Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Batman Inc. has been Grant Morrison’s big Bat-Epic story for the last few years. It’s been great but it’s nearing the end.

So, did anyone peek at the Grant Morrison interview in the NY Post today? I’m sad to say I did. It spoils a major point in Batman Inc. 8. I hate spoilers in the news because unlike leaks or forums, I just can’t seem to resist reading them. I want spoil it for you guys but if you read Newsarama at all then chances are you figured it out thanks to their half dozen articles on it today. I have mixed feelings on the actual story development but I’m reserving final judgment for when I actually read the issue. Either way at least we know that this was probably Morrison’s plan all along.

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By Alex Headley

Both Marvel and DC relaunched their brand in big ways in 2012. Mostly that involved heroes flying/running at you.

There is no denying that 2012 has been a big year for comics. The New 52 ( yes it started in 2011 but the meat of it was this year) hit its stride, giving DC its biggest numbers in years. Marvel NOW! Is just getting started but we’ve already seen an impact from it. November was a huge month for the comics. But more than finances, the last year has been good for creators. Marvel and DC seem, to me at least, to be far friendlier to writers and artists than in a long while. Marvel NOW! seems to be all about the creative side of things. Think of the way it was marketed: Mark Waid and Leniel Yu, Rick Remender and John Cassady, Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena. The creators are just as important to those books as the characters involved. It was the same with DC. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, Grant Morrison and Rags Morales. All these guys got to leave their mark on some of the biggest names in comics.
It’s a model that seems to be working for both publishers and one that spins directly out of Image’s recent success with new iPs from specific creators like Hickman, Robert Kirkman and Brian K. Vaughn. The New 52 has thrived off of series that let the creators run wild. Look at Demon Knights, Animal Man, and Wonder Woman. Those books brought new ideas to those characters, taking the titles in new directions and exploring new sides of the core cast or where almost entirely new. Marvel NOW! is taking big risks too, bringing back the original X-Men, combining mutants and Avengers and taking Peter Parker out of the mask.
There finally seems to be a real effort on both companies’ part to expand the diversity of their line as well. Both companies offer more genres in their books as well as a more landscape in the titles that better reflect the diversity of the real world. DC has 9 ongoing titles starring female characters in the lead role. Marvel has only 4 but there are several ladies on each team book, Marvel’s hallmark. It’s a big leap forward. Minorities are better represented as well, even if some of the books that could have best reflected that change were canned for one reason or another (I’m looking at you Static Shock and Mr. Terrific) and some obviously deserving characters still don’t have their own series ( Cyborg!). The industry is still dominated mostly by white guys writing white guys but progress is being made, however slowly.

This is now the most popular superhero team in the world. Crazy, huh?
Property of Marvel Comics (Also Disney)

On top of the Marvel and DC comics, the publisher’s have done well in other media. DC continues to put out high quality animation in the form of DVDs and television series. Cartoon Network’s DC Nation, though its had a rough patch as of late, is a big deal. Likewise, Marvel has seen success with Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes( yeah it was cancelled but only so that Marvel could move forward with a Avengers toon of their own). That’s not to mention the two wildly successful films The Dark Knight Rises and Marvel’s The Avengers. The Avengers is the third highest grossing movie of all time. Not bad for a team of formerly B-list heroes directed by a guy with more failed TV series than fingers. Sony released The Amazing Spider-Man and while it wasn’t as big as the other two, it did give us Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, so it was worth it. All three films were undisputed hits this year and 2013 only seems like it will continue the trend of comic book films dominating the box office. Man of Steel, Thor:The Dark World and Iron Man 3 all promise to be big hits. We can also look forward to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers 2 and a potential Justice League film in 2014. Joss Whedon is also working on a SHIELD live action series. Whedon back on TV working Marvel properties can only be a good thing. For DC, Arrow has been well-received and there seems to be a Wonder Woman series titled Amazon in the works.
Outside of the big two, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead has truly become a powerhouse property. The long running series has always receive critical praise and been a fan favorite series but AMC’s television adaptation has turned it into a blockbuster franchise. Telltale Game’s adaptation of the zombie epic recently won game of the year at Spike Video Game awards. And a FPS title is coming from Activision in 2013 starring the AMC original characters Darryl and Merle. The series is one of Image’s top selling titles right alongside Kirkman’s other project, Invincible both of which hit the landmark 100 issues in 2012.
I think that non-superhero stuff is the best it’s ever been in comics. The Walking Dead is part of that. As is the excellent Manhattan Projects, BKV’s Saga and the eminent return of Sandman.

