Back Issues

I’m Genuinely Baffled by the Freakout Surrounding Captain America

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I don’t really review the weekly comics here on the site. I read pretty much everything that comes out, but for whatever reason I’ve never really been spurred to write a weekly recap of the stuff going on in the world of comics. Everyone talks about the comics coming out that week, I kind of prefer focusing on the crazy older stories that I look at in Marvel Madness and Bat Signal, because they can be more often than not forgotten and not getting the attention they deserve. But this week something happened that finally made me need to talk about a new comic. Because this week saw the release of Steve Rogers: Captain America #1, the new comic written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Jesus Saiz that features the triumphant return of Steve Rogers to the world of superheroics. For the last couple years Steve’s supersoldier serum has been neutralized, causing him to become an old man with no powers. But a couple weeks ago in the fun mini-even Standoff, Steve was blasted with energy from Kobik, a sentient Cosmic Cube that has taken the form of a little girl (comics are weird folks) which resulted in him regaining his youth and abilities. So our traditional Cap is back everyone! Yay! And Sam Wilson is still running around as Captain America as well in his own book from Spencer and Saiz. Yay! But what’s the problem? Well, the first issue ends with a bit of a twist, and it’s pissing off a lot of stupid people who don’t understand how comics work.

There’s a lot going on in this story. I’ll say right here and now that I really love the work of Nick Spencer. His crazy creator-owned book Morning Glories over at Image is one of my favorite books, and me and some friends have an ongoing group-text that gets dusted off any time a new issue comes out so we can wildly speculate on what’s going on in the book. I’ve also been a huge fan of his superhero work at Marvel, which can vascilate between the utterly hilarious Superior Foe’s of Spider-Man and the Astonishing Ant-Man, to more serious and twisty stuff like his work on Secret Avengers. He does good work, and I’ve been really loving his ultra-political take on Sam Wilson’s Cap book. So I was excited to pick up this new Captain America book, and wasn’t disappointed at all. The plot is twisty, and does a lot of legwork setting up the various plots that are going to be working during this run. We see Steve and his mother in the 20s, fleeing from his abusive father and meeting a modern and self-reliant woman, Steve in the present getting used to his powers and new shield while stopping a Hydra suicide-bomber, we see Red Skull setting up his new Hydra around racism, xenophobia, and other Conservative ideals, the new status quo at SHIELD where Maria Hill may be on the out and Sharon Carter on the in, the return of Jack Flag and Free Spirit as Cap sidekicks, the return of Rick Jones and his new place at SHIELD, and probably most hilariously, Baron Zemo’s pathetic attempts to create a more supervillain oriented Hydra and a new Masters of Evil. And all of these plots converge at the end when Cap, Jack, and Free Spirit attack Zemo and his new gang of losers. They have a fight, and Zemo escapes. Cap gets on board his escape plane, and so does Jack Flag, unbeknownst to Cap. And this is where the issue people are having occurs. Because we suddenly learn that that woman from the 20s was a member of Hydra, recruited Steve and his mom, and we cut to the present to see Cap throw Jack from the plane, turn to the camera and say:

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Cap’s in Hydra! He’s joined up with a group of villains that’s a thinly veiled ripoff of SPECTRE! Or are they Nazis? Or a centuries-old cabal of evil magic worshipers? It’s hard to tell, Hydra has meant so many things over the years, and changes rapidly. Kind of like how Red Skull and Zemo are each running independent organizations called Hydra in this issue? Yeah, Hydra is confusing. But one thing is for sure, THIS IS AN ABOMINATION, AND IT MAKES ME SO MAD, AND I’M NEVER GOING TO BY MARVEL COMICS AGAIN! Or, at least that’s what I would be saying if I was one of the legions of morons tweeting Nick Spencer death threats for this twist. Because let me tell you, people are pissed.

And I really can’t figure out why. I have noticed a strange correlation where most of the people who are being so loud about their hatred are also people who have recently been trying to convince Marvel to make Steve Rogers gay, for no real reason other than they like their Stucky fan-art on Tumblr. I have no problem with Steve Rogers being gay. I personally think it’s a little strange to randomly decide a character who has 75 years of being straight is now gay, but whatever. It feels like Marvel would be saying that Steve just “decided to be gay,” which is 100% not how that works. But whatever, if they made it a good story and it didn’t feel shoehorned in, I would be fine with it. But I get the feeling most of these people who are mad are more mad that Marvel didn’t bow down to fan entitlement, and change the sexual orientation of a character because they want it for their movies.  My best guess is that these are all people who have either a) never read a comic book before in their lives and are only familiar with the character from the MCU movies, or b) have maybe read a handful of comics after the movies were released, but have never read anything pre-2008. And either way, I would assume that most of these people have not actually read the issue, and are just mad about the last page, because otherwise I can’t wrap my mind around why people are mad. Yeah, Captain America is evil, and may have always been a Hydra sleeper cell. That’s not good, but it’s also the first issue in a new storyline. We know nothing. Anything can happen in the next few issues to reveal what’s actually going on. Because Steve Rogers isn’t evil. C’mon people. He’s been around for almost 75 years as a hero. This story isn’t claiming that he always was and always will be a Nazi. That’s ridiculous. We’re talking about Captain America here. This is a character who has been a werewolf, a Skrull, has traded places with the Red Skull through Cosmic Cube magic, and who has been dead. Yeah, remember, Steve Rogers died a while back! Things like this happen in comics all the time. Hell, a couple years ago during the Axis event, everyone’s alignments changed and all of the heroes briefly became villains. This stuff happens. This is Captain America, a character who has recently been bathed in reality-warping energy that regained his youth and powers. And you’re telling me he’s acting weird? After getting his reality warped? Odd. Oh, how about how his greatest enemy, the Red Skull, has recently weaponized the brain of Charles Xavier, and is using it to brain-wash people? Or how another of his villains, Doctor Faustus, routinely brainwashes people and plants false memories? Or how time travel happens all the damn time in the Marvel Universe, and maybe that woman who recruited them is a Hydra member from the present, gone back to mess with Steve’s past? I don’t know, just spitballing her, like people who actually are familiar with comics are doing.

