Sep 25, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 943: Avengers v.1 #260, October 1985

Oh no! It's Secret Wars II.

Perhaps one of the worst crossover events I've read, though in a strangely masochistic maneuver I am only 5 crossover issues away from having the whole crossover.

Where the first Secret Wars, or Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars, if you prefer, gave us what basically amounted to a war comic using superheroes (a very gentle war comic, but a war comic nonetheless), the second mini-series is a jumbled mess about a god trying to understand what it means to be human. And he does a lousy job of it. I think the reason may be that he's trying to do so on a world that is populated by gods.

In today's issue he's not particularly intrusive, in that he's not around for a long time, but he does manage to blow the big battle that the Avengers had been engaged in, and foil their capture of Nebula. I only know of this character from the Guardians of the Galaxy film, and her backstory seems to be a bit different in the MCU, but she's definitely the madwoman the movie makes her out to be.

Actually, her lineage does raise a couple of interesting questions about the MCU. For obvious reasons, any claim to Thanos's lineage will be of interest to Starfox, given that they're brothers. So are we going to see any of the Titanian Eternals in the next few MCU films? Thanos has to have come from somewhere, right? And the MCU powers that be aren't afraid of throwing alien races at us - witness GotGv.2.

To be continued.

Sep 24, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 942: Avengers v.1 #259, September 1985

Space adventure!

The Avengers and the Justice League are two superhero teams often compared. I've always felt that the JLA come across far more godlike than the Avengers - this is a function of their respective universes, and the particular perspective each offers on the superheroic. But the Avengers have their moments too (especially in Jonathan Hickman's run on the title, but we'll get there one day), and many of those moments come when they're out in space and having to simply be more than human. On Earth, they have the option of being human because most of the people they're dealing with are human. But in space, they have to set aside their little human pettinesses (we all have them, you know it's true) and deal with creatures very often on a level of civilization (see the Kardashev Scale) that of our little backwater planet. And it's at those moments, when interacting on an intergalactic scale, that we start to see the iconic power of the Marvel heroes, a power that is often explicit with the DC heroes, but more implicit with these ones. Today's comic begins a little run of comics in which we're going to get to see that iconicity.

To be continued.

Sep 23, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 941: Avengers v.1 #258, August 1985

Another of those covers that's a bit misleading today. While we do see a bit of Firelord's fury, most of it is off-camera in issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, though seeing Spider-Man take down a former herald of Galactus is not something one sees everyday. And the Avengers, who show up just in time to see Spidey win the battle, are of the same opinion. I think, sometimes, that Spider-Man is a wonderful example of something that gets brought up in the very first issue of Alan Moore's Supreme. As other versions of Supreme are flying down to meet the new avatar, one of them warns the others to be careful, that he's a 90s character, so his powers are going to be so undefined as to possibly be unlimited. Consider, then, that Spider-Man often has his ass handed to him by a middle-aged man in a goblin costume, but then is also capable of taking down one of the more powerful beings in the universe.

Must be that black costume.

There's a lovely, and very touching, moment in today's issue, as Hercules takes a crestfallen Ka-Zar to see the remains of Terminus, hoping that the knowledge of the enemy's defeat will make the loss of his home, and his people, a little easier to deal with. Ka-Zar acknowledges this, but it really is only a little easier.

And things heat up with Captain Marvel, setting up tomorrow's (and the subsequent days') adventures with the shattered Skrull empire. About time we had some deep space action. Very exciting.

To be continued.

Sep 22, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project Friday Magazine 20: Epic Illustrated #5, April 1980

There's really a lot going on in each of these issues. I'm of two minds about this. Sometimes it's nice to have so much variety - granted that it's restricted in this case by its genre(s), though you can really get away with a lot in Science Fiction and Fantasy - enough that you can read a 100-page magazine and not get bored at all. On the other hand, keeping track of all of these narratives, from the continuing to the tiny, can be a bit much every now and again.

That said, I'm absolutely loving Jim Starlin's "Metamorphosis Odyssey," which I did not know was the first place that his famed character Dreadstar appeared. Now I'm intrigued to read that as well (though I have no issues of the series in the collection, unfortunately). There's also some more stuff from Mirko Ilic, which I linked to in the review of the first issue of the magazine. His comics are, as I noted in that earlier piece, genius. I wish there were more. So there's a lovely example of what this magazine is doing right. An ongoing series that's definitely engrossing, and small snapshot pieces that are pushing at boundaries. Today's story "Satri," written and drawn by Margaret Gallagher (who's got a shockingly low online presence) is another wonderful and innovative piece.

