This fall’s Thor: Ragnarok may be winning the hype war with a rockin’ 80’s-themed trailer and a Planet Hulk-style interstellar gladiatorial tournament, but it’s those co-stars that really get my head banging. Cate Blanchett as Hela looks fantastic, and, like this guy, makes me want to buy toys again. Jeff Goldblum is inspired as the Grandmaster, and knowing that the director himself, Taika Waititi, gets his mo-cap suit on for a turn as the combatant Korg is delightful. This movie just looks like a great time. And my favorite addition to the party just might be the lovely Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie.
For the fourth in our series of comic book primers on B-list characters making big screen debuts, we’ve mined the archives and dug deep into the vaults. Presented here is a fairly comprehensive history of Valkyrie’s funnybook career, accompanied by reading recommendations for anyone even as remotely obsessive as myself.
Valkyries in Norse tradition are the mythical warrior women who preside over mortal battles, shepherding the chosen slain into the halls of Valhalla, where the noble combatants can revel, drinking mead and sharpening their axes in anticipation of Ragnarok. In a Marvel universe already well populated with mythological characters and lore, it was only a matter of time before Brunnhilde the Valkyrie made an appearance. This Valkyrie, like her kinsman Thor, possesses superhuman strength befitting an immortal Asgardian, but instead of a hammer, swings a big-ass sword as her weapon of choice. She’s also surprisingly less married to that Nordic tradition than is the God of Thunder. For years she flew around on the back of Aragorn, a winged horse handed down from the Arthurian-inspired hero Black Knight. She even picked up his Ebony Blade for a spell, before replacing it with the still-not-very-Viking-sounding Dragonfang. And, at least during the earlier years of her career, she was much more interested in punching men in the face than escorting them to the afterlife.
This Valkyrie is more than just an anachronistic collection of accessories in a hot outfit, and her origin story is as bizarre and non-traditional as any comic book hero that came to life in the gloriously zany 1970’s. Read on, for a backstory that involves demon-worshiping cultists, celestial harmonicas, and Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung. Continue reading Four Color Primer: Valkyrie, Part 1→
It comes as absolutely no surprise that, with the upcoming debut of Marvel Television’s Runaways on Hulu, the comics property would see a reboot. What came as a genuine surprise to myself, however, was how much I enjoyed this first issue by Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka. We’ve been burned too often by Hollywood-driven rack revivals, and, as long as I’m being honest here… the success rate for YA novelists tackling their first comic series isn’t great. So, I’ll admit, my expectations were maybe a bit low. I was happy to welcome a return of the beloved characters created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, but after wayward detours by the likes of Joss Whedon and Terry Moore, I wasn’t holding my breath. This week’s Runaways #1, however, effectively restores so much of the magic from that first run, by overwriting, in a way, those less successful volumes. It’s also really freaking good.
And if we’re talking about magic, of course we’re kicking off with Nico Minoru.
Paul Tobin clearly had a lot of curse words pent up in his head. The YA novelist and comic book writer, best known for teenage burglar capers in the comic series Bandette, or a variety of all-ages graphic amusements like How To Outsmart a Billion Robot Bees, goes for an unfettered R-rating in Made Men, his new comic with Arjuna Susini and Gonzalo Duarte from Oni Press. Virtually every page is splattered with blood and gore, and there are more eff-bombs in this first issue than in an entire volume of Preacher. The matter-of-fact “It’s raining blood and meat” is an early first-person narrative caption. So, yeah. A bit different from I Was the Cat.
Comic shops around the country have been abuzz celebrating Jack Kirby’s centennial this week. The undisputed King of Comics would have turned 100 this past Monday, August 28th. For a guy as influential as Walt Disney or George Lucas, it’s a shame how few people recognize his name or appreciate his contributions to comics, entertainment, and popular culture. Despite a #doodleforjack campaign, Google didn’t get it together in time to enlighten the masses with some Kirby crackle or dream machinery (we, did however, learn a little bit more about James Wong Howe on the 118th anniversary of the cinematographer’s birth).
