Monthly Archives: April 2018

He’s Like Michael Jackson, but More Nihilistic

Avengers | Infinity War
Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Shaw, Dania Gurira, Letitia Wright, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff & Tom Vaughan-Lawlor
Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Studio: Marvel Studios
Rating: PG-13

Fear not, for I’m endeavouring to omit spoilers (to the best of my ability).

Avengers: Infinity War is epic, it’s funny and it’s surprisingly well balanced, given all of the moving parts included from 10 years of flicks from Marvel Studios. It’s a good movie — not a great one, but a good one — and the real reason for that isn’t the iconic nature of the characters or actors, the action, the jokes or the effects. The reason is the writing, and specifically, the skeleton that holds the parts of this pop-culture Frankenstein monster together. The underlying theme here — one of sacrifice — recurs throughout the movie, even for Thanos, and it belies a thoughtfulness that was prioritized ahead of action and goofiness and sheer coolness.

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Credit Report

When it comes to other-media adaptations of notable (and more obscure) Marvel and DC characters, there’s a growing push toward providing creator credits with such movies and television shows. Marvel’s movie and television arms seem to have settled on an opening credit of “Based on the comics by XX and YY,” generally referring to the writer and penciller who worked on a titular character’s first appearance, with a “special thanks to…” closing credit for creators whose characters and/or stories were included or mined to construct the filmed fare. Those credits, while a positive step forward, nevertheless still fall short, given their non-specificity (and one could easily argue a real acknowledgement of such past creative efforts should come in a monetary form).

When it comes to DC Comics characters on the big and small screens, character-creation credits have definitely gone a bit further. The list of comics creator credits showing up in the closing credits of DC films, live-action TV shows and animated productions has been growing steadily in recent years. I recently watched the direct-to-video Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay animated movie, and I was struck by the creators listed in the closing credits, giving a nod to those who conceived of and introduced a dozen characters in DC (and even Charlton) comics in years past.

Though initially impressed by these acknowledgements, I quickly realized it was sadly lacking as well.

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Reaction Re: Action

Action Comics #1000
Writers: Dan Jurgens, Peter J. Tomasi, Marv Wolfman, Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, Scott Snyder, Tom King, Louise Simonson, Paul Dini, Brad Meltzer & Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund; Patrick Gleason; Curt Swan, Butch Guice & Kurt Schaffenberger; Olivier Coipel; Rafael Albuquerque; Clay Mann; Jerry Ordway; Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez & Kevin Nowlan; John Cassaday; and Jim Lee & Scott Williams
Colors: Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, Dave McCaig, Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Laura Martin & Alex Sinclair
Letters: Rob Leigh, Tom Napolitano, Nick Napolitano, John Workman, Carlos M. Mangual, Josh Reed, Chris Eliopoulos & Cory Petit
Cover artists: Jim Lee & Scott Williams (regular)/Steve Rude, Michael Cho, Dave Gibbons, Michael Allred, Jim Steranko, Joshua Middleton, Dan Jurgens & Kevin Nowlan, and Lee Bermejo
Editor: Paul Kaminski & Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $7.99 US

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Gravity Fails

Skyward #1
“My Low-G Life, Part One”
Writer: Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colors: Antonio Fabela
Letters: Simon Bowland
Editor: Rick Lopez Jr.
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Normally, it’s characterization that makes or breaks a comic-book title for me. If I can relate to the characters, if they really feel like they live and breathe beyond the two-dimensional confines of the page, that’s often what resonates with me. Skyward offers some strong characterization, but with this first issue, it’s the premise that grabs the reader’s attention. The notion of a world that loses its gravity is presented as both a horrific tragedy and a heaven-sent miracle, and both perspectives are true. What makes this presentation of such an immense idea work, though, is how focused it is. Writer Joe Henderson takes us into just one small corner of a world without gravity, with a small cast of characters — which just happens to include a pivotal player in the story.

