Man, do we have a weird column for you guys this week. Hey folks, Ambush Bug here, back from this year’s WizardWorld Chicago Comic Convention at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL, just outside Chicago. I’m a bit overwhelmed and dog-tired, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have stuff for you this week. We have a couple of Con reports scattered throughout this column, as well as an interview with some classic and current TRANSFORMERS creators, a heartfelt goodbye, and we even found some time to do a review or two. So bear with us, folks, we’ll be back to form next week. In the meantime, enjoy the most scattershot column we’ve produced in…well, since the last time we produced a scattershot column.
But first off, I have to run a correction. A few weeks back I did a review of the comic SCORN from Septagon Studios. In that review I mistakenly credited the book to the wrong creators. The book actually was written by Kevin Moyers and the incredibly vivid and moody artwork was provided by Philipp Neundorf. Just wanted to give credit where credit was due. Apologies all around.
And now, on with the madness…
Haven’t had a SHOOT THE MESSENGER segment in a while. Might as well dust off the logo.
Hey folks, it’s Ambush Bug again. I know some of these things have been covered at other sites. Early on, the Holes and myself decided it was much more important to have fun at this con and chat with both friends and pros during the whole thing than rushing to our computers to try to beat out the competition with scoops. AICN Comics has always specialized in reviews, not news, but I will give a rundown of the important announcements at this year’s con from the Big Two companies. Beware, SPOILERS may lurk in the bullet points ahead.
The big announcement was that, now that ULTIMATES 2 is finally finished, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch are going to be teaming up again for what looks to be a year long arc on the FANTASTIC FOUR. Fan reaction, which Joey Q & Mark Millar seemed to think was going to be huge, was surprisingly blasé about this announcement.
Genndy Tartakovsky of SAMURAI JACK fame will be writing and providing art for an upcoming CAGE miniseries featuring the return of the puffy yellow shirt and tiara. The designs look fun and cartoony.
After WORLD WAR HULK, Marvel is offering AFTERSMASH. The new creative team has yet to be announced, but Joey Q promises that the fans will be excited when they hear who will be taking over the title.
Expect KILLRAVEN to have weird looking feet for a while as Rob Liefeld provides his version of the Martian-bashing barbarian written by Robert Kirkman. Rob says that the book will be very much set in the future of the Marvel U. The sample art had Killraven brandishing Cap’s shield. The artist also says that fans can expect to see Thor’s hammer, Iron Man’s armor, and other artifacts from the Marvel U. No news if Rob’s 501 Jeans will be making an appearance.
INVINCIBLE’s Cory Walker will be drawing PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL after Ariel Olivetti leaves. Matt Fraction will continue with the Punisher title set in the Marvel U.
Apparently JMS’ SILVER SURFER: REQUIEM won’t end with Chrome Dome kicking the bucket. I know. It’s a shocker! Silver Surfer returns in SILVER SURFER: IN THY NAME drawn by the talented Tan Eng Huat from DOOM PATROL. The sample art looks amazing and detailed with vivid gray tones. 2000AD vet Simon Spurrier writes the issue.
No plans for any new NEXTWAVE, GLI, or YOUNG AVENGERS in the near future. None for DAZZLER or CLOAK AND DAGGER either.
There was much hype provided for the next Spidey event, “One More Day.” Joey Q seemed enthused, but I heard that it’s going to be quite the lightning rod with the fans. Don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. But the big push is for the following arc, “Brand New Day”, where the Spidey books are whittled down to one book and released three times monthly. The focus will be off of CIVIL WAR, black suits, and Spider-Totems and back towards the soap opera aspect and shining the spotlight on developing some of Spidey’s underused or over-abused supporting characters. Dan Slott, Phil Jimenez, Zeb Wells, and Steve McNiven among others will contribute to AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.
Expect ULTIMATES 3 in December. Much delayed books like ULTIMATE IRON MAN and the moth ball-laden ULTIMATE HULK/WOLVERINE are being held back until enough issues are in the can before they will see the light of day. Shouldn’t that kind of be protocol? Look at Marvel, all growed up and acting pwofessional. So cute. Warren Ellis and Cary Nord will bring ULTIMATE HULK/IRON MAN.
Waaaay too much time was spent this weekend debating whether or not Peter and MJ should be married. The subject came up in all the Marvel panels and it was exhausting every time it was discussed. I seriously think Joey Q planted those members in the audience to shift the focus off of the unmasking of Spider-Man, which I think was a much bigger mistake than marrying him off.
Buzz (not our Buzz, but buzz on the floor) says that the next X-MEN event “Messiah Complex” is a return to kick @$$ X-Overs and even was compared to “The Mutant Massacre” event which I believe to be one of the best X-Overs of all time. We shall see if this comparison holds up.
Alex Ross returns to Marvel for some type of project next year. The teaser art showed Ross’s version of Captain America with the word RETURN across his chest. We’ve since learned it’s a preview image for a storyline that will bring the original Invaders (Cap, Toro, Namor et al.) to the present-day Marvel Universe to interact with the Avengers..
The classic team of Dan Michelinie and Bob Layton bring you a IRON MAN/DR. DOOM miniseries. This was the team that made IRON MAN one of my favorite characters. Hopefully they can make me like him again with this miniseries since the regular Marvel books aren’t doing so.
There’s a slew of COUNTDOWN spin-offs on the horizon. Most intriguing was COUNTDOWN: ARENA as the Monarch is gathering an army and decides to make fanboys drool and cream as three of their favorite versions of the main characters of the 52 DCUniverses fight Thunderdome-stylee in a death match. EIC Dan Didio said that you could see The Red Son Superman vs. Kingdom Come Superman vs. Tangent Superman. Should be brainless fun and the results are going to be determined by the fans who will be able to vote online as to who wins.
