Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s celebrated run on Captain America concludes this week with the title’s milestone 700th issue. The journey began during the Legacy launch, setting forth under the daunting mandate of restoring Captain America – both in the fictional comics world and in real-world readers’ perceptions – as a bastion of hope, justice, and perseverance. In this book’s main story, the final chapter of “Out of Time,” Waid & Samnee punctuate their little Steve Rogers futuristic fable with as much “What Captain America Means To Me” mojo as they can muster.
The whole storyline may have felt a little rushed, from the introduction of the criminal organization Rampart through the near-future apocalyptic America, but in this conclusion you really do get the sense that the pair had every intention of crafting what amounts to a superheroic fairy tale more than anything else. On the first day, Cap was undeterred. On the second day, Cap was resolute. But on the third day…
This whole epic could have just as easily worked as one of Marvel’s new Original Graphic Novels: somewhat in continuity, but maybe not entirely… (Except, of course, that no one seems to read those.) Whether or not future creative teams, including the highly anticipated “Fresh Start” launch from Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Yu, recognize any trace elements from this tale remains to be seen. But in the sense that Waid & Samnee beautifully capture their core Cap beliefs in this succinct, albeit era-spanning story, this run can be viewed as a success.
Like Chris Claremont returning to script a Nightcrawler series, or Frank Miller giving life to a third chapter of The Dark Knight, there’s something special about fellow Hall of Famer Jim Starlin making a new contribution to Marvel’s cosmic canon. This week Starlin and artist Alan Davis showcase the central nemesis of the next Hollywood blockbuster in the latest in a series of original graphic novels, Thanos: The Infinity Siblings. These books are particularly special for the author, as he clearly relishes the opportunity to return to a character he created in the pages of Iron Man in 1973 and brought to prominence in a series of Infinity events in the 80’s and 90’s.
This book is advertised as the first in a new trilogy of original Thanos graphic novels. Whereas the first trilogy focused on an alliance between the Mad Titan and another Starlin all-star, Adam Warlock, this new series of books partners up Thanos with his brother Eros, the former Avenger known as Starfox. More exciting, however (granted, it’s not terribly difficult to be more exciting than Starfox), is the partnership with Davis. The two recently wrapped up a Guardians of the Galaxy mini-series, Mother Entropy, and on this book, the veteran artist looks better than ever. No offense to the serviceable Ron Lim, who provided the art for the last graphic novel in the prior trilogy, but there’s something about this format that demands a higher caliber presentation. And in the absence of Starlin’s own art (he wrote and illustrated the first two books), Alan Davis might be the next best thing.
Moon Knight comics, particularly in the last decade, have distanced themselves from early Batman comparisons by focusing on the one clearly established difference between the two characters (beyond a polar opposite preference in wardrobe color). While Bruce Wayne’s obsessive nature would test the limits of any human’s sanity, he remains a steadfast bastion of cognitive precision, the World’s Greatest Detective. Marc Spector, on the other hand, has a genuine psychological disorder, that, in the hands of writers such as Warren Ellis, Brian Wood, and Jeff Lemire, adds an engaging level of complexity to every mystery and every storyline.
The first arc of Moon Knight under the Legacy banner, “Crazy Runs in the Family,” concludes with this week’s issue, and, in keeping with recent tradition, and as the title would indicate, it’s been a marvelously offbeat showcase of Spector’s multiple personalities. Despite the expected level of weird, this story by Max Bemis, Jacen Burrows, and Guillermo Ortego has been unexpectedly unique, and maybe the most underrated title in Marvel’s line right now.
Our second trivia night at San Francisco’s Mission: Comics and Art took place on March 13. Congratulations to the Guardians of the Avenues who edged Anagraminals via the tie-breaker to take home the first place title!
Now for a chance to test your knowledge. Partly for posterity, and partly to avoid doing a new comics post this week, here’s the quiz in its entirety. Before you start Googling all the answers, see how many you can nail down on your own.
Question #1 We all know that the Hulk’s alter ego is Bruce Banner. But Bruce is actually his middle name. What is Dr. Banner’s first name?
Question #2 What was Academy Award winner Guillermo del Toro’s first feature film based on a comic book character?
Question #3 In Watchmen, what symbol does Doctor Manhattan inscribe on his forehead?
Question #4 In Chris Claremont’s first three instances featuring the X-Men playing baseball – X-Men #110, Uncanny X-Men Annual #7, and Uncanny X-Men #201 – which member of the team is at bat?
Question #5 In which comic book series did John Constantine make his first appearance?
Not Kurt Wagner, Nightcrawler, but the Night-Crawler, interdimensional guardian who protects the doorway to the realm of the Undying Ones. And he’s the answer to the question, who’s the other guy on Grandmaster’s tower in Thor: Ragnarok?
