Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
I don’t know if Jason Todd ever stood a chance. At first, he was just a near-identical replacement for Dick Grayson when Grayson left the Robin game to become Nightwing. He was sort of a watered-down version of the young man for whom he was meant to stand in; the first Jason got the job done as Robin but offered nothing new, no reason for readers to warm to him or see him as anything other than a cut-rate attempt at recapturing the magic of the original Boy Wonder. So it makes total sense that in 1987 DC would take a stab at rewriting his background and personality in a post-Crisis world, providing an opportunity for Jason to carve out a more unique and possibly interesting space for himself in the Batman mythos. Sadly, though, I think they gave the task to the wrong guy, because Max Allan Collins wrote Batman as a lighthearted, almost goofy title, which did not really line up with the angry street youth persona of his revamped Jason Todd. Continue Reading »
The Spectre #1-9 (DC) by Doug Moench, Gene Colan (#1-6), Cam Kennedy (#7-8), Gray Morrow (#9), Steve Mitchell (#1-6), Adrienne Roy (#1-6, 9), Michele Wolfman (#7-8), John Costanza (1-5), Agustin Mas (#6-9), Robert Greenberger
The Spectre is kind of a jerk, but that’s ok, because so is Jim Corrigan, the man who serves as the his human host. They’re jerky in different ways, which causes a lot of friction between them, and also makes them quite the entertaining pair to follow as a reader. Their relationship is kind of a mixed-up buddy cop thing; the Spectre is in some ways the loose cannon character, because Corrigan never knows what he’ll do next and can’t really trust him not to overreact to any given situation. Yet the Spectre is also the more serious of the pair, and all of his actions are motivated by the demands of a higher authority. Meanwhile, Corrigan is a wise-cracking rogue and anti-authority in general, yet wants to reign in the Spectre and stop him from always being so severe in his treatment of the various villains they face. So neither one of them fits neatly into a recognizable character mold, yet as a duo, they have a very familiar dynamic, one partner trying to keep the other in check as they work toward common goals with very different methods. And all the while, they are both largely unlikable as people, yet interesting as characters, and because they’re always fighting against much worse people than themselves, I’m on their side even when they’re being aggressively pigheaded and annoying. The Spectre does a fantastic job of making compelling figures out of its two miserable leads by pitting them against each other morally despite the fact that they are ostensibly on the same side. They’re both good guys, technically, but neither of them are necessarily all that good at being good. Instead, they make each other better, while simultaneously making one another feel worse, a conflicted team bound together against their wills who only barely make their partnership work. Continue Reading »
Captain Atom #1-10 (DC) by Cary Bates, Greg Weisman (#10), Pat Broderick, Bob Smith, Carl Gafford (#1-4, 6-10), Bob LeRose (#5), John Costanza (#1-3), Agustin Mas (#4-5), Duncan Andrews (#6-10), Denny O’Neil
It’s not always an easy distinction to make, but there’s a difference between doing good and being good, and Captain Atom is all about skirting that line. The title character is a good man who does bad things for good reasons, and then uses those bad things to allow himself to do good things, too. After gaining his powers, he is coerced by the U.S. military into being a superhero, but I believe that he probably would’ve chosen that life (or something close to it) for himself anyway because of his core decency and sense of responsibility. He’s a good person doing good deeds, but doing them in an arguably bad way, lying to the world about his past and present in the name of protecting the less-good men who control his life. And there are consequences for his deceptions, sometimes serious ones, meaning that for all the positive work he does, there’s always a certain taint around him, a hidden shame he can never entirely shake. It makes him an extremely interesting character to follow, because even when he’s saving the day as a superhero, the reader understands that he’s still trapped as a soldier, following orders and keeping secrets he doesn’t always like. Captain Atom is a sad but also hopeful figure, improving his life and earning his freedom inch by difficult inch. Continue Reading »
Booster Gold #13-22 (DC) by Dan Jurgens, Gary Martin (#13), Mike DeCarlo (#14, 18), Bruce D. Patterson (#15), Bob Lewis (#16), Arne Starr (#17, 20), Al Vey (#19), Ty Templeton (#21-22), Gene D’Angelo (#13-15, 17-22), Bob Lappan (#13, 17), John Costanza (#14, 18), Agustin Mas (#15), Albert de Guzman (#16), Duncan Andrews (#19), Steve Haynie (#20-22), Barbara Randall
Booster Gold is kind of a jackass. My previous exposure to the character had always been in the context of the Justice League, so I knew he was cocky, but the true depths of his self-importance surprised me when reading his solo title. Yes, I was aware of his origins as a former star athlete from the future who stole technology from his own time, brought it to our own, and used it to make himself into a superhero. None of that screams altruism, so I suppose I could’ve expected the brash, reckless, in-love-with-himself hero I got, but for whatever reason it caught me off-guard at first. I guess I had always assumed that since he was a professional superhero, he must have a strong core goodness that would trump his immaturity and arrogance when it mattered. In reality, his self-interest is his core, and any genuine goodness that results does so almost in spite of his personality. He likes the superhero lifestyle, but his enjoyment comes first from the thrill and then from the fame, with any satisfaction he gets from actually helping someone or fighting evil being largely incidental. He’s not a bad person; he has loose morals that guide him and the hint of a sincere desire to be better and do more. Yet all of that keeps getting overshadowed by his continued focus on maintaining his public image, getting rich, womanizing, and having fun. Continue Reading »
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Mark Texeira, and the issues are Jonah Hex #89 and Hex #14, both of which were published by DC and are cover dated February 1985 and October 1986, respectively. Enjoy!
