Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Committed To Reading The Annihilation Saga

I’m starting to realize that I am somewhat of a completist when it comes to comic books.

I routinely show up late to the party when it comes to the newest and most popular story arcs, largely because I get hung up trying to play catch up.

In most cases, it’s simply not enough for me to hit up Wikipedia to find out what I missed.

When I “get into” a character or storyline, I prefer to start from the “beginning,” which is typically represented by the work of a signature author or storyline; and work my way through the trades until I get up to date.

Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in me purchasing and reading some pretty bad books every now and again.

It’s just the nature of the superhero comics industry, with writers and illustrators jumping from project to project all the time; it’s only natural that various books have dips in quality every now and again.

Some examples of purchases I kind of regret, are Secret Invasion, and every single Punisher MAX trade following the departure of Garth Ennis.

Pictured: One of many reasons Garth Ennis owns The Punisher.

It’s funny, I actually remember saying, on this very blog; stating that I would probably never pick up a copy of Secret Invasion.

I heard it wasn’t very good, and was hoping to avoid it, but eventually I got so immersed in the Marvel Universe as a whole, (I don’t know about you, but Dark Reign really “did it” for me) that I reached a point in which most of the characters I was reading had a big fat hole in their continuity left by me not having read Secret Invasion or any of it’s copious tie-ins.

Secret Invasion was indeed kind of a crappy, (not Messiah Complex crappy, mind you) but for whatever reason, it’s comforting to me to have those plot holes filled.

The Punisher stuff kind of speaks for itself.

Garth Ennis was the best thing that ever happened to the character, so his departure from the series pretty much resulted in the bar being set far too high for anyone to possibly measure up to.

UN. TOUCHABLE.

‘Nuff said.

Anyway, as you might have guess from the title of this post, I’ve recently committed myself to reading all of the Annihilation Saga trades, up through the recent Thanos Imperative.

For your information, that’s about 5 years worth of storylines, told across 5 major arcs, as well as possibly a tie-in book or 2; most of which were written by the dynamic duo of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.

That’s a lot of fuckin’ comics.

Curiously enough, my association with this sprawling story came in the form of jumping right smack in the middle of it a few years ago.

The first book in the series I read was War of Kings, which turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable read despite my general unfamiliarity with most of the characters.

Over the course of the story, I developed a newfound respect for Black Bolt, as well as an unexpected degree of interest in the cosmic Marvel Universe.

Admittedly, Black Bolt was also kind of badass in World War Hulk...

Though I went on to pick up the War of Kings: Warriors trade that collected a number of tie-in issues associated with the core story, for whatever reason I never went any further than that until just last week.

Last week I finished reading the first book of Annihilation, the initial story arc of the Annihilation saga; and boy was I impressed.

As with War of Kings, I found myself becoming attached to characters that were largely on the periphery of the core Marvel canon, but not only that, I found myself being sucked into the story itself; regardless of it’s place in Marvel lore.

In short, the first book; while little more than build up to the meat of the story, was a damn good read.

That being said, while I know I’ve got my work cut out for me, I’m actually looking forward to cutting a swathe through Annihilation and seeing how everything pans out.

Typically, when I’m faced with diving into a story this big, I tend to feel pensive about the emotional and monetary investment it represents, but in this case; I’m actually kind of jazzed.

Now, all I have to do is find a comic shop that actually carries a copy of Annihilation: Book Two, and then I can actually get started…

Do I really need a reason to post this image? Didn't think so...

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Batman’s New Threads

I was clickin’ around on IGN earlier today, when I noticed an article in their comics section entitled, “Batman Has A New Costume.”

Being a Batman enthusiast, I naturally clicked it, half-expecting some sort of shocking redesign along the lines of Batman 500 AKA the Jean-Paul Valley Batman from the Knightfall story arc.

Pictured: The EXACT image that got me into comics in the early 90's.

You see, though I admittedly haven’t followed Grant Morrison’s recent work on the Batman series, least of all the death and return of Bruce Wayne portion of it, with all of the outlandish Batman costume designs being thrown around as of late, I figured we were due for even more craziness.

Goddamnit! I hella' wanna' hate on this image for being dumb, but it's so damn awesome!

