Tuesday, October 30, 2012

29: Three Months

Today's edition of Random Thoughts has me venting a bit and finally doing an edition of that thing where it's basically one long thought. I haven't reached the point where I'm outright 'naming names' yet. But, I assume that time will come, too. In the meantime, go read as I repeat myself a bit, insult a lot of people in broad terms, insult some specific people in not-too-hidden ways, and, basically, share way too much information.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

EXCLUSIVE! Chad Nevett's Comic Book Mini-Reviews and Star Ratings for the Week of October 24, 2012

The great find at my shop this week: a bagged set of Down #1-4 for five bucks. One of those Warren Ellis books that somehow slipped through the cracks. Funny thing: I always thought of it as a Warren Ellis/Tony Harris comic, but Harris only drew the first issue. It's more a Warren Ellis/Cully Hamner comic.

Avengers #32: Oh, so the woman with the reddish hair is the Wasp. That was obvious from the opening scene of this issue. Except, isn't her hair meant to be brown? Actually, doing a quick Google image seach, her hair is usually a dark brown, almost black at times. But, hey, why not fool readers by lying? Bendis is wrapping up the loose ends. 'Kay... [***1/4]

Batman, Incorporated #4: Jesus, issue three came out three months ago... I had forgot all about Matches Malone and all of that. The reveal of Wingman isn't too shocking -- I honestly can't remember if this is who I thought Wingman was way back when the idea of his identity being a secret was introduced. It's also clear that the Heretic is Damian II... simply left in the tank longer. This issue was entertaining in how well the entire organisation works together. Action! And Burnham's art is lovely. [***3/4]

Captain America #19: Ed Brubaker departs, wrapping up a loose end in a manner that seems ironic given how his run began: Bucky revealed alive, brainwashed by the Soviets to kill. Here, the issue ends with Steve telling '50s Cap that his mind will be repaired and he'll be given a new life, one where he doesn't remember any of his true identity. Another member of the 'Captain America family' brainwashed -- for a good reason, it seems. But still... An appropriate ending. [***1/2]

Journey into Mystery #645: That final scene took a reread to fully understand. Loki's declaration of victory and eating out Ikol's throat threw me -- like he was killing Loki instead of allowing Loki to subsume him. An even more fitting end than the comic I just briefly mentioned. A more purposeful 'end,' too. Partly because so much of what Gillen was dealing with here were things that he had introduced and, therefore, needed to put away. The end of this made Young Avengers an even bigger 'must read,' if only to see what happens now that Loki is Loki instead of it simply being Loki. [****]

Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1: This seemed like a low key, lighter take on some of the same material Graham is exploring in Prophet. Some of the same broad ideas occur, but the perspective and purpose is so different that it's still engaging and worthwhile. Putting those two books together side by side should make for some interesting compare/contrast pieces... [***3/4]

Prophet #30: Great pacing/structure that built to a big finish. I like the idea of Old Man Prophet returning to a world he once fought for only to see it ready to succumb to the empire he fought against. On the surface, that seems like a betrayal -- but, what loyalty does this generation have to a previous one? Just because they chose to fight, doesn't mean that it's the Right choice. Or, that that choice always stands no matter the context. Not something explored (nor is there any reason why it would be), but that part had me thinking for a bit. [****]

Secret Avengers #33: And now we print the "Black Widow Was Right," t-shirts, yes? [***]

The Ultimates #17: I'm very tempted to drop this title and forget that it continued on past Hickman/Ribic. It's so conventional and mediocre in its approach to the subject matter and the execution thereof. Very typical, unremarkable superhero fare when, a year ago, it wasn't. Also, the art continues to slide and grow progressively worse. It's so fucking disappointing. [**]

The Unwritten #42: Up until the final pages, this felt like treading water. Even the reintroduction of Lizzie doesn't completely wow me. Like I've said for a while, this book doesn't seem to have a clear purpose/direction and it's still feeling around for one it seems. [***1/4]


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 28 (AVX: Consequences #3 and A-Babies vs. X-Babies #1)

Never has the title of this series of posts seemed more appropriate than on a week where Marvel released a comic based upon a variant cover. A-Babies vs. X-Babies isn't a good comic. It's got some cute pictures, one or two gags that work, and a whole lot of pandering to adults that mistake empty buzzwords like 'fun' for 'good.' What the fuck does 'fun' even mean? If it means something like this, shouldn't I have had fun reading it? No, really. I didn't. And not because I wanted to dislike it or am a cynical person. It's just not good. It's a trite concept poorly executed. They somehow took a ridiculous and inane concept like Avengers vs. X-Men and made it even more so. And slapped some cutesy art on top to sell the idea that it SHOULD be stupid and poorly written, because that's how things like this are. It's so thin and forced -- mostly because the only idea at play here is "Let's draw the Avengers and X-Men as babies and have them fight like in that event book we did." It was a variant cover expanded to a full-length comic because... well, shit, people will buy it. I did. I paid my three bucks, because I'm a fool and a completist and got on this train months ago. So, bravo, Marvel. You couldn't get me to buy any variant covers, but you got me to buy this piece of shit. You win...

