Thursday, 28 April 2011

You May Have Noticed That It's A Slow News Day

Look! They're making a Fantastic Four pinball machine! Computer game... thingy. Perhaps it's an app! Ack, I dunno. Marvel should let us do an exclusive Fear Itself interview with Matt Fraction or something. This week is dragging.

Marvel Announcing Some Kind of MMO Today

HOLD UP you guys. What the heck is an MMO? Well google tells us that an MMO is a "massively multiplayer online". Now let's take a moment to try and wrap our heads around this horrific piece of internet grammar what is presented in front of us right now. Apparently the phrase correlates to an online game where hundreds and hundreds of people can play simultaneously. We're talking World of Warcraft type stuff, here. The sort of stuff played by nerds, Felicia Day, and the nerds who want to meet Felicia Day. And now it turns out that Marvel are doing one.

After setting up a Twitter account a few days ago, Marvel have started offering hints as to who will be writing the story to this game. And, pretty much, the very first few clues openly revealed it to be Brian Michael Bendis.

Clue 1: Fan of Namor
Clue 2: Has won five Eisner awards
Clue 3: Why do you need any more clues this is blatantly Brian Michael Bendis.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Cover to Ultimate Spider-Man #160

RIP Peter Parker. Drawn by Joe Quesada.

Comics Vanguard Reviews THOR

While we won’t reveal any of the major plot points during this review, there will be times where we discuss the broad strokes of the plot. If you don’t want any spoilers whatsoever, then wait till the film comes out and then return straight back to Comics Vanguard for a thrilling review session. Otherwise, review time let’s go!

Marvel’s Thor film comes in the midst of what could be a superhero overload. Not only do we have Marvel films like Iron Man 2, X-Men First Class and Captain America all coming out within the past year or so, but DC are pushing Batman and Superman and Green Hornet (!?!) on us, and every other film seems to be an adaptation of some kind. Not only that, but we’ve now got to keep an eye on 2012’s “The Avengers” movie, overseen by Joss Whedon. So not only is Thor going to have to wow fans, it has to push complex mythology on an audience who may or may not be interested in seeing the rest of the Marvel film lineup. It’s a surprise to say it, but Thor manages to juggle mythology, continuity and characterisation whilst still giving us an entertaining film in its own right.

This is a surprise because I never liked Thor as a character in the comics. He always seemed to be a character whose main audience were fight-fans. He exists in order to keep fans quarrelling over who would win in a fight between him and Hulk. He was also a rather bland, humourless sort of guy. Very valiant and heroic and all that, but I’d rather see a cheeky Tony Stark wink or cheesy pun from Hawkeye. But the film quickly addresses this by giving us a combination of comic-book Thor and Ultimate Comics Thor. He may be hot-headed and keen on fighting, but Chris Hemsworth gives a strikingly humourous portrayal of the God of War. The scenes where he first appears on Earth and meets the humans are some of the strongest in the film due to his keen sense of comic timing and chemistry with the other actors. I say his chemistry is with the other actors, but in reality the best coupling within the film is between him and Stellan Skelsgard. No offence to Natalie Portman, who lightens up and resists the urge to over-emote/over-think/over-restrain her acting in the movie, but what we have here is a Thor who is your best buddy, rather than your sexy boyfriend.

The sexlessness of Thor (he does get a topless scene or two, flesh-fans) works in Hemsworth’s favour though, as it creates an aura of gravity around his acting. He isolates himself from the ‘mortals’ in the cast through his charisma and overworldliness. Likewise Idris Elba and Tom Hiddleston manage to steal every scene they’re in (and fight wildly for screen possession when they appear together). The three of them provide the best acting in the film, with Hiddleston’s Loki in particular being the finest thing about the movie. This role could easily have become a pantomime villain – the script certainly dares the actor to do so – but Hiddleston instead gives a subtle, understated, quiet performance which is up for debate right up until the end. We all know that he’s the God of Mischief, and frequently a thorn in Thor’s side – but here we genuinely don’t know how to treat him. Kenneth Branagh, directing with a mixture of confidence and nerves, gets a great performance out of the cast, and wisely chooses to keep the audience out of Loki’s thought process.

The script is light and entertaining, jumping back and forth and giving us minimal exposure to the SHIELD problem of Iron Man 2. We have a fully formed story with very well-developed characters. The only problem lies in some of the character arcs, which are told to the audience rather than shown. Thor and Portman’s Jane Foster in particular suffer from personalities which develop simply because that’s how the mechanics of film work. They grow in experience, but not in depth. We also get to see a lot of Asgard and Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Odin. Hopkins is doing what he does in most films nowadays – relying on his powerful voice to do the hard work for him. The script gives him a lot of interesting lines, which he reads well, but there’s a feeling that Hopkins never really grasps the character. The script also suffers with some of the other characters.

In the film, Thor’s group of friends include Sif and the Warriors Three. Now, while comic book fans will know all four of these characters, the casual audience is going to look at these four and wonder why we’re meant to care for them. In particular, Volstagg and Hogun are played with barely any sense of warmth, depth, or interest. Now it’s true that Tadanobu Asano has about four lines to play with over the entire movie, but he relays them with SUCH DISINTEREST. And Ray Stevenson’s Volstagg is a shallow role, insipid and far removed from the charming boaster of the comics. Joshua Dallas places Thandral well, while Jaimie Alexander’s Sif seems to be the victim of a deleted subplot. There’s several hints that she was meant to have a bigger role, but the final film doesn’t reflect her at all. In fact, several characters seem to have been cut out of the main film – Rene Russo appears for almost no reason at all.

