Your Mission, Should You Decide to Accept It [Review]

THE MISSION #1 (Image Comics/Collider Entertainment)

by Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Werther Dell’Edera, Arianna Florean and Dave Sharpe

Synopsis: A man is given 48 hours to kill some dude or else Things will happen.

01. It’s a classic set-up. A man walks up to you, and give you a message. He’s a little vague on the hows and the whys, but one thing is clear: he wants you to do something, and he wants you to do something now. After the pre-requisite depiction of life-as-we-know-it, the “mysterious message” is a tried and true device, that propels us into a world of suspense and intrigue. Trouble is, since this is the type of story many people are already familiar with, a lot of weight is placed on the skill with which the writers pull off their tricks. Here, in The Mission, writers Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber (conjoined twins, I hope?) do a fairly solid job in setting up the situation and the rules that go with it. After a routine check up, Paul Haskell is delivered a message by a man by the name of Gabriel. Paul’s been selected for a mission, and that mission, is to straight up murder some guy in cold blood. But why? How? Gabe is not forthcoming, and so Paul does what pretty much any of us would do when told to kill some random dude by a complete stranger. Cock fighting.

Ah, no wait, wrong story. He goes home and hugs his family, forgetting about the whole random ordeal. In real life, this would be the end of it – the crazy man is forgotten, and you move on with your life. But in the land of fiction, that would make for one boring ass story – which is where the knife twists come in.

02. The writers do a good amount of lifting, taking both the reader and the protagonist to the point where we accept the premise of the book. These little nudges aren’t incredulous, and they are played without cheating the story, or brushing against some unrealistic expectations. By the end of the story, you get a vague sense of why Paul was given the name – but bigger questions immediately loom. Not only does the conclusion of this issue give the reader all they need to know about the book’s premise, it leaves just enough open so that they might come back for next month’s issue, so that they can further explore the concept and the world. If, however, you’re not inclined to do so after this issue, that’s cool too – the writers have concocted something that could easily be read on its own – a little short story about a strange and dire situation, with a beginning, a middle and end. Not a lot of comic book writers do this, anymore – which is a shame. A first issue shouldn’t just be the first part of your larger story – it should let you put your feet on the ground, allowing you to decide whether or not to continue based on a complete story. If I were to compare the issue’s style to anyone else’s openers, I would probably go with Brian K. Vaughan, who would often start his series with a complete story to hook you, before pushing you into some longer story bits. It’s a really nice thing to have in a first issue.

03. The art from Werther Dell’Edera and Arianna Florean is quite solid. Dell’Edera’s work isn’t what you’d be used to finding in regular superhero fare – which fits this series quite well. People aren’t drawn in that typical Dirk Squarejaw style, and the women aren’t all boob and curve, they just look like people – albeit, with a fairly loose style, that tip toes ever so slightly towards charicature. Not that you’ll be finding any exaggerated body types – more that you’ll find anger depicted with a line with no pupils. Not something people actually do, but with that slight exaggeration, emotion is quite easy to find in the work. He also does a phenomenal job with picking camera angles. A lot of this issue involves talking and some good old fashioned detective work, the action only hitting in the book’s closing scenes – and yet there’s a sense of momentum present in the art. You’re never bored, just staring at heads as they talk back and forth.

All of this work would be for naught if it weren’t for the colouring from Florean. The story is a dark one, and a lot of time, colourists have the tendency to darken their palette a little too much for what will eventually see print. The colouring here managed to keep the dark atmosphere, without turning the lights down too low. It’s a delicate ballance, but she pulled it off quite nicely.

Recommended if you like: Suspense flicks, 100 Bullets, and good comics.

C!TB's Best of the Week | Feb. 28th, 2011

Ta-daaaahhh

Oh hey, internet. We didn’t know you were in town. It’s, uh… it’s been a while since we talked. How are you. You’ve been good? Yeah, yeah, we’ve been good too. We’ve been going out… seein’ all sorts of, uh… lay-deeeesss, and uh… reeeeeeeeally livin’ it up. Or something. But uh… hey since you’re here, how about we hand out some awards? You know, for old times sake?

And maybe later, we can get a bit of boob.

Yeah no sorry. We had to ask.

BLUFFIN’ WITH MY MUFFIN

So last issue, we were treated to the swank-ass stylings of Don of the Dead. In this issue, we learn more about the evil group of opera clichés. All of this was pretty awesome. But then, Fred Van Lente unleashed some scorched earth villainy, in the form of a guy, with a poker through his face WHO CALLS HIMSELF POKER FACE.

And not only that, he gives a little teaser for next issue that reads “Next: Bad Romance!” Which is just. Freaking. Delightful. Because not only does it let us add another entry to our burgeoning Lady Gaga tag, but it pretty much plays into everything we love here at the blog: a solid superhero story that never forgets that comics are meant to be fun. Which is why we give this week’s issue of Power Man and Iron Fist #2 the Rah-Rah, Ah-Ah-Ah Award. (B)

LIFE IS LIKE A BOX OF SKINNED CHILDREN

For our next award, something completely different: a book about a guy who makes dolls out of the skin and bones of small children. Just a touch removed from the fare inside Power Man and Iron Fist, right?

