How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
Let us not be deluded by forms of government. The word may be republic in France, constitutional monarchy in Prussia, absolute monarchy in Austria, but the thing is the same. Wherever there is a vast standing army, the government is the government of the sword. (Benjamin D’Israeli, 1852)
Atlas #2 by Jeff Parker (writer), Gabriel Hardman (artist, main story), Ramon Rosanas (artist/colorist, back-up story), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colorist, main story), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.
The latest Comic Critics notwithstanding, issue #2 of Atlas is another good issue, as after issue #1’s slightly espionage-ish feel, Delroy Garrett hooks up with the Agents and everyone gets to fight. First they fight Mr. Lao, who doesn’t like Delroy, then we get the first of two views of the fight against the weird zombie things from issue #1 (it’s a flashback), then they fight rock creatures in Iceland. Holy Hannah, that’s a lot of fighting (one might even say that everyone was kung fu fighting, if one were so inclined). It leads up to the revelation that (shocking!) someone is behind all of this. I know, what a shock! As usual, the plot in a superhero comic matters less than how the creators work with the characters, and Parker does a fine job with the A o’ A. Delroy is a bit cynical but also awed by the agents, and the banter between the characters is humorous. Parker drops some interesting tidbits in there about the future of the team, and it’s nice to see Derek Khanata again. I’m not entirely sure why we needed the back-up story – it tells us a bit about the team, but not much – but I suppose it existed simply so Hardman wouldn’t have to draw all 22 pages. Speaking of Hardman, he continues to do wonderful work – his vision of Venus singing to Mr. Lao is really well done. And his “superhero” stuff keeps improving – his Icelandic rock monsters are pretty danged cool. If Hardman can only do 17 or so pages an issue, I’m perfectly happy to see the back-up stories, especially when his 17 pages are so much cooler than many others’ 22 pages.
I’m still glad that Jeff Parker has those negatives of Joey Q, because it means we keep getting issues of Atlas. Whoo-hoo!
One totally Airwolf panel:
Far be it from me to question the all-mighty wisdom of Joey Q and Dan Buckley, but I simply don’t get their publishing strategy. After issue #5, Liu and Acuña are off the book and Duane Swierczynski and Manuel Garcia are taking over. I’m not surprised that Acuña is gone, as he’s never struck me as a terribly fast artist, but why switch out one not-terribly-popular writer for another not-terribly-popular writer? You understand, I’m not talking about quality here, as many people think when we start discussing the business of comics. If we were talking about quality, plenty of creators would never work again. I’m talking about the fact that Liu isn’t popular enough that she can sell a mid-level character’s book on the strength of her name, and neither is Swierczynski. They’re both novelists who haven’t set the world of comics on fire. If this is another S.W.O.R.D. situation, where the pre-orders killed the book before issue #1 even shipped, why bother continuing it? Iron Man 2 is in the rearview mirror, it didn’t goose sales on Black Widow, I doubt if ScarJo is calling Marvel and begging them to keep publishing it so it can spruce up interest in a spin-off, so what’s the deal? If Liu wanted to bail on the book after one arc, that’s fine, but this just seems weird. But, as I point out, I’m not a marketing genius.
Anyway, that’s too bad, because this is an entertaining comic and although I can’t say Liu has done a ton with the character work, she has a good handle on the espionage stuff and she’s willing to show Natasha as less than impressive (she gets beaten up again in this issue, and while you might think it’s odd that I think that’s a good thing that she gets beaten up, I just think it’s cool that she’s not SuperWidow and that there are, after all, people in the world who might be stronger than she is) and the story keeps unspooling nicely, as we get some more information about why Natasha was almost gutted in the first place. I’m not sure why Natasha needs a blonde chick to lure Woody Allen out of the nightclub when she, Natasha, is a hottie in her own right (and Woody doesn’t know who she is), but it gives Acuña a chance to draw a hot blonde with a low-cut dress, so there’s that. Acuña continues to do a great job with the art – Natasha and Elektra’s fight is very keen, as is the battle against the big bad guys at the end of the issue. This is a good book, and I’m looking forward to reading the next two issues.
I’ll probably give Swierczynski a chance, because he’s not bad, and I dig Garcia’s art, but I do wonder what’s going on with the shift in creative teams. It seems awfully arbitrary so soon into the book’s existence. I mean, Marvel has cancelled books for less, and they never saw the need for a Black Widow ongoing before, so why now? Beats me.
