Tag Archives: Jason Aaron

War of the Realms: Week Six

I was never that big into variant covers. I fell in love with comics in the 80’s, and was then heartbroken during the 90’s when gimmicks, speculators, and reckless rockstar artists ruined the comics retail biz. (I’m okay now; me and comics are back together now for the long haul.) So in recent years, when incentive covers and con exclusives became highly sought after, with prices commensurate with quality art and small print runs, I didn’t really pay attention.

Until my brother got back into comics.

Growing up, my little bro loved him some Iron Man. And I encouraged his four-color fanaticism as bet as I could, but from high school on, his interest waned. I fed him trades on the regular — superhero stuff for birthdays, maybe Vertigo collections on Christmas — but despite minor upticks in engagement around the Warren Ellis and Matt Fraction eras, nothing stuck.

When Marvel kicked off its “Fresh Start” with a boatload of open-order variants for Tony Stark: Iron Man, I emailed my brother with a “collect them all” taunt, fully expecting to be calmly rebuffed. Much to my surprise, he told me to order him one of each. Later that year at SDCC he discovered incentive variants by the likes of David Aja and Alex Ross and, well… he was hooked. (Not just on variants either; little bro is reading comics again. So proud.)

So what does this have to do with my check-in on week six of Marvel’s War of the Realms event?

Well, when my brother started seeking out interesting variants, it spurred me to do the same. There is an infectious nature to enthusiasm (one of our guiding principles) that I am happy to foster. Also, part of me hated that he had some super-rare exclusives and I didn’t. So for the better part of a year now, I’ve been dutifully building my own collection of variant covers and, given my commitment to go all-in on War of the Realms, it made sense to add as many of those to my shortboxes as well. And since Marvel knows me (and kindred obsessives), they’ve been releasing a number of “connecting” variants: you can’t have just one variant in a series of connected variants, obviously. War has been no exception. Who wouldn’t want to collect all ten of those Yggdrasil-mapping covers?!

Anyway… so I called around for this week’s connecting variant for Greg Pak and Gang Hyuk Lim’s New Agents of Atlas #1 and discovered, to my mild surprise, that is was selling for quite a bit more than previous variants in the series. Upon further review, and a tour around eBay, it so happens that all the incentive covers for this book are in high demand, with the virgin Mico Suayan variant going for upwards of $500!

Character first appearances usually play a factor when prices escalate like this, and the first issue of Pak’s new all-Asian Atlas team has a few, including the first appearance of Filipino superhero Wave.

Continue reading War of the Realms: Week Six

War of the Realms: Week Five

As promised, before running down the three War of the Realms reads for week five, here’s a continuation of my tribute to the dearly departed Brunnhilde — Odin’s favorite, first among the Valkyries, and first in my heart… 😢

Last week we looked at my five favorite Val covers from the seventies through the present, singling out only standard cover designs (or, as we called them before the variant era, “covers”). When Brunnhilde was restored in the pages of Busiek and Larsen’s wonderful 2001 Defenders series, she received what is, in all likelihood, her first variant showcase courtesy of Arthur Adams. It’s a good one. But it didn’t quite make the cut of top 5 variants. Surprisingly, we had a lot to choose from. In chronological order:

Secret Avengers #4 (2010)
Variant cover by Chris Bachalo

I’m never a fan of those line-wide trade dress frames, even when they’re composed of nothing but the beautiful Women of Marvel. They invariably take away from the art, as this one threatens to do to Chris Bachalo’s dope ass Valkyrie swinging a giant ass Dragonfang. Love this. And the Secret Avengers book, like the aforementioned Defenders vol. 2, is a sorely underrated, kooky gem.

Secret Avengers #6 (2010)
Variant cover by Marko Djurdjević

Case in point. Check out how much cleaner another Women of Marvel variant is, two issues later, this time by Djurdjević. By the 2010’s, Val’s costume had undergone a few minor changes here and there, which of course is totally common for superheroes and their ilk. But bless you, Marko, for reminding us of the best part of that original John Buscema character design — those sweet straps criss-crossing Val’s calves above those totally impractical black ballet slippers. Sure, the fur-lined Viking boots make more sense, but when is logic ever welcome in fantasy costume creation?