So what we have with Thor is a fun, competent action film with great levels of characterisation. If we can keep Thor, Loki, Heimdall and the ‘mortals’ around for The Avengers, we’ll be all set. If you’re looking for a film which takes the comics and distils the entertaining bits, and removes the dull parts – this is your film. Just be prepared to accept that this is both a film and a stepping stone towards the Avengers. Oh, and the bit after the credits suggests that a second viewing of the film is necessary, but beyond that is the weakest of all the codas so far. To summarise: Thor is an entertaining film which rewards both new fans and comic-book fans. And he hits things with his hammer A LOT (spoiler!)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

"The Avengers" Begins

The Avengers film has started shooting. Starring Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and of course Samuel L. Jackson. Written and Directed by Joss Whedon.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Iron Man Dance Party

Comic Book Resources have got an exclusive preview of Ben Oliver's art from The Iron Age, some kind of massively convoluted mini-event happening this Summer. Rob Williams is masterminding the event, which seems to be contained in a one-shot but then moves into another one shot which then has tie-ins written by people like Christos Gage. Would it really have been so difficult for you to laboriously draw out a diagram which maps out how the series progresses, CBR?

The miniseries... es seem to start with the World being destroyed and Iron Man getting thrown back in time. So he has to try and change the future by building some clever devices - the catch is, the only people around him to help are thickos like Dazzler and Captain Britain. So how does he persuade them to help him? Well, from the looks of this page, it appears that he alternates between dancing for them and throttling them.

Oh, the joys of unlettered pages! Part one of all this comes out in August, we think.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Congratulations to Valerie D'Orazio and David Gallaher!

Writers Valerie D'Orazio and David Gallaher, who we can tie to Marvel through their makings of cool comics like Punisher: Butterfly and Darkstar & The Winter Guard, get married today! To each other! Hurray! As is tradition on Comics Vanguard, this calls for a terrible cartoon drawn on Microsoft Paint!

In all seriousness, they're both super-nice people, so this is lovely news and we couldn't be more excited for them. Congratulations, and best wishes for the future!

Friday, 22 April 2011

New Avengers 16.1 by Brian Michael Bendis AND NEAL ADAMS!

This was announced by Bendis himself on Twitter just a little while ago - Marvel's point one initiative appears to have become such a success that they're continuing with it all through the year. Which is good news, because so far they've all been great. Avengers 12.1 by Bendis and Hitch comes out next week, but the big news today has to be this Neal Adams thing. Known for being the artist behind some of Marvel's most famous Avengers storylines - including the Kree/Skrull War , Adams is regarded as a living legend by most anyone with eyes and the ability to enjoy things. And on top of this, Bendis has announced one more, simple, piece of news.

The issue features the return of Norman Osborn.

To be continued!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Phil Noto is all up in this

Phil Noto, the artist who this week completes his run on the four issue "Wolverine and Jubilee" miniseries by Kathryn Immonen, has recently been getting a lot of internet attention. First he leapt into the middle of a debate between Marjorie Liu and Gail Simone about if Black Widow could take Black Canary in a fight (she could) by posting this image. And now he's jumped onto the X-Men: First Class in-joke that's been circulating for the past few months. It's been an open joke on the internet that the marketing and advertisements for the forthcoming "X-Men: First Class" movie hasn't been exactly stellar. So, apropos of a little suggestion from fellow ComVan favourite Jamie McKelvie, Noto designed and posted this image.

Amazing. The best poster we've seen for the movie. Buy this image and put it up in cinemas, FOX!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

X-Factor Catch-Up

According to the latest CBR X-Position, Peter David's long-running X-Factor series (coming up on seventy issues now!) is about to reach the point where is compltely locks out new readers. Once we get through the current Spider-Man/Black Cat/X-Factor arc we're going to see about twenty issues-worth of loose ends and unfinished subplots. Not only will Darwin's story be revisited, but we'll see the returns of X-Cell, Tryp, and Cortex, we'll see the Layla Miller storyline get explained, Wolfsbane's prophecy is growing closer to becoming reality, Shatterstar and Longshot's relationship may be explained, and Pip the Troll's master will be revealed.


Are you reading this right now and wondering what the hell is going on here? People have been praising X-Factor for years and years now as one of Marvel's most consistent books, but it does have a tendency to try and lock out new readers. It may tie in to seemingly every Marvel event going (although it's keeping away from Fear Itself, the characters are going to be appearing in Children's Crusade in a few months' time), but the series does seem to enjoy following up every jump-in point with something dense and convoluted. So in the interest of helping you all decide if X-Factor is worth reading, we'll now attempt to explain every loose plot point which may be wrapped up over the next year/two years.

1: Tryp.

