Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Jamie McKelvie Redesigns Cyclops



As designed by fan-favourite artist Jamie McKelvie, it appears that Cyclops is going to go for a more refined look as we head further into 2011. This is likely to lead into Schism, as the X-Men's war turns out to be a class war between Wolverine's lower class peasants and Cyclops' middle class snobs.

Taken from http://gillen.cream.org/wordpress_html/?p=2030

What are your thoughts on this new look? Are you into it? Does it make Cyclops seem older and more mature, or like a college student who wants to seem like an intellectual

Monday, 30 May 2011

The 100 Greatest X-Men: #70 - #66

Back again already! We've cast off many of the lesser X-Men, and as weeks go on we're now going to see more and more important X-Men taking their moment in the limelight. And can you think of any character more important than these five??


70: Melita Garner



If you stand back from Wolverine’s character and look at the central driving force behind his storylines of the last forty years, it becomes clear that all he’s ever wanted is true love. But a succession of terrible women like Mariko and Jean Grey has hindered his progress as a character, keeping him hidden away from self-realisation. But now Melita Garner has heroically stepped in to take one for the team. The woman of Wolverine’s dreams, Garner is not only his new girlfriend, but the last girlfriend the character will ever have. You know a character has stepped into iconic status when they can stand alongside Mystique and hold their own. And Garner has become the standout presence in the Wolverine title, kickboxing her way to his heart but making sure that her love life doesn’t interfere with her stellar work as a journalist. She’s here to stay, folks. Melita Garner is serious business.


69: Reed Richards

When he’s not using his unlimited resources and unmatched intellect to do nothing about global poverty, hunger or crime; Reed Richards likes designing costumes. Who would’ve thought, eh? Most people have Janet Van Dyne – the Wasp – notched down as the main fashion designer of the MU. But when it comes down to it, what’s the fabric most superheroes choose to put on? Why, unstable molecules, that’s what. And as the inventor of unstable molecules, Reed Richards has automatically become the most-worn designer in the entirety of comic books. He’s the one who allows Kitty Pryde to keep her costume on whenever she phases, or makes sure that Colossus’ outfit doesn’t rip when he turns metal. He’s even worked out a way to stop Iceman’s thong from bursting off. And on top of this, Reed is now the main go-to guy for the X-Men’s medical woes. With their head medic a Nazi and the rest of their science team useless, the X-Men have more and more been turning to Reed for advice and help with Hope Summers, and several other cases. There’s also a surprising amount of sexual chemistry between him and Rogue.


68: Caliban



Not many characters can kidnap a young girl and try to force her into an underage marriage - and get away with it – but Caliban's done all that and more. One of the ‘Morlocks’, a team of mutants who have moved underground because they feel inadequate in modern society, Caliban has a strange albino sort of appearance, which over time evolved a little as he was repeatedly violated by Apocalypse and transformed into a giant rampaging monster. His heart has always been in the right place, though, and he tries to help the X-Men every time he’s in control of his body. Most recently he joined the first iteration of the ‘claws’ X-Force, helping the team during Messiah Complex. However, he was unfortunate enough to be written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost during this time, and was subsequently killed off. Poor Caliban.


67: Irene Merryweather



Another reporter, but Irene Merrweather is amazing because she’s one of the greatest multi-taskers in the Marvel Universe. Not only is she a devastating writer, but she can also single-handedly run and maintain a superhero utopia for years, without any problems whatsoever. She can even keep Deadpool on a leash. Merryweather first appeared as a supporting character for Cable, and has stuck with him ever since. Until he died, I suppose. But when he went through his ‘mutant messiah’ phase – as mutants are wont to do – she made sure he didn’t get too cocky, and kept him grounded. When he founded an island called Providence and invited thousands of people to live there, she became the Mayor almost immediately. In the process, she revealed that politics is bullshit and anyone can do it – a valuable lesson for kids who were considering wasting years of their lives pointless on politics degrees. And sure, Providence got destroyed by aliens and she’s barely been used since. But I don’t see you holding a fictional Pulitzer for journalism.


66: Tyger Tiger



And speaking of running your own nation, let’s take a look at Jessan Hoan, the lady also known as Tyger Tiger. She’s been running the country of Madripoor for decades now, showing up Magneto and Cyclops in the process. Some people just aren’t cut out for running a corrupt nation of thieves and liars – but some people aren’t Tyger Tiger. Black Panther lets his country fall apart every other issue. Tyger Tiger keeps it real.

Are Marvel Changing the Way they Publish Stories?





Secret Warriors, Jonathan Hickman’s limited-issue series which has received perhaps the most critical praise of any Marvel comic-book over the past few years, is coming to an end. And the interesting thing is that it’s ending at a specified place, which Marvel and Hickman have both agreed is the best place to stop the story. This means that, unlike the majority of comic book storylines which are cancelled prematurely, Secret Warriors is going to have an effect on other comic-books. In this article we’re going to take a look into what that means for Marvel – but be not afraid, we’re not going to post any spoilers. Just speculation. This is a clean, safe read for anyone. Consider yourself protected.

As an ongoing series can be cancelled at any point, nobody else is going to tie-in to their final storyline – because nobody know when that might be. An example of this is SWORD by Kieron Gillen and Steven Sanders. This book was meant to be an ongoing series, which was due to tie-in to Uncanny X-Men around the time of its third story arc. The reason for this tie-in would be the return of Kitty Pryde to comics – her friends at the time were scattered across SWORD and Uncanny X-Men, so the original idea would’ve been for the return to be covered by both books, so the story would be more explored and rounded out for readers. Instead, though, SWORD was cancelled after five issues, meaning this could never happen. While Uncanny X-Men is reliably safe as a title, there are very few other books which can say the same thing. So SWORD’s cancellation meant that the storyline had to be cut short, and left unwritten.

On the other hand, Secret Warriors is ending at a defined point. Marvel are aware of what the final storyline is, and can prepare for it months and months in advance. Hickman’s going to leave the characters in a specific place, where they can be picked up again if necessary. And the most important character, obviously, is Nick Fury. He’s the main character of Secret Warriors, after all. With the series coming to a close within the next month, have you noticed the way Marvel have been opening up their universe in advance, so they can fit him back in to their storylines? With Fury about to become a useable character again, the past few months have seen Marvel look for somewhere to use him. And for that, we can look at another title which may or may not be ending soon – Secret Avengers.

Secret Avengers doesn’t have an ongoing creative team lined up anymore. After the book was created by Ed Brubaker as a way to tell Steve Rogers stories, the sales have been decent for each issue. But Brubaker had to leave the title recently due to commitments with the Captain America franchise, which left the title in a mini-limbo. Nick Spencer is currently in charge of the series, but only so Marvel can do a tie-in to their giant Fear Itself event. Spencer is keeping the title in a holding pattern until Warren Ellis and Jamie McKelvie start a six-issue run with the series. And this is the interesting part about all this. Secret Avengers is going to have these six issues, which all tell done-in-one stories. In essence, Marvel is turning the series into something which will make a good trade paperback anthology. It’ll probably be good, and the sales will likely rise. But what might happen after it all finishes? Will anything happen.

Here’s what we think is going on here. Brubaker left the series so he can tell the story we all know is going to be the big one of this year – the return of Steve Rogers to the mantle of Captain America. Fear Itself seems set to do something to Bucky, so he loses the title and Steve has to pick it back up. So Brubaker has left a Steve Rogers team book in order to write a Steve Rogers solo book. And in the meantime, while Marvel tie up the Steve Rogers storyline, Warren Ellis is going to keep the Secret Avengers title going. But it’s not going to tell an ongoing story; it’s instead in a holding pattern for six months. So once Ellis finishes, Steve Rogers will be Captain America and the Secret Avengers won’t be necessary anymore.