In a movie characteristically replete with fun Easter eggs, it surprised me to see such an obscure Marvel reference figured prominently in the bottom left of of this towering tribute to Sakaar’s grand champions. Not surprisingly, the Internet has had a very hard time identifying this guy. I only recognized him because I had just finished an exhausting research project on Valkyrie in anticipation of this very movie. The Night-Crawler makes his first appearance in The Incredible Hulk #126 (April, 1970) by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe. In this same issue Barbara Norriss, who will later go on to inhabit the body of Brunnhilde the Valkyrie (Defenders #4), sacrifices herself to release Doctor Strange from a mystical prison. Catch up on the whole twisted tale here. Continue reading It’s the Night-Crawler!→
The influx of quality crime comics over the last two decades has helped keep alive the storied pulp tradition of the early twentieth century, when hardboiled detective yarns and creepy horror rags ruled the spin racks. And as great as it is to read a modern by-the-numbers crime epic, like Kane or Goldfish, the beauty of this medium is the ability to blur lines between genres; shadows hide more than cigarette smoke and bullet casings. Brubaker and Phillips get it, in stuff like Kill or Be Killed; David Lapham in Stray Bullets. I’d like to nominate Abbott, by Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivelä, for inclusion on that list of engaging supernatural crime chillers.
Elena Abbott is a badass chain-smoking reporter investigating a series of grisly murders set against the powderkeg backdrop of early-70’s Detroit. Abbott’s husband had been murdered, years earlier, under an ominous cloud of dark, ancient magic. Now, the “claws of the shadow world” have reappeared, leaving their calling card on these slayings, and Abbott realizes that she might be the only person who can crack the case.
Marvel probably couldn’t have picked a better creative team to follow Nick Spencer’s subversive Captain America epic than Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. As great as the Hydra-Cap saga was (and despite mixed feelings regarding the conclusion of Secret Empire, it was great; don’t let the naysayers fool you), it was time for a fresh start. And in Captain America #695, his first issue under this season’s imprint, this new creative team perfectly captures everything that we’ve ever loved about the character, celebrating his past and paving the way for the future. These guys take their Legacy directives seriously.
The stellar team behind brilliant runs on Daredevil and, most recently, Black Widow, bring that same gorgeous storytelling to this Cap relaunch. Samnee’s elegant lines and fluid layouts are matched up with a vibrant color palette that manages to capture some genuine Golden Age nostalgia. And Waid’s first storyline doesn’t completely abandon the topical political bent of Spencer’s work. Cap goes undercover, returning to a town he had first helped when fresh out of the ice years ago, to intercept the plans of a supremacist organization. There’s some of that signature Marvel chronology compression that the continuity junkies will complain about, but just give us something to get excited about, is what I always say.
Chippy is quickly becoming my favorite Marvel writer. His entire run on Spidey has been great (the previous issue is an all-time favorite of mine now). He keeps up the trend with this issue and manages to make it both a great character piece and action story. The heart of Peter and the humor of Spidey is in full force. I’m going to follow this run for the entire time. – MeanOldPig
Collection: Spectacular Spider-Man Volume 2:
Most Wanted (April)
Kelly Thompson & Leonardo Romero beginning with #13
This was great. Reminded me of Fraction/Aja run that everyone fell in love with years ago. Kelly Thompson has a great handle on Kate and Clint and I could have watched them interact for awhile. The book made me laugh a lot and moved at a good pace. Leonardo Romero’s art is good as well! Reminds me of Aja without being a rip-off. I will read more of this. – MeanOldPig
While most of the news out of Marvel HQ this week has been in regards to yet another fresh start for the publisher’s entire comic book line, the oversized one-shot introduction to its spring mini-event may be generating the most excitement. Infinity Countdown Prime, by Gerry Duggan and Mike Deodato, Jr., takes the obligatory company mandate to generate rack awareness for the next big Marvel film, namely, Avengers: Infinity War, and sets up a cosmic yarn with some genuinely surprising twists and a refreshing cast of characters.
Unexpected, that is, except for the Guardians of the Galaxy, of course. The Infinity Countdown series will supplant a regular Guardians title for the time being, and it makes perfect sense to focus in on this endearing collective of cosmic defenders. And in a refreshing switch from Bendis’s tired run, Gerry Duggan’s “All-new” crew has exhibited an effective balance of humor and pathos, reminding us of the team we were drawn to during the Abnett & Lanning era.
I’m enjoying this, but I grin every time I think of someone picking up this book for the first time. I probably wouldn’t keep reading it either – no context, no clue, just complications. But Javier Rodriguez’s character designs, especially the Progenitors, are wondrous. – MMDG
I don’t really see how this is supposed to be a great issue to pick up on its own. I dig Al Ewing’s other work and I know it’s very rich and reading everything is required so I don’t blame him. I followed it enough and some of if seems interesting to me. I love Maximus and his dialogue was spot on. The real draw was Javier Rodriguez’s art which holy crap is good. Him drawing big science ideas is something I really enjoy so I would keep reading if he was the regular artist. – MeanOldPig
Collection: Royals Volume 2: Judgment Day
19 Old Man Logan
Ed Brisson & Mike Deodato, Jr. beginning with #31
To me this book has the feel of a 70’s crime film about someone tangentially related to a crime getting pulled into it by fate. Kind of like Sydney Pollack’s The Yakuza starring Robert Mitchum. This definitely has me intrigued and will make me read more of the title. While I don’t know what will happen to this book in the near future, this story seems like a fun one. – MeanOldPig