All posts by MMDG

Misty Morning Disco Goblin and Idler-in-Chief. (BB Karo is my secret identity. Shh.)

War of the Realms: Week Three

Be careful what you wish for, kid. After two somewhat unspectacular weeks of Marvel’s major 2019 event, week three of War of the Realms gives me everything I could have wanted from a universe-wide fiesta. But at such a cost. Oh my, what a cost… [One little spoiler ahead.]

Key among the WotR offerings this week is the second issue of the main title. Jason Aaron is forgiven for not knowing how to write Spider-Man (issue #1) because he reminds us how well he knows so many other key players in the Marvel U. The team-up between Logan and Frank Castle is one of the early highlights of this stage of Battleground Manhattan, and Doctor Strange’s Sanctum, along with his Aaron-assisted supporting cast, becomes a gateway to evacuating much of the populace to Avengers mountain (another wonderful Aaron brainchild).

But more than anything, the ever-reliable Marvel scribe and architect of everything Ten Realms-related knows his way around an event book. This second issue has all that glorious plan-staging and sub-team organizing that makes you anxious for Wednesday to roll around each week. In this era of binged television and massive all-at-once content dumps, it’s fun to be reminded of appointment viewing/reading. War of the Realms is the Game of Thrones of the comic book medium.

But, speaking of GoT, this issue really gets to me with its Barristan Selmy treatment of one of my new favorite B-list Marvel characters. Valkyrie — Brunnhilde the Valkyrie, to be specific — gets her little spotlight with Jane Foster right before she decides to make a charge at Malekith alone. No surprises how this turns out…

Continue reading War of the Realms: Week Three

War of the Realms: Week Two

Mayhem, slaughter, and a planet-wide conquest by legions of slavering bloodthirsty trolls, giants, and fire fiends. Funny stuff, right?

I’m always down for a Marvel summer mega-event. And War of the Realms, like a select few rack-hogging crossover blitzes before it, gets all of my attention (and money). Partly because I love what Jason Aaron has been building for years, partly because I’ve always been a fan of Marvel’s four-color spin on Norse mythology, and partly because I’m a sucker for glorious, colorful, 616-spanning bonanzas. So that means my friendly neighborhood LCS (thanks, Leef) has been instructed to pull any and all War of the Realms crossovers and tie-ins. This week, only one week removed from the official opening war trumpet, and, apparently, it’s get-ready-to-laugh time!

The two tie-ins this week are both putting the funny back in funnybooks. Or, I should say, they’re both intended to be funny. I guess. And this pair of books perfectly illustrates an unsettling trend I’m seeing in capes-n-tights titles of late. Superhero books peppered with humor are great. Gerry Duggan and Kelly Thompson are two of the first Marvel writers who come to mind when I think of a good mix of action and comedy, mixing intrigue with witty dialogue. Hell, superhero movies peppered with humor are great. The MCU has proven that. Superhero books that are, however, first and foremost humor books are a different breed. When they’re successful, they are fantastic. But when they fail… oof. I can go from eyeroll to frustration to outright rage very quickly. And too many fledgling writers are being invited to fuck up my monthly comics because, apparently, they think writing comedy is easy?

So, back to our week two War of the Realms offering. We have one tie-in series premiere that is downright embarrassing, and one crossover comic that not only does everything a humor comic should do, but it forces me to ask myself why am I not reading Squirrel-Girl on the regular?

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Astro Hustle

I’ll admit. I bought this book for the cover. I’m a sucker for 70’s-style space operas, and anything that reminded me of Captain Harlock and early Heavy Metal was worth a look.

Edit (4/5): I met this book’s artist,Tom Reilly, at C2E2 this year, where he was holding down a table for two conspicuously missing Hustle writer Jai Nitz for much of the weekend. Reilly was amiable, but nervous, and told me he channeled a lot of Jetsons while working on this comic. He sketched me a Vision sipping an espresso for my coffee gallery.

