My New Year's resolutions aren't great and I've sort of failed on a good chunk of them, but one I'm going to keep sticking by is participating in Robot 6's What Are You Reading. Every week on Sunday, we post a few words on what the gang has been reading (just like the name of this cartoon!) and I've been pretty good about it... but this week I didn't send anything in. Mostly, because I haven't been reading much.
I've been watching.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is phenomenal. Just phenomenal! What started out at a peek into 'brony' culture (more on that later) has turned into a full-on binge of cartoons, silly songs and life lessons revealed via brightly colored horses. The characters are remarkably self-aware that they indeed are pony that live like people and there's plenty of wink-winks to the audience to let viewers of all ages in on the jokes. The ponies avoid the terrible stereotype trappings that "girls' cartoons" can fall under and are more characterized by positive personality traits that "the one who likes shopping" or, as Margaret Cho would put it: "the smart one, the pretty one, and then there's the ho". The life lessons learned aren't just 'sharing is caring' but 'there are things you can't explain, but you can choose to believe in them' or 'take pride in your talents, even if they're not the ones you would choose for yourself'.
Yeah, the songs are earworm catchy and the pony's names can be ridiculous to say outloud ('achem, it's Twilight SPARKLE, not just Twilight!'), but that's because this is a cartoon. Admit that, and you'll sing right along.
I missed the pony gene when I was young. Never liked horses, never wanted to draw them or ride them or brush their manes. Other girls around me hit that pony craze, but I just kept drawing Orko or Garfield. I never owned a My Little Pony, so I didn't even have that nostalgia adoration when I sat down to catch a couple episodes of this new show. It would have come and gone in my pop culture vernacular if it wasn't for two things: Lauren Faust and Bronies.
Lauren Faust (and her husband, Craig McCracken) have cartoons like the Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends behind their name, so I took to them with instant credibility. In a recent Ms Magazine article, a writer had put out an opinion about the show, focusing on strange negative traits like 'racism' and 'phallic' in an op/ed column. Lauren Faust went right to the online mag and sent them a rebuttal and explained not just her answer to those negative points, but all the positive ones she wanted to infuse in a marketing tool for plastic horses.
The messages I’m really trying to get across with the show are these:
* There are lots of different ways to be a girl. You can be sweet and shy, or bold and physical. You can be silly and friendly, or reserved and studious. You can be strong and hard working, or artistic and beautiful. This show is wonderfully free of “token girl” syndrome, so there is no pressure to shove all the ideals of what we want our daughters to be into one package. There is a diversity of personalities, ambitions, talents, strengths and even flaws in our characters–it’s not an army of cookie-cutter nice-girls or cookie-cutter beauty queens like you see in most shows for girls. * Find out what makes you you. Follow your passions and ambitions, not what others expect of you. For instance, if you like sports don’t let someone’s suggestion that that is unfeminine stop you from doing what you love. Be considerate of others’ feelings, but not at the expense of your own goals and dreams. * You can be friends with people who are vastly different from you. And even though all friendships have their share of disagreements and moments when you don’t get along, that does not mean that your friendship has to end. * Cartoons for girls don’t have to be a puddle of smooshy, cutesy-wootsy, goody-two-shoeness. Girls like stories with real conflict; girls are smart enough to understand complex plots; girls aren’t as easily frightened as everyone seems to think. Girls are complex human beings, and they can be brave, strong, kind and independent–but they can also be uncertain, awkward, silly, arrogant or stubborn. They shouldn’t have to succumb to pressure to be perfect.
A recent Extra Credits video explained that strong female characters in video games come from either a focus on genetic or societal roles that women play, or simply a divorce of those concepts. We don't have to play Cooking Mama to play a game with a strong female character, but we should have a game that explores why it is we think women should be good at cooking. Sometimes, when your female characters exploring general concepts not particular to gender but to growing up, I think that brings in a bigger audience and can form a bonding point for both genders to draw from. Yeah, not all guys know what it's like to deal with the societal pressures of being thin and pretty and not all women feel like they can't show weakness to the public, but we all know what it's like to have a bully, feel jealous, or have the will to succeed. I like comics because justice and responsibility are universal truths.
