Alt Fight

Days of Hate #1
“Chapter One: America First”
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist/Cover artist: Danijel Zezelj
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Writer Ales Kot must have been nerve-wracked as he waited for this comic book to be released, wondering if the possible prophecies of his prose might come true, and I expect the experience will be a perpetual one throughout the 12-issue run. This story flows entirely from the socio-political upheaval in the United States right now and the emboldening of white supremacy in that country. Every day, there’s a new development in politics that would have been thought to be impossible in previous decades. But more than anything, I can’t help but wonder if the near-future Kot imagines in this story isn’t so much near but immediately impending. Days of Hate isn’t so much a piece of fiction, but a prediction if racism and the wealth gap are allowed to continue to grow, threatening to swallow what was once viewed as perhaps the most progressive and idealistic nation on the planet, rather than the shithole country many worry it’s in danger of becoming.

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Poster Parting Depression

During my junior year of university, the above image adorned one wall of my small dorm room. The massive piece of art, the noted Marvel Universe poster with art by penciller Ed Hannigan and inker Joe Rubenstein, was actually a collage of his cover artwork from the first 12 issues of the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe limited series, over the course of 1982 to 1984 (the total run was 15 issues, with the last three focusing on dead characters and weapons)..

The poster, measuring 50 inches by 50 inches (more than 16 square feet), would’ve been released in 1988 — oddly enough, after the followup index series, Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition had wrapped up. Of course, since different artists ultimately contributed cover artwork for that second series while Hannigan handled all of the covers for the original series, I suppose it made more sense to release his work as a poster (albeit updated to reflect some additions and costume changes).

Alas, sometime during my university days, or perhaps as they came to an end, I misplaced the poster, packed up safely in its original hard cardboard tube. I left it behind somewhere after one of my many moves.

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Flea Market Finds: Tomorrow’s Avengers Vol. 1

Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers Volume 1 trade paperback
Writers: Arnold Drake, Steve Gerber, Roger Stern, Gerry Conway, Roger Slifer, Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Scott Edelman & Stan Lee
Pencils: Gene Colan, Sal Buscema, Don Heck, Al Milgrom & John Buscema
Inks: Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia, Vince Colletta, Pablo Marcos, Al Milgrom, Howard Chaykin, Terry Austin, Bob Wiacek, Dave Hunt, John Tartaglione & Joe Sinnott
Colors: Stan Goldberg, Petra Goldberg, George Roussos, Irene Vartanoff, Al wenzel, Glynis Wein, Phil Rachelson, Janice Cohen & Don Warfield
Letters: Herb Cooper, Charlotte Jetter, Annette Kawecki, Dave Hunt, Karen Mantlo, Joe Rosen, John Costanza, Denise Wohl, Irving Watanabe, Jim Novak & Sam Rosen
Cover artist: Al Milgrom
Editors: Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman & Archie Goodwin
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $39.99 US/$43.99 CAN

A few months ago, I got a chance to pick up this trade paperback and Tomorrow’s Avengers Volume 2 for a paltry $20 (total, not each). It was too good a deal to pass up, and I relished the chance to read this Silver and Bronze Age material. That sort of classic material is almost always entertaining, be it for its campiness, bombastic qualities and even as fine representations of the craft of comics. That’s what I hoped to find here, and there was some of that entertainment to be had. But unfortunately, what this book spotlighted more than anything was how the publisher and the creators tasked with these original Guardians comics really didn’t know what they wanted to do with these characters and concepts. The late Steve Gerber was known for his unconventional and avant-garde storytelling, but his scripts later in this book read like ham-fisted attempts at classic Star Trek episodes featuring few characters anyone’s going to like at all.

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Brought Together By Bingo

Bingo Love original graphic novel
Writer: Tee Franklin
Artist: Jenn St-Onge
Colors: Joy San
Letters: Cardinal Rae
Cover artist: Genevieve Eft
Editor: Erica Schultz
Publisher: Image Comics/Inclusive Press
Price: $9.99 US

Purely from a marketing perspective, this book has a lot going for it. The title is a striking one, evoking curiosity and bemusement, and the cute figures on the cover draws one in further as well. On top of that, the $10 price tag is an affordable and inviting one, so Bingo Love was poised to catch some eyes. But I suspect word of mouth would have been all these creators needed to attract an audience. This is a powerfully compelling and charming love story about being gay in America in the past and what it means to be gay today. It’s definitely a celebration of the progress in LGBTQ+ issues. But honestly, the story doesn’t draw its strength from that relevance and importance. Instead, it’s the touching and believable love story that grabs the reader and never lets go, along with the well-realized cast of characters. By the end of the book, this is a story about a family that adapts to the power and promise of love, putting happiness above prejudice and petty concerns.

