All posts by MMDG

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

Fresh Start: The First Six Months

Marvel Legacy, we hardly knew ye. 2017’s fall publishing initiative, which kicked off with a best-selling one-shot, was nonetheless ticketed for an overhaul come Thanksgiving of last year, after the controversial firing of then Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, and the promotion of C.B. Cebulski. Marvel’s new EIC wasted little time promising “new beginnings,” and the cynics among us grumbled. Here we go again…

There were still some storylines seeded during the Legacy build-up that were now being hitched to C.B.’s wagon. Jason Aaron’s ancient Avengers saga would be kicking off the fanfare-minimized “Fresh Start,” and the galactic empire of Wakanda, along with the long-awaited return of the Fantastic Four, were not far behind. But it was still a new batch of #1 issues for a near line-wide refresh. Marvel had been pulling this stunt annually; some of these books were up to their fourth series premiere in as many years.

Ostensibly the re-numbering shtick is to gain new readers, a concept to which none of us object. What did draw some concern was whether or not this mid-stream Fresh Start, in the process of trying to build a new audience, would end up sacrificing the creativity and diversity that had been a hallmark of the publisher in recent years. Mindful of everything that we loved about All-New, All-Different, Marvel NOW!, and the recent Legacy, along with what bothered us, the Idle Time focus group reassembled to see what to make of this latest initiative.

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Comic Book Trivia: The Halloween Edition

We hosted another successful Comic Book Trivia night yesterday at Mission: Comics in San Francisco. Caught up in the spooky season, and on the cusp of Halloween, it only made sense to go with a horror comics theme…

Congratulations to Team Immortal for winning first place, besting Green Latrine on the tie-breaker question! They took home $60 in store merchandise, and the top four teams each left with a Halloween-appropriate trade ranging from Richard Sala’s latest to the first Locke & Key collection.

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. Lots of creepy questions.

Question #1 – Easy Opener
Which best-selling zombie series is celebrating its 15 year anniversary in 2018?

Question #2 – At the Movies
James Wan, the horror movie genius behind Saw, The Conjuring, and Insidious, is directing which upcoming superhero movie?

Question #3 – On TV
Netflix’s new spooky series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, is based on comics from which publisher?

Question #4 – Matching
Match the comic book character to the demon or entity that has possessed, enchanted, or otherwise affected him.

1) John Constantine 2) Jason Blood 3) Johnny Blaze 4) Juggernaut

a) Cyttorak b) Nergal c) Etrigan d) Zarathos

Question #5 – First Appearances
In which comic series did Moon Knight make his first appearance?

Continue reading Comic Book Trivia: The Halloween Edition

The Whispering Dark

While I acknowledge that good, spooky entertainment shouldn’t be relegated to a certain season, I am particularly excited each October to see movie marathons on streaming networks, horror blockbusters on the big screen, and an inordinate number of creepy titles popping up on the new release comic rack. Of course, this could just be because I’m looking for something in that vein, but… whatever the case, I was glad to see Dark Horse’s The Whispering Dark #1 on the shelf this week. The comic, by Christofer Emgård and Tomás Aira, combines two of comics’ most popular genres of ages past — horror and war — and offers something that would have made Bill Gaines proud.

The Swedish author, best known for his acclaimed video game writing, is crafting a slow-burning mystery that combines the psychological terror of combat with elements of the supernatural. The series opens with an Army pilot, Hannah Vance, taking over as de facto commander of a party of soldiers shot down and caught behind enemy lines in the mountainous forest of some unnamed war.


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Marvel Studios 10th Anniversary: Ranking the 20 MCU Films

Two thousand eighteen is a monumental anniversary year for comic book movies. Forty years ago Superman: The Movie helped a worldwide audience “believe a man can fly,” upping the ante with groundbreaking cinematic special effects. Twenty years ago, New Line released Blade, and Hollywood, finally, keyed in on the profitability of Marvel’s stable of characters, understanding that superhero flicks not starring Batman or Superman could still draw an audience.

And that of course led to the formation of Marvel Studios which, ten years ago, brought funnybook continuity to the movies with Iron Man, the first entry in Marvel’s wildly successful Cinematic Universe.