The book is called Echoes and it is one of those comics that really illustrate the versatility of the comic book medium. Not only does it tell a fantastic horror story, but it uses the medium really well to illustrate the effects of schizophrenia on the mind, building panels upon panels, set against the real actions within the comic. And the story. Holy wow, it has to be just the creepiest thing ever. The atmosphere that Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Rahsan Ekedal have created in the book give the events a loose feel, making you wonder what’s actually happening, and what’s just a figment of the narrator’s imagination. It’s a fantastic story telling device, and an amazing story, which is why we give this book the You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get Award.

Maybe they should be hitting Mysterio.

YOU’RE BLOWING UP RIGHT NOW

If I had a key that could destroy entire sections of the city with so much as one little unrelated thought, I’d probably just threaten people with it until I got all the ice cream I wanted.  But that probably wouldn’t make for a very good comic, so maybe I’d ask for something else, like some hot fudge sauce, too.  I’m not a complete jackass.

But Mysterio?  Man, that dude-slash-robot probably doesn’t want ice cream.  Luckily, Spider-Man and Iron Man are there to make sure that all he gets is a knuckle sammich, and maybe some zippy one-liners.  Which is pretty rad, just the way Spider-Man is in my head, except I’m not him for some stupid reason.  Get on that, Bendis!

This is a comic that manages to blend comedy, frenetic action, mindless destruction and its consequences, then tosses in some good ol’ fashioned romance.  It’s enough to make your head spin, but somehow Brian Michael Bendis and his art team pull every single bit of it off.  And for that, we give Ultimate Spider-Man #154 the Ice Cream of Justice Award.

Better than alllll the restThis week was filled with fantastic comics – but even so, at the end of it, there could really only be one choice for the best.

It was one of two books that used the canvas of silence for mourning this week – and while both did that masterfully, this one was just a cut above. Not only did it capture and frame the whole grieving process in such accurate and stunning detail, but it then took a sharp detour into a dream-scape so intricate that you couldn’t help but stare at the pages with your jaw agape. It was one of those comics that you’ll go back and pull out of your long boxes again and again and again, just to admire the handiwork that went into its making. Easily the best this week. Dan Slott and Marcos Martin should be really proud of the work they accomplished. And you? You should seek it out.

This is Comics! The Blog. We now commence our broadcasting week.

You're Welcome, Internet | February 21-25, 2011

Well kids, that sure was February! And yeah, when we come back on Monday, there will still be one day left. But you know something? Fuck February 28th. I mean seriously, what has it done for us that the 27th or 26th won’t have already done? Yeah, that’s right. NOTHING.

You’re welcome, internet.

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It's like puking up Volton

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The telltale tail?

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If you're angry they got the quote wrong, you need to get out more.

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For all your slashfic needs.

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Yes prease!

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Been there, done that.

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Leask: Another week, only 18 hours before I move for the first time ever.  As a result of spending the last week packing, I’ve been a little lax about producing things for your eyes here at C!TB, and I regretfully inform you that I’ll be around her less next week as I try to get my new apartment set up.  So everybody be nice to Brandon, who will not only be putting up most of the content, but will also have to deal with constant texts from me like, “MY WORLD IS BOXES.”

 

Schatz: Well, it sure has been another week. The end of the week for us seemed to end with a whimper, but that’s only because I’ve been doing SO MUCH DRUGS in order to show my support with Charlie Sheen. Because if that man has taught me anything, you can lock a hooker in a closet and do bowls of coke while you’re at it, and still keep your job. Just don’t ever, ever insult your bosses. Ever.

Anyway, we’ll be back on Monday with another awesome week of awesome things. Also, I’ll have a new $40 Pull List up with Craig Reade up over at my old digs, CXPulp. This month’s article is shaping up to be one of our best (which is saying something, because we’ve been doing this going on a few years now), and you’re going to want to check that out. There will be links.

You’ve been reading Comics! The Blog. This concludes our broadcast week.

Review: Invincible Iron Man #501

Suck it, Iron FistInvincible Iron Man #501 (Marvel Comics)
By Matt Fraction, Salvador Larroca, Frank D’Armata & VC’s Joe Caramagna

Synopsis: Tony Stark and Doctor Octopus are old-fashioned academic nemeses, but only one of them can still grow a mustache, unless Tony can fix Doc Ock.

01. Have you ever started ranking superheroes?  You know, who’s stronger, who’s smarter, who’s the dirtiest in bed?  It seems harmless, but it’s easy to have it devolve into never-ending internet arguments that ultimately do nothing but get people angry.  But when comics themselves do it?  It can be a pretty satisfying contest, as seen here.

