Just Giblets

The Marvel Comics I’m Enjoying Most Right Now… #’s 1 – 5

29th June 2016
by Michael

The Marvel Comics I’m Enjoying Most Right Now… #’s 1 – 5

Here they are, my top 5 titles from Marvel that are currently being published. Five solo titles… unprecendeted. Four female-led titles… shocking. Four of these titles are brand new, having started publication within the past year. They are titles that I never thought would be published. The fifth has been around for a long time, but has radically changed beyond all my wildest expectations and is more fun than I’ve had with a comic for a long time. Two years ago I never would have predicted any of these titles to be in my Top 5.

Vision#5 – Vision
Tom King, writer
Gabriel Hernandez Walta, artist

As a kid, I loved the Vision. He was cool looking, had original powers, and his romance with the Scarlet Witch was legendary and dramatic. Of course, like most comics, and many written by John Byrne, the Vision (and the Scarlet Witch) were put through the ringer in the 90’s and in my opinion, came out the other end a lot worse for wear. I lost a lot of my interest in the Vision, and few writers have really used him all that effectively since then.

Then along comes Tom King, with an entirely new look at the android Avenger, penning a domestic, suburban, horror story that’s part Frankenstein, part Stepford Wives, and can only lead to misery and heartbreak. Vision want a family; so he creates one. A loving wife, and a pair of teenage siblings; all with the same abilities as his. Their behavior is modeled on a traditional loving, suburban family, but while the Vision has had years to perfect his humanity, the rest of his family is quite new to it, and must rely solely on the programming Vision has provided. Add to that, the very humanity Vision seeks to own, and provide for his family, sometimes results in decisions made form the heart rather than the head. King explores the rich history of the Vision’s past to create a disturbing and powerful examination on the desire to belong. Gabriel Hernandez provides beautiful artwork that conveys both the emotional needs and the horror of the Vision family’s situation.

Hellcat.jpg#4 – Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat
Kate Leth, writer
Brittney Williams, artist

If any character needed to capitalize on the movement Ms. Marvel started at fun comics aimed at teen girls, it’s Patsy Walker. Rich in Marvel history, but with origins in romance comics, Patsy became a superheroine in her own right in the 80’s adopting the costume worn by the feminist heroine, The Cat, to become Hellcat. She’s had a bumpy road to 2016, marrying the Son of Satan, committing suicide, and being rescued from hell, but now she returns to her roots, with a 2016 twist. Patsy, the comic book character, is embracing her past as a romance comic star, although it’s definitely something she’s embarrassed about. She’s also making some new friends to go along with her old friends that give the fun-loving Patsy lots of fun people to interact with.

Squarely aimed at younger girls, in both storylines and artwork, Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat really launches forward from where Ms. Marvel set things up. Friendships are paramount, whether it’s She-Hulk or her former Defender teammate, Valkyrie, or her new friends and roommates. Gay themes are front and center, reflecting a much more modern social society that lots of younger adults are comfortable with. Patsy has always deserved a fun book, and with her “cheese & crackers” personality, it makes total sense to aim this thoroughly at teens. I don’t know how long this book will last, but I’m hoping for a nice long run.

Scarlet Witch#3 – Scarlet Witch
James Robinson, writer
Various Artists

The Scarlet Witch was always one of my favorite characters through the 70’s and 80’s. Passionate and feisty, with interesting powers, she was a mutant that wasn’t associated with the X-Men. She was a good team player, and her romance with Vision was unique and well played-out. Then Byrne kind of ruined her, Kurt Busiek tried to rehabilitate her in a way I didn’t like, and Bendis utterly destroyed her character. It has taken years for Wanda to recover and become a viable character in the Marvel Universe again, so I was interested to see what James Robinson would be able to do with her character. Especially as the lead in a solo title, which she has never successfully accomplished before.

The result has been weirdly interesting and utterly enjoyable for me. Robinson explores her use of chaos magic, given Wanda a centered, assured demeanor, and sent her on an exotic journey throughout the globe. While using a different artist for each issue is an intriguing idea, it does make the look for the book less cohesive, but the overall design of the book is fairly consistent, thanks to David Aja’s gorgeous covers. For however long Wanda is able to maintain her title, Robinson has created a new, intriguing chapter in her life, one that gives further definition to a long-standing character, and gives her a platform from which to grow. Wanda should have a prominent place in the Marvel Universe, and I’m thrilled to see that coming to pass.

Mockingbird#2 – Mockingbird
Chelsea Cain, writer
Kate Niemczyk, artist

Perhaps it’s too soon for Mockingbird to appear so high on a favorite comics list, but never has a title so quickly provided me with so much enjoyment. After only three issues and a special one-shot, best-selling author Chelsea Cain has given Bobbi Morse a strong, three-dimensional personality, a fascinating story, and a book that’s fun, sexy, and exciting. Delving into her origins as a scientist and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and riffing on her period on the television show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while deftly acknowledging, but not dwelling on her most definitive history as Hawkeye’s wife and an Avenger, Cain allows Bobbi to soar.

What it comes down to is that Cain has made Bobbi cool. Maybe not as cool as Black widow (yet) but certainly more fun, and just as competent as the Russian super-spy. I’m sure the book will eventually delve further into Bobbi’s past, and I’m looking forward to Cain’s view of her time as a more traditional superhero. The book is smartly written, with gorgeous art by newcomer Kate Niemczyk enhancing the experience. If Mockingbird comes in at #2 this early in its life, I can only hope the quality continues, and possibly even top this list in the months to come.

The Mighty Thor#1 – The Mighty Thor
Jason Aaron, writer
Russell Dauterman, artist

Marvel’s Thor, the Asgardian god of thunder, has been around for a long time. While Thor himself was never a favorite (although I liked him okay), I’ve always had a soft spot for the Asgardians. A few years ago when Sif headlined Journey Into Mystery, it was my favorite title, and remains, to this day, one of my favorite comic runs. Never would I have predicted that The Mighty Thor would top a list of favorite comics. Even when Marvel unexpectedly removed the usual guy wielding Mjolnir and replaced him with a mystery woman, did I expect to love it so much. The fact of the matter is, Jason Aaron has breathed now, vibrant life into Thor and reimagined the character as a kick-ass superheroine to boot!

I was already enjoying the Thor comic before the gender swap occurred. Things Asgardian have been well-handled in recent years, from the afore-mentioned Sif, to the outstanding books involving Loki. I was enjoying the Thor title before Odinson became unworthy and lost the hammer to the new Thor. The stories were interesting and fun; the lead character and supporting cast were entertaining. When the new Thor took hold of the hammer, her interaction with the Odinson was priceless, and her evolving relationship with Thor’s former family and colleagues has been so much fun to watch. Aaron has spent a great deal of time defining and exploring the new Thor, all while keeping the threads from the Odinson’s title percolating in the background, and ready to explode in coming issues. He’s also given us a great mystery and sense of drama with the new Thor’s identity and condition when not wielding Mjolnir. All of this adds up to one fantastic book that leads the charge of what is surely a Marvel renaissance for this particular reader.

And there you have it. My favorite Marvel titles being published right now, and a couple that recently concluded. I may continue this with my favorite DC titles being published right now, but as they’re about to relaunch their entire line, I may take a different look at them. I sure hope Marvel can maintain the quality and diversity of their output. I never would have expected this to be possible ten years ago. Now all we need is the return of the Invisible Woman and someone to fall in love with and use Mantis a bit more, and I will be the happiest comic reader around.

posted in Comics, Favorites | at 8:39 am | 0 Comments
23rd June 2016
by Michael

The Marvel Comics I’m Enjoying Most Right Now… #’s 6 – 10

The final team book shows up to anchor the Top 10, and it’s something of a surprise! Then we’ve got a mix of two male solo titles, and two female solo titles. Also two characters who have been around for a very long time, and two more recent characters. And one of the titles is new characters in long-time roles.

All-New X-Men#10 – All-New X-Men
Dennis Hopeless, writer
Mark Bagley, artist

Despite my checkered past with Brian Michael Bendis, his re-imagination of the all-new X-Men, bringing the original five students from early in their careers into the future in the hopes of convincing the present day Cyclops the error of his ways, turned out to provide some really interesting stories that have evolved into this latest incarnation written by Dennis Hopeless. Now, with Jean Grey off with another faction of the team, and with the all-new Wolverine taking her place, as well as a handful of the other newer mutants in the X-Men stable, we’ve got some “old favorites” mixing it up with newer characters in something that breathes fresh life into a tired Marvel staple.

Some high points include Iceman’s revelation that he’s gay, Cyclops’ struggling not to become the slightly crazy, megalomaniac his older self has turned into, and the burgeoning romance between Angel and the all-new Wolverine. Mark Bagley’s sleek, clean artwork adds a lot to the appeal of the All-New X-Men, and I’m hopeful this title can maintain its high quality even while it gets sucked into some of the larger X-Men series crossovers.

Silver Surfer#9 – Silver Surfer
Dan Slott, writer
Michael Allred, artist

Dan Slott replaces his goofy humor with a sweet simplicity, perfectly matched by Michael Allred’s fun, cartoony art to reimagine the classic Silver Surfer into something fresh and new as seen through the eyes of the human, Dawn Greenwood. This terrific new series started out as a cosmic adventure where Silver Surfer takes Dawn into space to show her the wonders of the universe. Then after providing critical assistance to repairing the universe after it was merged with other multiverses during Secret Wars, Silver Surfer returned to earth with Dawn taking on a new role as earth’s protector after his former love, Shalla Bal, and the people of Zenn-la tried to reimagine Surfer’s adopted home in their image.

Slott usually approaches his titles with considerable humor, and some smart use of continuity. Silver Surfer is fun, and often funny, but there is an underlying sweetness as he and Dawn slowly develop a romantic relationship, all while revisiting past allies and foes on an epic journey through the universe, and then across the globe. Michael Allred, along with his wife, colorist, Laura Allred, create a wild, Ditko-esque tapestry against which the Surfer uses his considerable power to protect those less fortunate. I had difficulty imagining how Slott would maintain his creative storyline, but this title is consistently surprising in its fresh look at a long-time hero.

