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The Grumpy Color | Carla and Tom take apart 2013, Part 2

legodcmarvel_pinterestToday, Carla and Tom continue to muse through all the news the Big Two have brought us in 2013. See can read the first installment here.

Tom Bondurant: The Marvel Cinematic Universe (Avengers division) is now five and a half years old, and consists currently of eight movies, a handful of shorts, and a half-season of TV.

Carla Hoffman: Holy cats, we work fast!

Tom: However, it’s about to get a lot bigger, adding two movies next year, plus the four Netflix series (and the Defenders movie coming out of those). Clearly this looks like a long-term commitment — but how long can it go?

Carla: Ask me after Ant-Man. That’s going to be the hardest movie to sell to non-comic fans. If that turns out to be a surprise hit enough for Ant-Man (whichever alias he may be) to turn up in an Avengers movie, then I can’t think of a property that wouldn’t work on the silver screen as long as the right creative team is at work.

TB: See, I think Ant-Man just got a lot easier to sell, because now it’s “Paul Rudd joins the Avengers.”

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The Grumpy Color | Tom and Carla take apart 2013, Part 1

I heard they changed the ending to 'August: Osage County'

I heard they changed the ending to ‘August: Osage County’

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.

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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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The Fifth Color | Weight of ‘Dark World’ rests on Thor’s shoulders

an epic poster for an epic movie

Looking back, the first Thor movie was a marvel, no pun intended. It was the first of the Marvel Studios films not to have Iron Man in it at all, plus it was the first major step toward what we would come to know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Incredible Hulk was really its own little world, with a little Stark tacked on at the end to hint at the idea that was still forming. By the time Thor came out, the path toward a full fledged Avengers movie was on the horizon and Thor was our introduction to the next Earth’s Mightiest Hero.

Although the character is difficult to translate, Thor showed modern movie audiences a near-perfect tale of a god humbled, heroic triumph and the kick-ass design of a Jack Kirby-inspired Asgard. There was a flexibility of tone and style that showed us the fantastic was possible too in the Marvel world of science and technology; Thor even explains to Jane Foster and the audience very clearly that science and fantasy aren’t that far apart, sort of justifying the god’s association with more science-based characters. The movie had an amazing balance between so many different themes, it’s still my favorite Marvel movie yet.

Sequels to such great films can be incredibly difficult. On one hand, they can often flesh out the elements we liked from the original while trimming a bit of the fat (see Star Trek II vs. Star Trek: The Motion Picture). The second film can strike directly to the heart of the matter, rather than spend time telling audiences where they are and why they should care about the people on screen. On the other hand, reference can equal preference, and when the second movie is nothing like the first, it can fall flat if it’s not what we were expecting. Not everyone can return for the second movie, be they actors, directors or designers, so cracks can form if there’s not a consistency from one installment to the next. Others can complain if the next movie relies too heavily on the first, “continuity porn” showing up on angry Internet forums or from more casual movie-going folk. It’s a lot of concern to carry with you into a sequel.

The good news is that the god of thunder bears this weight heroically in Thor: the Dark Work. I can’t say he juggles it all effortlessly, I can’t say it doesn’t seem a little awkward and uneven at times, but all the troubles are carried in an impressive spectacle. Want to know more? Read on!

WARNING: No spoilers. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen any plot details that I might discuss, so click with confidence!

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The Fifth Color | ‘X-Men: Battle of the Atom’ battles for the unknown

xmenbattleoftheatomX-Men: Battle of the Atom seems poorly named. The title references the nickname “Children of the Atom” often given to mutants for an old school, sci-fi feel, so you think this battle would have something to do with being a mutant, when in actuality, it has more to do with time travel and really, just being an X-Man. They could have called it X-Men: Fight for the Future and that would have made more sense, but then everyone would have just thought about that one X-Files movie and that would have gotten us nowhere.

Still, while X-Men: Battle of the Atom is an awkward title, it seems to promise one thing, deliver another and both ideas were a little oversized to begin with, much like the story the title denotes. Brian Michael Bendis once again hits the readers with a surgical strike, but this one’s a little more invasive and disguised than the clean-up or shakedowns of events past. Comparing it to Infinity, Hickman seems to be working from very broad concepts (intergalactic battle, world building/destruction) that started his Avengers event to the very narrow (save Earth, Thanos has a son, new Inhumans popping up on Earth) and more easily understandable to the reader, almost like a reward. Did you bear with us for the Alephs and Builders and high concepts? Here are some new characters and human interest stories to make it more palatable. In the end, I think Infinity will work much better as a coherent trade and over-arcing narrative telling a big space yarn.

