What I’m Reading 0022 & 0023: “Oh My God Why Am I Later Than A ’90s Image Book?!” Edition

Ho, lads! I think we can all agree the holidays suck for having much in the way of free time. Especially when you’re working retail. And then quitting your job, and then inundated with trying to find a new one. Good times! Which doesn’t leave much time for blogging. Time to rectify that situation now, by catching up on some quick hit reviews from the last two weeks. Brevity is my friend here, because I’m in a hurry to get up to date. And away we go…

1. Savage Dragon #192 (Image, W & A: Erik Larsen). Hmm, remember awhile back, when we were all led to believe this issue would see Dragon’s demise? Yeah, don’t believe the hype. Shock tactics will only get you so far, and then you have to walk the walk, too. The pacing’s terrible and the payoff to the “Dragon is going to die!” hype is one helluva letdown, to say the least. Malcolm may be the star for now, but don’t believe for a second he’ll remain so forever. Larsen admits in the lettercol that this issue was late due to numerous rewrites, and it thoroughly shows. Score: 4/10.

2. Sex Criminals #3 (Image, W: Matt Fraction, A: Chip Zdarsky). Strip away the X-rated humor, as well as the David Lynch-ian time freezes, and what are you left with? A really very sweet story about two people discovering each other and falling in love, which is a universal tale anybody can relate to. Fraction manages to avoid every single trope of such an endeavor, and moves the overall story forward in a much more satisfactory manner than the previous issue. One of the best, most unique books on the stands. Score: 9/10.

3. Wonder Woman #25 (DC, W: Brian Azzarello, A: Goran Sudzuka). Azzarello’s radical 21st century reinterpretation of Wonder Woman continues, with just a couple of slight hiccups. First, the supporting cast is threatening to overshadow the book’s star (especially since she’s currently garnering more attention for her shared-title role in Superman/Wonder Woman and the hype/outrage over her appearance in Batman/Superman). And second, any issue where Cliff Chiang’s not pencilling is automatically, noticeably weaker. Nothing against Sudzuka, but Chiang simply has this book’s number.  Otherwise, a perfectly satisfactory issue in one of DC’s most-underrated titles. Score: 8/10.

4. Uncanny X-Men #14 (Marvel, W: Brian Michael Bendis, A: Chris Bachalo). Once per decade, some genius decides it’s time to trot out “the new generation of X-Men” and introduce a whole slew of new characters into their already-overloaded continuity. Usually, the majority of these characters don’t go very far and are swiftly forgotten, which is part of the impetus to introduce new rookies. This conceit–the introduction of new X-characters–is half the reason Bendis’s Uncanny exists. This issue spotlights new recruit Benjamin Deeds, whose powers are, superficially at least, pretty useless in battle. Cue Emma Frost to take him under her wing in her own unique (read: legally-questionable) way, and prove there’s more to him than meets the eye. A well-written, character-driven issue, although a bit inconsequential, as savvy readers know Benjamin probably won’t last long past Bendis’s tenure anyway. Score: 7/10.

5. X-Men #7 (Marvel, W: Brian Wood, A: Terry Dodson). After being derailed for a couple of months during “Battle of the Atom,” Wood’s superb X-Men gets back underway with the introduction of the Sisterhood of Evil Mutants.Although the inclusion of “mutants” is a bit of a misnomer: as of this issue’s end, typical Daredevil foe Typhoid Mary is getting in on the fun. Wood’s ability to turn convention on its ear like that, as well as his outstanding character work, make this book stand out among not only the X-books, but the rest of Marvel’s output as well. And it’s fortunately very stand-alone, which means it’s perfect for the casual reader. Score: 8/10.

6. Cataclysm: The Ultimates #1 of 3 (Marvel, W: Joshua Hale Fialkov, A: Carmine Di Giandomenico). If indeed Cataclysm heralds the end of the Ultimate universe, the Ultimates drew the short end of the stick in terms of farewell gravitas. Instead of kicking all kinds of Galactus ass, they’re stuck fighting possessed Irishmen. And instead of heavy hitters Cap, Thor, Iron Man, and Nick Fury leading the charge, we’re stuck with Hercules, Falcon, and someone named Monica Chang. They’re hopelessly outclassed,which is an apt metaphor for the condition this book finds itself in anymore: the glory days are long past, and all we’re left with now are the reheated leftovers. Score: 3/10.