Ms.Marvel#8 – Ms. Marvel
G. Willow Wilson, writer
Takeshi Miyazawa, artist

G. Willow Wilson’s re-imagination of legacy heroine, Ms. Marvel as a teen, Muslim, Kamala Khan, took Marvel by storm, and opened the floodgates of the superhero comics to young women everywhere. A smash hit, it struck comparisons to Spider-Man and his early appearances, about a young hero trying to learn responsibility, fight crime, keep her identity secret, do well in school, and wrestle with young love all while trying to meet curfew. Ms. Marvel took the comic book world by storm, even becoming a member of the All-New Avengers, and fighting alongside her namesake, idol, Captain Marvel.

While Wilson’s Ms. Marvel retains its appeal, deftly balancing the young heroine’s many challenges, her larger acceptance, as member of the Avengers, has actually dampened my enthusiasm slightly for the title. While still in my Top 10, I think Ms. Marvel would have been higher in the list had I made it a year ago. Takeshi Mayazawa’s art is strong, giving Kamala her unique look, and cartoony appeal. Ms. Marvel has so much potential, and G. Willow Wilson has proven to be a writer that can handle a wide variety of stories. And as a trailblazer for blasting open the doors to mainstream comics to young women, I top my hat to her.

Squirrel Girl#7 – The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Ryan North, writer
Erica Henderson, artist

Now here’s an unexpected hit about a rather unexpected creation. Squirrel Girl was created as a joke in a back-up Iron Man story where she defeated Dr. Doom. After some notable appearances in the Great Lake Avengers, then as Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ nanny in the New Avengers, she got her own title for the first time, where Ryan North and Erica Henderson capitalized on the runaway success of Ms. Marvel to create one of the most fun, funny, and original series ever. Taking full advantage of today’s technology (Squirrel Girl and her pals tweet incessantly) Squirrel Girl is a book for the youth of today and an inspiration for young girls everywhere. Optimistic, confident, and powerful, Squirrel Girl takes on all sorts of criminals, from common thugs to Galactus and Thanos, Squirrel Girl takes no prisoners.

North creates an adorable heroine for the ages, and infuses Squirrel Girl with lunatic humor, warmth and girl-power. With heroic friends like Koi Boy and Chipmunk Hunk you can’t help but smile as this plucky crime-fighter works with her sidekick Tippy-Toe to make the world a better place. Erica Henderson’s art is cartoony but accomplished, and Squirrel Girl is one of the few titles that my friends who don’t read comics seek out. This unlikely hit is so deserving, and while the convoluted time-travel, multi-issue arc wasn’t quite as fun as the previous issues of the series, I still look forward to this comic every month.

Doctor Strange#6 – Doctor Strange
Jason Aaron, writer
Chris Bachalo, artist

I’ve always enjoyed comic series revolving around magic, and I’ve usually enjoyed the various incarnations of Doctor Strange that Marvel has published. One of the big draws of Doctor Strange was always Clea, who has not appeared in this new series, but surprisingly, I’m still loving it. The good doctor is facing an otherworldly threat that is destroying all magic in the multiverse, and slaughtering those who use it. With various guest stars such as Scarlet Witch, Magik, Shaman and Talisman, Aaron is bringing in many of the magic users in the Marvel Universe, and creating a compelling, accessible story about the nature of magic. It’s fun, a bit irreverent, steeped in Marvel history, and modern all at the same time. Stephen Strange is updated and kind of cool but still recognizable as the character that has been around since the 60’s.

Then there’s the art… an important consideration for Doctor Strange given his origins and how Steve Ditko defined the Marvel magic universe. Chris Bachalo is more than up to the task. His unorthodox panels, cryptic, insane monsters, and inscrutable faces all work perfectly for Drocto Strange. If Aaron and Bachalo can maintain this quality and pace, Doctor Strange should have a good run leading up to his cinematic debut. And if they bring Clea in, even as a guest star, I’ll be just thrilled.

And we’re down to my Top 5. Anyone have any guesses as to what’s on the top of the list?

posted in Comics, Favorites | at 6:29 am | 0 Comments
22nd June 2016
by Michael

The Marvel Comics I’m Enjoying Most Right Now… #’s 11 – 15

For the next round, we have some insects, a ferocious animal, and a bunch of superheroines. We also start the parade of solo titles that I’ve been loving. Two are titles that I am genuinely surprised that I’m enjoying so much. Let’s get right down to it.

antman#15 – The Astonishing Ant-Man
Nick Spencer, writer
Ramon Rosanas, artist

I’ve always preferred Scott Lang to Hank Pym when it comes to Ant-Man, but I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy Lang’s solo-outing nearly as much as I do. Lang’s Ant-Man is a bit of a screw-up in his first solo title. He has followed his ex-wife and daughter to Miami, started his own shaky security firm populated by ex-super villains, and found himself working for his ex-girlfriend Darla Deering, once a teammate on the Fantastic Four under the identity of Miss Thing. His daughter Cassie, formerly the Young Avengers known as Stature has come back from the dead, lost her powers and his very angry at her father for stalking her. Now she finds herself on the wrong side of the law with a new set of super-powers with her Dad trying to save her.

Nick Spencer hits a fun tone in Astonishing Ant-Man, mixing family drama with pratfall humor. Scott is such a mess that you can’t help root for him. He loves his daughter and tries so hard to be a hero that you just want to shake him every time he makes a questionable decision. Spencer makes Lang a lovable guy who tries really hard but can’t really catch many breaks. He does a great job with Lang’s supporting cast as well. From Cassie, to Darla, to his sad sack security team, to the Beetle, a new incarnation of the super-villain with whom he has slept with a couple times against his better judgement. Ramon Rosanas’ art is sleek and accessible, handle the size changing superheroes with dramatic flair.  Here’s hoping Lang’s bad luck doesn’t cross over into the sales for this title, which deserves a lengthy run.

spiderwoman#14 – Spider-Woman
Dennis Hopeless, writer
Javier Rodriguez, artist

How I loved Spider-Woman in the 70’s. And I do thank Brian Bendis for bringing her back… but didn’t really enjoy his take on her. But now Dennis Hopeless has reimagined Jessica Drew as a pragmatic heroine… who has a baby! What a fun and unexpected twist for our heroine, and one that brings a little mystery and a lot of humor into her life. It’s true, when Spider-Woman first appeared in the 70’s, humor wasn’t really part of her ouevre. Yet it suits her, especially with Hopeless’ quirky take on her, and keeping her large network of heroic (and sometimes villainous) friends. I also enjoy her mentor relationship with the two newest spider-ladies in the Marvel Universe (Spider-Gwen and Silk). It allows Jessica to grapple with her uncertainty around her heroic role, yet tap into the extensive experience she has amassed over the years.

Javier Rodriguez is a great artistic pairing for Jessica’s new style. Her costume has been reimagined, the book has bold, clean lines, and the colors fairly leap off the page. The first arc of Spider-Woman’s title by Hopeless focuses on her pregnancy and her unorthodox labor. I’m looking forward to see where her creative team takes her now that the baby is born, and perhaps the mystery of the father is brought to light. Welcome back, Jessica, it’s been way too long.

Black Widow#13 – Black Widow
Chris Samnee & Mark Waid, writers
Chris Samnee, artist

Natasha Romanoff, aka, The Black Widow, is finally getting the attend she deserves, thanks possibly in part, because of the high profile nature of her role in the Avengers films. Natasha has such a long, complicated history with so many appearances in so many team and solo books since her debut in the pages of Iron Man in the 60’s. Taking up the threads established by Marjorie Liu and Nathan Edmondson in her previous series, Black Widow’s solo adventures are much more of the spy variety than standard superheroics. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee just completed a very successful run on Daredevil, and their style suits the Widow nicely. They kick the series off with a full-throttle, suspenseful opener that never lets up the pace. They’ve put Natasha in a very dangerous situation, one that she overcomes in her own deadly style.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the last two Widow series over the past few years. And I suspect this one will also be great. So far it hasn’t matched the outstanding work Edmondson had been delivering, thus it’s double digit appearance on this list. I’m hoping that once Waid and Samnee get deeper into their story, that this title might move up on my list.

A-Force#12 – A-Force
Kelly Thompson w/ G. Willow Wilson, writers
Jorge Malina, artist

After Cullen Bunn’s ambitious, yet failed attempt at an all-super-heroine team in Fearless Defenders, I was worried that A-Force, an all-super-heroine team of Avengers that got its debut as a miniseries during the Secret Wars arc, might fare the same. Yet, G. Willow Wilson hot off her work with Ms. Marvel, seems to have a success on her hands so far. Now in their own series, the kick-ass heroines of Earth 616 – She-Hulk, Medusa, Captain Marvel, Dazzler, Nico Minoru and Singlarity –  band together again for the very first time. What’s that you say? Together again for the first time? Well the characters in the A-Force limited series were plucked from various realities and weren’t the heroines that are getting together here, but when one of your members is a sentient pocket universe, these things are possible.

Even without one of my favorites, Medusa, prominently featured, it’s a no-brainer that I would be interested in a team of super-heroines, but A-Force shows promise regardless of my pre-disposition to love it. Thompson and Wilson are taking their time developing the group into a team and fleshing out the individual members. They plan to have a variety of characters guest star, which will be a lot of fun. The tension/dynamic between three strong leaders, Medusa, Captain Marvel and She-Hulk, is fun. Malina’s artwork is good, clean and attractive, but doesn’t wow me. I suppose this would be much closer to the top of the list if it didn’t feel a little rushed, or dig a little deeper. Hopefully once A-Force settles into its groove, that will happen.

