snap judgments no, really, there are some comics you really should read

25Sep/083

An Open Letter to Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente

Dear Sirs,

When you first took over writing chores on the Incredible Hercules, I was rather upset and might have said some rather harsh words regarding your 'hijacking' of one of my favorite titles.  I didn't think it was fair the the title character of the book formerly known as Incredible Hulk got kicked off his own main book and a bit player from World War Hulk was getting his place.  I was upset, World War Hulk had kind of bummed me out and again, I took this out on your book, vowing never to read it until Hulk and/or Banner once graced the interiors.

I would like to apologize for this knee-jerk fandignant reaction because Incredible Hercules FREAKIN' RULES.

WOW.  On a whim, I started reading it for Secret Invasion tie-in and my jaw has dropped with the amount of action you deliver, the amount of depth of character you create and how wonderfully told these tales are.  It's a rare sight indeed these days to see both bodacious battles, humor and a little life lesson thrown in for good measure in comics in just the right way and you both have knocked it out of the park in every issue I've had the pleasure of reading.  These feel like old stories from Marvel's finest age, wherein mortals could mix with gods, go on an adventure and come back better people for it.  From the use of mythology to the casual heroism of Our Hero and how much that all reflects on the cast.  These are serious stories told in a non-serious fashion that leave excited for the next issue while satisfied with the results of what we've just read.  While he wasn't a character I thought I would have believed in and quite frankly was frustratingly annoyed by at the start, slowly and surely, I'm coming around towards Amadeus Cho, a truly exceptional feat.

In penance, I have purchased the first trade (while it was in hardcover, no less!) and I am proud to say you guys write the best Ares since Oeming gave the character some weight in the God of War mini-series.  The epic battle to go defeat the Skrull Gods (an incredible mythology in and of itself!) is hands down the finest story to come out of Secret invasion yet and I only wish that the other books would take a moment to acknowledge the great job that was done there.  You both have really made a huge impact on the big event at large and, as a retailer, I've been telling everyone who comes to the counter where the real action is.

So thank you, sorry for not trusting your book at the start and I look forward to what you have in store for the future.

Signed,

~Carla

25Sep/080

All You Need to Know – New Avengers #45

Hey, did you read House of M?

It was an 8 issue comic series back in 2005 that led to the Decimation of the oodles of random mutants that had cropped up over the years in the Marvel Universe.  A population control problem, it cut down all the X-Men to all the ones everyone liked (which... yeah, that's not true because as long as they appeared in a comic, all mutants are someone's favorite) and ... pretty much took care of the X-Universe exclusively.  The more important thing was that it was Bendis's first shot at the Big Event Book and, almost as an anniversary gift, Bendis gives us it AGAIN after three years.

HOORAH!

This is, of course, a retelling of that fateful mini through the eyes of Spider-Woman Skrull and Hank Pym Skrull (making me really want to go back and read the HoM: Iron Man mini to see if this all really does fit in or Bendis is just name-checking his own books).  These two were totally going to go kill the Scarlet Witch, but they didn't.

And that's $2.99 and 28 pages, folks!  G'NIGHT!

Filed under: Marvel, reviews No Comments
4Sep/083

All You Need to Know – New Avengers #44

A customer came in with a handy little heft of Marvel books and he wasn't sure on New Avengers.  Issues had been hit and miss with him and I properly bit my tongue and tried to sell the book as the Secret History of the Secret Invasion.  The customer perked up as Secret Invasion was awesome in his eyes especially the part where they "shot the hell out of Reed Richards".

I proudly sold him a copy of New Avengers #44, knowing he would be satisfied.

In this issue, the Skrulls are working on a project in which (and I'm nto joking) they are CLONING various Marvel heroes in order to learn their secrets.  That's right: clones.  The first part is a big long talk with the Illuminati as they catch on ahead of time about the ways the Skrulls would backlash against them.  In fact they catch on so quick that Black Bolt makes a run for the door only to get shot up by the Skrulls who'd been watching their puppets dance for the intel.  This intel being that one final clue that will help the Skrulls go undetected amongst... well, who are we kidding?  Amongst the Fantastic Four and the incredible genius of Reed Richards.