But we know how important Kirby is, and each and every Idler, just like every one of you reading this blog, has his or her own favorite Kirby creation or a story about discovering his genius for the first time. And it’s up to us to spread the word. Take a friend to the comic shop this week, and act as a docent through the living museum of Kirby’s 2017 impact. Several one-shot specials are being released this month by DC and, this week from Mark Evanier and Scott Kolins, is the Darkseid Special. Be sure to point out the fact that the Justice League movie coming out in a few months looks to feature one of Jack’s most inventive concepts, as well as the Lord of Apokolips, one of the most insidious villains in comics. This oversized special also has a new OMAC story, and two classic Kirby reprints. And for more Fourth World fun, you could also pass along the new Black Racer and Shilo Norman special, by Reginald Hudlin and Ryan Benjamin, which also contains some great Kirby originals.
The penultimate chapter of Nick Spencer’s Secret Empire hits stands this week, and, as one would expect this close to a climactic final confrontation with Captain Hydra, the action ramps up at a frenetic pace. This has been one of Marvel’s most entertaining and original event books since House of M, and, as with the alternate reality of Bendis’s series, when the architecture of Steve Rogers’s empire starts to fail, it doesn’t take long for the structure to come crashing down. Across the board, the heroes have been tallying victories: the Darkforce dome sealing off Manhattan is down, as is the planetary defense shield that had stranded the other heavy hitters in the stratosphere. The Underground has rallied, and New Tian is in open revolt. Corrupted superheroes like Vision and Scarlet Witch are on the verge of restoration, and presumed defeated combatants Winter Soldier and Black Panther make dramatic returns to the battlefield. And, perhaps most importantly, the haze of mead and self-deprecation that had been clouding the mind of Odinson, AKA The Unworthy Thor, finally seems to have cleared. There’s a “BOOM” that translates roughly to, “The Hel was I thinking?!”
Hope you haven’t experienced mega-super-battle fatigue yet. Because this issue has a pretty fun romp. And despite all the momentum gathering on the side of the heroes, Steve has one major play left in his bag of tricks, and it involves Arnim Zola, some Stark technology, and an impressive handful of cosmic cube fragments. It all figures to play out in an even bigger mega-super-crazy series finale.
I initially reacted with a little disbelief upon hearing that this Black Bolt series was the Inhuman king’s first solo series. Brought to life by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in the pages of Fantastic Four in 1965, Blackagar Boltagon and his compatriots have been central figures in a multitude of mighty Marvel storylines for decades. But he’s never fronted his own title? Hell, even his damn dog got to star in Lockjaw and The Pet Avengers back in ’09. Then I quickly realized, well… a protagonist who can level a building with a whisper probably won’t factor well in a dialogue-rich comic book. Or, a comic with any dialogue, really. He’s always relied upon Medusa or another member of the royal family to translate a series of stern gazes and austere gestures. And a book featuring even one of those folks wouldn’t really be a Black Bolt solo title anymore, would it?
The question regarding how much dialogue this series would contain, or how it would be handled, was just one of the mysteries tucked inside that gorgeously ominous cover to issue #1. If this was meant to fold into the current ResurrXion continuity, how might a solo book work? Wasn’t Black Bolt rocketing through the galaxy with his family, searching for ancient Inhuman secrets? Or was this going to be a flashback series a la Gamora? With the upcoming debut of ABC’s Inhumans series, was this just a substance-less ploy to generate rack awareness and promote the television property? And what about this creative team? Saladin Ahmed has good sci-fi and fantasy credentials, but this was going to be the novelist’s first comic. That could go one of two ways (see Ta-Nehisi Coates versus Geoffrey Thorne). Did Christian Ward, with a résuméof beautiful covers and amazing fill-in work on Al Ewing’s Ultimates under his belt, have the chops to fully illustrate a monthly book? And, maybe most importantly, solo series or not, were we going to see Lockjaw?