All-New Wolverine#11 – All-New Wolverine
Tom Taylor, writer
David Lopez & David Navarrot, artists

Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think a Wolverine comic would end up hovering around the bottom of my top 10 Marvel books being published. Even with Laura Kinney, the former X-23, now acting as the All-New Wolverine did I ever expect a Wolverine title to be so darn enjoyable! Tom Taylor has breathed new life into the tired Wolverine mythos by creating stories about a young, female clone of Wolverine, struggling with her humanity, and basically invulnerable due to her healing factor. In her new solo title, Laura has partnered with such unlikely heroes as Dr. Strange and Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp, as well as her boyfriend, Angel, from the all-new X-Men already, and seeing her work with these disparate heroes has been a lot of fun. Now she has taken an even younger clone of herself under her wing, forcing her to make even more responsible choices in an effort to set a good example.

Taylor has developed a strong character in Laura Kinney, someone who hasn’t been around all that long, yet has already amassed significant experience in the Marvel Universe. She carries on a legacy of the lost Logan, and seeks to honor him by adopting his identity. he art by David Lopez and David Navarrot has an intensity that matches the young heroine. Now it’s time to see some of Wolverine’s rogues gallery to make an appearance to square off against the “all-new Wolverine.”

See you soon with the Top 10!

posted in Comics, Favorites | at 6:03 pm | 0 Comments
16th June 2016
by Michael

The Marvel Comics I’m Enjoying Most Right Now… #’s 15 – 20

After being inspired by this article in Past Magazine, I started assembling my Top 10 list of Marvel Comics that I’m currently enjoying. What I discovered is, I’m actually really digging about 20 of their titles (and reading about 30 — not a bad ratio). I made a couple of surprising discoveries when compiling this list. I’ve always been a big fan of team books. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that our of my Top 20 reads, 14 were solo titles! And of the seven team books I am enjoying, only one is in the Top 10. The reason for this leads to my next surprising discovery. I’ve always enjoyed team books more than solo books because, as you all know, I read comics mainly for the superheroines. Historically, you’d only find superheroines in team books like the X-Men or the Avengers. You might find one or two solo titles about a superhoine, but they usually didn’t last too long. Shockingly, 10 of my Top 20 Marvel titles I’m enjoying right now are solo books about superheroines! It’s really unprecedented, and I am thrilled. I guess Marvel finally figured out that girls read comics too.

captainmarvel#20 – Captain Marvel
Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters, writers
Kris Anka & Felipe Smith, artists

As a superheroine-loving, comic-reading youth, I was very excited when Marvel clumsily embraced the women’s liberation movement in the 70’s, publishing titles like The Cat, Night Nurse, and somewhat more successfully, Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel. Carol Danvers, a/k/a/ Ms. Marvel, was an interesting character, and fit right in the mold of what a big comic book company thought a 70’s liberated woman should be. After her title was cancelled, she showed up in the Avengers and the X-Men, and proceeded to have her life ripped apart and over the decades, put back together. And while I’ve always liked her okay, I’ve never really taken to Ms. Marvel. Except for her first run in The Avengers, when she was actually kind of playful — flirting with Wonder Man, teasing Captain America — she always came across as a little flat. Chris Claremont did some work with her after she had her powers stripped from her and her memories wiped by Rogue in a classic Avengers Annual, subsequently boosting her powers to cosmic levels and changing her name to Binary. Kurt Busiek tried to mix it up a little by having her struggle with alcohol when he brought the Avengers back to popularity. Then Marvel decided that Carol, now called Captain Marvel, needed to be their flagship heroine; a character to rival Wonder Woman, and they started pushing her in solo titles again.

I really wanted to love her first solo outing written by the talented Kelly Sue DeConnick but could never really fully embrace it. Part of that was Dexter Soy’s unconventional, and in my eyes, unattractive artwork. So after a while, I stopped reading it. Recently she got a new creative team, Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters who relaunched her series with Carol as the commander of Alpha Flight, housed on a space station and protecting the earth from interstellar threats. Her supporting cast includes Sasquatch, Aurora and Puck, former members of the Canadian team, Alpha Flight, with some lovely, streamlined art by Kris Anka and Felipe Smith. The combination is working. The stories are fun, Carol in getting more interesting to me again, and hopefully, this trend will continue. I really want to love Captain Marvel. maybe soon I will.

#1ultimates9 – Ultimates
Al Ewing, writer
Kenneth Rocafort, artist

After the universe reshaping that took place in Secret Wars, the Ultimates came together to monitor and protect the earth from major cosmic disturbances. Their first mission was to stop the planet-destroying habits of Galactus, so you know they mean business. With that in mind, the team packs some major power with a membership that includes Blue Marvel, Black Panther, Spectrum, Captain Marvel and Ms. America, with Galactus as a sort of unofficial member. It’s also an amazingly diverse team with not a single caucasian man in sight. Much of my enjoyment of Ultimates comes from this unconventional line-up. Female-heavy, and featuring Monica Rambeau, aka Spectrum, was also a major-enticement. But Ewing does a great job in thinking big in terms of storyline and is creative in his solutions.

Take his first storyline, when the Ultimates decide to tackle the problem of Galactus. Their solution isn’t to destroy him, or stop his insatiable hunger. Instead, they use their brains and their considerable power to change his fundamental nature from world-destroyer to life-bringer. It’s a bold, and surprising move in comics, and has made for some pretty damn entertaining stories.

squadron#18 – Squadron Supreme
James Robinson, writer
Leonard Kirk, artist

Originally created as Marvel’s version of the Justice League and hailing from a parallel earth, James Robinson has reimagined the team as a band of heroes assembled from multiple parallel earths that have all been destroyed. The team holds the Illuminati responsible, and their primary mission, when not helping humanity, is revenge against those who destroyed their homeworlds. In fact, in one of their first missions, they successfully kill Namor, the Sub Mariner. Each member represents the core team of the original Squadron Supreme, including Hyperion, Nighthawk, Doctor Spectrum, Whizzer, and Power Princess. I’ve always enjoyed the Squadron Supreme, but it was the inclusion of Thundra, who hooked up with the team after a few issues, that inspired me to follow the book.

Fortunately, Robinson has set the team up with an intriguing mission, one that is justified, if misguided, and also puts them into opposition of the heroes on our earth. It’s difficult to know how long he will be able to maintain this mission, and how things will evolve longer-term, but with early revelations of a team-traitor, and the addition of Thundra, things are already starting to evolve.

uinhumans#17 – Uncanny Inhumans
Charles Soule, writer
Steve McNiven, Brandon Petersen, Kev Walker, artists

I’ve always been a big fan of the Inhuman Royal Family, particularly Medusa, who is my second favorite super-heroine after the Invisible Woman. Medusa has gotten a lot of play in the past few years, which I really appreciate, but now that Black Bolt is back, I feared Medusa would be taking a back seat to her hubby. Fortunately, so far, that’s not happening. While Uncanny Inhumans hasn’t quite lived up to my hopes for the title; it’s a pretty standard book, it is resolving some dropped threads from the past: like what ever happened to Medusa and Black Bolt’s son, Ahura. That opening arc, which also involved Kang the Conqueror, was a great start, but the book has been floundering a bit since then with a few transitional issues that will hopefully lead into something big coming up. The addition of the Human Torch as the human liaison to the Inhumans is intriguing, but his relationship with Medusa seems a bit more like a plot device.

Still, I have high hopes for this ongoing spotlight on one of Marvel’s quirkier ideas from the 60’s. Marvel Entertainment has put the Inhumans movie on hold, which is a shame, but they’re getting commercial time on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Medusa is certainly getting a lot of face time between this title and A-Force, which will appear a little bit later on this list. So my hopes remain high, and I am enjoying the Inhumans time in the spotlight.

aninhumans#16 – All-New Inhumans
James Asmus & Charles Soule, writers
Stefano Caselli, artist

Speaking of the Inhumans, what about all those other Inhumans, including all the new ones created by the Terrigen mists, that don’t fit into Uncanny Inhumans? Marvel has created a second team, this one led by Crystal, arguably one of the most popular of the Royal Family, who is occasionally forgotten about when dealing with the Inhumans. Surprisingly, I’m enjoying All-New Inhumans a little more than the Uncanny version. This group of Inhumans has a very targeted mission — protecting all the new Inhumans created by the Terrigen Cloud that has now having affects worldwide. All-New Inhumans covers some interesting moral ground as the team, nominally on a diplomatic mission wherever they go, uncover all sorts of disturbing behavior around the explosion of new Inhumans.

Marvel has always had a tough time creating new Inhumans beyond the Royal Family and having them stick. Both All-New and Uncanny Inhumans is doing a pretty good job with this, giving them some strong characterization and more to do (Sean McKeever’s brief series in the early 2000’s about a younger group of Inhumans being an exception. Would love to see some of those characters again.) The fact that Charles Soule is involved with both Inhumans’ series is good, allowing for strong continuity and interplay. I just hope that Marvel isn’t going to continue with the idea of Inhumans replacing mutants in their universe, because those stories have already been written for decades. It’s time to try something new.

