Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On the last 50 pages or so of Marvel's Original Sin hardcover collection

Last week I discussed Original Sin, the eight(-ish) part miniseries by writer Jason Aaron, artist Mike Deodato and colorist Frank Martin that dominated the 390-page Original Sin hardcover collection. Tonight I wanted to look at all the supplementary material included in the collection, almost all of it from the pages of the five-issue tie-in anthology entitled Original Sins...which is only one letter's difference from the main series, because comics are weird and dumb and evil. There are also two issues of Original Sin: Secret Avengers Infinite Comic, which I believe was a digital-first comic, which might offer an explanation for why it has two people (?) named "Mast" and "Geoffo" credited as "storyboard artists" rather than with more typical "layouts."

Almost all of these stories, which range in length from Ryan North, Ramon Villalobos and company's 40-page Young Avengers story to a handful of two-page gag strips, deal with the fall-out of a single event early on in Original Sin, The Orb's use of one of the Watcher's gouged-out eyes as a secret-disseminating "truth bomb" to disorient the heroes gathered to apprehend him and his accomplices.
The scene is actually a very small, not terribly important part of Original Sin, but it is the part that allows for other comics to tie-in to the "Original Sin" brand and try to stretch Aaron's story into something that could—at least theoretically—sustain a line-wide crossover. Original Sins—with an "s"—allowed Marvel the chance to check-in with a bunch of other, mostly book-less heroes and, in the process, give a bunch of other creators a chance to play in Marvel's sandbox.

I can't imagine Original Sins was a very satisfying read if read as it was serially published. Each $4, 20-page issue contained a trio of stories—a 10-page lead feature, 8-pages of the five-part Young Avengers story and a 2-page gag comic. If you wanted to just read that Young Avengers story, you were stuck paying $20 for it, and getting little else that would interest you. If you wanted to see favorite, unlikely creators like, say, Richard Geary or Chip Zdarsky drawing Marvel characters, you'd be paying $4 for 2 pages of comics, and getting a lot of stuff that likely wouldn't appeal to you in the process.

The way they're packaged in this collection, the Young Avengers story kicks off this section, and then the rest seem to follow as they were published.

Let's take them one at a time.

"Young Avengers: Hidden In Plain Sight" by Ryan North, Ramon Villalobos and Jordan Gibson

By far the highlight of the book, I don't want to say too much about this here at the moment (As I talk about it here). The Ryan North who wrote it is the same Ryan North who writes Dinosaur Comics and Boom's Adventure Time comics, and, as with the latter, he includes little alt text like gags along the bottom of most of the pages. It is a very funny comic, but funny within the bounds of the Marvel Universe (that is, no one breaks character or the fourth wall in the way some of the other, shorter, comedic pieces in Original Sins-with-an-"s" do).

Hulkling sees, via social media, that all the superheroes seem to be fighting Noh-Varr's ex-girlfriend in Manhattan, so he texts Prodigy, they go to space to pick up Noh-Varr, and head to Manhattan to see what they can do. The fight is over, but they stumble upon a post eyeball zap adventure that pits the three Young Avengers against The Hood (The rest of the team is present, but they literally text in their appearances).

It's seriously great stuff, and made me wish Marvel hadn't ended the last volume of Young Avengers when its creative team of Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton departed, but rather kept it going under North and Villalobos.

"Terminus" by Nathan Edmondson, Mike Perkins and Andy Troy

This one is a bit of an odd story out in that rather than checking in with a book-less character, it's a 10-pager starring the new Deathlok, who has a new series, and it therefore seems to be here to remind readers of Original Sin that there's a new Deathlok comic they might want to read.

Henry Hayes, a former soldier who now works for Doctors Without Borders, is accosted by an off-duty SHIELD agent who explains he was there when "The Watcher's eye exploded downtown," and now he knows Hayes' secret. That secret being that he's secret Deathlok, a cyborg assassin who doesn't seem to be half-zombie in this iteration, and who now more closely resembles the one from the TV, I guess. Oddly, Hayes himself doesn't seem to know the secret, so I guess that's the premise of the new take on the character.

Mike Perkins draws this sort of realistic, espionage-style action comic very well, as he's proved in the past, and while there's not much here, and nothing that really piqued my interest in the series, it's a pretty effective pitch for that series.

"Lockjaw: Buried Memory" by Stuart Moore, Rick Geary and Ive Svorcina

At just 16 silent panels over two pages, this is a very fleet read. There's only a single joke to it—Lockjaw suddenly has a memory, and seeks the aid of a Marvel superhero—and it's not that funny a joke, really, but if you ever wanted to see Rick Geary draw not only Lockjaw, but the current versions of Luke Cage, Iron Man, Emma Frost and others, then this comic certainly fulfills that desire.
Kamala "Ms. Marvel" Khan appears in one-panel of this story, as one of the several heroes to deny Lockjaw help, and it constitutes her only appearance in Original Sin, despite being depicted, along with a bunch of other heroes who weren't drawn there by Deodato, at ground zero of the eyeball bomb in Manhattan on the cover of Original Sins #1.

"Black Legacy" by Frank Tieri, Raffaele Ienco and Brad Anderson

Is Marvel Studios developing a Black Knight film, or is he going to appear in the third Avengers movie or on Agents of SHIELD or something...? For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why this story existed at all.

The Black Knight, who I was fairly certain was based in England (I only read the first half of the Revolutionary War trade; am I misremembering his presence in it?), is holed up in his apartment, which he hasn't left in what appears to be a long time, wearing only his briefs and clutching his ebony blade (Should I rewrite that last bit to make it sound less suggestinve? Nah). A writer and expert on the Black Knight legacy and the ebony blade is knocking at his door, saying she knows his secret, which is that the blade is addictive and makes folks who wield it crazy, eventually killing him.

I'm not sure why The Black Knight, who seemed to be in a pretty good place last time I remember seeing him (If not in Revolutionary War, then definitely in Captain Britain and MI:13) is made all Howard Hughes for the sake of a ten-page story which, incidentally, has nothing at all to do with Original Sin except, perhaps, thematically. During my first read-through, I thought the Knight was caught in the blast—which would have mandated his presence in Manhattan, not England—but on rereading, I see that not only was he not in the blast, it's not clear which city he's in during this story. Also, the writer, who knows his secret, knows it from research and inference, not because she was caught in the blast.

So either Tieri's got a Black Knight series on the horizon, or Marvel's got a Black Knight media adaptation on the horizon, or man, this is one out-of-left field page-filler.

"Before Your Eyes" by Ty Templeton and Paul Mounts

Templeton writes and draws this Howard The Duck two-pager, in which Howard finds himself ejected from his car by a faulty—and apparently very powerful—air bag, and his mind races through what he recently learned from "the eye of a dead Watcher".

Howard The Duck's troubled history, and his existence as a sort of flashpoint regarding a big comics company and a creator in conflict over who owns what and who gets and deserves credit and money for what, makes Howard The Duck comics incredibly difficult to read, something that will never change now, given the fact that Howard's creator Steve Gerber has passed away.

I'm a big fan of Templeton's work, and while this isn't really a great example of it—consisting as it does of only 14 panels of Howard in a suit—it ends with a pretty charged, I-can't-believe-Marvel-published-that statement: "You are Howard The Duck. The greatest example of wasted potential in the known galaxy."

I suppose there are a couple of different ways to read that, but there's only one way I could read it.

"Whispers of War" by Charles Soule, Ryan Browne and Edgar Delgado

This is the only story in this book I couldn't read all the way through...I made it onto the fourth page of the ten-page story before giving up. It opens with a spiky headed guy who I at first took to be Iceman, with a goblet in a penthouse hot tub, talking to a trio of faces that are merging from his body, one of which is that of a frog.

I guess this is what The Purple Man looks like now, which was a bit of a surprise, given that the last time I saw him (Alias, maybe?) he just looked like a man. Only purple. On page four, The Inhumans appear, so I then assumed he might have gone through some Terrigenisis mutation or whatever and then I got so bored I had to stop reading.

The cover for the particular issue of Original Sins appeared in has Blackbolt and The Purple Man on the cover, and says there's an "Inhuman" story within, so I suppose this has something to do with the ongoing u series. Lockjaw's in four panels of it, but that's just not enough Lockjaw to get me to give a shit about The Inhumans. Sorry.

"Bury The Lead" by Dan Slott, Mark Bagley, Joe Rubenstein and Paul Mounts

This two-pager is teased as a J. Jonah Jameson story on the cover, and it is. There's only one joke in it, and it's a fairly strong one if you know the character at all from any medium, but that also means I can't really say anything about it here without ruining it. Suffice it to say that it's a fun little piece by a writer and penciler strongly associated with Spider-Man and his supporting cast and, I suppose, that this is another Original Sin tie-in that has nothing at all to do with Original Sin—it involves someone discovering a deep dark secret about JJJ, but not through a Watcher eye-blast or anything like that.

"Checkmate" by James Robinson, Alex Maleev and Cris Peter

This is a Dr. Doom story written by current Fantastic Four writer and drawn by Alex Maleev in his signature realistic, but grittier style. The actual protagonist is a scummy, investment advisor Wall Street type—someone you won't mind knowing gets killed by Dr. Doom, essentially—who learned some of Doom's secrets from the Watcher eye-bomb, and makes elaborate plans to blackmail Doom.