And listen, I don’t want to be one of those assholes who are trying to discount your passion because you’re only into the movies, and have no interest in the comics. That’s cool, I’m glad you’re liking these characters. But the movies are very different from the comics. No matter how close they get, there’s always the fact that things don’t get as crazy for the movie characters as they do the comics book ones. Heroes rarely die in the movies, they don’t get imprisoned, they don’t get mind-swapped, nothing too crazy has happened in an MCU movie. Consequences don’t really stick. So if you’re only access point to these characters revolve around this notion, where Captain America has only been portrayed as this paragon of virtue and strength, and who has never really had a dark or twisted story, I suppose I can understand the idea of you being mad about this. To a layman, Captain America saying he’s a member of Hydra must seem like the truth. There’s no other explanation, because the MCU has never really lied to you before. But I’m someone who has read an unhealthy amount of comic books. I don’t trust this for a second. We’re pretty close to the 75th anniversary of Captain America, and Nick Spencer clearly loves the character. I’m sure we’re in for a story where one, if not most, of his villains are in on some scheme to rewrite his history. And just in time for the big anniversary he’ll snap out of it, through the strength of his character, and write the wrongs that have occurred to him. He’ll have some issues of course, I’m sure the other heroes will learn of the Hydra thing, and not trust him for a while, similar to what Peter Parker has had to go through since Doc Ock mind-swapped him, but in the end of the day, Steve Rogers will be back to the good old Captain America we know and love. Because that’s how comics work. People tell stories with these characters, and to tell a story you need conflict. Spencer doesn’t want to write just another Captain America story where he fights some random bad guy. It’s been done. The classic stories for these characters always revolve around something more important and crazy happening. Like Captain America thinking he’s in Hydra. So don’t freak out about this people. Nick Spencer is a good writer. We’re in good hands. This story will end up alright. But you need to give it a chance. Just don’t write it off without reading it, and assume you know everything because you’ve seen the last panel. That’s ridiculous. And don’t give creators death threats because they wanted to do something bold and weird with a character you love instead of giving him a male love-interest like you wanted. So give the book a read. It’s actually really good. It has drama, romance, humor, and action, really everything you need from a comic. So grow up, and enjoy a good story that’s only beginning.

Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 was written by Nick Spencer, drawn by Jesus Saiz, and lettered by VC’s Joe Caramanga, 2016

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Back Issues, Reel Talk

Metallo Could Have Helped Batman v Superman

Metallo
Art by Alex Ross

 

I’m going to get this taken care of right off the bat, this is the stupidest article I’ve ever written on this site. And I pretty much exclusively run in stupidity. I generally try to stay away from stuff like this, coming up with alternate stories that movies, books, or comics should have done. It’s just kind of fruitless, and a waste of time. I love coming up with stories. I do it constantly in my head. And while I usually spend my efforts trying to come up with original ideas for projects that I could actually do, occasionally I waste my time thinking up stories that I could never do. Yeah, of course I’ve thought up pitches for entire trilogies of superhero movies, I feel like that’s not completely crazy. But I’ve spent way too much time thinking about movies that have already been made, trying to come up with ways that I would have made it better. Which is fruitless, and pretty much just throwing my time and brain energy right in the garbage. So, inevitably, since I wrote a goddamned 5,000 word rant about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, rambling at length about how shitty it was, and how many things were wrong, both structurally and narrativly, with it, I started to think about things that could have been done better with it. Which wasn’t hard. Pretty much everything could have been done better with this flaming garbage heap of a movie. The tone’s a big problem, as is the violence and cynicism, which would require a pretty huge script overhaul to fix, but there’s one big aspect that could have been changed for the better. One giant symbol for everything wrong with the movie.

Doomsday. The inclusion of that character in this movie was baffling, led to the Death of Superman in only his second movie, and served as the baffling and ineffective culmination of whatever the hell Lex Luthor was doing. Luthor’s motivation in this movie made absolutely no sense, but I think his endgame was to discredit Superman and have the world turn against him. Why? No idea. He was just evil in this movie for no reason. But, for the purposes of this fix I would hammer in that Lex is trying to destroy Superman because of jealousy. He doesn’t like that this alien has all this immense power and didn’t work for it, and people in theory love him for it. We see Lex in this movie donating money to charity, trying to help the world for his own selfish reasons, so that people see him as a hero. So the logical way to have handled Lex in this movie would be for him to try and beat Superman at his own game, not create an uncontrollable rage monster that will destroy the city that Lex has helped with his company in the hopes that it may kill Superman…and then continue destroying the world because there’s nothing to stop it. And how would you beat Superman at his own game? Creating a better hero. Which wouldn’t be hard, since the Superman in this movie is such a jerk and appears to do very little heroing. And actually getting his hands dirty isn’t really Lex’s style, so it makes sense that he would try to make a hero, while secretly designing the hero to be able to kill Superman. And there’s one character in the comics and the movie that would have worked great for that.

In the movie we actually got, Scoot McNairy played a character named Wallace Keefe whose legs were destroyed in the Superman/Zod attack from Man of Steel, and who becomes a crazy bitter man who hates Superman and the people who think he’s a hero. In the movie Luthor finds Keefe, and offers to help him with his vendetta against Superman. And in the movie we got, Lex’s plan to help him comprised of turning Keefe into a suicide bomber during a Congressional hearing about Superman. Which in some way turned the public against Superman? In America we don’t often root for the causes that suicide bombers believe in. It was a really weird part of the movie that felt like a huge misstep, and the turning point where this movie could have gone a very different way, and been a more logical and interesting movie. And that would have been to turn Scoot McNairy into Metallo.