With this week’s home video release of Ant-Man & The Wasp, the latest installment in the MCU’s film canon, a team of Idlers assembled to rank all twenty movies, from worst to first. Counting down to our favorite (so far):

20
Thor: The Dark World
(2013)
Tough to sit through, lousy plot to blame more than anything. The sole bright spot might be in the performance of Tom Hiddleston. Loki might be the most underrated character — from his characterization through his development — in the MCU. – MMDG

19
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
This still isn’t good. I’d forgotten that Marvel tried setting up The Leader (I’ll wager Marvel was counting on us forgetting this as well) for some future sequel or tie-in. Worth noting: during the climactic brawl in Harlem, there’s a Michael K. Williams (Omar from The Wire) cameo! Apparently he had a minor part that included some lines, but none of that made the final cut. – MMDG

18
Iron Man 2 (2010)
The first thing people usually mention about this film is Mickey Rourke’s cockatoo, which, uh, isn’t good. We get introduced to ScarJo as Black Widow, Don Cheadle dons the War Machine suit, and Sam Rockwell is pretty entertaining as Justin Hammer, but there is still a major lack of any sort of villain character to make this film stand out. – hltchk Continue reading Marvel Studios 10th Anniversary: Ranking the 20 MCU Films

Shuri

We’re coming up on the six-month mark of Marvel Comics’s “Fresh Start,” an informal publishing initiative that began with the release of Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness’s new volume of The Avengers back in May. The initial flurry of #1 issues solicited under new EIC C.B. Cebulski’s direction, however, seemed anything but fresh. His promise of a creative shake-up that would include “new creative teams, new titles, new directions, and new beginnings,” appeared as empty bluster at best and, at worst, a tragic concession to a closed-minded segment of Marvel’s fanbase that preferred the same-old to diversity and true creativity.

Artists and writers were merely shuffled to different titles; series were rebooted (again); new directions were just old scenarios that were being repurposed and repackaged. It seemed as if all the truly progressive storylines and interesting creators that had been a hallmark of Axel Alonso’s final years at Marvel were going to be swept aside in favor of bland mediocrity. I half-suspect that the same Russian bots that tried to torpedo The Last Jedi were likewise targeting any superhero comic featuring a strong female character.

As I soon discovered, however, diversity and creativity had not been stymied completely. And if malcontents were looking for another minority superhero to spotlight their ignorance, Shuri #1 provides a fantastic foil.


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Cursed Comics Cavalcade

I’ll admit it. I have something against superhero annuals. One-shots, FCBD special editions, back-up features that aren’t meant to be humorous, digital exclusives… All by and large crap, and I typically disregard them as such. Could be because I grew up in the 80’s and my formative years of four-color superheroics were filled with gawdawful annuals that usually had nothing to do with contemporaneous storylines; featured shitty art and even shittier writing (and attempted to make up for that fact with a gimmick, like a “first appearance” trading card of some hero or villain that never had a chance at making a second appearance); or worst yet, were part of some annual-only arc that forced me to buy overpriced issues of series I’d never cared about (“Citizen Kang” comes to mind).

But I love capes-and-tights comics and I do like short stories. Self-contained issues are fantastic when done well! And I really do want to see more sterling efforts from talented creators, especially if allowed to tackle premier characters and properties.

So I flipped through DC’s special 80-page Halloween anthology, Cursed Comics Cavalcade before adding it to my weekly stack. Ten eight-page stories by first-rate writers and exciting artists. No reprints, and nothing that felt like a Wal-Mart special. Swamp Thing looking extra ominous. Professor Pyg behaving appropriately dreadful. Ghosts, space zombies, demons, and possessed kids. Hell yes, Halloween, let’s go home and read this by candlelight.


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Bastard

This month Fantagraphics is publishing the collected English edition of Belgian cartoonist Max de Radiguès’s Bastard. Originally serialized in a zine format, Bastard tells the story of May and her young son Eugene, accomplices in a series of recent robberies, who are desperately traveling across the U.S. while avoiding both the law as well as their double-crossing cohorts.

Crime drama has enjoyed a lasting popularity in entertainment media for decades. The comics industry’s biggest boom, one could argue, was mid-twentieth century detective rags. Seedy subcultures of organized crime make for riveting television. Everyone loves a good heist flick.

One of the things I have found most interesting in much of the crime television that has my attention of late, is the exploration of how criminality affects the family, children’s formative years in particular. On shows like Bloodline, Ozark, and Sneaky Pete, the machinations of the central protagonists often take a back seat to the effect those schemes have on the family members caught up in the act. There’s this notion of confronting our societal desensitization to crime; we love these stories of transgression, these characters who operate outside the law, the thin line that seemingly separates upstanding citizens from fugitives. But how often are we really confronted with what those anxieties do to a family? To children? The Sopranos pokes fun at it; The Wire paints a brutal reality. But neither ever really zeroed in on the kids.


