I don't like Mark Millar

A few days ago I sat down and decided I wanted to write something about Mark Millar, so I started doing some research on the man and his work. Millar is a well-respected member of the comic community and a prolific writer. His work includes Kick-ass, Wanted, Civil War, The Ultimates, The authority, and Ultimate Fantastic Four, and Trouble, to name a few (there's a full list on his Wikipedia page, it's quite extensive). He's been in the industry since the late 80s (he started when he was still in high school) and has since then become well known both for his skill and his...views. I'm sure some of you have heard about Millar's statement that (superhero) comics are not for women (link). Sadly, Millar is somewhat notorious for such loaded statements, many of which can be downright offensive. Now, Millar (by and large) seems like an intelligent person, so perhaps it's just an issue of poor phrasing on his part- you can't blame a guy for being ineloquent. But as a woman, I feel somewhat obligated to take some sort of stance on his statements. Fortunately, I won't be doing that here. This entry will not be about his unfortunate ability to make a fool of himself in public, nor will it be about feminism (because I'm nowhere near qualified to write about it). Nope, this entry is about Millar's writing. Out of the titles I listed, I have read all but Ultimate Fantastic Four (Kickass 2 nonwithstanding). Some titles are ones I read a long time ago (such as Civil War and Wanted) and therefore am not too clear on some of the details.Still, I'll go over each title separately, discussing my opinions on each.

Kick-ass

I did not enjoy Kick-ass. At all. And I could go in-depth about it, because I read the comic today (in the middle of writing this, actually), but I'll be somewhat brief. I thought it was a self-indulgent, faux-edgy, pointlessly violent...thing. The main character was an utter creep, but hell, so was pretty much everyone else in the damn comic, so I'd almost give him a pass. There were these sad little pop-culture references shoved, largely poor timing, into the story- the amount of times they talked about Myspace alone was pathetic. The character that even came close to being reasonably well-written in the story was Katie, the main character's 'love interest', and even she turned out to be unrealistically horrible in the end. At least the comic was better than the movie.

Wanted

Oh god, Wanted. I hated this comic. While I'm well aware it's critically acclaimed and popular as hell and such, I don't know why. It's an awful, infantile, semi-masturbatory, overly (and pointlessly) violent saga of...I think it's supposed to be a journey of self-awareness and reinvention or something. Yet another story where I hated pretty much every character in the damn comic. What really irritates me is the fact that I read this at my local library. Yes, my city's library carries something as horrible as Wanted, but not, say, From Hell, or Crisis on Infinite Earths. Disgusting...

Civil War

It was okay. I know so many people who hated it (actually, I know someone who swore off comics entirely because of it), but I found it largely unobjectionable. That being said, I don't feel there was anything special about it. If Civil War were a food, I'd equate it to cheerios- a generic, somewhat tasteless thing that nobody really has any problems with but nobody really particularly loves.

The Ultimates

I found The Ultimates kind of interesting, if not just because of the concept. It's something of a re-imagining of an Avengers-like team run by a largely corrupt government that seems to be full of assholes. The series is undeniably enjoyable, by and large, but it's not exactly a masterpiece.

In conclusion, I don't think that I like Mark Millar. He definitely has a well-developed skill for narration, a decent sense of timing (when he's not trying to be 'hip'), and I suppose he's reasonably creative. I genuinely think he does have a certain amount of talent in his chosen field...but it's really, really hard to see that sometimes.

Maybe Mark Millar is just an asshole- that might explain his seeming tendency to create awful comics like Wanted. Or maybe he's an utter genius that's crafted this public persona in order to sell comics to a relatively untapped audience- that small group of (presumably) male readers who want offensive comics, possibly for the shock value. Maybe he has some sort of master plan in play, and all his semi-offensive public statements are a necessary part of it. Maybe...but I really doubt it.

Start the Conversation

Jean Grey and the All-New X-men

What devilry is this 'All New X-men' series? It's actually good.

Think about that for a second- a currently ongoing X-men title that's good. Let it sink in. Weird, isn't it?

More surprising than that, however, is the fact that Jean Grey is actually undergoing character development. JEAN GREY. What the hell, Marvel, you've actually done something RIGHT for once...

