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"Odds and Ends"

by: Protoclown

Normally for these Longbox columns I focus on one book or story arc that's interesting or hilariously bad, but this time I'm going to try something a little different. There are a lot of things going on in the comic industry right now that I think are worth discussing, but none of them are quite meaty enough on their own to make a full Longbox column about. So I'm throwing together a lot of these blurbs that have been on my mind lately into a single Longbox column. I'll try to make it as accessible to non comic readers as my other comic articles, and if it goes over well I may do this kind of thing again, whenever enough topics present themselves. So if you enjoy this "blurb" format and would like to see more articles like it, let me know!

Marvel vs. DC

There is no question in my mind right now as to who is putting out the better books at the moment, and that's gotta be DC Comics, hands down. Though they've stumbled a few times since Infinite Crisis ended, I'm glad that rather than bombard us with deluge after deluge of big "event" books, they've opted to go for a more low-key approach, focusing on making solid improvements to their core titles. And by getting creative talent like Richard Donner (director of Superman), Paul Dini (Batman Animated Series writer and creator of Harley Quinn), novelist Brad Meltzer, and reliable comic standbys like Grant Morrison (drug-addled nutso) and Geoff Johns (DC's superior answer to Marvel's prolific Brian Michael Bendis) working on those high-profile books, they've done it quite handily.

Marvel on the other hand has gone completely off their tits and booked a one-way flight straight into Batshitzania. While I applaud the fact that they're willing to shake up the status quo in a bigger way than their Distinguished Competition, the way they're going about it is completely insane. I know a lot of Marvel fans, and I don't know a single one of them who isn't completely frustrated by the direction the Marvel Universe has been headed lately. As my roommate said, "Marvel has jumped the shark". Even though I prefer DC's books at the moment, I've written more Longbox columns about Marvel...and well, that's because frankly, Marvel's been putting out books that are more ridiculous and rant-worthy lately. Don't get me wrong though, I grew up primarily on Marvel, and those characters will always be near and dear to me, even when most of them are acting like fascist assholes.

Marvel's biggest villain is currently none other than Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada.


DC's weekly 52 series fills in the gap between Infinite Crisis and the One Year Later books that came immediately after it. In a strangely contrived coincidence, DC's "Big Three": Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman all disappear from the DC Universe for different reasons around the same time, and in another startlingly manufactured synchronism, they all reappear for different reasons around the same time exactly one year later. The premise of 52 is to see what the DCU is like for a year without its three biggest players getting involved in events. People initially said that DC would never be able to pull off a weekly schedule without any late books (and given the track record of the big two companies, that was a pretty good prediction), but amazingly, after forty-six weeks there hasn't been a late book yet, and considering that they're on the home stretch it looks like they're going to pull it off.

They say that whosoever can pull the sword from Superman's cape will be king! And Batman.

For those of you who haven't been keeping up with 52, I'll save you some money. The book so far can be summarized more or less like this:

The "Big Three" are gone. Ralph Dibney is sad. Lex Luthor is evil. Black Adam is a jerk. The Question is sick. Booster Gold is a fraud. Ralph Dibney is crazy. Black Adam is just misunderstood. Batwoman is a lesbian. Booster Gold is dead. Lex Luthor is still evil. Lobo is still a cheesy character. Black Adam maybe isn't so bad, really. Mad scientists hang out on an island and make stuff. The Question is dead. Lex Luthor did something evil; people seem surprised. Booster Gold is alive after faking his own death...Booster Gold is still a fraud. Ralph Dibney is dead, after tricking a demon into killing him...Ralph Dibney is still crazy. Black Adam is pissed. Renee Montoya is the Question? No, wait...Black Adam really is a jerk.

The big "secret" of 52 is supposedly that the multiverse that was done away with way back in Crisis on Infinite Earths is actually still out there, which would completely undo the events of that series, and quite possibly make the DCU once again entirely too convoluted to realistically follow.

