Posts Tagged ‘Marvel’

Yeah, an iPad has all kinds of bells and whistles-- but can it fit on a Spinner Rack?

The SAVIOR or the DEVIL… Depending on who you ask.

Apple may take a 30% vig on those millions of applications offered for sale in their APPS Store— but they earn PENNIES for each iTunes track or “album” purchased. This is well-known. Why is Apple willing to do this? Because they want to sell more iPods. They are willing to have the iTunes store “break even” (I’m sure it does better than that) to make the majority of their ca$h on their hardware.

Apples used the “pennies per track’ defense fighting the Music Industry… Whose major players insisted that they be allowed to up the price of individual songs from .99 cents to $1.29. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was afraid he would sell

Ice will tell you it's ALWAYS been "All about the Benjamins"

less iPods because of the price increase. This was also the same reason Amazon fought the book distributors over selling Digital eBooks for more than $9.99. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos worried he’d sell less Kindle eReaders. Jobs would be having this exact BATTLE with book publishers now that Apple has released the iPad– except Bezos already lost.

Neither titan had to worry. Digital content prices went up and their hardware sales still increased… As more and more consumers decided to indulge in the new gadgets.

Unfortunately, it seems that many Comic Book Store Owners are under the pie-in-the-sky impression that Marvel, DC and the other comic book publishers will somehow use this new platform to aid their retail stores. Some retailers are so deluded, they’ve actually convinced themselves that the major 2 comic publishers (Marvel & DC) will use digital comic delivery as a means to “help” them “recruit” new customers for their comic stores.

And maybe they will– initially— if it makes the right economic sense for them. But if Marvel & DC can make more money on digital comics by foregoing all PHYSICAL distribution— meaning every single “Brick & Mortar” comic store would go “poof”… They would do so tomorrow in a gnat’s heartbeat.

We’re all dealing with DISNEY now. The same Disney that opens retail stores by the thousands, then runs the same stores into the ground– and closes 3/4 of them tomorrow without batting an eye. (That’s how little something like retail sales means to Disney’s massive bottom line.)

Disney entering the comic game– coupled with the SUPERHERO MOVIE BOOM— has finally awakened Time-Warner… And they are suddenly treating DC like a more significant Corporate Cog. In fact, given recent rumors, I can easily predict that DC Comics will be moving their headquarters to Los Angeles any day now. Disney Studios has lots of land and lots of cash to build more buildings.


Former DC Publisher Paul Levitz was the linchpin in keeping the old comics distribution paradigm alive. Since he’s not there anymore– and since the SUPERHERO MOVIE Can no longer be ignored… Everything is going to change. Things will change so much– that I’m afraid a previously unreleased, unpublished Warren Ellis Hellblazer comic finally seeing print is not going to make up for all wacky new stuff we’ll be forced to do if we want to keep reading these things.

Luckily for me (and every other retailer and collector)– most of this (except DC’s cross-country move) is a ways away from now.

Which is good for me, as I simply refuse to read comics on a computer or any other electronic gizmo. (I can barely stand to view short comic book previews on a LCD screen of any kind… So digital comics are definitely out for me as a reading option.) I like the tactile sensation of holding a book. I like being able to bury my nose in the paper pages (unless the book was printed in China of course).

But I’m an old man by today’s standards. Sooner than I’d like, kids will grow up not knowing what paper periodicals are.

Many comics have long been printed as loss leaders for merchandising sales anyway. I once had a DC Bigwig tell me that the Wonder

It's "Do or Die" with the Benjamins.

Woman comic hadn’t made any real profit (or had lost money) since the ’60’s… But DC couldn’t afford to stop publishing it because of the huge yearly windfall they received from merchandising the only RECOGNIZABLE Female Superhero. DC felt (and rightly so), that if they didn’t show they were making the effort to publish at least one MONTHLY Wonder Woman comic– that they would seem to be abandoning the character… And they would severely harm Wonder Woman’s merchandising potential.

