Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

The Return Of The Dark Avengers

(Image courtesy IGN.com)

Awhile back I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to compose a guest review for a comic over at the excellent review blog, Collected Editions.

As a frequent reader there, I was aware that the chief writer there covered DC comics almost exclusively, however I myself was told that I would have free reign in choosing which comic I’d like to review, regardless of the publisher.

That being said, of all the comics I had read recently; I chose to review the first trade of the flagship title under Marvel’s Dark Reign banner, The Dark Avengers.

The Dark Avengers doing their best "SUCK MY DICK" poses.

Brian Michael Bendis has never been my favorite writer, but his trademark colorful dialogue, combined with a strong cast and Mike Deodato’s always stellar pencil work, made for an irresistible combination in my book.

For whatever reason, the idea of a superhero team composed of known supervillains has always “done it” for me.

Perhaps it also has something to do with the brilliance of writers like Gail Simone and Warren Ellis, but for what it’s worth; Secret Six and Thunderbolts have consistently been 2 of my favorite books over the past half decade.

Pictured: One of many reasons Secret Six deserves your money.

Anyway, as tends to happen with books that emerge from high-profile events, Dark Avengers came to an unfortunate end when the status quo was once again shifted following the events of Siege.

Norman Osborn, the team’s leader; was shipped off to prison.

The Sentry was (supposedly) destroyed.

Daken escaped to his own self-titled book.

And the rest of the team was either imprisoned, killed, or booted onto the Thunderbolts.

While I knew Dark Avengers wouldn’t last long, given the impermanent nature of Dark Reign; it nevertheless saddened me to see it go.

Thankfully, nothing ever stays dead for long in comics; and this coming November we’ll all be treated to a revival of Dark Avengers.

As happy as this makes me, perhaps the most important part about this is the fact that both Bendis and Deodato are supposedly returning to the book which, ideally; will result in a similar standard of quality.

Anyway, nothing else has really been announced about Dark Avengers at this point, other than the fact that Norman Osborn will once again be leading it.

Though somehow I doubt Deodato will be using Tommy Lee Jones as a reference again.

While my comic plate is, as always; very much full at the moment, I look forward to getting a chance to read a new Dark Avengers trade, which given the nature of Marvel’s release dates, won’t be until well into 2012.

If you think it’s silly to be anticipating a comic release about 6-8 months ahead of time, think about all the people that have been losing their shit over The Dark Knight Rises ever since 5 minutes after The Dark Knight hit theaters.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

After all, I’m one of them.

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Venom’s New Look

I’ve always liked Venom.

While many comic fans dismiss Venom as a gimmicky, over-exposed, and somewhat one-dimensional element of Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery; I for one have always enjoyed reading him.

Maybe it’s the 90’s comic fan in me, but the savage, hulk-ed out, part-time anti-hero aspects of Venom’s character have always appealed to me.

I found the original Eddie Brock version of the character to be a menacing and effective counterpoint to the typically colorful antics of most Spider-Man stories.

When Mac Gargan (The Scorpion) took over as the new Venom, I found myself impressed by the pathetic and almost pitiable aspects of the character that was seemingly at the mercy of the symbiote.

Despite the ridiculous amount of hosts that the Venom symbiote has occupied over the years, one thing that I’ve found myself looking forward to with each new iteration, was the artistic design of the character.

The original Todd McFarlane take on the character, is ironically one of my least favorite.

Pictured: Venom showing us his pedo-face.

The bulk of the character’s build was a good design choice, given the more direct and less finesse oriented nature of Eddie Brock compared to Spider-Man at the time; but the teeth and lack of tongue action were something that the character would benefit from immensely in the coming years.

Also, I know it’s nit-picky of me to say; but the small patches of white on top of Venom’s palms were an addition to later iterations of the character that made a huge difference.

Jus’ sayin’ is all…

Anyway, as time moved on, Venom’s appearance became even bulkier, more toned, while his face became considerably more vicious and animalistic in nature.

