Saturday, January 30, 2010

Maybe mankind is......IRREDEEMABLE

Two in one day?

Yes............and no.

I missed getting up the last blog yesterday, which was the original intention for that topic.  It will happen, from time to time, that I will be written out (I do a lot of recreational writing over at Federation X) on some occasions or I will give up the writing time in order to spend a little bit more quality time with the family, and I will be behind my goal of posting a blog each day.  Most of the time that will result in me writing an extra blog the next day. This is one of those occasions.

Before I get into the book I want to talk about today, I'm going to answer a question I got over MSN (you can always find me there under  the other day.  How exactly do I choose the topics that I'm blogging about on any given day. Why is it books some days, writers on other days and some days its just the general state of the industry.  The answer is very simply that I write about whatever I feel like at the time.  Sometimes I've been discussing a book with somebody and I feel passionately that I need to expose other people to it.  Other times I'm pissed off with the way in which a company has handled a situation and I want to rant about that. Whatever it is you see on a given day, you can count on the fact that it stemmed from a conversation or a book that I read.

Which is the case with today's topic; Irredeemable.

Are you reading this small publishers brilliant book about a world in which their iconic hero has turned evil?  if you're not, you should be. I speak at length about a number of writers who changed my grasp of what comic books could be, and Mark Waid is always foremost in my mind during that dialogue with anyone. For me Mark is the man who made The Flash a book I couldn't afford to ignore, gave us all the epic elseworld Kingdom Come and isn't afraid to exploit the darker aspects of our heroes for the benefit of sensational story telling (Tower of Babel in JLA comes to mind!)

Irredeemable (and its new companion book Incorruptible) are published by BOOM! Studios and are absolutely fantastic. The Plutonian is this world's version of Super-Man and he is so far above the power level of his peers that it's like seeing a Justice League with Superman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Beast Boy & Plastic Man; you wonder if he just keeps them around to make them feel needed. Power and a sense of separation from the world he serves is where the similarities begin and end though.  In this interpretation of the archetype hero that started it all, we get a man who isn't nearly as resolute as he at first appeared.

"What if you go from, you know, Captain America to Doctor Doom? What if you go from Superman to Lex Luthor? How do you go from being the greatest hero in the world — someone that everybody knows, and everybody loves, and everyone recognizes — to the greatest villain in the world? What is that path? It's not a light switch, it's not an on-off switch, it's not something that you wake up one day and just become evil."
—Mark Waid on the basis for Irredeemable

In this series, Mark tackles a subject that most of don't give a lot of thought to; what if a person isn't properly equipped emotionally to deal with the stresses placed on the world's greatest heroes? In too many cases we see that the general understanding in comic books is that if they put on the spandex, they have what it takes at heart. Life isn't like that though, and in this book Mark draws on the real life struggles of people to cope emotionally with what the world gives them for a life, while remembering that his readers have come looking for stories about people who fly.

In Superman we have been shown the ideal; a man who is at his best when the world is at its worst. In The Plutonian we are shown the exact opposite.  He is a man who wanted to be the best, but whose fragile emotionally layers were chipped away by the insecurities and psychological damage that was forged in him as a child. His eventual failure as a hero, and actions as a villain seem almost inevitable in the context of his story, and yet they remain terrible demonstrations of the worst elements of humanity's capacity to lash out at others in times of pain and suffering.

This series is another homerun from Waid, and I hope it is getting enough exposure to keep it in publication for some time to come.  It may be the best hero comic not published by DC or Marvel.  As a little extra for you, here's the link to the youtube video the company launched in advance of the series being released.  Small companies do some of the most interesting things.

World Premiere: Mark Waid's Irredeemable: The Trailer

I'm thinking that tomorrow we should take a break from talking about great super-hero comics and talk about the terrific non-hero books that are being published right now.

What do you guys think?

Blue Beetle, Booster Gold & why Geoff Johns needs spelling lessons...

Are they really b-grade characters or did they always just get b-grade writing?