Okay, things start to get really interesting from here. You can see that most of the team books are in this group, surprising, as they tend to be my favorites. Also notable about those teams is that they’re all pretty much led by women (except for Ultimates, and the leadership there is debatable.)  Lots of good stuff from Marvel these days. Hope the quality continues.

posted in Comics, Favorites | at 10:15 am | 0 Comments
14th June 2016
by Michael

The Marvel Comics I’m Enjoying Most Right Now – Or Was…

Both Marvel and DC are transforming again. It’s something they do every nine months or so. Sometimes more. It gets old. But at the same time, I read a post on some comics site that listed the best Marvel comics out right now, and I realized that I agreed with many of the picks on this list, and that there were actually quite a few Marvel Comics being published at the moment that I was really enjoying. Since I don’t really use this blog anymore except for my year-end best books list, I thought why not share my mid-year best comics list? And here we are…

But before I launch into this list, I had to mention two titles that are not currently being published, so it would be against the rules to include them on my list. That said, when they were being published, they were definitely in my Top 6 or 7 Marvel books out there. The good news, is that one will be coming back… transformed a bit… very soon, and the other will turn up again in the near future as well.

lokiLoki: Agent of Asgard
Al Ewing, writer
Lee Garbett, Artist

I’m not generally a fan of comic titles centered around “villains.” I came late to Loki’s starring role. In the pages of Thor, the heroes arch-nemesis, his half-brother Loki, god of lies, ends up being reborn. His tales as a pre-teen were told in Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery title. After reading consistent great reviews of the comic, I picked it up, fell in love, and have been reading about Loki’s adventures in various titles ever since. Now aged to a young adult, befriended by a mortal named Verity, who can see through lies, acting more as an anti-hero… or even (gasp) a hero, than the traditional villain he has always played, and now working as an agent of Asgard, his mystical homeworld on command by the all-Mother, rulers of the gods, he wrestles with his future self, that traditional, purveyor of evil that whose shadow all his actions fall beneath.

Ewing’s Loki is conflicted and charming, smart and cunning, but not so trustworthy when it all comes down to it. His journey has him evolving from a god of lies, to a god of stories, which is a lot less judgmental, but still has the ability to swing both ways… morality-wise. Sadly, Loki got caught up in the whole rebirth of the Marvel Universe business and his title was suspended. The good news, is that this week, Loki returns in a new title called Vote Loki, where the god of stories take on the role that he was born to embrace… political candidate for President of the United States.

hawkeyeAll-New Hawkeye
Jeff Lemire, writer
Ramón Pérez, artist

After writer David Aja’s ongoing Hawkeye series turned Clint Barton, the avenging archer from an heroic superhero, to a down-on-his-luck hero of the people, and paired him up with the younger, better(?) Hawkeye, Kate Bishop Jeff Lemire followed up with a story that combined a future adventure with the present, when the two estranged Hawkeyes meet up after years on their own to correct a mistake they made around three powerfully mutated children who kill with their minds.

Both Aja and Lemire knew how to make Barton and Bishop unique and fascinating, with their two heroes sharing both a mutual admiration and attraction that was sweet without being icky. They tackled serious subjects with a hefty dose of tongue-in-cheek, dry humor that suited their protagonists perfectly. Both Hawkeyes found themselves rising up from B-list cult favorites, to A-list cult favorites and proved once again, that you don’t need super powers to be a true hero.

posted in Comics, Favorites | at 11:03 pm | 0 Comments
5th January 2015
by Michael

2014, The Year in Reading: Graphic Novels

SagaIn preparation for my list of the best books I read in 2014, I wanted to call out a particular category that deserves mention, but didn’t feel right to include on the list proper, and that is the graphic novel, or more specifically, the collected editions of monthly comics. I’m a big comic book reader, and most of the reading I do in this genre is of individual issues on a monthly basis. Occasionally there is a title I’ve missed that I later catch up with when they are collected and published in bound editions. If I included these collected editions as part of this list, then Saga, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 would have made the Top 5.

The latest ongoing work by notable comic writer Brian K. Vaughan, with dynamic assistance from illustrator Fiona Staples, is a science fiction space opera cum Romeo & Juliet. A soldier and a rebel from opposite sides of two warring planets, fall in love and flee with their infant daughter with the governments of both factions, and a particularly a couple of wild bounty hunters on their tails. Saga is just that: a prose narrative of achievements and events in the history of a personage, family, etc. Sagas are all about heroism, and while there is something inherently heroic about Alana and Marko’s forbidden love and their refusal to follow the prejudiced and hateful viewpoints of their respective worlds, their heroism is shown on a much smaller scale, and that is they desire to raise their daughter despite the odds against them.

sagav1Vaughan, whose work in such comic titles as Y: The Last ManEx Machina,  Runaways and the stand-alone graphic novel, Pride of Baghdad, is known for this thoughtful explorations into the human condition, while telling a compelling adventure story, whether in the context of a dystopian society, a world of super-heroes, or against the backdrop of war.  His partner and co-owner of Saga is talented illustrator Fiona Staples, whose imaginative designs of alien races and starships lends both a whimsical fantasy and hard science fiction element to her work. Her gorgeous, hand-painted covers, and hand-worked lettering are also widely-praised by critics and fans alike.

If you’re a fan of high adventure, fantasy or science fiction, but not a comic reader, I would recommend you give Saga a try. If you’re a comic fan, but not so hot on the science fiction/fantasy elements, i would also suggest you pick up Saga, Volume 1. This is top notch work, and worthy of a place in my list of Top Reads of 2014. I only gave it a category all its own to make room for more books to spotlight.

posted in 2014, Books, Comics, Year-end lists | at 8:52 am | 0 Comments
10th January 2014
by Michael

2013: the Year in Comics

Winner

Marvel Now

Loser

DC Comics - The New 52

 

 

 

 

 

A year ago, as 2013 was starting, DC was still riding on the successes of the New 52, although the steam was starting to sputter, and the creativity that had been evident during its launch was starting to get scarce.  On the other hand, Marvel, who had spent years heading in a direction I just wasn’t at all interested in, was starting to show some promise with their Marvel Now campaign, their answer to DC’s New 52.  Who would know that in just one year, as 2014 is kicking off, I would have made such a radical shift, jettisoning many of my DC titles, and feeling lackluster about the ones I’m keeping, and embracing so many new Marvel titles… or at least enjoying the new directions that they are headed in. I’m somewhat unique when it comes to comic readers, I think.  I’m largely interested in super-heroines, and as a gay man, I’ve been enjoying the growing number of gay characters that have been popping up in comics.  Overall, I would give DC higher marks when it comes to their treatment of women and gays in comics.  That all seemed to change during 2013, when Marvel really started putting their money where their mouth is, and showcasing female characters in a really big way, putting marketing muscle behind them, and really starting to address some of the criticisms that have been dogging them:  namely that they were a old, white boys club.  2013 showed them really trying new things, and 2014 looks to be continuing the trend.

High Point of 2013

Sif

Sif from Journey into Mystery by Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti.  Hands down, best comic book read in 2013, and I dare say, in the last ten years.  Smart, rollicking fun.  Too bad it only lasted 10 issues.

Journey Into Mystery 2013 saw the bulk of the short run that I have to mark as one of the best comic arcs I have ever enjoyed.  That was Marvel’s Journey Into Mystery, featuring Sif, written by Kathryn Immonen with art by Valerio Schiti.  Wow.  I remember reading an interview with Immonen before the series launched, and she talked about giving Sif some fun, sprawling adventures, filled with brawls, revelry, bad behavior, and just plain old fun.  She succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.  From Asgardian berserkers, to fighting back to back with Spider-Man in Manhattan, to cosmic, space adventure, Immonen wrote Sif as the consummate warrior who fit in everywhere.  It was truly the most fully realized the character has ever been.  Completely defined on her own, and not as Thor’s boyfriend, or Beta Ray Bill’s boyfriend, but as a warrior, as a goddess, ad a friend, and as a super-heroine.  Valerio Schiti brought Sif to life with his pencils that combined a goddess’ beauty, with the true strength of a warrior.  I never doubted that Sif couldn’t do all the mighty thinks she did, and she was beautiful while she did it.  And did I mention the gorgeous cover art by Jeff Dekal?  Blew me away every month.  But it was too good to be true, and I knew it wouldn’t last.  Still we had 10 fantastic issues to enjoy – and it was a real longshot to begin with.  I am so happy to have had such a joy to read for ten months running.

 

Other Shining Moments

Sandman: Overtures

Neil Gaiman returns to Sandman along with J.H. Williams III

The only thing better than Neil Gaiman returning to his most well-known work, The Sandman, would be having return with someone like J. H. Williams III handling the artwork.  Well, that is just what Vertigo did, and the result is spectacular.  Only a single issue has been published thus far and already the results are out of this world… literally.  Neil is crafting the story that serves as a prequel of sorts to his groundbreaking series.  What were the events that led to Morpheus’ decades-long captivity in issue #1 of The Sandman comic?  Overture  will reveal this story over the course of several bi-monthly issues. Neil’s return is fresh and welcoming. It feels both comfortable, a soft, enveloping afghan to curl up in on a snowy night, and revitalized and energized.  And other than Dave McKean, was there ever an artist more suited to visualizing the tales of the Dream-King than J.H. Williams III?  He gave us hints of this type of work in Promethea, matured to the superstar comic artist he is today with Batwoman and now turns his formidable talents to such a classic character whose visuals have been chronicled by a series of great artists.  In 2013, this is the one thing DC really did right.

 

 

 

 

 

Young Avengers

Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen.  Innovative, fresh and fun.   Smart as hell.  Too bad it’s only lasting 12 issues.

The third comics high point in 2013 has a connection with the first.  Prior to Sif taking over the spotlight in Journey Into Mystery, Kieron Gillen had a very successful run on the title featuring Sif’s fellow Asgardian, Kid Loki. In 2013, Gillen brought Kid Loki along for the ride when he launched Young Avengers, surpassing even the heights the groups’ creator, Allan Heinberg took them.  With innovative artwork and stories that truly felt like they were populated by super-powered teenagers (albeit fantastically powerful and incredibly beautiful teenagers) Young Avengers was fresh and exciting every month. Kid Loki wasn’t the only new member in the Young Avengers, a mysterious powerhouse named Miss America, Kree superhero Marvel Boy, and former X-Man Prodigy joined original members Wiccan, Hulkling and Hawkeye for some truly dimension-hopping adventures. It is notable to mention that the Kate Bishop Hawkeye has starred to not just one, but two of the year’s spotlight series.  Read more about her activities in the Hawkeye entry below. It is also notable that the gay relationship between Wiccan and Hulkling is central to the series.  Again, this series could have run much longer, but after a single year, Gillen decided to call it a day rather than lose the innovative energy that infused his first season.  It will be greatly missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FF

FF by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred.  Full of heart, joy and spontaneity.  And you could find a better artist for this title.  Too bad it’s only lasting 14 issues.

