Monday, October 27, 2014

My Monthly Stash - Summer 2014, Part 1

          Summer…turns me upside down.  Summer, summer, SUMMER!  It’s like a merry-go-round of busy days, late nights, long weekends, vacation travel- both planned and un-, and just like a pale, messianic Ric Ocasek at a freak show pool party, I’ve gotta be quick on my feet to keep from sinking.  Unfortunately, all that soggy soft-shoeing didn’t allow much time for keeping up with My Monthly Stash.  I did a lot of reading, just no blogging.  Fear thee not, verily, fall is here, school is in, and lo, I’m getting back on track:

Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird #1-5
Origin II #1-5
FCBD 2013 : Star Wars and Captain Midnight #1
The Star Wars: Lucas Draft #1-4, 0, 5-8
FCBD 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy #1
Guardians of the Galaxy #14-17
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude #2
100th Anniversary Special: Guardians of the Galaxy #1
Nova #16-17
Thanos Annual #1
FCBD 2014 Rocket Raccoon #1
Rocket Raccoon #1-2
Legendary Star-lord #1-2
Cyclops #2-3
Silver Surfer #2-4
All-New Invaders #4-5, 8
Avengers #28
New Avengers #17-22
New Avengers Annual #1
Avengers World #5-8
Avengers A. I. #11-12
Avengers Undercover #2-6
Uncanny Avengers #19-22
Uncanny Avengers Annual #1
Inhumans #1

          OK, so in addition to catching up on most of the regular ongoing titles I follow, I finally got around to reading some mini-series that I’ve let pile up.

          First up: “Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird.  I should admit publicly that when it was first announced that Disney would be acquiring Marvel, I didn’t take it very well.  I went into a state of shock, denial and queasy ambivalence.  I think my exact words were, “Wha-huh?!?!?!”- followed by a Luke-y, “Nooo!  That’s not true!  It’s impossible!”  I’m glad there weren’t cameras around; I’m pretty sure I shook my fist in the air and gnashed my teeth.  Personally, I love Disney.  Always have.  Characters, cartoons, films, music and theme park visits- so many fond memories.  Hell, I even worked at Disneyland for several years while in college, and my family and I are frequent guests to this day.  Still, I found the acquisition news distressing.  Eventually, after reading many repetitious news articles filled with Quesada-quotes no doubt expressly designed to allay fanboy fears, my concerns mutated into a wary excitement.  My reaction wasn’t unique either; many fellow Marvelites experienced similar trepidation.  But why?  Disney is a known and (mostly) respected- if not outright beloved, entity.  They’ve been entertaining the world through colorful characters for decades.  They have business interests in nearly every consumer market imaginable and enjoy global brand recognition that other companies can only dream of.  They know how to market and promote a product.  Add to that, a long history of Disney licensed characters in print comics, and the company’s experience with myriad forms of rabid fan base culture, and you’d surmise that acquiring an already-existing stable of comic book superheroes would be a savvy business move worthy of  Carl Barks’s Scrooge McDuck.

For me, all those reasons were potentially problematic.  Having been a “Mostly Marvel” guy for the last 30+ years, and despite having witnessed many creative and organizational changes- both slight and tumultuous, during that time, I was fearful that at this level, and on this public a stage, my beloved House of Ideas would be dismantled and rebuilt into something unrecognizable.  That hasn’t happened.  If anything, it appears that Disney has largely left the publishing side of things alone- more support than shepherd.  Still, it’s a little surreal to see Avengers banners hanging throughout Tomorrowland and to stand in line to “meet ‘n’ greet” Thor in Innoventions.

 Sadly, “Seekers of the Weird,” the first title published under Marvel and Disney’s new joint Disney Kingdoms imprint, was pretty disappointing.  Lame, actually.  The title, inspired by Disney’s legendary, but never actually realized, Museum of the Weird addition to the Haunted Mansion attraction, relied too heavily on the eye candy of Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump’s designs in place of actual story content.  It felt as if all involved took for granted the audience’s familiarity with the abandoned project, and that we would be content seeing these oddities and artifacts in cameo strung throughout a barely coherent, banal narrative.  This book effectively killed my interest in the imprint’s next offering “Figment.”