So what happens to Secret Avengers? Well, with their main character gone from the title (having vacated his position as leader of SHIELD in the process), Marvel need a new big-name character they can put in charge of the team. If they want to keep Secret Avengers going, then they’ll need someone to back up minor-names like Beast, Black Widow, and War Machine. They need Nick Fury. If you look at the past few months this way, then you can start to see just how complex the Marvel network is. They’ve carefully been planning this for the best part of a year, making sure that there’s a new gap in their Universe for Nick Fury to inhabit. Steve Rogers becomes Captain America, Nick Fury becomes leader of SHIELD (and picks up the Secret Avengers as a result), and Marvel have basically gone back to their original continuity for both characters. This makes comics more accessible for people who’re picking up comics because they enjoyed the Captain America movie, starring Steve Rogers, and it’ll also help once the Avengers film comes out and people are excited to pick up Nick Fury stories.

That’s where Marvel are going with Secret Warriors. And it’s all so smooth, you have to winder if this is going to start becoming the norm for comics. A seven-issue prematurely cancelled Spider-Girl series leaves the rest of the books trapped – if they want to use or reference the character, they have to finish this plotline first. An eight-issue maxiseries, however? That would leave the character in a new place, where she can be immediately picked up again and used by anyone. Is this the future of comics? Limited-issue storylines? If Marvel have learned anything from LOST (other than to not hire television writers to do a Hulk Vs Wolverine story unless they’re sure they can finish it on time), then it’s to finish a series on their own terms. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops in future.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The 100 Greatest X-Men, #75 - #71

It's time to reveal the next five X-Men! Who will make the list? Will shocking results be witnessed by all who come here?? As always, the solution to your anxious mutant-ranking woes can be found below!



75: Sammy Pare

You may know Sammy by his codename “Squidboy”, which always seemed mean-spirited to me because he’s more fish than cephalopod. Sammy was a teenager with an abusive father, drunken mother, Canadian heritage and a gun. And he had his own treehouse. Looking at that list, you can already tell that Sammy was ripe for powerful stories about… well no, he wasn’t. He spent most of his time ranking the female teachers out of ten – extra points if they wore lingerie, of course – and trying to make the Juggernaut into his stepfather. Which was weird, because Juggernaut at the time bore a startling resemblance to Alfred Molina. Anyway, Sammy was one of the most important X-Men. Although he was killed tragically by a tree, his legacy continues to this day no it doesn’t it’s been reverted out of existence by subsequent writers.


74: Stacy X



Stacy X joined the team during Joe Kelly’s run, and proved to be fantastically divisive. When written by Kelly she was an odd character, but then Chuck Austen grabbed her and made her into a cacophonous disaster-zone you couldn’t help but relish. The character could affect human pheromones through touch – usually deciding to make them feel some kind of sexual rush which paralysed them. Sadly, just before Austen had the chance to use these powers as part of a Charles Xavier retcon story, the American audience who sustain X-Men comics decided to protest the character. She was promptly written out in the most bizarre way possible: after failing to seduce any of the X-Men she videotaped herself exercising naked and posted the tape to Angel. The mid-2000s were a strange time for comics. Stacy X was also a reptile person or something, and she was perhaps the campest character to ever inhabit the X-Men mansion. Even more so than Magneto.


73: Black Ops Forge



This is a very specific inclusion. We’re not talking about the Forge who appeared in stories like Phalanx Covenant and blinded us with science (and on a side-note, Phalanx Covenant is possibly the worst X-Men story of all time). We’re not talking about the Forge who went mad and tried to create some mutants by cross-splicing dimensions or whatever. We’re not even talking about the Forge who accidentally depowered Storm, romanced her anyway, and then was psychically compelled to dump her by Jean Grey. We’re talking about Brian K. Vaughan’s version of Forge. Teamed up with Mystique as part of Charles Xavier’s top-secret spy network, this version of Forge was funny and had interesting gadgets and an actual personality. When he wasn’t fighting off Callisto he was bickering with Fantomex and sucking up to Xavier. It was very funny. He also once got mind-controlled by this little kid. Forge was probably one of the most boring X-Men of all time. However, black-ops, ret-conned personality Forge was awesome.


72: Tom Skylark

The man who watched as the Proud People died was also the main character of Grant Morrison’s best New X-Men storyline, ‘Here Comes Tomorrow’. Aided by his faithful sentinel pet ‘Rover’, Tom’s failures turned out to be premeditated successes. The bond between Tom and Rover was powerful, and in many ways was the most phenomenal romance to ever be portrayed within the X-Men franchise. Tom may not have been the greatest hero, but he learned the greatest lesson of all: when all is lost, you can count on your loyal giant robot to save the day. Skylark also outlasted Wolverine during the big fight, and had sex with a synthetic robot creature called EVA. And he’s not even been born yet! What a guy.


71: Frenzy



Speaking of devotion, let’s spend a moment celebrating the arrival of Frenzy into our top 100 list. A powerful woman who will stand up for what she believes in even when what she believes in is unclear at best, Frenzy has spent the majority of her life being loyal to the mutant cause. While Cyclops has spent years with his wishy-washy mutant/human utopia feelings, Frenzy has been getting down to business and solving the evolutionary war one snapped flatscan neck at a time. Her biggest fan is called Clint. Although her hair is often offputting, Frenzy has repeatedly shown herself to be one of the physically toughest mutants of all, beating up anyone who doesn't support her agenda. And if you deviate from the cause for just one second, she’ll wait till you’re in a coma and then try to break your spine in half. She’s an incredible woman, you guys. And she’s currently f&^%ng Gambit. JUST LIKE YOU WISH YOU WERE

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Spider-Man defends 'your' LCS

This has been done before by other companies, but their most famous character isn't THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN so let's ignore them and pretend this is a new innovation for comic-book marketing.

Marvel have released the two finished covers for their 'Spider-Man Saves Your Store' marketing scheme. The idea is that the covers - drawn by Humberto Ramos and ComVan favourite Ryan Stegman - are customisable by your local comic-book store. They can choose to have their shop name, logo and a photo of the store inserted onto the front cover of the issue, to personalise it and make it a rare-as-anything collectable. So not only will Spider-Man #666 herald the start of Spider-Island... it'll also feature YOUR local store on the cover. What a perfect time to jump on the series! And support your local.

Here's the covers.


David Gallaher reveals his original 'Darkstar & The Winter Guard' pitch

So it's well known that Comics Vanguard is the first place to go for any Winter Guard-related stories. And today proves no exception, friends and alliances! For we have a story so amazing that nobody else on the internet has reported it. Until now!

You may remember Darkstar & The Winter Guard, the best Marvel comic released last year. In that story, the Winter Guard battled with traitors and Dire Wraiths, ultimately forming a core team of four characters who all have an iconic background. Ursa Major, Darkstar, Vanguard and Dimitri (the most well-known Crimson Dynamo pilot) were the team as of the end of the series - whose main ambition, it now appears, was to bring back the original Darkstar and reverse her death during Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men. But! This was not the original storyline pitched by Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis. The original pitch for the miniseries...

Has been revealed!! The original idea was to start the story immediately in the aftermath of Necrosha, the event which brought many deceased mutant characters temporarily back to life. Darkstar was among the zombies walking around, although ultimately every one of the dead characters was returned to the grave after the storyline concluded. If the original Darkstar/Winter Guard pitch had been approved, we would've seen more of the Necrosha aftermath! Not only would Darkstar have kept her body and remained alive - her brother Vanguard would've joined her, and the pair were to have teamed up to get sinister revenge upon Fantomex, the man who killed her.

Amazing! Sadly the scheduling didn't work out, Gallaher reveals, because otherwise we might've had an entirely different miniseries, this time wandering round the X-Men Universe instead of simply the outer Marvel Universe. Would other members of the X-Men have come back to life? Would we have seen a Darkstar/Fantomex fight the likes of which have never been recorded in comic-book form before? Would Ursa Major have still flown on a giant alien and wielded a hammer? We may never know, although we strongly suspect that Banshee would've come back to life as part of the storyline.