As stated above, Brick & Mortar Comic Book Stores will CEASE to EXIST (as we know them) if the Big Two decide one day to go all digital, all the time.

But I don’t need to tell retailers any of this. The smart ones already get it. DISNEY could care less about them– and will violently jilt every comic book retailer the MINUTE they figure out how to make more money on comics utilizing the DIGITAL MEDIUM.

As costs for physical distribution– including gas, paper, ink and other essential materials continues to rise– comics (especially floppies) will eventually price themselves out of the market. (Hell, they’re almost there now.)

I’m not relishing this occurring in the least. But it WILL happen.

Pissed off about comic book quality now? Wait until you have to spend $80 of your own paper and printer ink to print out some great comic you’ve just read on your iPad… Because one day soon– that’s the only way that– you’ll be able to hold a new paper “comic book” in your hands.

I see only one silver lining to comics entering this new digital age. At least people won’t be paying exorbitant amounts to CGC to “slab” their new comics before they even read them. No physical comics– no new books smothered in an unnecessary protective plastic shell. Sorry fans that favor idiotic wastes of time, natural resources and collector’s money!  No more slabs for you!

But then again,  if you bought into the overly hyped marketed “necessity” of CGC grading– without questioning why you should have to pay someone else to grade your comics… Then reading a comic on an iPad probably seems “cool” right about now.


Since I am a 99.9% “Wait for the Hardcover or the Trade Paperback” kind of guy, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and let you know what I’m buying every week. Since people keep asking why I buy so many books every week, I expect all you floppy readers to tell me what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong… And I may even chime in on occasion and defend my choices. Not that a personal preference should need defending, mind you…

I might also point out why I am not buying some stuff as well… And the list may also generate a rant or expose a pet peeve— like this week’s list did for me!

Let’s start with this week’s RANT: This week sees Marvel releasing  FOUR X-men reprint volumes. Can you tell me why? There’s no special event or movie on the horizon. No significance to these books being reprinted now. So it was just greed, right? Or maybe incompetence? Or both?

Or worse– the just didn’t give a flying fig at all about their retailers or their customers. (That’s a whole other post that I promise to write.)

By the way– the 2 X-Men hardcovers are woefully OVERPRICED. You can purchase a copy of the X-MenL Phoenix Saga in TRADE PAPERBACK for at least half what this hardcover costs. And the original floppies for the X-Men: Mutant Genesis storyline are available at most comic stores for 50¢ eachor less!


Archie: Pureheart The Powerful (There’s a limit to even my Archie love!)
Army of Darkness  League of Light (Let’s compare and contrast the stories written in this volume (including one scribed by Elliott Serrano) to Elliott’s hip, funny, solo turn in Army of Darkness: Ash Saves Obama TPB that arrived last week, shall we?)
Azrael Death’s Dark Knight
Batman Whatever Happened To the Caped Crusader (Already have the HC)
Complete Jon Sable Freelance Omnibus Vol 1 (After Grell’s excellent “Ashes to Ashes” Jon Sable GN, this is a must!)
Doc Savage Double Novel Vol 39 (Personal fave. Love all their pulp reprints! YOU should read Doc Savage!)

One of the BEST BUYS every month. MORE BANG for your Entertainment Dollar!javascript:;

Flight Vol 7
Four Eyes Forged in Flames
(Did I screw up by not purchasing this?)
Hulk Fall Of The Hulks Red Hulk (Already have the HC)
JSA Vs. Kobra
Marvel Masterworks Mighty Thor Vol 1 SC
(Don’t go here. If I bought all these, I’d need a wing to house my books!)

Marvels Project Birth Of Super Heroes HC (I greatly preferred the cool looking Human Torch “variant” cover!)

Torch & Subby: Together Again for the very FIRST TIME!

