Tag Archives: X-Men
The last time we saw Professor Xavier and his motley crew of merry mutants on the big screen, they were just getting together for the first time. Hence the title, X-Men: First Class. The sequel involves time travel and the cast from the last movie as well as the majority of the cast from the original trilogy. On top of that, they keep adding new characters to the mix like the recently announced Blink and Peter Dinklage in an as yet unannounced role. This thing is getting so crowded they should change the title to X-Men: Economy Class.
And, while I am concerned that it too is getting overstuffed, I’m not as worried as I am with Amazing Spider-Man 2. Here’s why:
- Bryan Singer: He made the first two X-Men movies. I’ve seen them each at least a dozen times, and I think they’re some of the best superhero movies ever made. Prior to that, he made The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil – both pretty solid movies. Since then, it’s mainly been duds. But, I think getting back to these characters who helped make iconic will help get him back on the right track.
- Mark Millar: Due to the deals that they made prior to making movies themselves, there is a chunk of the Marvel universe that is housed over at Fox. After some, let’s say, less than successful efforts (Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Fantastic Four 2, etc.) they have hired Mark Millar to be their Marvel Movie Guru. (I don’t think that’s his official title, but it’ll do for my purposes.) He’s a real love him or hate him sort of writer, but I think we can all agree that his balls-to-the-wall, constant action, widescreen storytelling style will work well on the big screen. I mean, imagine what the brain behind Kick-Ass could do with a Wolverine or Deadpool movie? And he’s had a hand in the creative process of this film, so I’m excited to see just how nuts it will get.
- It’s A Team Movie: A team movie is going to have a huge cast out of necessity. Each character doesn’t need their own storyline for the movie to work. The team needs a threat to bring them together. We need a villain with some sort of interesting agenda. And, maybe one or two characters with an emotional arc that we can follow and get invested in. Whereas, in Amazing Spider-Man 2 they’re going to need to introduce us to, and make us care for, Mary Jane, Rhino, Electro, Norman Osborn and Harry Osborn. That’s a lot to cover in one movie.
So, based on all of that, I’m cautiously optimistic. I have to admit, I’m most curious about who Peter Dinklage will play. The obvious answer for comic fans is Puck, Wolverine’s Canadian dwarf buddy from Alpha Flight.
But, that would be kind of weird. Unless, they do the scene like the one from Giant Size X-Men 1 where Prof. X goes to Canada to recruit Wolverine to the team but Puck is there and tries to convince him to stay in Canada. That would be awesome. Unlikely, but awesome.
Graham Becksted will is still waiting for a rim shot for that classic Economy Class line. He is also the author of Graham’s Grumbles, the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 76th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
Happy New Year, and stuff. It’s been an exciting holiday for us all, I’m sure. I managed to score a decent amount of comics on my vacation, and I’m eager to share what I’ve discovered with you.
There’s a relatively new comic that follows in a great X-Men tradition. It’s called X-Treme X-Men and it’s about a team of dimensionally displaced mutants who are trying to save the multiverse. The X-Men books have always had a lot of fun with the What If? scenario. Sometimes it’s alternate futures, sometimes it’s alternate presents, but there’s always a lot of room for change and questions. Whether it’s Days Of Future Past, or Age Of Apocalypse, some of the best X-Stories have stemmed from these ideas.
In fact, the current IT book in the X-Verse is predicated on one of those weird twists of time and space. Brian Michael Bendis has started a story where Beast has brought the original five X-Men (Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Marvel Girl) from one of their earliest adventures into the “present”. If this story had actually been written in the 60s, the modern day Marvel Universe would look like one of those dystopian futures that was to be avoided at all costs. Cyclops is on the run with The White Queen and Magneto. He’s killed Xavier. Marvel Girl is long dead for the umpteenth time. Angel has had his genetic structure messed with by a guy named Apocalypse. And Iceman is still borderline useless!
X-Treme X-Men, though, is one of those side X-Men books. It’s not as tied into the main ‘verse and can follow its own drummer. When I first heard about it I was instantly reminded of one of my all time favorite X-Books – The Exiles. They share a fairly similar premise – a group of X-Men from various dimensions are brought together to battle evil in various alternate dimensions. I waited to get started on the series because I wanted to read it’s soft launch in Astonishing X-Men first, and I couldn’t find those issues for awhile.