One of the most popular comic book franchises. Not a superhero in sight.

In addition to the overall higher quality of work being put out at the moment, there are more ways than ever to get what we want. Digital distribution has been embraced by all the big names in the industry, meaning that we don’t even have to leave the house to get our fix. While I still prefer to get my comics from my local comic shop, the digital option is nice to have. Comixology offers weekly sales and that let’s readers pick up books they might otherwise ignore or miss. Trades are still a big part of the industry as well, giving readers a way to catch up or enjoy a series without having to wait a month to get our fix.

Despite all the good stuff going on, there are still issues. Most recently, the retirement of Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger is troubling for the line and maybe says some negative things about how that imprint has been treated since the New 52. Berger was responsible for bringing us pretty much every one of the awesome Vertigo series we have loves over the years, like Sandman. Gail Simone was recently fired in a very public way that sours some of my praise on DC’s diversity in their creative teams. On the Marvel side of things, its hard not to notice that comics are more expensive than ever. Marvel is the brunt of the problem here for me. Lots of books are bi-weekly now and even more have a $4 price point. Couple that with the reduction in page counts throughout the industry and you have an increasingly expensive hobby. At least the 3.99 DC books give you a second story to enjoy, sometimes putting the spotlight on interesting characters or new creators. Double shipping is a big problem. Another worrying trend is the return of variant covers. DC is releasing 52 for the first issue of JLA, one for each state, Washington DC and Puerto Rico. Marvel isn’t better about it. They have been been absolutely in love with variants this year. Variants can be fun but upwards of $12 is a lot to ask for a picture of Deadpool dancing to Gangnam style on the cover of Avengers 1. Its just overkill. On the bright side all those baby variants are giving Skottie Young a lot of work.

At least the cover is awesome. A great way to celebrate a milestone. Property of Marvel Comics.

By Alex Headley
So, Amazing Spider-Man #700 has been leaked online. Presumably by someone involved in the printing process. Marvel and writer Dan Slott are understandably upset about the whole thing. Though I don’t care about Marvel’s feelings as much when they plaster spoilers all over any news outlet that will let them; it hasn’t happened in a while but it seemed like, for a time, we were getting big news from USA Today instead of the comic shop. I do feel for Slott though, as a creator this is his lifeblood and while I don’t particularly like Spider-Man or the direction he is taking the story anyway, the leak puts a negative spin on the whole thing from the beginning. Now instead of waiting for feedback on a story he obviously cares a great deal about, he’s receiving death threats (WARNING: there are numerous spoilers in that article) before its even been published. That’s a real downer for a guy that makes his living off of pleasing fans; not to mention its freaking crazy. I know fans are passionate but death threats are just ridiculous. Not exactly good PR for comics nerds like me.

