Tagged: Secret Wars

Mike Gold: Well, It Ain’t Much Of A Secret War

Secret_Wars_9_CoverOur friends at Marvel Comics have informed the world that “the biggest Marvel event of all time” will come to an end four weeks from today, on January 13, 2016.

Of course, the “biggest Marvel event of all time” is in the mind of the beholder. Personally, I would have picked the release of the first Fantastic Four #1 back in 1961, or the release of Marvel Comics #1 back in 1939. But that’s just the way I see it, and I’m the one digressing from the point.

They’re talking about the release of the ninth and final issue of Secret Wars, the third such dull mega-event employing that title. The penultimate issue came out last week, and that one was late. This one is later. In fact, it is so late that the entire Marvel Universe which was supposed to be upended by this series (opinions differ) already has been upended to the extent that it was to be upended, and the “All New All Different” #1s started shipping last month. The House of Idea delivered something like six second issues this week alone, plus one or two third issues, plus two All New All Different first issues. Again, I’m talking about what arrived in the stores today.

So, to the extent that the “event” was an event, the ending is not. Well, maybe a little, as Alex Ross’s beautifully subtle cover suggests (as does Scottie Young’s variant cover, but it’s done is a somewhat different style). I’m not knocking the series itself; it’s pretty much as good as those things get and, having stewarded one of these things myself, I know how difficult that is. Well, maybe not: I worked for Dick Giordano and not for the ghost of Walt Disney.

Secret Wars Scottie YoungBut most all of the cats are out of the bag, and the one or two left in were clearly in need of kitty litter. Once you blow the ending in many dozen comics that precede the finish, you’ve got no finish. Just one long, nicely illustrated footnote.

Secret Wars 2015 has been a fiasco. Counting the number of comics that tied in to the series is a lot like guessing the number of jelly beans in the jar at the voter’s registration office: it could be done, but it’s far easier to just talk a walk. There were Ultimate tie-ins, 2099 tie-ins, Age of Apocalypse tie-ins, Marvel 1602 tie-ins, House of M tie-ins… and something called “Battleworld.”

I read a number of the many Battleworld mini-series, and some of those were pretty good. Therefore, some were not. But, really folks, we used to get those sort of stories in one sitting in a giant-sized comic book called What If? Battleworld should have been titled Why Bother?

Having talked with my fellow comics fans at a ridiculous number of conventions and store appearances lately, I know I am not the least bit alone in saying this. “All New All Different” is just more of the same old same old, to be dicked around with in next summer’s Big Event.

Marvel said Secret Wars 2015 wasn’t a reboot, and as far as I can tell it mostly sort of wasn’t. It’s a reboot in the way that the Doctor Who revival a decade ago was: some things have changed, but that change came in a linear fashion. However, there is one important difference: the Doctor Who revival was quite, quite good.

I’ve been a Marvel Comics fan since Fin Fang Foom was a hatchling, so I don’t want to end on a downer. So I’ll say this: despite its many problems, its overreach and its oversaturation, Secret Wars 2015 made a hell of a lot more sense than Convergence.


Molly Jackson: Knowing Too Much

Knowing Too Much

Marvel has been slowly and steadily announcing their plans for their “new universe” coming this fall. It has been the hot topic on most geek blogs and is keeping people excited, sort of. In just watching this event creating the new Marvel Universe unfolds, I already have some misgivings with how things are going.

With nearly two months left of the current world-changing event, we already know who is going to survive Secret Wars. We already know what new series they will be in and who the creative team is. It’s no fun if you know the answer before the question is done being asked. And now the question is, why bother reading the event at all?

I’ve waited a little bit before jumping into buying Secret Wars. I had just finished with Convergence – which was basically the same event – and needed a break from world combining. Also, I was not a huge fan of the Free Comic Book Day prequel comic. And frankly, I wanted to hear people’s reactions. A friend has told me the basics but admitted that while it is interesting, it is not the most cohesive story. I’m considering just skipping Secret Wars all together since I already know the outcome.

