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.
The revolution may not be televised, but nothing has stopped it from being splashed and sequenced, stapled and folded, colored and squarebound. It’s marvelous credit to the medium that comics of a revolutionary bent have evolved from the field of underground pamphlets and zines into thoughtful, well-written, mass-produced monthlies and graphic novels. It’s also a little frightening to realize how much our contemporary social consciousness has fueled this surge of four-color rebellion. Superheroes, who, like it or not, have become synonymous with the medium, achieved their Golden Age ascension at the height of World War II, when the enemy was without (interestingly, subsequent to the War, those selfsame heroes dwindled in popularity, losing ground to crime, romance, and western rags). But the enemy within, particularly in the last decade, has never felt more menacing. For a mainstream publisher like Marvel to unveil a summer-long event like Secret Empire, in which our own country is beset by a subversive fascist force literally wearing the American flag seems like a testament to how wide the fires of resistance have spread.
Scarlet #1, by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, is the latest incendiary response to societal unrest. The book continues the creator-owned saga begun under Marvel’s Icon Imprint, with a new number one to kick-off the arrival of Bendis’s Jinxworld line at DC. This first issue of the new volume does a decent job catching new readers up to speed… but it may do a better job at selling the uninitiated on the merits of those first two volumes (DC is also publishing new editions of those collections).
Yeah, I get it. Former Marvel Golden Boy jumps ship for the competition and his first major contribution is a limited series on the industry’s most iconic figure.
John Byrne rose to prominence at Marvel during the 80’s, first as part of the Uncanny X-Men revival alongside Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum (as well as a run on Avengers that made me a lifelong fan), and then writing and illustrating a seminal run on flagship title The Fantastic Four. His high-profile departure for DC began with a post-Crisis reboot of Superman in 1986’s Man of Steel limited series. Three decades later, and another major contributor to Marvel’s pantheon, Brian Michael Bendis, makes his celebrated DC debut (minus a few teaser short stories) in a Superman mini titled, of course, Man of Steel.
I’ll admit to not having paid attention to press leading up to this series and, as a result, this obvious correlation to Byrne’s DC tenure didn’t dawn on me until I had picked up this new book. And I think it’s a bad move.
Is the goal to strike a parallel to prior reboots? Or is DC trying to draw attention to the fact that Bendis, like Byrne, was essentially lured away from the competition to work on a high-profile series, a snarky gloat immortalized in publication history? If it’s the former, then it seems like this series title would have made more sense as part of their recent Rebirth initiative. But if it’s the latter, then it seems like a childish ploy, particularly given the fact that Byrne ended up returning to Marvel after just a few years. It would also undermine the sentiment of virtually every comic book fan, DC and Marvel alike, who applauds Bendis’s move, seeing it as an opportunity for the tapped-out creator to refresh his own psyche and get back to writing compelling comic book stories once again. Maybe that’s the real meaning behind the title! Brian Michael Bendis is getting the reboot — he’s the Man of Steel! But… probably not. It’s more than likely just a wink and a nod.
And maybe it doesn’t fucking matter in the slightest and I should move on to talking about whether or not I liked the book.
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.
So, clearly I’m not the only one who does this. I’ll be sitting on the couch, watching one of Netflix’s superhero shows, and I imagine a teenage me time-jumped from the past, staring in awe at the screen. “Is this Daredevil? That’s Elektra! This. Is. Awesome.” Yeah, and wait until you see what’s playing at the theater down the block, kid. “Wait a minute… those photos? Did the Giants win… the World Series? Three times?!” Yup. And remember how bad the Warriors were when you come from? “Hang on. Are you going to work in a t-shirt?” Ties are for weddings and funerals, buddy. No matter what Dad said. “Did I… did we take over the world?”
Brian K. Vaughan (Y the Last Man, Saga) and Cliff Chiang (Wonder Woman, amazing album homages) are back with the start of a new storyline in the so-good-of-course-you’re-already-reading-it Paper Girls #6. And this time, we catch up with the titular young ladies as they step from the world of 1988 into 2016, and Erin Tieng comes face to face with her forty-year-old self.
Young Erin and her friends react just as I’d imagine I would, if I was twelve years old again, staring at what couldn’t possibly be a home television set. BKV has always had a knack for characters that, while presented with totally unique and impossible situations, come to life with perfect credulity. And as much as we find ourselves sympathizing and caring about his cast members, whether a trio of newspaper delivery girls or a wannabe escape artist and his pet monkey, it’s those impossible situations that really make his stories stand out. And the mystery that started to unfold in the first volume of Paper Girls looks like it’s just getting started. Continue reading New Comics: Paper Girls→
Marvel’s big summer event, teased two weekends ago for Free Comic Book Day and hinted at in various prologue-style tie-ins these last few weeks, finally gets it’s official beginning.
Okay, so it’s technically issue “#0” of Civil War II, but this clearly is where things get started. Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel, the team behind the outstanding event mini-series House of M and the far less memorable Siege, return with a sequel, of sorts, to Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s seminal Civil War. Just in time to cash in on all the attention garnered by the new Captain America movie, naturally. We know how Marvel operates.
We also know that it’s a rare feat to come up with some truly original storylines in the capes-n-tights universes, so maybe we can forgive this creative team for, once again, rehashing old plot devices and trigger points. Or another way to look at it, I suppose, is that it’s Week 33 of All New All Different Marvel, which seems far too soon to give up on being either new or different. Whatever the case, here we go again. A tragic explosion and massive loss of life (see the aforementioned Civil War and Siege) results in a major moral quandary and divisive dilemma for the superpowered set.
What is different, and in keeping with a major development in this Marvel relaunch, is the role of the Inhuman population and that mysterious floating cloud of Terrigen mist. Deadly to mutants, but capable of unlocking latent alien powers in a certain percentage of humanity, the mist, and the awesome potential that it represents, is at the center of both the inciting event and the story as a whole.