Everyone needs a little reinvention now and then. It’s human nature to take a look at ourselves and try on a different hat to see if it changes anything. Halloween, cosplay, even just a vacation to another place can be a way to escape the person we are now for the person we could be. Sometimes, the reinvention sticks; after all, none of us is who we were in high school. Sometimes it’s a terrible idea that we can pull ourselves out of, like a bad haircut. Either way, who we are remains essential while the trappings can change for a fresh perspective.
Comic characters need the same thing, much to our chagrin. Some of these heroes have been around for 60 or 70 years, so obviously they can’t be the same people they were in World War II. There have been cultural shifts that practically demand characters change to keep up with the times and standards; we just don’t call characters “Lass” or “Lad” anymore, and Sue Storm’s early Invisible Girl years can be embarrassingly sexist. Comic book characters have to retain their audience, if not attract a new one every generation, and a new costume can go a long way in creating a water mark for when fans started reading a particular title. Most of all, creative teams demand these changes as no one wants to write the same character over and over, year after year, without a chance to make their mark on the hero’s legend. And much like a bad haircut, sometimes these changes don’t go over very well with fans; this still does not change the character at heart.
It can be even more difficult when a comic book character is more than a hero, but a symbol of a country. Rick Remender and John Romita Jr. have brought us 10 issues of a new chapter in Captain America’s life and there has been so much change it might be hard to swallow. Because Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting were so wildly successful with their reinvention eight years ago, we’re having a hard time letting go of what was working for something new and decidedly different. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad haircut to be suffered through; if anything, a reinvention can help fans look at a beloved hero in a new way, just another facet of their history and character.
WARNING: We’ll be talking about the Marvel NOW! run of Captain America and, mostly spoilerly, Captain America #10 where a bunch of stuff happens. Grab your copies and read along!
Writer Paul Cornell and artists Alan Davis, Mark Farmer and Matt Hollingsworth waste no time dropping Wolverine into the thick of it in the latest first issue for Marvel’s merry claw-popping mutant. All is not as it seems when a father shopping for sneakers for his kid goes on a lethal rampage at the mall with a strange gun, leaving us with a naked Wolverine waiting for his healing factor to kick in … and that’s where we start the book.
Carla talked about Wolverine at length on Friday, and here are a few reviews from around the web to help you decide if the latest take on the character is worth your money — or if you should save it for a new pair of sneakers:
Marvel’s turning over a new leaf, so to speak, as it enters the Marvel NOW! era. But in that amid the flurry of new titles, new line-ups and new creators, we’re finding some notable absences — notable to us at least. While some missed heroes like Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Mockingbird have popped up in cameos here and there, there are still a significant number of popular players waiting to be brought onto the field. In this installment of “Six by 6,” we suss out six such characters and zero in on their last whereabouts, and where some of them might show up next.
Last year was a good one for spy fans. We got new Bond and Bourne movies, Homeland continued to be a much-discussed television series, and films like Argo and Zero Dark Thirty proved that espionage films can also be art. Even The Avengers got in on the spy action by playing up S.H.IE.L.D. and the spy backgrounds of Black Widow and Hawkeye. Spies aren’t going away either, not with the recent debut of The Americans and a bunch of spy movies in the works, including a couple of John le Carré adaptations and a big-screen take on the video game Spy Hunter.
Borrowing from its 2012 cinematic blockbuster, Marvel is letting the spies infiltrate its comics, too. That was especially noticeable last week with the simultaneous release of Secret Avengers #1 and Avengers Assemble #12, each featuring Black Widow and Hawkeye in an espionage adventure with superpowers. But as alike as they were, each came at the idea from a wildly different angle and achieved results that were just as dissimilar. One was awesome. The other, not so much.
Following on the heels of All-New X-Men, the first X-title written by Brian Michael Bendis as part of the big Marvel NOW initiative, Uncanny X-Men sees the scribe join with Chris Bachalo to relaunch the mothership. While All-New focuses on the teenage versions of the original X-Men, this title showcases the leader they were brought forward in time to convince that his current actions aren’t kosher. Joined by two former (former?) villains and the diabolical ruler of Limbo, Cyclops goes about recruiting some of the new mutants who have been popping up since the end of Avengers vs. X-Men. Why should Wolverine have all the fun?
