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Tag: superheroes

READING THE TBR, DAY 178: Hawkeye vs. Deadpool (2015) by Gerry Duggan

Hmm.

I really thought I was going to love this.

I loved Deadpool. I love Hawkeye — which I am aware puts me in the minority. What can I say? I love a marksman. Have them team up/against one another on a S.H.I.E.L.D.-related quest and it should have been a surefire kick at goal.

But the kick missed. By a lot.

It’s Halloween in Brooklyn, and a deafened Clint Barton is kind of a sad loser-type without his Hawkeye persona to hide behind. To his door, trick-or-treating with his daughter and robot wife (I have clearly missed a bunch of stuff in comic book Deadpool chronology and need to catch up immediately), comes our Merc with a Mouth, and into their laps falls a mystery, as stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. records threaten to expose every agent who is currently on their roster. They can’t agree on how to handle it (hence the “vs.” in the title) but both are essentially on the side of angels here, just with different agendas and priorities.

The thing is, the story is fine — if one that has been seen in every spy TV show ever made, plus in more than a few movies and books, as well — but the execution… no. Who is this Deadpool? Why is he not funny? Is that also a development in comic book Deadpool chronology that I have missed? Maybe I don’t need to catch up, after all.

And as for Hawkeye… well, he’s better off in the MCU, as far as I can see, and there he was a stone cold assassin for five years because his family got turned to dust.

It’s really a shame, because this could have been a hoot. But, you know who is a hoot here? Kate Bishop, aka Lady Hawkeye, aka Hawkette, aka Hawkeye, Jr. I liked her a lot in this mini-series, and want to see more of her elsewhere.

But as for the rest of it? Just… no. 

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TBR DAY 178: Hawkeye vs. Deadpool by Gerry Duggan, illustrated by Matteo Lolli and James Harren
GENRE: Comics, Superheroes, Marvel
PUBLISHED: 2015
TIME ON THE TBR: 3 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: ComicsRUs.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 161: Karnak: The Flaw in All Things (2017) by Warren Ellis

Marvel’s Inhumans are a band of superpowered and/or otherworldly heroes and/or villains who were transformed into their post-human state by exposure to the Terrigen Mist, a gene-altering compound that brings out their latent abilities if they are descendants of visiting aliens. Or something. I know — or think I know — all of this only because of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the endlessly annoying network television show with an endlessly annoying title to type, because somehow this band of secretive yet interfering metahumans had not really registered with me in all my years of comic book reading.

So when I saw this trade paperback, and learned it was about an Inhuman who was not one, and moreover that it was written by Warren Ellis, who is a genius, of course I had to buy it, to delve into this lore of which I had so long been ignorant. Except for the TV version, that is.

It is stunning. But also, wow, Karnak is a dick.

He is one of those I-have-no-emotion-I-kill-with-impunity-life-has-no-meaning-everything-sucks guys who takes nihilism to such heights he makes Marvin the Paranoid Android look like Hello Kitty by comparison. He is deadly and implacable, and as he is tasked by S.H.I.E.L.D. — also, an annoying agency to type — in the person of Agent Coulson (hi there!) to bring back a kidnapped Inhuman, we learn that Karnak, though born with latent Inhuman gifts, was denied exposure to Terrigen by his nonconforming parents, and so all his skills and badassery come from training and discipline. He’s kind of impressive.

But still a dick.

The writing, of course, is spare and lyrical and thought-provoking and intense (because: Warren Ellis) and the anti-heroness of this character really comes through in all its devastating glory (because: Warren Ellis!). This six-issue limited run is the kind of comic that makes you want to know much, much more about the character and his world, and that is probably the highest praise I can give any comic, or any form of creative endeavour.

It’s certainly more than can be said for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., anyway.*

* Incidentally, Karnak showed up in the ill-fated Inhumans TV series, but, yeah, I never watched that.

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TBR DAY 161: Karnak: The Flaw in All Things by Warren Ellis; Illustrated by Gerardo Zaffino, Roland Boschi, Antonio Fuso
GENRE: Comics, Superheroes, Marvel
PUBLISHED: 2017
TIME ON THE TBR: ~2 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Minotaur Melbourne.
KEEP: Yes!