As usual, boxing day ended up being my savior. I managed to find the Astonishing issues as well as the first seven issues of the new series. I’ve now caught up to everything except the most recent issue and I have to say I’m…disappointed. I guess it serves me right to build up my expectations. The Exiles were brought together by the Timebroker and sent from dimension to dimension to fix problems. They were an instantly likeable group all with distinct personalities and universes. The X-Treme X-Men are brought together by a disembodied Xavier head to stop evil Xaviers from other dimensions from getting together and destroying the whole multiverse. The team is made up of blandly nice versions of Dazzler, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine (who is also gay, just ‘cause.)
To be fair, my favorite era of The Exiles was in it’s early, quaint, Quantum Leapesque days. They would travel from world to world putting things right. It was adorable. Sure, there was some dark stuff. Even tragedy. But, that just made it more fun. So far, X-Treme X-Men has tried desperately to be fun but has just managed to be bland. There never seems to be any serious danger. And, whatever trouble befalls our heroes doesn’t matter since I don’t care about any of them.
I’m going to give it a few more issues to pick up, but my expectations are pretty low. I mean, Dazzler is the team leader. Dazzler.
Graham Becksted reads X-Men comics sometimes. He is also the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 71st follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
As promised last week, I bring you my ideal X-Men roster. I decided to make it so that, as much as possible, it would work in an actual comic. So, there’s a mix of genders and races as well as potential personality clashes. I also looked through a bunch of X-Men rosters to see what the staple “types” of any X-Team featured. Before I start, I must give credit where credit is due – these two sites were of immense help in preparing this (http://www.uncannyxmen.net/ and http://astonishingxmen.blogspot.ca/) .
Every X-Team has someone designated the leader. Cyclops and Professor Xavier both had this position at the first. Eventually Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Magneto and others all spent some time as the boss. But, I think I’d go with the former (?) queen of Wakanda, Storm. She succeeded Cyclops in the role and had a pretty good run. She has a lot of experience being in charge, and she’s compassionate. But, she’s also a bit of a bad ass. She beat the crap out of Calisto (in a fair fight) for the leadership of the Morlocks. Bonus points of a lady Mohawk.
Most X-Teams have had some sort of brute strength guy. Beast filled that role at first, but since then there’s been Colossus, Strong Guy, and even Juggernaut. I think I’ll go with Rogue. Great personality and background, and she’s developed so much in recent years. She’s superstrong, but adds a lot more than just that to the mix.
You can’t rightly call them the X-Men without some sort of psychic on the team. I mean, they were founded by a psychic and I’m pretty sure every incarnation has had some sort of mind reader in there. I like having Xavier and Jean dead, so I’m not going to use them. Psylocke is cool, but WAY too convoluted. So, I’m not left with many options. I guess I’ll put Emma Frost in. She’s a good foil for other characters, but it might be interesting to see how she’d fare without Cyclops watching out for her.
All right, I think it’s time for our first gentleman. In this category I’m looking for a guy who can handle long distance threats. I thought it might also be a good idea to have someone who stretches back to the original group. Iceman fits those qualifications, can be funny, and has an interesting history with both Rogue and Emma Frost.
Now, I realize this category is a bit redundant with Rogue and Storm already on the list but that’s never stopped the team from having otherwise useless scouts before! I’m thinking Mimic. He’s got all the powers of the original five, but he’s also got some serious mental problems. I love the take they had on him in the Exiles, so I think he could slowly grow into that kind of character.
Almost every team has had a character who was kind of a dick. The sort of guy who irritated all of the others, but came through in the end. Wolverine’s been that guy, and so have Thunderbird and Marrow. In this case, I think Sunfire’s a good bet. He’s never been on the team for very long but when he is he bosses everyone around and is just kind of a dick. He’d also be a good counter point to Iceman and has a big family with a lot of troublemakers.
The Young Girl
The X-Men have a long, proud history of dragging little girls into horrible danger. Kitty Pryde and Jubilee have both filled that role, but lately they’ve been using Armor and Pixie. I’m thinking I’d use the Islamic character Dust. She’s got a cool power and hasn’t had much contact with the big team.
The Comic Relief
How can you not use Morph for this job? I mean, maybe it’s just the Exiles and X-Men Animated Series fan in me, but he’s such a good character. He also has the bonus of being of ambigious ethnic origin and can change gender on a dime. We’d just need to pull one from some alternate dimension, and bickety bam! A great comic relief character is born!
