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The Fifth Color | Now and later with Marvel in June 2014

Amazing Spider-Man #1.2 cover by Alex RossI never talk much about Marvel’s trade paperbacks or graphic novels because they tend to be pretty reliable. Working at a comic shop, I have quite few customers who are comfortable with the little engine of collected works the House of Ideas quickly puts on the shelves once the single issues are finished. Now, whether they are hardcover, softcover, digest or oversized, that makes things tricky. Still, if you only want to buy collections of comics, Marvel provides a way to keep the story going. So by the time I get to the trades in the solicitations each month, I generally shrug my shoulders and know it all must be working out OK over there. Let’s talk about tie-ins!

Trust me, we’ll get to those, but let’s first take a lingering look at the books headed our way in June. Marvel solicitations, take it away!

To celebrate its 75th anniversary, Marvel seems to be doing a much slower build than I expected. Even the website seems a little barren, and the announcement that Alex Ross will be creating various covers throughout the year kind of came and went. Still, I have some hope for a pretty big bash, because take a look at this puppy right here …

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The Fifth Color | Heroic realism in comics

from CSBG: Drawing Crazy Patterns – The Helicarrier Crashing

must be Thursday…

I listen to a lot of podcasts because I don’t sleep very well, and if they’re especially enrapturing or I just can’t drift off, their topics float around with me through the day. How Did This Get Made did the former when it discussed the movie A Winter’s Tale and the idea of magical realism.

Magic realism is “a genre where magic elements are a natural part in an otherwise mundane, realistic environment” (thanks, Wikipedia!), a concept we’re accustomed to as comic readers. There’s a lot that goes unsaid about New York City’s alien-invasion rate, and we’re fine with that.

Marvel is big on making its universe “our universe,” and while DC Comics keeps its distance with completely fictional cities like Metropolis and Gotham, Marvel is proud to have its heroes interact with New York City. While audiences (or at least the marketing departments) clamor for more “gritty” reboots and realism in their comic movies, do remember that Gotham was threatened by mass hysteria in Batman Begins and a giant nuke in The Dark Knight Rises. We crave dark grit but still want those fantastic elements that challenge the hero and raise the stakes.

So is it reality we crave or is it something else?

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The Fifth Color | Marvel’s Ultimate universe and what comes next

cataclysmultspiderman_1I know the precise moment I stopped caring about the Ultimate universe: Ultimatum. If I’m not mistaken, a lot of readers lost interest there and then, for good reason. I remember reading through the event and somewhere, maybe after the Wasp’s cannibalized corpse, or during the big confrontation with Magneto, with the callous assassination of Cyclops, I just couldn’t find it in my heart to care any longer. My energy could be spent on better comics. I could go outside, maybe learn a language. I could do anything but care about this storyline and the characters Ultimatum left behind.

Event books aren’t supposed to do that. As much as we might grouse about their prevalence, they do serve a very important purpose within their universes and Big Two comics as a whole. “Events,” where a larger plot is spread across several titles, effectively act as a lure; for DC and Marvel, they’re a Whitman’s Sampler, offering a taste of what’s going on to new readers and longtime fans. They have to be something big, really big, so that readers don’t want to be left out of this major catastrophe. In fact, the idea of “saving the world” leans toward very easy reading for people coming into the event. The more characters they have working on this big world-shaking event, the more at least one of them will stand out for the reader.

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The Fifth Color | Now and later with Marvel in May 2014

ORIGINAL_SIN_ELEMENTSWell, NOW season is over, and hopefully a lot of the new titles will settle into their new places within the Marvel Universe. Not that we won’t see anymore #1 issues until the fall, but at least the full crop of them will be harvested later as await The Ultimate NOW or what have you for 2015. Until then, what looms on the horizon? What awaits our summer season on the shelves? What did he see? WHAT DID HE SEE!?!

That’s our teaser tag line for this year’s summer event, Original Sin. The Watcher is found dead on the moon with his eyes removed — and whoever possesses those eyes holds the key to discovering everything he’s ever witness. The start of what we know is uncovered with CBR’s press conference call with the House of Ideas. Writer Jason Aaron is leading the pack of Avengers books on this one, along with a surprise tie-in title that might not be what it seems …

But what does it mean for your pull list? And your wallet? Let’s look at Marvel’s May solicitations and see what’s what.