Someone told me this morning that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic does well with girls 9-14 and men age 22-30. Yeah, I have no idea where he pulled such numbers, but even so, there is a large fan following of not just boys, but men. My Little Pony has a devout and incredible male fanbase times, sometimes referred to brilliantly as "bronies". 4Chan, dark heart of the internet's booger throwing bad boys, had something of a falling out from this cartoon and now has their own image board for all things My Little Pony. Memes are everywhere and are hilarious. Guys are trading plastic horses amongst each other and, most importantly, being better internet citizens. Over the weekend an amazing story was posted by a brony that had gone through a tremendously abusive childhood and, though a love of Rainbow Dash and a silly song, was not only able to express himself, but overcome a personal fear in a brave and healing way. Bronies came out of the woodwork to congratulate this achievement, admit the got a little teary eyed, and wished him the best. Lauren Faust herself posted to the image board to wish him well and everyone learned a little something about bravery, honestly and kindness.
Friendship is freakin' MAGIC.
I have not liked the new Wonder Woman that Straczynski started. I hate the costume, the tough street girl who can't remember her past, I even hate the 'brands people with the Ws on her fists' gag he brought in. It seems so forced as a draw for attention rather than a more natural story. "Like me! I'm hip, I'm street! This ain't your Grandma's Wonder Woman!!" So I never bothered to read it. Yeah, I looked through the big #600th issue, but I prefer to think of Diana Prince as she was portrayed in say, the Animated series or in Greg Rucka's run, rather than this trendy new version.
The problem is that I have this clear, concise image of how Wonder Woman should look and act in my head. Pop culture as a whole really doesn't. If you think of Batman and Superman, their origin stories come up really fast in the public consciousness. Everybody knows Batman's parents are dead or that Clark Kent was raised in Kansas (or at least just 'small town America')
But Wonder Woman? Well, she's a woman. Annnnnnnd she's an Amazon. Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd.... she just sort of showed up. Fans will know her mother is Hippolyta or that Steve Trevor crashed on Paradise Island, but that's not widely recognized as common Wonder Woman lore. Heck, I wouldn't think a lot of people could come up with Wonder Woman's secret identity before they thought of Clark Kent as Superman or Bruce Wayne as Batman. She is supposed to be in the top three characters for DC, their Trinity, but can Wonder Woman fly or does she have an Invisible Plane? Where do her powers come from? What city does she live in?
Fellow employee Jamie and I miraculously had the idea that she should try a run as a Vertigo title. After all, Wonder Woman has the entire Greek pantheon to play with, so why not let her stories take that sort of dreamy, mythological route? There could be a lot of weird and wild stories that could get some feminist underpinnings and play with her rather unusual history; a Vertigo-style Wonder Woman story would get mad play on NPR! But, since she's marketed towards kids, she won't appear in DC's more mature line of titles (darn, there goes my dream or a John Constantine lunch box!). Yeah, you could fudge it and if they really wanted to, DC can break their own rules (please see Zatanna and Animal Man), but it's not worth it to them.
David E. Kelly shopped around the idea of a Wonder Woman TV show and it seemed like a no-brainer. After all, she's a household superstar thanks to her old TV series and, with Smallville going off the air, DC should keep up a show to keep their foot in the door, so to speak. Why not Wonder Woman? Well, last night it finally got picked up by NBC and I read a short idea of what the show would be about:
The project is described as a reinvention of the iconic D.C. comic in which Wonder Woman -- aka Diana Prince -- is a vigilante crime fighter in L.A. but also a successful corporate executive and a modern woman trying to balance all of the elements of her extraordinary life.
That sounds... not at all like Wonder Woman. Where's the Amazon? With the corporate vigilante gig, she sounds more like Batman. Then, being a CEO and vigilante and just trying to make it in today's world, she actually sounds more like Barbie.
Barbie's had a tons of jobs since her creation. Sure, most of them are excuses to sell a new doll or outfit or playset, she's kind of been everything to every one: a girlish toy to a sexist tool to a sexy fashion show. Barbie can do anything, even if she's a little shallow on the inside. No one cares what Barbie's last name is (Roberts), they just want to know what she's wearing. Yeah, she got dumped Ken for a more California boyfriend (Blaine) a few years ago, but no one remembers that anymore than they do if she has a baby sister or an actual baby (Krissie is her youngest sister). She got married a thousand times but remains single and hip. No one asks Barbie to have a dramatic manifesto, they just want her. In a pink outfit. Preferably a ballerina.
