Category Archives: Four Color Forum

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

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

LaGuardia

Stories of extraterrestrial emigration to our beautiful blue planet are nothing new, particularly in recent years when the question of alien identity has become such a hot-button issue. Comics like Port of Earth and Border Town address the varying degrees of xenophobia that continue to simmer forth, putting our preservation and admiration of diversity ever more on the defensive.

The first issue of LaGuardia, by Nnedi Okorafor with art by Tana Ford and James Devlinimmediately sets itself apart from any sci-fi allegories of immigration. In this near-future world, Nigeria was the site of extraterrestrial first contact, and Lagos now operates the most important interstellar airport on the planet. The country, furthermore, has benefited greatly from its early communion with otherworldly species, and advancements in science and technology are ever-present.

But controversy is inescapable, and secessionists recalling the Nigerian Civil War amass, violently opposed to the influx of alien races and influence. Nigerian-American physician Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka arrives in New York City via LaGuardia, now the only interplanetary port in North America, pregnant and intent on smuggling in a mysterious little plant-based alien lifeform who adopts the rather loaded appellation of Letme Live.

Continue reading LaGuardia

Stan Lee Tribute Night

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, we hope you’ll be able to join us on Tuesday, December 18th for a special Stan Lee Tribute and Trivia Night. Idle Time will be hosting another evening of funnybook quiz questions (many of which are barely comic book-adjacent; don’t be intimidated) at Mission: Comics and Art in the City.

Entry is free, and there will be lots of prizes, including store gift certificates, Stan Lee memorial comics, and surprises from our friends at Super7!

Grab some pals, a mustache & aviator shades, a six-pack of whatever we’re drinking, and let’s hang out.

Continue reading Stan Lee Tribute Night

Four Color Primer: Sersi & The Eternals Part 1

Chloé Zhao will be directing Marvel’s forthcoming Eternals movie

With the recent news that Marvel Studios is developing The Eternals as the next major entry into the MCU, as well as the focus on The Celestials in Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness’s new Avengers series, the selection of this year’s longbox excavation and research project was pretty easy. I’d long been fascinated by Jack Kirby’s concept of the three branches of humanity (adding Deviants and Eternals to our own lineage) ever since I pored through Mark Gruenwald’s Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe in the 80’s.

I’d had a working knowledge of the group, and of course followed Sersi during her tenure with the Avengers, as my inner teenage fanboy followed me off to college, but until now I’d never pieced together the formation of The Eternals, and hadn’t appreciated the extent to which Kirby’s vision had evolved in the decades since their inception.

from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe – Deluxe, #4 and #11 (1986)

The latest in our series of Four Color Primers unravels the origins and development of The Eternals, with a special emphasis on Sersi, historically the most interesting and active of this band of demigods. The aim with these posts has always been to function as a character survey (hopefully less convoluted than your average Wikipedia article, albeit almost always more verbose) that puts a primary consideration on the historical progression of concepts and stories passing from one creative team to the next, rather than a strict fictional biography. This is especially pertinent for The Eternals, whose original conception places their origin a million years in the past, a timeline that has seen refinement and elaboration from numerous writers and artists since Kirby first introduced us to the group in 1976.

Eternals vol. 1, #1 (1976)

Along the way, expect reading recommendations (in collected print format, as often as possible) so that you, too, can gain a firsthand appreciation for the source material that has been inspiring the recent pop culture explosion of four-color superheroic fantasy.

In that eponymous inaugural series, we learn that the Eternals came to life when titanic space-faring beings called the Celestials visited our planet eons ago and, as god-like cosmic entities are wont to do, experimented on our evolutionary ancestors. Using pre-human hominids, this “first host” of Celestials manipulated the genetic stock of our forebears in order to create three distinct branches of life: we humans, the beautiful and seemingly immortal Eternals, and the hideously unstable race of Deviants.

To fully appreciate the inspiration for Jack Kirby’s Eternals, however, we need to first go back several decades, before The King’s groundbreaking work at Marvel and the launch of their 1960’s superhero revolution. Jack and ancient aliens have had an impressively long (and, as conspiracy theorists have suggested, eerily involved) history together.

Eternals summoned to Olympia by Zuras to form the Uni-MInd (Eternals #11, 1977)

Continue reading Four Color Primer: Sersi & The Eternals Part 1

Stan Lee and the Silver Surfer

Last week I wrote about the affect that one of Stan Lee’s most iconic co-creations had on me as a young comic book fan.

This week I wanted to focus instead on a character that impacted me greatly in my teenage years and into adulthood. Although not technically a Stan Lee creation (and in fact the character’s provenance was the source of some controversy), the story of the Silver Surfer is undeniably associated with Stan and is an important part of the writer’s legacy. In tribute, here’s a look at the comic book that brought me closer to Stan Lee’s worldview as seen through the eyes of the lonely sentinel of the spaceways, and gave me a better appreciation of the man who helped make Marvel Comics what it is today.

Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer #1 (1988)
By eighth grade, I was well and truly entrenched in the Marvel universe, but apart from random issues of 70’s Defenders and summarized tales in Marvel Saga, I didn’t know much about the Silver Surfer until the debut of Steve Englehart’s series  and the release of Joe Satriani’s Surfing with the Alien. Both of those artifacts were gateway drugs into the immersive world of Marvel’s galactic space opera, and I spent many of my high school years moving backwards and forwards into the Jim Starlin and Ron Lim eras, digging on Warlock, Eternity, and all the trippy Infinity Watching and cosmic handholding.

But in 1988, another Silver Surfer hit the stands under Marvel’s Epic imprint, and it felt important enough that, despite its incongruities and lack of adherence to all-important continuity, I was compelled to add it to my weekly pull. It was the first of the two-part “Parable” story by Stan Lee and French artist Moebius.

Continue reading Stan Lee and the Silver Surfer

The Best of Marvel’s Fresh Start #1 – The Immortal Hulk

Still in shock that I like a Hulk book this much. I wrote a little about this comic when it debuted and how I was impressed by Ewing & Bennett’s initial issue, but now that we’re six months into Marvel’s Fresh Start, I can say that this is by far my favorite thing the company is putting out.

Al Ewing really won me over to his storytelling sensibilities with The Ultimates but for some reason I thought that would be more of a one-time thing. He just seemed more attuned to that cosmic grand scale story. But Ewing proved me wrong with The Immortal Hulk.

This Hulk story reminds me of old EC horror comics. Morality tales of humans and being judged by some sort of supernatural being. They never have happy endings and always leave you with a bit of incoming dread. That’s exactly what Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett accomplish with their first arc in The Immortal Hulk.

Ewing weaves together different morality tales with each issue and somehow moves the ongoing story of the Green Door onward. Is the Hulk an avenging devil? A gamma detective dispensing justice?

I really like Ewing’s strategy of making Banner and Hulk secondary characters in their story. You hear more about them and their impact through other characters. Everyone treats them as larger than life figures so when they make an appearance, they really pop.

Continue reading The Best of Marvel’s Fresh Start #1 – The Immortal Hulk