Marc Andreyko on it just ’cause he’s openly gay and that makes for good press. Okay?”

LEMIRE: “Siiiiigh…. eh, okay.” [Lemire leaves, head hung low, dejected.] SCENE.

…And that’s pretty much all you need to know about this one. Utterly skippable, and frankly, you should skip it just on principle, just to fuck with DC for thinking they can pull crap like this. Lemire does his best, and Andrea Sorrentino is phenomenal as usual, but this time, it’s just not enough. And we have nobody but DC’s editors to thank for that. Score: 4/10.

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5. Detective Comics #25 (DC, W: John Layman, A: Jason Fabok). Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Jim Gordon is a cop in Gotham City. The last honest cop, as it were. He’s up against the wall facing rampant crime on the streets and rampant corruption within the police department. He refuses to go on the take, and winds up getting a beating for it. Fortunately, he has a new partner in his war on crime: a mysterious vigilante known only as “the Batman.” And together, they forge an unlikely alliance and become the greatest force for good the city has ever known. Sound familiar? It should: it’s the refrain from every Jim Gordon story ever told since Miller and Mazzuchelli’s “Year One” codified it back in ’87. Sure, the details are a little different here, but the essentials remains the same. More “Zero Year” banality; this one’s even worse than the Green Arrow tie-in because the story’s so shamelessly unoriginal. John Layman gives it all he’s got, but he hasn’t been given much to work with. I’m sure there’s plenty more that could be said about the Batman/Gordon partnership; but DC was content to give him the same ol’ car they’ve had for years and tasked him to make it run in peak performance again simply by slapping a new coat of paint on. Which is a shame; in the last twenty-five years, Jim Gordon’s gone from being a tame supporting character to one of the most three-dimensional, fully-realized characters in comics. This guy could easily carry his own ongoing comic; so why DC feels the need to constantly relegate him to Batman Begins-rehash status is beyond me. Though technically a squarely mediocre issue, its sheer unnecessity knocks its score down mightily. It’s bullshit, but then, what isn’t at DC these days? Score: 2/10.

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6. Trillium #4 of 8 (DC/Vertigo, W & A: Jeff Lemire). Jeff Lemire’s sci-fi love story epic rolls on, ever so slowly giving us clues as to what the hell’s actually happening. It seems the temple in question, the scene of the time-space switcheroo between Billy and Nika, might just have a wormhole in it. And that the Atabithi of the future seem to have a tangible connection to the “jungle savages” of the past. But none of that matters to Nika’s commanding officer, Pohl, who’s more than content to just blow the damn thing to hell, leaving our leads on a seriously precarious cliffhanger by the end of the book. Lemire’s on a roll here; his rampant inventiveness is on full display here for all to enjoy. It’s on work such as this and The Underwater Welder where his singular voice truly shines: he takes the weird, and adds a distinctly humanistic twist to it. Sort of like Grant Morrison with better-written characters. Not much else to say on this one other than: buy this damn book, if for no other reason than there’s NOTHING else like it being published today. Score: 8/10.

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7. Fatale #18 (Image, W: Ed Brubaker, A: Sean Phillips). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Fatale just keeps kind of trundling on, refusing to end, each issue not showing us anything we haven’t seen before. Look, I get it. She’s a bad lady, who has a bad effect on men. And she can’t help it. And Lovecraftian monster-men are after her at every turn. Time to resolve this bitch, okay? This issue sees the continuation of Brubaker’s big love letter to the late-era grunge scene in Seattle (circa 1996), where our heroine’s sudden appearance (as an amnesiac) wreaks all kinds of havoc in a local band that almost made it but not quite. There’s, shockingly, the requisite murder, paranoia, lust, and general undercurrent of creepiness that’s been central to every issue of this comic thus far. Too bad it’s selling like hotcakes, or Bru might have had the wits to wrap it up by now (remember when it was supposed to just be twelve issues?). As it stands, it’s pretty much the comics equivalent of “The Song That Never Ends.” Good execution, at least, but COME ON, MAN! Let’s end this story already! Score: 5/10.

