Marvel really showcased a good selection of books this week. FF #1 was a great example of that. I haven’t picked up any of Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four run, but after all the hype it received these last few months, I had to jump on the bandwagon and see what the excitement was about. I’m glad I did – great characterization and set-up for this new series direction.
Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine #5 continues the zaniness that is Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert’s bi-monthly adventure of the titular characters looking to get out of their time-traveling adventure. If you’re up for classic Mojo antics, then this book is for you. And if you want to see what happens when Wolverine and the Phoenix Force walk into a bar, this book is also for you.
Lastly, I didn’t make this the pick of the week, but considering how much I talked about it, you’d think I would have. Nevertheless, Green Lantern #64 gets things off rolling good with the first part of the War of the Green Lanterns storyline. Hal gets the characterization he lacked throughout the New Guardians storyline and things get taken up a notch when Krona’s plan with the Lantern Corps entities comes to fruition. Still early in the game, but we’re seeing some good stuff in Geoff Johns’ latest GL saga.
There was a lot of Fantastic Four hoopla last week as to be expected, but I can’t take away from the magnificence that is Scott Snyder’s work. Both of his books came out last week and the race to be pick of the week could have gone either way, but I ultimately chose Detective Comics #873. Snyder has proven his knack for getting Dick Grayson’s character right. His constant questioning of the city’s sanity/insanity plays well into his matter with The Dealer. Definitely looking forward to the next arc.
American Vampire #11 ends Pearl’s 2-part arc as she and her husband look to escape another batch of European vampires looking to harvest blood. That and Hattie’s quest for revenge on her former best friend keeps the stories and sub-plots fresh for future stories. I’m all for it, but definitely more looking forward to the World War 2 arc that Vertigo had mentioned on their blog recently.
Uncanny X-Force #4 ends another big story as the covert group attempts to stop Kid Apocalypse from fleeing. Rick Remender has brought not just a lot of style, but also substance to this new X-Force. Whether it’s Archangel’s inner demons fighting against him, Fantomex making a fateful decision for the team, or Deadpool….ummm…taking care of his teammate, Remender is making this team stand out from the previous one.
It’s such a simple idea yet done so well – what if S.H.I.E.L.D. existed since the beginning of civilization?
I needed a reason to read some Jonathan Hickman stuff after hearing the buzz about his work on Fantastic Four and Secret Warriors. This is a fascinating and imaginative story that should only get better with Hickman’s energetic writing and Dustin Weaver’s crisp pencils at hand here. They could have done more to explain the protagonist, but it’s a prelude, so I’m not griping yet.
The guest cameos by key Marvel villains are the icing on the cake and surprisingly fit well in Marvel continuity (if that means anything in comic book land, of course. I’m predicting Wolverine will appear in issue 3 and discover electricity with Ben Franklin…)
I routinely get asked what’s so fascinating about reading stories of spandex-clad super-heroes in the comics. I’ll get remarks that it’s just “nerd” material, just for kids, or that I need to get outside more. Granted, I do question at times why Superman wears red underwear outside his costume, but hey, he’s still fully clothed and that’s all that matters…
There’s a lot to be said about the comic book itself and what it brought to the table throughout history. When people were first introduced to Captain America in the 40’s, it was a response to our fears about how the U.S. will fare in WWII. When the X-Men were introduced in the 60’s, it spoke volumes about the racial prejudice prominent to that period. Then there were the stories that brought things down to a more personal scale. Spider-Man brought us a character that not only fought crime, but dealt with real-life issues most high school and college students could relate to. The Fantastic Four showed us that even super-hero families have relational issues and can still work them out. Combine these with the sci-fi aspects that comes with being super heroes and you can see why comics have outlasted economic turmoil and critic bashing over the years.
Of course, being that comics have been a visual medium for the longest time, there comes a time when the emphasis on art is stronger than emphasis on writing. Enter the early 90’s. Artists became superstars. Publishers produced hundreds of covers for almost every single issue. It was the “in” thing to collect and sell at later times. Storytelling took a back seat while artwork helped rack in the dough.
Then the market became saturated with thousands of useless issues that weren’t being collected. Consumers realized the deteriorating value behind these issues. Retailers and publishers lost millions. Marvel declared bankruptcy in 1996. The bare-bones storytelling became more noticeable and many fan-favorite characters suffered via cancellations. The industry started to re-think the direction behind its heroes as well as other areas they can explore.
The mid 90’s started to show the potential of the medium through Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, which Mike touched upon in our first podcast.
It was a different approach, delving into and re-inventing the mythologies Gaiman wanted to play with. It went away from the conventional super hero books and showed that comics could be as just a respected reading medium as any novel on the bookshelves. DC took notice and created its “Vertigo” line to accommodate creator-owned lines and new universes.
Fables, Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, and more would help in grabbing old readers disenchanted by the old superhero stories and new readers looking for innovative storytelling. The superhero books would follow after DC and Marvel discovered a new crop of writers that could re-invent their images. And while today’s sales numbers may not reach the numbers the 80’s and early 90’s brought, comics are getting a new kind of respect that has resulted in writers being offered TV gigs and comic properties becoming high-grossing movies.
My next few posts will highlight the books I feel are helping to realize the medium’s potential. Feel free to suggest any you feel deserve to be up on that list. Enjoy!