Wonder Woman can be anything to anyone anywhere. She can try on different outfits and jobs and represent anything you want her to. In the end, she remains a strong woman who fights evil and wrong-doing. The rest is up to your imagination.
I had a Mom come in with a very little boy today and, after letting him tool around the store for awhile, she bought him a Transformers toy. He implored her and swore he'd been looking for this toy 'forever' and the Mom capitulated and a purchase was made.
I should have been warned when I noticed that she didn't really look at what this little boy had been picked up and declared the object of his affection. Sure, he told her he'd been looking for it forever, but he didn't really look much at the toy either. This isn't not a big deal; a lot of little kids get excited at the idea of getting a toy on a trip to the comic shop and, at the prospect of leaving empty handed, quickly beg their parents for something they grabbed randomly. Leaving with a toy that might be cool once you take it home is way better than going home without anything.
I'm not saying this is a great way to parent, I'm just saying it happens.
So not 15 minutes later does the Mom return, bored little boy in tow, and declare she has no idea how to put this toy together. Dude, it's a Transformer and I have all the sympathy in the world for a parent who can't figure these tricky buggers out. To this day as an adult I have a hard time with turning a car to a robot and back again without some serious sit-down time and the instructions. This sympathy engaged, I come over to help her try and work this one out. The little boy has already left his mother's side to go play with the other toys in store.
The Transformer is in two parts. I wince and carefully inspect the Bumblebee for any sign that it broke or came apart on them. I stare at limbs and bumpers and compare them to the diagram that came with the action figure. The Mom is totally uninterested. This is too complicated for her and for her son and she tells me that this is not the first time this has happened. "He'll want some toy, I'll buy it and it'll be will too difficult and then we'll just throw it away," she laments.
I grit my teeth a little harder. Okay, it's one thing to buy a Transformer and not know how to put the thing together, its another to be lazy. It's another to constantly buy your child things that he has only a superficial interest in and then foster this behavior on multiple purchases.
Today I had two parents turn down comics for their kids because they were 'too hard' for their children. Metro has a special section for Marvel Adventures, Tintin, Tiny Titans, Bone and their ilk so that parents don't panic when they see Punisher comics for sale. With just a question, anyone in the store is ready with suggestions for younger readers. But Batman: Brave and the Bold was put back. Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man was put back. If the child you're buying for is not at reading level yet, why not read the book to your kids and get them into reading from being interested and active in your kid's life?
I was reading when I was very young because my brother read me the novelization of the E.T. movie. My mom read me the Scrawny Tawny Lion. I listed to the Dark Crystal on Book-and-Tape. I had Transformers that wee complicated and my uncle showed me how to follow instructions so we could transform them together.
It's not the toy that's too hard. It's not the comics that are too advanced for your kids. It's YOU. Parenting is hard. For me, for them, for the love of God, please try harder.
So a couple weeks ago The Thanos Imperative came to a finale. Not just a end as storylines start and end every month as comics do every month, but a finale. Like we've watched something gripping and tragic and exciting that has finally come to a conclusion that makes me think that the musicians are going to put down their instruments and not play anymore.
It would be madness to do so because all of DnA's cosmic stories have been terriffic. Since I lost a bunch of stuff a couple years ago, I've been taking the best mental restock I can and Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest are on my list to not just get back, but reread a couple times. There is so much adventure packed into those arc, plus character devlopment of people I hadn't ever heard of before. Who knew I would get tear-eyed over Star Lord and Nova?
Spoliers are ahead, by the way, but it's been a few weeks since the comic came out and I feel more than content to start praise/burying Caesar. So if you're still out of stock at our LCS or haven't gotten into the Thanos Imperative, scroll down until you see Rocket Raccoon. Spoilers should be done by then.
Right! So the Thanos Imperative. While definitely epic in scope and grand in scheme and thought, I suppose I feel that I didn't get enough of a dessert for all the meat and potatoes we ate. I mean, from War of Kings (the Empire Strikes Back of the Cosmic Stories, total down ending), I'd been hoping for some sort of huge return for all the loss in War of Kings. The Shi'ar are in a wreck, the Kree still have the usurpers ruling over them, Ronan the Accuser is sort of a pussy cat now thanks to Crystal (how long before she cheats on him, any bets?), a great rift had opened up in space... something needed to happen. Vader had to make that face turn and get some peace in his last moments thanks to redemption. The rebels had to win with a sense of celebration. We needed to rebuild with a sense of the future, at harmony with the losses of our past.
