Sunday, June 30, 2013

Two Great Tastes

Yesterday, I made mine Marvel. Or more accurately, I made mine Matt Fraction. I purchased two fine Fraction books from my LCS, Hawkeye #11 and FF #8. Two great comics that were not only different from one another, but different from a lot of the spandex stuff I've been reading and catching up on recently. While the fella at the counter recommended I check out East of West or Saga from Image, I just wasn't in the mood. Jonathan Hickman's stuff is full of pie charts and other graphics that anger my simple mind and Saga failed to grab me in the first four issues, despite some absolutely great artwork by Fiona Staples. So yeah, I went all "mainstream" and gave my money to that evil conglomerate known as Marvel.

Matt Fraction's work at Marvel is just on another level. I don't even know how to critique it. His run on Invincible Iron Man was a fantastic companion to the movies that were released during that time and I even enjoyed his Fear Itself miniseries from a few years ago. While many of my peers looked to Brubaker and Bendis as the premiere Marvel authors, I could never understand what made the Captain America and Avengers stuff of the last few years so great. Captain America featured some great espionage action, but the stories always seemed kind of predictable and the decompressed, drawn-out Avengers of the last era was just bad in my opinion. So anyway, Matt Fraction has been my window into Marvel since Punisher: War Journal and Immortal Iron Fist.
While I'd love to continue bitching and moaning about comics I don't like, I'd rather gush about Hawkeye #11. This comic is about a dog from a dog's point of view. Following the grisly murder that closed out the last two issues from two different perspectives, Lucky the Dog a.k.a. Pizza Dog is the third "lens" through which we witness Kazi the Clown infiltrate Clint Barton's apartment building. Pizza Dog is on the case, investigating a crime scene, falling in love, and even fighting off a gang of tracksuit mafiosos. Artist David Aja probably deserves more credit for this issue than Fraction, as he creates a visual language that allows the dog to communicate his smells into visuals. Remember what I said five seconds about about hating charts and such when they're inserted into comics? Aja uses them the right way. Pizza Dog is able to reduce each person he encounters to a simplified avatar and a collection of odors, making some humorous observations about the tenants of Hawkguy's building. In the end, man's best friend is torn between Clint and Kate (Female Hawkeye) and is forced to make a heartbreaking decision.

Hawkeye #11 will take you about five minutes to read through, which may leave you wondering where else you could've spent your three dollars and change. However, unlike many monthly titles there is more to be gleaned from this comic upon multiple readings. Wihtout venturing into spoiler-y territory, Lucky the Pizza Dog's adventure in this issue is a clever microcosm for Hawkeye's life so far in the series. Hawkeye gets involved with a love interest who's nothing but trouble, so does Lucky. Hawkeye gets knocked out by baddies a lot, and so does Lucky. Other than the car chase from issue three, it's almost a recap of what's come before. Two thumbs up, ten out of ten, whatever meaningless way you prefer to score or grade your comics, this one is tops.
And now for something completely different: FF #8. Once again, Fraction has hit the artist jackpot with his collaborator Mike Allred on this series. Allred provides funky retro visuals for this series, which is created in the style of a classic Marvel Pop Art production. Seriously, hold this up side by side next to an old Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four issue. Fraction and Allred are either having a laugh at the expense of the silver age, or presenting a flash forward what-if-that-happened-now alternative to progression. FF stars a substitute team of heroes posing as Marvel's first family while the Richards clan goes on a space/time family field trip. The same dysfunctional family moments have been recreated and reimagined in FF, with new twists and takes on classic baddies like the Mole Man. The story so far has centered around Ant-Man (Scott Lang, not Hank Pym or Eric O'grady) and his struggle to cope with the loss of his daughter. Ant-Man is the stand-in for Reed Richards, almost unwillingly put in charge of the Future Foundation kids that run rampant through the Baxter Building.

Meanwhile, Medusa of the Inhumans acts as the Susan Richards stand-in. Medusa seemingly fails in her role as surrogate mother, allowing some of the children to be carted off the infamous Negative Zone. Medusa lets her royal guard down long enough for the rest of the FF to question her maternal instincts. There's even a brief, super-powered catfight with She-Hulk, who is naturally the Ben Grimm substitute for the team. This is just a classic Marvel comic. Heroes can't get along, villains are scheming and hand-wringing, and a polite robot dragon delivers erudite dialogue. There's even a reference to the oft-forgotten Thing cartoon from way back when. The cover gimmick is a throwback as well. Remember those fold-in pictures from Mad Magazine? Fold in the cover of your priceless collectible copy of FF#8 to reveal the grim visage of Dr. Victor Von Doom. All This comic needs is an activity page.
If Infinity is too high for you to count and the Trinity War sounds like a lame Superfriends gangbang, I highly recommend either of these series for any reader who still loves "capes" books, but wants something a little left of center. I guess I should also mention both of these comics, to borrow a phrase from DC circa 2009, hold the line at $2.99. Six bucks and change well spent, Mr. Fraction. Thanks for the ride!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Angels, Ant-Men, and World Eaters: The Shape Of Things To Come At Marvel Comics

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't read up through Age of Ultron #10 yet, turn back now. I'll be playing fast and loose with the spoilers and such in this article.
Look to the stars. The cosmic writing is on the walls. The threats of Civil Wars and Secret Invasions are long past, outdated in the now. Marvel Now that is. The massive renumbering and retitling initiative of 2012 sets the stage for threats of a more galactic, far-out variety. The focus shifts ever slightly from the Avengers to the Guardians of the Galaxy as the Ultrons and Osborns of Marvel Then make way for the mad dieties and reality warping tyrants of Now. I admit, I didn't see it at first, but now it's plain to see that Marvel is marching toward a Crisis. The events of Age of Ultron have taken the concept of divergent timelines and molded it into something resembling a ...dare I say it...multiverse. Echoes of Crisis on Infinite Earths are to be heard; the angelic harbinger, the devourer, and countless versions of the Marvel pantheon banding together with much more than just a single universe at stake.