It goes about as well for him as you might expect.

Maleev's Doom is very cool-looking, despite only appearing in the splash pages that book-end the short story. He gives Doom red eyes, which is a small but effective tweak of the design. His protagonist is much less well-drawn, however, and I found myself being repeatedly distracted by trying to place the Hollywood actor he seemed to patterned after in any given panel: Here he looks like Ben Affleck, there Chris Evans, ooh in this sequence he looks like Eric Balfour...interesting choice.

The backgrounds and establishing shots, on the other hand, appear to just be traced or mildly manipulated photographs, which is pretty disappointing. But it's only ten-pages long, so it's hard to get too disappointed in the artwork either way.

"Catharsis" by David Abadta, Pablo Dura and Erica Henderson

This is another two-pager, which thus far has meant a funny story, but there isn't really a joke here, just a premise so unusual that it would only really fit in a gag format strip. Well, I think there's an attempt at a joke in the final panel, but I didn't think it really worked.

This does give a nice preview of what upcoming Unbeatable Squirrel Girl artist Erica Henderson's Marvel work could look like though. Verdict? Pretty nice!

"How The World Works" by Al Ewing, Butch Guice, Scott Hanna and Matthew Wilson

Billed as a Nick Fury story, this is as much a Dum Dum Dugan story as it is a Fury one, and the revelation that occurs in it seems to me to be at least as big a one as any of those regarding Fury in the main Original Sin series (i.e. that he's really old now for real, that he has a small army of super-LMDs of himself as a strapping young man, that he assassinates space monsters in his down time, that he almost blew a hole in Spider-Man's head, etc).

It's also the story that most directly ties in to the events of Original Sin, in terms of content and visuals, with Guice's pencil art, inked by Hanna and colored by Matthew Wilson, most closely resembling that of Deodato. It takes place during the time in which The Orb is in custody, and involves Dugan confronting Old Man Fury about all the shitty things Fury's been doing, only to discover a super-shitty thing Fury's been doing, a sin that seems a lot worse than some of his other sins.

"The No-Sin Situation" by Chip Zdarsky

Probably the best two-pages in the whole book, regardless of how much I might have talked up that Young Avengers story, this Zdarksy strip is billed as starring "Everybody Else." It's only two-pages long, but it has 28 panels in it! It opens with Nick Fury sitting down Gambit in an interview room and telling him that there's a situation where everyone's secrets are being revealed and that "I just want to get aheaed of it and see what we should prepare for." Fury assures the ragin' Cajun that "Everyhing you say here will be off the record and not in continuity."

The rest of the strip then consists of single-panels featuring a different Marvel character, introduced in a narration box naming them and defining them in a manner similar to Original Sin, revealing a deep, dark secret about themselves (The Black Panther and Namor, The Sub-Mariner are exceptions...they get two panels).

They are mostly very, very funny. For example:

I found two elements of the strip striking in that they paralleled Andrew Wheeler's "Original Spin" coverage of Original Sin for Comics Alliance. The first was that Zdarsky introduces The Watcher as "Moon Creep;" the first headline in the first installment of "Original Spin"...? "Moon Creep Murdered! Sex Games Gone Wrong?"

Also, Dr. Strange reveals that he changed his surname to Strange because he wanted to be in a metal band, which also explains his hand gestures. One of Wheeler's running gags for the Dr. Strange/Punisher team-up plotline of Original Sin was that the pair were a "retro psychedelic prog rock" band called Strangecastle.

"Original Sin: Secret Avengers" by Ales Kot, Mast, Geoffo, Ryan Kelly and Lee Loughridge

This is the apparent digital-first comic, referred to in the table-of-contents, where it is misplaced as coming before the issues of Original Sins rather than after them, as "Original Sin: Secret Avengers Infinite Comic #1-2." As I said, I'm not entirely sure what it's doing here; I suspect Marvel wasn't sure where else to put it, but then, the back of a Secret Avengers trade seems like the more obvious place, doesn't it?

It's only tangentially related to the goings-on of Original Sin—odd, since it stars two of SHIELD's "name" characters, one of whom is Nick Fury's namesake—as "The Event" (as the eyeball attack in Manhattan is here referred to) reveals the fact that this scientist guy that this Nick Fury—the young, black one who looks more like Sam Jackson then the old, white one does—and Agent Clark Gregg thought was dead is actually still alive, and he needs to be captured and stopped. Preferably before this guy with a weird face wearing a SHIELD uniform but commanding Hydra, a guy who no one ever names, gets his hands on him. As for the scientist, he developed a way to manipulate the universe through code, which he plans to have go open source. It is all apparently following up on plot points from comics I have never read, so I never really understood the exact nature of the conflict or the impetus for it, but I did manage to read all 32 pages of it, so it wasn't as boring and confusing as that Inhumans/Purple Man story was...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Wonder Woman #37: The issue that guarantees DC will need to reboot again soon

When Wonder Woman #36 was released last month, I struggled a bit with whether to bother reviewing it or not, and ultimately decided that the character was important enough that the debut of the new creative team on her main comic book series during a pretty critical time in the fictional character's history was a big enough deal to go ahead and do so, even though the book turned out to be every bit as awful as anyone familiar with that creative team assumed it would be.

So, what's my excuse this month? The last page, which features a big reveal as a cliffhanger ending, a reveal so big that I may have released a strangled "Oh no!" from my throat when I read it in disbelief. It was, quite literally, the last thing that should be included in a Wonder Woman comic set in the New 52, which was, you'll recall, created to streamline and simplify the DC Universe into a more welcoming place for new readers.

This post will obviously contain spoilers, well a spoiler, which is why I'm writing about it now, a few weeks after release. Anyone who is reading Wonder Woman monthly should have gotten to that terrible, terrible page by now; anyone trade-waiting, you've been warned here, so don't try and make me feel bad if I spoil the ending for you in the course of this post.

In the previous issue, Wonder Woman took a shower to wash all the blood from her latest adventure off, while thinking about water. Cyborg called her and the rest of the Justice League up to their satellite headquarters, where he explained villages full of people have been suddenly disappearing, as if being swallowed up by the Earth instantly. They split up into groups to investigate the scenes of the disasters or crimes or whatever, and Wonder Woman happened to see Swamp Thing standing nearby one. So she did the most Wonder Woman-ly think she could think of, and ambushed him, almost flying kicking his head off. She then proceeded to scream accusations at him while punching whole chunks out of his body.

When Swamp Thing and teammate Aquaman finally got her to calm down, and Aquaman asked what that was all about, Wondy explained that she's just been under a lot of stress lately: She's the current Greek God of War, she's acting Queen of the Amazons, she's Superman's girlfriend and she's on the Justice League. It's a little overwhelming for any woman, even a Wonder Woman.

Then she went back to Paradise Island, to find the Amazons bickering over her divided loyalties and the fact that she let some male Amazons (don't ask) on to the island to live with them, and then she gets more bad news: Her mom, who was turned into what I assumed stone during the early issues of the New 52 relaunch, was "dead;" her stone form melted away in the rain. Writer Meredith Finch didn't get into it last issue, as that was the shocking cliffhanger ending of the last issue, and doesn't mention it here, but the art seems to suggest that Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons wasn't petrified, but turned into clay, and then washed away in the rain, because neither Wonder Woman nor any other Amazon thought to, like move or cover her in case it rained. It was as if their mother and/or queen was a bike, left out in the rain by a careless child, and now she's all rusted. Only instead of rusted, she's dead.

And that's where the first issue of Finch, pencil artist David Finch and inker Richard Friend left off. Ready for the second chapter of their story?


Wonder Woman is once again posed awkwardly, apparently bound from the ankles to the knees and hopping around a battlefield, while gesturing with a gnarled, three-fingered hand at a metallic-looking bird (presumably a Stymphalian bird of the sort Hercules dealt with during his sixth labor) as it crashes into her logo.

Two other Amazons in scanty armor stand around, looking up at the birds, one of them smiling rather happily—perhaps she's pleased that Wonder Woman's logo seems to be preventing the birds from getting to them. A third Amazon with her back to the reader draws back a bow, preparing to fire an arrow a bird trying to squeeze through the narrow opening between the issue number and credits on one side and the Wonder Woman logo on the other.

Credit where credit's due, the general conception of these metallic monster birds is pretty cool. On the three-panel first page, we see some Amazons dressed as they have been for a decade or two (or maybe even three now), in bits and bobs of Bronze Age armor, as if they're all dressing up as Naughty Spartans for Halloween.

There's a red-outlined black "SCRREEECH" sound-effect (thanks to letterer Dezi Sienty) as the birds rocket out of the sky toward Paradise Island like bottle rockets, and then they hover above the Amazons.

That's followed by a double-page splash—the 20-page issue's first of two—in which the birds engage the Amazons. Here we get a sense of how big they are, standing about as high as an Amazon, so, you know, fucking huge for a bird, and we see one of the Amazons has a cool undercut hairstyle. Yes, they may only use weapons from the time of Christ, but they do keep abreast of current trends in hairstyle.

One of them's like, "Hey, where's Wonder Woman?" and the other's like, "I don't know; I wish she was here as often as these giant monster birds are here."

I paraphrase.

