Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
We’re less than a week away from Comic-Con International, and that means announcements from major publishers are coming in early to jockey for position before the masses gather in sunny San Diego. Marvel struck hard with big changes debuting on major media outlets, leading to your grandma knowing what’s coming up in the pages of Thor.
It’s a weird world we live in these days.
On The View, Whoopi Goldberg announced there will be a woman taking over the mantle of Thor. Marvel’s Ryan Penagos (a far better source for Marvel news, no offense to Goldberg) clarified that this wouldn’t be a more traditional female counterpart, but the actual god of thunder title would pass to a female character. On The Colbert Report, actually a decent and known source for Captain America news, Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada informed Stephen Colbert that she shield will be passed to the Falcon, Cap’s longtime partner Sam Wilson. In fact, Colbert specifically said that the event was tied to the events of Captain America #21 and the rather complicated story line within, which I believe is the first time a recent back issue was ever advertised on a cable TV show.
Superior Iron Man was also announced, indicating a darker outlook and a lighter “Genius Bar”-looking set of armor for Tony Stark, which led everyone from the New York Daily News to MTV to carry stories about what it means.
Ms. Marvel #5 is the most important comic of the current era. Wait, I got ahead of myself.
Comics have distinct eras that you can recognize simply by flipping through an issue. Whether it’s the artwork, subject matter, costume design or the overall presentation, fans can get an idea of when the book came out, and who its intended audience is. It’s one of the reasons I have a hard time recommending older first issues to new readers; X-Men #1 is going to seem weird to someone who has never read any X-Men, whether it’s due to the silted language and design of the original or the ’90s posing and over-lettered pages of the Claremont/Lee version. It can seem really dated for new readers, and can completely color a generation of fans’ expectations of what comics should “really be like.” This is my only explanation for the extreme Jim Lee-ness of the New 52 costume designs.
With this is mind, trying to peg the overall theme of the current era of comics is still a little tricky. Do we use the movies as an example of how future generations will view the medium? Will Civil War and Identity Crisis, with their adult themes, be how the early 2000s are remembered? Do we have Brian Michael Bendis to thank for the voice of this modern era?
This brings me back to my cause this week: I would like Ms. Marvel #5 to be the bar by which the current era is measured. This comic does so much right, and is so absolutely inspiring, that I want to see followers, imitators and an entire generation of fans who will expect this level of quality in their comics in the days to come. Did I get ahead of myself again? Let me catch you up.
WARNING: I’ll be discussing Ms. Marvel #5, so grab your copy (buy three more!) and read along!
Tom Brevoort is a saint. Seriously, I don’t know how he can keep an open ask forum on Tumblr and be patient enough to answer incoming questions from fans morning, noon and night. He’s an incredible resource and incredibly honest, which makes some of his answers hard to stomach, but at least you know Brevoort cares enough about Marvel comics and his job as senior vice president of publishing-executive editor to give you the truth.
Recently, he was asked about the length of a comic’s storyline and, in particular, whether editors inform writers how long an arc is going to be. The question came in regard to Brian Michael Bendis’ run on his two X-Men books where, in a way, I agree that there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of answers and/or change. Particular complaints aside, Brevoort responded:
Every story is different, every series is different, and every creator is different. All throughout his career, Brian has engaged in long-form storytelling. And he’s not the only one — Jonathan Hickman is another good example. And for those that enjoy what they do and stay on for the ride, there are payoffs for that devotion.
Who are we putting that devotion into? The comic characters? The creative team? The publisher? Who decides where a book begins or ends?
The past few weeks have given us drips and drabs of drama regarding two movies on Marvel’s amazing slate of cinematic wonders: Ant-Man lost long-attached director Edgar Wright and hunted down a new one (successfully, I might add; Peyton Reed’s indie-comedy cred is solid with Mr. Show and Upright Citizens Brigade, plus Down With Love is a personal favorite), and Doctor Strange now has Scott Derrickson directing and a slew of casting rumors. It’s made my Twitter feed abuzz with opinions and fancasts and denouncements of studio interference in the creative efforts of the auteur. It seems everyone wants to talk about the next Marvel breakthrough hit.
But not the comics. God forbid we ever talk about the comics. Ant-Man and Doctor Strange are absent from the shelves, outside of cameos in Original Sin, a canceled gig on the FF for Scott Lang and … well, something odd going on with Doctor Strange in New Avengers. As I scroll through Tumblr and Twitter demands about how Doctor Strange and Ant-Man should be presented, no one seems all that keen on picking up a comic with either character in a starring role. When contradicting someone’s fancast, I offered my own choice for Doctor Strange as a Ming Doyle sketch, and was told that “drawings are not good actors.” Oh, man, I hope they were joking …
Despite there being an entire genre around the subject, science has a hard time fitting into mainstream comics fiction. A single mind conceiving of a single advancement or scientific theory in a singular world created to fit the topic? Great. A bunch of different scientists just making science all over the place to fill a variety of plots and necessities? It gets messy. Not only can too many minds spoil the plausibility of the Marvel Universe — Richards can build a portal to the Negative Zone in his house, but can’t cure cancer? — but shouldn’t all these geniuses have done better for the world they live in?