Later that week, Nitz was publicly accused of sexual misconduct, dating back to an incident at the University of Kansas in 2017. Other women have come forward with accusations since then. The series has been canceled and existing issues removed from digital libraries.

I feel terrible for Reilly. This was his big break and, despite being his first major work, Hustle was already a promising showcase for his style and creativity. 

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Amazing Spider-Man: Hunted

I don’t always know what to think of Nick Spencer. As a storyteller, his concepts and ideas attract my attention, especially given the fact that so much of his work seems to be informed by an acutely attuned social consciousness. His run on Captain America and the subsequent Secret Empire is testament to that. But then there are times when his writing grates on me, a muddied mess of puerile humor and under-developed characters that seem to be little more that two-dimensional mouthpieces for political viewpoints. His recent run on Ant-Man gave me that impression.

Mixed reactions aside, I was excited for Spencer’s return to the wallcrawler when his new volume of Amazing Spider-Man debuted last year. Something, however, wasn’t really working out initially. After the challenging and ambitious dark fairy tale of Empire, this new Spidey arc felt like something that belonged in the Marvel Universe line of YA books. Eye-rolling quips, a reversion to the “Parker Luck” status quo, and art that, while effective, wasn’t altogether interesting.

But I stuck with it because, well, it’s not like I’m not going to read Amazing Spider-Man. And the patience has paid off.

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Comic Book Trivia: Episode VII

The first Idle Time comic book trivia night of 2019, and our seventh since falling down this rabbit hole of tangential science questions and Golden Age oddities, took place last night at Mission: Comics and Art in San Francisco. Congratulations to Bronze Tigers for taking home first place! This assembled-on-the-fly superteam featured all first-time champions with the exception of captain Otto, who took home the gold as part of Team Immortal last October. Look out Dan and Ben — Otto has his sights set on being the first three-time champ.

Now for a chance to test your knowledge. Here’s the quiz in its entirety. Do it without Google, true believer!

Question #1 – Easy Opener
In 2015, in order to be closer to its parent company Warner Bros., DC moved its corporate headquarters from New York City to what city in Los Angeles county, also known as “the Media Capital of the World”?

Question #2 – Outside the Big Two
The only time in the modern era in which a publisher claimed more of the market share than either Marvel or DC was in 1992 when this publisher moved ahead of DC (thanks in large part to the fact that they were the first publishers of Image comics). Name the publisher.

Question #3 – Secret Identities
Carol Danvers is the secret identity of which comic book character?

Question #4 – Manga
In 1976, this story of a boy living through the atomic bombing of Hiroshima became the first full-length translation of a manga from Japanese into English to be published in the West. Name the work.

Question #5 – First Appearances
In which comic series did The Martian Manhunter make his first appearance?

Question #6 – Geography
Marvel’s fictional island nation of Madripoor is situated in Southeast Asia, between Singapore and which of Indonesia’s major islands?

Continue reading Comic Book Trivia: Episode VII

Avengers: No Road Home

The War of the Realms, Jason Aaron’s epic Thor-rooted conflict encompassing every corner of Norse cosmology, has been building for years, and is now mere months away. All the banners atop my comics tell me so.

But in another mythological corner of the Marvel Universe, conflict has already come and gone. The hallowed spires of Olympus lie in ruins and the Greek-inspired gods and demigods who inhabited that otherworldly paradise have been slaughtered. Time to assemble the Avengers B-team!

Towards the end of Marvel’s problematic Legacy initiative, Mark Waid, Al Ewing, and Jim Zub bravely embarked on the highly ambitious Avengers: No Surrender project, a weekly Avengers story that hearkened back to some of the greatest adventures of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. There was cosmic gamesmanship courtesy of the Grandmaster; a journey through the team’s storied past via the introduction of Voyager; and classic character team-ups, combining long-time fan-favorites and new blood alike. It was solicited with minimal fanfare (especially as preparations were in place for the “Fresh Start”), and ended up being a rousing success.

