The Old 52

With the most recent announcement that 4 original DC titles are getting the ax (Superboy, Birds of Prey, Batwing, and All-Star Western) in August, the remains of the “New” 52 are all but gone. Of all the books DC publishes now, only 21 original titles remain. That’s less than half of the books that were launched. While their are exceptions (Suicide Squad and Teen Titans are getting relaunched, JLI was scrubbed for story purposes, etc) it is still rather alarming to think that the original New 52 has dwindled this far. While DC has added solid replacements such as Earth 2 and Harley Quinn, those serve as the exceptions to DC’s line. The ongoing series’ and the once that have survived are the 21 I have noted above. Of all the books launched to replace books, very few of them exist. Of the Second Wave only Earth 2 survives, with Worlds Finest now joining Batman Inc, Dial H, The Ravagers, and GI Combat. Of the Third Wave, we Phantom Stranger is joining Talon, Sword of Sorcery, and Team 7. The next few launched were JLA and Katana, also now gone.

While I will give DC credit for trying new things, with only 23 books on the shelf that have proved to be tried and true, a problem has emerged. Only time can tell if some of DC’s more recent gambits such as JLU, Infinity Man, Constantine, JL 300, and the Superman-Batman/Wonder Woman books will test as well as Earth 2 and Harley Quinn have thus far. To truly succeed and gain back market share, DC is going to need to be bold, but also smart. I posted previously how I felt Marvel’s Hawkeye strategy was effective, and should be emulated. DC needs some help adding titles that can survive in the long run. And with characters like Cyborg, Captain Marvel, and even Lex Luthor gaining increased popularity, DC has the characters to do it. Once again, I’m all for them trying new and bold things, but they need to balance that with books that can and will sell. I may not know exactly what those books look like, but I’m pretty sure all of us out there have many ideas that DC could utilize. For that we’ll have to wait and see what we get to replace these books come October.

What are your thoughts on the matter? What do you think DC has done right and how do you think they could improve for the future?

Until the next time, Rn

Advertisements

Ravingnerd Reviews: Ghost Rider #1

I have never had a love for Ghost Rider. The character has done nothing to excite me and has only ever appeared in awkward ways. I have never felt he has a bearing on anything else in the Marvel Universe. So when they were relaunching Ghost Rider with a new identity, and now with a car, it was one of the books I felt I could skip. Trad Moore’s art looked awkward in all the solicitation images, and I was worried the artist who brought us Luther Strode wouldn’t be able to stick the landing. This is what I found out instead.

1. Tradd Moore’s style is unconventional but provides an awesome background for what looks to be a solid story.
2. Even Felipe Smith’s story was fascinating. His settings were on point and the book moved at a quick pace.
3. This book feels like everything and nothing happened all at once. We learn about the characters, the setting, see Robbie get his powers, the end.

Rating before reading: 5
Rating after reading: 7

This book was solid, and well worth another look. After my initial read, I was taken aback. I was almost angry, believing the book could have been about have as long and told the story. I felt like the book had left empty space. Yet upon my second look through I realized we would have missed all the amazing art which really makes this book shine. So what I would describe as the books one major downfall, was also one of its biggest assets. Much of the book is silent panel work, but Moore really is allowed to shine in a way that I wasn’t expecting. What I anticipated as one of the weakest #1’s ended up being one of the strongest. I would recommend this book to any new reader, and truly hope that they can hit the ground running after this issues initial quality.

Until the next time,

Rn

The Last Arrow

It looks like Hawkeye could be coming to an end. At least the one we all know and love. According to Marvel’s June Solicitations, the new arc of Hawkeye is described as “The Finale Part 1”. If this is the case it would mean Fraction is leaving one of the single best comics on the shelf at the moment (or ending it all together). While not a surprise given how busy he is, his removal from Inhumanity, and his long Hiatus from Hawkeye, it still comes as a shock to many.

What will Marvel do in its absence? Given Marvel’s plan, I wouldn’t be surprised if the current run of Hawkeye were to end and then a new Hawkeye be launched in its place, under the Marvel NOW! banner. It seems only fitting they would try to milk what they could out of Fraction’s immense success on the title. I posted recently my thoughts on the title, so I won’t discuss them at length here. Instead I would like to discuss Hawkeye’s lasting legacy on the comic market, and specifically Marvel.

Majority of Hawkeye’s success has come from word of mouth and reputation. I know many people who have not read it yet, but are well aware of its quality. It’s quality has gotten such positive word of mouth that it is, at the moment, the Saga of Marvel. Saga is easily one of the 5 best books published every month, and because of its success Image #1’s have been selling more as a result of it. Everyone is willing to try a #1 if it will turn out to be the next Saga. Thus all of Image’s new series’ are beginning to see a bump in interest and sales because Saga’s fame keeps growing.