For the longest time I understood who the ‘big guns’ of the comic book world were with a sort of clarity that life doesn’t normally provide.  Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were the three largest icons in DC (and arguably all of comicdom) while Marvel was championed by Spider-Man, The X-Men (who are only stars collectively – except for Wolverine) and The Incredible Hulk.  Sure there were always your assortment of near-stars, like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America at Marvel and Green Lantern, Flash and Aquaman at DC, but the difference always seemed crystal clear to me.  The icons, the stars and then everyone else.  That was just how it was.

Then the millennium turned, and everything started to change.  By the middle of the last decade, the last vestiges of certainty were wiped out in one simple, yet brilliant comic book. It was written with the combined talents of three of DC's best; Geoff Johns (who, for a writer, really should learn how to's JEFF), Greg Rucka (who may still be too underrated as a scribe) and Judd Winnick. Just to show you how this book changed my understanding of whether or not characters were b-grade, or simple the net result of the writers that were assigned to them, I'm going to......***********SPOILER ALERT*********.....let a 5 year old secret out of the bag;

Maxwell Lord killed the Blue Beetle in this book.

Did you yawn?  I wouldn't blame you if you took the time to switch to another channel during that commercial, because let's face it, the news of The Blue Beetle's death wasn't exactly going to be met with screams of suffering and cries for a revision to save the beloved character.  Moreover, did you even take note of the name Maxwell Lord?  Why would you?  His sole claim to fame was a brief period of time that he spent associated with The Justice League International and his stories were considered so uninteresting to comic fans that when they needed to revamp his history to make his role in Infinite Crisis work, the decision was made to do it based on the belief that nobody cared anyways (Wiki Maxwell Lord and read the comments by DC EiC Dan Didio.)

Now that you have been significantly unmoved by the news I have revealed, go and read this book.  You don’t even have to be a fan of super-hero type comic books to appreciate the terrific story telling that takes place in Countdown to Infinite Crisis. The writers managed to use Beetle’s history as a b-grade character to alienate him sufficiently from the big guns of the DCU just enough that he is left to confront a growing danger to the entire world on his own.  As good writers do, they both build and tear down relationships through the story in a way that leaves us feeling more compassionate and impressed with Ted Kord than we have ever been before, and as a result, I think, his death resonates. It is a death worthy of a tier one character. Have a read and tell him what you think.

Now, how does that relate to Booster Gold?  Michael Carter was Ted Kord’s best friend, and he too was trapped hopelessly in the second (maybe third) tier of DC characters for years.  Booster plays an important part in Countdown, and in the Crisis that follows, though it is my belief that his significance is often overlooked.  The moment where he accuses the big three of being to blame for Ted’s death is exceptional drama. With all of that said, I really felt like DC was missing a golden opportunity with Booster Gold, and I said as much to Geoff Johns at the Toronto Comicon in the summer of 2006.  In my mind the writers were really missing something crucial that should have resulted from Ted’s death; Michael’s transformation.

Who amongst us wouldn’t be transformed by watching our best friend walk off to face evil when we were unable to help, and the greatest heroes in the world were unwilling.  More than that, when he died, how deeply would we be moved?  How long would we spend looking into our own life and values and examining them? I felt that while Booster had continued to play a role in the story of Infinite Crisis, and the year long odyssey of 52, that it failed to properly illustrate a man who should be profoundly changed by what happened to his best friend.  In my mind friendship should have been the catalyst that turned Booster Gold into DC’s version of Iron Man.  A technology based hero (Booster’s gear all comes from over 1,000 years in the future) who was ready to take his place amongst the Justice League’s elite.

I’ll never forget Geoff’s response.  He said, basically, “Yeah, I think they should do more with him too. That character has such great potential to tap.”