52 has apparently been so successful that DC has announced another weekly series that picks up right where 52 ends, called Countdowne (presumably counting down to the next big "event"). Unlike 52, this book is going to take place in the current DCU rather than existing in a separate bubble of missing time. Thanks but no thanks, DC. I enjoyed 52 because it was an interesting experiment, and I knew it was going to be a finite book that I would only have to follow for a year. My wallet would be very unhappy with the prospect of buying another weekly book for another year.

Countdown features the weekly adventures of ALL THESE GUYS! I do hope you can keep up.

Civil War Aftermath

I know I just did a huge piece on Marvel's Civil War, but frankly there's been so much shit going on in the Marvel Universe since then, that it's definitely worth coming back to. Of course, the biggest piece of news (that actually made it in the news) is the death of Captain America. In a brilliant marketing move, Marvel has taken the title character of one of their most well-written monthly books, and decided to kill him off. But fret not, Cap fans! The monthly title will continue...just without the title character. Oh, that's sure to be worth following!

"Bonus! Now I won't need that tracheotomy surgery I've been putting off!"

The lame thing here is that Cap got shot by a sniper, but that's not what actually killed him. No, what killed him was that his ex-girlfriend S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter put three bullets in his gut as the result of a post-hypnotic suggestion implanted by a villain named Dr. Faustus. She does this in the middle of a HUGE CROWD OF PEOPLE, and no one notices. So after all the shit he's been through and survived, one of Marvel's oldest characters (who's been around for nearly 70 years) was killed by his ex-girlfriend, who didn't even realize that she did it. What. The. Fuck.

"You shot me, and now you wanna fix me? No way!
I've seen Misery! Get away from me, you crazy bitch!"

Marvel pussyfooted around for a while, hinting in other books that Cap might still be alive (he never actually died on panel, but in an ambulance off-panel), but it was later revealed that he is in fact deader than dirt.

Either Iron Man is very upset that he's responsible for the
death of his friend, or his shit's coming out sideways.

Since Marvel is continuing the monthly Captain America title, it's obvious that they intend for someone else to take on the mantle, and the most obvious choice is Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier. For those of you who haven't been reading Cap in the last several years, his old sidekick from World War II, Bucky Barnes, long thought dead, was brought back to life by writer Ed Brubaker. I know what you're thinking, and it does sound like a really lame idea, but Brubaker is one of Marvel's better writers, and he managed to pull it off and not make it suck at all. So naturally, he's the obvious choice to replace Cap, but he doesn't exactly solve one of the problems that Joe Quesada apparently had with Captain America, that being that he was "too old and outdated". Bucky is from WWII as well, and was only a few years younger than Cap, so making him the new Cap doesn't exactly alleviate that problem. And many of the other potentials are out of the running: USAgent has hooked up with new Canadian super-team Omega Flight, Jack Monroe (Nomad) was killed by a brainwashed Bucky, Jack Flagg was just paralyzed by the Thunderbolts, etc. So if not Bucky, does Marvel plan on introducing some new character nobody gives two shits about to fill the role?

Well, at least we'll always have Zombie Cap.

There is another possibility, and it's quite disturbing (not to mention completely retarded). At the end of the Civil War, hours after Captain America's arrest, for some reason Cap's mask was still laying on the ground (nobody in that massive crowd of people thought to pick it up, even to sell it on eBay or something), and in an obvious moment of foreshadowing, we see Frank Castle, the Punisher, pick it up and stare at it meaningfully.

Frank Castle considers the benefits of adding a 'gimp mask' to his vigilante persona.

What could Frank Castle intend to do with that mask? Does he mean to use it as a washrag to wipe down his car? Perhaps he'll ask his next girlfriend to wear it in bed? Or maybe, just maybe, the real answer is far more distressing. There have been a few images released of upcoming Punisher War Journal covers, and they've shown Frank Castle wearing a ridiculous new costume:

The Punisher's new getup looks like something out of Rob Liefeld's worst nightmares.