The Former Villain
At this point, half the X-Men are former or current villains. Let’s do a partial list – Rogue, Mystique, Sabertooth, Cyclops, Jean, Emma Frost, Polaris, Gambit, Wolverine, Bishop, Magneto, Xavier, Banshee, Angel, Marrow and Mimic have all been bad guys for at least a little while. I’m thinking Juggernaut. Sure, he’s a second powerhouse after Rogue (and, I guess, in that sense, a second former villain) but him being a good guy was pretty much the only decent thing to come out of Chuck Austen’s run. I’d like to explore that a bit more.
The Mysterious One
And, finally, someone with a bit of mystery. A character who’s seen some stuff and who’s past isn’t exactly clear. I’m thinking of putting Daken on there. It gives him a chance to redeem himself and he fills the Wolverine niche.
So, what do you think? Who would you want?
Graham Becksted is everyone’s favorite X-Man. Wait. No, not like that. He is also the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 69th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
Marvel NOW! is the latest flashpoint for Marvel fans. Everything’s changing and it’s the perfect time to jump on (or off) of various books. Almost all of the main titles are getting new creative teams. And, as has been the time honoured tradition of new creative blood, the super hero teams are getting new rosters. This is always a very exciting time for fan boys and girls alike. Who will the new members be? Will my favorite be one of them? How many teams can Wolverine BE on?
The Avengers books have always been particularly good at exploiting these moments. The covers usually announce that THIS is the issue where the new team is picked. There’s usually a smattering of cards, or faces, and a big question like, “WHO WILL BE THE AVENGERS?”
The team usually stays fairly consistent for a few years. Sure, some people may come and go, but there’s usually a fairly stable core. For example, I only really started reading Avengers during Brian Michael Bendis’ run so, for me, the core team is Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, and eventually Thor. But, for more old school readers, it’s not the Avengers if it doesn’t have The Vision, Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, Hawkeye and Beast.
At this point, it seems like the number of characters who have been Avengers is growing so large that every Marvel hero from Captain America to Squirrel Girl will have been an Avenger. I mean, I think the announced roster for Hickman’s run is a little big – 24 members! That’s more characters than pages in an average single issue. But, I trust in Mr. Hickman’s abilities. And, frankly, the Avengers should be a huge book where huge things happen.
Prior to my Avengers interest, the X-Men were my team of choice. When I was a kid, we would spend recesses arguing over which characters were cooler, and building our dream rosters. That’s the thing with the X-Men – I think if you took a group of 10 people and sat them down with a list of the all the mutants in the Marvel Universe to choose from and forced them to pick an X-Team with ten characters on it, you’d get ten completely different teams.
To give you an example, here are three teams put together in the last decade or so. Bendis will be taking over the main X-Men book shortly, and he’s taking the team back to the original five (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Iceman, and Beast). When Joss Whedon did his run the team was made up of Wolverine, Beast, Cyclops, The White Queen, Armor, Colossus, and Shadowcat. Joe Casey’s Uncanny X-Men run consisted of Angel, Iceman, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Chamber.
(I think next week I’ll try to cobble together my ideal X-Men team.)
Anyway, Marvel doesn’t have a monopoly on this by any stretch of the imagination. The first time I had read any JLA stuff had been during the Death Of Superman when the team consisted of Ice, Fire, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Guy Gardiner, Bloodwynd, and Maxima. (Just to show how many times I’ve read that collection, I actually pulled that list straight from memory.) When Grant Morrison took over, the team reverted to the classic roster of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman. And while that is an infinitely cooler team, I still look back kind of fondly on the days when the team was made up of second stringers.
As much as we’d like to think that the creative teams are the reason most people buy or stick with a book, I think the characters on the team play as big, if not a bigger, role. So, if any of you get the singular honor of writing one of these team books some day in the future, make sure you take great care in picking the roster. You could end up defining a generation’s idea of who that team is.
Graham Becksted is the only member of The Secret Graham Coast Avengers. He is also the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 69th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
Welcome back faithful readers. This week, I’d like to make a return to my topic of choice: Comic Books. I’m actually writing this on the Monday of one of the rarest of treats, a long weekend. Not just any long weekend, though. It is the day after the birth of my home country – Canada. In honour of Canada day I will be presenting to you a list of 4 of my favorite Canadian comic book artists. The Great White North is the home to quite a few of the greatest mainstream artists in the comic book field.