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Superman Isn’t the Only Action Hero

The comics industry — at least the one in North America — achieves a significant milestone this week with the release of Action Comics #1000. It’s not just that it’s the first title in this marketplace to achieve that long a run, but it’s also because of what that title represents. Action Comics #1 in 1938 introduced Superman and spawned an entire genre of fiction, one that now dominates pop culture. Sure, Superman wasn’t necessarily the first costumed hero — there were others in the pulps before him — but the Man of Steel resonated with an audience in a way no other adventure hero had before.

But as we celebrate this moment 80 years in the making, it’s worthy to note Superman didn’t lead us on this cultural journey alone. Action Comics #1 also introduced Zatara the Magician, and that character’s legacy lives on in Zatanna, who’s broken through in pop culture as well, albeit to a lesser degree than Superman. Other characters joined them in the initial anthology issue: Chuck Dawson; Pep Morgan; Sticky-Mitt Stimson; Scoop Scanlon, five-star reporter; and Tex Thomson (later Mr. America and the Americommando) among them.

As I looked back on my four decades of memories of Action (half of its unprecedented run), it occurred to me my favorite stints weren’t linked exclusively to Superman stories, but rather to issues that included and involved a diverse array of DC characters.

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Discovering Treasures of Bronze

Used-book stores and flea markets were key for this small-town kid who loved comics and didn’t have access to a comic-book store until his high-school years. But even with a great local shop these days and the availability of just about anything a comic collector could want online, I still like to hit a flea market from time to time in search of treasures.

The problem I’ve encountered, though, is that many vendors at these markets and even at used-book stores are turning to price guides — both printed and online ones — to guide them in pricing comics. Often, they don’t know how to grade or interpret those guides — I saw one flea-market vendor offering a copy of Freedom Fighters #1 that looked as though it had been run through the wash for $10; it wasn’t worth a quarter, though I would’ve paid 50 cents to read that bit of comics history from 1976. Other vendors don’t completely understand the marketplace, such as those who feel Superman #75 from late 1992, featuring the “death” of the Man of Steel, should be worth big bucks, but they don’t understand just how many copies of the first printing are out there and how many other ways there are to read that story.

But once in a while, you happen upon a vendor at a flea market who knows what a flea market is about: haggling and clearing out stuff he or she doesn’t want lying around anymore. And this weekend, at the weekly Sunday flea market in a school gym, I happened upon just such a vendor. In addition to many non-comics related flea-market fare, he had a small stack of Bronze Age comics, all bagged and boarded, most with sticker prices ranging from $14 up to $40. Definitely pricier than what I was looking for, but the array of these 1970s and 1980s books were just so appealing.

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Pug Drunk Love

Domino #1
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: David Baldéon
Colors: Jesus Aburtov
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Greg Land (regular)/Elsa Charretier, David Baldéon, J. Scott Campbell and Rob Liefeld (variants)
Editor: Chris Robinson
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I was torn when it came to the decision to purchase this comic book. I’ve been a big fan of writer Gail Simone for years, but when it comes to Rob Liefeld creations such as Domino, I generally have zero interest in them (though some writers, such as Simone, have convinced me otherwise with runs on Deadpool in the past). A retailer friend raved about the first issue of Domino online Tuesday, so I decided to trust in his recommendation and my faith in Simone’s skills. While her trademark humor definitely offers some appeal here, the character’s original quality as an empty vessel, crafted only as a Kewl concept when she arose in the early 1990s, still appears to haunt the property. There’s a lot of fun action here, but little in the way of characterization.

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I Can’t Thrive at 55

The Season of the Snake #1
Writer: Serge Lehman
Artist: Jean-Marie Michaud
Translation: Edward Gauvin
Cover artists: Simon Roy and Jean-Marie Michaud
Editor: Lauren Bowes
Publisher: Titan Comics/Statix Press
Price: $6.99 US

I think North American comics enthusiasts need to be paying closer attention to Titan’s re-releases and translations of Euro-comics under its Statix Press imprint, because the UK-based publisher bringing some real gems to potentially wider audiences. Originally published in French as La Saison de la Couloevre in 2007, Season of the Snake is one such gem. Like many other European science-fiction comics, it’s immense in scope, meticulous in its level of detail and challenging in the breadth of the world-building. But what draws you in here is how grounded it is in the face of that other-worldly imagination.