Is the new approach revolutionary or revolting? Here are a few opinions from around the web …
Anghus Houvouras, Flickering Myth: “Uncanny X-Men #1 takes us to the other side of the fractured X-Men. Cyclops, Magneto, and a handful of others have taken to recruiting new mutants to be part of their brotherhood. Cyclops still believes mutants need protection from the world around them and is willing to resort to violence if necessary. S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill is approached by a mysterious foe who claims to have inside information about Cyclops and his mutant terrorists. Much of the issue is spent catching the audience up on the current state of mutant affairs. It seems that there is a traitor in their midst as someone is intent on seeing Cyclops suffer for his sins.”
Marvel announced this morning that it will celebrate the release next month of Guardians of the Galaxy #1 with a series of six limited-edition trading cards available only at those retailers hosting launch parties for the new title by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven.
However, one of the cards will be even more limited than the others. To learn which one — Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, Groot and Iron Man — the publisher is pointing fans to their participating local store.
“We’ve found a way to bring the cosmic elements of the Marvel Universe to the center of the playing field,” Bendis teased last month. “Here’s a wide-open, brand new #1 that starts these characters on the most reader-friendly place you could ever hope to have them without taking away anything that made them special in the first place.” The writer and Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso talked more about the series in CBR’s latest “Axel in Charge.”
Guardians of the Galaxy #1 goes on sale March 27.
The Marvel NOW! roll-out continued this week with the release of The Fearless Defenders #1, a new take on the “non-team” concept that spins out of last year’s The Fearless miniseries. Like that series, Fearless Defenders is written by Cullen Bunn (of The Sixth Gun and Wolverine fame), who is joined by artist Will Sliney and colorist Veronica Gandini.
Readers of The Fearless will remember that it ended with Valkyrie, that book’s star, deciding to recruit a new group of Valkyrior on Earth. Her first recruit is Misty Knight, formerly of Heroes for Hire, who knows a thing or two about recruiting heroes herself. Is it a match made in Valhalla? Here are a few opinions from around the web:
Doug Zawisza, Comic Book Resources: “The ‘how’ of those characters teaming up is the charm of this comic book, leading to a most unlikely and sometimes comical pairing of two long-time favorite Marvel Comics’ ladies, thanks to Cullen Bunn. Unintimidated by the immortal aspect of Valkyrie, Bunn uses that character as the reader’s introduction to this new series, providing caption boxes filled with her thoughts and to open and close the issue. Bunn’s method for bringing the characters together is standard-issue comic book threat, but it works with these characters and this situation, opening the door wide for continued shared adventures. I’m certain those adventures will lead to the gathering of more allies as the heroines’ journey progresses. Bunn seems quite comfortable writing both of the leads and a third ally in ‘Fearless Defenders’ #1.” (3/5)
Legal | In the aftermath of last month’s ruling that DC Comics retains full rights to Superman, the heirs of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are urging federal judge to dismiss claims that their lawyer interfered with the publisher’s copyright to the character. DC sued attorney Marc Toberoff in May 2010, accusing him impeding a 1992 copyright agreement with the heirs by striking overriding deals with them in 2001 and 2003. The families insist the publisher filed its claims two years too late, as the statute of limitations expired in 2008. [Law360]
Webcomics | Malicious hackers hit the Blind Ferret servers last week, and they didn’t just wipe out the websites that host Least I Could Do, Girls with Slingshots and other high-profile webcomics — they also wiped out the backups. Gary Tyrell has the story and advises creators to have multiple backups in multiple locations. [Fleen]
In November I decided to use myself as a case study for the first issue of one of the series debuting as part of Marvel NOW!, the publisher’s concentrated, unified effort to sell its comics to a wider audience, which presumably meant luring in lapsed and new readers. That first issue I read was Fantastic Four #1 by Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley; I didn’t much care for it.
