Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Thoughts On The DC Universe Reboot

For those that care to know, DC Comics has recently gone on record stating plans for a massive reboot of all their major titles and characters this fall.

To non-comic fans, this means you can expect to see (or in the case of those that truly don’t give a fuck, not see) a bunch of comics and trades bearing the increasingly common designation of “Issue #1” in the coming months.

The reasoning behind this rather ballsy maneuver by one of comics’ biggest publishing houses, has largely been attributed as an effort to contemporize the characters and origins of the DC universe.

While part of me feels that this could in fact pay-off, and might even prove beneficial to the legacies of some of the more obscure characters of DC (Hawkman, Deadman, Red Tornado, etc.) by giving them extra face time and a new coat of paint; the comic-whore in me can’t help but feel a little thrown by the idea of a universe-wide reboot.

Pictured: When Superman met the 90's... Things could've gone better.

It’s not the fact that I’m a continuity whore or anything either.

I grew in an era when most people considered themselves either “DC Kids” or “Marvel Kids,” and with the exception of Batman and Superman; (mostly Batman…) I was very much a “Marvel Kid.”

What can I say, Marvel's always been good at aiming low...

In the past decade or so, my undying allegiance to The House of Ideas (AKA Marvel, dumbass…) has loosened up, or rather; my appreciation for DC has grown, but even so, I’ve never really found a good way to get my feet wet when it comes to the labyrinthian mess that is DC universe continuity.

I think it’s the Multiverse aspect of DC that has always scared me off when it comes to DC crossovers.

Though I have to admit, this is pretty fuckin' awesome.

Sure, you could argue that Marvel has a Multiverse as well, (one that I don’t really pay attention to aside from the MAX imprint) but the difference between the 2 is that DC merges their universes from time to time, while Marvel usually keeps theirs separate.

Keeping track of hundreds of characters in a single universe is one thing, but when you put together a host of stories I.E. the Crisis series; that draw into focus numerous iterations of said characters across multiple universes, I’m sorry, my feeble mind just can’t handle it.

For this reason, along with the occasional poor review or 2, I haven’t read any of the Crisis stories, nor do I think I’ll ever care enough to do so.

Case in point: Superboy Prime.

The point I’ve been trying to make with all of this bullshit, is the fact that when it comes to DC; I don’t really have that much of an investment in the history of it’s characters… Aside from Batman, Superman, and maybe Green Lantern.

Call me crazy, but I kind of liked it when Hal Jordan went nuts and killed off the Corps.

Could've done without the creepy pedo-face though...

Anyway, the first thing that came to mind when I heard DC was going to be dumping a fatty diarrhea of reboot juice into their books, was Marvel’s Ultimate series.

I haven’t read any of the Ultimate line, largely because, unlike in the case of DC, I’m very comfortable with Marvel’s continuity, past and present.

From what I’ve read, the basic mission statement for the Ultimate line was along the lines of:

“Purge all the non-essential/less popular characters, make the characters more contemporary, make use of big-name writers and artists, make it accessible for non-comic readers/people that like the Marvel movies.”

To reiterate: Marvel, not afraid to whore themselves out to the kids.

That’s basically what I’m thinking DC is trying to do with their reboot.

The really goofy thing about this whole reboot thing, is the timing of it.

Superman: Secret Origin wrapped not that long ago, the ink on Superman: Earth One (not be confused with “Earth-1“) has yet to dry, and Batman: Earth One is likely to follow in the coming months.

Even Wonder Woman was recently revamped from the ground up.

Oh God! It's the 90's all over again!!!

When I think about it, it seems like DC’s been teasing a reboot for awhile now, but it’s only just now they’ve built up the courage to go ahead and do it to their entire line, and not just their A-list characters.

Deep down, I know that DC has some serious housekeeping to do with their characters and storylines, as would any other book line published over 70+ years; but starting from scratch is not something I like to consider.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m fine with comics simply ignoring or retconning the less important or relevant moments in their continuity.

As a fairly seasoned comic fan, I don’t think a reboot is all that necessary; but if it breathes new life in the industry, and grabs new fans that otherwise wouldn’t have given a shit, then more power to ’em.

