Wednesday’s Reviews: The Avengers and The Alternate Avengers

Firstly, read Jim Shooter’s blog. It’s absolutely astounding to see what he does and has done. This recent entry is one of the most fascinating ones I’ve read thus far:

Hank Pym was not a Wife Beater

As for reviews, I swear I’m not going to bring this up again – but Bendis & Romita Jr. in The Avengers series have been up to that “multiple panel” deal in their books for the umpteenth. I thought I was going crazy. Then I took a look at Avengers #1, #5, #9, #10, and #11. I left out some half-page ones in other issues because they arguably are the norm for comics.

Panels

This is how I felt after laying all of these comics out:

Bert

Variety is all I’m asking for.

Now on to one of the most anticipated books this month.

Age of X Universe

Age of X Universe #1 of 2
Main Story:Simon Spurrier (writer), Khoi Pham (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Sonia Oback (colours).
Spider-Man Story: Jim McCann (writer), Paul Davidson (art), Antonio Fabela (colours).
Joe Sabino (letters), Simone Bianchi & Simone Peruzzi (cover). $3.99

For $3.99, this book is a steal. In fact, it’s an unbelievable steal which will impress every fanboy of the Marvel U.

Basing itself off of the current X-Men crossover, The Age of X, AoXU is how the other heroes have been affected by the mutants who are all over the world. Team leader and book narrator, Captain America, leads his unusual strike force of Avengers such as Vengeance, the Hulk, and Sue Storm to a mutant prison riot, to Fortress X itself.

But the excitement lends itself not to the battle, but to the quick back stories of each Avenger – and why they’re there. Throughout the book, we’re invited to see how the world has twisted its ways into the AoXU. Through that, we’re given little tidbits of character leaking themselves out into the page. We see Captain America and Sue Storm have consciences, while Iron Man is a vengeful deteriorating freak of nature and Spider-Woman is the top hit-woman. To top it all off, Frank Castle is the Chief of the Avengers – the man running the show. Of course, that will lead to extremely violent results.

Making things more interesting, forgotten mutants of the Marvel U make short, if not saddening appearances. Maggott, who I haven’t seen alive since 2003, makes a cameo, while Marrow, Mr. Sinister, and Whirlwind make for some extra mutant-loving goodness. (Did I just say that?) Don’t even get me started with Sabretooth’s depressing story.

Khoi Pham does one helluva great job delivering so many jaw-dropping moments in this book. A personal favourites are Vengeance taking on Chamber for a few fiery blazes of panels, and the final page with Hulk and his bug-eyes. My only beef is first in the book with Legacy (Rogue), as she seems rather mannish than well, being Rogue.

To top it all off, a bonus story featuring Spider-Man and a pregnant Mary Jane shows how certain heroes with altered DNA are considered “Post-Muties” – meaning Spider-Man is on the run. A short but enriching tale, we don’t see Spider-Man with his usual quips aside from the introductory narration at the beginning. Concluding on a moment where I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad, Spider-Man’s tale really ties together how perverse the AoXU is.

Regardless if you’re reading the X-Men crossovers or not, you’d be foolish not to pick this up.

Grade: 9/10

Unfortunately I’ve been busy so I cannot really focus on more reviews. Until next time folks, keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews

I really hope everyone had a great holiday and New Years!

As for what’s new here, there will be a bit of a format change for how reviews will be done – meaning, how I review them will shorten up. By doing so, I’ll focus on key points on the book, but also do more reviews in a posting. It’s win-win, in my eyes.

Childrens Crusade

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #4 of 9
Allan Heinberg (writer), Jim Cheung (penciler), Mike Morales & Jim Cheung (inker), Justin Ponsor (colours), Cory Petit (letters), Jim Cheung & Justin Ponsor (cover). $3.99

The continuing saga of the Children’s Crusade moves forward as the hunt for the Scarlet Witch – somewhat – comes to a conclusion. Wiccan finds Wanda to discover that she does not remember anything about her past or who she was. Oh, and that she’s going to marry Dr. Doom the next day. With the both the Avengers and Young Avengers storming Latveria, an all-scale assault begins to bring Wanda Home.