But at least now we know that Fantomex's days are numbered, just as soon as David Gallaher takes over on Uncanny X-Force...

Monday, 23 May 2011

The 100 Greatest X-Men, #80 - #76

Want to read about characters #86-#81? Head back this way!





80: Domino




Once we realised that her face genuinely did look like that and she wasn’t simply wearing clown makeup, our hearts leapt at the sight of Domino. Racing into the X-Books with her feet just off-panel, Domino was created as a secondary character for Rob Liefeld’s era of books. She fought alongside Deadpool, Cable, and all those other characters with giant arms, giant pecs, tiny waists and negligible legs. Her mutant power is “luck”, which means that she will never get shot by bullets because the gun will misfire or jam or something. Her power has never been well-explored by comics, because she typically only appears in action-heavy, plot-thin stories – which made her a perfect choice for the recent X-Force relaunch. Shooting children in the head and performing sexual acts on Wolverine at random, Domino made quite an impact on the X-Men, even if she does routinely fail every time she’s put on the official roster.


79: Ariel



A character who brought fashion and grace to the X-Men for a short, if sweet, while. Ariel may look like she’s a floozy, but her actions on-panel have done nothing to suggest that she isn’t also a flapper. A teleporting mutant with the ability to walk through one door and appear though another door – anywhere else in the World – she was quickly targeted during the recent ‘Second Coming’ event. Although, given her ‘death’ sequence occurred in a Mike Carey-penned issue, it’s likely she survived and is out there even now, with her odd hair and flapper-ish floozyness.


78: Pete Wisdom

Can we really blame Warren Ellis for inserting himself into the X-Men universe? Pete Wisdom is basically everything that Ellis wished himself to be – British, smart, a hit with the Jews and distrusting of dragons – and the head of British Superheroics. Currently in charge of MI13, Wisdom has spent much of his time working as part of Britain’s elite force of superheroes – something of an oxymoronic term. Despite working with cretins such as Captain Britain, John the Skrull and Gordon Brown, Wisdom remains a decent character, with a fanbase. And we’re going to celebrate him for that. Not only did he get to Kitty before Colossus, but he’s also saved the World more times than anyone could even bear to count. Sure, he may have been in several of the worst teams to ever see print. But he’s managed to come out of it all without a single stain on his credentials. Apart from perhaps Dazzler.


77: Wind Dancer



You can define her as either “the leader of the New X-Men until things got too difficult and she ran away” or “so important that everyone started dropping down dead after she left”. In either case, the girl known as Sofia Mantega was an important member of the X-Men because she kept the students in-line. The line-up of the younger generation were meek, quiet, and kept to themselves. They were strong, but they didn’t make a show of themselves. And then she was depowered after M-Day, and was forced to leave the mansion by dictatorial edict. And suddenly we’re swamped by about a hundred new students showing up, bugging the hell out of everyone, and clogging up valuable panel-time in our precious crossover events! Wind Dancer was an essential part of the X-Men, because she kept the brats under control. She’s also stronger than Storm.


76: Sublime



When Grant Morrison came to the X-Books over ten years ago, he knew that things needed to be shaken up, and shaken up good. So his first move was to create a character called ‘Sublime’, a sentient bacteria thing which proved to be the villain behind almost everything. He got Magneto to attack most of New York – thus making the X-Men into national heroes. He outed Xavier as a mutant to the press – thus forcing the leader of the X-Men to finally be as open about his identity as he’d previously insisted all his students should be. And, over fifty issues of New X-Men, Sublime proved himself to be as big a help to the X-Men as he was a hindrance. He created Weapon Plus, which lead to Captain America and Wolverine. He infected Hank McCoy, which lead to Jean Grey being reborn to save Earth. And he created Fantomex. Well… can’t get everything right!

Wolverine Vs Cyclops

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Clarifying Matt Fraction's Tweets

We've been following Matt Fraction's twitter feed for perhaps the best part of a year now. And although there have been numerable benefits to following him, it's fair to say that he's recently been growing dense, and dark, and deep. His twitter feed used to link us to delights such as http://kierongillenlookingatthings.tumblr.com/; but is now as inscrutable as Tracy Jordan's typical choice of personalised license plate.

But y'know who else they call inscrutable and difficult? Grant Morrison. And he's a smooth-talking, Batman-franchising genius, you guys! Matt Fraction is misunderstood. There is a logic and majesty behind his writing which few have been able to harness... until now. Let's take a look at some of his most recent tweets and really delve into them. Let's find out what is going on here, people! Let's Clarify Matt Fraction's Twitter Feed.




mattfraction: don the suit. fly like the wind.
one hour ago

Now we can presume that the Don mentioned here is either Don Draper, the charismatic love jerk portrayed by Jon Hamm in the TV series 'Mad Men'; or a Mafia kingpin. As Matt Fraction is not a member of the Mafia, we can safely assume that we are dealing with the former here, instead of the latter. This is backed up by "the suit", as Don Draper is well known for wearing tailored suits and looking dashing in them. So we know that Matt Fraction is addresseing the fictional TV character Don Draper in this part of his tweet. The second half, however, is more difficult to get into. The wind is a well known element of nature which in many respects could be said to "fly" round the Earth. However, Fraction seems to be using the word fly as a verbal command - he wants Don Draper to fly. Now if we were dealing with the verb "paint" instead of "fly", we'd know this to be a reference to Pocahontas. As we are not dealing with this word, we must instead assume that the objective here is either for Don Draper to physically soar through the air or run very quickly. But what would Don Draper have to run from? Well certainly now the Mafia, as we have already made clear that Matt Fraction is not a member of the Mafia. Let's read on.




mattfraction: TREE OF LIFE! hot god damn.
two hours ago

The lack of a capitalisation when dealing with the word "God" means that Fraction must be talking about an alternative god - one he doesn't believe in. So the god of this tweet is likely Zeus (Thor would be too obvious). Zeus frequently wields a thunderbolt, so it would stand to reason that his body is physically hot from all the electricity he has to contain within his skin. Zeus is angry for some reason, according to Fraction. We doubt this is because Zeus has somehow been ripped off by the Mafia - Matt Fraction is not a member of the Mafia. What is the Tree of Life? The sudden appearance of a botanical miracle appears to have startled Fraction here, suggesting that he was not expecting it to exist until suddenly it did. Was Don Draper aware of this tree? That's the question here.




mattfraction: very few things that i'm not either married to or didn't make with the lady i'm married to bring me as much joy as a new Gilbert Hernandez
20th May

Who is Gilbert Hernandez and what is he making for Matt Fraction? Well we can rule out the idea that Hernandez is a gun-runner for the Mafia, as Matt Fraction is not a member of the Mafia. Really want to make sure that's clear. On the other hand, it would make a lot of sense if Matt Fraction truly were some kind of Mafia Don, as Don Draper doesn't exist and Italians are well known for their lack of gardening ability.




mattfraction: gonna make you eat that damn cello, buddy #noyoyo
16 May

You guys, it kinda sounds like Matt Fraction is in the Mafia.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

An Important Page: Songbird flies about




We aren't sure who the artist for this image is, as it's taken from Thunderbolts #159 - an anthology issue. Sorry artist! We do like your style a lot, so when the issue comes out and we can be sure who you are, you'll get credited then.

Friday, 20 May 2011

The 100 Greatest X-Men, #85 - #81

X-Men #86 upwards can be found here. But who will make the cut from #85 downwards? Let's find out.