In any case, here’s hoping DC’s gamble pays off.

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Shadowland Review

Maximum Carnage.

That oft derided blood soaked comic book story arc of the early 90’s was what ultimately came to mind as I was reading through Marvel’s Shadowland.

Fortunately, I happen to be of the rare breed that, despite it’s flawed storytelling and absurd length; actually kind of liked Maximum Carnage.

Make no mistake though, Shadowland is by no means a well-liked crossover by most comic fan standards.

At least it's not universally hated like Onslaught... Onslaught sucked balls.

Written by Daredevil author Andy Diggle, and pencilled by former X-23 artist Billy Tan; Shadowland takes us into the dark territory it’s title suggest in the form of casting prolific crime-fighter and man without fear, Daredevil; as it’s central villain.

While this controversial storytelling decision has perturbed many a Daredevil fan since it’s publication, thankfully there is indeed a logical, though somewhat hokey explanation as to why Matt Murdock would suddenly turn heel overnight.

 

I don't know about you, but bad chili always puts me in a foul mood...

Leading up to the events of Shadowland, one of the Daredevil’s arch-nemeses, Bullseye; blew up a city block in Hell’s Kitchen, effectively creating a gigantic smoldering symbol of the hero’s personal failings smack dab in the middle of his backyard.

Having recently been offered the position as head of The Hand, a Japanese cult of ninjas and longtime opponent of Daredevil and Elektra; Daredevil ends up accepting the offer, in hopes of wielding the forces of The Hand to better protect the citizens of New York.

This leads to the purchase of the plot of land that was destroyed by Bullseye, and the erection of a huge Japanese fortress in it’s place; a territory that Daredevil dubs “Shadowland.”

Unfortunately, poor Matt Murdock didn’t count on being possessed by The Beast, a demon under the control of a splinter group within The Hand known as Snakeroot.

Said possession causes Daredevil to lose control of himself and his army, resulting in The Beast using him as a vessel to infect the citizens of New York with feelings of hatred and violence.

While many of the heroes of the Marvel universe tolerate Murdock’s actions, grudgingly; it isn’t until he does the unthinkable, and kills Bullseye; that his close friends begin to suspect that the devil of Hell’s Kitchen might be losing his marbles.

Thus sets the stage for a series of pitched battles between Daredevil and those that care most about him.

I assure it doesn't turn out like this, however it would be kinda' cool if it did...

A “mini-event” staged in the wake of Marvel’s most recent event comic proper, Siege; Shadowland represents the rather rare crossover event wherein the core players consist almost exclusively of  “street level” superheroes.

That is to say, despite a suitably epic storyline involving demonic possession and a mass riot across the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan, the majority of the superheroes involved consist of low-powered, or in many cases; unpowered, individuals such as Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, and The Punisher.

Unlike many event comics, that raise the stakes to cosmic levels and beyond, a strong part of the appeal of Shadowland; at least for me anyway, is the fact that the story remains grounded in Daredevil’s niche in the Marvel universe, that of New York city.

While many of the heroes, such as Cage and Iron Fist; are personal friends of Daredevil, ultimately the one thing tying everyone together in the story is that they all share New York as their field of operations.

Early on in Shadowland we’re shown an overhead splash of the city, with several embedded panels serving to show us many of the New York-based Marvel superheroes as they all glare at Daredevil’s newly erected eyesore of a fortress and ponder on what to do of it.

Pictured: The splash in question.

It’s moments like this that serve to unify the cast of Shadowland in a much more satisfying manner than many other event comics.

With the exception of Ghost Rider and Moon Knight, (and a truly random Wolverine) both of whom have close to nothing to do within the context of the 5 core Shadowland issues, the vast majority of the cast feel appropriately cast.

That being said, what of the actual story?

Well, to be perfectly honest, Shadowland is one of those crossovers that seems to demand an unreasonable level of commitment from it’s readers, such that it feels like many important story beats are found only in tie-in issues.

That being said, questions arise every now and again when one is reading Shadowland, usually pertaining to where certain characters went, or how they knew some of the things they did.

