Thursday, December 30, 2010

DCU Online Thoughts....or How I Learned That Time Travel Is Possible

So I finally finished Brad Meltzer's "Zero Game".  Excellent read, would love to have seen it as a movie, written so well I can picture everything as it happens in front of me.  Check it out here: Zero Game Site.   Also got "The Essential Batman Encyclopedia" (Buy it here) by Robert Greenberger for X-Mas so I have the daunting task of reading that as well as knocking out the book of "Boardwalk Empire" (PLUGS!!!!) that I also got as a gift. 

And as if that wasn't enough reading material, I have also entered into my previously declared task of re-reading Matt Fraction's "Uncanny X-Men" run in preparation for blogging about how I feel he is the current incarnation of Chris Claremont (the 80's version of course).  That's a 30-40 issue task (thus far) considering the two X-Overs that take place during his run ("Utopia X" & "Second Coming").  Hopefully I'll knock that out before next week and finally get that blog out of my system.

But I've run into a slight roadblock on my route to accomplishing ANY of those tasks anytime soon: the DC Universe Online Beta.  Thanks PlayStation Store!  Thank you PS Plus!  I will gladly give you my money for this, and contrary to what a friend of mine claimed, it's well worth paying the PS Plus fees JUST for DCUO!

I'm sure by now most comic book fans have at least seen the trailer for the game so you have an idea of what it's all about.  If not, go to the DCUO website link above and check it out...awesome story concept to frame the game.

See that image up above, that's what my hero character looks like as of midnight last night after collecting various pieces of armament, costumes, and weapons.  When he initially started, he somehow ended up looking like Mr. Terrific & Extant had a baby boy.  Now, with that helmet, he looks like Stryfe's retarded cousin or something. 

Anyway, so after creation you get to select a handful of character traits that determine your abilities, powers, and even a mentor (Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman for heroes).  Then the fanboy marking out begins!!!  Break out from Braniac's spaceship and fight alongside Superman!  Arrive in Gotham City and chat with Commisioner Gordon, Batwoman, Fire, Robin, and more!  Go on missions to save Gotham from Scarecrow, Bane, Poison Ivy, and the Joker!  Access the JLA Watchtower (which is amazing in size) and use it to travel to Metropolis where you can battle Trigon, save the city from a Brainiac Invasion force, and rescue Wonder Girl!  And when you defeat these villains you are treated to some awesome Jim Lee art sequences that give you a glimpse into the mind of the bad guy you bested, or occassionaly a closer look at the hero you teamed with.  I've partnered with Robin, Nightwing, Batwoman, and Bats himself thus far.

But that's not all.....gain enough levels and you're accepted into the JLA...ish.  Hawkman and Martian Manhunter sent me on missions across the globe like when I fought aliens in Area 51!  Or the Legend Mission where I battled as Batman to hold the Batcave against a pair of very vicious Harley Quinns!  Still waiting to get out of the queue so I can do this Arkham Asylum mission though.

And that's the only drawback for me.  I'd never experienced any kind of MMORPG-style game (read; World of Warcraf) before so there's certain things that were wierd to me; like getting kicked out of the game for server maintence on my particular world (Beta 3) or having to wait on queue to be able to do missions.  This sort of thing was unfamiliar to me, but I'm told it's normal for on-line games like this.  It's the most minor of drawbacks, and really, it's only one until I get used to it. 

Suffice to say that I am blown away by how fun this game is.  A friend of mine is a World of Warcrack junkie and now I can certainly understand why.  This type of game makes time just fly by because you can constantly be doing something different.  One mission I'm in Gotham saving pod-people from Poison Ivy and the next I'm flying into Gorilla Island to stop Brainiac's incursion there.  I pop everytime I encounter a hero/villain for the first time, and loved going on the hunt for Solomon Grundy IN Gotham (he just wanted pants too).

You can just tell the care that was put into making this game as true-to-comics as possible.  The layout/presentation of Gotham is exactly what it is in the books.  It's a dark, dreary place with few skyscraper-type buildings and it rains on-and-off depending on your location.  I feel like there's less people roaming the streets here than in Metropolis, and the buildings generally seem less inhabited as well.  Gotham screams urban blight at times while Metropolis really does feel like the City of the Future by comparison.  And the highlights of just flying around and touring the city are two-fold; (1) Booster Gold commentary and (2) hidden landmarks like finding two roses in Crime Alley.  That right there is the kind of attention only put in by people who have genuine affection for the source material.

Hell, look at the names involved (thanks Wikipedia): Jim Lee serves as the game's Executive Creative Director, along with Carlos D'Anda, JJ Kirby, Oliver Nome, Eddie Nunez, Livio Ramondelli, and Michael Lopez. EverQuest developer Chris Cao is the Game Director and Shawn Lord is also involved.[2] Geoff Johns is the principal writer.