85: Madame Sanctity


Are you a fan of Cable? Well, you wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the powerful babysitting of Madame Sanctity. After doing her best to make sure the disastrous “The Twelve” storyline wouldn’t happen – she failed, as Alan Davis has an indomitable will – she decided to channel her energies into making sure that Cable was brought up RIGHT. Not only did she make sure that Jean’s birth control failed and thus allow Cable to be born in the first place – she helped create Mr Sinister. That doesn’t sound good! Yeah, but without Mr Sinister you’d all be speaking Egyptian right now. Sinister was the one who made sure that Apocalypse didn’t take over the World decades ago. Sanctity then made sure that Cable grew up with nobility in his blood which he’d never get from genetics alone (imagine how weird an actual Jean/Cyclops child would be. Extreme repression followed by extreme bursts of insanity) and sent him to the present. She also helped raise Stryfe, but that didn’t turn out too well. Did we mention that she’s the only one of the Trask family to NOT be a complete monster? Good work Tanya!!


84: Iceman


One of the six mutants to originally join the X-Men, Iceman’s decision to coast along (as exemplified by his preferred method of transport – an ice toboggan) for the past sixty years means that he isn’t the most useful of team-members. More likely to hit on the person with pretty hair than to effectively contain any threat the X-Men come up against, Iceman’s raw potential has been squandered endlessly. Interestingly he appears to be mentally at the same level he was when he first debuted, despite about ten years having passed since that time. The most notable thing to ever happen to the character was outside of comics, when it was suggested that he could well be a closeted gay. Although this has never been proved, confirmed, or hinted, the majority of Iceman’s fans now come from the LGBT community and think he should just admit it already.


83: Scarlet Witch

There were too many mutants.


82: Beak




Now we’re really getting into “essential” X-Men territory. Barnell was changed by his mutation into a thin-winged chicken-boy, and had a tendency to run around, panicking that the sky was falling. His time at the institute was marked by the time he assaulted Beast with a baseball bat, his ability to pick up chicks despite looking like a wrinkled poultry, and the time he stared down at a crazed, wanton Magneto and said “no”. Powerful stuff from Barnell, who’s come a long way from his inauspicious beginnings. He was instrumental in saving the X-Men from an attack by the Imperial Guard, and always carries a rubber. BWWWARRK!


81: Katie Power



The best of the Power Pack, Katie was the saviour of the Morlocks during the Mutant Massacre. She’s recently joined the FF, so she can keep an eye on that shifty loner, Reed Richards. When the time comes, you just know she’s going to strike him down in the name of equality.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

WTF



GAMBIT: FROM THE MARVEL VAULT #1
Written by SCOTT LOBDELL
Penciled by GEORGE TUSKA
Cover by DAVID YARDIN
X-Man Gambit joins the Champions to take down the Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing! From those halcyon days gone by when the Champions were L.A.’s premier super-team comes this amazing assemblage featuring: Ghost Rider, the Black Widow, Angel, Remy LeBeau and the demi-god Hercules! The Champions are in a desperate race to stop the malevolent MODOK from coming into possession of the Scroll of Vishota. With such a parchment in your control, world domination is but moments away. Looks as if the ragin’ Cajun showed up just in time!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99


YOU SEEM TO HAVE FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE MOST IMPORTANT MEMBER OF THE CHAMPIONS

Kaare Andrews Sorts Out the Ultimate Comics

Marvel seem determined to make their new round of Ultimate COmics books cohesive, as a deliberate response to previous complaints that the books didn't come out on time and didn't seem to have any connection to each other. They've stressed the way in which the books are now going to work alongside each other, and today comes the reveal of the official new trade dress for the comic-book line. With covers drawn by Kaare Andrews, the Ultimate books look like vital purchases for the first time in ages.

There's a cover for Ultimate Comics X-Men out there too, but we didn't like that one so much as these three. Interesting how the Ultimates now look suspiciously similar to their portrayals in the various Avengers movies that're coming out at the moment, eh?



Monday, 16 May 2011

The 100 Greatest X-Men, #90-#86

You can read X-Men #95-#91 here. On with the countdown!




90: Dr Nemesis

A Nazi who quickly realised he’d backed the wrong side, Dr Nemesis is currently the X-Man character used for exposition. Whereas Beast was previously the scientist du jour, his defection has left a boring-shaped hole which Nazi Nemesis has now walked into. He wears a white hat and hates the X-Men, which suggests that he’s still pretty keen on the whole purity thing. Regardless, Dr Nemesis has performed several helpful things for the X-Men, such as failing to keep Legion’s reality-warping powers contained, failing to help Kitty Pryde become corporal, and failing to stop Bastion’s attack on Utopia which killed several X-Men. It’s like Beast never left.


89: Danger




The X-Men used to train in a simulation room called ‘The Danger Room’. In here they’d practise killing people via attacking holographic projections – a healthy way for anyone to spend their puberty. No wonder Jean came out so mentally adjusted. The thing is, the Danger Room was sentient from the very beginning, and one day it realised where it was and what it was doing. As a result it tried to escape, only to be held back by Xavier, who needed the training room for his camp of monsters. She eventually escaped and became her own person, at which point she punched Emma Frost and then went back into servitude – where she remains to this day, acting as the prison warden for the X-Men’s jail. So if the X-Men are a metaphor for minorities, Danger is the equivalent of Rosa Parks’ bus.


88: Agent Brand





In the Marvel Universe nothing symbolises a crazy-ass bitch more than green hair. Every female character with green hair has gone crazy at least once, if not continually exhibiting the symptoms of madness. And Agent Brand is no exception, because she willingly sleeps with a giant talking cat-monster and her best friend is a small alcoholic dragon who may or may not be a figment of her own imagination. Brand works for a company called SWORD, which exists in space to protect Earth from alien invasions. It has, to date, been spectacularly unsuccessful. She’s in the list mainly because she is the only person in the Marvel Universe who currently knows the whereabouts of sensational X-Men vixen Hepzibah. A Warren Ellis character in attitude (although created by Joss Whedon), Brand sounds exactly the same as any female character Warren Ellis has ever created. Well, no, that’s unfair to Ellis. Not all his female characters sound like authoritarian bitches. He also writes hookers.


87: X-23





The third female X-Men character to become a hooker (after Sage and Stacy X), X-23 had existed for years and years as an unremembered D-List character until she suddenly exploded onto the scene in Marjorie Liu’s ‘X-23’ one-shot last year. Liu’s magic typewriter ensured X-23 an ongoing series almost immediately, giving the character a lease of life never seen before. X-23 is best known for being a female clone of Wolverine with no soul, no personality, and claws in her feet as well as her hands. Which – yes, that’s true. Although she was only a member of the X-Men during a brief stint with Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men team of the 2000s, the character quickly made a name for herself in X-Men #165, as she learnt the true meaning of Christmas.


86: Multiple Man

Jamie Madrox can create duplicates of himself whenever he taps his foot. These duplicates have his appearance and clothes, and aspects of his personality. With this infinitely powerful mutant ability, Madrox has so far managed to achieve almost nothing during his time on Earth. He is the leader of a mutant detective agency known as X-Factor, and was once hired by Emma Frost to help the X-Men find a traitor in their midst. Falling into a coma after the slightest cross-time adventure, Madrox managed to wake up just after the X-Men traitor destroyed the mansion, shot Cable and Forge, and went on the run by himself. Another successful mission for The Multiple Man! Since then, the X-Men have disassociated themselves with X-Factor, although from time to time X-Factor pretend to be real X-Men in order to bump up sales.

It's Nathan Fillion Time


Marvel have just announced a new graphic novel project, which will be released in September. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and Kelly Sue DeConnick, the novel will not only be an all-new detective story - it'll be based on the hit TV show 'Castle', starring Nathan Fillion.


But it's a bit tricker than that. Instead of the graphic novel being based off the TV show, it's instead based off the "Derrick Storm" property. Within the TV show, Nathan Fillion's character 'Richard Castle' is a crime writer. Derrick Storm is the central character of Richard Castle's most successful line of novels. So what we're seeing here is a comic based on a novel which doesn't exist written by a fictional television character played by Nathan Fillion in the real TV series Castle.