Well, first of all, I have a theory that psychic characters (or at least telepaths, or those with mind control abilities of some variety) display a greatly increased tendency towards manipulative behaviour. One could argue that anyone who had the ability to force others to obey their wishes would display a greater than average rate of manipulative behaviour, and that's a very good point, and is likely the cause of such displays of manipulative...ness.

Some of you may be thinking 'But Jean Grey/Professor X wasn't manipulative! Your theory is incorrect!', and you'd be wrong. They both abused their psychic abilities on multiple occasions- especially Professor X, which was actually pointed out in All-New X-men on several occasions. The only reason one would be less aware of the repeated instances of psychic abuse involving the aforementioned characters because they're not pointed out by the writers. Characters in stories where Jean Grey goes all 'screw it, I'll just psychically force them to obey me' don't usually respond in the same way that they would if, say, Emma Frost or Empath did.

(This new format for Comic Vine seems to, at this point in my post, prevent me from italicizing, bolding, or underlining text. Great...)

My point being that, in the context of All-New X-men, such manipulative behavior is commented on in practically all instances in which it is utilized. When Jean Grey gains the ability to use telepathy, she abuses it, at one point using it to essentially mind-rape Angel, her team-mate and friend. Kitty gets repeatedly irritated with Jean because the latter keeps psychically probing her without permission. Mind you, Kitty is not very well written in the series, but that's kind of beside the point.

Ladies and gentlemen, JEAN GREY IS SHOWING ACTUAL MEANINGFUL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! That's happened like, all of once in the history of the X-men franchise. And no, getting possessed by a cosmic entity is NOT character development (the reaction/aftereffects to being possessed, however, can count, if done properly). This sudden attention to characterization is such a welcome change that I don't really know how to properly express my delight. Needless to say, I'm reading All-New X-men, and I'd recommend checking it out.

(I mean, they even started writing Beast as an intelligent character, instead of just a hormonal bitch...)

Start the Conversation

The Walking Dead: Why Should I Read It?

I've heard a lot about The Walking Dead recently, and have become kind of curious, but am kind of on the fence about reading it. Zombies aren't exactly my thing- I don't really care much about the whole 'zombie survival genre'. Is it still worth reading, and why?

43 Comments

Offensive costumes?

Why do so many women seem to take offense to the costumes of many (most?) female comic characters?

(Before I continue I'd like to point out that I am female and don't really have an issue with T&A in general, as long as it's used with some modicum of taste. Basically, I don't really care whether characters (female or male or whatever) prance around wearing essentially nothing as long as it's not the focus of the story in question- I'm not interested in the fanservice, but at the same time it doesn't really bother me much. Maybe I read too much crappy manga growing up, who knows, it's not important. Either way, I sure as hell don't mind being exposed to T&A if it helps fuel the comic industry. A decent amount of it is pretty easy to avoid by simply not reading titles that center around fanservice. )

What I have trouble understanding is why women get so upset about scantily-clad fictional characters. I've heard the whole 'it's not how a strong, empowered woman would dress' thing and I don't agree- a strong, empowered woman wears whatever the hell she wants to, because she's strong and empowered. Are women really that enraged by two-dimensional depictions of their gender being shown in various states of (un)dress? Does the female body really disgust them that much? And yes, sexualized female characters exist in comics- is an empowered, strong woman not allowed to be a sexual being?

If it's an equality issue, I'd like to think my point still stands. Why shouldn't a character- male or female- be able to dress any way they damn well want to?

And personally I don't believe that exploitation is a fair accusation in this case. They're illustrations. How does illustrating an issue of Vampirella involve exploitation? Yes, I understand that the typical Vampirella reader is interested in the series for (likely) sexual reasons, but how does that change anything?

Ultimately, I don't believe that people who don't read comics have a right to pass judgement on them. And a strangely high percentage of people who complain about revealing costumes and (either supposed or legitimate) overly-sexualized characters don't actually read comics at all. I mean, I suppose most of them will read a few issues or so, but they don't really read them; they'll either flip through while paying little to no attention to the writing (focusing instead on the illustrations) or only really pay attention to aspects of the story that support their preconceived notions.

So I ask you fellow, members of comicvine, am I missing something? I'd appreciate any help you can offer on understanding this issue.