That doesn't mean I won't try to squeeze what I can out of this, though.

In a lot of ways, A-Babies vs. X-Babies reminds me of AVX: VS. A 'bullet proof' concept seemingly aimed at disarming any criticism by honing the idea into such a small, direct thing that calling it a piece of shit would suggest 'not getting it' or it 'not being for you.' Never mind that the fights in it were laughably bad in all respects, it was KICKSPLODE FIGHTING ACTION and if I wasn't on board, well, that's my fault. (For the record, I never heard that, but read those 'recap/credits' pages and see if that isn't heavily implied right there at the beginning of the fucking comics.) I assume that's the case here as well. It's an oddly defensive way to approach things. Maybe that's in my head. I don't think it is. Seeing how different people at Marvel respond to criticism (well, comic industry employees in general, actually), it's not a big leap to assume that there's a similar "It's your fault" attitude at play here if you think this piece of shit is a piece of shit. It's both surprising and not to see that attitude extend beyond trolling comments sections and message boards into the realm of actual comics.

I keep coming back to the intro text page for this comic:
The book you're about to read doesn't really have anything to do with the AvX event, but it does have baby versions of the Avengers and X-Men fighting each other. So, yeah, you're buying a book where babies fight babies. What does that say about you?

That question could be read in more than one way. Maybe because I've read the comic in question, my immediate reading is one of mocking disdain for anyone who spent three dollars on this. Why in the world would someone do that? What is wrong with someone's brain that they would do such a thing? This is about as stupid as comics get: baby versions of heroes fighting. Of course, reading the question in that way implies something about a company that would produce such a thing. Do they similarly have awful taste? Are they merely taking advantage of people? But, you can also read it as them asking the question in a way that suggests "That you are awesome!" as an answer. Like this is some little secret in-joke between friends. Because, when they're not telling you you're Wrong, they're trying to convince you that we're all in a cool club together called comics and that's special and wonderful and it's us versus them out there in the 'real world.' Those people who don't get it? Fuck 'em. Because we're special, you and I. Marvel is your friend and you love your friend, right?

I don't know which reading disturbs me more...


If I tried hard enough, I could probably make this comic seem 'worthwhile.' Hell, I seem to have impressed some people with how I've done that already for parts of Avengers vs. X-Men. It's not that hard, really. You just simply read the comics 'wrong.' Like how A-Babies vs. X-Babies continues the undercurrent that I found not only in Avengers vs. X-Men, but also The X-Men vs. the Avengers: the X-Men/Babies will put all sense of morality behind sticking together with fellow mutants. In A-Babies vs. X-Babies, the fight starts because Cyclops steals Captain America's teddy bear. In no way is that justifiable from the perspective of a hero. Cyclops is clearly wrong -- there's no ambiguity here. Yet, the X-Babies immediately fight against the A-Babies. Iceman even continues the game of 'keep away' from Captain America, showing a complicity in the theft. Ostensibily, these X-Babies are meant to be heroic babies in this world, so why stand behind a leader who steals for no reason other than because he wants something? Because they're all mutants and they stick together no matter what. This also continues the idea that Cyclops is the bad guy by casting him in a villainous light -- unarguably so. He's a thief and is wrong. The best thing I can say about this comic is that A-Babies vs. X-Babies at least manages to stick to the story of what Avengers vs. X-Men was supposed to be better than any of the actual comics that make up that event.


The only thing in AVX: Consequences #3 that stuck with me was the opening two pages with Iron Man and Lei Kung in K'un L'un (called "K'un-Lun" in the comic...) as a further example of how egotistical Tony Stark really is. He spends a few weeks trying to figure out the connection between the Phoenix, the Scarlet Witch, and the Iron Fist and, because he couldn't, he's somehow lost. Lei Kung gets it without saying it: just because the science is beyond you, doesn't mean it's not science. Stark somehow thinks that because he's not smart enough to make the math work that that means that math is useless in this whole thing. It sticks with me, because it's so easy and boring and simple that it's brought up and tossed aside in two pages. It's an open mockery of the character by the guy whose first issue writing said character's ongoing title hits the stands in 13 days.

Next week: AVX: Consequences #4.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 27 (AVX: Consequences #1-2, Wolverine and the X-Men #18, Uncanny X-Men #20, and Uncanny Avengers #1)

It's hard to get off the topic of Cyclops, isn't it? Somehow, he became the character that just took over Avengers vs. X-Men, particularly the second half. Obviously, he's meant to, because of his central role, in a similar way that Captain America dominated the end of Civil War and the ensuing fallout (Iron Man shared that spotlight, though, in a way that Captain America doesn't here). He is the Loser, the Fallen Hero, the Villain, and, now, he's stuck in a position where he switches between gloating over being right and realising that no one cares. What a depressing mess that is, don't you think? How completely soul-crushing to read about a hero who set out to do something, was called crazy for it, villified for it, and, then, saw his cause coopted by those that villified him as they condemn him...