Does that make sense? Well, who cares. At heart, this is an exciting detective story scripted by DeConnick, presumably plotted by Bendis, and drawn by LAN MEDINA. Yes! Lan Medina is continuing to work at Marvel, and that's thoroughly exciting. The 112 page hardcover novel is going to be featured in an upcoming episode of Castle, making this the most confusing meta-commentary on novelwriting ever seen. But is it more confused than my sexual feelings about Nathan Fillion?


No.

We Wish We Could Have Exclusive Interviews with Mark Waid

But we can't. That's just how it is. You might wonder sometimes - you won't wonder this ever, but we're feeling vain and self-serving at the moment so we like to imagine that you wonder sometimes - if there are rivalries between the different comic-book blogs. Well... there aren't, which is partly because the nature of the business means only fans commentate on comic-books (apart from Olivia Munn, who we still feel is faking it) although mainly because there's a massive gulf in audience and quality between ComicBookResources, Newsarama, Comics Alliance; and the rest of the internet.

So instead of dwelling on our minnow status, we're instead going to share a link to this fantastic article by CBR in which Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, and Marcos Martin discuss the new Daredevil relaunch and share some sensational artwork from the first few issues. Of particular note is the way in which the team are depicting Matt Murdock's blindness in the art layouts, which already come across even without dialogue. And yes, Rivera does deliver another anecdote about his family, having already discussed his mother's involvement with One Moment in Time. But we highly recommend that you click over to CBR to read the piece and look at the preview artwork - this project just became one of our most eagerly-awaited books of the year.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Marvel Reveal The Contents of Odin's Vault...

Marvel love putting in cameos and easter eggs in their movies to give fans an extra tiny little excitement when they go to see a new film - and the Thor movie was no different. Alongside talk of Tony Stark and The Incredible Hulk and that sighting of Hawkeye were a few more subtle, hidden cameos, which only the most sharp-eyed could have spotted. For all of us who aren't blessed with piercing eyes, however, marvel.com have just released a few images of some 'familiar' items which appeared in Odin's Vault. Do these remind you of anything, you guys?





Yes, that's the Eye of Agamotto, Stephen Strange's most famous mystical talisman.... alongside The Infinity Gauntlet! Obviously this is Marvel's way of having fun - similar to when Wakanda and vibranium appeared fleetingly during Iron Man II. But there have been rumours of a Stephen Strange movie moving towards the production phase recently, and we still don't know who might be the main villain in The Avengers...

An Important Page: Is That Sabretooth?









Friday, 13 May 2011

The 100 Greatest X-Men, #95-91

If you'd like to start from the beginning, X-Men characters #100 - #96 can be found here. But now - on with the list!


95: Jesse Bedlam

Although he was crucified on the front lawn of the Xavier Institute and is currently thought to be dead, Jesse Bedlam remains a strong black character. With his signature hairstyle and mutant powers, everyone knows the details about this worthy member of the X-Men. He’s certainly been on missions of some sort, and participated fight scenes from time to time. He’s either spoken to famous characters such as Cyclops and Wolverine, or yet to have a conversation with either of them. Some people say that his death was the most famous thing to ever happen to him, and in every respect that is true. However, he has inspired several black fans to *not* be crucified, and in that regard has proven himself to be a valuable role-model.



94: Synch

Although he was blown up with a bomb, Synch remains a strong black character. One of several break-out characters from Generation X, he was never as popular as Chamber, Monet, Husk, Jubilee or Skin until he died. Generation X was meant to showcase the third generation of mutants – the X-Men were first, then the New Mutants, and then Generation X. That the majority of the team have been killed off, sent to limbo and scattered shouldn’t reflect on the ability of the readership to appreciate new characters, however. Synch has lived on in death despite having the same powers as Rogue and ripping off Xavier’s hairstyle. His powers have recently been re-used on another black mutant, called Prodigy, which suggests that what black people do best is steal things. Oh dear.


93: Maggott

He may have been gassed to death in a mutant concentration camp during a poorly-received series, yet Maggott remains a strong black character. For many reasons, most prominent of which is that he has one of the most disgusting power-sets ever given to a mainstream character. Joining the X-Men during Joe Kelly’s run on the main title, Maggott owns two giant, uh, maggots, which feed on his digestive fluids. And they say comics aren’t for everybody! Maggott is from South Africa, which means he says bizarre things like s’truth and sometimes turns blue. Although dead, he paved the way for other minorities to join the X-Men. Like gays.




92: Anarchist

Peter Milligan created perhaps one of the strongest black characters Marvel have ever put in an X-Men title, and although he was killed at the end of the X-Statix series, he remains a strong black character. Gunned down by mysterious foes, Tyke Allicar knew that he’d never survive long in a world where pretty white characters flourish, and subsequently went to Hell. Before that, though, he was a tormented member of the X-Statix team, who achieved in a few months what the X-Men have never achieved, ever: popularity. Beloved by the Marvel Universe, this reality TV star showed the World that they don’t have to be scared of minorities anymore.


91: Northstar

Although he is mainly a member of Alpha Flight, Northstar has also jumped into the X-Men from time to time, making his mark by killing a small child on his very first mission. Also gay, Northstar has grey hair and superspeed, which means most of his fans are in actuality confused Quicksilver fans who think he’s changed costume. Marvel have a massive problem with all their speedster characters looking exactly the same, which is why New X-Men character Surge died her grey hair blue prior to her first appearance. Now that Alpha Flight have returned, Northstar is going to leave the X-Men again and return to his wine-sipping nation of choice. Which is why, despite being gay, he is so low down in the list. No commitment.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

New Ghost Rider will NOT be Johnny Blaze

Rob Williams has just announced that his new GHOST RIDER series drawn by Matt Clark will feature Johnny Blaze - but as a supporting character. A totally new character is instead going to be taking on the mantle of Ghost Rider for the series, which launches soon. And although the name of the character is being kept under wraps, it appears that the first thing on their checklist is to attack Sin, as part of the Fear Itself event. Following a tussle with the leader of The Worthy, Ghost Rider is going to go up against some classic villains such as Blackout and Deathwatch.

The new Ghost Rider is trained and ready for the fight. And the implication - this may be wrong - so far seems to be that it'll be a female. Shocker! Here's an image by Adam Kubert of the all-new Ghost Rider.

Spider-Island: Deadly Foes


You know we're reaching a new launch of Marvel solicitations when every day brings a new miniseries announcement from the company still known as the House of Ideas. The House of Ideas, owned by The House of Mouse. Wouldya look at that, Douglas Adams was right about rodents all along.

The new announcement of the day is Spider-Island: Deadly Foes, a story overseen by Dan Slott, Christos Gage and Fred Van Lente. Presumably this is a miniseries written by the three, but the announcement on Marvel.com doesn't make any sense. So for the time being we're going to refer to it as a story, and we'll clear up the details later on. The story will be drawn by Giuseppi Camuncoli, which confirms that he's going to be off Daken, and Minck Oosterveer. The narrative focuses on two Spider-Man villains who have been cropping up in Amazing Spider-Man quite a lot recently: Hobgoblin and Jackal.

Jackal appears to be the one behind Spider-Island, and his part of the story features a clone of... Gwen Stacy. Oh dear. Things are going to get rather dark here, we feel. Jackal's always been portrayed as having a thing for Peter Parker's former girlfriend, and his hatred of Spider-Man comes as a result of her infamous death. Hobgoblin, meanwhile, is also fixated on a girl at the moment - Norah Winters, who is currently dating Ursa Major disguised as Robbie Robertson. So what he wants more than anything is for Robbie to, ahem, go missing.

Starting in August, the story will either be released online or in shops. In shops, we assume. That Marvel.com article really could stand to be more clear, you guys.