So, their plan is to CLONE REED RICHARDS and keep putting the clone in situations where he'd willingly give up that information.  They put him in league with his Illuminati buddies, they torture him and his wife and kid, it's... it's actually kind of gruesome.  Personally, I find it just as distateful as the whole Tigra getting the crap kicked out of her in her underwear thing because, storywise, it isn't necessary and is brutality for brutality's sake and shock value.

Out of all the ways that the Skrulls could have learned how to hide themselves from the genius of Reed Richards, this is the way they go about it?  Repeatedly cloning a copy until it did naturally what they wanted it to?  Doesn't that seem a little wasteful?  Couldn't they have figured it out on their own, out of sheer desperation?  Why not have religious aspect factor in, something about believe in His Love or an ancient writ come to the fore with secret knowledge?  Hell, they just got through an Annihilation wave, who's to say they couldn't have scavenged the tech out of some other destroyed culture.  In fact, that'd have been kind of cool:  bit space battle showing the Skrulls triumphant and raiding weaker races for their information and technology, absorbing it into their own.  They could have even shown a successful 'mini Invasion' of some other schmoe race to give us even the barest hint of a chance that this Secret Invasion could have been a success.

So they torture and they test a variety of Clone Reeds until they finally get the math problem that will allow them the key to Invading.  They get it by having his son ask precocious little questions in bed with the wife on some lazy morning until the idea strikes him.  Then they shoot him in the head and declare war.

All you really need to know out of this issue is that the key to the Invasion and being undetected was discovered through Reed's brain and so the Real Reed could probably reverse-engineer it.

Oh, and Skrulls got clones.

Filed under: Marvel, reviews 3 Comments
4Sep/083

All You Need to Know – Mighty Avengers #17

The new issue of Wizard that comes out today promises on the cover to have Bendis reveal all about the Avengers, or at least what sounds like yet another iteration of the team that seems to have at least Cap, Iron Man and Thor in it that's going to come out of Secret Invasion.  Dear Readers, I may just pick that up, but only in the name of investigation.

Really, he can only go up from here; both Mighty and New Avengers teams haven't exactly inspired any confidence in me.  it took them just three issues to Disassemble and here we are in issue #5 of Secret Invasion and with all these heroes around only now are we swearing REVENGE and Earth's Mightiest Heroes are gearing up to jump into the same fight in New York City we;ve seen from several different angles by now.

Annnnyhoo....  Mighty Avengers.  Remember Hank Pym's a Skrull, right?  Here, we get to see a little bit of his more 'human' side to speak as he's getting cold feet on this whole Invasion business.  Dum Dum Dugan (also a Skrull) sits down with him in a diner in apparently the Middle of Nowhere Forest and tries to talk sense into him.  Pym thinks it's too dangerous and the variables too big to really launch the Invasion right without some serious resistance, Dugan reminds him who he's supposed to be playing here, a wife-slapping loser.  Stop breaking character to be smart.

Oh Bendis.  Why won't you let the slapping thing go?  Why can't you find another part of Pym's personality to poke at, perhaps one of the other terrible things you've had him do since taking up the character?

Anyhow, Pym ain't buying it, there's a really odd sort of face off between he and Dugan and then they decide to take out the defective Pym.  A big fight ensues, starting in the diner and ending in the trees, Pym nearly begging for them to just listen when they shoot him in his big giant head.  He then reverts back to Skrull form and then normal sized, making me unfortunately remember Black Goliath's funeral.  Thanks, guys.

Dugan orders SHIELD (or at least his trusted men amongst them) to lay down a good cover up, people in the area being upset that the diner's gone and the nice guy who ran it crushed in the ensuing battle.  Dugan calls up the mothership and orders up another Skrull Pym.  I'm going to say that this Skrull Pym is the one we have currently running around in Avengers: the Initiative.