Does Marvel actually intend to have Frank Castle fill some kind of Captain America type role? Because if they do, that would be by far the most insane thing they've done as a result of this whole Civil War business. I mean, if they're trying to "update" Cap, Frank Castle was a veteran of the Vietnam War, which is far more recent than World War II, but wouldn't still make him a bit "out of touch" for the kids today?

Even after all the crap Marvel has pulled lately, I have a hard time believing they would do anything so stupid, but then I saw this image of our new "super-heroic" Frank Castle fighting an obviously Nazi villain:

The Punisher is taking his mission statement too far when
he breaks the fourth wall and decides to punish the reader.

It's because of shit like this that I believe Marvel should never let anyone but Garth Ennis touch the Punisher ever again. He's by far the best writer who has ever written the character, and if you haven't seen his Punisher series put out by Marvel's mature MAX imprint, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

The other big fallout from the Civil War involves Spider-Man's Aunt May, who was shot by a sniper right around the time the War ended. It's since been revealed that she's NOT dead, she's just in a coma and they say that "she could die any time". Obviously, this is never going to happen or they would have just killed her outright. So let me get this straight. Marvel has the balls to kill off a MAJOR character who's been a part of their history from Day One, but they won't kill off Spider-Man's Aunt May, an old biddy who was already fucking ancient back in the early 60s when Spider-Man debuted?

Now Marvel will be able to keep Aunt May's fate unresolved for years to come!

One other thing worth mentioning briefly is the line-up change in the Fantastic Four. After the Civil War, Reed and Sue Richards decide they need a break from the team and decide to go away for a while to work on their marriage, so Black Panther and Storm come on board to replace them. Of course, this isn't the first roster change for the FF by any means, but as far as I know, it is the first time they've replaced the one married couple on the team with another, so they'll be able to keep that same "family dynamic" that they've always had. I'm kind of surprised they've chosen to shake things up like this with the upcoming Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer movie, seeing as how they're trying to put Spider-Man in the comics in a position that resembles the upcoming Spider-Man 3 movie as closely as possible. Though it does appear that Galactus and the Silver Surfer are making an appearance soon in the Fantastic Four book, so who knows?

If you can manage to see past the Thing's giant head and the Human Torch's
pyrotechnics, you might just catch a fleeting glimpse of the new team members.

World War Hulk

The Hulk is soon going to be coming back to Earth after being banished to space by his "friends", and he'll no doubt be going on a pissed-off rampage to kick the ass of everyone who was involved. The last thing I want to see out of Marvel right now is another huge event, especially treading so closely on the heels of Civil War, but World War Hulk is coming this summer, like it or not. But don't worry, this event promises to only have around 30 tie-in books as opposed to the insane shitload of tie-ins that Civil War had. Yeah, when "only 30 books" is seen as "lightening the load", I think there may be a problem here. DC has shown considerable more restraint with their event tie-ins lately.

What the hell are they going to do to Hulk anyway? Make him "register" his identity with the government and become an employee of S.H.I.E.L.D.? I mean, depending on who's writing him at any given time, he can't even control his rage, so what on earth would they do with him even if he did register? Rumor also has it that Thor (the real Thor, not some crappy robot) is going to return during this event, and he may be the only thing that can stop Hulk's rampage.

Wow, if Hulk gets bigger when he gets angrier, he must be really pissed off.

The Avengers

The Avengers have become quite a clusterfuck after the Civil War has ended. They've introduced two new books at the end of Civil War: The Mighty Avengers and The Avengers: Initiative. And they just recently announced Avengers Classic, which is going to tell old-school tales from past era Avengers rosters that people actually liked. Now here's a wild question: if you have to release an entirely separate out-of-continuity book to showcase old team line-ups that people enjoyed, WHY THE FUCK DID YOU DESTROY AND BREAK UP THOSE TEAMS IN THE FIRST PLACE? There are plenty of great characters that haven't gotten face time in years, while Wolverine and Spider-Man continue to appear in every third Marvel book. Apparently these new titles are Marvel's effort to make the Avengers as convoluted, frustrating, and difficult to follow as the X-Men franchise, which has so many different books coming out nobody ever knows what the fuck is going on.