70 Comments

The Many Merits of Mutants and Masterminds

Before I begin, I should probably explain what exactly Mutants and Masterminds is.

The wikipedia page ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutants_%26_Masterminds ) defines it as a pen and paper superhero roleplaying game created by Green Ronin Publishing based on a variant d20 system (of course by Wizards of the coast) that allows characters to create virtually any hero (or villain) conceivable. Currently I believe it's in the third edition. You can find the official website here ( http://www.mutantsandmasterminds.com ), it's definitely worth checking out. I'm not going to attempt to explain exactly how the system works, because I'm absolutely awful at that sort of thing, so if you're curious please check out the website for further information.

I was introduced to Mutants and Masterminds roughly a year ago by a fellow comic enthusiast and writer, and soon after became involved in a campaign. Rest assured, I didn't create this post in order to fawn over my character; I intend to keep references to the game I'm involved in to a necessary minimum.

Anyways, it has become apparent to me, over time, that Mutants and Masterminds has a wide variety of uses and merits to the average comic fan/tabletop gaming enthusiast that go beyond the (rather trite) 'creating existing comic book characters using the M&M system' phase that I believe nearly everyone goes through. Mind you, some people never continue past this phase, even going so far as to use thinly-veiled versions of characters like Wolverine in campaigns, which is rather unfortunate for a variety of reasons.

To the prospective comic writer, Mutants and Masterminds can be a virtually unsurpassed creative tool that can greatly assist in envisioning new characters, plots, etc. Those of you who are familiar with basic Dungeons and Dragons may know what I mean- taking a look through the various Mutants and Masterminds handbooks can really aid in overcoming writer's block or finding new ideas and directions for existing themes, largely because the manuals are full with tips and advice from the creators about using the system to create new and different things for one's campaigns, as is largely the case with most d20 system manuals. For example, in the Core manual there are an assortment of archetype characters included, to be used not only to help newcomers to build functioning characters (which can be hard, as is the case with most pen and paper games) but also to give ideas on how to construct characters with certain abilities and power sets.

How does this aid a writer? Let's say that our writer has created a character with flight, teleportation and invulnerability, but is unsure exactly how those powers work or why the character has them. The core manual, in the section about powers, discusses these problems in brief, and some of the other manuals such as Ultimate Power and Paragons delve further; in fact, I'm not certain but I believe most of the manuals discuss the issue at some length. Or perhaps our writer has an idea for what powers he wants a character to have but has no further ideas about the character. Or he's having trouble coming up with a team of heroes or villains. Or he wants to take his story in a new direction for the next story arc. Again, all of these issues are addressed in the many manuals of Mutants and Masterminds. Helpful manuals span all (three?) editions- for example, I found the Mecha and Manga book very helpful when creating my character, who is based on 3rd edition rules (as long as one gets permission from their GM, rules and mechanics from other editions can usually be employed).

How is this game interesting to a fan? Maybe after reading a comic, you find yourself thinking that a character would be more interesting if they could be written differently, with different powers or a different personality, etc. Mutants and Masterminds allows one to experience that and more. I've found it really changes the way I read comics- I find myself thinking about how characters I read about would fit into the M&M system, and how characters from the campaign I'm in would fit into the world of comics.

It's also a fantastic social tool. I have yet to meet someone who plays Mutants and Masterminds who doesn't read comics in some capacity, and it can be an excellent way to meet new people who have similar interests, kind of like this website.

Anyways, forgive my overwhelming dorkiness. Mutants and Masterminds is something I think anyone who enjoys comics should definately check out.

Start the Conversation

Scott Summers, Child Soldier

A friend of mine updated me somewhat on the goings-on in the Marvel Universe the other day, and I was rather surprised to hear that Cyclops is in prison. Yes, he also mentioned why, but neither of us were really able to come up with any really good reason as to why he should be locked up- in a ruby-quartz insulated cell, no less (you'll note that Cyclops is locked up more securely than the Green Goblin ever was...). Which led to a mutual realization- Cyclops is a child soldier.