Mondo Urbano
Neil Gaiman Dangerous Alphabet

Night of the Living Trekkies
(Looked interesting or Fun… maybe)
Shadow Double Novel Vol 40 (Great book… But I stick with Doc Savage and The Avenger)
Shermans Lagoon Discover Your Immer Hermit Crab
Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock Vol 3 (See “…would need a library wing ” statement above)
Siege Battlefield HC (Yes, I know. But sometimes I have to buy stuff I don’t want because of what I do.)
Star Trek DS9 Fools Gold (Ack! Didn’t watch the show)
Super Pro KO Vol 1
Superman Whatever Happened to Man of Tomorrow
(Already have the HC)
Thundra King of Congo Archives Vol 1 HC (Looks cool but not for me…)
Usagi Yojimbo Vol 24 Return of Black Soul (Read Vol 23 with the intention of buying all of them– sadly unimpressed)
Valentine Reloaded
Vampire Tales Vol 1
(I have a big soft spot for Marvel’s B&W Mags from the 70’s. Great stories + nudity!)
Walking Dead Vol 12 Life Among Them
Women of Marvel Celebrating Seven Decades HandBook)
Woman of Marvel Celebrating Seven Decades (Random stories thrown together just because they feature women? Nope)
X-Men Dark Phoenix Saga HC (1st random X-men reprint. Horribly OVERPRICED)

Ugh! The first 9 1/2 MILLION TIMES Marvel printed this story wasn't enough?!

X-Men Mutant Genesis Premiere HC (2nd random X-men reprint of the week. You can buy ORIGINAL FLOPPIES for 50¢ each!)
X-Men Powerless (3rd random X-men reprint of the week)
X-Men We Are X-Men (4th random X-men reprint of the week)

D.Gray Man Vol 18
Hikaru no Go Vol 20
JoJo Bizarre Adventure Vol 15
Kaze Hikaru Vol 18
Rosario + Vampire Season II Vol 2
Skip Beat! Vol 21
Slam Dunk Vol 11

Bakuman Vol 1 comes out next week! I hear it’s going to rock!


This is one of the BEST BOOKS you're NOT reading... And now it's CANCELED.

The good guys at CCW*TV— comic retailer par excellence Jose Melendez and comic writer extraordinaire Elliott Serrano— are very high on the obvious talents of one Mr. Jeff Parker. They like him so much, they mention his name often and are always certain to note whenever a new “JP” book arrives. Since they turned me onto Jeff’s work, I have already mentioned him in several posts (here and here) and even reviewed his Namora #1 one-shot comic on this very Blog.

The fact that Jeff’s book– Agents of Atlas (also known as “AoA” for brevity’s sake)– was never a big hit had been quite the topic of discussion (and bone of contention) for most folks posting on the highly recommended CCW*TV Blog. So much so, when Marvel dropped the bombshell that Jeff had decided to end the current AoA run with issue #5, practically everyone on the blog declared the comic’s demise a national tragedy.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I also personally believe Agents of Atlas is one of the FINEST COMICS Marvel has printed

in well over a decade…Which makes “Jeff’s decision” to stop the book cold all the more distressing to me and other discerning comic fans. Some say Parker made the smart move to “cancel” the title himself before Marvel did it themselves… That way he could leave the book on his own terms and with his vision intact. I absolutely agree.

Namora and M-11 get their DESTROY on.

And even though Agents of Atlas is soon ending active publication, I strongly suggest that you make a point to pick up all the various Trade Paperbacks or Hardcovers that are available before they too sell out. Cancellation doesn’t mean a book is dead. There are a lot of great AoA adventures for you to read if you haven’t already done so!

Which brings me to Jose politely insisting that I finally read the Agents of Atlas: Turf Wars hardcover the other day. When he went so far as to  double-check and determine that this new collection wouldn’t spoil my current reading of Marvel’s Dark Reign crossover books– I read Turf Wars immediately.

Upon reading the hardcover and enjoying every single page of it (despite the annoying, frequently rotating, list of pencilers)– I decided to try to determine exactly why Agents of Atlas didn’t sell– in any of its’ various incarnations– considering the huge amount of talent involved in the book from Day One.

