There’s a lot of change in the air, and in so many cases, it’s nice to see how the COVID crisis is bringing out our better angels – especially when it comes to publishers and retailers.
Inc. Magazine recently called Independent Bookstores “the baby seals of commerce–at once universally beloved and endangered.” The same could be said for comic shops, except for the universally loved part. Here’s an innovative ideas from forward-thinking entrepreneurs designed to create something positive for both these retailer channels.
Aftershock Comics has a program designed to help comic shops. It’s called S.O.S. which stands for “Support Our Shops”. This is a cool program that’s elegant in its simplicity. Aftershock created & printed a one-shot anthology comic, S.O.S., and is giving copies of it to comic shops that have been supporting their line, no strings attached! Comic shops can sell their copies at whatever price they set (it feels like at least a $5.99 comic to me), offer it as buy-one-get-one with other Aftershock comics, or just give it away to reward customers.
The comic itself is gorgeous! Painter David Mack delivers yet another hauntingly beautiful cover, full of hope and brightness, just like the comic itself. The issue is packed full of short stories from top creators wistfully celebrating fans’ interactions with and appreciation of comic shops.
Editor Joe Pruett has pulled together an impressive list of talents for this funny-book version of a charity concert. Contributors include Cullen Bunn, Steve Orlando, Leila Leiz, Stephanie Phillips, Marshall Dillon and more. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find Jerry Ordway’s story here, as I don’t associate him with Aftershock. But wow – he delivered in spades.
Look for S.O.S. at your local comic shop, ask them to get it for you if they don’t have it, and if they give it to you for free, give them a generous tip. It’s a fantastic book and worth every penny you can spare. And we want to encourage innovative thinking like this, as well as help comic shops and bookstores, don’t we?
If retailers don’t already have a relationship with Aftershock, they can go to the site where all the staff is listed. https://aftershockcomics.com
Last week I wrote an open letter to Marvel about what the X-Men mean to me, primarily as a reaction to X-Men Gold #1. If you missed it, you can read it here. Since then, X-Men Blue #1 has come out. I read it, so now you get to read me talking about it.
Although I’ll be avoiding the biggest spoilers, if you are looking to avoid any and all spoilers for this comic I suggest you go give it a read before you continue.
Oh, you already read it and can keep going? That’s great!
X-Men Blue #1 is written by Cullen Bunn, drawn by Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni, colored by Matt Milla and lettered by Joe Caramagna. Cullen Bunn is someone I’ve been a fan of for a while now; it’s really hard not to enjoy Bunn’s writing. I’m really looking forward to reading his, Danny Luckert and Marie Enger’s Regression over at Image Comics. You can read an interview with them on this new series here. It was Cullen Bunn’s involvement in this series that made me excited about this particular X title.
After reading it I have to say that Cullen Bunn did not disappoint. He took what could have easily been a rough start to a series and crafted a tight, fun story that didn’t take itself too seriously throughout. That way, when the reveal at the end of the issue is made, it hits you harder. Tone is important and Cullen Bunn knows how to make you feel every panel of every page without feeling pandered to.
The art of Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni creates exciting page layouts the move the story along at breakneck speed when it needs to and is aided by the primary use of wide across panels and tall thin panels. My only complaints are that everyone looks too young and pretty –especially Black Tom Cassidy – and I don’t care for the new Juggernaut design. It’s too Bane.
Matt Milla’s colors are bright and really pop. It only gets dark mostly when dealing with Juggernaut and on the last couple of pages, which helps the mood greatly and in particular moves the reader on the second to last page of the main story to start feeling the sense of dread before they even get to the reveal. Excellent coloring.
There are two problems that jump out to me from this book that are no fault of the creative team. First, that the book doesn’t necessarily fit with the 90s nostalgia that these X books represent. This isn’t the old Blue team, but rather the original team of the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby years minus Professor X. While it made sense in the 80s to bring the original team back in X-Factor as the Lee and Kirby run was on only two decades old, it makes less sense when it’s five decades old. Anyway, after a few years they completely changed the X-Factor team back. You have so many great, compelling X characters to have a team limited like this seems entirely unnecessary. Now maybe the team will change in the next few issues or do, but the issue #1 is where you wanna grab people and it’d be a shame if people skip out on this because of this particular team, with the team on X-Men Gold being far more interesting character wise.
The second problem spins out of the first. We end up with a team that’s all cis white characters. A major problem with some of these older comics is that they are straighter, more cis, more male and more white than what people today would often expect. Even straight cis white male readers who are against diversity in comics at least expect their to be diversity, or else what are they going to yell about on Twitter?
That’s the danger with nostalgia. You can often go the route of nostalgia or go the route of diversity, but it becomes difficult to wed the two – particularly when the property in question is over fifty years old. There is a reason people like Len Wein, Chris Claremont, and Dave Cockrum made the team more diverse, and it seems silly to be taking steps back like this.
