X-POSITION: Phoenix, Upstarts & More Tear Up Bowers & Sims' "X-Men '92"
I’ve never been crazy about the Punisher. It’s not his morality (or lack thereof) I object to, though admittedly I do prefer it if my superheroes try to avoid using fatal tactics. Although…I guess he’s not a superhero in the strictest sense because he has no powers, but he wears a costume and has a codename and hangs out with lots of other Marvel super-folks, so I think the label still applies. At any rate, what has historically turned me off about the Punisher is that he’s seemed too simple to me, too one-note. Even the Hulk, a literal embodiment of instinctual rage, turns back into Bruce Banner sometimes, and thus has multiple facets to his personality. Frank Castle is always the Punisher and vice versa, his violent hatred for crime never subsiding or even being hidden under the mask of a secret identity. He’s so narrowly and determinedly focused on his personal war, it has never felt to me like he allows for much room for any storytelling beyond locating the next battle, the next villain to slay. I’m sure every creative team finds (or tries to find) their own angle, a way to freshen or expand Castle’s character and world so that he isn’t just the pissed off guy with huge guns all the time. Nonetheless, that’s the way he’s come across whenever I’ve encountered him in the past, and it has consistently failed to capture my interest.
Mike Baron and Klaus Janson’s The Punisher, which marks the first time the character ever had his own ongoing series, somehow manages to play up the single-mindedness I thought I disliked in Castle, yet still be a comicbook I enjoy. A lot of that is Janson, who does all the art from pencils to colors, producing strong work with several breakout panels over the course of these first four issues. Credit where it’s due, though, Baron writes Punisher as a man who’s not necessarily pleased with the life he’s chosen for himself, but commits to it 100% anyway, and that’s an approach I can get into. In his rare moments of self-reflection, Castle points out the same problems I just did above, namely that his life has no room for anything other than fight after fight after fight. He doesn’t exactly struggle with that, but he is at least aware of it, and somehow that tiny bit of acknowledgement, combined with Janson’s visuals, sold me on a hero I’d always avoided before. Continue Reading »
A column in which Matt Derman (Comics Matter) reads & reviews comics from 1987, because that’s the year he was born.
Strange Tales #1-7 (Marvel) by Bill Mantlo (#1-6), Peter Gillis, Bret Blevins (#1-6), Chris Warner (#1-4), Larry Alexander (#5, 7), Terry Shoemaker (#6-7), Al Williamson (#3), Bob Wiacek (#6), Gerry Talaoc (#7), Randy Emberlin, Christie Scheele (#1, 3), Glynis Oliver (#2, 4-6), Paul Becton (#7), Bob Sharen, Ken Bruzenak, Jim Novak (#1-3), Janice Chiang (#4-5, 7), Ken Lopez (#6), Carl Potts
With a book like Strange Tales, where every issue is divided between two different narratives (or any number of narratives, but in this case it’s just the two), you always want some sort of connection to tie the stories together, something to bring unity to the title. Obviously the stories should work individually as well, but it’s nicer when there’s a bond between them, an identity to the series as a whole that fits with each section’s own goals and attitudes. Strange Tales is split evenly every issue between Cloak and Dagger and Dr. Strange, the two titles which it replaced. Because they’re both continuations of previously existing comics, it would be understandable if there wasn’t a ton of cohesion between their respective outlooks or aims. Whether through editorial design, creator collaboration, or sheer dumb luck, though, the two halves of Strange Tales find common ground almost immediately, and continue to examine the same core concept, though still in their own ways, right up through issue #7 where their narratives actually collide and briefly become the same. Both Cloak and Strange wrestle with remaining heroic while sometimes needing to act unheroically, and this struggle quickly becomes the center of Strange Tales. But the two men deal with their shared problem differently and end up in different places because of it, so their stories stand apart even as they come together, thematically and literally. Continue Reading »
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Jim Lee, and the issue is The Punisher War Journal #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated December 1988. Enjoy!
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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Kevin Nowlan, and the issue is Moon Knight #32, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated July 1983. Enjoy!
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This couldn’t have anything to do with a certain B. Sienkiewicz, could it?
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It’s really astonishing to consider how many mediocre comics there are out there. Not good, but not bad enough to mock. Such is the case with our latest installment from deep in the back issue box. There’s nothing very good about this comic, but there’s nothing truly terrible, either. But will it bring back the first-time reader? Ah, that’s an entirely different question, isn’t it?
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