I'm going to a wedding!!! And so instead of hearing me blab about comics (which is good, those pesky dragons are keeping the comics at bay), I'll leave you with a fitting panel...
Its been another light week of comics reading, I decided to dive back into Westeros with a second read of George R.R. Martin's "A Dance With Dragons," and see how I felt about the book after reading it again. So for those of you who were expecting a formal opinion on the book way back last year when it was released, you'll probably get it after this re-read, now that my expectations, are… realistic.
Anyways, I did manage to read two comic stories this week, both of which are now relatively recent in the scheme of things. Both of them are from the House of Ideas, and they hit two pillars of the Marvel Universe: Spider-Man and the X-Men. When they were released, they were also marketed as events, but kept a fairly tight focus on the stories at hand (well, maybe not as much in the case of the Spidey one).
I'm talking about Amazing Spider-Man: Spider-Island and X-Men: Schism.
First I'll cover the big doings in Spidey's world.
Spider-Island was a huge story in the fact that it involved Spidey's entire cast of characters, including the Avengers and Fantastic Four, all the supporting characters like Carlie Cooper and Mary Jane, plus Peter's crew at Horizon Labs. It also happened to involve the entirety of Manhattan, because they all get spider-powers. I won't delve too deeply into the story how's and why's other than to say that the device of giving EVERYONE on Manhattan spider-powers was a lot of fun in that you get to see some very unlikely people get powers (I'm sure you can guess one right off the bat - yes, he yells at Peter a lot and wears a handlebar mustache - that was easy).
At the core of the story though the reader gets to once again understand why Peter Parker as Spider-Man is special, and how the idea of everyone having great power, but exercising no responsibility is not a good idea. On a side note, it was grin-inducing to watch everyone see Peter with spider-powers, and it was normal - because everyone had them! The writer Dan Slott has a lot of fun with concepts such as these in the story, and really hits it out of the park in terms of crafting a light-hearted, entertaining story for Spider-fans.
You can tell Slott is having a blast writing the book, and its great to see him take some classic concepts and twirl them around to make a fresh story. If you're reading Spidey its a great time to be on the book, and in fact even though there were a lot of tie-ins to this event, I only read the core book and felt like I got a complete story (although now that I realized Shang-Chi had a mini-series that included Iron Fist and the Immortal Weapons, it may force me to go back and find that particular tie-in). The main story is told completely in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, and I for one am happy Marvel didn't try to get me to buy a separate limited series to get the thing… hopefully we can see more "events" like this.
Schism was a story that seemed to have been coming for a while. It revolves around Scott Summers and Logan, and the differing ideological destination they're reached in their own mind in the span of the last few months. Jason Aaron spins a physiological drama with the backdrop of action, as in the pages we see the sentinel program being dusted off due to the actions of a new and (markedly) different Hellfire Club. The book was interesting art-wise due to the fact that five different artists spanned the 5 issue miniseries, including heavy hitters Alan Davis and Frank Cho. I was pleased to see that Daniel Acuna regained his form on the issue he drew after a shaky performance on Jason Aaron's earlier "Wolverine" run.
This book had a pretty tight focus, the events were constrained mainly to the locations of Utopia and San Francisco, which I think was a smart move since in the end the story centered on Wolverine and Cyclop's battle of wills, which only late in the book turns physical. Aaron crafts some interesting characters here that wouldn't feel out of place in Grant Morrison's New X-Men run (he also cherry-picks a little used character from that run who plays a prominent role here), but I was a little surprised that this ideological falling out between didn't somehow include Professor X and Magneto. Actually, I honestly don't even know where Charles Xavier is these days (he is still alive, right?) but I thought his decades of differing opinion with someone like Magneto would at least factor in somewhat here. On the other hand, the X books have done a pretty fair job of running with the idea that this is Cyclops' show now, for good or ill, and that the torch really has been passed. Perhaps including the Professor would only muddy the waters.
Anyways, I enjoyed the book, it was a little disconcerting to have a different artist every single issue, but the caliber of artist were top notch and so it was easy to forgive. This book really sets the stage for whats to come in the X universe, and although I have yet to read anything post-Schism, I'm excited to do so. I will say that going into this book I was expecting a little bit more from Aaron to get me emotionally involved in the plights of who was right and wrong, but in the end I felt strangely neutral on the subject. These are desperate characters going to extreme measures in a pretty messed up world, and nobody's actions really felt like it was necessarily the correct one.
