Friday, July 20, 2012

WGTB reviews Captain Marvel #1

While Marvel Comics have never been devoid of strong female characters, there are a few that have long required an overhaul and one of these was Ms. Marvel. Make no mistake I’m no prude, but there was always something about Carol Danvers’ former dominatrix-like costume that seemed to highlight how superhero comics are male-centric. A full scale repackaging (along with writer Kelly Sue DeConnick oustanding performance on the early 2012 podcast circuit) sparked my interest in Captain Marvel #1 and ensured that it was picked up this past Wednesday.

Marvel's Captain Marvel #1 (September 2012) Writing by Kelly Sue DeConnick, pencils by Ed Mcguiness. $2.99
Well, I wasn’t disappointed. The writing is sharp and the plot quick. For example, in the opening scene with Captain America it's made very clear that both 'captains' are seasoned Avengers and each worthy of their own lead role. DeConnick’s dialogue does well to capture the power of Marvel's newest 'Captain' while at the same time explaining why it has taken her so long to make the seemingly logical transition from 'Ms' to 'Captain'. I particularly liked this because as a fan of Mar-vell and a cancer survivor, I’ve long appreciated the gravitas Marvel Comics has given the illness by leaving Mar-Vell (for the most part) deceased. Danvers is clearly apprehensive about taking the ‘mantle’ of that great Kree, but her ultimate decision to make the change both reestablishes a namesake hero for the Marvel U and honours the previous one.

From Marvel's Captain Marvel: Secret Invasion TPB (2009)
The book further draws upon an episode of space exploration history that I’m sure many readers (myself included) don’t know about previously: 'the Mercury 13'. This was a group of thirteen American women who underwent the same testing and screening process as the NASA astronauts during the late 1950s and 1960s, but because the program was private were never selected to fly. Here, DeConnick not only uses an interesting episode of history to establish strong motivations for Carol Danvers; she also provides an interesting addition to the cast and a very fitting tribute to some early female pioneers of aviation and space travel. 

Images from Marvel's Captain Marvel #1 (September 2012)
Turning quickly to Dexter Soy’s art – it was edgy and interesting and I thought Captain Marvel’s new costume was both a solid modernization and fitting tribute to the previous incarnations of the character. Visually speaking, the biggest shortcoming of the book (and the big #1 on the cover probably mitigated this) was the cover by Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines and Javier Rodriguez. It was bright and flashy yet lacked any semblance to the inner story and didn’t capture the essence of the book. That said, it was an enjoyable first issue of what looks like a promising new comic and that means I will certainly buy the next issue.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer of Star Wars

With the recent announcement of another Dark Horse Star Wars title, I got to thinking about how twenty years ago this summer could rightfully be called my 'Summer of Star Wars'. I was in my early teens and comics were still all the rage so in June of that year, I bought Dark Horse's Dark Empire #4 by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy and was immediately transfixed. From there I traversed my area looking in every comic shop for back issues 1-3. Fortunately I was able to find them in a great little store called Comics North in Sudbury, Ontario and from there it was a frantic effort to consume any and everything Star Wars related.
Dark Horse Comics Dark Empire #1 (December 1991)
Dark Horse Comics Dark Empire #4 (May 1992)
From Dark Horses Dark Empire #2 (February 1992)
Dark Empire was Dark Horse Comics’ first foray into the Star Wars franchise and helped significantly to establish the comics element of its ‘Expanded Universe’. Published shortly after that company purchased the licensing rights from Lucasfilm (Marvel had let them go years earlier) the series helped reverse an overall decline which had started when the hype around Return of the Jedi dissipated. To my knowledge it was also the first regular Star Wars comic book since 1986.

Dark Horse's Dark Empire #2 (February 1992)
Dark Horse's Dark Empire #4 (April 1992)
Of course, Dark Empire wasn't without some help. The release of Timothy's Zahn's fantastic book Heir to the Empire in May 1992 aided in this renaissance and helped Bantam Spectra launch a virtual fleet of Star Wars related books. Having since bought the rights, Del Rey still publishes Star Warsnovels. 
So while the ultimate result of this Star Wars resurgence is still debatable -- I don't want to wade into a debate about the Prequel Trilogy or the 'Special Editions' – Dark Empire was a catalyst for so many fans, my included, to get back into Star Wars and enjoy that great mythic universe. Dark Horse would (and still does) publish comics based on George Lucas’ creation and while I’ve since stopped reading them, they like Depeche Mode and New Order were a staple of my existence in the early to mid 1990s and will always be looked upon with a certain fondness. 

Dark Horse's Dark Empire #4 (April 1992)
Dark Horse's Classic Star Wars #1 (August 1992)
If you have any Star Wars related memories please leave a comment.  Also if you’re looking for some actual history of the Dark Empire series, check out this Comic Book Urban Legends feature from CBR. It's an interesting read. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Correcting an Error

In my posting for July 1st -- Canada Day -- I made a serious error. In my “Top Five Comics and Canada’ list I neglected to mention that Joe Shuster, co-creator of Superman was Canadian. This was completely unintentional and would have certainly landed him in the top spot. 

