Friday, February 28, 2014

Monthly Dose: February 2014

Monthly Dose is a semi-regular column where I reread one issue each month of long-completed series.

100 Bullets #16: Right away, I was grateful for the fact that Loop wasn't hiding his new relationship with his father from his mother. It's an all-too-common device in fiction to have one character keep a stressful secret from another that the audience knows will inevitably be revealed, and I sort of hate that. I kind of have to be able to live with some amount of it if you want to watch any sitcoms ever, but that's a digression, and in the case of this comicbook, I appreciate Brian Azzarello choosing to miss an opportunity to include one of those kinds of secrets and just letting the information be out in the open from the start. And he writes the whole issue well from there, giving Loop and Curtis a comfortable if somewhat simple father-son dynamic, and ending on a pair of excellent reveals, both relating to Agent Graves. First, Loop comes home to discover his cousin visiting unexpectedly with a girlfriend, and they're the same couple Graves manipulated into robbing Lono in an earlier issue. Things are starting to come back around, and the true scope and organization of 100 Bullets is beginning to come into focus. Meanwhile, it turns out Graves and Curtis know one another, and Curtis has already figured out that it was Graves who told Loop that Curtis was his dad. That both deepens the mystery of Graves and makes Curtis into a far scarier and more interesting character. As second chapters go, this hit all the right notes: reminding us what happened last time efficiently, advancing things quickly but naturally, and ending with enticing new information to bring us back. Eduardo Risso also does some great stuff with Curtis and Loop's interactions. Lots of quick looks they shoot each other that say more than any dialogue ever could in the same space. But the best-looking part of the issue by far was the scene with Nino Rego, because he looks like Mr. Magoo but angry and aware. He's a little exaggerated, but not ill-fitting or unbelievable, just comically wrinkled while remaining intimidating and nasty. Risso also picks good angles from which to view Nino, providing a full picture of the man in only a few pages. It's representative of the thorough work he does throughout the issue, very well-structured and efficient. This has got to be a candidate for best single issue of the series so far, with everyone involved bringing their A game, and the strongest double-cliffhanger I've read anywhere in a while.

Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. #4: I read this and quite liked it, but it sort of washed over me. Flipping through it again now, I think the reason is this: while a solid Nick Fury comic, it didn't do a whole lot to advance the plot of this series. Fury fails to do what he wants, and so do his opponents, and there isn't a great deal of new information in between. This issue seems to be filling space/killing time, but it does so with style. Bob Harras paces things well, moving between Fury and the bad guys readying themselves for their inevitable confrontation at the beginning of the issue, and then giving that closing fight lots of room to be as sprawling and explosive as it wants to be. And Paul Neary mostly delivers solid pencils, with a few very nice flourishes, like the mirrored panels on the first page and the countdown sequence at the end, leading to a cool-looking if unnecessary final two-page splash of a rocket being launched through the ground. Neary's Madame Hydra was distractingly oversexualized, though. Her costume was absurd, like a bathing suit for nudists, and Neary made damn sure to have her nipples sticking out a few visible inches on pretty much every panel. It was gross and also looked weird in the context of this book, which doesn't really have any other overtly sexual elements. Well, that's not true...the two head villains have a coy and flirtatious sexual relationship, enhanced by the fact that they sometimes change into brand new bodies somehow (the details of the process are the heart of this book's central mystery, and thus not yet explained in full). But because their identities and motives are being kept obscure, we always see them in near-silhouette, so their sexually-charged dialogue and embraces don't have any matching visuals. Everything about those characters is a well-guarded secret, so the romantic side of their lives isn't out in the open. Madame Hydra's buttocks, however, totally are. Because, you know, when the bullets are flying, you definitely want your ass flesh to be exposed. That's a total ninja secret. Ugh. Anyway that ticked me off, as those things tend to do, but otherwise Neary delivered another strong super-spy comic, and Harras did the same. As far as narrative progress, though, not a lot got done here, which is too bad. It makes this feel unimportant, and therefore it leaves less of an impression than I'd like it to. I remember the broad strokes, the details elude me because they were immaterial to the larger story I'm following.

X-Force (vol. 1) #16: For the fourth chapter of a crossover I'm almost certain I've never read (I think we've gotten into the territory of X-Force comics I own but haven't read before anyway by now...though I'm not 100% sure where the cutoff is), this was surprisingly easy to follow and enjoyable. It was, actually, a pretty great ride for any superhero comicbook, crossover or not. And most of the credit for that goes to Greg Capullo. From the two-page splash on pages 2 and 3, I was hooked, and Capullo gave me something awesome to stare at on pretty much every page. The cream of the crop was a huge, over-muscled Cable, covered head-to-toe in guns, ammo, and explosives all so large he looked like he might buckle under them despite his own massive size. It was so extravagantly 90's, even more so than anything else Capullo drew in the issue, I have to assume it's parody or, at the very least, a self-aware visual gag. It made me laugh, that's for sure. Mr. Sinister smirking despite a huge lazer-blasted hole taking up one half of his face was another highlight, as was the reveal at the end of Stryfe as the true villain of whatever the hell is going on. Oh man, and the first look at the amazing lineup of X-Men—Storm, Iceman, Archangel, Beast, Colossus, and Quicksilver—who were on some sort of rescue mission was crazy good. Props to colorist Joe Rosas for that panel, too. It's all blues and whites with a few splashes of red, and it looks badass and cool (in temperature and attitude). Makes me want to see these particular X-Men as the stars of a series, though I doubt if that'd work in the current status quo. Anyway, except for the fact that Rahne didn't look enough like a wolf for my taste, the art was great all over. And considering the sheer number of characters involved, that's saying something. It's like all of X-Force, X-Factor, and the X-Men, plus Sinister, Bishop, Stryfe and his lackeys, some horsemen of Apocalypse, and whoever else I'm not remembering right now. They all look great, and even when half of them are fighting each other, the action is clear and bold and fun. As for the story surrounding that's hard for me to comment on that, because I'm not sure what the situation was. The issue opens with X-Factor and a handful of X-Men already in the middle of a tense standoff with X-Force, and the two sides attack one another immediately, so I never got much explanation as to how they ended up like that. I don't know who the X-Men team I named above are looking for, though I assume it's Cyclops and Jean Grey, since they show up later, kidnapped by Stryfe. But I have no idea how that happened. Or why those six X-Men got picked to be the rescue team. Or why they are trailing the signal of a mutant named Caliban, which is a name that sounds familiar but I can't remember who he is, exactly, so I'll Wikipedia that later. And finally, I can't begin to guess why Bishop is already seconds away from blasting Mr. Sinister in the face when we check in on them. I bet it was some craziness that lead up to that moment, though. It's all great to look at, and it moves so swiftly that it's wonderful superhero action entertainment. Fabian Nicieza's script has some clunky moments, mostly in the opening fight scene when a few characters over-explain how their powers work in the middle of battle (a big pet peeve of mine I've probably mentioned before). The writing mostly pretty direct, getting out enough information for each scene to stand up on its own, but not trying to fill in all the details of what's come before. If, like me, you're reading this cold, then you'll be confused but amused, which is a fair approach for this kind of story and one I like. Either you commit to it and get the whole thing, or you don't, and hopefully the creative team on the book you are reading will deliver something enjoyable in their isolated chapter. That's precisely what happens here, which makes me excited for what this team will do once the "X-Cutioner's Song" dust settles. Next month, though, we skip a few more chapters and go straight to part 8 of the crossover, so we'll see how it looks a little further down the road.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