Some of you may argue that Cyclops was above an age at which he would be considered a child when the X-men were formed, but keep in mind that he'd been living with Professor X for quite some time beforehand. Scott Summers was trained, from an early age, to fight. He led a team of similarly young individuals into combat, acting as a field leader of sorts (keeping in mind that Professor X was, often, telepathically ordering the X-men in battle), and the group was often placed in life-threatening and otherwise extremely dangerous situations. Cyclops (and, for that matter, the rest of the X-men) was discouraged from communicating with individuals outside the X-men, which is important largely due to the fact that it's an extremely necessary part of indoctrination. The group participated in regular combat training, and were taught that they were in constant danger from the outside world and could only trust the professor (and one another).

The Geneva Convention prohibits the use and training of child soldiers under Article 77.2 of the Additional Protocol I of the conventions of 12 August 1949. Those of you who recall the short-lived KONY craze from a year or so back will probably be aware of the fact that the use of child soldiers is a war crime.

In summary, Scott Summers is (was?) a child soldier, and Professor X is a war criminal.

EDIT: Apparently Cyclops is no longer in prison. Woot.

42 Comments

No more X-men

I'm officially no longer reading X-men titles, and am unlikely to pick the series back up again in the future.

A little more than two years ago now I started delving into the X-men universe (beginning with the classic New Mutants title), and I can honestly say that for a while there I really enjoyed myself. The stories I read entertained me- many of them weren't what I'd call great, but they were decent enough- and I actually looked forward to getting my hands on new story arcs. Second Coming was all I'd hoped it would be and more, and for a while I was convinced that the X-men were going in a fantastic new direction I could really get behind as a reader.

The writing began to lose much of it's appeal thereafter, but I remained optimistic. And then Schism happened, and I began to realize that I really wasn't enjoying keeping up to date on X-men affairs anymore- to put it bluntly, it was a chore I'd imposed on myself. The characters I liked so much were being written in ways that I found extremely disappointing, the events not only failed to entertain but often managed to irritate, and all I really felt I could do was hope in earnest things would improve.

Needless to say, they didn't. I've written a fair amount of reviews that would demonstrate that quite nicely. And then the utter disappointment that is/was(/will be?) AvX dawned. After reading either the fourth or third issue I simply sat back and decided I'd have no more of it.

So that's it, no more X-men. There are, of course, those of you out there in the fanbase who feel much differently- I've heard the praise you've given to the issues that I plainly hated reading, I've seen and read many of the reviews you've written of the storylines I found irritating and uninteresting. And I can say with utter and complete honesty that I'm truly glad that there are people that enjoy this stuff, because it pleases me to know that people are fuelling the industry that I'm still very fond of.

I have not by any means given up on comics. Right now I'm reading them fairly consistently (though at nowhere near my earlier, somewhat manic rate) and intend to keep on doing so. But no more X-men.

Start the Conversation

Taking a leave of absence

For a while now I've had little to no interest in the world of comics, let alone X-men comics.

People who are familiar with my 'reviews' (most of them are quasi-rants about how much the latest crap in the comic book world is utterly crappy) probably saw this coming- there simply aren't any current titles I enjoy reading. Keeping up with the X-men's current events has been a chore (to put it mildly) ever since Schism (more or less); my patience has run dry.

So I probably won't be posting for a while- until I find another title that interests me or I regain interest in the X-men, I'm taking a break from comics.

1 Comments

My X-men Character Watch List

As always, the Marvel universe has been, of late, a very eventful place, especially where the X-men are concerned. Age of X saw characters like Chamber and Frenzy re-join the cast of appearing characters, with Legion appearing for a time as well; Rachel Grey, Havok and Polaris returned from their little space adventures in the Legacy title; X-man was rescued from the clutches of The Sugar Man, nearly depowered but fairly whole, within New Mutants; Cable returned to the land of the living in Avengers: X-sanction (which I skimmed but didn't fully read); the creation of the new Wolverine and the X-men title brought characters like Husk, Doop, and various others back into the limelight (in various degrees), with occasionally odd new character developments; Schism saw the return of Quentin Quire (and from there the writing quality went steeply downhill); Generation Hope brought Martha Johanssen back into the public eye; the Legacy title continues to feature numerous characters, such as Mimic, Weapon Omega, and Exodus. The list goes on and on and doesn't really need to be fully displayed here.