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Post-Credits Digression

While Marvel Studios didn’t invent the post-credits scene in movies, it certainly embraced it to the point that it’s a signature of its brand now. Whenever I go to see a Marvel movie in theatres, I’m always shocked at the number of people who get up and leave as soon as the end credits begin. When the Marvel brand first started, most people left, with a handful of us remaining for the bonus. Now, I’d say almost half of the audience splits, and given how much fun those post-credits scenes can be and how well known the Marvel brand is for them, I find it incredibly puzzling.

You know what’s even more befuddling? Marvel Entertainment’s new attempt to adopt the post-credit scene in its comics. As of last week, the comics publisher has begun branding a handful of its titles with a “Where is Wolverine?” icon and promising the comic in question has such a bonus scene at the end of the book.

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Think Pink

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1
Writer: Mark Russell
Pencils: Mike Feehan
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artists: Ben Caldwell (regular)/Evan “Doc” Shaner (variant)
Editor: Marie Javins
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

As many comics critics are still offering up their Best of 2017 lists, we’re faced with what may be the front runner for 2018’s finest right off the bat. I knew The Snagglepuss Chronicles would be great, given that it’s the brainchild of Mark Russell, the writer behind the surprising and relevant take on The Flintstones. Furthermore, we got a taste of his unconventional and innovative interpretation of Snagglepuss in last year’s Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Special last year. But even that sneak peek in that short backup story didn’t prepare me for the strength of his social commentary in this new title. This comic book is a fascinating piece of historical fiction that has the potential to spark an interest in 1950s creative culture, and at the same time, the writer offers a powerful perspective on the realities of 21st century America.

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Spidey on Trump’s Threads

It doesn’t matter where you are, what you’re doing or with whom you’re speaking — it’s next to impossible to avoid references to Donald Trump these days. From social media to social situations, from televised fiction to telephone conversations, Trump is everywhere. Of course, comics — and especially the super-hero genre — have always served as an escape for the masses.

An even safer bet for refuge in comics are back issues. I’ve been poring over dozens of older comics — dating back a couple of years to a couple of decades — as of late, finding some charming storytelling, some impressive work and some clunkers as well. I’ve been making my way through a stack of old Spectacular Spider-Man issues the last couple of days, enjoying the artistry of Sal Buscema.

And then I hit Page 6 of Spectacular Spider-Man #171, published in late 1990, and I was jolted from my escapist reverie.

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Justice

With an adult comics enthusiast (me, for the record) and a seven-year-old in the house, comics and their representations in other media often factor into the holidays in our homestead. This year was no exception, with Santa dropping off a super-hero video game for the boy, among other items.

My wife — aware our son has been learning how to play chess at his after-school program and that my father, brothers and I often played chess during my youth — picked up this little number when she spotted it at a discount dollar store in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

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Flea Market Finds: Big Moose, One-Shot

Big Moose, One-Shot
Writers: Sean Ryan, Ryan Cady & Gorf
Artists: Cory Smith, Thomas Pitilli & Ryan Jampole
Colors: Matt Herms, Glenn Whitmore & Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letters: Jack Morelli
Cover artists: Thomas Pitilli, Cory Smith & Wilfredo Torres
Editors: Mike Pellerito & Jamie Lee Rotante
Publisher: Archie Comics
Price: $4.99 US

I realize this one-shot was released just in April of this year, and I didn’t actually get it at a flea market. No, I got this for a song at my local comic shop, because like many businesses at this time of year, it’s blowing out a lot of stock at deep discounts. And I’m pleased it did, as the $5 price point for an anthology comic featuring a previously one-dimensional supporting character is definitely a deterrent. That’s too bad, because of the three short stories offered here, one is particularly strong and another is heartening and positive in its messaging. Unfortunately, none of this fare struck me as meriting publication in an expensive one-shot. I was left wondering if this material was originally intended for use as backup stories in some of the other revamped Archie titles. Regardless, I’m glad I got a chance to read these stories, but I’m relieved I didn’t have to plunk down the big bucks to do so.

