Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thor: God of Thunder #1

Thor: God of Thunder #1
Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic, Dean White

(Once again, Tucker already covered this over at Comics of the Weak, so check that out too.)

Ever since Matt Fraction's four excellent Thor one-shots (the ones that preceded his just-ok run on the Thor series), I've come to realize that the Thor for me is the hard-partying asshole Thor, the fun and brash Thor that knew nothing of responsibility or humility, so it stands to reason that I am onboard with this Marvel NOW! relaunch as Jason Aaron seems to be of the same opinion.  The story looks to follow Thor in his irresponsible, Giant-killing past, his heroic present, and his grisly, last god standing future.

We start in the past where Thor parties hard after killing a giant in iceland (duh).  All that hard partying gets interrupted when Thor's buddies find the body of a dead American god washing up on the river.  Thor does some boasting, tells some kid to build a funeral pyre (to show that he's not a complete piece of shit), then tells his bros to stop worrying because there's still SO MUCH more ale and women to be had at the party mansion.

And what do we get as a result of Thor choosing partying over solving a murder mystery?  An unchecked secret THOUSANDS OF YEARS OLD.  Anyway, the same mystery bad guy has been up to his same deal of butchering* gods all over the universe, and our new, more responsible (but not too much-- dude canNOT turn down a swig of victory ale or a chance to talk about all the other times he won a battle and consequently swigged victory ale and fucked victory wenches) Thor has to deal with the consequences of being drunk for 1,000ish years.  Oh, but don't worry, we're not done yet, because right as Thor figures out that this could've all been prevented with a quick investigation and a 12-step program 1,000ish years ago, we jump a few thousand years ahead to see a future where a one-armed, one-eyed Thor is surrounded by the hench-demons of this yet-to-be-revealed God Butcher.  I'm hoping that present-day heroic Thor got a case of the "Fuckit, This-is-hards" and decided to put off trying to find our bad guy for another couple thousand of years.

So that's what we get here, a cosmic mystery for the ages.  Sure, that's fine, but what really sells this book is how it refuses to apologize for how much fun its having.  Jason Aaron's script is silly and clunky, but it's so confident it's hard not to make all sorts of pleased grunts while you're reading.  Esad Ribic and Dean White are great at letting you know what to look at and who to care about.  The backgrounds and landscapes are vast and exciting, the characters of note are muscular he-men, and the characters of, uh, not-so-much note are a bunch of sniveling weaklings who need a hero.  It's a pretty book that's never embarrassed of itself and that goes pretty far for me when it comes to superhero books these days.  I like it so far, and as long as we get some more Thor victory parties, I'm into it.

*a fun idea for a Thor drinking game is to drink every time someone says "butcher" or "butchered."  It happens a lot, and I'm still not sure if this is due to editor's oversight or if this is a deliberate device.  Either way I'm cool with it.  Also, I'm drunk.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

All-New X-Men #1

All-New X-Men #1
Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Marte Gracia

Comics of the Weak already did a nice little bit of writing on this one, so I'm just gonna throw some thoughts at you on this one:

Cyclops has gotten pretty cool in the last, I dunno, five-ish years?  It's been a pretty long road from perpetual stick-in-the-mud-and-cuckold-waiting-to-happen to committing mind-adultery and becoming a radical mutant zionist, and now he's rolling with a group of reformed supervillains in what any ordinary human in the Marvel Universe would have difficulty thinking of as a terrorist group.  But I guess we know better since we're on the other side of the comic book.  "Mutant terrorist methods" becomes the much more sexy and easy "righteous guerilla tactics" when we have the benefit of knowing that Cyclops actually is doing this for good.  Or maybe we don't.  Maybe I just want to believe in Cyclops. I don't know, either way Cyclops on the run, helping new mutants, fighting for what he believes in, hunted by humans and X-Men alike, it makes him really cool in that Green Ranger action figure sort of way.

It looks like the other side of the equation in this book comes with Cyclops's buddy Hank McCoy, the Beast, trying to get Cyclops, a man who was recently possessed by a near-omnipotent power, to, you know, just CHILL OUT for two seconds.  Things don't look so good for Hank, seeing as how he may be experiencing another mutation that may or may not be slowly killing him, AND that he's gotten desperate enough to travel back in time to recruit the original teenage X-Men to try to talk down Cyclops and his Brotherhood of Guerilla Mutants.

Let's just think about how crazy the conceit of this series is for a bit.  The Beast goes back in time to get the teenage versions of himself and his friends to come back to the present with him so that they could talk their buddy down from some really reckless shit. I just don't think I'd listen to a teenage version of myself trying to give me advice about anything.  I'm a few years out of my teenage life, and I don't think I've ever looked back except to think about how stupid I used to be when I was a teenager.  Sorry teen-me, you wore bad clothes, listened to dumb music for the wrong reasons, and never even TRIED to have sex with anyone, so why would I trust you on ANYTHING?  You, like, JUST learned how to drive.  I'd think the same might go more than double for Cyclops, a dude who spent his teens obeying orders and pining over a total of 1 (one) girl, and who since getting out of his teens has seen some grade-A shit.  I guess the idea is for now-Cyclops to talk to then-Cyclops and realize how far away he's gotten from when the X-Men started out, but man, things have changed drastically since those Doom Patrol knock-offs got together to fight racism.

