Oh No, Can It Be? We’re Heading for a Heatwave

My listening has been really passive and boring–oddly, close to the listening I did years ago, which I’ve been wanting to get back to. A shuffle of 5 or so albums in the car (a burnt copy of No Coast which includes my digital copies of the Forgetters 2×7″ and J.
Robbins’s Abandoned Mansions acoustic EPThe Wombats Present…This Modern GlitchWhile a Nation Sleeps, etc) and at home just the set-it-and-forget-it approach to my digital collection (a few hours of chronological Fall, Cure, Smiths thanks to an issue of Secret Avengers (pictured right!).

I’d like to talk about music, but continue to feel as if I’m just continuously attempting to catch myself up on comics. I had to stop where I was reading (while listening to XTC straight through, incidentally–still in the White Music and Go 2 era stuff right now) and comment on Yost’s New Warriors. I never found any interest in the original–it wasn’t the eye-rolling 90’s glut of dark ‘n’ gritty, but it definitely carried (I thought¹) the feeling of forced new heroes with questionable depth (Hey! Another mutant! Who has fire powers! Because we haven’t done that…repeatedly…). It wasn’t fair (and it still isn’t!) but I never read the book as a result. I accepted the characters readily but I felt most of them weren’t going to last (in many cases, I was right).

This leaves the new book in an awkward place. I picked it up because it continues the Scarlet Spider², whose solo book Yost also wrote, and maybe someone else will pick it up for Sam, the new Nova, or what have you. But commentary and reviews are not encouraging–we have angered old-New Warriors fans³, and lame reviews (lookin’ at you, CBR).

After finishing issue 5, I was so amused by the dynamics and the approach to the book–it’s fun, but with post-Penance Robbie and Kaine here, there’s no shortage of undercurrents–that I had to say something. I was hoping others would find the book’s quality, as I got that feeling of dread–the suspicion that the book may not last. The comments around are NOT encouraging.

So, if anyone stumbles into this post: read the new New Warriors book! Give it a chance! Please!

It’s modern story-telling, so it’s not chock full of exposition to explain everything⁴, but Yost does the best thing that can be done with this style: characters are serendipitously engaged with each other, but not unreasonably so, and immediately begin grating or gelling, and developing interplay and dynamics. We get some emotional shorthand for all that lost exposition to explain why every character is who they are, and nudges to tell us there’s more going on if it’s going to be an ongoing mystery or development. I know modern Kaine pretty well, having read most of his solo book, and I read Civil War so I know something of what’s in Speedball’s history, but almost everyone else is a complete mystery to me–at best, I knew some of them existed. But I’m already getting a good feel for them, and that includes a nicely realized idea of who they are, with no prior knowledge.

The humour, the darkness, they’re contrasted appropriately–not a meted balance, but a properly paced one. It’s a fun book that doesn’t ignore the stained history of the New Warriors name (in-universe), but doesn’t linger on it, either. Stakes are high at start, giving everyone reason to gather (largely unintentionally), and reason to join together, though it remains tentative at best for now.

Give it a go–drop preconceptions and just run with it.

¹I’m continually surprised to find out how old the character of Richard Rider (Nova) is. And Speedball was no real-world spring chicken, either.

²To clarify, if you’re out of the loop, this is the Kaine Scarlet Spider, not the Ben Reilly one. Kaine, of course, used to look like this and murder people, like Doc Ock (made for a fun Superior Spider-Man story…). His power set is slightly shifted (no Spider-Sense, more strength, “stingers” in his wrists, that kind of thing) and his attitude is shittier. Cold, acerbic, self-loathing. Good times!

³Has any Marvel team ever been truly stable? Even the fucking Fantastic Four haven’t been able to retain all four members, having traded Ben for She-Hulk in the 80s, to start with. The Avengers–good lord, just TRY to find a definitive core team. Ain’t happening. And now, like the X-Men, they’ve split into 37 splinter versions, so don’t even. In other words: get over it, New Warriors fans.

⁴This irritates me to no end. Yes, you can do it badly, and you can do it not-as-badly, but the point is to allow people to jump in and not be confused out of their minds. There’s a lot of history to pretty much any given Marvel character. This would be easier to follow for people who were given some notes as they read. We don’t even get many editor’s notes anymore 😐

I’ve Been a Straight-Up Ghost, Since You Wrote Me Off

WP_20140711_001lblSo, the packages I was awaiting arrived! With numerous additional items that also happened to arrive! Sort of.