Color me surprised when I discovered that not only was the costume redesign a helluva’ lot more tasteful than I was expecting, it was also done by Moon Knight and, *sigh…* Messiah Complex artist David Finch was responsible for it.

As beautiful as his art can be, GODDAMN YOU DAVID FINCH FOR TRICKING ME INTO READING MESSIAH COMPLEX!

That being said, let’s take a look at Mr. Finch’s work:

ART.

I have to say, not just as a David Finch whore, but as a Batman fan in general, I really don’t mind the new costume.

Most of the changes are quite subtle, with some elements, such as the classic; almost Tim Burton Batman-esque yellow chest emblem, actually being recycled elements from previous designs of the Bat-Suit.

Keaton Batman: The Finest Batman the Silver Screen Has Yet to Produce.

In some images I’ve run across, it seems apparent that DC was trying to cash in on the recent mega-success of the Arkham Asylum videogame, as both the beefier arm guards/gauntlets, the bulkier and more heavily ornamented utility belt, and the molded seam-lines of the suit seem very similar to the art style of the game.

No, the Joker is not about to suck Batman's cock. Buncha' dirty sickos...

Which reminds me, I simply have to play Arkham Asylum at some point…

The seam-lines I mentioned above are probably the one aspect of the design that I’m on the fence about.

How appropriate that that just happens to be the single most noticeable change from the current status quo.

To me, the best Bat-Suit designs have always been the ones that take advantage of the 2D, pen and paper medium.

Blue Batman = THE SHIT.

In comics, the artist has the ability to manufacture images of characters without having to take into consideration the physical properties of whatever materials their costumes are made of.

Depending on the artist’s sensibilities, or the mood of the story, Batman’s cape and cowl can be rendered as smooth and voluminous as silk, or as heavy and lustrous as leather.

Kind of like Spawn! You're not allowed to ask "why," you just kind of accept it...

In comics, Batman’s costume usually looks best to me when it’s portrayed as a skin-tight presence surrounding the character.

To me, Batman usually looks best when he isn’t so much wearing a Bat-Suit, as he is embodying it.

Jim Lee’s Batman always struck me as a fantastic, if not ludicrously beefy design.

Jim Lee's Batman is so fucking beastly, it should be spelt "Bat-MAAAANNN."

Aside from the utility belt and heavily detailed boots, every element of Lee’s Bat-Suit strike me as essentially being a part of Bruce Wayne’s anatomy.

At the same time though, I have to say I was very impressed with Lee Bermejo’s rendering of the Bat-Suit in Brian Azzarello’s excellent Joker graphic novel.

Not from Joker, but close enough. Did I mention this art is badass?

Essentially at the other end of the spectrum in terms of costume/character design, Bermejo’s extremely realistic renderings resulted in a Bat-Suit of tangible weight and bulk, so much so that it truly seemed like a suit of armor.

Not only that, but Bermejo’s design of Batman’s cape was truly striking, as it appeared leathery and almost obscenely heavy, such that it assisted in portraying the character as being almost inhumanly powerful and omniscent.

I’m rambling.

To sum up, Finch’s design of the Bat-Suit is honestly only a mild departure from the status quo, but it’s amazing how much an impact a few seam-lines can make.

Personally, I find the new design to be, how shall we say; “acceptable,” I wouldn’t be surprised if those seam-lines get the axe somewhere down the road, as honestly I find them to be somewhat distracting.

Much like pie... If anything can stop me in my tracks, it's the sight and/or smell of a delicious pie...

To me, it’s almost as if Finch is trying to straddle the line behind the Christopher Nolan movie’s Bat-Armor design, and the comic’s traditional Bat-Suit, with the end result being a costume that appears almost flight suit-ish.

So what if Batman has brown-guy hands. I'm lazy, so sue me.

While I find the design to be acceptable, I’ll end by saying this:

I’d take Jim Aparo or Jim Lee’s streamlined Bat-Suit over David Finch’s Bat-Flight-Suit any day.

That being said, here’s one more look at it for the road:

Cool enough, but nowhere Bat-MAAAANN levels of MAN-liness.

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Crossovers and Event Comics, Goddamnit…

I am not an event book reader when it comes to comic books.