In X-Men: Battle of the Atom‘s case, the story started out simple (put the time-traveled X-Men back where they came from) and got more and more complicated as he wrote further, from a narrow point to broader strokes full of brand new characters who had maybe a glimpse of a reason to be there. The story reads much better as single issues, like tiny bites of candy that make you sick if you eat them all at once. In the end, it will probably make more sense… well, let’s face it: at the next big event.

Let me see if I can make sense of what went on….

WARNING: I’m giving you the short, short version of X-Men: Battle of the Atom so if you want to read it for yourself, stop here and visit your friendly neighborhood comic shop! If you’ve already read the X-Event, read on!

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The Fifth Color | The Iron Man you think you know

IronMan17_cvrKieron Gillen had to remind me to be angry. I read through my comics stash for the week, feeling very proud of myself and then went on about my day, wondering what I was going to be writing for you, Dear Reader (hi, Mom!). Then I browse through Twitter to see this posted by the writer: “You know, after yesterday with Iron Man 17 and YA11, I’d have expected my @s to be worse, but people are being really nice. Thanks!”

Being really nice? Why shouldn’t they? What should I be mad at?! Nothing happened that was all that shocking in Young Avengers, as long as you know who Loki is and that Loki: Agent of Asgard is debuting in February, so it’s just putting two and two together. That couldn’t be the reason for torches and pitchforks. Then I remembered Iron Man #17 and still felt no need to reach for my oil-soaked rags and farming tools. There’s a twist to be sure, and a fairly large change to Tony Stark’s tried and true origin, but is the cover right? Is this really “The shocking conclusion that will change the world of Iron Man forever”?

Not exactly. Read on and find out why!

WARNING: Oh yeah, big spoilers for the current run on Iron Man! Huge, massive spoilers. Click no further if you haven’t read Iron Man #17! But if you have (or simply love spoilers), please do read on!

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The Fifth Color | Deadpool reminds us tragedy is easy, comedy is hard

deadpool18_cvrI hate “dark and gritty.” Some days I wake up and say a little prayer on announcement weekends like this one, where the House of Ideas sells us on the next batch of comics’ twists and turns that no one hails a new book as being a must-read because it will be “dark and gritty.” I like to think that’s we’ve moved past thinking that shading your books in big, black washes and stockpiling your panels in death, dismemberment and human anguish means your comics are better or “more realistic” than one that’s more lighthearted. After all, death not only gets you an annotation in the Overstreet guide, but it also means something important has happened.

That’s what makes Deadpool so interesting as a character and as an ongoing comic. Nothing really important happens in a Deadpool comic; he doesn’t cross over with big events all that often, and he’s more a guest star in other characters’ comics than a major player in his own. He also happens to be wacky, dangerous in a Bugs Bunny sort of way and more self-aware than most heroes, whether anti- or super-. With the right creative team, Deadpool can make you think while making you laugh, or tug at the heart string and your funny bone. At his worst, he’s like a CBS sitcom: high in ratings, panned by critics, divisive in his target audience and competing against the better shows.

Marvel NOW! Deadpool wonderfully leans toward the former, with Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn balancing humor and horror on a katana’s edge, as Deadpool #18 expertly delivers on both this week.

WARNING: HUGE spoiler for Deadpool #18 this week, so please grab your copy and a box of tissues and read along!

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The Fifth Color | ‘Avengers: Endless Wartime’ struggles with identity

AvengersCoverFINALIt’s difficult to find solid synergy between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the current comics line. On one hand, that’s a good thing; not everything should stop and shift on a Hollywood dime. On the other, you’d think there would be at least one book that followed the Avengers movie characters. Anyone familiar with the films and looking for a little Avengers action would be picking up an Infinity tie-in, and … man. I mean, I’ve been reading comics for what seems like forever, and Jonathan Hickman is writing some crazy-dense stuff right now. Avengers Assemble went from being the go-to book for quick-and-simple adventures of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and now it’s just as important a tie-in for Captain Marvel and Infinity as the Hickman books. Visually, Marvel can tweak Tony Stark’s character model to be a lot more Robert Downey Jr.-y, adjust some costumes to be more realistic and put movie favorites like the Warriors Three closer to the action, but it’s difficult to produce a book that remains event story-neutral or even simply set in Marvel’s on-screen world.

The good news is that the House of Ideas is trying a couple things that might be a little more reader-friendly than just sticking a #1 on the cover. One is the new Marvel Knights line; the inaugural series, Marvel Knights: Spider-Man debuted this week. Another is the return of the “original graphic novel”: a story that was only reprinted in a larger format and never collected from regular issues. These are traditionally done-in-one books that used to be more magazine format and gave you a taste of the characters in a more isolated environment, and these are the books I think will probably lure more new readers into the fold. No commitment, just a complete story with the characters you already know in their own island-like adventure far from the shores of the Marvel universe.

