I Just Finished – Jean Grey #7

Jean Grey, founding member of the X-Men way long ago, has been kidnapped out of time as a teenager and brought forward to an era where her adult self is long dead, and remembered primarily for becoming the all-powerful, all-corrupt entity known as the Phoenix. Now the leader of her teenage cohorts, Jean is on a quest to learn how she can avoid following in her older counterpart’s footsteps.

In the latest issues of her solo series, Jean has been meeting up with a different denizen of the Marvel Universe each month–all the other Phoenix hosts, Namor, Thor, Psylocke, Doctor Strange–all with the goal of learning how not to become the Phoenix. She’s also being stalked by the ghost of her older self.

This issue, she meets up with the Scarlet Witch. There’s a bond between these two 1960s-born heroines, one which author Jeff Parker clearly recognized when he wrote a humorous series of adventures for the two, as teens, in the back pages of X-Men First Class several years ago. Both are mutants. Both were the only women on their teams, Wanda first in The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and later in The Avengers.

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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.

Age of Ultron – Who ARE These People? Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch

avengers_age_of_ultron_2015Okay, I’m not going to review this film. Because, if I were to review this film, you’d get about 1800 words, all of which were various combinations and permutations of these: “Oh”, “My”, “God”, “This”, “Film”, “F___ing”, and “Rocks.”

This is my favorite Marvel Studios film to date. None of them have been bad. A couple (Iron Man 2, Thor 2) were not what I wished they could have been. I’ll still watch them any day over, say, Ben Affleck in Daredevil or Man of Steel and any of its ill-begotten spawn. But Age of Ultron is my dream Avengers movie.

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REACTION: A vs X #0 from Marvel Comics

The tell-off. It’s one of our favorite dramatic devices, isn’t it? It’s so satisfying. Great tell-offs which come to mind include everything from Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence to Louise Jefferson telling off the snotty bigot-of-the week; from Flo telling Mel “Kiss my grits!” to James T. Kirk telling Khan to… Oh yeah, he just said “Khhhhhaaannnnnn!”

But we knew what he meant, and we loved it.  (And wow, I just dated myself!)

But there’s a problem with most tell-offs, excepting Thomas Jefferson’s… they don’t actually accomplish a damn thing.  In most cases, they don’t even make us feel better. They may seem satisfying, if you don’t think too hard; but in truth…? Telling off someone, be it a co-worker, family member or friend, creates animosity and hurt feelings; it damages relationships and often makes working or living together impossible. Really, it’s something from the realm of wish-fulfillment fantasy (“I’d like to tell him off!”) that has no place in practical reality.

So should it really be one of our favorite dramatic devices?

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REVIEW – Steve Englehart’s Max August in The Plain Man

Steve Englehart
’s work is special to me.  I discovered him (indirectly) at the tender age of nine at the school book fair.  I went to a small private school with about a dozen other kids in my fourth grade class.  You’d think our book fairs would have been less spectacular than the ones in public school, but they were a hundred times more magical.  Perhaps it was the library, a parlor in an Eighteenth Century mansion and one of my favorite places on earth when I was little.  (I visited recently and saw that it had been gutted and turned into another classroom.  How traumatic to see your childhood refuge come to such a fate!)  Perhaps it was the lack of hovering adults, which my public school book fairs had possessed in abundance, telling me the books I wanted were too old for me, too focused on the sciences, too whatever. Whatever it was, the small, private school book fair was an event to me, and it was there, in 1974, that I found a Marvel Comics calendar featuring pictures of most of their now-iconic characters.  I had just started reading comic books, and I knew none of these colorful personages save Spider-Man, who after all had his own cartoon still running on weekday mornings.   Continue reading