Also, his coloration became akin to the Batman comics of old, wherein the blue highlights started to take center stage.

Pictured: The Venom I grew up with.

While I preferred the black Venom, I have to admit that the blue did a lot to improve the detail of the character from panel to panel, making his appearance far more dynamic than before.

When the host for Venom changed over to Mac Gargan, we found ourselves faced with a brand new design for the character for a new age of comics.

Pictured: Venom, as brought to you by the UFC.

Bearing a much larger “spider” symbol on his chest, as well as a color scheme that would switch from purple, to black, to even green at times; the Mac Gargan Venom proved to be one of my favorite takes on the character.

With a persona that could be described as “brutish” in nature I.E. dumb and violent, Gargan’s Venom (as well as the Ultimate version) allowed for the artist’s to go wild, often times drawing the character as more alien than anything else.

Not only that, but many writers also found ways to take Gargan’s menacing appearance, and child-like intelligence; and create some truly funny moments for the character.

While not exactly "funny," watching Venom put on a guard's helmet after eating him was just plain silly. I loved it.

It’s this versatility, at least from a design standpoint; that makes Venom so much fun for me.

The Venom symbiote itself has such a wide array of capabilities, that it really just becomes a matter of the writer and artist picking which traits and abilities they find most interesting and running with it.

Depending on the team involved, Venom can be anywhere from 6 to 15 feet tall, can change shape and bulk at will, can shapeshift to some degree, can be colored anywhere from purple to green, and can even exhibit cannibalistic tendencies.

Pictured: One of my favorite moments in Warren Ellis' Thunderbolts.

It all depends on who’s at the helm in the design department.

Which brings me to the point of this post:

While Venom has been rather quiet in the comics these days, I happened upon this article at IGN the other day that made mention of the character’s future.

The story details are still hush hush at the moment, but Marvel was kind enough to release this image of the new look for Venom:

Apparently the story has the Venom symbiote being worn by a new host, for the purpose of black ops missions.

While the government agent angle honestly doesn’t really peak my interest all that much, I must admit; the Venom symbiote is a pretty good tool for military/black ops missions.

Remember the shapeshifting I mentioned?

Well, I’d imagine that, along with the inherent superhuman capabilities of the symbiote; would be quite useful for infiltration or assassinations.

The story arc (beginning in a brand new Venom comic) is going to be written by Rick Remender, and pencilled by Tony Moore; so I expect nothing but good.

That being said, here is impression of Tony Moore’s design for the new Venom:

In keeping with the black ops angle of the story, Moore’s design is subtle and devoid of flash.

Looking very much like the ultra-modern tactical armor that seems to be so popular with the kids these days, the overall package is that of a more streamlined and “practical” Venom.

All the key elements of Venom’s previous designs are retained, with the only significant difference being a lack of a mouth, (suggesting a more internalized, if not level-headed character for the new host) and highlighted outlines for the eye area instead of filled in blotches of white.

Overall, the design is simple and unassuming, making it solid; and very difficult to hate.

I do find it interesting however, that despite the superpowers the Venom symbiote imbues it’s host with; whoever the character is that is going to be wearing it in this story arc seems to have little confidence in it’s capabilities, as he is very clearly still wearing plate armor on portions of his body.

Based on the slim figure of the character, as well as the Venom symbiote’s recently more aggressive demeanor; I’m guessing that the inhibitor that was used to force Mac Gargan’s Venom to appear more Spider-Man-like during Dark Reign is still being used on this version of the character.

Pictured: Dark Reign Venom. Yes, I do have a thing for Mike Deodato...

It’s just a guess, but if I’m right; that could probably serve as a plot device that weakens the symbiote, or specializes it’s capabilities somehow.

In any case, those are my thoughts.

The design is solid, if unexciting; a combination of traits that I hope won’t be used to describe the upcoming comic it’s being used in.

 

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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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