Just two weeks ago as of my writing this, Marvel released Age of Ultron issue ten, marking the end of the latest "event" cycle and also acting as a catalog of sorts for the next couple of series that Marvel has decided you must read or be left in the dust. The Age of Ultron series itself carried all the markings of your typical event book, right down to a shimmering cover enhancement. Brian Bendis was the scribe, and he led no less than five artists on a wild goose chase through time with a timey-wimey half-baked science fiction plot that grew out of a great dystopian set up in the first five or so issues. Ultron, a massively powerful and malicious artificial intelligence, had leveled the Earth and a ragtag group of super-heroic survivors were forced to resort to that old chestnut time travel to either go back or forward in time and set things right. Wolverine and Sue Storm of all people defied the majority of the heroes and traveled back through the constantly shifting sands of Marvel time to try and prevent scientist supreme Hank Pym from ever inventing Ultron in the first place. In short, Wolverine murdered Pym, they returned to the present to find everything even worse than when they left due to Hank's assassination, then went back again to prevent themselves from preventing Pym from building Ultron. Phew. My limited ability to structure sentences is already tested just discussing a single time travel event in a story, much less the paradox-y stuff that's present in Age of Ultron.
As an alternate timeline version of iron-dude Tony Stark warns Wolverine, "Time is a living organism. Each time we go back we tear it. We hurt it." His words ring all too true in the tenth issue of this series, when time isn't just torn, it goes kablooey. The comic explodes in your hands and alternate versions of many stalwarts from the Marvel stable spill over the pages. Please take a moment to consider pirate Ben Grimm. I don't have anything to say about that other than consider it. That totally happened once. Anyway, the end of this story bounces back and forth between showing how much of a bad thing the timestream breaking really is to full-page ads for shiny, new upcoming Marvel releases where eager readers can follow up on these ramifications. While the whole Ultron thing that was oh-so important just mere pages ago does get wrapped up pretty neatly (actually way too f***ing neatly), this issue seems like a real non-ending. I'm reminded of the last issue of Secret Invasion, where the lead focus was buried deep under the hype and speculation for the next event, with all the while Brevoort and Bendis assuring us that this was all part of the plan. The five year plan. The eight year plan. The however-long-it-needs-to-be plan. The big stories spilling out of the aftermath of Age of Ultron are the appearance of Galactus (not Gah Lak Tus or whatever) in the Ultimate universe, the proposed "solution" that Hank Pym has conceived in the issue's last sequence, and the debut of Neil Gaiman's cosmic angel character and former Spawn sparring partner Angela in the standard Marvel universe. Let's take a look at each of these reading options going forward and see if maybe this sub-par Age of Ultron fiasco might at least bear some interesting fruit.
The biggest and purplest cliffhanger coming out of Age Of Ultron for me is the classic (616, if you will) Galactus appearing above the New York skyline in front of Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man. While I'd like to see plucky young Miles just swing up and punch the world eater on the snout, it looks like the Hunger creative team of writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Leonard Kirk have more ambitious plans. Mr. Fialkov is a pretty great writer who more than deserves a shot at a nice attention-grabbing project like this. His run on I, Vampire at DC kept me thoroughly entertained and his independent graphic novel Elk's Run is a must-read for fans of Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, and the like. I haven't read any of Fialkov's Marvel work to date, but I understand his Morbius series is something I should be snapping up. As far as those pretty pictures that will accompany Mr. Fialkov's story, Leonard Kirk is an artist I'm quite fond of. His work on X-Factor was always energetic and well laid-out, a basis similar in style to Stuart Immonen. The figures are clean, the action is clear, and the characters and expressive when they need to be. The possibility of a world-eating threat has already been beaten back once in the Ultimate universe, in Warren Ellis's series of miniseries from a few years back. Back in that story, the threat of Galactus took the form of Gah Lak Tus, a swarm of cosmic, energy-devouring space bugs. When Ellis wrote that story, the notion of the big purple helmet guy was too ludicrous for the "realistic" approach that the Ultimate line of comics was looking for. I guess, now, with the Ultimate star not shining as brightly as it once had, all bets are off. My fever dreams of a Marvel Crisis (as in DC's Crisis) were made reality for a brief second when Miles looked up into the night sky and saw Galactus looming before him. I can't be alone in momentarily envisioning the Anti-Monitor, when he arrived to consume the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 in the opening pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The next big bullet point is Hank Pym's new vision quest. Of the three Age of Ultron spinoffs, this one is actually available and I've had the pleasure of reading it. Age of Ultron #10AU (AU being the numbering gimmick that allowed them to release more tie-ins to this series wihtout breaking up the flow of those other series' numbering) reads more like a pilot episode for a new Hank Pym series or mini with him looking into his own past trials and tribulations to help form a new plan going forward. With the genie-run-amok that was his "son" Ultron put soundly back into the bottle, Pym is now focused on restoring the Marvel timeline and finds himself in a Reed Richards role, hoping to redeem past mistakes by solving everything for everyone. This issue is an epilogue to Age of Ultron in that regard as well, but the sour taste that last event left in my mouth led to me approaching this issue as a new beginning rather than a house cleaning affair. Mark Waid is a writer I have much admiration for, and he turns in a perfectly serviceable comic book with his artistic collaborator Frank D'Armata. The character of Hank Pym is that of damaged goods, ala Matt Murdock or Bruce Banner, and those seem to be the personality types that Waid is working best with these days. Reinventing Pym and giving him a clear purpose and function in the Marvel universe is the most essential step toward making him relevant, and more importantly, fun to read again. It'll be nice to see if Pym can be known for more than creating Ultron and slapping his wife going forward. Plus, an Ant-Man series starring Pym would be a good move if Marvel is truly serious about a feature film starring the size-changing hero. The best move, naturally, is to have Mark Waid at the helm. Where this leaves the Scott Lang Ant-Man from Matt Fraction's wonderful FF series is yet to be determined.
While a space faring Angela showing up in the last double spread of Age of Ultron was given away by the comics media pretty much months in advance, the real treat here isn't that acquisition, but rather the news that comics writer and novelist Neil Gaiman would be co-writing the Guardians of the Galaxy series with regular writer Brian Bendis starting with issue five, where Angel will next appear in the Marvel line. I suspect he'll be the one putting words into Angela's mouth, seeing as she is his personal creation and the man just concluded a hard-fought battle with Todd McFarlane to win her custody. If not for Gaiman's invovlement in her portrayal, it wouldn't be hard to imagine that most critical fans would write her off. The scantily-clad warrior woman doesn't exactly scream "depth" at first glance. Just her design evokes the comics of the 1990's and the lesser natures of sweaty male comic geeks everywhere. Her current role as a heavenly warrior from another universe on a tear through space to find who is responsible for displacing her is kind of intriguing, but I admit I'd have zero interest in plunking down any cash to see where she goes and who she punishes if not for Gaiman's involvement. Bendis has been quick to denounce rumors that this is a future Jean Grey or any other redhead messiah, so my fears of a bait and switch have been quelled for the time being at least. My crystal ball is haziest on this one; I'd suggest picking up Guardians of the Galaxy number five at the very least and deciding if you give two hoots or not.