But, I'm a little sick of Cyclops. He was right. We get it. Now, he's being treated unfairly and we get that. I mean, they even had Captain America go out and get his douchebag brother to lead the new Avengers/X-Men team that's come about as a way to bridge the human/mutant relationship. You don't get much lower than that, because no one likes Havok (aside from his costume). (Okay, some people like Havok...) Has Captain America even met Havok before? He immediately turns on Cyclops, but welcomes his jackass little brother into the Avengers fold with open arms, seemingly as a dig at Scott? Goddamn, Cap is an asshole. He comes off like the sort of guy who would fuck a woman he doesn't like just because it would piss an enemy off.

The issue that I keep coming around to is one of fairness -- which is completely stupid. Why should this be fair? No reason.

But, reading these post-Avengers vs. X-Men comics, it becomes continually apparent that there is no sense of fairness or justice in what the Avengers and X-Men are doing now. Cyclops is imprisoned despite being right, despite being continually provoked with no justification, despite being possessed by a cosmic force... And the rest of the Extinction Team (not just the Phoenix Five) are being hunted, too? (Except for Hope...) Why? "Because..." That's all. Because they were on Cyclops's team. Nevermind all of the other mutants who joined up with him and, then, abandoned him... Why is Magneto any different from Iceman? When it came to fighting the Avengers and, then, fighting Cyclops, those two were completely in line. Same with Rogue and many other X-Men who aren't wanted criminals. Why? "Because..." That's it.

No, the problem isn't a lack of fairness. Within the world of these characters, sure, that's the problem. But, these aren't real people. They're fictional constructs whose sense of fairness and justice are determined by outside forces. The problem here is that the writers and editors behind these comics have specific stories they want to tell, whether or not those stories actually 'work' with the characters. I've said before that a big problem with Avengers vs. X-Men is that the story they wanted to tell and the story they told weren't the same things, and that's a problem that's continuing here. Is Cyclops meant to come off as genuinely more sympathic, likeable, and relatable than every other character? I doubt it, because why would you structure your entire line of books around a bunch of hypocrites and cowards who are too thick to admit that they were wrong, while the one guy who was right is portrayed as the villain? You wouldn't. And, yet, here we are.

Cyclops spends much of AVX: Consequences #2 being lectured by a man who nearly doomed the human race, has a long history of brainwashing and possessions, and a complete willingness to kill, sometimes losing all control of himself in a rage. Obviously, there's meant to be a bit of irony, but the entire thing is so lopsided that Wolverine is pathetic, truly pathetic, in his determination to push the narrative Marvel has decided upon that it's all bad comedy.

The hypocrisy and randomness of the whole thing is embodied in the Scarlet Witch. She did far worse things than Cyclops under far less provocation and, yet, she's back with a few token arguments about her wrongdoings. She basically committed genocide only for there to be justification and rationalisations later that allows everyone to feel okay about her being back in the fold... and the man who undoes her actions is thrown in prison? Sure, there may be adjustments made down the line, but it all rings a bit false, don't you think?

They wound up writing a story where the 'bad guy' was right and the 'good guys' were assholes about it and are stuck having to move ahead with their plans. The alternative is that the way I'm reacting to the comics they're putting out is what they intended and, then, I have to wonder why. After all, I don't see Cyclops advertised for many titles after October, but Captain America and Wolverine are all over the place...

Next week: AVX: Consequences #3 (plus A-Babies vs. X-Babies #1... maybe... it keeps popping up on different shipping lists, so I have no idea when/if this is coming out... did it ship already... my shop didn't get any copies... they were shorted on New Avengers this week, though, so maybe they were shorted on that, too... I don't know...)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

EXCLUSIVE! Chad Nevett's Comic Book Mini-Reviews and Star Ratings for the Weeks of October 10 & 17, 2012

So: I'm married now. We left town last Wednesday night and I didn't feel like bringing my comics with me. I'd read them all while Michelle was teaching a gym class as usual, but didn't have time to write about any of them (hell, I didn't even get to open Building Stories until yesterday!). That means you get a double-sized dose of my EXCLUSIVE! mini-reviews and star ratings this week. Aren't you lucky? Yes, you are. And a new Riding the Gravy Train will go up later today or tomorrow or this weekend, taking into account two weeks' worth of Avengers vs. X-Men fallout goodness.

Avengers #31: Is that Hope? Or someone else entirely? I DON'T KNOW! Comics are fun! A slight breather issue, which suits me fine. I'm glad that Bendis is trying to do something with the Wonder Man stuff. [***1/2]

Avengers Assemble #8: "Thanos loses because the US military can't make shit that works right." I didn't particularly enjoy Thanos being shunted back into basic bad guy mode, but, whatever, it was a clone. Thus ends the weakest part of the Bendis/Avengers era. I can say that with confidence. As much as I found the Secret Invasion tie-ins tedious, they were better crafted on almost every level. Avengers Assemble #1-8 were the worst Avengers comics released with Bendis's name attached to them. [Fucking horrible shit]

Captain America #18: Thus ends the worst Captain America story released with Ed Brubaker's name attached... I guess it really is time for people to move on, eh? [**]

Daredevil #19: Who doesn't love a cover that shows the end of the comic? ME! ME! ME! Another solid, good issue. [***1/2]

Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE #13: And this title joins the "Rotworld" fray in time to end in a few months. This comic made very little of an impression upon me. The ending was good. I like the idea that Frankenstein is sort of outside the three 'realms' (or whatever you'd call them). [**3/4]

Godzilla: The Half-Century War #3: From a writing perspective, this issue didn't do a lot for me. Lots of exposition, just throwing details at us -- details that mostly don't matter. But, hey, James Stokoe drawing a bunch of monsters...! Can't go wrong there, can we? [***1/2]

Hawkeye #3: An amusing issue centred around the trick arrows and the word 'bro.' I dug it. [***3/4, bro]

Marvel NOW! Point One: The second one of these big Point One anthologies that Marvel has done and the central story tying things together is a bit better than the previous (with weaker art) and the teases are a bit better. Then again, they teased a lot of comics I'm already interested in like FF and Young Avengers. On the fence a bit about Guardians of the Galaxy and Cable and X-Force. I solidly don't give a fuck about Nova or Secret Avengers. A mixed bag where I enjoyed some bits quite a lot and skimmed through others. [If I waited a month, I probably could have gotten this for free from my shop... but I like them, so I'll give them my money]

The Massive #5: A really good self-contained issue that jumped away from the Kapital for the most part. An early bit of muscle flexing by Wood? I hope so. [****]

The Mighty Thor #21: A weaker finish than I was hoping for. I guess there just comes a point where the constant swerves and tricks and doublecrosses just become noise. This story was filled with them, so they lose a step by this point. Also, it felt like a lot of build-up for a lot of nothing in many ways. Surtur was a bit of a strawman villain here, wasn't he? Alan Davis kills it on art -- and, from an intellectual standpoint, I liked a lot of the ideas here, they just didn't carry the emotional weight you want from a big finale like this. [***1/2]

Punk Rock Jesus #4: There's still more than enough of a religion-hating young angry man inside of me to absolutely adore the end of this comic. I really enjoy this comic now, but my 17-year old self would have loved it. This would have been his favourite comic series of the year -- maybe ever. [****]

Secret Avengers #32: Decent end to this whole Abyss Crown story and I liked Black Widow calling Ant-Man out for being a LMD and no one believing her. [***1/2]

Ultimate Iron Man #1: I didn't even know what the point of this comic was until the end and, by then, the mediocre dialogue and ugly art made me not give a fuck. [Not buying issue 2]

Ultimate X-Men #17: You can see a bit of DMZ in Nick Fury's speech to Kitty at the end. This is humming right along, executed well, and one of the more interesting comics I'm reading right now.

Untold Tales of the Punisher MAX #5: At what point in the future does the father/son stuff take place if the father, as a teen, had a dad that had a giant DVD collection? Apollo 13 seems to have first come out on DVD in 1999 -- and, since the dad took it everywhere, you have to assume that his death happened at least a year or two after it was released, meaning that the flashback story took place in the 2000-2002 range. Meaning, that the framing story, if in the presents, would be 10-12 years later. Given that the son in the framing story looks to be in the 10-12 age range (maybe younger, but the art provides no solid clues), it clearly can't be the present, because the father didn't look like he was getting any girls pregnant while stalking the Punisher. Just the things you think about when reading a tired, cliched, mundane, tedious comic book... [*3/4]

Wonder Woman #13: A transition issue, sort of. Suits me fine. I'm enjoying the ride. [***1/2]

X-Men #37: The end of Brian Wood's tenure on the title and it's a good conclusion. His whole run told a nice story with a clever concept that mostly lent itself to exploring the differing views of mutantkind by members of the team -- and, in the process, bringing about conflict. The Storm/Colossus fight was so charged, because of the slow build to it. The way it was teased and the stakes slowly raised. [***3/4]

The Zaucer of Zilk #1: Yessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... [****1/4]


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Marketing Failure 101 - Avengers: Season One

Yes, I bought the combo giftpack of The Avengers at Wal-Mart, partly just to get the Avengers: Season One graphic novel included. I was curious about the sort of book Marvel would put out to tie-in with the movie and to win over the casual fans who may go "Oh, what the hell, I'll get a comic, too!" when buying their Blu-Ray/DVD combo. Michelle was intrigued by the idea of the comic until she saw it and remember that she doesn't really want to read any comics. To say that I was biased heading in wouldn't be inaccurate. I knew that Marvel had taken the wrong approach pretty much from when it was announced (or, rather, 'discovered' by Bleeding Cool... because why would you want to promote something like this?) by doing the same dumb shit they usually do when there's a chance to actually reach new eyeballs. I was genuinely surprised when Peter David revealed himself as the writer of this, because he's a lot higher on the talent scale than I was expecting. But, it's still disappointing to a degree that he was who they tapped. I look at a project like this and wonder why Marvel doesn't hire their top writer and top artistic team. Why not give people their absolute best? After all, this comic isn't really meant to be 'good' or a 'work of art' like others may be: it's a marketing tool. It's part 'bonus feature' and part 'first taste' of what someone could expect from Marvel.

