Posts tagged ‘miniseries/events’

CIVIL WAR: FRONTLINE

As I said when I wrote about Civil War, the spin-off book Civil War Frontline is a better comic.

What do I mean by that?

I mean it has better stories, it develops characters, it introduces new ideas, it’s got suspense and action, great art, great dialog…Civil War had some of these, but certainly not all.

Frontline told several stories each week, about various characters.  The main one was, of course, about reporters–mostly Ben Urich–who break the case of the Civil War conspiracy.  By now, it’s too late to “spoil” it….

frontline tony stark traitor

It explains a lot, without being an “essential” book.  Although, after reading Civil War: Frontline, you’ll probably find it essential reading.  But I have to be honest, I didn’t read it until years after I read Civil War–so it really isn’t essential.

But the most interesting story is Speedball’s story–and the origin of Penance.  I’m a sucker for prison dramas, and much of his tale takes place in Ryker’s where he’s awaiting trial for failing to register as a superhero and his part in the Stamford tragedy, but there’s more to it than that.

Frontline incorporates history, and uses the Civil War framework to connect the Marvel Universe to “real” history.  Hence, the attempted assassination of Speedball being illustrated in a clear reference to Jack Ruby…

speedball assassinated jack ruby

Speedball is the only character in Civil War who truly atones for his sins.  All superheroes cause destruction in the name of justice, and the Civil War itself ends when Captain America feels guilty for destroying the homes of “regular people.”  But Cap’s guilt is more about his own failure to win decisively than it is about what he’s really done.  He doesn’t try to make anything right (arguably, he gets killed before he has a chance–but still).  Speedball, on the other hand, undergoes prison torture before designing a costume that will stick pins into his body all the time and becoming Penance.

first appearance of penance

The book also incorporates poetry and historical writings, using them as a narrative tool at the end of each issue.  It’s very ambitious.

And, we get to see Wonder Man using his acting skills in a PSA in favor of registration, the return of Typeface (a Paul Jenkins creation), and Sub Mariner as a fireman!

typeface marvel sub mariner in disguise

Even  if you’ve already read Civil War, and know everything that’s going to happen, this series is worth a read (or reread).  It’s the best thing to come out of the Civil War event.

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FANTASTIC FOUR #538-542: Civil War

the thing in france

Fantastic Four’s Civil War tie-ins are the best of the lot.  Thing goes to France rather than serve on Iron Man’s team or fight the government with Cap, and we get this fun side-adventure in the middle of all the “heaviness” pervasive in every other Marvel title at the time.

And F4 handled the break up of Sue and Reed in an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT WAY than the actual Civil War comic.  Here’s what happened in the miniseries:

sue break up letter to reed fantastic four

In Civil War, Sue is heroic and self-sacrificing–she writes a letter and leaves in the middle of the night after having sex with Reed for one last time and kissing her kids goodnight.

reed dumps susan storm

In Fantastic Four, Reed is headstrong, refuses to share his private motivations with his wife, and tells her to leave.

Very different.

I don’t know how Marvel editorial let something like this get by them.

AND NOW IT’S TIME FOR CIVIL WAR

opening frames of marvel civil war panels speedball

First things first: I liked Civil War.  I thought it was a good event, and was handled pretty well.  You really didn’t have to read any of the tie-ins, but the tie-ins allowed us to see how various characters developed during this major change in the Marvel Universe.  And, frankly, it started a real change in the way Marvels’ Avengers existed.  After this, there were multiple Avengers’ titles and it became very hard to keep up with the Avengers’ Universe.   The chaos continues today.  That’s why Civil War is the perfect break point for my reading of The Avengers.

But now, Civil War: As a comic, it had its good and bad sides.

And I can sum it up in 5 panels.

I like the way it started, above, with a few minor characters whose exploits up to then had been largely comical.  The New Warriors’ various comics were pretty fun, but in the first few pages of Civil War we see that super-powered “fun” has real-life consequences.  Certainly, Marvel had flirted with this idea in the past–but they’d never blown up a busload of schoolkids to make the point.  Right away, we knew this was a serious change in direction for Marvel.

spider-man unmasks civil war

This was the first “big move” in Civil War that got lots of people angry.  JMS, the regular writer of Amazing Spider-Man, had actually planned this unmasking independent of Civil War–but he did quit Marvel soon after.  It was how Marvel handled the unmasking (One More Day) that drove him to quit, along with the fact that he had kept his other title separate from Civil War (Thor), and they forced him to bring the character back into the main Marvel Universe.

I’m actually a “One More Day” fan, and Spidey’s actions in Civil War make sense to me.  This is a guy who has been desperately in search of a father figure ever since his first appearance.  A guy whose need for daddy-guidance led him to forgive his greatest enemy, Norman Osborn.  A guy whose other greatest enemy, Doc Ock, married his own Aunt.  So I get that he’d follow Iron Man at first, until he saw how bad things were going.

And now, Iron Man: Civil War was in s0ome ways the comic book adoption of the movie personality.  Movie Iron Man is a bigger, brasher, more confident wise-ass than the comic book one is (was).  But in Civil War, he becomes the brash braggart of the movies.  It’s a natural transformation, and a good one, but it’s also fairly radical.

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For years, Marvel fans argued about who was the analog in DC for each character.   Quicksilver=Flash.  (That’s an easy one.)  Sub Mariner is Aquaman.  Atom is Wasp/Yellow Jacket.  Ms. Marvel=Wonder Woman.