02. Fraction kicks off a new arc and the first regular post-500 issue with a fun story: after the events of Stark: Resilient, Tony unveils his plans to rebuild Asgard and its home of Broxton, Oklahoma into the world’s first clean town, powered solely off non-weaponizable repulsor technology.  Watching his late night TV appearance later that day, Tony’s extorted by Doc Ock into trying to cure the villain or else he’ll detonate a nuclear bomb and, separately, have Electro and Sandman straight up murder one of Tony’s friends.

Ah, the classics.

03. Of course, Octavius doesn’t really think he can be cured.  However, as we’re shown through a series of interspersed flashbacks, he’s always resented Tony’s privilege and his intelligence and his lording it over Ock for almost 20 years.  He wants to watch Tony truly fail for the first time, which I guess means he hasn’t been paying that much attention the last couple of years.  Hell, Tony’s already disgustedly told himself to shut up this issue by the time Doc Ock gets to him.

04. And here’s where we get to my favourite parts of the issue, the parts where Tony lets loose on Octavius like he rarely does on anybody.  In the past, he mocks Otto’s low self-esteem and need for approval and calls him a “sad, fat puppet whore” at a professional conference, which is just fuckin’ mean.  It’s not hard to see why Otto hates him.  In the present, he mocks Otto’s terminal illness, calling him a rip-off artist whose new designs are just stolen designs like the ones Tony and Spidey fought in issue #500.  He lambasts the life of a man who never got farther than being repeatedly beaten up by Spider-Man.  And then?  Then decides to tell Doctor Octopus to go fuck himself by boasting he will fix him.  As far as dropping the mic goes, that’s pretty damn good.

05. Salvador Larroca is incredible this issue in how he handles the two different timelines.  The present is the series as it always is.  The past, however, is a goldmine, and a giant fuck you to people to say the man does nothing but trace.  Aided by Frank D’Armata muting his normal colouring for the series, we get a tweaked, distorted version of things.  Larroca flexes his muscles as a cartoonist, giving the characters slightly exaggerated facial expressions and caricatured features.  It’s not distorted enough to look like a different comic, but enough to make sure it reads entirely differently than the rest of the issue.  And it is wonderful.

06. A few years ago, I picked the first issue of this series up mostly as a lark.  Now it’s one of the series I anticipate most every month.  The creative team deserves every single ounce of credit it has been given, and then some.

Recommended if you like: Matt Fraction, Pornostaches, Science Fiction and good comics.

Movin' on Up, Part 1: Just to get up that hill

Now they give it to me nice and easy/Since I moved up like George and Weezie

Part 1: Just to get up that hill

This is the first installment in a three-part series about being a nerd and moving. It’s also an explanation for why content was light this week and why it likely will be next week as well.  Thanks for all your patience as I learn just how insane my lifestyle really is.

Internet, I have a secret to share: I have never moved before.  Well, I moved once when I was two years old and a baby sister meant that we needed a bigger house, because apparently it’s illegal to make babies live outside, but I’m not sure I did much other than be difficult about the whole process. In other words, nothing has changed.

I really did mean to move out as soon as I got my university degree, but having to replace a few cars and some much more frivolous expenses, like trips to the Penny Arcade Expo and New York City, delayed things a bit.  After a few false starts when opportunities fell through, I began this year vowing to move out as soon as possible.  And wouldn’t you know it, around three days later an opportunity fell into my lap like so many uncooked sausages.

So here I am, two days away from being a real adult, with my own apartment and rent and overpriced internet and everything!  And that is unbelievably rad.  For once, I’ll be able to keep my own schedule, decorate in my own style, and listen to that Ke$ha/Beatles mashup as much I damn well want.  But first I have to move.  And guys?  I’ve made a discovery:

Holy shit I have a lot of stuff.

I suppose it should have been a sign when my bookshelves started sagging under the weight of the complete Calvin & Hobbes and Works of Shakespeare, amongst many other books on that shelf alone.  The reality is that most of my shelves were already double-filled, with rows in front of rows – until I packed them last weekend, I hadn’t seen my Terry Pratchett books in over a year!

Behold! My shit!

That’s bad, but it’s not the worst of it.  Around the time I came home from a trip to California in October with a dozen new books, my desk, already overloaded with a few hundred CDs and more than a few plastic Batmen and Batgirls, stopped being usable.  It started with a statue of Batman as drawn by Bruce Timm and got worse.  Later, I stopped by the collectibles store at the mall to look around and walked out with a few figures that I’d later start supplementing.  And supplementing…

Let's call this: "Why James never gets any work done"

Even my bed proved not to be safe, once I ran out of room elsewhere.

Yes, I sleep alone.

The top of my dresser suffered a similar fate; at some point, I discovered Kid Robot makes 3” Futurama vinyl figurines, and I inevitably spent far more money than was prudent getting some.  Then I discovered two things: (a) There were Simpsons ones for sale at the mall; and (b) I could get most of the ones I couldn’t get in the random assortment blind boxes on eBay, and, well… voila.

