I Just Finished – Generations: Hawkeye

Marvel Comics once again reaches out to its older fan base—or at least the part of its fan base that thinks fondly of the comics of 40 years ago—with a series of one-shots all built around the premise that their current, young characters meet their namesakes from the Bronze Age: Teenage, time-displaced Jean Grey meets the Phoenix, circa 1979; Amadeus Cho meets a Bruce Banner I don’t know enough about Hulk history to place, but certainly pre-1980. Carol Danvers Captain Marvel meets a pre-cancer Mar-Vell.



That last one is cheating a bit, since Carol is also a Bronze Agecharacter, and was, in fact, present in Mar-Vell’s book from the get-go. I can take or leave Hawkeye Clint and Hawkeye Kate. I like them both best when they’re on teams. Sort of the way I feel about Wolverine. But, flipping through this issue, I saw it heavily featured Clint’s mentor, the Swordsman. I’ve been fascinated with the Swordsman since I read the opening line of my first-ever issue of The Avengers. That was “The Swordsman is dead!” I was nine years old, and I didn’t really understand what was going on in that issue; but I could see that this was a story about a lot of heroes and villains who had a lot of history together, and I wanted to know more. That’s pretty much how Marvel hooked fans in my day—not with indigestible “Summer events,” but by presenting a complex universe as a sort of a puzzle to solve.

At any rate, a good, character-based story, featuring a Clint Barton Hawkeye who was probably plucked out of time shortly after the Kree-Skrull War (Avengers 97) and about the time of his defection from the Avengers for the Defenders (Avengers 109, if memory serves.) I base this on the fact that he’s in classic costume, which he was not from Avengers 63 until Avengers 109, and the fact that he doesn’t look at the Swordsman and say, “Go away! You’re dead!” which he would have after Avengers #130. Nor would he have called Sword a villain after Avengers #114, when his mentor became a regular member of the team. Okay, geek-out moment over.

Fun story, Good read. Who doesn’t love Hawkeye? Or, um, Hawkette? (Terrible name!)

I Just Finished – Marvel Team-Up (1972) #25

I have a lot of back issues, mostly bought at quarter and dollar sales. I tend to pick up series I didn’t read when I was actively reading in the 70s, series I just missed because I didn’t read many comics in the 80s, and whatever I can find cheap from the Silver Age. And then they sit there in my “Unread Comics” box… boxes… until I find time to read them. It’s getting to be daunting task. I recently sorted them into groups of 60s, 70s, 80s and “later,” to encourage myself. I have a real fondness for the comics of my childhood, so the 60s and 70s issues at the front, with their delightfully yellowed pages, cheer me.

Ironically, I picked this issue up the night its author, Len Wein, died. It’s a nice little piece of Marveliana. Spidey and Daredevil meet, manage to find a reason to fight each other (Marvel heroes almost always fought each other before realizing they had common cause) and then go to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a powerful man from the clutches of The Unholy Trio, later known as Count Nefaria’s Ani-Men. It’s a completely standalone story. MTU, by virtue of being just an excuse to put Spider-Man on another cover and maybe boost sales of other books by introducing a character casual readers didn’t know, didn’t really have a thread that spanned multiple issues. At least, it didn’t until Chris Claremont took over the book. But it was nice to read an average Marvel story, one more by Len, in his honor.

I Just Finished – Uncanny Avengers (2015) #26

I was pleasantly surprised by this issue. I haven’t been following the series since its first couple of issues. I have no patience with the “The Scarlet Witch is so sorry for her crimes” storyline that just goes on and on. The early issues just seemed to be an extension of that, played out with Rogue as the voice of all the younger fanboys and fangirls who don’t understand that Wanda Maximoff was once a really good character, and that her downfall, like Jean Grey’s, had a lot more to do with male writers’ insecurity with powerful female characters than it did with those characters being inherently flawed.

I tend to pick comics by their authors these days, but I always flip through an issue that features a favorite character. So, though I’ve never read Jim Zub’s work, I was drawn by this issue which proudly proclaimed, “The Witch is back! Wanda made some covers of Secret Empire, but really had nothing to do in that plodding and over-written story. So her taking center stage would, indeed, be refreshing.

An initial flip through the book suggested just more Wanda/Rogue angst, but I’m glad I decided to grab it anyway.

One of the things I always loved about The Avengers was its pacing. Throughout its first 300 issues, the characters took time to have lives, as well as adventurous careers, and we saw them doing simple things like shopping, going on dates, sitting around the mansion shooting the shit and contemplating life. They felt like people. “Big Blazing Battle Issues” did not attract me. Stories where real lives were interrupted by cosmic events did.

Unfortunately, for decades now, the Avengers have largely been written to cater to the Big Blazing Battle Issue!!!! crowd. Way too much plot, way too little characterization, and, strangely, very little happening in any given issue. Even Mark Waid’s latest run on the main Avengers title has seemed prey to this.

But Zub, Izaakse and Bonvillain’s tale in this issue feels like a classic story from days gone by. Graviton shows up with a somewhat philosophical (if maniacal) plan, but first there’s time for the characters to pause and be people. And the anti-Wanda angst is there, but not overplayed. Indeed, the clash between Wanda and Rogue is organic, and reminiscent of the first time Graviton showed up, an issue which opened with the Vision and Wonder Man slugging it out because Vizh was dealing with jealousy for the first time in his synthetic life. Best of all, the art looks like comic-book art, and not the weird fusion of photo-realism and impressionism that’s been draining the life out of the characters in the main title.