In most cases, I find them to be sloppily organized, and sometimes harmful to the storylines of the characters involved.

More often than not, I find that crossovers and event comics typically have valuable ideas and story beats to bring to the table, however in most cases the events that take place between these major moments amount to little more than fluff or padding.

All of this, combined with the fact that I don’t consider myself a fan of “team” books, is what keeps me from reading event books.

I find them to be nothing more than bloated, ponderous, fanboy conceived drivel that are more enjoyable to read in bullet-point summary.

Or in the case of Onslaught, better when avoided entirely.

That being said, what experience do I have personally with event comics?

Well, the first crossover I ever read was X-Men: Fatal Attractions.

Okay, Magneto looks fucking retarded on this cover, but I swear it's a good book.

This was a typical 90’s X-family story, wherein the Acolytes are running around being dicks, Magneto has somehow come back from the dead following Fabian Cortez’s betrayal, and now the whole planet is in danger.

Pictured: The Kevin Costner of the X-Men universe.

The story is told from the viewpoint of nearly all of the major X-family factions including the X-Men, X-Factor, X-Force,  and even the England based Excalibur.

Sorry though, no New Mutants, although I don’t know who in their right mind would miss them.

Good God what a juvenile pile of suck...

The whole thing comes to a climax when a small strike force of X-Men attempt to destroy Magneto, resulting in him using his magnetic powers to tear the adamantium from Wolverine’s bones and clear through his skin.

One of my first "Holy fucking shit" moments in comics.

It was perhaps the most dramatic moment in the entire storyline, however it was by no means the only important event to occur throughout.

Colossus’ defection to the Acolytes while mourning the loss of his younger sister Illyana was quite memorable, as was Cable’s hopeless one-on-one struggle against Magneto.

This just seems to be the trend whenever Magneto is forced to take the gloves off...

As a kid, I really liked Fatal Attractions.

The X-Men cartoon and Capcom’s various Marvel arcade games of the time had thrust the X-Men into the forefront of my childhood consciousness, and even if I didn’t “get” all the subtleties of the story, I was just happy to be reading about the X-Men.

Nowadays, as an older, wiser Azn Badger, I bow my head in shame at any thought of the X-Men comics, however I still find myself nostalgically flipping through my collected edition of Fatal Attractions from time to time.

The only other crossovers I own, are the excellent Death and Return of Superman, and the mediocre Batman: War Games.

Oh yeah, and that piece of monkey-crap, X-Men: Messiah Complex.

WORST. COMIC. EVERRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

In general, crossovers always have the potential to be pretty good, but when it comes to combining the writing and art of so many different writers and pencillers, it takes a special kind of chemistry to make it all sync together just right.

Of the 4 crossovers I own, only Fatal Attraction manages to remain fairly consistent in voice and presentation.

Well, except for maybe the guys that drew the Excalibur portion, they sucked something fierce.

Seriously, what the fuck is up with Colossus in this cover?

When everyone comes together just right, and are able to trick you into thinking you’re reading a single cohesive story, written by one person; then you have a crossover that just might be something special.

It doesn’t happen often, but we comic fans are always hopeful.

...Unlike this kid.

Event comics are something that I stayed away from until fairly recently.

My one big gripe with event comics has always been the over-abundance of spin-offs and tie-ins that invariably coincide with their release.

An example of a GOOD spin-off, which was in turn "spun off" from a spin-off.

You know those little captions that pop up in the corner of some panels saying cryptic little nothings like:
“For more info, read Avengers West Coast #47!”

That’s the kind of bullshit that kept me away from event books for most of my life.

My first event book, was a classic of the industry, namely Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet.

A truly great fucking cover.

It was tightly paced, only had 2 illustrators, who thankfully had similar styles; and perhap most important of all:

It was self-contained.

True, there were a handful of supplemental storylines that tied-into the main storyline, but despite this, the entire collected edition, from start to finish, could be read and understood by just about anyone.

I really liked the Infinity Gauntlet, but from most reviews I’ve read, there aren’t that many company event comics that can measure up to it, outside of maybe the grandaddy of all event comics, Secret Wars.

The original Ocean's 11 of comic books.