Man, I didn't even TALK about the Lego.

Listen, I know this is a problem, one which Brandon is more than willing to encourage – as is his job – by telling me when there are new plastic Batmen in his shop.  And really, isn’t that the mark of a good friend?  Or salesman?  Whatever.  All I know is that now I can have a 12-way all-Batman plastic sex pile and none of you can stop me.

But yes, this is the life of a nerd and of an obsessive.  You want to know how many comics I have?  This many:

No, I don't know which is which.

Of course, before I boxed them as a part of my packing, they weren’t nearly as neat.  In fact, it was an issue getting out of bed in the morning:

The wrong side.

The other wrong side.

Or to use parts of the living room:

As a result, I haven't read my collected version of Wednesday Comics yet.

I'm a comic squirrel. Like Squirrel Girl!

And that’s not even going get into the rest of the living room that still needs to be dealt with:

Conan is always on in any house of mine.

I need a roadie.

So where to begin?  How does one start organizing and parsing all their nerdity on a week’s notice?  Hell, how am I supposed to even pack action figures?  There are like 8 different batarangs! Alternate hands!  Accessories!  What if I lose one?  Last week I thought I lost a batarang and I had trouble getting to sleep!

Yes, I am insane.  You’re welcome.

In the end, I decided on ziplock bags, newspaper and a big cardboard box, just like how my ancestors packed when they were coming across the Atlantic from the Orkey Islands over a century ago.  Ultimately, everything has gotten into the appropriate boxes and now all that’s left is to actually move.

But what next?  I’ve got more room in my new apartment.  Theoretically, I can spread out.  Display things, even!  But can I actually do it?  Can I stay organized?  I couldn’t before.  Hell, I don’t even own a duster.  Even if I get things organized, how long can it last?

Tune in next time to find out, and feel free to share your own nerd moving stories in the comments below.  Or just laugh.

A Time for Mourning for Spidey and the FF [Reviews]

A note before beginning. We’re about to explore a couple of books that deal with acts of mourning. While we will go to great lengths to dissect these acts as they occur, they are, in the end, quite fictional, and pale in comparison to real tragedy. By exploring these two issues, we do not intend to ascribe more importance to fictitious events. As always, we’re using our comics as an escape hatch to reality, glimpsing a world where these things don’t really hurt as much as they do when they’re occurring right in front of us. We would never dream of saying that these flights of fancy are more important than actual, tangible grief. Our apologies, if this ever seems otherwise.

The silence is deafening.

In the morning, as an alarm announces the start of another day, as family and friends first discover the news, there is a genuine sense of loss. Something is missing. Someone is missing. And yet, the world moves on.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #655
by Dan Slott, Marcos Martin, Muntsa Vicente and VC’s Joe Caramagna

01. Her things are still on the nightstand, and he hasn’t slept. As his day begins, you see Marla’s absence everywhere. Her side of the bed isn’t touched. Her sink, unused. Her ring, still on his finger. You ache for J. Jonah Jamison. But while he’s the person who has to deal with the most grief, he certainly isn’t the only one feeling the pang of death. Through a series of masterful transitions, in which actions are mirrored and passed through different scenes, we see people preparing for the day ahead. Peter, the Robertsons, May, Jay, Gloria, and more. Grief permeates the comic and the characters, and with each turn of the page, you’re hit quite hard, until the day is over, with a clock, mirroring the way the day began.

And that’s when things get interesting.

02. While the first half of the book concerns the cast’s more immediate grieving concerns, the last half really focuses on Peter Parker, and how he has dealt with death in the past. Through his storied career, he’s had to mourn quite a bit, and all of that comes back to haunt him alongside this fresh grief. As well as the pages in the funeral sequence were handled by Marcos Martin, it’s in this back section where we truly see his talent. Not only can he capture the somewhat simpler structure of surface grief, he can really pull back the layers and show the result of a myriad of thoughts, all hitting a synapse all at once. As Pete’s past is explored in rough detail (with a phenominal script by Slott, of course) Martin takes all of the ideas and renders them in such a fashion that is meant to show the shambles of a tormented mind. It’s a messy process, but despite the disorder, you know exactly where your eye is meant to go at all times. Never once do you get lost in the cacophony, which is a testament to Martin’s staging, and Joe Caramagna’s lettering. Both get huge props for this amazing issue.

03. By the story’s end, we see Pete come to a conclusion that… well, let’s just say, it can’t help but lead to an interesting resolution. Because unfortunately for Pete, he’s a fictional character, and because of this, life just isn’t quite going to work out the way he wants. Such is the sad state of being for those in the funny books. But no matter what happens, Slott and Martin have set up quite an interesting story, and I know I’ll be entertained no matter what ends up happening.