Another COUNTDOWN tie-in, THE DEATH OF THE NEW GODS provided some humor to the presentation as writer Jim Starlin offered to kill just about every character brought up. SALVATION RUN follows the other Rogues not chained together in COUNTDOWN as they are sent to another planet to live the rest of their lives, but only if they survive the planet’s many dangers.
Grant Morrison is going to go nutso again with the DCU with next spring’s FINAL CRISIS, which is promised to be the mother of all DCU Crises…until the next one.
MANHUNTER is delayed until the new scripts are in, but she’ll be in BIRDS OF PREY. ALL STAR BATGIRL is on hold. The DR. FATE miniseries has been incorporated into COUNTDOWN TO MYSTERY. Look for a HITMAN/JLA two-parter by Ennis and McCrea soon.
Francis Manapul (I went “Who?” too…) is taking over LEGION OF SUPER HEROES. The art and costume designs look smart. Fans of the old Legion which popped up in the JLA/JSA crossover were told that they will be happy to see what happens in next year’s 50th anniversary of the Legion.
Sean McKeever revealed that he’s going to be writing an arc of COUNTDOWN where the Challengers from Beyond (Donna Troy, Jason Todd, The New Atom, and Kyle Rayner) will be journeying to Earth 3. There they will meet The Jokester who is the father of someone important.
Greg Rucka seems to be cool with the return of Ra’s Al Ghul (set to run in next year’s Batbooks) despite the fact that he wrote the definitive death of Ra’s in DEATH AND THE MAIDENS. Grant Morrison will be heading the resurrection of The Demon’s Head with Tony Daniels taking over the art chores on BATMAN when this all begins in October.
At the very end of Friday’s panel, someone asked if it was Barry Allen in the lightning rod at the end of the JSA/JLA crossover “The Lightning Saga.” Didio slipped and accidentally revealed it was SPOILER Bart not Barry in the rod END SPOILER. Dan clearly wasn’t supposed to say this and VP of Sales Bob Wayne clearly wasn’t happy with this revelation.
On the Vertigo side, Brian Wood (DMZ) made good on his promise last year with NORTHLANDERS, a Viking story.
LOVELESS and 100 BULLETS will keep on trucking. Brian Azzarello (who with his moustache looks a heck of a lot like a skinny Jeffrey Tambor) said that he may play with the idea of more stories in the 100 BULLETS universe after it comes to an end at issue #100. Azzarello said he liked the name FOR A FEW BULLETS MORE.
Bob Wayne said that he absolutely loved CAIRO, a new hardcover graphic novel focusing on drugs, journalism, and the military. Wayne says that this is the big Vertigo book of the upcoming year.
Despite the title, which makes me chuckle, the tone of INCOGNEGRO is deathly serious as a journalist goes undercover in the deep south to uncover a story on the lynching of African Americans.
Matt Wagner announced that he will be doing a MADAME XANADU title with manga artist Amy Hadley. The title will focus on the mysterious seer throughout the ages and her love affair with the Phantom Stranger. Wagner says that he will also shed some light on just exactly what the Phantom Stranger does besides being strange phantomly.
HELLBLAZER supporting character Chaz will get the spotlight in HELLBLAZER PRESENTS CHAZ: THE KNOWLEDGE, a miniseries due out next year written by THE EXTERMINATORS Simon Oliver.
PREACHER scripts have been written for HBO as a series, but no announcements were to be made at this con. It looks like the possibility of seeing the classic series on TV is becoming a greater possibility.
The most interesting tidbit dropped from DC this weekend was a preview of three new titles geared towards children that yet had this 35-year old’s mouth watering as well. First up is TINY TITANS by Franco Aureliani and Art Baltazar (PATRICK THE WOLF BOY). Seeing the cute designs of everyone’s favorite Titans made everyone in the room excited. Mike Kunkel (HEROBEAR) will be taking on BILLY BATSON AND THE MAGIC OF SHAZAM! which looks to be equally intriguing and seems to be in the same vein as Jeff Smith’s recent SHAZAM AND THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL. And rounding off the three is SUPER FRIENDS featuring the JLA and written by Sholly Fisch. All of these titles look to be the most promising kids books I’ve seen in quite a while. It looks to be that DC is trying to gear their books towards kids again with some rock solid product. Can’t wait to see them. Look for a sneak peek at TINY TITANS in TEEN TITANS #50.
On the Wildstorm front, fanboys rejoice! Your dreams are answered. November brings us a FREDDY VS JASON VS ASH miniseries by James Kuhoric with covers by J. Scott Campbell and Eric Powell. I honestly can’t wait for that one.
Although a lot of the stuff here was announced at the San Diego Con, it was fun to attend these panels and see what the writers and artists behind some of my favorite and soon to be favorite projects looked like. Next year, the Chicago Con is scheduled much earlier in the summer (late June). I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. Does it mean that the Chicago Con will be the place where all of the big scoops are dropped? Or does it mean that the major announcements will be saved for San Diego again and Chicago will get by on filler and fluff? Not sure, but next year’s con looks to be something entirely different.
SQUASHUA INTERVIEWS TRANSFORMERS’ SIMON FURMAN, GEOFF SENIOR, & STEVE WHITE
Titan Magazines has released the TRANSFORMERS UK Comic for all the good chaps in the United Kingdom, and AICN Comics’ own resident Transformers fanatic Squashua was able to get a few questions in to legendary Transformers writer Simon Furman, legendary Transformers artist Geoff Senior, and editor Steve White. Click on any of the images in this interview for a larger version.
