Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A few words about two new comics I'm probably not going to read anyway

There’s something kind of fascinating about Ultimate Comics X, or, as it appears on the cover of the book, “Ultimate X.” The image above was first revealed in a house ad, and its mainly notable only for the fact that the character being focused on looks to be an original one, albeit an original character with Wolverine’s claws on him.

The Ultimate/Ultimate Comics universe has been rather notorious in its inability to introduce brand-new characters instead of simply Ultimatizing versions of pre-existing Marvel characters.

Brian Michael Bendis’ sole new invention from Ultimate Spider-Man, a mutant high-schooler named Geldoff, immediately became a sort of punchline with which Bendis’ boss Joe Quesada could rib him with.

The Batman and Robin-like characters in Ron Zimmerman and Duncan Fegredo’s 2002 six-parter Ultimate Adventures, Hawk-Owl and Woody, showed some promise (the series wasn’t bad, at any rate). But they never appeared again.

The solicitation for Ultimate Comics X is extremely vague, but it seems to be spinning out of Loeb’s own Ultimatum (Which, sorry guys, I haven’t been able to bring myself to read, even for free from the library), and to deal with new characters in the Ultimate Universe.

Here’s the solicitation in full:

Who—or what—is Ultimate X? The answers and even more secrets arrive in the all new ULTIMATE X ongoing bi-monthly series from the superstar dream team of JEPH LOEB and ART ADAMS. Wolverine is dead. Captain America is a fugitive. The Fantastic Four disbanded. Lives have been destroyed and nothing can ever be the same—is there any hope left? It all begins with a search for a brand new character whose identity will leave jaws on the floor and change the Ultimate Universe forever.

The What the hell is going on here? element of the marketing, along with the promise of something original (well, somewhat original-esque) and the presence of Arthur Adams is sort of intriguing, but pretty much negated by the presence of writer Loeb, a $4 price tag, and the fact that even a bi-monthly schedule is probably way too much wishful thinking from this creative team.

This image really should have smothered any lingering embers of interest in the book though, Adams art or no Adams art:
That’s a scan of a house ad for the book, but it looks like that’s also a variant cover for the first issue (the solicitation mentions four variants, one of which is called a “Spoiler Line-Up Variant” by Adams).

You can’t really get more stereotypically ‘90s in your team make-up than two Bad Boy types (one of which is even badder than the regular strength Bad Boy type), a Sexy Girl and a Big Giant Strong Guy (Here a/the Ultimate Hulk, which may be of some interest maybe?).

I’m sure there’s an audience for ‘90s nostalgia comics, but I wouldn’t have expected Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line to be the place for it (Of course, inter-book crossovers, new numbering, variant covers and “foilogram” covers are similarly antithetical to the Ultimate line’s original reason for being, so perhaps it shouldn’t be all that surprising).

Anyway, that cover dashed whatever small hope the initial image gave me that this might be Marvel trying something rather radically new with the book.

Finally, I know it’s probably not all that fair to complain about superhero character designs being derivative in the year 2010—after almost 80 years of superheroes, just about every one of them is derivative of some other one—but I can’t really look at this guy, the one behind the blond Wolver-teen,

without seeing this guy
He’s Mongrel, a "darkforce-blasting African American-Vietnamese hero" who appeared during DC’s 1993 summer crossover event.

Loeb participated in the event, but he didn’t write Mongrel. Instead, he introduced Loose Cannon, a character who was basically The Hulk with a terrible haircut, but instead of green, he could change colors from blue to purple to red. Hey, wait a minute…!


As long as we’re discussing comics shipping tomorrow that owe a great debt the comics of the 1990s, it’s probably worth mentioning Milestone Forever #1.

It’s a very strange project, and one I have to assume was dramatically scaled back from what DC and its principal creator, writer Dwayne McDuffie, must have originally had in mind.