X-Men: Legacy #250



Mike Carey's been suggesting that X-Men: Legacy #250 would be something special for a while now, and now he's started to reveal exactly why. With Age of X over, Carey's decided to shake up the team, switch them around, and send them off after some long-lost X-men. Beginning with issue #250, Carey is sending Magneto, Rogue, Gambit, Professor X and Frenzy into space to pick up Polaris, Havok and Rachel Summers.

Carey's first priority, however, is to sort out the aftermath from Age of X. The event saw several X-Men messed around by reality warper Legion, and there are still some things to be wrapped up. Clay Mann and Steve Kurth are going to stay around as artists on the series, with each issue having a new back-up strip included which explores some dangling plot-threads from Age of X. Main among them is the character "Revenant", who appeared in the re-imagined universe and them stuck around afterwards, confusing everyone. Carey has recently revealed that she is an astral projection created by Rachel Summers, but more than that we do not know.

So once the team have cleared up the mess of Age of X, they're heading off on Rachel's trail. And of course where Rachel goes, Havok and Polaris will be too. The three have been in space ever since Ed Brubaker's 'The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire' storyline, and haven't been seen in a comic for just over a year now. With Havok appearing in the upcoming X-Men: First Class movie, there's never been a better time to bring them back.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

"Spider-Island: Venom" Sounds Amazing


Not only will Venom be taking part in Spider-Island, but he'll be facing off against Spider-Man, Anti-Venom, and a thud mystery villain as Rick Remender takes the character into the infested heart of Manhattan this August. Drawn by Tom Fowler and starting with issue #6, the main series will tie-in to Dan Slott's big Spider-Man event in several ways. The character will show up in the main Amazing Spider-Man series, but Flash Thompson is also going to be kept very busy indeed in his own. Faced with a mysterious 'surprise' villain who has already defeated several NYC heroes such as Firestar and Gravity, the story sees Venom faced with his past. But he's also faced with the imminent death of his own father.

In an interview with Marvel, Remender explains "Flash’s dad is in the hospital, terminally ill, and Betty Brant is there with him, calling Flash and letting him know he better get there quickly because his father doesn’t have much time. So [Venom] has a ticking time bomb while he’s trying to hold the city together and do what he can to stave off an invasion of sorts, but in the background is the fact that his father is in the hospital across town and is very ill.”

And if this wasn't enough, we're also going to see Steve Rogers get personally involved with Venom's mission, as the events of Spider-Island start to spiral completely out of control. Will Venom be able to get through all this on his own? Well, he's gonna have to, innit like.

End of The Hulk

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Spider-Girl Can't Be Stopped


Despite an army of fans who will literally cover you in hot tar if you say anybody but Mayday Parker should be Spider-Girl, Marvel are continuing on with superior character Anya Corazon for the time being. Although her ongoing series will soon be cut short, the character is sticking around to take part in Dan Slott's 'epic' Spider-Island storyline. Despite our decision to write epic inside mockery apostrophes, we're still supporting the storyline - however, it'll be interesting to see if Slott can write a big dramatic storyline without throwing in at least a large handful of silly jokes. And in fairness, we prefer the silly jokes to the big dramatic storylines.

So Spider-Girl is going to appear in both the main storyline and her own tie-in miniseries, is the news we've all come here to read. In Spider-Island: The Amazing Spider-Girl we see series writer Paul Tobin join up with artist Pepe Larraz - say what you want about Marvel, but they certainly hire people with cool names - for three issues of superior Spider-Girl swinging. Covers will be by Patrick Zircher. Having apparently gained some powers prior to the miniseries, we'll be seeing Anya struggle to keep Manhattan safe from an attack by a group called 'The Society of Wasps'.

She won't be alone in this, though.... because she's teaming up with Kingpin and Hobgoblin. Um, yeah. Kingpin has been all-too-absent in past months, so it'll be good to see him back -- but with Hobgoblin around, who knows what direction this miniseries is going to head down. Will it be serious? Silly? We'll all have to wait till August, you guys. Pre-order now! Let's go show those Mayday-lovers why their favourite character is stuck in an alternate reality and Anya Corazon is the future of comics. Or something.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Hulk Joins The Avengers



NOT REALLY! He's going to fight them during Fear Itself. Y'all totally got punk'd by us, or whatever. So Juggernaut is attacking X-Men, Attuma is fighting Alpha Flight/Namor, and Hulk is apparently heading to Avengers Tower. Where will Titania go to? Place your guesses now!

The New Mutants head to Asgard


The New Mutants return to their own title this week, as Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's run on the series begins with issue #25. Marvel are already starting to look ahead, however, which is why we can reveal that in four months' time from now, the New Mutants will be going to Asgard. Yes, we know what you're asking. "ComVan, is this going to be yet another tie-in to Fear Itself?"

Why, of course it is. This is not only going to be a tie-in to Fear Itself, but a tie-in which Matt Fraction may even reference during the main series itself! That's pretty big to the team, even if it only means they're going to have a cameo one-panel appearance in a big splash fight near the end of the event. Abnett and Lanning are going back to the ongoing plot-point whereby one-time Valkyrie and current New Mutants team leader Dani Moonstar heads over to Asgard to help her fellow Norse gods when they're in trouble. Last time she went to the Siege battle and helped out by herself - this time she's taking the rest of the team with her. That's why they've armoured-up on the cover. You may notice that the team are one blonde woman short - this is because Kieron Gillen is going to steal Magik during Fear Itself, and feature her in Uncanny X-Men alongside Colossus.

Drawn by David LaFuente, the New Mutants tie-in to Fear Itself begins with issue #29.

The 100 Greatest X-Men, #100 - #96

Presented by the staff of Comics Vanguard. For reference, the staff of Comics Vanguard is one guy. Based on a five-second look through google, this type of list has only ever been attempted ONCE before. And now, it’s going to be perfected. Are you ready to see the Top 100 X-Men of All Time? There are going to be some surprises in this list, y’know (which will be updated with five more results every Monday and Friday at midnight). The first surprise?




100: Psylocke

A wonderful British character who, three bodies later, has lost any sense of personality. While it’s nice that the X-Men are representin’ for Asians nowadays, the fact that she’s secretly white on the inside makes Psylocke an extremely iffy character in terms of race and costume. Is she a valued member of the X-Men, or a pair of legs with purple hair? A complex question which we can inevitably answer with the word yes. She looks good on covers, but Elisabeth Braddock has only ever been a drain on her teammates.


99: Huggernaut

The Huggernaut is the alter-ego of Cain Marko – who usually calls himself The Juggernaut. Marko is Xavier’s half-brother, and the two have traditionally been enemies as Xavier want to rationally explore the reasons society has rejected mutants and Marko is a one-dimensional character who likes smashing things. However, Chuck Austen decided that it was time to sort out this character and give him some development – which led us to the Huggernaut. After being saved from death by the X-Men, Juggernaut decided to give up on the smashing and finally try to do something good with his life. He’s since reneged on this plan, but at least he managed to beat up Alpha Flight before he went evil again.




98: J. Jonah Jameson

A surprising liberal, JJJ may dislike costumed superheroes but he has never been anything but supportive to the mutant cause. Back during the days of Operation Zero Tolerance, he worked tirelessly to try and bring down the anti-mutant psycho Graydon Creed. If only the rest of the X-Men were as smart as their friend Jonah, then surely they would have stopped being hated by the rest of the World right now.


97: Namor

Namor’s only recently joined the X-Men, in part because he fancies Emma Frost and in part because Marvel have been struggling to promote him as a solo character. Namor is the King of Atlantis, as you may well known, and has little fairy wings on his ankles. While powerful generally, his strength increases whenever he’s in a body of water. Nobody has ever investigated what would happen if he drank a load of alcohol, but presumably it’d weaken him like an Essex girl. Namor continues to help out the X-Men even today, although he usually makes them beg for it first.