So, really, there are three things that Marvel is 'selling' readers on here to get them to buy more comics from them:

1. The characters.

2. The writer.

3. The artist.

Those are the three things that Marvel can use to say "If you enjoyed this, here are some other books you'd like..." Three things that could be used to promote their comics and they fuck it up. They absolutely fuck it up in an amateurish display of idiocy that only seems to exist in comics. There are exactly two pages promoting other Marvel comics and what are they? The other 'season one' comics. You might see the logic in promoting those books, but you'd be wrong. You're thinking "Oh, it's a line of books, so it makes sense to promote those," and that's wrong. That's typical dumb comics thinking. Who cares about those other books? They have zero connection to what I just read (aside from Hulk: Season One), because they don't feature the same characters, writer, or artist. Instead, this should have been a book with the top writer, the top artist, and three pages of recommendations: one for the Avengers, one for the writer, and one for the artist. All to easy to find, in-print books that, if someone went onto Amazon right now, they could buy with as little hassle as possible.

But, we get Peter David and four art teams, each blander and more mediocre than the one that came before it. This is an ugly, uninspired-looking comic. This is fill-in quality art clearly produced on a tight deadline, because no one thought to plan ahead at all. This is a book that didn't make me want to read another comic. David's writing is workmanlike with a story that (as the plot provided at the back of the book shows) was clearly designed with the limitation that the three Avengers spotlighted (Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man) must split up to allow for the different art teams. The story has the trio of Avengers go after the Hulk at the behest of General Ross and get stuck in a trap by Loki to make them not trust one another. The pages are full of bright, shiny characters that lack any substance and I found it hard to keep my focus as I went along.

Normally, I don't care about comics looking or seeming like the movies, but the utter lack of any attempt to make this fit in with the movie at all seems like a bad call, too. Why include a comic that's one concession to the movie is leaving Giant-Man and Wasp out? Why not try to bridge the gap between The Avengers and the Marvel Universe a bit more?

Hell, normally, I don't care about the 'right' approach to bringing in new readers so long as the comics are good. Unfortunately, this comic is both bad marketing and a bad comic. It really does seem like something thrown together because someone had the idea of putting a comic in with the Blu-Ray/DVD without actually thinking through what the right approach would be. I mean, I assume part of the goal here was to get people to buy more Avengers (and Marvel) comics, right? If not, what was the goal?

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Splash Page vs. Riding the Gravy Train

In this week's When Words Collide column at CBR, Tim Callahan and I had a little Splash Page reunion to discuss Avengers vs. X-Men. It kind of turns more into 'Tim says something and Chad blathers on for 27 years,' creating a first: a Splash Page discussion where I wrote more than Tim. I tried not to repeat myself too much between this and the various Riding the Gravy Train posts I've done, but, hey, there's only so much to talk about, even in events.

You can read the Splash Page reunion Avengers vs. X-Men special edition of When Words Collide HERE!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 26 (Avengers vs. X-Men #12, AVX: VS #6, and Uncanny X-Men #19)

Cyclops was right and Captain America was wrong. Cyclops was the true hero of Avengers vs. X-Men and Captain America was the true villain. Cyclops lost (and won) and Captain America won (and won). Life ain't fair, kiddies. And superhero comics are still the most basic and thoughtless of morality tales, so wrapped up in ideas like "Cyclops killed Professor X" than "Cyclops defended himself against the entirety of the Avengers and X-Men, including Professor X, who was actively trying to shut down Cyclops's brain throughout the fight and, in self-defence, killed Professor X," which is kind of what actually happened. It's like the entire event was one long exercise in pushing the "Captain America is always right" rule that governs the Marvel Universe more than anything else as far as it could go. Just tossing it in the faces of the fans and daring them to go "Say he's wrong! SAY HE'S WRONG!" as everyone just sort of shrugs and mumbles stuff about how Cyclops is a bad guy and Dark Phoenix and Uncanny Avengers...

Is this what heroism is supposed to be? Insisting you're right and being proven wrong (forgetting that you were ever wrong, of course); not trusting one of your longtime allies, but trusting a teenager you've known for two weeks; continually attacking someone and, then, blaming them when, surprise surprise, they eventually say they've had enough and begin lashing out. In many ways, the Cyclops/Captain America relationship of Avengers vs. X-Men is the same as the Captain America/Iron Man one of Civil War, right up to the end, except for some subtle differences. Captain America is wrong here, as was Iron Man there, and both won, but, at least in Civil War, everyone knew Iron Man was wrong. I think I had a "Iron Man is an Asshole" tag for that event and its follow-up, and I could have the same one for Captain America here, too.

Looking back over the series, all I can see when looking Captain America is an aggressor who continually looks for a chance to fight and 'put down' his former allies instead of working with them -- and, then, when those allies are proven to have been right from the beginning, still blames them for everything that went wrong. Oh, he pays a little lip service to the idea that he's partially responsible, but it's Cyclops who's in prison despite the fight that resulted in Xavier's death was the result of Captain America leading about three dozen people in an all-out assault on two people. One of which was a person who continually tried to turn the other cheek, work at making the world better, and hope that Captain America would see that, maybe, violence wasn't the answer.