Now, in the comics Metallo has been several different people, and has had several different origins. But superhero movies have taken liberties with more obscure villains in the past. The villain in Iron Man 2 is an amalgam of two different villains that most people don’t really care about, and while that movie didn’t really make the villain work at all, it’s still an example of how you can change around a villain. But the basic premise of Metallo is that he’s a cyborg who runs on Kryptonite. And the plot I came up with lends heavily from Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics when the New 52 started off. Basically what I feel like would have made sense would have been to have Lex approach Keefe, and tell him he could give him the power to take down Superman. Lex could then create some sort of suit of armor, which runs of Kryptonite, and that would give Keefe back his legs, and give him abilities. The suit would turn Keefe into a hero whose power came from human ingenuity, and not alien powers. He would be this new shining knight who would be an example of what a hero should really be. All while secretly having weapons and a power source that can kill Superman. Luthor would have known this all along, and have planned it out, but no one else would. Maybe Batman. Batman would still be on the trail of the Kryptonite, trying to get it for his own purposes. And having Lex create a supposed hero would vastly change the rest of the movie.

How about have Lex secretly be creating disasters and crimes that Metallo can save people in. He would have the leg up, getting to disasters before Superman, and showing the world that he’s a better hero than Superman. And then something goes wrong. Maybe have an actual emergency happen in Gotham, not something that Lex planned, where Superman and Metallo show up at the same time. Metallo would then snap, and attack Superman, causing the disaster to get worse. Superman would then know that Metallo was up to no good, and could then theoretically go to Batman for help. But Batman would be mad, thinking that Superman was responsible for the fight and the disaster. Batman would then fight Superman, who would spend the entire time trying to explain the situation and get Batman to stop. We would cut the stupid Martha thing, and have Superman finally get it through to Batman that Lex has been playing everyone. The two would then stop fighting, and go after Luthor and Metallo. Maybe have Superman go after Lex while Batman and Wonder Woman go after Metallo, since they’re immune to the Kryptonite. I would have Wonder Woman working more with Batman through the movie, so that by the time Batman needs to take down Metallo he knows he has someone who he can count on. The two could fight Metallo while Superman deals with Lex, maybe fighting that weird secret army he has who could now be equipped with Kryptonite weapons. But in the end, heroism wins. Metallo could be stopped and brought to justice, while Lex somehow gets out from it, with no evidence showing that he was involved. That is until Clark Kent manages to write an article exposing Luthor’s plan, taking down the titan without the use of vigilante justice, and showing that punching isn’t the only way to get things done. Then end the movie with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman being pals, promising to help each other out next time something horrible happens.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s a stupid idea. It sure doesn’t fit with the world Zach Snyder was trying to build, but to me it would have been better. And let me reiterate, this was a stupid article. It’s pointless to complain about a movie that’s already been made and released. This was a hypothetical bit of rambling about something I have no control over, and will influence no one. But it’s been running through my head like crazy since I watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (They gave it this stupid name, so I’m going to refer to it by it) and I felt like rambling about it on my blog was the only way to exorcise it from my brain. So enjoy I guess?

 

 

Back Issues

The Cartoony Noir of Blacksad

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I talk about comics a lot on this side, but I’ve definitely been focusing too much on superheroes. While the two largest companies putting out comics exclusively stick with the superhero genre, there are countless other types of amazing comics being put out by the smaller companies. Which is strange. That would be like if 80% of the movies Hollywood put out were Westerns of something. There’s a serious genre disparity in comics that really doesn’t make sense, and often makes it so people don’t even realize there are non-superhero comics out there. I’m certainly a superhero fan, but my second favorite genre of comic book is probably noir. Now, I’ve talked about noir a lot, because it’s one of my favorite genres of media in general. I love noir movies and novels to no end, so of course I love comics that tackle the genre. Now, there are some great noir comics out there that follow the genre more straightly, like Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip’s amazing Hollywood murder mystery the Fade Out, but a lot of the noir comics that come out throw in some tweak that makes it a little weirder than you normally see it. And while I want to talk about the Fade Out or really any book that Brubaker and Phillips have worked on (like Fatale, their weird noir/Lovecraftian horror mash-up) but today I’m taking some time to tell you about a spectacular comic I just heard about that really blew me away.

 

Blacksad is a Spanish comic created by writer Juan Diaz Canales and artist Juanjo Guarnido that follows the life of John Blacksad, a hardboiled detective making his way through a large city (never specifically called New York, but we can assume) in the late 1950’s. Along the way he takes on some traditional noir cases, deals with institutional racism in the police department, the abuse of wealth and power, and the Red Scare. Oh, and he’s a cat. Blacksad is a comic that creates some wonderfully classic noir trappings, but takes place in a world full of anthropomorphic animals. There are all different kinds of animals, making their lives in the big city, getting through the tumultuous 50’s while trying to stay alive and sane. And I will say, anthropomorphic animals can sometimes be super creepy, and come off as weird ‘furry’ porn, but that is definitely not a problem here, because the art is spectacular. The artist Juanjo Guarnido used to work at Disney, and brings that training to this book, creating a world full of animals that we’ve been trained to think should break out into song at any moment, and are instead murdering each other and dealing with incredibly real issues.

 

The first three volumes, which were combined and released in America as simply Blacksad, has three different cases that John has to tackle as we explore this beautifully crafted world. His first case, “Somewhere Within the Shadows” follows John investigating the murder of a famous actress that he used to bodyguard, and then date. It takes John all around the town, following up leads through the sketchy underbelly of the show business in the City. He meets seedy producers and the richest man in town trying to figure out who killed his former lover, all while establishing a relationship with Smirvnov, the police commissioner. Next up, in “Arctic Nation,” things get way darker than I had assumed a comic about a crime solving cat was going to be, as John starts investigating the disappearance of a child from the poor part of town, while getting embroiled in a White Power movement sweeping the city, and a potentially pedophilic police chief whose covering the disappearance up. This story was probably the highlight of the whole collection, and really became a fascinating noir tale unlike many I’ve ever read before. Having John gets stuck between the racist Arctic Front, comprised of white animals, and the Black Claws, who are essentially the Black Panthers. And the final story, “Red Soul,” follows John trying to help an old teacher and mentor of his, Otto Liebber, a nuclear physicist owl who never stopped believing in him. Otto is a Communist, and part of an influential Communist organization called the Twelve Disciples, who are really just minding their own business when the Red Scare kicks up, throwing all of their lives into chaos. One of the disciples ends up dead, and it’s clear that the hit was meant for Otto, causing John to dive in deep, investigating the anti-Communist factions in the city that ends up getting him into some weird Nazi stuff.