 

...Or in the case of Elektra: "How are you still alive?"

In that sense, the storytelling and plot progression of Shadowland can feel fractured and abbreviated, however in my opinion this does not hurt it’s overall enjoyability.

Put it this way:

Shadowland is not a suspenseful story.

From it’s first pages, the “mystery” of Daredevil’s bloodthirsty nature are laid out for us crystal clear.

While the (surprisingly good) ending serves to shake things up a bit, there’s close to zero character development in Shadowland.

From the moment Bullseye gets shanked, we know exactly who our villains are, making for a story that does most what little “telling” it needs to as fists are flying and blood is spilt.

The real meat of Shadowland is in establishing Daredevil as a character poised to take a fall, and then watching as his closest friends band together to set him straight, not through superpowered might, or even magical exorcism; but through heart… and a shit ton of kung fu.

Martial arts have a way of making any story just that much better.

While it sounds corny, Shadowland is essentially the comic book equivalent of an intervention.

Hal Jordan fell prey to Parallax, Jean Grey turned into Dark Phoenix, every now and again one our most beloved superheroes finds themselves under the control of some malevolent force, ultimately resulting in their friends banding together (unsuccessfully) to stop them, only for them to choose redemption through the only means most superheroes seem to know:

Altruisticly Superpowered Suicide, better known as A.S.S.

Sorry, couldn’t resist…

Despite the frequently used storytelling formula listed above, one should note that I never said that’s how Shadowland ends.

I’m not a fan of spoilers, so I’ll let you read the story yourself to find out just what happens.

*Spoiler Alert!* The Death Star blows up at the end!

Anyway, it’s a safe bet to say that Shadowland represents a story that has been recycled in the world of comics more than a few times already, however the new coat of paint it throws into the mix, in the form of it’s cast and setting, make for a fun experience for those who, like myself; are somewhat invested in things from the get go.

In other words, Shadowland is hardly a jumping on point for those who don’t read any of the characters involved in the core storyline, but for those that frequently read tales from the streets of Marvel New York; it’s hard not to have fun with Shadowland.

...I mentioned there was fighting, right?

Coming into Shadowland, I honestly didn’t know what to expect from artist Billy Tan.

Normally, I am keen on looking up the work of artists for comics I’m about purchase, largely because I put a great deal of stock in an artist’s abilities when it comes to gauging my overall enjoyment of a book.

Most reviews I read of Shadowland prior to purchasing it were mostly negative, however nearly all of them made mention of the art being “typically outstanding” in reference to Tan’s body of work.

Don’t ask me why, but for some reason I came into Shadowland wanting to be surprised by something, given that most of the story can be spoiled by reading even the most vague of reviews.

Anyway, I was indeed surprised by Billy Tan’s art in Shadowland, but more importantly; I was impressed.

Impressive... Most impressive...

Like many of my favorite comic artists, Tan excels at drawing his characters with somewhat more realistically proportioned bodies.

Many of his figures appear lithe and flexible, which is a very important factor to consider when dealing with a cast of characters consisting largely of martial artists and acrobats.

Speaking of which, while his face work can seem a little off at times, Tan displays a penchant for illustrating figures in motion.

There are moments in Shadowland, particularly in the battle with Bullseye; where the action of the panels felt more like viewing an animation than reading a comic.

For your viewing pleasure, a full page of awesome.

Needless to say, Billy Tan’s artwork and easily deciphered layouts in Shadowland meet my approval, and quite handily at that.

I won’t be reading X-23 anytime soon, out of my general disdain for the character; but nevertheless, I look forward to more Tan projects in the near future.

Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got to say about Shadowland.

As mentioned earlier, it seems like Marvel expects us to read a lot of the tie-ins in order to get the whole story, but I myself can’t justify such an investment.

I will however be picking up the Moon Knight tie-in, as it genuinely looked pretty good to me, and besides; Moon Knight’s my boy.

Other than that though, I’m mostly happy with what I got from Shadowland on it’s own.

Hope this was helpful to some of you, thanks for reading!

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