Fear Itself: The Fearless #7 (2011)
Variant cover by Frank Cho

Frank Cho has a special knack for certain characters. While his gorgeous pin-up style was more often employed with the Ultimate universe’s version of Valkyrie, he did show off that certain set of skills on the 616’s Brunnhilde for this variant of The Fearless. The series itself, like much of the Fear Itself event, is forgettable. But hard to forget a pose like that.

Fearless Defenders #1 (2013)
Variant cover by Milo Manara

Following a sexy X-Women collaboration with Chris Claremont, Italian erotic comics legend Milo Manara did a number of variant covers for Marvel in 2013. Following a touch of controversy surrounding his (in)famous Spider-Woman cover, Marvel discontinued plans for future work. Luckily, he knocked out this fantastic cover for the otherwise shitty Fearless Defenders series first.

War of the Realms #2 (2019)
Variant cover by Javier Garrón‏

Garrón, a Spanish artist and 2019 “Young Gun,” got my attention on Matt Rosenberg’s Secret Warriors, but he really blew me away on Mark Waid’s Ant-Man & Wasp mini. Now he’s killing it on Saladin Ahmed’s Miles Morales book and he got tabbed to design one of the variant covers for last month’s War of the Realms #2, that fateful issue in which Brunnhilde was so rudely removed from the playing field. It’s a great tribute to Marvel’s valkyrior in general, with a vibrant focus on our favorite Val. Check out his Blogspot for some sketch studies that went into the cover art.

Continue reading War of the Realms: Week Five

War of the Realms: Week Four

Continuing our weekly survey of everything War of the Realms with some quick reactions on the three event tie-in books that came out this Wednesday. But first, a moment of silence for last week’s dearly departed, the O.G. Valkyrie. The Asgardian shield-maiden’s name and role will live on, of course, thanks to Tessa Thompson and Jane Foster, but, for the time-being at least, the Marvel Universe will have to do without their original Scandinavian warrior woman with the killer blonde braids. And because I’ve become particularly fond of this character in recent years (especially after digging in to her bonkers origin stories), I’m going to offer up, as tribute, my top 5 Brunnhilde the Valkyrie covers over the decades.

She hasn’t been on a lot of covers, of course (but more than your average B-lister, to be sure), but I still had a hard time narrowing it down. So instead of one top 5 list, I’ll share two: this week a list of standard covers, followed up by favorite variants next week. We live in the Golden Age of collectible alternate covers, of course. We’ve come a looong way since 1989’s Legends of the Dark Knight #1 and its multiple cover colors (save that little nugget, trivia fans) and Val has been featured on more than her share of retailer incentives. But the classics come first, in chronological order:

The Incredible Hulk #142 (1971)
Cover by Herb Trimpe

This is Valkyrie’s second appearance, and the first time Brunnhilde’s spirit is housed in a human host. It wasn’t the mentally unstable and long-time Defender Barbara Norriss, however, but Manhattan socialite and feminist activist Samantha Parrington getting the mystical whammy from Enchantress. The iconic cover by the wonderful Herb Trimpe was actually given the homage treatment in a recent “Hasbro Toy” variant cover on a 2014 issue of Hulk.

Defenders #4 (1973)
Cover by John Buscema and Jim Starlin

The classic issue in which crazy-ass Barbara gets Brunnhilde zapped into her body and takes over Aragorn from the turned-to-stone Black Knight. Norriss was the longest-running host for Valkyrie, and her best and craziest adventures happened in the pages of The Defenders, beginning with this Steve Englehart run before getting passed along to Steve Gerber and J.M. Dematteis.

Marvel Two-in-One #7 (1975)
Cover by John Romita, Sr.

This one is special for a few reasons. Besides being a great Romita cover, it’s also the beginning of Gerber’s seminal Defenders work. The totally bonkers Celestial Harmonica story, and its connection to Valkyrie, begins in this comic. On a personal level, this brings back special memories because it was part of that battered batch of comics that made up my collection long, long ago before I discovered comic book shops, bags & boards, and all the rest. To this day, when I think of my earliest impressions of this character, they take me back to this issue. I don’t know where that beat-to-hell copy is today (scant few remain from those early years, save for some odd G.I. Joes, Peter Porkers and Spider-Mans), but I have since added a more pristine copy to my grown-up collection.