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I just read these three volumes, and there are two more waiting for me, which I’m extremely excited to check out. This collection is fantastic. John Blacksad instantly becomes a great noir detective, oozing with danger and charisma while doing his best to deal with all the weird shit that’s bubbling under the surface of America in the 50s, which we like to falsely remember as a quaint, happy little time. John runs into a lot of the standard trappings of the genre, like corruption, greed, lust, and political intrigue, while also handling things like racism and the Red Scare, which I feel were underserved topics for the noir genre. They were three extremely well written, exciting, and just all around perfect noir stories, all while being acted out by wonderfully cartoony animals.

 

I can’t praise the artwork in this collection highly enough. Guarnido knocks the art out of the park in this book, making a suitably dirty and grimy city, populated by some genuinely loveable, disgusting, and horrifying animals. But one of the things I loved most about it was the fact that there were still bright and vibrant moments too. The coloring in the book is wonderful too, and while I do love a noir comic that sticks to a grayscale color palette, this book expertly flows between dingy, gritty colors and the bright optimism of the day where we see the happy promise of the 50s trying to get through. There’s this fascinating nostalgia that comes up with the book, similar to what Who Framed Roger Rabbit did, by having such dark, depraved noir happen with characters that so similarly resemble Disney characters. He does an amazing job at having you instantly recognize which characters are our heroes, and which are our sleazeballs, probably best personified by a pal that John makes in “Arctic Nation” and comes back in “Red Soul,” a little weasel reporter called Weekly, who instantly becomes a loveable character. The reporter friend of a detective is a pretty tried and true trope, but man does it work great with Blacksad, especially by having Weekly be the eternal optimist to John’s grumpiness, where Weekly’s bubbly personality eventually wears down John’s gruff exterior.

 

And while I’ve been ranting and raving about Guarnido’s art, that’s night to slight Canales’ writing, which is excellent. He expertly weaves the overly complicated mysteries that we’ve come to expect from the noir genre, while finding new and fresh angles to tackle it with. Honestly, the fact that their animals doesn’t come up that much, and other than references to being “a cold-blooded” or something like that, you could probably take his script and make the exact same story with humans with little to no changes. But they find a way to make the animals work beautifully with the story, especially the “Arctic Nation” story where we see the white animals and their hatred and mistrust of the colored animals. In the first story there was some antagonism between mammals and reptiles, which I assumed was going to be the big dividing line between races, but apparently there are a whole lot of different races wandering around the City. Canales successfully shows all the tension and hatred that’s barely below the surface of 1950’s America, and does it beautifully while John Blacksad gets to wander around and just see the deepest, darkest pits of the city, perfectly aware that the 50s were no shining paradise, something we tend to forget.

 

Check out these comics. They’re spectacular.

 

Blacksad is written by Juan Diaz Canales and drawn by Juanjo Guarnido.

 

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Back Issues

Books of Doom: the Dr. Doom Documentary.

This isn’t really a huge revelation, but I really love supervillains. And I really love the supervillains that Marvel has created. Just like they’re heroes, the supervillains of Marvel are damaged people with their own hopes and dreams, and frequently can straddle the line between villain and Anti-Hero. At this point Loki has pretty much abandoned his villainous way and is a straight up hero, and we can even read amazing books like the Superior Foes of Spider-Man that take D-list villains that most people look at as jokes and make us feel for them. But there’s one villain for me that really stands above all others in my opinion. Dr. Doom. I love this character so much. He’s so amazingly evil and menacing. There’s a reason that pretty much any videogame that tries to recreate the Marvel universe will inevitably be about Dr. Doom doing something unimaginably evil that will cause the entire universe of heroes to band together to beat him. Other than the Red Skull, I don’t think there’s any villain that’ so consistently evil. He steals cosmic entities’ powers, he’s vivisected Asgardians, he runs an Eastern European country with an iron fist, and he’s even currently God in the Marvel comics (long story). He’s just such a sour, malicious person, and I love him. He combines science and magic in a ridiculously cool manner that makes him a hell of a match for any superhero he comes across. While he’s usually not considered an Avengers villain, and usually spends most of his time fixating on the Fantastic Four, he can easily pop into any heroes book and fight them. I’ve seen him fight Spider-Man, his minions trap Daredevil in a crazy glass cage and try him to crimes against humanity, he tried to stiff Luke Cage and not pay him $100, and pretty much any other hero you can think of has at some point or another grappled with this insane cape-wearing, armor-clad, European dictator.

Books of Doom #6
Books of Doom #6

Now, as much as I love Doctor Doom, I’m not a huge Fantastic Four fan, so I haven’t had the chance to read as many great stories as I would like. And whenever I hear about a good one, I’ll check it out. So I was looking around on the Marvel Unlimited app, and came across this strange mini-series from 2006 that really intrigued me. It’s a six issue retelling of Dr.Doom’s origin, written by my favorite comic writer of all time, Ed Brubaker. So of course I read it. And it was super weird, and a lot of fun. Now, I didn’t know much about this series, just that it was about the formative years of Doom, and then when I started reading, I found out that it’s structured like a documentary. It features an interviewer asking Doom about his life, and he recounts it, often straight to the reader, and even has panels that serve as interviews with other people from Doom’s life. You even get scenes where the young Victor Von Doom is doing things, and his spectral future form is standing in the corner, explaining what’s going on to us. I’ve never read a comic quite like this, and it was fascinating. It was basically a biopic of Dr. Doom.