READING THE TBR, DAY 107: Quicksilver: No Surrender (2018) by Saladin Ahmed

I was browsing the Marvel trade collections just before Christmas last year, planning to perhaps pick up a couple as gifts (and oh, who am I kidding, more probably some for myself), when a guy handed this one to me without a word. I looked up, startled — he just nodded significantly, assuringly, then walked away, his own copy in hand.

They say word of mouth is the best marketing there is. This was silence of mouth. And was possibly even more effective.

Especially so, since I have previously had little interest in Quicksilver in comics. Oh, on screen he’s great, the whimsical X-Men reboot version probably my favourite over the Age of Ultron version, who died precipitously, in true Whedonian fashion. But comic book Quicksilver has always been kind of an arrogant dick, reminding me way too much of his father Magneto and being not nearly nice enough to his sister Scarlet Witch, which may press some of my buttons and influence my perceptions somewhat, if I’m honest. Whatever the reason, I’ve mostly avoided him, where possible.

But this series! Wow. Not only does it totally retcon Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s origin story — which, further research shows me, happened in the comicverse leading up to their appearance in The Avengers film franchise, de-mutantizing the twins and making Magneto their tormentor rather than their dear old dad — it is a meditation on isolation and trauma and sacrifice, as well as a redemption story of a sullen hero discovering that he has a lot more to live for than he ever thought. (Also: Quicksilver has a daughter, named Luna, who was born on the moon. This was news to me, and… okay, sure.)

It all begins with a bang, and Quicksilver — Pietro Maximoff — finds himself unstuck from time, fighting to save civilians and his colleagues and yes, his sister, from destruction at the hands of eerily him-like speedster creatures who have ill-defined powers to affect the living world. He zooms around the globe, narrating events, his thoughts dark and pretty depressing at times, his a heavy load to bear since his early experimented-on childhood through to his emergence as a force for good. It is one of the best, fastest character turnarounds I have ever seen in any medium — it is Wesley Wyndham-Pryce level, it is Don Keefer level, it is Tahani Al-Jamil level. 

I think I love comic Quicksilver now. And for that to happen in the space of only five issues, you know they have to be good ones. 

Thanks, silent Minotaur comic recommendation man! 

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TBR DAY 107: Quicksilver: No Surrender by Saladin Ahmed
GENRE: Comics, Marvel, Superheroes 
PUBLISHED: 2018
TIME ON THE TBR: 5 months.  
PURCHASED FROM: Minotaur.
KEEP: Yes!

READING THE TBR, DAY 99: Space: Punisher (2012) by Frank Tieri

I really love an alternate reality version of established Marvel canon, and this one is no exception. Giving us an inter-stellar hunt for the shadowy figures who murdered Frank Castle’s family, this reimagining of the tale brings in artificial intelligence and aliens as well as a space-suited Punisher determined to give no quarter to those he deems worthy of, well, punishment.

Featuring cameos by villains such as Ultron, Magneto and Red Skull, as well as my darling Deadpool, and Hulk, and those troublesome Watchers, this really is its own pocket universe, and one that could so easily be its own long-running space opera series, if the actionable names and recognizable powers were altered significantly enough.

The art here is particularly noteworthy, too, the extra-worldly aspect of the tale perfectly rendered, while the clever sight-gag Easter Eggs just keep on coming, and Punisher’s AI helpmeets are just THE BEST.

In all, a home run of a 4-shot comic limited series, and one that I wish had gone on for far, far longer.  

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TBR DAY 98: Space: Punisher by Frank Tieri
GENRE: Comics, Marvel, Superheroes, The Punisher
PUBLISHED: 2012
TIME ON THE TBR: ~2 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Big City Comics, Melbourne.
KEEP: Yes!

READING THE TBR, DAY 85: Patsy Walker: Hellcat (2009) by Kathryn Immonen

I’ve never really known too much about Hellcat, which is why I bought this book. Turns out she is a model who is also a superhero, and is sent to Alaska by Tony Stark to cover that huge territory on behalf of the Initiative, which organization she has only just joined.

Arrived in the tundra, Patsy becomes embroiled in some kind of shamanic, magic-infused ritual criminality, but I didn’t really get it and I certainly did not care for her vapid nonsense. The dialogue here is painfully unfunny, but it’s supposed to be funny, which just makes it worse. And the Young Person Speak is just total gibberish, and not in an I’m Too Old kind of way, just in a Poorly Written This is Not How Human People Talk kind of way.