FANTASTIC FOUR #588
by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Mark Brooks, Paul Mounts and VC’s Rus Wooton

01. Everyone deals in grief differently, of course. And the remaining members of the Fantastic Four are no different. Reed clings to bits of logic, which remain unchanged by the tragic events. Sue confronts emotion head on. Ben punches large things and people. Valeria immediately identifies a wrong, and set about righting it in the swiftest fashion she knows. Franklin and Spider-Man talk about what it means to lose someone who means so much to you. Most of these moments are painted on a canvas of silence, breaking only at the end (and quite fittingly) when Spider-Man arrives.

02. Once again, Hickman hands in a script that measures its moments and presents the passage of time with unerring logic. Yet, despite it’s deliberate appearance, the emotional depth present is astounding. Few working in comics are as talented as Hickman is, and despite the fact that most of the issue reads silently, you can still feel the weight of his writing. The bulk of the art is not handled by regular series artist Steve Epting, but by the incomparable Nick Dragotta, who seems to pop up here and there in various series, offering his talents for an issue or two before vanishing into the mists. Here, he presents an art style of his that I’m not quite familiar with. Usually, he’s tapped in order to give proceedings a more “silver age” vibe, but that definitely wouldn’t have jived with the story being offered here – and so he adjusted accordingly. The result is quite amazing, as his acting skills (such as they are) hit all the right notes in Hickman’s script – a necessity when a mismatched image could throw the entire issue into chaos.

03. A note: I’m not one to really notice colouring. I love comics, but my absorption of colouring isn’t what you would call nuanced. But look, even a guy like me could see the amazing job Paul Mounts did on this issue. In the opener with Dragotta, he deliberately mutes his palette, keeping to a darker register as the events proceed. As you read, you feel as though there’s just this heavy blanket of grief coating everything, and the weight of it is really enhanced with this artistic choice – so kudos to Mounts for that.

04. And finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention this issue’s closer: the wonderful conversation between Spidey and Franklin, regarding the affect their uncles have had, and will have on their lives. In a very odd way, it’s a bit lighter than the rest of the issue, even with the tragic nature of the story firmly in place. Mark Brooks does a great job handling this story, and much like Dragotta, doesn’t draw in a style I’m normally accustomed to seeing from him. Once again, it fits with the tone of the story in play.

So yeah. In conclusion, while the subject matter was dour, it was a good week for these comics. If you ever want to see some creators at the very top of their game, you could do far worse than picking up one or both of these books.

James and Brandon Explain It All: Comic Publishers

“Comic Publishers!”

It was just supposed to be a nice little conversation over the internets. But then Brandon texted James, to let him know he would be 40 minutes late to the game because he would be busy watching Glee. We pick things up shortly after the guys finally met on the Emmessen.

Brandon Schatz: Ah, GOD DAMMIT.

James Leask: WHY DO YOU INSIST ON BREAKING MY HEART?

Brandon: I couldn’t if I tried.

James: Don’t you Kiki Dee me, I have the power of five separate Bernie Taupins.

So… PUBLISHERS! What’s with them?

Brandon: I don’t want to talk to no scientist.

Wait, okay, I should stop listening to my music.

So right. A couple of Wednesday’s back, James and I were talking in the comic shop with, uh… I don’t know, some guy I think? And the subject went to comic publishers – and just how they’re all pretty much constructed quite differently. Or something.

James: Not only that, but I’ve been thinking about the different publishers a lot since the last time we Clarissa’d up this bitch and you had some throw-away line about how Marvel and Oni are doing two very different things.  And sometimes I think the Big Two get a raw deal.

Brandon: They definitely do – and not in a “popularity brings out the haters” kind of way. I’m pretty sure *any* comic publisher worth their salt would absolutely KILL to have people hating their work in such quantity if it meant sales would explode.

James: I know I would.

It’s just… it seems like any time ANYTHING happens, be it an announcement like Fear Itself or Future Foundation, within seconds the bugs come out of the internet woodwork and they’re screaming about how things are “wrong” and “ruined” and whichever publisher is involved is “only in it for the money, they don’t like comics.” And nobody says that shit about Top Shelf, but those dudes have other things to worry about, like not eating sawdust sometimes.

Except for Andy Runton, who I presume eats solid gold and poops out diamonds.

Brandon: The fact is, no matter where you go, there is NO MONEY IN COMICS. Which sounds like bullshit, but even today, I was talking with a file customer who had spoken with Scott Dunbier over at IDW about an honest to god paying comic book job. Now, this guy is a commercial illustrator, and makes all kinds of things for all kinds of people – and unfortunately, he had to turn Scott down, because… well, there is a LOT more money to be had elsewhere, for the amount of effort it takes to make a comic.

And this isn’t just with art. It’s with writing, it’s with editing, it’s with running any kind of comic company you have going. All of these places, from Marvel down to Top Shelf ABSOLUTELY run on love and passion.

James: I will abide a lot of Internet Shit, but I will not abide the idea that the guys and gals over at Marvel do not love comics, or that trying to make a living off them is somehow wrong.