I haven't done one of these Elsewhere posts in a few weeks, mostly because I've only published one piece each week this month on any sites other than Comics Matter. Work, weather, and illness have slowed me down, plus I was pumping out those 12 Days of Birthday posts, so I ended up being less productive than usual elsewhere. That being said, I still want to link to everything from here, if for no other reason than posterity. Since, you know, future generations are bound to be extremely concerned with what I wrote, when, and where.

Three weeks back, I did a column on PopMatters looking at what the science of science fiction should do/look like and how it ought to fit into and influence the narrative. There's been a crazy amount of awesome sci-fi comicbook material lately, and it's had me thinking about how the fake sciences of these fake realities function. Last week, also on PopMatters, I expressed my frustrations with the difficulties of avoiding story spoilers while still trying to keep an eye on upcoming comics news. I don't mind when people spoil things that have happened in already-published issues (as evidence by most of what I write) but it's annoying to have solicitations, interviews, or other official promo material ruin surprises or reveal plot points just for the sake of trying to rope in more readers. I understand why it's necessary, and I'm sure if I was a publisher I'd do the same, but I'm a reader instead, so I get to bitch about it. Finally, just two days ago, my newest "1987 And All That" column went up on The Chemical Box. It's been just over a year since I began working on that project, so this time I looked at both "Batman: Year One" and "Batman: Year Two," comparing them while determining that there's no way they could reasonably be viewed as taking place in the same continuity or even being about the same man. They are totally disconnected visions of Batman, having as little to do with one another as they have to do with...I can't think of a decent punchline for that, but whatever, you can read the post if you want to know more.

Something I Failed to Mention
I didn't delve very deeply into the art of the two Batman arcs, except to say that "Year One" was all drawn by David Mazzucchelli while "Year Two" began with Alan Davis and Paul Neary for one issue before Todd McFarlane and Alan Alcala came aboard to replace them, and that the visual instability of that latter tale contributed to its overall less impressive performance. I don't want to get into a long comparison of all the different artists' work on both of the stories, since I'm not sure that would amount to much more than rehashing what I already wrote, just in more art-focused terms. However, I would like to very quickly repeat a sentiment I know many others have expressed before and, I sincerely hope, many more will express in the future: Mazzucchelli knocks it right out of the fucking park on "Year One." It's dark, it's gritty, it's perfectly grounded. The characters are wonderfully expressive, not just in their faces but their body language. You can see the weight of the world on Gordon's shoulders, and the intense drive and focus behind everything Batman does. There are so many unforgettable panels or scenes, my favorite being the panel from part two that I used in the Chemical Box column where Batman shows up to ruin a gathering of Gotham's most elite and corrupt citizens. A close second would be the entire sequence where Gordon's son is dropped from a bridge, only to be saved by some last-minute acroBATics by an out-of-costume Batman. And the full-page splash at the end of part three where Gordon is sitting on his bed in front of his sleeping pregnant wife, staring at his gun, contemplating the problems in his marriage and his city—that's another image that'll stick with me forever. It's lit so brilliantly, and Gordon's depression dominates the atmosphere oppressively. I could continue to list things, and I even considered just going through all four issues and finding a whole bunch of scans to put up here, but I have to guess that, by now, there's probably a lot of Mazzucchelli "Year One" artwork available for viewing online. Also, I'm not saying anything that the rest of the comics-reading world doesn't already know, anyway. Mazzucchelli is an amazing artist, and his work on "Year One" remains some of the best and most famous of his career.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The 12 Days of Birthday, Day 12: It's My Birthday

So here I am, 27. It's sort of a boring number to turn. It doesn't carry any special meaning to me, or signify any real milestone or anything like that. Just another age to be, same as the last one.

I don't really have much to say today, or any specific topic planned. I always knew that the last 12 Days of Birthday post would be "about my birthday" but now that I'm sitting here trying to work on it, I don't know what that means. I don't have a whole lot of thoughts on my birthday at all, let alone comics-related ones. I slept in and I'm being lazy all day, because that's what birthdays are for. How much more commentary could I provide?

I am probably going to try and get some reading and writing done later on, like in the evening and night when I typically have more energy anyway. I finally got all 6 issues of Emerald Dawn a couple weeks ago, which I have been meaning to do for several years, so I'm eager to read that and see what, if anything, it might inspire me to write. And I have a review for this site that's partially finished that needs to go up ASAP because I keep putting it off and enough is enough already. Also I have some notes I want to take on my next "1987 And All That" column, and a few other stray comicbook blog housecleaning things to take care of, so it's not like my birthday won't involve comics at all. It always does and will this year, too, I just don't have anything interesting to say about any of the comics stuff I'm going to do today, or at least not that I want to say in this post.

I've had a lot of fun doing these 12 Days of Birthday pieces, though. They've been some of the fastest, easiest things to write, since they just sort of spill out of me based on memory, instead of being works that involve actual criticism or even reading. They're more personal, and therefore more natural. I'd like to do more things like that, if I can think of any.

In the meantime, it'll be back to business as usual around these parts for a while. Just as soon as I eat a cupcake or two.

Tomorrow: The first day of the rest of my life. In the real world, that is. On the blog...probably nothing.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The 12 Days of Birthday, Day 11: Wishlist with Commentary

With my birthday just a day away, now seemed like a good time to ask for gifts. I'm not hoping for anyone in particular to give me these comics for my actual birthday tomorrow, because how could they? I'm just publishing the wishlist I've been carrying around in a hard, handwritten copy for the last two years or so as a means of putting these desires out into the ether. These are all books I'm eager to own, despite not having read them yet, based solely on their reputations and/or creators. I'll explain my reasons for wanting each of them below. They're not in any real order, just copied straight from the tattered piece of notebook paper I pulled out of my wallet.