The obviousness and simplicity of what I decided may just shock you.

Another Leinul Yu Comic Book Cover Master Class

Another Leinul Yu Comic Book Cover Master Class

Let’s quickly run down what the Agents of Atlas creative team and the publisher did right. As already stated, Parker and company really couldn’t have devised and created a better comic book. One CCW*TV Blog poster noted that he felt Marvel had done their part in supporting the book as well– and that is true. They gave AoA like, What? 3 different chances to succeed– despite never seeing powerhouse sales? And Marvel execs certainly let Parker run loose in the Marvel U– with one-shots and guest stars from the likes of the #1 best-selling Avengers book to the popular X-Men and Hulk comics. They also contracted with the über-talented Leinel Yu to create the regular series covers… And for my money, you can’t pick any better living comic book cover artists than the triumvirate of Leinel Yu, Brian Bolland or Olivier Coipel.

So we have a fantastic book, popular guest-stars that should guarantee lots of crossover sampling and beautiful book covers… So what went wrong? Why didn’t Agents of Atlas sell?


#1: Jeff Parker is too talented.

I know, I know… I can already hear you screaming, “How in the fuck is that a problem?”

Well, I’ll tell you how it’s a problem: Because Parker is so talented, people saw Comic Companies putting his name on lots of books (Underground for Image and Mysterius the Unfathomable at Wildstorm– to name just a few “instant classics”)… Yet hardly any fans knew anything about the man– let alone that he could actually write comics.

Parker is one of those rare polished professionals that jumped into a Marvel writing gig without already making a “name” for himself as a writer at some other comic company or in some other mainstream medium like television, movies or prose fiction first. In fact, prior to his current Marvel stint, Parker had mainly worked only as an ARTIST.

Get the pattern? Parker had ZERO “heat” as a writer. There was nothing to differentiate his stellar work from the hundreds of other comic book writers already busting their asses attempting to make a living.

You may have been a big fan of Jeff’s art– but chances are you didn’t know bupkiss about his writing ability. The Big Two (Marvel & DC) will tell you that in this era of $3.99 comicsnot being a name writer is a big negative. Marvel definitely loves hiring all kinds of famous and semi-famous prose writers whether they have proven comic writing skills or not. (DC, sadly, is following suit.)

Yet Marvel hired “No-Name” Parker anyway and given his awesome talent– immediately launched him on a new title… Something that is virtually unheard of in nowadays. Usually– especially when working for DC or Marvel– every creative person must toil in less popular “B” and “C” titles first… Learning their craft and building that “name”– before being given a shot at the “Big League” characters. They definitely don’t get to shepherd their own book straight out of the chute.

So, as weird as it sounds– Agents of Atlas’ sales have been a “victim” of Jeff’s superior talent– as Marvel gave Parker the book long before he had the chance to build the huge fan following most writer’s acquire before being offered such a major opportunity.

At $3.99 per issue, current readers cannot afford to give new talent a shot… Unless, of course, someone pairs the newbies with a already popular creative partner or places them in “creator proof” titles like Spider-man or Batman… In other words, books that have proven over time to sell well despite the quality of the creative teams involved.

Agents of Atlas was far too obscure a title to ever be considered “creator proof”… And Marvel taking a gamble by putting Parker at the helm is a commendable decision. It is also a very hopeful sign that Marvel actually values and looks for something other than exceptional pencilers when evaluating potential new comic book employees.

Parker’s overabundance of talent brings us to the MAIN REASON Agents of Atlas did not sell well. The reason being so simple that I must fault Marvel for not catching on and doing something to correct it.


#2: The strange, giddy SYNOPSIS PAGES that Parker wrote for every issue of the continuing Agents of Atlas’ comic book.

As noted above in Reason #1, the new $3.99 price point makes a casual comic buy virtually a non-existent animal these days. Most comic enthusiasts are  not going to pick up a new book– especially a continuing book they aren’t already reading– just on the strength of a cool cover drawing. They need much more. And with the popularity of huge company-wide crossovers diminishing by the year, the Synopsis Page is one of the only major tools left to convince a possible new patron to take a chance on a new title.

