Comic Books: Windows to Another World

Comic books are my favorite story-telling medium. They allow you to fully enter a different world, giving you all the necessary details intended to be there by the creators, both visually and verbally, while still allowing your imagination to fill in some of the blanks. There are no bad actors in comics, as in television and movies; and there are no under-described characters or locations, as in literary novels. What you see is what is intended to be seen. However, you, as the reader, have the important job of bringing these images to life within your mind’s eye. This is where the imagination comes in. What exactly does Batman’s voice sound like? Or the Fantasticar, or Iron Man’s repulsor blasts? What do Spider-Man’s movements look like as he swings through the city, or fights with the Vulture? Yes, comic books present you with the visual representations of another world and the exciting characters who live there but it is you, the reader, who bring them to life. Comic books are windows into alternate universes; and that’s just part of the fun.

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Avengers vs. X-Men #3

This week’s installment of Marvel’s Avengers vs. X-Men event was scripted by regular Captain America writer Ed Brubaker. Although it’s a good script, the feeling of inconsistency with the previous two issues, having been scripted by different writers, still bugs me a little bit.

Despite that, this is a fun and exciting read. Coming off the massive battle on Utopia last issue, the Avengers and the X-Men enjoy a short reprieve as both teams decide on their next move. There’s a nice callback here to Civil War when Iron Man, criticizing Cap for his “I’m going to save the world, no matter who I have to fight to do it” attitude, says “It wasn’t too long ago I was saying things just like that… And you were on the other side, then.”

Hope Summers has fled the scene, and when the X-Men suddenly teleport themselves off the island, it becomes a race for both teams to track her down first. But Hope was raised by the future-mercenary Cable, and she won’t be found that easily.

Although we don’t get any all-out brawls this time, the second half of the issue features one of the most exciting duels I’ve read in a while, having implications which will create some interesting conflict in the future. This is a good issue because it has a near-perfect balance of action and storytelling, and sets up the coming chapter nicely. Avengers vs X-Men #3 gets a 4 out of 5.

In other news: The midnight screening of the Avengers movie is tonight. Assemble! 🙂

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Review: “Batman: The Dark Knight” #8

This title has been getting a lot of crap from critics since its inception; an opinion I very much disagreed with… until this issue.

The Dark Knight has been centered around the creative prowess of David Finch since it began. This was absolutely great, if for no other reason than Finch’s gorgeous artwork. But the book was also written very well, in my humble opinion. Whether or not this is due to Finch’s role as co-plotter is unknown, but it stands that this was my favorite ongoing Bat-book of The New 52. Needless to say, when I finally got my hands on Dark Knight #8, I got filled with bat-excitement at seeing a nice Finch-drawn cover with his name at the top of the credits. Then I opened the book.

Despite having his name at the very top of the cover credits, David Finch doesn’t actually have anything to do with this issue beyond the cover art, as is immediately apparent upon seeing interior artwork by Ed Benes. The art isn’t bad, but it is not what I’ve come to expect from this series. The story by Joe Harris is a contrived mess involving the Tweed cousins and the Mad Hatter: villains who I normally get excited about, but are bland and uncompelling here. Batman himself is more emotional than necessary, having the same mental crisis that he began in the Batman series about whether or not Gotham City is truly evil.

Luckily, Finch is back as artist next month for the title’s “Night of the Owls” tie-in; as well as guest writer Judd Winick, one of my favorites. After that, Gregg Hurwitz becomes regular writer, and hopefully he’s got some plans to put the book back on track. Batman: The Dark Knight gets a 2 out of 5.

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Review: Secret Avengers #26

Writer Rick Remender has been doing some interesting things with the Secret Avengers title since he began his run in issue #22. Coming right off the “Descendants” story arc, issue #26 begins a brand new story: the Avengers vs X-Men tie-in. This is natural, being an Avengers title, and especially because it is established in the AvX-proper series that the Secret Avengers have been designated as the space-expedition team tasked with intercepting the approaching Phoenix Force before it reaches Earth. As we were left hanging not knowing exactly becomes of the team when they finally run into the giant space-firebird at the end of AvX #2, this issue satisfies that particular cliffhanger, while also setting up a couple new ones.

Only some of the book’s regular cast are present: Beast, War Machine, Valkyrie, and Captain Britain. They are joined by Thor, Ms. Marvel, Protector, and Vision. Seems odd that half of this story’s cast are not actually part of the Secret Avengers team, but I digress.

Renato Guedes’ art is solid, particularly in Beast’s opening dream sequence. There are a few annoying inconsistencies throughout the issue (Ms. Marvel can’t seem to decide whether or not she wears a mask, as well as sleeves), but these are minor. The art definitely creates some excitement during the fight scene between the team and the Phoenix Force, although I don’t think it quite captures the Force’s cosmic power and proportions.

Overall, this is a good issue, and it has some pretty major implications for the team, and  the Marvel Universe as a whole. Also, I’m enjoying that not all of the Avengers vs X-Men tie-ins are solely about Avengers fighting X-Men. Secret Avengers gets a 4 out of 5.