The reality is also that Marvel and DC simply exist on a different scale than people like Oni, and that is not bad.  It just means that when they do things, they have to be bigger, and there are generally a lot of extra considerations that come into play when people are expecting a million wonderful comics AND Teen Titans to come back AND the Dark Knight Rises to re-invent cinema. There are expectations, you know?

Brandon: Exactly. And while the movies thing is a bit of a separate beast, the fact is, a lot more people have a stake in Spider-Man than, say, the people who have a stake in Scott Pilgrim.

James: It’s a double-edged sword. Because (a) It means when people don’t like Spider-Man 3, Sony is still willing to toss $150 million more plus marketing to cast Andrew Garfield, but (b) It also means a lot more angry mouths to feed.  And that is absolutely reversed with Scott Pilgrim.  O’Malley got to make that genius because Disney’s yawning maw of a bottom line isn’t there, but it also means that somewhere around negative 8 people saw a really awesome movie.

But here’s the great thing: Those two can co-exist perfectly.  At least I think so, and I’m now preparing for you to tell me why it’s a lot more complicated than that.  Which might also mean I’m grabbing a root beer.

Brandon: No, it’s not really that complicated. As with pretty much all media, personal taste does not always match up with what seems to be hitting buttons. I mean, for the life of me, I will probably never understand the whole Twilight thing. I can absolutely see why people LIKE it, and don’t fault them for that. Unless I’m related to them – in which case I will furrow my brow with worry, because my sisters get all fawny eyed over a pale dude who yells at his girlfriend for almost getting gang raped. And I want the best for my sisters. Which means, in this case, no rapings.

James: I think that was the thing that I had to get over with the whole Eric Powell thing.  I mean, I absolutely agree with him that more diversity in comics is needed, but I also think that there’s artistic merit in the things Marvel does. So his crude buttsexual innuendo was somewhat wasted on me.

Brandon: I always saw his message as “A Modest Proposal”. Or at least how “A Modest Proposal” was described to me in an English class I sometimes slept through. Did Johnathan Swift want to eat babies? Well, yes, clearly he was a terrible person. But did he really want the Irish to eat their young? Again, yes, but… oh man, I appear to have fallen down a rabbit hole. The point is, I don’t think Eric Powell is saying that the time he spent drawing those issues of Action Comics made his anus bleed. He was just trying to make a point, by showing an extreme.

James: Oh, totally.  But he also said some other generally not nice things about how there’s a lack of artistic merit in writing and drawing Batman because he’s been around since 1939.  And whether Powell meant it as such a blithe statement – and I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt – there are a lot of people who agree with him but aren’t Jonathan Swiftboating it up.

I guess what I am trying to say is, I think people need to start cutting Marvel some slack over X-Men 3.

Brandon Schatz: Whelp, I haven’t seen X-Men 3, so I think that in terms of Official Internet Criticism, I am more qualified to have an opinion on the matter than you. But I agree.

The fact is, building a business out of a medium is always going to be a sticky business. Marvel and DC have been doing this for *years*, and with that, have achieved a certain level of success. Because of this, their businesses have grown to the point where HUGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY rely on the continued enjoyment of their product. And let’s face it: we enjoy their product.

James: LIES I ONLY READ IRON MAN FOR THE PORNOSTACHE

Brandon: Especially when they have people like Matt Fraction, Nick Spencer, Gail Simone and Grant Morrison writing for them. Honestly, how people can look at their work and not see a certain level of ARTISTIC CRAFT is BEYOND me.

James: I will gladly take a dozen Wolverine comics for one Invincible Iron Man (actually, that is unfair, because even if I don’t read it reguarly, I think Jason Aaron is pretty boss)

Brandon: Jason Aaron is boss, and honestly, if the people are demanding Wolverine, Marvel should give it to them. I have yet to see much evidence to support the notion that his appearances are actively hurting comics. Sexually.

James: At the same time, I feel like there are some aspects about smaller publishing that people should probably cut them that same slack for.

Brandon: Like the whole “sorry this issue is late, you guys… I had to eat, so I got a job for cash money” thing.

James: Exactly.  Smaller scale, but that means there’s less of a machine behind you.

Brandon: There’s a common belief that’s tossed around – that if it weren’t for the big two pumping out so many Batman and Wolverine ongoings, smaller publishers might be able to find more footing with their product.

James: That sounds good to the ears, but go on and tell me why that is wrong and I am the devil. (I mean, I know it ISN’T true, but dang if it isn’t a pretty-soundin’ fib.)

Brandon: Well, it doesn’t hold water, because that’s like saying, “if there were less action movies, more people would watch 500 Days of Summer“. That is not true. Those people aren’t going to suddenly change their tastes and run to a different genre – which, let’s face it, when people are talking about creator owned books, for the most part, they are talking about non-superhero fare. Other than your Savage Dragon and Kirkman’s Invincible-verse, there’s not a whole lot out there in the realm of creator owned superheroics.

James: Until my own superhero, Echidna Boy.

Brandon: Is that anything like Sonic and Knuckles?