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The Fifth Color | ‘X-Men Legacy,’ and the love you leave behind

xmenlegacy_24Valentine’s Day, with its reflection on love, is inescapable. That could be romantic love filled with cherubs and soft-focus lighting, or it could be friendly love, like those little paper Valentines you get in grade school or around the office. It could be family love, like roses for your grandmother to let her know you care. Heck, it could just be the love of chocolate and the knowledge that all those heart-shaped boxes will be on sale tomorrow.

Who we love is based on what we love about them: It could be their rockin’ abs, their sense of humor, their empathy or their discount sale price at the drug store. Maybe it’s elusive. Often times, what others love about us are qualities we can’t see in ourselves. Those are the aspects we have to recognize to better understand our loved ones and, most of all, who we are — because, as RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

No one in the Marvel Universe needed to hear a drag queen’s words of wisdom more than X-Men Legacy‘s Legion.

WARNING: Talking about Simon Spurrier’s X-Men Legacy series as a whole in vague terms and X-Men Legacy #24‘s huge spoiler, so go grab all the issues you can and read along!

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The Fifth Color | Representation in ‘Ms. Marvel’

mamarvel1The “Guy Card” doesn’t exist. No one can take away your masculinity however you choose to define that. So get out there and take dancing lessons or moisturize your face (note: I have no idea what would constitute the removal of a Guy Card because it doesn’t exist). In fact, there’s no such thing as a “Girl Card” either, so fail at wearing heels and makeup with impunity because no one other than yourself should have the power to call you on it. Be you, because that’s all we can be; pleasing everyone else is just way too hard.

What we do or don’t do shouldn’t be an indicator of gender, or race or sexual identity. I mean, we can make guesses, but that doesn’t tell you who you are inside, and it’s the inside that really counts, or so years of cartoon morality lessons have taught me. There’s no such thing as “not black enough” or “you act too gay to be straight,” because that says more about the person making those statements than the person they’re defining. The United States started out as just some humble little colonies trying to forge their own identity, coming to America to be themselves.

And some people want to be Carol Danvers.

WARNING: A spoiler-free review of Ms. Marvel #1 lies ahead, and I promise this is about as preachy as I’m going to get.

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The Fifth Color | A Widow’s worth

captainamerica-winter-soldier-15Captain America 2 posters, everybody!

Yep, this year’s Marvel kickoff film is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, due out April 4 (which is a little weird considering the studio historically releases its films the first week of May, giving Free Comic Book Day a boost), so we’re starting to get that media blitz a-rollin’ with teaser trailers, Super Bowl spots and the like. However, nothing will be seen as consistently or as widespread as the movie posters.

Keep in mind, posters are a little boring these days, especially for action films. There’s a certain color palette used, that gray-blue shine and airbrushed effect that has become shorthand for “cold and hard.” You know, like an action hero. But I digress. The movie posters released for Captain America: The Winter Soldier have the traditional “‘people walking at you from a horizon line,” two different profiles of Cap with headgear on or off, Nick Fury looking like Samuel L. Jackson looking mean and, the one a lot of people are talking about: Black Widow.

There’s just something about Natasha. Everyone has an opinion about Black Widow as a character, about Scarlett Johansson’s body shape and about what the retouching of photos does to our perception of beauty and realistic expectations of women. A single image has caused so much of a stir, I can only imagine what people will do when she actually shows up in the film. Because we can’t talk about Johansson’s performance and Natasha’s place in the storyline, let’s focus on the poster.

WARNING: No spoilers, but if you’re sensitive to body issues, I understand if you’d want to skip this one today. Everyone is beautiful, Photoshopped or not, voluptuous or rail thin! Now let’s go complain about a celebrity.

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The Fifth Color | Now and later with Marvel in April 2014

Superior Spider-Man #33Let’s get this one right out of the way: it’s going to cost you about 12 whole dollars to get the big finale to the Octo-Spidey era and the beginning of the return of Peter Parker. That’s some serious cash to spend, and it’s the price point that really takes me out of the story and into the “Well, isn’t this a fine marketing ploy!” territory.

