Monday, October 24, 2011

Random Thoughts: October 2011

You may have noticed I haven’t frequented my blog much of late. It has been a busy time and although it has been difficult to write consistently, here are some random thoughts about comics in October 2011. Because a writer writes... 

From Marvel's Alpha Flight #5, December 2011
I begin by expressing my disappointment with Marvel’s decision to end the current run of Alpha Flight at number eight. I know it was not originally planned as an ongoing series, but at Fan Expo in Toronto this August, it was announced the series would continue after eight issues. I know how much Marvel loves Canadians so sales must have really dropped, but it's disappointing none-the-less. If I could quickly offer some advice, I think the story would have been better if it had Alpha Flight working within the wider Marvel Universe. Certainly, Canadians love seeing Toronto, Parliament Hill and Vancouver on the panelled page, but I think it would have reached a wider audience (read American and British readers) if the Flight had left Canada and joined the superhero community for a couple of issues. Of course, this may still happen as we're only at issue 5/8 right now.   

From DC's Justice League #2, December 2011
In happier news, I was very glad to hear DC is bringing Captain Marvel back in a backup story titled The Curse of Shazam in the fifth issue of Justice League. Geoff Johns mentioned this at New York Comic Con and said it would be a reboot(!) of the Marvel Family franchise. In related commentary, Justice League #2 was a much better than #1 and I’m starting to enjoy the fresh and impetuous nature of the characters we’ve met so far. I’m still not sure about the $3.99 price, but it will be much easier to stomach with a Captain Marvel v. Black Adam story. Scroll down  two posts if you want to see how much I like Black Adam.
From Marvel's Uncanny X-Men #544, November 2011
Moving back to Marvel, I’m still not sure who’s camp I’m in with regard to the split we’re about to experience in X-Men. Regenesis was good, as was Uncanny X-Men’s final issue (I loved the nod to Jack Kirby at the beginning!) but I’m still not convinced Logan should be running a school. It just doesn’t seem characteristic!  That said, Beast’s line in Regenesis: 'I'm going to help Logan run a school. By which I mean, I will be actually running the school and Logan will merely have the best office' was great and I’m pleased Hank is heading back to the academy. I plan on reading both sides in the immediate future and will let you know my thoughts as they come up.  

From IDW & DC's Start Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1, October 2011
Finally, I picked up something at Orbital Comics in London this week I didn’t expect: a Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover. It was good and had the Legion group, the mainline Kirk/Spock Star Trek universe, and the AMAZING Mirror Universe which long-time Trekkies will remember from such classic episodes as the ‘Mirror, Mirror’ and Deep Space Nine’s ‘Crossover’. As a long-time Trek fan, I am always excited to see the place where Spock had a beard! The Legion of Super-heroes wouldn't have been my first choice for a Star Trek/Comics crossover (I'd love to see Reed Richards work with Spock) but it was a decent establishing story and I’ll probably go back next month to see where it goes. 

He's not really 'Evil Spock'! From the Star Trek episode 'Mirror, Mirror'
So those are some random thoughts about the comic book world in mid-October 2011. Thanks again for visiting and FYI, I’m working on expanding my repertoire with a piece on a classic Arthur C. Clarke novel that should be up soon. Keep an eye on Twitter and blogspot and I’ll chat with you soon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fantastic Four #600

I saw this teaser image today on and cannot wait! Jonathan Hickman's FF has been great these past months and nothing beats a Fantastic Four story with Galactus. I also think it's appropriate to resurrect the original title for #600 -- even only for this milestone issue.

The below image is from Fantastic Four #262 'The Trial of Reed Richards' by John Byrne. In it, Reed takes a noble stand and defends Galactus' right to exist. It remains one of my favourite comic stories and a great moment in the history of Reed Richard's character. Given Hickman's use of Bronze Age references in recent issues, there is good reason to hope we will see something like this in November.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

SuperSoundtracks #5: Black Adam and Blue Oyster Cult

Welcome to another of my ongoing series titled SuperSoundtracks! SuperSoundtracks are inspired by Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, the film by legendary director John Hughes. I thought of the idea when watching the director’s commentary where Hughes spoke to how he didn't use ‘Top 40’ music for this film. He didn’t say why, but I suspect it was to because he knew different and unique music would add to the overall character of the movie in a way Madonna or Michael Jackson's couldn't.   
From DC's Justice Society of America Vol.3 #25, November 2009

Personally, I thought this simple move was a brilliant idea. Not only did it contribute to the movie in a whole new way, it also gave pop culture a number of memes that are still with us today. SuperSoundtracks aims to do something similar by taking a relatively unknown song and matching it with a comic book character. Naturally, this is somewhat  subjective, but I hope you enjoy it and by the end see why I chose the particular song. Today’s SuperSoundtrack is for one of DC’s greatest villains/anti-heroes: Black Adam. 