I don’t believe that Brubaker did anything especially new with his backstory, which has certainly grown over the years, but falls into pretty agreed upon territory. Dr. Doom isn’t like the Joker, who gets a new backstory any time the writers feel like it, he has a relatively established origin, and it’s a pretty great one. Victor Von Doom was a gypsy boy who lived with his parents and the rest of their tribe in the mountains of an Eastern European country called Latveria. His family is of high-standing in the gypsy group; due in part to his mother’s magical abilities. But when she tries to use her magic powers to fight the evil Baron that is trying to take their land the gypsies turn on her, and it’s revealed that she sold her soul for her powers, so she’s taken down to Hell. Doom grows up bitter and eventually becomes the leader of his tribe after his father literally freezes to death like Jack Torrence from the Shining. He’s an amazingly smart young-man, and uses his scientific acumen to create all sorts of weapons to fight the Baron’s men. Eventually word spreads to America about his abilities, and the US military comes to recruit him to create weapons for them. He goes to America and enrolls in college, all while using their resources to work in insane experiments. In college he meets his eventually arch-nemesis, Reed Richards, a fellow genius who Doom feels jealous of. Doom is a rather unpopular person, and things eventually get crazy when it turns out that one of his experiments is to open a portal to Hell to save his mother, because Dr. Doom has the king of all mommy-issues. Unfortunately even though Reed informs him that his math isn’t right, Doom goes through with his plan, and uses the machine, to disastrous results. It causes an explosion, and his face is mutilated as the Devil marks him. He’s expelled from school, and goes to be a weird bum in Europe with a wrapped up head to hide his hideous face. And after a brief interlude when the love of his life shows up to try and convince Doom to come back to Latveria that turns out to be a complicated plot by the Soviets to force him to make weapons for them (yep) he decides to go find some monks in Tibet. And he eventually finds their monestary after fighting a goddman yeti!

Books of Doom #4
Books of Doom #4

While in the monastery, Doom learns to master both magic and science as he continues to become a crazy villain. Then one day when he’s watching TV he hears about how America is loving Reed Richards, and that the evil Baron who tried to kick his family off their land is now the king of Latveria, so he decides to go overthrow Latveria and become their king! Before he leaves however he creates a crazy suit of armor that combines his science and magic that will keep him safe from the Devil, and also weapons defend himself. He gets to Latveria and pretty quickly gets the gypsies on his side, and the start a civil war against the king. Things go pretty great for Doom, since apparently the peasants in Latveria don’t mind that he’s a weirdo in a suit of armor and a green cape, and the rest of the world doesn’t feel like stepping in. Eventually he gets to the castle and manages to convince the entire army to join him, so he gets to walk into the castle without anyone stopping him like a badass, and he straight up chokes the king to death, and takes over. The end!

This was a crazy story, and I loved it a lot. I just love Doctor Victor Von Doom so much. It’s hilarious to think that in the Marvel universe there’s just a country that’s run by a supervillain who wears a crazy Iron Man suit with a cloak, and that’s just cool. People in the Marvel universe could turn on CNN and hear about a diplomatic emergency involving a crazy genius warlock. Doctor Doom is a weird character, because he honestly could work if we knew absolutely nothing about him, if he was just this weird mysterious villain who ran a country, but by giving him this strange depth it makes him so interesting. He’s the vainest guy in the world. Everything he does is genius, and if something goes wrong, it was probably Reed Richards’ fault. Doctor Doom is probably my favorite villain of all time, except maybe possibly the Kingpin, and anything that takes a more in depth look at him is great. I also recommend reading the great Doctor Strange/Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment. I’ll probably talk about it around Halloween. But you should also check out “Books of Doom.” It’s a blast.

Doctor Doom

Books of Doom was written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Pablo Raimondi

Back Issues

Young Avengers was Rad

One of the hardest parts about being a comic book fan is trying to make time to read all the great things that are being published, and not let anything slip through the cracks. But man, things do. It’s so easy to have something just not hit your radar, and then when you realize that you’ve missed something great, it’s a little too late to jump on the bandwagon and get caught up. A great example of this would be the second volume of Young Avengers, written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Jamie McKelvie. I had a passing familiarity with the book when it was coming out, but it was comprised of a team that I was largely unfamiliar with, and created by a team that I was also not really aware of, so I let it pass me by. And I’ve recently dived into the series, and man am I glad I did.

I finally gave it a shot after becoming more familiar with Kieron Gillen, and that guy is great. There are still some big gaps in my knowledge on his work, especially Phonograph and his work on Journey into Mystery, which I really feel like I need to read after loving Kid Loki so much in this book. But what I have read of his, I’ve loved. His Iron Man run was great, especially the insane Rings of the Mandarin storyline, his X-Men stuff is great, and the Wicked + the Divine is absolutely fabulous and one of my favorite comics being published right now. But the thing that really got me curious about Gillen was his run on the Darth Vader comic. I want to write a whole article about that series, but right now I’ll just mention that he basically made it a sci fi version of House of Cards while Vader works with an evil Indiana Jones, an assassin C-3P0, and a highly destructive R2-D2. It’s nuts. So after learning that I really like Gillen’s writing, and seeing McKelvie’s amazing artwork in the Wicked + the Divine, I decided to jump into Young Avengers. I quickly realized that I needed some background on the characters, so I checked out the original Allan Heinberg/Jim Cheung run of the characters, and while that comic was fun, I don’t think it really held a candle to the Gillen/McKelvie run.