Allan Heinberg is constantly kicking all other mini-stories butt with this title. Rich developments still come from each character, despite the massive cast in this story, brings this title to stand above all other Avenger’s titles. Tossing in Jim Cheung, Mark Marales, and Justin Ponsor as artist, inker, and colourist, multiple page spreads of action and wonder of Latveria generates a jaw-dropping gaze on each page. I’m still saddened that this is just a limited series, and is only out bi-monthly. Easily the best pick of the week.

Grade: 9/10

Avengers Prime

Avengers Prime #5 of 5
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Alan Davis (penciler), Mark Farmer (inker) Javier Rodriguez (colours), Chris Eliopoulos (letters & production), Davis, Farmer & Rodriguez (cover). $3.99

The conclusion to the post-Siege Avengers mini comes to an end! The big three, Steve Rogers, Iron Man and Thor are trapped in a different dimension due to Hela and her Twilight Sword. After the multiple issues of build-up, the final battle begins with the big three, the Enchantress, and their army, versus Hela’s demon army. Unfortunately, despite its bi-monthly release schedule, no exciting conclusions were found by the end of the book – leaving the reader to ask, “why did this take so long to finish?”

Despite a great start to the series, the story began to dwindle down with real means of characterization. The first issue dealt with how the big three felt about each other and Siege – but all seemed forgotten until the final pages of the last book – making the story seem tacked on by the end. Davis’ brilliant spreads however, picked the book up from a “forget about it” to a “not that bad,” status. With Rodriguez’s bright, majestic colours on each page, the book literally shone with each turn of the page. Unfortunately, the conclusion of this book made the story not worth the wait as the story is arguably forgettable.

Grade: 6/10

Generation Hope

Generation Hope #3
Kieron Gillen (writer), Salvador Espin & Scott Koblish (penciler), Jim Charalampidis (colours), VC’s Clayton Cowles (letters), Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales & Chris Sotomayor (cover). $2.99

Hope and her new mutants (not to be confused with New Mutants – capitalization is important here, people!), are in Tokyo with Cyclops, Wolverine and Rogue, battling a massive beast-mutant which is hell-bent on destroying everything for his “art.” (Yup). After a few different attack approaches, Hope comes up with a new plan to finally take the monster down and uses it to prove her “messiah” title to Cyclops.

Generation Hope has yet to really jump out at me. I mean, when I finished the book, I flipped to the cover to made sure I only spent $2.99 for it, because I do not feel like this is really happening. The book is too fast-paced with so little dialogue that I do not feel involved with these characters at all. I know Gillen can do better than this, and I’m waiting for him to show it. As for the art, individual characters really shine through. Hope versus the beast, for example, has some really great spreads of the two against each other. But that is really where the focus is. The backgrounds disappear in particular panels, while one panel with Cyclops’ visor suggests that he has eyes on his forehead. Rogue also looks like an anime high-schooler, but hey – to each their own.

Grade: 4/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Body Image in Comics

As I’m sure you have read, I did a blog post a few weeks back about women in comics. Actually, it was entitled “Women in Comics.” Go figure.

This time, I wanted to sort of tackle that subject again. I was completely unaware how much attention it would take on as that blog remains my highest-viewed blog at this time.

What I want to discuss in this blog is what the title suggests: Body Images in Comics.

But why?

I have read comics my entire life. I watched television shows based on comics. I have seen movies based on comics. Through them, I have seen heroes use their strength to help the defenseless. I’ve seen the weak preyed upon and defeated by good. By all means, comics are reflections of good versus evil. They are a comment on our society and its laws. They comment on what happens in the world. They stand out to say something which others can not. In a way, comics are parallel to our real world and a way to open discussion for real world events.

Some basic examples is the Marvel Civil War story arc, Spider-Man’s “great power comes great responsibility,” Batman’s struggle of a dual identity, X-Men’s fight against racism, the Avengers constant struggle for good, etc. There’s thousands of ideals people can pull out from comics.

But there is one idea that is arguably neglected. Comics show off wrong body images for their readers. And I do not mean, “the Hulk is an impossible body image to replicate.” Keep on reading.