How can you go wrong with Jim Lee directing and Geoff Johns writing?!?!?!  As a comic book die-hard & fanboy, DC Universe Online is a great investment of your time and money when it becomes officially available on 1/11/11.  And I think it will be price-pointed at $14.99 a month for service (which is the same as WoW I believe), and that's definitely worth the cost.  Yeah it sucks spending $60 on a game, and then dropping another $180 for a year worth of service, but for some strange reason I find that excusable when the material is something you care about, even more so when that material is as down right fun as DCUO has been the past week since I downloaded the Beta.  I give this game the highest of's like the Grant Morrison of video games ;)

Hopefully I will be back next week with my Matt Fraction blog (finally).  Enjoy and hopefully this little rant encourages someone to give DCU Online a chance!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Personal Best Of 2010

The end of the year usually brings with it all the "Best Of" polls, countdowns, and surveys from every comic book, movie, wrestling, MMA, and general entertainment website.  Whether it be a fan-based vote, or a staff writer selection, they usually lead to some kind of discussion from the reader(s), and maybe turn a fan onto something they've never seen/read before.  Well, who knows if that will be the case here, but I'm doing one of my own!  I've perused a handful of the various comic book websites, checked out their subjects & categories, and have decided to cherry-pick from all of them.  I also decided, since it is MY best of list, that it only matters if I discovered it in 2010, not when the thing was there.  Let's get this underway:

The Walking Dead

- Well it's quite strange to think of Image as an independent comic book company when I've been reading books with that "i" logo on it since the inception, I guess techincally it still is considered an indy.  Anywho, The Walking Dead was a book that was introduced to me last year, and I voraciously tore through every trade that was available at the time.  It was a slow start to me, but by the second volume I was hooked.  And all the things that hooked me then have continued.  The excellent characterization and character growth, the story that is simultaenously unpredictable yet logical, the sense of urgency instilled in every issue no matter how slow that issue may actually be; these are all the things, and more, that keep me coming back to the book.  These are the things that cause me to essentially force the book on friends, and watch them get sucked in just like I did.  And that's with comic fans who hate Kirkman (I did), fans of the TV show who hadn't read the book, or better yet, fans of the show who didn't even know there was a comic book.  Maybe they should start advertising the book during the show next season, sales would go crazy!

Uncanny X-Force

- Yeah it's only been around for three issues, but for me those three issues have left an impression like so few others this year.  In the span of less than 90 pages I have found the tone, characterization, and story of this new version of Marvel's Most Violent Mutants to be exceptional.  Remender's writing, in the same fashion as Jason Aaron's, is like an extension of the X-Men Grant Morrison brought to life.  And although I don't think I'd seen it prior to UXF #1, I've moved Jerome Opena into my favorites list as it pertains to artists.  He captures the characters perfectly and just makes even some of the most violent scenes beautifully (check out #3).  And well I'm certain there are other new books that are up there in quality (SHIELD for example), it's this book that I'm most looking forward to in 2011.  If you're a fan of Grant's "New X-Men" run, or Whedon's "Astonishing X-Men" I think this is the series for you.  They carry the same soul...

Generation Lost/Thanos Imperative

- GenLost may technically be a maxi-series, Thanos Imperative may be a mini-series, but they're both still a limited series.  And they are my favorites for some similar, and dissimilar, reasons.  With "Generation Lost", I have been sucked into the world of a bunch of characters I generally didn't give a damn about when I read the first issue, Booster Gold being the only exception due to "52".  Still, I didn't follow Booster into his own book so how much did I really care?  What interested me in the book was Maxwell I was not a follower of JLI, I didn't read the story that saw Wonder Woman kill him, but for some reason I was intrigued by his revival in "Blackest Night".  Maybe it was the concept of erasing memory of his existence from damn near everyone, I don't know, but whatever it was the story of Max Lord's secret, combined with the building tie-in to a "Kingdom Come" future has kept me coming back for more.  I want to see where this book heads, and I have found myself emotional invested in characters that I didn't think I would.  Thanks Misters Giffen & Winick.
- As for "Thanos Imperative", well to be perfectly honest, I hadn't read one bit of the cosmic Marvel books until earlier this year, but I'll get into that story in a different section.  Suffice to say I only recently discovered the cosmic family of books and found myself infatuated with a whole bunch of characters I didn't give a damn about here either.  So when it all came to a head with "Thanos Imperative", I was excited to read.  It started slow for me, I wasn't totally on board at first, but after a few issues, I was wrapped up and sitting down reading the story as a whole really drove that home.  This story truly felt like the final fate of the universe; the end of #5 had me infuriated, the sacrifices of #6 brought a tear to my eye, and now I'm truly scared for the future of the cosmic Marvel U.  I need to know there's a future for Nova & The Guardians of The Galaxy, and until I see solicits for some sort of on-going by the team of DnA, I'm going to worry.  When I'm sucked into a world that much....well that's powerful writing, and that's why I have two picks for this category.
- "Return of Bruce Wayne" gets an honorable mention, but I did not dig the "different artist for different eras" thing it had going on with it.  Loved the story though...just not the total package I thought the other two choices were.