Before there were mutants, apparently there were 'changelings', which gather their powers from birth. Tryp is one of those, and he used his powers to kill Jamie Madrox's parents. For some reason he then split into three - his past, his present, and his future selves, only for the two younger versions to be blown up by a Madrox suicide bomber. Which left Old Tryp alone with his grudge against mutantkind. Believing changelings are better, he wants to kill off all the mutants. He seems to exist everywhere at once, and spends most of his time trying to manipulate others into deleting mutantkind from the planet. Apparently he may return as of issue #230, which also leads us to...

2: Wolfsbane's prophecy

Tryp grabbed Wolfsbane right at the start of the series and showed her a vision of the future. In it, she appears to have murdered Madrox and Layla Miller on their wedding night. This has haunted her ever since (along with that time she ate her dad) so she's tried to keep away from both of them. Until, she got pregnant, and now she's back, hassling them both with her crazy ways. Madrox and Layla had a sort of on-again off-again thing going on, but she's currently being very mysterious - so mysterious that Madrox is currently 'off' her.

3: Layla Miller

Layla Miller first appeared during House of M, where she performed the duties of the Deus Ex Machina and saved everyone. Since then she's been sent to the future, aged enough that's she's legal, and joined up with Dr Doom. She's spent several months living with the Doctor, for unknown reasons. He gave her a mysterious gauntlet, and she may have told him about Scarlet Witch. Oh, and also Shatterstar may be helping her to keep her secrets. David says that this storyline may be explored as of issue #255.

4: Cortex

Cortex is one of Jamie Madrox's dupes, who went mad for some reason. He was defeated when he attacked the team, and banished to another dimension. Apparently he's still alive though, and could turn up again at any point. He wears stupid glasses and appears to have some kind of purple machine virus on his body.

5: Pip

Pip the Troll joined the team recently so David could make jokes about internet trolls. It seems that he's a mole working for someone else though, and will at some point betray the team. Nobody knows who this someone else might be. Although perhaps he's connected to..

6: X-Cell

A group of depowered mutants headed up by Callisto and Marrow, X-Cell tried to get their powers back but something went wrong. In the case of Fatale and Abyss their powers overloaded and they had to leave Earth to stay alive, while Marrow and Callisto escaped without any damage. They're still around somewhere - and while they *should* be friendly with X-Factor, they may not be. They harbour a massive grudge against Quicksilver, but he's now gone back to The Avengers so that plot point will probably never get tied up.

7: Darwin

This isn't actually very interesting.

8: Longshot/Shatterstar

It's long been the belief of fans that Longshot is Shatterstar's father, while Dazzler is his mother. While this has never been confirmed in the comics, David sure does enjoy teasing it. This is another plot point which will probably never be explained, as David has a tendency to tease things instead of reveal them. See also: Monet's family history. We'd like to take this moment to pray that Dazzler is not Shatterstar's mother, as Longshot's power is decidedly date-rapey and we don't want Dazzler to play any part in his sex life. Or, y'know, life.

So! Eight plot points, all of which may appear over the next year/two years of X-Factor. So what do you think? Interested in picking it up? Or put off?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Some Usual Suspects

Marvel have been celebrating the Thor movie by releasing a series of variant covers under the theme "Thor goes to Hollywood". The covers, which spoof infamous movie posters with some form of a Thor cameo, are hilarious. Here's some of our favourites:

Monday, 18 April 2011

Spider-Man is DEAD so here is Spider-Man

Doom is approaching Ultimate Spider-Man with all the speed of a bullet fired by the Punisher at Captain America, and Marvel have just released a teaser which reveals what happens after the story concludes. Because! Marketing! It makes sense, right, to tell fans what happens when the story ends? We're not marketing graduates, we can't tell you.


So in the current storyline the Avengers and Ultimates are fighting each other across New York, as written by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu. Meanwhile Ultimate Spider-Man is dealing with a Sinister Six, and things are getting difficult. Well, once these storylines conclude with "the death of Spider-Man", we're apparently going to see someone else take over the role, and they'll be the one wearing this new shiny costume. So we still don't know if Peter Parker dies or not - but we certainly do know that someone else is taking over from him. So! There we go. So so so.

Friday, 15 April 2011

ComVan's Top Ten Spider-Man Villains

Why not. Here’s a list of the top ten Spider-Man villains – who are still out there. Dead or replaced characters have been left out of this list, as we’re focusing on the here and now, like, dude. As such, we’re going to focus on the characters who have appeared recently during Brand New Day, and especially during The Gauntlet. It's an intense list, you guys, and not all of you are going to be able to handle it/might be annoyed we left out Vulture.

So.... who makes our list? Who are Peter Parker’s worst enemies?

10: Himself

Not counting the times he’s been cloned, reproduced, or faced up against alternate realities where he is a bad guy, one of Peter’s most reliable villains is his own mind. After the slightest thing goes wrong for him, he’s liable to start thinking dark thoughts about how everyone is out to get him. Recently losing his Spider-Sense has made him extra-paranoid, and his tendency to over-think things has gotten people killed in the past. His reluctance to let anything go wrong under his watch means that he will frequently berate himself for his failure to save bystanders from getting hurt during supervillain attacks, while his guilt over the deaths of Uncle Ben and Gwen Stacy are now classic character traits which will hover over the him forever.