UXM532

People can read comics and take away great values from them. Yet when it comes down to basic hypocrisy, comics take the cake. (And me too, unfortunately for reading and supporting them.)

If arguably, comics are to reflect how we are as a society, then we all must be ashamed of ourselves for what people are in comics are: the impossible. I’m also not talking about super powers and crazy nonsensical time-traveling plot points.

Disasters of examples

As I have mentioned (and probably could go on about it for decades, I’m sure), is the impracticality of Emma Frost. As you may already know, I am a huge fan of the X-Men and X-related comics. I read everything available from them. In one of the most recent X-Comics (X-Men: To Serve and Protect #1), Emma Frost is in a beauty salon getting herself all prettied-up when Mandrill shows up and tries to seduce women to go out with him.

Emma steps in and states that women are not to be seen just for sex and gives Mandrill a run for his money. The whole irony is that Frost is at a salon – starting off in the story naked – no doubt. Obviously there is a huge contrast to Frost’s hypocrisy in the story, but it is not focused on.

Taking a look at Emma Frost above in the cover of Uncanny X-Men #532 (to be released in a few months). Now, I’ll take a look into Emma Frost inside The Marvel Comics Encyclopedia (2006, pg. 104). Emma’s height is 5’10”, and her weight at 125 lbs. To quote Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar, “Yeah. In your bra.” Admittedly, those “facts” from the book are ludicrous.

Cable Deadpool

Let’s take a look at Cable now. He’s probably a fan-favourite for most X-fans – heck – most comic fans love Cable. He’s just so awesome. Look at him! I mean, he’s not going to take crap from anyone! He’ll kick anyones butt! Alas, he’s also an impossible person. With all that gear on him, plus his physique, he has no problem running or walking, nor do I ever recall him getting exhausted from running with that gear on in the comics. Deadpool on the other hand has more definition to his body than a dictionary – where his body may be proportionate to his size, his muscles are only too-extreme for his physique and only weighing 210 lbs at a height of 6’2″ (2006, pg. 76).

I’m sure no one is going to turn to their significant other and say, “Look more like Emma Frost,” or “Beef up like Cable,” but these people are meant to be icons in a world where their stories are a vehicle for commentaries on the world. These characters are meant to be voices to the masses – whether it be to tell the story or to represent a message or value. Yet they are dwindled down to eye-candy or impracticality – arguably taking away any message the comics have. (And case-in-point with X-Men: To Serve and Protect #1).

But EVERYONE? Really?

Some comic characters are just fine with who they are. I mean, take a look at Dardevil below. He is in great shape for what he does, and it is not really exaggerated unless the artist wants to explode him with huge muscles. But traditionally, below is how everyone pictures Daredevil. Then there is Forge. He has never been considered a physically strong man and works primarily within sciences. As such, he has never been overly muscled for a male character.

ForgeDD

We can physically see a difference between the realistic views and the ridiculous ones. What I am trying to get at is that we as a society can recognize sex in ads and condemn them for being too racy. We like comics to be our voice over many issues, yet a lot of us sit back and get bombarded by hyper-sexualized characters within comic books and still may argue that it is fine.

It’s in real-life

For another case-in-point, let’s take another look at that cover with Emma Frost on it, followed by this ad from Jean Paul Gaultier apparently selling perfume. Is there really much difference between the two?

jpad      Frost

It is pretty crazy. Yet we’ll be the first to condemn that ad before we even think twice about the comic book, for the most part. And that’s just the comic cover.

But women aren’t the only gender sexualized in comics. (Given there’s only one other gender, I’ll leave it to you to guess who else is sexualized.)

ckad       Cap

And Captain America’s is someone to look up to. He is a hero by definition. Looking at the Calvin Klein ad, a “MAN” is defined as a parallel to how the model looks in the ad. The image is uncanny to Captain America, or even Superman.

Even as the years have progressed, what a “man” should look like has became more and more over-the-top. Let’s take a look at Michael Keaton in Batman from Tim Burton’s 1989 movie and compare it to Christian Bale’s Batman in The Dark Knight – Christopher Nolan’s 2008 epic. (You can click the pictures for a closer look on both.)

keaton      Bale

Note how Keaton on the left is less-defined than Bale on the right. The muscle mass between the two costumes are both ridiculous, yet the Bale costume becomes more-than-necessary.