I guess it's the superhero comic line about killing that gets crossed and, therefore, must result in punishment, despite the circumstances clearly being the sort that 'justifies' killing someone (if any circumstances do). What's a little sad is that, if Captain America and the Avengers had killed Cyclops, he would have made some speech about it being 'necessary,' and everyone would have nodded along.

There's just something downright unfair about how it all played out. I'm amazed that I actually care. But, I genuinely feel a little pissed off at how things played out here. Hell, let's address the Dark Phoenix stuff from issue 12. You might be with me up until then, because Cyclops went out of his way to avoid violence and only responded when attacked, but, then, he went all Dark Phoenix and decided to burn the world down before starting anew (which, come on, might not have been a bad idea all things told...). However, given past experience with Jean Grey and how fragile someone's hold over the Phoenix could be, that makes Captain America's call to use violence even more questionable. You have a god-like being that, if provoked enough, could be subsumed by the cosmic force possessing it, and you continually poke that being with a stick? That's the brilliant strategy one uses instead of talking to it, trying to pacify it, maybe try to work with it and avoid any sort of stress/provocation that might trigger an event like this until you can figure out a way to get the cosmic force out of its host safely and voluntarily?

I'm not saying that Cyclops should be given a gold star, a pat on the back, and sent on his merry way, but, Christ, how much can you blame a guy who was right, was instrumental in making the world MUCH better, went out of his way to avoid violence, and only succumbed to violence through continual provocation from the guy who helped start the initial conflict only to turn around at the end and admit he was actually wrong without ever saying that? Oh, and was under the influence by a cosmic force that kind of leans towards mass destruction during all of that?

I've questioned the standards of heroism in the Marvel Universe throughout this event and, under those standards, Captain America clearly is the true example of heroism in the Marvel Universe. That fallen, tarnished, sad, pathetic little place that probably should have been burnt to the ground if this is how its heroes behave.


Also: bravo on the completely unpredictable final issue, fellas. I mean, I did get it wrong about Hope going into space, still the Phoenix host, so I guess I'm not perfect either.


Match #11: The Fate of the Mutant Race Match - Hope vs. the Scarlet Witch

This is it. The main event match of AVX: VS where the fate of the mutant race is on the line. If Hope wins, we get "more mutants," while, if the Scarlet Witch wins, "No more mutants" stands as the rule of the day. The stakes can't be much higher and given Hope's ability to copy other people's powers, she seems to have the edge. Also, you don't earn the nickname "Mutant Messiah" without having SOME skills. It's actually a fairly lacklustre match, relying more on big, flashy moves that don't really do much than some real technical skills. Hope is more of a brawler than the Scarlet Witch, evidenced by breaking their lock-up with a quick headbut to the face. As with a lot of big main events with longstanding consequences for a promotion, there's never any pretense of delivering a good match and outside interference happens fairly quickly. All we basically get are a few lock-ups and the aforementioned headbut before Captain America and some others jump into the ring to break it up. The post-match sucker punch by Hope seems like an attempt to put over the younger competitor without actually putting her over. Terrible booking that sort of summed up the entire AVX: VS card.

Winner: Cyclops


The 'comedy matches' that filled out AVX: VS #6 were pretty good for the most part. I really enjoyed "Verbal Abuse" by Bendis and Jim Mahfood where Cyclops and Captain America settle their problems with words -- and, of course, the Squirrel Girl/Pixie strip that everyone is talking about and is a wonderful deconstruction of how truly nonsensical and bad AVX: VS was as a series. My favourite comments on the series came after the first issue was released, basically going "Well, it delivers what it said it would" like that's an excuse for being really, really, realllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllly fucking bad. Most comics deliver what they say they will and no one gives them a free pass. But, hey, promise nothing but fights and no one will bother to judge if the fights are any good. They weren't. Not a single one. Everyone involved: you suck at this.


Kieron Gillen at least gets it a bit, it seems. Now, he's writing Uncanny X-Men where part of that title's mandate would be showing things from Cyclops's perspective. Still, the end of that issue is great. Cyclops doing everything but going to Beast, "I was fucking right, asshole. All of this fighting was for nothing -- if you'd listened to me, this could have all been avoided. Fuck you." Instead, it's a simple admission that he wouldn't change a thing and a fantastic triumphant final page where he seems to be embracing the next stage of his life as matyr for the cause who can now preach about being right from a jail cell. It gives me hope for the Consequences mini-series.


I focused mostly on the Cyclops/Captain America stuff these past few weeks and I will discuss the event as a whole. I'm just waiting for it to actually end since we've got five weeks of epilogue books to go. Once that's all said and done, I'll do the big summary post where I try to move past Cyclops/Captain America and look at the event in a larger way.

Next week: Avengers vs. X-Men: Consequences #1 and possibly Wolverine and the X-Men #18 (it has an "AVX" suffix on Diamond's list) and Avengers #31 (which carries the "AXFO" suffix, which I assume stands for "Avengers vs. X-Men Fall-Out," but I could be wrong and will decide if it counts after I read it).