1. Shade, the Changing Man
     -Specifically, Peter Milligan's run on the title. It's one of the only flagship Vertigo books I haven't read, and while I'm not the biggest Chris Bachalo fan, the art I've seen from the series looks pretty fantastic. And the simple idea of a protagonist who dies and comes back as a new person but still sort of the same is a big draw for me. It's a LOT like a character I made up in my youth, so I'm anxious to see how Milligan does it.

2. DMZ
     -I've wanted to catch up on this series since before it even ended, but just never got around to it. Truth be told, the Brian Wood stuff I've read hasn't thrilled me, so I think that's part of why I haven't checked out this title yet. Also, there's a lot of it to read, and while I might not end up wanting to get through it all, if I do that'll mean spending some real money, and I'm not in a position to do that right now.

3. Swamp Thing
     -I've read Alan Moore's famous run, but none of what followed it. Rick Veitch's time as writer interests me in particular, but also Andy Diggle and Joshua Dysart strike me as writers who might have cool takes on the character. I've never been a fan of Swamp Thing, necessarily, but I like all of these creators and want to check out how they handle superhero horror.

4. Godland
     -I own the first four trades of Godland, so this is a case where I just need to get the fucking lead out and buy the rest. The finale has finally been published, so now is a better time than ever to pull the trigger on this.

5. Powers
     -I've never read anything Brian Michael Bendis has written outside of his Marvel work (of which I haven't even read that much). He's a writer I feel only so-so about, which makes me curious as to what a creator-owned book of his would be like. I want to see how we writes outside of the Marvel Universe, because a lot of what he likes to do in that space is explore and rewrite the complicated history that was in place before he became a writer. He's good at that, but I'm not the best audience for it, so I want to see what he can produce outside of that setting. If it's fantastic, I can get more on board with Bendis, but if it sucks, maybe I avoid him a bit more actively than before. Also, Michael Oeming is amazing, so there's always that.

6. All-Star Superman
     -Probably the most significant Grant Morrison work I've never read. And with one of his most talented collaborators, too, Frank Quitely. Yes, please.

7. Promethea
     -It's been a while since I've read anything by Alan Moore, and I always hear good stuff about this series. I know almost nothing about it except that Moore wrote it, but that's enough to make me want to check it out.

8. Strangers in Paradise and Echo
     -Rachel Rising is one of my current favorite comics, and also my first time reading Terry Moore. So now I want to read everything else he's done.

9. Xombi
     -The second volume of Xombi that DC published for six issues just before the New 52 happened was fantastic. The first volume, published by Milestone, only has like twenty-something total issues, and they're all written by John Rozum, who also wrote the more recent volume that I loved. I would very much like to get all of the original issues.

10. Proof
     -I have the first trade of Proof and it's excellent. Riley Rossmo is my favorite, favorite artist working in comics right now, and this is the book that really made his name. It's basically required reading.

11. Catwoman: When in Rome
     -The only Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale Batman story I've never read. The rest were all marvelous, so I expect this one will be, too.

Tomorrow: I turn 27.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The 12 Days of Birthday, Day 10: Katie

I'm in love with someone who doesn't care about comics. Her name is Katie, and she's amazing, but comics aren't her thing and never will be. She's read some, and even really liked a few (100 Bullets in particular) but they don't hold the same appeal for her as they do for me. We've got a lot in common, but this is one area where we differ, yet it's never been a problem for us because, as I said, she's amazing.

I met Katie around the same time I was starting to get really into comics again in a big way, so she's never really known me as anything but a devoted collector. I wasn't blogging yet when we started dating, but I was reading more and more all the time, spending lots of time and money on the budding hobby, so it was always part of my life and therefore always part of our life together. And though Katie didn't share my interest, she always appreciated and supported it completely. It wasn't something she had to get over or get used to, it was just one small part of the man she was getting to know, and she was down with it. I valued that in her, the total lack of judgement or discomfort when it came to me being a comicbook nerd. She got my enthusiasm even if she didn't share it, and never did anything to dampen it.

In fact, she actively fuels my fire. She listens to me carry on about things I've read or written, not because she's interested but because she knows that sometimes I need to talk things through. For my birthday a few years back, she surprised me by secretly finding out from a friend of mine that I was interested in X-Factor and then buying me the first couple of trades. She actually went to a comicbook store by herself armed with nothing but the title of a series that has had numerous volumes over the years and came back with the perfect gift. She's been working harder than I have these past months to figure out a better, more convenient way for me to store my comics in our new house. We haven't landed on a great solution yet, but all the research has been on her end, which I probably shouldn't admit because it makes me look like the lazy fool I am, but my point is that, though Katie doesn't care about comics herself, she cares that I care about them and wants me to enjoy them as much as I can. That's love, y'all.

My favorite thing about Katie's relationship with my relationship with comics is when she invents stories for what I'm reading based on a single page or, more often, just the cover image. I would love to give some specific examples, but I can't remember any in much detail, and also without her expert delivery the humor would be spoiled. She'll latch onto one visual detail that amuses her and create a whole plot around it, sometimes a complicated one, and explain to me what's happening in the comic she imagines I'm reading. It always makes me laugh (but so does most of what she does) and it also often draws my attention to something in the real comic I hadn't noticed before. Whatever detail Katie spots that inspires her joke story becomes highlighted in my eyes through the simple act of her pointing it out. She zeroes my focus on things I might have otherwise brushed past, and though it doesn't happen that often and it's mostly just for a laugh, I appreciate the way in which she legitimately pushes me to look at different parts of my comics than I normally would.

Katie and I are getting married in July, and it's been a long time coming. We've been engaged for almost two years, living together for more than three, a couple for more than five, and in love since like day one. Actually, I think I've been in love with her since like two months before I asked her out, but whenever it happened, it's been a good while and my feelings have only grown stronger. And it's only a tiny piece of the puzzle, but her unwavering support of my comicbook collecting and criticism is definitely one of the things I love about and admire in her. It can't be easy to be with someone who is so passionate about something she's not interested in, but she does more than merely put up with it, she engages with it as much and as often as she can. She's interested because I'm interested. I love her for that, and for a million other things.

Tomorrow: I ask the universe for birthday presents.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The 12 Days of Birthday, Day 9: Getting Into Comic Criticism

At the same time that I was slowly but surely returning to comics, I was also being exposed to literary criticism for the first time. I mean, I understood conceptually that people dissected and argued about literature, but I'd never actively studied or participated in that world before college. As a creative writing major, though, I had a whole ton of literature classes over the course of my college years, and most of them followed the same pattern: read 1-3 books and have class discussions on them, write a paper about one or more of those books using X number of lit. crit. sources to back up your thesis, repeat until the semester ends. So I became quite familiar with reading and compiling lofty literary analysis, as well as developing an overactive critical muscle in my own mind when reading anything. I'd always been the sort to overthink my entertainment, and college only encouraged that impulse.