Instead, two of the most human characters in the Cosmic side of the Universe are gone. Secret Avengers looks to lose a member as Nova and Star Lord (who has a Cosmic Cube with 'maybe a couple of charges left', who's to say they're not still out there?) are left to face the Mad Titan who's just been dumped by Death again. The Cthulhu-verse has been 'closed' and everyone sort of shrug their shoulders and carries on.
But that's not the end of the story! I can think of a couple plot holes that make me think that we'll be going right back to this if we could get the chance. Right now, there's just The Thanos Imperative: Devastation to look forward to and I suppose that yeah, they could line up an all new epic after all of this.
But how long are we going to have to wait? Past Cosmic epics have been practically back to back and had two ongoing series to tide the readers over. It doesn't look like Guardians of the Galaxy are coming back anytime soon and neither does Nova. We know Marvel wants to cut down the amount of product they put out, but why these guys? Deadpool is just one dude, the Guardians of the Galaxy represent an entire portion of the Marvel Universe and not just that, but a theme. That 'Star Wars' feel where science and the unknown meet in the middle for fantastic alien races and cultures counter to our own.
Again, this might all be useless by the next year and Marvel could just as easily bring them all back to the printed page. Heck, they said the Cancerverse would be hanging around, maybe we'll get a sort of Tales from the Darkside out of that corner of the universe. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I really liked Black Bolt and was sort of hoping that we'd have gotten him back by now. I don't know.
I've seen so much Cosmic joy that everything else seems sort of ... not as good. And the Thanos Imperative left me sort of looking out a big window into the vastness of a space with a woman that may or may not be my sister and two robots, all wondering just when space got so big that adventure couldn't be seen from the deck of your spaceship.
Wanda Maximoff is a Crazy Lady.
It's what we got to work with folks, because the slew of other traits that are tied to the character don't clatter as much as the tin can of Crazy Lady as the plot car drives away. Since Avengers: Disassembled, a lot of characters talk about Wanda in the third person while she wanders through the landscape, interacting with people only through a point of weakness (being crazy, having her memories taken, acting out to save her children) or as a pawn for her brother/father/Doom to use.
I'm not saying other characters haven't been just as mistreated. Carol Danvers was mind-controlled, impregnated and gave birth to a child who turned out to be the man she had been mind-controlled by in the first place. Rapidly aging to adulthood, the child now a man, Carol was still in love with him in a very uncomfortable creepy way and left the Avengers to go live with her lover/son/guy. That is messed up but how much do we talk about it? Wanda changes probability to work the impossible and has kids with the Vision, only to be told later that her sons weren't real and she nearly destroys the Avengers and changes the landscape of Marvel for quite some time now. Ms. Marvel has the benefit of being a character who looks good on posters I guess, because we like to sweep her messed up romance story under the rug. We read up on it, wince a little bit in terms of plotting and how creepy it all sounds, but let go of it.
Hank Pym KILLED A WOMAN the issue before he most famously hit his wife, but we let go of that too. He KILLED AN INNOCENT WOMAN. From the back. The Avengers were already going to kick him out, it was his terrible robot plan and the violence towards one of their own members that really nailed in his coffin. Since then, he's tried desperately to shake that evil deed. Quicksilver was the bi-polar villain for awhile; he flipped from villain to hero to villain a couple of times before he settled in with Crystal. He then, in a wildly out of character moment for someone who had been on such great terms with Attilan, started the Silent War through his actions of Son of M. We again needed to look at it as a thing that happened to him, not defined him like Carol's creepy pregnancy romance and Hank's violent streak.
Character traits are repeatable, not moments in one's life that defines them. If you go outside and rescue a cat from a tree, that doesn't make you heroic for the rest of your life. If you rescued the cat because you stashed the loot from a bank robbery in that tree and the cat was in your way, that's a character trait. You want your money and the action showed how you got it. If you make a profession out of rescuing cats from trees, then it's a character trait.