7. Avengers #23 (Marvel, W: Jonathan Hickman, A: Leinil Francis Yu). What sucks more than having to fight Thanos for Earth? Having to break through his fleet first while already exhausted from defeating the Builders, which is the position Captain America and friends find themselves in here, the penultimate installment of “Infinity.” The issue is, like all other installments of this story thus far, fairly straightforward: Avengers + cosmic allies vs. bad guys. Still, it’s a pretty rollicking adventure, even if by this point I am “Infinity’d” out. Cap’s tactical prowess is on full display, but the individual characters are more like pieces on a chess board moving around rather than fully fleshed out people. Entertaining, but emotionally devoid. Score: 7/10.

8. Daredevil #33 (Marvel, W: Mark Waid, A: Chris Samnee). Note to Mr. Waid: if you want me to invest in your story about a racist organization infiltrating New York’s justice system, it’s best not to digress for a Kentucky Universal Monster mash. And this issue’s even worse than the last: more than being just a weird detour, it relishes in its bad cliches such as DD walking into a hallucination and succumbing to its wiles before ultimately figuring it out. And there’s a talking snake attempting to seduce Matt to the dark side, too, if you want your cliches any more ham-fisted. And then the whole thing ends with a moot point. I’m not sure who Waid thought would enjoy this story, but evidently he wrote this one only for himself. Score: 4/10.

9. 100 Bullets: Brother Lono #6 of 8 (DC/Vertigo, W: Brian Azzarello, A: Eduardo Risso). If the cost of being a good guy is that those around you must suffer, what’s the point? Lono tries like hell to cling to his new leaf, but the drug cartel standing in his path has other ideas. It looks like Lono might finally be succumbing to his baser instincts to CRUSH KILL DESTROY, which is of course what fans are waiting for… but at the same time, would undermine the redemptive storyline Azzarello has been unfolding. Which is of course the point: playing fans’ expectations against the needs of the story. A smart, tightly-written potboiler that’s ramping up the tension as it heads to the finish line. Score: 8/10.

10. The Walking Dead #117 (Image, W: Robert Kirkman, A: Charlie Adlard). Negan proves there’s depths more to his personality than previously thought this issue: rather than being an outright sociopath, as has been the assumption, he proves he actually does have a moral code, albeit an extremely warped one. The hardcore violence of “All Out War” takes a momentary breather this issue (with the exception of the Saviors-on-zombie action) for some well-paced, quieter character moments. Though not the best jumping-on point for new readers, this issue, and by extension the “All Out War” story, is amazingly entertaining. Score: 9/10.

11. Saga #16 (Image, W: Brian K. Vaughan, A: Fiona Staples). All the disparate players of this critical darling’s third arc move into place, and that place happens to be Oswald Heist’s home. Prince Robot IV arrives, which brings us back to where issue twelve ended and thus full circle, and the drama ramps up proportionately. Especially with a second uninvited guest arriving onscene. All the action is poised to jump off like mad, but the real question at this point is where Vaughan is going with his muckraking journalists, hot on the trail of the scoop of the century: star-crossed lovers Marko and Alana, whose relationship will undoubtedly prove to be the galaxy-shaking news with a major impact on the series’ never-ending war. Score: 9/10.

12. Black Science #1 (Image, W: Rick Remender, A: Matteo Scalera). What happens when one man’s ambitions, arrogance, and flaunting of the conventional rules goes too far? When the rules of science are ignored? There’s a bill to be paid, and for Dr. Grant McKay, it turns out to be a pretty huge one. Pulpy sci-fi and John Carter collide in one of the best-looking books out  there thanks to Dean White’s insane color palette over Matteo Scalera’s economical pencils.  It’s a bit emotionally sparse thanks to starting up in media res, which stops me from falling head over heels for this book like other reviewers have, but it’s a damn fine book nonetheless. Now if Remender can dial back the pacing next issue and give me a reason to care about Grant McKay, Image will have yet another feather in its recent hot streak cap. Score: 8/10.