Inevitably, these new re-appearances have led to my character watch list (my personal list of individuals that I like to keep track of in the Marvel universe (mostly the X-men universe, really)) expanding quite a bit. Here are the newer additions and a little explanation as to why they've caught my eye (and why they might be of interest to others). Also, I used pictures!

CHAMBER

A few years ago, Chamber was brought up as part of the aftermath of M-day. He'd been depowered, spent quite a while on life suppourt (when his powers manifested, they destroyed everything below his upper jaw and above his sternum (the picture gives you a pretty good idea), and when he lost his powers he was left with a giant hole where his biokinetic energy had been housed, and therefore was missing important things like a heart), and was (in the Excalibur title) healed by Apocalypse and Clan Akkaba .

During Civil War he could be seen in the New Warriors title (I usually pretend that run doesn't exist, it was pretty horribly done), and later showed up on Utopia off-panel at some point. The events of Age of X somehow caused his bio-kinetic energy abilities (which have apparently returned...?) to start destroying his new chin-to-upper-chest area where it was once housed. He wasn't seen for a while after that, but recently he has, with no explanation whatsoever, been shown as a teacher at Wolverine's school. Why he decided to teach, how he managed to secure the position, what he would have to teach and what the heck made anyone think any of that was a good idea is way beyond me, but he's back (not to mention working and living in the same location as his ex-girlfriend (of a sort), Husk).

Why I care: Don't get me wrong, I don't particularly like Chamber- during Generation X he started to irritate me after the first 30 or so issues. I'm just curious as to whether the writers at Marvel ever decide to explain what the hell is going on.

Why you might care; Chamber fans will, of course, want to keep an eye on Wolverine and the X-men, because that seems to be where he'll appear. To those of you who like the Chamber/Husk pairing, if you're willing to remain optimistic you should definitely give WATX some attention. For people who like sulky English mutants, Chamber may be just the character you're looking for- it's unclear as to whether he's changed much since the early days of his membership on an X-team, but in the meantime you could always check out Generation X.

HAVOK

Alexander Summers- younger brother of Cyclops and elder brother to Vulcan, long-time love interest of Polaris. Former member of the X-men, the Starjammers and X-factor, current member of the latter, a pretty decent leader, all-around good guy and far more approachable than his siblings. In the past he's been somewhat emotionally volatile, but over the years he really seems to have leveled out and become quite a bit more reliable and stable. He recently returned from outer space with Polaris and Rachel Grey (he played a part in War of Kings and The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire, among other things), and has joined Madrox and co. as part of X-factor.

Why I care: It'll be interesting to see Havok and Madrox working together- the two have both similar and very different personalities, and Havok has been known to assume a leadership role in most groups, despite whether a leader already exists. So far in X-factor, the two have rubbed each other the wrong way, and I'm interested to see what happens as a result.

Why you might care: Havok has, in the past, been known to be easily provoked, which means there could be some very interesting fights coming up in X-factor (especially if you're into flashy energy manipulation).

MIMIC

Mimic appeared pretty early on in X-men history, and disappeared fairly soon afterwards. To my knowledge he remained out of the spotlight until Dark Reign (unless you count Exiles, which I don't), where he was recruited as a member of the Dark X-men. Though his past has been checkered, he seems like a genuinely good person, and ends up working with the X-men and leaves Norman Osborn's team. Recently he's re-appeared in the Legacy title alongside Weapon Omega (one of his teammates from Dark X-men) and seems to be staying on as a regular character. Mimic is, as you may have guessed, a mimic, and he can duplicate the superpowers of any mutant he's been within a certain distance of (somewhere over ten feet, I think); and over the years, Mimic has been in the vicinity of a pretty large number of mutants. Usually he sticks to using the abilities of the original five X-men. As a side note, with the re-emergence of Mimic there are now officially three characters with mimic abilities within the X-teams- Rogue, Hope Summers, and Mimic.

Mimic is also bipolar, and was diagnosed by Moira McTaggart at some point off-panel.

Why I care: I have an ongoing interest in super-powered characters with mental illnesses, and Mimic in particular intrigues me, largely due to the fact that what I've read of his appearances have been pretty well done.

