How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
“I need to know secrets and have secrets and keep secrets. I need to be confided in. Each time you come alone and you don’t tell anybody, that’s a sexual secret. The event has taken place and only you know about it and you have ministered to yourself in exactly the way you wanted to and thought of exactly what you wanted to think about. And each of these thousands of times you have come alone constitutes a perfectly unique moment, with precisely this order of images and that fold of yourself being moved by your middle finger in just that way and that biting of lower lip with exactly that degree of force, all entirely private.” (Nicholson Baker, from Vox)
The Good: Rossmo’s art and Gieni’s coloring are stellar. It’s unusual to see a post-Apocalyptic world this brightly colored, but there’s no reason for it not to be. The design of the mechanical monsters are really nice. Wiebe’s high concept is still fine even though it’s not terribly original. Maya finds an exile who had a connection with her mentor, the now-dead Calista, but he refuses to tell her about it. He goes with her to find water, though, so I’m sure the true story will come out. Like I said, it’s not terribly original, but it’s perfectly fine.
The Bad: I am becoming more snobby about the actual writing in comics, because I can’t believe that writers actually think “I’ll write these words next to each other, because they sound so cool.” When Maya is getting attacked by the strange upright mechanical dogs, she actually says “Come at me!” I mean, really? There’s also a lot of talking around things by Kessel, the exile Maya finds. She knows he’s connected to Calista, he obviously has things to get off his chest, yet he yammers on about nothing instead of getting to the point. It’s supposed to be “realistic,” I suppose, because he doesn’t want to confront his feelings, especially with someone he’s just met, but it still feels artificial. It’s a delaying tactic, because we know he’s going to tell all eventually. Perhaps that’s a nitpick, but it bugged me.
Plus, even though I don’t have a problem with the high concept, it really is not terribly original. Hence, I put it in both categories!
So, yeah. When this happens to the dramatic phrase you use in the middle of your comic, perhaps you should reconsider it:
The Ugly: This dog.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
The Good: Foster is a nice, gritty supernatural crime drama. Buccellato sets it in “Bridgetown,” which is NOT in Barbados (the front cover claims the city is both “nameless” and called “Vintage City,” but the text calls it Bridgetown), and introduces us to Ed Foster, a alcoholic Vietnam vet (the book is set in the early 1970s) who lives down the hall from a woman named Trina, with whom he apparently had a relationship. Her son, Ben, is left alone often, and Foster wants nothing to do with him but feels somehow responsible for him. The city is inhabited by strange creatures called Dwellers who have some interest in Ben. Foster is far more capable with a gun than he appears, and when the Dwellers come for Ben, he takes care of many of them. He also discovers that Ben has a secret, which is presumably why the Dwellers want him. Tuazon is a good artist for this gritty kind of story, as his rough pencil work gives us a good sense of the ugliness of Bridgetown and the fringe of society on which Foster lives. Buccellato’s grimy color scheme completes the picture. It’s a decent start to the series. The book has been done for a while – you can buy it at Buccellato’s web site, and he had copies of it at the Phoenix Con in May. In fact, I got a second printing of the issue even though this is the first time it’s been offered through Diamond. Strange.
The Bad: I mentioned with regard to Hawkeye a few weeks ago that far too many comics are grounded in the ethos of the 1970s, when a lot of current comics writers grew up (Buccellato is about my age, so he certainly grew up in the Seventies). Well, Foster wallows in that. Here’s the thing, though – I wouldn’t mind it if we simply got the story that happens to be set in the early 1970s (to be honest, I don’t know when it’s set – Foster has a flashback that certainly looks more Vietnam than Iraq/Afghanistan, but Buccellato could just be setting it in a present that has had no technological advances in the past 40 years), but Buccellato bashes us over the head with it. He proudly writes that this is a world “before internet, Starbucks and cell phones.” It’s a city filled with “working stiffs scurrying out of the streetcars in fitted suits and porkpie hats,” “a stylized technicolor world that Harry Callahan, Popeye Doyle and Doc McCoy could call home …” The problem I have with this is that if you’re going to set the book in a specific time period, there should be a reason. And that reasons shouldn’t be “because the writer thinks it’s cool.” I don’t have a problem with Foster being set in the early 1970s, but I wonder why it’s set during that time. In this issue, Buccellato doesn’t give us a reason. That doesn’t mean the book is bad, of course, but I do hope it’s not set during this time because Buccellato has fond memories of watching Police Woman (I wouldn’t blame him, of course, but still).