Simon Furman: I first started writing the Transformers back in 1985, in issue #13 of the UK TRANSFORMERS comic (published by Marvel). Since then I've written hundreds more UK stories, plus issues #56-80 of the US Marvel TRANSFORMERS series, TRANSFORMERS GENERATION 2 #1-12, various convention and exclusive comics, TRANSFORMERS: THE WAR WITHIN (volumes 1 & 2), TRANSFORMERS ARMADA/ENERGON #6-30 (both for Dreamwave), TRANSFORMERS INFILTRATION #1-6, TRANSFORMERS ESCALATION #1-6, TRANSFORMERS STORMBRINGER #1-4, TRANSFORMERS MOVIE PREQUEL #1-4 and BEAST WARS THE GATHERING #1-4 (all IDW). Plus, the final episode of the BEAST WARS TV series ('Nemesis pt2') and various books, including TRANSFORMERS THE ULTIMATE GUIDE and YOU CAN DRAW TRANSFORMERS. It's got so now I tend to be the first port of call when there's new Transformers comic material in the offing, and that was certainly the case with Titan's TRANSFORMERS comic/magazine when they wanted a new strip to tie in the summer blockbuster TRANSFORMERS movie. I guess I'm just the 'go-to' guy when it comes to giant battling robots.
Squashua: For those who don't know, Simon Furman has been involved with the Transformers for, like, forever. How'd you get started?
Squashua: What type of storylines can the fans expect from this comic--will they be more inline with the recent movie, or a retroactive look back at the classic Generation One?Simon Furman: We're starting off with stories set firmly in the movie continuity. Some will feature events from what is essentially the movie pre-history (on Cybertron and beyond), others will explore angles not highlighted within the span of the movie itself, and others will take key characters on arcs immediately after the movie's end credits.
But that's not to say other (classic) incarnations of Transformers won't get some new original strip in the future. It'll probably come down to what readers want to see most.
Squashua: So we can expect to see the Transformers featured in the movie then, including any that might have...passed on?Simon Furman: The first six issues feature (prominently) Optimus Prime, Megatron, Ratchet, Devastator, Ironhide and Jazz, but co-stars and cameo appearances proliferate. We'll see likes of Starscream, Bonecrusher, Arcee and Bumblebee, as well as a number of movie toy characters (like Skyblast, Signal Flare and Clocker) that never made it into the movie itself. Oh, and the spotlight is going to get thrown on the All Spark itself in due course. Expect to learn some of its mysterious origins.
Squashua: Arcee: the lady-bot. Rowr. So since you are going to be handling characters who didn't receive any screen time (and in my opinion, that would include pretty much anyone except Optimus and Bumblebee), will you be introducing any new or original characters as well?Simon Furman: I'm trying not to create original characters for the strips, but rather use existing movie or toy characters. That said, the very first issue has a character in it we created exclusively for the UK comic!!
Squashua: There are many variations on the Transformers storyline out there, and I know you yourself juggle a number of wildly varying Transformers continuities; how do you keep track of them all?Simon Furman: Right now, there are three distinct continuities: the movie-verse, the IDW/G1-verse and Beast Wars. They're all very different in terms of their cast and structure, so it's not too much of a problem to switch tracks. The movie stuff feels very cinematic in its scope, the G1 stuff is like this epic jigsaw puzzle I'm slowly assembling, revealing more of the big picture with each arc or Spotlight, and Beast Wars is very much the continuation/expansion of all the amazing groundwork laid by Bob Forward and Larry DiTillio (co-script editors and key episode writers) in the BW TV series, where the very nature of the characters, settings and stories makes it a very different, er, beast.
Squashua: With so much backstory and continuity, how do you make your storylines accessible to newer readers coming in from having seen the movie?Simon Furman: The movie is probably the most accessible continuity, simply because there's not a lot to catch up on. If you've seen the movie, you're pretty much ready to go. But even then, we've tried to make the strips as character-led and self-contained as possible, so even if you haven't seen the movie, you get a real sense of who's who and what their role is. With stuff like Beast Wars, we're just making sure there's plenty of recap stuff to help bring readers in.
Squashua: The original concept behind Transformers is that they are Robots in Disguise, yet becoming a Honda Civic or a Mountain Dew machine is pretty useless for, if you'll excuse the term, "robots from space". Considering yours plot will include Cybertronian history, how do you plan on keeping the transformation aspect "fresh" as a story aspect? That is to say, beyond maintaining the name, is there a reason they need to transform?Simon Furman: I think the disguise aspect is still very much there, both in the movie-verse and the G1-verse. In the movie storyline, the Transformers need to transform to cover the vast distances in outer space. When they land on a given planet, they adapt their forms to blend in. As you'll see in the first clutch of UK comics, it's not always Earth they land on, and so we get a number of variations on their alt. mode theme. And let's face it, if they need to get somewhere fast, without attracting undue attention, it's better to do it as a Honda Civic than a robot.
Squashua: Since you're handling it from the movie aspect, is there going to be a reaction from what everyone considers the real stars of the movie, the humans?Simon Furman: Oh yeah. Both in the movie-verse and the IDW/G1 storyline. In fact, in DEVASTATION (the third, fourth if you count STORMBRINGER, volume of the G1 reinvention) all the Autobots’ and Decepticons' efforts to stay hidden kind of go to hell. And boy, do we get a reaction!
Squashua: As you can see, I was a bit jaded by the flick. What did you think of the movie? Would you have changed anything?Simon Furman: I might have thinned the human cast down somewhat, as the number of different organizations and involved parties seemed almost unnecessarily confusing, but otherwise no. I loved the movie. It was amazing to look at and pretty breathtaking in its scope. Any story, um, holes, I just see in terms of their potential for us to get in there and spin extra stories out of them.