Friday, October 05, 2012

EXCLUSIVE! Chad Nevett's Comic Book Mini-Reviews and Star Ratings for the Week of October 3, 2012

Action Comics #13: A solid superhero comic. Nothing too special. [***1/4]

Age of Apocalypse #8: An interesting issue up until the end where it punked out in the same way that mainstream superhero comics always seem to punk out. "They're not just fighting for humanity, they're fighting for their humanity." Shit. I'm rooting for the mutants. [**1/2]

The Boys #71: The minute Butcher started talking about Hughie's family, you could tell what he was doing and that was the point: we could, but Hughie couldn't. That's part of what Butcher was talking about the rest of the issue. That trusting, emotional nature of Hughie -- how he should know better, but never does. And that's fine, because he's a good guy and you'd rather he was like that than be a right bastard. There's a sense that he never really got Butcher and that's sad. If Hughie has a flaw that needs correcting, it's his absolutist thinking at times. Butcher was always more nuanced than Hughie gave him credit for -- and more simple than he appeared to us. This wasn't Jesse/Cassidy, but it was pretty fucking good. I don't know where we go from here for next month's finale, but I can't wait. [****1/2]

Daredevil: End of Days #1: "You don't understand... I tried everything else." Line of the year. [***1/2]

The Defenders #11: Wow, that's a big crock of shit. Here it is: the reason why so many superheroes are in the Marvel Universe aka the explanation that no one needed or wanted. At all. Why the fuck would anyone waste their fucking time thinking up that shit? What is this obsession with everything requiring an explanation no matter how unnecessary or downright fucking awful? Maybe the final issue will redeem things... probably not. Issues like this lead to my weird, complicated feelings on the work of Fraction. He's so incredibly hit or miss it seems. [BIG FUCKING MISS]

Fatale #8: Okay, this book only really works when read in big chunks it seems. I enjoyed the first arc more when I read a bunch of issues and any sort of delay nearly kills whatever interest I have in this series -- which I'll admit is on the lower end of the scale. [***1/2]


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Swipe File: Bleeding Cool and Riding the Gravy Train

Because it's fun being snarky...

Bleeding Cool on Avengers vs. X-Men (10/02/12)

Riding the Gravy Train 25 on Avengers vs. X-Men (10/01/12)

(Or... Riding the Gravy Train 23 on Avengers vs. X-Men (09/16/12) if you prefer... Maybe one or two others.)

[In Swipe File Bleeding Cool presents two or more images that resemble each other to some degree. They may be homages, parodies, ironic appropriations, coincidences or works of the lightbox. Bleeding Cool trusts you, the reader, to make that judgment yourself? If you are unable to do so, please return your eyes to their maker before any further damage is done. The Swipe File doesn’t judge, it’s interested more in the process of creation, how work influences other work, how new work comes from old, and sometimes how the same ideas emerge simultaneously, as if their time has just come. The Swipe File was named after the advertising industry habit where writers and artist collect images and lines they admire to inspire them in their work. It was swiped from the Comic Journal who originally ran what eventually became the current Bleeding Cool column, as well as the now defunct Swipe Of The Week website.]

Monday, October 01, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 25 (NOT A GODDAMN THING)

Let's see if I can spitball some stuff here with no Avengers vs. X-Men comics out this past week. Excellent scheduling once again, Marvel. I don't want to jump to the negative right away, but, after an event that began with such momentum and energy, you kind of expect it to try to recreate the same energy at the end. Sure, there can be a little dip in the middle, but that's only because you can't keep it up the entire time. You begin strong and you end strong. It goes back to what I was talking about last week: it's like Marvel has just given up and moved onto what's next. Anyone who thought it was me simply bitching about the fact that the event isn't remaking the Marvel Universe clearly missed the point (I'm looking at the Blog@Newsarama comments section specifically...). (Yes, I wish there were more substantive changes or consequences, but that's partly because I actually want something (just once!) to live up to the pre-release hype. If this is the big culmination of years of stories, then things should look different as a result. They won't and everyone knows that... it would just be nice.) Avengers vs. X-Men still has a final issue to be released, along with at least four tie-in books and an aftermath mini-series, yet it feels like it ended weeks ago. Does anyone really care about how it ends or do we all assume something like the following will happen?

* Dark Phoenix Cyclops will do some crazy bad stuff while everyone tries to stop him.
* The Scarlet Witch will use her powers to temporarily subdue Cyclops, possibly with the help of Hope.
* Cyclops will be defeated and the Phoenix will leave him, going to Hope, who will 'embrace her destiny' and accept a union with it. Everyone will accept this, trusting that she is ready for the responsibility of the Phoenix.
* She totally is. But, she must leave Earth until she fully understands her role as the new Phoenix Host. At which point, she may or may not restore the mutant population... you know, if anyone remembers that that's what this was all about.
* The series ends with an apologetic Cyclops accepting his fate as History's Greatest Monster, realising that he has let his people down and killed his mentor, ready to accept any punishment that may befall him.

Hands up if that's what you're expecting...