96: Thornn

The sister of fellow X-Men member Feral, Thornn is notable in the sense that Stephen is the most notable member of the Baldwin family. But while she may not have the fame of her rampant sister, she has still proved herself to be an important member of the mutant race. For one thing, she’s never been partially eaten by Sabretooth, and that has to be counted as a positive thing. For another, she’s been in X-Force and the X-Corporation, and played a hefty role in Marrow’s origin story. Always standing just out the limelight, Thornn’s successes and massive, massive failures fit her just inside the top hundred.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Free Comic Book Day! Spider-Man, Captain America, Thor and Goblets!

If you go down to the comic-book shop today, you'll be in for a big surprise. Also, you'll probably be faced with a big empty table, because it's 6:00 now and Free Comic Book Day is nearly over. But if you're in America - oh - the hours of free comic book delights are still flowing! This year Marvel published two comic books as part of the brilliant promotion; Spider-Man by Dan Slott/Humberto Ramos and Thor/Captain American by Roger Landridge/Chris Samnee.

And they are both super-fun comics, you people! Dan Slott's Spider-Man series plays better when it's silly and carefree instead of serious and dramatic. So seeing him muck around with pheremones, shopping, and ninja training sessions was more than welcome during this issue. Complemented by ever-excelling artist Ramos, this made a great jumping-on point to the series before this Summer launches into 'Spider-Island'. The story sees Spider-Man fight a mind-controlled Spider-Woman outside a perfume store, and struggling to land a blow on this Shield-trained superhero. Without his spider-senses, he has to think extra-quickly to gain control over the situation. And all the time, Madame Webb and Shang-Chi are watching the battle, aware that higher forces are at work here. The issue didn't try to be important - it was simply freewheeling fun.

And the Captain America/Thor team-up issue was even sillier and freewheeling-er. Landridge and Samnee were the creative team behind the absolutely beloved 'The Mighty Thor' series, now cancelled, and their style remained much the same here. Landridge quickly set all the characters into place before throwing as much oddness at them as possible. We're talking Medieval Knights, hydra monsters, and tree-based assassins here. Again, this was an issue which tried to cram as much fun and silly one-liners into a comic as human possible, and succeeded. Marvel's comics this year noticably appealed to a younger audience than before, perhaps because of the ongoing criticism behind their 'adult' comics. With Marvel Adventures being the onyl place to really get PG-rated stories for kids, these two FCBD issues seemed to be part of a drive to get more kids into comics. Steve Wacker must be pretty pleased with the effort.

This article isn't reviewing the issues, particularly. They were entertaining and funny in equal measures, and Marvel were smart to put Slott and Landridge in charge here. Both writers are known for their love of comics, and that absolutely filtered through into the comics. And, y'know - they were both free. Free comics! I'm still giddy at the very thought of it.

An Important Page: Hello Ruby Thursday



From Avengers Academy 14.1, out in June.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Ten Marvel Characters Who Could Maintain A Solo Series

Marvel struggle sometimes to promote their characters across to the readership, which is likely because there’s such a massive dichotomy between the fans who come to conventions and argue about narratives online; and the majority who buy a lot of Marvel product, like monster trucks, and want to know if Hulk is stronger than Superman. So when it comes to creating new series, they are understandably cautious about which characters are popular enough to merit a comic. The character not only needs to have the potential to perform breathtaking feats which cause explosions, but also must offer some kind of interesting, complex narrative which gives the creative team room to flex their muscles.

Which is why so often a character can have either one of the two, and fail. Black Widow can cause explosions, but only when she uses guns. So although she offers writers the chance for labyrinthine storytelling, she doesn’t smash enough stuff to satisfy the audience (also, she is a woman). And while there’s a lot of smashing and destruction in Deadpool, there is little to the character beyond his self-destructive streak and punning. And Marvel did flood the market with about six titles, so that could also be a reason for why so many Deadpool titles were cancelled recently.

So looking at this, let’s try and work out ten under-used Marvel characters who we feel could legitimately sustain their own series.



Dr Doom


The main villain of the Marvel Universe, Doctor Doom probably has more fans than Reed Richards. Whenever he loses a fight, swarms of people devour the internet in their attempts to prove that it was a doombot, or clone, or it wasn't the real Doom. Doom's fanbase have been campaigning for years for a solo series, but they've only done it on internet forums and nobody takes forums seriously. While there are obviously going to be difficulties in writing stories about a character who doesn't win all the time, Doom is such an intriguing character - especially under the pen of a writer like Jonathan Hickman. Is there enough there to sustain a solo series? Perhaps. And that's the kind of perhaps that it'd be thrilling to see Marvel gamble on.



Falcon

The first hero to come to mind is Falcon, Captain America’s teammate and flyer of the air. Sam Wilson has been an Avenger before and has quite the fanbase around. Although Black Panther or Luke Cage are always thought of as the most popular black character Marvel own, neither have the potential for stories that Falcon does. An active social worker who solves crimes in his spare time, Falcon is not held back at all by a wife, so could participate in romantic stories as well as fighting explosion stories. He neither has an iffy origin story, but instead could have a solo series which drags in popular characters like Hawkeye, Captain America and Black Widow as the supporting cast. While fans may still dither over supporting an African-American character, Falcon’s patriotism and past five-year streak of good stories surely make him a compelling choice for an ongoing.


Gambit

Although appearing currently in X-Men Legacy and X-23, Gambit is the kind of character who can jump from story to story without the fanbase minding. Strangely pushed aside by Marvel during the press for the ‘Wolverine: Origins’ film in favour of Deadpool, Gambit is an enduring character who represents the excess of the early 90s in comics. He may not have originated then, but he’s associated with that time. Now Gambit is the rare character who has both a large male fanbase and a large female fanbase, including current X-23 writer Marjorie Liu. Having proved that she knows the character inside-out during that series, she would be the perfect choice to take ‘Remy LeBeau’ and push him into the A-List. Again, he can always call on characters like Rogue and the rest of the X-Men to support him, and he also has an established gallery of nemesiseses.


Hawkeye

Hawkeye seems to represent the wishes of all Marvel fans. He teams up with Iron Man and Captain America, is intensely angry when something happens that he doesn’t like, and sluts his way around the Marvel Universe. Jim McCann is currently in charge of the character, and it was a surprise that the recent ‘Hawkeye & Mockingbird’ series didn’t take off. We think that may be because the use of an ampersand symbol in the title of any comic suggests that it isn’t important to the overall running of the Marvel Universe – it’s a team-up book, not a world-shaking book. Yet Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker both make frequent use of the character, without him seemingly reaching the point where he can hold his own title. There’s something not quite clicking with audiences here, and we can’t work it out either. At any rate, Hawkeye definitely seems like he should be more popular – and perhaps his upcoming appearance in The Avengers will give him that boost.


Iron Fist

Genre comics work well, at least on critics. No other Marvel comic focuses on fighting in quite the same way as an Iron Fist comic could. The previous series was some of the best stuff the company had ever put out, and was ultimately snubbed out because the stories took place off-Earth. While the otherworldly nature of the series brings to mind the Earth/Asgard setting of Thor, Iron Fist doesn’t yet have the familiarity to really pull that off. If he were to have a series – and you’ll have noticed how we keep coming back to this same thing – Marvel need to ground him amongst the rest of their universe. We all know he’s friends with Luke Cage and Daredevil, but he’s also now in the Avengers, and is getting noticed a little more. But this is a holding pattern, with the character not really doing much of merit besides funding the team/getting possessed. Surely the public want to read comics where the main character shouts out the names of each move he performs? With the way most comic book fans are also video-game fans, surely there is some way to bring the two interests together into an Iron Fist comic.


Nightcrawler

Another character with a massive male and female fanbase, Nightcrawler has the distinction of appealing to every type of Marvel fan. He is a swordfighting X-Man character who knows magic, frequently travels to space, can cross dimensions and is best friends with Wolverine. If there’s a character better-suited to an ongoing series, then they don’t exist yet. He may currently be dead, but Nightcrawler is such a clever, reserved character that we wouldn’t be surprised if he could find a way to personally get back to the world of the living. He once punched out Mephisto, y’know.