Squashua: Regarding your older work, many fans in the United States did not realize that while they collected the Marvel TRANSFORMERS series over here, Marvel UK was producing over three times the amount of Transformers material. How'd you handle it?Simon Furman: We were doing a lot of stuff for the UK comic back then, but don't forget we also reprinted the US strip. The two, largely, went hand in hand, creating one big whole. Sure, we had our little digressions and a few story conceits (Grimlock, for instance, is much more of a character in the UK stories than he was in the US, and we had the whole future cast from the animated movie), but mostly it works. I think.
Squashua: With a lot of your earlier material, you eschewed stories about traditional characters (eg. Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee, etc.) for lesser-known beings (eg. Bludgeon), who have gone on to become fan-favorites. Are there any formerly obscure bots coming into view on the horizon?Simon Furman: Maybe, yeah, but initially at least we want to focus on the main cast of characters. There is a lot to do and explore there before we move on.
Squashua: With Transformers being a toy license first and foremost, how much control does Hasbro exert over the storylines?Simon Furman: I think as long we don't undermine the characters or present them in a bad light, Hasbro's only criteria is that we tell a good story. And since that's what we're trying to do too, we're kind of coming at things from the same direction. What we do have to be wary of, with movie sequels in the offing, is not establishing stuff that's going to compromise what the movie people have planned.
Squashua: You and Geoff Senior created Death's Head, who has (or had?) a huge cult following. How did he get so popular?Simon Furman: Just a great character, yes? Damn you, Marvel, do more with him!
Squashua: Geoff Senior is back with his first Transformers work since 1989. Geoff, back in the day you drew traditional Generation One Transformers; now you're working with the movie designs molds. Which do you find more challenging or appealing?Geoff Senior: The original designs were clearer. The new ones are obviously more complicated. The character specs we were given aren't very clear. Having seen the film and photos, I think they could have been better. I think there is a 'formula' to drawing them, which would keep the general look without being too confusing. If you get a group fighting there is the risk of it looking like a mass of shapes. The challenge is there.
Squashua: Is there a favorite character you prefer to work with?Geoff Senior: Death's Head...does he count as he isn't a Transformer? Or any of the bad guys.
Squashua: He certainly does count. Steve, as editor, what sort of features can fans look forward to?Steve White: Well, I'm trying to strike a balance with the pretty varied readership the comic has. We have the six-year old kids who love the toys and we have the 30 year-old guys who read the comic when they were a kid and have grown up with Transformers and are quite scathing about the film.
Squashua: Yes...Steve White: I took the approach that we did when working on the Marvel comic, which is essentially never talk down to the reader, no matter how old they are. So we've avoided all the coloring pages and puzzles and gone for the more hardcore approach, with in-depth features on the characters. We've made them fun with a "Who would win in a fight between...?" kind of approach and that seems to have gone down well. We're also planning How To Draw features, but these will be pretty complicated affairs, not just a few circles and squares. Plus there is plenty of coverage of new merchandise and DVDs, that sort of stuff.
Squashua: Besides Simon and Geoff, are there any other creators you have in the pipeline?Steve White: We've got a pretty good and varied array of artists lined up over the next few issues. #2 features Nick Roche, who did a fantastic job on the MEGATRON strip. Then we have an old Marvel warhorse, Andy Wildman. #4 has artwork by Don Figueroa, who I'm a big fan of and was so pleased to get on board. #5 is drawn by Guido Guidi, another TRANSFORMERS regular. #6, the last in the current story arc, is being drawn by Marcelo Matere - another artist I love and was really pleased to get. Beyond that, I have a few other people in mind; we're also planning art covers from #7 so that should be fun as well - some really great artists have said they couldn't do a strip but would be up for a cover, so that should be interesting. As the saying goes, watch this space...
Squashua: Most excellent. The TRANSFORMERS COMIC UK is a 4-weekly, 52-page book, and is in stores now. The London Film and Comic Convention will have all three of my interviewees available for signing opportunities on Saturday, September 1st. For more details on the comic, see the TRANSFORMERS COMIC UK profile on Myspace or subscribe to get your own copy at Titan Magazines.
And then I heard what I consider to be the best news to come out of the con: the new children’s titles coming from the Johnny DC line. The TINY TITANS art for the new title by Franco Aureliani and Art Baltazar instantly had me grinning ear to ear. I’ve seen these guys working their table every year, and even bought a cute little sketch from them at one point. I’d gotten used to them being one of the more welcome mainstays in the artists’ alley every years, but never thought they’d have a chance at the mainstream. I’d always thought they were perfectly suited for childrens’ books, to be honest—the bookstore kind, not just comics—but didn’t know if they’d ever get a shot. To find out they’re going to bring their talents to bear on a book for DC is wonderful news. To then get even more good news—Mike Kunkel of HEROBEAR fame moving over to a book where he gets to illustrate BILLY BATSON AND THE MAGIC OF SHAZAM!--just made the whole thing that much better. Kunkel’s work is so fun and energetic that I can’t imagine a better book for him to make his mainstream debut, and you just know he’s going to do right by Tawky Tawny when he shows up. I may not be the target audience for these books, but they look like they’re gonna have a lot of adults buying them for the same reason grownups still love PEANUTS or CALVIN & HOBBES.
That I found this to be the biggest, most exciting part of the con, though, made me realize something: it’s not me. I’m not jaded or bored with the medium. Not at all. I was just bored with the con. This year had even fewer big names in attendance than last year’s turnout, and even fewer big announcements. It’s sad, really: the first few years I went to the convention here in Chicago I’d find myself scribbling frantically during panels, but now there was no reason to. No Bendis, no Loeb, no Waid, no Rucka, no Simone, no Whedon, no Johns, no Lee, no Kuberts or Romita Jr. The only real names of note were the always-charming Mark Millar and the always-swoon-inducing John Cassaday, but a three-day weekend is a lot for one little Scot and one dude who looks like Josh Homme’s kid brother to carry on their shoulders. The always-dismal Fan Awards on Friday night were even worse than ever before, and Millar had to carry all of that as well, the poor sap.