With Age of Ultron issue ten bagged and boarded, at least three new story paths await, so it's up to you and your budget to decide where to go next. If none of those three flavors tickles your fancy, Marvel has been generous enough to provide even more alternatives for your summer superhero reading, choosing to take their usual method of flooding the marketplace to new and frightening extremes. There are yet more Avengers rosters to fill out, more crossovers to be had between titles, and another "event" book so hot on the heels of Age of Ultron that they practically overlap. Because you demanded it, or even because you didn't, two more Avengers teams lie on the horizon, one of which is scheduled to spin out of Infinity, an event miniseries that hasn't even started yet! The Robo-Avengers of Avengers A.I. and the ethnically-apologetic team called the Mighty Avengers will be hogging the space on your local spinner rack sooner than you think. Remember, at Marvel, A is the new X. I can't speak to either of these new team titles that much, but I'm sure at least one of them will get the proverbial axe by the time the next event cycle rolls around. Avengers A.I. seems to have the most obviously limited lifespan, and yet Mighty Avengers could go the way of the dodo even with the strong ties to the Infinity series and promotional blitz behind it.
And howabout that Infinity? Described by writer Jonathan Hickman as the first major crescendo of his tenure with the Avengers line, the series looks to put Thanos back into position as the big baddie of the Marvel universe, at least for the time being. Aside from his bit in the opening arc of Avengers Assemble, Marvel really didn't do much with him after the initial hype surrounding the character following his brief cameo in the Avengers movie. Thanos is a personal fave as far as cosmic-level big bads go. The introspective lover of death is known to leave poetry and pontification in his wake as well as destruction. The artistic flourish of his destructive tendencies, especially when weilding the Infinity Gauntlet, have always made him just a little more endearing than his planet conquering contemporaries. Hopefully, the trio of artist extraordinaires joining Hickman on this series will see to it that Thanos is presented in all the grandeur the character derserves. Artists Jim Cheung, Jerome Opena, and Dustin Weaver all bring something different and equally potent to the table. Don't leave behind the acid-powered influence that Starlin bred into the character all those years ago, Mr. Hickman.

Is it too far fetched to assume that a bigger shake-up than we suspect is coming soon from the House of Ideas? Maybe something a liittle heavier than the usual event cycle leads to. Even with Marvel Now still super fresh in our minds, could yet another restructuring of the Marvel line be on its way? With cosmic do-badders and divergent timelines scattered about and the recent announcement of Marvel's Your Universe app, will the possiblities explode or implode? Smaller publisher Valiant is encouraging and even endorsing fan fiction from their readers, hoping to create a farm territori for new IPs and story beats. Could Marvel have something similar in the works. Like the weathered and defeated heroes gathered at Nick Fury's hideout in Age of Ultron issue six, we as fans must look to both the future as well as the past to see what Marvel has up its sleeve. And no matter what product is born of this era, just remember the company line, "it's all part of the plan."

The Club of Heroes Podcast Episode 34: Johnny Got His Gun

You think Love is a battlefield, son?

A battlefield is a battlefield, dammit! And from those trenches and ruined cities sprang a genre of funnybook adventures unparalleled in their authenticity and grit. Listen on, as Chris and Evan discuss the war comics and political cartoons of the Golden Age. Also, Chris gets the Blackhawks and Enemy Ace mixed up and it's quite embarrassing!