I’ll keep this spoiler free, mentioning only what we know from solicits and interviews. This story sets up the new ongoing title Superior Spider-Man which sets an edgier tone for Spidey and takes Peter Parker out of the mask (which seems like odd timing what with the new movie franchise). We’ve known this before but the question has only been of who might take up the mantle, 700 sets that up. The idea of a new guy taking over for a classic hero has been done so many times it’s a trope. And using that in an attempt to make the character edgier and unpredictable is a particularly tired trend in comics.  Jean Paul Valley, Bucky Barnes, Guy Gardner (or any of the Earth GLs), Eradicator, Scarlet Spider, etc; the list goes on but the status quo always bounces back. It’s the nature of comics. Plenty of heroes have been replaced with edgier versions over the years, Spider-Man included, and like all of those examples, this will blow over. That said, I’m sure some good stories can come out of it. A writer like Slott doesn’t just decide on something like this overnight. He’s been planning and he has a story that he wants to tell and Marvel has decided it is worth telling. It seems like this was Slott’s plan all along, which is interesting and makes it a little more fun. Why did he want to do this, why in this particular fashion? Since its, supposedly, an editorial mandate by the head honchos at Marvel I think we might be in for an enjoyable ride with Superior Spider-Man. It’s not on my pull list anyway, as I said I’ve never been a Spidey fan, but I hope fans are willing to give it a shot and find it enjoyable.

The cover to Superior Spider-Man #1. Notice how edgy it is. Property of Marvel Comics.

But the real issue, to me, is how people learn about big changes like this. The Internet has changed the way entertainment operates and not always for the better. This has affected movies in an obvious way, rumors and set leaks are a dime a dozen these days. Cracks, hacks, torrents and other illegal downloads have plagued video games for years now. What makes it particularly rough for comics though is that it’s mostly in suspense of what’s to come that people but the books every week. The serialized format is full of cliffhangers and what-if moments that keep people coming back. Take away that suspense and your weekly pull is much less exciting. Now, I’m sure some people download comics just to scratch that itch and then still pay for the book at their local store but many more read their books completely free of charge and ahead of schedule. Thanks to Disney, Marvel isn’t exactly hurting these days and Warner Bros. can support DC but where leaks and scans really hurt is at the smaller publishers. Image can’t fall back on a multi-million dollar movie if no one buys their stuff. Neither can IDW or Boom! or Valiant. But I think most of the damage is to the retailers. Comic shops are a rare breed. They typically sell one thing and cater to one type if customer. Most are independent, especially in the rural parts of the country. And in a recession, even chains can be hurting. Now say what you will about the future of the industry as a whole but I still believe that brick and mortar stores are important if for no other reason than for the water cooler affect. The interwebs just don’t provide the same sense of community or the real chance to get out of the house and meet other people with the same hobbies. Many shops embrace games like Heroclix and Magic as well, giving gamers a valuable gathering point. Without the local comic store, the hobby becomes much less interesting and fun. So, while I’m not going to state that torrents and downloads are unequivocally wrong I will say that it spoils the fun a bit. It kills that buzz we get off of not knowing, takes away that anticipation each week. The Internet gave us the information age, but when it comes to storytelling sometimes it’s better to let yourself be surprised.

All-New X-Men, All-New Bendis? Property of Marvel Comics

Join us for Comic Critique Podcast Episode 2

Reviews, previews, and general Comic talk ensue as we dive in to the first month of Marvel Now!, Batman’s Death of the Family, and just take a critical look at some of our favorite books.

Visit us at comiccritiqueblog.wordpress.com

Contact us at comiccritiqueblog@gmail.com

You can stream the show  here or download it at our podbean website. The show should be up on iTunes sometime in the next day or two here.

Please send any feedback, questions, or other musings to comiccritiqueblog@gmail.com

By Alex Headley

The New 52 Justice League. Illustrated by Jim Lee.

In September 2011, DC changed everything by relaunching, and to some extent rebooting, their entire line of comics. And it seems to have worked, at least in the short term. DC has had a great year in sales, beating Marvel for market share for several months and increasing digital comics sales by nearly 200% according to recent reports.  And overall sales continue to be strong. In my opinion the quality books have far outweighed the poor ones and in the end all I want from comics is good story starring characters I care about. I feel like the New 52 does that well where it matters. Of course there have been some duds.

14 books have been cancelled since the New 52 launched in September 2011.

