Category Archives: Four Color Forum

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

Ranking Marvel’s Fresh Start: 10 – 6

10
Sentry

Jeff Lemire & Kim Jacinto

Ask the prolific Eisner-winning Lemire, whose recent successes include a love letter to Golden Age superheroes, Black Hammer, and various journeys into the fractured psyches of humanity, both powered and otherwise, as seen in Royal City and Bloodshot, who is the one Marvel character you’d most like to revive? Moon Knight. Okay, you’ve done that. Who is the next Marvel hero on your list?

Gotta be The Sentry. This first issue is rife with classic capes n’ tights bombast, juxtaposed brilliantly with real human struggles — a Robert Reynolds that looks like he was pulled fresh from the towns of Essex County. In fact, Kim Jacinto’s art, when it isn’t aflame with dynamic action sequences, even resembles Lemire’s illustration style, sketchy and expressionistic with every shade of human emotion wonderfully styled. – MMDG

When I saw that a new Sentry book was out, I was skeptical. The Sentry is a lot like Superman in that it’s hard to come up with scenarios that can seriously threaten them and make for suspenseful and dramatic stories. I think Superman writers overcome this with solid character writing and an exploration of his personal psychology. Seeing Lemire’s name on this book inspired confidence and it wasn’t misplaced. Lemire is the perfect guide to further explore a character that I feel is hard to write for, and has ultimately made him underutilized in the books. The situation Bob finds himself in, literally living two lives, is a great take on the super hero/alter ego concept, and I gotta say, I’m happily growing sympathy for the character. Part of that is the writing, but I immediately noticed Jacinto’s strong facial expressions. They’re intense! His illustration strengthens the juxtaposition of the golden guardian to the dark void and underlines this particular book as a psychological horror story. This could be the defining story for this character, and I’m excited to see where Lemire, Jacinto and co. take it. – tyrannofloresrex

Man can this guy rip bodies! Great art — despair with a hint of imbalance — match the tone of the story. And I’m a sucker for a cliffhanger so I’ll probably pick up #2 to see who the villian is. – lebronald

•••

9
Venom

Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman

Stegman has really managed to turn his art into some next level stuff. I will keep reading as long as he is on the book. The opening Norse segment looks so good. I like Cates’s direction of making the symbiotes more of an ever-present part of the MU. Reminds of the Brubaker/Fraction Iron Fist run. Still not the biggest fan of the symbiote in general but this is well written and has a good mystery. I am intrigued enough to want to continue with this one. – MeanOldPig

I love these red faced aliens. I hope it stays dark and gets creepier. – lebronald

Still not a fan of the character, but Donny Cates has done marvelous things with Dr. Strange and Thanos in recent months, and Stegman’s art is unbelievable. I’ll be reading this. – MMDG

Continue reading Ranking Marvel’s Fresh Start: 10 – 6

Ranking Marvel’s Fresh Start: 20 – 11

20
Quicksilver: No Surrender

Saladin Ahmed & Eric Nguyen

This could be an intriguing physics adventure and I’ve always wanted to move through time like Mork, but I bet this will be stupid. The art is unique – always a welcome sight – with some panels looking like pop art. Other entire pages are bland and skimmable. – lebronald

Not sure how to feel about this – like Ahmed’s work and I’m a fan of Nguyen’s art… just not sure why we needed a Quicksilver mini. And this first issue did nothing to answer that question. – MMDG

•••

19
Shatterstar

Tim Seeley & Gerardo Sandoval

Amusing concept for an unremarkable character. I have a general antipathy for all of the Liefeld creations, but at least in this book Seeley (who surprised us with his Nightwing series for Rebirth) is focusing more on the Mojoverse/multiverse promise of Claremont. I’ll read through. Also, thanks for writing a series starring a gay superhero that doesn’t feel the need to remind us that he’s gay every other panel (looking at you, Sina Grace). – MMDG

Never heard of this guy and had no plans on getting #2 but I like the premise. These old multi-parallel-reboot-universes definitely need some clean-up crew storylines. – lebronald

Continue reading Ranking Marvel’s Fresh Start: 20 – 11

Green Lantern by Morrison and Sharp

The superstar Scottish scribe has worked his magic on solo books for each member of DC’s trinity of superheroes, and now Grant Morrison turns his attention to the Emerald Knight for the relaunch of an ongoing title. The Green Lantern #1, by Morrison and artist Liam Sharp, focuses on arguably the most famous member of that interstellar peacekeeping force, Hal Jordan.

Morrison’s deserved do-no-wrong status, particularly on capes n’ tights books, meant I was very much looking forward to this run, and was committed to picking up every issue even before DC started peppering the back of their monthlies with four-page previews. I will, however, admit that I was bracing myself for something slightly… well, obtuse. As accomplished as he is at straightforward superhero fare, Morrison can just as easily fold galaxies of plot threads and characters into a marvelously labyrinthine story, a la Final Crisis or Multiversity. And given the treatment of the Green Lantern mythos over the last decade or so, with a broadening spectrum of emotional avatars and an endless parade of cosmic enigmas, I fully expected the craziest kid in the sandbox to go absolutely nuts.

Continue reading Green Lantern by Morrison and Sharp

Ranking Marvel’s Fresh Start: 30 – 21

30
Iceman

Sina Grace & Nate Stockman

Still bad. I’ve given this book three tries now, on three different reboots, and I just don’t see Sina Grace graduating from boring, puerile superhero fare. Seems like his style would be better suited to a CW adolescent dramedy. Someone should tell him that. He’d probably become rich. And then I wouldn’t have to read his shitty comics any longer. – MMDG

Iceman is a nice, simple, old-school superhero. A man made of ice who can shoot ice and rides an ice wave. He should be a regular part of the super-teams arsenal whenever they meet a fire demon or firestarter or any villains from the tropics. He should be the best at those confrontations. I like simple powers with clear strengths and weaknesses. This book is boring and I don’t care about Bishop (time travel sucks). – lebronald

Not sure why this book keeps surviving. The art is really an eyesore and the story doesn’t really have any narrative flow. It just shifts from one scene to the next without any real flow or consequences. Getting really tired of reviewing this book. – MeanOldPig

•••

29
Deadpool

Skottie Young, Scott Hepburn, & Nic Klein

I’d like to see Deadpool tone down his fourth wall-breaking shtick a little bit and emphasize his weapons skills in a meaningful way. Maybe tie him into a real overarching scheme that makes him matter in the universe. Doesn’t look like that’s happening with this run so I’ll probably avoid further issues. That back and forth with the kid on her phone was terrible. – lebronald

Art notwithstanding, there is only so much meta-humor and dick references that I can handle. I will say that the “Deadpoolization” of the Celestials bodes well for what I hope to be a full-on Eternals push in the coming months. But.. this gurgleballzer or whatever the hell it is seems like another slow-motion eyeroll. Doubt I’ll read another issue. – MMDG

Continue reading Ranking Marvel’s Fresh Start: 30 – 21

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.

Continue reading Fresh Start: The First Six Months

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.


Continue reading The Whispering Dark

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.


Continue reading Shuri

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.


Continue reading Cursed Comics Cavalcade