This may be one of the most clichéd statements any comic book fan could make. Even so, the words also ring poignantly true.
Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this edition of M’s Spot, I believe I owe you all an explanation for my sudden absence. A couple of issues arose over the past month or so that required me to put my IMJ columns on the back burner.
Last month saw my work load unexpectedly increase. As a freelancer, I take work when and where I can get it. (Kind of makes you wonder how Peter Parker was able to get by as a freelance photographer for so long… Oh right, he’s a comic book character.) Once my workload started to settle down, my now ex-girlfriend wanted to work out some long-standing “issues” with me. After that blew up in my face, all I know is I now hate the word honesty… So I’ll be sticking with the word truth going forward.
As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, I’m also feeling a little burned out. I’ve been focused on so many business aspects of the comic book industry (Creator Rights, Pricing, Pointless Gimmicks, etc), that I realized I was starting to forget about what and why I was writing this column to begin with– the comics themselves. Then I had few technical issues… And, anyway, you get the idea.
But never fear, I’m back to call out the bullshit the comic book industry never fails to produce… And talk up some of my favorite comics from the first half of the year.
I don’t know which bothers me more: Marvel recycling yet another idea with Marvel NOW! or their Spider-man ALPHA character. (For the record, I vote ALPHA.)
Marvel NOW! is a blatant cash grab designed take away market share from a resurgent DC Comics. In other words, it represents Marvel’s inevitable response to DC’s New 52. I doubt we’ll see a relaunch on the scale of anything approaching The New 52— only because Marvel still likes to act as if they have a certain amount of pride in their continuity… Even though most of their creators and editors show total contempt for it– especially when past actions and events interfere with current storylines. (With no continuity cops like Steve Englehart or Mark Gruenwald working at Marvel to keep things in check, continuity seems like the new “C Word” at The House of Recycled Ideas.)
Like many Marvel initiatives, Marvel NOW! isn’t really doing anything different. It’s just another scheme/excuse to slap a shiny new #1 on some comic book covers. These new books aren’t disavowing previous events or rebooting characters from the ground up. No, we’re just getting the same set of creators shifted to different titles– either because the current comics are boring and slacking in sales or because… Marvel NOW! is simply an excuse to restart some comics at #1.
Be glad they didn’t call it Marvel NEW! because there’s absolutely nothing new here. It’s just Marvel being Marvel at this point.
The reason Marvel’s ALPHA project bothers me more than Marvel NOW!… It reminds me of the supposed bullshit reason Marvel deep-sixed Spider-man’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson those many years ago. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, allow me to remind you: Marvel eliminated Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s union in an effort to supposedly “de-age” Spider-man and make the character more appealing to a newer, younger audience.
Now Marvel pulls this ALPHA shit for Spider-man’s 50th Anniversary— giving Spidey a younger sidekick named Andy Maguire… Which only makes the character seem more antiquated than ever before. This move does nothing to freshen the character. If anything, it promises to shoehorn The Amazing Spider-Man title into a shitty buddy cop dynamic like the Lethal Weapon movies. It won’t surprise me if writer Dan Slott turns Spidey into Danny Glover’s Sergeant Murtaugh– making lots of “I’m too old for this shit!” references. Ugh.
This ALPHA atrocity shows how much the current Marvel regime doesn’t care about Spider-man… Or that they don’t know what to do with the him anymore. Or both. For any reason, it’s regrettable and inopportune bullshit.
I know lots of people will read this section thinking I’m just a Marvel Hater— or worse– think I’m trolling. The truth to both assumptions is a big “NO!” Marvel has been the leading American comic book publisher for a number of years. Since most of us have contributed to their success, I feel they should show some sense of accountability. Sadly, I don’t see any creative value in these publishing decisions. All I see are people getting suckered into buying more events… More pointless gimmicks. I can’t begin to describe how unimpressed I am with Marvel Comics lately. Maybe that’s all I want, someone/something at Marvel to impress me… To show they even care… Because so far, DC Comics has been beating Marvel at their own game.
Batman Incorporated #1 Volume 2
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Chris Burnham
In certain aspects, what Morrison is doing with this title reminds me of what Mark Waid is doing with Marvel’s Daredevil… Which is pulling their respective characters out of Frank Miller’s shadow.