9: Electro

Racing into The Gauntlet and destroying skyscrapers in the process, Electro is one of the most well-known villains. He’s also a bit of a whiner. Given a power boost during his recent appearances, he can now jump through electric currents as well as fire bolts of pure electricity at his opponents. Despite his increasingly dangerous power upgrades, he’s so paranoid and pessimistic that he’s never going to be able to match up to Spider-Man. He sure can cause damage in the meantime, though!

8: Shocker

The most prominent Spider-Man villain to be ignored during “The Gauntlet”, Shocker’s personality is a large part of what makes this by-the-books character interesting. It’d be easy to get him mixed up with Electro, as their main power seems pretty similar. However, there’s one way to tell them apart: Shocker is more entertaining to read about. While Electro is all “woe”, Shocker is totally “give me your money already”. More interested in money and his own safety than anything else, Shocker’s appearances always end the same way (web his hands and eyes!) but his hatred of Spider-Man is unsurpassed. Also, don’t type ‘Shocker’ into Wikipedia without clarifying ‘(comics)’.

7: Chameleon

We like that The Chameleon owns an acid pit. That alone catapulted him two or three places up this list. A formerly insipid character who traditionally dresses up as one of Peter’s friends and then tries to con him out of money, Chameleon has recently been given a personality! Which is good news, as he is now more threatening than ever before. It was boring to see endless storylines in which Peter can’t guess who Chameleon is pretending to be – now we have stories in which Chameleon is shown to be an intelligent, capable enemy. He’s a strategist, and has allies all over the place – from his half-brother Kraven the Hunter through to Mysterio, Chameleon is one of the most well-connected members of the rogue’s gallery.

6: Rhino

Many of the best issues of Amazing Spider-Man were by Joe Kelly, who was responsible for updating Rhino. His idea was to show a man who has retired from super-villainy after falling in love with a waitress, who he then married. Naturally this all fell apart when a second Rhino appeared who killed the wife and forced the original rhino to put his costume back on. Although Rhino quickly got revenge for his late wife, his grief forces him to keep the costume on permanently. It looked like he’d completely given up on a normal life, and was to resume his ways of wantonly causing damage and destruction – however, recent comics seem to show that the noble, respectable man inside the costume is more powerful than the rage-driven animal on the outside. And that’s pretty interesting.

5: Kraven the Hunter

Speaking of rage-driven animals! ...Here’s a character who isn’t really rage-driven at all. Kraven is mostly portrayed as a half-mad adventurer and explorer with a strong sense of pride and honour. He tried to hunt down and kill Spider-Man for sport, failed, and shot himself. Which seems a bit like an overreaction, but you can never account for insanity nowadays. Brought back during The Grim Hunt (another Kelly storyline), he’s going to be fighting Black Panther soon. He was humiliated the last time he fought Spider-Man, so presumably he’s now trying to build his way back up to prime condition. Not sure that losing to BP is going to do much for his self-esteem, though.

4: Norman Osborn

He’s not Green Goblin at the moment, but Norm can cause trouble for Peter no matter what guise he’s in. Dark Reign was his notable triumph, although there was the time he dropped a certain blonde girl off a bridge and led her to her death. There was also the time he apparently impregnated her, but we don’t talk about that too often.

3: Sandman

Fred Van Lente also wrote some stunning storylines during The Gauntlet, and Sandman’s tale of kidnapping and adoption was touching. After making friends with a single mother through prison-letters, Sandman came out of jail and bonded with her daughter. Unknown to him, his new-found ability to split into separate-minded sand people was going slightly awry. While he had control of his dopplegangers, he didn’t have full control over his own mind, and his subconscious crept into any sand clone he wasn’t personally watching over. When he wasn’t looking, several of them crept off and killed the mother, the mother’s lawyer, and several others. He took the little girl away, where she happily lived with her new ‘daddy’ for weeks, before Spider-Man found out and confronted Sandman with the truth. The girl went into fostercare, while Sandman was left licking his wounds. Which presumably tasted disgusting, as sand is all grainy and ugh.

2: Mysterio

This’ll annoy you, but we like Mysterio more for the concept and potential he has than for anything he’s ever done. He’s never really appeared in excellent stories, and we weren’t particularly thrilled with his Gauntlet storyline. It was interesting enough, but it felt like something was missing from his revamp. Ah well, he’s got a fish bowl on his head and a glittery cape, so it’s surely a matter of time before he appears in a good storyline, right?

1: Lizard

Chris Bachalo helps any storyline in our view, which made ‘Shed’ one of the highlights of The Gauntlet. Saved for the end, it was one of the best storylines in an already stellar run, and again showed off some father-issues. Not from the child, but from the father. Curt Conners ended up killing his son while in Lizard form, and thereafter gave up on life. The Lizard took over and ‘shed’ Connors from its consciousness, before going on to wreck parts of New York. What we love about lizard is that he keeps his lab coat on while he runs around, but also that his volatile double-nature has no reason to exist whatsoever. The only reason Lizard is angry is because of his human side. If he were just a lizard, he’d probably be happy to curl up on a warm rock and sleep all day. Because he’s experienced life as a human, however, he’s vicious and petty. And that’s why we like him most.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Stacy X, Joe Casey return for VENGEANCE and all that