I think I could do with less text-piece content. There's an interview with the Hildebrandt Brothers, very important artists in fantasy art, but it takes up soooo much space, and I can only read so much about people holding forth on their artistic processes. I think the shorter text pieces are pretty great, especially the ones commentating on the medium in this pre-Maus world (as I noted last week), but the long ones are just a bit much.

My opinion, I guess, for what it's worth. Onward!

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 940: Avengers v.1 #257, July 1985

Catch up time!

The Avengers adventure in the Savage Land comes to a tragic end in today's issue. I do remember reading about this disaster in later comics - I'm not sure of its status these days, but for a while Terminus's destruction of this area was canonical and well-known history, at least to the major superheroes of the Marvel U.

Terminus has shown up prior to this adventure in an issue of Fantastic Four by John Byrne (which I'll get around to reading one day - it's actually pretty good), and perhaps there we get a little more back story. Here, he's simply a giant with a radioactive staff (simply!) that destroys the climate control machinery in the Savage Land and Pangea, reducing both to frozen, Antarctic wastelands.

Something I'm beginning to realize about this run of The Avengers is that the team is often called in to situations that have rather extreme body counts. It makes sense, in a way, that you'd have the self-proclaimed mightiest heroes on Earth taking care of the more blatantly destructive problems that happen. But we don't often see the aftermaths, and the Stern/Milgrom/Buscema run thus far has done a nice job of doing so. Today's issue is destruction on a level that I don't think I've seen since reading the first issue of New X-Men. In the end, though, Terminus gets his just desserts.

To be continued.

Sep 21, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 939: Avengers v.1 #256, June 1985

It's saying something, I think, when the opening page of a comic is the god Apollo flying his horse-drawn chariot down a Manhattan street in the middle of the day. We look at the mythic times recounted in the stories of early civilizations as something called the Age of Miracles, an epithet that encompasses not only the Classical past, but also the ancient Biblical past as recounted in the Judaic and Christian testaments. That we no longer see things like angels or burning bushes is explained away in that we no longer live in the Age of Miracles. It seems to me, however, that a superhero universe is a way of envisioning what the world would look like in a new age of such wonders, or a continuation of the old one, depending on the history of said universe.

Which is to say that the miraculous can now, in some cases, be explained through science, through extraterrestrial technology, and through genuine spiritual power. And this is not only in superhero universes, really. Our technologies make the miraculous the mundane on a fairly regular basis. That I can talk with someone, in real time, who is thousands of kilometers away from me, is really nothing short of miraculous. We're just jaded, is all.

Captain Marvel is still stranded in space, but she's showing some creative thinking as far as using her powers to find her way home...somehow. Meanwhile, the rest of the Avengers are drawn to the Savage Land by strange forces, only to be confronted by the giant world conqueror Terminus. He's a villain who resurfaces in the early 90s in one of the annual crossover events (in that they take place in the yearly annuals, not that it's a yearly event, though for a while it is that too!), but that's about all I know about this guy. Looking forward to finding out more tomorrow.

To be continued.

The 40 Years of Comics Project - The Weekly Graphic Novel: Week 57 - Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, June 2010

I was very fortunate to find this in a thrift shop a while back - a beautiful hardcover collection of some of Jill Thompson's most inspired art, in my never humble opinion. I'd read a Beasts short in one of the Dark Horse collections I have (I think), and the whole premise just spoke to me.

Now, here's a warning: just because it's about a bunch of animals investigating the occult, and just because they look kind of cute, does not mean this is a comic for kids. Well, not for all kids. Those dark ones, that're not only hurt but also kind of fascinated when they cut themselves, they'll probably love the shit out of this book.

I did, anyway. The short stories have some slight connective tissue, but otherwise they're lovely little bits of suburban horror as seen through the eyes of a group of mystical dogs (and 2 cats). They put me in mind of the very early Hellboy shorts in the Wake the Devil  and The Chained Coffin collections, and they're very obviously inspired by Mignola's wonderful sense of atmosphere. This book actually lets us in on that secret life that we're all sure our pets have when we're at work, or asleep. And, honestly, they can have it. Some of the stuff in this book is super-creepy.

Worth a read, if you can track down any of the issues. Onward.