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