Thursday, 22 January 2015

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Facts.
The 12-issue Maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths, created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez in 1985 was developed in order to simplify the 50 years of increasingly complex continuity.  Origins, power levels and sliding timescales were becoming too convoluted, and previous attempts to rectify these problems essentially boiled down to creating an ever-expanding multi-verse of different Earths in order to credibly explain away any inconsistencies. This in itself slowly started to become the problem, as various crossovers between the Earths dragged the DC line into a mire of multiple Supermen and Batman, Legacy characters standing side-by-side with their modern counterparts, until eventually DC decided a Crisis was in order.

The Plot
Every alternate universe version of Earth – Earth 1 (or current DC Earth), Earth 2 (Golden-age earth), Earth 3 (opposite Earth where heroes are villains) and Earth Prime (basically the “real-world”) to name but a few – are facing destruction at the hands of the Anti-Monitor, a near omnipotent being that’s slowly devouring the multiverse – which ironically was created in the same experiment that birthed him and his ‘good’ alternate, the Monitor. The Monitor calls on all the known heroes in DC comics at the time in order to merge all remaining Earths into one and protect them from further destruction from the anti-matter that’s sweeping across the Multiverse.

The Verdict
Well, I think it’s safe to say this was a tough book to read. I’ll preface this by saying I definitely enjoyed reading it, and can respect the talent on display in both the narrative and in the art (always been a fan of Perez). Saying that I'm reviewing this from the vantage point of the brand spanking new reader that I am, and as such…it was a tough read.

First off there are a lot of characters, and I mean a LOT, which is the point really; every DC character across the multiverse pulls together to defeat the anti-monitor. On the plus side it’s a great baptism of fire – in one form or another I've been exposed to so many characters I’ve never heard of before. The downside to that was I was exposed to so many characters I’ve never heard of before. A lot of the character nuance went straight over my head. Entire conversations were effectively gibberish, story beats were meaningless and when the narrative started reeling off update son all the various worlds my mind started to drift. I've no doubt that once I’m further into the universe and start to get a greater appreciation of all these characters I'll revisit this story and pick up on a whole bunch of stuff I missed this first time.

During the first few issues my ignorance of all the myriad characters didn't seem to matter; if anything a lot of the characters were in the same boat, having been brought together with heroes and villains from other worlds they may not have heard of before. As the story progressed though there were arguments, in-fighting, in-jokes and sacrifices that, while I understood on a basic comic-book level, sort of lost any impact due to be coming into the world fresh.

Still there were many things I did love – the book introduced me to the world of Earth 3, where heroes are villains and everything is opposite, and that’s a world I definitely want to explore more of. I loved Barry Allen’s sacrifice; it was paced really well and made a lasting impression despite my relatively new introduction to the characters. The character arc of the Superman of Earth 2 was poignant and effective, and overall the storyline was grand and ambitious with high stakes and near-impossible odds - just the kind of event book I like to read.

So as a new reader, Crisis on Infinite Earths may not have been the best place to jump into the DC universe, and maybe if I had to do it again I'd probably do a bit more of a Wikipedia search in order to prep myself, but otherwise it was a fun baptism of fire.

The reason I chose this book was because of the near-seminal nature of the series, mixed with the drastic reboot of the entire DC line that followed. If I was to move into the rest of the DC universe I would need to have read this book to see where the changes began and for that I’m very happy with the series. It’s encouraged me to branch out to other books and as such I'm looking forward to my next DC adventure!

Monday, 7 July 2014

How does a beginner like me get into the DC Comics Universe?

Now, I don’t like to brag, but when it comes to Marvel Comics I like to think I know what I’m talking about. From the Sanctum Santorum to the Savage Land, from the Microverse to Knowhere, if you set me down without a map I’d know my way around. I know the difference between Venom, Anti-Venom and Carnage, my Green Goblins from my Hobgoblins, and if you’ve got a spare few hours I can talk you through the Dark Phoenix Saga, the Onslaught Saga and even the Clone Saga. Yep, I’m pretty comfortable there. Take me across to the Distinguished Competition though, and that’s another story entirely.