Next: “Origin II,” the sequel to 2001’s mega hit mini-series “Wolverine: The Origin.”  I was “helping out” at my LCS back when the first mini came out, and let me tell you, it was a BIG deal.  I am a big Wolverine fan (he and I both came out at the same time, after all) and back then I was collecting pretty much every title he appeared in.  I recall being really excited that Paul Jenkins was the one writing it, having immensely enjoyed “Inhumans” and “Sentry.”  I remember Marvel promoting the hell out of it and claiming that “This would answer everything!”  Most of all, I remember that fateful Wednesday morning when issue #1 dropped, and it flew off the shelves in record numbers.  Long-time, lapsed and newbie readers alike came in droves! After filling the subscriber pre-orders, purchase limits had to be set on the remaining copies, prompting nonplussed speculators to subtly stash extra copies around the shop in inconspicuous locations for later retrieval.  Other local shops fared little better and soon we were all calling around to each other trying to track down issues for customers late to the party.  Everyone was out.  Prices on eBay soared.  It was nerdy chaos of the first order.  The story itself was quite good, delivered on some promised revelations, and definitely set the tone for the next decade’s worth+ of Logan stories in both comics and film.

 Origin II,” on the other hand, seemed to generate nary a whisper of buzz by comparison.  Sure, it was announced at comic-con.  Yes, they tasked fan-favorite creators Kieron Gillen and Adam Kubert with writing and art duties.  Even so, aside from several variant covers for issue #1 (and #1 only), this book hit with all the impact and fanfare of a dry, powdery snowball.  It began solidly enough, pitting Logan against the combined machinations of Mr. Sinister, Sabretooth and an exploitative circus owner, but the tale petered out and ended with a whimper, almost as if they (creative team? editorial?) decided to pull the plug halfway through.  Sad.  Perhaps this yarn would have been better suited to run in the pages of “Savage Wolverine.”  Weak.

As with many people my age, the Star Wars franchise was a sacred and pivotal presence in my early development.  From my first time seeing A New Hope in the theater at age 4 and receiving my first action figure (R5-D4), to feeling personally betrayed by the prequels but buying up all the merch anyway, Star Wars has remained a touchstone to my childhood and a time when the world seemed rife with hopeful possibility.  Over the years, my fanaticism has waned somewhat, but I’ve managed to keep abreast of what’s going on- especially in the expanded universe realm of the novels and comics.  When Dark Horse’s “The Star Wars: Lucas Draft” project was announced, I was, of course, drawn to it like a scavenging Jawa to scrap tech.  I mean, what a cool idea!  A comic mini-series based on Lucas’s original 1974 rough draft script!  Having graduated from film school in screenwriting and production, I know what it’s like to repeatedly revise and rewrite a story until the finished draft only slightly resembles the original concept.  What I enjoyed about this “with hindsight” adaptation was peeking behind the scenes at the roots of this well-known epic, and seeing what bits made it through and where changes were made along the way.  Even though many of the characters and circumstances differ significantly from what eventually appeared on screen (a talking R2?!), there is enough here that’s familiar to satisfy even the most skeptical fan.  A fulfilling read- pick it up in trade if you missed the issues!