This week I picked up Young Avengers #1 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton, giving it the same treatment. (Between the two, I also tried Fraction and Mike and Laura Allred’s FF #1 and loved it, but didn’t write about it in this manner because … well, I don’t remember why. Here’s what I said about the first issue the week it was released, though). Ready?
My background: I read the first dozen 2005-2006 Young Avengers comics by creators Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, but gradually lost interest in the characters at about the same rate Heinberg did. Over the years I’ve read various Young Avengers-related comics, most of which Marvel seemed to be producing to fill the demand for Young Avengers comics while waiting for Heinberg to write more: Young Avengers Presents, Civil War: Young Avengers and Runaways, Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers. But when he finally did return, I didn’t.
Creators | For Slate’s “Doers” feature — “People who accomplish great things, and how they do it” — David Wiegel spotlights Rob Liefeld’s decision to revive his Extreme Studios line by handing over the properties to creators like Brandon Graham, Joe Keatinge and Tim Seeley. Acknowledging his critics prefer these new versions of Glory, Prophet and Bloodstrike to his originals, Liefeld tells the website, ““The internet snark has zero effect on me. I was there 20 years ago, I’m out there on the convention circuit, I experience the real and tangible enthusiasm for me and my work. You can’t rewrite the history books, you can’t eliminate the impact of my work and my characters. [...] Rob Liefeld is to today as Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan are to my kids.” [Slate.com]
Passings | Paul Gravett pays tribute to the late British writer and critic Les Coleman. [Paul Gravett]
I used to think Marvel was, consciously or unconsciously, driving its readers to quit serial comics and start reading trades. As evidence, there’s the standard list of complaints: inflated pricing, ads that don’t seem to generate any revenue, trade-ready scripting, variant covers, irregular but accelerated publishing schedules, etc.
The Marvel NOW! initiative has me starting to rethink that, however. See, I’ve been trade-waiting a lot of the Marvel comics I read, including the Jason Aaron-written Incredible Hulk. The first trade paperback collection of his run, which began in 2011, was released in late December. I just read it this week. And, of course, Marvel relaunched the Hulk with a new writer, new direction, new title and new numbering with Indestructible Hulk #1.
That’s one of several Marvel NOW! relaunches that happened almost on the heels of the previous relaunches — Wolverine went 17 issues in its new renumbering, the just-relauched Captain America was only on Issue 19, the similarly relaunched Thor on Issue 22 — and it was the first time I can remember reading a new trade that’s contents were made completely obsolete (from a keeping-up-with-the-goings-on-of-a-superhero-universe perspective only, of course) before it was even published.
I imagine a lot of the new NOW! premises won’t be around more than a year or two — Captain America can’t stay stranded in a different dimension forever, the Fantastic Four have to come back from space eventually, the original X-Men can’t be time-lost indefinitely — so I suppose this sort of thing could be happening on a more frequent basis. So if you trade-wait, maybe you’re waiting too long!
So, what did I wait for?
While it’s not uncommon to see fans organize in an attempt to save a low-selling comic, it’s rare to see them actually seek a title’s demise. However, that’s the goal of a petition at Change.org, which calls for the cancellation of Avengers Arena, the new Marvel series whose kill-or-be-killed competition premise has invited comparisons to Battle Royale and The Hunger Games.
What’s more, the petitioners ask Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso to “retcon the deaths” that have occurred so far in the comic — there are three to date — which is referred to on the website as a “travesty against fans.” As of this morning, just 61 people had signed on.
Avengers Arena, which launched in December as part of the Marvel NOW! initiative, finds 16 young heroes transported to Arcade’s Murderworld, where they’re forced to fight each other in a series of death matches. “[T]he story is about choices,” writer Dennis Hopeless told Comic Book Resources this week. “These young people have to make some very difficult choices that will affect the course of the rest of their lives — What would you do to protect yourself or your friends? What are you willing to sacrifice? Who are you willing to leave behind? What can you live with? They’re in no way ready to make these decisions, but they have to. To me, that’s what makes a teenage superhero death match relatable. Life is about choices and being young is about making choices you don’t fully understand. Take all the fantasy elements away and Murderworld starts to sound a lot like high school.”