I own maybe 3 event comics including the Infinity Gauntlet.

The other 2 are Civil War and World War Hulk.

I bought Civil War because of Steve McNiven’s art more than anything else, and World War Hulk was a necessary purchase after I read the story directly preceding it, the truly magnificent Planet Hulk.

Now imagine a whole book of THIS.

While World War Hulk was kind of a let down given that I am not really a “modern” John Romita Jr. fan, (I liked his 90’s style better than his Moai Statue looking people nowadays) and the conclusion of the story reeked of deus ex machina, Civil War was a pleasant surprise.

If anything swayed me a little bit on the possibility of good “modern” event comics, Civil War was it.

While the story is a little bit claustrophobic at times, and the conclusion seems to come rather suddenly, the collected edition of Civil War was largely coherent, and more importantly, enjoyable to read.

Did I mention Steve McNiven was a good artist?

While Mark Millar is hardly on my “good list,” his writing for Civil War was remarkably restrained, and fit the voices of the characters quite well for the most part.

Like I mentioned earlier though, it helps when you have Steven McNiven, one of the best artists in the medium; doing the interiors.

ONCE AGAIN, I'd just like to say that Steven McNiven is a pretty decent artist.

Civil War had a shit-ton of tie-ins, some of which I’ve been told were essential to the experience, particularly the Amazing Spider-Man issues, however I read none of them and still enjoyed myself.

The reason I chose today to gripe about event comics and crossovers, was because of a dilemma I encountered at Olympic Cards and Comics yesterday.

And this would be Azn Badger doing his civic duty by plugging a local business.

I was in the market for a trade paperback, (I don’t buy weekly’s and monthlies anymore) and I had found myself stupefied by a simple, 3-way decision.

I was holding Thunderbolts vol. 3, Moon Knight vol. 3, and Wolverine: Weapon X vol. 1, and even though I wanted the Thunderbolts, I ended up walking away with Moon Knight.

Why did I do this?

Because Thunderbolts vol. 3 just happened to be a tie-in to the 2008 event comic, Secret Invasion.

WORST COMIC EVERRRRRRRRRRRRRR MK. 2

In terms of event comics, Secret Invasion is widely regarded as the definition of “let-down.”

It was hyped for no less than 5 years, and while the changes to the Marvel universe that it brought to the table were indeed significant, the actual panel-to-panel experience amounted to nothing more than “meh.”

On top of that, if you go to your local comic shop, and you look for Secret Invasion of the trade shelf, do you know what you see?

A WHOLE FUCKING ROW OF PAPER THIN PURPLE BOOK SPINES.

Marvel really shat on it’s readers with it’s release of Secret Invasion and it’s ungodly number of tie-in books.

Seriously, by my count there are 26 books under the Secret Invasion label, with 4 of them being of the core storyline, and about 5-6 of them being essential to the experience according to most recommendations.

At $30 for the core book, and like $15 a pop for any of the tie-ins, that’s not asking a lot, that’s just straight punk-garbage-faggotry, man.

...Sure, why not?

Secret Invasion pisses me off because I don’t want to read it on account of it’s shittiness, and yet I feel a strong desire to give in and read it on account of it having stake in just about every storyline since it’s publication.

Either way, I still hate reading really good trades from characters I like and seeing those little fucking yellow captions pop up with their “See Secret Invasion #5!” bullshit.

Fortunately, I always have this as an excuse for not buying over-priced bullshit.

2 years have past, I know what happens during Secret Invasion, and yet I don’t.

Though I loved Thunderbolts 1-2, the interference of Secret Invasion, a bloated book I honestly don’t want to read, is what kept me from pursuing the rest of the series for the time being.

Well, that and the fact that Warren Ellis bowed out of the series as writer after volume 2.

Warren Ellis: Creator of such wonders as the "Bowel Disruptor Gun."

The whole point of this rant is that, I love comic books, but I’m pretty sure I’m always going to be one of those guys that just reads his comics.

I took a gamble with Civil War, and it worked out, but I also took a gamble with Messiah Complex, and now I feel like hitting someone every time I think about it.

Unfortunately, no one was around at the time of writing this...