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So since this is a team book, and a team made up of characters who aren’t exactly household names, I figure I should run down the roster. First of all we Have Teddy Altman, the Hulkling. Teddy is a half-Kree, half-Skrull alien who possesses super strength and shape-shifting abilities. He’s great. He’s super loyal to his friends and seemed completely willing to dive into every fight. And when there’s Hulkling, Billy Kaplan, also called Wiccan, isn’t far behind. Billy is a magic user who’s able to use various chants to create all manner of spells. He’s also the reincarnated soul of the Scarlet Witch’s fake babies she had with the Vision, because comics are ridiculous. Oh, and Billy and Teddy are in one of the most believable and relatable relationships I’ve ever seen in comics. They’re an amazing couple, and one of the most positive portrayals of a gay partnership I’ve ever seen. Next up we have the character that I’m most familiar with, Kate Bishop, the female Hawkeye. Now, I mainly know Kate from the amazing Hawkeye series, which now that it’s recently ended I’m planning on writing about more in depth. Kate is awesome. She’s strong, self-reliant, and kicks a lot of ass. During the series Kate gets romantically involved with Noh-Varr, the Kree warrior who called himself Marvel Boy, a roguish space-travellor whose trying to find his way in the universe while finding time to enjoy his vintage records of 60’s girl bands. Then there’s the mysterious but awesome America Chavez, known as Miss America. Now, I feel like I need to read more about her, because I never really understood her in this book, but I enjoyed her quite a bit. She comes from another dimension I guess, but has super-strength, flight, and the ability to punch through dimensions to travel between them. Eventually Billy’s twin brother Tommy shows up, who has super-speed and is simply called Speed. He’s not my favorite. But along with Speed comes David Alleyne, Prodigy, a former mutant who acquired the memories of everyone he ever dealt with when he was a mutant and is now an expert in pretty much everything. I liked Prodigy, but he never clicked as much as the other characters. And then there’s the de facto leader of the group, Kid Loki. Now, as much as I love Thor, he’s a big blind spot in my comic knowledge, one I’m slowly but surely working on clearing up, so I don’t really know the background of Kid Loki. I just know that the Loki that had been terrorizing the world since the 60’s died, and was reincarnated as this precocious child version of himself, and he had the potential to not be evil. Kid Loki is awesome. He’s a total brat, and is constantly conniving against everyone.

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It was a really great team that worked great together. And man, the plot of the series is a lot of fun. The impetus of the storyline is the idea that Billy would do anything for Teddy. In the previous story Teddy’s mother (who turned out not to be his mom and actually a Skrull that was tasked with keeping Teddy’s identity safe) was killed by the Super-Skrull. Desperate to help Teddy’s pain, Billy starts using his magic to look for alternate dimensions where Teddy’s mom is still alive. And he finds one. Unfortunately, it turns out that it isn’t actually Teddy’s mom, it’s a weird succubus who’s dead-set on taking over our dimension. Teddy and Billy run away from the evil being, that starts to call itself Mother, eventually getting the team together to help stop the beast. But it turns out that part of the creatures abilities is that it can could the minds of any adult, so when they go to the Avengers for help, they can’t see anything wrong, and attempt to actually help Mother. So for the rest of the series the group goes around smashing through other dimensions, trying to find a way to stop Mother. There’s lots of backstabbing from Loki, who reveals that all along he was trying to trick Billy into giving some of his power to Loki. And in the end it turns out that Billy is some sort of magical messiah who will change the future of magic, and with a little prodding from Loki, he’s able to tap into his ultimate power and fight Mother. They also realize their mistake in trying to contact the Avengers, and end up gathering just about every teenaged superhero that Marvel had running, making an epic team that is finally able to defeat Mother. Then they have a crazy New Years part to celebrate.

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But one of the best things about the storyline is the relationships. This book really went to lengths to portray accurate relationships for a group of teenagers. Kate and Marvel Boy’s relationship was pretty interesting, with both of them embarking on a purely physical relationship at first but as time went on, they got more invested in each other, but when things got heavy, Marvel Boy bailed, scared of the commitment. But relationship that really rocked was Billy and Teddy. Their so committed and loving towards each other, but about halfway through the run Teddy gets a pretty alarming thought in his head. Billy’s magical abilities let him change reality, and really, what are the odds that the dorky Billy would just happen to meet Teddy, a handsome gay boy who would love him, and have superpowers so they could fight crime together. Teddy gets worried that his feelings may be altered by Billy’s abilities, and decides that in order to prove that he actually loves him, he needs to leave the group for a while. It all ends up being a ploy by Mother though, and by the end Billy and Teddy realize that no matter what, they love each other. Then there’s just how great the team works together. They all squabble a lot, just like a group of teenagers would. But by the end, they’re a happy little dysfunctional family. The tease each other constantly, but when the chips are down, they all fight for each other, ready to lay down their lives for the mission. I also love the end when every character but Kate reveals that they’re either gay or have had homosexual encounters in the past, leading Kate to ask if she was the only straight person on the team, and America to quip back with one of the best lines I’ve ever read in comics “Princess, I’ve seen the way you look at me, you’re not that straight.”

Awesome!
Awesome!

The last thing I want to talk about is just how gorgeous the art is. I really love Jamie McKelvie’s art style, but the thing that really blew me away about this book was the way he designed it. There’s some amazing page designs, especially when characters are messing around in the multiverse. They’ll rip themselves out of panels and run around in the gutters. There was also a point near the end when the omnipotent Billy sees all of time and sees every page of the comic spread out before him. The comic also really embraced the idea of social media on the characters. The recap pages were set up like a Tumblr page, they Tweeted, and there was even a great joke of Loki taking Instagram pictures of the team, and them all getting sick of it. This was just an amazing series, taking a bunch of great characters, and letting them play out a great story. They’re literally a bunch of teenagers who are struggling to create their own identities, and they fight a monster who smothers people called Mother. The metaphor may be pretty superficial, but it’s still a lot of fun. Everyone should read this run. It’s the bomb.

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Young Avengers was written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Jamie McKelvie.

Back Issues

Daredevil #25. My Favorite Single Issue in Comics

Let’s talk about Daredevil everyone.

