Sunday, August 17, 2008

That Silly Wasp!

Real dialogue from Tales of Suspense # 59 (1964):

Scene: The Wasp is looking into a mirror while the other Avengers sit and wait for her.

Wasp: "Stop being so impatient boys! I'll be with you in a jiffy!"

Giant-Man: "Sure, Wasp--that's what you told us a half-hour ago!"

Captain America: "The trouble with girls is they all act like females!"

Iron Man (entering the room): "Say! Haven't you left yet?? You'll be late for that out-of-town charity benefit show!"

Thor: "We're ready to go! But Wasp decided to change her makeup!"

Wasp: "Okay, I'm ready now! Gosh, look at the time. C'mon boys--let's not be late! See you later Iron Man."

Ant-Man: "Just like a woman. You make it sound as though you've been waiting for us!"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Comics Round-Up, Part the Third

One of the two major Star Wars releases this summer is The Force Unleashed, a story told through a novel, a graphic novel, a computer game, and with several accompanying toys. I thought the graphic novel told a pretty interesting story. Set two years prior to A New Hope, we see Darth Vader take on an apprentice to help hunt down the few remaining Jedi. The story ties in the development of the Death Star, the birth of the Alliance, and more in a fairly seemless continuity implant. It's not ground-breaking stuff, but interesting.

I've generally liked Christ Claremont's work on X-Men, but the X-Men: Die By the Sword mini-series was a trial to get through. Focusing on Captain Britain and the multi-verse, other-dimensional "Captain Britain Corps", the story is one of those cosmic "all of creation is doomed unless the villain is stopped" pieces that tends to make my eyes glaze over. Basically one extraordinarly long fight scene after a decent first issue, this contained way too many characters I've never heard of and really couldn't care less about. Unless you happen to be a major Captain Britain fan, skip this.

The best part about the second volume in Spider-Man's Tangled Web? The story "Ray of Light" by Kaare Andrews. Drawn in almost photo-realistic style, it's the touching story of two young brothers and their differing beliefs about the existence of Spider-Man. The rest of the collection is just average, however.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Boba Fett # 1

For the past year I've been running a Star Wars role-playing game set during the Clone Wars. My completist tendencies have led to me learn more about the era through comics, the novel line, and more. A few days ago, I picked up Star Wars: Boba Fett, The Fight to Survive, a young adult novel and the first in a series of books set right around Episode II: The Attack of the Clones movie.

The book is actually pretty good, and I quite like the colorful cover. It tells the story of 10-year-old Boba Fett in the lead-up and shortly after seeing his father get killed in the Geonosis arena battle. Count Dooku and Aurra Sing make an appearance in the latter third of the book, and I assume the next novels in the series start to show us the makings of a young bounty hunter. Kinda fun if you're looking for a quick & low-vocab read. Is it goofy of me to read kids' books like this? Yes. Will I still buy and read them? Yes.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Comics Round-Up, Part Deux

I have to say my favorite read of recent months has been the (justly ballyhooed) Runaways. I found the first digest-sized trade paperback for $ 4 and I can't wait to pick up more. The story begins with an original twist, as a group of teenagers discover their parents are cold-hearted, murderous super-villians. Each of the teens has a unique and interesting personality, and their dilemma in trying to figure out what to do is really well-written with just the right amount of tension and humor. I wasn't quite as big a fan of the ending which makes it seem like this might become yet another teen super-hero book, but I'm willing to see what happens next.

Of a more mixed quality, the first volume of Spider-Man's: Tangled Web was another find in the bargain bin. The conceit here is that the stories are designed to feature Spider-Man only as a supporting or occasional character, with the spotlight on friends, family members, bystanders, villians, or basically anyone who gets caught up in Spider-Man's web. Each story arc is written by a different author. The first few issues, featuring a new villain named "The Thousand" felt pretty blah, but the last story arc centering on long-time enemy the Rhino was a really fun read. Long Spider-Man's doormat because of his sheer lack of intelligence, the Rhino finds some mad scientists to amp up his brain power with interesting and ironic results. A good read if it can be found cheaply.

