"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Ultron is so tired of the Black Eyed Peas.
James Spader brought memorable charisma and flair to his performance as Tony Stark’s bastard brainchild in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” marking one of the few times a Marvel-movie villain has rivaled the magnetism of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. In the film, Ultron displayed a natural, if extreme, extension of the put-upon condescension periodically flashed by Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, who was responsible for bringing the killer robot to life (with help from Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner). In a movie sprawling with subplots and action sequences and seeds planted for MCU stories to come, Spader’s snug fit within the role, which was both menacing and comical, stood out.
Every year ROBOT 6 contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman get together to talk about everything in Big Two superhero comics. Watch for Part 2 on Thursday.
Carla: Is it me or was 2013 crazy-busy? There were event comics, new titles, canceled titles, movies (plural for Marvel!), TV shows and video games. It seems like there’s no escape from comics, making it harder and harder to get a general idea of the industry. Some days I kind of envy the indie comic fans as it must be a lot easier to handle comics as they come, as opposed to our gestalt juggernaut that is the Big Two. How much DC business could you comfortably follow before overwhelm set in?
Tom: Well, for starters, I pretty much skipped all of the video game and Cartoon Network developments, because I don’t have time for either area.
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. Between a release party at Bergen Street Comics for the collections of Change and Strange Attractors and (deep breath) Wizard World Comic Con NYC Experience, New York City appears to be the place for comics events this week.
But before you start packing your bags, there’s a healthy list of new releases arriving in stores Wednesday, ranging from the aforementioned Change, by Ales Kot and Morgan Jeske, to the debut of Lazarus, which reunites Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. But that barely scratches the surface.
A few years ago, my husband was in the hospital for a fairly serious procedure that required an extended stay. After the surgery, he began experiencing excruciating pain and, following a bit of work, learned that it had to do with the stitches: There had been too many and some were too tight, so the surgeon was called back in to take a look. The surgeon spotted the problem immediately and asked a nurse to bring him some scissors. Snip, snip, the tension was released and the surgeon said everything should be fine in a few hours.
Which it was, but after the surgeon was gone, my husband was left with bloody gauze, a pair of scissors and the remains of his stitches left all over his chest. We waited and didn’t touch anything, thinking, “Oh, that guy is coming back or something.” He didn’t. I grabbed a nurse, and with a long-suffering sigh, she apologized and cleared away the remains. When we said we thought the surgeon had left everything behind because he would be coming back, she explained this is just something surgeons do. When in the operating room, there are people on hand to take care of the little things so the surgeon can concentrate on the task at hand; they tend not to give things like cleaning up a second thought, if even a first.
Brian Michael Bendis is an incredible surgeon of event storytelling, and Age of Ultron #10 leaves stitches and scissors all over the reader’s chest. I can’t even say I’m surprised, nor can I really confirm that this is a “bad thing.” There’s no value judgment here: Age of Ultron needed to get to point B, it got there after 10 issues, and point C is going to be handled by a variety of folks (including Bendis himself, but we’ll get to that). In the end, I’m not exactly sure why it needed to be encased in black plastic, as the ending literally tells us to stay tuned for yet another issue (or series entirely). But I’m getting ahead of myself. Did you dare to open your sealed copy of Age of Ultron #10? Of course you did! Follow on, Dear Reader, as we talk about the skill inherent in a Bendis event and all the things that are traditionally left behind.
WARNING: Yep, spoilers for Age of Ultron #10. Honestly, I wouldn’t worry too much about knowing something that would ruin your enjoyment of the series whole, but it’s up to you if you read further. Do you dare? Click on, brave soul.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been playing Bioshock: Infinite lately, but the choice we make now can lead to infinite worlds of harder choices in the blink of an eye. There’s a philosophical weight to certain scientific theories that takes the dryness of numbers and calculations and puts them into context for who we are as human beings. One of science fiction’s many functions is to play around with that: Robots can be used as puppets to play out our feelings about our own humanity, the aftermath of post-apocalyptic nightmares can show us how societies work at the broken point, and then there’s time travel.
Oh, man, time travel is a huge trope for the deep thinkers! The infamous “go back in time in kill Hitler” question is still debated in classrooms to this day and bandied about online forums. It’s huge temptation to think that, by changing a single thing about our past, we could create a brighter future, whether that’s saving 11 million people or simply knowing where we put our keys in the morning. It’s something we can comfortably wonder about because no one on Earth is capable of actually traveling through time to change anything.
Comics, on the other hand, can and often do. There are time-travel powers, devices, plot elements … it’s a fun topic to explore, and so our heroes jump into the time stream with little time for debate or even a basic plan. This creates the action and adventure we came to read and allows the creative team to test out a variety of scenarios for our entertainment and enlightenment. We debate, but fiction can act.
Does this make comics smarter than us for acting on these ideas or are comics more frustrating for tossing caution to the wind when any of us would pause to understand if we were doing the right thing? This is why Age of Ultron bothers me so much.
WARNING: Big reveal from last week’s Age of Ultron #6, so grab your copies and read along!
July is going to be a big month for comics. Mind you, it should be as spectacular as they can make it at the House of Ideas because the fans who have fought hard to go to Comic-Con International won’t be forgiving if it’s reprint month. Nope, all the stops need to be pulled out, questions need to be posed, if not answered (as much as plotline questions are ever answered in serial comics), because there’s going to be a large audience ready to ask the big questions about what the heck is going on and what’s coming next.
Sure, the upswing of comics produced and plotlines kicking into gear isn’t all Comic-Con armor; some of it is the sort of halfway mark between events. Summer comic events should be in full swing by the time July comes around, and this year we’re seeing the end of Age of Ultron, and the stirrings of Infinity, Jonathan Hickman’s no doubt mind-blowing event. It’s a big-time shift for the Marvel Universe … or is it?