You can listen to or download the episode HERE!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Colonel's Picks for June 27th, 2013

A day late and a dollar short, folks, but at least I'm here. So, if you didn't make it to the shop yesterday for whatever reason, here are some last minute reccomendations from your very own Col. Reddenbacher.
Batman/Superman #1 (DC)

Greg Pak and Jae Lee present this latest incarnation of the World's Finest comics, teaming the alpha and omega of costumed crimefighters. Pak is a writer who needs no introduction to many Marvel readers, after lengthy stints with the Hulk and Hercules. Lee's art will surely be an equal contributor as readers of Before Watchmen: Ozymandias can attest. This one is a no-brainer folks. If you feel like CoH Podcast's own Chris Bearden and have written off DC as of late, give this one a try.
Justice League #21 (DC)

This month, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Shazam strip takes over all thirty pages of Justice League for the slam-bang conclusion to the origin of the New 52 Billy Batson and his first battle with Black Adam. If you've been paying close attention to other DC titles like Phantom Stranger and Justice League Dark, it wouldn;t be too much of a stretch to assume this will somehow tie in to next month's Trinity War crossover as well. Tie-ins and icky stuff aside, Johns and Frank's Shazam has been a wonderful little comic strip and represents the best way to use back-up features to introduce or reintroduce new concepts.
Larfleeze #1 (DC)

The Orange Lantern of Avarice stars in his own solo series, brought to you by Keith Giffen, Scott Kolins, and Hoawrd Porter. After last appearing in Green Lantern and Threshold, that evil orange muppet is taking his act on the road. How will Larfleeze fare against an enigmatic figure called the Lord of the Hunt? No one can say for sure, but it will probably be pretty funny thanks to Mr. Giffen. I'm lukewarm about Kolin's art, since I haven;t really enjoyed his work since he was drawing Flash and Marvel Team-Up several years back. We'll see which "version" of Kolins shows up for this book. I feel similarly about Howard Porter, whose art can range from solid to wonky within even a single issue.
Godzilla: Rulers of Earth #1 (IDW)

The last Godzilla series from IDW ended with a bang, as the monsters of the world rose up to challenge the humans' dominance over the planet. This series by Chris Mowry and Matt Frank picks up on that cliffhanger as the monsters duke it out to decide who will rule the world! No subtext here, true believer, just a good ol' fashioned thirty-story tall smackdown!
Star-Lord: The Hollow Crown (Marvel)

A "lost" Star Lord story of sorts, by the legendary Steve Englehart and Steve Gan, this "mini-trade" collects material from Marvel Preview #4 and #11, as well the Star-Lord Special. Star-Lord is definently a character to watch moving forward, with Marvel's increased emphasis on their cosmic stable of characters. This little volume recounts his origin as an Earth-based astronaut, his tranformation into the Star-Lord, and his first encounter with the Master of the Sun. This should make a nice companion to the current Guardians of the Galaxy series, and I wouldn;t mind seeing Marvel make more of these based on the other Guardians such as Drax or Gamora.

And those are the Picks for this week folks. Expect things around CoH Central to return to a more recognizable pace heading forward. Look for new episodes of the CoH Podcast, new daily comic reviews, and even some new blood joining the ranks of the Club of Heroes!


Monday, June 24, 2013

The Club of Heroes Podcast Episode 33: Break Yo' Neck

With mucho respect to Mr. Tugwell and Mr. Cortinas, the assembled CoH members Julie, Chris, and Evan simply couldn't wait another minute to discuss the Man of Steel film. They give their pros, cons, and general thoughts about Superman's latest outing on the silver screen. SPOILERS ahoy!

Listen to or download the episode HERE, or spend many cycles in the Phantom Zone!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Club of Heroes Podcast Episode 32: The General's Dong (Almost Spoiler Free)

Sorry chaps, no Picks from the Colonel for this week. Instead, enjoy this extra-special bonus bullpen episode of the CoH Podcast! Chris, Julie, and Evan journey to infinity and beyond! One of them has seen Man of Steel, the other two have not. Let the awkward discussion begin!

Check it out HERE, you Wacky Wobblers!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Club of Heroes Podcast Episode 31: Ground Zero

Let the next Club of Heroes Podcast endeavor begin! Evan and Chris shift their focus to another underrated comic book genre: War Comics! This episode is a brief overview of war comics and the role of conflict in all art forms. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

You can listen to or download the episode HERE!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Superman Through The Ages Playlist

It's finally here! Man Of Steel is in theaters now!

Since January, Chris and Evan have been on a mission to chronicle the Man of Steel's comic book history through the ages. Recently completed, here is their entire retrospective in one handy blog post. Enjoy!

Part 1: Immigrant Song

Part 2: Life During Wartime

Part 3: Do The Krypton Crawl

Part 4: Give Me Those Silver Days Again

Part 5: The Tarnished Bronze Age

Part 6: A Funeral And A Wedding

Part 7: They Will Join You In The Sun

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Club of Heroes Podcast Episode 30: Hawkguy at the movies

Man of Steel! The Dark World! The Winter Soldier! Hawkeye! Daredevil! And just why is Chris so sad about DC comics? All this and more!!

You can listen to or download the episode HERE!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Colonel's Picks For June 12th, 2013

Friends and liars, welcome once again to that weekly check-up with my pullbox, The Picks! This week, you will believe a man can fly...and break chains!

Superman Unchained #1 (DC)

Those chains couldn't hold him back in '38 and they can't hold him now. Current superstar writer Scott Snyder and the legendary Jim Lee present a brand new ongoing series starring DC's Man of Steel just in time to coincide with the new movie this weekend. Snyder's story features falling satellites, an angry Lex Luthor, and a superhuman secret dating back to the bombing of Japan in WW2. While Superman and Action Comics have left me cold for the past few months, this new effort shows a lot of promise. So I guess it's Up, Up, and more time.

Thumbprint #1 (IDW)

From author Joe Hill comes the gut-wrenching tale of an army private and former Abu Ghraib prison guard who seeks to start her new life out of the service. But as the solicitation copy notes, some things aren't so easily left behind. Artist Vic Malhotra is a new name to me, but what I've seen in the preview art is equal parts haunting and exciting. This old colonel isn't too proud of the things done in Old Glory's name in the last several decades, but at least the artists and writers of this generation are finally stepping up to the plate to address them.