Meanwhile, on the set of Macbeth, a Dark Lord of the Sith and the witch from Snow White stand on either side of a boiling cauldron, while a lady dressed like an Amazon kneels before them, reluctantly handing her/a baby over to them. The Sith lady raises a knife and kills the baby—off-panel, of course. DC may have gotten a lot more graphic and gory over the last decade or so, but they haven't gone so far as to show babies getting stabbed to death yet.


There's a full splash page—actually, about a page and a half; it would have been another double-page splash, but for four small-ish panels running down the right-hand side of the spread of an athletic, dark haired man fighting an athletic, dark-haired woman, both of them armed with staffs and wearing work-out clothes. The woman is Wonder Woman, which is made clear by the fact that the man calls her "Diana." The man turns out to be Superman, which is only made clear on page eight, when Diana calls him "Clark." They are in a vaguely eastern-looking place on pages 6 and 7, and then there's no backgroun on page 8, and it's not until page 9 when they walk into a generic metal room that it becomes clear they were probably in the Justice League's version of the X-Men's Danger Room (which Brad Meltzer called "The Kitchen," but which I thought—perhaps hoped—was New 52-ed away with the rest of Meltzer's run).

Superman tries to talk to Wonder Woman about her feelings, particularly regarding her clay mother having been melted away by the rain, and she tries shutting the conversation down.
He keeps pushing until she snaps and yells at him, and then walks away saying, "Grief isn't a luxury I have time for."


The Sith lady is walking away from the witch from Snow White and the boiling cauldron. She's holding the baby—Alive? Dead?—in her hands, while the Amazon lies prone on the ground, a stream of red blood pouring from her. I guess she killed the mother, not the baby. Or maybe she killed both? It's unclear.

The witch looks into the pot, in which Wonder Woman's mom's clay face appears to be boiling, and the witch sheds a single tear (those are the panels atop the post; Wonder Woman's dead clay mom being an "ingredient" in the pot will become weirder on page 20, so keep in mind that she's in there, okay?).

PAGES 11-13

Wonder Woman, now wearing her Wonder Woman costume, appears before "the council," the group of Amazons who were complaining at her last issue. Their leader appears to be the wicked witch. They demand that Wonder Woman choose to either stay with them permanently to serve as their queen, or abdicate to someone else. While the argument continues, a lady runs in and says they're under attack.

"Quickly," Wonder Woman shouts, "Sound the alarm!"

PAGES 14-15

The book's second two-page splash (yes, 20% of this book is devoted to just two panels), as Wonder Woman, now wearing an entirely different costume including a battle skirt, cape and shoulder armor, disembowels one of those bird things with a sword.

What happened to "quickly," Wonder Woman? You still had time to change, did you?

Also, here it becomes clear that the birds are machines, as when Wonder Woman chops the bird open, gears and wires and metal pieces fall out of it. They are basically like scary, giant versions of Bubo from the good Clash of The Titans movie, then.


Wonder Woman gives battle orders while she and the Amazons fight the birds. One of them swoops for the old witch lady, and Wonder Woman says "Derinoe, NO!," so I guess I should start calling that lady Derinoe now, and then Wonder Woman says "HRRAGH!" and cuts off its talons.

PAGE 17-18

Derinoe is mad at Wonder Woman for saving her, and Wonder Woman changes the subject, asking what those things are. They are "man-eating Stymphalian birds--Ares' idea of pets," one of the Amazons says, noting they started attacking about a week ago. They are apparently flocking to the island, as that's where Wonder Woman lives, and as the God of War, they apparently belong to her now.
Wonder Woman makes a face of grim determination and is right in the middle of swearing to take care of the problem, when Cyborg calls to say another village vanished, and Wonder Woman flies away to deal with that, saying she'll be back to deal with the whole giant man-eating* metal bird problem soon.


A vaguely insect-like humanoid in a loin cloth stands before the glowing throne of a dark-skinned, red-eyed lady who may or may not be of the same species as him, in a room that looks like a mixture of sci-fi stuff and an anicent temple.

"It is begun, my lady," the bug guy says, his words encapsulated in a scratchily-drawn dialogue balloon.

"And the traitor?" the red-eyed lady says, speaking in her own font.


Here, see for yourself:
So meanwhile, there's a cauldron, with a naked dark haired lady floating out of it. This is probably meant to be the same cauldron from earlier in the book, but there's no background, so it could be anywhere, really. It's probably not in the temple of the bug guy though, as his answer appears in a narration box, as if the scene has changed.

The important bit, is of course, the dialogue coming from off-panel, which is probably coming from Derinoe, as her dialogue bubbles are shaped like that, but it's unclear. This page probably could have used another panel or three, like an establishing shot for location, an establishing shot for who the fuck is talking, and then the reveal.

That, or David Finch coulda drew a background and had the speaker appear on the page.

But it's the words that are the really troubling part: "DONNA TROY."

I'm assuming everyone who managed to read this far knows exactly who Donna Troy is; the fact that Meredith Finch could use the mention of her name alone as a cliffhanger indicates that she at least expects readers to know who Donna Troy is, and for that knowledge in and of itself to prove extremely dramatic (This is odd, as Meredith Finch has said in interviews she's not very familiar with Wonder Woman, and has really only read the previous New 52 run, during which Donna Troy never appeared).

If you are, skip these next four paragraphs. If not, read them.

Donna Troy, along with the Legion of Super-Heroes and Hawkman, is one of the biggest continuity "problems" in DC history, a scab that creators can't seem to stop picking at. That's because her original appearance—along with the sidekicks that formed the first iteration of the Teen Titans—was a mistake. "Wonder Girl" wasn't Wonder Woman's sidekick, but Wonder Woman herself as a teenager (similar to Superman and the original Superboy), and she regularly teamed up with grown-up Wonder Woman via time-travel (along with Wonder Tot, Wonder Woman as a toddler) because, you know, comics.

Once introduced to the Titans, however, she needed a new identity and origin, so Marve Wolfman and Gil Kane came up with an origin in a 1969 issue of Teen Titans, in which Wonder Girl was a human girl Wonder Woman saved from a fire and, unable to find her parents, brought her back to Paradise Island and gave her Amazon powers. The origin is expanded by Wolfman and George Perez in 1984 storyline "Who Is Donna Troy?". And then Crisis On Infinite Earths strikes, Wonder Woman's continuity is radically rebooted, so that she was making her debut in the late 1980s, retroactively erasing all of her adventures in Man's World prior to that, and thus severing her from Wonder Girl/Donna Troy, which, of course, is a bit of a problem.

So then we get "Who Is Wonder Girl?", divorcing Donna Troy from Wonder Woman and marrying her origins instead to "The Titans of Myth" (She also gets a haircut, new costume and new codename of "Troia"). In the '90s, John Byrne revised her origin again, now making her a magical duplicate pesudo-sister of Wonder Woman's, adding in some parallel dimension jazz. Then, leading into Infinite Crisis, Phil Jimenez brings her back from the dead and re-clarifies her origin again, in a storyline entitled "The Return of Donna Troy?" The new status quo hardly mattered, as the multiverse would go through a series of cosmic reboots to history/continuity—Infinite Crisis, 52, Final Crisis—in the next few years, one effect of which was reverting Wonder Woman to her pre-Crisis timeline, in terms of how long she has been in Man's World anyway (around the same amount of time as Batman and Superman, rather than years and years later).

When the next and latest cosmic re-set button was hit during the climax of Flashpoint, it wiped out Donna Troy's entire generation of superheroes—or, at least the less popular ones. Fellow Titans Nightwing, Cyborg, Starfire and Roy Harper remained in the new continuity, as did Donna's one-time boyfriend Kyle Rayner, but they all had new origins, and none of them were ever Titans. That's one way of dealing with the Donna Troy problem, then: Simply removing her from existence.

And now? She's back! I'm sure there were plenty of people bummed out about her being erased from existence, just as there were plenty of people bummed out about The Flash Wally West being wiped out of existence thanks to Flashpoint, but one thing Wally West's New 52 debut has demonstrated, it's to be careful what you wish for.

Over the decades, there have literally been hundreds of pages devoted to explaining who the hell Wonder Girl/Donna Troy is and how to make her fit in the current DC Universe, but the problem remains that the DC Universe is itself being altered so frequently, that every new explanation of the character needs constant revision. If she's going to work, she needs to do so in a way that's not too closely tied to a time period, or to Wonder Woman or to the Titans. This might work, although given the poor quality of the first 40-issues of the Finch's Wonder Woman I don't exactly have any faith it will, but, like Wally West, Donna Troy is probably a casualty of the New 52 reboot better left dead.

She belongs to the a now lost generation of characters, who don't fit into the DCU in any logical way anymore (Dick Grayson's still here because he's a popular character, but he doesn't make sense in a six-year timeline, and makes less sense the more a reader thinks about him). And like her generation of sidekicks-who-grew up, Donna Troy has been replaced by other sidekicks. She can't be Wonder Girl, because there's already a Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark, who survived the continuity purge of Flashpoint; I'm not sure what her deal is, or why she exists, as The New 52 Teen Titans hurt my eyes too much to read).

And unlike Grayson, Harper and even former-Aqualad Garth, Donna never developed a decent identity and codename to grow into her own, independent superhero. She's a great character, but she's a great character for the pre-Flashpoint DCU, not the New 52, where she's more likely than not just going to irritate the (relatively) few people who want to see Donna Troy in the modern DCU again, and create another seeping continuity wound that will need healed by a future creative team.