Defenders #130 (1984)
Cover by Frank Cirocco

In the last years of its life, as the original Defenders title limped off to eventual cancellation, gutted by the X-Factor genesis, the book took on the “New” moniker in an effort to make it somehow more appealing. It also featured some incredible eye-popping cover artwork from folks like Mike Mignola, Kevin Nowlan, and Bill Sienkiewicz. But easily one of the best — and my personal favorite — is this Valkyrie cover by the great Frank Cirocco. Frank was one-half of the creative team behind Alien Legion, still one of the classic works of sci-fi in the comics medium. I can’t remember what happens in this particular Defenders issue (and I don’t care enough to Google it), but I remember the era well, and love this cover.

Fear Itself: The Fearless #12 (2012)
Cover by Art Adams

Flash forward several decades into the modern capes n’ tights era (or the “Diamond Age” if you’re a fan of our trivia nights) to the point in which Valkyrie has been restored to her original, beautiful, Brunnhilde self (but just prior to the silly Annabelle Riggs body-timeshare ploy). The great Arthur Adams did a number of great Valkyrie covers during the Fear Itself event and he also featured her on a gorgeous variant cover for Busiek and Larsen’s underappreciated 2001 Defenders relaunch. This capper to the The Fearless spinoff series is classic.

Continue reading War of the Realms: Week Four

War of the Realms: Week Three

Be careful what you wish for, kid. After two somewhat unspectacular weeks of Marvel’s major 2019 event, week three of War of the Realms gives me everything I could have wanted from a universe-wide fiesta. But at such a cost. Oh my, what a cost… [One little spoiler ahead.]

Key among the WotR offerings this week is the second issue of the main title. Jason Aaron is forgiven for not knowing how to write Spider-Man (issue #1) because he reminds us how well he knows so many other key players in the Marvel U. The team-up between Logan and Frank Castle is one of the early highlights of this stage of Battleground Manhattan, and Doctor Strange’s Sanctum, along with his Aaron-assisted supporting cast, becomes a gateway to evacuating much of the populace to Avengers mountain (another wonderful Aaron brainchild).

But more than anything, the ever-reliable Marvel scribe and architect of everything Ten Realms-related knows his way around an event book. This second issue has all that glorious plan-staging and sub-team organizing that makes you anxious for Wednesday to roll around each week. In this era of binged television and massive all-at-once content dumps, it’s fun to be reminded of appointment viewing/reading. War of the Realms is the Game of Thrones of the comic book medium.

But, speaking of GoT, this issue really gets to me with its Barristan Selmy treatment of one of my new favorite B-list Marvel characters. Valkyrie — Brunnhilde the Valkyrie, to be specific — gets her little spotlight with Jane Foster right before she decides to make a charge at Malekith alone. No surprises how this turns out…

Continue reading War of the Realms: Week Three

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

The Best of Marvel’s Fresh Start #3 – Avengers

The whole world is on the brink of destruction again and only the combined forces of the greatest caped heroes can save the day. Some assembly required.

Cue the new roster of the Avengers, 2018, and they’re staring down the barrel of a very large and very old gun in the shape of the Celestial Final Host. You got your standard members like Cap and Shellhead, but neither of them are leading the charge this time around. That honor goes to the King of Shiny Things, the Cat with the Vibranium Gat, the Wakandan who needs no Palm-frondin’ – Black Panther. Seems like a promising move in new leadership especially with the added angle of the US government rejecting the Avengers as a domestic asset. A foreign national leading the Avengers?! Ooooh we’re gonna have some great issues surrounding sanctions and tariffs for sure.

The Celestials were first introduced by Jack Kirby who was inspired by the almost-definitely true theory that ancient aliens visited earth before we were smart enough to write anything down and kick-started our development. Was Kirby himself a direct descendant of a Martian genetics experiment to produce advanced illustrations of perspective and action? Ancient astronaut theorists saaaay yes. There’s a great collected timeline of this developing hypothesis through sci-fi books and comics for your further edification.