Such a disappointment, especially as finding female comic creators writing female-led superhero comics is a relatively rare phenomenon, and I very much wanted this to be good. But it just isn’t. It’s mostly just dull, and felt like it took way too long to read, and given that this is a 5-issue comic book collection, that should just never be the case.

Sigh.

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TBR DAY 84: Patsy Walker: Hellcat by Kathryn Immonen, art by David Lafuente   
GENRE: Marvel, Comics, Superheroes
PUBLISHED: 2009
TIME ON THE TBR: 4 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Kings Comics, Sydney.
KEEP: Nope. I’ll trade this one in.

READING THE TBR, DAY 76: Last Hero Standing (2005) by Tom DeFalco

It is weird to be commenting on the font of a book, but man, the lettering in this one annoyed me. Specifically, the word “of” is rendered terribly in here, at almost every instance — the “o” and “f” blend together, giving a dark line between the two that is massively noticeable and distracting, and the lettering in a comic should only be noticeable when it is cool. (Like, also in this book, when Darkdevil has a slightly devilish font. Turns out letterer Dave Sharpe isn’t all bad.)

But onto the story. This 5-issue limited run is set in a future where original heroes like Captain America and Iron Man and Spider-Man are either retired or getting too old for this shit, and a new order has taken their place, many of them legacies, like Wolverine’s daughter Wild Thing and Spider-Man’s daughter, er, Spider-Girl. Cap still leads the Avengers, but he is slowing down, and when heroes start disappearing, teams like the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men (who actually sit most of this one out) set out to track them down. It’s a great way to have newcomers like American Dream and Thunderstrike get some screen time (and it could even be a good Phase 3 idea for the MCU; the original Avengers are out after Endgame, after all) and the ultimate villain of this piece is pretty fun.   

It’s also pretty cool when Hulk takes on pretty much every hero ever, and wins.

But much of the book feels like it’s very hard work, which is mainly down to the stiff writing and jokes that just don’t land. It’s a shame, because having such a cavalcade of talent, both new and old, and your disposal should make the story sing, but instead the only time the dialogue really pops is when it is giving us the Shakespearean stylings of assorted Asgardians.

It’s a shame, because crossover events like this can be super-fun, and the idea behind it — especially the passing of the torch from the old guard to the new breed — should have been a gimme. But when even the dramatic death of a major character, in the series’ closing moments, can’t bring the emotions, then clearly there is something very much missing. 

So, it was… okay, I guess. But it really says something when the strongest feeling I have about a title is the poor lettering job. Cap and co. deserved better.

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TBR DAY 76: Last Hero Standing by Tom DeFalco, illustrated by Pat Oliffe 
GENRE: Marvel, Superheroes, Comics
PUBLISHED: 2005
TIME ON THE TBR: ~13 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Forbidden Planet, London.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 69: Rogue & Gambit: Ring of Fire (2018) by Kelly Thompson

Rogue and Gambit have a tempestuous romantic history in X-Men comics (and assorted titles) and this limited 5-issue run gives them some much-needed clarity when they are assigned a mission on a tropical island in an attempt to figure out what is happening to dozens of mutant minds gone missing.

To that end, they are sent into a therapy retreat as a troubled couple, and of course the therapy retreat is dodgy as anything, and of course the fake feeling of fuzzy lighthearted happiness they soon feel is a result of the dodgy therapy, and it’s all very silly and melodramatic and it is just wonderful and one of my favourite comic events ever.

It is just so romantic! But also there is fighting! There is angst! But there are also explosions! There is soul-deep connection! And also fun comic-y Easter Egg-y callbacks! And through it all, there is Gambit’s smooth Cajun charm and Rogue’s feisty Southern independence, and by Xavier, they are just the best.

I loved this so much. It is X-Men for romantics (really, all of X-Men is pretty romantic; really, almost all comics are pretty romantic) and it made me smile all the way through. Writer Kelly Thompson brought so much heart, and depth, and dimension to this story that I can’t wait to delve into her catalogue of other Marvel titles, especially her Captain Marvel issues and her book Mr. and Mrs. X — which also features Rogue and Gambit, but married! 

Who says comics aren’t for girls?