My next entry has been a consistent high point for 2013 and is yet another title that will be ending after just over one year.  Matt Fraction was everywhere in Marvel in 2013, including taking over the Fantastic Four franchise.  In addition to the flagship title, Fantastic Four, Fraction took over FF (formerly the Future Foundation) keeping the large cast of young students at the Foundation, and replacing the Fantastic Four with the quirky  combo of Ant-man (Scott Lang), She-Hulk, Medusa, and She-Thing (Johnny’s pop-star girlfriend, Darla, in a Thing suit).  Sound weird?  Well it was, but it had originality, fun, and most importantly, heart.  It didn’t hurt that Michael Allred handled the artwork, and his gorgeous, cartoony style fit the title to perfection.

Batwoman

Batwoman proposes to maggie Sawyer.  Groundbreaking and powerful.  Too bad DC had to mess it all up afterwards.  Fingers crossed for Andreyko.

Alas, the tale of Batwoman should probably be a blog post all on its own, but it has been examined and talked over by many better writers/bloggers than me, so I will try to keep it down to a paragraph or two.  Nothing DC has put out in the last decade can compare to the excitement generated and quality served that Batwoman, first under the masterful team of Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III.  When Greg left the title due to editorial interference from DC, Batwoman fans collectively held their breath. Would their beloved title survive?  When the announcement came that the writing duties would be taken over by artist Williams III, and that he would continue to draw every other story arc, you could feel the internet sigh in relief. Personally, although I would miss Rucka, who really was an act that couldn’t be topped for this title, I was thrilled because the artist who would be alternating with Williams III was Amy Reeder, who I also loved.  Her work on Madame Xanadu was clean and fresh, but also broke convention and would be a perfect counterpoint for Williams III.  Alas, after a couple of issues, ‘creative differences’ forced Reeder off the title. Somehow Batwoman survived yet another creative shake-up, but the third, and most recent will be the make or break moment, I fear.  In a glorious moment, Williams III had Kate Kane aka Batwoman, propose to her beloved, Maggie Sawyer.  Before any follow-up could be seen in the book itself, the news broke that DC was not allowing any characters to get married (because all their characters had to be angst-ridden and miserable, which marriage prevents) and due to larger creative differences, J.H. Williams III was leaving the title.  Now that was a blow that I doubted Batwoman could survive. Yet somehow, some way, DC got one of the very few writers that might be able to take the reins successfully to do just that.  Marc Andreyko, whose amazing work on Manhunter could have been a precursor to Batwoman, has taken over the writing duties of Batwoman.  The real question is, as 2014 kicks off, can Marc rise above the editorial interference that seems to be the true enemy Batwoman must face to rise triumphant back to her former glory.  Only time will tell.  2014 will either be one more sigh of relief, or the year that Batwoman comes crashing down from the heights she has existed in since her launch.

 

 

 

Fearless Defenders

Cullen Bunn had big plans for the superheroines of Marvel in Fearless Defenders.  Too bad it only lasted 12 issues.

Cullen Bunn did something promising at the end of his Fear Itself: The Fearless miniseries a couple of years ago.  He ended the story with Valkyrie realizing that she needed to gather together a new group of Valkyries to be ready to combat evil, etc.  What followed in 2013 was a series to surprising when you think about Marvel’s track record, that the fact that it lasted 12 issues was an astounding feat that I will always treasure.  It may not have been the most innovative writing, or the most polished art, but it spoke directly to my particular fan-boy heart. Fearless Defenders was basically a forum for writer Cullen Bunn to spotlight the heroines (and villainesses) of Marvel.  It starts as an odd copule scenario, Brunnhilde the Valkyrie and Misty Knight, bionic detective coming together to combat evil.  Along the twelve-issue run we are treated to an assortment of well-known (She-Hulk, Storm, Black Cat, Elektra), fan-favorite (Tigra, Dani Moonstar, Hellcat, Colleen Wing, Thundra, Elsa Bloodston) and downright obscure (Hippolyta, Clea, Tarantula) heroines coming  together for some kick-ass adventure. Add to that a terrific new ‘human’ character, Annabelle, who gets caught up in the team’s adventures and falls for Valkyrie, who, being an Asgardian goddess, is not necessarily opposed to a relationship with another woman.  Sadly, that gets slightly derailed when Annabelle is killed and with a little help for Clea, Valkyrie rescues her soul but ends up having to share her body with her. And that’s just the start.  When I read what Mr. Bunn had planned for the longer run of this title, my soul just weeps.  Why wasn’t this title flying off the shelves!  Then, I step back and wonder, how did he sell more than a dozen copies?  I’m so thankful this title existed, and I’m so thankful that this Marvel Now initiative gave Marvel the balls to get behind it for a year.  Who knows?  Perhaps the Fearless Defenders will return?

 

 

 

 

Hawkeye

Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye is original and fun.  Surprised (and happy) that this one is still being published!

Matt Fraction has an offbeat sensibility.  And I really, really welcome it in comics.  Just take a look at FF and Hawkeye?  I’ve always enjoyed Hawkeye (Clint Barton) as a character, but since the Bendis-i-zation of all things Avengers, I was pretty much over most of them as characters.  When this new Hawkeye series was announced, honestly, what caught my attention were the fantastic covers created by David Aja.  I also read an interview with Fraction somewhere where he mentioned that both Clint and Kate Bishop – the other Hawkeye – would be appearing in this title.  My interest was suitably piqued. The rest is history.  Hawkeye is one of the most original mainstream superhero comic today.  It’s firmly rooted in the superhero world, with references to Hawkeye’s Avengers membership, and villains like Madame Masque popping in from time to time, but the stories’ focus is much more personal.  From Clint trying to protect his building’s fellow tenants from a shady landlord, Kate trying to find a job, or Clint’s dog having an issue-long adventure on his own, Hawkeye never ceases to please. And it’s truly showing in the non-comic book store world.  Collected editions of the Hawkeye comic are showing up next to Fables on the top selling graphic novel lists on Amazon. This is the way you grab an audience, people.  Not by playing it safe, but by taking chances.  Thanks, Matt.

 

 

 

 

 

Red She-Hulk

Biggest surprise of the year

Have I said this too many times already?  Surely this was the biggest surprise of the year for me.  That whole Red Hulk think was totally lost on me over the last few years, and when they started in on the Red She-Hulk?  I just couldn’t be bothered.  There was a perfectly good She-Hulk running around: Jennifer Walters, and the spotlight on any She-Hulk should be on her.  Sure, Betty Ross Banner is a character with a lot of history, and the fact that she’s got some Hulk issues of her own is vaguely interesting, I just didn’t see the need. So why did I pick up the first issues of the new Red She-Hulk comic?  I really have no idea.  Jeff Parker was the creative force behind Agents of Atlas, which I actually didn’t read, but heard good things about it.  I’m wracking my brain, but honestly, I can’t remember why I picked it up, but something about that very first issue, with the Avengers trying to hunt Red She-Hulk down, and with Machine Man of all people being the readers’ point of entry, that really clicked, and like Journey Into Mystery featuring Sif, there was something just old school and fun, while still being original, about Red She-Hulk.  Too bad it only last 8 issues.

 

 

 

 

 

X-Men

Brian Wood’s X-Men

Despite being saddled with a mutant-line crossover a couple issues after it debuted, X-Men has managed to find a nice identity and let the central characters shine.  What could have easily been a gimmick — let’s feature a team of X-Men that’s all women — very quickly became something much more organic and fun under Brian Wood’s steady hand.  It has helped that he’s had a couple of terrific artists helping him out, first Olivier Copiel, then Terry and Rachel Dodson, but the dynamic between the characters, the action sequences, the rhythm of the stories… by gosh, you might not even notice that there aren’t any guys featured!  It’s just kind of business as usual! The roster has changed slightly since the start. Kitty Pryde has left the building (sadly).  Kitty is such a mature and stabilizing presence, I would have liked to seen her play off some of the more volatile characters a bit more.  That said, the introduction of X-Factor’s Monet (M) into the mix in the last couple of issues is inspired, and should make for a nice team dynamic.   Wood has set up a little tension between Storm and Rachel, which is nice.  It’s nice to see Rachel do much of anything, actually.  And having Jubilee as the catalyst of sorts for this team was kind of nice as well.  Especially since the fact that she’s a vampire now is barely mentioned.  Maybe they’ll just forget about it.  It’s nice that the students are all running around in the background as well, interacting where appropriate.  I’m also loving the natural growth of the Sisterhood, a team of super villainesses to oppose the X-Men.  And the fact that Brian is reaching beyond the mutantverse to populate this Sisterhood with the likes of the Enchantress and Typhoid Mary is inspired.  If the writing and art stays at this level, X-Men could be around for a long time.

 

Mixed Bags

Guardians of the GalaxyBefore I get into the two major families that Marvel focuses on, let me say a brief word about Guardians of the Galaxy.  A few years ago, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning revitalized Marvel’s cosmic line of comics through a couple of major events called Annhiliation and Annihilation: Conquest.  Among the titles they launched was a whacky band of cosmic misfits, The Guardians of the Galaxy.  Led by Starlord, their roster was  a loose collection of space-faring warriors such as Drax, Gamora, Captain Marvel (Phyla-Vell), Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Moondragon, Mantis, Cosmo, Bug, and a few more.  It was fresh, it was funny, the characters were distinct and unique.  One of the best comics in the last ten years.  With the announcement last year that Marvel’s next new movie in their stable would be a Guardians of the Galaxy film, a new series was launched written by Marvel powerhouse Brian Michael Bendis.  It was a stripped down roster, Starlord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket and Groot, with the addition of Neil Gaiman’s creation, Angela.  And amazingly (not) Mr. Bendis took every ounce of character and intelligence out of the book.  The characters are the blandest batch of heroes to be found.  They took away Gamora’s inappropriately revealing costume and replaced it with ugly, clunky armor that makes her pretty generic looking.  They added in Iron Man just because.  It’s really pretty abysmal.  Not even a very brief appearance by my favorite ex-Guardian, Mantis, could perk up this blah title.  Well, I waited out Bendis over in the Avengers.  Maybe in ten years, Guardians of the Galaxy will have a new writer and I will enjoy it once again.