Event comics are hard for me, because I tend to read comics from the DC/Marvel universes, but I generally stick to the characters that typically aren’t involved in the big events.

Moon Knight was featured in about 1 page of The Infinity Gauntlet.

I guess you could say The Punisher lent a hand in Civil War, and by that I mean he killed a pair of D-list supervillains that nobody cared about.

Just for fun, here's the two of them hangin' out together.

Batman is the FUCKING MAN, but if you thought Marvel’s event comic continuity was impenetrable, then apparently you haven’t looked at DC’s “Crisis” storylines and their multiverse bullshit.

That's nice an' all, but could someone tell me what the heck is going on?

I like my comics, but every now and again, I feel compelled to take a gamble and try and read one of their comics.

When I think about it though, near as I can tell I’m about 1:1 with my “good” and “bad” event book purchases, so I guess the odds of me being pleasantly surprised are actually pretty good.

Here’s hoping to future gambles and pleasant surprises then, I guess.

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Moon Knight, Thank You For Being So Freakin’ Crazy.

Marvel Comic’s Moon Knight is fucking badass.

Until recently, Moon Knight was always just a niche hero to me, a cheesy Batman clone with a cool costume and D-List villains to go with his D-List superpowers.

Moon Knight's gadgets range from a spermicidal bodysuit, to a portable stripper pole.

By the way, his “powers” consist of augmented strength in synch with the phase of the moon.

Oh yeah, and his “powers” don’t work anymore.

And his fighting technique is described as “hurting peoples fists with his face.”

Kind of like these guys.

So why is it that I like Moon Knight anyway?

About a month ago, I read my first Moon Knight story, and I’m kicking myself for having waited so long to do so.

It wasn’t until November 2009, when I saw Jerome Opena’s incredible interior artwork in the current “Vengeance of the Moon Knight” series, that I made the conscious decision to find a nice jumping off point to start reading Moon Knight.

Yeah, it's cheesy, but goddamn I love it!

Hell, I figured that, if the art was that good, Moon Knight had to be doing something right over the years.

My first Moon Knight story came in the form of the Charlie Huston’s 2006 relaunch of the series, “The Bottom.”

“The Bottom” was a violent and gritty character study of Marc Spector AKA Moon Knight.

Marc Spector: The Avenging Hobo.

Let it be known, that when it comes to “violent” and “gritty,” David Finch’s artwork is a perfect match.

Oh yeah, make sure to add “stylish” to that pile of adjectives too, ’cause yeah, Mr. Finch does stylish, and he does it well.

Even when he’s drawing stuff for that pile of ass-fuckery, X-Men: Messiah Complex.

Pictured: Messiah Complex.

Seriously, fuck Messiah Complex.

Fuck it with fire.

And rhinoceros cock.

And a dental dam.

Hmm, sexual....

ANYWAY, “The Bottom” begins with Spector crippled and dispirited due to horrible injuries inflicted on him by his lifelong nemesis, The Bushman.

You see!? THIS is what happens when you give cocaine to Joe Pesci!

The Bushman and Spector were originally partners in crime in a mercenary unit during the Gulf War, (in the original, 1970’s version, they were in Southeast Asia) however due to moral differences, they’ve been at each others throats ever since.

In any case, Bushman throws Moon Knight off a roof, shattering his legs in the process.

No way in hell this guy didn't get paid to take this photo. Douche-Rocket...

Despite this, Moon Knight manages to stay in the fight long enough to, literally, cut Bushman’s face off.

"I want to cut his faaaaaace... Off."

Did I mention that Moon Knight was badass?

It was moments like this that cemented my love and appreciation for Moon Knight.

That and the fact that Moon Knight is perhaps the only “superhero” I’ve ever read, that was completely bat-shit crazy.

I mean, check out his bio:

He’s a former mercenary that hated his father, got shot to shit in the Middle East during the 90’s, then found himself brought back from the dead to serve as the earthly avatar for Khonshu, the Egyptian god of the moon and, apparently, vengeance.

At least that’s what he thinks anyway.

As Moon Knight, Spector is unforgivingly brutal and over-the-top in how he handles criminals.

Trust me, that red shit ain't strawberry jam...