In case any of you didn’t know, Mr. Johns is a great big jerk, who was well aware that he was preparing to launch the second volume of Booster Gold, with a storyline designed to seriously elevate Booster’s station in DC continuity and to reflect the emotional changes that Booster underwent when Ted died. He just didn’t want to tell me about it at the time.  That series launched in 2007, and I have been giving it rave reviews ever since.  The opening story arc, entitled 52 Pick-Up was one of the most brilliant writing jobs I have ever seen, because it brought together a new storyline with a number of older storylines to answer some terrific formative questions about the relationship between Booster Gold and Batman. That moment in which Batman revealed that he had always known the hero that Booster would become, and had been so hard on him in his early years because he wasn’t that man yet……genius.

Assigning such writing luminaries as Geoff Johns, Dan Jurgens and Chuck Dixon to the series has given Booster a much more credible position in DC true, but it has also done so much more.  With top tier writing talent taking on the character, we have seen the growth of the character’s back-story, and watched the development of the man who was once a cautionary tale for young heroes into a man who is willing to sacrifice fame and fortune for the greater good. In the end, Ted Kord had to die to matter, and Michael Carter had to endure that loss to become the man he was always fated to be.

How many other characters who get laughed at, ignored or treated like b-grade properties could actually become tor tier talents with strong, relevant storylines that impact the bigger picture of the company that publishes them if only the talent assigned to write them was better?

Sometimes characters are only “losers” because the writers and editors who had them before were unwilling or unable to make them better than that.

As an final note…..that guy nobody really thought much of (Maxwell Lord) when he was running around in the pages of Justice League International?  He turned out to be kind of a big deal in Infinite Crisis.  The revamp might have been choppy (or non-existent) but the story they were able to tell with him afterwards was solid.

Characters just need purpose.

And writers.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Marvel's second tier of books are better than its first tier, and an Authority run ends with a whimper

Marvel Comics.

Let me guess.  When you think about Marvel Comics you think about the very best comic book titles being published in the world today.  Naturally that means you’re thinking about Black Panther, Incredible Hercules, Nova, Secret Warriors and Guardians of The Galaxy.  No?  Well don’t feel bad.  Like many other people reading Marvel comic books, you’re probably following the more mainstream recognized top tier books for Marvel, and with the limited budget that many people have available to them you’re not able to explore titles with which you’re not already familiar. With that said, today I would like to spend a little bit of time telling you what I really enjoy about some of Marvel’s “B” books, and why I think they are more engaging than many of their “A” books.

[Black Panther] I commented to somebody reading the blog recently that I still haven’t seen an ethnic character really get the kind of series that he deserved, with the possible exception of the recent run by Reginald Hudlin on Black Panther.  Now I can’t take credit for being brave and giving this book a try when it first came out (it is now into its second volume, with the start of Dark Reign) but I was fortunate enough to find a number of back issues at The Heroes Lounge (now closed) in Georgetown and pick them up on discount when I had a couple of extra dollars in my pocket. Looking back, it is one of the best decisions that I’ve made.  I immediately started reading the book on a monthly basis, and was really impressed by the writer’s ability to weave together the concept of a super-hero (to me he’s Marvel’s Batman) with politics and intrigue. The Black Panther isn’t your typical story in any way, and because of that, it manages to always maintain a very fresh and original sense to it.  It deals with cultural differences, isn’t based in the United States and really touches on the concept of tribalism that dominates the African landscape.  Mix in a marriage to Storm, and an outsider’s perspective to things that happen on U.S. soil (like Civil War) and you get a very different kind of book.  It’s wonderfully written, and I really recommend it.