1.) Chris Bachalo
To start with, I’m going to go with Mr. Chris Bachalo. I’m not sure if he counts, since according to his Wikipedia page he was raised in the U.S. But, he was born here, so he counts in my book. Also, he’s one of the most interesting artists to work consistently in the Marvel and DC universes. It’s sort of a graffiti style mixed with a Bruce Timm animation style. It’s very unique and is instantly recognizable. He made his name on a mini-series featuring the character of Death from the Sandman series. His profile was further raised when he co-created the X-Men spinoff Generation X. Recently he’s done some great work on Spider-Man and New Avengers. He’s actually one of the few artists that I would consider reading regardless of the writer.
2.) Kaare Andrews
I just realized that the rest of the list features artists who are also known for their writing. I don’t know if that means anything, but it probably does. All Canadians are multi-talented geniuses or something. Anyhoo, Kaare Andrews is unique in a lot of ways mostly in that his style is constantly changing. And all of his styles are cool. This is best exemplified by his series of Hulk covers. The one above is obviously inspired by Norman Rockwell, but he did others that look like cereal boxes and Where The Wild Things Are. I first noticed him on Ultimate X-Men, and he did a cool arc on Astonishing X-Men with Warren Ellis. His signature series, though, is Spider-Man Reign. He wrote and drew it, and it’s like a Marvel response to The Dark Knight Returns. Admittedly, it’s not my favorite thing in the world. But, the art is interesting and it’s a unique take on Spidey.
3.) Darwyn Cooke
The next gentleman on this list is Mr. Darwyn Cooke. Not only is he from my home country, he’s also from my home town – Toronto. He still lives here, and he’s one of the most sought after writers/artists in comics. When DC was looking for the best people in the business to work on Before Watchmen, he was asked to write and draw one series and write another. His style is very much an animated style. In fact, he was a storyboard artist on the Batman Animated Series. He’s best known for his mini-series, DC: New Frontier, which was turned into a direct to DVD animated movie. It’s very cool, and puts the changes of the DC universe into a real world perspective. For example, it explains why Batman went from a gun-toting, fear the night, badass into a kid-friendly, sidekick toting, hero. He’s also done extensive runs on Will Eisner’s The Spirit, and he has adapted some of Richard Stark’s Parker novels.
4.) John Byrne
Finally, we come to the only true legend on this list. He hasn’t had a great run of it lately, especially since his online persona is not the friendliest. He has had feuds with some of the greats in the business, but he is also one half of one of the greatest creative teams in mainstream comic book history. He and Chris Claremont redefined the X-Men, and Byrne was at the very least one half of that equation. Probably more since he is credited as a co-plotter on most of the storylines that they are best known for. His clean, crisp style is iconic and very influential. He also wrote and drew some of the most important issues of Fantastic Four and rebooted Superman after Crisis on Infinite Earths. His impact in comics is undeniable, and it’s too bad that he hasn’t had much work at Marvel or DC in recent years. I hope he gets another chance to work on the characters he helped define before he has to retire.
Graham Becksted is Canadian. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 67th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
If anyone were to ask me what the worst part of seeing a movie in theatres is, I wouldn’t have to think long to come up with an answer. It wouldn’t be the people around me, ‘cause they can be hit or miss. It wouldn’t be the ticket or food prices. It wouldn’t even be the screen being too dark, or the sound being out of sync. The worst part, without a doubt, is all of the stupid commercials that are forced on us. At home you can change the channel or mute them, but at the theatre you are a captive audience. You can’t go anywhere for fear of losing your seat, or turn off the sound without getting into big trouble. It’s even worse if you go to the theatre multiple times in a month. They don’t change the ads often, so you can get stuck seeing the same minute long buy holes over and over again.
To be clear though, I’m just talking about car commercials and soft drink commercials and anything else like that. Trailers are exempt from my wrath. They’re the only ads that I’ll go out of my way to see. If there’s one in particular that I want to see online, sometimes I’ll suffer through the indignity of watching an unwanted commercial before I see the one I’m after. I like trailers so much that I’ve actually gone to a movie just for the trailers.
One in particular stands out in my memory. I went to see I Am Legend on opening weekend in IMAX just to see the Dark Knight trailer. And, you know what? The movie was okay, but I would’ve paid that IMAX price for the trailer alone. (To be fair, that wasn’t a traditional trailer. It was actually the first 5 minutes of the movie. But those five minutes are sooooo good.)