Cosmic Marvel

- So in the vein of the above category, let me tell you why reading the Cosmic Marvel books was the best find of 2010 for me.  Prior to 2009, I had never touched any Marvel cosmic books during these 20+ years.  No Infinity Gauntlet/War/Crusade, no Kree/Skrull War; if it weren't X-Men alien, it weren't part of my comic book vocab.  Well in recent years, my interest was piqued because of The Inhumans and their involvment with Quicksilver in "Son of M".  It carried over into "Secret War", "SI: Inhumans", and into "War/Realm of Kings".  I picked up the original Paul Jenkins/Jae Lee 12-ish "Inhumans" series, and desperately need to get the other Marvel Knights Inhumans books. So, since I was reading those, I decided to check out the other cosmic books as well since the whole "War of Kings" tied them all together.  Damn am I glad I did!  Annihilation, Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Annihilation: Conquest were all amazing reads and the development of the characters in each was phenomenal.   Quasar, Moondragon, Nova, Groot....all awesome characters that I found myself wanting more of, and now hope that the Cosmic Marvel line doesn't fade away with the finish of "Thanos Imperative".

The Walking Dead #79

- Do you have any idea how hard it is to pick out one issue from the hundreds of comics I have read this year??? Hell, how hard it is to remember every comic I read this year?  Thankfully the internet saves the day!!!  So why did I pick this issue of Walking Dead?  Read the story, read the last two pages, the last two pages damn near sum up the feeling of the entire series, especially the last panel of Page 23.  The way the two running stories of this issue slam into one another in the end amazed me, the conversation between Aaron & Douglas going along with the zombie culling, all the interpersonal action between various characters, (Rick & Carl for example), and the way the issues sends you off into "No Way Out", this was one comic that stuck with me this year like few others did.  A special mention goes out to Amazing Spider-Man #617 & #625 as well as Batman & Robin #14.

Batman & Robin: "Batman & Robin Must Die" (Issues 13-15)

- As a fan obsessive with anything Grant Morrison-related, and also obssesive with Batman-related material, it shouldn't come as a surprise that something Grant wrote for Batman is my favorite story of the year.  "Must Die" was a culmination ALMOST every major plot thread Morrison had been laying out since "Batman & Son" started several years earlier.  There's still a lot left for the fallout story in #16, as well as "Return of Bruce Wayne", but with the Joker and his meeting with Damian, Dr. Hurt, Prof. Pyg, the whole Mexican Train deal, the mystery box, hell even how it ties back in to "Dark Knight, Dark City" from 1990, this story arc is a wonderful example of Grant's writing.  Even the art by Frazer Irving, someone I didn't like much before this, was something to behold...perfect for this arc.  Some complain that Morrison's stories can be too dense, but I like his philosophy of challenging the reader and the "why should it be easy" approach he takes to these elongated story arcs.  Hardcover collection comes out May 11, 2011......

Batman & Robin

- May as well keep it going with the Grant love.  This was, without a doubt, the series I looked forward to the most every month...or rather, every 6-8 weeks with the schedule it kept.  But seriously, as soon as we got thru the "Red Hood Returns" arc, it was smooth sailing.  "Blackest Knight" laid the foundation for the rest of 2010 by officially stating that the corpse found in "Final Crisis" was not that of Bruce Wayne, rather a clone, and the search was on!  "Batman vs. Robin" set Dick, Damian, and Alfred on a quest to find the clues leading them to Bruce's location as well as established Oberon Sexton's arrival, saw Talia try to play Damian like a literal puppet, and the last page reveal of Sexton's true identity left me with my jaw on the ground.  Didn't see it coming, but it made perfect sense and all the clues were there when I read it all back.  And finally the concluding "Must Die" arc that I addressed above brought a sense of closure to this volume of Grant's Batman run as well as laid the foundation for the future of the line.  Unfortunately, B&R isn't closing out the year quite as strong as it spent the rest of it, Paul Cornell & Scott McDaniel aren't setting my world on fire by any means, but that may be in large part to the act they had to follow.  It's not bad necessarily, but it's hard to follow Grant's run .

Grant Morrison

- "Batman & Robin", "Joe The Barbarian", "Batman Inc.", "18 Days"....that's quite a year for the man who's brain spawned "The Invisibles", the best "Doom Patrol", "The Filth", and "New X-Men", among other ground breaking books.  A year spent steering the direction of one of DC's flagship characters, a maxi-series centered around a kid with diabetes and his amazing fantasy world, and a hardcover book detailing the Hindu creation myth (this one I just picked up, haven't read yet).  I may have missed something, but the Batman work is what defined 2010 for Grant and, while confusing for some, set a new standard for HOW a Batman story can be told.  "Batman Inc." seems to be steering the Bat-verse into a whole new world, and a whole new style of writing for Grant as well, so I can't wait to see what 2011 brings for someone who has quite possibly become my favorite writer of all-time.  Special kudos go out to Geoff Johns & Matt Fraction!