One totally Airwolf panel:
Fables #96 (“Rose Red Chapter Three: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”) by Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciller), Steve Leialoha (inker), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.
I wouldn’t say this is a disappointing issue of Fables, because it continues the story of Rose Red and Snow White and their sibling relationship, but Willingham apparently wants to get through some more important stuff, so he powers through the story of Snow White that we’re all familiar with just to get to the point, which is that Rose Red has been blaming Snow White for centuries for abandoning her and maybe she shouldn’t have done that. Willingham tosses a couple of interesting twists into the story, but not too much. He brings up the idea that Snow White was raped by the dwarfs, for instance, but that’s an old idea and Willingham wisely moves past it quickly. There’s a lot of narration, which makes the issue plod along a bit, but the tortoise with the tea cup on its back is kind of neat. It just gets us from point A to point B – it’s kind of like a Yugo that way – but as I’ve been reading Fables for eight years now, I know that it’s a small bump on the road.
Mark Buckingham really doesn’t get enough credit on this book, because his art is wonderful. His clothing is well designed, from the peasants’ garb to the nobles’ finery, and his marvelous work in the forests is gorgeous. Buckingham also does a masterful job showing how the characters change – not necessarily age, but change – as on three successive pages, we get Rose crying and looking miserable, then cruel and haughty and beautiful as she prepares to meet Snow again, and then back in the present in bed, looking miserable again, but in a different way than the previous scene. It’s a neat trick, and Buckingham does a great job with it. Buckingham works fast, too, even though he needs a break every so often. It’s just beautiful art, and it helps the issues when Willingham is off his game a bit, as he is here.
But I’m still looking forward to the next issue, because I know it will get better. It always does!
One totally Airwolf panel:
Well over a year after issue #3 came out (it showed up on 20 May 2009), the end of the first “act” shows up, and it just depresses me. I know that Kelly and Fiumara have to eat, so I get why this has to wait, but it still depresses me. Four Eyes is really, really good, and I hope people discover it through the trade paperback that was recently solicited, but I fear that Kelly will never get to tell the story he wants to. Maybe Fiumara will get too busy to finish it, and while another artist might do fine on it, Fiumara is excellent and it would be a shame if he took off. Meanwhile, Kelly finishes the arc well, as Enrico is found in the cave after the big horrific experience last issue. He found shelter in the dung heap with the baby dragon, with whom he bonds nicely and wants to keep as a pet. Mr. Fawkes wants to put it out of its misery, but Enrico doesn’t allow him. So this sets up the rest of the story, which I hope we’ll get to see.
Kelly also does a very cool job showing how Enrico has grown up a bit during this arc, as he confronts Mr. Boccioni after returning home. Enrico does it subtly, as he suspects Boccioni had something to do with his father’s death and knows that Boccioni may have left him in the cave on purpose, but he never says that out loud. It’s much more of how they look at each other – Fiumara kills on the panels – and they just know that they’re enemies, even though Enrico’s mother still thinks of Boccioni as a protector. The dragons are always neat, but Kelly and Fiumara’s work on the relationships between the people – when Enrico’s mother rejects her suitor, for instance – makes the book shine.
I’m loving this book so much, and I get sad that it comes out so danged slowly and probably doesn’t gain any readers because of it. I encourage you to pick up the trade when it comes out (which, I hope, will be soon) and I really hope that Kelly and Fiumara can work a tiny bit faster on the comic. Last year two issues came out. I would be happy if we could get one more this year, and maybe they could aim for three annually? That would be groovy!
One totally Airwolf panel:
Hellblazer #268 (“Sectioned Part Two: Apotemnophilia”) by Peter Milligan (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (layouter), Stefano Landini (finisher), Trish Mulvihill (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.
So, you know, holy shit. Milligan just keeps getting better on this, doesn’t he? I mean, Shade the Changing Man is right in his wheelhouse, but his work with John is really impressive here, as our hero tries to summon our favorite cool-coat-wearing Metan and finds it’s a bit more difficult than he thought. He’s becoming more and more insane, which is probably why Shade eventually shows up – his Technicolor Dream Coat is fueled by the crazy, don’t you know! John decides that he doesn’t really need some of his body parts (hence the name of the issue), which leads to some shocks, and there’s something very weird going on with Epiphany, and Milligan brings back one of his best characters and gives this character a truly great line. Why would I spoil it for you, good readers?