As I started to get more and more enthusiastic about comics, a big part of what I wanted was to fill myself in on all that I'd missed. The continuities of the Marvel and DC universes are impossibly complicated even if you know your stuff, and I knew almost nothing. Plus there were publishers I'd never had much experience with, like Wildstorm and BOOM!, or places like Image and Dark Horse which were familiar names but had become much larger, more important players in the game since I'd been away. I was way behind, and it was a vast landscape to explore, so I needed maps. Where do you go for maps? The Internet!

It started with the simplest of Google searches, things like "comicbook sites," "comicbook history," and "blogs about comicbooks." You get a shit ton of results if you look up those things, and I did my best to dive in head first, reading at least something from every source I could find, trying to suss out which ones were worth more of my attention and which could be quickly moved past. And while I expected there to be reviews and news and other current coverage, I was admittedly a little surprised to found out how much in-depth criticism was out there on older comics, too. There was a vast community online of people writing about comics from every era in serious, thoughtful, thought-provoking ways. It was just like the dry, long-winded lit. crit. I'd gotten so used to at school, but way more fun and personal because it was being written for the Internet by comics people for comics people, so no one was all that concerned with formality. I ate it all up, learning about loads of titles I'd never heard of before, having old favorites shown to me in whole new lights, and just generally loving the bottomless well of critical comicbook content. There was a lot of heart and humor and personality in it, and it gave me a whole new way to indulge in my new favorite pastime.

The more I explored comic criticism, beginning to follow certain sites or writers religiously and listen to podcasts and just generally increase how much time I spent on it, the more I wanted to take a crack at it for myself. There were a few reasons for this. First of all, I was eager to have a reason to write again. Something else college taught me was that I didn't really want to be a creative writer, or any kind of professional writer, because I don't have it in me to do the grind and deal with the struggle to get established enough to make a living at it. Mad respect to you if you can hack that, my energies and priorities just happen to be focused elsewhere. But I still enjoy writing as an activity, and I was looking for a project that would force me to do it with some regularity. Also, I had quite enjoyed the critical writing I'd had to do for school, because I like talking about stories. They have power, they affect us, and I like to examine why and how. Finally, I felt like I was getting so much out of the comics criticism I was reading, like it was enhancing my overall enjoyment of comics and making me a smarter reader. I figured if I could contribute to that for someone else, anyone else, even in the smallest way, then that'd be pretty amazing. We're all in this together, we comics fans, and I want to offer my perspective up to the world just in case it might ever in any way do anything positive for anyone other than myself. I'm thinking these thoughts anyway, might as well express them for others to judge.

So I started a blog. I called it Comics Matter because, a) they do matter, b) comics are the matter at hand, and c) my name is Matt (so Comics MATTer, get it?). It's done everything I wanted it to do, and more, since it has unexpectedly led to me writing for a few other sites as well. I don't expect or even necessarily want it to take me anywhere, because as far as writing about comics goes, I'm already where I want to be.

Tomorrow: How the love of my life supports my love of comics.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The 12 Days of Birthday, Day 8: Getting Back Into Comics

After I read Sandman as a freshman, I had a renewed interest in comics, and slowly began to read more of them. At first I was mostly reading graphic novels because they were less of an investment, and also sometimes I could write about them for my literature classes. I probably could've written about monthly comics for those classes, too, if I'd thought to try it, depending on the topic and the teacher, but I was also generally trying to be more "serious" about my reading in those early college days. So if it even crossed my mind, I'm sure I thought superhero comics, or any ongoing comics, wouldn't "count." Stupid college me.

By sophomore year, though, I had begun to read a handful of webcomics regularly, mostly because of Order of the Stick, which I wrote about here. This led me in my junior year to try and create a webcomic with some friends of mine. It was called 6 or 7 Popes, and we actually produced a handful of strips at one point, but we don't own the site anymore so I can't link you to it. They weren't amazing, anyway, although the artist we got was fucking incredible. I personally think we took the wrong approach as writers, doing the webcomic as a series of disconnected gag strips starring the same characters, rather than telling a single epic adventure story like we really wanted to do when we came up with the idea originally. At the time, I agreed that self-contained strips was the way to go, but looking back I think we shot ourselves in the foot on that one. Anyway, whatever, that project didn't last, but it did finally push me all the way over the line into full-on lifetime comicbook collector territory.

When work began on Popes, we started reading a lot of webcomics to learn about how they were written and published. This soon grew to include semi-regular trips to local comicbook stores to get hard copy comics, also for writing research and, more specifically, for superhero writing research, since we were basically trying to do a parody of a classic superhero team book. It was going to those stores the first few times that really filled me with fresh wonder and love for the medium, because my co-writers and I would try to find new, weird stuff every trip in order to let ourselves be influenced by as many things as we could. This is how I ended up reading such exquisite series as 100 Bullets, Ex Machina, Vertigo's Unknown Soldier, all of Geoff Johns' Green Lantern material, a bunch of the Marvel Noir titles, and a handful of other things I can't remember now that would become the foundations of a new never-ending collection. There were just SO MANY things to read, and they all looked so different and were so different. I felt a burning in my belly, a weird need to try and catch up on as much as I could, not just from the six years or so that I'd stopped paying comics any real attention, but from throughout the entire history of comics as a form of entertainment. I'm still working on that goal today. That's what this whole blog is.

Tomorrow: Why this whole blog is.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The 12 Days of Birthday, Day 7: My Clichéd Reactions to Watchmen and Sandman

By the time I finished middle school, my enthusiasm for comics was waning a little. I let my Thor subscription lapse because I wanted my money for other things like trips to the mall and late-night bowling and other social activities. I'd also read pretty much everything my dad owned, some of it multiple times. So even though I still loved comics in my heart, I wasn't reading them much anymore since no new ones were crossing my path. Then as a middle school graduation present, my dad bought me a TPB collection of Watchmen, and it briefly rekindled my passion.

I say "briefly" because I didn't get seriously back into comics for years after reading Watchmen, but while I was reading it (and then reading it a second and third time) that summer, it felt like going back to age five and discovering comicbooks for the first time again. I'd read some "mature audiences" stuff prior to this, but nothing as intense, brutal, adult, and ambitious as Watchmen. It blew my mind, and it made me rethink superheroes from the ground up. Were they an inherently flawed, dangerous, reckless idea? Were they too outdated to be realistically applied to the modern world without corrupting them? I'd never thought to question the core awesomeness of the superhero concept, so Watchmen was, in some ways, a challenge to everything I thought I knew and believed about comics. But it was also just an insanely well-written and gorgeous book, worth all the hours of study I gave it and many, many more.