13. Sidekick #4 of 12 (Image/Joe’s Comics, W: J. Michael Straczynski, A: Tom Mandrake). After last issue’s disastrous attempt at impersonating a new hero in a new city, Flyboy gets to fall just a little bit further here as Straczynski hits the end of the first act, and not a moment too soon. Anymore dragging Barry through the mud was going to become tedious. The story crackles along, but is stalled by the art: Mandrake comes off like a less-talented Brent Anderson, his characters stiff and unlifelike, his expressions off just enough to be noticeably wrong. I’m not sure where JMS is going with Barry’s  mystery woman, but she has the whiff of a siren or a succubus, and if that proves to be case and she’s responsible for Barry’s woes, I’m calling foul. Scraczynski has a long history of getting lost in the middle of his stories. Fingers crossed, that won’t prove to be the case here, but I’m ready just in case.

14. The Massive #17 (Dark Horse, W: Brian Wood, A: Garry Brown). Callum Israel proves that moral conviction is a matter of opinion when a man is dying. This was easily the most intense, thrilling issue of The Massive to date, and it stems from Wood’s ability to but a human face on a man driven to extremes while desperately trying to make sense of a world gone  crazy. The environmental themes are handled with a deft hand rather than used as a bludgeon, and the eye for detail is excellent and well-researched. One of the most-overlooked books today, and easily the best from Dark Horse. Score: 10/10.

15. Kick-Ass 3 #5 of 8 (Marvel/Icon, W: Mark Millar, A: John Romita Jr.). It had to happen: at some point, the career criminals would get sick of Kick-Ass and his merry band of troublemakers and decide to permanently get them out of the picture. The sub-plot with the Juicer gets short shrift as a result, but that’s pretty much my only complaint here. Meanwhile, Dave discovers the pleasures of a normal adult life while everything he strove to build crumbles around him. Millar and Romita Jr. are firing on all cylinders, ramping up the tension as the saga of Dave Lizewski rockets to its seemingly-inevitable conclusion. Score: 9/10.

16. Powers: Bureau #8 (Marvel/Icon, W: Brian Michael Bendis, A: Michael Avon Oeming). Not reading this book? Has Bendis’ mainstream work soured you on his style? Think Powers is simply long in the tooth and therefore must be past its prime? I feel sorry for you, then. Brian Michael Bendis is currently holding a master class on How To Write Comics Well, and if you’re missing out, you get a FAIL! This issue begins a new arc, too, making it a perfect jumping-on point for new and lapsed fans alike. The X-Men may be Bendis’ current bread and butter, but this book highlights his true strengths. Score: 9/10.

17. Wolverine and the X-Men Annual #1 (Marvel, W: Jason Aaron, A: Nick Bradshaw). This Infinity tie-in gets us back to Kid Gladiator, last seen being yanked off of Earth by his father, Shi’ar leader Gladiator, amidst AvX. His brash presence has been missed, along with the unintended humor it brings. KG is having a hard time adjusting to a normal Shi’ar school, and although he’d never admit it aloud, misses the Jean Grey School something fierce. Fortunately, the Avengers’ war against the Builders trundles its way into his neighborhood, giving him something to hit. This issue won’t likely win any converts, but for longtime fans, it’s a real treat (especially with Aaron bowing out of the book in February). It’s fun, with a warm gooey center at its heart and a wicked sense of both action and humor. Score: 8/10.

18. Wolverine and the X-Men #38 (Marvel, W: Jason Aaron, A: Pepe Larraz). Why Jason Aaron is ditching this book to write the vastly-inferior Amazing X-Men is beyond me, but this issue is a great showpiece for why this comic stands out not only among the typically-dour X-Men books but among Marvel’s entire stable as well: It’s smart. It’s funny. It has warmth, heart, imagination, and despite having a full roster of off-the-wall personalities, manages to leave none of them neglected or flat-feeling. This issue picks up with the fallout of “Battle of the Atom:” SHIELD has revealed itself to have Sentinels in its arsenal, and Wolverine wants answers. Pepe Larraz’s art is a bit undeveloped stylistically; he’s workmanlike but not flashy in the least. Only four more issues to go until Jason Latour takes over the writing chores. Enjoy it while you can because there’s not likely to be another Marvel book quite like it. Score: 8/10.

19. Infinity #6 of 6 (Marvel, W: Jonathan Hickman, A: Jim Cheung). And in the end, what was it all for? A shout-out to “Kree-Skrull War?” A grand space opera? A straight-up Avengers yarn? A cynical attempt at cashing in on the event comic craze? All of those things, really. In the end, it comes down to a down-and-dirty throwdown with Thanos, whose bastard son “Thane” (I can’t get over how lazy that name is) turns out to be nothing more than a deus ex machina and of course plays a critical (read: convenient) role in ending his father’s threat. Oh, and Infinity also serves to set up Hickman’s next big Avengers opus (which will presumably also be a slutty event comic). But hey, it’s over! Event fatigue can now subside… at least for awhile. Cheung’s pencils are as crisp and clean as ever, at least, making this book a beauty to look at, anyway. Score: 7/10.

