Category Archives: Four Color Forum

All things comics, from the Golden Age to the Hollywood Superhero Renaissance

Action Comics #1000

I had a copy of this comic on a side table in my living room this weekend and, when my brother took notice, he stopped in his tracks and scooped it up. “One thousand? Seriously? One thousand?”

We grew up in an era in which “landmark” designations still made an impression. I’ll never forget how excited I was to get my hands on Uncanny X-Men #200. I pinned and re-pinned that comic to my wall I don’t know how many times. Or the big 50th anniversary celebration of Batman that culminated in Detective Comics #600. That might have been the first time in my mercifully brief middle-school comics speculation career that I purchased a duplicate copy of a book. But nowadays, big round numbers mean very little, especially with rebirths and fresh starts and new number 1’s every fall.

But #1000… we all take notice of that. That number is on another level. My son once explained matter-of-factly that he could eat one thousand shelled edamame, to which his uncle retorted, “It’s impossible to eat one thousand of anything.”

The Romans never bothered coming up with a number greater than “M.”

My girlfriend, who, perhaps due to having grown up in Mexico, had been criminally inexperienced with baseball terminology (and thus at something of a disadvantage when we started communicating), recently learned what it means to “bat a thousand.” It’s unattainable perfection.

It’s hard to imagine a thousand of anything.

So it’s with proper reverence that I approach DC’s truly landmark 1000th issue of Action Comics, the comic that started it all. It’s a marvelous 80-page anthology with vignettes from an all-star lineup of superhero creative teams both past and present.

Continue reading Action Comics #1000

Captain America #700

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.

Continue reading Captain America #700

Thanos: The Infinity Siblings

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.

Continue reading Thanos: The Infinity Siblings

Moon Knight – Crazy Runs in the Family

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.

Continue reading Moon Knight – Crazy Runs in the Family

Comic Book Trivia: Test Your Knowledge Part II

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?

Continue reading Comic Book Trivia: Test Your Knowledge Part II

It’s the Night-Crawler!

Incredible Hulk #126 (1970)

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!

Abbott

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.

Continue reading Abbott

The Best of Marvel Legacy #1 – The Mighty Thor

RCO001Beginning with #700

Thor is a person, he is an Asgardian, he is the son of Odin, he is the future king. Thor is also a mantle, a gift given to the God of Thunder, a license to wield the hammer Mjolnir. Separating the man from the mantle has been Jason Aaron’s primary focus in his incredible run with Thor thus far. The Mighty Thor #700, the defining title from Marvel’s Legacy initiative, is also Aaron’s greatest Thor story yet. Featuring a huge cast of “Thors,” a cavalcade of artists of an astounding variety of styles, and a realm-sprawling story worthy of the Legacy name, the issue is such a success because of the way it blends the past and present of Thor, as well as hinting at some intriguing future tales of the God of Thunder.

Aaron’s continuing saga of The Mighty Thor (Jane Foster’s story) takes a backseat to give the real meat of the issue to the original Thor, now unworthy of Mjolnir due to Nick Fury’s revelation that the Odinson himself believes Gods unsuitable for such a gift. Odinson must fight a horde of Malekith’s diverse army at the sanctuary of the Norns, weavers of fate. His failure in the central story of the issue is what’s used as a jumping off point for several potential followup stories. Though the issue features layers of groundwork for the future, it does so by building upon the past. Aaron’s run began in Thor, God of Thunder with Thor being thrust into the God Butcher’s sick attempt at genocide, an intense encounter which would leave the Odinson with that very feeling of unworthiness in the back of his mind. Issue #700 furthers that story by showing how the remnants of the God Butcher found their way to Galactus and Ego, the Living Planet. In one of the most conceptually insane series of pages in modern comic book history, Ego eats the corrupted Galactus.

Continue reading The Best of Marvel Legacy #1 – The Mighty Thor

The Best of Marvel Legacy #2 – Marvel Two-in-One

Beginning with #1

As many people know, the Fantastic Four, despite being the quintessential Marvel team, has always been a tough gig to nail down. Beside the initial Stan and Jack run, the only two people have made their marks on the team for me: Jonathan Hickman and Mark Waid. Both runs took me a minute before falling fully behind them. This was not the case with Chip Zdarksy and Jim Cheung’s Marvel Two-in-One. I was fully invested within the first five pages.

While not being labeled a Fantastic Four book, it clearly is nothing else but that. In the post-Secret Wars world, Reed, Sue, and the kids have been out exploring the multiverse while leaving Johnny and Ben on Earth. Not knowing whether the rest of their family is actually alive has left them both in a rut. Johnny’s powers are fading and he has become a sort of adrenaline junkie trying to stimulate himself to the point of his old adventures. Ben has become a sort poster child for all charity efforts of the Fantastic Four. They are both aimless in different ways with neither of them particularly thinking that they need each other. Heartbroken over the loss of their family, they feel that the isolation from each other is the only way to heal. Zdarsky shows how wrong they both are.

Continue reading The Best of Marvel Legacy #2 – Marvel Two-in-One

The Best of Marvel Legacy #3 – Captain America

Beginning with #695

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.

Continue reading The Best of Marvel Legacy #3 – Captain America