I Just Finished – Secret Empire #10

This was a terrible let-down. The series was mildly interesting, but, ultimately, the problem with the Hydra Cap story is not that it made Cap a fascist, it’s that it was the setup for a thinly veiled anti-Trump rant. A poor successor to the real Secret Empire story, and a cheap excuse for Big Damn Deaths of the Year. It’s odd, because I understand Nick Spencer is not particularly leftist, but the “stand and fight fascism” mantra that permeates the final battle, laced with all the talk about how “we let this happen,” and how half the people supported Hydra Cap, can’t really come off as anything else but a blatant partisan statement.

Steve Engelhart’s first “Secret Empire” storyline, 40 years gone, was not an anti-Nixon rant or an anti-Republican rant, much as Englehart probably disapproved of both. That story was about secrecy and lack of transparency in government as a concept. A much subtler, much less divisive tale. The original was also groundbreaking, and this new one is not. There’s nothing wrong with not being groundbreaking, assuming that you’re not pushing your product as an earth-shaking “event” series.

Definitely, in the end, not worth the interruptions of good storylines in many other comics this summer. I found most of those tie-ins very disappointing as well.

I Just Finished – Champions (2016) #12

I promised to share what I’ve been reading, watching and listening to. Here’s the first entry. Going for daily. Will post them under “I Just Finished…” Please jump in with your thoughts. 

Cyclops loses it! Well, he doesn’t lose that. 

Champions has strayed occasionally into the preachy, just a little. When the story opened with the team getting a call to handle a riot in Denver, I cringed a bit. Fortunately, the riot was not caused by the orange rays emanating from the President, but by a classic supervillain from a more innocent time–Psychoman.

Slim Summers takes a point blank shot of Psychoman’s emotional manipulation force, and spends the issue running the gamut of extreme emotions in a very fun way. A fun story about a fun team. Hopefully a new trend after the deadly dull tie-ins with Secret Empire these past couple issues. Marvel’s marketing arm still did everything they could to try and tie this standalone tale into Secret Empire. Their hype for this issue? “SECRET EMPIRE AFTERMATH! The Champions team was born from a fracture inside the Avengers. Now the events of SECRET EMPIRE have divided the Champions — and which ones are still with the team may surprise you!”

Really, Marvel?

The Champions / Avengers War storyline starting next issue looks promising, with hints that Mark Waid is in control and free of Summer Tie-In restraints. I look forward to his tribute to the original “Summer Tie-In,” the Avengers / Defenders War of 45 years ago.

Hate Speech? Anger Speech? Or just plain “I didn’t know that!” Speech?

tumblr_mpx0501anl1rhbebyo4_250Recently, at New York Comic Con, prolific author Peter David was asked a question about Romani representation in comics. As he explains on his own blog, the question triggered in him a memory of seeing a deformed child while visiting Romania, and being told that that child was deliberately deformed by the parents. By Peter’s own admission, the painful memory caused him to lose his temper with the questioner. He has apologized, and that apology I know was sincere, because I know Peter.

I’ve known Peter David for almost 30 years. We’re not best friends. We don’t call each other every week, or even make a point of having dinner when we’re at the same con. But we’ve done countless panels together, I’ve acted in plays he’s written, our families hang out together, and, more, we’re part of a very old network of Star Trek fans and creators whose number is shrinking. That’s a kind of family tie for a lot of us. Peter is a talented author, an opinionated curmudgeon, and an obviously loving and committed father and grandfather. The idea of a child being hurt clearly has a powerful impact on him.

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Exactly How Does Deadpool Change the Game?

This movie was billed as “a game-changer” by its star, Ryan Reynolds. The game is changing, he advances, because the recent spate of super-hero movies have been “serious and… gritty and dark,” and Deadpool is not.


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No Claws, No Bamfs, No Shatterstar – Marvel Masterworks X-Men Volume 4

This volume includes issues 32 – 42 of the original run of X-Men, published between July, 1967 and March, 1968. This span marks a transition from the X-Men as they were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby—Students in matching yellow and black (or was it blue? It’s hard to tell in comics of that era) uniforms—to the four-color team made famous on down the line by Roy Thomas, Neal Adams and Tom Palmer.

X-Men 32 Cover showing original costumes

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Arachne Looms – The Essential Spider-Woman Volume One

Marvel_Spotlight_Vol_1_32I’d read about half of these adventures before. I still vividly recall the announcement on the Marvel Comic’s monthly “Bullpen Bulletins” page: Marvel was creating two new super-heroines to star in their own series. Now I love super-heroines, and did, perversely, when I was in elementary school and wasn’t supposed to. You know those boys who didn’t buy female action figures? Yeah, I wasn’t one of them.

The new characters weren’t exactly original. Ms. Marvel (who premiered in her own title cover-dated January, 1977) was a hot-pants-wearing version of Captain Marvel, with an oh-so-Seventies scarf. And Spider-Woman? She wasn’t pictured in the announcement (Ms. Marvel’s cover was), but she sounded like another knockoff. Still, I’ve never said a word against Supergirl, Batgirl, Mary Marvel or Hawkwoman, so… I of course picked up both premiere issues. Spider-Woman appeared a month after Ms. Marvel in Marvel Spotlight #32. That’s where this collection picks up. Continue reading

Age of Ultron – Vision Quest

vision_AOUSo my favorite Marvel film has been taking a pounding this week, from the usual nay-sayers who wanted it to be Batman, or who wanted it to be just the first one again (suggestion – watch the first one again!) I’ve heard Ultron called a generic villain, and read that Evan Peters was a better Quicksilver in Days of Future Past.

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