Milligan keeps fucking with John, and I love it. He’s turning the screws nicely, and while this probably works better for you if you read a 20-year-old comic, it still works if you have no idea who Shade actually is, because John still remains the focus, and it actually feels like he’s going insane, which is more than it’s felt occasionally in the past. And the creepy hospital remains creepy even though Milligan doesn’t go the clichéd, Tim-Robbins-in-Jacob’s Ladder hospital route – it’s bright and clean, but the people working in it are fucked up. So that’s neat.
You know, I was digging this arc until this issue, but this issue took it to a new level. Yowza! And I hope nothing happens to that returned character! That would honk me off.
One totally Airwolf panel:
I do so wish The Lone Ranger would come out more often. Why do I like all these books that come out so rarely? Confound it!!!!!!
Last issue I worried that John’s sister-in-law and nephew were not long for this world, or at least one of them wasn’t. I also hoped that Matthews wouldn’t fall into that trap, and he doesn’t, as Linda and Dan both survive! Yay! I hope that didn’t spoil for you, but come on – that’s good news, right? Oh well – they survive. Deal with it. I wanted to spoil how they survived, but it’s just too cool. So there you go.
Otherwise, the story continues nicely along, as John and Tonto realize they probably shouldn’t have left Linda and Dan alone on the homestead, Sheriff Don gets two visitors, one much less welcome than the other, and Mr. Winthrop makes a fateful choice. It’s your typical slow burn kind of issue, with some moments of gripping violence and a great deal of simmering. Next issue finishes the story arc, so we’ll see how Matthews “resolves” everything. Or if he even does. It’s all about long-term storytelling with The Lone Ranger!
One totally Airwolf panel:
Okay, so I’m not going to write about the story in this issue. I’m pretty sure this is a four-issue mini-series, so we’ll see how Spencer wraps it up next issue. Hernandez does some police work, a reporter crashes a party to find out some information, and there’s a long torture scene. There you have it.
I want to focus on Geen’s art. Geen stopped by the blog after issue #1 came out, and while I haven’t met him and don’t know what he’s like, he was gracious enough to not call me a tool for listing his name as “Green,” which was cool of him. And I do like the art on this series – it’s a weird blend of photo-referencing and minimalist backgrounds, and Geen’s coloring makes the book spookier than the script implies. But … here’s this issue. Man.
I felt the rumblings of discontent when I turned to page 2 and saw James Gandolfini. Oh dear. The use of actors as characters in comic books is now pretty standard, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Geen goes a bit nutty with this, though, and I want to question it. I hadn’t noticed if Hernandez is based on any specific actor, but now I have to wonder. If Geen hasn’t been doing this in the first two issues, why now? We get Tony Soprano, and then we get what is possibly William H. Macy, and then we get Giovanni Ribisi, and finally Julianne Moore. I can’t quite figure out who the reporter is, but I have to assume it’s another actor. This bugs the hell out of me, and when it happens with one character or one that doesn’t show up that often, I can forgive it (Colin Ferrell as Godfrey McClaine in Sparta U. S. A. annoys me, but I don’t recognize if any other characters are actors, so it doesn’t bother me too much). But this is a lot of famous people showing up in this comic, and I don’t get it. What I never get about it is why artists use famous people. I have to imagine that artists know people, so can’t they take pictures of those people and put them in the comic? Is it because they’d have to pay those people (although why would that be, if they’re people you know and are willing to stand there and get their pictures taken?) and actors’ images are in the public domain? I don’t know, but it’s very distracting, and it makes me like the art less. If Geen was using unknown people and filtering it through whatever you filter it through when you do this stuff, I think I would enjoy this a lot more. I just keep seeing the actors, and it bugs me.
I don’t want to pick on Geen, as I know this is SOP for some artists and, honestly, I don’t have a huge problem with it. What I object to is using so many famous people in one issue. Give Gandolfini a beard or something to mix it up a bit! Sigh. I’m still looking forward to the resolution of the mini-series, and I hope I’m not too distracted.
One totally Airwolf panel:
Holy crap, this looks phe-frickin’-nomenal. I’ve heard so many good things about this, and I’m really geeked to read it.