          And speaking of galaxies far, far away… It’s time to check in on the world of Marvel Cosmic:

First off, holy crap, Bendis’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” continues to suck!  Seriously, somebody please take this title away from him. It’s tedious.  It’s contrived.  It’s derivative, superfluous dreck just spinning its hover-wheels.  And the art is ugly.  The Free Comic Book Day issue pawns Venom (who can’t hold down his own title in this overcrowded market) off on the team so Bendis can glory-hog the symbiote’s long-awaited origin story.  Heaven forbid this actually occur in a Spider-Man book, but whatever.  Captain Marvel also gets foisted upon them, as if there weren’t already enough “mega-power princesses” on the team able to pull out a convenient, duea ex machina win no matter the situation.  The group gets ambushed and dismantled, with each member getting hauled away by one of J-Son’s Intergalactic Council compatriots for several issues of gratuitous, drawn out torture- and very little else.  These mind-numbingly unoriginal scenes just drag on and on.  Worst of all, Gladiator of the Shi’ar (who was a de facto member of the team via the Annihilators when Quill was lost in the Cancerverse), reprises his role as Bendis’s intergalactic prosecutor for the second time in a year, with about as much success as was experienced during the “Trial of Jean Grey.”  So lame.  About the only bright spot over the last several issues was Dan Abnett’s “Guardians 3000 “ story featured in the not really 100th issue #14.   That new ongoing cannot come soon enough, in my opinion.  I hope it sells well- I may have to preorder all the variant covers and go door to door proselyting in an attempt to keep it going as long as possible!  I know Marvel thinks they will shrivel up and die if Bendis doesn’t write at least half of their monthly titles, but give the man a break.  Let him go on vacation and recharge his creative batteries, because he’s about tapped.

 Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude” #2 featured Rocket and Groot but wasn’t really very compelling as far as MCU tie-ins go.  You really do get the sense that DnA are on the outs with each other.  Sad.  The “100th Anniversary Special: Guardians of the Galaxy” fared little better.  Andy Lanning, this time paired with Ron Marz, tell a mostly pointless “what if of the future” tale with flat characterization, been there, done that stakes and a ludicrous interpretation of Rocket that only barely manages to justify itself when a friendly face appears on the last page.  I should know better than to order these half-assed “fifth-week event” type books.

Nova” is all right, though there is still something missing thematically.  It’s just not very deep.  Sam just rockets from one tussle to the next and I’m having a hard time accepting this dumb kid as an intergalactic space cop.  I still feel like he needs to stay away from earth in order to experience real growth, but that’s just not the way it’s set up.  At this point, I think I’ll stick around through “Original Sin” and if it doesn’t develop any more substance I’m dropping it.

The “Thanos” Annual was quite good; it was nice to see so many classic cosmic characters and revisit critical junctures in the life of the Mad Titan from this different perspective- and doubly nice to be guided through by Jim Starlin.  I’m looking forward to “The Infinity Revelation” HC.  Cyclops” is still fun, but will it still be any good when the creative team shifts on issue #7?  Sure has been a lot of “creative team bait-n-switch” from Marvel lately…

 Slott and Allred’s “Silver Surfer” is just AWESOME!  Slott is presenting readers with a more “wondrous” depiction of the Marvel cosmos than is currently found anywhere else.  Norrin’s voice rings more unique and “fleshed out” from what we’ve heard in a while, and Dawn comes across as a very compelling and capable companion.  I don’t always go for Allred’s art, but it is perfect for this title.  This has quickly become one of my five most looked forward to books each month.

I thought the first issue of Skottie Young’s “Rocket Raccoon” ongoing was pretty great.  Fun, colorful and interesting.  However, the second issue devolved into a mean, silly, awkwardly-paced Looney Tunesque venture.  I hope there is more to this book going forward than explosions, snark ‘n’ snarl.  My experience with “Legendary Star-Lord” was just the opposite.  I felt that #1 was pretty lackluster as far as series launchers go, but things picked up in #2.  I’m still coming to terms with this overly slick, witty, movie-ish Han Solo version of Quill, but this might blossom into something worth keeping around beyond the film’s fervor.  I like that Kitty Pride will apparently have a recurring presence.

All-New Invaders” #4 had a sweet Human Torch cover.  It’s good to see Jim Hammond back in action.  The end of the “Gods and Soldiers” arc was satisfying.  We got to see lots of Golden Age characters, both in the present and in flashback, and it was nice to see some of the never-quite-know-what-to-do-with Eternals, who helped save the day.  It was fun, and had a chilling epilogue with a peek at dark things to come.  As for #8 (will discuss #6-7 in conjunction with “Original Sin”), I’m burned out on Deathlok.  How many of them are running around now anyway?  A dozen or so? 