The other hand is, I was excited to give Marvel another chance sans the weight of their overgrown universe. In the past, I had a hard time trying to jump into large universes because of the weight of history and the complex, never-ending storylines. Then, Marvel Point One happened. I tried out and liked quite a few issues. However, the series I enjoyed failed to keep me interested because they immediately went back to complex tales. DC Comics learned from this, and then made their complete reboot a lot more accessible. My hope was a new start for Marvel meant an easier entrance to exploring that universe beyond just a few standalone stories.

It all comes down to why I read anything. I read to experience through another’s eyes, hear another’s thoughts and feel another’s feelings. I read to explore new worlds and characters. And I read to enjoy the plot unfolding before me. All I can hope is that Marvel’s new universe won’t be completely spoiled before it is even born.

Comic Reviews (June 10th, 2015)

Hello all; as of this week, my comics reviews are being crossposted to ComicMix, so I suppose I should tack a paragraph introducing myself onto the start. I’m Phil Sandifer, a blogger covering various forms of pop culture and media with my own idiosyncratic long-form analysis. I’m responsible for TARDIS Eruditorum , my now-concluded history of Doctor Who, and the still-ongoing The Last War in Albion , a sprawling history of the most important magical war of the last century, the rivalry between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison.

Everything reviewed is something I willingly paid my own money for, whether wisely or foolishly, organized from my least favorite to my favorite of the week.
Weirdworld #1
Snagged because it seemed to be taking the Secret Wars premise to an interesting extreme. But while this seems a functional mash-up of Frazetta-esque pulp action and superheroes, nothing in the first issue seems to rise above the basic “nobody’s done a big Frazetta homage lately” appeal, and the whole thing ends up leaving me a bit cold. I’m sure this scratches someone’s itch, but it doesn’t scratch any itches of mine, or at least, doesn’t provide $3.99 worth of scratch.
Gotham Academy #7
Two months away from this book have, as I feared they might, not really added much to its luster for me. I still like the aesthetic a lot conceptually, but nothing has forged any attachment to the actual characters for me. It’s something I find myself hoping other people are enjoying a lot, because it’s a book I want to exist in the world, but not something whose magic is quite firing for me.
Silver Surfer #12
This feels like a book out of another era; one where Secret Wars #5 was still coming out in July, for instance, at least based on the ads. This isn’t a book that has ever been inclined towards the subtle exploration of a premise, and indeed the content of this one is telegraphed ages in advance. The big moment, the Surfer and Dawn snogging, is compelling in its own right, but one of those things where Secret Wars kind of cannibalizes its impact; one assumes the Slott/Allred Surfer is not going to be surviving into All-New All-Different Marvel, which means that Dawn Greenwood is probably a fascinating implication about to be thrown aside in a quasi-reboot. Which leaves this feeling very disposable.
Spider-Gwen #5
The alternate universe nature of this book is tough; it’s never as strong when it’s fleshing out the AU. The appeal is Gwen Stacy as Spider-Woman, and the book falters when it’s outside of her head. Which it is for a lot of this issue. I should love the sort of WicDiv “superpowered pop star punchdown” feel of this, and I do, but there’s too much of familiar Marvel for it to stand on its own feet and too much difference from the usual concepts of “Matt Murdock” and “Felicia Hardy” for their associations to quite carry it through, which is leaving the central appeal of this book lacking for me.
Nameless #4
I admit to some severe disappointment with this. I’d very much hoped that Morrison’s engagement with the vibrant and increasingly culturally influential nihilist philosophies of people like Thomas Ligotti would push him to new things. Instead we just sort of have Final Crisis and The Filth mashed up and played back at the wrong speed.
Ultimate End #2
As a part of Secret Wars, this is developing an interesting enough mystery about Manhattan and what happened to the 616 and Ultimate universes. As a comic designed to serve as a satisfying end to the fifteen year project that was the Ultimate Universe, the fact that there are so many 616 characters running around feels to me like it’s getting in the way. The scene of 616-Spidey visiting Ultimate Aunt May and Gwen Stacy, in particular, felt like bizarrely squandered potential.
Saga #29
I admit, there are aspects of this book’s… extremity that I do not entirely grasp the point of. Autofelatio cave monster is a prime example. This all moved along nicely, and I think there were some good plot beats, but I have to admit, this issue did nothing for my concern that the book has vanished up its own ass.
1602: Witch Hunter Angela #1
I appreciate the degree to which this is following up from the Angela; Asgard’s Assassin series in terms of plot, feeling like it’s nicely setting up an actual arc that’s going to continue before and after Secret Wars. And Angela killing King James (who is secretly Wolverine) is basically pure brilliance.
Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #9
I have little doubt my affection for these Last Days stories is going to drop precipitously as they all end up hitting the same basic conceptual beats, but I’m glad Ewing got the first crack at a finale in this vein, because he doesn’t bother holding anything back, instead just banging the “heroes fighting to the end because that’s what heroes do” drum as unambiguously and as optimistically as it can be banged.
Injection #2
Warren Ellis weirdness. It features Ellis’s occasionally irksome tick of just throwing in a massive multi-page fight scene that establishes little beyond “this dude is an an ultra badass,” but while these scenes are less interesting than most of what Ellis does, Ellis still does them better than almost anyone else. And the remainder of this book is good fun.
Crossed +100 #5
This was just fantastic. I love the man for whom the Crossed outbreak was just business as normal, especially done as a sort of Rorschach parody. I love the invocation of the original title of The Stars My Destination. One more issue of this, and the sense of dread and terror is fantastic. Sci-fi zombies with all the zombie horror in the background. It’s brilliant; so wonderful to have Moore writing two titles right now, even if it’s only going to be true for another month.