In that case, we got a great trailer for a great movie. But, sometimes trailers can make good movies look bad, and bad movies look good. The best example I can think of for this is the X-Men: The Last Stand trailer.
Pretty cool, right? It’s got Juggernaut, Angel, Beast, Magneto, Phoenix, The Golden Gate Bridge flying around. It’s a bit of a geekgasm. At the time, I had been following the news about this movie pretty closely. Bryan Singer, the director of the first two movies, had dropped out of the production in order to make Superman Returns. (The jury is still out on whether that was a good decision or not.) For me, that was Red Flag 1. Then they continued their pre-production without a director. Red Flag 2. Then, they finally hired a director: Brett Ratner. Red Flag 3. But, the trailer made it looked like they had crammed in so much X-Men goodness that it couldn’t go wrong. Unfortunately, the crammed in way too much X-Men goodness. There were way too many plot threads, and no character got enough attention. I mean, how can you introduce Juggernaut, Phoenix, and a mutant cure in one movie and expect them to all be given enough screen time?
Anyway, I guess my point is that the people who make trailers should get more money, or something. They make the only commercials that are worth seeing, and they can make crappy movies look good. (That X-Men movie made almost half a billion dollars. At least half of that is due to the trailer alone.)
Graham Becksted is coming to a theatre near you. But, not like Paul Reubens. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 67th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
So, in case you hadn’t noticed, homosexuality has been the latest big news item in mainstream comics. Both Marvel and DC had some big announcements in the last couple of weeks regarding two B-list (at best) characters. The companies touted their announcements as big events, and game changers, and earth quaking, and senses shattering. By and large though, these have made a fairly minor impact on me and, I suspect, most of the comic buying public.
Marvel got out of the gate first, both in these announcements and in the whole gay superhero race. Northstar, who was confirmed gay in 1992 but whose sexuality had been hinted at for years, is getting married to his boyfriend in an upcoming issue of Astonishing X-Men. This is all well and good, but it doesn’t really change anything. Maybe it’s just me, but gay people getting married shouldn’t be a big deal. I don’t understand why anyone would be against it, and as such I find it hard to drum up any more interest in a gay marriage than I would for a straight one. I mean, maybe if he were marrying Spider-Man, or something. Then, I’d have to get the issue just to see how they pull it off. But, he’s just marrying his regular, average joe boyfriend.
The other thing about the story is that it’s happening in a sort of second-tier X-Men title. All of the main X-Men stories are happening in Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine And The X-Men. Astonishing hasn’t been an important book since Joss Whedon and Warren Ellis were on it. The creative team is Marjorie Liu and Mike Perkins neither of whom is exactly a big draw. Despite all of that, it will probably sell well with people wanting to get a copy in the hopes that the value sky rockets and they can resell it for big bucks. I doubt, though, that in a year or two anyone will care that a second-rate, Canadian X-Man is married to another guy.
On to the DC side of this story. In the whole New 52 relaunch some characters were wiped out of existence due to continuity issues. One of them was the out and proud Obsidian. He was deleted because his father, Alan Scott, is now too young to have had him. And too gay. That’s right, the original Green Lantern is now playing for the other team. A character so important that he hasn’t had a solo ongoing series since the 1940s. He’s barely even connected to the rest of the Green Lantern mythos. And, he’s going to be appearing in a comic book that takes place on a different Earth than the rest of the New 52. He seems like he’ll have about as much impact on the rest of the DCU as Northstar does on the Marvel U.
All I’m asking is that if there’s going to be a push to address hot button issues, have it happen in titles and to characters that people are going to notice. Make Wonder Woman a lesbian or Wolverine a muslim, and then there will be something worth talking about. When the character you’re showcasing these ideas with can just be swept under the rug after the hoopla’s died down, you’re doing a disservice to the character and to the issue.
Graham Becksted’s too tired to think of a quippy intro line to this paragraph. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 66th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
My original idea for this week’s column was to write about the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of Spider-Man. But, I guess I’ll save any talk of that for the inevitable Amazing Spider-Man movie column that I’ll write around its July 3rd release date. But, in thinking about that I thought about a friend of mine. For the purposes of this public record, let’s call him, oh I don’t know, “Eric”. This gentleman loves comic books, but he loves Spider-Man in particular.