Avengers/New Avengers”:  I very much enjoyed the sit-down confrontation between Tony and Bruce as Banner was brought up to speed on what the re-formed Illuminati has been up to.  The tension was palpable, and though there was little actual resolution between these two jealous geniuses, there was, at least, some honesty. It will be nice to see them put there rivalry aside in order to address the incursion problem- especially now since Cap knows!  Oops!  I thought the “New Avengers” Annual was interesting: it’s always good when Dr. Strange gets some attention.

In “Avengers World” the, um…team was, uh…oh! Black Knight showed up and…uh, hmmm…  You know, I honestly can’t even remember- which is this title’s unfortunate problem: it is completely forgettable fluff.  It’s telling three tenuously connected stories at the same time- none of which are particularly interesting or original.  It feels like peripheral side-questing that doesn’t really fall in with the two main Avengers books.  I keep telling myself I need to drop it, but with each new issue solicitation I think, “Hey, sounds like it might actually be going somewhere!” And I keep on buying it.

I liked “Avengers A.I.” and am sad the plug was pulled. It needed more time to fully develop, and sadly, the audience just wasn’t there.

I’m not sure if Hopeless and Walker, et al. intended for “Avengers Undercover” to be a short run, but it seems like this book was kinda hobbled from the start.  It’s readable, though I am getting tired of the “exploited teen heroes being battered and abused by adult villains” trend.  Also, I really like Hellstrom and Zemo from the Defenders and Thunderbolts days (respectively) so I don’t particularly care to see these more recent villainous sides of them.

I’ve enjoyed this long form Kang story arc in “Uncanny Avengers,” but I’m glad that it’s wrapped up and we can move on to “AXIS.”  What I liked most about “Avenge the Earth” was seeing Havok take charge in a way that we really haven’t seen him do since the (started off) brilliant “Mutant X” series from 15 years ago.  I was surprised by, and really enjoyed the romantic relationship between Alex and Janet, and I am hoping that their daughter Katie returns somehow.  Poor Havok, all of his alternate timeline children keep blinking out of existence (remember Scotty from “Mutant X?”).  It was also very cool to see the Chronos Corps team that Kang assembled from so many different Marvel Earths/timelines.   I thought the annual was entertainingly tongue-in-cheek, if nothing else.  Always nice to see some of the Legion of Monsters gang in action.

Inhuman” #1 was included/reprinted in the back of the newly re-launched “Amazing Spider-Man” #1.  Despite really liking past Inhuman titles and stories, its connection to, first Fraction, and then Soule, left me less than thrilled.  I was happy to discover that, in this case, I chose wisely in not ordering it; this issue was crap.  The tone was too “loud” for my taste, and Joe Mad’s art was more “cartoony” than usual.  It felt like I was watching a poorly edited film with choppy transitions, minimal character development and bad pacing.  Notwithstanding Marvel’s hyping the book, I haven’t talked to anyone who actually thought very highly of it.  I wonder how long it will be allowed to last? 

Summer 2014, Part 2 (of 2) coming soon…

1 comment:

  1. Slott and Allred's Silver Surfer is on the list of trades I'm going to be picking up. I'm a big Slott fan and I keep hearing great things about his Surfer run.

    You're right about Bendis needing a break. He's been ran thin ever since the middle to the end of his Avengers run. The thing is I do enjoy Bendis, especially when he's concentrating on just a couple of title. Yes, sometimes his characterizations are off cause they all sound the same. He does come up with some great stuff when he's not on every title for Marvel. Like you said, a little vacation would probably do the trick.

    The New Avengers annual was good as was the Avengers and New Avengers issues that came out at that time. I dropped off of Uncanny Avengers after the Kang arc completed. I enjoyed it, but had to find some books to chop off. I'll get to Axis a little later.