Joe Casey's new six-issue miniseries for Marvel not only promises to focus on some unexplored villains but also to bring back everyone's favourite pheremone-based sexual manipulator, Stacy X. Titled 'Vengeance', the project seems interested in how D-List villains operate, and what their motivations are. Unlike Doctors Doom or Octopus, these characters struggle to make a living stealing from shops, kidnapping members of the New Warriors and getting risible ransoms in return, or attempting to get into Utopia. The artist for the series will be Nick Dragotta, who drew this: Hurray! The mini is going to be six issues long, as previously mentioned, and feature a LOT of new or undeveloped villains. At last count, somewhere around sixteen-seventeen characters have been developed by Casey and Dragotta, and the aim sees to be to cultivate some new villains for the MU. With Magneto an X-Man, the Spider-Man villains grouped into a new Secret Six, and Bullseye dead... the MU needs villains now more than ever. Expect the series to kill off a few, but the ones who remain should start appearing in Avengers Academy and Young Avengers. Ain't nothing quite like teen-on-teen violence, yo! The mini starts in July.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Mark Millar expands the "Millarverse"

Our fingers felt dirty and sordid just writing that word. "Millarverse". Ugh. Anyway, Mark Millar announced at Kapow that he'd be involved in about seventy different projects this year, with people like Frank Quitely and Dave Gibbons. The two projects he confirmed, however, were a Hit-Girl spinoff series and a new title called "Supercrooks". Here are the teasers for both, which we literally just grabbed from comicbookresources like the artful dodgers we are.

So What Of Kapow?

Kapow Con happened this week, and by all accounts it was a great success. We weren't there, obviously, as England is a surprisingly large country to travel across and also we don't have any money. But we had friends, allies, and snitches alike gathered across the London Business Design Centre, and the overall verdict was "pretty accomplished". While there were some problems with the queueing systems and Kieron Gillen didn't like the bar, Mark Millar and team managed to deliver an interesting, surprising, and very British version of the American Comic-Con experience. Jonathan Ross was there, Andy Diggle was there, Frank Quitely and Dave Gibbons were there. More importantly, though - Americans were there.

The United Kingdom has a variety of comic-book events over the year, from the mighty Leeds Thought Bubble through to the Cardiff Comic Expo in darkest Wales. British writers and artists have a wide variety of conventions and shows they can travel to, in order to promote their work, meet with the fans, and have a natter with their fellow British writers and artists. The important thing about Kapow-Con, we're hoping, is that it's going to bring American attention over to the United Kingdom. With the arrival of Marvel editors Steve Wacker and Nick Lowe for organised panels focusing on specific Marvel brands, we got to see the American marketing style co-exist with British consumers. We can do it, you guys! We can all work together!

And the reason this is great is because Captain Britain and MI13 got cancelled by Marvel. Despite selling out every month in British comic-book "shops" (let's not call them stores, you guys. Let's try to keep decorum), the series was poorly-received by Americans and was duly cancelled after 15 issues and an annual. Critically acclaimed, we should mention, but still cancelled anyway. Paul Cornell's series, we're positing here, would have continued if only Marvel had known more about the existence of the United Kingdom. Although Marvel have for years relied on the superb talents of British writers, artists, editors and colourists (not letterers. Well, perhaps letterers. Are there any British letterers?) they seem stubbornly unwilling to pay attention to international sales. When you make a comic about Russian characters, surely you should keep an eye on the ol' "Russian" demographic?

This blog entry got interrupted halfway through when we realised the oven was smoking and almost exploded. Apologies! Could you see how the tone of the article suddenly switched? At any rate our point is, the UK is riddled with comic-book fans, like a plague. And the more we see events like Kapow-Con and the Thought Bubble, the more Marvel are hopefully going to realise that overseas sales could be the key to future success. Sure, the British have practically no decent distributors, and you'll have to visit a blog like It Came From Darkmoor if you want to learn about Marvel UK's collapse. But Thor came to visit us this weekend, and we treated him kindly! If you'd only pay more attention to our desperate attempts for affection, Marvel, perhaps we could get a Blade series up-and-running again, maybe? We'd even look into resurrecting Death's Head if you'd like! Look at how popular you are in the UK, and think how this could benefit your company. That's all we're saying, as we sum up an article which started out promisingly but eventually ended up reading like a livejournal entry.

Saturday, 9 April 2011


Time for a quick EXCLUSIVE! Mark Millar's Kapow Con started earlier today, with many many Marvel writers and artists in attendance. One of such a writer was Nick Spencer, who announced with Steve Wacker that he will be writing the return of CLOAK AND DAGGER. Drawn by Emma Rios, who recently worked alongside Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo during Spider-Man's 'Gauntlet', the project will see the duo return to New York.

Oh, but you want more details? Fine. This will be a three-issue miniseries, tying in to Dan Slott's SPIDER-ISLAND storyline!

More will be revealed later this week...

Friday, 8 April 2011

The X-Men Vs Juggernaut

First off, let's get some sad, sombre news out of the way. Comics Vanguard has indeed been cruelly snubbed by the Eisners in every category, despite some superb lettering work in our "Greg Pak loves centaurs" article of a few months ago. As a result, we would just like to formally announce that we didn't even want to be nominated for an Eisner anyway we don't need you we're perfectly happy to be unread/unrecognised, and unrewarded for all the hours... and hours.... of hard work that we...