The Avengers

Not counting Young Avengers, which is so far removed from the Avengers family, I just pretend it’s not even related.  Marvel leaned heavily on the Avengers family of titles this year with not one, but two major events wrapped around them.  The first, Age of Ultron came and went without a whole lot of impact.  For me, the main positive moment in this event came from the prominent role played by Susan Storm Richards, the Invisible Woman.  A thank you to Bendis for including her in that role.  I barely remember the rest of the story.

Infinity

Infinity was a bit of a dud. Overlong and repetitious.

The main event of 2013 was called Infinity, and it was helmed by Jonathan Hickman.  This one crossed over throughout pretty much all the Avengers titles to varying degrees of success.  There was a whole lot of repetition, i.e. here’s the same exact story from Captain America’s point of view in The Avengers; here it is from Captain Marvel’s point of view in Captain Marvel; here it is from Spider-woman’s point of view in Avengers Assemble… you get the idea?  One thing Infinity did for me was help me come to the realization that Hickman’s Avengers is not my cup of tea.  It’s all big ideas, zero characterization.  He’s swollen the Avengers roster to about 35 members, and honestly, they are pretty interchangeable.  There are literally no defining characteristics that make one character any different from another.  Sure, Captain America spouts orders – but so does Captain Marvel.  Thor just wants to hit things — well so does Smasher.  And on… and on.  Some of the sister Avenger titles fare a little better.  Avengers Assemble written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Warren Ellis, focused more on the lady Avengers, and brought some interesting insight to their tale.  Hickman’s New Avengers featuring the Illuminati, was slightly more interesting because it was focused more tightly on a small group of characters. Uncanny AvengersThe one new title that I have been enjoying a great deal is Mighty Avengers.  While it’s too soon to tell how long it will last, or how long I will like it, it features an interesting mix of characters, including Spectrum (Monica Rambeau), She-Hulk, White Tiger, and Luke Cage, among others, and is the most diverse gathering of heroes that Marvel has put together.  Similarly, reaching back to Âge of Ultron, the one new title to emerge from that event is Avengers A.I. starring Hank Pym, the Vision, and some other artificial intelligences.  It’s intriguing and fun, and this latest issues reveal that Jocasta would be involved has me even more interested. The one major Avengers title that somehow managed to avoid the Infinity onslaught was also the best of the bunch.  Uncanny Avengers was born out of last year’s Avengers vs. X-men event.  Helmed by Rick Remender, Uncanny Avengers has taken a bold premise, humans and mutants working together quite visibly, and created a major epic storyline that doesn’t sacrifice some powerful character work.  Remender had the challenging job of integrating the Scarlet Witch back onto a team after Bendis dragged her character through the mud every way you could conceive of, and he has done so effectively and without sacrificing what came before.  He has also written the Wasp back in character, flirtatious, yet tough and capable.  He has integrated former X-Men, Havok, Rogue and Sunfire into the mix nicely… and of course, Wolverine, who was already an Avenger.  Honestly, this one took me by surprise.  I hadn’t really been expecting much.

X-Men

X-Factor

Good-bye X-Factor. We’ll miss you.

I’ve already shown the winner in the X-Men family above… and that would be Brian Wood’s X-Men, featuring a team of female X-Men.  Speaking of Peter David’s X-Factor, my #1 mutant book came to a close last year, and while it’s coming back in a different incarnation in 2014, these last few years, the title, spawned from a mini-series starring Madrox, was something really special.  Not only did it give us another fantastic gay couple, Rictor and Shatterstar, but it deftly wove together intricate stories featuring Pip the Troll and Hela, not an easy feat for mutant title.  I’m sure David’s new X-Factor will be a fun read… most of his work is… but there was something about that last X-Factor that was special.  I certainly never thought I’d like Layla Miller, and a couple issues under David’s pen, and she was a favorite. The real surprise for me has been Bendis’ All-New X-Men.  The concept, bring the original X-Men forward in time so they can see what a mess their Cylcops has made of the present, so they can go back and make sure this stuff doesn’t happen in their future, is just the kind of ridiculous claptrap that makes many people roll their eyes at comics.  Lets be clear, this was a way to bring Jean Grey back to life without bringing her back to life.  Since Alias, I haven’t really thought much of Bendis playing in the Marvel world.  In fact, his whole Avengers run is what nearly drove me away from Marvel.  So you can imagine how surprised I was when I was really enjoying his All New X-Men!

All-New X-Men

Second biggest surprise of 2013. I’m loving this.

 

DC

Other than Neil Gaiman’s return to  Sandman, the most positive thing I can say about DC is that some of their title maintained a certain level of quality.  I am in the midst of a major purge of DC titles, and their recent line-wide push, namely Villains United, hasleft me decidedly cold.  The editorial interference that drove J. H. Williams III from Batwoman was enough to put me off all on its own.  It’s a slim hope that the talented Marc Andreyko will be able to do something positive with the formerly amazing title under the current editorial regime.

Wonder Woman

The biggest surprise about Wonder Woman is that DC is letting Brian Azzarello continue to write it.  I am enjoying his fresh take on the series, but it’s truly baffling when there is another Wonder Woman starring in Justice League and Superman & Wonder Woman that doesn’t resemble Azzarello’s lead character much at all.  In fact, the Wonder Woman in those other two titles is one of the worst iterations of the character since the 70’s.  I can only imagine that at some point, Mr. Azzarello will move on to another title, and the Wonder Woman starring in her own comic will slowly (or quickly) morph into the one that more people are seeing over in Justice League.  That will truly be a sad day.

The Movement

Gail Simone’s new title, The Movement

Of course, the bright spot over at DC remains Gail Simone. She is such a talented writer that she consistently keeps me interested in Batgirl despite the fact that DC keeps dragging her into the Batman family and the stories going on over in that part of the world.  It seems that every few issues, Gail has to work in some Batman-related storyline that disrupts the flow of her own storytelling.  Gail has a second title over at DC called The Movement.  This oddball group of young super-heroes fight for the homeless, the poor, and the otherwise disenfranchised against a corrupt law enforcement agency.  It’s fresh and fun, and Gail injects it with her usual share of LGBT issues and other diversity.  That said, I don’t expect it to last much longer.  Gail will be writing her first story over at Marvel in over ten years, and it is my hope that they lure her over there to take part in the seeming renaissance that’s happening there.

Other than that, the titles that I am still enjoying over at DC include World’s Finest: Huntress & Power Girl, Earth 2 (largely thanks to Nicola Scott’s amazing artwork), Swamp Thing and Animal Man.  Trinity of Sin: Pandora intrigues me, and I always like to support female characters, but it has been so tied up in the whole Villains United story that I’m rapidly losing interest.  Same with Justice League Dark, which I find interesting because of the characters, but I wish it was off on its own and not tied up in all the goings on of the main Justice Leagues.

Vertigo’s mainstays, Fables and Fairest remain top quality books. The big problem over at DC is, as I mentioned, their Villains United initiative, where the focus for the past several months has been on villains.  I don’t read these comics for the villains, I read them for the heroes.  It’s all pretty boring, actually, and it caused me to drop a bunch of titles that I wasn’t really enjoying anyway.  And the rash of cancellations at DC of books that I was enjoying is disheartening:  Legion of Superheroes, Katana, Demon Knights, Sword & Sorcery: Amethyst, and I, Vampire.  Honestly, this is the first time I can remember that there wasn’t a Legion of Superheroes title being published, or at least in the works.

Other publishers

But there’s good work being down outside of the big two as well.  I don’t seek out a whole lot of indies, but Gail Simone got me to check out Red Sonja which she is writing for Dynamite.  Terry Moore continues his creative work on Rachel Rising.  Amy Reeder has started her own book along with writer Brandon Montclare called Rocket Girl for Image which has started off promisingly.  Colleen Doran has gotten Image to resume publication of her epic A Distant Soil, and I’m really enjoying seeing all my favorite kaiju come to life in the Godzilla titles for IDW.

So that’s it!  My year in comics.  Still reading, still enjoying them over all, although DC really is hitting a low point.  If nothing else, the comics industry is pretty quixotic, so who knows what will happen in 2014.

posted in Comics, Year-end lists | at 7:32 am | 0 Comments
6th October 2011
by Michael

The rest of the DCnU’s new #1’s

Picked up my remaining #1’s from DC’s new 52 for September, and like the first batch, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but overall I’d have to say more consistently enjoyable books. Again, I principally stuck to the books I had marked as Yes, Definitely, Yes, Probably and Maybe, with a single title being added on a whim. I also read my first two digital comics, both of which I ended up buying in paper format as well. I enjoyed the digital comics more than I thought I would. It’s a nice way to keep up with titles that I really like when I can’t get to the comic book store in a timely fashion. And now, on with the reviews.

Wonder WomanWonder Woman, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang – What I like about Wonder Woman is her nobility, her dignity, her strength, her wisdom… the fact that everyone respects her. I know that can make her boring for some people, or difficult to write as being a character the reader can relate to. What bothered me a little during last year’s relaunch was the fact that some of characteristics were lessened by making her younger and more like Buffy Summers. Fortunately, by the end of that arc, she had slowly returned to the character I loved, and Brian Azzarello certainly picks up with that character. Some people have criticized Wonder Woman #1 as being confusing and new-reader unfriendly. I didn’t find it so. We all started reading comics at some point in the middle of a story. If the story is good enough, you get drawn in and over the next couple of months, you fill in the gaps. You don’t have to start reading a new comic with a complete knowledge of the character at your fingertips. I don’t mind the violence in this book so much due to its background in Greek mythology, and the warrior aspect of Diana. As someone who sleeps in the nude, I certainly don’t understand the (few) complaints about Diana doing the same. An Amazon from a Greek Isle sleeping in the nude? I can’t imagine! And Chiang never draws Diana in a cheesecake pose. Azzarello’s Diana doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time in this first issue, but she’s tough and compassionate, and off to a good star in my eyes. 4 1/2 stars.