Also, Foster is kind of a non-entity so far. Again, I know it’s only one issue, but he’s very much a stereotype: The loner who everyone thinks is a loser but is really noble underneath all the grime. I really hope he has more layers than that. But I’m willing to wait!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
The Good: Biagini continues to do nice work on the art. In this issue, he does a Hickman-esque diagram of the Higher Earth system which helps explain what’s going on in this universe, and the scenes with the queen are very well done, with nice designs and clothing (cribbed a bit from Star Wars, true, but still nice) (and you tend to forget how gorgeous Natalie Portman is until you do a Google Image search for her, don’t you?). Plus, there’s the bear with the giant robot arms and claws, so that’s nice. Humphries moves the story along briskly, and this remains a fun read.
The Bad: Now that we’ve established that alternate realities exist, it’s hard for Humphries to drop bombshells on us. Yet he does it twice in this issue, but we can see both coming a mile away. So why does he do it? It gets back to Wiebe writing “Come at me!” with no irony whatsoever. Oh, and a few pages after Rex tells Heidi that Nazrin can’t hear her, Nazrin responds directly to a question that Heidi asks. So can she hear Heidi or not? Yes, I’m nitpicking. I don’t care.
The Ugly: Dang.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
The Good: On the one hand, Spencer does a good thing. He introduces a bunch of new students to act as nemeses to the ones we’ve already met, mainly because he’s been splitting them up and doing nasty things to them. So the cover is a parody/homage of issue #1, and we meet Irina, Ian, Guillaume (okay, we’ve already met him), Vanessa, Fortunato, and Akiko. Hisao also shows up again (or is it Jun?), and Spencer packs in as much character development for the new characters as he can (luckily he has the Eisma-Bot 3000x drawing for him, and the Eisma-Bot needs no sustenance or human interaction so it can crank out 36 pages with stunning speed!), while dovetailing into what happens after the ending of, what, issue #19? I didn’t think the book was getting stale, but I did wonder if Spencer was ever going to show other students and what happened to them. Lo and behold, so he does. Eisma, of course, continues to do a nice job – as this isn’t a superhero book, he still doesn’t have to do too much action, but he’s gotten really good at the characters’ facial expressions, and he works well with Spencer to give us a lot of non-verbal communication. Plus, check out how bad-ass Irina looks in that panel.
The Bad: On the other hand, this is a lot of new characters, and as much as Spencer tries to give them distinguishing characteristics, they’re very similar to the students we already know. I know that they’re teenagers who have been accepted to a very exclusive prep school that probably takes “Type A personalities”, but they still seem very familiar. According to our intrepid commenter Travis Pelkie (I think it was Travis; he can correct me if I’m wrong), Spencer plans to write Morning Glories until the sun goes nova, so I hope he doesn’t just keep introducing new characters who are similar to the ones we’ve already seen just so he can kill off the old ones. Obviously, I really like this comic, so I’m going to stick with it and see what happens with these characters, but while I appreciate that he brought them in, I hope he tries harder to make them interesting people rather than just enemies of the original group. We’ll see.
The Ugly: Really, Seattle?
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
The Good: Um, Looker is awesome? I mean, check out that awesome costume!
The Bad: Man, where do I start? Look, I like Ian Edginton. I think he’s a pretty good writer, which is why I picked this up. But this is a terrible comic book. With this whole “reboot-not-reboot” thing that DC has been doing, there’s some freedom to muck around with these Z-list characters that they have in their stable. So why does Edginton keep the worst thing that has been done to Emily Briggs in her entire existence and retain her vampire-ness? It’s idiotic that she’s still a vampire. It’s even worse that the guy who created her, Mike Barr, turned her into one. I don’t know why he did it – she was turned in the early 1990s, which was early on in both the recent vampire craze and the extreme-ification of characters, so maybe he thought it was a good idea. Sorry, Mr. Barr – it wasn’t. Now there’s been a reboot, and instead of actually re-inventing Looker or getting her back to her roots, Edginton just goes with the vampire thing. And it’s stupid. Wait, she’s a vampire avenger now? Oooh, how edgy. Jeebus.