All you need to know?  Pym can't even get being an insurgent right.  They can replace people at will.

AND THEY HAVE A PLAN.

Sorry, All You Need to Know: Battlestar Galactica is another post.

Filed under: Marvel, reviews 3 Comments
3Sep/086

Give Peace a Chance

So, as Secret Invasion rolls along, revealing that yes, some people are Skrulls, some people are not Skrulls and hey, they're doing whole Invasion under a religeous fervor!  For their troubles, the Marvel heroes have banded together to face this army and rip their stinkin' heads off.

Some might say there's a lot of out-and-out killing going on for 'respectable' heroes.  Some might say that this wholesale violence should be addressed.  Some might even look back to the arguements leveled at one Bruce Banner just a year ago and wonder how hypocritical can one get?

After all, they exiled him off the planet for killing people, right?  He was a danger to innocent people, property and prosperity.  And I'm sure he probably ate all the donuts before the Illuminati got a single one.  His exile was justified.

Now, the heroes are pushed to the brink of rage.  Did you see the last page of Secret Invasion #5?  Hawkeye is ready to KILL KILL KILL with a white hot rage that they brought back his wife only to kill her again.  Where one he admonished Mockingbird for letting a man who forced her to love him fall to his death, now he's ready to start and damn well finish this war, preferably with many damn dirty Skrulls deceased.  Ms. Marvel, when tearing into a Skrull front, had a problem when the Skrulls ran into a crowd of innocent people and hid among them.  At this point, she acted tactically as a soldier and FIRED IN TO THE CROWD OF PEOPLE.  Mind you, she figured out which ones were Skrulls by which humans had the squiggly green word bubbles, but still.

I'm not saying their actions aren't justified.  It's clear that this is clear and unadulterated war, where hard choices have to be made and strong actions have to be taken to ensure the survival of the human race.  It's big stuff, people.  But when not but a YEAR ago, the smartest of these heroes banned a man who was suffering under a tremendous burden, a man who had been hailed as a hero before, a guy they stood next to from time to time, it really makes you wonder if anyone's going to take a good hard look at one another when all this is over.  Or if their war crimes are going to swept under the rug to go back to the way things were.

All in all, someone should find Bruce Banner and maybe buy him a beer.  Sorry, guy.  We never knew what it was like to be that angry.

26Aug/082

When the Wrong Thing Can be Right – X-Factor #34

This last issue of X-Factor ends their Secret Invasion tie-in and their She-Hulk tie-in and, I'll be honest here, I can't say it really thrilled me as much as an X-Factor/She-Hulk tie-in should have.  To be fair, I'll admit my share of fandignance here and say that my expectations were probably really high and what I want to read in a She-Hulk book isn't what Peter David wants to write, so hats off to the man anyway for putting some of my favorite characters in one big story plus throwing Skrulls in for good measure.

Anyways, I get ot the last page of the most recent issue with our heroes victorious and whatnot when I had to do a double take and re-read a word balloon for clarification:

last page of X-Factor #34

last page of X-Factor #34

So here we are (in a very badly scanned picture, my apologies), bidding our guest-stars adieu when Madrox brings up the terrible idea that Tony Stark (the guy they'd normally turn in a Skrull villain into, seeing how he's the director of SHIELD and whatnot) could very well be a Skrull himself.  After all, this is an invasion (says right there on the cover!), so what better a guy to invade through than possibly one of the highest laws in the land right now?  It certainly would explain a lot of his behavior, see Madrox's laundry list below:

Yeah, that sounds to me like a nefarious plot to-

Wait.  What was that?  "Exiling your BROTHER"?  An easy mistake, sure, but at the same time... from Peter David?  He doesn't seem like the kind of guy to make a snafu on something like this, let alone a Hulk-related relation.  You can't blame in-character knowledge as the idea that Madrox would know that Bruce Banner is She-Hulk's cousin is a fair assumption.  Considering just how many Madroxes there are out there, I think one of them could have picked up that particular note of information.  It's one line in a toss off word ballooon, but it shouldn't exactly be written off.  Besides, no one's really talked about Tony being a Skrull all along but...