But who was Batman?  Spidey?  They both lost their parents.  Captain America?  They both are the essential “masthead” characters.  But Civil War made it clear: It’s Iron Man.  More specifically, Grant Morrison’s “I plan for everything” Batman is Marvel’s Tony Stark.

Civil War also planted the seeds for Dark Avengers, with nanite-controlled villains working for Iron Man’s team (there’s actually a neat little sequence where Iron Man talks about renaming Wonder Man as Hercules–but it wasn’t until Norman Osborn that villains get the full makeover).  But my favorite page of the series, the one that I think of whenever I think of Civil War, is this one:

punisher vs captain america

It shows Captain America hitting his boiling point–it may be the only time in comics that he completely loses his cool–and reveals Punisher as a character with a stronger ethical code than either Captain America or Iron Man.  We may not agree with Frank Castle’s morality, but it’s clear, consistent and strong.

This page also sums up what’s wrong with Civil War: Captain America’s character doesn’t make a lot of sense.  It’s hard to understand why he’s doing what he does throughout, and that’s what makes Civil War a mediocre comic–not a great one.  It’s a great EVENT, but it’s not a great comic book story.

Civil War: Frontline, is actually a better book than Civil War.  We all knew all along that Civil War would cop out, and it did.  Cap surrenders.

the end of civil war

It makes very little sense in the context of the book–either it happened too quickly, or Mark Millar just didn’t have a good grasp on the character.  It’s the only weak point of Civil War as a comic–but it’s a major weak point.  They could just as easily had Cap captured, and then assassinated.  (Ed Brubaker had planned to kill Cap way back in Captain America #1–and if you read that first issue carefully, it’s obvious.)

Civil War told a “big” story with “big” characters, but Frontline actually told a suspenseful tale.  And Frontline allowed characters to change and grow.  I’ll be looking at that series soon.

NEW AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI #1

illuminati

And so begins the Civil War, but not before tying it into World War Hulk.

This is what makes Bendis such a great retconner–he weaves “actual” occurrences in with his new vision/version of the present/past.

FANTASTIC FOUR 1234 #1-4

IMG_1966

Since I’m taking a break from The Fantastic Four during Chris Claremont’s run, to focus on Busiek and Perez’s amazing Avengers run, I thought I’d take a post to look at Grant Morrison and Jae Lee’s wonderful 4-issue miniseries, Fantastic Four 1234.

If you’ve never read this book, it’s brilliant.  One by one, Morrison destroys each member by giving them what they want.  Obviously, Thing becomes human.  This breaks him (literally)–Ben Grimm needs to be a monster to survive.  He gives Sue a torrid passionate lover…

IMG_1968

I love this conversation.  The water outside, the blind woman talking the the invisible woman who feels completely ignored and unseen. It’s brilliant on so many levels.  Torch himself becomes blinded and kept wet, unable to flame on, by the very same water that brings Namor to Susan.  And through it all, Reed gets to be left alone.

Jae Lee’s art is beautiful…Transcendant.

IMG_1971

If you’ve never read this, it’s a great Grant Morrison story: Weird and quirky, but not as completely off-the-wall as some of Morrison’s other work.

HEROES RETURN 1-4

IMG_1807

And so it ends…The pocket universe “team” puts there hands in the middle…IMG_1812

And the heroes return.  It’s not a great ending–it’s a little bit too “cosmic” whammymixajammee–but it’s a good one.  The important thing is that when they do return, they get better than they were a year ago, when both the FF and Avengers series were seriously running out of steam.

The FF will return to Scott Lobdell and Alan Davis, a run that I’ve heard is good but haven’t yet read myself.

The Avengers are picked up by Kurt Busiek and George Perez–a legendary run.

ACTS OF VENGEANCE: CONCLUSION/AVENGERS #311-313

IMG_1464

Genius Hank Pym figures out that all the “Acts” attacks are actually a coordinated effort.  Funny, though, that he says someone is trying to destroy The Avengers–because the attacks happened to everyone: Moon Knight, Spidey, the FF…Everyone.

But I guess The Avengers are cheesed ’cause their Avengers Island got destroyed.

IMG_1397

Damage Control tries to salvage it.

IMG_1446

But in the very next panel they drop it back in the Hudson.

And in the very, very end, Cap sums it all up.

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All in all, this is one of the better events in Marvel history, but it really smacks for a new, modern retelling.  Because it could have been awesome.

ACTS OF VENGEANCE: ACT FOUR

Acts of Vengeance featured not one, not two, but three separate references to D.C. Comics…

Read more…

ACTS OF VENGEANCE: ACT THREE

Continuing to look over the Acts of Vengeance event…

IMG_1414

The mysterious dude who is assembling all the villains gives Absorbing Man’s ball a new power.

That doesn’t read right.

Anyway hit “more” for more.

Read more…

ACTS OF VENGEANCE: ACT TWO

IMG_1427Continuing my examination of this event that spanned most of the Marvel titles, including Fantastic Four and The Avengers.

One of the most important things we learned: Hercules reads shitty comics.

But it is ironic, that he’s reading a corporate book in a huge corporate crossover, isn’t it?

Today, let’s look at half the reason we’re here: The Fantastic Four Acts issues.  We’ll do Avengers in the next and final post, since that title really wrapped up the event.

Hit more for more.

Read more…

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