Originally published on PhilipSandifer.com.

Molly Jackson: Re-Embrace Nostalgia

Last week they announced a remake of 1970s cult classic The Rocky Horror Show. Social media collectively said “Are you &)$!* kidding me?” and expressed their righteous anger to the world. I was among them, filled with fury.

The biggest outcry to these remakes/reboots/retcons is that our media tends to forget the original in favor of the newest one. The first time I noticed this is with the movie Yours, Mine and Ours. I adore the original 1968 movie starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda. Every time I saw it was on, I watched it. That is, until the remake starring Renee Russo and Dennis Quaid came out in 2005. Then, I never saw the original playing on TV. It was like the media world forgot about it.

Then, a few months ago, Marvel released a number of pictures hinting popular stories would be reprinted starting in 2015. We know now that is due to their upcoming Secret Wars universe reboot. Still, they gave off the air of “Let’s just give them what we think they want, which is the same story over and over.” I complained about that one too. If I really want to read Civil War, I’m going to grab the original before anything else. Granted, me complaining about lack of innovation in comics isn’t new. Still, enough is enough.

I have decided not to let the remake of comic books, TV shows, and movies get me down. If I loved something, remaking it doesn’t affect my personal feelings for it. Or, at the very least, it shouldn’t.  I can still love the ‘90s live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies without cursing Michael Bay’s name – even though he deserves it. His crappy movies don’t change my love for the Turtles or those films.

I have always had strong connections to characters. If they get abused, I want to defend them. They are as real to me as the woman giving me a weird look on the subway right now. I’m going to remember my characters for who they were when I loved them, not the current shlock in which they are currently featured.

I’m still going to give remakes a chance. Some of them might even be good but most, I wager, will disappoint me. Still, I am not going to be upset that a story lives on – even in name only. I’ll just be nostalgic for the good ol’ days.


Mike Gold: No Fire This Time

In her column last Monday, Mindy Newell talked about how an old-time friend and fellow comics reader was jumping off of the ship. Too many cataclysmic events leading directly into too many cataclysmic events. Not enough real story.

I know other readers who feel the same way, and this spring’s cataclysmic events from DC and Marvel provide an excellent opportunity to take the time they now spend reading DC and Marvel and watching the movies and teevee shows produced by, or with, DC and Marvel.