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8. Ten Grand #5 (Image/Joe’s Comics, W: J. Michael Straczynski, A: C.P. Smith). One of the main reasons (okay, pretty much the only reason) I hadn’t quit reading J. Michael Straczynski’s slogging, sagging Ten Grand was the phenomenal Ben Templesmith art. Well, congratulations, Straczynski! Templesmith is suddenly off the book for personal reasons, and now so am I for practical ones! As you can see from the sample C.P. Smith art above, Straczynski didn’t even attempt to find a similar replacement painter to lend the book a sense of artistic continuity once Templesmith bolted. Smith’s constrained, almost-art deco-style couldn’t be more of a polar opposite from Templesmith’s barely-controlled chaos. It’s not his fault he’s not his predecessor. But it is his fault that he sucks. Smith’s art is a sterile, emotionless thing; trying to appreciate it is like trying to dry-hump a chunk of marble. Not much else I can say on the art front. Straczynski’s story plods along at a snail’s pace; this issue sees our hero, …uh, what’s his name?… oh yeah, Joe Fitzgerald enter into Purgatory to try to track down the soul of his dead lady-love, Laura. While there, he hangs out with Charon (for no apparent reason he’s portrayed here as the classic Grim Reaper but with a yellow safety vest on over his cloak… I guess this is what passes for humor in Straczynski’s mind?) as he crosses the River Styx, and gets into a scuffle with the lost souls of some bad dudes he killed back when he was a mob hitman. And then he goes deeper into Purgatory and for some reason stops being able to remember who Laura is. If all of this sounds vaguely nap-inducing, you’re right: and that’s been the curse of this book for the last few issues, which is a shame since it had such a strong start. But it’s a real problem when your lead character is so poorly-defined that I can’t even remember his name five issues in. Or that your basic premise is so convoluted it takes three paragraphs on the recap page to tell. Straczynski has a nice set of ideas here; the problem is in his execution. It would have been more fun to dive into Joe’s world of ghosts, demons, and his own recurring resurrection in some one- and two-issue stories rather than just leap into the whole shebang whole hog. There’s something to be said for letting your readers get to know your character and their world so that he feel like they have something to invest in long-term. As it stands, I could really care less about Joe, Laura, and whatever the hell else this book is about. Score: 1/10.

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9. Protectors Inc. #1 (Image/Joe’s Comics, W: J. Michael Straczynski, A: Gordon Purcell). This comic is too much of a grab-bag of other, better comics and half-thought-out ideas to even be properly called a mess. Calling it a mess would imply that there was some sort of attempt to do GOOD with this debacle, rather than just rush out the third Joe’s Comics book just so Straczynski could prove he’s prolific. Where to start?Even the title itself reeks of unoriginiality: Protectors Inc.? Smells a bit too much like New Universe relic Kickers Inc. There’s not an original thought in this entire comic. Not one. So I’m going to just count them off. Our story starts in World War II (1), where a mysterious meteor imbues Captain America Rip-Off #5,097 with superpowers (2). He’s not the only one; the resultant wave of super-powered people, all of whom happen to be heroes, results in the Allies swiftly winning the war (3). Captain America Rip-Off #5,097 returns stateside wanting to do good, but his peers and the subsequent generations that follow want none of that (4), opting instead to coast on corporate sponsorship (5). Eventually, Captain America Rip-Off #5,097 grows disillusioned (6), and fades away from the public spotlight to live life as a private citizen (7). It turns out, he’s now earning a living as a lawyer (8), while the next generation of heroes, coasting on their corporate sponsorships, get into the occasional gratuitous fight with one another (9), which the public barely notices anymore due to apathy (10). But suddenly, one of them is mysteriously murdered (11), and it looks like Captain America Rip-Off #5,097 will have to come out of retirement to put the mystery together (12). There is literally nothing good to say about this comic. And Straczynski doesn’t even pull his blatant rip-offs off with any skill or finesse: I call Captain America Rip-off #5,097 that not only because of his basic nature, but because the character is so sketchily defined there’s literally nothing else to say about him. Corporate sponsorship and superheroes? We’re told about it, but unlike in, say, Jupiter’s Children, we’re given no examples of it whatsoever to persuade us it’s happening and that it’s a bad, shallow deal. And the murder in question. It happens off-panel, and is indicated by nothing more than a flash of light and a disappearance. The only reason I knew what was going on is by checking the trade ads for the issue. And then there’s Gordon Purcell’s truly abominable art.He must have the ability to suck a golf ball through a garden hose to get a professional gig, because seriously, this is some of the most inexcusably poor art I’ve seen in a VERY long time. Imagine if Jerry Ordway and Dave Gibbons had a baby, but the baby held his drawing pencil with his ass cheeks, and you’ve got an idea of what we’re looking at here. He can’t even render an interesting cover (see above). In all, this is by far the worst comic I’ve read all year. If there was a score lower than zero, this book would get it in a heartbeat. Taken together with the lackluster turn Ten Grand has taken, and the fact that the man has three more comics on deck for the first quarter of 2014, and you suddenly have a picture painted of a writer who’s been out of the game for a few years and wants to prove he’s back in a big way. But Straczynski, ol’ buddy, you know what would prove that more than anything? Quality over quantity, my friend. Quality over quantity. Score: 0/10.

And that’s a wrap for this week! Let it be a lesson to you: not every week is going to be populated with the best comics you’ve ever read, nor is every comic you buy going to be worth your money. But that’s a risk you take buying funnybooks, isn’t it?

Keep reading ’em anyway!

~ILL DIABLO~