Ehmm Theory #1 (Action Labs)

I've had more than my fill of zombie outbreak type stories, but this one includes a talking kitten. Just try and ignore a comic with a talking cat. I've got a shelf full of Sailor Moons and Chaykin's American Flagg that attest to this.

Six-Gun Gorilla #1 (Boom!)

The title says it all. I've been getting off on writer Simon Spurrier's X-Men: Legacy series for a few months now and the guy can do quirky but good. Yet underneath the sound and fury of his crazy ideas and outlandish scenarios is a usually a quality narrative. The man's like a young Peter Milliagn, blowing our minds with the Vertigo Shade: The Changing Man series all those years ago.

True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys #1 (Dark Horse)

Based on the album of the same name from girly-man rockers My Chemical Romance, True Lives is the brainchild of Gerard Way, who brought us the amazing Umbrella Academy comics several years ago. Way is quite the lyricist and a helluva storyteller. Child soldiers fighting vampires in a wasteland once called California? Either it's a recipe for disaster or a damn good comic book.

Thanks again for stopping by, and don't forget to tip your waitress.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Damn good movies - Primer

Ever start watching a movie and decide that the time travel isn't realistic enough for you? Not technical enough for you? Want to see a budding young group of researchers destroy a catalytic converter? Want to see hard Sci-Fi but can't be bothered to look any further than your Netflix instant watch list? Then I have what cures your ails! Primer.


Primer is one of the very few times where I finished a film and said to myself 'wait...what just happened?' It is also one of the very few films that has a flowchart to describe the multilayered narrative which is fraught with complication. This film is the debut of Shane Carruth, who is not only responsible for writing, producing and directing the movie - but is also (perhaps unsurprisingly) a former engineer with a college degree in mathematics.

It's been said of it that 'Anyone who gets Primer the first time they watch it is either a savant or a liar.' And honestly, I'm prone to agree. I consider myself to be a pretty attentive viewer when the film calls for it, and I had a hard time following what was happening on screen. To be honest, it should be complicated, and I'm glad that it didn't dumb itself down for the sake of the majority of viewers understanding it the first time they viewed it.

Too many films about time travel simply use it as a tool for the plot. It is a much headier topic to discuss the actual philosophical and ethical ramifications such a device would cause, if it were to exist. These are the issues that Primer explores using scientific and technical jargon just as real scientists and developers would use in the real world.

Normally, one may think that a film that requires multiple viewings to 'get it' isn't a good thing. But it's like drinking water from an oasis, surrounded by deserts of two bit plot driven stories and flat characters that Hollywood pumps out to extract cash, month after month.

Sequential viewings reward you by displaying something new, some nuance that you had not yet realized about the film. This is helped by the feverish buzz and excitement of discovery that the characters have as they are on the verge of invention. Early in the film, the characters in Primer react the same way I did when I learned that water bends light, or why the sky is blue, where that leads them to, I'm not going to spoil. I will say this though, why should time travel be left to something as simple as hitting 88 miles per hour in a DeLorean?


Evil Forever and Ever

After recording some new Club of Heroes material last night with my good friend Evan Arnold, I felt really bummed about DC's current output. I think at some point I even said "Marvel is just kicking DC's ass right now". I couldn't quite put my thoughts into words as to what exactly was driving me away from the publisher that gave me my first sweet taste of the four color smack we call comic books. I cited Marvel's boldness with books like Hawkeye and Daredevil and the fresh takes on those respective characters as one thing that made the house that Stan and Jack built seem so much more appealing. DC's events like the upcoming Trinity War don't really sing to me, although the pictures are as pretty as ever. Am I finally emerging from a looong adolescence? Good god, are my tastes maturing?


Scanning over DC's solicitations for new issues coming out in September of this year, it seems that the lunatics are running the asylum and the villains are taking over for a month. They tried this in 2009 with the Faces of Evil banner, spotlighting the bad guys and gals that the creative department wanted to "push" at the time. As a matter of fact, many of those same baddies are featured in the September solits. The book to watch is in fact a new miniseries called Forever Evil, written by DC Creative Director Geoff Johns and drawn by David Finch. The Johns/Finch team are currently on display in the Justice League of America title, charting a course for a new, more militaristic version of the League brought together by the gov'ment to counter the "regular" Justice League. Forever Evil sounds like a fun time, especially with me being a huge fan of the old Legion of Doom from the Superfriends as well as the late lamented Secret Society of Super-Villains title from the 70's. I can take or leave Finch's art, but Johns has always been at his best when redefining villains and clarifying their motivations. It's what made his Flash run so epic, in my opinion. That, and seeing Mirror Master do coke off of one of his magic mirrors. "Wonderland" indeed. . .

The rest of DC's publishing line will be borrowing a gimmick from Marvel in the form of decimal point numbered issues (#23.1, #23.2, etc). Each franchise character like Batman or Green Lantern and each main team book like Teen Titans or Justice League will have multiple Forever Evil issues that month. New faces like Relic in Green Lantern or revamped villains like The Wrath over in Detective Comics will all get some face time and a twenty page chance to make as big a splash as they can. Some of these Forever Evil issues may actually be launching points for new series down the road. Chances are pretty good that Larfleeze the Orange Lantern of Avarice will have his own series sooner than later. The premise for the main Forever Evil mini suggests that the Justice League are dead or incapacitated in some fashion, so these may be more than brief asides. The entire output for that month resembles one huge story arc that could make or break the line for me. If the allure of these villain centric stories can't get me back on the DC bus, I'm not sure what can.

