An "X-Force" To Be Reckoned With - Marvel's Mutant Militia Turns 25
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15 this Wednesday, it’d be all Image for me – starting with Nowhere Men #3 (Image, $2.99). The Beatles as a scientific supergroup, through the lens of Dr. Strangelove? Let’s do this. I’ve been a big fan of Nate Bellegarde for a while, and this book finally seems to capture what’s unique about him – his comedy, his stark scientific acumen, and his humanism. After that I’d get Glory #32 (Image, $3.99). Beautiful cover by Ricken here, and reads like a great manga building up to some epic battle. After that I’d get Brian Wood and Ming Doyle’s Mara #2 (Image, $2.99). I tried to hold back my expectations before reading Issue 1, and I was blown away – so now Issue 2 has something to prove. Finally, I’d get Invincible #100 (Image, $3.99) (Cory Walker’s cover, if you want to know!). I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I think Invincible is better than The Walking Dead. No need to compare the two really, though, because no matter how you cut it, this series is great … and what Kirkman and Ottley have planned for the 100th issue looks to be unique – both for the promised deaths and the promise of seeing what could have been had Mark Grayson chosen differently.
If I had $30, I’d make up for lost time and get Brian Ralph’s Cave-In (Drawn & Quarterly, $14.95) . I’m reticent to admit this, but I’ve never read this book. I loved Daybreak, but never found a copy or the motivation to seek out more … but this Wednesday that will change.
For splurging, I already have most of this in the single issues, but I can’t help but splurge on the new collection X-Men: Mutant Massacre (Marvel, $34.99). This was my first crossover in comics, buying back-issues before I discovered events like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars. In my rose-colored glasses, it’s an ideal crossover for not being too overbearing and relating to a conflict or situation that isn’t superhero-specific. Love the Morlocks, love Uncanny X-Men and the associated books around this time, so I’m buying this and spending an evening enjoying it all over again.
To best understand a creator’s project, I typically like to learn how the storyteller views her main character. In this week’s interview, artist Ming Doyle immediately provided that insight into the star of Mara, her six-issue Image Comics collaboration with writer Brian Wood.
As she explained to me, while Mara is a volleyball player, it’s the character’s celebrity that “is the core of her being.” Doyle clearly relishes the chance to draw “futurecity gridlock,” and she does a good job conveying such scenes. In discussing her craft, it struck me that while respect for her work has been growing steadily, it appears she’s just beginning to get comfortable with her storytelling talents (while continually striving to improve upon them).
Comic Book Resources recently ran a preview of Mara #2, which goes on sale Wednesday. Wood and Doyle together tell an engaging tale. If you missed the first issue, this week would be a good time to pick up two issues and see what you’re missing.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where we take a look at the comics, books and other things the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately. We kick off the new year with Brian Cronin from Comics Should Be Good! as our special guest. In addition to running our sister blog, Brian is also an author, having written two books on comics trivia. He also runs the blog Urban Legends Revealed, where he talks about sports and entertainment urban legends.
To see what Brian and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
Only a handful of comics were released on Wednesday, what with it being a skip week for Diamond Comic Distributors. What did come out, though, could be described as “event” comics — an anniversary issue, crossover kick-offs and several first issues and specials — including Mara, a new miniseries by Brian Wood and Ming Doyle.
“Mara is one of the most famous people on the planet, a superstar athlete with widespread name recognition, celebrity endorsements, her own broadcast network — not so shabby for a girl in her late teens,” Wood told Comic Book Resources in September. “She is a member of a society that places their ultimate emphasis on physical achievement, whether it be in sports or the waging of war. So when she does start to manifest powers, this is pretty significant. Everything she’s accomplished up to this point is immediately suspect. It looks like she cheated. It’s hard to overestimate the implications of that in the world she lives in.”
Here is what folks are saying about it:
Vince Ostrowski, Multiversity Comics: “Wood’s goal is to clearly present us with a future world that is a magnification of our own. The NFL is the most watched programming week in and week out, and while there is no inherent harm in enjoying a sport, there is clearly a lot of ulterior stuff going on in the marketing and the business side of things. Athletes get paid salaries that are more and more outrageous every year and advertising seems to pervade everything, as certain sports see players covered in logos. Even playing fields and specific games are sponsored by companies who have a financial stake in the popularity of sports. Wood has always allowed a bit of politics or social commentary into his work, but is careful in doing so. The enjoyment of the sport itself is not condemned, and the satire of the business side of things is handled with subtlety and class.”
This has been a year of change in comics — for creators, for individual titles, for companies and for the industry at large. For Brian Wood, it was professionally one of his most volatile years since he quit his day job as a designer to work in comics full-time. It saw Wood end his twin creator-owned titles at Vertigo (DMZ and Northlanders), end his exclusive contract with DC Comics, and begin a new era mixing creator-owned with an unprecedented (for him) number of work-for-hire books
As we stand on the edge of this year and peer into the next, Wood is looking to build on 2012 projects like Conan the Barbarian, The Massive and Ultimate Comics X-Men with a new creator-owned series, Mara, debuting next week from Image Comics, and then on Jan. 9 launching his highest-profile project to date: Star Wars, a highly anticipated Dark Horse monthly set between the events of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and featuring familiar characters like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo. Brian Wood Month redux? Perhaps.