Ivan Reis

- Damn did I want to put JH Williams III down there!  Then I realized that, aside from the Batwoman #0 issue, there was no book in 2010 that I could use to justify it.  And it's not like I just discovered his art so I can't use that excuse either.  Well then here comes Ivan Reis who has completely tore it up on "Green Lantern" since "Blackest Night" ended.  This is definitive stuff as far as I'm concerned, and his depiction of characters (Atrocitus for one, Larfleeze for another) will be the standard by which every future depiction should be judged.  Hell, he made The Black Hand look like a badass!

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

- I have no idea how this was critcally accepted, I know it didn't make a whole lot of money, but damn it was a fun movie!  I hadn't read the source material prior to checking out the movie, so this was all new to me, and my immediate reaction was WHOAH!!!!  This is what happens when a comic book movie doesn't take itself too seriously, this is what happens when it doesn't feel like it has to play in some real world context...or rather, the Iron Man or Nolan Batman movies. Those play in a world as real as it can be when there's dudes flying around in suits of armor or crazy face painted guys somehow planting bombs on everything in sight, but Pilgrim doesn't give a damn about any of that.  People turn into money, there's extra lives when you die, and sub-space tunnels in your head that serve as highways.  To hell with Watchmen....THIS is the most "true to source" comic book movie I've ever seen.  I can't wait to go buy the blu-ray if it doesn't show up in my stocking.

The Walking Dead

- Like there was another choice.  From the "straight from the comics" first episode to the giant explosion in the 6th episode, I felt like this series was a perfect capture of the general tone of the comic.  The hopelessness, the fear, the slowly eroding sense of civilization, it's all encompassed in the 6 episodes thus far.  Some people complain about certain comic book smoments not happening yet (Shane still breathing for example) or TV moments that didn't exist (The CDC visit for example), but I feel like everything has made sense given the pacing of the show.  If Shane had died already on the show, his "snap" would have seemed  abrupt and not naturally occuring.  Just as it makes perfect sense for the crew to go to the CDC in hopes of finding answers.  None may have been forthcoming, but that only enhances the feelings of despair as we head into a second season.  No one knows why this happened, not even the smartest people alive, and that is a scary fucking thought!  Season 2 can't come fast enough...

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths/Batman: Under the Red Hood

- I couldn't pick one...I love them both!  As a huge mark for Jason Todd and Judd Winick's story, I was the most excited for Red Hood, but was blown away by the high quality of Crisis, especially the AWESOMENESS of James Woods as Owlman!  I think the overall excellence of the DC Animated Movies is exemplified by these two features so if you haven't seen them, go pick them up.  You won't be disappointed.  All Star Superman may steal the show in 2011 though...


Red Robin

- There was a point where I seriously considered dropping this book. Now it has become my favorite of the tie-in books (BoP, Batgirl, and the like).  I wasn't feeling it in the beginning with the "Bruce is still alive" overtone because Tim's characterization seemed...out of character...but as the series progressed, and Fabian Nicieza dug his teeth in, it has become an top-shelf example of why Tim Drake is such a grand character.  He is the best of his predecessors all rolled into one...Dick, Jason, Bruce, Jack Drake, Ra's Al Ghul....he has learned from all the above and molded it into a character as hardcore as Bruce/Al Ghul but still with the capacity for fun that Dick holds close to his heart.


- Read my blog about it...suffice to say: BLLLLAAAAARRRGGGGGHHHH!!!! 

DC Comics

- I think that rates a DUH looking over everything I wrote above.  I don't think there was a single Marvel thing mentioned besides disappointment. Oh wait, I did give a nod to Fraction as one of my fave writers, and Uncanny X-Force as best new series...and the whole cosmic thing, so I guess I did bring up Marvel. 

Anyway, my deference to DC is not to say there's nothing good at Marvel, it's just that most of it is so average.  Nothing really blows my mind right now, nothing make me long for the next issue, even Uncanny X-Men which is the backbone of my comic book reading isn't on par with the DC books when it comes to excitement.  The books I loved the most (Captain America & Daredevil) did not have strong a 2010 to me, "The Trial of Captain America" is that books last chance for me honestly, and I'm not sure what my future with DD entails yet.  DC has put out great books in the GL world, in the Bat-World, Action Comics, The Flash, and more. 

Marvel feels like one never-ending company-wide crossover to me, further exacerbated by today's announcement of "Fear Itself".  They claim it's been a year since the last one, but what do you call "Chaos War"?  Maybe not line-wide, but there's a half-dozen mini's and one-shots that tie into it.  It's like saying "World War Hulk" or "House of M" weren't Marvel-wide crossovers.  Anyway, I'm also more excited about the future of DC comics with Batman Inc, Flashpoint, and War of the Lanterns.  Still, knowing comic book companies, Flashpoint & War of the Lanterns will somehow turn into DC-wide crossovers...

So there's my general thoughts on 2010 in comics.  Please feel free to leave me some feedback, I'm curious as to what others think about the year in comics!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mish Mosh (It's all connected somehow)

‘Angel! Warren!’ calls out Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin to his friend. ‘I shouted to Archangel, but he didn’t hear me’ Colossus remarks, turning to Dr. Henry “Hank” McCoy a.k.a. the Beast, and Forge. “Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood-dimmed time is loosed and everywhere, the ceremony of innocence is drowned. The best lack conviction, while the worse…are full of passionate intensity” the Beast quotes, while picking up a photograph of Xavier that somehow survived the explosion. For Moira, love Charles scribbled on the photo.
Colossus remarks ‘That’s by Mikhail Lermontov’, to which Hank replies ‘William Yeats, actually. “The Second Coming”’ he reveals. ‘Oh. It sounded Russian’ Piotr remarks..."

- X-Factor #70 (Vol. 1)

I wanted to sit down for this blog and write about the man that I feel is Chris Claremont's spiritual successor on Uncanny X-Men: Matt Fraction.  I intended to trace my path from hate to love for that man's writing, but decided that I wanted to sit down and re-read his run thus far to truly encapsulate my thoughts. 

Soooooooooo, instead I decided to just write down whatever the hell random shit crossed my minds relating to comic books.  Currently I am watching "Talking with Gods", the documentary about Grant Morrison (go buy it here: and reading "Zero Game" by Brad Meltzer (here:, and it dawns on me that I would never have made my way to either of these projects if it wasn't for comic books.

Grant Morrison is, by far, my favorite comic book writer at this time...possibly of all it's only natural that I eventually find my way to his documentary.  But it's in this watching that I find myself wanting to explore the non-comic related material that influenced him: Alistair Crowley and Phillip K. Dick for example. 

I had never heard of Brad Meltzer until he took over "Green Arrow" after Kevin Smith, and it wasn't until I read "Identity Crisis" that I discovered he had a career as a novelist.  The enjoyment I got from his comic book material led me first to "Book of Fate" and now to "Zero Hour", and I just learned he has a TV series that I want to check out called "Decoded". 

This got me thinking as to what else have comic books turned me on to, and I think most of the roads lead to literature.  Chris Claremont, thru The Beast, got me interested in the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, William Butler Yeats, Shakespeare, and various other philosophers/poets that he would have Hank McCoy quote.  My first exposure to anything from Dante was thru the medium of comic books.  My dad's love for Thor got me interested in Norse mythology which led to Greek mythology.  We shall see if Grant's "18 Days", which I should be picking up this week, gets me into Hindu mythology.

That's not to say that it's a one-way street either because other forms of media have certainly gotten my into comics.  My interest in Babylon 5 is what drew me to JMS' "Rising Stars" book, my interest in Buffy is what caused me to read "Astonishing X-Men" because I certainly had no interest in reading yet ANOTHER X-Men book, and movie adaptations have certainly caused me to book up a number of books (Scott Pilgrim and Red most recently). 

I guess the various forms of media (comic books included) have kind of become integrated.  Comic book writers become novelists while novelists write comic books, the same goes for screenwriters, for musicians, for actors, and it all becomes a part of the same pop culture pool.  The music influences the comics influences the movies influences the novels influences the art influences the's all tied together.  Everyone finds their inspiration in different locations, like for me music plays a big part in setting the mood for what I end up writing. 

And the influence of what I have been exposed to either directly, or indirectly, by comics has certainly shaped a great deal of my interests in life.  I doubt I'm the only one that has experienced this sort of learning because of something that is frequently dubbed "kid's stuff", or that I'm the only reader who has had their life shaped in many ways by the "funny books".  It's no different than music, art, literature, or any other form of media...they are all married in some fashion, and we all benefit from it.

Thanks for listening....reading...sharing...whatever.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Claremont: The Other Side Of The Coin

Back to our regularly scheduled blah blah blah....

Uncanny X-Men 381 - Revolution - Storm - Gambit - Beast - Claremont - Adam Kubert

That cover up there marked the return of Chris Claremont to the X-Verse after 101 issues away.  On the heels of the terribly disappointing "Apocalypse: The Twelve" story, the meh "Ages of Apocalypse" follow-up, as well as a really terrible 2-issue arc where everyone lost their powers, the man who made the X-Men into Marvel's premiere franchise finally returned!  The results: blargh....with an addendum.

See at the time somebody (Bob Harras it seems) decided to herald the return of the prodigal creator by putting a 6-month gap (storyline-wise) between ishs 380 & 381, as well as across the X-line.  Almost all the titles saw some level of change from this gap, with X-Force, X-Man, and Generation X, undergoing the most radical changes in the form of "Counter-X".  Warren Ellis writing X-books??? Whodathunkit!  The "Counter-X" books got a story arc called "Shockwave" to explain what happened during the gap, a luxury none of the other books received, and something which certainly hurt Claremont's two books the most.

In the 2 books Claremont got handed (Uncanny & X-Men), the gap saw new members to both teams, new leaders in the form of Gambit and Rogue respectively, new characters like Thunderbird III, and new villians in The Neo and The Goth.  Little explanation was given as to what happened during the time-jump, and new stuff was immediately thrown at the reader. 

At the time, reading these as a devout Claremont fan, I felt let down.  Re-reading these a few months ago, not much has changed.  It felt rushed at times, too much crammed into the readers' brain all at once, and little attention given to the how and why.  To his credit, Claremont did attempt to tie his new villains into the "powerless" story arc that preceded his run (an arc he may or may not have been ghost-writing anyway) but it still felt....forced.  The idiosyncrasies of Claremont (extensive internal monologues for example) did not translate well to an audience 10 years later, and the idea of long drawn out stories that took years to flesh out were not entirely feasible either.  Call it a lack of patience from the reader, or maybe just the feeling of being alienated from the book as a result of "6 months later", but after 9 months...two of which were spent in crossovers ("Maximum Security" and "Dream's End"), it didn't look good for Claremont. 

At least "Dream's End" was an X-Over where as "Max Security" was a Marvel wide story shoehorned into the two books.  "Dream's End" one real lasting effect on the X-Verse was the death of Moira MacTaggert at the hands of Mystique as well as the discovery of a cure for The Legacy Virus after what felt like a million years.  All in all, as a fan of Claremont's, these issues were not indicitive of his talent as it pertains to new fans of the book.  Later on, with some research, one can find out that his run was cut short by the promotion of Joe Quesada & Bill Jemas and they wanted changes in light of the 1st X-Men movie's success.  The slow-burn story that was Claremont's specialty wasn't going to happen and without any "Shockwave" style arc like the "Counter X" books, it left readers...especially this one...very disappointed with the highly anticipated return of Claremont to the X-books. 

Claremont got thrown the bone of  "X-Treme X-Men" after getting bumped from the other two books...well actually it was either take his own book or stay on the flagship books and coordinate with someone else.  He opted to do it on his own, and for me, this is where Double C's wheels truly fell off.  A nobody villain kills Psylocke right off the bat and injures Beast (who at this point was already in "New X-Men" looking completely different), forcing the book to initially be set before "New X-Men" starts.  Of course since Chris wasn't remotely attempting to coordinate with the other X-Writers, no mention of Beast's beating or Psylocke's death is ever mentioned by Grant Morrison or that other ass clown who was busy trying to ruin Uncanny X-Men at the same time as Grant was revolutionizing the X-Men.  "X-Treme" started on the basis of a hunt for Destiny's diaries (a subject introduced in "Dream's End"), but that plot point quickly went away in favor of...well in favor of doing nothing of importance. 

It's was like Big Brother and MiniTrue; Tessa is a good guy, and has always been a good guy in secret.  Bishop is named Lucas, Rogue is Anna, and they've always been that way.  Fans spent years begging to know Rogue's real name and he just pissed it out like so much dreck.  There was an attempt to recapture "God Loves, Man Kills" but instead it felt like, as it did for most of the series, Claremont was writing characters he had never written before.  Nobody felt like the characters they had always been.  Rogue got tattooed (no other artist has ever acknowledged this), Masque came back (Cable blew his head off and burned the body), Callisto got tentacle arms again (this was just dumb), it was one giant clusterfuck!  The only positive that came from the whole damn series was bringing back Rachel Summers into the X-Men.  I tend to hold onto a series until it either ends or gets so atrociously bad I can't justify spending a dime on it.  X-Treme became the latter after only 20 or so issues.  I didn't even make it for 2 years, but I did go back in later years and scour back issue quarter bins for issues I misssed just cause I'm a completist. 

What followed? A New Excalibur book that shat all over the way Grant Morrison ended his run and forced subsequent writers to create some BS rationale for why Magneto wasn't dead despite being killed by Wolverine pretty definitively.  This was actually worse than X-Treme!

Another run on Uncanny X-Men as part of "Reloaded" that saw the return of Psylocke, the introduction of X-23 to the team, and the Shiar scarring Rachel with the Phoenix tattoo...oh yeah they slaughtered the entire Grey family too.  This wasn't terrible, but was totally overshadowed by the amazing work of Joss Whedon on "Astonishing X-Men".  In the same way that Morrison's "New X-Men" highlighted how behind the times his X-contemporaries were, in my opinion, Whedon bascially did the same to Claremont & the assclown writing X-Men.

Now-a-days Marvel still seems to think they can make some money off letting Claremont write a book with a X on it.  So we get "X-Men Forever" and its sequel of the same name.  With the premise being that this was CC's intended story line if he'd stayed on the book after X-Men #3, the book immediately goes to hell by not following the premise at all.  Just like "X-Treme" we are treated to characters and storylines that are totally unrecognizable given that premise.  Wolvie and Jean Grey are having some kind of tryst, Storm's a little kid again, SHIELD is all up in the X-Business, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.  The dialogue is like taking the worst of CC's traits and amping them up 1000%.  This book managed to alienate me pretty quickly despite having an interesting premise of mutantkind nearing extinction (the opposite of the now-ignored Morrison plot from "E for Extinction").   So repulsed was I by this book that I dropped it after ten issues (and having a bi-weekly schedule was ridiculous).  The 2nd volume could be great, I'd never know, because as much as it pains me to say it...

I have given up on one of the writers who turned me into a comic book fan.  No book with Claremont's name on it will see my dollars, hell I won't even take the time to download it for free ;)  "X-Treme X-men" hurt me, "Excalibur Vol. 3" tore out my heart, and the combination of reading "X-Men: The End" and "X-Men Forever" shattered my soul.  Melodramatic?  Most certainly, but highly appropriate when discussing Double C. 

So instead of thinking of those books, I will think of the man who gave me "Inferno", "X-Tinction Agenda", "Fall of the Mutants", "Mutant Massacre", and much much more...

Chris Claremont
1975 - 1991

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Interruption: Shadowland

I know I left off the last blog with a "To Be Continued" regarding Chris Claremont, but after reading the last two parts of Shadowland (Shadowland #5 and Darevdevil #512), I felt the need to vent a little.


This was the culmination of the last decade's worth of Daredevil storylines? Really? This???  Matt Murdock running away from his responsibilities (yet somehow accepting blame) and Black Panther getting shoe-horned into the "Protector of Hell's Kitchen" role?

I started reading DD after the Kevin Smith arc ended when Bendis took on writing duties, and from the get-go I was amazed at the depth given to the Matt Murdock character.  This was not a Daredevil story written by Bendis, it was a Matt Murdock story detailing his slow mental decline.  This was watching a man have a breakdown in slow motion and be completely unaware that it's happening to him.  Inheriting the death of Karen Page was the best thing for Bendis because that moment is what opened the gates to really look into Murdock's soul.

I read every issue with great anticipation throughout Bendis' run and when the reins were passed over to Ed Brubaker I remained hooked due to the strong characterization of, not only Matt, but his entire supporting cast.  When Brubaker's run came to a close I was sad in large part because I knew next to nothing about Diggle, but I held out hope that Marvel would not pass the reins of one of their best titles to someone who didn't know what they were doing.

And when Diggle started with The List issue I was pleasently surprised.  The premise of Murdock attempting to turn The Hand into a force for good was intriguing, and as the story continued on I was quite happy with how things were progressing.  Then Diggle sent Matt off to Japan and the train jumped off the tracks. 

The concept of time became completely murky and, especially between DD #507 & Shadowland #1, it felt like I missed an issue or two.  I mean there was a moment right before Murdock & White Tiger left for Japan where they expressly stated to Black Tarantula it would take 3 months to build Shadowland. 3 months happened in the course of something like 3 issues and in those 3 issues, DD was possessed by "The Beast", Shadowland was started and finished, an insanely massive army of Hand ninjas were transported into the United States, and DD managed to seal off a large portion of the city from outside contact.  I know it's a comic book but damn, it felt like Diggle just decided a large chunk of the story didn't need telling.

And despite all that, I could have forgiven the set-up for the story if Diggle/Marvel hadn't taken the easiest out possible and just had DD possessed by Snakeroot.  There's nothing powerful to that, it's just the same old crap used to excuse any hero becoming a villain, however lengthy.  The power would have been in Shadowland being the culmination of Matt's complete mental breakdown since Karen died.  If Matt would have made the choice to do all of this, then you have a story with some meat to it.  Instead all of the potential was sucked away as soon as it became apparent Matt was not in control.  And to cap it off with Matt taking total responsibilty for killing Bullseye AND STILL RUNNING AWAY, that was just....bullshit.  Totally the opposite of what I would have expected from Matt Murdock, a lawyer mind you, to run away from justice.  I know he's always treaded a fine line there, but redemption doesn't come in fleeing your responsibilities.  It comes from owning up to it. 

It's just incredibly frustrating as a fan to read a story that you have so much hope for, and be so entirely disappointed in every aspect of it.  There really wasn't one moment of Shadowland that made the last five months worthwhile.  Oh wait, sorry, the murder of Bullseye would have been worthwhile IF MARVEL HADN'T SPOILED IN MONTHS IN ADVANCE! 

The handling of pretty much every character was atrocious, when the hell did Ghost Rider suddenly become the great enemy of The Hand?  GR has been fighting them for decades so it comes off as asinine to suddenly incorporate this idead into his lore.  Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Typhoid Mary, Elektra...Elektra may have been the only character well handled in the end.  Oh, and despite the fact that everyone sees Murdock's dead body in Shadowland 5 and realize Elektra takes it, they all just figure he'll be back soon.  Murdock commits suicide, more or less, and somehow the writing of the two books found a way to make that seem completely unimportant. 

BLARGH!!! That's the only word that suits my feelings right now....

Still, I'm a sucker, and I'm willing to give Reborn a chance.  Give me a reason to care about Matt Murdock again Mr. Diggle, because Shadowland certainly tried its hardest to ruin him.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chris Claremont...222 Uncanny Issues

Chris Claremont circa 2008

Uncanny X-Men #94-279, 381-389, 444-473

Two hundred twenty-two issues in total, one hundred eighty-five of those consecutively, all that spanning portions of four decades, and that is representative of Chris Claremont's work JUST on Uncanny X-Men.  That says nothing of X-Factor, New Mutants, Excalibur, Wolverine, or his forays into X-related mini-series, one-shots, annuals, and various other X-centric work.  He holds the honor of being the writer on the Guinness World Record holding X-Men #1 from 1991 (8.1 million copies and nearly $7 million) as well as being the father of the mutant boom

For this writer, Claremont holds the distinction of being the definitive X-writer.  He established the personalities, breathed new life into the existing characters, fleshed out the "new class" that he inherited, and gave strong identities to those he created.  His ability to define a characters' identity was second-to-none, usually done in the form of lengthy interior monologues, and he truly turned the sketches of some of comic's best artists into three dimensional beings.  He is the reason I got teary-eyed when Nightcrawler died in Second Coming, when Colossus sacrificed himself to cure the Legacy Virus, and when little Illyana died of that same virus.  It wasn't the writers handling the book at the time, as good as they may have been, but rather the character I had grown so attached to during the initial 185 issue run in which Claremont defined the core of each X-Man.  Even a character as briefly lived as the original Thunderbird was given a very strong identity that made the reader actually care about his death, despite his life only lasting the course of three issues.  That is a testament to the ability of Claremont to get inside his characters.

This is the man responsible for stories that have stood the test of time with repercussions that still carry today: Dark Phoenix, The Mutant Massacre, The Trial of Magneto, The Brood Saga, and my personal favorite...the run of stories that carried the team from "Fall of the Mutants" to "X-Tinction Agenda", especially the "Australian Saga" chunk.  He mastered the art of the slow burn, allowing stories to fester in the background before taking over the top slot.  The best example I can think of for this took place in both UXM #218 and UXM #232.  In the former, the reader simply sees Havok & Polaris ran off the road by a speeding bus and you see the fallout from the perspective of the two mutants.  Jump ahead to the latter, 14 issues later, and we finally see the events landing that ultimately led to Havok & Polaris' hit-and-run with Harry Palmer.  The Mr. Sinister/Madelyne Pryor/Jean Grey story, the Genosha story, the Siege Perilous, all stories that culminated over months and years.  All that in the days when only the major story arcs were collected in trades.

The effect Claremont had on the X-Universe is seen in nearly every author that followed him on the books.  With Scott Lobdell, Steven T. Seagle, Joe Casey, Alan Davis, and Ed Brubaker, there were some traits of Claremont in each.  Matt Fraction, with his use of on-going subplots, and general treatement of the book, may as well be the reincarnation of Claremont.  It's funny because I hated Fraction at first...but that's a story for another blog.  Oh yeah, and fuck Chuck Austen's run...

So thank Claremont for the stories that have endured decades, that have inspired movies, that turned Wolverine into a pop culture figure, and drove fanboys into protest over the potrayal of Gambit.  And after you do all that, you can then tell Claremont that it might be time to call it a night....

...To Be Continued...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Suggestions were made, ideas bounced around a bit, and here I am writing a blog.  Take the years of otherwise useless information floating around inside your head and do something with it.  That was the notion put before me given the twenty-plus years I have spent reading the 32 pages or so of multi-color fantasy otherwise known as comic books.  Really, it's more like 23 pages minus the ads and various other gaga thrown in for good measure, but that's neither here nor there.  It's enough to say that comic books are a hobby (spelled: obsession) for little old me.

Ever since my dad bought me a copy of Uncanny X-Men #224...

Uncanny X-Men 224 - Car - Havok - Longshot - Marvel Comics - Green Convertable Car - Marc Silvestri the Denver Airport in...1987...when I was...eight...well I've been hooked.  From Uncanny to Classic to Wolverine's 1st on-going to X-Factor, that first year or so of mutant reading opened me up to a whole new world.  Suffice to say I became a little obsessed, started using the titles of stories as stand-ins for the summer book reading contests at my local library, and fell hard down the slippery slope of back issue bins. Thank you Capital City Comics.

Now here I am....creeping on the end of 2010, and my palate has expanded beyond Claremont and Silvestri, Claremont and Byrne, Claremont and Buscema, Claremont and...well, you get the idea.  As a matter of fact, I've become more of a DC guy, with a strong Batman bent, least according to friends...have an unhealthy obsession with everything birthed from the brain of Grant Morrison. 

That's the basics....and it all started with that cover.  That cover was oh so epic to the eyes of an 8 year old kid told he could only get one book to read on the flight home, and that piece of personal history actually holds up when I look at it now.  It screams of adventure and excitement, teasing you with events to come, and all for only 75 cents!!!  I still have that ish actually, cover hanging on for dear life by one small scrap of paper somehow attached to the top staple.  I look at it now and think....

...are comic books, gas, and cigarettes the things that have been hit the hardest by inflation or what?