I’m teaching my students about the concept of transformative media. You know, when stories exist in one form of media and then get spun off into other forms? Well, you have to be selective about thematic elements when you transform media into other formats and, depending on the format, some themes don’t transfer all too well.
That’s a very appropriate concept to think about when we look at some of the selections for this week’s pulls.
Hmm … perhaps I should assign my posts as mandatory reading in class?
Let’s get to the pulls for this week.
Now this is a real blast from the past – and is what I was just talking about. When IDW made this announcement at SDCC last year, I don’t think there was anyone more excited than me. Not only do I have all of the Marvel Micronauts from the late 70’s, early 80’s but I also used to have the toys. The idea that there was an entire universe at war accessible only at sub-atomic size levels was such a fantastic concept for my adolescent brain to grasp that it still resonates on a mega-cool frequency today.
Cullen Bunn scripts this homage to the work that Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden did back in 1979 and he does an amazing job of recreating the mythology for the 21st century. Of course, some of the characters aren’t as you remember them. Commander Arcturus Rann is absent, as is the lovely Marionette (the crazy eye shadow made a big impact on my childhood appreciation of the allure of female cosmetics). However, Acroyear (though not a prince) and Baron Karza are present and in familiar roles.
The toy vehicles are there – the Biotron unit, the Microtron robot and the familiar wing gliders for the action figures. Of course, I remember those all too well.
David Baldeon is the primary artist and while his rendering of the technological elements of the story are excellent, I can’t say I’m overly fond of his character art. It’s not bad, but I just find that it’s a bit too cartoon-ish for my tastes. I just feel that the space opera tone that Bunn has crafted for this story should also be reflected in the art and I think Baldeon’s art falls a bit short in that regard. However, his action and pacing are great so he’s probably wonderful to work with.
In short, I really enjoyed this book. From a nostalgic perspective, I loved seeing the toys of my childhood come to life again. I also thought it was pretty nifty introducing the concept of the Micro-verse to a new generation of readers. It’ll be interesting to see how that concept will fly with them but for the sake of the generation of readers who remember the toys (like me), I hope it sticks around.
The creative diversity of sarcastic dialogue is a real hallmark of Warren Ellis’s writing. This is such a great comic and I am still amazed by the really cool idea of blending artificial intelligence with the legends of yesteryear that used to scare us in stories. The Injection is a powerful force to be reckoned with but the opposing force of specially talented individuals to combat this force is also one of the appeals to this story. In order to have a unique antagonist, there must be heroes that are if not as unique but also clearly worthy of the fight. Ellis has assembled such a team and they are rich characters with fascinating backgrounds and abilities. I think this is a comic that you want to keep an eye on when it eventually comes out in hardcover format to get the full appreciation for it.
Doctor Strange: The Last Days of Magic #1
First introduced in the 60’s, Dr. Strange is undergoing some media transformation of his own in order to be acceptable film material for a Chinese audience. Back in the 1960’s a character from Tibet was exotic enough to pass for an esoteric master of the mystic arts. But Strange’s mentor, the Ancient One, runs the risk of offending Chinese censors potentially threatening to close off a huge film market for the new Marvel film in November with the mention of a country that China does not acknowledge as independent. The ambiguous Tilda Swinton has been drafted to play the role instead which has earned criticism for changing the original story for the sake of increased profits.
The initial framing sequence (imaginatively titled “The Zelda Stanton Framing Sequence”) is drawn by Leonardo Romero, this is definitely a very European art style. Heavy outlines, minimal facial detail – it’s almost reminiscent of the old Tintin books from the 1950’s and 60’s. Now I loved those books, but I found that the art was simply good enough for the story to continue.
It’s funny, but I actually prefer Bachalo to this guy.
This is an unusual publishing event to explore the major storyline of the war against magic with three short stories so it’s an oversized comic. Aaron’s writing that draws me to this book and he lent some support from Gerry Duggan and Danilo Beyruth (on “Doctor Voodoo”) and James Robinson and Mike Perkins on “The Wu”. The three short stories make for an interesting sidebar on the nature of the story.
Beyruth’s art is also passable. It’s a good story but it seems somewhat out of synch with Duggan’s story. It’s not like I can place my finger on it, but it seems somewhat off. Still, it does manage to convey the danger the Empirikul pose to magic-users everywhere.
Some great origin stories in this book and some really neat characters. It’s a good chance to see James Robinson do some new work other than what he’s usually pegged for as well. He may be known as the proverbial “Golden Age” writer – and for good reason – but I can see this as a wayof breaking out of that mold.
I was supposed to chat with James about some of his work for Image Comics, but sadly the interview never happened. With any luck, we’ll be able to chat in the future when he has more of work like this to talk about. Hey – James Robinson? Note for the future.
Doctor Strange #7
You have to read Doctor Strange: The Last Days of Magic #1 for added context, by the way. Clever tactic, spend $7.00 Canadian to get a story worth $5.00.