I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve never gotten into DC comics. Obviously, I don’t include Batman in that statement, because even the most casual comic book fan has read the odd Batman book, probably Year One, Killing Joke or Dark Knight Returns. Nor do I include the more seminal by-products of the various imprints, such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta or Sandman. I’ve read all of those and urge you to do the same.
When it comes to the main DC universe/multiverse however, I’m fairly clueless; mainly because I’ve hardly read anything that didn't have Batman in it. Well, all that changes now. I’ve had enough of only reading half the comics I could be. No longer will there be an entire universe left unexplored. Slowly but surely I’m going to work my way through the Crises, the events, the seminal series, the epic runs and yet more Crises, and like every good blogger who travels to an unknown land I’ll be chronicling my journey, and hopefully you’ll enjoy what I have to say!

Where To Start
This was a tough one. I worked my way through many reading lists looking for a glimmer of hope, a clear sign pointing me towards an issue or series that wouldn’t take me all the way back to the Golden Age, but would indoctrinate me into this strange new world. I’ve always known that the DC Multiverse was a tricky place for a beginner - despite all their best efforts, it was still a daunting place for a newcomer. After all, if it was easy I’d have done it years ago. So I was thinking about how hard it was to break into, and those thoughts brought me to the one point in DC history at which the creators appreciated my current dilemma and attempted to do something about it. For those of you who know the universe well, you'll know that I’m  talking about Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Created in 1985 with the express purpose of rebooting the DC landscape into a more reader-friendly place, Crisis on Infinite Earths attempted to condense the myriad universes under the DC umbrella into one, coherent whole. It was a daunting task, not only (I imagine) to create, but also to read. Was it a good place to start? It’s not for me to say, but it seemed like as good a place as any.  Come back soon to see how I got on!

Monday, 23 June 2014

So I've been pretty busy working over on Rhymes With Geek on some articles that I'm pretty pleased with, mostly concerning Marvel's latest event series Original Sin.

For the most part I'm really digging this series, Jason Aaron is crafting a great murder mystery that seems to be throwing out all the rules, while bringing together a completely random cast of characters.

For once the main Marvel mainstays - Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Captain Marvel - are absent in favour of a more eclectic bunch of characters. Punisher is teamed up with Dr Strange, Gamora, Moon Knight and Winter Soldier are hanging out for the first and probably only ever time they will, and Emma Frost, Scott Lang's Ant-Man are joining Black Panther. All three teams have been tasked with tracking down the Watcher's killer, and it's all shaping up to be one of the craziest, unpredictable and best event series at Marvel in a long while.

So my articles have focused on helping readers out with some of the villains of the piece mostly. Writer Jason Aaron has plucked some bizarre antagonists from obscurity so I wanted to shed some light on them in order to enhance people's enjoyment. They're not essential, but if you care about where characters like this come from then I think you'll dig them.

I've linked the articles below, as well as my latest which focuses on Nick Fury, top-cop super-spy of the Marvel Universe. I warn you though, there are fairly **major spoilers** for Original Sin in the articles, so click through only if you're up to date.


Who's Who of Marvel's Original Sin:
The Mindless Ones
Exterminatrix and Dr Midas
The Orb

The History of Nick Fury's many Brushes with Death.


Monday, 12 May 2014

I might be saying something completely controversial here, but I don't think I've been so invested in the Marvel cosmic universe as I am after reading Cyclops #1. By that I mean since it’s very recent revival; obviously I loved Annihilation and the Thanos Imperative, but Nova, Infinity, even Guardians of the Galaxy haven’t drawn me in as much as this one issue. I've loved Silver Surfer, but until it gets dragged into an event of some sort I don’t really class it as Marvel Cosmic in the shared universe sense; it’s pretty much off doing its own thing and just happens to be in space.

Cyclops #1 was a damn good issue. I’m sure I wasn't alone in being sceptical about its premise; I didn't think there was much point in a solo Cyclops series that focused on the young Scott Summers. I could more see the point in one about adult Cyclops, even though he has Uncanny X-Men to romp around in. Against popular opinion I love Scott as a character and always have; I think he’s a flawed, real character that is one of only a few in comic books that shows semi-believable growth based on the pressures, responsibilities and experiences he’s faced.

