Mar 08

Son Of A Layperson’s Guide To Four-Colour Fun

FT + The Brown Wedge12 comments • 468 views

I read MOAR comics and summarise them so that you, the layperson, can taste some of the thrilling world of “mainstream comics”. As before, this contains many, many spoilers.

ASTONISHING X-MEN: This is the X-Men comic written by Joss Whedon, whose storytelling premise is that an X-Men comic written by Joss Whedon would sell fucking loads of issues. (Which it has done). Like a lot of comics it’s been incredibly delayed, cos of a slow artist, and so a lot of fans have come to see it as a bit of a white elephant. Read in a big lump though it’s good: fans have also claimed that the story has got stupid now the X-Men have gone out into space to fight some aliums. This is correct but awesome: the plot is about how an X-Man has been prophesied to destroy the alien world, and it turns out that the aliens’ entire civilisation is powered by ONE POWER STATION which will blow up the planet if tampered with. Good forward planning, aliens! This comic has almost all the X-Men you would actually want to read about, everyone in it has very pithy dialogue and in Kitty Pryde there’s even a Buffy analogue who can have a few coy sex scenes. Bonus fact! Kitty Pryde’s original creator wrote a story in which she got re-virginised because he didn’t approve of what other writers had ‘done to’ her!

WONDER WOMAN: After 60 years DC have had the radical idea of getting a woman to write their Wonder Woman comic – Gail Simone’s first issue starts pretty well with Wonder Woman fighting some armoured gorillaz but things lose their way somewhat soon after. What you will know about Wonder Woman is all the bracelets and lassoo stuff, what you might not know is that she is from an immortal race of Amazons who got their powers from the Greek Gods. This means that almost every modern WW story is full of women in togas wandering around classical temples talking about their warrior code. The story in this case is about four warrior women who decided to kill Wonder Woman when she was an baby but couldnt because she was teh cuet. There is a big build up for them and then Wonder Woman defeats three of them off-panel and the fourth jumps into the sea. Some enjoyment is salvaged as the build-up mostly concerns the aforementioned gorillas fighting Nazis and aside from the mental pacing the script is good. The latest issue starts a story about WW and some aliens and reads very like the slightly cutesy semi-funny comics DC used to do in the late 80s: one of the aliens watches MTV etc etc. Bonus Fact! Wonder Woman is actually made out of clay the Gods brought to life!

NEW AVENGERS: New Avengers is probably Marvel’s flagship title right now, despite the fact that 75% of it is superheroes sitting around talking. But it’s entertaining talking, and flagship status means you get the impression the talking might matter in terms of Marvel’s bigger overarching plots, which New Avengers consistently ties in with. In fact the comic’s set-up is to do with last year’s monster event, Civil War, in which the government made superheroes register and the ones who did fought the ones who didn’t. New Avengers focuses on the ones who didn’t, so the characters in it – like Spider-man and Wolverine and Doctor Strange – are on the run. While on the run they fight ninjas and a supervillain army and they’ve also discovered that shape-changing ALIUM SKRULLS are about to invade – which is this year’s monster event. If you don’t give a monkeys about the Skrulls then this comic is a lot less entertaining, as most of each issue for the last year has been characters worrying about who is or isn’t one. I like all the Skrull paranoia stuff so I’m happy. Bonus Fact! New Avengers has a deaf ninja superhero whose incredible vision lets her copy any fighting style! (Except she’s probably a Skrull).

MIGHTY AVENGERS: This is the comic about the Marvel superheroes who did register with the Government, who include Iron Man and…. some other ones. They’re written by the same guy, Brian Bendis, so they tie together closely, but Bendis is a lot more comfortable writing the conversational street-level stuff in NA than he is writing the epic punch-em-up superhero stuff in this. Not that it isn’t conversational too – Bendis characters gab on ALL THE TIME and in Mighty he’s taken the mental decision to bring back thought bubbles (which fell out of fashion years ago), I guess to ironise and undercut the enormous fight scenes, but it just means there’s the equivalent of a DVD commentary track in every fight. If you want to hear Wonder Man and The Wasp comment on their own fight scenes then this is the mag for you, True Believer!

Anyway, what do they fight? They fight a robot who takes over Iron Man’s body and turns him into a woman (I am pretty sure there was no reason for this AT ALL hurrah), and then they fight Doctor Doom with lots of cutey time-travelling scenes. And now they’re worried about the Skrulls, too. None of it is as thrill-powered as it should be. This comic urgently needs either a writer who is good at telling big dumb superhero stories without seeming embarassed by them, or another reason to exist. Bonus Fact! One of the Mighty Avengers is Ares, Greek God of War! Comics love the Greek Gods. And the Norse ones.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA: This bunch are an ENORMOUS team from DC, all about DC’s “legacy heroes”, the grandsons and godaughters and second cousins of old school superheroes who now continue the struggle. These people should be the superhero equivalent of Peaches Geldof and Jack Osbourne but no! they are good young people trying to Do The Right Thing. A lot of the issues see them learn a moral lesson and the tone of the book is unashamedly cosy and olde worlde: one double-page spread of some superheroes helping a fire-engine could have been a school poster in the 1950s. As you might imagine everyone involved means well but it’s a bit boring. But what about the plot??? WELL.

