Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Big news from Comicon!

I know some people are waiting for me to start hammering out blogs about why the rest of you are retarded enough to consider The Punisher "misunderstood" and other people are waiting to hear my feedback on Shadowland or more thoughts on Secret Avengers.  I've downloaded enough Shadowland to give you some thoughts, but I haven't had time to read it yet.

The truth is that this was going to be one of those blogs where I talk once again about how much people missed out if they didn't read one of those truly awesome Crossgen books from the turn of the century. I was going to talk about Sigil, which I just finished rereading (all 42 issues of intergalactic warfare based awesomeness!) I probably would even have found time to tell you all about the Mark Waid (notice I mention him a lot?) written Crux which I'm completely absorbed in once again.

As I sat down to write though, I decided to confirm what I had long thought was the case.  That it was Disney who bought the rights to Crossgen and its creations when they filed for Bankruptcy. I thought it would be a great chance for me to explain how much I hate the job that Joe Q!  is doing (I do. I really do - as the EiC I hold him responsible for all the screw ups! The buck stops with him.) and that I feel like they've failed yet again by not using their newfound membership in Club Disney to gain access to previously vaulted characters like those belonging to CrossGen Entertainment.

Turns out, I was wrong.

As I read here: four days ago during Comicon, Joe announced that Marvel will in fact begin publishing Crossgen Comics again. As of this time I don't have any details on who will come on board to write them, and whether or not the original tale will be continued, or if they will attempt to revamp the entire Sigilverse.

But they're doing it, and for that they get a standing ovation from me.

Now I have to go and pray they don't mess it up!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Want an excellent vintage? Try 1602.

For me it was Sandman.

I don't know which book it was for other people, but I can remember the very first time that I picked up a copy of Neil Gaiman's Sandman, and I was captivated by the different mood and tone that it took. The book was laced with a freshly created mythology that I found fascinating and while it took place in the DCU, it was set on the fringes where only the least used and (in Neil's hands) most interesting characters ever crossed its path. There were other books after it, like Stardust, but the one that really caught my attention was Marvel 1602.

Neil Gaiman announced that not only was he doing a super-hero book, but that the book was being done for Marvel, not DC. It caught me off guard, and piqued my interest. At that point in time I knew Neil could write, but I didn't see him as a writer who belonged in the super-hero genre. Here was a man who had fashioned a deep, dark and sometimes disturbing mythology that entwined Christianity with Norse, Pagan and other religious beliefs announcing that he was going to do a story that included Captain America, Nick Fury, Spider-Man (BLAH!), the X-Men and more.

It didn't make sense.

I must confess that the first time I read it, I got hung up on the details, and lost track of the big picture.  I liked the book alright, but I wasn't blown away by it. Certain elements of the story struck me as clever and cunning (I was a huge fan of the fact that the legendary 'secret treasure' of the Knights Templar was in fact the enchanted stick that would turn its mortal possessor into the Thunder God - BRILLIANT!) But all in all, I failed to appreciate what was actually going on right in front of my eyes until a couple of years later when I had cause to reread the book in its graphic novel format.

I can admit that the introduction to that graphic novel, written by Peter Sanderson (a cultural critic and historian who specializes in comics) is what opened my eyes to the bigger picture that was being painted within the book.  First of all, as a person who enjoys history, it's embarrassing to admit that somehow I lost sight of the fact that Gaiman had found the perfect era in which to set his tale. Europe was teetering on the brink, with all manner of political and religious forces push and pulling it towards what must have looked like a recipe for Armageddon in those years. He then uses all of these forces as ways to craft a new Marvel mythology.

And there's the piece I always missed.

Marvel has always had its own mythology, just like DC does, and they handed their universe over to Neil and offered him the chance to craft his own mythology. He wasn't switching genres, he was pulling the characters of Marvel's fame into a tale that suited every strength he had demonstrated in the past. I was ashamed when I realized how wrong I was about what he had done.  How had I missed the strength of his interpretations of Marvel's characters, and how seamlessly he brought them into the tumultuous times of the 17th century? He had made them belong in an era hundreds of years earlier than they were created, and never once lost the essences that Stan Lee and others had infused them with in the 20th century.

Having reread this story with fresh eyes, I developed a new appreciation for its richness and scope, its historical narrative and its observation of the dangers of dogma. Are there still things I don't love about the book?  Of course there are. Steve Rogers, knowing his presence in 1602 threatens the existence of everything, does not agree to return from whence he came? Sorry, but that's just not Steve Rogers. But that is perhaps my biggest complaint these days, and it is handled with the guile and cunning that only Nick Fury can bring to a situation.

In the end, if you have read this tale before, or never read this tale, I recommend you take the time this summer to put your feet up on the back deck, maybe get a nice summer ale open for sipping (ice cold wheat ale is suggested) and enjoy a wonderful work of redefined mythology entwined with history.

I'm nominating this one for the Best Story Ever discussion.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

DMZ - have we done this dance before?

So I thought I was done writing for the day.

I went out on the back deck and pulled up a chair to enjoy the nice, warm summer evening, and I brought along another one of those graphic novels I grabbed from my small local library.  This time it was Brian Wood's DMZ: On The Ground. I can't remember if I've told anyone this story before (although I have a sneaking suspicion that I have,) and I'm too lazy to go back and take a look, so I'm going to have another kick at the can and share the love.  Tonight I'll be downloading this series from start through present if I can find it.

It's that cool.

It opens with an interesting situation; an American civil war. On one side are the Free States of America, while on the other side are the United States of America.  Stuck right in the middle is the demilitarized zone; Manhattan.  A rookie intern gets the chance of a lifetime to go into the DMZ with a famed journalist, and from that point on, everything goes wrong.

This story is a very gripping look at life in a war zone.