The story is pretty dumb, too. The sole interesting aspect Edginton adds to her story is that she now owns a modeling agency because obviously she can’t model. But anything else interesting about the character is gone – she’s a hard-ass with a heart of gold (how shocking!); she has no superpowers; she isn’t married; she has apparently no “mousy” side, which made her first incarnation so unusual. This Looker is just a hot chick kicking ass. Yes, we all like hot chicks kicking ass, but doesn’t it get a bit boring after a while? Oh, and of course there’s a sensitive ex-cop who happens to be blind who digs Emily but, of course, appears to be at least 10-15 years older than she is. And of course there’s an evil monster that Looker has to fight. Yawn. It’s just an amazingly dull comic with absolutely nothing to recommend it. Oh, and Mike Miller is a standard superhero artist, meaning everyone is pretty and Looker’s boobs look amazing and the backgrounds are dull and bland. Miller is the conservative artist who, so the urban legend goes (I think Our Dread Lord and Master should look into it!), was blacklisted because of his political leanings. Whether that makes you more or less inclined to buy this comic, I don’t know, but it shouldn’t matter. Boycott this comic because it’s lousy, not because a conservative drew it!
The Ugly: She’s “movie ugly,” which means all she needs is a slutty outfit (she already has that!), Freddie Prinze, Jr., and contact lenses, and she’ll be ready to go! Rachel Leigh Cook knows what I’m talking about!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
The Good: First, that cover. Dang, it’s good. Moving on, though, Bunn and Hurtt continue to do a nice job – this has quickly rebounded to once again be one of the best books out there. We get an update on the general, who speaks cryptically (well, sort of – he has to be talking about Becky, I would reckon), and Gord Cantrell makes an appearance, as he’s searching for Drake and Becky, but mainly this issue follows out two main characters as they try to find a tracker. That goes sideways very quickly, and Drake is forced to fight a bunch of nasty wolves. Even when he reaches their destination (he sent Becky ahead to reach the fort), he discovers what Becky did – no one is going to be much help. Oh dear. The weather and the wolves and the fort give this a real “Assault on Precinct 13″ kind of vibe – will Drake and Becky be forced to stay in the fort and fight off whatever horrible stuff is out in the woods? Plus, Hurtt is awesome. That’s not really a surprise, but it’s worth noting.
The Bad: Nothing, really, except the Knights of Solomon, who are guarding the general’s body, are still kind of dull. Even Brother Roberto, who’s the most developed of the Knights, is kind of dull. Oh well.
The Ugly: Gadzooks, I say.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
The Good: Mark Waid does a decent job with the arch dialogue in this comic, and the plot is suitably ridiculous. The Hellfire Club is apparently kidnapping British agents, knocking them out, putting some kind of aging make-up on them, and telling them it’s the year 2000 (the book is set in 1966). They then tell the agents that their archives are woefully incomplete and that the agents need to tell them crucial information. Why any British agent would believe this cockamamie story is beyond me, but The Avengers, from what I remember of it, had a lot of goofy plots like this, so whatever. Waid does a bit better with Mrs. Peel than Steed in terms of dialogue, but it’s not bad. Bryant does a nice job with the silly sci-fi aspect of “the future,” with flying cars and ray guns.
The Bad: It’s very hard to capture the rhythm and timing of television shows in comics, and Waid doesn’t really do it here. While some of the quips are nice, the fact that we’re not hearing the dialogue in Patrick Macnee’s wry British drawl or Diana Rigg’s somewhat haughty tones weakens it a bit. Comics are better than television and movies in a lot of things, but great actors can really take dialogue and make it sing, and they obviously can’t do that here. It’s not that Waid’s dialogue is terrible, it’s just that it doesn’t feel as inspired on the page, and I imagine it would sound better if it was spoken. The story, too, is almost too ridiculous, and while I don’t mind too much, I hope that Waid will get a bit more serious. Boom! created this series because they acquired the rights to the old Grant Morrison/Ian Gibson “Steed and Mrs. Peel” series and reprinted it recently, and even though Morrison’s plots were weird, there was an element of danger to them as well. Yes, one British agent dies in this book, but it never feels very serious. I’m also not sure how the bad guys turned Steed old and how he suddenly reverted back to a younger man. His “re-youthening” takes place, quite literally, between panels, so I had no idea what was happening.