We're going to need a minute here to recompose.

Oh! Is that an image of Juggernaut I see? But hey, he looks like he's been possessed by a dark passenger who gave Jugsy a power upgrade through the traditional means of a magical hammer which fell suddenly from the sky. Well, this can mean only one thing: The X-Men are going to fight The Juggernaut during Fear Itself!

That's right, for issues #540 and #541 of Kieron Gillen's run on the title, we're going to see a Fear Itself tie-in in which Juggernaut gets transformed into one of 'The Worthy' and attacks Utopia. Previous promotional material has suggested that Colossus is going to be the focus character of the two-issue arc, that the issues will be drawn by Greg Land, and that both issues are to be released in July. Punching ahoy!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Fear Itself #1 REVIEW

Matt Fraction’s Fear Itself is the first truly massive Marvel crossover event since Siege, and as such has a lot resting on it. Not only does the event have to define itself relatively quickly, it has to have a story which provides multiple comics with ways to tie-in, focus on some incredibly overpowered characters, and still entertain the fan base. The first issue of any event will sell highly, but Marvel are going to dwell heavily on how many sales the second issue gets. The story has to hook people in on a massive scale. If people don’t like it, then they’ll stick to tie-ins or turn against the event entirely. So there are some stakes here.

Fear Itself #1 primarily focuses on Steve Rogers and Thor, and they seem set to be the focus for the rest of the mini. Interestingly, though, it would be easy to say that they aren’t the main characters at all. Odin seems to have the majority of the story, as he looks back on some of his past mistakes, and takes his anger out on his son. Artist Stuart Immonen seems to draw a very Hopkins-esque Odin (movie out this Summer, you guys!), but it helps give personality and voice to the character. Picturing Odin’s dialogue being spoken by Anthony Hopkins actually serves the story, unless of course you pick Remains of the Day Hopkins instead of Silence of the Lambs Hopkins. Fraction in turn throws in a lot of fun touches to Odin’s dialogue, as we see a drastically different version of Thor than the one we’re used to. In this issue he is a worried son, who realises for the first time that his father isn’t immortal.

...Well, in some ways he’s immortal.

Steve Rogers mainly features at the start, and his role is to show human perspective. While Thor and Odin have a very telling fight about the qualities of being man or god, Steve Rogers watches and realises how both sides are going to hurt themselves. His humanity is very important to Fraction’s story, but what’s strange here is that he is the only human character who even attempts to stop the fight. The other Avengers are mainly here for panel-dressing, watching from the sidelines as Thor and Odin argue with each other. Even the other Gods are silent, but then again they seem more focused on obeying their leader than in who is morally correct. Fraction’s theme for the issue is how easily humanity can infect divinity – but more obviously, how divinity can infect humanity.

This is rather blatantly hammered out in the parts of the issue which feature Sin, the daughter of the Red Skull who has now taken on his role. Her quest for divinity brings her to a source of power, but upon taking it she is transformed and loses her humanity. While she starts the issue by talking about her father’s legacy, once she transforms it’s quickly shown that her personality is completely dismantled and replaced. She meets with a mysterious figure who she calls father, but the surprise comes when this figures turns out to be a completely new character. Fraction plays with the different scenes, splitting them apart at mini-cliffhangers with seeming ease. Sin's possession is instantaneous.

So if you take us as your preferred choice of online blog psychologist, Fear Itself seems to be mainly concerned with the twin ideals of humanity and divinity. And that means Thor is going to be completely central to the story as it continues. He is the only character who knows what its like to be both man and God. This will probably be what decides your level of excitement for the story. If you find Thor interesting, this will make for a great character study – and ultimately, an exciting event. We’re not too keen on Thor, and this issue didn’t really make his plight particularly inspiring. While Fraction sets up things well, without making things too overdramatic too quickly, there are a lot of things in the issue which may turn people off. Parts of the issue run a little too close to reality, and feel out-of-place in a superhero comic. However, the Odin aspects of the storyline show a lot of promise.

While Fear Itself is a decent opening issue, it isn’t necessarily as dramatic as you might expect. Steve Rogers, Thor, Sin and Odin get almost every line, with the exception of a Tony Stark speech midway through. It’s well-written and drawn, and brilliantly coloured by Laura Martin, and lettered superbly by Chris Eliopoulos. But it reads more like a Thor comic than a Marvel Universe comic. We’ll have to see how things develop as it goes on, but for the time being we’re reading a very focused storyline. If you enjoy the focus, you enjoy the comic. If the focus isn’t to your interest, you may struggle.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Captain America // And Bucky!

Okay, so we just wrote a loving article, filled with generous words and beautiful language. And then Marvel went and announced "Captain America and Bucky" before we'd even hit 'publish post'. Yes, Marvel are going to be keeping Bucky alive for the time being! While Steve Rogers is taking over as Captain America, and getting hiw own Steve McNiven-illustrated ongoing series; Bucky is going to continue on as... Bucky.

Ed Brubaker stays on the series, BUT picks up co-writer Marc Andreyko, as the series gets Steve and Bucky together for adventures. Yes, there will be flashbacks to World War II! For all you WWII fans out there. But the series will remain rooted in the present, as we see Bucky try to find a place for himself in a World where he's no longer Captain America. It could well be that he'll pick up a new codename (or return to Winter Soldier) in the near future, but for the moment he'll just be... Bucky.