I suppose we can begin a countdown to the next "Who Is..." storyline making sense of the character. Might I recommend the title "Who The @#$% Is Donna Troy Supposed to be Now...?"


Say, so we've had a book with this title...
...and one with this title... is it that there's never been a comic book called Wonder Girl and The Legion of Super-Heroes or Donna Troy and The Legion of Super-Heroes...?

*Say, do you think an all-female society would use the word "man-eating," or would they instead use "woman-eating," or, at the very least, "person-eating"...? "Man-eating" seems a strange term to develop in a society that has been pretty much devoid of all men for pretty much ever..

Sunday, December 28, 2014

DC vs. The Dewey Decimal System, Round Two

Last week's Batman '66 #18 featured one of those stories that "had to happen," as the excitable covers of old Marvel Comics might have said: Batgirl, whose secret identity is the head librarian of the Gotham Public Library, versus Bookworm, the literary-themed villain original to the TV show that this comic is based on.

Entitled "Bats, Books and Crazy Crooks," this Jeff Parker-written, Richard Case-drawn comic is a lot of fun. Bookworm and his beatnik henchmen muscle their way in to the Gotham Public Library at closing time in an attempt to steal its rarest book, The Cleoveritas, "a repository of occult knowledge." His plan is to force Gordon to open the display case for him, but she runs off into the stacks, in order to transform into her crimefighting alter-ego.

There's just one teensy-weensy problem with the story, which, if you are a librarian yourself, you may notice in the panel below:
Bookworm picks the lock himself, "thanks to call number 681 of the Dewey Decimal System." not the call number for locks or lockpicking, at least not according to my librarian lady friend, and the DDC22, or The Dewey Decimal Classification Edition 22, which she showed me to prove it.

Now 681 is the call number for "precision instruments and other devices," although it's standard for the number to have a subdivision added to it (681.1, for example, would be the Dewey number for clocks). The book Bookworm is holding in his hand is entitled How Locks Work; locks would fall under call number 683, for "hardware and household appliances" and "comprehensive works on manufacture of hardware or building supplies."

Specifically, it should be in 683.3, "locksmithing," where you'd find books on locks that would include diagrams and detailed information on how they work.

So that brings us to the important question—who is as fault here? Did Bookworm bring that particular book with him, and just misspoke when he said it belongs under the call number of 681? As we've seen in the past, Bookworm has a rather idiosyncratic way of cataloging and organizing books when he's the one in charge of doing so.

Or did Bookworms find that book on the shelf at GPL, and it was therefore head librarian Barbara Gordon's fault that a book that should be under 683.3 was under 681? This seems unlikely, as Gordon is a conscientious enough a librarian that even when she's forced to throw books into the mouths of giant monster beatnik silverfish-men in order to keep them from devouring her, she's careful to use the activity as an excuse to weed the collection a bit.
Also, if Gordon had miscataloged the book, how would Bookworm have found it so quickly?

The other alternative? Maybe writer Jeff Parker just goofed, and editor Jim Chadwick missed it. That seems most likely, but oh so preventable, as anyone can call or walk into any public library and ask the reference librarians there what the Dewey Decimal number for locks would be...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Batman on a horse!

Artist Dave Bullock draws Batman on a horse in Batman '66 #18.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Comic Shop Comic: December 24

Batman Eternal #38 (DC Comics) Tim Seeley scripts and Andrea Mutti draws this week's issue, in which Catwoman manipulates various parties into taking down the most dangerous escapees from the Arkham Asylum collapse, for the betterment of the city. Batman, who is apparently running out of high-tech weaponry now that the Wayne fortune is off-limits and his various Bat-bunkers have been blowed up, takes on The Joker's Daughter, Mr. Freeze, Clayface and The Scarecrow, while Killer Croc takes down Bane (An unfortunate side-effect of that encounter? Their dialogue reminded me that they just recently fought one another in the really quite terrible Forever Evil: Arkham War, which reminded me that Arkham War existed, and that I read most of it, and that was really a thing I was trying to forget having done).

As a result, Killer Croc gets a new job that I can't imagine he's too happy with (I certainly wouldn't be, if I had to dress like that), we're supposedly supposed to worry about Batman having to fight crime with dwindling explosives and such-like (although he did do okay with just batarangs, bat-rope and his fists for about 50 years didn't he?), and Jim Gordon gets offers of help from two very unlikely sources.

Mutti's art is pretty good. Not the best in the weekly series, but hardly the worst, either; I do wish someone would let Scarecrow start wearing hats again though...

Batman '66 #18 (DC) Two short stories this issue. In the first, the Dynamic Duo take on the dully named villain The Archer, whose new twist on his Robin Hood act is to rob from the police and give to the criminals. This story by writer Tom Peyer features maybe the most ridiculous climax I've ever seen in any comic book ever, but it also features some really great art by Dave Bullock, who I wish drew more superhero comics for DC, and, of course, Batman on a horse, a true sign of quality comic books.

I found the back-up by writter Jeff Parker and artist Richard Case much more appealing, as it was a Batgirl solo story, and pitted Gotham Public Library's Head Librarian Barbara Gordon against book-based criminal mastermind Bookworm. This time he's after a Necronomicon-like tome of ancient and evil magic. When he recites the magic words—all jokes that I confess took me way too long to get, as I tried reading them backwards and unscrambling them like they were anagrams, before realizing they were just phonetic spellings of various Batman '66 in-jokes—he transofrms his beatnik bodyguards into giant, book-eating, monster book-eating silverfish. There are more than enough library-related jokes in this to likely make it a favorite for any readers who work in a library and, personally, that is always something I liked about the original Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, who here even has a cool hideout hidden in the stacks.

New 52: Futures End (DC) After Ryan Sook's better-than-usual cover for this issue (and the covers are generally pretty good, even the best part of every issues), the artwork perks up a bit during a five-page sequence drawn by Scott Kolins. Unfortunately, this is the least interesting sequence imaginable, as it begins with two-pages of conversation involving Grifter's tech guy, WildStorm's Voodoo, someone named Mercy and a pair of British sisters wearing Union Jacks and calling themselves (sigh) Banger and Mash. It's followed by three pages of Grifter, Lana Lang, Fifty-Sue and others planning a heist...which, if it's anything like the heist The Key, Plastique, Coil and Batman Terry McGinnis planned earlier in the series, could take as many as 15 issues to plan and ultimately have no pay-off.

The rest of the book is drawn by Patrick Zircher, and is more visually interesting, even if it's all just fighting and prepping to fight: The new Firestorm vs. The new Dr. Polaris, the new Stormwatch vs. the old SHADE, Batman 2019 spying on Batman 2049 and The Joker/Batman hybrid-bot from 2049 traveling back to 2019 to attack Plastique.

She-Hulk #11 (Marvel Entertainment) It's 18 pages of fighting between two splash pages of not-fighting, as writer Charles Soule and "storyteller" Javier Pulido (Yes, that's how he's credited) have She-Hulk and Titania duke it out, with Volcana, Hellcat, Angie and Hei Hei eventually joining in.

Guess who wins?

There's some really quite spectacular art in this issue, and Pulido really gets to show off how good he is at drawing action in interesting, fun and even innovative ways. Things are definitely winding down in this title, which, after all, has already been announced as canceled, and I definitely got the sense that Soule was forced to reveal some things about Angie and Hei Hei a lot sooner than he planned to based on having fewer issues than he might have originally planned when he started writing the book as an ongoing monthly series.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Pippi Longstocking burn!

(From Pippi Won't Grow Up by Astrid Lindgren and Ingrid Vang Nyman, published by Drawn and Quarterly)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Please consider helping out Norm Breyfogle

As many of you have likely already heard, longtime Batman artist Norm Breyfogle has recently suffered what sounds like a pretty serious stroke. That can be a pretty terrible thing to suffer, no matter who you are and what you do for a living, and I can only imagine how much more horrible it must be for an artist to lose—even if only temporarily—the ability to use his drawing hand.

While I've never met the man, Breyfogle has been a pretty big part of my life, as I've spent God knows how many hours reading comics he's drawn, and I've even tried teaching myself to draw better by studying and trying to copy his work. Breyfogle is, in my opinion, one of the best Batman artists of all-time (he's maybe a hair ahead of Kelley Jones in my book), and his work on the Batman books with writer Alan Grant in the early '90s made him one of the handful of gateway artists who helped interest me in what ultimately became a lifelong obsession of mine, comics.

Like far, far too many of the people who draw the comics we read for a living, Breyfogle doesn't have adequate health care coverage, nor is he as fabulously wealthy as one might hope someone who spent so much time working on Batman might be. To help cover his medical expenses, his family has set up a fund-raising effort, which I hope you'll consider donating to, even if it's only a few bucks. They're shooting for about $200,000, so if everyone who bought an issue of Batman in October donated $2, they'd make that goal and  have plenty to spare (And if everyone who bought an issue of Batman in October donated the cost of an issue of Batman,  Breyfogle's family would more than triple their goal).

Additionally, this is probably a good time to remind any readers of The Hero Initiative, a worthy organization dedicated to providing a financial safety net for comics creators in need. It's never a bad time to consider a donation to The Hero Initiative.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: Original Sin

As far as formats go, Marvel's Original Sin series had what must be among the strangest of any of their crossover/event stories to date. It was an eight-issue miniseries with two preludes (part of Point One #1 and Original Sin #0, both by different creative teams and neither of which were the creators of the miniseries). It was accompanied by an anthology series telling side-stories as most of Marvel's crossover stories ever since Civil War have been, this one given the the frustratingly confusing title of Original Sins. And, of course, there were tie-ins.