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Justice Replayed Is Justice Replied

I’m looking forward to DC’s No Justice “event,” a series of four one-shots that will bridge the current Justice League series and a relaunched title, to be written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Jim Cheung. The No Justice one-shots will run weekly in May, and I’m always interested in weekly stories, and I’m a fan of several of the creators involved in them (such as Snyder and artists Francis Manapul and Marcos To).

Based on the promotional artwork, it appears the main Justice League team is fractured, and key members have formed their own squads. Included in those lineups are some unlikely members, including several Teen Titans and, oddly enough, some villains. Sure, No Justice isn’t shaping up to be particularly cerebral, but the unexpected array of characters do promise a lot of super-hero genre fun.

However, when I first heard of these No Justice comics, the weekly schedule and the promise of a fractured Justice League forming new teams, I was immediately struck by the fact that DC has travelled down a similar road in the past. Justice Leagues was one of DC’s “fifth-week events,” something it would do to fill out its publishing lineup in months that had five Wednesdays, or five days in which new comics shipped to direct-market comic-book stores. That story, published in 2001, also featured a divided League forming alternate versions of the title team.

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Fire Starter

The Curse of Brimstone #1
“Inferno, Part 1”
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist/Cover artist: Philip Tan
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Wes Abbott
Editor: Jessica Chen
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

With this new creation, writer Justin Jordan and artist Philip Tan delve into a socio-political reality of rural life in America and beyond, but surprisingly, this comic book, at least so far, isn’t all that political from a partisan perspective. This script is going to speak to a lot of people. While I live and work in an urban area, the Canadian province in which I live is suffering from population decline and a struggling economy. While I don’t find myself in dire straits like the characters in this story, it’s incredibly easy to connect with the despair tempered with hope for change. The socio-economic ideas Jordan explores here are important ones, and not something one typically finds in mainstream super-hero comics, so the first chapter of The Curse of Brimstone was a refreshing change of pace in that regard. What hampers it somewhere, though, is the over-declaration of the plight of the backdrop and insufficient information on the real premise that emerges at the end of the issue.

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Haller Back, Girl

Legion Season 2 premiere
“Chapter 9”
Actors: Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Jermaine Clement, Hamish Linklater, Jeremie Harris, Jean Smart, Amber Midthunder & Jon Hamm
Director: Tim Mielants
Writers: Noah Hawley & Nathaniel Halpern
Producers: FX Productions/Marvel Television

If one hadn’t watched the first eight-episode season of Legion on FX last year, this continuation would likely have been quite impenetrable, mainly because the backgrounds and abilities of the supporting characters aren’t explained at all. If one found the first season of this show to be too bizarre or surreal, well, the second season is off to an even weirder start. That all being said, the launch of Legion Season 2 was riveting, challenging and occasionally quite amusing. My wife was in the room for a few minutes and was quite put off by the unconventional visuals and tone of the show, but then, she can’t even handle the commercials for this series. Me, I was entranced.

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Causes of Death

Warner Bros. Animation has announced its next direct-to-movie film will be The Death of Superman, an adaptation of the classic comic-book story from late 1992 that saw the Man of Steel “killed” by the monstrous Doomsday. The followup will be an adaptation of the “Reign of the Supermen” storyline, which saw four replacement Supermen arise and the “real” Man of Tomorrow restored to life.

In a genre in which super-hero deaths were commonplace and quickly reversed, it was nevertheless historic. While comics are much more mainstream today, in 1992, they were still maligned black sheep of pop culture, but despite that, the notion of Superman’s death captured the imaginations of people all over the globe, sending droves of people, those interested in comics and those who weren’t, in droves to comic shops. Some were curious, some were speculating, but it was undeniably a cultural phenomenon.

As such, it makes sense Warner Bros. would eye those storylines for other-media adaptation. There’s just one problem: it’s already done it.

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