James: No, because I don’t need Sega’s lawyers on my ass.  It’s more like Animal Man. Except it’s one animal specifically.

Brandon: I always thought DC’s Animal Man should’ve really been called Animals Man.

James: I’m surprised Grant Morrison didn’t think of that.  He thinks of EVERYTHING.

Brandon: Well, maybe not everything. Which would be why, during this conversation, he’s been listening from the safety of the special Comics! The Blog Soundproof James Wilkes Booth.

What I’m saying is, we’ve drugged him, and have maybe gotten a little off topic.

James: That’s probably a sign we’re getting ready to wrap up.  I think we’ve made our “stop pitting big vs little publishers against each other, just love comics” argument. And I got to make a couple of Elton John jokes.

Brandon: The system WORKS!

Until next time, gentle folks, keep fit, and have fun.

News: Dwayne McDuffie passes away

Beloved writer and producer leaves a large hole

Rest in peace, you magnificent man.C!TB is sad to report the passing of incredibly talented comics and TV writer, producer and publisher Dwayne McDuffie.  Known for his many different projects and successes, McDuffie was the creator of Static, co-founder of Milestone Media, a publisher with a refreshingly multicultural ethos and character roster.  A tireless advocate for an increased voice for minorities in the comics world, he was dedicated to presenting a wider view of the world and its people in media.

After Milestone stopped publishing, McDuffie moved on to animation, starting as a writer and story editor for Static Shock.  His other television writing credits included Teen Titans, What’s New, Scooby-Doo?, Ben 10: Alien Force/Ultimate Alien and Justice League Unlimited.  The DC Animated Feature Film All Star Superman, released today, was written by McDuffie, as were Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and the video game, Justice League Heroes.

McDuffie was the winner of the Roeper School’s Golden Apple Award, the Humanitas Prize in Children’s Animation and the Inpot Award.  In addition, he was nominated for Emmy and Writer’s Guild of America awards.

Whether you read Static, his run on Fantastic Four, the multitudes of other comics he wrote, or just watched the fine television he produced, chances are strong that you experienced the work of this talented man.  The industry and world are poorer for having lost him, and we at C!TB extend our condolences to his friends and family.

Read Comic Book Resources’ excellent post on McDuffie’s passing.

Drunk Comic Recaps | Uncanny X-Men #415

Oh Tuesday. How my liver… (is it the liver?) hates you.

Once again! It is time for some DRUNK COMIC REEEEEEECAAAAAAPS! Yeah! Okay. So, this week, we’re right back to some Chuck Austen X-Men and this time… it’s personal. Or something. Alright, rules! I get drunk and then I read a comic or two. And then, I write about the comic and in the morning, when alla you fresh ass faces come onto the internet to see what I’ve dropped on the interwebs, I can’t go back and edit things. Nothing. Well, except for adding pictures and tags.

Anyway. Onwards!

Uncanny X-Men #415 – Now with 100% more dead Jesus.

We open! At the Xavier Institute for Ballers and Angel is on his cell phone, talking business. We know it’s business, because he says things like SKU’s and e-mail. This is when Bobby takes his phone (“Gimme that, you poser”) and throws it into a well, because his uncle owned an electronics store once. Apparently, Bobby is all, “you can’t phone it in” in regards to Angel’s business dealings. When Angel presses Bobby to ask why he cares, Bobby is all, “I just wanted to know about why you’re not wearing your casts anymore” which is a super dicky way to ask why a guy is feeling better.

Angel ends up turning the whole thing around on Bobby, by asking him why he hasn’t seen the nurse for follow-ups to his ingury. Bobby reacts to this by actually saying “SHUT UP! You’re not the boss of me!” and then leaves. This is when some blue girl starts talking to Angel, and says that she’s an empath and feels his pain for Betsy (who is dead) and offers to make him feel better by learing at him with her boobs. Angel gets flustered and runs away.

Bobby then shows up in the nursy area where the nurse things are done, and is all, bitch, why are you telling people I’m missing my appointments? Nurse Annie reacts by saying Bobby should calm down and just take his shirt off so she can look at his wounds, and Bobby reaCts by saying “There’s no way I’m taking my shirt off just to give you a cheap thrill, Annie.” And Annie says, is she wanted to see his chest, she’djust be nicer to him.

Bobby gets sort of an “oh snap” look on his face and then tells Annie that he’ll take off his shirt, but not in front of Northstar, because he might get all hot and bothered, amirite? And when Annie talks to Northstar and asks why he wasn’t being all smart-assy himself, Northstar just kind’ve blushes, because he has a crush on Bobby, which is so gay you guys. (Ba-dum-CH!)

So. This is the part whereNightcrawler starts talking to a crusified Jesus, which might be a subtle meatphor. Ha! MEATPHOR! I’m leaving that like thAT. FOR FUN. You guys. Okay.

