Rank This: Marvel, DC, & Image Comics

Normally this is where I post a review of whatever my Pick of the Week at Richmond Comix, but this week I’m going to do something different. I’m going to give you my thoughts on the state of the comic genre as it pertains to the top three companies; Marvel, DC, and Image Comics. Think you know what I’m going to say about it? You might want to read ahead a bit just to make sure.

I think for years, decades really, Marvel and DC have been battling for the throne of comics. For all of my life, you could go into any comic shop and ask who put out better comics, Marvel or DC, and it starts an instant battle among whoever was in earshot. For a long time both sides could make legitimate claims to said throne, but that was then and this is now.

I’m here to tell you, if I had to proclaim a top dog in this yard, it is hands down Marvel. I could gush about how many titles are great, the cohesion of their overall universe and events, or fanatically rant about the Marvel Cinematic Universe for hours. Instead, I’m going to go out on a limb. I’m going to say something I haven’t heard anyone else say yet… DC isn’t even #2 anymore.

“I’m going to say something I haven’t heard anyone else say yet… DC isn’t even #2 anymore.”

DC has lost a ton of momentum and fan support in my eyes since failing to take advantage of their New 52 reboot, and now with their over-correction of an event Convergence.  ( I recently wrote about my disappointment here) Granted it’s just an opinion, but I find myself reading no DC currently. None of Convergence interests me at all. Instead what it has done is cut me off from the two titles I was still picking up. (Batman and Batman & Robin) It makes me feel like they’ve given me a jumping off point more than a jumping on point.

“They’ve given me a jumping off point more than a jumping on point.”

It wasn’t always that way though, I was excited about the New 52, and I picked up a lot of books. That number got smaller and smaller as time passed. DC’s mature print, Vertigo, did manage to keep me excited though! With books like Joe the Barbarian, The Wake, Unwritten, Sweet Tooth, American Vampire, and Punk Rock Jesus, Vertigo was giving readers exciting stories outside the DC Universe! There were great creative teams, and each title was given a prominent place in my weekly stack. I’m not currently picking up any Vertigo titles though. Would you like to know why?

Easy answer is Image Comics. Sean Gordon Murphy, Scott Snyder, Grant Morrison, and Jeff Lemire were all putting out those books. What are their current projects you ask? Chrononauts, Wytches, Nameless, and Descender are all current projects by those same talents. You won’t find them at Vertigo though. They are all Image titles. Image has, in my opinion soundly passed DC Comics as the main contender to Marvel’s throne.

“Image has, in my opinion soundly passed DC Comics as the main contender to Marvel’s throne.”

How do you like that  statement for ‘Brave and Bold’ DC? I pick up five times as many Image comics than DC comics currently. (10 Titles) Working in a comic shop, I see more excitement from books like Saga, Walking Dead, and East of West than anything DC is putting out. Image comics has really upped its game in the last few years. They have some of the best talent from both Marvel and DC coming to them to publish their creator owned work, and the comic genre is richer because of it.

They’ve come along way since launching their first titles in the 90’s. They’ve been through some rough spots, and I’m first to admit, they didn’t have my attention for a long time. I didn’t like their titles, and I didn’t like the fact it wasn’t all one universe. How naive I was in retrospect thinking I needed one big universe.

I started to change my tune pretty quickly after picking up a title called Invincible. Robert Kirkman (Who also created the book that made way for the critically acclaimed tv series ‘The Walking Dead’) gave me a story and a character I wanted to follow outside any realm I knew. It was his own world with goofy support characters, at times classically simple story lines, and really great character development. From there I found myself checking out more and more titles. Invincible was my gateway drug into Image.

The best thing about the titles I read at Image comics is I don’t have to worry about drastic change, and by that I mean the creators maintain their vision. They don’t have editors telling them a book needs to be more or less of what it is. We, as readers, don’t have to worry about a new creative team jumping in and completely changing everything we loved. With most of these books being finite, as in a limited series, we don’t have to worry about plot holes that never get explained or a character outliving interest.

“Why is DC falling behind Marvel and Image?”