No big writers’ workshops, no mindblowing announcements of new series, books, or teams, no fundraisers with celebrities, no auctions or costume contests. No comic book superstar Joyce DeWitt. Less quality independents with stands, because apparently comic book fans are there to see previews of video games or half-assed fake wrestling leagues (granted, with a mercifully smaller ring) and not to experience comics. No Wizard-sponsored press party or post-6 PM events planned for the public. Shit, no Kevin Smith—I may have hated him being here every year, but at least he brought a little fun to the proceedings (but thank god his mouthbreathing shitheaded fans weren’t around stinking up the hallways half asleep and drooling on each other this year).
Nope, it definitely ain’t me. After last year’s mediocre con, the guys in charge over at Wizard were canned, and it gave me hope. I thought this year they were gonna really pull things together. It’s obvious they just let it keep sliding, though, and it’s disappointing. I know San Diego is such a huge deal because of its proximity to LA, and I know that’s why they can get more stars and celebrities and media attention—but dammit, try harder. Have less conventions and make the handful you keep matter, which Chicago didn’t. Don’t make me sit in a panel on what’s coming in 2008 only to hear “we’re making an announcement in the next few weeks” over and over—just make the damned announcements. And are you seriously telling me that nobody from “Lost” or “Heroes” or “Smallville” or “Supernatural” or anything had the weekend off? NOBODY? Last year, Erica Durance had to fly herself in on her own dime, when they could have just had her signing autographs and cleared a profit on it instead. And I know the writers all have lives, too, but let’s face it: these things are like the Emmys and the Golden Globes. Make the time: come meet your public, smile for the cameras, be witty. You’ll sell more books and build more bridges, so it’s more than worth the effort.
So please, Wizard: Do better next year. I’m really hoping that moving the date is part of a plan to fix the Chicago Con and start making it into what it should be. Bring back the fun and the talent and the events. Do more with the cool indie guys while they’re in town, give the fans more to do, bring back the big announcements and the comic book luminaries. I want to love Wizard World Chicago again, like I did the first couple of years. I want it to be big and bright and fun and informative. I know it can be because it’s has been before, so please: stop the slide into further mediocrity. Bring the joy back while you’ve still got an audience, because another couple of years like the last two and you’ll have lost a lot of the audience for this event—something none of us want to see happen.
WORLD WAR HULK – The Battle Thus Far
Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo
WORLD WAR HULK #3
Writer: Greg Pak Artist: John Romita, Jr. Inker: Klaus JansonWe’re two months in, and a lot have people have said that this series is losing momentum. I respectfully disagree. I think what it’s losing is acceleration, but the action is staying constant, moving along at the same steady clip. They’re going to show the Hulk going through every person who has opposed him, and that takes time. But I like the pace, overall; I liked this issue and this series.
Artwise, if you’re no fan of Romita, this would be the time to give him a second chance. I did, and I think this is some of his strongest work (Of course, I wouldn’t cry if Hitch drew a whole issue and not just an incredible cover, but...).
Pak continues the fine job he’s been doing with this issue. We knew Dr. Strange (ostensibly) would not stop the Hulk – after all, there’s three more issues to go. But the way it happened was pretty cool to watch. It should also be noted that something new is happening with the Hulk/Banner relationship. Maybe they were both in love with Caiera. Maybe they decided to work together. But this is the most that either been on the same page in a long time – could this be the beginnings of a new status quo? We’ve seen hints already, but when all this blows over, I hope it continues.
The person I found most interesting was Ross. More than the impotent and anachronistic relic of old wars and cold wars, he’s the first person (in this whole series and every spinoff, actually) who truly brought the serious pain. I was expecting Hulk to go through the puny Army humans like he did in every other issue of the Trimpe-drawn Hulk, but Ross and his troops did more damage to the Hulk than anyone so far. Good for him. I mean, I know second place is still losing, but I always hated to see Ross simply playing “Team Rocket” to Hulk’s “Ash.” And Ross went down fighting. How many other men have the stones to shoot the Hulk point blank in the eyeball? Despite myself, I was rooting for him.
Next up: Sentry, who seems at the front of the queue for a pummeling, but someone better get a feel for this damaged-goods wussyboy character quick, because I’m tired of him. I’m no fan of his (since the INHUMANS/Avengers debacle) but my antipathy is quickly changing to apathy, and apathy sells no comic books.
I liked seeing the rest of the Warbound mix things up. These are all (okay, most – lose Miek and Brood, please) interesting characters on their own, and deserve more than being relegated to the sidelines. I would love to see them move forward as a group, as long as they don’t call themselves “The Renegades…” As for the ending, I was utterly not expecting that, and scrambling for Wikipedia like just about everyone else. But the last page makes me genuinely anxious to see “round two” next issue. How many other heroes got a second shot? Let’s see what Pak does with it.
INCREDIBLE HULK #109
Writer: Greg Pak Artist: Carlo Pagulayan Inker: Jeffrey HuetMany moons ago, there was an episode of “Star Trek” where the crew went back in time to a rocket launch, and most of the screen time was devoted to some Mr. Seven, a cat, and a very young Teri Garr. And you just KNEW they were using the episode as a test pilot to launch another series. It felt forced and superfluous and very much like about half of this issue. Fortunately, the other half advanced the plot, and gave us a very important piece of information regarding the real mission of the Warbound and why the Hulk wants no help from anyone. Nicely done.