Bryant isn’t a bad artist, but this is not his best work. I’m not sure why he’s so sketchy in this book, but it helps highlight his biggest flaw – a problem with action. He’s good at characters and misc-en-scene, but he’s not great at action, and the book requires that. He also tries too hard to make Steed and Mrs. Peel look like Macnee and Rigg, (not a terrible idea at all), but because he does, there are some odd poses that make it appear he was using images that don’t really fit the scene. And if he couldn’t find photo references, the characters don’t look like Macnee and Rigg at all. So the book has a very inconsistent look to it. Bryant has never been anything but nice to me when I’ve met him, so I hope he doesn’t hunt me down like a dog for saying this, but I know he can do much better than this.
I’m going to get a few more issues of this series, but this isn’t the greatest way to kick it off, unfortunately. Dang. I really wanted to love this.
The Ugly: Come on, no one wants to see that. Some people probably just ate!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
This has taken a bit longer to come out than I thought it would, but I’m still glad it showed up. The first volume was very good, and I’m looking forward to this one!
That little noseless kid is just so darned cute!
Guarding the Globe volume 1: Under Siege by Robert Kirkman (writer), Benito Cereno (writer), Ransom Getty (penciler/inker), Kris Anka (penciler/inker), Cliff Rathburn (inker), Jonathan Glapion (inker), Russell Jackson (inker), Fco Plascencia (colorist), Ron Riley (colorist), Thomas Mason (colorist), Rex Stabbs (color assistant), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $16.99, 125 pgs, FC, Image/Skybound.
This trade was originally solicited in March … 2011, for a late May release. Yeah, that worked out well. Hey, Mr. Kirkman, how’s Image United coming along?
Journey into Mystery volume 1: Fear Itself by Kieron Gillen (writer), Doug Braithwaite (penciler), Ulises Arreola (colorist), Andy Troy (colorist), and Clayton Cowles (letterer). $15.99, 104 pgs, FC, Marvel.
And so it begins … the first of four straight months that Marvel will release a Gillen Journey into Mystery trade paperback. I’m sure it’s good stuff – it’s Gillen without Greg Land, after all – but why did Marvel wait so long? I know that Bill Reed is skipping these because he doesn’t want to pony up 16 bucks every month for four months, and I wonder if anyone else who was curious about this title is going to do the same thing. Well done, Marvel. (I should point out that Bill Reed is amazingly cheap – the dude likes to pee in a glass, add a lemon, and call it “Hefeweizen” – but the point still stands.)
Rex Mundi Omnibus volume 1 by Arvid Nelson (writer), EricJ (artist), Jim Di Bartolo (artist/colorist), Juan Ferreyra (artist/colorist), Brian Churilla (artist), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Jason Millet (colorist). $24.99, 582 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.
I think I’ve said about all I can about this series, in case you’re wondering. Yes, the dimensions are smaller than a “regular” comic book, which is a bit frustrating, but it includes the Brother Matthew on-line stuff, which I’ve never read. Everyone wins!
Before I get into anything else, I should point out that today is my older daughter’s tenth birthday. Yay, Mia! Considering we weren’t sure she’d see her first one, this is pretty cool. It’s certainly been an interesting ten years, and we always hope that every day will be better than this last one.
Moving on, apparently you better watch Jersey Shore now, because this season will be its last. I watched about 30 minutes of the hour-long first episode and could not stand it, and I haven’t watched since (not even for this). I’m not terribly surprised that the cast has become such big stars. This is the way the world works. That first link, by the way, contains the “Snooki punch” that even I can’t condone. I mean, Snooki seems like a horrible person, but really, dude who punches her? Really?
Apparently, Bic came out with pens “For Her,” and Amazon reviewers have been having a field day.
In political news, we have a tempest in a tea pot: Republicans want the FCC to regulate cable channels as well as networks. It’s never going to happen, but it does seem interesting that the party of tiny government wants to regulate these kinds of things but not, I don’t know, pollution.
On Facebook, Greg Hatcher and John Layman, two dyed-in-the-wool liberals, linked to this article about Paul Ryan’s speech at the convention. As both Greg and Layman allude to, it’s a bit hard to believe this is on Fox News’ web site. Good for you, Fox News! Here’s the thing I don’t understand about the media, though: If they know Paul Ryan lied (or, to be fair, Obama, or any other politician), why don’t they confront that person instead of just writing about it on a web site? I assume someone will interview Paul Ryan between now and the election. I will bet that person won’t say, “So, in your speech you said ______, and I can prove to you that you lied. What do you say?” Our media has no balls whatsoever. Sure, they’ll say politicians lie, but when they sit down with those politicians, they throw them softballs. Sack up, media!