Oh yeah, the Skrull Empress in the guise of Spider-Woman!  In fact, a Skrull disguising himself as a Madrox duplicate would be a pretty good cover, considering just how many of him there are and that they're no longer as really 'telepathically linked' as they used to be.

So, editorial gaff or very clever ruse?  U DECIDE!

21Aug/080

All You Need to Know: New Avengers #43

You might have noticed that there was no recap for this issue.  Despite returning to 'present' time, despite the good push this particular story had when we first saw Ka-Zar and Spidey hash things out in the Savage Land right around the first issue of Secret Invasion when all the Marvel heroes that arrived on the ship and they started fighting against the New and Mighty teams.

Well, when this went down, Ka-Zar and his band of Savage Landites happened upon the whole thing and wound up trying to get a handle on what's going on by talking with Spider-Man as seen in New Avengers #41, only to have Captain America happen upon them and the threat of a fight start.  Well, a couple issues later, Spidey and his Savage Friends try talking this Cap down by explaining he can't be Cap since Cap is dead, but this just leads to, you guessed it, fighting.  No one thinks to ask "Hey, Cap!  Great to see you back!  What the hell are you doing on a spaceship?"  Sure, we know it's not really Steve Rogers (for heaven's sake, Fallen Son was just one 'No really, Steve Rogers is really dead we mean it it's serious, he's dead, the end!' after the other), but humor the bastard!  Try to get some info out of him!

Well, not-Cap gets blowdarted to bits and falls only to reveal himself as a foamy mouthed Skrull.  Cut to a flashback where they talk about how this Skrull got the blood blanket treatment, how it doesn't always go according to plan, how the Skrull Mind Priestess had to do a little fussing with the memories of this warrior so that he would remember an alternate timeline that would make him believe he's Steve Rogers with greater clarity but this doesn't matter at all BECAUSE HE'S DEAD AND THE HEROES CAN'T LEARN THIS INFO.

So the reader is now told that the spaceship that crashed in the Savage Land didn't have the real Captain America in it.  Thanks to Secret Invasion #5, we know that the spaceship didn't have the real ANYONE inside, but if you read this issue before that, you would have figured out the same thing.

And that's all you need to know.

21Aug/086

Bane of My Shelves: Hulk #5

It's sad how much I keep coming back to this.  I keep thinking no one'll care or it's been too long or it doesn't even matter but then I go to work and see that cover with Thor and Hulk pummeling away and think, "What on Earth happened?"

How did Loeb do it?  What is GOING ON with his Hulk book?  Every issue has been page after page of punches with little to no payoff or forward momentum.  It's Marvel's version of Particle Man with huge McGuiness muscles.

I've tried, don't get me wrong.  There is simply NO OTHER Hulk book out there and Marvel seems pretty proud of this so what other choice do I have?  Ed McGuiness draws a pretty big Hulk and that's cool.  The idea of massive battles that bring out the inner 15-year-old boy in all of us is something to behold.  There are good points here, there have to be, it just It took until Comic Con to realize that I'm not the only one as befuddled by the execution of it all.  Here I was, sitting on this side of computer screen thinking i just was having this bad bout of fandignance; it's not the Hulk I want to read but maybe there's some crazy person out there totally going nuts every time an issue comes out. Well, people are going crazy, just not for the right reasons.

Hulk #5 encapsulates a lot of things both wrong and right about the series, so let's take a look at it for a moment and prove a few things right off the bat.