For his birthday one year, I tried to get him something I thought he would enjoy but was certain he didn’t have. I figured a collection of Ultimate Marvel Team-Up would be a safe bet since it features Spider-Man getting paired with various other superheroes. When I gave him the gift, while he was thankful, he wasn’t exactly thrilled. Eric, you see, didn’t actually like team books. He wants his superheroes solo or sidekicked, but not ensconced with a bunch of other solo heroes. I found this odd, as I pretty much exclusively get team books.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve got my fair share of solo books. Some Hulks, some Superman, some Batmans, some Wolverine, but the titles I get most consistently are team books. In fact, right now the only solo Superhero book that I get on a monthly basis is Greg Rucka’s Punisher. Other than that, I get almost all of the Avengers titles, Fantastic Four and FF, and Ultimate X-Men. I also get X-Factor in trade paperback. It’s actually kind of sad how predictable I am in this regard.
My longboxes are populated with team books. I’ve got an extensive run of Justice League International, pretty much all of Exiles, and I’m building a good run of Ninja Turtles back issues. Many of the solo books I have are actually more like team books in disguise. I collect Avenging Spider-Man which features Spidey teaming up with different Avengers every issue. My favorite Ultimate Spider-Man issues are the ones where he’s living with Iceman and The Human Torch.
I’ve started to wonder at the psychology of this, and I’m not quite sure what it says about me. I get the love for Spider-Man. He’s a wise cracking, middle class guy who tries to do the right thing, but life routinely shits on him. On top of that, he’s kind of a geek. That’s something most comic book fans can relate too. So, this guy who we can all see ourselves as also manages to kick ass and attract quite a few beautiful women. I can totally see the appeal, and the wish fulfillment involved. It doesn’t really click with me, though. No matter what happens, his stories always end up the same way. He manages to pull defeat from the jaws of victory. He beats Doctor Octopus, but he’s late for dinner and Aunt May is mad at him. He gets rid of the alien costume that was taken over his life, but then it attaches itself to a guy who hates him. And the biggest one, he gets awesome powers but doesn’t use them to stop a thief who ends up killing his uncle. It’s kind of depressing and repetitive.
With team books, there’s a constant clash of personalities. And, with the ever changing rosters of most teams, you get to see new mixes every few issues. If you’re tired of seeing Captain America and Iron Man argue, you can see Luke Cage and Jessica Jones fret about their baby. Just when you think you’ve seen all the Cyclops you can handle, he leaves the team. So, I guess what I’m saying is that I have a short attention span and team books offer enough change to get me to stick around. I don’t know if that’s the exact right answer, but I guess it’ll have to do for now.
Graham Becksted’s adventures can be read in Ultimate Graham, Spectacular Graham, Dark Graham, Red Graham, Graham International, and The Graham Of Steel. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 68th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
In a previous column I discussed what I felt were short comings of some of the options being bandied about as the future of the comic book medium. Motion comics, web comics, etc., all had their flaws. I think, though, that Marvel has settled on something truly unique and revolutionary. It’s not perfect, but it brings something new to the table that adds to the experience without feeling overly gimmicky.
Marvel has branded this new feature AR, or Augmented Reality and it functions kind of like DVD bonus features. The first issue to offer it is Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 (a.k.a. AvX 1) which is a smart place to do it, as it’s the heavily hyped crossover of two of the biggest franchises is comics and film. The first small downside to AR is that, as far as I’m aware, you need a decent next-gen device to use it. Android or Apple, you’ll need to download the Marvel AR app. You’ll also need 3G or a wifi connection. Got all that? Okay, now you just need to turn the app on and point your camera at the cover of the comic.
Just like that, a trailer for the issue starts up. Including that one, I counted 8 instances where you could use the AR. One was an intro to the story from Axel Alonso. Another was Brian Michael Bendis discussing his favorite scene. There are others that are a bit more nerdy, like a power chart for the X-Man Hope and a breakdown of the faculty of The Jean Grey School that Wolverine started. It’s pretty unobtrusive to the actual issue, just a little AR icon in the corner of a panel. I read through the issue once, and then went back through and checked out the AR content.
First off, the good. It definitely gives you more bang for your book. Now that some comics have hit $4.99, this gives you a bit more justification for paying that price. Instead of reading the issue in 20 minutes or less and then storing it, you can go back and appreciate the art and some of the work that went into the issue. It also gives you a chance to get to know some of the behind the scenes people in a way that you wouldn’t normally be able to. It’s an extension of Stan Lee’s bullpen bulletins where he would make the writers and artists a bit more accessible.