He’s the best. I really and truly think that he’s my favorite Marvel superhero, beating other favorites like Spider-Man, the Thing, Deadpool, and Doctor Strange. The only person he beats in my personal ranking would be Batman, and I feel like Batman’s cheating a little by having been in my life pretty much since birth. I really only got into Daredevil a few years ago, but when I started looking into him, I ending up getting sucked down the rabbit-hole. I’ve now read pretty much ever Daredevil comic written, thanks in large part to the Marvel Unlimited app, which is basically Netflix for Marvel comics, and lets me read most everything they’ve published. I love the super weird campy Daredevil from the sixties, the dark gritty Frank Miller stuff, the loquacious and cinematic Brian Bendis run, and the awesome life-destroying Ed Brubaker run, and everything in between. The adventures of Matt Murdock are pretty much always going to deliver a great, enjoyable read.

But let me tell you, my favorite run of all is the newest run, which was written by Mark Waid and drawn by several artists including Chris Samnee and Marcos Martin, amongst others. It’s an amazing run that draws on every age of Daredevil, embracing the swashbuckling 60’s era, hand in hand with the darker more modern stuff. This run really gets to Daredevil’s core, explores what makes the character great, and brings new characters and situations to Matt’s life that will probably remain for the rest of his character’s history. It’s just about a perfect run, and by the end of it, you realize that everything was connected. Everything that happened to Matt Murdock ended up being organized by one man, all designed to break him. We of course don’t learn that until the end of the storyline, which wasn’t even the end of the run, but that’s not what we’re going to be talking about. I want to talk about Daredevil issue 25, quite possibly my favorite single issue of any comic book series ever. Hyperbole? Possibly. But it’s amazing. Read it, because this may seem like even more of a stream of nonsense without knowing the issue.

Mark Waid and Chris Samnee
Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

This issue was written by Mark Waid, and drawn by Chris Samnee, although on the title page they’re both listed as “Storyteller,” which I love. I think all comics should have that title.

Anyway, I feel like before I explain what makes this issue so great, I need to set up some story. Over the past twenty four issues to Daredevil, Matt has been trying to rebuild his life after all the crazy Shadowland nonsense, trying to reestablish himself as a lawyer in his real life, and a superhero in his private life. But he’s been running into some villains who all seem to be connected, but in a way that he’s unable to solve. Then, a bunch of homeless people show up on the streets of Manhattan, blind, and apparently possessing similar extra-sensory powers that Daredevil has. After dealing with that, his office is attacked by some dogs that are also blind and possessing super senses. Clearly someone has figured out how Daredevil got his powers, and has managed to recreate them. Oh, and Foggy has cancer and isn’t doing so hot. So Matt’s at Foggy’s side in the hospital, when a man comes up, saying he knows whose behind everything, and is willing to help Matt find him. Matt studies his heartbeat, finds that it’s steady, so he heads out with the man.

Of course, it’s a trap, and as soon as they get to a warehouse and Matt tells the guy he knows it’s a trap, the pacemaker that the man had installed to keep his heartbeat steady turns off, killing him. We then get a great example of how inventive the team on his book are with using Matt’s powers, giving us this great picture of Matt checking the surroundings for his attackers.

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That’s pretty amazing. Now’s a good time to talk about Chris Samnee’s art. It’s amazing. I do love the Alex Maleev and Michael Lark art styles for Daredevil, but I think Samnee may be my favorite Daredevil artist. I do like the dark stuff, but I love Samnee’s new bright take on the character. It’s fun and pulpy instead of dark and grungy. I love it.

Anyway, even though he knows it’s a trap, Matt dives headfirst into the warehouse, eager to finally find out whose been messing with his life for the past few years. But as soon as he lands, he starts hearing someone whispering, telling him about the plan to recreate the chemicals that blinded Matt, and gave him his abilities. And as the man comes closer, Matt finds some familiar scents, the chemicals that blinded him, his fathers shaving cream, and the hand wraps that his father used to use when he boxed. It’s obvious that whoever this is, they know who Matt is, they know his secrets. The mysterious man is then revealed to be Ikari, Matt’s newest villain, clad in a costume that’s reminiscent of Matt’s great old yellow and red costume he had in the beginning.

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It’s an amazing design. Then, after Matt gets cocky, telling Ikari he spots seven ways he’s vulnerable, Ikari begins the trend of having amazing lines by simply saying, “show me.” And then the fight begins. And that’s pretty much the rest of the issue. It’s a beautifully designed and drawn fight scene, full of inner monologue from Matt as he slowly realizes that he’s in over his head, and this new enemy knows far too much about him. They take the fight to the roofs of Manhattan as Matt scrambles to find a way to get the upper hand on Ikari. But try as he might, Matt just can’t best Ikari.

We then get a great flashback to Matt’s training with Stick as a kid, which was the first time this run even mentioned him. That’s one thing I thought was so great about this run, it stayed away from a lot of the tried and true parts of the Daredevil mythos, and did it’s own things. But the end Kingpin, Bullseye, and Stick all make appearances, but Waid does his own thing for most of the run, not relying on the established tricks.

Ikari and Matt continue to fight and struggle as Ikari continues to stop all of Matt’s tricks, even destroying his billy clubs, leaving him with only his skills as a fighter. But finally, after getting his arm gashed open and the threat of a concussion getting ready to make him black out, Matt pulls a Hail Mary, and heads to a sporting goods store in the hopes to overwhelm Ikari’s new-found radar senses. Matt knows that the cluttered store, mixed with the sprinkler system that he sets off will destroy Ikari’s radar sense, since Matt’s had years to hone his skills, and Ikari’s only had days. And sure enough, Ikari seems to hesitate in the powerful rain of the sprinkler, so Matt reaches for a basket of baseball bats to finish the fight when…

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Oh man! OH MAN! That reveal literally had me drop my jaw, and I had to stop reading the issue for a while to get a hold of myself. It’s brilliant. You realize at the same time as Matt that Ikari isn’t blind, and in fact, there’s been nothing to make us even think he is. Yeah, the chemicals that gave Matt his powers blinded him, and the people that had clearly been used as a guinea pig were also blinded, but there was nothing before this scene that even gave the hint that Ikari was blind too. We just assume he is, and so does Matt, only to have the big reveal hit us as hard as it does Matt. We then get a heart-rendering scene where Ikari begins beating Matt to death, and he gets flashbacks to his father’s fights and his advice to Always Get Up. God I love Matt’s dad, and their relationship. But sadly, Matt just can’t get up. But, right before Ikari delivers the killing blow, he stops. He tells Matt that the man that’s behind everything gave him instructions not to kill him. Yet. He monologues to Matt about how he’s going to kill him. Maybe tomorrow, maybe in a week, maybe in ten minutes. Matt can run, but he’ll never escape. And that’s the end of the issue. It ends like that!

