New Years Resolutions For Marvel & DC

As the new year begins we all have plans of having a fresh start, maybe it’s going to the gym or drinking less. Most of us have one even if you don’t actively think of one. So with that in mind I turn my attention to the big two of comic book publishing, and think about what they could do to improve themselves in the new year.2011 was, like most years, and interesting year for comics. DC had a company wide “reboot” in a bid to gain new readers, and from most reports was successful, even if some controversy came along with it. Digital comics gained a more significant presence as apps for e-readers and other devices appeared and DC launched day one digital downloads, with Marvel also experimenting with a similar process. But for all the advances the two companies make, there is always room for improvement.

DC Comics should really use recap pages.

It’s something Marvel has used to for quite some time now and it’s something where the positives most definately outweigh the negatives. Recap pages are great for new readers, because it’s a great way to get up to speed on a story if you miss the first issue or start reading mid way through. The only reason I can really see for not doing it, is an artistic one. It could be seen that writers/artists want to use as much as they can to create good pages of comics and not have a paragraph of text getting in the way of that, similar to Batwoman #4 having all of it’s adverts placed at the back.

However with DC on a constant quest for new readers surely something like this would help a new reader continue reading after one issue as they’ll know what came before it better than they would of without the recap. At the end of the day, something like the New 52 reboot can only happen every once in a while. That or you completely change how you publish and organise your books, which I don’t think is going to happen anytime soon.

Marvel: Super Mega Crossover Event Story Fatigue.

Crossovers are a crutch, and both companies use them. Marvel is seems has been falling back on them in a bad way this last year. I’ve written about this beforebut it’s a major weakness for Marvel right now I feel. Last year’s Fear Itself was an incredibly inconsistent, overblown story that couldn’t be contained in the seven issues it was given. While Marvel seems to have more foresight and planning for the upcoming X-men vs Avengers, to me it looks like and incredibly lazy story for a year long event. A combination of retreading old ideas (the return of the Phoenix) and a fan boy forum bait with the Avengers fighting the X-men.

For a person who recaptured their love for Marvel comics with the Civil War story I know that Marvel can produce good crossover stories. However right now there seems to be a level of readjustment that the creative teams need to overcome, and recapture some of the same magic events and saga’s like Civil War and Dark Reign captured.

DC: Please make your continuity less confusing

DC has a bit of a reputation when it comes to the continuity of their universe, Crisis on Infinite Earths is now infamous for the amount of continuity headaches it caused. In the 25 years since this story DC undid a lot of the “fixing” they did in Infinite Earths with many of the characters who died returning and the alternate earths returning to stories. With the New 52 once again we are faced with a continuity shift. With Justice League having the team meet each other for the first time and obviously forming the League at some point. Action Comics started out with Superman’s heroic career in it’s infancy and the Barry Allen returning as the Flash after dying in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

However a lot of stories have been carried over from before the reboot, Green Lantern picked up almost exactly where it left off with the War of the Green Lanterns. Batman had both Scott Zynder’s story and Batman Inc spill over into the new continuity as well as Batwoman carrying on as if nothing had changed ( A good amount of delays caused this, but this book was worth the wait)

There is plenty of questions about DC continuity, many of which are needless, some times it has to be ignored if you want to tell a good story. But in a time where it’s unclear if Crisis on Infinite Earths is actually in continuity I feel DC needs to address their continuity before they realise they wiped away 25 years of stories for a few more book sales.

[As a side note for this entry. I had to do a lot of extra research to make sure I wasn’t talking out my ass, and I’m still not entirely sure on some parts. Which goes to show you how messed up their continuity really is.]

Marvel: You really like bringing back dead characters don’t you.

I’ve been pretty passive about some of the death and rebirths of some of Marvel’s characters over the years. When Colossus returned in Astonishing X-men I couldn’t have been happier, when I was a youngster he was always my favourite, and the subsequent story with Kitty Pryde made his return worth ignoring the retcon. When Captain America died, I wanted him to stay dead, it was way more of a meaningful death that superheroes usually get and a great ending to Civil War. Furthermore the passing of the Shield to Bucky (another hero who has died and returned) built up a story of living up to the legend of Captain America. Only for him to return.

This is where I started to become annoyed by characters returning from the dead. Even if it was planned out ahead of time I found how they explained how Captain America ( which was weirdly a very similar explanation for Batman’s return) survived by being shot by a bullet that shot him threw time to be an incredibly lazy and silly explanation. It’s a bit late for me to have a rant about this but I’ve always found this explanation to be really bad.

I finally snapped recently. Cable returned in Avengers: X-Sanction. I found this book to be the absolute worst book I’ve read all year. It was completely out of character after his final sacrifice, in Second Coming. The finale of that book really felt like a good send off for that character, Hope made it back to Utopia, he’d gotten old, he’d raised her in a hellish future, he finished his mission.

If Marvel are so desperate to keep Captain America alive for as long as Marvel are in business, why not write throw back stories? WWII is a rich vein where plenty of stories could be told. He could have lived on in these stories. Or how about having stories involving characters earlier in their superhero career, like the early days of the Avengers for example.

I feel at this point comics really need to grow out of this crutch of a story point, it’s lazy, it’s almost a soap opera in it’s drama, and it deflates any meaning or sacrifice to the characters death.

So there are some of the things I wish Marvel and DC would consider this year, I may be just one fan but I’m sure there are others who feel the same. I’m feeling a little burnout on comics these days and a post Christmas culling of my reading list is in order.

For More Articles, Reviews and my own comic series go to www.abandonearthcomics.com

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Cover of The Week: War Machine #12

This weeks cover of the week features the ever present sidekick of Iron Man, War Machine. Jim Rhodes’ body is a little worse for ware, more machine than man and his time is short. What better thing to do then, than bring justice to anyone of a evil an villainous nature still has a breath in their body? Armed with enough weapons and technology to blow up the moon, War Machine sets out on a suicide run against untouchable villains and scumbags and does what he does best. Explosions.