Why is DC falling behind Marvel and Image? I’ll hazard you an uneducated guess. There’s an old saying that a fish stinks from the head down. That means the problem generally starts with the man at the top. In this case I believe it lies in the editorial process. I’m not a DC writer, and I don’t know how they go about it, but from what I understand of it, the editors dictate the story. Not the creators, the editors.

Now in contrast to that, Image is all creator owner, so the creators are their own editors and thus dictate their own story.

Marvel has their annual “Retreat” where all the writers gather to discuss their plots moving forward for the next year and/or beyond. MTV gave us a sneak peek into that world when Marvel Now was launching. (Check out the video here!) We saw how organized they were, and how all the creators shared their input with each other. Most importantly though, we saw the creators were dictating what story they were going to tell.

Marvel has mastered the art of telling stories in a complete and coherent universe.  The stories being told in Avengers, New Avengers, and even Avengers World all play off each other without a disjointed feeling or missing information. The current Black Vortex story jumps between several titles, but the story remains fluid. And I get the feeling when Secret Wars comes out this summer, people who have been reading since Marvel Now will be rewarded with the culmination of one really big story that we didn’t even know was being told!

Marvel knows they want to tell large stories in addition to small singular stories all within one universe, and they do it. Image knows they want creators to be able to tell their own stories large or small, and they do it. It feels like DC doesn’t know what it wants to do lately. With the New 52 they focused on a large-scale universe they could tell big stories in. They tried and it wasn’t working. Now with Convergence, it seems they want to tell small stories that try to ride off of the “Heyday” of different characters from different time periods and varying universes. It’s like they have no direction, and are experiencing their own ‘Identity Crisis’.

“I think DC should rename ‘Convergence’ to ‘Mid-Life Crisis’.”

DC is known for naming their biggest events as a ‘Crisis’. Crisis of Multiple Earths, Infinite Crisis, and Final Crisis to name a few. I think DC should rename ‘Convergence’ to ‘Mid-Life Crisis’. That’s what it feels like. I think they’re not sure where they’re going, they’re trying to relive the successes of their past, and they’re seemingly more reactive to what their “neighbors” are doing than planning for what they want to do.

There seems to be major dysfunction from within if you follow DC talent in social media. Here a blogger, John Gholson, documents some of the more public issues. I think because of their inner confusion, DC has firmly given Image Comics the number 2 spot in Comics. Maybe that’s why the minds behind their Vertigo successes have migrated across the way? Just my opinion. Don’t like it? I fully endorse adding your own opinion here or on social media. (Call me out! @XNickFlairX on Twitter!)

With that, I’m done for now.

Here are some of the great titles being put out by Image right now that if you aren’t reading, you should be!

 

I’ll go back to reviewing my Pick of the Week in 7 days, but in the meantime remember; The World is Ours to Make!

-Nick Flair!

Darth Vader #1 Review

******Quick Note: If you haven’t already checked out my Kickstarter project, Proton #0, click HERE for more info!*****

If you didn’t already know, on Wednesdays (Aka New Comicbook Day) I work at Richmond Comix on Richmond’s South Side, where they are nice enough to give me a Pick of the Week! I post that pick on Instagram and Twitter, and then review that book/series here on Thursdays! Nick’s Pick this week is Darth Vader #1 from Marvel Comics!

IMG_20150211_112920

A few weeks ago I reviewed Star Wars #1 as it returned to Marvel, and man did it live up to the hype! The question moving forward was how would the other two titles, Darth Vader and Princess Leia, fair in comparison? Well as Darth Vader #1 released this week on new comic book day, we got our answer!

Kieron Gillen didn’t shy away from starting off with a bang in issue one as we immediately follow Vader into the lair of the infamous Jabba the Hutt! In a scene reminiscent of Return of the Jedi, the Sith Lord moves quietly into Jabba’s fortress and confronts the kingpin of Tatooine with an a fierce demeanor that can only represent Vader.

Jabba and Vader have an exciting exchange where neither gives way or backs down at the other’s threats, and in the end Lord Vader shows the strength of the Dark Side of the Force! He takes on a room full of guards and mercenaries with great ease and alot of fun action! He then finds himself one on one with Jabba where he informs him of the differences between a Jedi and a Sith!