[Incredible Hercules] That’s right I said Incredible Hercules. I was standing in Axis Comics in Newmarket about 4 months before it closed, and listening to a number of comic guys laugh about the idea that Marvel was trying once again to publish a comic book about the longstanding “b grade” avengers character, when I was forced to ask if any of them had actually been reading the book.  They all laughed it off like I was joking, but I wasn’t.  When Greg Pak, who was doing brilliant work setting up Planet Hulk, made plans to spin Incredible Hercules out of the absence of an Incredible Hulk series at the time, I decided I would give it a try, and I was never disappointed.  The writing was smart, the new characters that they introduced were interesting, and the story served to really add depth to Marvel’s use of characters like Hercules, Athena and even Aries (currently a member of Norman Osborne’s Dark Avengers.)  More than that, my longstanding impression of Hercules in Marvel had been that he was bland, one-dimensional and basically a generic strong guy (not to be confused with Strong Guy of X-Factor.) After reading this series, I finally care about the character, and I see him as much more impressive and fleshed out than longstanding Avengers characters like Wonder Man or even Hawkeye. Pak embraced the character, and took him out of his comfort zone, setting Hercules clearly at odds with his family and with the American government.  The story is continuing to evolve, and I think that if you’re not reading this book, you’re miss a great opportunity to see a character get properly fleshed out for the first time.  That kind of freedom for a writer creates a myriad of possibilities, and Pak is exploring some damn good ones.  Plus, the mythology that is being woven into the super-hero genre works well too.

[Secret Warriors] This book might be the closest of all of them to being an “A-list” book because it was launched with the powerful brand name of Brian Bendis behind it, but make no mistake…..Secret Warrios is exactly the kind of smart, conspiracy laden Nick Fury story that almost always gets some momentum before getting buried for not selling enough. It’s another one of those titles that I wasn’t on in the beginning, but had a chance to pick up issues #1 - #8 on sale at Christmas, and did.  Man is it good.  Super-powers, secret agencies, and Nick Fury operating well outside the law.  It’s intelligent, without being highbrow, and it has powers without being Avengers.  Fury is building an army, and supplementing them with a black-ops group of young powers in a bid to retake the reigns of the spy world from the people like Osborne and Hydra (who we find out have always been the secret power behind SHIELD?!) It’s a fun book, with the kind of character I always have time for.  Fury is so old school that if he thought that making you cry would save him seven seconds in a fight, he’d find a way to break you emotionally in case he ever needed to beat you up.  He’s just so……so…..hard.  I like that when it is written up against the backdrop of young heroes, whose natural tendency is to rebel against authority.  What can I tell you?  Read this book.

[Nova & Guardians Of The Galaxy] To me these books make up the core of Marvel’s sci-fi heroes line.  There are other limited series and such that come and go, but these books have been at the heart of all things going on in space for the last few years.  The men writing both of these books have long since earned my admiration for telling smart stories, with creative edges, that somehow manage to hold on to that fresh feeling that I got when I was reading books as a kid. You may be surprised to hear that this is the fourth time that Marvel has attempted to tell the story of Nova.  The other reads are not very good, although they are reflective of their eras.  The Nova Corps is an intergalactic peace keeping police force (sound familiar anyone?) that has seldom had a big impact on the Marvel Universe.  That is no longer the case.  Abnett & Lanning launch the series by taking away the corps, and condensing the power all into one person; Nova Prime – Richard Ryder of Earth.  Once a New Warrior (the poor bastard!) Ryder is now the sole repository of a tremendous power source.  From there the story takes many twists, while bringing back into play some other characters from Marvel’s inter-galactic past.  Because Nova hasn’t been used in a deep and meaningful way, the writers have a lot of freedom, and as such they can tell original stories, making it a very interesting read.

Guardians of The Galaxy is a modern revamp of a campy 80’s book focused on a futuristic team comprised of members from a number of worlds. The new book takes a similar vein, but spins out of some of the major galactic stories that have been going on over the last couple of years in Marvel, like Annihilation, and takes place in the present. We’re treated to a very dysfunctional team with different purposes and agendas, and the struggle of holding those people together for the ultimate benefit of the galaxy. Adam Warlock, Rocket Raccoon (I’m serious!), Moondragon and Mar-Vell’s daughter all take center stage in this twisted and complex tale of social conflict and alienation. It’s a very creative and fresh book with an incredible dynamic and excellent story telling that is just a lot of fun to read. 