But it also contained two miniseries that apparently take place between issues of Original Sin, and are strictly labeled as such. So, for example, in addition to Original Sin #0-8, there's also Original Sin #3.1-3.4, telling a side-story involving The Hulk and Iron Man, and Original Sin #5.1-#5.5, dealing with Thor and the Asgardians.

It's interesting to look at the way Marvel ultimately collects these stories, as it will let a reader know that which of them Marvel actually considers part of the story. So the hardcover I borrowed from the library, entitled Original Sin contains the following, listed like so in the table of contents:

•"Point One #1" by writer Ed Bruaker and artist Javier Pulido

•"Original Sin #0" by writer Mark Waid, pencil artists Jim Cheung and Paco Medina and five inkers (one of whom is Cheung)

•"Original Sin #1-8" by writer Jason Aaron and artist Mike Deodato

•"Original Sin: Secret Avengers Infinite Comic #1-2" by writer Ales Kot, "storyboard artists" (???) "Mast & Geoffo" (???) and artist Ryan Kelley...this one is actually listed out of order, as it comes after the next thing listed in the table of contents

•"Original Sins #1-5" by a whole bunch of folks

That other stuff, the issues of the miniseries that Marvel decided to market as part of the actual series using decimal points? That's not here, either because it takes up too much space, or because it's not that important...which would be weird, given that the two prequels included aren't at all important either, and one of the stories in Original Sins is a two-page story about Lockjaw suddenly remembering where he buried a bone.

In fact, all of the stuff in here that isn't the eight-issue core series by Aaron and Deodato, while some of it is actually quite good, seems to take away from the actual story of Original Sin which, with one major exception, is pretty self-contained, and would read perfectlly well if it began with the fist panel of Original Sin #1 and ended with the last panel of Original Sin #8.

Why do I bring all of this up? Well, in part simply because I find it interesting how byzantine this particular crossover was in terms of its format compared to previous, similar stories (Fear Itself for example, also used decimal-pointed issues, but only at the end, as Fear Itself was followed by three epilogues, each labeled with a decimal point). Original Sin could really use a big chart to define what order to read which books in, with maybe some sort of color coding to inform readers how relevant or, conversely, how optional some parts of the stories are (Hey, Marvel does have Jonathan Hickman writing for them now; I wonder why they don't have complicated chart checklists now...?).

It becomes more complicated for trade-readers, as such a theoretical chart would have to designate which parts of which books to read and in what order. Like, should I have stopped reading this trade after I hit the chapter that collects Original Sin #4 and sought out and read Original Sin: Hulk Vs. Iron Man, which apparently collects the issues that were originally serially released as Original Sin #3.1-3.4....?

The other reason is because I'm somewhat stymied by how to proceed writing about the book. My first instinct is to review this book as a whole, as that's how Marvel is selling it, but after I reached the first story collected after the collection of Original Sin's conclusion, a five-part Young Avengers story by Ryan North and Ramon Villalobos, I realized that a) It was really good, and deserved a post of its own reviewing it, and, b) it had almost nothing at all to do with Original Sin, and was just this side of a "red sky" story.

So I'm just going to focus on the first 230-ish pages or so.

We can dispense with the prequels pretty quickly; these are basically just there to remind who The Watcher is and what he does, exactly...or to explain that to new readers, I suppose. The Watcher, Uatu, is one of the many elements foundational to the Marvel Universe that were created, designed and defined by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in their Fantastic Four run.

A giant bald guy with an oversized head who rocked a toga and cape, The Wathcer watched stuff. He usually did so from his house on the moon, but for the really important stuff, he'd put in a personal appearance: If you've read pretty much any Marvel event series, you've seen him appear in the sky. His ancient alien race swore non-interference, but Uatu has been known to make an exception to that rule, most famously in having given the FF a hand in saving Earth from Galactus.

The Brubaker/Pulido ten-pager, culled from a Marvel anthology comic consisting mainly of promos and teasers to upcoming series and storylines, features a pair of thieve essentially casing The Watcher's joint while he's in the fugue state that Watchers fall into for exactly forty-two minutes every three years, during which time they apparently transmit their memories to the other Watchers. The thieves are wearing cool, Kirby-esque space suits that completely mask who they are; one calls the other "Andrew" and they both seem to work for something called "The Unseen" and, honestly, once The Unseen is defined during the course of Original Sin, this story seems to make little sense, as it ends with one of the mysterious intruders telling the other, "So now, when the time comes...The Unseen will be able to kill the Watcher... and all his secrets will be ours."

While that seems to suggest a spoiler in a prelude to the actual story—The Unseen does kill The Watcher, and Original Sin was sold as a murder mystery to unlock the identity of The Watcher's killer—The Unseen doesn't actually want to kill The Watcher, and does so only reluctantly. So I'm not sure if some wires got crossed in putting this crossover together, or if I just missed something.

This is the only part of this particular Point One special that's reprinted here of course, and I imagine it was the first of the shorts in that series, and that it would work quite well in that regard, as a Watcher story is a good way to set up any sort of Marvel anthology, as watching what's going on in various parts of the Marvel Universe at any given time is pretty much his whole deal.

The #0 issue by Waid, Cheung and what I'm assuming is a deadline-minded squadron of inkers is actually a Nova story that has The Watcher in it. After eight pages of set-up, in which we learn about who (this) Nova is and watch him fight a giant robot, he learns a little bit about The Watcher during an awkward conversation with Iron Man and Captain America, and decides to head to the moon in an attempt to get to know and maybe even befriend addition to getting a vital piece of information out of him.

Nova tours Uatu's house, sees his armory and gets a few glimpses of just what The Watcher watches, including what I imagine is a semi-secret part of Watcher history, and the many windows into different realities/issues of What If...?.

It's as much a "Who Is Nova?" story as it is a "Who Is The Watcher?" story (the latter of which is emblazoned on the cover), and it's pretty effective as both. No one's ever accused Mark Waid of not knowing how to write a comic book. (Have they? If so, they are wrong and dumb. Mark Waid knows how to write a comic book).

And then that brings us to Original Sin proper, Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato's big, crazy story in the semi-Silver Age zany spirit of so much of Aaron's Marvel writing, only given a grittier more grounded tone by all the murders and killing...not to mention Deodato's art.

In the process, we learn something new about Marvel history, one of those "Everything you thought you knew was wrong!" moments that, while a retcon, is kinda sorta a big deal akin to that proposed by Mark Millar at the end of his Marvel Knight Spider-Man run...but only if other writers and editors care to honor it, as they don't seem to have done with Millar's retcon.

It also kills off a couple of characters—a relatively young villain of Grant Morrison's creation, in addition to the one whose corpse is on all the covers—and rather radically, perhaps forever alters three other characters, one Z-list villain, the others espionage types whose presence and prominence in the Marvel Universe waxes and wanes (Both of 'em have been mostly off the table for somewhere between years and decades before). I'm curious to what degree the changes in one of those characters will be honored, as I know he's popped up a few times since this series concluded, and didn't seem too terribly changed by his new mission in life. He's also got his own ongoing monthly series at the moment, but I'm not sure if that's devoted to his new status quo or his previous one.

So. Captain America Steve Rogers, Wolverine, The Black Widow and former SHIELD Director Nick Fury are all enjoying a steak dinner on "meat night," when the call comes in: The body of Uatu, The Watcher has been discovered on the mooon with a huge bullet hole in the middle of his head, and both of his eyes carved out and taken.

Who could have committed this heinous crime? Who on earth has the resources to travel to the moon, confront The Watcher, and take him out, and why would anyone want to, exactly...? (Well, he's seen everything, so if you've committed a pretty terrible crime, you'd want to take eliminate him as a witness, although I can't imagine him getting called to testify in court cases too often, even in the Marvel Universe, and, apparently, he stores what he sees in his eyes, so, like, everything that has ever happened is in his eyeballs, some how...?)

The Meat Night supper club put on silly-looking space-suits of some kind—just a few chunks of white armor here and there—and join Avengers Iron Man and Thor on the moon to being the investigation. The Avengers start working the case immediately, following such clues as Mindless Ones developing sentience and tearing shit up in New York. Meanwhile, a mysterious man who looks like he's probably Nick Fury—Spoiler: It's totally Nick Fury—contacts The Black Panther and has the Panther put together one of the more random assemblages of Marvel heroes you could think of.

Panther's team consists of Dr. Strange, The Punisher, Emma Frost, Moon Knight, Gamora, Ant-Man II Scott Lang and The Winter Soldier. Following leads Fury provides them, they split up into smaller teams, each uncovering a clue to some sort of cosmic-level crime—a mass grave for giant monsters at the center of the earth, a dead Living Planet orbited by shell-casings, a Lovecraftian corpse in one of those Ditko-verses Dr. Strange always visits—all of which point to the fact that The Watcher may only be the latest in a string of similar killings.

