All posts by MMDG

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

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.

Continue reading Avengers: No Road Home

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.

Continue reading Sara by Ennis & Epting

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.

Continue reading Crypt of Shadows (2019)

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.

Continue reading Marvel Comics Presents (2019)

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

Champions by Zub & Cummings

The world still needs heroes! But… does it need so many of them? In the first issue of the new volume of Champions, writer Jim Zub and artist Steven Cummings double down on the expanded roster of teenage superheroes, immediately showcasing the breadth of characters in Marvel’s junior varsity ranks. The book opens with team leader Ms. Marvel coordinating the efforts of three different squads, each working to tackle a different crisis in a different part of the world. In addition to members of the original lineup, as envisioned by Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos when the second volume of Champions debuted in 2016 (minus Kid Cyclops), Kamala’s charges include other next-gen heroes introduced to the team in recent months, like Ironheart and the new Wasp, as well as brand-new or nigh forgotten kid crime-fighters like Pinpoint and Bombshell.

That’s a lot of heroes.

I’m not complaining, although I can understand how an already marginally recognizable team might suffer further complication by including ever more unrecognizable faces. In fact, I’m glad Champions exists. The success of the X-Men in the 80’s and 90’s birthed a glut of mutants and as many team books as a spinner rack could hold. In the 00’s and 10’s the same was true for the Avengers brand; those guys even needed their own planet to base operations. But Champions, both in the fictional world and in the retail environment, exists because the world needs heroes. And good superhero teams. Sure, there might be a little bit of cashing in happening in the immediate future thanks to the presence of Miles Morales, but Marvel hadn’t been banking on Sony’s fantastic Into the Spider-Verse achievement when they first put this book out. This book was engendered because some very talented creators gave life to some very compelling characters, and a few other very talented creators decided they could pull these kids together for some very compelling stories. And that’s exactly what they’ve been doing for almost thirty issues now.

Continue reading Champions by Zub & Cummings

X-Force by Brisson & Burnett

My tipping point as a comic book fan happened in 1986, when I was in middle school. As Reed Tucker puts it in Slugfest, his history of the fifty-year Marvel-DC competition, I am part of a wonderfully unique era, a generation who “didn’t need to age out of superheroes.” Kids like me lived through the Frank Miller and Alan Moore earthquake; the epicenter of a cultural maturation dramatically coincided with our own emotional maturation, like separate universes phasing together in an ideal harmonic convergence. I like to think of myself as manifesting my mutant power of cataloging and chronicling four-color fantasy on that fateful day when Brian led me to the back room of Best of Two Worlds and pulled out longboxes of Silver Surfer, Daredevil, and Warlock. He told me to read Love & Rockets “when I got to high school.”

Where am I going with this? By the early 90’s, despite still reading the shit out of just about every superhero book to hit the stands (my mutant power compelled me), I had very little interest in this antihero era of big guns, no feet, and everyone being, somehow, part ninja (I came around to the Psylocke reboot; her I liked). To this day, I am lukewarm towards Deadpool, Venom, Cable, and all of those similarly steroidal creations that immediately preceded, and helped “spawn,” Image Comics.

But, then there’s my brother. Seven years my junior, he grew up during that 90’s comics glut of cover gimmicks, clones, and continuity conundrums. And he admittedly has a fondness for some of those characters in a way that, maybe, I look back lovingly on goofball books like West Coast Avengers and Power Pack. There are books and characters that benefit from boosts of nostalgia; reinterpretations that we welcome openly, no matter the absurdity of their pre-enlightenment origins. Which brings us to X-Force.

I would have guessed that writer Ed Brisson falls into my brother’s camp (but reading this article on Marvel.com actually makes me think he slots somewhere between the two of us), as his work in comics over the last few years has trended towards the darker, edgier, and more antihero side of the superhero spectrum. I’ve enjoyed much of his work for Marvel, and wholeheartedly appreciate what he, alongside Kelly Thompson and Matthew Rosenberg, is doing to revive Uncanny X-Men. But I wasn’t that jazzed for a new X-Force book, particularly one that reassembles the original team (minus Feral, plus Deathlok).

Continue reading X-Force by Brisson & Burnett

Comic Book Trivia: The Stan Lee Edition

It was standing room only last night at Mission: Comics as our humble little evening of trivia and frivolity paid tribute to Stan Lee. It was nice having license to embrace my Marvel bias; forcing in DC questions to create the appearance of an impartial quizmaster becomes wearisome.

Congratulations to Newer New New Mutants: The Holiday Edition for winning first place, reclaiming the title first earned back in February (and redeeming themselves after March’s infamous John Romita flop). The repeat champions narrowly edged rivals The Anagraminals and now those two powerhouse teams close the 2018 trivia season with two titles apiece.

super loot from Super7

But last last night everyone was a winner! Every team went home with prizes, from almost $150 in store merchandise, black-banded Stan Lee tribute comics (not distributed until midnight; we know the rules), and toys from our friends at Super7, including the new Planet of the Apes playset, figures, Mega Man M.U.S.C.L.E. blister packs, and a gift certificate to their 16th Street store.

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

Question #1 – Easy Opener
Stan Lee served in the U.S. military as a member of the Army’s Signal Corps during which global conflict?

Question #2 – At the Movies
In which 1995 action movie does Denzel Washington dismiss an argument with the line, “Everyone who reads comic books knows that the Kirby Silver Surfer is the only true Silver Surfer”?

Question #3 – On Stage
The music & lyrics for the broadway bomb Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark were composed by members of which Hall of Fame rock band?

Question #4 – Matching
Match the comic book character to the artist who co-created the character with Stan.

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

Question #6 – Geography
Name two of the three real nations bordering the fictional country of Latveria. Continue reading Comic Book Trivia: The Stan Lee Edition

Miles Morales: Spider-Man

That’s a pretty bold proclamation, Marvel. And those are some awful big shoes to fill. Days before the release of the highly anticipated Sony/Marvel animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a new era of Miles hits the stands. This first issue of Miles Morales: Spider-Man, by Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garrón, serves as a pretty good landing spot for new fans won over by the movie. But following up the work of Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, who first created the character for Marvel’s Ultimate universe and have seen him through several volumes of titles since 2011, is no easy task.

Ahmed first turned heads in the comic book industry with his Black Bolt series. Partnered with Christian Ward, it was one of the single best superhero books on the stands in 2017. His workload has ramped up, both in independent projects like Abbott and on other Marvel titles like the Exiles relaunch. Over the course of several different books, Ahmed has showcased an ability to humanize overtly inhuman characters, while weaving a sharp sense of humor into engaging plotlines. Garrón garnered attention with wonderfully vibrant character design and a fluid art style, most recently in Mark Waid’s Ant-Man & The Wasp mini-series.

Yeah, but is it Bendis & Pichelli?

Continue reading Miles Morales: Spider-Man