I had already ordered this when I saw a bit of it in the Red 5 Free Comic Book Day comic, which looked pretty cool. So I’m glad I had already ordered it!
Conan: The Spear and Other Stories by Timothy Truman (writer), Paul Lee (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), Richard Starkings (letterer), and Jimmy Betancourt (letterer). $14.99, 119 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.
I really enjoy the Dark Horse Conan series. I just thought I’d share that with you.
The Complete D. R. & Quinch by Some Grumpy Old Northamptonshire Man (writer), Alan Davis (writer/artist), Jamie Delano (writer), Mark Farmer (inker/colorist), Steve Potter (letterer), and Jack Potter (letterer). $17.99, 101 pgs, BW/FC, Rebellion.
Well, this is disappointing. My 20-year-old copy of this is in color, but it doesn’t have the few pages written by Jamie Delano. This is NOT in color, except the Jamie Delano pages. What in the hell is up with that? I assume the original pages were colored, and even if they weren’t, in the copy I have, the coloring is fine. Why on earth is this mostly in black and white?
Even so, if you can’t find any old copies, this is a fantastic comic. It is one of the ten funniest comics I’ve read, and by far the funniest thing Grumpy Old Man Moore has ever written. And, of course, it looks great.
I flipped through this, and it looks really keen. I’m not sure how Young will get a female samurai to Victorian England from feudal Japan, but we shall see.
I’ve never read anything by Malkasian. I’m looking forward to it!
I know nil-nil draws get your blood pumping, so this year’s World Cup should be your cup of tea! So far, my favorite matches have been:
1. U. S. 1, England 1. Well, of course – I’m American! And I love reading all the people in the English tabs getting all bent out of shape about the fact that they didn’t destroy us. Boo hoo, ya wankers!
2. Germany 4, Australia 0. As I spent some of my formative years in Germany, they’re kind of my second team (or my favorite when the Americans don’t make the field), and they absolutely destroyed the Aussies. I always like when goals come from crisp passing and excellent finishes rather than set pieces or luck (see: Clint Dempsey), and the German goals were all like that. As much as I like the country of Australia, they looked utterly lost. Go back to playing the didgeridoo and drinking Carlton, ya footy-playin’ bastards!
3. Switzerland 1, Spain 0. I always love when the darlings get knocked off (unless it’s someone I like, of course), and that Swiss goal was pretty wacky. Everyone just falling over themselves!
Now we’re into the second round, and I’m looking forward to the American match against the trash-talking Slovenes. Really, Slovenia? And Mexico just scored a goal against France in the 64th minute. How Javier Hernandez wasn’t offside I’ll never know. Man, that was close.
And let’s move on to The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle But Which Often Gets Reset, A Vexing Dilemma):
1. “Any Way You Want It” – Journey (1980) “I was alone, I never knew what good love could do”
2. “All My Little Words” – Magnetic Fields (1999) “Now that you’ve made me want to die you tell me that you’re unboyfriendable”
3. “Space” – James (2001) “Gotta learn to see yourself a total stranger”
4. “Somebody Save Me” – Cinderella (1986) “And that shit you ate for breakfast, well it’ll only give you cancer”
5. “Word Bomber” – Chumbawamba (2008) “Throw your rhymes at passers-by”
6. “Come Sail Away” – Styx (1977) “But we’ll try best as we can to carry on”
7. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” – Supremes (1966) “But how can we still be friends when seeing you only breaks my heart again”
8. “Cathedral Wall” – Marillion (1998) “And I will love you but I won’t know you anymore”
9. “Come Alive” – Foo Fighters (2007) “Still I tried to find my way spinning hours into days”
10. “Watershed” – Indigo Girls (1990) “Every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh”
No one got the totally random lyrics last week, as they were from “Flippin’ Tha Bird” by Ruby from their debut album Salt Peter, released in 1995. Not a bad tune, and not a bad album. And how about we give a look at some new totally random lyrics!
“Well I get so lonely when I am without you
But in my mind, deep in my mind
I can’t forget about you
Good times and faces that remind me
I’m tryin’ to forget your name
And leave it all behind me
You’re comin’ back to find me”
Yeah, they’re easy. But they were on my mind! Hence the randomness of the lyrics!
Have a nice day!
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