Secondly, the bad. The creators who we get to meet don’t really sound comfortable or at ease. They might benefit from having someone else to banter with, as opposed to droningly addressing the reader. Also, anytime one of the AR things was text based it was almost impossible to decipher. At least, that’s the way it felt on my iPhone. Text was so grainy that it was hard to make it out, but it might benefit from having a narrator read it outloud. I know they’re probably trying to save people some bandwidth, but what’s the use of having a mini-bio of Hope if you can’t read it?
Finally, the issue also included a free download of Avengers Vs. X-Men: Infinite #1 a sort of prologue to the main series written by Mark Waid and drawn by Stuart Immonen. As far as digital comics go, it really impressed me. I think it helped that it was made specifically for the digital format, whereas most of the other digital comics I’ve read were meant for paper and then got crammed onto a little screen. There was a feeling of motion, but stuff never really moved in any way so as to make it feel like a crappy cartoon.
All in all, I was very impressed. With a few tweaks, it could be a great addition the medium.
Graham Becksted spends so much time on his phone it’s starting to feel like an omni-tool. If only it could do Cryo Blast. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 59th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
Comics can be a daunting pop culture medium to get in to. Especially the super hero genre. Some of the titles, particularly the most popular ones, have been going on for 600 issues or more. Where do you start? How do I figure out what’s going on? Even I had some trouble with this when I started to contemplate buying a series on a monthly basis. I didn’t really want to jump in in the middle of a storyline. Then I found out that the Ultimate comic line was starting.
It was exactly what I needed at the time: A neat starting point for a superhero comic. The plan was to take familiar stories of the characters we all know and love and refresh them. Give them a modern spin, and avoid some of the clean up that needed to be done later. For instance, when the Spider-Man Clone Saga got popular the powers that be stretched it out into about 100 individual issues. When Ultimate Spider-Man did it, they told the story in 8 issues. What made it work was that it simplified a lot of the stuff that got kind of crazy in the regular continuity, but kept true to the spirit.
While reading them, I got a feel for the characters in a way that only a fresh start can offer. They introduced characters without all of the baggage that comes with them normally. Once I was familiar, it was easier to jump on board the ongoing titles in the regular Marvel books. I got into some of the X-Men titles and all of the Avengers stuff that Brian Michael Bendis did.
When the Ultimate line started, they took two top notch writers and put them in the drivers seat – Bendis and Mark Millar. They did a fantastic job rebooting Spider-Man, The X-Men, The Avengers (a.k.a. The Ultimates), and, to a lesser extent, The Fantastic Four (Victor Van Damme? Really?). When they finished up their runs, they were replaced by equally awesome writers like Brian K. Vaughan and Warren Ellis. These guys took the reigns but continued in the same vein. Then, the pools started to get a little diluted. They brought on writers who’s resumes were a little more suspect. The stories started to get as convoluted and confusing as some of the stuff in the regular continuity. It was no longer a safe place for readers to jump in.
The powers at be saw that the Ultimate line was losing steam, but they took a different lesson from it than I did. Instead of seeing an opportunity to get back to basics, they decided to make it more complicated than ever. The Ultimate books are now a place where anything can happen! Stuff that supposedly can’t be done in the regular Marvel Universe can and has been done – The Wasp was eaten by the Blob who was then eaten by Giant Man! Daredevil drowned! Wolverine was blasted to death when Magneto took control of Iron Man’s blaster arm and Cyclops’ visor…
And, all of that took place in a universe destroying event called Ultimatum. Now, the Ultimate Universe is so different that I find it difficult to read. Before, I could sort of hop back and forth between the two. You could read Ultimate Fantastic Four, get a fairly good idea of who the characters were, and then give the regular Fantastic Four a shot. Now, Ultimate Reed Richards is the big super villain of the universe. Ultimate Human Torch is a member of the Ultimate X-Men who are lead by Ultimate Kitty Pryde who goes around as Ultimate The Hood. Ultimate Peter Parker is dead and has been replaced by Ultimate Miles Morales. The Ultimates are investigating some new country divided into two groups, one called Eternals and the other called Celestials. But, these aren’t your daddies Eternals and Celestials, they’re just humans with powers.
Frankly, I think it’s time for the Ultimate Universe to start fresh again. Get back to what it started as – modernized versions of classic Marvel stories. A gateway to the regular Marvel U.
Graham Becksted wants to go play some Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 57th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.