Bring on the bad guys.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Club Of Heroes Podcast Episode 29: They Will Join You In The Sun

Words can't do this one justice, folks. Evan and Chris reach the end of their Superman retrospective just in time for the Man Of Steel feature film. Prepare to roll a tear or two as they pay their respects to the works of Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Mark Waid, and more!

Get your tissues ready and click HERE to listen or download the episode. Godspeed.

A Comic A Day: Cerebus #26

Published by Aardvark-Vanaheim Inc.
Written by Dave Sim
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard

When it comes to independent comics of the modern era, there's sort of a holy trinity. Bone by Jeff Smith, Strangers In Paradise by Terry Moore, and Cerebus by Dave Sim are the "must-reads" for anyone who seeks to branch out from the usual spandex-clad super serials into something with a little more gristle. While Jeff Smith epitomized all-ages comics with the critically and commercially massive Bone and Terry Moore introduced shaky, sweaty comic nerds everywhere to the modern love triangle in Strangers, Canadian cartoonist Dave Sim wrote his magnum opus Cerebus, a genre-bending romp starring a barbariac but endearing little aardvark.

Cerebus began its three hundred issue (!) existence as a loose parody of Conan the Barbarian and other sword and sorcery titles of the 70's and 80's, but would transform many times over the years incorperating elements of religion, politics, sex, and spirituality. Cerebus the Aardvark is a hard-headed ultimate badass who is constantly taken down a peg by finding himself in situations where being the alpha physical combatant is meaningless. Case in point: this issue marks the beginning of the "High Society" story arc, where the badass little bugger enters the world of politicos and fast-talkers, led astray from his warrior roots by the vile and manipulative Lord Julian.
Upon my first reading of this tome (the High Society collection contains twenty-five issues), my mind was quite blown by how experiemental every single issue was. Never falling into a rut of repetitive page layouts and panel structure for more than an issue's length, reading the book is quite a journey in itself. You'll find yourself tilting the book centerfold style and switching from regular word balloons to prose and back again. While the social commentary is far from subtle, it's never a boring read by any stretch. It was quite a jolt to return to my "normal" comics after the decathalon of reading requirements in Cerebus.

Sim saw the series through to its three hundred issue crescendo, just as he claims he's always intended. He became quite the outspoken comic book professional, even writing an essay or three on his personal views on topics like the separation of church and state and more infammatory material like societal roles for women. It's pretty keen watching his style develop and become more intricate over time. As I understand, Sim focused mainly on the characters, while his fellow artist Gerhard produced lush backgrounds and set pieces. You can definently chart his growth from an up and coming Barry Windsor Smith clone to one of the holy trinity of indy comics.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Comic A Day: Detective Comics #750

Published by DC
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Shawn Martinbrough

And just like that, I couldn't help myself.

It wasn't the stench that bothered me. It wasn't the way my teeth cracked and yellowed over time. It wasn't the newfound shortness of breath or paying seven dollars a day knowing it was killing me slowly. It was knowing that I wasn't in control, that my conscious mind gave way to new and frightening desires. That every twenty minutes I'd need another dose. Just the chemistry of it was disgusting.
It took everything from me when you really think about it. My parents, the two most beautiful people I'd ever known, had succumbed to it. My mother, good lord, I watched her hair fall out twice. She gained and lost weight and muscle mass seemingly at random. The cancer made her a monster. I didn't understand the term "humility" until I helped her off the toilet that first time and wiped the piss and shit from her legs. The treatments for the cancer were even worse. It's a brutal way to fight something. The chemotherapy was like burning a house down to kill a few rats.
My father began his adult life holding a rifle in another country for God knows what reason, and at the end of his time on Earth sat in front of the television in a diaper, beer in one hand. How proud he must've felt sitting in his waste, his one good eye fixed on John Wayne in McLintock for the umpteenth time. It's a nightmare of a life, a surreal place where the walls are melting at night and you go to use a door knob and you just . . . can't. From his bed in the hospice, he said he'd be there for my twenty-first birthday. He lied. He lied to me a lot, so what?
It's been about twenty minutes since I stared at this once blank page, believe it or not. Every twenty minutes, like clock work. What did I tell you? This was supposed to be about a comic book. I think I live in a fucking comic book.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Comic A Day: Daredevil #6 and #7

Published by Marvel
Written by Kevin Smith
Art by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti

Spoiler warning! If you haven't read Daredevil: Guardian Devil, turn away now! The crux of this article just happens to spoil the big reveal! However, I'm not too torn up about it since this comic is over ten years old. Anyway, read on at your own peril...

Kevin Smith has described himself as a "carpetbagger" in the world of comics. Every so often he swoops down from Hollywoodland and does a miniseries here or a one shot there. While most of his comic reading audience has grown tired of his delayed scripts and straight-up unfinished projects (here's looking at you, Daredevil: The Target), I've always been frustrated that the man feels he has so few stories to tell. His work on Daredevil, which I'll be spotlighting today, and his relaunch of Green Arrow over at DC are both inspired, well written pieces of serialized fiction. With the sands of time trickling on, his delays seem unimportant in the long run. Yes, what really grinds my gears about Kevin Smith comics is that there aren't more of them.