I knew that three of them were coming (Aquaman, GJBR order, and Mile High order) while the Forgetters EP was a total mystery (I received no communication from the seller after paying) and Tar Man was pretty much an unknown (though I am 99% sure I know who’s responsible).

That said: Mile High fucked up, but, as the image suggests, I won’t go into detail. Suffice it to say, they have some issues with listing for two admittedly confusing volumes of a book. And, of course: I pre-ordered a Maxx (with hat and coat!) that was to come with a Mr. Gone. I’ve not received The Maxx yet (awkward; Mr. Gone was a nice bonus, but the figure is iffy enough that this isn’t at all ideal), nor any notice, and I didn’t get a response to the one e-mail I sent them, either.

Oh well.

#12 there was not damaged, but that board is never gonna be flat. Well. Maybe it will. I switched it out for another book to keep my bag/board size consistent for Aquaman, and then stacked it in with some others. Maybe the weight will do the trick. Maybe not.

I labeled the Firestorm books for fun. I’ve yet to bag, board, or even read any of them. At this point, I’m effectively waiting for a more complete run, since I’m pretty darned close. And I buy bags and boards by the 100 anyway, so…

Alongside this, I ended up going out and picking up more “curiosity” books: some of the “Agent” run of Venom (mostly the latter half), some of the post-Thor (Sif-oriented) Journey into Mystery (all of it, actually, except #646 and #647 that started the run), and, somewhat curiously, FF 1-15 (minus 12).

Michael Allred’s work was intriguing with Madman, though I’ve never read it–but put me off X-Statix (nevermind the title…). I don’t know what it was about FF (maybe the characters involved?) but it caught my eye and I accumulated most of its 16 issue run yesterday pretty easily. That said, I’ve sped through the first six or seven issues and I have aFF1Allred feeling of dread. I really don’t want this book to end. I like everything about it–Fraction’s humour is on-point without being overbearing or making it a pure comedy book, and his pathos and angst and drama are all fun. His skewering of expected nuclear families doesn’t come off as preachy, so much as the kind of accepting that such things should be. And Allred’s work is just perfect for this tone–it’s weird and pop-art-y, but it doesn’t distract or detract, as it works for the humour and for the darkness of Scott Lang’s story (and dear lord help me, Scott Lang is a really cool character). It’s straightforward but complex, plot-y, but also character-y, funny, but serious–all the right kinds of contradictions, basically.

It’s a miserable shame it only lasts 16 issues. I guess maybe it’s the “right” length, I don’t know–Avengers Arena was 18, and I finished it yesterday quite satisfied.

But, you should definitely pick up FF if you get the chance. It’s pretty unmistakable, after all. And fuck those Amazon reviews.

Boxes That You’re Watching Day and Night

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I’m at that interesting point in the day. I want to go snatch up the issues of the original Ambush Bug series I saw at one shop, and I want to get issues 10 and 12 of Avengers Arena to finish the series (I devoured 1-9 last night, see cover of #1 above). But I have 2-3 packages (confirmed: 3) arriving today, too. And some stuff arriving at that second shop. So it’s all timing, but I can’t actually time that timing. I can’t know when things will arrive here–which means mostly sitting around and waiting all day and hoping I don’t either miss the doorbell or have a carrier who decides it’s not even worth bothering. It’s normally 3pm or later, so I could leave now, but that second shop gets their deliveries more like 1-2pm.

I’ve got issues of X-Men to read (I’m finally reading the un-adjectived book from the beginning and up to issue 5 or so), and games to play obviously, but I just want these things out of the way so that I can get on with the rest.

Since Aquaman #4 came in yesterday (it’s Peter David’s, c’mon) I could even start picking those up today to read while waiting.

Arena is a mess for people who read Avengers Academy and Runaways it seems. I’m cool with the ideas in both, but didn’t read either, though Hopeless’s writing is already drawing me to all the characters, so I don’t think it’s actually too important to have read them.

X-Men is better than I’d gritted my teeth and squinted for–a lot better. I think people were good with Claremont’s adieu, but the follow-ups are a mish-mash of writers. They’re the books I retain from earliest in my life, though (coverless and beat to hell, but present!) in their random presence (#2 and #5, I had I think?). There’s something straddling nostalgia and the nostalgic feeling of wandering into the middle of something–as well as filling gaps and re-reading with more knowledge–that makes these really fun to read. Knowing more about Mojo and Omega Red and Maverick, and being able to actually read better (and comprehend significantly better) makes for an interesting experience.

