Bottom of the Pile - Aug. 19th, 2015

And we return again.
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows
And so we learn the true purpose of the Regent doing all this power stealing: he's trying to gain enough power to defeat "god Doom". 

A few thoughts about all these spin-offs: most of the parts of "Battleworld" have major..."issues" in one way or another.  They're war-torn, or conquered and being ruled by some overbearing despot, or just contain such hostile environments that anything other than "survival" is a luxury goal. A couple months ago I theorized that Doom picked specific worlds, and the more I read from these mini-series the more sure I become about that.   Most of these worlds are far too disorganized to even notice Doom, let alone attempt to fight the guy.

Even in the case of guys like these or Future Imperfect's Maestro?  They're vastly overestimating their own abilities and vastly underestimating Doom's, and so any attempts to try and overthrow him, especially through violent means, are doomed (ha!) to fail.

The other thing I noticed is that, typically, the heroes here just...aren't as heroic.  The idea behind Marvel's primary universe is that even though the main heroes there make mistakes, when it really counts they always make the right decision.   But here, the heroes often come up short.  Like, a world where Spider-Man chooses his family over the rest of the world.  





1872
....Or a world where Captain America's heroic behavior takes him from inspiring and courageous to fool-hardy, and gets him killed and fed to the pigs, while Tony Stark is still reeling from being blackout drunk and Bruce Banner is a cowardly doctor.

I'm not sure how things end in 1872 for the world of Timely, but I'm betting we don't get a happy, Bonanza-style finish with everyone standing around an expensive fireplace and sharing a hearty laugh.   Steve Rogers is sitting in the stomachs of swine, and we're not even past the third issue yet.

Armor Wars

Continuing this thread where heroes keep falling short, over in Technopolis, once again Tony Stark is tossed into the villain role, which I find slightly disconcerting.  Back in like 1995 when The Crossing was hitting the stands, the idea that Tony could ever be a villain was an outrage--the fans despised it, and they despised what it lead to (teen Tony) even more.  

But since then people have become more and more comfortable with it.   Though they claimed it was a war of "greys", people definitely painted Tony as the villain in Civil War, and he's literally a villain in his own ongoing of Superior Iron Man right now.    Even when a behavior is initially considered out-of-character once, repeated instances eventually make that into the character.  In short: please don't make my favorite superhero into a villain, guys.  I know he's rich, but that doesn't automatically mean he has to be a mustache twirling tool.

Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders


Oh man, someone let Al Ewing just write all the superhero comics.  Captain Britain manages to do all the progressive stuff you see the thinkpieces on without being condescending or judgmental.  Moreover, it's literally a different way of doing superheroes altogether--combating that other thing that Grant Morrison was talking about where superheroes have essentially become part of the military-industrial (and "military entertainment") complex.   The "Defenders" in this world are neither afraid of nor incapable of standing up for themselves, which is what you expect when you hear about a world that's essentially a utopia--a place where the healing-focused Rescue became the hero rather than the weaponsmith Iron Man.

Rather than it coming down to "might makes right" like most comics, they literally defeat the other side's entire way of thinking, leading to a more permanent change.   All while making Captain Britain a bad-ass Muslim woman wielding Excalibur that's more like Marvel Tensaiga.  Holy. Crap.

There's so much other stuff I loved about this two-part comic I don't even know if I could get it all out, but the scene where Jen reveals that even as a Thor she uses a gavel rather than Mjolnir 'cause "her fists are her REAL hammers" may just be may favorite thing in comics for an entire month.  

But that's enough for Battleworld--let's see what everyone else is up to this month. 

Archie
I confess.  I too, am wondering how this is possible.  Not how he managed to set the pits in an ice cream shop on fire, but rather how Mark Waid managed to turn Archie into one of the most entertaining comics on the stands.   Not that Mark wasn't always a talented guy, but recently its like everything he touches (with the exception of Strange Fruit, which was always gonna give him a headache) just seems to turn to gold.



Astro City

For those who didn't know, Astro City #26 represents the comic's 20th anniversary.  It revisits the world's analogue for Pre-Crisis Superman, Samaritan, with a similar story to the series' very first issue.  Astro City #1 asked the simplest of questions: what does a man who can do anything dream about?    It's answer was even simpler: the pure, unadulterated joy of flight.   The explanation of just how a guy who flies almost everywhere could dream about something that to him should be "mundane" was the meat of the issue, and set the tone for how the whole comic would work going forward.   Astro City was a comic book that would show you the fantastic in the mundane, and the mundane parts of the fantastic, and find a way to make you enjoy both.

I didn't discover this comic when it first launched, but rather ten years ago in my town's library.  Spotting it immediately as a spiritual successor to Marvels, another comic I'd discovered and fallen in love with a year prior, Astro City captured my imagination in that way things just tend to grab bratty, pseudo-intellectual teenagers.  New heroes I'd never known before, taking flight in this gorgeous, wonder-filled city that took my childhood love of superheroes and took it from a mere childhood love to something I'd carry with me forever. 