Later in the issue, you have the Emperor make his obligatory appearance and even the fan favorite Boba Fett plays a role in the story as the plot gets even more interesting towards the end of the issue! The story was on point giving you a throw back to Return of the Jedi, some Dark Side of the Force action, and some intriguing plot points to follow going forward, but there are two halves to every comic…

Writing is great, but how is the art? A ridiculous question if you’ve seen the name at the bottom of the cover! Salvador Larocca couldn’t have been a more perfect fit for a Darth Vader comic! Just like John Cassady makes you feel like you’re watching a hidden scene in Star Wars issues 1 & 2, Larocca brings you into the underworld of Tatooine and the Dark Side of the force with great accuracy! Every page is a piece of art to behold and soak in every detail! I’d like to commend Marvel on the Superstar writer/artist pairings they’ve made with the first two titles. They’ve made certain this franchise is going to live up to the hype.

In case you couldn’t already tell, I’m giving this book and the Star Wars title a glowing recommendation! You can follow either book individually or pick up both and get alittle bit bigger picture at whats going on in the Star Wars Universe all together! I look forward to the first issue of the third title, Princess Leia releasing in the coming weeks! Check back here for the review on that as well when it comes out! In the mean time, check out the cool Vader cover gallery below and may the Force be with you!

Come back next week for more reviews, or check out some of the other stuff here at Blackhole-Comics.com!

The World is Ours to Make!

-Nick Flair!

Is Hank Pym a Hero?

With the recent Marvel Now event Age of Ultron in full effect, the question has come up more once: Is Hank Pym to blame? Anytime the highly advance artificial intelligence launches an evil plan, Hank seems to take the blame for it. In general though I think most people see the good he does, using his genius and size changing abilities, as a counter balance to his mistakes. Does that make him a hero? That’s the question I’m examining in this weeks article. Let me start by making my opinion on this matter absolutely clear; No I DO NOT think Hank Pym is a Hero. I think the guy is an ego maniacal schizophrenic who happens to be one of the dumbest smart men in the Marvel Universe. If you think I’m crazy for thinking this, let’s examine his history.

As I said Hank Pym is a genius. As a young biochemist, he discovered subatomic particles that allowed him to create a size altering formula. What does he call these particles? “PYM” Particles. Of course he does. Now I get discovering something and naming it after yourself, so I’ll let that one slide. He uses the size altering formula on himself and shrinks down to insect height. It’s all fun and games until he runs into a nearby ant hill and almost gets killed! So what does he do? He returns to normal size and builds a cybernetic helmet that allows him to control ants. He then returns to insect size and lords over the ants that had defended their ant hill. Really?

Hank Ant Lord

After he’s built himself these incredible tools, he decides to become an adventurer/superhero under the guise of Ant-Man. A short time later, Hank is contacted by another scientist named Vernon Van Dyne, who is looking for his help in making contact with alien life. Hank refuses to help the Van Dyne. So what happens? Vernon Van Dyne is killed by an alien criminal. Vernon’s hot fashionista daughter, Janet, comes knocking on Hank’s door and asks for his aid in gaining revenge on the alien that killed her father. Now, conveniently, Hank has the time to help! How does he help? He reveals his secret identity of Ant-Man, pumps Janet full of his Pym Particles (Yes I know how that sounds.), and then grafts small wasp wings to her shoulders so that when she shrinks she can fly. Really?

Hank and Jan

After they gain their revenge on the alien criminal, Ant-Man keeps Janet around as his sidekick The Wasp. They superhero around for a while and some how luck their way into becoming founding members of the Avengers! After teaming with the likes of Thor and the Hulk, Hank starts to feel inadequate. He makes some modifications to his size altering formula, allowing him to grow instead of shrink, and calls himself Giant-Man. Because on a team with two big strong guys, what they really need is ANOTHER BIG STRONG GUY… Really.

Hank Giant Man

After defeating the Masters of Evil, Hank and Janet decide to take a leave from the team. Hank returns shortly after though, eager to return to the spot light of being an Avenger I’m sure, but decides Giant-Man isn’t manly enough so he goes by Goliath now. Feeling like he isn’t appreciated for his contributions to the team, he creates an artificial intelligence based on his own brain waves named Ultron. The same Ultron that is one of the greatest and most deadly foes the Avengers have ever faced? Yep, that Ultron. Way to go Pym. Ultron tries to enslave all humans, deeming them inferior. I WONDER WHERE HE GOT THAT IDEA FROM? Maybe from the brain patterns of the man who decided to rule over the ants he deemed inferior? Yeah. Thanks Hank.