Oh, and one last thing, and this is a minor nitpick but it annoyed me. At one point Wolverine gets thrown into the ocean and somehow swims to Utopia ahead of a massive sentinel that is approaching the island. In Jason's first arc of his Wolverine: Weapon X series, he lays out that one of Wolverine's biggest weaknesses is water. He can indeed drown, and if he is dropped into water, he can't float due to his metal skeleton. But here he somehow is able to get from a point in the ocean between the shores of San Fran and Utopia to the X-Men's island. I don't like the contradiction, especially since the same writer wrote both stories.
Oh well (that may actually be the harshest thing I've said about Jason Aaron yet… see, I'm objective!)
Even with some minor complaints, Schism is worth a read. Spider-Island is as well, especially if you like fun, classic-feeling Spidey tales.
First off, sincerest apologies for the absence of the WCB last week. It was quite possibly the first time that I just genuinely forgot to post (usually before when I missed a week I at least knew and felt guilty). I even knew what I wanted to do, and towards the end of the week when I'm usually about to get it out I had other things on the plate and didn't even think about it.
Well, this week I'll post on Monday so at least it doesn't feel like several weeks go by without updating my website. What I had in mind for last week will do for this edition I think, which is something different than I have done before. It involves comics previews, and I have to warn you, we are approaching super-nerd territory with this (as if doing 75 weeks of a comics podcast wasn't nerdy enough). It fits with my style of buying comics right now though, because I do my ordering 3 months in advance by looking at each month's comic preview form, which tells consumers what is coming out 3 months from now. Previews are a blessing and a curse, because they can really get you excited about a book, but they can also spoil the devil out of a book you may have already been reading and enjoying when you read the summary of the issue. Of course comic shops are the ones that mostly use previews to order books, and normal consumers can just go in, grab what they want, and be none the wiser. However, the benefit for people like me is that I can order more books that I want for a bigger discount, so if I can manage to have the foresight to employ this system it pays off.
So in keeping with this theme, I want to look ahead and pick my top 3 things I'm excited about from this month's previews. The books listed are from the Feb. edition of previews of course, and the books mentioned will be shipping in April.
I will not spoil you with any summaries of issues. Promise.
1) Batwoman Vol. 1: Hydrology HC
Writer(s): JH Williams III & Haden Blackman
Artists: JH Williams III & Amy Reeder
This one's a no-brainer. Out of most of the New 52, Batwoman was a story that I didn't want messed with by adding a new origin or continuity for, and luckily DC didn't think so either, because by all accounts Batwoman wasn't tinkered with too much in the relaunch. Obviously there is the gaping hole of Greg Rucka not being on the book, but considering Williams is still mostly on art duties, and knowing that he was just as invested as Rucka was in Kate Kane's overall story arc makes me very optimistic about this book. I made the switch with reading all of the DC 52 books digitally, but decided to wait for the hardcovers on this particular series. The art alone deserves that, and even if the story does fall a bit below the standard set by Rucka, at least there's the pretty pictures to look at.
2) Severed HC
Writer(s): Scott Snyder & Scott Tuft
Artist: Attila Futaki
Another no-brainer that I decided to wait for the hardcover on. I love everything Snyder's doing, from American Vampire to Swamp Thing and Batman, and seeing him dip his toes further into the horror genre with this miniseries makes me giddy. Add to the fact that I've heard nothing but good things about this book so far makes it a must buy.
3) Secret Warriors Omnibus
Writer(s): Jonathan Hickman and Brian Bendis
Artist(s): Alex Maleev, Stefano Caselli, Alessandro Vitti, Ed McGuinness, Gianluca Gugliotta, Mirko Colak
My third book that includes at least two writers, and this one will also be the biggest, as it collects all 28 issues of Secret Warriors, plus some one shots and the issues of New and Mighty Avengers that Bendis and Maleev did that covered the early formation of the team. I really loved this espionage series for the entire run, and am glad Marvel stuck with it for the complete story (I don't think it was a huge seller). It ended up being more about Nick Fury and his machinations (plus some great villains) than the actual Secret Warriors team, but as a fan of Fury ever since reading my dad's old issues of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, I for one could not be happier. It really is a very stand-alone tale that can be read as such, and although it does reflect some of what is happening in the Marvel universe, it has a beginning, middle, and end, and feels like a great Nick Fury story you can read anytime.
