Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Marvel's August previews reviewed

DC Comics isn’t alone; Marvel Comics also still publishes comic books. And they too will have a whole bunch of stuff out in the month of August, the solicitations for which I will spend the next few hundred words talking about, pointing at, and sighing sadly over.

Speaking of sadness, you know what comic book they won’t be publishing in August? Captain Britain and MI13, on account of it apparently being canceled.

I’m not exactly surprised, as it is a rather poor performer, and I don’t really get why so people are, like, mad at Marvel about it (See the comments thread below the Blog@ announcement for some dumb comments to the effect of “Way to cancel a poor-performing title while introducing titles that are sure to be hits, jerks”). The book was always going to be a bit of a tough sell though, given the fact that it had a gigantic cast, all of whom had actual characterization and conflicts, making it more like a TV ensemble drama than a JLA or Avengers style super-team book.

I think it is too bad though, as I really liked it. Actually, the second story arc was rather poor, a one or two issue story stretched out over far too many issues, but the first story arc and the current Dracula Vs. the UK story were pretty fantastic. It’s also one of the…let’s see…half-dozen Marvel ongoings currently on my pull-list, so it was one of the relatively few books they were publishing that I felt confident enough in its quality that I knew I was going to want to read the next issue sight unseen.

Ah well, I’ll live. And so will writer Paul Cornell and the artists who worked on the series with him. (Maybe Leonard Kirk can rejoin Jeff Parker on Agents of Atlas now; that’d sure be a silver lining…)

Anyway, on to the books Marvel is publishing! You can read their full solicitations here, and my thoughts on some of them below.

CROSSFIRE #1 (of 3)
Written by JEAN-LUC SALA
Exclusive U.S. Variant by PIERRE-MONY CHAN
A head-on collision between John Woo and John Paul II! On the fringes of the Vatican’s religious administration, a powerful Cardinal is overseeing the execution of the Church’s most discreet objectives with a force of black-ops specialists and spies. When a mafia godfather puts his best hit man in service of the Vatican to settle an honor debt, he will act as the guardian angel of a beautiful young investigator, but can he keep her out of the crossfire? Ancient secrets threaten to uproot the seat of religious power, and there are people ready to kill to protect it. Can good men fight fire with fire without losing their souls?
48 PGS./Mature ...$5.99

If this were actually, literally about John Woo vs. John Paul II, I'd be much more pumped up about it.

Pencils & Cover by HOWARD CHAYKIN
The depression’s going strong, so when Dominic Fortune is hired to bodyguard Jock Madison, Vaughn Lorillard and P.T. Oakley, three drunk and disorderly Hollywood stars, he jumps at the chance to pick up what looks like a few easy bucks, and maybe have a few laughs in the bargain. But when the trio of old school hambones and horndogs prove to be a bigger pain than he anticipated -- and he accidentally stumbles across a conspiracy headed by mysterious American businessman Malcolm Upshaw and Delatriz Betancourt, the recklessly sexy granddaughter of Confederates who fled Reconstruction for South America -- Fortune finds himself in hot water...with the fate of the USA at stake.
32 PGS./Explicit Content ...$3.99

I really like the term "recklessly sexy."

I'm really on the fence and teetering about Exiles. On the one hand, it's full of a bunch of lame-ass X-characters I dislike, but on the other hand, in the last issue writer Jeff Parker had a magnet-powered bad guy make Forge punch himself in the face with his cyborg arm.

It's hard to resist these Dave Bullock covers though. I wish he'd move inside to do interiors; that would keep me happily buying month in and month out.

Hot on the heels of the last two acclaimed minis, House of M returns! You’ve seen how the mutants and the heroes were changed in the world ruled by Magneto...but what about the villains? Their story stands revealed at last as The Hood assembles a gang of the deadliest Sapien super-criminals: Madame Masque, The Absorbing Man, Titania, The Wrecking Crew, Nitro, Constrictor, The Sandman, Crossbones and more! At first, their goal is simple: get rich and get away with it. But their very first job may lead somewhere none of them expected...and incur the wrath of the House of M itself!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Don't you dare buy this. This is the latest, completely random miniseries tying into a terrible 2005 Marvel event comic that Marvel feels compelled to keep pumping out because for some reason unknown to anyone (including Marvel), House of M paperback collections sell really well. So they would like their regular readers to spend $4 an issue for five issues to help subsidize an eventual $15 trade paperback collection they can sell to bookstores and libraries.