Wow, some of those people in that image are actual Avengers even!
I guess Bendis must not be on that book...

Mighty Avengers follows the S.H.I.E.L.D. sanctioned "official" team headed up by Ms. Marvel (and yet, Tony Stark insists on being on the team, which is kind of a weird dynamic, as he's Ms. Marvel's boss, and yet, she's the team "leader". I can see where that's going to work out very well in the field). Avengers: Initiative apparently deals with all the different super-hero teams (each state has its own team as a result of the Civil War) across America, so if you really want to see superheroes defending the potato fields of Idaho, this is the book for you.

New Avengers pretty much continues the same team that had been in the book, with a few minor line-up changes, and now they're working underground to avoid being arrested by Tony Stark's "official" Avengers team. And the lamest thing of all so far is the introduction of a new "Ronin" character. See, Ronin was a mysterious character who joined the team a while back to deal with The Hand, and organization of ninja assassins in Japan. Bendis led readers to believe that Ronin may in fact be an alternate identity for Matt Murdock (Daredevil), but later revealed with schoolgirlish glee that it was a deaf heroine named Echo, whose body size and shape is nothing like the character of Ronin, but apparently she was wearing a muscle suit (that somehow didn't impair her ability to fight). Bendis took great delight in rubbing it in everyone's face that nobody figured out who Ronin was, after telling everyone on the internet that they would "never guess" his identity.

Funny how nobody guessed that this bulky, man-shaped
character is actually a smaller, not-at-all-man-shaped woman.

Well, now there's a new Ronin (who looks exactly like the old Ronin), who can't possibly be Echo, because this new Ronin showed up to rescue Echo from the Hand. Once again, Bendis has toyed with people, playing around at having us guess who this new Ronin is, but the fact is that nobody gives half a shit anymore, because we all know with "Bendis logic" it's probably going to turn out to be Galactus, or Mojo, or Howard the Duck, or some other ridiculous person who couldn't possibly fit into the costume.

Late Books

One problem that has continuously plagued the industry is that of late books. Both of the major two companies have tried to bring in talent from the industries of film and television, with mixed results. Often, those books will draw in many new readers, but because of the writers' other commitments (that happen to pay a lot more), they often neglect their writing duties and leave fans hanging, waiting for the conclusion to the story. Or sometimes an old comic creator gets into film or television and then their comic work suffers for it. For example, DC's awful All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder book hasn't had a new issue in nearly a year, despite it supposedly being a monthly title. Presumably, this is because Frank Miller is far too busy bathing in a large tub filled with money and cocaine after the success of the Sin City and 300 movies.

Marvel and DC seem to have adopted different stances on this issue, however, with DC opting to release irrelevant fill-in books, as in the case of TV writer Allan Heinberg's opening arc for the new Wonder Woman book, the conclusion of which is still incomplete, but DC has decided to press on ahead anyway and release the conclusion to that story as a special or an annual at some point (which seems more than a little sloppy to me). Marvel on the other hand is going with the "never release them at all" strategy, which seems to be working quite well for Kevin Smith's Daredevil/Bullseye: The Target and Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof's Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk. It'll be interesting to see how this kind of thing plays out in the future, and it boggles my mind to see Marvel and DC bending over and taking it in the ass from these high-profile writers when there's plenty of good talent out there just itching for a chance to get published, but whose work will never see the light of day.

Well, that's it for this month. Let me know what you thought of the blurb format, as that will help me decide if I want to do any more articles like this in the future!

Found any weird, bizarre, stupid or funny comics that
should appear in a future "Tales From the Longbox" column?

Email Protoclown and let him know!



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