Justice League DarkJustice League Dark, Peter Milligan, Mikel Janin – While some have scoffed at the idea of a Justice League title made up of mystical characters, I was excited by the prospect, and Justice League Dark lived up to my expectations, and even surpassed them. Written by Peter Milligan, JLD reads like a super hero comic Vertigo style. The choice of characters is intriguing, with two strong female leads. Madame Xanadu and Zatanna are great characters, and they come off well here. Milligan always writes Shade the Changing Man well, and as unlikely as it sounds, it will be interesting to see Deadman and John Constantine interacting with teammates, especially given Constantine’s past associations with these characters (if he still has them in this new continuity. The use of the main Justice League characters works as well. I especially appreciated Wonder Woman’s acceptance of a mystical threat as opposed to Superman (who is vulnerable to magic) and Cyborg, a man born of science and technology. Milligan’s use of Enchantress/June Moon as the pieces villain and victim is also well done, creepy, and complex. Mikel Janin’s gorgeous artwork is icing on the cake of this terrific debut. I hope this book lasts, because I will be following it for the duration. 4 1/2 stars.

NightwingNightwing, Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrow – I’ve never followed a Nightwing title before, and while I’ve always liked the character, there was never anything about his solo exploits that drew me in. But recently, I’ve been intrigued by the Dick Grayson character, and Eddy Barrow’s art and Nightwing’s new costume design (which reminds me of Batwoman) are gorgeous. I felt this relaunch was the perfect opportunity to give him a try, and so far, I’m very pleased with the result. Dick is a character that’s easy to relate to. He’s a kid sidekick who has managed to transition to an adult who can stand on his own. He’s basically optimistic and likeable, but works well in the dark underbelly of Gotham City. Not having a lot of experience with his solo back story, I appreciate the exploration of Dick’s past by having him pay a visit to the circus where he was raised. Some have criticized Dick’s lack of concern over the death’s of two policeman that he might have been able to prevent had he not take the time to change into costume, but I felt the narrative conveyed that he misjudged the situation and took responsibility for it. It will be interesting to see what kind of supporting cast writer Kyle Higgins builds for Dick, but I appreciated the attention on the main character for this debut issue. If the quality of the writing and art remain this high, I will continue to read Nightwing, which was only a ‘maybe’ on my initial list. 4 stars

Birds of PreyBirds of Prey, Duane Swierczynski, Jesus Saiz – While it was nice to have Black Canary have a brief interaction with Barbara Gordon to harken back to the glory days of Birds of Prey, I am looking at this version as a brand new thing with nothing in common other than the name of the book. Actually, I was positively surprised at how much I enjoyed Birds of Prey. My expectations were pretty low, as superficially, it seems like a random assortment of superheroines thrown together to mimic a concept. Still, Black Canary is a strong leader/focal point for the team. Starling is a new character, and it will be interesting to learn about her. I’m not thrilled with Katana’s redesign, but I’ve enjoyed the character during her early Batman and the Outsiders days, so I’m interested in seeing her interact here. Poison Ivy is the big question mark. While I like the character, she seems rather shoehorned into this title. Of course, post-relaunch, I have no idea what her motivations will be. The writing is good, opening strongly with a mystery, then slowly revealing tidbits in flashback. Jesus Saiz’ artwork is clean and dynamic. He manages to fill a book with attractive women without making it seem like a teen’s wet dream. I’ll stick around for this. 4 cats.

AquamanAquaman, Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis – I’ve always kind of liked Aquaman, and I always give his books a try. They often start off strong, but then lose of shift focus after a time and I lose interest. Then there’s Geoff Johns DC’s superstar lead writer. Not part of the Green Lantern bandwagon, and not a fan of excessive violence in comics, I’m very hit-or-miss with Johns. His writing does come off like fanfic, but that’s no always a bad thing. It works pretty well here in Aquaman. Aquaman stops some crooks, then stops for a bite at a seafood restaurant while all around him bystanders belittle him: “Does he need a glass of water?” “How can he eat fish ‘n chips? He talks to fish! They’re his friends!” Okay, it goes on a little too long, and is a little bit like being hit in the head by a sledgehammer, but he does show Aquamqn as a powerful hero, sets up a dangerous (and sure to be very bloody, with lots of dismemberment) threat approaching. Most important, Johns is a fan of Mera, and she will be an important element of this comic. That, in and of itself locks me in as a reader. Oh, and thanks Ivan, it’s really purty to look at too. 4 stars

SupermanSuperman, George Perez and Jesus Merino – With all the debate on decompressed storytelling in comics, it’s refreshing, and almost overwhelming to pick up a book written by George Perez. The book is thick with text, with small panels and incredibly detailed artwork. His books have got to be the least decompressed comics on the market. I’ve never really been a follower of Superman, but with Grant Morrison on Action Comics, and Perez on Superman (for the time being), I figured that this was the time to give him another try. Perez spends his time setting up the situation in Superman #1: introducing us to his supporting cast, laying out the world of journalism in today’s internet age, and setting up a dangerous and interesting menace for Metropolis and Superman. While I’m not enough of a fan to really care about the much-talked about dissolution of Lois and Clark’s marriage, I do think that there was much more to explore with them married, than rehashing their on-again/off-again attraction, or Clark’s unrequited pining for Lois. Again, it’s only been one issue, and I’ll keep reading at least as long as Perez is on the title (which is only going to be 3 or 4 issues based on recent press announcements — too bad.) 4 stars

Legion of Super-HeroesLegion of Super-Heroes, Paul Levitz and Francis Portela – What can I say? I’m a long time fan of this title. Not that I’m a Legion zombie. I’ve dropped the title before. But never while it featured the first and original version of the team. That said, so far, (and come on, it’s only been one issue) LoSH is merely adequate. It picks up pretty much where it left off before the relaunch, and after the events in the other DCnU Legion title, Legion Lost. I’m glad DC didn’t try to revamp this title, after doing so just over a year ago. I like the fact that they finally added some new members pulled from the Legion Academy, but why not Gravity Kid and Powerboy? A gay couple is exactly what the Legion needs (and I’m still hoping that Vi and Lightning Lass just come out finally and get married or something!) We’ll see where this title goes in the future, but I’m pretty certain I’ll be along for the ride. 3 1/2 stars

The Fury of FirestormThe Fury of Firestorm, Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone, and Yidiray Cinar – I’m picking up Firestorm for one reason, and one reason alone: Gail Simone. I will give anything Gail Simone writes a chance. It doesn’t mean I will keep reading it, but I will definitely give it a fair shot. I actually used to regularly read Firestorm’s title in the 80’s (or was it 90’s?) I loved Pat Broderick’s art, and the concept of a fused being, especially one involving two such disparate characters (high school jock and brilliant scientist) was pretty fun. Well the brilliant scientist is dead, and the second half of this fused being is a brilliant high school student who happens to be African-American, which leads in this new version of Firestorm, to some well-written explorations on race. I tend to prefer Gail’s team books to her solo books (actually I tend to prefer team books to solo books in general) but I have faith that she will build a fascinating supporting cast. This first issue was entertaining and kept my interest, but hasn’t yet drawn me in and made me want to find out more about the characters. Hopefully that will emerge in the next couple of issues. 3 stars.

SupergirlSupergirl, Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and Mahmud Asrar – I haven’t read Supergirl in several years; not since her skirt got really short after Peter David left the title. I want to like Supergirl because I really want to support as many books as I can that feature super-heroines. What better time to give it another try than this new relaunch. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much given the solicits and the apparent story direction they were describing, but the first issue was intriguing enough to keep me reading. Not a lot happens in issues #1, other than give us pieces of Supergirl’s personality, and show us the range of her powers. And it sets her up for her first meeting/confrontation with her cousin (at least in the old continuity) Superman. The high cut of her shorts did distract me a little… especially since in some profile shots it looks like that she’s naked from the waist down, but other than that, I didn’t find the book to be all that sexist. 3 stars

VoodooVoodoo, Ron Marz and Sami Basri – I don’t know much about Voodoo. I read a handful of the WildC.A.T.S. issues when they first came out, but don’t really remember much about the character. I decided to give this series a try to see how it would mesh with the DC Universe, and to support another female led title. Yes, I read that she was a stripper by profession, more opportunity for some barely clad women for the men who like that sort of thing in comics, but at least it was in context. The book held my interest, and intrigued me enough to keep reading. Of the two main supporting character, the man was a dick and got his just desserts, and the woman being set up to be Voodoo’s nemesis could develop into an interesting character. The art is fine, and the story compelling enough to keep me interested enough to see where it will lead. I’m in for now. 3 stars

Green Lantern: New GuardiansGreen Lantern: New Guardians, Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham – While never a big Green Lantern fan, Kyle Rayner has always been by far my choice to wear the ring. Surrounding him with a team of lanterns representing the spectrum appeals to me as a fan of team books, especially with a couple of female members. Unfortunately, the first issue is basically a set-up issue, bringing the characters together, and giving Kyle what appears to be a new origin story. While I will miss the Kyle who has already mastered his ring and has an illustrious career of being a Green Lantern behind him, it could be interesting to see his maturation into a Green Lantern starting from ground zero. It’s enough to keep me reading at any rate. 3 stars