At this point, I’ll refrain from my usual Chris Bachalo lament and would replace it with my predictable adoration of Jason Aaron. However, I can’t say that I enjoyed this book as much as the others. I think it has to do with the predictable origin story of the Empirikul’s leader, the Imperator. I mean, the phonetic spelling of “empirical” is a swat in the face to the rules of order and rationalization that the Empirikul (groan) is supposed to stand for. And the Imperator’s background is completely derivative of Superman’s origin.
I do like the throwback Thursday reference to the Cancer-verse though. Nice twist – I’ll say that. Aaron redeems this story towards the end, but I have to say this was a bit of a let-down. But hey – everyone’s allowed a bad day. I love his stuff and so what if I didn’t like one issue. Whatever. It’ll work out in the end.
Star Wars #18
See – I told you Aaron would redeem himself. Actually – I want to know his daily routine. How does he manage to switch between milieus like Dr. Strange to Star Wars? Does he wake up at 6, go for a light jog, have a coffee and bagel and work on Dr. Strange until 5? Then the next day, does he repeat that morning routine and then work on Star Wars? Gotta know.
Still, this is great and with Lenil Yu pencilling, he must have a blast whatever his routine. Aaron knows these characters well, even down to the interplay they have with each other. Han knows what will push Luke’s buttons and Leia has the right degree of authority in her dialogue. Aaron knows.
Secret Six #13
Awww … Strix.
Tom Derenick isn’t Dale Eaglesham – and I miss Dale Eaglesham, but this was good work. Solid lines, great action and a wonderful sense of close-up frames when the story demanded it. When Strix holds up her fingers for the count … well, nice work, Tom. Imagine my hat is doffed right now.
Gail Simone has the right touch. This is a family and Strix is a member. I think that sense of team unification was missing from before Gail took on the job. She’s really starting to mesh these folks together and there was a bit of emotional content in this story that caught my attention. Maybe I’m getting schmaltzy in my old age, but I really responded to the familial theme that Simone had incorporated in this book. I really enjoyed it.
The ending of an era. Do I dare continue my subscription? The title of this issue is “Gotham Is …”. I won’t reveal the ending (obviously) because of its poignancy. It’s a simple story that reminds us of the value Gotham places in Batman and I think that Snyder and Capullo have in him. It’s a farewell but one that has a relaxed fondness to it instead one tinged with regret.
I think this is their greatest work. I’m glad that their collaboration will continue in Detective Comics but I still feel like I’m losing something. I’ve stated this before but this has been the first time I’ve been excited about a Batman title since Mike Barr and Jim Aparo’s Batman and the Outsiders – and that’s going back a ways.
Like I said: a poignant and sweet swansong issue.
Justice League #40
Part 9 of The Darkseid War.
Yeah, the inherent problem with that title is that fact that it’s Part Nine. I’ve honestly lost track of this storyline and it seems that the antagonists are shifting with every issue: it’s Darkseid, it’s the Anti-Monitor, it’s Grail, it’s the Crime Syndicate, it’s the new version of the Anti-Monitor. Seriously – I need a scorecard to keep track of what the heck is going on.
I think what sucks for Geoff Johns is that when the rebirth event drops, none of this is going to matter. Or will it? I don’t envy his task here: Johns has to create a storyline that is memorable but also has to have some sort of a lasting effect on the yet another new Continuum that DC is trying to create here.
It’s too much noise.
And now everything depends on Lex Luthor?
Julius Schwartz is turning over in his grave.
The Pick of the Week
Tough call this week. For me, it’s a toss-up. But I have to say I’m particularly jazzed by the re-introduction of The Micronauts back into the comic universe.
You know, IDW does a really good job of finding those properties that have been neglected and resurrects them to really good use. Let’s face it: when ROM comes back, I’m probably going to lose my mind.
But this builds on the success that Jim Shooter tapped into back in the glory days of Marvel Comics in the 1980’s. He linked successful toys to comics and while there was a challenge to justify good stories, this created memorable comics that stuck in the hearts of young comic readers. Jim Shooter knew what he was doing back then and it’s pretty neat to see someone learn from those lessons.
This allows IDW to capitalize on nostalgic success and given that those readers have now turned into people with disposable income, it’s a pretty safe publishing bet.
It’s smart, it’s fun and it has the novelty of being new … again. I mean, I haven’t heard of any stories that envision the existence of another universal threat that exists at the sub-atomic level.
So we’re ending on a transformative media note. It’s funny how my professional life intersects with my other professional life. This is a perfect example of what I was talking about with my students. Of course, as it was the toy that existed first, there was a limited amount of themes. But it was the work of Michael Golden and Bill Mantlo that further developed the theme of the Micronauts as a resistance force opposed to the totalitarian regime of Baron Karza. Whatever … it was a brilliant notion and I’m looking forward to more from devoted Micronaut fan, Cullen Bunn.
Perhaps he and I could talk about it more in an exclusive? Yeah – poorly veiled hint.
That’s it for this week. Guess what reading I’m assigning my students?