This effect has been demonstrated at Marvel as well. Hawkeye is so popular, that quirky solo series’ are beginning to take off. Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, Moon Knight, and She- Hulk are just some of the series’ that have already seen positive initial sales and reception. Many of which have become a critical hit at my local comic book store (Ms. Marvel specifically). With more coming, Marvel clearly understands the effects of Hawkeye. This massive influx of non team books would not exist if it wasn’t for the sensation that Fraction and Aja’s book has become.

So while saddening that this book is ending, I am thrilled to see how one book can actively change a company and an industry for good. Marvel is now trying new concepts and ideas coming close to reclaiming their title as the “Great House of Ideas”. So while my praise for Marvel is generally limited, I have nothing but positive things to say. Hawkeye gave them an edge and because of it, they have turned its success into a brand wide mantra. That solo series’ can sell, and that giving a creator free-reign can make a tremendous impact.

Until the next time,

Rn

Right on Target

While Marvel has had no problem mastering movies in the past few years, their hold on the comic book industry has not been as fortunate. While they frequently find themselves on top of sales on a month to month basis and have arguably the best creative stable in the industry, their stories still suffer from editorial mandates and massive events. Just over a year ago, amid struggling sales Marvel launched their Marvel NOW campaign to stymie their competition and once again come back on top. While many of Marvel’s books have found success under the new label, 2013 was the year of unending events at Marvel. Age of Ultron led into Infinity, which led into Inhumanity. As that was happening, the X-Books were dealing with Battle of the Atom. I found myself getting more and more distanced from the Marvel Universe, due to event burn out and fatigue. Yet the one book that was unaffected by the relaunches, rebrandings, and events continued to prove why Marvel is praised as the great House of Ideas: Hawkeye.

Now more than a year into its run, Hawkeye is consistently the most entertaining and the most heartwarming book on the shelf. Matt Fraction is consistently on top of his game revolutionizing the characters of Clint Barton and Kate Bishop at the same time. The duality of the book, and the embracing of both characters’ connection to the Hawkeye name provides us with infinitely more enjoyment than any big event book. The heart of this book is Clint Barton. Being portrayed for the first time as the everyman of the Avengers. His overarching arrogance and his many frustrations he often develops with his teammates are gone, leaving room for the reader to experience the character one on one. The book is defined not by the bow or the mantle, but the man. Clint Barton is the hero of the story, not Hawkeye. This distinction and departure from typical super hero antics is an example of what Marvel has been missing, connection. As a reader, I feel more connected and impacted by the events that Clint Barton go through on a day to day basis than I do with any other character in the Marvel Universe. Marvel is praised as the home of “real” heroes, ones we can connect and identify with, yet Clint Barton seems to be the only character at the moment I can truly identify with.

Marvel is launching into the All New Marvel NOW, with a slew of new titles and at least one new event on its way. While I may not be excited by any of that, I am excited to see where Matt Fraction and David Aja take Barton and Bishop in the new year.

Until the next time,

Ravingnerd Reviews: Moon Knight #1

As promised, I have decided to do an old fashioned review of Moon Knight. To be fair, I wasn’t super excited about this book. I have always enjoyed Moon Knight, but was taken aback by his new look. Given how abruptly his most recent series ended and how much I found myself drawn in by it, I wasn’t sure I would be able to get behind another concept. Yet with Warren Ellis at the helm, the book was bound to have some potential. Here is what I liked about it.

1. Declan Shalvey’s art is fantastic. The book is well drawn from front to back, often having Shalvey’s rendering of the character snatch the scene. The colorist also is to be credited here, as his dynamic contrast of the dark and gritty with the white is to be applauded.
2. The opening of the book, where Moon Knight is seen in the street arguing with Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Captain America is a brilliant reference to the previous series.
3. He’s brilliant. In just a few pages, Ellis makes sure the readers know that Moon Knight is far more than a psychotic. He’s also a brilliant detective.
4. The final scene, where he is looking at all of his other personalities. Pure brilliance.