It seems that the first arc will deal with fallout from Steve Rogers reclaiming his costume and title, before moving on to deal with the events of Fear Itself. After that, we'll just have to see how popular the series continues to be. Marvel have said that the series will only cost $2.99 in America, which could tempt many to try it out. The first issue of Captain America and Bucky is released in July.

Is Someone Dying in Fear Itself?

If you want an event to have impact, you gotta gotta kill someone off somehow. Doesn’t matter if you’re a God (actually, this seems to make you a target) or human, Marvel are going to have to rip somebody apart if they want people to feel like an event really meant something. From Bill Foster to Wasp and Hawkeye, you can’t change the Marvel Universe forever unless you’re planning to make it a few characters smaller. And Fear Itself looks to be no different. The solicitation for issue 3 of Matt Fraction’s mega-event features this line: “And everywhere, the Serpent's presence is felt...never moreso than when a major Marvel hero falls at his hands!” So yes, somebody is going to die during the story. At least one major character, if not several.

But who? Well, Matt Fraction is currently all over the Marvel Universe. He writes the main Thor title and the main Iron Man title, which means he can do pretty much whatever he wants to either character without ruining another writer’s series. However, Ed Brubaker is also working as part of this story, and was behind the prologue issue released a few weeks ago. Which means Brubaker’s characters – Captains America, Falcon and Black Widow – may also be in some proper trouble. The way we see it, there are three main options for who’ll die. It could be a complete surprise, and nobody sees it coming. Or it could be one of these three:

1: Thor

Sure, it seems unlikely, as there is a Thor film coming out soon. But Thor doesn’t need to be alive to headline a series, you know. Norse Mythology features several different underworlds, some of which have already appeared in previous Thor stories. Kieron Gillen – another writer with close ties to Fear Itself, as he is writing the new Loki series and will be tying Uncanny X-Men into the event – spent several issues of his Thor run exploring the various people who live in Norse Hells. There’s an ongoing plot point there already. If Thor were to be killed, he could still appear on a monthly basis. And Fear Itself does seem to be heavily Thor-based. Odin is a central feature in the storyline, knowing a dark secret which will come back to bite the Norse Gods. If Odin’s mistake were to lead to the death of his son, that would not only give Journey Into Mystery – the Loki title – a boost, it would also deepen the mythology in the Thor series itself. And besides, Gods die all the time in Marvel stories. Hercules, Ares, Bast, Zeus… Gods are surprisingly expendable in the Marvel Universe. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Thor joins the list… again. However, The Mighty Thor series Fraction is preparing to release doesn’t seem to tie-in to Fear Itself whatsoever. So how could Thor die if his own series isn’t acknowledging the event? That’s the stumbling block for the Thor theory. Who knows, perhaps the death is going to be…

2: Bucky Barnes

Alas, poor Bucky. He seemed so promising. As we wrote last week, Bucky is in trouble. He is Captain America at a time when Steve Rogers needs to be Cap. While Marvel could try and work out a situation wherein both characters take on the mantle and work together, they could decide to simply kill him off and save themselves a lot of hassle. Bucky’s heroic sacrifice would provoke Steve into becoming Captain America once more, and give him the determination to save the day. Cap is notable in being the only non-Fraction character to have a main role in Fear Itself. While Iron Man and Thor are on most of the covers, Cap is just as prominent. And the thing is – it looks a lot like Steve Rogers in the costume, and not Bucky. What would be Bucky’s greatest fear? Could it be letting down America and failing to live up to the title of Captain America? There’s room for a story in here, and a lot depends on how deeply Ed Brubaker decides to tie-in his ongoing Captain America series to Fear Itself. However, news that literally just broke means that perhaps it's instead going to be…

3: The Hulk

What! Where’s that coming from?! Well hey, let’s look at this, you guys. Let’s not start fighting each other. That’s what the villains WANT. Hulk’s ongoing series is coming to an end soon, with Greg Pak announcing the end of his run with the character. From Planet Hulk to World War Hulk to… whatever the current Hulk storyline is (we heard there were centaurs involved somewhere), Pak has been in charge of Bruce Banner for the last few years. With several other Hulks around at the moment, it would be easy for Marvel to put Red Hulk in his place, or promote up one of the several She-Hulks wandering around at the moment.

This would also tie-in to the march towards Joss Whedon’s AVENGERS movie. With Hulk dead in the comics, his eventual resurrection would be a massive plot point for Marvel to seed. If they were to spend the next two years building up to it, a relaunched series which coincides with the movies would be an almost-guaranteed hit. In many respects, the death of the Hulk would fit thematically with the story Fraction is trying to tell. The question is… will it happen?

Steve Rogers is Captain America oh snap

And we're not even kidding. Scant days after we wrote about the difficulty of managing two Captain Americas at the same time, Marvel have announced that July will see Ed Brubaker and Steve McNiven team up for a brand-shiny new Captain America #1. While Marvel are holding off any more announcements until later today, it seems likely that this will not be a renumbering of the previous series - it seems set to be a completely new series. Which means, perhaps, that fans of Bucky might still get their monthly dose of the ex-Soviet-assassin-now-sort-of-American-hero.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Red Skull: Origins

This is another title emerging from the Captain America: The First Avenger, with covers designed by the amazing David Aja.