Penciled by REILLY BROWN (#132) & RODNEY BUCHEMI (#133)
Incredible Hercules #132 70th Anniversary Variant by MARKO DJURDJEVIC
Incredible Hercules #133 70th Frame Variant by SALVA ESPIN
Beginning a story arc so earth-shattering, so momentous, so, well, incredible, we just had to give it to you TWICE A MONTH! (Well, for the three months, anyway). When terrible threats rise in Svartalfheim, the land of the Dark Elves, only Mighty Thor, Son of Asgard, can hope to triumph! But what happens if the Odinson is temporarily...unavailable? It's Hammer Time for Hercules as the Lion of Olympus gets his thunder on! Meanwhile, in Incredible Hercules 133, the Secret Origin of AMADEUS CHO begins! Who really killed Amadeus' family? What is his true relation to Hercules? And, most importantly, what is the connection between him and The Twelve's MASTER MIND EXCELLO? Everyone's favorite irascible boy genius is after the answers himself -- but to get them he's going to have to go through his arch-nemesis, PYTHAGORAS DUPREE, the sixth-smartest man on Earth!
32 PGS.(each)/Rated T+ ...$2.99 (each)

Variant Cover by ED MCGUINNESS
70th Frame Variant by MICHAEL GOLDEN
Gamma fans rejoice -- the rumors are true! The INCREDIBLE HULK book returns as an ongoing series written by acclaimed PLANET HULK and WORLD WAR HULK scribe Greg Pak! Get ready for Bruce Banner as you've never seen him, the Son of Hulk in a whole new world of smash, and an insane new adventure that changes everything for everyone's favorite Green Goliath! With art by Ariel Olivetti (CABLE) and introducing a new, regular bonus backup SAVAGE SHE-HULK story written by Fred Van Lente and drawn by Michael Ryan!
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Sorry, I'm still completely lost here.

Jeph Loeb's Hulk is still in publication, with its normal numbering, Incredible Hulk apparently reappropriates Incredible Hercules' numbering (and adjective) and adds in a whole bunch of other comics for some reason, and Incredible Hercules ALSO retains its numbering?

So, like, its first hundred issues or so and Inc. Hulk's last 100 issues are so are actually the same comics that both titles are claiming as issues of their own...?

Er, I really don't see the advantage to any of this. Is Marvel trying to make reading their comics as impossible a task as they can? (Don't answer that; I already know).

The Herc book still sounds fun and I'm down for it, but man, I can't imagine walking into a comic shop for the first time after hearing about how good Herc or Hulk were and trying to figure out how to even begin reading them.

Behold, the Infinity Collar!

LUKE CAGE NOIR #1 (of 4)
Variant Cover by DENNIS CALERO
A lot can change in ten years. And rarely for the better. Local legend, Luke Cage, invincible, unstoppable, unflappable, finds that out the hard way when he returns to the mean streets of Prohibition-era Harlem after a ten-year stretch in Riker’s Island. All he wants is to be back in the loving arms of his woman, but certain powerful men have different plans for Cage. Willis Stryker, Cage’s childhood friend turned Godfather of Harlem, wants him on his crew, and under his thumb. And wealthy white socialite Randall Banticoff, whose wife is now very dead, murdered in a Harlem alley, wants Cage to investigate her death. Cage is about to learn that coming home is never easy, and to survive he might just have to kill a whole lot of people.
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

This is the first of these Noir books in a while that seems like it might be sufficiently different from the regular comics in some aspect other than the time period to be really all that interesting. Like Spider-Man and the X-Men, Cage has superpowers, so putting him in a street-level, pre-superhero crime story is in itself a change, and Cage is such a product of a particular time period of pop culture—the blaxploitation era of the '70s—that staging a Luke Cage story 50 years earlier might yield unique results.

I like artist Shawn Martinborough, but will pass on this—as mildly curious as I am, I'm more like $1.25 curious than $3.99 curious. Maybe the Columbus library will get a trade in a year or so.