However, the petition’s creator clearly doesn’t view the series as an exploration of deeper themes, but rather as a cold grab for sales.
At the end of every year, ROBOT 6 contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman get together over the e-mail tubes and talk Big Two comics. Part 1 is here.
Tom: Something I’ve been curious about, off and on — what did Metro‘s customers think of the Man of Steel trailer? What do you think the average superhero fan wants out of a Superman book?
Carla: It’s mixed. It really is, some love it, some are grumbly and already ready to complain. I think what the average superhero fan and what the general fan wants are entirely different. Superman’s a difficult character to get right because of his status as a cultural icon and how much that character can mean to different generations. Some people just know Smallville and, at least from the trailer, it doesn’t even seem to be that. [Producer Christopher] Nolan’s influence looks pretty strong and, as much as formula might work in the Avengers movie mythos, the same style and tone for Batman really doesn’t jibe with the Man of Steel. Well, for me. Others might totally want a deep, emotional connection to an outsider and an outcast. Mind you, I’d tell them there are some great X-Men comics out there, but eh, what do I know? It’s a trailer, and very hard to judge on what the movie is going to be like when we see the full thing this summer.
What do you think the Man of Steel trailer is all about? What kind of Superman do we need in the new millennium?
Tom: To me, the basic Superman approach is that Superman always does the right thing. It’s not about the powers. The powers just underscore that he can do whatever it takes. So it’s easy for Superman to punch something, or fly into the sun. The question should be, how can he do what’s right? I think that applies regardless of millennium.
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At the end of every year Carla Hoffman and Tom Bondurant exchange emails about the fortunes of the Big Two. Look for Part 2 on Wednesday!
Carla: Here we are, heading toward the year the Mayan calendar might not have thought would ever come: 2013. The future gets closer and closer! Technology advances! Politics change! And yet, comic books are still here. How cool is that? It’s been a heck of a year, full of ups and downs, movie premieres, new #1 issues and the never-ending race to produce better, faster comics.
I have to admit, Image has been doing a really great job keeping up with the Big Two, producing award-winning books in a variety of formats and getting involved in TV to draw new readers into a wide array of comic book genres. But we’re not here to talk about them! We’re here for the greatest shows in town, the Merry Marvel Marching Society and … our Distinguished Competitors.
My first question is kind of a no-brainer: How’s the New 52 treating you these days? And, after a year, is it still the “New 52″?
Tom: Well, as a practical matter, it’s the “New 52″ for as long as DC wants it to be. Actually, I think I have stopped seeing that little blurb on the covers. I happened to look at Aquaman #15 yesterday, kind of out of the corner of my eye, and was surprised it was there. Part of me thinks that it could confuse those hypothetical new readers, but then I thought that about “Earth One,” and that doesn’t seem to have hurt those books.
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We’re probably as excited about Young Avengers as we are about any of the titles launching as part of the Marvel NOW! initiative. Not only does the series reunite Phonogram collaborators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, it teams Young Avengers mainstays like Hulking, Wiccan and Kate Bishop with Miss America, Marvel Boy and fan favorite Kid Loki — at least for starters.
“… What I want to do in Young Avengers is build a kind of larger metastructure that you can use to explore any part of the teen-leaning Marvel Universe outside the traditional doctrines of the larger government side heroes,” Gillen told Comic Book Resources in October. “I have a real strong vision for 12 issues. I have no idea if I’ll be staying on after that or going, but I have 12 definitive, brilliant issues, or maybe 13. After that Young Avengers will be set up as a device where you can go to any of the Marvel Universe locales where teen heroes live and work like the West Coast with the Runaways or the Jean Grey School. It’s a very wide ranging book in that way. For me it’s super heroism as a metaphor for talent and deciding what you want to do with it. There’s a line in my original proposal for this that the original Young Avengers book was kind of about being 16. This book is about being 18.”
Although we still have to wait a few weeks for the debut of Young Avengers — Jan. 23, to be exact — Marvel has provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive first look at Issue 2, due to arrive Feb. 27: