Archive for the ‘ Comic Books/Random Discussion ’ Category

Diversity in Comics- Why I’m Reading DC Books Again

Simon Baz- The latest Green Lantern

With the introduction of the new Green Lantern of Earth, Simon Baz, DC has blown up its fresh universe by introducing a Muslim-Arab American superhero at the centre of Geoff Johns‘ intricate Green Lantern series. This is not the first time DC has explored characters from different backgrounds, as their New 52 reboot has allowed them to emphasise more diversity, shaking up the previous white male role model and female damsel in distress characters that plagued the genre’s early years.

DC has played a major part of the shift, more so than Marvel I would argue. This year, for instance, Alan Scott was introduced as the first gay Green Lantern in the “Earth 2” title series set in an alternate universe away from the main books. Away from the Green Lantern universe, one of reboot’s most critically acclaimed books, Batwoman, explored Kate Kane’s personal struggles as well as her sexual orientation which has been praised by the general public and the character from the Batman universe has often been described as the highest profile gay character to appear in stories produced by DC Comics.

It’s not a matter of what company is taking the lead in the race to push diversity, it’s which one is doing it to craft intricate stories, and not just force publicity stunts. For instance Marvel featured the first gay wedding to happen in superhero comics this year, as characters Northstar and Kyle Jinadu were married in the pages of Astonishing X-Men #51. While it’s a move in the right direction, choosing two lesser-known characters in one of the smaller X-Men titles could be seen as Marvel playing it too safely. For instance, if the wedding was met with public backlash, Marvel could have easily swept it under the rug.

Where Marvel have faired better in the past, is making their black- American superhero Luke Cage feel like an natural part of their Avengers roster. The Avengers have long been based in New York, so it was fitting they had a hero who represented a more realistic modern-day resident of Harlem. It wasn’t so much of a publicity stunt, more so a natural progression of a character. However with The Avengers movie now the 3rd highest-grossing film of all time, logic dictates the Marvel Comics universe is now built to closely resemble their movies. For the meantime that presumably means, Luke Cage takes a backseat, while Marvel focus on making the public believe their new character Marcus Johnson, is the illegitimate son of Nick Fury, who grows up to look like Samuel L. Jackson and later turns out to be named Nick Fury himself. Forget diversity, it’s just cheap storytelling.

One character I’m really looking forward to see further developed is Cyborg from DC’s main Justice League title. What’s stopped me reading Justice League in the past is that it long felt like it was stuck in the past in terms of characters. Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern all came from diverse backgrounds for sure, but in terms of appearance, they all resemble typical white superheroes. With the New 52 reboot, writer Geoff Johns added Cyborg, who had previously been mainly featured in the Teen Titans group, to the main Justice League roster. While initially Cyborg’s inclusion seemed as if he primarily existed within the Justice League to act as their teleporter, upcoming plans reveal there’s more to come from Victor Stone.

If there’s one lesson Marvel can take from DC in how to reboot successfully, it’s focus on story and not what’s happening in other media. With no major films to resemble (yet), the DC reboot has been free to create interesting stories for characters from all different backgrounds. There’s still room for improvement, it would be nice to see a female Green Lantern soon, and perhaps some more emphasis on characters like Supergirl. For now though, the New 52 reboot has me reading DC books again.

 

Richard Rider Is Not Dead

Nova (comics)

Nova (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been an exciting week for fans of Marvel’s cosmic universe. First, Marvel announce a brand-new Guardians of the Galaxy film heading to cinemas in 2014, and now it looks like cosmic hero Nova will play a huge part on the comic side of things as Marvel is set to include him in their new initiative ‘Marvel Now’. Could this be the return of Richard Rider?

When Marvel announced Nova would show up in their 2011 cross-over preview book ‘Point One‘, most fans assumed it was the return of fan-favourite Richard Rider. This was not the case as the book paved way for a new Nova known as Sam Alexander. Created by Jeph Loeb, it looks as if Nova has been reverted back to a teen-hero status in order to make the character more of an underdog as well as relatable.

Before his demise, Richard Rider’s abilities as Nova had risen to a level where he could pretty much take on Silver Surfer or a whole Kree fleet and hold his own. While Rider was incredibly powerful, it was the sentimental moments between Nova and his brother/parents that defined Dan Abnett/ Andy Lanning‘s run on Nova for me. At one point, Rider was essentially the Peter Parker of the cosmic universe.

With the real integrity of Rider’s story previously covered, what else is there for a writer to cover with Richard Rider? It could be argued when Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning finished with Nova during the 2010 cosmic event  ‘The Thanos Imperative‘ they killed off Richard Rider as a testament to their own work. After all, DnA’s run on Nova had taken Richard Rider from a teen-hero with confidence issues, to one of the most popular powerhouses in the Marvel Universe. Like Ed Brubaker had done with Bucky, DnA had pretty much made Richard Rider their own.

For a new Nova to work however, Rider simply has to be either alive or resurrected. When him and Guardians of the Galaxy leader, Star-Lord made their last stand against Thanos in ‘The Thanos Imperative’ Nova was left trapped in an alternative universe with the whole Nova Force (the energy that powers the Nova Corps) inside as well. Sam Alexander has to be drawing his power from some where, so it’s likely Richard Rider escaped the Cancer Verse, and just hasn’t made his return as of yet.

To further prove Sam Alexander is the new Nova for good, the character has recently debuted in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man television show. While the show hasn’t proved popular with fans, Marvel seem intent on making the show fall inline with their comic universe as much as possible highlighting that the new Nova is here to stay. What this could also suggest is that if there are any Nova plans in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I wouldn’t be surprised if they involved Sam Alexander and not Richard Rider.

With a new Nova, Loeb and Marvel have a chance to take the character back to his underdog roots, and make Nova relatable again. It also provides a welcome opportunity for Richard Rider to receive some new character development. With Sam Alexander being a teenager, Rider will probably act as a mentor for him and any other Nova corps that appear. Speaking of which, with Marvel’s new found importance on their cosmic universe, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Marvel launch a Nova Corps to rival DC’s extensive Green Lantern Corps.

I feel as if Jeph Loeb is coming under unfair criticism from Nova fans. Creatively, Nova is a hot property and taking on a character that was defined by Abnett and Lanning could see his project fail before it has even started. It’s also unfair to judge Loeb on making the new Nova in memory of his late son Sam Loeb, as all writers have to draw their stories from somewhere. While risky, it might give Loeb to motivation to put his recent poor form behind him and tell a good story.

While the rest of Marvel seems to have completely ignored Abnett and Lanning’s cosmic run, I will give Loeb or whatever writer who tries to reason the resurrection of The Guardians, Nova and Thanos enormous credit. We haven’t seen the last of Richard Rider. His time as Nova may be finished but for now, lets give Sam Alexander a chance.

Avengers Assemble #1 Review

The Avengers (2012 film)

Image via Wikipedia

It’s not often I do comic book reviews, but when I heard Marvel were releasing an in-continuity title for audiences seeing The Avengers movie, I was intrigued. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art by Mark Bagley, does this latest Avengers offering serve up anything different than what’s on shelves already?

The hook with this book is that from the start, all of the movie Avengers are present. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow all feature, however there’s no sign yet of Nick Fury. Though considering the 616 version of Nick Fury may alienate movie fans that’s understandable.

Avengers Assemble #1 opens with Bendis highlighting the rise of a new Zodiac. Praise must be given for Bendis for providing a threat for the team that differs from the movie. Bagley’s artwork leaves a little to be desired, up close his artwork is brilliant, from long angles it’s lacking in detail.

In terms of characters, Clint Barton steals the show. Bendis shows he can write Hawkeye brilliantly, showcasing his sarcastic traits that prove the Ultimates dress-up hasn’t changed much about the character. As a long-term reader, I felt as if a Bucky reference was due when Clint was hitting on Widow, but I can understand why none was used. Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, get enough screen time, but there wasn’t really any reason as to why the team was together, other than being at the right place at the right time. If Bendis really wanted inspiration for how to formulate the team, he should have taken notes of his own New Avengers: Breakout arc. That’s how you form a new Avengers team.

My main criticism would be how the Hulk is handled. From this take, it’s easy to see why Bendis has refrained from largely using the green giant in his eight-year Avengers run. In this book, the Hulk is reverted back to his dumbed-down mindless version. For a long-term Marvel reader, this is a little distracting, as that’s not usually how the Hulk is written these days, however it could because a dumbing-down is in store for the Hulk during Jason Aaron‘s Incredible Hulk epic.

To conclude, Avengers Assemble is a fantastic jumping on point for Avengers movie fans, while still offering something new for long-term readers. It’s light on continuity, but full of great dialogue and solid characterisation. In terms of how well I think Avengers Assemble will do in the future, hopefully there’s more to come from this book to make it stand out amongst the million other Avengers titles.

Rating: 7/10

 

Why Nova Is The Best Character Marvel Have Right Now

Why sometimes taking a chance on an unknown character can do wonders for the comic book fan…

Nova (comics)

Image via Wikipedia

I really didn’t know much about Nova until late last year. To me, he just seemed like a Marvel rip-off of Green Lantern. Cocky superhero, check. Intergalactic police force. Check. There comes a time though when it gets boring seeing characters like Wolverine and Spider-Man dominating the market. A change was needed, and for me it was Richard Rider.

Nova (Richard Rider) is a superhero in the cosmic side of the Marvel universe. Upon becoming a member of the galaxy’s Nova Corps (an intergalactic police force), Rider gained enhanced strength, flight, injury resistance, energy projection and a specialized uniform with life support.

I decided to take a gamble and bought a Nova trade (Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning) as it had received some rave reviews on Amazon. Taking it with an open mind however, I still didn’t know if it was going to be for me. To my delight, Nova instantly struck me as a fantastic hero. What I liked was that he was just an ordinary guy thrust into the cosmic side of the Marvel universe. The character had some amazing powers and lot of weight and responsibility on his shoulders. Not to mention his fantastic dynamic with his inbuilt super-intelligent Worldmind computer. His first arc, post Marvel’s Annihilation event stands as the best comic book I’ve read in over a year. Better yet, Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso promises we will see more of Nova in 2012 as Avengers Vs X-Men heats up. Whether or not it’s Richard Rider remains to be seen

What originally inspired me to do this post is how Sony are willing to give Ghost Rider a mediocre sequel, yet no studio has yet to capitalise on giving Nova a feature film. The character rights for Nova are owned by Marvel Studio, so using him would be a great way to development their cosmic universe for future movies. With Green Lantern failing to impress, now is a great opportunity to stake a claim in cosmic superheroes. Providing the casting was solid, Richard Rider would be a more relatable character for viewers. He’s more of a likeable character than Hal Jordan, but still maintains a charismatic edge. The dynamic between him and his computer Worldmind would provide humour with a great dynamic, similar to what was done with JARVIS and Tony Stark in the Iron Man films. If there were any doubts over whether or not Nova would be a viable movie franchise, Marvel still has the opinion of incorporating him into a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

He’s not having the best of luck in comics right now, but I urge any comic book readers to pick up the Nova trades. They have everything you could want in a comic book, space battles, high-octane action, comedy and even a lot of drama. I would love to see Marvel create a movie for Nova. It can’t be any worse than Green Lantern…

Should Marvel Reboot?

Various characters of the Marvel Universe. Pro...

Image via Wikipedia

DC’s New 52 reboot is one of the most significant things to happen to comics in decades. There’s no doubt that DC has done well to make their comics reader-friendly by wiping away most of their continuity. It was a risky move, but the result has put DC back on top over Marvel with sales figures. With Marvel falling behind for the first time in years, it raises the question whether it’s time for them to initiate a total reboot, in attempt to wipe their increasing convoluted continuity clean and become more accessible for new readers?

Yes Marvel Need To Reboot

1) Their Continuity Is Too Messy

One of the biggest challenges for new readers of Marvel comics is to try and come to terms with the X-Men continuity. Spanning for over fifty years, the X-Men books are almost unrecognisable to new readers. Gone is the Professor X and his X-Men vs. Magneto and his Brotherhood of mutants, replaced by a universe where former villains are now allies. Continuity isn’t just messy when it comes to the X-Men though. Spider-Man suffered a continuity crisis when an editorial decision decided to have the devil, Mephisto erase Peter’s marriage, and make everyone forget that Paeter Parker is Spider-Man. These are the kind of examples where it’s easy to justify a Marvel reboot.

2) They Need More Characters From Diverse Backgrounds

Where Marvel has become seriously outdated is that they lack some diversity. Sure enough, Brian Michael Bendis is doing superb work on making Miles Morales an engaging, fresh character in Ultimate Spider-Man, while Ed Brubaker maintains the Falcon as one of my favourite characters, but Ultimate Marvel aside, they are still lacking. How would a reboot help introduce characters from different minorities? Characters such as The Incredible Hulk, Wolverine and Iron Man remain incredibly popular because they’re over fifty-years-old. Resetting the clock would allow Marvel to give new characters from diverse backgrounds more extensive back stories and make them a core part of the Marvel Universe, rather than side characters. Marvel could incorporate Ultimate Nick Fury into the mainstream universe, or even create some new characters, as seen with Marcus Johnson from the recent Battle Scars series. It’s time now for characters from diverse backgrounds to simply be more than just side characters.

No To A Reboot

1)Continuity Can Be Restored Easier

It was easier to see why DC chose the reboot The Justice League. The team had become outdated, irrelevant and aside from X-Men, had the most confusing continuity in comics. They needed a new slate. Marvel is lucky not to be in that position just yet. While they’ve been going on a little over-board on events lately, it’s becoming clearer that they know what’s working and what’s not. With financial struggles, Marvel was forced to cancel titles such as Alpha Flight, Dark Wolverine, X-23 and Iron Man 2.0. With the excess weight taken off, Marvel should have time to focus on making their existing lines better. An example should be the work of Dan Slott on The Amazing Spider-Man series. When Slott took charge, he had the duty of recovering the series from the One More Day mess left behind by JMS and Joe Quesada. Now, Spidey is one of the most fun comics around. More writers need to focus on wiping away what didn’t work before, and bringing back the characteristics that made the superheroes so engaging in the first place.

2) Their Characters have Come Too Far

Another problem with a company ride reboot would be that it would undermine the journeys that Marvel’s characters have taken over the past years. Writers such as Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon and Jason Aaron have worked hard to strongly develop characters like Cyclops and Wolverine. Would all that be diminished if the X-Men line rebooted?

The same applies to characters like Bucky Barnes and The Scarlett Witch. Both characters have had writers spend years developing them, so it’s difficult to imagine a reboot wiping their continuity clean.  DC showed how ruthless they can be when Wally West was cut from the New 52 relaunch. I would hate to see that happen to any of my favourite Marvel characters.

Conclusion

Will Marvel reboot? In my opinion, Marvel is likely going to judge the future of their comic line by how well their event Avengers vs. X-Men is received. If the event reaches mainstream publicity and sales are good, I can imagine Marvel will hold off a reboot and spin great stories off AVX, similar to what happened with Civil War. If AVX fails to impress, I feel as if maybe Marvel will probably initiate a reboot. After all, if the top two teams Marvel has battling each other can’t succeed, then it’s definitely time to go back to the drawing board. There seems to be a trend with comics lately, as if they’re aspiring to be like the 90’s again, with over the top art, page after page of heroes fighting and little substance. Marvel also really need to turn this around if they want to keep on top of DC in the future.

Avengers vs X-Men: Marvel’s Best Event In Years?

If you’re a comic book reader who has been suffering from event fatigue, don’t expect it to slow down anytime soon, especially if you’re a Marvel fan. The House of Ideas has recently announced its 2012 mega event, ‘Avengers vs. X-Men’. Unlike ‘Fear Itself’, details about AVX have been spreading constantly online. What we know is that it will focus on the return of the Phoenix force, and how that causes both teams to clash. The event officially kicked off last week with the return of Cable in ‘Avengers: X-Sanction’ (Jeph Loeb), and will begin to unravel in 2012. With the potential for an event the scale of Civil War, it’s time Marvel delivered in bringing us a comic book event that can match the hype.

1) Story First, Action Later

With a story like AVX, there is guaranteed to be pages and pages of heroes duking it out against each other. While that’s fine considering action sells, there still needs to be substance to the story. If you look at past events like Secret Invasion, Siege and Fear Itself, they were essentially events full of long boring fights. AVX has the potential to deliver effective characterization, and with five writers at the helm, every character should get a significant amount of screen time.

1) Team Loyalties

Wolverine has been an Avenger for years, but he’s been a member of the X-Men for much longer. Usually it would be easy to see Logan siding with Cyclops, but considering their fallout in ‘X-Men: Schism’, there’s huge potential to explore Logan’s loyalties. Will he side with The Avengers and come to blows with former friend and teammate Cyclops? Or will the events of ‘X-Men: Regenesis’ be undone less than a year later? The same goes for Storm, who has only recently joined the Avengers, but her past issues with Wolverine leading the mutant black-ops team X-Force may force her to come to blows with her former teammate.

2) The Answer To Hope?

Ever since Hope debuted as an infant in ‘X-Men: Messiah Complex’, readers have been speculating over her true nature. How is she the savour of mutant kind? Is she a reincarnated Jean Grey? With the phoenix Force heading towards Earth, one can assume Hope will probably play host at some point. Similar to what happened with The Scarlett Witch in ‘House of M’, The Avengers and The X-Men will likely be brought to blows over how to deal with Hope. Presumably, with Cable soon to be out of the way, perhaps Cyclops will act as the new ‘father’ role to Hope, akin to what Magneto is with the Scarlett Witch? I’m not a fan of Cyclops having so many links in the X-Men universe but it could make for some compelling storytelling.

3) Which Characters Will Face-Off?

With AVX, there will evidently be some key battles. As the image on the side suggests, Captain America vs. Cyclops will be a key battle, with Matt Fraction (Invincible Iron Man) writing the issue. It will be great to see how a rather comfortable soldier like Captain America fares against a leader like Cyclops who has been forced to lead his species to survival for several years.

Magneto vs. Iron Man is another battle that is likely to be heavily featured. Matt Fraction teased a new armour for Tony Stark during a recent conference, so it’s fairly obvious it’s going to be magnetic proof suit. Both characters have big flaws so it’s going to be really interesting to see how the battle pans out.

4) Hawkeye Needs Attention

With actor Jeremy Renner playing a live-action Clint Barton in the upcoming Avengers movie, now is the time to bring Hawkeye into the spotlight of the Marvel Universe. Since the 2005 crossover ‘House of M’ Hawkeye has been more of a background character. Now with a new look, and a story that ties with his past relationship with Wanda Maximoff, Hawkeye can once again take centre stage. With tons of storyline potential in AVX for Clint Barton, Hawkeye is certainly a character to watch in 2012.

5) Explain The Event Overload

For long-term Avengers readers, you may remember this time-line of events that the future Tony Stark had made. With Marvel producing more and more comic book events than ever before, could there be a logical way to explain the event overload? For many, 2012 is the year where several ‘doomsday’ prophecies will occur. Perhaps Marvel could incorporate this into AVX to show how these occurring events are the sign of the world’s end in 2012?

So there are my suggestions for Avengers vs. X-Men. Despite the let downs that were ‘Siege’ and ‘Fear Itself’, I can’t help but get excited for AVX. It’s a storyline years in the making and it may be the first event to alter the Marvel Universe for the long-term. I’m disappointed The Defenders and Winter Soldier won’t play a part, but with new characters like Hope and Nova taking centre stage, 2012 will be a fantastic year for Marvel fans!

Did Thor Really Die During Fear Itself?

Mjolnir (comics)

Image via Wikipedia

(This article contains spoilers)

It’s another postFear Itself article I’m afraid, this time focusing on the recent death of Thor. For those that read Marvel’s summer event Fear Itself, Thor sacrificed himself to defeat his uncle, The Serpent, who is actually the God of Fear.  Everyone knows deaths in comic books are never permanent, so how can we expect Thor to return in time for next summer’s Avengers movie?

It was revealed during the recent Fear Itself  #7.2 one-shot that a new God of Thunder known as Tanuras has replaced Thor. Little is known about this new God of Thunder so far, except that after Thor’s funeral, magical happenings have seemed to make everyone, but Loki believe Tanuras was always the God of Thunder. Where does this leave Thor? He was last seen in a state of limbo, which makes me believe he’ll be back next year to reclaim his role as the God of Thunder.

There are many ways Thor can be brought back. My theory is that Steve Rogers wielding Mjolnir in Fear Itself #7 bares more significance than we thought. After all, whoever holds the hammer is meant to wield the power of Thor, so is Rogers the key to the Odinson’s return? Comicvine ran an interesting article on Gods in comics being beyond the concept of death. That they are depicted as pure energy, and everyone knows energy cannot be destroyed. Will it just take some belief from humans to channel the energy needed to bring Thor back?

What happens when Thor does return though? Will Tanuras just move over and let Thor reclaim his position? With the reality shift in effect, will anyone even remember Thor? This would mean Loki would be the only one with the knowledge of what really happened making his newfound innocence even more interesting. I can see Thor taking on an Avengers team unaware of who is really is with Loki tasked to set things right. This should make the Thor and Loki dynamic even more interesting. Since Loki was resurrected as a young boy, his characterization has improved drastically. This is by far, the best depiction of the God of Mischief yet. What’s also interesting is that the Avengers trailer showed Thor attacking Captain America, and the solicitations for New Avengers in February 2012 show Thor attacking the Avengers. Are the comics and movie set to match up similar to Bucky’s death earlier in the year with Captain America: The First Avenger.

I’m really intrigued to see where Matt Fraction is taking Thor. I’m sold on him when it comes to Tony Stark, but he is yet to win me over with the God of Thunder. This Tanuras story has intrigued me, and for once I can actually say I am excited about where the events of Fear Itself are taking Marvel. I’m looking forward to what should hopefully be a blockbuster year for the God of Thunder in 2012.