Let’s take a look at the science bros of the Marvel Universe, and see how they compare and contrast with one another. Who doesn’t love a good power ranking?
WARNING: Despite this Fifth Color being about scientists, please know that there is no scientific formula to the rankings you’re about to see. This is all conjecture, making me absolutely wrong on all counts. Feel free to make your own lists elsewhere, but for the humble opinions of Yours Truly, read on!
X-Men: The Last Stand was the last X-Men movie I thought I would ever see. I was so let down that I didn’t even want to watch X-Men: First Class when Fox tried to lure fans back with the promise of a clean slate. X3 was just too far. All the buildup and promise of the first two films was washed away with thoughtlessness and a complete misunderstanding of what made those adaptations great.
It’s easy to forget that the first X-Men movie really kicked off the revival of major comic-book adaptations that continue today. I know, Blade came first and was a big hit and really rekindled Hollywood’s love affair with comic properties, but X-Men was the start of the uniformed team, super-powers and the struggle between good and evil that modern audiences crave. The idea of peace and war for survival, the human-rights angle played as a mutant allegory portrayed by talented actors was all there comfortably next to stabby fight scenes, snarky quips and Halle Berry. From the first movie, we went to what could be debated as the best X-Men movie, X2: X-Men United. Themes were expounded upon, comic morsels were dropped for fans to pick up on, and the special-effects budget improved tenfold. After that, development problems, the wanton destruction of characters and the complete mishandling of the Phoenix storyline all combined to create a movie that nearly killed the franchise.
X-Men: First Class was a chance to get the audience back with a younger, sexier cast of mutant heroes and villains. For the most part it worked, but I didn’t want a new group of X-Men; I wanted the old one back. Everything in the first two X-Men movies still worked, and it didn’t feel right to just jettison it all because of one disaster. To borrow a phrase, just because one stumbles and falls doesn’t mean they’re lost forever.
If only we could go back in time and change X-Men: the Last Stand. ..
WARNING: SPOILERS for X-Men: Days of Future Past. I’ll try and remain vague, but I’ll definitely be talking about the final act because — short version — it’s worth the admission price to see if you’re a fan of the original films. For more, continue on, True Believers!
This is a weird analogy, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense: While cruising YouTube, I found a review of the 1989 Disney classic The Little Mermaid that mentions, off-hand, how Ariel is a huge fangirl of human culture: She has big cave of collectibles that could be featured in ROBOT 6’s “Shelf Porn,” her father doesn’t really get what his youngest daughter is “in to” and dramatically objects when her fandom starts to take over her responsibilities. She’s obviously passionate about human life and culture, and while she might not have all the facts right, her enthusiasm is infectious.
(Quick aside: I’m going to replace “fangirl” with “fanatic” instead, as being enthusiastic and a little immature is not limited to a girl’s fancy. From Cheeseheads to Deadheads, everyone can look a little stupid for something they love. You know who’s just as annoying to me as the mobs of women lusting over Robert Pattinson? The dude that screams “I LOVE YOU, SCARLETT!” at every midnight showing of a Marvel film featuring Black Widow. DUDE. SHE CAN’T HEAR YOU. So, yes, let’s just call them fanatics for whatever — and whoever — they love, because everyone gets a little goofy sometimes. Moving on …)
Fanatic Ariel loves human culture and swims about in her cave of collectibles, longing to take her fandom to the next level. Cue song. And while she might not be the best role model in the Disney Princess lineup, her story does have some empowering lessons all fans could learn.
While we all roll our eyes or groan inside (or on message boards) when the summer blockbuster season rears its ugly head, part of me hopes we get another clean, classic Secret Wars out of the bunch. It had a great mix of heroes and villains from across the Marvel Universe who didn’t normally hang out together. It took those character completely out of their normal element (quite literally) to give them room to interact and put everyone on an equal footing. There was a clear common goal and a threat to face in the form of the Beyonder, and a host of villains he collected to fight our heroes. We had some new characters created in Volcana, Titania and Spider-Woman, growing the event into an origin story. And then everyone went home having learned a little something and … oh, yes: the black costume.
Secret Wars had a lasting effect on the comics that came after it despite having a clear finish when it was released. Heroes go to Battleworld, they battle the Beyonder and Doctor Doom, everybody dies, everybody comes back, they overcome their obstacles and go home (or stay, as Ben Grimm would do). It wraps up but still gives us so much to work with for future comics. This should be a checklist for all of Marvel’s event series.