Unfortunately, Gorilla Man-- not enough people knew enough about you to save you.

Whenever you have an exceptional writer– especially one that decides to work in the comics field– their work/vision tends to eclipse the power wielded by their editors. This is not a phenomenon that only adversely affects the comic book industry. Every medium has popular writers that get away with bloated, eccentric works— simply because they can.

Now, it’s very clear that Parker was not given the freedom to indulge some of his wilder eccentricities because of overwhelming popularity. He was far too new at the scripting game to enjoy such creative license. I believe Jeff “got away” with his quirkier dalliances because the Powers That Be couldn’t bring themselves to stifle his creativity– and wanted to keep this wonderfully talented man satisfied and working for them (and not the Distinguished Competition) for a very long time to come.

As a person who has made a pretty satisfying career out of entertaining folks, I can tell you without equivocation that every writer needs an editor… If anything– just to encourage said writer to keep going down the “good paths” in his or her work. Writing the SAYL Blog is one of the hardest “assignments” I have ever undertaken… Not for the sheer volume of grunt work that a Blog requires– but because I am own editor.

So we’ve got Jeff Parker– great writer– seemingly given little editorial guidance or interference when writing a series of weird, off-putting first page synopses for every issue of Agents of Atlas. How these pages ever saw print is amazing– as they contradict everything one might learn in a “Marketing 101” class. Every person involved– including Parker’s AoA Editor– obviously did not understand or give enough credit to the valuable importance the Synopsis Page now holds in determining what books comic readers buy.

And it is my considered opinion that no one told Parker to quit writing these extremely important marketing blurbs just for CURRENT Agents of Atlas reader.

Rarely (if ever) did Jeff write a catchy, straight forward synopsis that might benefit or encourage a non-reader to purchase his book.

As a reader from Issue#1, I  can tell you I loved the cool, wacky synopses that Parker wrote. At least he was attempting to do something different… Right? But I’m not the person that Jeff or Marvel should have worried about. I was already a true believer in the comic. But after reading several of these complicated, overly mocking introductory segments back-to-back– I knew the tone used in these pages was a horrible mistake. I could literally envision thousands of comic fans picking up different Agent of Atlas issues for their beautiful Yu covers or popular guest characters– only to quickly place them back on the racks after reading the near indecipherable, almost always impenetrable Parker synopsis.

I know it’s tough to believe that something so seemingly inconsequential could be the main culprit that led to Agents of Atlas demise. Could it really be that everyone’s hard work was wasted just because of a few quirky synopsis pages?

You damn well better believe it could.

Consumers are literally overwhelmed with choice these days– hence all the overtly titillating product enticements and quick-cut movie trailers that tell you a film’s entire plot in 2 and 1/2 minutes. If the potential object of desire doesn’t hook you instantly— or expose itself so frankly that you can relate to it immediately Chances are you are going to ignore it and move on to the next bright & shiny thing that does.

So before you go blaming Marvel completely for canceling your favorite comic, please try to realize that– like all things– there is more than enough shared culpability here. I have no doubt that Jeff Parker’s wildly inventive style is mere months away from gaining wide mainstream acceptance. I can also easily see Jeff eventually considered as the “American” equivalent of an Alan Moore or Warren Ellis.

Unfortunately for Agents of Atlas fans– that day isn’t a reality… yet. But take heart. It IS right around the corner.

THUNDERBOLTS-- Another Parker comic YOU should read!


If I had a dollar for every fan wanting a SEQUEL to Marvel's SIEGE Crossover-- I''D OWE YOU $124,365


Any JUSTICE in the world and this would be a MONTHLY. Unfortunately, there is NO justice in the world.

Recommended by my personal comic GURUS– (Who else but the dynamic duo of Jose Melendez and Elliott Serrano at CCW*TV?)– I couldn’t wait to crack open this comic. I had high hopes– especially when considering its’ pedigree.

