Wedneday’s Reviews: Retcons and Amazing Fantasies

Hey folks! This week, I’m deciding on doing a review-rant. Yes, they can be one in the same.

As I read this week’s copy of The New Avengers #10, I can’t help but be ridiculously upset with how it turned out.

This is about retcons. Although it is getting ever-so-closer to Marvel’s big Fear Itself event, I can’t help but feel driven to DROP this comic due to the over-ridiculousness of this retcon.

For those who are unfamiliar with what a retcon is, in a nutshell, it stands for “Retroactive Continuity.” What that means is one may go back into time and adjust the events of the past to explain what happens in the future.

For a hypothetical example, we’ll take the X-Men. Most people know that Professor X started the X-Men, consisting of Cyclops, Angel, Jean Grey, Beast and Iceman.

Now imagine a new issue of X-Men, where they explain their history, and suddenly there was a new X-Men who was part of the team – but no one ever talked about him because he worked on another island, behind-the-scenes. Then suddenly in the future, that character appears and everyone’s best friends.

That’s retcon. But it’s a part of comics. How can comics from the 60’s, with arguably simplistic origin plots still be relevant in 2011? Well, retcons help with that – and for the most part, they can be very interesting and neat.

In this recent issue of The New Avengers however, I’m down-right disappointed.

The New Avengers

The New Avengers #10
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato & Howard Chaykin (pencils), Rain Beredo & Edgar Delgado (colours), Joe Caramagna (letters), Mike Deodato & Rain Beredo (cover). $3.99

The issue flips back and forth through timelines between 1959 and the present. Starting off in ’59, we see Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan finding Sabretooth in a bar. After mild negotiations, Fury hires Mr. Creed as an Avenger. Yes, Sabretooth.

Fast-forwarding to 2011, and continuing from the previous issue, the New Avengers attack a H.A.M.M.E.R. installation, headed by Superia. Mockingbird is shot, and for most of the issue, we watch our heroes fight off the endless H.A.M.M.E.R. hordes while calling an ambulance for Mockingbird. Literally, that is all that happens in the present.

In 1959, after retrieving Sabretooth, Dominic Fortune, Namora, Kraven, and Bloodstone are hired – all to be “secret” Avengers. Indeed, a league of villains are now Avengers – all before the “official” Avengers team arrives on the scene in 1963.

Leaving on a strong note, we are brought back to the present where rescue vehicles have arrived for Mockingbird, only for Superia to raze the entire ground beneath them. If it wasn’t for comics, Mockingbird would for sure be dead. But we won’t know until next month! Ahhh!

The comic as a whole does not stand out as anything spectacular. As soon as the first villain was hired, I really could not have been surprised to see anyone else be taken in as the idea of this particular retcon ruined any fun I would’ve had with this comic. I digress.

Deodato is on the ball with this issue, penciling all of the present-day moments, while Howard Chaykin focuses on the 1959 plot. Although both are strong artists, I felt as if Chaykin’s style was a bit light for the seriousness of the book. At one part, Mockingbird is splattered in blood while Spider-Man holds her in his arms. The scene is gritty and dark, moody and in despair. The next scene however, we’re brought to a location where shadows disappear and faces are less-serious than prior. Although I greatly enjoy Chaykin’s art, I feel as if it was wrong for this particular issue. And yet his take on Sabretooth was a bit too childish for me, while his Kraven was spot-on.

And after this issue, I’ve concluded that Deodato draws an excellent Thing.

As for the structure of the story, flipping back and forth between fun and sunny places to a battlefield hurt what seriousness the story had. It felt like flipping channels between an intense episode of Law & Order: SVU and Teletubbies. It was sudden with no transition. It simply didn’t work.

Certain dialogue choices by Bendis also took away from the plot. Nonsensical remarks spewing from Thing early on, then to Ms. Marvel versus Superia mindless jabs, and Spider-Man having fun looking for a cellphone to save a life – all of it damaged the intensities of the moments drawn by Deodato. However, with Chaykin’s work, the dialogue seemed more natural. How is this happening?!

Definitely taking a swan-dive, The New Avengers needs to pick up some smart choices in writing and plotting for it to be saved.

Grade: 5/10

Inner-Fanboy Rant

I love comic books as much as I like turtles. In result, retcons are commonplace and something which I should expect from comics. But not since Secret War, have I felt that Bendis did a retcon so over-the-top that I disagree with it.

Now admittedly, the story is not done yet, so who knows where it will go – but I feel as if it’s not going in the right direction. But when you take serious villains – some which are notorious monsters, and put them on a team, you have a problem. And I’m not talking personality issues, either.

If anything, it seems down-right insulting that the first Avengers – regardless of being “official” ones or “secret” ones are the bad guys. That would be literally like suggesting Professor Xavier had a set of X-Men before the actual X-Men came out – it’s absurd and mind-boggling.