At the time, nobody else I knew (other than, obviously, my dad) had read or even heard of Watchmen, because my friends were all 13 and none of them much cared about comicbooks anyway. So it wasn't until college that I really figured out how typical and universal my response to Watchmen had been. It is the go-to example for grown-up superhero stories, and such an influential piece of work that it's still being copied and ripped off, overtly and discreetly, all across the industry. It changed the way the whole world looked at superheroes, caused us all to ask questions about them that weren't being asked much before. I just wasn't aware of that when I went through my own experience with the book. It doesn't detract from my first summer with Watchmen to know now how common my feelings about it were. I've read it many times since then, including when the dumb movie came out, so I've been able to appreciate it as both a naive child and an adult who recognizes its historical significance. Its real importance in my own life, though, is that it kept me from walking away from or forgetting about comics completely during my lull in high school. I continued to read things here and there—Maus, a Thor omnibus my dad sent me when I was abroad for a year, the occasional random Knights of the Dinner Table issue—but for the most part I gave up on serious comicbook fandom until partway through college. And the first small step I took toward getting back into it was reading Sandman my freshman year.

Like Watchmen, I had the usual response to Sandman, meaning it totally rocked my world and I thought Neil Gaiman was the second coming. A guy on my floor freshman year let me borrow all of his trades of the series, and he and I and his roommate would spend long stoned hours talking about each and every storyline, the brilliance of the series as a whole, and the awesomeness of comics in general. We were also all creative writing majors, so the things Gaiman says about storytelling in Sandman, and the incredible feats of structure and characterization he pulled off within it, were practically arousing to our young, somewhat pretentious, overly-analytical minds. And for me specifically, Sandman was a strong reminder of why I fell so in love with longform narratives in the first place. That is a comic that pays off its readers for their devotion and attention, all throughout and especially in its closing few arcs where everything comes together. I had the itch back, the desire for more of the kinds of stories only comics can tell, the sprawling, slow-burning epics full of dazzling visuals, punctuated by smaller, self-contained single issues. Sandman had all of that in abundance, and showed me what I'd chosen to miss out on for the past four years or so.

I still didn't become a real collector again for another couple of years, which I'll get into next time, but comics have been at least part of my regular reading diet ever since I first laid eyes on the first page of the first issue of Sandman. 

Tomorrow: I get all the way, wholeheartedly, and eventually obsessively back into comicbook collecting.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The 12 Days of Birthday, Day 6: Thor is the Best

When I first started collecting comics of my own, rather than reading random selections from my dad's library, I followed Sensational Spider-Man. It was shiny and new at just the right time, so even though Spider-Man wasn't my favorite, I went with the convenient starting point. Problem was, it was hard to keep up with Spider-Man on my extremely limited little kid budget. There were like five or six Spider-titles at least, and storylines pretty much always crossed over, so that to get all of any story you pretty much had to read everything. I could only afford to regularly get one title, so I was stuck with a lot of unfinished stories, often reading only chapter 2 of 4 or something similarly ridiculous. I still liked the art and the action and the melodrama, but I wasn't getting closure. At some point I got sick of that and decided to try something new. I looked over the available Marvel subscriptions, and Thor stood out as starring a character I loved whose name only appeared in a single title. I was sold.

I jumped onto Thor not at the beginning but very early in the Dark Gods story arc that marked the relaunch of the title. I believe my first issue was something in the neighborhood of #4. I don't remember all the details, but the gist of that story was that a group of evil gods who'd been trapped by Odin for a long time bust out and overrun Asgard, killing lots of Thor's allies in the process. The bad guys basically win and are all set to destroy the universe or something similarly devastating, when Thor gets in touch with secret uber-gods, gods to the gods (they have a name but I forget it), who explain to him that there's a cycle of apocalypse events that they preside over. Basically everything Thor has been going through has happened infinite times before and will again, claim these double-gods, but then Thor figures out some way around it, I think...he uses what they tell him to win somehow. I seriously don't remember the specifics, and have never been able to find any of these issues in storage anywhere to reread them. Someday I'll track down back issues or, if it exists, a trade collection and get all nostalgic with it. For now, exactly what happens doesn't matter. What matters is how fucking huge the stakes were, and how powerful all the players.

Thor was a god, whatever that means in the Marvel Universe, and that meant his villains had to be of an appropriate power level. They had to believably challenge a god. They had to represent dangers worthy of divine intervention. Yeah, Thor had a soft spot for Earth/Midgard, but his narratives weren't ever going to be about busting drug dealers or bank robbers or anything so mundane. He was fighting for all of mankind, to defend a kingdom of gods, and/or to keep the very cosmos intact. It was a level of spectacle I was unaccustomed to and immediately adored.

I had read some Thor material before, and I've read a fair amount since, good, bad, and everything in between. Classic Simonson stuff, even classic-er Lee/Kirby stories, a handful of "Avengers: Disassembled" issues, an Omnibus of some kind in high school, the current Jason Aaron run, Kieron Gillen's Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter which probably doesn't count, and other stray arcs and issues in between. Some of it left a more powerful impression than the Dark Gods run, but nothing ever recaptured the magic of my first exposure to the potential might and grandeur of Thor. It's what I look for in all my Thor stories now, and at some level, I think it's what I want from all my superhero comics, no matter who's in them. Big stakes, incredible power, seemingly unstoppable villains. I mean, I like variety, of course, but those epic blockbuster tales, when done well, are still my favorite kind of superhero narratives. They get bungled a lot, and for all I know Dan Jurgens and John Romita, Jr. did a crap job with the Dark Gods and I was just too young to see it. Even if they did, though, they stunned me with the scope of their concepts alone, regardless of their execution.

Tomorrow: How two comics that influence everyone influenced me.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The 12 Days of Birthday, Day 5: Aaron

When action figures were my preferred pastime and comics were still just an occasional diversion, superhero trading cards existed somewhere in between, both in terms of the purpose they served in my life and how much I cared about them. Cards could be action figures, too, if I was willing to look past their lack of mobility. They still had awesome characters in sweet action poses, and that was good enough for me when I wanted fresh inspiration. Also, cards were easier to put away than action figures, and what kid can't appreciate that? So I would literally smash my cards against each other until they got bent, and even that didn't necessarily stop me, depending on how much I liked the character and/or how severe the damage was.