We like the phrase "Moments that define us" because it's easier to label people that way. But it's the plural that matters the most. These are MOMENTS, actions repeated to show continued intent. Wanda had gone mad before in the West Coast Avengers, but bringing it back years later after other continual actions that show her to be a good-hearted and rational person doesn't mean Crazy Lady is now her new modus operandi. That's a heel turn for plot's sake, one should should have been working her way back from instead of being left on the sidelines.
In regards to Avengers: the Children's Crusade, all I can say is that it's very slow. Bi-monthly isn'tdoing this book any favors because it's very deliberately paced to try and get a lot of character spotlights, most shone on Wiccan. If this was a Wiccan/Speed mini-series, I think I could let the other guys slip into the background but since it's the only way we'll hear of the Young Avengers, I read it with the intent of knowing a little more about what they're doing, thinking, or feeling. Because the book anptheis slower paced and so much time passes between issues, the details get lost and I remember Billy wants to find his crazy Mom who's used it yet another evil plot. Now, I fully admit that we're only barely into this limited series and the next issue could be a huge fake-out and Wanda might find some final redemption in there. But who wants to wait? All I have to judge the book is what's been written out so far and this is all stuff I want to let go of.
Let's talk about the Avengers, shell we? it's been a long time and I was looking at the cover of New Avengers #6 and while the picture didn't make much sense (wait, two of these guys aren't even Avengers!), I did indeed want to know who was going to die (though suspicions were high). But I still didn't want to read it. I have an attachment to the characters, but ...
Guys, I can't read the Avengers anymore. There just comes a time when the book is just not worth your time or energy that no matter what incredible announcement you've heard or great proclamation on the front cover says, I just don't want to wade through the actual text to get to the payoff. It's not worth it and it sure as hell isn't worth $3.99. I could read Ant-Man & Wasp #1 and not only enjoy the characters featured but enjoy the story and adventure as well. It's not that I don't care about the Avengers, I'll always still prefer them over the JLA any day of the week, I just don't want to hear Brian Michael Bendis' story style right now. I felt this way about the Incredible Hulk and I'm still getting over that break up. I can go back to the book now and see what's new, but I'm okay with not buying it or that the story isn't what I want it to be. The Avengers, on the other hand, have no excuse NOT to be awesome.
Looking at the cover, I so wanted someone to read the book for me and spoil the whole thing. Then I realized I had to do it.
New Avengers #6
Now, you'd think jumping on at #6 would be hard because it's right at the end of a story arc where the world is coming apart at the seams and a great and ancient power is coming to destroy everything. But it's not; quick history, folks: the Eye of Aggamotto, one of the Sorcerer Supreme's great artifacts, is trying to be retaken by The Aggamotto, guy the thing is named after. Doctor Voodoo, current Sorcerer Supreme, is not powerful enough to keep the artifact in his care and if it's not, then ... well, let's face it. The Sorcerer Supreme's JOB is to protect us and this universe from the Unknown, aka Magic Stuff. Aggamotto is magical and with his great Eye, we would not be protected.
So the guy that got the job of Sorcerer Supreme sends Wolverine, all juiced up with Magic and Wolvie and Aggamotto face off in a magical duel for the Eye.
Also, there are Avengers in this book.
Some astute readers might think this sounds a little ludicrous. You'd be right, but let's just stick to the book right now and complain about Bendis' view of what Avengers do in their own titles as well as what a Sorcerer Supreme does a little later. We start out #6 with Wolverine getting sent out to fight by Doctor Voodoo, current Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange, former Sorcerer Supreme and current trenchcoat aficionado, and Daimon Hellstrom, the coolest guest star. Really, why Marvel doesn't have a book about the life of the Son of Satan makes no sense. Demons could be the new vampires!
Wolverine gets sent to an Infinite Drawing Pad where Aggamotto can manifest himself as anything Immonen wants to draw, all while wielding spells. Wolverine still looks like himself and any chance to throw him off his game by appearing as loved ones or old foes is just shrugged off.
At one point in the duel, Aggamotto tries to clear this up for Wolvie: "Let us pretend this is a fight for your entire life and the lives of everyone you know. And I'll pretend this is a fight for the entirety of my existence and all I need to be real and true. Only then will either one of us feel good about what we need to do here." Yeah, Logan, let's pretend like we really care about this gratuitous fight scene and that it matters. Has the fight for survival against unstoppable odds really become so blasé?