This week saw the arrival of Avengers: Endless Wartime, written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Mike McKone. Interestingly enough, it has a foreword by Clark Gregg, good ol’ Agent Coulson. As he is a beloved figure from both the big screen and, more recently, on the new television ser Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I figured this would be an ideal start for Marvel fans from other media where Coulson is more present. Would he make an appearance in the book? Who is this targeted for? Join me after the break and find out.

WARNING: We’re talking Avengers: Endless Wartime ahead and I’ll try not to give away to many moments, but I’d still grab a copy and read along!

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The Fifth Color | Agents of W.H.E.D.O.N.

GenerationX-posterMark your calenders, folks! Marvel again reached a milestone as it ventured into the world of television once more. If you think about it, when was the last time Marvel had a live-action television series? The first thing I think of (and I’m sure I’m in the minority on this one) is the Generation X TV movie/pilot that aired in 1996.

Some of you might remember the Mutant X TV show that actually did pretty well (“pretty well” meaning it lasted for more than one season — three, in fact! — in syndication) but it doesn’t legally count. Effectively, it’s been 17 years since Marvel has attempted live-action television, and 25 years since it’s been a hit, back when The Incredible Hulk was all the rage. So score one for the House of Ideas, as ABC aired Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week to exceptional ratings, with 11.9 million viewers watching the premiere live.

Despite having the name in the title, I can’t bring myself to call it Marvel’s show after seeing the pilot. If anything, this is Joss Whedon’s show, as his earmarks are all over every scene, plot point and casting choice; this makes sense, considering Whedon is, primarily, a TV guy. His name conjures up a list of cult series, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dollhouse, all serving a die-hard audience that will watch his works because of the man behind the camera. Whedon is comfortable enough here (and probably has enough free rein over Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) to work in his classic tropes and story style to make a hit (that hopefully won’t get canceled this time).

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The Fifth Color | Living in the All-New Marvel NOW!

long boxMarvel recently announced the next big thing, in the form of the All-New Marvel NOW. Since last year’s refreshing take on a variety of titles, and the introduction of a few new ones, turned out to be a success, the publisher has gone back to find new and interesting ways to keep the stands fresh and recharged, directing readers to the latest stories and longtime readers to the new creative teams and focus of the Marvel Universe. A sort of lead-in to Inhumanity, the next event-as-varnish over the heroes and stories, kind of a way to just drum up support for some new ideas. But they’re renumbering the Avengers.

OK, it’s not a blatant renumbering; you see, to highlight the All-New Marvel NOW titles, they’ll be getting a Point-NOW issue to direct fans to where the next hotness is. It’s kind of like the Point One issue, but less of a long-term, situation I’m guessing. Don’t get me wrong, the Point-NOW issues will be here for a while, as it kicks off in December with Avengers #24.NOW and then leads into a new series (or more than one new series, in some cases) every week. I know, it’s a lot to take in, and so far, there’s not much else to report besides an All-New Invaders series and the early info we’ve gotten on Inhumanity. I expect an avalanche of interviews and promotions the closer we get to December’s launch. Yet there’s one thing in the announcement that just got right under my nails; it’s a small issue, but in the long run, it becomes a much bigger point of contention.

How are we supposed to file these Point-Now issues??

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The Fifth Color | What can I say about ‘Inhumans’?

inhumans_jaelee There’s a lot of new information coming out of Marvel as the publisher preps us for the next major event, even as the current one is just getting its sea legs. But for the moment, I want to talk about the past. This week, the original Marvel Knights Inhumans miniseries returned to the shelves in a super-sexy oversized hardcover, and it’s been a long time coming — not just because it was originally promised in the late 2000s, but because this one series is a milestone not only for the characters but for the company as well.

When this series — written by Paul Jenkins and illustrated by Jae Lee — was released, I was working at my first comic-shop job in the City of Industry, California, and I was pretty much a mainstream X-Men junkie. I’m not saying the issues weren’t any good, but there is a candy coating that went over a lot of ’90s comics: We didn’t ask them to do much besides look pretty and accumulate value, and that’s exactly what they did. At Marvel, Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti were given the opportunity to grab unique creators and kind of make the Marvel Knights imprint their own. That obviously started with the incredible reinvention of Daredevil, Christopher Priest’s amazing work on Black Panther, and the Punisher series no one likes to talk about. All of those titles challenged the reader to think differently about well-known characters, and put a more “adult” spin on them than you’d find in your average Marvel title. The artwork was phenomenal; Lee was in almost a transitional state between the hyper-stylized work we’d seen in Namor the Sub-Mariner in the early ’90s to what he does now. But I don’t think it was the art that really drew me into the Inhumans series; it was the simple fact that I was invited in.

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