I'm not really sure what the thought-process was behind Omega Flight, the heir to the long-standing Canadian super-hero team Alpha Flight. The beginning of this limited series holds out promise, as refugee villains and heroes from America's super powers registration act (the driving force behind the major Civil War event) flee to Canada and cause all sorts of trouble. Since all but one member of Alpha Flight was killed in two panels of an issue of New Avengers a couple of years back (an event I still find annoying and unworthy of twenty-year old major characters), the Canadian and American governments decide to field a new team in Canada to deal with the mess and named it Omega Flight. The odd thing is that they fill it with American heroes like U.S. Agent, Spider-Woman, and an American in the traditionally Canadian Guardian suit. The first couple of issues are halfway decent and it's always fun seeing some Canadian landmarks (poor ROM!), but the second-half of the series devolves into a long and somewhat indecipherable slugfest versus The Wrecking Crew. Disappointing on the whole, and not something that makes me yearn for more Omega Flight adventures.

Avengers Unplugged

In my continuing quest to re-read my complete Marvels, I've reached Avengers Unplugged, a short lived (six issues) series from 1995. Like its sister publication, Fantastic Four Unplugged, the main conceit behind Avengers Unplugged was its price: $ .99 an issue, about half the price of what a "normal" Marvel comic was going for at the time. The idea, I think, was to offer a comic with popular characters that could be read apart from the "main" team book and see if the difference in price would drive sales. Obviously, the plan didn't work since cancellation came quickly.

The first couple of issues are standard slugfests versus super-villains like Nefarius and Graviton, while the third offers something a little different in teaming up two of the Avengers' female members (Crystal and Black Widow) for the spotlight in a rather boring battle against the android Super Adaptoid. The last few issues are better, as #4 features the wedding between long-time super-villain lovers, Titania and the Absorbing Man (with the nice turnabout of the heroes being the interfering problem-makers), # 5 resolves which hero should bear the name "Captain Marvel", and # 6 follows up a plot thread from elsewhere about the Black Knight's cursed sword.

All in all, Avengers Unplugged consisted of standard super-heroics that could have fit into the main Avengers title. Still, it's regrettable that the experiment with lower prices didn't bear fruit.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Comics Round-Up

Summer's usually a good time to catch up on a stack of unread comics, and here's some of the stuff I've gone through recently (spoiler-free, to boot):

Dr. Strange in Shamballa: This is one of the original Marvel graphic novels from 1986, written by J.M. DeMatteis, a writer whose work is sometimes profound and sometimes strays into goofy New Age territory. Shamballa makes the most out of the large-size graphic novel format, however, with beautiful artwork and calligraphy, along with an epic story that fits nicely into the format. I found it in a used book store, but it's long out of print and probably not worth tracking down unless you're a huge fan of Marvel's Sorceror Supreme.

52 # 4: The fourth and final volume in DC Comics' 52 series, which tells what took place during the "missing year" in the DC Universe (in which all of the regular comics "jumped forward" a year in time). 52 is made up of several different story threads: Lex Luthor creating an "Everyman" gene to give super powers to anyone who wants them; Elongated Man, Ralph Dibny, trying to resurrect his dead wife, the Animal Man and other heroes trapped across the universe trying to return home, and more. My favorite thread and the one that kept me comic back for each volume is the story of The Question and his protege, Detective Montoya of the Gotham Police Department. I won't go into spoilers, but The Question storyline is both tragic and excellently written. On the other hand, I wasn't a huge fan of the ending to 52. The suddenly revealed "villain behind it all" seemed random and kinda goofy, and the apparent resurrection of 51 other-dimensional universes seems to undo one of the few good things to come out of the original 1986 Crisis. I should mention one great thing about the 52 trade paperbacks is that for each issue, one of the writers or artists has written a text piece commentary--it's always fascinating to see what's going on in the creators' heads when they put together a comic.

Clone Wars Adventures # 1-4: Each of these is a 96-page, digest-size collection of three of our stories set during Star Wars' Clone Wars era. They're intended for kids, with very little dialogue and simple stories. Like everything Star Wars, they're in continuity, but adults aren't missing much of significance and would be better off focussing on the traditional-size (but similarly named) Clone Wars trade-paperbacks, which collect far more interesting and important comics set during that era.