Now admittedly I've only read this first graphic novel, but I found the characters engaging and deep.  They weren't just ideas, and they weren't static (like they often are in Super Hero comics.) These were living breathing people, trapped in situations beyond their control and reacting with the same courage, fear, intelligence and stupidity that any one of us would use.  I became a Brian Wood fan while reading Northlanders, and now I find myself looking for his name on projects.

If you get a chance to pick this up and read it, I highly recommend it.

It's a very different read.

Single Green Female

Sometimes things don't work out the way you plan them.

Take this blog for instance.  July was going to be the month I really started cranking things out again.  Despite the lack of fresh reading material at my disposal, I still sit on an amassed wealth of stories that would make most large comic retailers green with envy.  Still, my best laid plans have faltered as summer has taken over in full force and reminded me that I'll be trapped in my basement with winter soon enough.  So I'm not blogging as much as I had intended.

I'm also not blogging about what I had intended.

I have topics I'm dying to keep working on, like the review of the contenders for the Top Story Ever vote, or all the different CrossGen series that I've been working my way through (I recently finished rereading The First, and intended to make it my next blog topic for a couple of reasons we'll touch on next time.) In the end though, I'm going to blog about something completely off the map.  Or rather, somebody. Her name is Jennifer Walters, but you probably know her best as She-Hulk.

I recently hit my local town library, where I dug through the dozens of graphic novels that they stock (somebody should really tell them to consult me before ordering!) and picked out a few that I hadn't read before.  At first I thought the winner in the assortment was going to be the Marvel Zombies series (the first three graphic novels were available) but on a whim I also decided to give Dan Slott's She-Hulk: Single Green Female a read.  I'm very glad I did.

Don't get me wrong.  This isn't the brilliant epic story that Planet Hulk was, nor is it the gripping look at Super-Heroism that I can find in Kingdom Come. It isn't even an edgy, dangerously offensive slap in the face like Wanted.  It's just a good, fun time that's well written and entertaining.  If you're not familiar with the She-Hulk, don't worry.  Aside from having read some pretty awesome runs of the Hulk, I can't tell you very much about what being green means, and I didn't need to know any of it to appreciate what Slott did in this story.  But here's what I learned:

Jennifer Walters was a law student, and the cousin of Bruce Banner.  She was an introvert academic, who through the type of circumstances that only Marvel can dream up, was infused with the same gamma radiation as her cousin, turning her into the She-Hulk.  That's where the similarities end though.  Shulk keeps her intelect while in Hulk form, and when our story picks up, she is embracing the brash, powerful extrovert that being green makes her. What Slott does is introduce us to a period in her life where fate and opportunity conspire to force introvert Jennifer out of the background and back into the real world making her see her worth not in terms of the color of her skin, but in terms of who she is.

Simple right?

But it's how he does it that I find so entertaining.  Jennifer is a lawyer, and she is hired to come and work for one of the world's leading law firms, who have established a new division in Super-Human law.  It is an emerging, undefined area of law that presents all manner of interesting challenges, and a terrific backdrop for a character story about Shulk. From a law suit in which a ghost is called as a witness in its own death, to suing the Daily Bugle on behalf of Spider-Man this backdrop is an entertaining and engaging medium for the examination of Jennifer's lack of confidence in how the world sees her (not Shulk....her.)

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book.

More proof that the only thing that separates A level characters from B level characters are the writers?

Saturday, July 03, 2010


There is a scene in JLA: New World Order in which the white martians rage over the very idea that a mere human could be causing them so many problems, and an imprisoned Kal-El laughs at them and proclaims that Batman is the most dangerous man on the planet.

It's an idea I like, and it's not the only time that the idea of a man being more dangerous than a superman has appeared in a book I've really enjoyed. This weekend I reread a story that is perhaps the best example of this idea.  Why don't I tell you the basic premise and you see if you can follow along and guess which series I'm talking about?

The god-like Emperor of a parallel universe abducts one hundred beings from across our universe to test and study in advance of an invasion. The vast majority of his victims are powerful beings here in our universe, but find their powers corrupted and unreliably dangerous once they are spirited away to his universe. Yet even as the Emperor's men study and test the powerful specimens they have collected, a normal human caught up in all of this begins to devise a plan for escape. Can an ordinary man out-think a nearly omnipotent being, and lead a band of refugees in an uprising against the greatest threat to the known universe that has ever existed? 

Did you figure it out?

Judging by the pathetically low amount of respect that CrossGen Comics gets in polls that run constantly on this blog, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that almost none of you were able to guess that I was attempting to adequately describe the awesomeness that is Negation.

Obregon Kaine is the character at the heart of this series, as the military tactician commands much more powerful beings in an effort to save their lives, and escape from the clutches of the God-Emperor Charon. This series doesn't rest on one simple (and incredibly cool) premise though, as it ties in story threads that delve into the power of The First (a race of gods who claim they created the known universe,) the fate of the last survivors of Earth and the very nature of good and evil. This series is the foundational building block for the story that was meant to be the first official climax of every Crossgen series being published at that time; Negation War. It offers up an insight into fight and flight rebellion in a sci-fi genre that puts The Rebel Alliance to shame, and it does so with surprisingly few weak moments.

While I'm not terribly fond of the way that Tony Bedard comes off in his interview regarding this series, and I'm not sure I would have loved seeing him write to the conclusion he had in mind, I do think that he did an exceptional job of turning this into one of CrossGen's best series.  So good in fact that I'll nominate its entire 28 issue run (27 standard issues and one prequel) for the debate on Best Story Ever.

Seriously people, this is COOL.

Find it & read it.

Oh, and BOHICA?

Bend Over, Here It Comes Again!

Because that's what you say when things go from worse.  And in this series?

That happens a lot.