I get that, and I feel the same way. I love this medium. Always have, always will. A great many of my most enduring friendships have their roots in comics fandom, as did my marriage. But, damn, by the time I hit the staples I want a real story and not just another overwhelming grab for whatever’s left in my bank account.

In terms of my time, the Two Universes’ loss is Image Comics, Dynamite Comics, Boom Studios and IDW’s gain. Oh, I’ve always been attracted to these publishers, as well as to the artsy-fartsy output from the intelligent folk at Fantagraphics and Abrams and their ilk. And Archie, too. Hell, if Harvey was still around, I’d probably find something worthwhile over there as well. I enjoy the medium that much.

But I’ve spent all of my literate life having a special love for superhero comics and for their creators. It’s the backbone of American comics. And I’m kind of pissed that the Two Universes are trying to chase me and my buddies away.

Not that a lot of people care. North Americans spent about two-thirds of a billion dollars on tickets to Marvel’s The Avengers (source: Box Office Mojo). In the United States, The Avengers comic book sells around 50,000 copies. That same year North American comic book sales totaled less than one-half billion dollars (source: Comichron). All comics. From all publishers. All year long.

That’s pathetic.

We vote with our feet. If we don’t like something, we don’t spend money on it. Of course, fans are a bit different: we’re likely to continue to spend money on once-loved comics titles until we’re either absolutely certain they suck, or we are hopelessly confused.

Mindy’s friend is by no means alone. Disney and Warner Bros don’t give a fart about comic books, they care about return on investment. Fine; that’s their job. But from looking at the bottom line – hell, even trying to find the bottom line – it is quite possible that the movies and teevee shows in all their forms will be the only places we’ll be able to get our capes on.

(With apologies to James Baldwin.)

Mindy Newell: Do Not Fold, Spindle, Or Mutilate Me!

Yesterday I ran into a friend from high school as I was leaving the supermarket. He told me that he is moving to a smaller place and so he’s trying to sell off his comics collection, which runs into the thousands and thousands. He’s going to keep some of them because he loves them, and for posterity, and for hopefully great value in the future. But he hasn’t been able to offload most of them – which I said probably has something to do with the economy, because even if the Dow is over 18,000 and the unemployment rate is under 5.5%, most everyone is keeping their Washingtons and their Lincolns and their Benjamins in their wallet or under the bed. He also told me that once DC’s two-month limited series Convergence is done in April, he’s also going to be done with comics.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because all it is now is one big cataclysmic event leading into another,” he said. “It’s boring, it doesn’t mean anything, and I’m not wasting any more money on the shit.”

Yeah. I get it.

PowBack in the eighties the comics industry was experiencing a boom in great visual storytelling that was busting down all the preconceived notions about comics. No more pop-art balloons. No more women whose only aim in life was to become a Mrs. fill-in-your-favorite-single-super-guy here. No more “*choke* *gasp* *sob* How ironic!” neatly wrapped up endings. Stories became more complex; the superheroes weren’t always red-white-and-blue American good guys who always saved the day.

Yes, Marvel had been doing this since the introduction of Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15, cover-dated August 1962, but across the country there was an explosion of energy in the eighties: the independent market took root and prospered, the Comics Code Authority seal vanished from covers, the Brits launched a second pop culture invasion, and people were openly reading comics on the subways, on the buses, at work, and at school. The story ruled, man!

Comic historians can tell you when it exactly happened, but I know that it was after Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars and, especially, The Death of Superman, that the story disappeared and the event took over.

Ah, The Death of Superman – everyone was buying multiple, multiple copies and stowing them away in attics and cedar chests and shoeboxes because everyone knew they would be worth $$$$$$ someday. Only of course millions of issues were printed and of course DC wasn’t going to really ice their licensing giant and of course the public’s ability to be sucker-punched was infinite (pun intended). So of course it will be about 500 million years before a mint copy of the issue will be worth gazillions. But of course DC made money, lots and lots of money, and generated lots and lots of publicity, including a Time magazine cover.