One of the reasons No Surrender seemed to worked so well is because these writers were each able to bring to the party a special affinity for certain B-list heroes. So, as an encore, while Jason Aaron is busy putting together the single most powerful iteration of the Avengers ever conceived (granted, with his own curious collection of fun also-rans — I see you, Agents of Wakanda), Waid, Ewing, and Zub embark on another self-contained epic involving an oddball assemblage of some clearly personal faves. The weekly Avengers: No Road Home premieres this week.

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Sara by Ennis & Epting

Every day I am hit with news that another comic book property has been licensed to a film studio, or that a television network has been developing a graphic novel adaptation, or that Netflix has turned a relatively obscure webcomic into a streamable big-budget feature starring Mads Mikkelsen. So forgive me, TKO Studios, for being a tad cynical about your motivations. I’ve railed in recent months about the output from numerous independent publishers: books and mini-series that appear to be nothing more than snazzy storyboards at best and, at worst, poorly executed treatments tailor-made for pitching a TV deal. I don’t want to read your script, I’m not going to greenlight a pilot, and I’m tired of folks treating comics like a shortcut to Hollywood. I want to read good comics that know they’re comics by top-notch creators who know the medium.

With the release of their first four books, TKO Studios may have silenced my fears and given me exactly what I wanted.

TKO Studios seeks to redefine the comic book industry creatively and commercially.

TKO Studios was founded by award-winning comic book, entertainment, business and tech professionals. We create unique takes on established genres, promoting diverse and exciting voices that reflect the modern audience.

Our aim is to publish high quality books and expand the comic book audience using modern methods of marketing, distribution, and audience engagement. We proudly offer the premier issue of each new miniseries available for free digital download.

Those are bold claims, but, judging by this initial release, and the efforts made to disrupt the traditional comics publishing and distribution system, TKO seems poised to deliver. The first four titles are all six-issue mini-series, simultaneously offered digitally, in collected trade, or in a collector’s boxset of individual issues. If word made it to your Local Comics Shop (as it should have; TKO has a tenacious marketing department), then copies of said books should be on shelves this week despite not being solicited by or sold through Diamond. You’ll know if they are — these comics stand out. And not just because of the oversized format.

Sara, by Garth Ennis and Steve Epting, with colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser, from its arresting cover through its stunning layouts to its compelling story, is everything you’d expect from creators of this caliber. The book takes place in the Soviet Union during the Nazi occupation of 1942-1943, and centers on the deployment of a team of women snipers on their homeland’s eastern front, repelling the invaders with steely precision and iron resolve.

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Crypt of Shadows (2019)

One of the more interesting ways in which Marvel is celebrating their 80th anniversary this year is with a number of thematic one-shot anthologies, hearkening back to an era in which superheroes did not dominate the spinner racks. This week we get a new issue of War Is Hell, last published in 1975, featuring stories by the inimitable Howard Chaykin. More exciting (for me, anyway), is the release of a new Crypt of Shadows, written by the new king of four-color horror, Al Ewing, and featuring visceral art by a talented trio of terrifying illustrators.

For Marvel’s 80th Anniversary we’ve gone into the vaults to bring back some classic titles from the Marvel of yesteryear…but maybe some vaults should stay closed! Something terrifying has broken free and crawled forth from one of the most terrifying corners of Marvel-dom, the CRYPT OF SHADOWS! Prepare for terror! The shadows are deeper than you think, and horrors lurk within…

The original Crypt of Shadows was a 70’s-era Marvel book, released during the time when the relaxation of certain Comics Code Authority restrictions opened the floodgates for monsters and mystery. This is the same creepy renaissance that gave us such titles as Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf By Night, Son of Satan, and Ghost Rider. Despite its release among those character-focused books, many of whom are integral figures in the Marvel universe even today, Crypt owed more to the anthology titles of horror’s heyday, the pre-code 1950’s. Trendsetting EC paved the way with classic books like Weird Science, Tales from the Crypt, and The Vault of Horror while Marvel’s predecessor, Atlas Comics, tried to keep up by putting out titles like Strange Tales, Tales of Suspense, and Journey into Mystery (these examples morphed into superhero titles in the 1960’s).