Sometimes, though, and with increasing frequency as I got older, I would pause my destruction of what some consider valuable collectibles to actually read the information they had on the back. I learned a lot about the scope and complexity of both the Marvel and DC universes, and came to appreciate how much more I still had to discover. Reading the cards made me want to read more comics, because there wasn't enough information on the tiny cardboard surfaces. Especially since so many of them also included a little graph of statistics, assigning numbers to each character's agility, strength, speed, etc. I found these charts obnoxious and unhelpful, because they didn't seem to reflect the truth. If Hero A is stronger, faster, and more agile than Villain B, then why does Villain B always kick Hero A's ass when they fight on TV or in my dads comics? I would think to myself. Or something along those lines. But the backstory info, team affiliations, aliases, and other biographical information was all fascinating to me. Trading cards introduced me to so many nooks and crannies of the superhero comicbook maze, and ultimately, like action figures before them, they also introduced me to one of my closest friends.

Aaron and I met through the enrichment program at our elementary school. I've never actually checked with him as to why he picked me to make friends with, but I assume it had to do with neither of us really being friends with any of the other "gifted" kids at that time. Whatever the reason, one day he invited me over to work on a project for class, and if memory serves, I went over to his place without even knowing what that project was going to be. Two strangers, agreeing to get together to make up homework for themselves. Kids are weird.

We pretty quickly discovered that we both had a ton of superhero cards, and that we both liked them because they taught us about characters we'd never seen elsewhere. So we figured, why not pass that joy along to our classmates by writing a report on superheroes? I could be misremembering this, but I believe we wrote about only five heroes and one villain, and I know the villain was Apocalypse. They were all mutants, I'm pretty sure. Basically, we just wrote one-paragraph biographies, a.k.a we plagiarized the backs of some of our favorite cards with one or two original sentences thrown in for any characters we knew more about from the X-Men cartoon. This took, I don't know, two hours of our time at most, but I spent the whole night and much of the next day at Aaron's place anyway so we could watch TV and eat junk food and make immature jokes and do other dumb, boyish things. It was an unexpectedly long and incredibly good hang. The first of many.

Aaron taught me Magic: the Gathering. He told me what D&D was and found a game for us to join and we learned it together. He got me into the drama and spectacle of professional wrestling and we got super into that for a year or so, joining dozens of online fantasy federations. He would play World of Warcraft for hours while I sat behind him, cheering him on and eating Wendy's and just enjoying the show. We got to be nerds together, is what I'm saying, and it's because of Aaron that I was and still am so eager to embrace that side of myself. Aaron was also a big sports fan, and it was through seeing his love for and devotion to that over the years that I finally figured out there's no difference between following sports, comics, soap operas, celebrity gossip, or any other perpetual dramas. We're all just nerds for the things we like, and we all like to be involved in stories outside of our own sometimes.

Aaron will also be one of my groomsmen. We've had periods of not seeing so much of one another, even when we were still living in the same tiny town, but we always reconnect eventually, and we can always count on each other. Plus now we're both in Massachusetts at the same time (I was here for undergrad and then he came for law school right after I left, but now I'm back), so he's more in my life these days than he has been for a while. We're even talking about getting a new D&D game going, which always sets my heart a-flutter. In a place as small as our hometown, I have to think our friendship would've been inevitable, but it was superhero cards that first connected us to one another.

Tomorrow: My first favorite superhero.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The 12 Days of Birthday, Day 4: Nick

Action figures were my total jam as a kid. Once I got my hands on one or two (I believe my first few were Ninja mom could verify that) I couldn't possibly have enough. They presented a chance for me to create my own stories, mimicking the superhero shows and comics by which I was so entertained. I would invent whole universes with needlessly complex continuities (and this was before I knew that Marvel and DC were doing the same) and then eventually demolish them so I could create entirely new personas for each of my "guys," as I sexistly called them. I spent hours at it, creating teams based on size, costume color, how many joints each figure had, etc. And for a while, this was my private activity, until I became friends with Nick.

Nick had his own collection of action figures, and he used them in the same way I did, creating his own characters and universes. What I liked about Nick, though, was that he didn't care if we collaborated or not, which meant sometimes we did and sometimes we didn't. At his house we used his toys, and at my house we used mine, and when we felt like it we played together and came up with brand new stories and casts, but more often than not, we sat on opposite sides of the room and just did our own things. I can't speak for Nick, but he sure seemed to like that arrangement, and I know I appreciated it immensely. Getting a whole other house full of action figures, essentially doubling my pool of available characters, was awesome, but I didn't always want to write with a partner. When I did, Nick was a great one, and that's why we were friends, but our mutual desire to sometimes play alone together was another big part of our bond.

The other thing about Nick is that he was an exceptional artist. Like seriously, head-spinningly good for a kid in elementary school. And because of his age and interest, a lot of what he drew were superheroes and comicstrip characters, which made me wild about him. He provided access to a small, private gallery of great comic artwork right around the time I was first connecting with comics. I was jealous, but I was also too impressed by his work to let any negative feelings prevent me from seeing more of it.

In the long run, Nick and I had a weird relationship. He directly announced to me that we were no longer friends in third grade, and then freshman year of high school we reconnected by virtue of being in the same homeroom, and by senior year he was living with me and my family after a huge fight with his dad. Now he's going to be a groomsman in my wedding in July, and the whole reason I know the guy is that he had toys I didn't have and we were both willing to share. Action figures helped me stretch my mind and explore storytelling in a more active way than TV or comics ever could, which is great and probably reason enough to value my history with them. Connecting me with Nick is why they really matter to me all these years later, though, and why I'll probably buy way too many of them for my kids when the time comes.

Tomorrow: Trading cards and my second best friend (chronologically, not by rank).

Friday, February 7, 2014

The 12 Days of Birthday, Day 3: Son of Origins

I can't remember at exactly what point in the development of my superhero appreciation I stumbled across my dad's slightly beaten up old volume of 1975's Son of Origins of Marvel Comics. I do know that, before reading it, I had a vague awareness that the superheroes I was beginning to so admire had existed for a long time before I was born, but that didn't really mean anything to me. In my world, they were established characters, and always had been. So the chance to actually read the very first adventures of some of those heroes, to get a little peek into a time before they existed, was welcome and admittedly a bit of a thrill. Especially when it came to the first issue of Uncanny X-Men, since that team was the cream of the crop for me at that time due to the TV show.

I probably read that X-Men debut thirty times, and can still recall particular panels with detail. I remember being confused and disappointed by Beast's more human appearance in the book, because I was familiar with the big blue version. But I soon came to appreciate that it was still the same kind-hearted science geek inside, and eventually I got into the tragic unfairness of Beast's mutation dramatically changing his appearance later in his life. After already getting used to his strange physical shape, he starts growing fur. That's a raw deal, and though I didn't have access to any of the issues where it actually happened (and I don't think I've ever read them, actually) I could imagine how hard it would be to go through, and it made me like Beast a lot more than I ever had.