Early on in The Bottom, Spector makes a side-comment regarding his status as a street-level crime fighter, something along the lines of:

“Someone has to do this, someone has to do the fun stuff.”

That sums up Moon Knight pretty well.

He’s the living embodiment of vengeance.

He regards the very concept of it as spiritual, holy.

To him, busting heads and cutting bitches, no matter how inconsequential or petty, is like going to evening mass.

Mr. Ike Turner here knows what I'm talkin' 'bout.

I gotta’ say, it feels sick of me to think it, but I love reading Moon Knight, because deep down I know his moral compass, his concept of justice, are both totally fucking wrong.

Try saying that about your average superhero.

"Superman, you're WRONG! You're... Oh, I can't stay mad at you Christopher Reeve. You handsome devil, you."

In “The Bottom,” Huston cleverly makes use of the fallen (and still faceless) corpse of The Bushman to serve as a representation of Khonshu’s influence on his thinking.

Think it as an homage to the “Jack” character in An American Werewolf in London.

Oh Jack, you were alive what, 10 minutes of the movie?

Spector’s interactions with Khonshu serve as a highlight to the story on many levels.

From them, we learn that Spector is conflicted with his identity as Khonshu’s servant, as well as the fact that Khonshu may or may not be a manifestation of Spector’s own mind.

From what I’ve read, Marc Spector was originally written as having multiple personalities, and in many ways, I feel that Charlie Huston managed to do more by simply alluding to this, than in actually implementing it as a plot point.

In The Bottom, we learn that Spector’s support system, his Alfred Pennyworth and Barbara Gordon, have left him due to his “retirement” and general lack of self-worth.

And if THIS is the only way you know these characters, you can go right ahead and continue to suck cock.

If you don’t know who either of those two characters are, get the fuck off my blog.

Seriously folks, it’s fucking Batman.

If you don’t know FUCKING BATMAN, then congratulations, your life has been a big waste.

Anyway, back to Moon Knight…. Yah, bunch of retards.

For the most part, I was very impressed by Charlie Huston’s handling of the ancillary characters in Moon Knight’s universe.

From his use of them, I felt I got to know them, and their respective histories with Marc Spector, without them ever having to come into play in the main storyline.

By stories’ end of course, Marc Spector again assumes the mantle of the Moon Knight, leading to a confrontation with a stunningly original villain, The Profile, who has the ability to literally “read” people with pinpoint accuracy.

Now THAT, is one sketchy motherfucker. Seriously, he looks like a cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Donnie Brasco. Oh wait, that's Johnny Depp.

Oh yeah, and the always enjoyable Taskmaster also makes an appearance as during the climax of the story in a rare, action-heavy role.

Goddamn, Taskmaster is pimp...

Despite the bombast of the Moon Knight’s return to ass-kicking form, the ending ultimately turns out bittersweet for our hero, as he finds himself still under Khonshu’s thumb, friendless and without even himself to trust.

Unlike THIS GUY. THIS GUY knows EXACTLY what he's doing...

“The Bottom” was a riveting experience that goes all too well with my collection of MAX Punisher and Thunderbolts books.

Violent, and full of questionable morals and stellar artwork to boot, Moon Knight is fucking awesome.

These days I’m reading “Midnight Sun,” the second volume in the 2006 Moon Knight series.

And so far, I’m still loving it.

Charlie Huston drops off as writer after this volume, as does artist David Finch, so I’m not sure the series will retain it’s quality after this point, but even so, I’ll be happy with just the two books regardless.

My “Moon Knight Plan” after reading “The Bottom” was always to read Huston’s work, and then move on to the first arc of the brand new “Vengeance of the Moon Knight,” then maybe give the new Secret Avengers a try.

After all, “Vengeance” apparently deals with the resurrection of The Bushman via the combined efforts of The Profile and The Hood, so I guess by the time I start reading that, I’ll be all caught up anyway.

Yup, it's true, nobody stays dead in comics.

Anyway, enough gushing and comic bullshit, have a good night everyone.

Hopefully we’ll hit 500 hits tomorrow, that’d be a milestone worth celebrating, right?

With that, I leave you with this awesome (and officially published!) Moon Knight cover in which our heroes battles a pair of Luchadores.

In a word: AWESOME.

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