DC Universe Presents: DeadmanDC Universe Presents: Deadman, Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chaing – Deadman is an interesting choice of character to kick off this title, which will be a series of rotating storylines featuring different characters (and presumably different creative teams). I suppose given the attention Deadman was given during Brightest Day, and the fact that he appears in Justice League Dark means that DC thinks he’s a character that could succeed. I’ve never been a fan of solo Deadman stories, but Paul Jenkins does a pretty good job drawing me in with this one. We get retold his origin, of course, yet there’s no mention of his experiences in Brightest Day as yet. I think that story, along with his relationship with Dove, made him a more interesting character for me. Bernard Chaing’s artwork is crisp and clean. This title will depend largely on it’s featured character, of course, but the possibilities are endless. 2 1/2 stars

I,VampireI, Vampire, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino – Here was a title that I had no intention of buying, but for some reason, I decided to give it a try. I’m pretty much over vampires, but when I flipped through the book, the art caught my eye. Like Voodoo, I am somewhat interested in the integration of the vampire mythos being introduced into the world of superheroes. The story sets up a conflict between two long-lived vampires, one who feels it is time for vampires to stop being an oppressed minority and subjugate humankind, the other seeing that path lead to self-destruction when there are opponents like Superman in the world. The two characters have a long, involved history, as both lovers and foes, which could be interesting. I’ll continue to read this for a bit and see if it keeps my interest. 2 1/2 stars

Blue BeetleBlue Beetle, Tony Bedard and Ig Guara – I’ve never read Blue Beetle’s comic, but I grew to appreciate this new rendition of the character during is recent appearances in team books and crossovers. Jaime is a Puerto Rican high school student who becomes the host for a semi-sentient suit of alien armor that gives him super powers. I wanted to support DC’s nod to diversity by picking up this title. Like Green Lantern: New Guardians, Blue Beetle #1 is a set-up issue retelling Jaime’s origin and establishing the cast of characters. We don’t actually see Jaime in his Blue Beetle armor until the final splash page. Still, the story unfolds well, and I will continue to support the book and watch the storyline unfold. 2 1/2 stars

HawkmanThe Savage Hawkman, Tony S. Daniel and Philip Tan – While I have enjoyed Hawkman’s previous series in the past, I wasn’t all that interested in this new “savage” take… especially without a Hawkgirl or Hawkwoman involved. Still, I decided to give this a try, with very few expectations. It wasn’t as uninteresting as I thought, but it didn’t really wow me. There’s an interesting take, almost similar to Blue Beetle, where Carter Hall is possessed by the Nth metal that defies gravity. I was interested enough to keep following the title and see where it goes, but I’m not optimistic. 2 stars

All in all I’m enjoying the DC relaunch. There are a small handful of books I really like, a large swatch that are pretty good and I will enjoy following, a very small group that I was disappointed in, and then a bunch that I didn’t try and I don’t feel I’m missing out on. Anyone else have any thoughts?

posted in Comics, Nonsense | at 8:38 am | 1 Comment
30th July 2011
by Michael

A Surprising and Welcome Postscript to Yesterday’s Post

How interesting to discover this morning, that DC co-publishers, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee released this blog post yesterday on the DC Universe blog, The Source. It’s a response to the community’s uproar and criticism of the lack of female comics creators and characters.

They write:

Over the past week we’ve heard from fans about a need for more women writers, artists and characters. We want you to know, first and foremost, that we hear you and take your concerns very seriously.

Is this damage control? Oh sure. But it’s also a response that shows they’re at least acknowledging the criticism and saying they are doing something about it:

We’ll have exciting news about new projects with women creators in the coming months and will be making those announcements closer to publication. Many of the above creators will be working on new projects, as we continue to tell the ongoing adventures of our characters. We know there are dozens of other women creators and we welcome the opportunity to work with them.

Maybe next time they’re called out, they’ll just answer the question instead of mocking the person asking. Oh wait, they probably need to go back and write a response that won’t piss everyone off further. They seem to be a lot better scripted than off-the-cuff.

Still, it’s nice to see this, and let’s hope something comes of it.

posted in Comics | at 7:38 am | 0 Comments
29th July 2011
by Michael

My Sad Realization About the Comics Industry

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman in the DCnU

Anyone who pays any attention to comics on the Internet has probably noticed a bit of a kerfluffle going on after some comments made by DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio at the San Diego Comic Convention (SDCC). A question was asked about the lack of female comics creators at DC, and DiDio by all accounts, avoided the question and treated it with some derision. I wasn’t there, and I haven’t listened to the audio; only read the reports, but I’m not really surprised. Comics is a man’s world, and it’s pretty surprising to me that I’ve been a comics reader for over 40 years. Especially, as I realized a few years ago, I’m not actually a fan of superheroes, I am a fan of women with super powers. Woe is me. That doesn’t give me a whole lot to get excited about in the world of comics, and I tend to get really excited by some of the slightest scraps of attention paid to female characters.

The long-awaited Batwoman solo title in the DCnUBut let me get to the point of this article, and the realization that I have finally admitted to myself about the comics industry. For some background, here are some good articles about the situation that we suddenly find ourselves in. I first learned about the SDCC here: http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/7985599811/panels. Then the intelligent and highly enteraining DC Women Kicking Ass Tumblr Blog followed up with http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/8130151171/bgsdccinterview. Tonight I read a couple more articles, that led to more background. Graeme Macmillan wrote for Newsarama this article, http://blog.newsarama.com/2011/07/29/the-dcu-relaunch-tough-on-female-creators-tough-on-female-characters/, which referred to Laura Hudson’s article here, http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/07/28/dc-dan-didio-female-creators/, and Tim Hanley’s article here: http://thanley.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/there-are-actually-less-female-characters-in-the-dc-relaunch-than-there-are-now/.

Birds of Prey in the DCnU

What really started to bother me was not the allegations that DC doesn’t hire enough female creators, or DC doesn’t feature enough female characters, both of which are statements I agree with, but some of the inferences I gleaned from Laura Hudson’s article. She talks about the danger of a writer not being able to capture the experiences of a character who is not like them. She states, “And if you’re a creator and you’re trying to write and draw characters that are different from you, it can mean that you end up sounding inauthentic, tone-deaf, or worse, actively feeding into stereotypes.” While this is certainly true and has happened frequently… okay, endlessly in comics (Laura includes an example in her article) it worries me that she makes this point in an article about the difficulty DC claims it has finding good, female comics creators.

The problem, to me, of putting these two idea together is that one affects the other. If a writer is good (and there is a wide range of talent currently writing in comics) their gender, race, sexuality, etc. should matter one whit. They should have an abundance of creativity, empathy, observational powers, and insight to be able to write, convincingly, a character of a different gender, race, sexuality, etc. Does this mean we should be satisfied if DC has all male writers even though they write terrific stories about complex women? Well, no. But even if that were the case, at least we’d have some good stories about complex women.

What really bothers me, and what I finally verbalized to myself is what I think is the root of the problem. This issue has emerged with the upcoming relaunching of the DC Universe: 52 new #1’s that people are complaining are reducing the number of female-led titles. Let’s look at the likely reasons DC is doing this relaunch. They are the #2 comic publisher in an industry that is floundering. The #1 company (Marvel) is gaining ground by focusing on fewer and fewer different titles, and for the most part, ignoring women. The market is glutted with Avengers, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and X-Men titles and very little else. So you’re #2, and you’re looking around to do something bold and potentially ground-breaking in order to gain some market share, and maybe even revitalize the market a little. So you’re certainly going to look at your competition that is consistently outselling you, and see what they’re doing right. Well, they’re certainly not branching out to feature more titles with women, more titles by women, more titles featuring diverse nationalities or sexualities. They consistently sell comics by playing it pretty safe. Why do they do this? Because that’s what sells.

Can we just accept this bottom line, people? Marvel and DC, in the end, are all about making money. They’re not going to spend too much money, or risk too much, by publishing a title that doesn’t make money. Sure, they’ll try for a little while, hoping it might catch on, or even because they’re trying to feature a Latino, or gay, or female character, but in the end, if people aren’t buying it in big numbers, it’s going to be history.

We’re in a Catch-22 situation. If DC or Marvel does try to diversify a little, it usually takes too long for the word to get out for them to turn around and be profitable. Now, maybe this relaunch of DC’s will do exactly that, and titles like Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Birds of Prey and Voodoo will benefit from this attention and promotional hype, and attract a new audience that actually supports the books and gets some people who would like to read superhero comics beyond the male-centric stuff that we’re force fed, which will in turn, embolden DC to try more comics like Huntress, Black Orchid, Dr. Light, Vixen and Stargirl. And so on.

It’s not easy loving comics that feature women with super powers. Especially when you also demand well-written, well-drawn comics. But every now and then, individual writers and artists will deliver, often surreptitiously, behind the disguise of a mainstream, superhero comic. (One of my favorite examples is how Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took the testosterone heavy Marvel cosmic event, Annihilation, which featured one or two women in supporting roles, and slowly and quietly kept adding more fascinating females, and gave them more and more amazingly complex storylines, until we were reveling in the likes of Phylla-Vell, Moondragon, Gamora, Mantis, Medusa, Crystal and many, many more). See? It can be done?

Moondragon and Mantis from Guardians of the Galaxy

Please keep in mind, that I do understand that there are exceptions. Marvel tried some nifty things with their Year of the Woman. DC has actually done pretty well of late with regard to women and other diverse characters. I can only hope that despite the apparent dip in female characters/creators in the DCnU, we will see a resurgence. But then both companies go and do the stupid, insensitive things like having Wonder Women holding Mera’s severed head on the cover of a Flashpoint comic, or changing Harley Quinn’s costume to something so ridiculous as to be beyond laughable, or Marvel continually forgetting about all the fascinating female characters they have in their rich history and continuing to focus on the same characters over and over again.

That’s it, that’s my rant. I didn’t really intend to do this, or for it to be so long, but since I don’t have many close friends who read comics, I needed an outlet somewhere. If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Feel free to contradict, agree, or enlighten in the coomments.

posted in Comics | at 10:15 pm | 0 Comments
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