Hank and Ultron

Hank AU

The Avengers manage to temporarily defeat Ultron, but as we all know he would be an ever-present threat to the world. Later Hank suffers from an “Allergic” reaction to some inhaled during an experiment. Right. He bursts into Avengers Mansion, now dressed as his new super identity Yellowjacket, and claims to have killed Hank Pym. If only. The only person who realizes Yellowjacket is Hank himself is Janet, who doesn’t seem to off put by his new personality. In fact, they become engaged to be married! But unfortunately for Janet, Hank reverts to his original personality on their wedding day.

Hank Pym Unis

He disappears from the scene for a while, not to reappear until the start of the Kree/Skrull War. The Kree had tried to do us all a favor by reverting Pym into a caveman, too dumb to hurt anyone. The Avengers were likely prepared to leave him as such, except they need Pym to fix the Vision. If only Tony Stark had more experience with artificial intelligence based on human brain waves. He’s later mind-wiped and brain-washed by Ultron and attacks the Avengers. He is restored and once again rejoins the Avengers on several missions, again switching to his Yellowjacket super identity, and becomes more hostile towards Janet and more aggressive in the team’s confrontations. Eventually, Captain America court-martial’s Hank for attacking a surrendered opponent.

This triggered a mental breakdown, in which Hank comes up with the genius plan of creating a robot to crash in during his court-martial. This would allow Pym, in his misguided mind, to defeat the robot taking advantage of the design flaw be builds into it. ….. YEAH CAUSE BUILDING ULTRON WORKED OUT SO WELL, YOU SHOULD BUILD ANOTHER ROBOT! Idiot. Wasp discovers Hank’s plan and pleads with him not to go through with it. How does Hank respond? He backhands his wife. This is where Hank Pym becomes known world-wide as the poster boy for spousal abuse. Way to go Hank. The robot attacks the Avengers anyhow, and not Yellowjacket, but WASP saves the day! Toilet, meet Hank Pym’s life.

hank-pym_Bitch slap

He leaves the Avengers, Janet divorces him, and is broke as a joke. He’s manipulated by the long thought deceased Egghead into stealing some adamantium, goes through some more very public bad times, but eventually clears his name. Well cleans it as much as you can being a wife beater who created the most dangerous robot in the world. He decides to leave his team and friends to devote all his time to his research. Yeah, because that’s worked out so well in the past… He joined the West Coast Avengers, but not as any of his super identities, just as a consultant. He then managed not to mess up too bad for the next decade of so.

He was then taken and replaced by Skrulls. The Skrull Hank Pym, returned to the Yellowjacket mantle, which always seems to be a sign Hank is about to mess up, and was instrumental in the Civil War between Marvel’s Heroes. He came up with the negative zone prison 42, and the Avengers Initiative. These could be argued as two of Hank Pym’s biggest accomplishments, yet they were actually achieved by an impostor. In all fairness though, he carried on the Pym tradition of being horrible at all things robotic. He talked Tony Stark and Reed Richards into letting him build a cybernetic clone of Thor that went out of control (Shocker…) and killed people including the modern Goliath, Bill Foster. He then, again in true Pym form, tried and seemingly succeeded in killing Janet Van Dyne.

Hank Pym Skrull

Hank Pym is not a super villain. I want to be certain that you know, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying he is no hero because the primary result of most of his endeavors, no matter how good his intentions, is disastrous for the world. He should turn and become a super villain, because he’d probably have more success at it. We now live in the Age of Ultron, were the world and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are all beat to hell and half dead. Ultron is controlling his world dominating forces from the future, and where is Hank Pym? HE’S AT HOME, WASHING HIS TIGHTS! Do the world a favor Hank and stop making robots. The world is ours to make, we just have to be sure not to abuse that power.

-Nick Flair!

For the Love of Deadpool!