Planet of the Apes Vol. 2 - This book from BOOM! is all kinds of awesome, and if you have even a passing interest in the Apes franchise check it out, it's a fantastic mix of political intrigue, heated conflict, and adventure. You deserve to check it out.
Saga #2 - Brian K. Vaughn does comics again. Yay!
Wolverine and the X-Men Vol. 1 HC - The premise of this book sounds like a spiritual successor to Morrison's New X-Men. Plus Jason Aaron writes it. Sold.
Whew, another week, another week
I really haven't gotten around to reading too many comics this week, due to finally getting to go snowboarding on Wed. (I basically went between two night shifts, got one hour of sleep beforehand, and was definitely feeling the effects Thurs). I've also been diving into a marathon of re-watching The Shield, the FX crime show from a few years back. I just got the box set and its every bit as great as the first time I watched it. However, watching the upscaled DVD's made me realize how much film grain they use in parts of the show - it can be slightly over the top, but overall I love how the series is shot. Also, I love how the overall story moves, with the inevitable conclusion always looming in the distance, and plus the characters are just simply fantastic. There's so much nuance, and you are always posed with the question of whose methods of policing and fighting crime in Farmington are really the best, in the short and long term.
Anyways, back to comics, here's a few quick hits that I either read this week or recently -
1) Journey Into Mystery - I was slow to the party with this book, at one point when I was pretty tired of Fear Itself I just let the title pile up for about 7 or 8 issues, and lately I've been catching up. I'm so glad I did, because people, this is the Thor book you should be reading. Except it doesn't have Thor in it much... but it does have Asgardians, and kid Loki. I love kid Loki, especially when Kieron Gillen writes him. I heard him in a recent interview talk about how this is the closest to his creator-owned series Phonogram in tone and spirit, so for the 6 fans that read and loved Phonogram, you will also most likely love this book as well (ok ok, that was mean, it was a lot more than 6, after all, the four of us loved it, and there were plenty others... just not enough to sustain it sadly). Oh well, just try the next best thing, JiM is smart, funny, intricately crafted, and well characterized... ok ok, sales pitch over.
2) Scalped #55 - Wow. I won't spoil any of the plot, but this arc is called "Knuckle Up" and issue #55's conclusion lives up to the title. A knock-out drag out between two prominent characters explodes from the pages this issue, and there are two genuinely shocking moments for those who have closely followed the entire series. We only have 5 issues left, and it feels like we're very close to this story's end. In fact, I don't really know how much higher the stakes can go after reading this issue, but I'm sure Mr. Aaron still has a surprise or two left ;)
3) 52 Vol. 1 - I've been picking at the first softcover collection of 52 for several weeks now. I've never read it before now, but it certainly got its accolades back in the day, both with its accomplishment of shipping weekly for a solid year, as well as the solid storytelling that didn't focus much on the big 3, so I've been wanting to read it for a while now. And especially because over the holidays I re-read Gotham Central, and of course 52 focuses partly on the further career of former detective Renee Montoya. So for that reason alone I really wanted to check it out, plus I mostly love all the writers involved, so really it was just a matter of finding the time for it.
I have to say, so far I'm not exactly blown away, its jumping around a lot and since its early on I'm having a hard time following the flow of the story, but it is early and I expect it will pick up quite a bit as the characters are more established and each narrative thread really kicks into gear.
Anyways, with the pedigree of writers involved I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Ok, thats it for me, hopefully I'll have a bit more time and motivation to read more comics for next week, and my apologies to those of you who were expecting more podcasts from me... honestly I thought I would have recorded a few right now, but the work schedule makes it hard for that to happen. I can really only corral people for a comics talk now on nights or weekends, and my job is more intensive right now, so nights are a little bit out the question, and weekends... weekends just aren't great in general. You understand.
Keep it real peeps, and enjoy the Superbowl. I for one hope little brother makes it 2 for 2.
Aaron Brewer is an aspiring filmmaker, musician and writer living in Los Angeles. There are many irons in the fire, and hopefully one day he'll be able to complete all the ideas he has floating around in his brain stew.