Let’s face it, we all knew Peter was coming back; this isn’t the Ultimate Universe, after all, and there’s a movie career to think of. At the same time … maybe if it had just been regularly priced issues? Or if they’d been at annual prices? Or heck, just one of them at the big $5.99 bucks and the next issue back down to normal, I don’t know.

Is price how we demarcate importance in comics? Or is it the #1 issue? Or the anniversary issue? The amount of variant covers to be had? Could it even be the (gasp) the story inside?? Let’s take a look at April and see what’s going to be important in the months ahead for Marvel (or at least make our best guesses).

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The Fifth Color | Black Widow is worth it

Black Widow Promo Art by Phil NotoNormally, right before the “read more” line, there’s a spoiler disclaimer. I ask you to grab the issue or issues I’ll be talking about and read along to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Today is different: If you own a copy of Black Widow #1 in its All-New Marvel NOW! form, I don’t think I have to tell you anything. You know what the book is like, you know it’s pretty awesome and that this was a long time coming, considering how popular the character’s been since debuting on the big screen. On the other hand, if you don’t have the issue, passed on picking up, or simply aren’t interested in the continuing (hopefully!) adventures of Marvel’s foremost super-spy, then please read on! There are so many reasons this book should hit the sales charts hard, and it’s difficult for me to find who this book isn’t for.

I mean, obviously it’s not Plato’s perfect comic book, and there are going to be some who give it a pass, but it just does so many things right! It hits so many sweet spots that were just right there for the taking that — well, just keep reading for a detailed list. And if you weren’t interested in the book, see if any of the following floats your boat, and then maybe give Black Widow #1 a second look?

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The Fifth Color | My life in digital, and at the comic store

but I hate embracing change!

but I hate embracing change!

I work in a comic shop (Metro Entertainment in Santa Barbara, California — cheap plug!), so to say that I’m wary of digital comics is an understatement. My livelihood depends on people wanting a physical copy of a comic book; if everything went digital, no more retail job. My store happens to work very hard at providing those physical copies of comics in every form we can put under one roof, including the rare opportunity for a deep back-issue selection. I can’t say it’s very cost effective, but having back issues from decades gone by available to customers has made many people happy and seek out our shop when traveling through California.

Buying comics from an actual person behind the register is a little like talking to a bartender: They know your name and what you like, and they can chit-chat about your woes with the business and give a few words of advice. I know the customer base, so I can provide off-the-cuff information about who’s on what book, when a title might be ending or, say, offer to save a Warren Ellis fan a copy of Moon Knight #1. I’m not saying that all this information isn’t online, but it’s nice to get that personal touch that we secretly crave. From a pile of 50-cent issues for a school art project to a rare copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, physical comics are still needed and wanted.

But for how long?

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The Fifth Color | Comics shopping for people who don’t like comics

from the Broadway production "The Book of Mormon"

Time to spread the good word!

OK, it’s the last weekend before Christmas. This is it: Time to gird your loins and brave those last-minute gifts for friends and family you’re just not sure about. Or heck, maybe you were invited some place and you feel like you should bring a gift along. A Secret Santa deadline? Unexpected company who doesn’t have anything under the tree? Did you just get something practical and want to supplement it so you’re not just the Sock Giver? Don’t worry, comics are here to help!

“But Carla,” you cry, “not everyone likes comics! I want to be cool and hip, not just the nerd who foists other nerd stuff on people!” “Well,” I reply, “comics are for everyone, even those who have no interest in the medium.” There are just so much comic influence in the media right now, from TV and movies to games and other visual aesthetics, it’s hard to escape comic culture entirely. Trust me, even those who have never picked up a comic in their lives and have sworn off the idea of ever looking at words and pictures together in a sequence have a little bit of comics in their lives somewhere and, this Christmas is a good time to capitalize on it.

If you can, please try and make it in to your friendly neighborhood comic shop for some of these goodies. They’ll be glad you did! Otherwise, Amazon has their last minute shipping dates here. All right, let’s do this …

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The Fifth Color | Now and later with Marvel in March 2014

Deadpool #25.NOW cover

Change is coming!