Let me just write up front, “I was never disappointed.”

Jeff Parker is definitely one of the “go to guys” for people looking to read quality comics. His name is currently a brand you can “trust” to deliver. If you spend money with Parker, you can expect excellent treatment within his pages. Namora #1 is no different. Another solid effort by a quickly rising star.

Namora’s often shitty– holier than thou attitude– is actually one of the book’s many highlights. She is Princess of Atlantis after all… So she makes no apologies for acting the royal pain in the ass. Namora doesn’t need your love, fanboy. What love she does need can come only from her daughter, Namorita… A tough request considering she is long dead– murdered in the devastating Stamford explosion that ignited Marvel’s Civil War.

Princess Namora Saving Submariners

Motherly urges consume Namora in a very unique way as the story unfolds. Amazingly, Parker displays the soft side of his hero– not by a revealing any weakness– but by showing how strong Namora’s love is for her child. It’s a brilliant conceit and a welcome change from the normal female comics archetype… Where a female super-hero can only be seen as vulnerable if she reacts hysterically at some devastating revelation. Not Namora, thank you very much. Not a weak bone in this woman’s body.

The art by Sara Pichelli is stunning. I would kill to see the original black and white boards. You probably think that’s a really strange thing to wish for– especially in this glorious age of gorgeous digital coloring… And with the emergence of so many fantastic color artists. But if you look at the Pichelli’s art examples reproduced here… I’m afraid you just might agree with me.

Sadly, I believe Rachelle Rosenberg’s coloring often DETRACTS and OBSCURES Pichelli’s fine line work. To be blunt– there was way too much blue/green ocean.

I know! What a fucking weird thing to upset me in a book that takes place PREDOMINANTLY UNDERWATER, right? But there was just TOO MUCH of the murky depths for me. In fact, there is so much of this blue/green madness– the mixing colors turned some of the art into a bland hodgepodge. (Strangely, Rosenberg’s style also successfully made other color combos leap off the pages… Go figure.)

Release the Kraken!

I make this observation with sadness– as I have never been the least bit displeased with Rachelle’s color work before. Quite the opposite– I have always enjoyed it!

So don’t let my critique of the coloring throw you off this book. Many of you may actually like it and believe it is a very accurate portrayal of what undersea life would look like if such a world actually existed. (And who’s to say it doesn’t?) In fact, look at the Kraken (to the left). Isn’t he/she/it gorgeous?

I only have one other– relatively minor– nitpick. What idiot at Marvel thought it would be a great idea to place a full page Honda Insight auto advertisement on the book’s third page– before the splash? What a monumental eyesore!

For those who may not know, “BIG TIME” advertisers often demand front-of-the-book, third page placement in magazines… But the ad maven who demanded this spot had to be a certified asshole and an obvious comic hater.

Actually, I just made up that last part about the ad agency being “comic haters”… Agency employees probably won’t even see the whole book– so they won’t know the massive wrong they did to Namora’s creative team… As advertising agencies normally only require a “tear sheet” from a magazine as proof their ad ran in the publication. That means they’ll see only the one ad page (with the splash page on the back) and be completely satisfied– blissfully unaware that their product placement was more of a jolt than an enticement to buy a Honda Hybrid.

So no– the real assholes here are not the folks from Honda’s ad agency. The real assholes here are the people in Marvel’s editorial and art departments that didn’t raise hell when the ad placements fucked up the artistic flow of the different books. Believe me when I tell you that Honda would have been perfectly satisfied with their ads appearing on the 4th or 5th pages of some of the Marvel books. They would have understood the need for artistic integrity. Too bad nobody at Marvel apparently felt the same way– or had the balls to stand up for Parker, Pichelli and the rest of the book’s crew.