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Failing to Live up to Its Title

Superb Volume 1 trade paperback
“Life After the Fallout”
Writers: David F. Walker & Sheena C. Howard
Pencils: Ray-Anthony Height, Alitha Martinez & Eric Battle
Inks: Lebeau L. Underwood, Alitha Martinez, Eric Battle, Robin Riggs & Ray-Anthony Height
Colors: Chris Sotomayor & Veronica Gandini
“The Event”
Writers: Priest & Joseph Illidge
Artists: Marco Turini & Will Rosado
Colors: Jessica Kholinne
Letters: Andworld Design
Cover artist: Ray-Anthony Height
Editor: Joseph Illidge
Publisher: Lion Forge
Price: $14.99 US

I rather enjoyed the first Lion Forge book I sampled — Noble Vol. 1 — so I looked forward to delving into another collection of the relatively new publisher’s offerings. I didn’t do any reading about Superb before perusing its pages, which is too bad, as I might have enjoyed it a little more. As I made my way through the book, I thought I was getting some fairly typical super-hero genre fare. I was reminded of X-Men elements as well as some New Universe comics from the 1980s. I didn’t get a sense that I was finding anything new here at all. I was well into the book when I realized one of the main protagonists was unlike other super-powered teen heroes. Some missteps — from a script that was too subtle to exaggerated artwork that hid the hero’s disability — made this book seem ordinary when it could have stood out as something more. Ultimately, the inclusive and sensitive message at the heart of this book lives up to the book’s title, but the execution does not.

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Flea Market Finds: M.O.D.O.K. Assassin

M.O.D.O.K. Assassin #s 1 & 2
Writer: Christopher Yost
Pencils: Amilcar Pinna
Inks: Amilcar Pinna, Terry Pallot & Ed Tadeo
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Travis Lanham
Cover artists: David Lafuente (regular)/Gabriel Hernandez Walta & Christian Wars (variants)
Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US each

My latest perusal of a deep-discount bundle from my local comic shop takes us back again to the 2015 “Secret Wars” event, in which Marvel offered up a litany of alt-reality worlds and interpretations of its characters. M.O.D.O.K., thanks to his unusual and striking design, is a popular Marvel villain among many fans, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise that one of these limited series might focus on him. I really wasn’t expecting much from these two comics; after all, comics spotlighting villains can be a challenge, as the reader rarely has someone for whom s/he can cheer. But writer Christopher Yost, best known for his animation scripts but no stranger to comics, delivers a wonderfully fun concept that makes the most of the temporary, anything-can-happen premise of the patchwork Battleworld that serves as the backdrop for all of these “Secret Wars” spinoff titles. The bargain bundle that contained these comics only included the first two issues of the run. I was surprised to find there are three more episodes to the title (the story seems like a four-partner would have been plenty), but I’ll be keeping an eye out for those other chapters, given how entertaining the first was.

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Quick Critiques – Dec. 24, 2017

Curse Words Holiday Special #1 (Image Comics)
by Charles Soule & Mike Norton

After the fun I had reading Hellboy: Krampusnacht, I thought I’d delve into another holiday-themed comic for amusement, and the Curse Words Holiday Special popped up on my radar. Now, while I haven’t read any issues from the regular series, I figured this would be an accessible gateway into the property. It turns out it was and it wasn’t. While the premise here is clear enough — a dark, fantasy future is ruled over by a powerful magical entity and his wizard minions — this one-shot doesn’t give one a sense of what the regular title is all about. As such, this comic is low on plot and therefore has to focus on the oddball, villainous characters that populate this psychedelic future. Soule succeeds in conveying the characters’ corrupt and twisted nature — which means there’s really no figure in this book for which the reader can cheer. Everyone is so… off-putting. It’s like the book is is a DayGlo, candy-coated convention of ugliness. Soule’s distortions of holiday traditions for this weird world are creative and colorful, but several of them are rather… well, gross. And that’s the point, I know; it just wasn’t my thing.

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O Unholy Night

Hellboy: Krampusnacht one-shot
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist/Colors: Adam Hughes
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artists: Adam Hughes (regular)/Mike Mignola (variant)
Editors: Scott Allie & Kath O’Brien
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I’m a bit of a “bah, humbug” kind of guy at this time of year. It’s not that I want to be, but I find the holidays brings so much pressure into everyone’s lives, the notion of an actual holiday seems to be the first thing that’s sacrificed. Of course, I’ve been a dad for a few years now, so my heart occasionally grows three sizes, usually just in time for Christmas morning. Despite my Scrooge-like demeanor at times (or perhaps because of it), this Christmas-themed Hellboy one-shot grabbed my eye on my local comic shop’s shelves this week, and I had to have it. The immersion of holiday tradition and spirit in the horror genre played right into my cynical perspective on the yuletide. The story is just the kind of perfect gothic and monstrous yarn we’ve come to expect from Mike Mignola, but what’s unique about this story is the illustration. Adam Hughes is a beloved figure in mainstream comics, but he delivers an unexpected twist on his usual style.

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