“Men of War,” “Mister Terrific,” “O.M.A.C.,” “Hawk and Dove,” “Blackhawks” and “Static Shock” were all cancelled in January and replaced by “Earth 2”, “Worlds’s Finest”, “Batman Inc.”, “The Ravagers”, “G.I. Combat” and “Dial H”. In June, “Resurrection Man”, “Justice League International”, “Voodoo” and “Captain Atom” were canceled and replaced with “Talon”, “Sword of Sorcery”, “The Phantom Stranger”, and “Team Seven”. In January, “Frankenstein, agent of S.H.A.D.E”, “Blue Beetle”, “G.I. Combat”, “Grifter” and “Legion Lost” will be ending to make way for “Constantine” (following the cancellation of John Constantine’s long running series “Hellblazer”), “Threshold”, “Justice League of America”, “Vibe” and “Katana”.

I think most of the books that have been cancelled were probably doomed to fail from the beginning but it’s encouraging to see DC experimenting. It’s less encouraging to see just how ready and willing DC is to cut a book not featuring any major characters.

Hellblazer #299 cover.
Property of Vertigo Comics.

Recently the cancellation of “Hellblazer” has caused a bit of an uproar, at least in the industry. But it makes sense for DC to prioritize it’s main line, even if that means pulling things from Vertigo. Hopefully this makes room for new original properties at Vertigo. Many are worried about the health of the imprint and accusations are even being tossed around that DC plans to get rid of it altogether. I don’t think that is the case. Not with Neil Gaiman returning to comics with a new Sandman series next year and several new titles coming from prominent creators such as Scott Snyder. The success of creator owned books at Image Comics certainly seems to affected sales at Vertigo, but I’m going to be optimistic and say that this boom at Image can only mean good things for the industry as a whole. Creator-owned properties are a big deal and I think Robert Kirkman’s wildly successful Walking Dead supports that. Mark Millar has had some success as well, with several of his books being made into movies, most notably “Kick-Ass” and the upcoming “Kick-Ass 2”. That’s what I hope happens anyway, there a plenty of much smarter and connected people talking about the issue right now.

Here’s what the New 52 will look like in 2013.

  1. Action Comics
  2. Superman
  3. Superboy
  4. Supergirl
  5. Detective Comics
  6. Batman
  7. Batman: The Dark Knight
  8. Batman & Robin
  9. Batman Inc.
  10. Nightwing
  11. Batgirl
  12. Batwoman
  13. Birds of Prey
  14. Catwoman
  15. Red Hood and the Outlaws
  16. Teen Titans
  17. Ravagers
  18. Aquaman
  19. The Flash
  20. Wonder Woman
  21. Justice League
  22. Justice League Dark
  23. Justice League of America
  24. Vibe
  25. Katana
  26. Demon Knights
  27. Animal Man
  28. Swamp Thing
  29. Threshold
  30. Constantine
  31. Earth 2
  32. Worlds’ Finest
  33. Green Lantern
  34. Green Lantern Corp
  35. New Guardians
  36. Red Lanterns
  37. Legion of Super Heroes
  38. Talon
  39. Sword of Sorcery
  40. Stormwatch
  41. The Savage Hawkman
  42. Deathstroke
  43. Dial H
  44. The Phantom Stranger
  45. Suicide Squad
  46. Green Arrow
  47. The Fury of Firestorm
  48. DC Universe Presents
  49. All-Star Western
  50. Team 7
  51. I, Vampire

So what will book 52 be? Unless it’s the upcoming Scott Snyder & Jim Lee as of yet unnamed Superman title, we just don’t know.

Looking at that list, it really seems DC is hell-bent on keeping a warfare book on the stands, and is really failing to do so. They have basically cancelled G.I. Combat twice at this point. Despite being a little more closely tied to the DCU superheroics, I don’t think Team 7 will stick around long.  Also, holy crap, there are a dozen books related to Batman or his extended family. Series with a magical protagonist seem to be a high priority as well. Justice League Dark’s success probably only serves to increase that, especially in regards to Constantine. Keeping a sci-fi book on the stands seems to be a priority, even with the loss of Blue Beetle and Captain Atom, Threshold promises to fill a big gap. Not to mention the Green Lantern books keep the cosmic stuff coming. Keeping three Justice League books is important for the upcoming Trinity War which seems to be setting up a Civil War style hero vs hero story. Female characters are doing well. There are 9 books starring a female lead; Katana, Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey, Worlds’ Finest, Sword of Sorcery, Batwoman, Catwoman and Supergirl. The number has steadily been tracking up from the beginning and that is a promising trend. Now if we can just get some more female talent in the industry…

Cyborg as he appears on the cover to Justice League #1.