Continue Reading »
Infinity Inc. #34-44 (DC) by Roy Thomas, Dann Thomas, Todd McFarlane (#34-37), Martin King (#38), Michael Bair (#39), Vince Argondezzi (#40-44), Tony DeZuniga (#34-42, 44), Pablo Marcos (#39), Danny Bulanadi (#40), Al Vey (#42), Rodin Rodriguez (#43), Alfredo Alcala (#43) Liz Bérubé (#34, 38, 41, 43-44), Carl Gafford (#35-37, 40), Anthony Tollin (#39), Shelley Eiber (#42), David C. Weiss (#34-39), Agustin Mas (#39-40), Jean Simek (#41-44)
It’s a little hard to sum up my opinion on the 1987 issues of Infinity Inc., because it was an unsteady series at that time, varying in quality not only from issue to issue but often from scene to scene. It was more interested in the personal dramas of its cast than the flash and flair of superpowered action, yet the action sequences were more reliably entertaining than the more grounded character work. Then again, all the strongest moments center on the characters’ emotional lives, but so do the weakest ones, with the fight scenes falling somewhere in between. This gives the comic a strange lack of identity; is it compelling teenage drama or lame teenage melodrama, a fun superhero adventure or a dull superhero business meeting? With 27 story pages per issue (on average…sometimes 26 or 28) Infinity Inc. has room to be all of those things and more, but it’s never any one thing for long enough to get the reader fully, unwaveringly invested. This is frustrating to a degree, but also appropriate, because as a team Infinity, Inc. is a fairly disjointed, non-unified group. They have wildly different priorities and opinions on how to operate, and they pretty much never do anything as a full team, splintering instead into smaller units for each new mission/threat. So the book’s somewhat chaotic voice fits nicely with the team’s mismatched energy, and may even be an intentional aspect of the storytelling for that reason. Which is all well and good, but doesn’t make it any easier to know precisely how I feel about these issues as a group. Continue Reading »
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Todd McFarlane, and the issue is Detective Comics #576, which was published by DC and is cover dated July 1987. Enjoy!
Continue Reading »
A column in which Matt Derman (Comics Matter) reads & reviews comics from 1987, because that’s the year he was born.
Hawkman #11-17 (DC) by Dan Mishkin, Richard Howell (#11-16), Ed Hannigan (#17), Carlos Garzon (#11-16), Don Heck (#17), Michelle Wolfman, and Agustin Mas
Despite his old-school style, Hawkman has never been my thing. Whenever I encountered him as a guest star or in the pages of a team book, he seemed overly serious in his personality and approach to crime-fighting, which didn’t quite fit with the way he looked or the little bit I knew about his backstory. A shirtless alien with detachable bird wings ought to have a sense of humor about himself, is what I’m saying, and as far as I could ever determine, Hawkman was missing that. And reading these old issues Hawkman the series hasn’t changed that perception of Hawkman the character in the slightest. But I mind him a great deal less now, mostly because of the awesomeness that is Hawkwoman. Without her presence, I think this run might’ve met my worst fears of being a dreary, heavy superhero melodrama. Instead, it’s a zany superhero adventure, still plenty melodramatic due to Hawkman’s slow and steady nervous breakdown, but with bursts of levity thanks to Hawkwoman’s high spirits and genuinely funny battle quips. They’re a strong duo, and even though only one of their names is on the covers, they share this comic equally, and without either of them it would be a highly imbalanced story. Not only does Hawkwoman provide the laughs, she is the voice of reason when Hawkman goes off the rails. She can play absurd to his straight man or calm to his crazy with equal skill, which is a dynamic that has a lot of room for all kinds of fun stuff to go down.
Hey, look! It’s the last of the old posts that I need to move to this blog! That must mean the archives will no longer have dead links! Huzzah!
Continue Reading »
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.