Morrison’s approach is slightly different from Waid’s, as his take on the Dynamic Duo is more darkly comedic. Batman Incorporated #1 also reminded me of a darker version of a Batman: Brave and the Bold episode… With a first page preview foreshadowing things to come, then immediately jumping straight into the action– as Batman and Robin chase a group of masked thugs throw a slaughter-house.
Chris Burnham’s Geof Darrow-sque hyper-detailed art is a sight to behold… With Morrison’s dry sense of humor and expert comedic timing providing a nice counter-point to the garish imagery. I dare you not to laugh when a blood covered Robin declares he is now a vegetarian… Or when the Boy Wonder insists on calling a cow he saves the Bat-Cow. If this first issue is any indication, Volume Two of Batman Incorporated promises to be as fun and wild as Volume One. I’m looking forward to watching where Morrison goes with this title and seeing whether he can pull it off… Again.
Action Comics #9
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Gene Ha
This issue could have easily been a companion piece to Grant Morrison’s stellar work on All Star Superman. It’s a great done-in-one… A Silver Age story– but with lots of modern layering and nuance. Morrison has an uncanny ability to reinforce why Superman matters. This is something I think a lot of readers and creators struggle with: The fact that Superman doesn’t seem as malleable a character as, say, Batman.
Instead, Morrison plays around with the archetype– telling a morality tale using Superman as an allegory for the power of ideas… And how the power of a creator’s idea outweighs any corporate interest. Morrison shows what happens to ideas when they become corrupted by corporate greed and money. Action Comics #9 really delves into the writer’s belief that Superman transcends what Siegel and Shuster intended and serves as an indictment of DC’s treatment of the Siegel and Shuster Estate… And to a certain extent– even the Superman character himself.
I’m completely amazed this story saw print. Just for that, this may be my single favorite issue of DC’s New 52. (If I had anything negative to say, it’s this: I just wish Morrison would get to wherever he’s going with the character already.)
Mind The Gap #1
Written by Jim McCann
Art by Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback
For a first issue, this comic basically has it all: An intriguing mystery combined with expressive, detailed art– with a set up that only takes one issue… An unparalleled feat by today’s decompressed storytelling standard. Anyone else would’ve taken at least six issues to set this book up. (*cough* Nick Spencer ‘s Morning Glories*cough*)
Sorry, had to clear my throat.
On the art side, we get simple page layouts with fine line work reminiscent of Joshua Luna’s Whispers. For me, Mind The Gap stands out by placing a supernatural twist on a classic “Who Done It?” mystery. Who attacked Elle Petersen? Why did they do it? And why is she having an outer body experience?
And get this– the clues to these mysteries are actually in the book.
So refreshing. Some may find it easy to draw comparisons between MTG and other books in the excellent Image Comics line up. They may even unfairly write this comic off… But the amount of quality story and art you’re getting for $2.99 makes this series an outstanding buy.
Last but not least, the book that’s firmly in the lead for my Favorite Comic of 2012…
The Goon #39
Written by Eric Powell
Art by Eric Powell
From the cover, to the story, to Eric Powell’s impassioned letters column… This issue of The Goon has something for every reader jaded with superheroes and the American comic book industry in general (like I am).
If you’re a long time Goon fan, you know this series has two major hallmarks: Humor and done-in-one storytelling. Powell is one of the few comic book creators who actually understands how to write for the format. In this issue, he swaps out The Goon’s moody, old school EC Comics feel to poke fun at the top-selling genre in comics: Superheroes.
This comic awesomely shows the Goon go through three origins and as many costume changes– with every sound effect reading as a variation of the word douche. Powell also adds a section called “Secrets of the Comic Book Pros Revealed!”– which instructs would-be comic creators to draw lots of splash pages (because they sell great on eBay), use vector graphics software for really detailed backgrounds… And to add as many gratuitous ass shots as possible too– because these images also sell really well on eBay.
It’s ‘Nuff Said! to the max when the real Goon looks at these sales tips and mutters, “Yeah… If this is what it takes to sell, I’ll go hang drywall for a living.” Of course, he eventually changes his mind and goes back to what we know and love him for… Beating undead monsters with a monkey wrench. All of the above (and much more) are just a few of the many reasons why I continue to love The Goon.
I usually end these proceedings with a few afterthoughts… Asking what you, the IMJ Nation™, think. This time around, I’m exhausted… So I think I’ll just say goodbye and promise to see you very soon– with another new M’s Spot and a brand new edition of Monkey Knife Fight.
Till then, you can find me playing Lollipop Chainsaw.