So why, based on that logic, would I want to read a book about a character that has essentially reset the guy? Well, because Greg Rucka, that’s why. Because artist ----- that’s why. Because in this first issue they've developed the character of Scott Summers far more than he has been in many years; through his relationship with his father, his love for Jean and his reaction after having seen his future self be “not such a nice guy”. That’s why.

It didn't really have to be a cosmic book, but it is because his father is renowned Space Pirate Corsair, captain of the Starjammers (who, in my humble opinion are much more interesting than the flashy GotG anyway). While it’s true that all the book’s best features (indeed what makes me love the issue) – Cyclops’ very believable teenage turmoil; the doubts he has over his decisions, his emotions and his destiny – are, in no way, cosmic related at all, the addition of the Badoon bad guys and the Starjammers help to give this book a cosmic backbone. It’s the space (no pun intended) Scott needs away from the immense, confusing drama he’s left on Earth.

It’s also a fascinating ‘What If’ study of the character. What If Cyclops’ father figure was Corsair instead of Professor X? How different would the events of the last 10, 15, 20 years of X-Men history (and Cyclops’ life) have been if he’d been brought up without the pressure and responsibility of leading a team of mutants? By extension of that: seeing how different Cyclops as a man grows up without those pressures, ultimately how responsible is Professor Xavier in his own demise?

There’s no doubt the experiences young Scott has in space will influence the young boy he is and greatly change the man he becomes, and I believe that if this story is as influential as it could be (and I really hope it lives up to the potential of this first issue) then these experiences in space will not only affect the man he would become but the man he already is, i.e. adult Cyclops. How hard would it hit you if you saw a version of yourself who was raised in a different environment (arguably a better environment) and saw them grow up to be a better man than you have ever been? Would it make you realise how far you’ve fallen? Would it make you depressed, or worse? I’m clearly reading a lot into one issue, but these are all issues that Greg Rucka has raised within this book, and clearly issues that he is not only fully aware of but plans to address moving forward.

So why does this make me more invested in the Marvel Cosmic universe? Well, because it shows that no matter how far-fetched and ‘out-there’ the backdrop, you can still create deep, emotional character stories with resonance, and that’s crucial for a sub-genre that could all too easily slip into space-opera clich├ęs. That’s why.

Friday, 9 May 2014

So I've got some interesting articles coming up. Well, you might not think they're interesting but I sure do!

Following on from my Why I Love Letter 44 piece (that I wrote on this very blog in fact) and the whole series of articles I wrote on Why I Love Valiant which you can read here, my next one is entitled...

Why I Love Black Science!

The Image comics series by Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera is always one of the first books I read when it comes out and it deserves to be read by everyone. So look out for that on IndieAltRepeat!

I've also got another idea in the pipeline involving Spider-man, which I hope to have up on Rhymes With Geek in time.

Fun with Comics!

Hmm, so my weekly article that I write on here, 'The Week In Comics!', is suspiciously absent this week, and with valid reason really. 

I started writing it because I loved the idea of writing comic reviews on a weekly basis and sharing my thoughts with people on the latest releases. I still love that, nothing's changed. However lately I've really felt that with what time I have to write every week, this column has become a bit of an unsustainable....burden I suppose. I break my back to get it out every week and although it's not a massive article (in fact it's gotten shorter and shorter) it's detracting from the real type of writing I want to do. I don't have time to write any actual articles because I'm too busy reviewing all the week's comics. 

So for the time being I won't be keeping up with 'The Week In Comics' regularly. I still think I'll write it occasionally if I get time and/or it's a particularly huge and important week. 

Besides, it's not all bad news! I'll still be taking a weekly look at the new releases over on Rhymes With Geek with my column Clap For MODOK! as well as reviewing individual comics on there, and I'll always be on IndieAltRepeat reviewing the weekly Valiant releases too.

It's my hope that clearing up my schedule a bit will give me the freedom to write more articles for both of those sites. What does that mean for this blog? Well, it's definitely not going anywhere. In fact I'd much prefer to change up the format and bring the blog back to the basics of being...well...a blog actually. I have my outlet for writing reviews and articles on the sites I contribute to, so The Awesome Source will be my place to share my more personal experiences and thoughts on the world of comics, whatever that may be.

So apologies for the change in format, but really, apologising for not writing one thing because I want to write other, better, stuff isn't really a loss for you dear reader. In fact I think its the opposite!
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