Now before I sign off, I should mention that while I have almost always enjoyed the work of Misters Abnett and Lanning, I found their recent ending to their time on The Authority for Wildstorm to be rushed, choppy and unfulfilled.  The premise that they were working on had legs and should have been allowed to run its course naturally, instead of being hurried to a resolution to make way for a new direction.  I don’t know if that’s their fault for not pacing the story better, or Jim’s fault for rushing their ending, but it left a sour taste in my mouth and I dropped the book.

Also, if you're read Morrison's Batman RIP, I'd like your thoughts.  We may have to discuss it some day soon.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Meaningless publishing, more Robinson love and an outcry for The Martian Manhunter

Years ago I read every Batman and Superman comic that was published each month by DC Comics.  I took pride in the fact that I owned, read and understood everything that was happening inside the scope of their respective ‘universes.’  But at the same time when the bubble on comic books was bursting, publishers were also starting to crank out more and more special issues, limited series and hard covers.  Many of the primary characters for both of the major publishing companies also started to see their regular monthly book become two regular monthly books (or in some cases…..X-Men……17 regular monthly books.) As a man on a budget, I was forced to cut back.  For months I attempted to cut on other books.  I tried to weed out the ‘fringe’ books that I was reading in an effort to stay strong in my reading of the core books. When Superman and Batman became an average of 8 books a month each (or roughly 2/week) enough was enough and I made the call; no more Superman and Batman.

If you know me, you know what a tough decision that was.  True, many months in that period these were books that were stuck in a rut and failing to show the ground breaking creativity that they have both seen in recent years, but that didn’t make it any easier for me.  These were my staples.  My primary arch types for great heroes. These were the two who had started it all for me.  Letting them go and moving on to better written books, with single issue monthly programs was hard for me to do.  Every time I considered coming back to them, I found out that in addition to the main monthly title, they were also in the middle of a limited series, that would inevitably end up meaning next to nothing to the overall continuity of the character and his supporting cast. That always kept me away.

There are few things I hate more in comic books than stories that don’t serve a purpose.  I say that in a very matter-of-fact way, when in all actuality I could probably dig through my rather large collection and find you numerous occasions where limited series or one shots were completely irrelevant to the character’s main continuity, and yet I still loved the book. Sometimes great writing trumps the rule that all stories should serve some kind of purpose, and even I have to bow down to that writing and admit when it has defeated my rule.  But all too often I find that the limited series is used as a tool for increasing sales for a couple of months without truly developing the character, and making a significant impact.

That was one of my primary concerns with the idea of reading Justice League: Cry For Justice, despite the fact that it was being written by superstar scribe James Robinson.  With such a limited comic budget these days, and the ever rising cost of the books themselves, I get very agitated when I waste money on a meaningless story instead of reading a more intelligently written book.  I needn’t have worried about Cry For Justice.  In the back of Issue #1 James spends some time discussing how important it was to him that he not take on a project just for the sake of doing a project.  He wanted the story to have real consequences in the overall scope of Justice League lore, and committed himself to that path. I appreciate that.

We read so much hype and hyperbole in anticipation of major comic stories, limited series or otherwise, that it has become hard to glean what is going to actually be a significant story and what is not. Leave it to a true professional like Mr. Robinson to recognize that it’s not enough for him to write a decent Justice League story.  He needs to write something of lasting impact, so that I’m not just handing out money because a book was made. I’m handing it out because it will continue to enhance and deepen my appreciation for stories that will be coming in the future.

I also appreciate that at the outset of the book, he has tackled something that has been pissing me off since Final Crisis; why aren’t the heroes angrier about the murders of Bruce and J’onn? Why did the death of the Martian Manhunter come across as such a minor footnote in the scope of what has happened in the DCU this past year?

That pisses me off.

J’onn J’onzz is a kick ass character (and I recommend Ostrander’s run on the book as a read that gives subtext to the character) who was the backbone of the Justice League since its inception.  His death should have resonated around the world because it was a murder. An execution. Nobody should have been safe.

But life moved on and for me that didn’t ring true.

Cry For Justice at least touches on that as it starts up.  More importantly, it promises to give me a return for my money that will continue to pay dividends into the future as I will enjoy its lasting influence over future stories.