Nipples

And sure, perhaps you do not recognize the subtle differences between the characters. Perhaps you do not care whether or not you can see George Clooney’s Batman nipples. Maybe you even think that I am over-exaggerating this too much.

All I see is a problem though. People love being superheroes or villains. People look up to Spider-Man and Wonder Woman as icons who will save the day. And yes, readers of comics look at stories not solely for their comments on real-world events, but also for the entertainment. I’m sure the characters are drawn the way they are because it also sells. Sex sells, so comics can too.

But do they have to?

Unfortunate conclusions

Golgotha

I mean, we can have great stories without hyper-sexualized characters. I doubt X-Men would have a lesser fan-base if Emma Frost wore a parka for the entire run. Oh wait, she tried in X-Men #166 from 2005, and it totally defeats what I just suggested. She’s saying, “Chilly, isn’t it?” (It took me a long time to remember which issue this was in).

Do we need comics to be like this? No. Do we want comics like this? Some of us do, probably, yes.

But ultimately what do these characters serve the way they are? A hypocrisy in our thinking? Is it sexual deviancy? Is it a degradation of our society? Does it objectify people? Does sexuality make the characters more prominent? Does it matter what the superheroes are wearing?

Maybe all of the above or none of the above.

The fact is that it is still there. Where the world in comics is a parallel to our own real world, perhaps their physical perfection is simply a mimicry of our fallacies as a society.

Maybe their falseness is a contrast to our reality?

I also know I’m not alone in these feelings. Two blogs I read regularly will often times bring up the idiocy of comics when it comes to the portrayal of body image.

Check out 1979 Semi-Finalist and ComicBookGrrl on their takes on how comics are depicting of people.

Also, don’t forget to sound-off below.

Until then, have some more food for thought and keep an eye on your kids for them, okee dokes?

‘Nuff said.

Hulk, X-Men, and Vampires

Sorry about the delay, folks. Yesterday’s comics were pretty good. Black Cat’s limited series finally concluded (and with a decent plot), while Incredible Hulks rampages on in issue #614 – fighting the Secret Avengers, while X-Men #4 battles on with the vampires. I also picked up Tick’s Edlund Epic #5 and #6, but they are comics from the 80’s reprinted in colour (and may eventually appear in my “classic reviews”), while I also picked up Shadowland #4. Unfortunately, I’m still lacking Shadowland #3, so I refuse to read on until I grab that. Damn lack of second-printing! New Avengers #5 also was released and is shaping up to be a decent story.

So this week we have two great books to go under the knife. Hulks and X-Men.

Incredible Hulks #614 – written by Planet Hulk/World War Hulk great, Greg Pak, featuring art from Barry Kitson. This run has been called the “Dark Son” series, and we’re on part three of six. In a nutshell, Hulk has another son – Skaar’s twin brother who has more of the Old Power than Skaar does. Pretty much, his new son, named Hiro-Kala, wants to destroy the remaining Old Power (so Skaar – and despite him having the Old Power himself – which is addressed in IH #613) so he’s sending his planet, K’ai, towards Earth to destroy it.

Hulks614

If that wasn’t bad enough, the government missiles and weapons aren’t doing any damage to the oncoming assault. The government decides to send up thousands of soldiers to fight it. Cut to Cape Canaveral, and the Hulks are on a rampage destroying tons of military equipment. The Secret Avengers jump in to fight off the Hulks until Black Widow and Beast show up with a gun which could teleport the Hulks into the Negative Zone instantly. So yes, the Hulks surrender and talk to Steve Roger’s about why they were damaging everything.

Hulk tells him that the government would just be sending soldier’s to their death, so they had to destroy all the equipment so people would not go up in space. Plus, it would create jobs for the economy. Really, they mention that.

After deliberation, both Rogers and the President allow the Hulks to go into space – via the Stone Flagship used to bombard Earth during World War Hulk! The final panel, the President is shown saying, “God help us. . . the Hulks are running the show now.”

If you have been reading Hulk, this definitely was a “wow” for me. It was such a great feeling seeing the Stone Flagship rise out of the ground. Of course, the comic made the event seem much more epic than how I described it.