The rest of the story gets finished out in the next couple issues, and it’s a great ending. It may seem weird that this issue is my favorite of the run, since it doesn’t even wrap anything up, if anything it just throws another wrench in an already complicated plot. But oh man, I love it. The fight is amazing, the art is spectacular, and the design of the issue is perfect. We get a lot of great character work from Matt, a great new villain in Ikari, and a pretty spectacular twist. I love this issue, I love this run, and I love this character.

Seriously, go buy this issue, this volume, and the whole damn run. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, you gentlemen are masters at your craft, and I salute you.

Back Issues

Joker and Lex: Looking at DC’s Preeminent Villains

Back in 2010 a comic came out called Batman/Superman #75, and one of the features of the book was this short little homage to Calvin and Hobbes featured DC’s two biggest profile villains.

Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo
Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo

It’s pretty fantastic.

It also really gets into how different the two characters, and how they interact with their respective heroes. I feel like it’s not hyperbole to say that Superman and Batman are DC’s biggest heroes, in term of impact, sales, and influence. And Lex Luthor and Joker are their arch-nemeses.

Now, I’m a huge Batman fan. Have been since I was a kid. The original Tim Burton movies came out the year I was born, so I’ve always had the Batman movies in my life, and of course the absolutely stellar Batman: the Animated Series. He’s probably my favorite super hero, and except for maybe Daredevil, I’ve read the most comics about him. Superman on the other hand…not a fan. I’ve read good Superman books before, but by and large, he doesn’t do it for me. I think I just can’t connect to how incredibly powerful he is. No one really provides a good enough threat. When he’s done right he can be a compelling character, but I feel like it’s a lot harder than Batman to get him right.

Like a lot of people, I was obsessed with the Joker for a long time. For most of high school and early college I thought the Joker was the absolute coolest. He represented anarchy and chaos, which really appeals to high schoolers. He’s unpredictable and essentially pure evil. There’s not a lot of depth to the Joker. The little comic up there really explains his motivation for fighting Batman. His whole life revolves around trying to drive Batman mad, to bring him down to his level. The Joker has had a few different backstories of the years, but the most common ones have Joker driven insane after some particularly stressful and horrible event, and he’s convinced that anyone would become a murderous clown if put under the same stress, even Batman shouldn’t be immune to the effects of one bad day. The Joker’s ideal endgame with Batman would be for Batman to break his one rule and kill him. Which seemed like the coolest thing in the world, when I was in high school.

Don’t get me wrong, There are still ways that the Joker can be interesting, and there’s stories that I still find great. Some writers understand that the Joker is best used sparingly. The Joker works like the shark in Jaws. He’s been in culture for so long that people get his schtick. We know what he does, and we know that he’s scary. So if you barely get to see him, your imagination kicks in and makes him even scarier.

I’ve always felt that the best version of the character was the one they had in the Animated Series. It really balanced the two halves of the Joker, the ridiculous clown and the homicidal killer. I feel like in recent years the scale has tipped too far into the homicidal killer side. Every since the Dark Knight it’s felt like people want to take the character too seriously. I’ve really loved the Scott Snyder/ Greg Capullo run on Batman lately, but I feel like the crazy missing face Joker went a little too far. The Joker needs to be terrifying, but then vacillate to silly. Cracking a knock-knock joke before killing someone. For a great Joker story, I would definitely recommend the “Soft Targets” story line from Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark’s amazing Gotham Central series. That whole run is tremendous, and I’m sure I’ll talk about it in depth later, but I think it’s hands down the best Joker story.

Gotham Central

And then there’s Lex Luthor. Like I said earlier, Superman has never been my favorite, so as a result I haven’t had that much exposure to Lex Luthor. I had always seen him as a relatively simple villain. He was just either a mad scientist, or an evil businessman. Not much depth. But, as time has gone one, I feel like I find Lex more and more interesting and compelling. Whereas Joker wants to prove that Batman’s just as bad as he is, Lex’s ultimate goal is to prove that he’s a better man than Superman. To me, the perfect Lex Luthor is the ultimate self-made man. He’s one of the world’s smartest men, he plays multiple games of chess while learning a new language. He’s created one of the most successful companies in the world. And he somehow has managed to continuously trick the world that he’s not a villain. Metropolis should be thanking it’s lucky stars for Lex Luthor. He should be their shining hero, their example of the perfect citizen. But then some alien shows up with powers and abilities that he didn’t earn. He just has them. And everyone loves him for it. It’s a very compelling backstory, way more than the old one where Superboy made him go bald, so he devoted his life to destroying him.

Adventure Comics #271
Adventure Comics #271

There’s something very human about Lex Luthor’s hatred for Superman. It’s the story of a man who does his best, but there’s someone with innate abilities whose better. Everyone can sympathize with that. The difference is that Lex Luthor takes that frustration to the extreme. Most people wouldn’t escalate to devoting their lives to killing the person whose better than them. But hey, it works for him. Honestly, Lex works better and better in the modern world. He seems right at home in a world with whiny, self entitled “men’s rights activists.” He thinks he deserves the world, and he’s going to take down anyone who gets in his way.

At least he’s not stealing cakes anymore.

Lex Pies

Lex Luthor was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

the Joker was created by Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson. Not Bob Kane. Screw that guy.