From DC's Shazam: A New Beginning #3, June 1987
Black Adam is a fantastic character. Not only does he have an amazing costume, he also has an amazing origin story that plays very well with the overall mythic and archetypal elements found in comic books and superhero stories. Originating in Fawcett Comics Marvel Family #1 (1945), Adam would be a minor and rarely seen character until -- in the early 1970s -- Fawcett’s Marvel Family were  legally absorbed into the DC Universe. In 1987, in co-operation with a larger company crossover titled Legends, Black Adam’s origin was revised in a four part miniseries created by Roy Thomas and Tom Mandrake titled Shazam: A New Beginning. Here, Black Adam was returned from an alternate dimension by nefarious acts taken by Billy Batson's familial enemy, Doctor Sivana, and squared off against a ret-conned Billy Batson/Captain Marvel, who eventually defeated him.

From DC's Shazam: A New Beginning #2, May 1987

From DC's Justice Society of America Vol.3 #24, October 2009  

Black Adam would later appear in other books including another Captain Marvel reboot titled The Power of Shazam and soon we saw Black Adam acquitted of  his earlier crimes against the Batsons and started to see the new Black Adam emerge. In the early 2000s, writers Geoff Johns and David S. Goyer would further alter Black Adam's story, at one point even giving him provisional membership in the JSA.

From DC's 52 #45, May 2007 
And it would be this character -- with his hard edge and rigidly defined moral code -- that would make Black Adam a perfect candidate for a starring role in DC’s series of 2006-2007, titled 52. Not only did he feature in one of its most intense and tragic story lines, he also made what was is one of the best covers in the history of comic books. In 52, he is the (somewhat) benevolent dictator of Kahndaq, a middle-eastern state, whom marries and settles down, only to see his wife killed and be driven to a state of madness. 

The amazing cover of DC's 52 #45, May 2007
From DC's 52 #45, May 2007 
In the New 52, one of the most conspicuous omissions was the Marvel and Black Marvel families of characters,  although in an interview about Stormwatch #1, writer Paul Cornell mentions Black Adam will be one of the villains in that book. Personally, I hope we don’t have to wait too long to see this amazing character again. Black Adam is quite simply the best of the Fawcett Comics flagship group and deserves to be front and centre in the newly relaunched DC Universe. 

From DC's Action Comics #821, November 2005

For Black Adam’s SuperSoundtrack I’ve decided on The Blue Oyster Cult’s Veteran of a Thousand Psychic Wars. This fantastic track; with its driving beat, mystical overtones and intense lyrics tells the story of an angst-ridden warrior who has been through too many battles to count, yet always seems to be called to to another -- just like Black Adam. 

Hailing from Long Island, NY, Blue Oyster Cult was founded in the early 1970s and is,  quite simply, one of those quintessential late 70s, early 80s hard rock bands. One of its most famous and iconic songs, (Don’t Fear) The Reaper charted at #16 in the UK in 1978, but is perhaps best remembered by modern audiences for being featured in one of the funniest Saturday Night Live skits of recent years titled  ‘More Cowbell’ with Will Farrell and Christopher Walken. 

Take a listen to Veteran, look at some of the images of Black Adam and let me know if I’ve hit the mark with this one. Also, if you have any ideas of your own for a SuperSoundtrack, please let me know as I’m always looking for ideas.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Neutralizer Strikes Back!

If you picked up the latest FF (#9) on Wednesday you may have noticed something that hasn't been seen in comics for a while: a Spaceknight Neutralizer! During the Marvel panel at FanExpo in Toronto this year, Jonathan Hickman mentioned there would be one in an upcoming issue and it was great to finally see it.