Why you might care: Those among you that are fans of power-mimicry should keep an eye on Mimic, to state the obvious. I'm told that some people find fights involving mimic-powered characters very interesting, and while Mimic would be worth a look, he may not be what you're looking for (he doesn't seem to use a wide variety of acquired powers).

It's not really related, but check this out: http://i.imgur.com/qUBSP.jpg

Start the Conversation

A Brief Character Summary of Cyclops

One of the downfalls characters (and teams, for that matter) that have been steadily seen in many different titles for many years is that said characters eventually get somewhat hard to properly understand; the large volume of reading material is daunting, to the point where most people don't bother to do enough research before forming an opinion about a character.

At least, I imagine that's what causes people to sometimes get a ridiculously incorrect understanding of X-men characters. I mean, yes, depending on the character one's opinion could be based on any number of non-canon things- for example, there's many people who like Jubilee that only really know her from the 90s cartoon in which she was a fairly important character (you know, the cartoon with the catchy opening music, where Rogue's voice actress sounded like a banshee) and haven't really seen anything of her in comics (wherein she has been, over the years, very much a different person); or the odd little group of people that adamantly insist that Shadowcat isn't very intelligent because of X-men Evolutions.

Today I seek to improve the reader's understanding of Cyclops. As a member of the original team of five (actually, he's on the record as being the first x-man), he's shown up a lot in comics, and his history is pretty long and sometimes convoluted. So I'll make an attempt to explain some of the more fundamental aspects of his character.

Scott Summers, the mutant known as Cyclops, has been many things over the years. He's the eldest of the three sons of Katherine and Christopher Summers, spent much of his childhood in an orphanage being run by Mister Sinister, shoots reddish 'force beams' out of his eyes that he keeps shielded by ruby quartz eyewear, was trained to be and has been the leader of the X-men for most of their existance, has been married two times and is the father of one child (Nathan Summers, better known as Cable) in mainstream reality (Earth-616), is a skilled tactician and extremely capable combatant, and has been romantically linked to two highly powerful telepaths. He is mature, serious, methodical, emotionally distant (but horribly vulnerable when it comes to the people he loves), level-headed, generally responsible, caring, and can be ruthless and harsh if he has to.

He has brown hair, a light complexion and a tall, slender build (his nickname, for years, was 'Slim'. For YEARS). It's unsure what colour his eyes are, but it's been stated they're not red. Like his brothers, Cyclops is an energy manipulator- he absorbs solar energy and produces his eye-beams (note that Havok's ability also uses solar energy).

He is a 30-something American mutant widower who, for the past 20-ish years (remember, it's Marvel, time passes oddly in the MU) has been the leader of a group of powerful mutants that seeks to co-exist peacefully with the human race while protecting itself from a wide variety of threats. Doing so has cost him his (second, and most significant) wife - a woman he'd loved since the moment he'd laid eyes on her way back in the first ever issue of X-men, many friends and family, his safety, his happiness, and his life (he's a Summers, he got better). Any hopes and/or dreams he had were taken away from him the moment he met Professor Xavier- a man who treated him more like a subordinate than a son, secretly lusted after the woman he loved (probably still has a thing for her, actually...), subjected him to verbal and physical abuse, and would on occasion fake his own death for a variety of (rather unnecessary) reasons. Ever since Xavier handed the metaphorical reins to him, Cyclops has dedicated his entire life to protecting mutants from many different forces who would seek to destroy them simply for being mutants; over the years the amount of mutants he's sought to protect has grown exponentially, even when taking M-day into account.

It's not as though it's an easy task for him- he has, for the majority of his life, had issues with stress, overworking, grief, and a variety of other problems. Despite all that, he rarely (if ever) complains- he views what he does as a responsibility and constantly tries to do his absolute best.

He may not be a (quote-unquote) 'badass', or particularly charismatic, or funny, or a host of other things people love in other characters. Hell, sometimes he can be kinda boring. But Scott Summers is someone who constantly works his ass off to protect others- not just the people he cares about, or only other mutants, but anyone he can help. He's not some crazed dictator building an army of child soldiers (for the record, that's usually Xavier's thing), or a 'stupid quarterback', or any of that nonsense that people keep spouting.

38 Comments