What I liked most about the first ever X-Men story was how, despite the smaller cast and wildly different fashion, it was still at its core the same concept I loved so much from the cartoon. Misfit mutants struggling to be accepted, fight villains, and figure themselves out. To know I was reading something so far removed temporally yet so closely tied thematically to the TV series and characters I loved was awe-inspiring. As I mentioned yesterday, part of what I loved about the X-Men show was the ongoing nature of its stories. In Son of Origins, I had proof positive that the potential longevity of the X-Men concept was infinite, which made me excited about exploring both the past and the future of the team.

There were other characters in Son of Origins with whom I was already at least a bit familiar when I read it. Silver Surfer, Iron Man, and the Avengers had all at least been shown to me by my dad, and as such I read each of their respective origin tales numerous times. I was bothered by the fact that a Thor-specific bad guy brought the Avengers together, even though Thor was probably my favorite member of the team, because I wanted things to be fair. I was similarly upset that I'd never heard of Wasp nor Ant-Man before, because it seemed like anyone who was there when the goddamn Avengers got started should have a high profile. Also, the idea of being very small was something I'd already logged considerable imagination hours pondering, so they seemed like awesome characters and I didn't understand why the rest of the world didn't think so. I still kind of don't. Wasp is amazing, a complete badass at her best and one of the most professional superheroes there ever will be. She treats it like a career instead of an identity. Hank Pym is interesting for the opposite reason. He can't handle the pressure of his own genius, and he cracks under it every so often with horrible consequences. Both of them are a thousand times better than the Hulk, and it was as true in the first Avengers comic as it is today. But I did like seeing the Hulk as a circus clown. That's maybe the most vivid and beloved single panel I can remember from the whole book.

The Iron Man issue got read less than most, because I just so hated his original look. It was clunky and simple, and I know I only thought that because I had the benefit of comparing it to the sleeker and more modern armor of the current (at that time) Iron Man, but I was a kid and I wanted my robots to look sweet. Still, that story of a guy building himself a heart is compelling as shit, so I returned to it often enough.

As for Silver Surfer, it may have been second only to X-Men in my heart. It was the most super of all the superhero origins, the most epic and high-powered. Also the most tragic. Also, Silver Surfer looks incredible, and so does Galactus. They've got that cosmic Kirby magic about them, and you can't help but have those images burn themselves into your brain, especially at such an impressionable age. I wanted to read more about all of these characters, but I wanted to be the Silver Surfer. He was the only hero I felt any overt jealousy toward, though I'm not sure I would have expressed it that way at the time. That's what it was, though. I wanted his life and was a little bummed that it could never happen. Instead, I had to settle for living vicariously through his origin over and over again.

If any comic beat out Silver Surfer for the #2 spot, it was Daredevil. He was new to me, so I got to experience his origin without any preconceptions, and it was a doozy. A one-two punch of awful shit happens to a young and honest kid, and he bounces back and becomes a superhero about it. And I loved his powerset, still do, actually. I can still remember mining my dad for more information on Daredevil after reading Son of Origins, trying to get into the intricacies of how his enhanced senses operated. That was a whole new mind-boggling thing for my imagination to consider, and I would sometimes close my eyes and try to exercise each of my other senses one by one to strengthen them. Weirdly, I didn't really want to be Daredevil like I did Silver Surfer, but it seemed more attainable, and certainly it'd be better than no superpowers at all.

I have almost no recollection of either the Nick Fury or Watcher stories, but the Internet tells me they were included, and the cover image, which I 100% remember, backs up that claim. I must not have been as interested in a guy with no powers and a guy who doesn't actively do anything when I was a youngster. It doesn't surprise me, but it's too bad, because Nick Fury is an all-time favorite of mine now, and I wish I'd bothered to become a fan when I first had the chance. The Watcher I can live without (although his death is the center of the next Marvel event, right? Good for him!).

I have to assume Son of Origins is still somewhere in my parents' house. I should take that from them. I haven't read it in, like, probably 15-20 years, so I'd be curious to see how much I recall accurately, how much comes back to me, and what surprises might pop up. If you read this, parents, see if you can track that down, please.

Tomorrow: Action figures and my first best friend.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The 12 Days of Birthday, Day 2: Superhero Cartoons

The first comicbook-related thing I followed with any regularity was the X-Men cartoon show, and cartoons in general were how I started to get serious about superheroes. I am not alone in this, and much of what I'll say here has been said before, likely online and definitely in conversation, but what can I tell ya? I got influenced by the shit that was popular when I was young, and in fairly typical ways.

There's a lot I loved about X-Men, but I think the original draw was more visual than anything else. Beast and Nightcrawler were friendly monsters, Rogue and Storm both had a commanding presence that was hard to look away from, and Gambit was wearing that ridiculous open head sock of his which was just so bizarre that I wanted to know more. They also all kicked ass. So I started watching because of the aesthetic and the action, but stayed and eventually became a diehard fan because of the stories. I still have a pretty strong memory of being totally wowed by Morph coming back from the dead and turning against the rest of the team in the second season, not because he seemed like such a morally upstanding guy (he didn't) but because the whole idea of a former good guy becoming a bad guy blew my mind. I'd never encountered something like that in my entertainment before, because I was like six or seven years old and had only recently started watching shows with actual plots, let alone plot twists, let alone crazy post-resurrection role reversals. Morph's heel turn is just one highlight from a whole bunch of happy X-Men memories. Wolverine fighting Sabertooth in the snow, the "Days of Future Past" adaptation, anything with Gladiator in it because, hello, blue mohawk. Hell, the theme song alone is enough to excite me even now, and looking back, the show is likely the original source of my lifetime romance with longform narratives. Storylines lasted for many episodes in a row, characters recurred, the team roster and dynamics changed over time. I loved that, and I loved being rewarded for my devotion to it. I don't remember necessarily X-Men being the first superhero thing I was exposed to, but it was definitely the first one I got seriously invested in, both emotionally and intellectually. While I was watching the show, it held my heart. In between episodes, it lingered in my mind, teaching me the fundamentals of solid storytelling. It really had it all: well-developed characters, a balance of action and conversation, humor blended with comedy, and captivating stories with great structures.