Now, despite the marketing, and even the cover copy of various issues, "Who Shot The Watcher?" isn't really all that mysterious. There are a total of four suspects. Three of them are villains, all working together: Dr. Midas and Oubliette (both from Morrison and J.G. Jones' 2000 miniseries Marvel Boy) and The Orb (an old Ghost Rider villain created by Len Wein and Ross Andru, with a pretty amazing design; Aaron previously used him in his Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine miniseries).
The other suspect is, of course, Fury himself and, it will come to no surprise of anyone reading the book, it turns out to be Fury who killed The Watcher and stole one of his eyes; all four of the characters have some complicity though, and it's Midas and his accomplices who have one of the eyes (Fury's killing of The Watcher is revealed a little more than halfway through the story; it's not really the major focus, then).

The Avengers corner the villains pretty quickly—by the second issue, in fact—and mid-way through the third The Orb uses his Watcher eye as a sort of "secret bomb," that reveals secrets to those affected by it. In the pages of Original Sins, this basically just means there's a panel in which a few superheroes mutter lines to themselves before they go off to deal with those secrets in their own tie-in issues or spin-off miniseries.
(Remember part of Marvel's marketing for this series was a series of house ads featuring various characters and the words "Everyone has one;" I assumed by "one" they meant "an original sin," given the title, but they were apparently actually referring to "a secret.")

This apparently takes a lot of the characters off the board for the rest of the book, and that's fine—they're not really necessary anyway. The real action is Panther's team following the trail of clues back to Fury, and finding out his shocking secret history.

Firstly, he's not the fit, middle-aged man he appears to be. He's actually an old man, and has been using Life Model Decoys of himself for years! How did he manage to fool Wolverine's super-senses and Dr. Strange's magic and whatever for all these years? They are really good Life Model Decoys, he explains. Like, better than the other ones SHIELD is always using.

Secondly, he's been waging a one-man war on alien invaders and cosmic conquest since the 1950s or so, which mainly involved him assassinating various aliens and space-monsters with super-guns and exotic weaponry built by Iron Man's dad. Fury tumbled upon a dude who died saving Earth from an alien invasion, and thus he took on that man's role as The Unseen, the more dramatic if less accurate title for The Person Who Shoots Space-Monsters To Death.

This may seem problematic to a Marvel reader, who will immediately remember that Earth is imperiled by such forces somewhere between 5-65 times a month in Marvel Comics, and the superheroes save the day, usually without having to fill any mass graves or act as super-snipers. Fury hears you, but for every giant monster of Mole Man's you saw The Fantastic Four capture, there were ten more you didn't see that Fury had to kill the hell out of. So there.

Fury has been, we're told, a sort of cosmic-level version of The Punisher for about sixty-decades, his role as The Unseen being something of a hobby he engaged in instead of golf while not busy with his day job as agent and/or director of SHIELD.

Is your mind blown yet, or what?

He's getting old now though, and he needs a replacement, which is why he assembled the dream team of The Black Panther, The Punisher, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Emma Frost, Moon Knight, Gamora and The Winter Soldier. It will be up to one of them to take his place, and they were all carefully selected by him because he saw in them the potential to the job of secret space-assassin. (If some of those names seem not to belong, like, say, Ant-Man, Fury does address that; if some more likely candidates, like, say, Black Widow, weren't included, Fury addresses that as well).

None of them seem too keen on that particular job, and so they fight Fury. Eventually, Captain Ameica and The Avengers figure out what's going on too, and they fight Fury as well. The climax, then, is a big battle in space, between Old Man Fury and an army of young robot Furies versus most of the characters who have appeared in Marvel Studios movies, or have films in development. Also, Midas and his gang are there. So there's a lot of fighting all around.
Fury, not Cable.
Some of it's pretty funny, like when Wolverine claws up Fury's big-ass gun, saying "You even violated the sanctity of "Meat Night," you sonuva..." or like when Thor attacks Fury, who now looks like Cable's grandpa, and Fury takes him down by saying this:
Never forget that it wasn't a punch that took you down. That despite all your strength, in the end when you were beaten...All it took was a whisper.
And then Fury whispers through his space helmet into Thor's ear, and Thor's all, "What didst thou say?" and then he drops his hammer and loses all his power, which is why there's a girl Thor in Thor now, I guess.

And, when it's all over, we get to the other big changes:

1.) Dr. Midas is dead, as is the fate of all Grant Morrison creations in the Marvel Universe.

2.) The Orb has The Watcher's eye fused to his chest, and now wanders around looking at stuff, like the world's most horrifying voyeur:

3.) Bucky Barnes volunteered to take over for Fury extraterrestrial assassin extraordinaire:

4.) Nick Fury is now The Watcher, which is interesting in a poetic justice kind of way, but might not make a whole hell of a lot of sense, like, logistically:

On its face, this isn't a bad comic book story at all. Aaron has some big, cool, stupid ideas, and he executes them with admirable bombast. There's a lot of good action, a few genuinely surprising surprises (like when Bucky first figures out what Fury is up to and retaliates, at a point where he knows more than the readers do) and Aaron never loses his sense of humor while writing super-comics, even when writing a more "serious" story like this.

While I might have preferred someone like Ed McGuinness or Nick Bradshaw drawing this, Deodato's very inappropriateness for the book really helped sell it; the clash in tone between his often overly-realistic style (He's not above just straight dropping a photo into the background of a panel instead of, like, drawing a background) clashes violently with things like a guy who has an eyeball for a head gives the whole story a jittery energy. He does a weird thing with the panel lay-outs though, setting grids atop the images, some of the "panels" that result not actually serving as panel-panels, but as artistic flourishes that...well, I don't know that it adds anything, but it looks different than the last few big Marvel storylines I read, so hey, that's something (He also tilts the grid during dramatic scenes, which is why that scan of Bucky up there looks like a bad scan; the page is actually laid out that way).

I don't think the story holds up if one gives it much thought, however. Fury seems to have been doing these preemptive alien assassinations or whatever in complete secrecy for pretty much forever, so he obviously thinks that's the best way to defend the Earth, but, at the same time, we've got scores of superheroes saving the day from the very same threats constantly. If there's an argument to be made that what it takes to keep Earth safe is someone willing to break the rules, to commit atrocities to do so, it never actually gets made, and it's hard to imagine a lone gunmean—even one with access to jet-packs and high-tech guns and interdimensional portals or whatever—is really bettter suited to protecting Earth than, say, The Avengers (who have, like, 30 guys on their team now), or The Fantastic Four and The X-Men and all those other guys, you know?

Hell, now there's even a whole parallel agency to SHIELD specifically devoted to doing the very thing Fury was trying to do on his own in SWORD.

Aaron may have wanted readers to weigh moral issues with this story, maybe even apply them to the real world—Fury as a drone strike vs. The Avengers as a boots-on-the-ground, Geneva Conventions-cognizant army—but it doesn't actually happen in the book. What we get instead is an old crazy man saying it's better to murder your enemies in secret by yourself, even if you're best friends with a guy who runs a superhero army and have the home phone numbers of Reed Richards, Tony Stark and all the other smartest men in the world.

That he would persist in this belief, up to and including duking it out with Captain America and Thor rather than just asking The Black Panther and friends to help him come up with a more efficient way of defending Earth, strains credulity.

All of which is a long way of saying "It's a good superhero comic, as long as you don't think about it," which is all fine and for the fact that there are compelling, even important, ideas hinted at. It's frustrating to read such a comic and to repeatedly find yourself being asked to think less and less as you do.


My favorite part of this entire series is he last panel on the fourth-to-last page. The Panther team is flying home from the moon on their space-plane, and, in the foreground, we see Thor still struggling to lift Mjolnir, which he dropped when Fury whispered at him, two issues ago:
I hope Thor's got an Avengers communicator in his belt, or that someone eventually remembers where they saw him last, otherwise he's going to be up there on the moon for a pretty long time if he can't lift Mjolnir to fly him home.


One thing I noticed in this event series that seemed to be less true in others is how the characters on the covers didn't necessarily match those in the comics themselves.

The cover used for this collection, the one at the top of this post, is that of Original Sin #1, and while all of those characters do appear in that particular issue, The Thing and Spider-Man are not with the others at the scene of the crime, and only appear in about a half-dozen pages in New York, fighting a Mindless One. They cameo in crowd scenes in the next two issues, and Spidey appears briefly near the climax, but that's about it for those two (The Thing appears prominently on the cover of #6 as well).

The second issue features a bunch of floating heads, none of whom do anything more than cameo in the crowd scenes. Not one of the characters on the cover of the fifth issue—completely devoted to Fury telling his story via flashback to his group of successors—appear within the book. The eight issue has on its cover a random assemblage of Marvel characters, including some who don't appear in the issue at all (Captain Marvel, Daredevil) and some I don't recall even seeing so much as a cameo of throughout the entire series (Iron Fist, Mr. Fantastic).

That would have really irritated me were I a teenager, buying this crossover because I expected Spider-Man to be prominently featured, given how many cover appearances he has.


This storyline also seemed noticeably light on female participation. Not among those crafting the comic, although the creative team was all-male, but among the characters featured. Gamora and Emma are among the group of characters Fury assigns to track him down, Black Widow gets a little panel-time and a few lines of dialogue near the beginning before slowly fading into the background, and Oubliette's role as henchwoman gives her a share of spotlight, but, beyond those small roles, most of the important stuff in the book is done by the men-folk, to the point where it's downright weird that they bother to use characters like, say, Storm and Captain Marvel, but only to have them stand silently in a group shot full of super-people.