Check out what DC has to say about it on dccomics.com:

DC Comics and Milestone Media entered into an unprecedented creative partnership 16 years ago this month by producing 14 interlocking, creator-owned titles including HARDWARE, ICON, and the multimedia hit that would best be known as STATIC SHOCK. Now, nine Parents Choice Awards, four Eisner Award nominations, and one Emmy and Humanitas Award-winning hit TV series later, Milestone is back, its continuity mysteriously merged with the DCU.

While we saw the DC side of the story in JUSTICE LEAGUE: WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, the 2-issue MILESTONE FOREVER gathers the original artists from Milestone's launch titles – including John Paul Leon, Mark Bright, Chris Cross and Milestone founder Denys Cowan – to complete the tales told in the original runs of STATIC SHOCK, ICON, HARDWARE, SHADOW CABINET and BLOOD SYNDICATE. Milestone editor-in-chief Dwayne McDuffie reveals the final fate of each of Milestone's launch characters in a bittersweet tale that chronicles the literal end of a universe and the birth of something new…with major consequences for the future of the DC Universe.

That sounds awfully ambitious, doesn’t it? Completing the stories of at five different ongoing series, while moving ahead with “the birth of something new”?

And yet all of that is going to be accomplished in the space of just two 48-page comics. That’s—wait, let me double-check on a calculator–only 96 pages. McDuffie introduced the Milestone characters into the DCU over the course of about six or seven issues of his run on Justice League of Americathe collection of that story folding the one universe into the other is 176-pages long.

What really brought my attention to how, well, skimpy the Milestone book is going to be, the vast disparity between what it is apparently meant to accomplish and how much space is being allotted to it, was that I noticed this week DC is also shipping The Great Ten #4.

The Great Ten is an ideal example of the “Why is DC publishing this?” class of books in their line. It stars a group of minor characters from a 2006 event series that no one seemed particularly interested in reading much more about, it’s written by Tony Bedard, DC’s ill-used, go-to fill-in writer, and it’s drawn by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens, DC’s main “These guys work fast, drop this in their laps” art team.

It is ten issues long.

So McDuffie and a half-dozen Milestone creators are given just 96 pages to reveal “the final fate of each of Milestone's launch characters in a bittersweet tale that chronicles the literal end of a universe and the birth of something new…with major consequences for the future of the DC Universe.”

And Bedard, McDaniel and Owens are given 220 pages to…I don’t know…keep an IP of dubious value in the public eye for the better part of a year? And by public eye I mean direct market retailers and maybe a few thousand of their customers According to The Beat, the first issue of The Great Ten moved only about 13,160 units, and sales are almost always all downhill after the first issue of a limited series.


Hdefined said...

Hey now. Even though I'm not reading the Great Ten series, mostly because DC sat on the property long enough that I lost interest, but I definitely wanted to see more of those guys after their debut in 52, and especially after the revelation that they were working with Egg Fu.

Not to mention that the Marvel and DC universes are in desperate need of diversity, not just in terms of characters, but locales, societies, and character mindsets. I think the Great Ten, as a concept, offered all of that in spades.

But like I said, DC waited far too long to follow up with the property, and like you said, they then went to their go-to fill-in creators to squeeze something out.

LurkerWithout said...

I don't think Caleb is saying there is anything wrong with using the Great 10. I remember Rucka using several of them fairly decently during his "Checkmate" run. I think he's just pointing out the disparity of giving them a lengthy mini-series while the entire Milestone line is supposedly being given an end-story and integrated into the DCU in a pair of oversized issues...

Not that I think much of Milestone and Dakota will actually FIT in the regular DCU. Hell, Blood Syndicate in the DCU would be a VILLAIN team...

Menshevik said...

Just as a matter of interest, if Geldoff is BMB's sole new invention from Ultimate Spider-Man, in which Marvel comic did Kong (Kenny McFarlane) appear before USM #5? ;-)

Hdefined said...

Lurker, I do think that's what Caleb is saying:

"It stars a group of minor characters from a 2006 event series that no one seemed particularly interested in reading much more about"

Anonymous said...

They had a biracial character named Mongrel as recently as the '90s? Unbelievable. Even for comics.