While we are talking about characters there are some curious absences so far, and no I’m not talking about Wally West, Donna Troy or Stephanie Brown (although I would like to see all three come back), most notably the absence of a Cyborg title. Victor Stone was rocketed into the spotlight in Flashpoint and then the New 52 but still doesn’t have his own series. It’s baffling really. Everyone else in the Justice League has one or more books with their name on it. I guess this is just proof that Cyborg really is the new Martian Manhunter (who will finally be getting more attention thanks to the new JLA). As for potential books and miniseries in DC’s future, I’d like to think that if Batman and Superman can carry multiple titles that Wonder Woman can do the same. Brian Azzarello has made Diana one of the biggest success stories in the New 52 and I would be thrilled to explore more of that world. The New Gods will be making their return to the DCU soon and I would be more than happy to pick up a book focused on that cast. Big Barda, Mr. Miracle and Orion could make a fun team. The Outsiders is a concept we haven’t seen in the New 52 that would probably be a popular comeback. Doom Patrol could also make a return. Both teams would give DC the chance to add a lot of characters and showcase a lot personalities we don’t see much of currently. The Atom is a character i would love to see in the New 52. We’ve seen Ray Palmer in the pages of Frankenstein and the promo for Trinity War seemed to suggest a shrinking character in red and blue will make an appearance soon though we don’t know who is in the costume or what Justice League he will be a part of.

As for what could be cancelled in the next wave; I really don’t see Deathstroke or Hawkman sticking around much longer. Liefield’s very public, very nasty exit from both books left DC scrambling for a replacement. I’m not reading either book anyway, but reaction has not been great. Firestorm hasn’t been selling well either, not since the beginning really. The concept is just a little too cheesy for me. So, what books do you think are in danger of cancellation? What do you want to see in that last spot for the fourth wave? What do you hope is coming in the inevitable fifth wave? Share your thoughts in the comments.

By Alex Headley

The Guardians of the Galaxy.
Property of Marvel Comics.

Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning defined an era of sci-fi stories at Marvel Comics. They took obscure or forgotten cosmic characters and gave them an importance that most never had. The effect is obvious, their flagship title Guardians of the Galaxy is being made into a movie by Marvel Studios in 2014. The James Gunn (Slither, Super) directed film is set to adapt the pair’s team of misfit heroes in space. The Guardians consist of seemingly wacky characters like Rocket Raccoon (an actual raccoon with improbably large guns and tactical genius), Groot (a tree king) and Cosmo (a telepathic Russian canine cosmonaut). The cast gets much bigger over the book’s 25 issues but the glue holding them together is Peter Quill aka Star Lord, a human-Spartoi hybrid that puts the group together in the wake of Keith Giffen’s cosmic event Annihilation. Annihilation really kick started the cosmic genre at Marvel along with the relaunched Nova series starring Richard Rider. I won’t spoil the plot but in short Annihilus (an old FF villain) has a big impact on the universe. Nova and Guardians continued and while the two books were running we got three more big events in the cosmic world and some crossover to more mainstream Marvel events such as Secret Invasion. Conquest, War of Kings and Thanos Imperative were all great events in their own right but the best part was the expansion to the Marvel Universe that came with it. Kree, Skrull, Shi’Ar, Inhumans and the Negative Zone all get a chance to shine. Having not been familiar with all these people and place gave me a real sense of discovery when reading the series. I was late to the party, reason almost all of the books long after they were published, but that really only made it sweeter. I consumed it all in bulk and really fell in love with what was out there. A raccoon is legitimately one of my favorite Marvel heroes as a result. After Thanos Imperative put an end to Guardians and Nova, we briefly got a series by Abnett and Lanning starring some the heavy hitters in the galaxy that were actually more obscure than those in the GoG; Gladiator, Ikon the space knight, Ronan the Accuser, Beta Ray Bill, Quasar and Silver Surfer take on threats so big only the most powerful cosmic heroes can handle them as the Annihilators. Sadly the team only got 10 issues together before fading into the background.