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TBR DAY 69: Rogue & Gambit: Ring of Fire by Kelly Thompson, illustrated by Pere PĂ©rez 
GENRE: Superhero, Comic, Marvel
PUBLISHED: 2018
TIME ON THE TBR: ~8 months. 
PURCHASED FROM: Big City Comics, Brunswick St.
KEEP: Yep!

READING THE TBR, DAY 56: Captain America vs. Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology (2016), edited by Travis Langley

I love comics for their action and humour and the fact that they force us to figure out, from limited words and images, what the hell is going on. I love them for the relationships they build in their pages, their fantastical elements and their layered, complex characters and arcs spanning decades. But more than anything I love them for their allegory, their ability to echo real life problems and potentials in their colourful, spandex-filled, often child-friendly pages.

I therefore find scholarly analyses of comic books’ deeper meaning fascinating, and a book that examines the psychology employed in Captain America and Iron Man — -the psychology that led them to take opposite sides during Civil War — could almost have been written especially for me.

This collection of essays — headed with a careless Foreword by Stan Lee, who it seems was also required to make cameo appearances even in unauthorised Marvel-related productions, prior to his recent death — is quite well put together, and is often quite thought-provoking. Much is discussed of Freud and Jung and their cohorts, and relates the actions of Tony and Cap to their underlying theories. The most successful essay, , invokes Albert Bandura’s Bobo Doll Experiment, and suggests that asking kids a question like “What would Captain America do?” can help them — and, by extension, also help adults — learn empathy. I entirely agree with that. Empathy is a learned behaviour, and exposure to a wide range of fictional worlds and characters opens one up to its benefits. No question. It doesn’t have to be comics, of course, but there is no doubt that a wide array of viewpoints is encompassed in Marvel’s canon, for example.

For the most part, though, the essays seem somewhat simplistic, somewhat lacking in the deep comic knowledge I might have expected and only one really deals with Civil War at all. Which is fine, the others do delineate the differences between our two leaders, and it is these that lead to their positions on Registration. (I am pro-Registration, by the way. Superheroes are basically weapons. Weapons should be registered and regulated. @me, if you want. Happy to discuss!)

The essays look at their childhoods, their adult traumas and their leadership styles to explain why they are the way they are — but many of the essays differ on how they are, because of course, in the long and storied history of both characters, they have morphed and changed and you can find a quote from some obscure issue to prove any point, only to have someone else use another such to prove the opposite. It is the nature of the collaborative hodgepodge of often half-baked ideas that is any modern comic book hero.

So, no definitive conclusions are made — and nor really can they be, psychology being the imprecise pseudo-science it really, really is. But this book is, nevertheless, an interesting rumination on Tony Stark, Steve Rogers and the conflicts that have bloomed between them over the years, and why that might have been — and that is good enough for me. 

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TBR DAY 56: Captain America vs. Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology, edited by Travis Langley
GENRE: Pop Culture, Comics, Non-Fiction, Psychology
PUBLISHED: 2016
TIME ON THE TBR: 2 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: It was a gift.
KEEP: Of course.

READING THE TBR, DAY 22: 5 Ronin (2011), written by Peter Milligan

Another Marvel alterna-history comic, this one sets variants of superheroes Wolverine, the Hulk, Punisher, Deadpool and Psylocke (for some reason) in Ancient Japan, casting them as ancient Japanese warrior-types, on the hunt for revenge.

Because ancient Japanese warriors always want revenge. Even monks. (Hulk is a monk, in this scenario.)

This five-issue run is perplexing in the extreme. Yes, the art is gorgeous, and since I own this collection in glorious hardcover, I will keep it, because it looks good on my shelf. But what the actual hell is this? A disjointed and frankly bizarre reimagining of some of Marvel’s most beloved of anti-heroes (plus, again, Psylocke: just, WHY? Nice to have a female in the mix, I suppose) as wronged Japanese legends. It’s so weird it’s almost genius.

Almost.

But, hey. It’s a speedy read, and if nothing else, you have to admire the sheer left-field creativity that somehow got this story greenlit, and turned it into a page-bound version of Monkey Magic-meets-Chushingura.

And for all that Psylocke is a very strange inclusion, her story is pretty badass.

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TBR DAY 22: 5 Ronin written by Peter Milligan; illustrated by 
GENRE: Comic Book/Superheroes/Alternative History
PUBLISHED: 2011
TIME ON THE TBR: 5 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Minotaur Melbourne.
KEEP: Yes, because it’s pretty.