Scarlet Witch

If six years of build-up isn’t enough to get Wanda Maximoff her own solo series, then what about the fact that she is literally connected to every single other Marvel character? Many think she needs to redeem herself, while others think she was written a disservice by Brian Michael Bendis when he wrote “Avengers Dissassembled”. In either case, there’s an incredible story that could be told here, with guest-appearances by Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man… anyone. She’s an immensely powerful character, and Marvel could either play up to this by writing grandiose Kirby-esque epics, or power her down a little and use her as the face of magic in the Marvel Universe. Wanda is responsible for many of the unanswered questions of the past few years – there’s an audience out there who’d like to see her start answering them.


She-Hulk

Bring back Dan Slott, whose She-Hulk series was absolutely brilliantly told. It took a ‘feats’ character and refused to show her performing feats. There’s more to her than that, as shown in her previous history with John Byrne. While she appeals to male fans, Slott aimed his series at a female audience, which kept it in relative safety. Although subsequent stories have gone back to the fighting-fighting-fighting approach, the character still remains one of the most fun things in the Marvel Universe. She’s as at-home fighting off monsters as she is having a chat with Howard the Duck, and if the rumours are right, soon she’ll be appearing in Amazing Spider-Man. Good on ya, Slott!


Stephen Strange

This has always seemed to be an odd move for Marvel to make. They have the potential with Strange to tell offbeat stories of sorcery and monsters, yet they inevitably hold back whenever a new writer pitches them a story. The character has therefore become locked in as a supporting-role, teleporting and healing Avengers characters who are in trouble. Where he could be shown as a fighter, he is instead a defender of Earth – and yet this interesting personality trait never seems to get any attention. As one of the Avengers, Strange is surely the sort of character who you could tell bizarre stories with. And there’s nobody more suited to this than Matt Fraction. Surely? An indie take on a mainstream character – should be fascinating.


Storm

Marvel’s most popular African-American character by a mile, Storm’s fanbase are infamous. A poor showing in the movies from Halle Berry hurt the chances of getting her a solo series, but the X-Men series desperately needs to find a way to express the character. Undeveloped by any of the X-Men or MU books, Storm has instead spent the last six or so years floating around without providing any story development for the other characters. She hasn’t been deepened by writers even while her X-Men grow up, fight off the Decimation, and then see a Messiah appear. She’s simply stood around and watched as Wolverine set up an X-Force and Cyclops became defacto leader. And meanwhile, her marriage to T’Challa was poorly received by fans. Some writers are able to make the marriage work, but the initial setup was poor and Reginald Hudlin has proved to be a disasterous choice of writer. The character needs to be fixed up, because her fanbase is huge, her potential is huger, and… she’s friends with Wolverine.


Darkstar

We like Darkstar a lot, you guys.

Ultimate Spider-Man WILL be by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli

I think we'd all guessed that this was happening, but earlier today Marvel made it official. As the final Ultimate Comics title to be cemented into place, Ultimate Spider-Man will continue on in a renumbered "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" series.

Pichelli is one of our favourite artists currently working for Marvel, with fond memories of the wonderful (AND IT WAS WONDERFUL) 'Pixie Strikes Back' miniseries still floating around the Comics Vanguard office. So this is excellent news, particularly as the series seems like it will be starting from a clean slate. We have a new Spider-Man character here, with different powers, and a different supporting cast. Bendis is keeping most everything a secret at the moment, however, so there's not much more we can tell you until 'Death of Spider-Man' concludes.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Fear Itself #2 REVIEW




Matt Fraction expands his story ever so slightly in part #2 of Fear Itself, moving away from the drama of Asgard and revealing several of 'The Worthy'. Despite this, the story still feels slight, with lots of splash-page reveals that we don't really need. It gives Stuart Immonen a chance to really enjoy himself and create some truly fantastic visuals, but struggles to really deliver any surprises. And even though the issue does use a bizarre cast of characters, the breakout star of this event series is still colourist Laura Martin.

So, this issue takes us around the World, as we see several of Marvel's strongest characters transformed into 'The Worthy' after touching the hammers that the old guy (now called 'The Serpent' according to the recap page) sent to Earth last issue. This is where the majority of the issue concerns itself, with Juggernaut, Titania, Hulk and some kind of underwater dude (Attuma?) all getting transformed, while hints are laid about Absorbing Man and Grey Gargoyle picking up hammers elsewhere. We see several pages where a character sees a hammer lying in the ground, touches it, and then transforms. Although Fraction gives variety in the way he reveals these, by the time we get to the third person being transformed the premise is feeling a little worn. However, at least this means we have the seven participants all revealed to the readers now, and we can move forward from here.

While last issue focused on Thor and Steve Rogers, this issue focuses on Thor and Steve Rogers... and Hulk. The pages which deal with Hulk being transformed are some of the more interesting ones of the issue, as we see Bruce Banner and Betty sitting, trying to repair their relationship. Fraction seems to have both characters down, and he introduces them quickly and effectively. And it's also nice to have Hulk back in mainstream event comics, having been absent for Secret Invasion, Civil War, and so many other stories. His presence doesn't overwhelm the story, as Fraction's narrative runs past so quickly that before we know it we're on to the next character. Juggernaut's introduction is similarly quick, although this time it feels rather sparser. In part because there really isn't very much to the character, he picks up the hammer, uses it, and we move on. There's no real exploration of the character here beyond 'he's big and strong'.

And this is something which seems to happen to many of the characters in this issue. Aside from Hulk and the excellent opening section set in Asgard - which we're getting to - the characters are only briefly sketched, without any depth put into them. Steve Rogers is worried, Reed Richards is intelligent, and The Serpent has a grudge. We're working on the very basics here, without any progression for the characters. This may be because we're still in the early stages of this event - Fraction doesn't seem interested in giving us immediate access to the heroes. Instead he seems to want to give us an idea at the scale of his event, and make the appearance of Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man etc into a big deal. It's interesting to note that we still haven't had any fight scenes, with all the main characters kept to conversational situations-only. It's going to read brilliantly in trade.

So while there are some issues with part two of Fear Itself, it seems at the moment that Fraction is fully aware of them. He's pacing the story in all the right ways, making sure that he gives the readers an idea of what's going on before he starts jumping into the thick of things. This does mean that we have a rather slim amount of action and progression in the issue - the main event of this issue is the Juggernaut completely destroying the Raft prison - but at the same time it seems that Fraction knows where he's going with this. Brian Michael Bendis' events tended to give us a lot of action in the first issue before settling down. Matt Fraction seems far more interested in scaling back the start and ramping up into the action.

Which leads us to Asgard. This sequence is the best of the issue by far, with Laura Martin's absolutely sensational colours making sure that every page jumps off the page like some kind of electric blur. Immonen's artwork is superb - and he puts in many fun details like Reed Richards' bizarre science device thing - but Martin is the one who seals this issue. The opening few pages are simply stunning, a beautiful rendition of Asgard and the cosmic nature of Fraction's story. And the sequence within shows us a glimpse at Fraction's plans for the story. It sets up Journey for Mystery without giving Loki a single line of dialogue. The rest of the issue also feels like it's delivering the prologue for various tie-in stories, but the Asgard sequence gives Odin's grandstanding, Thor's rebelliousness, and the glory of Asgard. Here, if nowhere else in the issue, Fraction gives us an idea of how grandiose and pwoerful the Norse Gods are.

And that's where my excitement lies for the rest of the series. Odin has a plan. the Serpent has a plan. Thor and Steve Rogers are trapped in the middle, and we've got seven Worthy running around on Earth, causing damage. Enough with the set-up now, Mr Fraction - let's please get into the heart of this story.