I know Deadpool is alittle over-hyped these days, but I’m doing this series of articles to pay homage to all the guys that really have influenced me in comics. No Deadpool himself isn’t truly an inspiration in creating comics, even though he does break the fourth wall quite often, but some of the early creative teams to take him on were really great to me! Let me be absolutely clear, I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT ROB LIEFELD! Even though he technically created the character, he didn’t really become interesting to me 1993.

 

In his first mini series, Deadpool The Circle Chase: Toliver’s Will, he was being written by Fabian Nicieza and drawn by Joe Madureira. Up until this series all we knew was Deadpool was a mercenary with a healing factor and a bit off mentally.  This series really showed new dynamic’s that hadn’t been seen in him, combined them with some kick-ass action, and art from the rising star of the time MAD! In the story, a powerful man in the underworld, Toliver, has died and left a will that leads to the most powerful weapon the world has ever seen. Needless to say every merc in town is in a free-for-all to get that prize! Deadpool even takes on the likes of Black Tom and the Juggernaut in his quest to get it! In the mean time, an old rival of Deadpool’s long thought dead, has been resurfaced. He’s taken Deadpool’s old girlfriend Vanessa, aka Copy Cat, hostage and looks to exact revenge on the merc with a mouth. At the end, the ultimate weapon is revealed to be a Zero unit. A Zero unit, is an android from the future that has the ability to nullify and destroy any weapons within a certain radius of it. in a twist of fate, Deadpool finds himself facing Slayback (His thought dead foe) and trying to save Vanessa. The end result is Zero destroying Slayback, deeming him a weapon, and about to do the same to Deadpool. When Zero goes to do the same to Deadpool, he pleads with the android to let him save his former love by letting her copy his healing factor. Zero allows it stating the potential for Deadpool to become a hero. In that moment a long standing theme for this character was established for the first time. Redemption.

 

The moderate success of the first mini series led to a second, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Ian Churchill. It tied characters from the mainstream X-Men titles, Banshee and Syrin. Working in the relationship between Black Tom, Banshee’s brother and Syrin’s uncle, and the rivalry between Deadpool, the story further built up the popularity of Deadpool. In 1997, he was finally given his first on going series written by Joe Kelly and drawn by the up and coming Ed McGuinness. This, for me, was the bread and butter of Deadpool. The first issue is one of those comics I wore the cover off from reading a thousand times and just marveling at the awesome art! Deadpool is conflicted after finding out the ‘Demolition of an unmanned scientific edifice’ in Antarctica, turns out to be an experimental Gamma facility. Deadpool then nearly kills himself to prevent the entire northern hemisphere from developing ‘The Big C’. Having experienced cancer at it’s worst and leading him to Weapon-X, Deadpool couldn’t bare the thought of others going through what he did. He nearly kills himself swimming in Gamma irradiated fluid to remove the dangerous gamma core, preventing the potential tragedy. Again, potential redemption is a theme of the character. Wade Wilson is constantly walking the line between good guy and bad guy. It’s makes him such an interesting character! He’s influenced along the way by love interests like Siryn and Typhoid Mary, and friends like Blind Al and Weasel. Eventually the series went in different directions and lost some of it’s initial fan base. At one point it was to be cancelled, but fans rallied to support the book and saved! (On multiple occasions actually!)

After flirting with cancellation (and Death for that matter!) Liefield was an ass and got into it with Marvel about his creation of the character, along with Cable and X-Force, so the story changed to Agent-X and was written by Gail Simon initially. It centered around an amnesiac character thought to be Deadpool. After Marvel worked out their woes with Crapheadface (Rob Liefield and some creative difference Gail Simon and the Marvel editors had, she came back to the title, wrapped it up, and everyone moved on. The void left with out Deadpool needed to be filled though, so he was teamed with Cable and the two shared a book and their adventures for a while. The series was initially written by previously successful scribe Fabian Nicieza. There were some stories that focused on one character over the other, but all and all the series wasn’t bad at all. The two had an interesting relationship that blossomed and eventually impacted each other profoundly. We also got some Kick-Ass covers out of Skottie Young! These were teasers as he did not do the interior art of the actual story though. (That always makes me sad to see a great cover, open the book, and have completely different art inside) Eventually, once again, the book was cancelled. Cable had too much going on and just couldn’t hangout with Deadpool anymore. He needed New friends…

Deadpool then was given his own Team-Up book! It numbered it’s first issue at #899 and counted down issues instead of up. It was almost mocking the fact it knew it would be cancelled from the get go…which it was. I won’t lie I only picked up 1 issue of this book. He teamed up with both Johnny Blaze and Dan Ketch, the Ghost Riders. It wasn’t the worst story in the world, but not the best either. Once again, the best part of this series were the Kick-Ass covers, this time by Humberto Ramos!