What's everyone else doing? Glad you asked! They are 'spiritually supporting' Wolverine in his great pretend duel. That means they're sitting around in a circle and Spidey's making snarky comments because he's nervous. Victoria Hand, however, is not supporting Wolverine because she has a huge gun and is sneaking out the front door only to find a crowd of people. Now, since I am jumping in, I don't exactly know what building they are out in front of, but I think it's the Sanctum Sanctorum because that's where I would keep the Eye of Aggamotto. Either the Sanctum's gotten bigger than I last remembered it. And certainly a lot more battle damaged; I don't think Aggamotto came politely knocking.
So she goes outside, sees the big crowd and then sees that the heavens are cracking open. Cut back to the Inifinite Drawing Pad duel and now Brother Voodoo's brother isn't going to take this anymore.
Quick note: Brother Voodoo is perfectly named. Yes, I know he's a Doctor and when he got the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme he started going by Doctor Voodoo, but his original name is too good to let go of. He's a guy who, not only does Voodoo, but he has a dead brother who follows him as a spirit and helps/hinders him in his adventures. There's an actual brother. That's awesome.
So, Brother Voodoo's brother, Daniel, still a spirit, takes action. Wanting to defend his brother from Aggamotto, he jumps into the duel and Aggamotto declares the battle to be forfeit. Brother Voodoo, knowing his brother would be destroyed by the powerful magical being, not to mention knowing he really should have manned up and taken this fight himself, also jumps in, taking the Eye and using it to get in front of Aggamotto. With the ever-popular big white light (really, retire this artistic device, please?), Brother Voodoo uses the Eye to banish Aggamotto for all time and vaporizes himself in the process.
Wolverine comes back to this plane of existence, wondering if he's won.
Doctor Strange reports that we no longer have a Sorcerer Supreme and the Eye of Aggamotto is gone. Daniel Drumm, having witnessed his brother's sacrifice, is pretty pissed off and jumps into Luke Cage to express his anger at the Avengers for the part they played in his brother's death. Swearing to make them pay, he leaves Cage and Daimon Hellstrom goes out to tell Hand and the crowd outside that the Avengers saved the day, so they all better appreciate it.
And you know what? I don't. Not one bit. The Avengers, as far as I know, didn't do anything but spiritually support Wolverine and feel the damage he took. Brother Voodoo, a character brought out of the minors and into the Big Leagues by the New Avengers titles and taken him right back out of the game and this great new team didn't do much but buy him time to make a great sacrifice.
Let's pretend this book had more of an impact on the Marvel Universe than building Doctor Strange back into his old job. Let's pretend that this death will have a longer lasting repercussion on the world and maybe then we might feel better about what we read and spent time on.
New Avengers #6, all you need to know is that Brother Voodoo is dead and so a job opened up for Sorcerer Supreme.
I'm kind of starting to enjoy these quick bits of furious webcam-ing. This is really what I do on my ten minute break at work if I'm not hungry or aren't reading anything. I set up (harder than it looks as the video is so dark), record, check levels, edit as much as I can with Windows Movie Maker and then head back out to sell more books. It's kind of fun and gets me thinking again. If there are at all entertaining, keep telling me and I'll keep filming bad videos from the stockroom.
Okay, so it's one thing to overhype your stuff to the tried and true fans; by this point, we should expect every issue of every comic that rolls off the Marvel assembly lines to fundamentally change our lives and bring peace to the Middle East. No, let's not get into whether or not the issues actually deliver, let's stick with where our expectations should be. Marvel should make it sound like every character will be the axis of their universe because somewhere, out there, that character is to that loyal fan. All their books should crack the internet in half and cause a mad rush to the stores to but every copy and then some. We're fans. We already love your product. Marvel's job is to make us love them more.
The common media needs to be reminded that comics still exist and that they're pretty nifty and cheap entertainment. Honestly, that's it.