And so of course, the people at the top of the corporate DC ladder wanted to do it again. And again. And again. And again.

And so they did.

And Marvel did it as well. I think they started (but again, ask a comic historian for the exact stats and dates) after Secret War I with the expansion of the X-Men line, which led to crossovers, which led to X-Men crossovers, which led to Iron Man and Thor, and Punisher expansions which led to crossovers and then to across-the-line events.

Oh, and let’s not forget the variable covers with Mylar and special graphics and holograms. And there were “3-D” pop-up pages, and double-page fold-outs and…

Dig it, man. These were all events.

But what happened to the story?

It went elsewhere…to the comics that nobody really noticed (and so got cancelled), to the book publishers who started graphic novel lines, and, especially in Marvel’s case, to the movies and television. (Although, as Marc Alan Fishman recently noted in his column last week, DC’s Flash is gettin’ it.)

John Ostrander’s column yesterday reflected on the wonderful world of robotic (computer) storytelling. He noted that these stories, and I’m using shorthand here, suck big time. Grammatically correct and all that, but no heart. No soul. No emotion.

But the Cylons evolved, and I’m guessing so will these programs, John.

Maybe not in our lifetime, old friend, or yours, but one day there will be an X-Men or a Superman or a Daredevil or a Batman written by a computer.

And it will be an event.


Tweeks: A-Force Assemble!


Last week when Marvel announced the all-female team of Avengers, you better believe we were stoked! We studied the A-Force artwork to figure out who everyone was and got right to researching the superheroes we didn’t know. Now, we’re even more excited and can’t wait  read Secret Wars in May.  In this week’s video we’ll tell you why A-Force is rad, which mutant powers we’d use to make lunch, and our thoughts on the girls not included (namely Maddy’s #2 favorite superhero, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl). A-Force Assemble, indeed!

Mike Gold: 52 Comics Pick-Up

Nope. This one isn’t what you might think. To paraphrase Li’l Willie Shakespeare, “Not that I loved the New 52 less, but that I loved DC more.”

The New 52 is not dead. Heck, it’s not even coughing up blood. Sure, a great many of the titles they started out with aren’t around any more, and yes, in June they replace a whole bunch of others (although several seem to be excuses for new #1s), and, certainly, they’re dropping the “New 52” branding, but the New 52 is alive and well.

That’s a mixed blessing. As crappy as most of the New 52 was, I prefer to look at this new stunt as an evolutionary change and not as a reboot. You know, just like what Marvel’s doing with their latest Secret Wars event. The one that starts the month before. Super-hero publishing is a pyramid scheme infused with Newtonian physics.

It’s been around for about three and one-half years, so the New 52 is hardly new. And, well, actually, they’re not really publishing 52 DCU books each month. If I’m counting correctly, in June they’ll have 49 – plus whatever annuals, specials, and clutter that may be. Or, maybe, the only reason they’re dropping the tag line is because it leaves a bitter taste… much like, oh, New Coke.

(Hey, Mike! Damn with faint praises much?)

The news sites have been full of the details of what’s missing and what’s coming and who’s doing what, and since ComicMix is an opinion site littered with some of the finest critical minds on Earth-Prime, I’ll cut to the commentary.

Many of DC’s new titles (New 24?) appear to be flop-oriented. Is the world really lusting for a brand-new Prez series? Bat-Mite? Harley Quinn and Power Girl? Bizarro? Maybe Section 8 will click – it certainly has the pedigree – but in the aggregate, the chances for long-term survival for some of these books appears minimal.

The fact is, I applaud many of these decisions. Do something different. Do something a little wacky. They’re not breathing new life into these (and other) characters, they’re breathing new life into the DCU. Original Marvel publisher Martin Goodman thought Spider-Man and the X-Men would flop. Superman sat in the drawer unsold for years. So, history tells us nobody knows what the hell is going to stick to the wall. Marvel’s bringing back Howard the Duck based upon a 10 second post-credit appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy; you’re telling me a Bat-Mite title is a bad idea? Who knows?