In 1998, Marvel continued the long climb back up the mountain from a base camp called bankruptcy. While their company struggled in the public face as a mess of bad buisness deals and collapsed ventures, they were also in a creative rut. X-Men and Spider-Man seemed to thrive somewhat thanks to various crossovers and cheap tricks, but most of the other Marvel properties were fading fast. Desperate enough to finally let their creators y'know, create, they sought out Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti to forge a new sub-imprint called Marvel Knights. In Marvel Knights, lesser known properties like Daredevil, Black Panther, and the Inhumans would see new life through less editorial interference and a more "mature" marketing campaign aimed at the readers of the "graphic novel" as opposed to the comic book.
The crown jewel of Marvel Knights was Kevin Smith's Daredevil, which followed what is now a common formula for at least temporary success: take a big name writer from another medium and put them on one of your struggling characters or teams. Screenwriters like Jeph Loeb had already brushed with success and critical acclaim in the comic world, but Kevin Smith's filmography and rabid, loyal fanbase opened a floodgate of geek-friendly movie and television writers coming to comics to make a quick buck or scratch an item off of their bucket lists. It didn't hurt that Smith made no bones about being a comic book fan and reader, even injecting much of that subculture into movies like Mallrats and Chasing Amy.

Smith wrote a gripping eight issue drama that read like a greatest hits record of the great Daredevil authors that came before him. Blind but radar-sense endowed Matt Murdock, the titular Man Without Fear faced a grand conspiracy that touched on his crimefighting persona, his legal profession, and his Catholic background. Drug abuse, sex scandals, and a 20th century Virgin Mary all played a part in this tangled web as well. Matt's world was once again falling apart, but the reveal of the villain in the penultimate chapter and their confrontation therein if what I'd like to point out today.

One last spoiler warning...

I mean it!

You can't get mad at me if I warn you!!

The maestro of menace and common Spider-Man sparring partner known as Mysterio stood revealed as the weaver of ol' hornhead's web of woe in all his fishbowl helmeted glory. Mr. Smith may have found a way to vent some of his frustrations with the moviegoing audience through Quentin Beck's monologue as he pulls back the curtain on the elaborate ruse that has led Daredevil to this point. There's even a bit of commentary on Mysterio and Daredevil's status as "second rate" characters. Beck believes they are made for each other and that perhaps he and Spider-Man were never on the same level.

Daredevil sees through his effects and illusions quite easily though, perhaps because he can't see at all, and Beck empties his bag of tricks in one desperate exchange after another. Finally realizing he has no where left to turn, he steals another bit as he puts it, "from Kraven". Mysterio ends his own life and Daredevil saves the day. There are many plot particulars I'd rather not get into in this limited space, but needless to say Mysterio's suicide is as hackneyed and predictable as the villain thinks it isn't. He ultimately fails as both a villain and a performer. This issue was a shock to the system the first time I read it, but that younger me had not yet read the Kraven's Last Hunt arc in Spider-Man and the broader theme of failure didn't occur to me.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Comic A Day: Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #8

Published by Marvel
Written by Peter David
Art by Mike Wieringo

A common trope in any medium of stroytelling is that of the alternate dimension. The wrath of the evil twin. Something something Gemini, blah blah blah. The writer, in this case the always entertaining Peter David, asks a simple question of something essential to the character's origin. The notion is harmless until a story forms around it, then a script appears, an artist gives it life, and suddenly a horrifying new chapter in the saga of a superhero is set to begin. Reading this issue you expect Rod Sterling to walk on-panel and give a clever set up to the proceedings, but instead something even more intriguing happens: a fragment of this little alternate dimension finds its way to the "real" world.

That's the rub with Marvel comics, isn't it? Stan Lee and his cohorts in the early sixties imagined a fantasy that was not fantasy. It was the world outside your window plus superheroes. An interlocking collection of adventure serials that appealed to both the collector and the reader. Everything in early Marvel was on a need-to-know basis and boy howdy, did you ever need to know! And when a writer in any era of Marvel asks a dreaded "what if?" you need to know what and if.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man was born in 2006 out of Marvel's resurging faith in Spider-Man as a multi-title franchise following the success of his then current movie trilogy. Writer Peter David made a much anticipated return to a character that brought him some noteriety in the 80's thanks to the Sin Eater storyline. The status of the book upon its launch and first few sequential issues was shaky at best, thanks to the aformentioned "interlocking" nature of Marvel's material. The powers that be saw fit to launch a new title right smack in the middle of a sweeping multi-part crossover epic called The Other. David's first few issues are as sharply written as anything, but he doesn't really get going until issue five and the story I chose to highlight today doesn't really begin until issue eight.

This issue sees the events of the world famous and oft imitated Amazing Fantasy #15 turned on its proverbial head. A young, freshly irradiated Peter Parker returns home from a night of profiteering on his newfound "gifts" to a sight very familiar to fans of the character. Police cars and ambulances light up his neighborhood in Queens. Fans almost cringe at this point because they know what's next. Or do they?

Power and responsibility. The tragic lesson that shaped him is swept away. Instead of Uncle Ben's untimely murder we witness his dear old Aunt May bite it. Ben comforts Peter, who no doubt is crushed by his loss, but "power and responsibility" is never mentioned because unlike Ben's murder, Aunt May's fate really isn't Peter's fault. And thus, a very different Spider-Man is born. One who seeks to make a fortune off of his powers and talents, with his widowed uncle as a manager of sorts. This is only the beginning of a three part Spider-Man saga with ramifications that would be felt throughout Peter David's all too brief tenure on the book.

After seeing a very different Spider-Man in action for the reamainder of the issue, we are always witnessing the creation of a very different Uncle Ben. No longer the ghost on Peter's shoulder, Ben Parker is a living breathing perversion of the Spider-Man mythos. And almost as if aware of his grisly fate in the "real" Marvel timeline, he clings to life and even resorts to savagery in doing so. The end of this issue and the first act of the bigger story sees Ben "jump the tracks" so to speak, casually and quite unintentionally walking from their world to ours. He has a brush with the quite living Aunt May of our world and another new foe appears to cap things off.