Something that hit me recently is how irrelevant the Avengers are in this story. It's not really an Avengers story, is it? Oh, they may dominate some scenes and be one half of the story on the surface, but they don't really 'matter,' do they? They're simply the reactive force, a bunch of generic good guys trying to save the world without much about them that specifically drives the story. This could have been a story with any other group standing in for the Avengers. That the Avengers titles rarely did anything substantive with those characters in this story is one indication of how much this was an X-Men story that happened to use the Avengers as a way to make people actually care. The Avengers is Marvel's top franchise right now (pretty much because of Brian Michael Bendis), but the X-Men is a much stronger concept to drive stories. The Avengers is such a generic concept that it's hard to have stories driven by that team that would pack such strong emotion. Avengers stories are usually dictated by external forces; the group is reactive (hence the name) and, aside from one of their own going crazy or half of the team deciding that the government they're always resentful of when it exerts its authority over the team should actually have more authority over all superheroes, there isn't a lot of big stories you can tell where the Avengers are active in making things happen. Things happen, the Avengers react. That's how it goes.

The X-Men is a concept that is broad, but has conflict at its core that's there no matter what external actors are doing or not doing -- especially since the events of House of M where the mutant population was so depleted that you could get lost in stories of inner struggle over how to cope with a near-extinct series. Schism featured external actors, but was still driven by internal problems and ideas. Avengers vs. X-Men is driven entirely by the X-Men's personal causes. The Avengers do what the Avengers do with the X-Men playing the 'bad guys' seemingly at first until they take over the story... because the bad guys are always more interesting; the Avengers are simply a reactive force and the story has been driven by the actions of the X-Men. Take out the X-Men as the villains and how would this differ from a typical Avengers story really? Except, it would be a generic cosmic force that happens to arrive on Earth and fuck shit up... much like the new Zodiac in Avengers Assemble to a degree. Take out the Avengers and the interesting parts of Avengers vs. X-Men remain: the religious subtext, the questions of what the 'right thing' is to do, putting the good of 'your people' above the rest of the world, the 'fall' of a superhero team... This is Marvel using its currently most popular franchise to get everyone to pay attention to its most interesting franchise again.


The biggest flaw in Avengers vs. X-Men is also my favourite thing about the series: Cyclops is the hero. This was obviously not the intention of anyone involved, but he is clearly the hero of this story, even after the events of issue 11. The spot where it changed was when the Phoenix actually arrived. Before that moment, he was a cult leader. He believed for no logical reason that the giant cosmic fire bird was coming to inhabit the body of the teenager he thinks is the mutant messiah and that, as a result, the mutant people will be reborn and will inherit the Earth from the humans. Even if you accept that the Phoenix had been on Earth with no bad consequences, there was still no basis for him thinking that any of that would happen. He simply put 'red hair' together with 'first mutant birth since M Day' and made up a bunch of shit that he then convinced his followers was The Truth. He was clearly crazy and had to be stopped.

Then, the Phoenix arrived and possessed the bodies of himself and four of his friends and he was proven right. It wasn't coming to destroy Earth, it was a tool to be used to make the world into Utopia, and he and the others would simply act as placeholders until Hope was ready to embrace her destiny as the mutant Phoenix messiah. That's the moment where the entire premise of the series was thrown out of the window and you couldn't dismiss Cyclops as a crazy cult leader. He was right. The Avengers 'lost' when that happened and continued to 'lose' as Cyclops was the only one of the Phoenix hosts not corrupted by the power. He was the believer whose faith was rewarded. He was the crazy guy who holds up a "The end is nigh!" sign who has Jesus's spirit possess him to bring about the Rapture and everyone else just has to kind of shrug and mutter their apologies. (Except the Avengers didn't do that, because of Modern Marvel Universe Rule #1: CAPTAIN AMERICA IS NEVER WRONG NO MATTER HOW WRONG HE CLEARLY IS.)

From that point on, it was hard not to see the tired 'power corrupts' story as worse than it would have otherwise been. It went against the natural flow of the story they were telling: Cyclops is the mutant messiah. Hope was the false messiah, as were the other Phoenix hosts. Cyclops is the only one to maintain his beliefs and morals with the power of the Phoenix, constantly sure that the Avengers and Hope, if given enough time, will come around to see the good that's happening. He even believed that Hope would take her place as the true Phoenix host and messiah -- that his role was simply that of John the Baptist and he was happy to play that role. If anything, from that moment on, it became a story about the Avengers actively trying to make the world a worse place, because they can't accept that 'Jesus' has returned and will bring about Utopia for the sole reason that they think all power corrupts and every other proclaimed saviour was actually evil. (Seriously, you could probably do a decent parody of this story using Jesus, because the Avengers would clearly try to stop him from bringing about the Rapture, thinking him some evil cosmic being that's no different from Thanos or Galactus...) As I said when discussing issue 11, it's only when Cyclops is pushed to such extremes that he can't not respond that he really 'crosses the line' that separated him from the other Phoenix hosts. But, holding that against him is kind of like thinking Superman is the bad guy when every superhuman in the DCU teams up to try and kill him and all attempts to reason with them fails and they just keep coming.

All of this makes the prospect of issue 12 somewhat depressing to me. Cyclops will be the villain, the Avengers will be the heroes, and it will all be so... typical. The story changed partway through and no one involved seemed to realise it.

Next week: Avengers vs. X-Men #12, AVX: VS #6, and Uncanny X-Men #19.