I’m looking forward to a few of the titles, although I will sample more than that. Most of all, I’m looking forward to the new Doctor Fate series by Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew. I love the character, Levitz has a solid track record with Justice Society heroes, and the guy is a lot more interesting than your off-the-shelf mystical hero.

On the other hand… I see where we’re getting a new Green Arrow #1 in July. Who would have ever expected First Issue Special would be so influential?


John Ostrander: Secret Convergence Wars

Starting April 1, DC Comics is launching its new meta-Crisis series, Convergence, in which characters from different planets and timelines will be thrust together on the Blood Moon to fight fight fight. In May, all of Marvel’s multiverse will go blooey with bits and pieces being recombined into a single place called Secret Wars: Battleworld and, no doubt, every one will fight fight fight. Worlds/characters will live, worlds/characters will die, and nothing will ever be the same yet again.

It’s the same concept as DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1985 (and Convergence, at least in part, is a thirty year Anniversary celebration of that event). For you young’uns who weren’t around, COIE was a 12 issue maxi-series with a very real purpose – to modernize and re-boot the DC Universe and continuity.

To be honest, I think that’s a necessity every so often for every continuity. Over the years, narrative barnacles form on characters and concepts and its good every so often to scrape them off and get back more to the basic concepts that attracted us to the characters/books/universes in the first place. That’s what the movies and TV shows made from comics have been doing – they take what is essential, respecting the source material without being bound to every bit of it, and re-interpreting it and presenting it fresh for a large audience, as if those stories were being created today. Fanboys may protest, fanboys may cry, but nothing remains the same.

IM-not so-HO (to steal from Mindy Newell), that’s a very good thing. It makes the characters and stories accessible to a larger audience, usually a much larger audience. It has the potential to grow the audience for these characters – except that the versions they see on TV or in the movies bear no resemblance to the versions they find in the comics. For example, if you like Chris Hemworth’s Thor and go to the comics, you’ll find Thor is now female. Remember that cool character the Falcon in the last Captain America movie? He now is Captain America.

It’s hard to make the comic characters track with their movie/TV versions but not impossible. When Jan Duursema and I were doing Star Wars set on the time between Episodes II and III before III came out, we had access to an early version of the script for III. We had to sign stiff non-disclosure statements but we were able to make our stories work within that time frame.

Of course, DC has said that the cinema versions of their characters do not match up with the TV versions but Marvel has gone out of its way to make TV and movies all part of one version of the Marvel Universe.

Marvel Comics has always disdained the reboots that DC has done, claiming they don’t need them but, in fact, they do. One of the really interesting aspects of Captain America is that he was frozen at the end of WW2 and wakes up in a modern world. That became a trope that you couldn’t keep repeating as the comics aged; it was no longer the Sixties and having Cap whine about being out of time for 50 years would be very tiresome. But being able to say he was thawed out in our day revives that trope and that makes it interesting again.

Continually re-inventing the characters can make them fuzzy and blurred. I’ve heard artists talking about “noodling” a page to death or erasing your pencils so often that you only get muck on the page. Doctor Strange has suffered that as every new writer coming on wanted to give their version of his origin with the “Everything you thought you knew is wrong!” schtick.

Crisis on Infinite Earths suffered from not having a clear idea of who the characters should be once you finished deconstructing what you had. To my mind, reboots need to get back to core ideas – what is unique about a given character or concept. Write them for modern audiences while capturing their essence which is what many of the movies and TV shows have done.

What will be most important about the two events – Convergence and Secret Wars: Battleworld – is what comes next. How will the companies and their writers and artists re-interpret their classic characters so they seem fresh and new and relevant for the here and now. Capture our loyalty again not with stunts (which may fuel sales but not imaginations) but with new visions of who these classic characters are. Make them familiar and yet new.

Good luck, Marvel and DC. Sincerely. Good luck.