No humor whatsoever would be preferable to what passes for jokes in Iceman. And acknowledging that something is a “dad joke” doesn’t make the inclusion of one acceptable. Everything in Iceman falls flat. Dumb art? Check. Constant hamfisted reminders of Bobby’s homosexuality starting on page 1? Check. Way too much dialogue in unimportant scenes to the point where half the page is dialogue bubbles? Check. Overused devices like starting a book out with someone questioning themselves before answering “check”? Check. This book is terrible. Read anything else. – IP
This book misses every pitch. I get why someone would want to make a Classic X-man that has been retroactively written as gay more appealing to contemporary audiences, but the whole “dating-profile” device is super lame. Iceman is both literally and figuratively cool. Dude would be on Grindr or Tinder or something. If you’re gonna do it, fucking commit. Seeing Iceman go on an awkward Grindr date could be much more effective at getting these themes across, rather than traversing the typical tropes of disapproving parents and self-discomfort. After Bobby trains himself, why doesn’t he ask younger Bobby some questions about being gay? There’s an interesting conversation. And are we just gonna avoid the whole masturbating question? If young Bobby and future Bobby were to mess around….what would it be considered? Where’s that joke? – tyrannofloresrex
Collection: Iceman, Vol. 1 (January 2018)
12 All-New Wolverine
Tom Taylor & Leonard Kirk beginning with #19
I really like the dynamic of Laura and her clone Gabby as a team. The alien virus crash-landing on Roosevelt Island was a little unoriginal, but the fact that the virus was transmitted by an innocent child with some kind of connection to Laura, made it a bit more intriguing. I’d want to keep reading this. Also, Governor’s Ball is definitely cancelled. – hltchk
I really like Laura, but she seems to be stuck in a recycle. Wolverine built a huge fanbase off of solo books as a mentor to younger, equally deadly characters, including X-23, and it just seems really uninventive to throw Laura in the same situation so soon. – tyrannofloresrex
Despite receiving considerably less fanfare than any of their regularly scheduled publishing initiatives, like All-New All-Different or the forthcoming Legacy, Marvel’s recent refresh on their mutant and Inhuman books has not only shown some sorely needed love to these teams and characters, but produced some wholly entertaining titles as well. The first few months of ResurrXion, rising out of the ashes of Death of X and Inhumans vs. X-Men, has given us thirteen new series or storyline kickoffs.
It’s a good time to shine a spotlight on these two venerable Marvel properties. Fox’s X-movies are still popular as hell, with current buzz building for the Deadpool sequel. FX’s Legion series was fantastic, and their network mutant show, The Gifted, looks promising. Marvel Studios has been forcing Inhumanity down our throats for a few years now, but with the highly anticipated debut of ABC’s Inhumans show this fall, the royal family finally takes center stage. Nothing against Daisy Johnson or that creepy porcupine monster that Ruth Negga turned into, but we want to see Black Bolt and Lockjaw! Continue reading Marvel’s ResurrXion Ranked→
The first of ten one shot Generations titles hits stands this week, The Strongest by Greg Pak and Matteo Buffagni. Our all-new, all-different, totally awesome Hulk, aka Amadeus Cho, is mysteriously pulled into the middle of a desert standoff between the military arsenal of Thunderbolt Ross and the original Hulk, Dr. Bruce Banner. This could have been just about any Hulk comic from the 60’s through the 90’s, save for the porting in of a confused Amadeus. And to add to the confusion, this early incarnation of Banner/Hulk hadn’t even met Cho yet, and is distantly removed from the reality in which the young super-genius successfully removed the green monster from his original host, taking the Hulk persona upon himself.
On the surface, this could have been any annual, back-up feature, or goddam Contest of Champions issue featuring the two Hulks in their first full-rage team-up, bashing tanks and each other’s faces. Buffagni’s art is a treat, and you know he, like any other comic book artist growing up with superheroes and super-battles, relished the opportunity to illustrate this book in all its explosive Hulk Smash glory.
Not since Jim Shooter pulled an impressive assemblage of creators together in the early 90’s has Valiant garnered this much attention. And, arguably, never in the company’s history has the acclaim been as well deserved as it is right now. Jody Houser’s Faith series, chronicling the adventures of Zephyr, found itself in many of last year’s best-of lists. And this week, she’s back with a brand new event series, Faith & The Future Force, featuring a team of Valiant heroes from across the timestream. Despite attempting to keep the lowest of profiles following being framed for murder, Faith Herbert can think of only one possible response when being told, “Come with me if you want to save history.” I mean, we’ve all wanted to hear those words, yeah?
And this really underscores the primary appeal of Faith. While generations of comic book superheroes have captured various aspects of human virtue, representing our greatest qualities and most profound aspirations, Faith is one of those rare heroes who truly feels human. She looks like a real person, talks like a real person, and behaves how any one of us fanboys and girls would likely behave if given half the chance to save the city, the world, or, indeed, all of history.
Together with Timewalker and Ank, the dinosaur lady, Faith must skip across time to combat a killer robot who seems to be consuming every action movie catchphrase, while decimating everything else. The book is beautifully illustrated by Stephen Segovia and Barry Kitson, with vibrant colors by Ulises Arreola, and is another big win for Valiant in 2017.