Congratulations Kurt, Brent, and Alex to 20 amazing years. 


Doctor Fate

Reading this, you can't tell me Spider-Man isn't the most important hero to the superhero genre of the past fifty-plus years.  How many characters have followed a similar character arc to him?  The young kid that's constantly in over their head with school pressures but also forced to save the world?  That said; I won't lie--of the DC You titles, so far Doctor Fate is the one I've enjoyed the most. Paul Levitz is seriously outdoing himself on this--putting in effort I never felt during his World's Finest or New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes runs.  Though we don't know a lot about Khalid, he's a likable character and the helmet of Fate is as strange and alien to him as it is to us, making him just as lost when it discovers the myriad of abilities it possesses. 

And the art is great in that wonky kind of, "this is a magical comic" sort of way--it's expressive, but lacks of "clean" art that would feel weird in a mystic book like this.  My only problem with the series so far is that we're three issues in and I still have no idea what the bad guys are trying to do, nor the good guys.  But slow burn titles aren't bad, particularly when you like the cast behind it.  

Justice League
At this point, I'm thinking Geoff Johns has written my favorite Justice League since Grant Morrison was on it back in the late 90's/early 2000's.   Yeah, the New 52 leaves some things a little screwy, like having Cyborg on the team and Martian Manhunter nowhere to be found (more on that later), but it's got everything else the Justice League needs: the DC Universe's biggest heroes facing the most impossible situations.   I mean, the Anti-Monitor versus Darkseid on EarthBatman with the Moebius Chair exploring the multiverse with Green Lantern?   You're legit not going to get that anywhere else in DC right now, particularly with DC You being so focused on the more mundane elements of heroes.

This is a huge threat and every issue I'm at the edge of my seat wondering how they'll handle it, given the relative newness of this DCU.   It's not like 2004-2010 era, where someone goes "Oh snap, there's a big threat" and suddenly all the major teams come together for a splash page.  Barely any of these teams have worked together, or even met without there being an adversarial component to it.  


Loki: Agent of Asgard
"The might do the obvious and go for shock value by turning you into a meat-eater."  Speaking of Grant Morrison, Loki: Agent of Asgard goes full on Morrisonian Animal Man in it's farewell issue, minus the self-insertion via "fiction suits".   I was extremely hard on Loki's first issue--claiming it was just a move made because of the films and that it was just pandering towards the tumblr crowd (not that either of these things were a bad move), but I ended up enjoying this comic book quite a bit.   

Al Ewing took seventeen issues to tell a metafictional tale about this character who'd become beloved in the comics almost at the same time as he had in the films; exploring the nature of lies, and what it means to change--to even want to change.   He toyed with the meaning of stories and essentially made Loki into one of my favorite characters to read about month in and month out, and I'm definitely going to miss him on this comic, particularly when he's right.   Characters change

Martian Manhunter
On the flip side to Doctor Fate and Justice League, reading Martian Manhunter just makes me sad. The New 52 is hard for me to just sit down and read because so many of the characters are just vastly different from who they used to be.  It's one thing to cut out swaths of comics in order to make it more approachable to newcomers (sort of), but it's quite another to change their origins and make people into something they aren't.

Take J'onn for instance: the guy used to be the heart of the League, a part of most incarnations of the team and probably the most relatable amongst all these godlike characters.  Yeah, he didn't "look" human, but that was the key.  Because he didn't quite fit in among them all, he tried so hard to fit in, but never truly abandoned who he was.  He used to be the last (Green) Martian alive, but now suddenly he may not even BE a Martian, but rather some super-weapon to help the real ones invade and destroy Earth.   Ugh.   It feels like the soul, and certainly much of his agency, was just kinda ripped out. 

Silk
Okay, I've fallen in love with Silk.  She's got all the skills and bad-assery of Spider-Man, but without the guilt of Peter or the dick-ish behavior of Kaine, and she still manages to be the underdog that you want to root for without having Peter's comically bad luck. Plus, watching a new character fit their way into either Marvel or DC is a delightful experience for me.  Seeing what alliances they form, what heroes they gravitate towards and what old villains they form blood feuds with--it's all just apart of watching a universe that's almost as alive as ours grow, and part of the reason I can't give up superhero comics even when they frustrate the hell out of me. 

Or it could be that Stacey Lee is a phenomenal artist that nails the emotion of every scene she does perfectly, combined with Ian Herring, who feels like the exact colorist partner she needs for her unique style.  Take your pick.

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So I've been going through quite a bit of stuff lately, which is probably worth an article or two on this page...but right now the wounds are still fresher than I'd like.  But I do want to get this site back to a more regular schedule. 

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