20. New Avengers #12 (Marvel, W: Jonathan Hickman, A: Mike Deodato). This Infinity epilogue has two features that elevate it immediately above the common stock: Mike Deodato’s ridiculously good art, and the insanely brilliant dynamic between warring leaders Black Panther and Namor. Hickman shows the long shadow this war has cast on our heroes, with something akin to PTSD bearing down on each of their psyches. And a dire warning is cast, that is both ominous and well-handled: that this war against the Builders was just the beginning, and something bigger is coming. (Maybe an explanation for how the Builders, who claim to have “built” and populated the universe, in direct contradiction to everything that’s ever been said regarding the Celestials.) But hey! This book has been Hickman’s haven for big ideas and tough moral compromises, making it a shining jewel among the Avengers line. Score: 9/10.

21. All-New X-Men #19 (Marvel, W: Brian Michael Bendis, A: Brandon Peterson). The X-Men fight a religiously-motivated mutant hate group, and because this type of bigotry is new for the Young X-Men, we’re expected to act like we’ve never seen it before as readers. Yawn. Bendis turns in a pro forma script, and Peterson’s bland art (usually crisp and clean), is over-inked by Israel Silva. Maybe next issue. (And as an aside, maybe Young Beast will ditch his idiotic and useless ’90s goggles next issue, too.) Score: 3/10.

22. Uncanny Avengers #14 (Marvel, W: Rick Remender, A: Steve McNiven). Remender decides to finally move his “Ragnarok Now” story forward… five or six issues too late. And in the most piss-poor, shock-tacticky way imaginable, which I won’t spoil here but anyone who’s read the outrage online knows what I mean. It’s nothing more than a cheap trick, and not even Steve McNiven’s art–typically awe-inspiring but oddly lackluster here (maybe because his typical inker Morry Hollowell isn’t on the job with him)–can save the day. Frankly, the only thing keeping me going on this book is the larger picture, which is: heroes fighting heroes means the bad guys get to accomplish that much more. But even that may not be enough after this debacle. Score: 1/10.

23. Hawkeye #14 (Marvel, W: Matt Fraction, A: Annie Wu). Talk about a fallen angel. This book used to be the cream of Marvel’s crop. Now? Over the last four issues (five including the annual), it’s completely lost any and all focus. Clint’s battle against the bros, and his need to avenge his friend Grills, has gone from being the book’s central focus to some sort of mostly-forgotten subplot. Worse, each issue alternates focus between Clint and girl-Hawkeye Kate Bishop now, with alternating artist Annie Wu filling out the Kate issues. Unfortunately, Wu’s no David Aja, and Kate is certainly no Clint. In fact, since she went off on her own, Kate’s become less a character and more a caricature. And that caricature is impetuous, annoying, and has a distinct inability to speak any dialogue that isn’t quirky and peppy. Fraction, what the hell, man? FOCUS! Score: 2/10.

24. Aquaman #25 (DC, W: Geoff Johns, A: Paul Pelletier). Johns’ Aquaman run comes ’round the bend to its conclusion with not a bang nor a whimper, but more of a “meh.” Atlan the Dead King folds like a card table when finally thrown down upon by Arthur, and more or less everything falls into place the way the reader wants it to because Johns was ultimately too lazy to write it any other way. Paul Pelletier’s art is decent but nothing to write home about, which is a pretty apt description of the majority of Johns’ run here. He had the potential to write an epic on par with his work on Flash or Green Lantern, but I guess his need to be a corporate monkeyboy for DC negated his creative impulses. A shame, really. Again, you won’t hate yourself for reading it, but it won’t set you free, either. Score: 5/10.

 

And that’s it. Twenty-four reviews for two weeks, which is one hell of a weighty proposition. But I did it! I hope you learned something, kids: don’t slack on your blog duties. I’ll be back next time with a more regular What I’m Reading for this week’s goodies.

Keep readin’ those funnybooks!

~ILL DIABLO~

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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.

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.