Let’s take a look through Marvel’s July solicitations and see what clues we can find about our future, shall we?
On the heels of this morning’s July solicitations, which included a mysterious “Classified” listing for a one-shot called Age of Ultron #10 U.C., Marvel has released a teaser that may tip the company’s hand … a little.
Seen in full below, the image depicts the word “HUNGER,” in telltale Galactus purple, repeated over over a cosmic background. Fiddling in Photoshop also reveals what appears to be mountains, but I could be wrong.
The issue is so secret, that Marvel isn’t revealing the writer and artist, or even what the “U.C.” in the title stands for. Whatever it is, it’ll likely spark the next round of Marvelman speculation. (Hey, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso did recently tell Comic Book Resources the company is moving closer to the character’s debut. MickyMoran vs. the Devourer of Worlds? Nah.)
Every so often, public opinion shifts and popular culture gets a craving. Remember when everything was all about pirates? Then we all got on this huge kick about vampires and the supernatural, and we had a variety of different television shows to slake our thirst? The remnants of those yearnings still linger (well, not so much the pirates), and now the masses have all lined up for zombies.
Zombies play into so many metaphors for the fears that plague us (death, communities turning against us, a loss of identity and so on), and they can even reflect economic shifts with consumerism and political-mob mentalities. That latter point is probably why Game of Thrones (a fantasy political drama) and The Walking Dead (a morality play on humanity versus its corrupted self) are TV-ratings gold.
Sadly, this cannot last. I’m not saying zombies are on their way out, just that the cultural craze is reached a peak and is moving toward something new — and Marvel comics has your back.
With robots! They’re fantastic and a personal favorite of my science fiction-loving heart, so the announcement of Avengers A.I. left me looking past our zombie-filled present with a hope for a new future-craze. We should be looking forward to what comes after our old rotten selves, pushing forward with our fiction to better understand the human condition. There is no better metaphor than that of the robot to help us grasp our own humanity and morality by looking through mechanical eyes; the future of our pop culture might not be full of artificial men, because who can really predict the public’s taste for fantasy or fiction? But Marvel seems primed and ready to try to take us into a new age of androids.
Happy Easter and welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where we review the stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today we are joined by Miranda Mercury and Voltron writer Brandon Thomas, whose collection of original art and other stuff we featured in Shelf Porn yesterday.
To see what Brandon and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
“The health of the industry is based upon having good stories and good characters, and a wide customer base. If bringing some of these characters back to the fold in a meaningful way adds to that, then it just strengthens our industry. […] “Good stories that entertain are something that we all should applaud on any level. Whether we’re doing it directly at Image Comics, or at our competition, it helps keep our industry that we love alive. I will sit back and be as interested as anyone else.”
– Todd McFarlane, who was embroiled in a nearly decade-long legal battle with Neil Gaiman over the rights to the characters they co-created in Spawn #9, responding to the announcement last week that the writer will introduce Angela into the Marvel Universe this summer. McFarlane also confirmed to Newsarama that as part of the 2012 resolution to their lawsuit, Gaiman owns the rights to Angela outright.
In “By the Numbers,” ROBOT 6 takes a look back at the events of the past five days … in numbers.
With Thursday’s announcement that Neil Gaiman is returning to the Marvel Universe and bringing with him Angela, the character at the center of his eight-year legal battle with Todd McFarlane, we’re left to wonder about the whereabouts of Marvelman. We also look at the surprise departures at DC Comics, and what the right price is when you name your own.
Few were more excited by this morning’s announcement that Neil Gaiman will introduce Angela into the Marvel Universe than Kearstin Fay Nicholson, who referred to it on the Comic Book Resources Facebook page as the “greatest news I’ve heard all day.” That’s because the Chicago-based cosplayer won The Superhero Costuming Forum‘s 2012 Most Epic Female Costume Contest for her take on the Spawn character — and deservedly so.
You can see for yourself below, and on Nicholson’s photo gallery.
It’s been almost two years since Avengers 12.1, an issue where Tony Stark warned that Ultron comes back smarter each time he’s reborn. Well, Hank Pym’s robotic “son” is back again, and apparently smart enough to take over New York City and transform it into a dystopian dictatorship. The first issue arrived on Wednesday, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary and Paul Mounts, the same creative team who created that 12.1 issue — and the same writer who teased it in an issue of Avengers back in 2010.
So was it worth the wait? Here are a few opinions from the web who thought so or thought no, as the case may be:
It is relentlessly focused on the evocation of nostalgia, to a degree that’s remarkable even among super-comics (a genre that’s built out of nostalgia-evocation), but what is perhaps most interesting about the book is the particular frequency of nostalgia the publishers appears interested in.
Yes, this is a comic book seemingly about other comic books, a comic book like so many other Marvel comic books you’ve already read, but which Marvel comic books, and from which decade? That’s what’s unusual about this particular go-round.
It’s hard to look at the cover and not think of the 1990s.
No longer content with variant-cover schemes, Marvel has upped the ante in its silly cover-gimmick arms race with DC Comics, and come up with an embossed gold-foil cover. There’s a metallic shine to the wrap-around cover (the back of which is really an ad for the second issue), justified in-story by the fact that this is about a robot. That robot, Ultron, like the “AU” and “Marvel” logos, is embossed, so the comic feels special — not just metaphorically, but literally. Run your fingertips all over it with your eyes closed; yeah, this isn’t your typical issue of Avengers!
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6’s guide to the week ahead. Below you’ll find a breakdown of the big announcements that came out of this weekend’s Emerald City Comicon, our contributors’ picks for the comics of the week — from Age of Ultron to Al Capp — and the top events to look for in the next seven days (hint: convention season is fully under way).