Joe Shuster was born in Toronto on July 10, 1914, which means today would have been his 98th birthday. And although ten years later he would move to Cleveland, meet Jerry Siegel and later co-create Superman in the first Action Comics #1 (June 1938), it isn't lost on Canadian comic readers that many of his early memories had a lasting impact on his most famous creation. Two examples include the Toronto Daily Star serving as a model for Clark Kent's Daily Planet and the burgeoning cosmopolitan character of Toronto being an example for Superman's fictional city of Metropolis. 

The City of Toronto returned a civic-minded favour in the early 2000s when it recognised the important legacy of Joe Shuster and named a street after him. Here it is -- Joe Shuster Way -- named after one of Canada's greatest comic book creators and an unfortunate omission by your humble blogger.     

Thursday, July 5, 2012

WGTB reviews HardWear #3

HardWear #3 by Toronto-based publisher Uysfaber was released this Wednesday in select comic shops throughout Southern Ontario (Canada). Pronounced 'Ace-Faber' the company first came to my attention when I visited a well known Toronto comics shop last summer, but it was only recently that I've been able to sample one of their titles. Being a long-time Kraftwerk and Bladerunner fan, it was Rebecca Slack's sleek and electric cover that got me. 

Uysfaber's HardWear #3 (July 2012) contains two seperate stories. The first N.C.D.J was written by Scott Johnson with art by John "DK" Kartigan, letters by Branson Destefano and edits by Andrew Uys. The second story Spectrum: Proof was written by Aaron Feldman with art by Rebecca Slack, letters by Anisa Nixon and edits Sarah Overall. Rebecca Slack also did the cover art. $3.50
HardWear takes place in a cyberpunk infused corporation-ruled dystopia called Winn City. The comic itself contains two separate yet related stories and tells the tale of people trying to protest, avoid and combat the nefarious powers-that-be in this bleak and violent electronically-fused future.
It's a bleak future set out in HardWear #3.
The artwork for the most part was very good. Drawn by two different artists with noticeable differences in styles, each story had its strengths. The first story, N.C.D.J., had a good unrefined look and the black and white really worked with the dark and futuristic theme of the overall story. The above image is a great example.

The second story Spectrum: Proof's art, while not being as strong overall, had my favourite panel of the book and periodically surpassed the previous story's images. For example, I just loved these somewhat cleaner and slightly more accessible panels: 

HardWare in places was difficult to follow and both stories required multiple reads. Again, this is often the case with new comics where I'm not overly familiar with the characters and the universe they inhabit. Jumping in at the third issue didn't help either.

But this fact underscores a must for comics from smaller publishers: a quick previous plot synopsis on the inner cover or splash. Just a paragraph would have been enough to give me the background needed to enjoy the book more. 

The story was thought provoking and provided good value for the money. It wasn't a fun comic book per se, but this genre rarely is. That said, I am curious to see what happens in Winn City next month and because of that I'm giving it a favourable review and will keep an eye on Uysfaber's future publications.  3.5/5 STARS 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Fourth of July to all my American friends and readers. Here's the splash from Amalgam Comics' Super Soilder #1 (April 1996). Enjoy the day! 

Amalgam Comics Super Soldier #1 from April 1996. Super Soldier was a cross between Superman and Captain America.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy Canada Day!

To mark the occasion here are my top five 'Canada and Comics' convergences. Enjoy:

5) Wolverine joins the X-Men.

All Images from Marvel's Giant-Sixe X-Men first published in 1975 and reprinted in 1991.

This could be considered treason by some, but I think by taking a potentially one-off character and putting him in the X-Men, Marvel gave this Canadian front-line exposure which allowed him to reach the prominence he would later experience.
4) First appearance of Captain Canuck. 

From Comely Comix Captain Canuck #1 (July 1975)
What's a Canadian comic without a snowmobile? From Captain Canuck #1.
This book featuring a Captain America look-a-like was released by Comely Comix in 1975. It featured a future where Canada had eclipsed the USA as a superpower and was as much science-fiction as it was superhero. Captain Canuck has since been featured on a postage stamp and there's even talk of a feature film. 
3) Logan fights on D-Day

All images from the great book Marvel's Wolverine #34 (December 1990) written by Larry Hama with art by Marc Sivestri.

Probably the least well known of this list; in Wolverine #34 we learn Logan (Wolverine) jumped on D-Day. Canadian troops launched at Juno Beach during Operation Overlord and played an important role in beating back the Nazi menace during the entire Second World War. Go Canada!  

2) Prisoners of Gravity

This Canadian television program remains (thanks to YouTube) a great source for anyone interested in the history of our medium. It has been talked about on such prominent podcasts as Word Balloon and has one of my favourite interviews with Jack Kirby. Have a look.

1) Alpha Flight Arrives!

The story of the first meeting between Alpha Flight and the X-Men. From Marvel's Alpha Flight #17 (December 1984)
From Marvel's Alpha Flight #1 (August 1983)
Alpha Flight first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #120 (1979). Created by John Byrne, this group would eventually get its own series and give comics readers a number of great characters and moments. Northstar, one of the original Alphans, has come to prominence in recent weeks as one half of the first same-sex marriage in the Marvel Universe.

So there you go. Have a great Canada Day and thanks again for reading.