The Superman from Earth-22 has turned up, looking exactly like Superman from Earth-2 who died a year ago (the old Earth-2 not the new one – KEEP UP THERE): he says that his Earth has been destroyed too and now on our earth someone called Gog is killing supervillains who think they’re Gods and on Superman-22’s Earth this dude Gog trained another dude called Magog and was a God himself, from the Third World, which isn’t the “third world” like in Africa (though he’s based in Africa) but the World before the Fourth World where the New Gods live, except they’re currently getting rid of the New Gods to bring in a Fifth World, not to be confused with Earth-5 which is where – I *THINK* – old school Captain Marvel lives.

Anyway, if you want to know why DC sells less comics than Marvel, there’s your answer.


  1. 1
    anatol_merklich on 31 Mar 2008 #

    BONUS FACT (not rly comics-related): according to no less an authority* than Isidore of Seville, Gog and Magog were the ancestors of the GOTHS.

    *) This is the guy who invented etymology, with such gems as the claim that the bear (ursus) has its name because its young are born through its mouth (ore orsus)! Also, patron saint of the Interwebs apparently.

  2. 2
    CarsmileSteve on 31 Mar 2008 #

    o_O hey, i like thought bubbles…

  3. 3
    Tom on 31 Mar 2008 #

    Thought bubbles can be great* but the way Mighty Avengers uses them is really irritating.

    *& theyve never really gone away, it’s just more common now to have an internal narrative in caption boxes rather than the little cloudy bubbles. So what’s really fallen out of use is the omnipresent third-person narrator who used to occupy those caption boxes.

  4. 4
    jel on 31 Mar 2008 #

    Astonishing X-men is pretty meh, Marvel should just call it an alternative universe title and done with it, like Whedo-verse or something. Also, I’m a bit dismayed that Whedon has been given Runaways.

  5. 5
    Al Ewing on 1 Apr 2008 #

    I downloaded a copy of the hem-hem seminal USA VS. JSA miniseries from pre-Crisis, which was unremittingly awful – “in order to stave of the threat of Batman’s Nazi Diary, we must RECAP EVERY ADVENTURE WE HAVE EVER HAD at great length! Standing around and talking for hour upon hour is the mark of a TRUE hero. Now I, Sandy the Golden Boy, will give my long and convoluted explanation of how issue #59 dated May 1947, ‘The JSA In Fairyland’, must have happened on Earth-Fairy instead of Earth-2 as we originally thought blah blah blah yak yak yak etc etc etc”

    Also featuring a hilarious editorial by Roy Thomas which baldly states that if you don’t care about the minutiae of a 1940’s comic book then YOU ARE DEAD TO HIM a position which DC happily takes to this day.

  6. 6
    Pete Baran on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Actually last weeks copy of New Avengers made it quite clear that the deaf ninja lady is almost certainly not a Skrull. Not that she should be trusted because
    a) she used to be a baddie
    b) she seems to be able to lipread Spider-Man through his full face mask
    c) she is probably pissed off that her superhero name is Echo, which is a sound and therefore reminds her every time its used that she is indeed deaf.

  7. 7
    Tom on 1 Apr 2008 #

    I thought so too but then I was convinced by paranoid Douglas Wolk at the Savage Critic that staging a mock skrull-fight in front of Wolverine would be exactly what an Skrull would do.

    We will all learn on Wednesday I guess, or sooner if spoilarz leak.

  8. 8
    Andrew Farrell on 1 Apr 2008 #

    A pint for a recap of Countdown! A small price for your sanity I admit.

    I actually really like the thought bubbles, but then I think everyone in the comic is inherently as dull as ditchwater so any extra colour is welcome.

  9. 9
    Tom on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Oh man I haven’t read it since like issue #40 or something but I have dl’ed all the issues. And I’ve read what’s been happening. SO DREADFUL.

  10. 10
    Andrew Farrell on 1 Apr 2008 #

    “Kitty Pryde’s original creator” = Chris Claremont, yeah? Nice work there, Mr “I made the X-Men famous, so I can churn out stories about mind-controlling women and 50,000 people will buy them no matter what”

  11. 11
    Andrew Farrell on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Actually Countdown is kind of the “how not to” version of New Avengers, in that one has people that are kind of interesting who react to big exciting things that have been in the pipeline forever, and the other has a bunch of fvckwits reacting to the latest idea that some pointy-headed fanboy convinced Dan Didio was worth doing in an Xtreme style, and then it’s never mentioned again.

  12. 12
    Tom on 1 Apr 2008 #

    I do intend to read Countdown, because I have a suspicion that it might actually be the worst comic ever published.

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