I wonder if Gamora and Widow would have even appeared at all, were it not for their recent film roles elevating them to being among the more recognized female characters in the Marvel Universe stable of characters.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Marvel's March previews reviewed

The theme for Marvel's variants in March is something called "WOMEN OF MARVEL," but I'm not sure if that means WOMEN WHO CREATE THE COVERS OF MARVEL or WOMEN WHO ARE MARVEL CHARACTERS. The few examples I saw in the solicits for the month feature a female Marvel character by a female artist, so that doesn't really answer my question for me.

It seems to be a relatively unusual month for the publisher in that there isn't a big crossover/event series going on, at least not at a big, line-wide, status quo-altering level. There are a few little crossovers between books, but the biggest of March's seems to be one called "Black Vortex," which is written by Brian Michael Bendis and Sam Humphries and will include All-New X-Men, Guardians of The Galaxy, Guardians Team-Up, Legendary Star-Lord and Nova, and it seems to be one of those particularly annoying sorts of crossovers, in which each chapter takes place in a different book. That makes reading one of the involved titles monthly, as it or they are published, annoying, as you have to read the others as well, or just sort of muddle through, and also makes reading in trade collection difficult, as Marvel will likely collect the book like "The Trial of Jean Grey" or "Battle of The Atom," as a big, fat standalone collection of its own, and, the trade collection of, say, Guardians will appear to have holes in it.

Also, you'll notice one of those books is not quite like the other—The teenage original X-Men who have time-traveled to the present from the past sure do seem to spend a lot of time in outer space, don't they? Original Cyclops, for example, has his own monthly, set entirely in outer space.

Anyway, let's take a look at some of the noteworthy book Marvel would like us‚ and by "us" I mean "you" because there's no way I'm paying $3.99 or more for a Marvel comic book, in the month of March.

• What is the shocking fate of ROBBIE’S brother, GABE?
• Will Robbie finally be pushed over the edge by the evil of ELI MORROW?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99's too bad that Marvel doesn't do that "FINAL ISSUE" thing that DC does in their solicits, as I'm never entirely sure if they're canceling a book or not just by the solicits. This one seems to suggest that they are, given the "FATAL FINISH LINE!" line and the the rather finale sounding nature of a few of those bullet points.

If so, it's too bad. I really liked the first volume of this series and was looking forward to more. Of course, one of the things I liked most about that first volume was the artwork, and this is at least the third artist to draw it in it's 12-issue existence. Good thing they've all been good artists, but still, All-New Ghost Rider may have had a particular general aesthetic, but was never defined by the work and style of a signle artist.

Oh, and I hope "THE MOST UNEXPECTED GHOST RIDER EVER!!!!" isn't just Gabe in a flaming wheelchair, because I've totally been imagining that since the moment the character was first introduced.

• Hawkeye returns in an all-new series featuring superstar writer Jeff Lemire in his Marvel debut and Eisner Award-winning artist Ramon Perez, as they bring you a fresh new look into the life of everyone’s favorite Avenger. With Kate Bishop, his trusted ward and protégé back at his side (not titles she would use), Team Hawkeye is thrown into an all new adventure spanning two generations of avenging archers. Past and present lives collide as Kate and Clint face a threat that will challenge everything they know about what it means to be Hawkeye.
• But no one puts Hawkeye in a corner.
• Hawkeye and Hawkeye take aim March 2015!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Huh. The Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye kinda lost me when it abandoned a schedule, and this is a very interesting creative team, although not interesting enough to spend $4 a month on (Also, despite the continued presence of both Hawkeyes, I can't imagine this will be much of anything like the previous Hawkeye series, aside from, you know, being about archers who like to wear purple and go by the name Hawkeye, of course).

Lemire is making his Marve debut after years of writing for DC. Lemire's a competent scripter of superhero comics, but I'm having trouble of thinking of any superhero comics I've read that didn't fall somewhere between pretty bad and rather mediocre (I think Frankenstein may have been his best, and it was just okay).

His best comics have always been the ones he writes and draws and he's not drawing this one—variant cover feature Kate Bishop aside.

Also of interest is the presences of Ramon Perez, the artist of the excellent Jim Henson's Tale of Sand, on a monthly (one that will likely prove to be a mid-list at best monthly, and probably not worth his talents). The book should look good for as long as Perez plans to stick around, but it will look good in a completely different way than Aja and company's Hawkeye.

SPIRAL begins here!
• The underworld is in a constant flux and has been since the Kingpin got taken out at SHADOWLAND. That war is heating up and Spidey’s going to do something about it.
• But he’s not the only one-- Police Captain Yuri Watanabe is trying to curtail the madness both in her day job as a police office and as the vigilante THE WRAITH!
• Do she and Spidey play by the same rules?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I briefly got very excited upon seeing this, as I thought Adams might be drawing the interiors as well, but he's just drawing the cover.

Now, if you look at that cover, you'll notice Tombstone, Mister Negative, Hammerhead, Black Cat and the Circus of Crime. But you will not notice the current kingpin of crime as established in the final issue of The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, much of which dealt with the matter of who would ultimately control crime in New York.

That's too bad, as I wouldn't mind seeing more of...that character, and the character who legitimized his control, in other comics, even if they're not written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Steve Lieber.

• Millions of fans have climbed aboard the “wildest ride in the wilderness”—and now Marvel hurtles you through the mists of time to reveal the never-before-told saga of how the dangerous gold mine of Big Thunder Mountain became the haunted legend it is today!
• Malevolent mine owner Barnabas T. Bullion is determined to shelter his teen daughter Abigail from the dangers of the Wild West, but this brave young hero has other ideas…which include robbing her own father’s mine as a masked bandit!
• Earthquakes! Floods! Dynamite-chewing goats! Can the denizens of Rainbow Ridge survive the clash between mankind’s greed and nature’s fury? And what is the protective power that dwells deep within the mysterious mountain? Surprises await you in the latest Disney Kingdoms saga by the acclaimed duo of Dennis Hopeless (Spider-Woman) and Tigh Walker (Avengers Undercover)!
32 PGS./All Ages …$3.99
Elements based on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad © Disney

You know what this means, right? We're one step closer to Marvel publishing a Country Bears Jamboree comic book series.

Here's a typically great Mike del Mundo cover, this one for Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldeir #6, with interior art by someone who is not Mike del Mundo.

COVER BY Sanford Greene
• Existential horror from beyond as CORTEX Incorporated drops the mask – and shows its true face!
• For one of the Mighty Avengers, the nightmare is starting all over again...
• Is this story even in continuity? Are YOU even in continuity? LOOK IN THE MIRROR – WHAT IF YOU’RE NOT?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Hey, that's a really great cover.

• Eddie Dean, the troubled young man gifted with the ability to open doors to other worlds, has smuggled narcotics from Nassau to New York City, but now has to escape a packed airplane guarded by armed Custom Agents!
• How will Eddie avoid prison and yet also fulfill his contract with the dangerous mobster Balazar?
• The answer lies in Mid-World, and with a dying gunslinger named Roland!
• The second chilling chapter begins by writers Peter David (Spider-Man 2099) & Robin Furth (The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance), and artist Piotr Kowalski (Marvel Knights: Hulk)!
32 PGS./Parental Guidance …$3.99

Hey, they're still making these Dark Tower comics...? Remember when Marvel first announced these? They were supposed to be a very big deal. Then they just kinda slipped off the radar. In fact, the only reason I noticed this one among the solicits was that the series had at least one sub-title too many.

• HOT off the pages of the … the post-credits scene at the … the end of a … popular movie … HOWARD THE DUCK is back! Join him as he takes on the weird cases that only a talking duck can crack as the Marvel Universe’s resident private investigator!
• Let Sex Criminals’ CHIP ZDARSKY (a writer known mostly as an artist) and JOE QUINONES (an artist known mostly as a lover) guide you through his new world as he takes on THE BLACK CAT and MYSTERIOUS FORCES FROM OUTER SPACE!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I have pretty mixed feelings about this book, obviously, although I do like that Zdarksy-drawn cover, and I adore the work of Joe Quinones. I'm also kind of curious as to what Paul Pope's variant cover might look like, as I can't imagine a Pope-drawn Howard the Duck, really.

I don't understand why Howard is wearing pants, though. As I understood it, Marvel started putting Howard in pants after Disney made noises about suing them over the character, arguing that they own all images of cartoon and/or comic book ducks who are not wearing pants (I think that's what it boiled down to; I am not a lawyer). But since Disney now owns Marvel, can't Howard go pants-less once more?

• After the shocking events of MOON KNIGHT #12, Marc Spector is left picking up the pieces of what’s left of his life. Don’t miss this new exciting chapter of MOON KNIGHT!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Hey look, Moon Knight, which just relaunched about a year ago under the creative team of Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey, is getting another new creative team, it's third so far. A trade paperback collecting the six-issue run from the previous team of Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood, which Marvel is calling "Season Two" of the series, is included in this month's solicitations as well.

Apparently the plan going forward then is to change teams every six-issues or so, making the book not completely unlike Astonishing X-Men, which, after Joss Whedon and John Cassaday concluded their run, became a sort of anthology series, with different arcs by different high-profile creators for a bit.