Anything more is either going to get confusing and be a waste of time, yours and theirs. I remember watching Joe Quesada on the Colbert Report when Secret Invasion was coming out and asking myself, "Why is he finishing a rather fantastic interview having to explain what Skrulls are?" Seriously, watch 'till about the 4min mark and then imagine the viewer's brain just start translating Quesada's voice into a Charlie Brown schoolteacher. Not even the easy visual gag of seeing Obama or McCain morph into Skrull heads doesn't save the obvious and uninteresting plug. It starts out great, don't get me wrong: using Colbert to tell people who the new Cap was going to be and when the issue came out made it easy to understand and relatable. Telling him that he was still in the Presidential running in the Marvel Universe had the right effect: I remember people coming into the shop to ask if that was true and to pick up at least a Spidey issue to check it out. None of those guys asked for Secret Invasion.
So when Marvel promised 'Civil War-like' promotion of Captain America #600, some of us were already sitting down. Mind you, it could have been mind-blowing: new Cap could have shook hands with President Obama and indeed, the internet might have cracked, just a little. No advance idea of what the book was going to be about or why we should start hyperventilating now, retailers were once again caught with the Lady or the Tiger. Order a bunch and be left with stacks of comics that don't move or order too few and miss that frensied fevor when it turns out to be something huge. We make the orders, hold our breath and...
... wait, that's it? Steve Rogers' return is 'Civil War like'? NO! It's the first thing we all thought and I mean all, fans and non-fans. Yeah, the rubes fell for Superman's death, but fool me once, shame on you. Everyone and their mom knew Rogers was coming back, it's a freakin' comic book trope! You've got to be kidding me that this is what all of that was for! Not only that, it's promotion for the start of a story. Not the result. Not the first appearance. The beginning of a comitment to read this sucker until you get the payoff you expected before the issue came out.
Don't get me wrong, Ed Brubaker has been writing the most consistantly amazing Captain America stories I have ever read. The sun will rise and set and Captain America will entertain and delight you, even if it's just Bucky having a birthday. When I got a chance to breathe the same air as Mr. Brubaker last February at WonderCon, he was as giddy as a schoolgirl when he mentioned that July was going to be huge for Cap. A schoolgirl, people. Don't try and get the image of Ed Brubaker in pigtails out of your head, just know that I'm deadly serious about trusting him with this very obvious story.
But that's me. I'm a fan. I'm already sold and this is just trying to be the cherry on top of my awesome Cap sundae. For the average man on the street, hearing that the start of a story will be coming out on a Monday ("You mean they still make comics?") bringing back a character from the dead becomes a joke on NPR.
Lemme show you how it's done: this Saturday, June 20th, at 10am, I am returning from the dead.
I'm serious. Go to Metro Entertainment this Saturday and see Yours Truly sell you a goddamned comic again because I've finally got the Doctor's OK to go back to work.
That, my friends, is a payoff.
And God granted us Dan Slott.
The Baltimore Comic-Con revealed to us the way and the light by announcing DAN SLOTT was going to be taking over writing chores on the Mighty Avengers, the finest Avengers news I've heard in a great long while. Let me explain:
Originally, Mighty Avengers was supposed to be the 'real' Avengers book. Widescreen action with Earth's Mightiest Heroes, as opposed to Earth's Most Popular Heroes over in New Avengers. There was supposed to be a difference in action and adventure in the two books and from it's first yelling-screaming cover, I had a front row seat for action action ACTION!!!
And then they fought girl Ultron, a Venom Bomb, and Doctor Doom. Then Secret Invasion hit.
I know I'm not the only one who wasn't really 'feelin' it'. Despite throwing three rather unique looks at three very popular Marvel villains, Doom being quite possibly the Mother of All Villainy and Awesomeness in the MU at the moment, I still don't feel like these Avengers have really accomplished anything. The girl Ultron story took far too long with a threat they've faced time and time again (and honestly, was better used in Annhilation: Conquest), the Venom Bomb was strangely handled too quickly when you think about it (I mean, Venom's still plagued by his symbiote after how many years and they all clear up a city-wide infection in a few issues) and then the rather bland Doctor Doom appearance... I'm not feelin' it. I've seen the characters done better in other books. I've seen balls-to-the-wall action done better in other books. The real Avengers story wasn't brought to the table.