Sadly, it’s not. However, Original Sin has the potential to get back to those classic roots. Please note that we’ve only really seen the zero and first issue, but there is just something from the simplicity of storytelling to the theme of the event that gives me hope. Let’s see if I can’t translate that hope to you, Dear Reader.
WARNING: I’m going to talk about Original Sin today, and if you’ve been avoiding promotional material and interviews to remain spoiler-free, you might want to skip this one, too. Everyone else, grab your copies and read along!
How are new comics priced? I ask this mostly as a rhetorical exercise; I’m sure there is a process to decide how much new titles cost that involves sacrificial chickens and a large dart board, because it seems absolutely unfathomable to me some days. The average comic is either $2.99 or $3.99, and I’m always a little thrown off by which books get to be what price. There’s a certain amount of prestige to the $3.99 books, but I couldn’t tell you why. All I know is that I’m really glad Hawkeye is $2.99, and no one wants to jinx that by overthinking the cost process.
I also know that a more reliable indicator of cost is size; the bigger the comic, the more money they want for it, and that’s fair. More pages, more work, more money; it’s not that difficult a sell. More pages also mean a special occasion as they don’t bust out the 80-page giants for just anything. Larger comics are for a special occasion, even if that special occasion is just an annual that only happens once a year. They celebrate things, like anniversaries, milestone numbering or big story events. Say, a wedding…
That bad segue leads to the shocking event that three books this week totaled up, cost around $20 in the United States, around the price of a trade paperback. But just for three comics: Daredevil #1.50, All-New X-Men #25 and Deadpool #27. Were they worth it? Read on and find out.
WARNING: Mild spoilers ahead for Daredevil #1.50, All-New X-Men #25, and Deadpool #27; I’ll try to leave out any juicy bits, but I will talk about what the books are about. You have been warned.
Let’s get this out of the way first: so many spoilers ahead, you guys. So very many spoilers.
I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier last night, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. So please bear with the incredible amount of spoilers ahead in this week’s Fifth Color, not to mention the rampant speculation about what’s ahead of us yet. This one is big, perhaps the biggest Marvel movie since the first Iron Man.
The short and spoiler-free version is this: Go see the movie. It’s brilliant, very well thought out, and if you’re a fan of the Ed Brubaker years on Captain America, you’ll not only enjoy the tone of the film, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the twists they throw in. #itsallconnected is the simplest way to put it.
This isn’t traditional cinema any more, not with Marvel Studios. Each of its films have been both sequential and separate, with a slowly rising degree of success. By all rights, you should be able to watch The Avengers without watching all of the solo movies that came before it, but you get a grander enjoyment if you’ve seen more. Iron Man was a fun movie, but now it’s even more fun in the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Trilogies come close to this kind of storytelling, but even then there’s a commitment to seeing at least the first one to get the idea of what’s ahead. With Marvel, audiences already knows the theory behind superheroes to enable them to jump in when one catches their eye. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, at its best, should be able to be viewed as separate movies and as parts of a whole. However, after Captain America: The Winter Solider, there’s not much of that whole left.
WARNING: Not joking on the spoiler thing. If you are spoiler-fearless, already saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier or just want to jump into the speculation pit with me and float around in a very well constructed cinematic universe, read on!
Iconic comic characters mostly rely on their looks. This isn’t as shallow as it seems, as comics are inherently a visual medium. It’s why Cable’s creation tends to be attributed to Rob Liefeld rather than Louise Simonson. The best characters have timeless looks, the kind of visual appeal that will work no matter when you’re introduced to him. It’s one of the reasons Spider-Man keeps coming back to the classic red-and-blue costume; he can have a bunch of different costumes, but there’s only one real one.
Two characters who are just as iconic in appearance are Silver Surfer and Ghost Rider. Here in California, there’s barely a beach bum out on the waves that doesn’t know the shiny silver visage of the Silver Surfer. Bikers and tough guys near and far love the Ghost Rider’s signature skull. And yet, for all their visual popularity, I’d be hard pressed to find someone who knows exactly who these characters are. Norrin Radd isn’t a household name, after all. Defining Ghost Rider’s powers gets a little tricky for the average Joe once you move past “His skull is on fire.” There’s just a lot of detail missing from the public perception of who these characters are, but they still remain popular.
Trust me, we all know what it looks like when the characters don’t work, so what do what is it that’s essential for them to make it?
WARNING: We talk vaguely about the new Silver Surfer #1 and All-New Ghost Rider #1, but nothing major is spoiled. Still, grab a copy and read along!
I 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 …
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?
I 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.
Well, 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.