Regarding the new series prep, I know they’re trying to whet us for a “We’re not the Champions, we’re the Renegades” series, and I’m still not sure what Angel will fulfill other than need for some writer to put him in the Stark-funding role, but the Fantastic Four-ish formation at the end was just a bit too much.
Also, for continuity fans, I can’t REALLY tell if that’s Ross being outfitted with an obedience disk, but if that’s true, then the Hulk obviously walked away from his encounter with a Zom-strong Dr. Strange. Oops. But Stark and Cho and Richards manage to connect, and it seems as though the end game cometh, which needs to happen quickly in order to finish strong.
Last kudo, though – Pagulayan did a great job on the art, and the last page was, in my opinion, nothing short of spectacular.
WORLD WAR HULK – FRONTLINE #3
Writer: Paul Jenkins Artists: Bachs, Martinbrough, MorenoSo what does the final Hulk-centric title brings to the story?
Well, does anyone remember Lenore from New Universe’s DP7? She was the 60-something Latin teacher who found she could absorb energy from anyone, usually by revealing her face to them. In the process, she regained the body of a lithe and beautiful 20 year old. But we never got to see her face. All we would see was her pulling off her mask, and anyone in range went to sleep. Instantly. If exposed to her long enough, they might even go into a coma.
Folks, I now know what her face looked like. It looked like FRONTLINE.
This issue, like the last, and like all of Gaul for that matter, is in three parts divided. (Sorry, I’ve still got Latin on the brain.) But the whole of FRONTLINE coalesces into the most horribly somnorific set of stories in all of WW HULK. Last issue, though I tried twice, I actually could not bring myself to read the entirety of the second story. (And don’t get me started on the well-below-NOT-BRAND-ECHH-quality tertiary feature.) This issue, Sally and Ben run around the combat zone, say one or two clever things, and the rest is all filler.
Oh, and J. Jonah Jameson is ready to eviscerate them for daring to “scoop” him. Wowzers. His big questions are “how do they keep their presses going?” I’m thinking backup generators, maybe? And “who is funding them?” I’m thinking, someone who saw a void in the marketplace? But since we, the readers, know funding was in fact provided by some kind of mystery man, our pulses are supposed to quicken as JJJ gets closer to…the truth! If I could rouse myself from complete disinterest, I would feel manipulated.
And Danny Detective is still looking for ARCH-E’s killer. (Personally I suspect REG-E, but that’s just me.) Setting aside the well-documented suspension of disbelief that a detective would be assigned a case where he must work with AN INVADING ALIEN to find the killer of ANOTHER INVADING ALIEN, while other INVADING ALIENS are killing people and being killed, all I know is that 1.) I’m still not sure what Danny looks like, since he alternately appears like an old Val Kilmer or young Earnest Borgnine, 2.) Korg quips like someone who has been on earth longer than I, which is alternately funny and distracting, and 3.) if I hear the term “judicial servitude” one more time, I may have to alternately…well, I can’t thing of any actions worth the effort, so never mind. Wow, that was a long sentence. Sorry.
So to sum up, at the end of this issue, they’re still looking for the killer. And they find…get ready…a camera! Hose me down.
The issue closes with an INITIATIVE-themed joke piece that…oh, I’ve looked at it too long…getting sleepy…zzzzzzzzzzzz…. **WAKES SUDDENLY** Okay, Marvel. No more interludes. Meatloaf once said that two out of three ain’t bad. I beg to differ. WW HULK #3 delivered, and HULK #109 mostly delivered, but can we step up (read: introduce) some action in this title? Jenkins is a good writer – I know he can do better.
In Summary – overall I like this mega event more than most, and one or two clunkers don’t ruin it. But if you miss this title, you’re not missing much, and that’s a shame, since FRONTLINE: CIVIL WAR was so relevant and enjoyable to me.
Pickin’s were surprisingly slim this year. Bug again. I didn’t really go into this con with a goal to buy anything special. The theme of this year was to mellowly mosey through the whole thing with a Dude-like sense of “Whatever happens, man…happens.” As I perused the merch aisles and artists alley, I wasn’t really compelled to go out and buy anything, as I have been apt to do in previous years. That said, I did leave the con with a few purchases and pick-ups of note. And because no one demanded it, I’ll let you know what I stuffed in my bag o’ schwag.
Or what I bought at this year’s con…
To start off I have to toss out a big BOOO!!! To the Wizard people. In the past, the bag o’ fun that they handed out to those who picked up tickets was full of semi-interesting things like Hero Clix figurines, limited edition books, and maybe even some buttons or a Wizard magazine. This year, I felt like Charlie Brown when I looked in my bag. Inside the plastic tote was a schedule, a Wizard magazine, a squeeze toy shaped like a brain from something called Gleemax, and the cherry on top; a CROW: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN DVD postcard.
Gotta hand it to Wizard for going all out with the freebs. I plan on cherishing my CROW: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN DVD Postcard for…like…ever.
I think I would have preferred the rock.
The rest of the con proved to be much more interesting in the merch department. DC handed out some Minimates--those logo figure lookin’ versions of their characters. I wanted Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. I got Robin and the Penguin. I was going to ask for the other set, but you know what they say about beggars and choosers.
One of the coolest things I got was the hardcover trade paperback of the first few issues of HARBINGER: THE BEGINNING. No word if and when the Valiant U will be making a return, but all signs point to yes since this new hardcover introduces a new character that is touted to play an important role in the Valiant U. I was going to review this book this week, but I’m going to hold off on it until I can announce the winners of our HARBINGER Contest in next week’s column. The book, though, is damn smooth.