Over in Avengers: the Initiative, we've gotten a great look at a very clear cast with a very clear objective: train to be superheroes. There is a tremedous cast of characters here, all of whom have gotten some measure of time in the spotlight. The action is there, there's been some mystery given to us in small doses and the overall theme of the book has been pretty solid and fun to follow. They had one of the best tie-ins to World War Hulk thanks to how easy it was to fold in the overarching plot with the book's own purpose. The had the added benefit of being 'B-Listers' so to speak and could go out, fight evil, get affected by it and create a good story as opposed to that one issue of Iron Man during World War Hulk that had Tony Stark on the ropes and in a dire situation and then promptly put him back to normal the issue after.
Dan Slott has done such a remarkable job with Avengers: the Initiative that it only makes sense that they would give him the big boys to play with. From the interview given above it seems as if his stylings on the book won't differ that much from how well he was doing on Avengers: the Initiative, except to make it more awesome.
My hopes are high.
I didn't always, but I really like the Authority.
I'm sure somewhere Warren Ellis has said it smarter or better or not even this at all (seriously, YOU try and predict that man!) but it's kind of the logical extension of the Justice League. If people as powerful as Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman just hung around and waited for the Justice Phone to ring or worried about when Lex Luthor ot that Star Alien Doodad were going to rear their ugly head, it seems sort of a waste doesn't it? We get a lot of superheroes leading 'normal lives' or ponying up to charity work between punching evil in the face, but what would happen if they just stopped and devoted themselves to 24-hour, 365 day-a-year ass whuppin'? If they became THE AUTHORITY (just like the name of this cartoon!) of the planet? Are these people up for it? What kind of world would they make? How on Earth would you oppose people in a hgh-tech flying fortress just waiting for your ass to step out of line?
It's brilliant and from this idea have come some very awesome stories (and some stinkers, but hey, such is comics). The heart of the matter is there and I'll always sneak a look at what's got their name on it this week to see if they're talking about the theme I really like. Sometimes the Authority will show up in a crossover and just stand around long enough to have a little yellow box with their name hover next to them and sometimes their latest volume is dropped like it's hot from two people you think would do really well with the theme (everyone thank Grant Morrison and Gene Ha, kids.), but on the whole, I'm waiting for them to get back to their overseeing roots. To see what happens when the world's most powerful people regulate.
Authority: World's End #1 caught my eye as Number of the Beast and DreamWar and whatever else Wildstorm is doing did not: it had their name on the book and the characters on the cover. Woo! Imagine my surprise to find out that the Carrier had crashed and the world was under a general apocalypse! Man, where had I been? Now, over on Funnybook Babylon, the crew there had seemed to take some issue with the rather cliched idea of surviving the world when it done gone bad and how boring the idea of post-apocalytic worlds are these days and how much they really didn't like the characters so it really did nothing for them.
I think this is freakin' BRILLIANT.
Remember that thematic element I like so much? The idea of Earth's Mightiest being exactly what it says on the cover of the book and really being the 400 lb gorilla of evil foiling? The way the Authority was set up, it seemed impossible for these guys to lose. They were there to keep the peace and they had just the orbital canons to do it and now...
They failed. Not only did they fail, but they are mere shadows of who they used to be. The team is personally broken down in a far more elegant way than they had been before. This is not humiliation, this is a job undone. This is not the finer world they wanted and now they have to live with this defeat. Already, I'm interested in not only the larger post-apocalyptic theme at work, but how the characters are personally surviving it. Sure, the setting is cliched and we really have seen it done a tousand times before but not with these guys and each member of the Authority is going to handle it in a different way.
Take Midnighter (because he kicks ass): in #3 he sets out to go stop the big bad and his cronies from ruining their rescue efforts and he does it the only way he knows how: violence! A beatdown commences that can never be finished as apparently, our Bad Guy this evening can't be killed. Or at least, can't be killed in a way that the Midnighter can compute. All the times evil's reared its ugly head, the Midnighter has been able to ball up his fist and strike it in the face time and time again for the fastest results and now? Violence is not the answer. The Bad Guy tells him that if he'd just asked, he would have left their rescue efforts alone anyways which, while maybe not the whole truth, presents an interesting look at how this new world works. it works in a way that the Authority aren't really known for. The idea that they could have used diplomacy in order to get their way isn't a factor for the world's most powerful people and let's face it: the Authority isn't really known for it's pulse-pounding talking action.
I got a good feeling about this new start, so let's hope they keep on making it.