The five-issue "Red Skull" miniseries, written by Greg Pak, once again sees Pak explore Nazi Germany as he delivers a biography of a classic Marvel character. Whereas Magneto Testament looked at the concentration camps and horror of the Nazi regime, Red Skull is going to look at the other side of things. Red Skull has always been portrayed as a proud Nazi soldier, and it looks like this mini will delve deeply into how he was twisted into a grotesque vision of 'purity'. Mirko Colak, last seen on Secret Warriors, will be on art duties for the miniseries, which promises to jump across Skull's lifetime. We'll see him as a boy, we'll see him as an adult.

We may eventually see him as Red Skull, but Pak is keeping quiet about that for now. Issue #1 comes out in July.

Friday, 1 April 2011

WONDERCON: Secret Avengers Secretly Controlled by the Brits

WONDERCON! Nobody knows where it is, but rumour has it that it's yet another American convention filled with special guests, panels, amateur reporting, and Joe Quesada's cups. This year, Wondercon was the home for several large Marvel announcements, not least of which was the explanation of the X-Men's 'Schism' storyline. First came Seige/Siege, now comes Schism/Shism/Scism? But we'll get into that at a later date. Let's explore the other announcements Marvel made! First up is the news that Jamie McKelvie will be working alongside a little-known author as the new creative team on Secret Avengers. What was the name of this unknown, this new talent? Oh, I think it could have been WARREN ELLIS? Writing COMICS? About SPIES? There's also the promise of a flying car appearance, as Ellis takes the reigns to the series following Nick Spencer's brief Fear Itself tie-in storyline. Ellis' run will last for six issues, and the interesting thing here is that each issue will be a done-in-one story. So that's six standalone stories, one after another. Should be an experiment, eh.

Look, there's even preview artwork featuring a magical floating Moon Knight! Jamie McKelvie is so wonderful.

Also happening soon will be Greg Pak.

The Two Captain Americas

So here we are, boys and girls, looking at a World in which at least two people should be Captain America, but only one can prevail. The problem is that both characters seem to want the other to take on the role. While Bucky Barnes feels inadequate and haunted by his past as a Soviet assassin, Steve Rogers knows that Bucky is the only man who can save the Marvel Universe from an as-yet-unknown future apocalypse. Marvel have hinted repeatedly that this dystopian future is likely to be revealed during Fear Itself, and the covers for the first few issues of Matt Fraction's event series seem to show Steve Rogers wearing the Captain America uniform. The question is, what's happening with these two Caps?

Although Bucky Barnes has been accepted as Captain America by prominent comic-book reviewers (I hestitate to say critics), a majority of the fanbase will only ever see his stay as temporary. With Steve Rogers appearing as the main character in the upcoming Captain America: The First Avenger movie, Marvel will be keen to have books on the shelves which showcase the character. If people pick up Captain America and see a completely different guy on the front cover, they're going to wonder where Steve is. That's the thinking. So everything seems to indicate that Steve will get back the shield and start attacking Nazis again. Where does this leave Bucky? For the past few years his storyline has seen him progress from amnesiac enemy to recharged hero, developing and growing into an adult in the process. His narrative has only ever had one end in sight: Bucky as Captain America.

While Steve is the All-American, personality-free and highly moral, Bucky represented contemporary America. A danger to itself, scared of the past, but more scared of the future. He carries a gun, is more pragmatic, and reacts based on emotions. While Steve is level-headed and strategises, Bucky races into action with littel thought for his own safety. He is, in short, a great representative for modern-day America. With Steve seemingly dead, Bucky could be shown to tentatively step into his shoes and attempt to honour the legacy of his best friend. But now we're in a situation where Steve Rogers has been brought back. Ed Brubaker says this was always the idea, which is unusual. It seems to bring a second alpha-male into a situation where only one can headline the title. Steve has been appearing all over the Marvel Universe recently, but his presence is never-greater than in the Captain America book. And when combined with Falcon, Black Widow, and Iron Man - that doesn't leave much room for Bucky.

The problem Brubaker must be feeling is that both characters demand to be Captain America, and yet he can only have one. While Steve is likely to win the role, Bucky's big storyline is going to crash as a result. His narrative needs him to step in Steve's shoes, and try to emulate his friend. What's he to do when Steve is Captain America once more, and he's demoted to Bucky? The only storyline which would seem to resolve both Steve and Bucky's storylines would be one which is already being told, by Grant Morrison. Batman Inc shows Bruce Wayne setting up a network of Batmans across the World who can help protect people from fear. Likewise, it would make sense for Steve Rogers to set up some kind of initiative in which select heroes are promoted.

While Marvel couldn't have more than one Captain America without losing the prestige of the name, would it make sense for them to form some kind of initiative wherein Bucky, Steve, and perhaps even Falcon are all given equal status? With Bucky currently languishing in an American jail (with Ursa Major, no less!) and Steve about to put his costume back on for Fear Itself, how is Ed Brubaker going to resolve the trouble of his duelling Caps? It's an interesting question, right?