And is that really too much to ask from a limited series, or one shot?

That it matters?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

James Robinson, Villains & why Doctor Octopus sucks balls

“Grant Morrison is one of the greatest writers ever in comics."

With those words, James Robinson opened up his dialogue on villains at the back of Justice League: Cry For Justice #3 and presented me with an interesting and insightful challenge. What makes a great villain?

Before I get to the question, I’d like to spend some time talking about an author who, in many circles of comic readership, doesn’t get anywhere near the level of glorification that he deserves.  First let me tell you that I think Robinson is every bit the writing phenom that he thinks Morrison is. Robinson breathes a life into everything he writes, and for those readers who are either patient enough to let his stories' never-ending depth suck them in, or familiar enough with his works to know that the payoff is always exceptional, everything he writes is worth reading.  My first encounter with James Robinson’s work came in the pages of Starman.  At the time I read almost everything that was being published, but Starman, for reasons I cannot remember, failed to make my radar until a man named Clinton handed me a copy and told me that if I didn’t like it I could get a free book of my choice the next week when my shipment came in.

I didn’t like it, not at first.  I was, however, immediately introduced to a concept that hadn’t really made any headway until that point in comics; mantles. In that first issue David Knight, son of the Justice Society’s Ted Knight (the first Starman of note,) dies a death that makes Blue Beetles seem grandiose, and in doing so immediately sets in motion events that will force the mantle he so loved to pass from the son who wanted nothing more than to be his father, to the son who never wanted to be anything like his father.  The very idea of a generational tale set concepts running through my mind that caused me to pick up the second issue, and then the third.  It wasn’t long until I realized that the book I didn’t really like to start with, I loved more than any other.

I have said this many times; Starman is the greatest complete super-hero series in comic history.

I am ashamed to admit for some time following the end of Starman, James fell off my radar.  I was at a different place in my life and I was exploring different books.  I had grown up a lot, and in that time my expendable budget had shrunk significantly.  I simply couldn’t afford to read everything, and so I read a more select assortment of books.  Nothing that James was doing at the time found its way routinely onto the list, although I don’t recall what he was doing.  My level of awareness was at an all-time low.  I only read some of Leave It To Chance, which is a bad thing, because it was a great book.  Recently though I was catching up on lost time in 2009, and reading some books I had missed.  Seeing that James had picked up a regular role writing for Superman brought a smile to my face, but that smile was doubled in size when I opened the pages to find that his tales were as intricately crafted as ever, and as always pulled forth from the silver age a collection of characters I had loved decades earlier.

In Superman, Robinson had brought back the classic version of Lar Gand that I always found so compelling as a child, and with him a complex puzzle involving disguised, time travelling members of the Legion of Super Heroes. I read every page with the fascination and wonder of my youth once more, and for the first time in a long time I remember what had crafted my passion for comics to begin with. Some digging around unearthed other books that he had been writing, including the onset of a new Justice League mini-series called Cry For Justice (as well as news that he was taking over as the new regular scribe on Justice League Of America!!) I picked up the first 3 issues of Cry For Justice, on sale, with grave concern that I was once again getting sucked into a mini-series that wasn’t going to matter (more on that tomorrow.)

James addressed that in issue 1, and then continued his dialogue with the fans through each of the next two books.  It is in the third book that he asked the pivotal question that defines all great heroes; what makes a great villain?

The question isn’t answered, although he does share some opinions.  I’m not going to share my thoughts on his topic, but I will share where my contemplation of his question took me; the quality of the villain defines the legacy of the hero.  Or, in simple terms, great heroes have great villains. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never understood anyone who argues that the greatest hero ever is somebody other than Batman.  It isn’t possible.  Batman has all the best villains.  It’s actually unfair.

In any event, give what I’ve suggested some thought. 

What would you rather see?  Spider-Man v Doc Oc (seriously?  Octopus arms are supposed to impress me?) or Batman v The Joker? Ghost Rider v Blackheart or Fantastic Four v Doctor Doom (let’s forget about the terrible script and mediocre acting, and just picture the potential folks!) It’s all in the villain.

