Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
It’s that time of year again where I look at my pull list and decide what stays and what goes.
These decisions have been made remarkably easy this year, because so many of my favorites are either miniseries that are ending or ongoings that have been canceled outright. I was very sad to say goodbye to The Spider and The Shadow Now, and The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, The Shadow Year One, The Black Bat and Doc Savage are soon to follow.
I guess I shouldn’t complain. Dynamite running a publishing schedule based almost exclusively on “Everything Greg Hatcher thought was awesome in 1977″ couldn’t last forever. It’s really a crying shame about The Black Bat and The Lone Ranger, though, because those books have been hitting a nice groove lately. The Lone Ranger tale that is just coming out now in trade paperback, “Back East,” is one of the smartest Ranger stories I’ve ever seen done in any medium.
On the other hand, Dynamite hasn’t completely abandoned the Hatcher-nostalgia publishing policy, because they’ve just launched The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six, which delights me no end.
I liked Dynamite’s previous attempts at bionic-hero books well enough, particularly the Paul Tobin-scripted Bionic Woman. And I certainly appreciated how The Bionic Man attempted to shed as much of the Kevin Smith version in favor of the original as soon as it was feasible.
But Season Six is the real thing. It’s starting strong with a clever story from James Kuhoric featuring the exquisitely nasty Oliver Spencer, who fans may remember was played by Darren McGavin in the show’s pilot.
Even better, Spencer’s scheme involves the return of the evil android first created by Dr. Dolenz in “Day of the Robot.” And he’s been given the name they used for the Kenner toy version– Maskatron.
That’s just hitting ALL my nostalgia buttons. There have also been cameos from Oscar Goldman’s plucky secretary Miss Callahan…
…And Barney Hiller, the seven-million-dollar-man.
What I like about this book is that Jim Kuhoric isn’t just doing namechecking and fanservice. He’s actually figured out new ways for these characters to interact and extrapolated his plot from threads left dangling in the original show’s run. It’s fan fiction, yeah, but it’s good, accessible fan fiction. You don’t need to know anything about the old show to enjoy this… but if you did watch the original television series, trust me, you’re in for a good time.
The only caveat I have here is with the art. Juan Ramirez is doing pretty good likenesses and he’s got a strong sense of layout, but the ink line is way too strong– a lot of the time, the people look like they’ve been spray-coated with plastic. A little more crosshatching and roughing up the inks would help a lot. But on the whole I am enjoying this book a great deal so far and it almost makes up for Dynamite killing their entire pulp-hero line of comics. But only almost.
Fortunately, there are other publishers picking up the Hatcher-nostalgia slack. In particular, DC’s Batman ’66 fills me with joy every month. I am so pleased at DC once again putting out a Batman book I can get behind, I can’t even tell you.
And I’ll probably be on board for the Batman/Green Hornet crossover, too, despite some minor misgivings about Kevin Smith scripting it.
I can’t help myself. I saw that Alex Ross cover and they owned me. Although hearing that the villain will be, once again, Colonel Gumm (apparently now promoted to “General” Gumm) was more than enough to– ahem– seal the deal. Rimshot.
Likewise I’m still enjoying Aquaman, especially now that Jeff Parker is writing it. I have my fingers crossed that he’ll be able to do his own thing and not get mired hip-deep in whatever line-wide crossover might happen to be sprawling endlessly on at the moment (insert your own “Forever Evil lasting forever” joke here.) So far Aquaman seems to be staying away from that stuff and I’m grateful. Artist Paul Pelletier is doing amazing work as well– I’d never have guessed he would get this good back in his Green Lantern days. Just a quantum leap forward in art skills, there.
Because I have so much good will for Aquaman at the moment, I even decided to give Aquaman and the Others a try, despite the fact that A) the setup sounds suspiciously like JLA Detroit, and B) it’s got the silliest name for a comic this side of Giant-Size Man-Thing. The first issue was just okay, and it suffered a little bit from that annoying tic so many modern superhero comics have of insufficiently introducing the cast we’re supposed to care about in favor of BIG LOUD ACTION! But Dan Jurgens generally knows what he’s about when it comes to superhero adventure and I’ll give this another issue or two to find its feet.
Likewise, I’m still in for Mark Waid’s Daredevil and Hulk books.
I like them enough that I don’t want to wait for a trade paperback, and frankly I think Mark Waid is one of maybe four or five writers in comics that understands the idea of a 22-page story, even if it’s part of a larger whole, being a complete reading experience in itself. I don’t understand why Marvel did the arbitrary series re-numbering, and it was annoying having to re-list these titles at my retailer (he was annoyed at having to do it as well) just to make sure they keep going into my reserve box, but if it helps sell the books, well, whatever.
I’m also still enjoying IDW’s Star Trek ongoing, another old-school comic book that knows how to tell a story in 22 pages without padding it for the trade paperback.
The stories are solid two-parters for the most part, and Mike Johnson is telling fun Trek stories without re-inventing the wheel. The art’s improved quite a bit too, and I’m learning to live with the merry-go-round of artists as long as they can maintain this level of quality; it’s been horribly uneven in the past but it seems to have settled down a bit now.
That’s about it for single-issue comics. Except for the two mini-series I like enough not to trade-wait for… Black Dynamite and Legenderry.
I already wrote about Black Dynamite here, and my feelings haven’t changed. As for Legenderry, it’s entertainingly goofy. I took a chance on it because it was Bill Willingham and because the idea sounded crazy enough to work– a crossover of all Dynamite’s licensed characters but done steampunk-style, set in the late 1800s.
I’ve been a sucker for those ever since Gotham By Gaslight…. hell, ever since DC was doing “Imaginary Stories” back when I was a sprout, so I thought why not? And it turns out that it’s a rollicking good time. It’s no League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but it does capture a little of that vibe and I am enjoying it.
And that really is it for the list. Everything else, I’m getting in trade paperback, and honestly those have been whittled down as well. With so many of my favorites getting canceled out from under me, it’s been easier to go trades-only than ever. This might be the year.
But then again, I say that every year. I suspect that I’m probably still going to be a Wednesday regular ten years from now, but I have at least managed– I think– to cut the list down to comics I’ll pull out and read more than once. Baby steps.
See you next week.
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