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Avengers vs X-Men #1 and #2

We’re 2 issues in to Avengers vs. X-Men now, and the battle’s in full swing. Issue #2 was released last Wednesday, and as I neglected to post my review of issue #1 when it was released about 3 weeks ago, I’ll rope it into the review as well.

AvX #1 begins with the cosmic superhero Nova crashing to Earth and inadvertently causing some major damage to New York City. The Avengers, after quickly cleaning up the mess caused by Nova, rush to his side and receive a grim message: “It’s coming.” Turns out what’s coming is the devastatingly powerful entity known as the Phoenix Force.

The Phoenix Force has enough power to instantly decimate entire planets (as we witness during its journey to Earth.) It was famously bonded to the late Jean Grey of the X-Men, corrupting her mind and ultimately causing her death. It is now on its way back to Earth, and its most likely target for a host is Hope Summers; mutant messiah of the X-Men. The Avengers know this, and have made it their mission to take Hope into custody for the safety of the planet. At the end of AvX #1 we see how this mission ends goes: (SPOILERS) not well. Cyclops, unwilling to allow the Avengers to interfere in mutant affairs, fires the first shot by blasting Captain America with his optic blast. The battle begins.

I thought AvX #1 was a great first issue for this event; the whole premise was set up by writer Brian Michael Bendis very neatly. John Romita Jr.’s art here is good, not great (although it definitely looks better than in his recent run on Avengers.) Avengers vs X-Men #1 gets a 4 out 5.

In AvX #2, Avengers and X-Men clash head-on, as promised by the series’ title. The X-Men’s island home of Utopia is the stage here, and some very interesting battles occur: Colossus vs Red Hulk, Namor vs Luke Cage and The Thing, Emma Frost and Magneto vs Iron Man, Magik vs Doctor Strange, and of course Cyclops vs Captain America. Quicksilver arrives to let his father Magneto know how he feels about the situation, and we get a quick glimpse of the recently-returned Scarlet Witch’s prophetic dream journal. Wolverine (who has unexpectedly sided with the Avengers) and Spider-Man split off from the battle to scout out Hope, who also has some plans of her own. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Force is growing ever closing to Earth.

Jason Aaron’s script is good, but the change in writers gives the feeling of character inconsistency. I like the idea that the creative team is going to change with each issue of this series, but the change in feel between issues #1 and #2 is jarring. Regardless, I’m enjoying the story and am very much anticipating the next issue. Avengers vs X-Men #2 gets a 3 out of 5.

The Marvel AR app stuff, as well as the digital “Infinite Comic” attached to issue #1, are both super cool too, by the way.

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Marvel’s The Avengers (no commas)

I have attempted to keep this blog on the topic of comic books. I therefore have yet to mention the very soon to be released Avengers movie in a post. The movie’s release date will very soon be upon us (see countdown on the right). So I think it’s time.

I can’t wait for this flick. I have been eagerly awaiting it for about four years. All the trailers and clips that have been released of late are only increasing my excitement. Joss Whedon’s nerdly genius can already be seen on every frame. Whedon is the mastermind behind Buffy and Firefly as well as having a stint writing “Astonishing X-Men” and “Runaways.” He’s one of my favorite creators because he has a tremendous handle on character dialogue and relationships as well as spectacular action. This is perfect for a film like The Avengers of course.

The biggest thrill for me will be seeing the characters of the previous Marvel Studios films interacting and working together on a team. We all knew they would eventually meet in The Avengers but each character’s film still felt very individual and separate. This of course has always been the whole idea behind the Avengers: heroes who are each mighty and powerful in their own right but must come together to fight the foes no single hero can withstand.

The Avengers is now only 11 days away. Squee! Avengers assemble.

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Boston Comic Con A-Z

Another year, another Boston Comic Con. Been spending this past week in preparation for the show tomorrow. Can’t wait! Definitely going to come home with a backpack full of books. Even some original art! Fortunately, I have been saving up for a while. Great artists will be attending this year. Hopefully, I’ll find some good deals and get everything I want.

I’ve been updating my comic-book wishlist for the show, and it’s pretty lengthy. Judging by the amount of vendors that will be there, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find everything that’s on it.

Karma points on reddit will most certainly be earned if I manage to take a pic of a really good or funny cosplayer. Legit! Many cosplayers show up to coventions; it’s a big part of the fun. None of them would refuse a picture. Often, that is all they are there for. Posing for the camera is what the cosplayers are all about.

Queuing up outside the convention center is our first step, once we arrive. Rain, or other inclement weather would be a major bummer, since we’ll most likely be waiting outside for a while.

Shoulder strength is something that I do not have, which may be a problem once my backpack starts getting heavy with books. Trips to the car may have to be made to drop off some of my swag, and then return to the show.

Unlike years past, this year we will be traveling with a full car of five people. Very crowded, but this should make the trip more fun. We’ll be leaving early in the morning so that we can hopefully beat some of the crowd.

X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and Captain America. Yes, these are just a few of the characters featured in the books that I hope to come home with and add to my collection. Zoom!

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