First off, let's look at what we got here:  Thor vs. the Hulk.  Think on that.  Just let it sink in, on all the massive damage that's going to go down.  This is should be epic battle in the mighty Marvel manner here, folks.  Before World War Hulk, I would have totally given this fight to Thor but seeing the green goliath at his meanest- wait.  This isn't the 'Hulk' Hulk, this is that red Hulk, the one that punched the Watcher out of nowhere and who we still don't know the identity of.  He's just some big red dude who's pummeled everyone we know and love into paste and seems to be here to.. kill the Hulk.  Or something.  Who knows his motives, his identity, why he's red or why he just keeps winning, but this is the guy who's going to fight Thor this issue.

And there's just something about creating an unstoppable engine of destruction that doesn't suggest temperance.

Little preamble, the first blow is swung by Thor and we're given a sort of quick and cocky recap, as if the book really needed it by this point.  If you're going to be an all out action book, don't bother selling me on your story, just let me get into who's gonna kick who's butt.  Like I said, Thor vs. Hulk sells itself so don't remind me that 'Rulky'  (Rooby rooby roo!) is this great mysterious ubermench who we should all be really excited about.

So, BOOM!  Thor punches the red Hulk and unsurprisingly, the red Hulk is relatively unscathed.  He's gotten a little deeper shading, some atmospheric smoke going on, one panel even shows that his face did cave in like it should have but seems to be healing up in a jiff.  All in all, the result of Mjolnir are nil since the red Hulk proceeds to punch Thor into next week (or at least a nearby observatory), all the while mockingly disdainful of this fight.  Thor pulls himself out of the rubble and has another go at it, not budging the red Hulk an inch.

Okay, now to borrow something from wrestling- I mean, 'sports entertainment', there's an element of 'no-sell' going on here that's honestly making something that should be a fantastic battle fall short.  One needs to be sold on a move or a hit (especially when they're fake!) in order to be engaged in the story that the fighters are telling, just like one needs to be sold on the premise of a movie before you commit to a ticket price.  Here, the red Hulk hits Thor and the move is sold to us by watching Thor fly off into a building and crawl out of rubble.  'The red Hulk hits pretty freakin' hard!' says our brain and we believe in the strength of a character that can so easily toss a Thunder God.  Mind you, McGuinness draws Thor just wailing on the red Hulk, dynamic shots full of great crackling energy, but the red Hulk doesn't budge an inch.  The first short is aimed right at his face and his posture doesn't bend from the impact or brace itself.  He just takes the shot and is seen arms akimbo next panel.  The red Hulk is just not selling Thor's blows and that makes me wonder if Thor's a lot weaker than he should be or if the red Hulk is a douche who's going to be taking a beating in the locker room for making his opponent look bad.

But the red Hulk's been no-selling for the past five issues, maybe it's his gimmick?  Maybe the character is really that strong and boy howdy should we think he's the coolest thing ever?  How cool, you ask?  Well, the book proceeds to alienate a good portion of Marvel die-hards by having the red Hulk 'jump' super high above the atmosphere of the planet, taking Thor along by holding on to his hammer.  So, he's not 'wielding' mighty Mjolnir, just pushing it through space I guess as the red Hulk TKOs Thor with his own weapon of destruction.

:Let's just say that again:  the red Hulk defeats Thor with Mjolnir through his tactical genius and the weightlessness of space.

Pretty epic, huh?  Or... does that kind of stick in your craw?  Are you secretly a little itchingly mad at such a bad portrayal of Thor?  At the poor use of physics?  At the gall of Loeb to sort of cheapen a fight that should have rightfully been of such scale and scope that bards should have spontaneously erupted into song, the IRIS would have had to add a new category of seismic activity to register the blows and mountain ranges changed their altitude in order to cower in the shadows of such a battle.

It's a terribly nerdy thing to say, but if you're going to use gravity to get around a magical ward on a weapon, you really have to go all thw way.  If the Hulk hit Thor in space, both of them would go flying back from each other.  Inertia, ladies and gentlemen, and as incredibly nerdtastic it is to bring it up in relation to comics, I have to keep going and point at Loeb as he started it.