Comic Book Resources has interviewed Wood about each of his upcoming projects, so in this conversation I’m able to focus on the big picture, addressing his career and the context of his projects. Wood and I discuss changes at DC that led to his departure, what could have been had he stayed, and his plans both inside and outside of comics.
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Avengers #1 (Marvel): Has Marvel NOW! already gotten enough attention? Maybe so, but that’s partly the reason I’m highlighting this specific book. In the rising tide that’s pushed all of the Marvel NOW relaun!ches, for me — as a fan and journalist — the marketing has dulled the unique appeal of every book. Flipping through Previews and giving this a deeper critical eye, it made me realize – this is Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opeña doing Avengers, the de facto flagship book of Marvel since 2004. Opeña really turned a corner with Uncanny X-Force, and I’m interested to see how Hickman brings his meticulous plotting to a biweekly book with a cast larger than Circus of the Stars. And what’s interesting is that he’s done a version of this when he relaunched the “Ultimate” version of the Avengers in Ultimate Comics: Ultimates. I’m not saying this will be that re-heated over, but it’ll be interesting to see how he takes roughly the same characters and bobs instead of weaves.
Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories (Dark Horse): Samura’s Blade of the Immortal was a major manga when it debuted, but when you have one artist doing a long, drawn-out story it tends to dull in the eyes of fans on the outside looking in. But his short-story collection Ohikkoshi was fun, modern and completely different – a great bite-size snack from the eight-course meal/buffet that is Blade of the Immortal. This collection looks to be like that, centered around Samura’s western teen drama Emerald. I’ve heard of another set of stories called Bradherley’s Coach about a family whose business is to ferry orphans to their new home, which I hope is in here as well.
Mara #1 (Image): I’ve been loving Brian Wood’s work since he jumped to AiT-PlanetLar too many years ago, and seeing him branch out with another new series makes me wish for Brian Wood Month all over again. Besides swami Brian, it’s the artist he’s doing this with that really deserves some attention; Ming Doyle has killed it in her work featured on Project: Rooftop (shameless plug), and when she moved to doing shorts for Marvel in things like Fantastic Four she showed she could really play with the big boys. Seeing Wood and Doyle doing a sports-themed action series set in the future, this is a unique-looking story that’ll be at the top of my stack when it comes out on Dec. 26.
Hip Flask: Ourborous (Image): In comics today there’s a rare group of artists that are like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ents; an older race who were once masters of the world but now subsist on making rare, but eventful appearances. Alan Moore is this way; so is Art Adams. To that list I’d like to add Ladrönn. This has my money, even if I didn’t know how great a story this is.
Orcs, Vol. 1: Forged For War (First Second): Speaking of Tolkien, am I the only one that felt compassion for the Orcs in Lord of the Rings? Well, this reprinted graphic novel by writer Stan Nicholls and artist Joe Flood brings the orc race to the forefront. Orc Stain was great, and this could be too!
Graphic novels | A musical based on Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home will open the fall season of the Public Lab series of the Public Theater in New York City. Featuring music by four-time Tony Award nominee Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Tony nominee Lisa Kron, the show is scheduled to run from Oct. 17 through Nov. 4 at the Shiva Theater. [The New York Times, The Public Theater]
Creators | Gilbert Hernandez guests on the comiXologist podcast to talk about Love and Rockets and what he has been reading lately. [comiXology]
Creators | Brian Wood and Ming Doyle talk about their new comic Mara, which will debut from Image Comics in December and features a volleyball player with superpowers in a world where sports and warfare are no longer so far apart. While Wood is not really a sports fan, he is fascinated by the portrayal of athletes in popular culture: “‘This is tied into the superhero thing, recognizing parallels between the two,’ Wood says. ‘I think there’s a lot to talk about there and part of me feels I’ll need more than one comic series to do it in. We’ll see.'” [USA Today]
The first Image Expo kicked off Friday in Oakland, California, with a keynote speech from Publisher Eric Stephenson that emphasized creator relationships as the company’s foundation, and laid out more than a half-dozen titles that will be announced this weekend for release later this year:
• Happy!, by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, a mysterious title the writer says is “in a genre I’ve never really tackled before — but with a bizarre twist, of course.” It’s the first of several potential Image projects from Morrison. [iFanboy]
• Confirmation of a third volume of Phonogram, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson, called The Immaterial Girl. Gillen says the six-issue miniseries, which will likely debut in November, is “primarily about the war between coven queen witch Emily Aster and the half of her personality she sold to whatever lies on the other side of the screen. It’s about identity, eighties music videos and further explorations of Phonogram’s core ‘Music = Magic’ thesis. There is horror. There are jokes. There are emotions. There may even be a fight sequence. It also takes A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’ with far too much seriousness – which, for us, is the correct amount of seriousness.” [Kieron Gillen’s Workblog]
• Chin Music, by Steve Niles and Tony Harris, described by the artist as “a 1930’s Noir, Gangster, horror story.” [Tony Harris]