While waiting in line for the Batman teaser/preview, I got a chance to meet writer Sean McDevitt. He’s a friend of Grant Chastain, a writer himself of the cool CORRECTIVE MEASURES comic and a frequenter of our very own AICN Comics Talkback. McDevitt was kind enough to hand me a copy of his own book SLIP KID and I plan to read it and review it in an upcoming Indie Jones.
I am most definitely an impulse buyer. This aspect of my being was proved positive, as I had to purchase a shirt from Graphitti Designs upon sight. The black tee was of a simple design, a picture of a leering old man’s face and above his head the title of the old CREEPY Magazine was hung. The double entendre was too good to pass up and I can’t wait to creep the hell out of the ladies with that shirt.
A side note from Sleazy G: Bug doesn’t need that shirt to creep out the ladies, and I don’t know how he didn’t notice the old guy is actually Future Bug 30 years from now. Like Bishop, only scrawny, pasty, bald and wart-covered.My best purchase at the con was indicative of a new unhealthy addiction I am forming with the Bowen Designs Mini-Busts of Marvel Characters. A week or so ago, I did a review of my CAPTAIN BRITAIN mini-bust that I recently purchased. In that review, I mentioned that I would be looking for a few more busts to accompany him atop my desk. At this con, I found that UNION JACK bust I thought was so cool and I can now have a little British tea party going on above my head as I tap away these reviews on the keyboard.
I can see the conversations to be had now as if it were a badly written comedy bit…
UNION JACK would be like: “’ello, guv’nah Bri’ain! Would you care for a spot of tea?”
Then CAPTAIN BRITAIN would go “Don’t chink the fine China, bitch n’ chips!”
“Crikey, well let’s throw another dingo on the barbie then, Capn’!” UNION JACK suggests Britishly waving his knife and gun in the air as Brits often do.
“That’s Australian, you ponce. C’mere and let me brain you with my kitchen table leg, bitch n’ chips.”
Then, in the future when my Daredevil GLADIATOR Mini-Bust arrives, he’ll be like, “How about some finger sandwiches, gents? I cut them for you with my wrist blades!”
Then they’d all go “Yay!” then sip and sigh longingly, and whisper the name “Jean Luc” under their breaths.
The contents of this year’s Schwag Bag wasn’t as plentiful as those of the past, but I did like the stuff I picked up. There’s a little bit of everything on sale to satisfy your geek tastes at these conventions. All you have to do is wander the floor and you’ll probably find it.
Writer: Ed Brubaker Art: Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano Publisher: Marvel Comics Guest reviewer: Stone’s ThrowMan, it sure is great to be reading a great Daredevil story that actually feels like a Daredevil story! After Brian Bendis' "controversial" run (if controversial mean dull), Brubaker and Lark's DD as prison drama first arc and the mixed "Daredevil goes to Europe" second arc (with it's "oh look, a surprising, convenient villain" resolution) they've really hit their stride here. This arc has felt fast-paced, tight and dangerous. DD's doing what he does best, namely kicking drug-addled butt in Hell's Kitchen and dodging freaky supervillains. Matt Murdock's being written like the cool-ass mofo he should be for once - take this exchange between him and Foggy:
Foggy: "What did your sensei say about fighting angry?" Matt: "Not to get in my way."
That's some good dialogue there: tight, terse and to the point. With Marvel's other significant adult (Tony Stark) being written more like a prissy hall monitor than swingin’ superhero these days ("Spinning out of CIVIL WAR! Iron Man finally asks Returning Character X to register!"), it's a delight to see a writer making his lead character cool and admirable for once.
Brubaker's also one of those writers, alongside such rare talents as Geoff Johns and Dan Slott, who can immediately and unashamedly access what's cool about little-used or mocked characters, evidenced here in the surprisingly chilling return of a DD villain. He's perfectly matched by Lark who finds some way to make even the dorkiest costumes look impressive without changing hardly anything about them (props for the Ox's waistcoat and turtle neck combo--I mean, how many villains do you see wearing that?). Although I find Stefano Gaudiano's inks a little too scratchy in places, Lark's art is wonderfully evocative of each and every scene, from the fusty (is fusty the right word?) interiors of Foggy and Matt's offices to the breezy, spacious hospital where the Gladiator's locked up, to the pretty charming bonding between Foggy and a likeable femme fatale. The tense, paranoid tone of the issue is oddly heightened by the choice to set it during the day, somewhere we rarely see Hornhead.
I give Marvel a lot of crap for ignoring what makes their characters special in search of the shake-up but I gotta give them credit here. DAREDEVIL is one of the top books each month just doing what a DD title does best. In fact, after next issue's #100 I wouldn't mind seeing the book revert to its full numbering, so well has Brubaker reconciled the superheroics of volume 1 with the more revisionist attitudes of Kevin Smith and Bendis. Brubaker and Lark are a triumph for traditional, fast-paced superhero stories that never feel the least bit retro or campy.
- First thing's first, and I know I touched on this a bit with one of these I wrote this time last year, but for all that is good and holy, do not fucking come to the con with the intention of dropping two dozen plus books in front of random creator of choice. It's just bad form. Yes, we all know you love such and such, or you just love putting signed shit on Ebay cause you for some reason think that will get you extra cash, but really, all you're doing is giving me justified license to kick you repeatedly in the pelvis until it cracks... trust me, if you do this no one around me is going to say anything when security comes to check on all the fuss. All you're doing is either putting the creator on the spot as he either has to hold up the line to politely and unnecessarily sign all your stuff, or you're going to make him look like a bit of a prick when he (or even she) refuses for the same reason. Just bring a small handful or books, a nice little collection of your favorite works of the party at hand, and move on. Seriously, any more than that and you're being a douchebag, even if you don't mean to be.