A close second, and a show I fell in love with around the same time, was Batman: the Animated Series. I didn't care about it quite as much as X-Men, which I attribute mostly to the X-Men being a team while Batman was a single hero (though he did have a stellar supporting cast, of course). Also, X-Men was a little more overtly funny, and it was brighter and more energetic, all of which appealed to child me. Even so, Batman was an amazing show, and in the long run I'm sure I soaked up just as much from it as I did from X-Men. Batman was, of course, a little grimmer, and there were more serious consequences for people's actions in that show. It was, for lack of a better term, more grown-up than X-Men, and even if that made it slightly less fun, it was also more gripping. I would feel legitimate fear and powerful anxiety watching Batman sometimes, because it felt like traumatic shit could go down any second. But it was an anxiety I enjoyed, a safe kind of fear, because Batman would inevitably win in the end. While the X-Men mattered to me as people, Batman mattered to me more as a hero—a super-cool, totally unbeatable, and, above all else, reliable force for good.

Honorable mention cartoons include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, and Spider-Man, even though the first two are arguably not superhero series. I think they also arguably are, and either way they're from the same era and had a similar spirit as the superhero cartoons of my youth. It was animated do-gooders battling the forces of evil, and I'd take that in any form. Plus watching all of these shows on top of each other made me appreciate their varied sensibilities early on. Turtles was goofy but with moments of intense vulnerability; Ghostbusters was pretty much sheer absurdity, and the violence was the most toned down; Spider-Man landed somewhere in the middle of everything else, its young, flashy star making quips and having a good time but also dealing with serious threats and, sometimes, major tragedies. Though they all shared plenty of common ground, I also turned to each of them for different things, and they have stuck with and inspired with me in different ways over time.

I have rewatched a handful of episodes of all of these shows, save Ghostbusters, as an adult. Batman holds up a little better than X-Men I think, if only because its artistic style is more distinct. They really did find a perfectly modern yet classic look. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn't amazing, but I remember it being better than I expected when I saw it again in college. As for Spider-Man, it was always my least favorite as a kid, and so it unavoidably remains so today.

I watched a lot of TV as a kid, because it was the 90s and there was a lot on. I'm not saying it was a good thing, but I absolutely valued it, and still do. Superhero cartoons pushed me to want more of the same, more modern myths told in serialized installments. Thank goodness for that.

Tomorrow: My first favorite comicbook.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The 12 Days of Birthday, Day 1: Introduction & Dad

I'm turning 27 on February 16, 2014, and to celebrate that, I felt like doing something a little self-indulgent here on the blog. That's, like, what blogs are for anyway, right? Right.

So here's the plan: every day from now through my birthday, I'm going to write a fairly short piece discussing some part of my past relationship with comicbooks. It'll be a brief examination of the important people and things in my life that led me to be a big enough comicbook fan now to write about my hobby basically every day. Not to mention all the money I spend on it.

These posts are going to be far more anecdotal than critical. In several of them I will talk about specific series or characters or whatever, but it's more about the impressions they left on me personally at the time, and what they mean to me now, than it is about actually evaluating those things on their own.

There will also be a loose chronology to these pieces, beginning with my earliest influences and ending up with a look toward the future. But it's not going to be perfectly in order, because some of these things overlap with others. You'll see what I mean when we get there.

For now, if I am going to talk about the very start of my comicbook fandom, I have to talk about my dad. I've written about him and his influence on me as a comics reader on the blog a fair amount before, though, and there's also this Longbox Project piece I did a few months back that gets into it a little more, so I'm not sure I want to repeat myself at much length here. But suffice to say, my dad's own comicbook collection, all boxed up in the second floor of our garage, is the whole reason I ever gave the slightest shit about comics at all. And he encouraged me to read them always, even when he knew I wouldn't understand them because I didn't know the continuity. Or like, when I wanted to read Mike Grell's Green Arrow as a little kid because it looked so cool, my dad went through and covered up the inappropriate/intense sex and violence images with I think sticky notes? Something like that. Point is, rather than tell me, "No, you can't read that," he made it kid-friendly enough to pass and still let me enjoy the stories, just without all the graphic details.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm unavoidably going to write more about my dad in later posts in this 12 Days of Birthday project. I can think of a couple I have planned already where he'll play a role. So I'm going to stop now, I think, by simply saying Thanks, Dad!

Tomorrow: The X-Men, Batman, and other TV cartoon idols.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Elsewhere (and also bitching about Cataclysm)

Two weeks ago, I had a post on PopMatters comparing Scott Snyder's run of Detective Comics to his current work on Batman and arguing that the former is far superior. I've written before about my disappointment with Snyder's interpretation of Bruce Wayne in the New 52, and I also just think his Dick Grayson Detective stories were more in his wheelhouse, conceptually. This week, I talked about Unity's original take on familiar superhero comicbook ideas. My hopes for that book are high, even though it looks like Doug Braithwaite may not stick around...? That'd be too bad, unless he either a) comes back eventually, maintaining a semi-regular schedule as artist, and/or b) is leaving to work on more Storm Dogs. Also, my newest piece went up Friday at The Chemical Box about the truly godawful Kobier and Oso. It is truly godawful.

Something I Failed to Mention
Often when I'm writing, I have moments where I have to cut an idea I originally thought I might include, for space or clarity or both. And when I'm working on something for a site other than this one, I try to remember those abandoned thoughts so I can use them here. But in the case of the three above-mentioned columns, nothing in particular springs to mind as being left unsaid. I mean, I'm sure I could think of any number of things that I didn't comment on directly, but none that feel important enough to spend any real time on now. Instead, I'm going to complain about a completely different comicbook I read today, Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand #4.

Now, there is a LOT wrong with this comic on all fronts, but I don't really want to get into a full-on review of it. I haven't been following Cataclysm or any of the tie-in books, except for Ultimate Spider-Man because I was reading it anyway. The last issue of that series said it was going to be continued in this specific issue of Cataclsym, and because I want to know what happens to Miles Morales and his new friends between this event and their upcoming All-New Ultimates series, I went ahead and spent the four dollars to read this stupid thing. What pisses me off about that is, according to the recap page, a whole bunch of important shit involving Miles that I have not seen went down in previous issues of this series, but neither he nor anyone else from Ultimate Spider-Man plays any kind of role here. You see Miles a few times and he maybe has some lines...? But he doesn't matter to anything that happens. I get that this is not his book and I can't expect Cataclysm to read like an issue of Ultimate Spider-Man just because the one was supposed to "continue" in the other. But it'd be nice if, when I followed Marvel's suggested reading order, there weren't huge gaps in my knowledge of what the star of a book I follow has been doing. And it'd be fantastic if, when he was on the cover of a series that his own series told me to buy, I got to see him matter in the slightest. Now I can't decide if I go back and get the first three issues of Cataclysm so I can get filled in, or just not bother buying the next one and keep myself in the dark, forced to figure out what happened when Ultimate Spider-Man reboots and All-New Ultimates begins in a few months. Stupid event comics. I shake my fist at thee with vigor!