D’ARMATA & more!
Midnight Opening Cover by FRANK R. PAUL & DEAN WHITE
Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Marvel Comics in style the best and brightest color-art talents in the field bring you a bold new look at the comic that started it all! From the first appearance of The Human Torch to the original jungle adventures of Ka-Zar and the incomparable introduction of Bill Everett’s Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, each tale from Marvel Comics #1 has been paired with one of the field’s most innovative color artists to create a fascinating contemporary take on these classic tales. Including contributions from the trend-setting talents of Dean White (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN; LOGAN), Dave McCaig (NEW AVENGERS; NEXTWAVE), Jason Keith (MIGHTY AVENGERS; SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL), Morry Hollowell (CIVIL WAR; WOLVERINE) and Frank D’Armata (CAPTAIN AMERICA; HOUSE OF M), there’s no question that this will be MARVEL COMICS #1 like you’ve never seen it before! So come join the party—including Marvel’s mega-midnight birthday bash—and toast to the most important comic art achievement of 1939—2009-style! 64 PGS./Rated T+ ...$4.99

Er...so, they're just re-coloring the contents of Marvel Comics #1 then...? I'm not sure I understand the solicit, or what the appeal of this might be. Hopefully they won't be taking all those cool old comics and giving them that murky, over-rendered look that taints most modern Marvel comics. I guess I'll give it a flip-through the week it comes out.

MARVEL DIVAS #2 (of 4)
Written by ROBERTO
After last issue's shocking revelation, Angelica "Firestar" Jones seeks out medical advice...from none other than Dr. Stephen Strange. (Paving the way for yet another diva to enter the fray: The nocturnal Night Nurse!) Meanwhile, Monica "Photon" Rambeau and Patsy "Hellcat" Walker are drawn back into the lives of their ex-boyfriends of the damned: Brother Voodoo and Daimon Hellstrom, respectively. And Felicia "Black Cat" Hardy contemplates a return to her life of crime...the claws are out as this mini-series continues!
32 PGS./Parental Advisory...$3.99

Well, at least the cover's better than the first one.

I kinda feel bad for Aguirre-Sacasa and Tonci Zonjic, as Marvel so completely fucked up the roll out of this book that no matter how good it might be, it's going to be accompanied by a dark cloud. And, in sadly typical fashion, Marvel's EIC makes himself and his company look worse and worse the more he tries to defend it. (Here's Graeme McMillan making fun of his "Hey, I like Pink" defense, and here are some When Fangirls Attack link round-ups with other fans reacting to it; me, I'm just surprised there aren't more people making fun of Quesada for his godawful taste in music).

Oh, and this is a pretty good example of how Stan Lee was better at PR than Quesada (Something I talked about a bit last week). I imagine Lee would have just said something like, "Oh yeah, do you think that cover was a little much? Well don't worry because" and then he'd string together a bunch of excited nonsense out of his word-bank of terms like "marvel manner," "true believer" and some random alliteration.

Instead, Quesada's just like, "Hey, if you think we're sexist, don't read us; if you read us, then you must not think we're sexist." I...I don't even know how to process that statement. I certainly don't know how it applies to someone thinking an image Marvel released to promote a comic book they're publishing is a dumb image; you gave us the picture to look at and react to, no one has to pay you $3.99 in order to react negatively to it.

Of course, Lee probably wouldn't have approved either of those covers, as he believed the covers were very important, and didn't like consecutive covers to resemble one another this closely (Today's Marvel cover model of random, interchangeable posed images would never have flown under Lee; but then, Lee was selling Marvel's to newsstands, not specialty stores that pre-order books).

And not to get too far off topic, but given the subject matter, wouldn't this series have been a good one to throw one of those John Romita Sr.-drawn, romance comic parody covers, like the one for Dardevil #94?

I like that costume design. Kinda disturbing, really.

That's a cool-looking cow.

I liked this image a whole lot before I clicked on it and made it full-sized, as it looked like Ghost Rider was attacking a giant Spider-Man. But at full-size it's clear that it's just Ghost Rider chasing Spidey up a building. I like the story the former suggests in my head better than the one the latter does.


Things I would have bought as singles but I guess I'll wait for the trade on based on their $3.99-for-just-22-pages price tag: New Avengers #56 (Stuart Immonen on pencils!), Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #3, Ghost Riders: Heavens on Fire, maybe Models, Inc. (depending on how the art looks) and Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting's The Marvels Project (this one will be the hardest one to wait for, I think).


Josh said...