Despite how some people have reported on the Marvel Retailer Summit, Marvel has not come out and said they are anti-diversity. This particular team doesn’t ring true to what many X books have stood for the past few decades. You can’t point to Jean Grey being the leader as being terribly progressive when she’s the only woman on a team of five, and it’s hard to point to Iceman as being particularly progressive here when his orientation isn’t really discussed. That won’t be the case in Sina Grace’s Iceman, which I’m really looking forward to reading.
Look, nostalgia can be complicated, and can often be very, very white. That doesn’t make it bad reading. Like I said, I enjoyed reading this book. These problems with nostalgia still need to be looked at, and maybe a few issues or so down we will have a shake up with this team to have it feel more like a book in the spirit of the X-Men. And with Cullen Bunn at the helm and the reveal at the end of this issue, I feel like that’s a very real possibility.
Written by Cullen Bunn. Art by Javier Fernandez and Dan Brown
I’m perpetually locked into trying new books, so sometimes I nearly forget to catch up on those I’ve most recently enjoyed. Lucky for me that the marvelous Magneto has magnetically adhered itself to the top of my pile. It was a fairly light week. For those not keeping score, I can’t recommend this series any more than I already have. What I can do now instead is really spend my time with the titular man (and mutant) hunter and see how he ticks in accordance to Cullen Bunn’s pen.
At the onset of the relaunch (if one would consider this book a relaunch) Bunn’s Magneto sees himself a grey wound in a black and white world of scar tissue. Unhappy at the atrocities that have continually befallen his species, Erik Lehnsherr decides that he will rise to become the judge, jury, and executioner of those charged with murdering a mutant. In issue #6, the deathpool expands to those mutants who have killed their own kind. Mr. Sinister’s Marauders – as Magneto helpfully expounds to himself throughout the issue – are pawns and grunts serving a higher power. It is boy coy and intelligent then that Magneto denotes (again, to himself, I suppose) that he too once raised an army under his fist. In his case though, his pawns were at least decidedly homo-superior. No black-on-black crime for this angry Jew!
Because Cullen puts us in the position of a fly on the shoulder of the master of magnetism, it’s inevitable that we come to see him as our hero. And it’s hard to not be swayed by his joie de vivre when he brutally murders a murderer. Painted as a more elegant Frank Castle, it’s hard to deny Magneto is doing good of a sort. But any follower of Charles Xavier sees then the other side of that coin.
Do I believe in capital punishment? No. Simply put, I don’t feel man has any right – regardless of sin – to take the life of another man. I’m not overly religious (if at all), but the agnostic in me says that when murder is done in the first degree it is a pox on the species at large. I should note I’m a huge fan of corporal punishment. I say why let Hitler enjoy the freedom of death when you can pummel him daily? But I digress. In the case of Magneto, our protagonist is vindicated in his justice in spite of breaking the law in doing so. For making as many mutant killers pay the ultimate price, we see the forest for the trees. This is either Magneto doing as much righteous damage before he’s killed himself, or he’s making a final gambit to become a Batmanesque myth; to become an immortal price to be paid upon those who so choose to hunt homo-superior.
Magneto’s barely scathed in his quest. After laying several Marauders to rest (by way of some of the most inventive and gory methods one could imagine), the plan is set: Magneto will reprogram the next batch of cloned Sinister Slaves to become a new suicide-bomb-ready army of Brotherhood pawns. I don’t know if Mr. Sinister himself is still alive in the 616, but if he is, I’ll assume I should purchase flowers and a condolence card for whomever makes those crazy metal ribbon capes.
The story and pacing throughout the issue is slow, but methodical. A B-story regarding the now limbless Scalphunter leaves a few cryptic beats, and is much needed in the book. The opposing A-plot simply shows Magneto on yet another murder mission. Six issues in and Bunn has the tone and style down. From here on out – and trust me, he’s captured me – I want to see some sharper left turns. Simply put, there’s only so much hard justice a man can take without knowing the true master plan. And if the plan truly is just a death march, it can be said now, and spare us too much more of the same.
Artistically Javier Fernandez and Dan Brown continue to deliver a book that looks as gritty as it reads. The book’s hard shifts in color are some of best I’ve seen in modern comics. The heavy inks here well placed. And Fernandez’s textural shifts showcase a look that simply should not be in a Big Two book… and he’s commended for it. There’s little left to say to the art aside from simply picking favorite moments. The death of a Prism is done so well with simple storytelling that you could almost hear the faint crickle-crackle of eminent shattering. When a book is heard in your head when you’re reading it, the artists are doing their job well.
Ultimately, Magneto #6 is hopefully the last stop on the simplistic potential swan song of Erik Lehnsherr. The book has style, grace, grit, and vigor. My hope then now is to see a plan emerge, and from it, a continuous look into a villain fit to be grey in the continuously simplified world of cape and cowl comics.