Retcons usually have to explain themselves later on, too. Recent retcon’s like with X-Men’s Deadly Genesis, or Spider-Man’s One Moment In Time, worked for me, because they were explained and honestly, could not be as far-fetched as the “powers that be” were involved with Spider-Man’s, while telepathy and clever storytelling was a part with the X-Men’s. With the New Avengers, we’re fortunate that most of the villains are either dead, or haven’t been used in so-long that the retcon does not have to be adjusted in the future. Sabretooth and Bloodstone are dead, while Kraven is dead-but-alive-now-doing who-knows-what. Dominic Fortune has been MIA for years now, and Namora disappeared with the Agents of Atlas since its cancellation – unless I’m wrong with that.

I guess I’m really just disappointed with how this came about. Admittedly, it has TONS of time to sway another way, but I really feel as if this is just going to hurt my faith in The New Avengers for the next little bit.

Amazing Fantasy

Amazing Sale

As a complete side-note, Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962), the first appearance of Spider-Man, as officially reached the million-dollar club with Action Comics #1 (1938, first Superman) and Detective Comics #27 (1939, first Batman).

Amazing Fantasy #15, CGC 9.6 sold for $1.1 million

“The sale of this legendary comic is second only to the Guinness World record 8.5 VF+ Action Comics #1, which marks Superman’s 1938 debut that was also sold by http://www.ComicConnect.com last year for a whopping $1,500,000.” – Comics Price Guide.com

Amazing, eh?

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Wednesday’s Reviews: The Incredible Widow Maker

This week wasn’t a big week for comics. Neither will next week. January lull, I assume. Then again, come the 26th, I’ll be overwhelmed with comics. Until then, this week we have Chaos War continuing in The Incredible Hulks #620, while the identity to Ronin is revealed in Widow Maker #3.

Incredible Hulks

The Incredible Hulks #620
Greg Pak (writer), Paul Pelletier (penciler), Danny Miki (inker), Paul Mounts (colours), Simon Bowland (letters), Paz and D’Armata Pagulayan (cover). $3.99

Chaos War crushes on in The Incredible Hulks story. In last issue, the Hulks took on Abomination, Demon Zom, and the Hulk’s father as the Chaos King rises the dead to kill A-Bomb’s ex-wife, Marlo, as she recently gained powers of Death (long story). Fortunately for the Hulk, he has people in life who come back, thanks to Marlo. Doc Samson, Glenn Talbot, as well as his ex-wife Jarella appear to aid in the fight.

Surprisingly, with all of the action happening in this comic, there is a great amount of relationships between every character. Although the primary story is focused between Hulk and his father, little snippets of feelings from A-Bomb and Marlo, to Hulk with Jarella, and Betty with Talbot, all get attention in the story. Albeit minor, the dialogue they share is significant enough to really generate some empathy from the readers. Pak’s balance of characters really shines through. A powerful scene with all of the Hulks lined up against Hulk’s father stands as a powerful statement that Hulk really does have a family now.

Pelletier makes good use of full-page spreads with many scenes of action taking over multiple pages and generating a feel of strength with the Hulks. And I do not mean physical strength. Tied in with Mounts’ excellent mixes of greens and “death” red colours, this book was a surprise hit – tackling a lot in one book.

Grade: 7/10

Widow Maker

Widow Maker #3 of 4
Jim McCann (writer), David Lopez (penciler), Alvaro Lopez (inker), Nathan Fairbairn (colours), Cory Petit (letters), Phil Noto (cover). $3.99

With the first two stories leading a tremendous build up of who Ronin is, this story does not disappoint. Our three heroes, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Mockingbird, with mercenary Dominic Fortune, finally discover the secret of Ronin. Not only that, our dynamic relationship duo – Hawkeye and Mockingbird – seem to be on good terms again. Near the ending of the book, Ronin’s identity is releaved, and as are his ultimate plans for domination. Leaving the book with our heroes entirely overran with villains, it’ll be interesting to see how the story concludes itself.

Despite the surprise twist with Ronin’s identity, the story ends up falling a bit flat on a few different levels. Firstly, the characters, while all having a history together – never touch upon it. You would figure the first part of the book featuring Hawkeye and Black Widow alone would feature much more interesting dialogue. Dominic’s only place in the book now, it seems, is to be comic relief as he only adds in funny dialogue when there seems to be nothing else to say – which is surprising, considering Hawkeye is supposed to be the funny one. By the end of the book, Ronin also gives away his “ultimate plan” in a stereotypical villain rant which we’ve seen in every cartoon series known to man.

But despite the books short-comings, the Lopez’s and Fairbairn pick up the pieces with nice colours and tons of action. Albeit, there was a few panels which were questionable: Some faces changed in quality depending on the panel, while one particular scene with Black Widow has her suit zipped right up before battle. The very next panel, her suit is zipped down, suggesting cleavage helps fighting gifted ninja girls. Yes, I did say that. But all aside, the art was solid and the story definitely only needed to be four issues long.

Grade: 5/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!