Yeah, it’s late … I know. I had to take the family on vacation. The road of the family man is a hard one, especially when it gets in the way of pursuing your interests!
But, sitting poolside, monitoring the little ones gave me room to pause and wax philosophically about the comics I was going to read. Last week, I talked about the conspicuous absence of the super hero in comic success. Of course, there is still room for the super hero – trust me, Mark Millar’s Jupiter’ Legacy definitely shows that to be the case. It is the way in which super heroes are presented that needs work.
Let me explain: in order for a story to work, you need the usual combination of elements (plot, endearing characters, setting, yada yada yada) but you also need a twist. That’s the struggle many comic writers are having – traditional or interpretational? I’m really interested to see how Bendis will portray Iron Man in October.
I think readers want something different, which is why the non-super hero titles are doing so well.
However, I forgot about the kids.
When I explain the history of certain super heroes to my kids, as we converse between waterslides, I can see that they are entertained and excited by these enduring characters. My littlest loves to hear about Batman – she’s scared but she won’t admit it. My oldest asks questions about where they came from how did they get their powers … and so forth.
I’d never give my kids Jupiter’s Legacy, but Marvel’s new Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows is probably the only Spider-Man title that I’ve been excited by in years. I’d definitely give that to my girls – but then I’d have to also tell them about the back story of Doom’s Battle-world – and my bed time story choices are set for the next few months!
Let’s get to the list.
Darth Vader #8
Man oh man … can this comic get better? Keiron Gillen’s use of obscure characters from the original canon (and from the extended universe once thought lost: the House Tagge, anyone?) is not only complex and engaging, but dynamic. Each one has a role to fill and Vader’s perilous position in this transitive period between losing his position and regaining his power again is a great read – and I defy anyone to say otherwise. This is definitely my favourite Star Wars title.
Guardians of Knowhere #2
Sigh … a little blasé for my tastes. Pretty basic: bad guy back story followed by quick story catch-up and then the inevitable confrontation between hyped-up villain and hero team. Very formulaic. Can’t say it moved me. Not Bendis at his best.
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #3
The return of the black costume!
More than that though, this is a rebirth of the original values of Spider-Man that made me love the character in my youth but with one tiny exception: Peter Parker has greater responsibilities that mean greater judgement calls: Parker is a father and there is nothing a good father wouldn’t do for his little girl.
This issue was particularly poignant. Kraven, and the rest of the Sinister Six have Spider-Man’s motivation now. They know he’s a father and they are searching for his family. Dan Slott definitely has the characterizations down pat for this re-envisioning of the Spider-Man legacy and Adam Kubert is just the guy to deliver the art. Promise me, Adam that you won’t let me down on this one. It’s an awesome book and it is fully deserving of your incredible talent.
Civil War #2
Another one of the Secret Wars’ more gifted titles. I like the interchange between President Stark and General Rogers; it’s more cerebral than philosophical. There’s a real air of statesmanship in Soule’s storytelling. I love Lenil Yu’s work (I have some original Iron Man sketches of his), but I’m not fond of Gerry Alanguilan’s inking on this book. The colouring is dark and that exacerbates the muted colour palette. The story is incredibly intense.
Infinity Gauntlet #3
I don’t like the “Brady Bunch” dynamic of this book. It started off on a bad note for me and even Thanos’s presence as a background schemer doesn’t do anything for me. In fact, I think that’s a gross under-use of the Mad Titan. He’s a master villain, not a slinking shadow-thief. I can’t say that I enjoyed it any more.
The Fuse #13
This is a new arc for this thoughtful and gritty space-cop drama. I’ve made this comparison before, but remember the 1980’s sci-fi with Sean Connery – Outland? Very much like that, with a frontier attitude in the minds of the characters of this book, the reader is discovering more about this floating nation in space with every issue. In this issue, the station is experiencing “Perihelion”: when the satellite is closest to the sun and the inhabitants celebrate the event and all police shifts are doubled and all leaves are cancelled.
This is a great book. Anthony Johnston really has such a clear vision of this world. It’s so much fun to read his stories and explore it. In fact, I have to read this book for a second time to simply explore the world and look at the details and understand how the people of the Fuse live. It’s definitely one of my favourite Image titles.
We Stand on Guard #2
Good military drama with a growing appreciation for the cast. You have to love the Canadian accents (The Littlest Hobo on the vid screen) that Brian Vaughn throws into this book. There’s enough for the Canadian audience to appreciate and to serve as authentic backdrop.
What surprises me is that with the Canadian content in this book, why aren’t Vaughn and Skroce coming to Fan Expo this year? I mean, it’s probably Canada’s biggest con and they aren’t on the list?
Hmmm … Someone talk to Image’s marketing folks and get them on a plane to Toronto fast.
Jupiter’s Circle #5
I love this book. It’ a retrospective look at the private and public lives of super heroes and it’s reassuring to know that the problems are still the same. It’s something that my mother used to say: the more the calendar changes, the less people do. It’s true, but that ties in with my earlier comments that in order to tell a good super hero story, you need to come up with something truly unique. What’s more unique than undermining the legend of the super hero from the glory days of the 1950’s?
Millar has a really cool twist on the public perception of the super hero from these days. It’s refreshing, gritty but also exciting to see these “straight arrows” bend the rules and get away with liberalities. Pushing J. Edgar Hoover around a few issues ago is one of my favourite parts of this book.
If you’re looking for a novel super hero story, it’s this one.
So, that brings us to the comic of the week.
Of course, since I’ve been telling my kids super hero stories all vacation week, it has to be:
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #3
This is a story that really resonates with readers in my generation. We have children and responsibilities but we also have a love of heroism and adventure. Too often a good deal of my friends were forced to put aside their comics in order to make way for a house, a decent career or a new bedroom for a new member of the family. We are nerds grown up, and so is Peter Parker.
This is the type of relationship that Marvel has too often neglected in recent history. Why did titles like The Hulk, the X-Men or Amazing Spider-Man succeed back in the sixties? Because these were characters on the outside of society being read by an audience who was also on the outside. In this case, Parker is a member of the establishment, simply trying to get by. But when his family is threatened … all hell breaks loose – and for good reason.
Marvel doesn’t need to re-imagine its super heroes – it needs to find new ways for them to connect with their audience. What is important to people today? What social trends are happening that the right character could capitalize on?
This is a great book and has more implications than just a simple super hero story: it’s the type of story a dad can use to tell his kids, and show them just what a dad should do in their lives.
Adam Kubert and Dan Slott: do good on this one. It has a lot riding on it. I want my kids to enjoy it too.