Yet, this is a quibble that only appears 3 pages in. There’s a lot of book to love afterward… And you’ll be doing a great disservice to yourself if you don’t search this one out. There are times when everything meshes beautifully within and Parker’s words seem to sing off the page. Don’t believe me? Then read Namora’s last thoughts on Namora #1’s final page… But remember, to experience the full impact of that final page, you’ll have to read the  whole book– which means you’ll have to buy the book.

No fair peeking at the comic store!


DC exclusively hires the powerhouse writer to replace Tony Daniel on Batman and to revitalize the JLA.

Suck on that, Fanboys!

The man’s writing is near-genius level.

This Logo is Almost as SPOOKY as Norman Osborn’s Haircut!


“I’m coming, Elizabeth!”

Marvel’s Shadowland Comic Book Cross-over has just begun and trusted critics are already divided on whether the whole shebang sucks balls or is OK… So I thought this might be a great time to talk about a company-wide Comic Cross-over that actually DID work– even if the event did occur LAST YEAR!

I went into Dark Reign like I have every other Marvel or DC cross-over in the past 7 years… With a big sigh and lots of regret. Regret for spending all the money I did on all those useless Trades & Hardcovers (see Marvel’s Secret Invasion or DC’s Final Crisis)… And regret for spending all that time reading them too– especially when I could have been doing something better like fixing the internet… or surfing for Batman Porn.

But here’s another luxury of “Waiting for the Hardcovers or Trade Paperbacks”: Like any other empty entertainment non-event, fans can usually tell very quickly whether they think something sucks or not (see Shadowland again). So if I have 20 trades sitting in front of me that cover a wide range of overblown hyped suckitude… I can quickly read through the books– rather than have to wait months for the story to play out in floppy release.

The point of this post is Marvel’s Dark Reign did NOT suck! Really it didn’t. I don’t know if this was just a fluke (one good company cross-over in 8 years sorta proves it is) or worked because of careful planning– but someone at Marvel really stepped up to the plate by hiring some heavy hitters to write a lot of the ancillary supporting titles that surrounded the main books.

And no, I’m not talking about iffy writers” like Brian Bendis or Mark Millar or Jeph Loeb… I am talking about good writers like: Paul Cornell, Jeff Parker, Greg Pak and even Fred Van Lente. The art was so-so in some of these titles but at least the rough stuff was an unusual cut above a lot of the crap that passes for pencils and inks in some of these “throwaway”– barely  related– crossover books.

I haven’t even finished reading all the trades and hardcovers yet and I have come across so many that rocked (and since I am almost a year behind the new comic releases already)… I figured now was as good a time as any to throw in some compact reviews:

Biggest surprise so far: the Dark Reign: The Underside GN.

Lots of Great Stories for a Good Price!

The “Lethal Legion” story by Frank Tieri was surprisingly fun. Art was rough. (SLIGHT SPOILER AHEAD) But the “Zodiac” story, written by Joe Casey with art by Nathan Fox, is killer stuff. First off, Fox’s art looks like something you’d see in a cool indie book– it is almost the antithesis of the Marvel “style”… And that’s a good thing. That Fox was given this assignment is both nice & unexpected. Secondly, it was a great– but brutal– story. Contains several PRIME EXAMPLES of Marvel’s lack of continuity though: The Human Torch gets beaten so badly by Zodiac, he requires multiple stitches to his face… Yet is completely healed by the end of the story? Huh?

Forgetting  Johnny Storm’s ridiculously rapid healing abilities… Were his horrible facial lacerations even mentioned in any other Dark Reign book? (Again, I’ve not read them all yet, so I don’t know. Yes somehow I doubt it.) You think SOMEBODY would’ve said something about Johnny’s over-the-top assault– especially since Zodiac razed an entire hospital attempting to kill Johnny, Sue and Ben! As much as I hate unbelievable shit like this that pulls me screaming out of a story– I’m gonna let it slide because the Zodiac tale was so very smartly done otherwise.

But Marvel… Seriously! The normally handsome Mr. Storm had what looked like over 70 stitches in his face at one point… But he was back to his old self in a week?


Gene Simmons called and wants his TONGUE back!

Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man written by Brian Reed with art by Chris Bachalo. I’m not a huge fan of the overtly cartoon style that permeates Bachalo’s work now… But Brian Reed has written a GREAT script for Chris’ current style. The book plays like a wacky Hollywood slapstick comedy. Brian’s absurd caricatures meld perfectly with Bachalo’s wacky art –making for a very entertaining read. The cover of issue #5 (used on the back cover of the trade) is a drawing of a HUGE Venom/Spider-Man munching on the Empire State Building (with a big fat belly). This piece was almost worth the price of the whole book by itself.

When Dark Reign: The Hood surfaced at the top of my read pile,  I thought, “Never liked the Hood that much. This might be OK. Maybe.” Then I realized the script was written by near-genius JEFF PARKER and my whole attitude shifted.

The Hood-- raining bullets down on his enemies... Get it?

This is the BEST Hood story written SO FAR, BY FAR. And Kyle Hotz art (he was the artist on the first Hood HC) was great too. Nice to see Kyle working on a book in the “real” Marvel U again (instead of Marvel MAX titles like Man-Thing… Although those were fun too.)

In all seriousness, Marvel Comics & Brian K. Vaughn  owe a GREAT DEBT to Jeff Parker… Because Parker took a cardboard character and made the Hood a THREE dimensional, believable PERSON (NOT just a villain) for the very first time (at least for me).

Dark Reign: Young Avengers written by Paul Cornell. Hands down, also the BEST Young Avengers book since the original stuff (which I believe gets an Ultimate Collection reprinting from Marvel this week- 7/14/10). Paul hits all the right high and lows with this script– with good art from Mark Brooks. I did, however, want to shoot the colorists for some really outrageous 80′s-style over-shading (their use of the brown/maroon palette was gravely serious sometimes).  But I quickly got over it because of the depth embedded in Cornell’s snappy tale. Marvel was acting really shortsighted when they allowed Cornell to slip through the cracks and sign an exclusive contract with DC Comics.

Which brings me to the SECOND MOST SURPRISING book in the lot: Dark Reign: Skull Kill Krew.

Bon Appetit, Green Jeans

I honestly do NOT know what possessed me to buy this. I remember reading the original Grant Morrison / Mark Millar trade years ago. “Reading” is a term used loosely here because I had to put the earlier book down and STOP READING it halfway through… The Morrison/Millar concoction was  that much of a joyless experience for me.

So when this title hit the top of the stack I thought, “Here’s the book that stops the insanity of me actually liking these Dark Reign ancillary books.”

Boy, was I WRONG! I mean, what the hell? I was CERTAIN I wasn’t going to like this book and now I was sitting here REALLY LIKING this book. MILD SPOILER WARNING: The whole absurdity revolving around the Skrull Cows was hilarious. But the book was so much more than that. It actually justified the existence of the Skrull Kill Krew– which I never believed would happen.  You could tell that Adam Felber was having a great time writing the thing… And it is HE that should be writing a NORMAN OSBORN comic… Nobody else. Felber’s portrayal of Osborn was mean, funny and heartless simultaneously in virtually EVERY panel… Think a GREAT portrayal of the Joker WITHOUT the makeup. The art by Mark Robinson and Rob Disalvo was the only thing I questioned. NOT because it sucked — because it didn’t. But the artists’ styles are VERY different… So to have 3 issues drawn by one artist– then an issue drawn by  another penciler– then back to the first guy… was all a little jarring. But that was a MINOR problem– as Felber took Morrison and Millar to SCHOOL with his writing on this series.

How fucking weird. Marvel “cross-over titles” that DIDN’T suck. I have been pleasantly surprised and would recommend ALL these books– if for very different reasons.

Unfortunately, it looks like there are a couple more on the pile that could still screw this hot streak up. Now I wish I had read Dark Reign: Skrull Kill Krew LAST… As Dark Reign: War Machine Volume 2 is next and it looks determined to slap all the joy outta me.

We’ll see…