- While we're on the subject of rampant douchebaggery, please for the love of Odin pay attention to what's actually going around you whenever you attend any of the panels being held. At the "Cup of Joe" session on Saturday it was asked three separate times when ULTIMATES 3 was coming out. Three times! Come on people, we're comic book geeks. No one should be that hard of hearing. Maybe a little eyestrain from reading literally millions of captions and word balloons, but I'm sure our audial canals should be pretty much intact. Just pay attention, especially when your question amounts to something that you probably should have read on CBR, Newsarama, or any of a dozen internet comic sites already.
- Oh yeah, and don't waste our time getting into random debates about Peter Parker and Mary Jane's marriage when you're at a Q&A that is specifically for getting the idea of what is coming in the future. Things like that are what internet forums are for. You're just taking time away from guys that have legitimate questions about upcoming projects and somesuch.
- By the by, not only is Jolt and Rum delicious, but I'm pretty sure it's the only thing that was keeping me standing by Sunday. Word of advice, not only should you bring your own booze to cons (because hotel bars fucking suck more than a cheerleader on prom night) but bring energy drinks. Nerds being tired? Perish the thought. Long box diving is daunting work it is.
- Now this one is for all you retailers out there, and I mean this with all due respect. If you're bringing trades, and you plan on bringing a fuckton of them, please don't bother unless you plan on selling them for at least 25% off. Preferably 30% or greater. Look, I'm not trying to be a cheap bastard here, I'm trying to be helpful as a man with a Bachelor's Degree in Business and who spent several dozen hours going over the concepts of supply and demand. Here's the deal, if I really want a trade off of you, you're already competing with several Internet Retailers such as Amazon.com or InStockTrades or whomever for your business, and these places almost always immediately come with 25% off their stock, typically up to a whole third off, and are usually good for free shipping with a few little stipulations. Not only that, but you're at a freaking convention!! There's going to be at least another dozen guys physically present offering the same kinds of discounts. I don't care if you have the best selection out there, but if I can just spend five minutes surfing the interwebs looking for what I want and find not only the same selection but for two bucks cheaper a hit, well then my friend all you've done is guaranteed that you'll be repacking a lot of pulp come Sunday afternoon.
- Oh, and while speaking of trades, just another heads up to you gents: 40% off trades with complete alphabetical ordering of them > 50% off trades all thrown about in random mass chaos. I'm much more obliged to hand a dealer an extra buck forty if I can immediately find what I'm looking for than to save it spending an hour shuffling through your mass of 1700 Ultimate Universe books you over-ordered on to find something I might like. It's called Opportunity Cost, another thing I learned in between hangovers while getting that degree. Cheers..
- And lastly, one heavily noticible thing that I found has been plaguing Conventions like this more and more in recent years: There're girls attending them now. Now calm down calm down! I know this is quite the unexpected twist but just take it easy and remember a few things here. One, they're people just like us, expect a little different (i.e. Boobs). Just accept them for who they are, be respectful, and hey! Maybe even talk to one! But speaking of talking, here's thing number two: If a girl is at one of these cons she's either a) there with her boyfriend, or b) paid to be there by some retailer or promoter (or said boyfriend) and isn't interested in you. Sorry fanboy, but as much as you've dreamt of finding a girl that understands your snide, snarky, and net-savvy sense of humor, all rife with comic book references, you're still not going to find her at one of these events, even though you're actually going to find her at one of these events. It's called irony, and God fucking loves that shit.
So there you go. I hope these have been some very helpful observances for any future journeys to one of these masses of geekdom. I know I was a little harsh in some of these, but trust me, it's for your own good to know some of this stuff before you come in and look like an ass. There's going to be enough of that once the costumes start rolling in (and god forbid some furries), no reason for you to look like one in your jeans and Green Lantern t-shirt.
JLA CLASSIFIED #41
Writer: Peter Milligan Artist: Carlos D’Anda Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoI had high hopes for this series and I was not disappointed. Great writing. Great art. I wasn’t disappointed…all the way until the end (well, the art was still great.).
Let’s talk art. I think I remember D’Anda from some old issues of OUTSIDERS, but I don’t remember it looking as strong as this does. The men are manly. The women are babes. The villains are ugly. I don’t think I could ask for much more, so let’s go onto the writing.
Milligan made Frank Halloran an interesting character, well constructed and unpredictable. I’m a sucker for all that stuff about free will and determinism – I almost minored in Philosophy. Without any sort of moral anchor past his intellectual deductions, the Justice League was right to be worried about Frank. I loved the way they tried to determine which what he would go. But this issue, Frank…that is, Kid Amazo, has had enough, and determines that he’s going to the dark side. Fair enough, and like I said, I was hooked.
But I’m not blind to the weak spots. Last issue, it was the implausible reason that Wonder Woman decided to “out” Kid Amazo. Personally, I would have simply continued to monitor the situation, but I suppose the plot had to be moved along. Yet this issue, we find out that his girlfriend’s reaction was a part of the plan. But that part would not have come about had Wonder Woman not outed him. So…hmmm…
Another part that seemed a little hokey: the way almost every character seems to s-s-stutter instead of…pause…for effect. And the brief suggestion that the League disband to avoid further catastrophe: yeah, that would work! Not. John’s character seems smarter than that, just like Diana should have been last issue. Little things like that.
But the overall writing was solid…up until we see the “weakness” that the JLA exploits, a weakness that doesn’t really make sense to me. Since the Kid can turn on his abilities, one would surmise he could turn them off, too…before it’s too late. It seemed like a cheap ending, and doubly so because he was such a cool character. Maybe I’m just whining because I didn’t like the ending. But I tell you this, if he resurfaces, I would definitely check him out again.