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Heroes in Crisis

Uh oh. DC is getting grim again. Tom King and Clay Mann’s Heroes in Crisis #1, out this week, is a powerful opener to an intense murder mystery. The scene of the crime is a secluded rural safehouse, Sanctuary, that had been set up as a kind of therapeutic retreat for superheroes dealing with the kind of trauma that, well, comes with the job. The crime scene is a grisly litter of bodies, with several heroes — some of note, even — victims of a mass murder. And the two suspects appear to be, at least at the onset, Harley Quinn and Booster Gold.

Cut between the interactions of Booster and Harley, neither of whom seems particularly clear on the details of what had transpired on the farm, is the preliminary investigation by DC’s Holy Trinity. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman take in the scene with all the weight and seriousness that the event deserves, devoid of the typical technicolor melodrama that often serves as an appropriate separation between the superheroic fictional world and our own sobering reality. It’s the same kind of dark, arresting narrative that we saw from Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales in 2004’s Identity Crisis, and, as such, one can’t help but look back on how that singular event affected the DC Universe that we know — both in print and on the screen — today.


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Upgrade Soul

This month Lion Forge is releasing the first printed edition of Ezra Claytan Daniels’s Upgrade Soul, a startling work of science fiction that had been originally developed as an semi-immersive digital experience. The work, begun in 2012, was built using Eric Loyer’s Opertoon engine, resulting in a digital comic with many of the transition features that we’ve seen in comics like Marvel’s Infinite comics line, but with the addition of an original musical score coordinated with the viewer’s interaction. Sounds cool. Unfortunately, I speak not from experience, but solely from what I’ve gleaned online; the digital app version of Upgrade Soul is no longer compatible with the current iOS and has since been unavailable for download.

The very fact, however, that Daniels’s work had been originally developed and published in this manner made me a little leery regarding the print version, despite the accolades (which include a 2017 Dwayne McDuffie Award For Diversity In Comics). The comics medium, when fully realized, considers the delivery method and presentation as vital partners to story and art. If this was intended to be consumed a certain way… would a different package offer a sub-optimal view of the cartoonist’s vision? I’ve seen what happens when the aforementioned Infinite Comics (which, granted, aren’t any good to begin with) or even certain webcomics get translated to the page: awkward extra panels, skewed layouts, and just a general lack of continuity. They often feel like something not meant to see a printed page.

Luckily I ignored those reservations and dove in. Daniels’s book is one of the best comics I’ve read in 2018, and one of the best works of science-fiction — in any medium — that I’ve experienced in years.

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Asgardians of the Galaxy

At the onset of Marvel’s current Fresh Start, the publisher made a predictably uniform push to give its marquee characters renewed rack appeal. The whole initiative kicked off with Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness’s new volume of The Avengers and, in short order we had new #1 issues for fan-favorites like Deadpool, Venom, and Thor. From those first solicitations, there seemed to be very little “freshness” in the back-to-basics approach promised by new EIC C.B. Cebulski. Thor was a boy again; Peter Parker was a broke shmuck again. Tony Stark wasn’t dead, or in a coma, or whatever… and The Avengers looked more or less like the casual fan expected. I braced myself for a disappointing regression from the diversity, creativity, and artistic experimentation that had made Marvel stand apart from the major publishers in recent years.

Instead, I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that Fresh Start, while pandering slightly to the fans who couldn’t deal with a Black Captain America or teenage girl in Iron Man armor, has been replete with some genuine excitement. Creativity preempts the same old: Mike del Mundo and Christian Ward, whose fantastic art is outside the capes ‘n tights norm, get the nod to kick off Jason Aaron’s final Thor volume. Al Ewing and Joe Bennett re-imagine Hulk as a chilling EC-inspired horror book.

Women writers take the reins on noteworthy titles: Kelly Thompson is tapped to bring back West Coast Avengers. Mariko Tamaki unveils the best Laura Kinney to date in the new X-23. And Margaret Stohl continues to orchestrate the comic book face of the MCU’s proudest new property, Captain Marvel.

Most interestingly, however, peppered among the predictable #1 issues, is a host of oddball books and unexpected revivals. Jeff Lemire is writing a great Sentry. Matthew Rosenberg is allowed to bring Multiple Man back from the dead. Cosmic Ghost Rider — maybe as odd as it gets — graduates from the pages of Donny Cates’s Thanos into his own mini. And my favorite Marvel B-lister of them all, Valkyrie, leads a marvelously unusual crew of cosmic godlings in this week’s Asgardians of the Galaxy #1.

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