Rating before reading: 6
Rating after reading: 8

This book was one of the most solid reads I’ve seen in a while. Stemming off of the Hawkeye effect, if you remove the character from the rest of the heroes, you are left with a fascinating character. One who is even more dynamic solo. Moon Knight #1 proved to us that he is in fact not insane, but damaged. This way of telling the story of an insane hero is different than it has ever been done before. With such a complicated and awkward history, it would be easy for a lesser creator to get the character wrong, yet Ellis does it masterfully. Though I still think I prefer the original, the solid white formal suit flows so well with the art of the book that I can’t really complain about it. Ultimately this book succeeds in a similar manner to Hawkeye. A talented team removing the hero from the heroic universe. With narrative’s focused on just a few heroes. It’s an odd pick, but with Ellis on board I think Moon Knight could grow to rival Hawkeye as Marvel’s premiere title. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Until the next time,

Rn

Evaluating an Event

In my return to the land of the living late last week, I discussed where I have been what helped get me back into the industry. One major aspects of my fall from monthly reading of comics were the continuous events going on. At the time my pull list consisted of multiple Marvel titles, including Uncanny X-Men, X-(Wo)Men, New Avengers, Avengers and others. Then Marvel launched Infinity. At the same time, they launched into Battle of the Atom. Both of those events consumed all the titles listed above, trying to keep track of where the story was in each title would have forced me to read other titles. Rather than do that, I found myself distancing myself from each of those titles. While I am normally not a stranger to events, I ignored both of these thanks in part to them taking place simultaneously. Not only that, the event Inhumanity launched almost immediately after that. The over saturation of events forced me to back away from some of my favorite titles.

Yet, the real reason I found myself dropping the books was due to the lack of consequences. We knew well before Infinity was over that it would lead right to Inhumanity. We didn’t have to worry about real consequences of a “cosmic” event like Infinity. Earth would survive and so would all of our heroes. The sense of drama was dramatically lost in the shuffle, and while Hickman is masterful at large frame plot lines, he couldn’t quite write in the stakes to this book. Additionally, having the aftermath and fallout of an event be another event seems like a terrible idea. Rather than do that, a title should go back to its roots and feature the individual character or characters of each of the books reeling from the drama.

While controversial, I will plug in Forever Evil. Much like Marvel, DC is no stranger to events. While Forever Evil is far reaching and more expansive then it needs to be, the core of the event feels like it has real stakes. We have no idea how the world will be saved, and in addition to that, we know that the world will have to be different. Dick Greyson has been outed as Nightwing, Cyborg lost most of the rest of his humanity, Captain Cold was made human again, and so much more. There are real consequences for characters of varying importance. I have had a chance to talk with numerous consumers who have said as much. Since I started work at my local comic book store, the event that has gotten the best reception has been Forever Evil. While we normally sell more DC books than Marvel, customers that pick up Marvel almost exclusively have begun to pick up Forever Evil.\

While I admit I am personally biased, a fact frequent readers know well, there is a clear problem with the saturation of events in the comic industry. Both Marvel and DC are guilty of perpetuating extremely long event series and forcing too many writers to sacrifice their stories so that they can tie in with an event. Hopefully we are at an end of it. Hopefully The All-New Marvel now will have the ability to grow on its own post Inhumanity and hopefully DC will truly explore the consequences of Forever Evil.

Now I ask you all, have you been finding modern event comics as uneventful as I have?

Until the next time,

Rn

Ravingnerd Reviews: Age of Ultron #10

I stopped reviewing Age of Ultron ages ago. I found this little event series full of pointless shenanigans, tiring, old and rather lacking in originality. Yet Bendis, Marvel, and Quesada all promised an un-guessable ending to the series. With a teaser like that it was hard for someone to resist Age of Ultron. Throw in Marvel’s now signature plastic bag trick, and you have a comic that sets the stage for an epic finale. Full of crowd pleasing awe and wonder.

Instead what we got was something decidedly different… Rather than review this comic by the normal formula, I’m going to cut the crap and talk about this issue. There is no sugarcoating it. This was one of the single worst things I have ever read. Marvel was right, I certainly didn’t see the ending coming. And you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. There was no mind bending ending, no shocking final pages. Nothing. This issue was frankly by the books. There was nothing special outside of the resolution to the plot that had been building since the first issue. Sure we had the final pages all leading to Angela’s debut in the Marvel Universe, but that was far from the “pulse-pounding finale” we were promised.

Instead it was as if Marvel just gave up. Like they knew this event had amounted to nothing, and decided to blow off the ending and do nothing but seed Infinity. Sounds about right to me, cover Bendis’ mistakes with Hickman’s brilliance. A fair strategy, but I expected more from the “Great House of Ideas” that so many seem to worship.

So just to clarify it all for you.

Rating before reading: 5
Rating after reading: 1

Never before has a comic been a greater let down. I had hoped from the teasers that Marvel would save the entire event from a terrible fate, but all they did was seal its fate. Age of Ultron was easily one of the most poorly written and poorly planned events that I have ever read. I am not sure how they ever expected to sell anybody on the new Hunger series (Galactus is back, in case you hadn’t guessed), Angela, or the idea that Infinity will be better than this. It is comics like this and the hype surrounding their rather underwhelming stories that made me despise Marvel in the first place. And Marvel certainly didn’t gain any more approval from me. Only more scorn.

Until the next time,

I HUNGER or some stupid shit.

Rn