The 36 issue Nova series is a great read as well, it’s a little less out there than GoG and Annihilators. It follows Richard Rider as the Nova Prime. He plays host to the entirety of the Nova Force, a wellspring of knowledge and gravimetric power usually split up amongst thousands of Nova Corps Centurions. The Nova Corp is Marvel’s answer to the Green Lantern Corps. The concepts are similar but there are more than enough differences that it’s no more distracting than the fact that Superman and Spider-Man share a color scheme. The series follows Rider’s quest to restore the Nova Corps after it was devastated by the Annihilation Wave. The story is fun but falls victim to crossovers and event tie-ins more often than I like. Civil War and Secret Invasion both take over the story for large portions of the series, forcing it off the rails a bit, especially the Secret Invasion story.

The cover for the Marvel NOW! Guardians of the Galaxy series.
Property of Marvel Comics.

Both series are getting new titles as part of Marvel NOW! and honestly I have a lot of doubts concerning the titles. I won’t spoil anything for those of you wanting to read the series’ but there are several characters coming back that shouldn’t be back. In Abnett and Lanning’s final event The Thanos Imperative, a lot things happen that are either being ignored or else explanations have just not come to light as of yet. The new Guardians book will be written by Brian Micheal Bendis, who has handled the team’s appearance in the Avengers Assemble title, a book that confuses me a great deal as it is. I seem to remember it was originally an out of continuity story with the cast of the Avengers movie buy it seems to have become a mainstream book now. Its use of Thanos and the Guardians is troublesome and so far nothing has explained the resurgence. I’m not a fan of Star-Lord’s new look or the addition of Iron Man to the team. Still, it’s nice to see Gamora put on some clothes appropriate for space combat and of course I’m thrilled to see Rocket and Groot back in the pages of a regular comic. I’ll be reviewing the first issue of the series when it hits, hopefully it will be better than I think it will be.

Nova is even less attractive at the moment. New Nova Sam Alexander, who first made his appearance in Avengers vs. X-Men, is the starring character. We know nothing about him at the moment other than he is very young and also a cast member in Ultimate Spider-Man on the Disney channel. I want Richard Rider or one of his dozens of companions from the last series back if we are going to have a Nova book on the stands. Jeph Loeb isn’t a favorite of mine (apart from his fantastic Batman graphic novel) and Ed McGuiness’ look, while clean and action packed, doesn’t really hit the spot either. I’ll pick up issue 1 and see what happens.

 

In this first episode of the Comic Critique Podcast, we (your hosts Alex and Phil)  introduce ourselves, talk about what makes a comic book “good”, and dive into the Marvel NOW! event.

First up is a review of the AvX event. We discuss what worked, what didn’t, and whether or not the event was a “success” as a whole.

Next up is a preview of the Marvel NOW! titles coming in November.  We’ll go title by title and talk about what to pick up and what to avoid like the plague.

Finally, we do our first “Superteam Draft.” In honor of the new Uncanny Avengers title, we’ll be drafting our very own mutant-loaded Avengers teams.

You can stream the show  here or download it at our podbean website. The show should be up on iTunes sometime this week.

Please send any feedback, questions, or other musings to comiccritiqueblog@gmail.com

This site will serve as a hub for pod-casts, reviews and general musings on all things comic books. Check back often to read our thoughts on the latest and greatest-and lamest- comic books on the market. Feel free to give us feedback in the comments section or e-mail us at comiccritiqueblog@gmail.com.