Have you even read any of the House of M spin-offs, specifically the ones written by Christos Gage? I say that because you so bash the newest HoM mini-series, something I think you wouldn't do if you've read the previous series. Yes, it's an alternate reality that "never really happened." Yes, these series exist purely to exploit a years-old crossover even that wasn't good in the first place. Regardless and against all odds, HoM: Avengers and HoM: Civil War were both engaging, fun reads, filled with interesting characters.

Gage is easily one of my favorites in the great stable of writers that Marvel is quickly assembling (Parker, Tobin, Cornell, Hickman, etc).

zzdoublerzz said...

I think your comments/reactions to Marvel's solits are both appropriate and justified. That said, I'm curious to hear your take on the following: Given your posts on the current state of the comic book industry, which of the "Big Two" comic companies do you think is doing a better overall job right now with their product? The sales, of course, say Marvel, but it seems a lot of fans are starting to lean towards DC as far as final results are concerned. What do you think?

LurkerWithout said...

"If this were actually, literally about John Woo vs. John Paul II, I'd be much more pumped up about it."

I think thats an issue of Battle Pope...

Also @Josh, Caleb isn't bashing the Gage written House of M minis. He's saying that at the current price you're paying significantly more to pick up the individual issues of something that is being published because the trades sell well...

Oh and Azzarello's Cage mini did Cage Noir already. Plus Richard Corben on art...

LurkerWithout said...

Oh and Paul Cornell has signed on with the writers who do the Wild Cards supers anthologies...

Sea-of-Green said...

Lee was -- and IS -- the consummate showman. He could have made a living as a carnival barker, easy. That's what made him so much FUN at Marvel's helm -- he held that permanent WINK at the readers, to reassure them that they should have fun and not take any of this TOO seriously.

That's the problem with modern editors -- they're too serious. They're also too busy trying to save face, instead of loudly and fondly embracing the inherent and endearing ludicrousness of their comic-book universes. :-)

Hdefined said...

"That's the problem with modern editors -- they're too serious."

I think it's worse than that, because if their books were any good, there'd be no harm in taking them seriously.

The problem is the misguided ideas they're so passionately defensive about. "Oh my god, marriage has ruined Spider-man!" "Now Spider-man is so much more relatable without his marriage!"

Caleb said...


No, I haven't. I read the main House of M miniseries, and that was it for me. They might well all be excellent comics--I like Gage's Avengers: The Initiative, and I emjoyed his Union Jack series--but the rationale for doing the spin-offs, and Marvel's business model for getting them into trade format, is so cynical and self-destructive that I find it horribly depressing.


Oh jeez.

My personal Coke vs. Pepsi, Democrat vs. Republican loyalties like with DC. I like the characters and universe better, and started out on DC comics, not really getting into Marvel at all until shortly before I started writing about comics in addition to reading about them.

In terms of what I read, wait...let me go check...I have 11 DC ongoing monthies on my current pull-list, vs. six Marvels. This changes all the time though, and will be different next month as new books start and get cancelled.

I think Marvel, at this particular moment in time, seems to be a more organized company. They might actually be flying by the seat of their pants behind the scenes, but, if that is the case, they keep it behind the scenes. Whether you like or dislike their publishing decisions, for the most part, they stick to their guns on them, so things like Civil War flows right into Secret Invasion which flows right into the "Dark Reign" status quo. In contrast, DC seems to lurch in fits and starts and to be, well, flailing, and don't seem to be able to keep it to themselves very well (Think the last few years worth of the Flash re-boots, or Chuck Dixon on the bat-books, or an issue of Teen Titans getting published without a writer's credit because apparently no one wanted credit for it, etc).

Marvel seems more writer-driven in its storytelling, whereas DC seems more editor-driven.

Um, I think Marvel probably has more artists I like better at the moment, but their coloring on so many books is so goddam awful that I think the two companies are pretty similar in the art department.

I think Marvel seems a lot more cynical and self-destructive in its business dealings ($3.99 books, for example) than DC. DC genuinely seems to try to do things to drive readers to continue to buy comic books on Wednesdays (like the weekly comics), rather than encouraging them to flee the direct market for trades.

In the plus column for DC, there are projects like Wednesday Comics, which I can't imagine Marvel even attempting. DC will occasionally do projects like that or Bizarro Comics and World or Solo that Marvel can't or won't (How long has their indie comics-doing-superheroes anthology been in the works now)?

So, I don't know. I think Marvel seems to have their shit together, or at least to be able to act like they have their shit together in public. That's creatively. I think DC is less evil in terms of business/market practices.