In other news, I’m really digging on “Bang”, the single Braid gave as an immediate download for pre-ordering their new album. Which isn’t a surprise I guess–but it means Frame and Canvas  is definitely “queued” for my going-out-today music. Probably inspired by that article about “90s punk” on the AV Club yesterday that was like reading a laundry list of everything I’ve been into musically of late, with the comments filling in whatever gaps might’ve been left behind, as everyone interpreted the term very broadly (including multiple waves of emo, post-punk, post-hardcore, hardcore, metalcore…).

Ah, well.

Back to figuring out how to hedge my temporal bets.

Well, That Was a Break.

Apparently I haven’t touched this thing in a month. Based on the date of the last entry, I think I know exactly why.

Ho-hum.

I’ve been back into comics in a horrible/awesome way lately, and I’ve been reading Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Captain Marvel (the seventh volume to hold that title with Marvel!) at the behest of a friend who was curious about my opinion of the book. Commenting on some elements seems like a minefield, of course¹, but mostly the book is on the stronger end of comics I’ve read. Then again, maybe that’s because the other one I’ve been reading is Fingeroth’s original Darkhawk run, which has the clumsy, exposition-heavy writing of the mid-period mainstream book: it’s for kids, but not, but is, but not. There’s a reach for plain good writing, with a lot of concessions to trying to draw in new readers or slow readers. I kinda like this phase, though it’s clunky as all hell. I think it’s bolstered largely by the art, which is straightforward (my favourite kind!) and not flashy, but very much does what it should. The first 25-ish issues are by Mike Manley, whose name does not jump out immediately.

The artists associated with Captain Marvel, on the other hand, are the revolving door of weirdness that marks a lot of modern books. Quirky, emphatically stylistic art really came to the fore in the late 90s from what I’ve seen (in D.C./Marvel books) with the increasingly rubbery Madureira and Chris Bachalo (who eventually started to draw practically chibi Generation X, I’ve discovered–enough that I thought the first cover I saw was a variant or something, not the intended “core” art…). Emma Rios draws one issue of CM and her style is not entirely dissimilar from later semi-regular Filipe Andrade. Both are weird, somewhere in the realms of Æon Flux-type distortion of the human form, which has the inevitable warring on the mail page. Now, I love Sam Kieth and I hate Humberto Ramos, so I don’t actually have a firm stance on “nearly abstract” comic art. And I think Rios and Andrade kinda embody that straddling. The inking and colouring push them more toward the wildly arty Kieth end of things (where Ramos’s work, in my experience, is inked and coloured as if his shitty proportions are normal comic book art–I think this, particularly, is a terrible idea) so they tend to work. But it feels like a weird (and bad) decision for a fledgling superhero book. Though maybe I’m projecting–Danvers had her intersection with the X-Men, but has largely been an Avengers-end character so far as I’ve ever known (I guess. We have the Rogue thing, but also the whole Binary thing that happened in X-Men–which I actually read–and I guess [I just checked, I was wrong] Warbird is X-Men…?²

Anyway, it’s distracting is my point, I guess. It feels like a modern Image book (how weird that those are kind of like the Vertigo of comics now, considering how they started…), which isn’t bad, but does seem…inappropriate. I dunno.

I’m going to go finish up v7 (reset for Marvel Now! Of course!), particularly the Enemy Within crossover that I discovered part way through reading all of it (to get the whole story, you need Avengers: The Enemy Within #1, and Avengers Assemble #16 and #17). Then go sort more of the rest of it.

¹Put simply, it’s disorienting how completely (that’s not literal, but it’s a very high percentage) female the cast is. Which I guess, blah, blah, “Now you know how it feels,” but that seems less…useful. But this goes in about fifty different directions at once after that (the alternative is a plain balanced cast, which might not stand out as much; why should Deconnick or a male writer aiming this way be the one to be balanced [ie, take the full-on high ground, a lonely, difficult place, mostly because it’s not obvious thanks to its not-so-polemic nature]; maybe this is more indicative of the gender balance of a woman, which I’m not so this seems weird to me and normal to women [rather than emphatically, disproportionately female]). I do just mean that, largely, it seems if a bit player is introduced, or most “actual” team-ups or whatever–another female. But then, we’re talking friends/associates of a female superhero. Maybe they would be more female. Basically, all of this is rumination and should be taken in no way as criticism or what have you. Just commenting on the visceral response. I don’t want to “unpack” or whatever.

²I’m going to assign credit for this faux pas to Deathbird, who is a villain in this very volume/comic. Shi’ar and all that. And apparently there are Shi’ar Warbirds, so fuck this.