From Marvel's FF #9, November 2011

From Marvel's ROM:Spaceknight #26, January 1983
The ROM images are courtesy of #26 'Galactus on Galador!' a favourite story of mine written by the great Bill Mantlo. It involves some serious moral issues and I'm currently planning  a feature length piece that will use this two issue arch as a cornerstone. In the meanwhile, enjoy the new and old images and thanks for visiting WGTB!   

From Marvel's FF #9, November 2011

From Marvel's ROM:Spaceknight #26, January 1983

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Reviewing the New 52: Dark Knight, Justice League Dark, Savage Hawkman, Blackhawks & Superman

And so it ends: the last of the New 52 arrived in stores this past Wednesday and here's what I thought of the $2.99 titles: Dark Knight #1, Justice League Dark #1, Savage Hawkman #1, Blackhawks #1 and Superman #1 I picked up.

We start our reviews today with Batman: Dark Knight #1, the third of the solo Batman titles of the New 52. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by this issue. The story starts with playboy Bruce Wayne doing his charm/disarm thing, and then all of the sudden he’s off to stop a riot at Arkham Asylum. I’m not quite sure if I missed something, but I do know that even Batman isn’t omnipresent and it was a stretch to have him do this. The comic ends with Batman in  the middle of the riot and a Hulked-up Harvey Dent challenging the Dark Knight to battle. Honestly, this book felt rushed and although the art was solid, the disjointed storyline was distracting and I will probably not buy the second issue. Of course, this is a Batman title so it's impossible to say I won't be back in the future.

Our second title is Justice League Dark #1. This is a supernatural book that ties the Justice League to some of DC's occult and supernatural characters, many of whom came over from Vertigo. It wasn’t a bad comic and although it featured some of the mainline Justice League, the relatively unfamiliar (to me) main characters and the story's multi-character intensity meant it was still tough to follow. Not being a big ‘ghost and ghoul’ reader, I'll probably not buy the second issue, but I can see it as an occasional pick-up every now and then – especially when it features John Constantine. 


The third title today is Savage Hawkman #1. This was a good book. The art was strong and while I’m not overtly familiar with the Hawkman background story, the introduction into a reluctant hero Carter Hall, the alien Nth metal and an extraterrestrial undersea relic turned ‘symbiote’ was well done and quite manageable, even for a neophyte reader like me. The comic didn’t grip me like Captain Atom or Swamp Thing, but it kept me interested and because of that, I will probably buy the second issue.       

Blackhawks #1 was okay, but I’ll probably not buy it again. Of all the titles I purchased this month, this is the one I knew the least about. The art was good, and there were parts that seemed like they would eventually lead to to some promising action mixed with global politics, but the large cast meant I wasn’t sure what was going on and felt the story a tad disjointed. Like some other group titles this September, Blackhawks would have been better with a  manageable Justice League style introduction rather than the Legion of Super-Heroes approach we saw here.

Finally we come to Superman #1. There has been a lot of talk this month about Superman losing his red briefs and before my review I'd like to say that having seen Superman in a lot of places these past weeks (Justice League, Swamp Thing, Justice League Dark) I like the changes to the costume. The red belt works well on the blue suit, and losing the old circus strongman look modernizes the Man of Steel in a positive way. 

With regard to this comic, George Perez's story and drawing were very good. It portrayed a modern Metropolis, corporate takeovers and media-based intrigue in an interesting fashion and gave us an interesting Kryptonian fire monster that gave Superman a challenge, but without the distracting high drama that a Brainiac, Darkseid or Lex Luthor would have brought to this establishing story. The best part of the comic was the final page when we see Clark Kent and Lois Lane in an awkward situation and reminded me that the key element of the Superman story is the alienation this exiled Kryptonian feels when trying to make his way in a human world. I will definitely buy the second issue.  

So there you have it. The New 52 has wrapped up and we are now on to the second issues. All in all, it was an interesting month and has given me something to think about with regard to DC. Consistent readers of the blog will notice that I usually lean towards Marvel. But that's about to change because the New 52 exposed me to a number of new titles that I'm already looking forward to reading again. Whether this is sustained, remains to be seen – my favourite characters are still overwhelming Marvel – but there’s no reason why Captain Atomic, Swamp Thing or Superman won’t soon find their way beside FF and Alpha Flight on my long-term pull list.

So well done DC and congratulations! Let's hope this leads to further success for all comic publishers and retailers and a brighter future for our industry.