Time proves over and over again that the world cannot survive without Deadpool though. With the huge event ‘Secret Invasion’ creating waves all over the Marvel Universe, there was an intricate part to be played by the Merc-with-a-Mouth! As the world is being overrun by armies of Super-Skrulls, only Deadpool could truly take on this threat! In issue 1, disguised as a mascot, Deadpool heroically saves a baseball stadium of people from Skrulls. He allows himself to be taken by the enemy forces, and through a series of hi-jinx, ends up with a Skull-Deadpool Clone Squad! It’s revealed at the end he was working for Nick Fury, acquiring important information on how to kill the Skrull Queen and end the invasion. The information is intercepted by Norman Osborn, and leads to Deadpool seeking out revenge on Osborn.

 

He fights through the Thunderbolts to get to Normie, and proves to be a cold sore on Osborn’s lip. He then orders his Dark Hawkeye, aka Bullseye, to take out Deadpool. FINALLY! This book was back on track to getting to some bad-ass Deadpoolness! They go back and forth for three issues with some great action and awesome storytelling by Daniel Way! This series was different than previous because not only did it again brandish great covers, some by the amazing Dave Johnson, but also maintained great interior art! WAY TO GO PACO MEDINA AND CALRO BARBERI!!!!! The series also dove deep into what it’s like to have a healing factor and possibly be immortal. Deadpool came to a point where he was searching for something to drive him in life. He wondered what the point was in living if you could never die. That theme drove him to do some crazy things and search out new adventures. He wound up in space for a while, and tried reclaiming his title as the world’s greatest mercenary. He found his old buddy Weasel and ran a hero scam in Vegas as a pair of armored bodyguards named Roulette and Wildcard! (Deadpool was introduced by Weasel as his Sidekick!It was definitely one of my favorite stories!) In the end, he ended up finding a place with some old friends, and former enemies alike.

 

Joining Wolverine’s assassination squad, Uncanny X-Force, Wade found a kind of family in the group. He was doing good things for the world in bad ways, but was also finding others doing the same. In a way, Deadpool was the heart of this team. His sometimes child like demeanor not only provided comic relief, but at times added his struggle to do the right thing. He wasn’t the only one walking the line between Hero and Villain, and sometimes knowing that can help you make the right choice between the two. Eventually though, in typical Deadpool fashion, he took those who he counted as friends, and used them.

An amalgamation of his discarded body parts had come together to form a new version of Wade. An EVIL version. With the looks of a Frankenstein monster, and the maniacal mind of Deadpool, this mistake of a being met his end while fighting the original. Wait…met his end??? Yes. For good. After being struck with a dart in the neck (Classic!) It was revealed an antidote to Deadpool’s healing factor had been made. It was created for him specifically, and would kill only him. He didn’t let anyone else know that when he found out though, and used others such as Wolverine, Daken, and the Kingpin to acquire it. Deadpool has long flirted with Death, both literally and in his psyche perceiving her to be real and in love with him. This would be his chance to finally find sweet death, and forever be happy with his ‘Love’. The kicker to this story is, he gets the serum, loses his healing factor and can truly die for the first time, but realizes he doesn’t want to die! He then proceeds to go on living and having to learn to be a hero without being careless now that his healing factor is gone. The book is coming to an end soon. Surprised? This time I am because it’s really good! But have no worries, it’s already confirmed that the book will relaunch in the Marvel Now not-a-reboot reboot.

Thank you to everyone listed in this article, everyone who read this article (Both of you), and everyone that continues to inspire me to create comics… EXCEPT ROB LIEFIELD!!!!!

 

-Nick Flair!