War Machine’s 12 issues series was my favourite of the several Dark Reign tie in books. Greg Pak wrote a very dramatic, fantastical story that also had a deep personal edge and highlighted the political metaphor that surrounded Dark Reign better than most books. It was a great combination. one that resulted in War Machine assimilating a tank into his structure one page and being the centre of a dramatic war trial the next. Underpinning this whole story was Rhodes’ nature towards justice and the relationship this caused with his mother and others around him, resulting in a great character study of James Rhodes.

All the covers of this series were done by Fransesco Mattina and choosing a favourite was a tough decision. Many of the covers are of a dramatic, action scene with Mattina’s realistic but slightly surreal style. With his signiture overexposure to add drama to his work. But the cover I picked was from War Machine #12.

As seen above is is a full page portrait of War Machine with his visor open, revealing his incredibly damaged face. I chose this cover because it sums up this story arc and series extremely well. Rhodes is falling apart but his expression is still of hardened determination. He will not stop until he has succeeded. The mixing of flesh and steel gives the viewer an horrific taste of what it must be like to be in his shoes. the flesh falling away to see the cold steel interior below.

I’m a fan of Mattina’s style, the realistic detailing and colour tone give his covers an edge of realism often not found on comic covers. Add to this the surreal lighting and use of focus give his covers a unique edge. It is a style that is easy to spot but is also not seen very much and I applaud Fransesco for that.

Fransesco has done a lot of work for Marvel of the last couple of years, highlights including his covers for Thunderbolts, and the Shadowland mini series “Blood on The Streets. Outside of Marvel his work includes covers for Azreal, as well as one of covers such as Joker’s Asylum II: Killer Croc. As for independent publishers, Mattina has done extensive work for Radical Publishing with the After Dark and Ryder on The Storm series, as well as cover work for the Boom! series Elric: The Balance Lost.

So there were are, War Machine #12 and Fransesco Mattina, we salute you!

For more articles, reviews and my own comic series go to www.abandonearthcomics.com

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X-men Vs Avengers: Are Marvel’s Events Getting Lazy?

It’s official The Phoenix will return next year in Marvel’s next mega event X-men Vs Avengers. With this very generic sounding punch fest now on the schedule has Marvel run out of steam with their event comics?

Several years ago Marvel began a trend of having huge events that affect their characters significantly. These events then started to lead on to each other and for a while it was good. Avenger’s Disassembled started a long succession of Marvel events after another. From these events we had significant changes in the Marvel universe, M-Day de-powered a significant amount of mutants and we are still seeing the affects of this event in current story arcs.

Civil War was a very interesting topic which dealt with some issues outside of regular superhero tales. It was a reasonably good parable for the Civil Liberties Vs National Security debate. However it was plagued with delays and did eventually result in a giant fight between star studded superhero teams, it still is Marvel Comics after all.

Civil War Lead to Secret Invasion which lead to Dark Reign which lead to Siege. Now these linked events that moved the Marvel Universe along every time worked really well, with Dark Reign being a personal highlight out of them.

Now you might be thinking, why have I just recounted the last 4-5 years of Marvel Events? Well it’s because after the stories I have just recounted, they appear to have take a turn for worse in quality. Fear Itself just finished recently and I feel it was a story that was very one dimensional in it’s scope. You could sum it up as “yo we gotta fight this dude before he kills us”

It was more complicated than that but it very much was heroes fighting evil for seven issues. My main problem with Fear Itself was that it was a global story that seemed way too big for the seven main issues is was contained in. There were of course lots of tie in issues but Matt Fraction specifically stated that you could just read the main issues to get the full story. Which I feel was a false statement from the beginning as if I didn’t read “Fear Itself: The Book of the Skull” one shot book, I would of had no idea who Sin was and where the Serpent had come from.

My point is is that Marvel is giving off an air unpreparedness with these events than they have in the past. Fear Itself was far too big for the book it was contained in and X-men Vs Avengers seems to me like the laziest backup plan that they came up with in a weekend. To me it screams of fan boy bait explicitly named to sell the book. I won’t jump into complete condemnation of the book as of yet as the details are pretty scarce but it sounds a lot like an excuse for these teams to fight each other.

With Fear Itself and X v A I really don’t feel there is enough depth and higher level discussion going on which events such as Civil War and Dark Reign did well at their best. You could pin the failures of Fear Itself on Fraction’s first attempt (i think) at a company wide Event book, and he’s finding his feet in that sense. More so though it seems like Marvel are using ideas that are underdeveloped, and maybe shouldn’t have been their flagship story for the year.

On the other hand, giving the return of The Phoenix it’s own weight of a year long crossover event sounds like a good idea, even if it’s buried underneath the unjustified fight between the X-men and the Avengers. In that sense it sounds like Marvel don’t have enough faith of Phoenix alone to sell books.

For More Articles, Reviews and my own comic books series go to www.abandonearthcomics.com

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Launched My own comic book, hope you guys like it.

So after a year or so preparation planning and production I've finally launched my own comic book, which can be found here

I plan on creating stories for a wider universe but my first is entitled Elemental Crisis. It's a science fiction tale set on another planet far in the future. Humanity as a whole has left Earth, leaving behind the ruined mess they have left it in, and our first story takes place a hundred years or so after colonizing new planets and the interference of an alien outsider.

Hope you guys like it, I've been a fan of the site of Comicvine and whiskey media as a whole for a long time. Truth be told comicvine has played a significant part in inspiring me to actually go out there and do it. So thanks for that. and here's a quick preview.

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