What makes a great villain?  I’m not positive we can nail that down to just one element.  What makes a great hero?  Now THAT......we can answer.

The villain.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My return and Marvel's event failure pattern

Three and a half years is a long, long time.

For a guy who loves to write, and usually writes somewhere in the vicinity of two thousand words a day just to keep in practice, one might think that it would have taken a lot less time for me to get back to writing about comic books, which anyone can tell you is my single greatest passion. I can’t tell anyone why I’ve been away from the blog for so long, or what it was that ultimately brought me back to it, but I can tell you that in the years that have passed I have stumbled across all manner of things I would like to talk about. With the closing last year of yet another local comic store I have lost my last outlet for verbal discourse with other intelligent (and often unintelligent) comic readers, which is where I am hoping that all of you will step in.

I can’t promise you an insightful literary analysis of the underlying themes of a book, because quite frankly I don’t want to root into the core of a writer’s subtext and expose it for analysis.  Somebody else can take the highbrow approach to comic reviews.  All I really want to do is talk comics.  I want to share with you what I think is working in comics, and what I think is failing.  I want to look into the big press blunders and the small press wonders that I find every time I pull a shipment of comics out of the box and start exploring.

If you’re wondering right now what kind of focus I’ll have, I can tell you that I read a fairly even mix of Marvel and DC books, with preferences given to the books that continue to attract the best writers.  I follow some small press work, though most of it tends to be written by either Warren Ellis or Garth Ennis, and I can’t remember the last time I got truly excited by anything that Image publishes (although I do enjoy Invincible when I read it.) Comics that draw on history are fascinating when done well, and trite when door sloppily, and if an author or publish let a book’s schedule slide to some kind of erratic schedule I will almost certainly drop it in favor of coming on here and blogging about their failure to respect the fans.

Looking back on the last couple of years I can tell you, as somebody who did reasonably well with Marvel’s recent sale, that I was largely disappointed in the major stories that “my” company pushed.  In almost every case I found myself intrigued and excited going into a story, only to have the climax fall far short of the anticipation, leaving me wondering if they would ever learn how to properly complete a story. Maybe we should take a moment to think about what strikes me as some of Marvel’s unmitigated failures in recent years, like House of M, World War Hulk, Civil War and ultimately Secret Invasion (we won’t pass judgment on Dark Reign and its climactic Siege just yet.)

These were all big name events, driven by a simple but solid premise, in which the story leading up to the event was more compelling than the event itself. Watching Hulk and Cap stand their ground against the Marvel heroes who had done them (or the nation; TONY STARK!) wrong only to capitulate and fold at the climax was both frustrating and offensive, and tore their respective stories apart. House of M was a muddle of a story that never really got going and built to the event that it should have become (it would have been better served with a company wide focus reflective of Age of Apocalypse) while Secret Invasion blurred too many lines to have the impact it should have had.  If the story had lead to the return of 1 key person (cap) or 1 key team who had long been believed dead, evil or some such, it might have resonated.  Instead all it did was muddy the waters surrounding a host of mid-level characters and their ultimate fates in the Marvel Universe.

The events arguably ran from one into another, creating a chronology of events that all seem to be leading to Siege, but now that Siege is here I find myself asking…..”how did they do in building to this?”

Answer: not well.

Before anyone puts the common denominator together, let me just say this; I like Brian Bendis.  I like his books and I routinely read MOST of the things that he’s writing (I don’t read Spider-Man because it goes against my religion) so this isn’t a concerted attack on the mastermind of these events.  What it is is a condemnation of his ability to deliver a knock-out punch, which in my opinion he hasn’t done since Avengers Disassembled (which he promptly fixed by bringing back Hawkeye in House of M - this is not a compliment.) In small story, month to month writing the man is exceptional.  In big story, event writing?

I haven’t seen it yet.

Next up?

Let's talk about James Robison some more, as he takes over on Justice League Of America...