Every year, I get a little bit less interested in football, but it is starting up this weekend (tonight, in fact), and with the Penn State thing this past year, I’m very interested to see what happens with my alma mater. Is anyone watching any particular game this weekend? I really haven’t been paying attention to other teams, because I’m sure ESPN will manipulate things so that an SEC team and probably USC will play for the MNC. That’s what they want, and that’s what they’ll get. I’m also a bit excited for pro football, because I think the Eagles will have a better team than last year. Michael Vick will apparently wear a military-grade vest to protect his ribs, so maybe he can play the entire season! Yeah, I wouldn’t bet on it. Still, I’ll probably get sucked into the football vortex, even though I always try to escape!!!!
My iPod is out of commission this week (actually, the cord to plug into the car is out of commission, and the iPod got reset once again, so I figured I’d give it a rest for now), so it’s back to Top Ten Lists. This time I thought I’d list my ten favorite songs about dancing. Listen, I don’t dance. Well, I can do some ballroom dances, but as for dancing like those cool people at the clubs … no. But I love songs about dancing. Not necessarily just songs with a good beat, but songs about getting up and dancing. Why do I love said songs? NO MAN CAN SAY! I just do. So here are my favorites, in chronological order:
1. “Burn This Disco Out” by Michael Jackson (1979). Off The Wall is a really good album, and it’s bookended by two superb songs, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and this song. The title says it all, but that’s okay. I’m sure we’ve all burned a disco or two out in our time!
2. “Come Dancing” by The Kinks (1982). My wife loathes this song. Loathes it with every fiber of her being!!!!! So of course whenever it comes on my iPod and she’s in the car, I turn it up! (Just like Freedom Rock.) I’m kind of a sucker for nostalgia, and the idea of a girl going out to the dance hall and having a good time and then growing up while the dance hall gets turned into a parking lot makes me wistful. And I didn’t even grow up in the 1950s!
3. “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats (1983). Oh, of course it’s ridiculous. But remember: you CAN dance it you want to, but you’ll have to leave your friends behind!
4. “And We Danced” by The Hooters (1985). There was something oddly innocent about some dance music in the 1980s, and this song exemplified that. It’s a peppy, joyous song about having fun, even though there’s a slight sexual undercurrent running through it. Rob Hyman’s vocals are perfectly suited for the first verse’s lightness, while Eric Bazilian adds just the slightest roughness to the second verse’s more sexual tone. Plus, mandolins!
5. “Get Up! (Before The Night Is Over)” by Technotronic (1989). I suppose most people like “Pump Up The Jam” more, but I was always partial to this one. Dare you ignore Ya Kid K.’s directive? I think not!
6. “Bust A Move” by Young MC (1989). If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that you shouldn’t stand on the wall like you was Poindexter. You never know when a chick is going to walk by and you wish you could sex her.
7. “The Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground (1990). Don’t fight it! “I’ll eat up all your crackers and your licorice”!
8. “Last Call” by The Popes (2000). The Popes were Shane MacGowan’s backing band after he left the Pogues, and then they went off on their own. “Last Call” is a rollicking tune about having a last dance and a last drink before the bar closes. Good times!
9. “Pull Shapes” by The Pipettes (2006). I don’t know why it’s called “Pull Shapes,” but I bet Kieron Gillen does. I know The Pipettes are simply channeling 1960s girl groups, and this song is a light as gossamer, but I love it. Clap your hands if you want some more!
10. “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing” by Scissor Sisters (2006). Yes, it’s a slightly sad love song, but dancing is a metaphor, man! I mean, he knows he’s changed, but his lover hasn’t, and is willing to lose his love? Oh, the conundrum!
I’m sure I’ve forgotten some, but those are the ones I can think of. Feel free to chime in! And hey, there’s always time for Totally Random Lyrics!
“I’m the one without a soul, I’m the one with this big fucking hole
No new tale to tell, twenty-six years on my way to hell
Gotta listen to your big time, hard line, bad luck, fist fuck
Don’t think you’re having all the fun, you know me – I hate everyone”
I know – that’s too easy, but I just love the bleakness of it all after listing those mostly fun tunes!
Have a nice day, everyone, and be sure that you give your loved ones a big hug today. You should do that every day, of course, but maybe you’ve forgotten!
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