I’m a fan of the retro-cool style of these new god-like threats as well with their 70’s jagged metallic patterns and circuit board chic. Thankfully it’s the 70’s and not the 90’s or these gods would be descending with giant shoulder pads and even gianter shiny guns. Also swords probably. The 70’s still looks cool – everything but the boots. What the hell is going on with that oversized floppy boot cuff that every superhero just kinda has for some reason? What are these modeled after? Did boots come in one-size-fits-all styles where you just pulled the excess boot over itself? Thankfully these Celestials have fastened metal boots with no extra material.

Continue reading The Best of Marvel’s Fresh Start #3 – Avengers

Thor #1

If it feels like every new Thor launch is scripted by Jason Aaron, that’s because this is the sixth time the prolific writer has had his name attached to one thundering #1 or another. And while the Jane Foster/Thor arc (itself witness to two premiere issues) with Russell Dauterman will forever hold a special place in my heart, there’s reason to believe that for this week’s “Fresh Start” Thor #1, Aaron has saved the best for last.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

“Likely the last,” Jason? Tough to hear, and as much as we’d like for you to be to Thor what Dan Slott was to Spider-Man (or maybe you already are?), we know about all good things and such. But if your final act is going to kick off with art by the fantastic Mike del Mundo and feature back-up tales by the equally incomparable Christian Ward, you won’t hear anyone complaining. Continue reading Thor #1

Avengers #1

Marvel’s Fresh Start initiative kicks off this week with a book seemingly “one million years in the making.” Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness debut Avengers #1, and, for the first time since last fall’s Marvel Legacy one-shot, we are re-introduced to Earth’s Mightiest of one million B.C. We’ve been clamoring for more of these guys — a Mjolnir-wielding Odin, Agamotto, Ghost Rider atop a mastodon, and predecessors to the Iron Fist, Black Panther, Phoenix, and Starbrand — since that teaser by Aaron and Esad Ribić soooo many months ago. And although, at the time, I had promised that I’d catch myself up on Kirby’s Celestials, I apparently was too busy being distracted by behind-the-curtain Marvel drama to read any of The King’s Eternals saga. And I’m guessing Marvel was too busy screwing shit up to worry about it either; we still don’t have a decent collected edition, other than a long out-of-print omnibus that is scarce even among the price-gouging eBay resellers.

But one way or another, I’m going to make it happen. Because along with rumors of the Eternals joining the MCU, Aaron and McGuinness seem boldly intent on adding significantly to a carefully curated Marvel mythology that, after Kirby, has pretty much only been trusted to the likes of Roy Thomas and Neil Gaiman. And this first issue of Avengers definitely feels significant.

Continue reading Avengers #1

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 Mighty Thor #700

Every once in a while a book comes out that reminds us not only how much we love the glorious spark and bombast of superhero comics, but also how much we’ve loved them over the years, and how much these characters, creators, and concepts have meant to us through various stages of our lives. One of the principal aims of Marvel’s Legacy initiative is to pay tribute to Marvel’s storied past while paving the way for an exciting future. No one has taken that more to heart, or done a better job embodying those ideals, than Jason Aaron. In Week 3 of Marvel Legacy, Aaron and a host of incredible artists drop the “god-sized” Thor #700 on the shelves, and, verily, the earth doth shake with its majesty.

The War of the Ten Realms is still raging, and now things really escalate as Malekith and his armies move against the stronghold of the Norns at the base of the World Tree, Yggdrasil. The sisters who weave strands of fate are besieged, and in the process, the very fabric of storytelling itself comes under attack. It’s the perfect milieu for this launch, and the gorgeous two-page interior spread by Thor artist extraordinaire Russell Dauterman portends enough future storylines, each of them with threads connecting back to that legacy tapestry, to make your head spin. There’s Loki with the Infinity Gauntlet and Odinson with what looks like a golden hammer. Both Namor and Brunnhilde look primed for battle. Jane Foster might really (snif…) succumb to cancer and, in the background, the Mangog looms!

You want more Legacy? You’ve got more Legacy. What’s more Marvel than a classic Hulk vs. Thor battle? Except in the modern era, that means Thor, Goddess of Thunder, taking on Jennifer Walters, the hero formerly known as She-Hulk.

Continue reading The Mighty Thor #700