This is a spectacular single issue that almost feels like a complete story, even with the cliffhanger ending. Peter David's Spider-Man work is great stuff and not near plentiful enough. Always worth your time and always willing to make you think as well as laugh, he's a comic book writer that deserves more attention, even after a long and successful career. His storytelling is a great power and he approaches it with a sense of responsibility that would make Uncle Ben proud.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Comic A Day: X-Men The Hidden Years #1

Published by Marvel
Writing and Art by John Byrne

With Giant-Size X-Men #1, Len Wein & Dave Cockrum revived the dormant X-Men property at the behest of Marvel's then Editor-In-Chief, Roy Thomas. After over two years of existing merely as a reprint title, Thomas urged them to use the book as a way to expand Marvel's international audience. Aside from Cyclops and his lover Jean Grey, the core cast was swept aside to make room for characters such as the wind goddess Storm and everyone's favortie overexposed canucklehead, Wolverine. Mere issues later the torch was passed yet again.

Chris Claremont and John Byrne wrote the book on how to do super-hero teams well on a monthly basis. Their formula for action, drama, and dangling plot threads is still utilized to this day. Their run is easy enough to find thanks to Marvel's Essentials and various other reprint volumes that have been released over the years. Byrne would only be on the title a scant few years compared to Claremont, who wrote the book until the early 90's.
Years after that, John Byrne still had a steady and loyal audience at Marvel, and was still producing a lot of work. While Marvel: The Lost Generation was interesting enough and Spider-Man: Chapter One was a flop, in my opinion his most interesting effort during that time was X-Men: The Hidden Years. You may ask yourself why in the world Marvel felt they needed yet another X-book, but Byrne came at the title with an interesting gimmick.

Remember the "dormant" thing about the early 70's X-Men title I mentioned before. Between the sort-of cancellation of the book and the revival thanks to Giant Size #1, there were twenty-seven issues of reprint and filler material. Byrne looked to rectify this by setting his new series during that gap in time when the X-Men were nowhere to be seen, aside from a few guest spots here and there. He even hid the "actual" issue number somewhere in the cover art for each issue, although the logos and cover blurbs put on in post-production often obscured them.
This first issue begins immediately after prologue sequence that could be found in the backmatter of the X-Men books during that time, reintroducing us to the classic cast of Xavier's first class. It isn't long after a recap of the previous issues (which were by Roy Thomas and Neal Adams) that the strangest teens of all find themselves on an adventure in the Savage Land. If you're a Byrne fan who was turned off by his late 90's work on projects like Spider-Man: Chapter One, don't be so quick to trash this series. It's actually a pretty fun romp and Byrne even manages to incorperate many other Marvel heroes like the Fantastic Four into the mix.

This series is handily collected in two trade paaperback volumes or could probably be found for dirt cheap in a back issue bin somewhere. For the Uncanny completist, it's fun to plug in these two volumes between the Classic and Uncanny Essentials.

The Colonel's Picks For June 5th, 2013

Oh Wednesday, how I have waited for you. Fresh ink on fresh-cut manuscripts. Fresh staples! That's right, it's new comic book day and your very own Col. Reddenbacher is here to let you in on what made his pull list for this week.

Herobear & The Kid Special #1 (Boom!)

Mike Kunkel's award winning series Herobear & The Kid put him on the map and led to higher profile projects like Billy Batson& The Magic Of Shazam! at DC. Those early issues of Herobear were enchanting, but his art has also come a long way since then. This is great book for younger readers or fans of classic animated Disney films. Alas, I am still waiting for the grim and gritty reboot of Herobear, but I may just be tilting at windmills on that one.

Astro City #1 (DC)

Kurt Busiek's Astro City was a safe haven for people seeking classic superheroics during that Dark Age we refer to as the 90's. Previously published by Image comics, now the Samaritan and all his super friends have found a new home at DC. With Brent Anderson on art and Alex Ross painting those beautiful covers, we can exhale safely knowing the entire band is back together. Here's hoping they get a good lengthy run this time around.

Solo Deluxe HC (DC)

Let creators create. That might as well have been the mantra for this short lived DC anthology. Big names like Darwyn Cooke, Sergio Argones, and Paul Pope all getting to take a crack at DC characters without editorial constraints or pesky stuff like "continuity". I'm very pleased to see this finally collected in one volume, though the price tag may scare some folks away. It wouldn't hurt anybody for DC to make an annual tradition of projects such as Solo or Wednesday Comics. Well, it may hurt my wallet.

Kick-Ass 3 #1 (Marvel)

Just how much ass needs to kicked, Mr. Millar? Get ready for a third helping of Hit-Girl and crew in yet another offering from Millarworld. Naturally, the future Hall-of-Famer John Romita Jr. is on art duties so expect a pretty package. There's another Kick-Ass movie on the horizon as well, so I expect this gravy train to keep chugging along for the forseeable future.

Daredevil: Dark Nights #1 (Marvel)

Marvel already has two fantastic Daredevil books on the stands, and this might make it a hat trick. Daredevil artist and alumni Lee Weeks is at the helm of this miniseries, bringing us a tale of hope under fire. Or in this case, hope under a blizzard. Can the man without fear navigate his way through a blizzard to save a man's life? This sounds suspiciously similar to one of Mark Waid's issues from the regular series, but I'm still curious as to what Lee Weeks is gonna do to set this title apart from Waid and Bendis.

Screwed #1 (Zenoscope)

This is a cheesecake take on the Frankenstein mythos by Tyler Kirkham. I've followed Kirkham's work on DC's New Guardians title, and he's just getting better every month. It'll be interesting to see his own characters brought to life now that he's off the leash. Also, it stars a sexy Frankenstein chick and your Colonel is into that kind of thing.

Well, that's quite a stack of books! When that much quality content comes my way in one week, I can't help but feel blessed by the comic gods. Happy reading folks!