I love Pak’s writing. Ever since he’s been attached to the Hulk, I’ve tried to read everything he’s done. He literally is responsible for turning the Hulk into such a great character – in my eyes. As for story, we really get to see the power of the planet K’ai in this issue and see that it can wipe-out quite a bit. On top of that, we get half the story of the Hulks smashing. Full-spreads of damage, plus Kitson’s take on the Secret Avengers. It’s great to see them in such a different light – literally – than Dedato’s drawings. I find Beast looking a lot more menacing, while Valkyrie and Rogers share a lot of the spotlight. Bright blue colours of the characters against a red skyline for most of the comic contrast very well.

Needless to say, this story was not only fast-paced, we get information about how the world would have reacted against K’ai, plus the intervention of other heroes with the Hulk. Quite frankly, this was a great surprise following two issues of character build-up. The Incredible Hulk’s story, plus a bonus-story at the end between Bruce and Skaar really place the $3.99 price tag at a great value, with a fantastic story.

Grade: 9/10

X-Men #4 is a continuation with the Curse of the Mutants storyline where the X-Men are against vampires. To summarize quickly, the vampires want the X-Men to become vampires so that their race can be the most power ever with mutants on their side. They argue that vampires are like mutants – shunned from society. Since the mutants are now at an all-time low-number, the vampires feel it best to strike now.

Xmen4

And as you can see from this GORGEOUS cover by Adi Granov, yes Wolverine became a vampire and is on their side now. You’re all probably like, “but his healing factor would’ve fought that.” And you’re absolutely right. It’s how Wolverine did not become a Brood, or ever hold a virus for long in his body. Well, from a FanExpo Canada panel back in August, C.B. Cebulski mentioned that it would be explained in the comic. However not in X-Men #3 or #4 where Wolverine is a vampire, so I’m still waiting.

The story, by Victor Gischler, with art by Paco Medina, is mostly Wolverine/Cyclops-focused. There’s a small subplot of Blade and Angel/Archangel searching for vampires and finding them – only to run away immediately, while the rest of the story is done through video intercom. Yup. Never judge a book by its cover.

Wolverine brags how great it is being a vampire and he explains how he feels being one. Dr. Nemesis cannot figure out a cure to vampirism, and Cyclops calls Xarus (lord of the vampires who killed Dracula and became the leader), and tries to persuade Xarus that the X-Men will fight. Xarus brags some more (as it seems vampires do a lot), and shows off both Jubilee and Wolverine both turned into vampires. They both brag how great it is and ask Scott to join. Of course, he refuses and Xarus wants to bring the fight to them.

The only really exciting moment is seeing the final panel of an army of vampires which will be led by Wolverine in the next issue to attack the X-Men.

If my review sounded boring and drab to you, that’s how the comic was too. I apologize for it. I’m sure Gischler would not. What I cannot knock is Medina’s art. Great use of panels shows us the action split between words. For example, Cyclops describes fighting vampires on one page. Within said page, we get three different panels of action in different parts of the city, featuring Colossus, Pixie, Rogue, Storm, Psylocke and Gambit. All of that is broken up by Cyclops’ sentences. It’s done extremely well, and each page tells its own story. Angel and Blade’s stumbling upon a vampire lair also spreads a full page of them pretty much overwhelmed by vampires. Pages like those, with beautiful dark colours by Marte Gracia, give this Curse of the Mutants plot a grim feeling.

However, given a lot of action is done in dialogue buffed up between two egos, it really dwindles the story. It’s like watching school children say, “I’m better because of this,” “Oh yeah? Well I’m better!” Only somehow this involves the leaders of X-Men and vampires. What a battle!

Grade: 6/10

In other news, the Spider-Man movie villain has been discovered as the Lizard, played by Rhys Ifans. Also, congratulations goes out to Christopher Hastings, and Anthony Clark, writer, drawer, and colourist to the web comic Dr. McNinja. Their recent Volume 4 has been picked up by Darkhorse Comics! Once again, this goes to show you that persistence in the art universe is key!

We’ll see what tomorrow will bring with my classic comics! Until then!

Keep on Space Truckin’.