Ewing is without a question an aficionado of those glorious old anthology series, and his EC horror-inspired work on The Immortal Hulk has turned that book into one of the best comics on the stand, in any genre (it was also our pick for the best release in Marvel’s recent “Fresh Start”). This new Crypt one-shot is a framed narrative featuring a “John Somebody” whose tales of terror are woven into a twisted psychoanalysis session.

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Marvel Comics Presents (2019)

As part of the 80th anniversary celebration commemorating the release of 1939’s Marvel Comics #1, the House of Ideas has a number of interesting little one-shots and series premieres over the next few weeks, including the return of Marvel Comics Presents. The first volume of this biweekly anthology series had a fairly successful run through the 80’s and 90’s, combining serialized narratives with one-shot short stories. There was a brief attempt at reviving the format in 2007, but this run only lasted twelve issues. Perhaps Marvel lost sight of the marquee value of a certain ornery Canadian mutant. Returning to the formula that helped that first MCP run reach 175 issues, 2019’s version once again leads with a multi-part Wolverine tale.

Charles Soule and Paolo Siqueira give us the first part of a WWII-era Logan story involving Nazi occultists, sinister summonings, and the tried-and-true Wolverine-as-reluctant-mentor motif. “The Vigil” allows Soule to explore the character he’s run through the wringer in recent years, focusing on a lost story from Wolverine’s earlier years. It’s creepy and atmospheric, and could have easily been confused for a Hellboy story, but it’s worth reading because Siqueira’s art is ridiculously good.

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Captain Marvel by Thompson & Carnero

I want to love Captain Marvel.

Marvel wants me — and you, and your cousins, and your coworkers and your baristas and your unborn children — to love Captain Marvel. And we all probably will as soon as Brie Larson touches down in March. But I want to love Captain Marvel, the comic book. I want to be as excited about this series as I was when Kelly Sue DeConnick kicked down the “no gurls” clubhouse door and revolutionized not just the character, but the creative face of mainstream comics as well, almost five years ago. But somewhere between then and now (ironically coinciding with an editorial push to get more Carol on the shelves), I have had lukewarm reactions to her portrayal in the monthly books. Series arcs by Fazekas & Butters were okay; Margaret Stohl tried to make a mark, while Bendis missed his. Even her role on Al Ewing’s otherwise excellent Ultimates title made Carol seem distant and unsympathetic.

Thank god for Kelly Thompson.

In what is undoubtedly the most important series relaunch for Captain Marvel in years, timed as it is with her imminent big-screen debut, Thompson returns to the character she co-wrote during the DeConnick era, this time solely responsible for guiding Carol’s forthcoming adventures. In the afterword of this week’s Captain Marvel #1, Thompson discusses what this kind of pressure can do to a person.

I never imagined I’d get to return to her at a time when she’s poised to become more important than ever to more people than ever. In the midst of that dream, however, was the impending doom of what a huge responsibility it was. To get it right, to do Carol justice, to do her readers justice… well, it’s the kind of thing that can keep you up nights.

Sleepless nights aside, I can’t be happier with this relaunch. Besides, maybe she’ll need to embrace a little insomnia to keep up with all her books? Along with Thompson’s work as part of the X-Men writing team, which has given us the best batch of mutant stories in years, she has reminded me how much I love Rogue & Gambit in the pages of Mr. and Mrs. X, and revived a favorite concept in one of the best books of Marvel’s Fresh Start, the new run of West Coast Avengers.

With great power, Kelly…

Continue reading Captain Marvel by Thompson & Carnero