The conceit of this book works as a sort of meta-commentary about superhero comics too.  Whenever a stagnating series is given the chance to get revitalized, the creators behind it are always talking about a "back to basics" approach, or something like "returning to our roots."  DC's Geoff Johns-helmed superhero comics being the prime example of this kind of thinking.  I don't think All-New X-Men is going to be going down that particular path, and I'm hoping for a subversion of this sort of thing, but you know how superhero comics go.  There's not a whole lot of room for anything new.

Anyway, I hope Marvel NOW!-Cyclops spits in teen-Cyclops's face and sends him back to his own time.  Adults rule.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Captain America #1

Captain America #1
Rick Remender, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Dean White

I've stayed away from the majority of superhero comics for a while, but old habits are hard to break because they die hard, or something like that.  Anyway, I guess there's something to be said for the Marvel NOW! initiative/creative team shift, because it did its job and got me suckered into picking up a couple of titles.  Captain America has been the most fun one I've read so far.

After years of Brubaker skillfully turning Captain America into Marvel's premiere espionage thriller / World War II battle story vehicle, Marvel NOW! gives the ol' warhorse over to Rick Remender, lately known in the Marvel Universe for being the dude who turned The Punisher into a Frankenstein (The Punisher), had Fantomex shoot a kid in the face (Uncanny X-Force), a team of Avengers that no one knew about (Secret Avengers), and also something about Venom posing with AK-47s (Venom).  Remender's also writing Marvel NOW!'s flagship book, Uncanny Avengers, which as far as I can tell, is a book that capitalizes on nerd culture's fascination with mashups as a clever facade to hide its truer, more embarrassing intentions of trying to make us care about Havok.

Remender's written some good comics and some boring ones, but they usually tend to skew towards the better end of current superhero books.  Realizing he'll never be Brubaker, Remender decides that his strategy is to make Captain America about some outlandish sci-fi junk, and you know what?  It works pretty well.  He's not really breaking any new ground so far in terms of superhero comics, but it's fun to see Captain America being that true blue, never say die, born on the 4th of July, these colors don't run, U-S-A U-S-A! Captain America but with, like, spaceships and monsters.  Back when Brubaker was running things I seem to remember that Cap was a bit more subdued and calculating, but I guess with the growing influence of those Marvel movies that the kids like, Remender had to opt for a more in-your-face Captain America.  I mean, I'm sure it's due to a  bunch of things aside from the popularity of Marvel's movies too, but Remender's Cap does read a bit closer to Mark Millar's Ultimate Comics version (so far, without the jingoistic jerkiness).  At any rate, Remender's Cap seems to be less the master spy and hardened war veteran, and more the two-fisted tough guy, and it's a nice change of pace to see Cap in a new situation.  (Sidenote: according to this comicbook, Captain America WAS born on the fourth of July!  Which caused me, upon reading that bit, to remark out loud, to no one, "Oh, you're fucking kidding me," but in a totally fun, "ok, sure, I'll get onboard," sort of way, really!)

The Sci-Fi stuff Cap finds himself in is pretty standard fare: Cap gets kidnapped and drugged, and he wakes to a strange new planet filled with grotesque medical science, things growing in vats, alien monsters, etc.  Cap quickly escapes his captors with some quick moves and only the second incident of jumping through a window.  To be fair, the first incident involved Cap jumping INTO something, while this one involves Cap jumping OUT OF something.  It's a subtle distinction, but one that you'll be ready to make once you've been following Captain America comics for a bit, as almost every issue involves Cap jumping through windows or something.

If you were thinking it was all fun and games with yer ol' buddy Cap in Dimension Z, however, think again, Bucky.  By the end of it all, Cap is all alone in a strange new world with a baby in tow.  It looks like all this noodling around in another dimension is actually going to be a comicbook allegory for settling down and having kids.  Remender also promises to balance out all that high-octane action with some serious fucking GRAVITAS by way of flashbacks of Steve Rogers's depression-era childhood complete with struggling immigrant parents.  In this issue we even get a peek at some good old fashioned domestic abuse!  Don't worry, though -- by the end of it, lil' Stevie's battered mother manages to impart a valuable lesson about never giving up or something.  I mean we always knew that Captain America, like all the hard-working American auto-manufacturing plants he stands for, is a paragon of perseverance, BUT DID YOU KNOW HE LEARNED IT FROM HIS MOM AFTER SHE GOT SMACKED IN THE FACE BY HIS DRUNK IMMIGRANT FATHER?  FORGET WHAT YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW-- THIS IS MARVEL. . . NOW!