So, the red Hulk beats up Thor and leaves him on the surface of the moon.  We then cut to .... aw geeze, A-Bomb dredging up the Hulk (real live Hulk, accept no substitutions) from the bottom of the ocean where I guess he was left last issue and bringing him back to team up with a variety of heavy hitters from the Marvel Universe: She-Hulk, Iron Man, Namor, Ares, the Thing and the Human Torch and oh, what the Hell?  Galactus and Superman.   Why not? I'm sure all these people are going to fight the red Hulk, who may or may not be wielding Mjolnir and a Kryptonite Ring next issue.

Yes, the issue is bad.  Yes, the entire run thus far as been boggling.  But that's when I realized I had read this all before.  That's right, back in 2001 Gail Simone paid future tribute to an issue thought at the time far too stupid to be actually written in a form that wasn't parody.

Last note:  Jeph Loeb himself proudly told panel-goers at Comic Con last month, this storyline is coming to an INCREDIBLE ENDING, one you'll never suspect!  THEN, the format is going to change on the Hulk so that it'll have two stories in it each issues, just like Tales to Astonish used to, that will have a RED HULK story and a GREEN HULK story!  That's right!  Because splitting a superhero into two and labeling them by color worked so well for the Distinguished Competition.

Let's just hope the three remaining panels will be used for character development.

Filed under: Marvel, reviews 6 Comments
21Aug/080

The End of Summer

So things have been rather quiet in the world of snappy judgments over here as with the middle of August hitting, we're starting to hit that all important crucial time in comic shopdom known as 'they're starting to go back to school'.

Now, i won't lie and say that even a good portion of our customers are kids, but I will say that a lot of them are college-aged or just hitting that particular bracket and sadly, people are moving, resettling into a new apartment or getting that one last trip out of their system or worse... cancelling their comic pull list.

But never fear, I also happen to live in a high density tourist area and August is your last chance to get that thrill in.  So, my store's been shoring up the 'big' online store, passing around the business cards and prepping for that big signing in October.  Sales have been pretty good, up from last year and we're hoping this will aid us throught he dead zone that is September.

So I'm gonna do some catch up.

Filed under: shop, site No Comments
25Jul/080

Defensive Marvel is Defensive

At the Marvel: Your Universe panel, i was able to not only praise the panelist for putting out two great books at the same time the Iron Man movie hit, but ask them why we got two very very very different books on the stands that were as far away as possible from the Incredible Hulk movie came out.

"We can't always bat a thousand," noted Quesada, mentioning that If you look at track trecord, they're good at publishing the book in question.  Dan Buckley jumped in to note  that creatively, they hit their stride with Iron Man and didn't need to change a lot to make Iron Man fit the tone of the movie.  matt Fraction was noted for his communication with the writers on Iron Man: Director of SHIELD and matched everything very well between current continuity and movie tone.  Hulk, on the other hand, is a bigger challenge because creators have to be able to 'stretch their legs' and do what they want without a corproate influence, suggesting to me that I load up customers on trade paperbacks ($12.99 and up) instead of new comics (as low as $2.99) for new readers.  Last Year, Buckley noted, they pushed the character with events like  Planet Hulk and World War Hulk and, while they had nothing to do with the movie, they it put the character out in the public eye.

Kevin Feige (president, Marvel Studios), in an Incredible Hulk hat, noted that they used a lot of the trades as influences on the movie, citing Hulk: Gray and Bruce Jones' first run.

And yet... I don't really feel my question was answered.  Why did Marvel not put out a comic that fit the theme of a very popular and well made movie?  Why do I have to recommend stories from years ago in order to keep customer interest?  Why can't the Bruce-Banner-man-vs.-inner-monster story be told in the modern age?

And what in God's good name is going on in Loeb's book!??

Ah, wel.  At least joe Quesada didn't tell me to sit down and enjoy the stories this time.