The world is changing, and there’s very little we can do about it: No matter how much we fear or hate it, it’s just going to get squid face or tree bark-skin made of your ancestors, or some sort of cool whip-hand things … and I forgot whether I was talking about the new Inhuman characters or the numbers on the covers of my comics. Let me start again: Last month, I addressed how Marvel’s Tom Brevoort was talking about how the way we number comics is going to change to fit a market that demands #1 issues and fresh starts at a constant rate. I still think there’s a better way to handle the start of storylines and the need for a reference point for the new reader, but putting all that aside, this is just the world we’re living in now. We love the stories and the characters, we can work to figure out what sequence we’re going in.

Perhaps we’re looking at this all wrong? Maybe there’s another way to accept the #1 barrage that already works with how we view and read comics sequentially? Let’s look ahead to March and see if we can’t figure this out! Click and read on, Dear Friend.
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The Fifth Color | Great power versus great responsibility

ASM2_posterSpider-Man and Superman have very similar jobs in the world of comics: Both are the mascots for their respective publishers, both embody what kind of stories those companies tell (from the extremely powerful DC comics to the more personal Marvel style), both are unique in the realm of superheroes (or at least were at the time of their inception), and both underwent fresh reboots recently to update them for a new generation, much to the chagrin of their established fan bases.

On Thursday, we got the trailer for the second dose of Andrew Garfield and his super-excited-to-be-here hairdo swinging above New York City and facing down his next big threat. Or should I say threats, as this will not only continue his journey to find out about his parents but also about OsCorp’s role in their disappearance, making him the enemy of the Osborns plus Electro and the Rhino. We all saw the trailer, right? Spinoff Online has a nifty video with commentary from the actors and director.

After watching it, I wanted to compare the new Spider-Man to the new view we have of Superman, but really that’s just comparing apples and oranges. There are similarities, but the tone, style and message of both heroes are geared for different things. Especially now, with how modern movies are redefining major heroes for more general audiences and what’s in vogue story style-wise, both of these heroes are going to do different things for different people and to compare them would be a little antagonistic. A much better comparison would be looking at the new Spider-Man … and this guy:

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The Fifth Color | Marvel’s ‘Infinity’ is only getting bigger

Just imagine him staring at Thanos...

Just imagine him staring at Thanos…

There’s no going around it: Marvel’s fall event Infinity is a slog.

Some people buy the book, read it, and then wonder what it was they just read. Some hate it, like tasting cod liver oil, and swear off of it entirely. There’s so much going on in each chapter, and no one holds your hand and explains a thing outside of a few dense bits at the beginning from the previous confusing chapter. It’s the first event book I’ve encountered in a while that actually has required material to read up on before starting it. How many would understand half of what was going on if you hadn’t been trying to parse the first issues of Jonathan Hickman’s run on Avengers and New Avengers to start with? Those books are all over the place, from the far reaches of space to New York City and Wakanda and Atillan, and new places that just get bombed out the next issues. It’s hard to keep track of it all.

Infinity is a little like sticking your hand in concrete: It’s thick, difficult to push through, might break your fingers when you try to pull them back out. OK, that last part was an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

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The Fifth Color | Now and later with Marvel in February 2014

that’s a whole lotta new

There just has to be a better way to do this every month. Not only is seeing previews for comics three months ahead of time a little tricky to keep up with and stay hyped for (kind of like finding out your Christmas presents on Halloween and remembering to act surprised on Dec. 25), but it’s also weird in a numbering sense. I know I’ve talked about this before, but Marvel’s Tom Brevoort has been handling some questions on how new NOW! is when there’s a bunch of No. 1 issues on the horizon. Some, like the new Wolverine #1 debuting in February, aren’t even new; the title will continue with its current writer and follow up on the current storyline. When you remember that comics are internally dated months ahead of the date they actually hit the stands, it’s amazing we ever know what is going on in comics.

But back to the numbering issue: Brevoort has talked about this on his Formspring-turned Tumblr account thusly:

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