No offense to Mr. Cullen Bunn and Ron Ackins, the latter of who I've never actually heard of that I recall, but these teams seem to be getting less and less commanding in terms of stature and market draw, so I wonder how many more "seasons" this "show" has left...

PRINCESS LEIA #1-2 (of 5)
ISSUE #1 - Teaser Variant COVER by JOHN CASSADAY
• When Princess Leia Organa was captured by the Empire as a Rebel spy, she never betrayed her convictions, even in the face of the complete destruction of her home world, Alderaan. When her rescue came, she grabbed a blaster and joined the fight, escaping back to the Rebel Alliance and helping strike the biggest blow against the Empire—the destruction of the Death Star. But in the aftermath of that victory, the question remains...what is a princess without a world?
• Writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, S.H.I.E.L.D.) and artist Terry Dodson (Avengers & X-Men: Axis, Uncanny X-Men) bring us a story of Leia’s quest to help her people and find her place in the galaxy.
32 PGS. (EACH)/Rated T …$3.99 (EACH)

That's it...soak it all in. Count 'em if you like. Eleven. There are 11 variant covers for the first issue of a five-issue Princess Leia miniseries.

• In the not-so-distant future, what happens when you water Groot a little too much?
• GROOTZILLA has arrived, and he ain’t happy!
• He’s faster than a speeding Rocket, more powerful than Drax the Destroyer, and able to eat tall buildings in a single gulp!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

Well, well, well, guess which Guardians of the Galaxy-related, space-based book isn't invited to the big, multi-book "Black Vortex" crossover story...

• With SPIDER-VERSE in the rear-view, Jessica strikes out to make a new life for herself.
• But she’s not going to do it alone, as she’s joined by new SPIDER-WOMAN supporting cast-mate and classic Marvel character BEN URICH!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

There was no cover image included with the solicitation for this book that ran on Comic Book Resources, but given the fact that there's a "design variant," I'm assuming this is the issue in which Spider-Woman gets her new costume.

I never thought her original costume was all that great—not unlike Spider-Man's, there's nothing really spidery about it, and the armpit web-wings always struck me as weird—but, also like Spider-Man's, the primary colors and all-around strangeness of the look eventually wins one over.

While looking at Spider-Woman's original and new costume earlier in the week, I did notice that the original costume looked infinitely better as originally drawn, and doesn't fare very well in more modern times, when she seemed to be wearing red and yellow body paint, and artists typically drew her so you could see her muscles, belly button, veins and labia threw her costume (But never her nipples! Superheroes don't have nipples!). Additionally, red and yellow tend to look...wrong in a lot of 21st century Marvel comics, particularly of the espionage-style comics Spider-Woman tended to be featured so prominently in during the last decade and a half or so.

Not that bad, really.

Aaa! Bad! Bad!

The new costume looks...well, it's okay. It doesn't knock my socks off, and looks a little derivative of Batgirl's new look, and costume updates that Mockingbird and Ms./Captain Marvel Carol Danvers have received in the recent past. It's not as distinct a look, but it is a more practical and realistic look, and one that Hollywood costume designers will have an easier time adapting into live-action films or TV shows.

I do find it remarkable that Ms. Marvel has gone this long—37 years or so?—without a costume update. That is crazy in the world of superhero comics. Ancient, stalwart characters like Captain America, Namor, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have their costumes change more frequently than that, despite the fact that we tend to think of them as change-less in an abstract sense (Granted, with Superman and Batman especially, the changes are usually just tweaks or temporary ones—an yellow oval that comes than goes, etc).

I think that's probably attributable to the fact that while Spider-Woman's been around a long time now, she hasn't been a high-profile enough of a character that she's been in the public eye in a starring capacity long enough for anyone to really notice/care what she was wearing.

By the way, I think this is officially the longest I've spent thinking about Spider-Woman in my whole life.

Cover by LUKE ROSS
Let the dark times begin! Marvel welcomes Star Wars to the Epic Collection program, with this first volume of a series focused on the years following STAR WARS: EPISODE III — REVENGE OF THE SITH! After the Clone Wars’ end, the Republic has fallen and Palpatine exerts his ruthless grip on his new Galactic Empire. Now, the few Jedi that remain must decide whether to hold true to their faith, or abandon it completely in the face of a brutal purge — one carried out by the new Dark Lord of the Sith: Darth Vader! Collecting STAR WARS: REPUBLIC #78-80, STAR WARS: PURGE #1, STAR WARS: PURGE — SECONDS TO DIE #1, STAR WARS: PURGE — THE HIDDEN BLADE #1, STAR WARS: PURGE — THE TYRANT’S FIST #1-2, STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE LOST COMMAND #1-5 and STAR WARS: DARK TIMES #1-5.
440 PGS./Rated T …$34.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9398-2
Star Wars © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved. Used under authorization. Text and illustrations for Star Wars are © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd.

Hmmm...well, it looks like Marvel will be collecting and re-publishing Dark Horse Comics-produced material after all. That's a really good thing, as there are a lot of very good comics produced by Dark Horse featuring the Star Wars characters and universe (I haven't quite gotten to the point where I'm reviewing very many of them, but I've been reading them like crazy of late).

I assume it's also good for the creators involved, who presumably reap some royalties from these new editions as well. Just looking at that list of creators, I see some I like a whole lot, including John Ostrander, Douglas Wheatley, and Rick Leonardi.

I don't know if this is the ideal, or even one of the better ways to collect Star Wars comics, but, at this point, Dark Horse's Star Wars line has grown so large and so unwieldy, I've basically just picked points at random and started reading, generally just gravitating toward a character or concept I like or a creator or creative team I like.

I do really like Dark Horse's Omnibus collection format, which curates related series together for a reader. That's how I read Dark Times, which I liked a whole lot, and Ostrander and Jan Duursema's Quinlan Vos comics (Star Wars Omnibus: Quinlan Vos: Jedi in Darkness). I've also read the original Marvel Comics in Dark Horse Omnibus collection, and Shadows of The Empire and Early Victories in that format. Crimson Saga and The Thrawn Trilogy also come in big, multi-series collections, although those were just nice, big, huge collections of those series of miniseries and not, in fact, omnibi (Anyway, here's a pretty good list on Comics Alliance; personally, I tend to look for stuff with Ostrander and Duursema's names attached, and/or Darth Vader and Empire shit going on in it).

I'm really very confused as to what's going on with Star Wars "Expanded Universe" continuity now. I know the next round of films will ignore everything not in the first six films, as they pretty much have to, but I'm less sure about Marvel's comics—are they going to ignore the "EU" canon as well? The fact that they're publishing collections like this makes me think they're not, but I don't know. It's not like it would be unusual for Marvel to publish a brand-name franchise with multiple canons, you know?

I'm glad they're collecting Dark Horse's comics. I have no idea how to go about doing so myself, so I'm glad that's not my job to figure out. I'd probably still recommend to anyone at all curious about Star Wars comics to check out their libraries and/or start snapping up Dark Horse trades in shops and book stores now while they're still there though, as Marvel is not exactly known for their robust, logical backlist of books and trades.

• That’s the question on everyone’s lips. Most especially Prince Odinson of Asgard. This issue, he starts to narrow down the list of suspects.
• Meanwhile, tensions continue to flare between the All-Mother and All-Father, Malekith forges his most dangerous pact yet, and Thor prepares to face her greatest challenge!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

A friend of mine picked up this series based in part around the hype of who the new, lady Thor was, and she was disappointed that the first issue didn't say who the new Thor was. I flipped through her issue, looking to see who the new Thor was too, and was also disappointed. I imagine disappointment and frustration would have been common emotions in anyone who plunked down $4 just to read 20 pages that told them only what they already fucking knew for months—there's a new person with the powers of Thor, and that person is a lady.

So here's the solicit for March's sixth issue, and it says that Thor "starts to narrow down the list of suspects." Starts! So you'd be out $24 and be a 120-pages into this fucking comic before they even start to narrow down the list of suspects...?

Yeesh. This could be one of the best comics on the stands, and it would probably still be enraging simply for the disconnect between marketing and execution. The hook is, "Hey, check out this new Lady Thor!" and the story is "Who is this Lady Thor? We can't tell you for, like seven months...maybe a year."

• Time is running out, and the only way for Squirrel Girl to stop Galactus is to get to the moon... you know, somehow??
• See the unveiling of Squirrel Girl’s new Flying Squirrel Suit... that she maaaaybe borrowed from Iron Man.
• Also, the final face-off with Galactus! ON THE MOON.

I laughed when I saw that this issue would have a "WOMEN OF MARVEL" variant cover by an artist to be announced, as I imagined Marvel editors scrambling around to find a female artist to draw a cover for them and thinking, "Oh man, we already assigned covers to the, like, six artists who work for us! Now what?" If the "WOMEN OF MARVEL" variants are variants drawn by artists who are women, and not just covers featuring images of Marvel characters who are women.

Then I went back and looked at the cover and laughed again, because that little squirrel has a little space helmet on, and that' s adorable

Cover by KRIS ANKA
• While things continue to heat up for the Summers family, Kitty Pryde and Illyana Rasputin take on an assignment neither of them either thought they would tackle—is this uncharted territory for these two veteran X-Women?!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

So I have no idea what's going on in this issue, or how all those Marvel monsters might tie in to whatever Bendis is up to with the X-Men now, but that sure looks awesome.