So he’s talking to dead Jesus, and he’s saying that dead Jesus has been giving him indirect nightmares. He talks about how dead Jesus died when he was not-dead Jesus to be an example of how everyone should love everyone else. He then complains that he desires the touch of a woman, and that fighting is hard, and also that when he dies, its still going to suck, because all of his friends would’ve chosen wrong, and would be sent to hell. Which is fun.

Back at Xavier’s, Annie is talking to Bobby about taking his shirt off still, and Bobby is all, “I know you don’t like mutants, but I need to trust you,” which is just a dumb thing to say. Annie responds by saying she’s a bigger person than that, and that she can be trusted, and then Bobby whips open his jacket to reveal… MASSIVE ICE WOUND! Which basically means, Bobby is slowly turning into ice from the found out, which sucks. Later, Bobby and Annie go back to the nurse hutch where Annie is all, hey, you guys should go get something to eat! And Bobby agrees, and northstar is happy, because his defining characterisitc in this comic is that he’s in love with a jerk, because he’s gay and that’s what ladies do? IT’S A METAPHOR.

Anyway, this is when the slutty boob girl from before walks up to Bobby and Bobby is all, hey pretty lady, I don’t remember you from before. She says she’s new, and Northstar quips, “Really? You look rather used to me,” because vaginas, amirite?

So yeah, it’s later, and Bobby and the girl are making out a little in a gazebo, and then this clay dude walks up and punches Bobby and is all, “What are you doing with my WIFE, X-Man?” Whu-oh. The clay dude punches Bobby up some more, when he is saved by Northstar who cuts him in two. He doesn’t die though, he’s just kept separate long enough to be contained somewhere, and then Northstar talks with Annie about loving Bobby, and says that nothing will come of it, because Iceman is straight, and he’s sad about that. Poor dude.

Anyballs, hey! Normally I do two of these, but the weekend… she was rough. ROUGH, you hear me? And so next week, I will be rad and be doing THREE ISSUES of this noise to make it up to you. BECAUSE WE ARE FRIENDS. SEXY FRIENDS>

Until then,

Komitchwa bitches!

You Read These With Your Eyes! — Feb. 23rd, 2011

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

ECHOES #3 (Image Comics/Top Cow/Minotaur Press)

Horror is a hard thing to pull off in comics. A lot of the suspense needed to carry such stories off are usually destroyed by the fact that comics can’t control the audience’s pace like a movie can. It’s the ability to flip at any kind of pace that does it, really. A brisk pace can ruin a scene that needs to slowly boil to the shock, and thus, impact is lost. Because of this, a lot of horror books rely heavily on more shock than awe… which is where they lose me.

But then, there’s books like Echoes. Basically, it’s the story of a man who has some, uh… problems with the way he perceives reality, becoming trapped in a horror story that may or may not be happening. It’s an ambitious story that relies quite heavily on the medium to do some neat tricks with voices and images, sometimes creating a solid wall of “is this really happening” panels to go along with the mental breakdown. In doing so, the eye is forced to linger on scenes for longer, really controlling the pace and giving the whole experience just the right touch it needs to hit you full on. A wonderfully creepy book that should be on every horror fan’s pull list.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #655 (Marvel Comics)

I have cheated with this one. Marvel gives retailers access to some of their books ahead of the release date, with an eye towards getting those retailers a head start on their selling strategies. So I’ve given this issue a gander, and I have to say… it’s absolutely amazing. Not only does it feature the return of artist Marcos Martin, but most of the issue is silent, relying on that special magic that happens when Slott and Martin work together, and nothing more. The result is a stunning work of art that you absolutely need to have.

MORNING GLORIES #7 (Image Comics)

Is there really a whole lot more we can say about this series? The first trade came out last week, collecting the first six issues for a scant $10. This week, the next issue hits, and it’s dropping in price from $3.50 a pop to $2.99. So to review: this series has amazing writing. It has amazing art. The getting caught up will cost you very little. You really have no excuse. Unless you’re dead, or James Van Der Beek.

Because, come on. Can you really stay mad at this face?

The answer is no. No you can’t.

FANTASTIC FOUR #588 (Marvel Comics)

Jonathan Hickman bring the title to a close here, before launching FF next month. After last month’s big issue, this looks like it’ll function as a breather before pushing onto something bright and new. As Hickman had Reed say in the issue that the Future Foundation was formed, it’s absolutely time that we stop looking at the world in terms of what will give us comfort now. It’s time to look forward, and to think about something new, something fresh that will move us forward. I’m ready. Are you?

IRON MAN 2.0 (Marvel Comics)

Look, is it unfair talking about two Nick Spencer books in this column? Maybe. But seriously, how are we not supposed to be super excited about this? It is a Spencer spin off of a Fraction book. Seriously, think about that very carefully, and tell me that you’re brain didn’t just freeze-frame high five itself.

Anyway, this book is about War Machine and, uh… should be amazing. We’re going to read this, and maybe lock ourselves in a room for a little while. For classy personal time.

Those are five of the many, many items hitting the stores tomorrow. You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.