Nov 24, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1003: The Avengers v.1 #298, December 1988

What does it say that the best issue in Walt Simonson's run on the title thus far only actually stars any of the primary Avengers in passing? This comic is all Edwin Jarvis, and it's fantastic. Storywise, we have a pretty nice prelude to the madness of the "Inferno" crossover, as Jarvis gads about town and, strangely, inanimate object start attacking people. Jarvis even manages to entrance a young lady whose life he saves, and ends up walking off into the sunset with her at the end of the story.

There's something to that: The young lady, Glory, tracks Jarvis down at the same time that Steve "The Captain" Rogers (having just been fired as Captain America) does. Glory is, of course, struck by his handsomeness, but in the end says she's been looking for "someone with enough courage to be a hero and enough gentleness to be a man." Which, I think, is a rather nice articulation of exactly what Jarvis is, and perhaps what those shy and retiring young boys who read the comic are.

To be continued.

Nov 23, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1002: The Avengers Annual #17, 1988


I can't say that The Evolutionary War was my favourite crossover, though I guess it's far from my least favourite. What that least favourite might me, I'm not sure.

An ad hoc team of Avengers is assembled by the abandoned computers on Hydrobase, and this hastily assembled team takes on and defeats the High Evolutionary. Unfortunately, because the story wasn't really told as a sequential piece, the stakes really didn't seem too high. There was no real build-up of drama and suspense - each chapter was just another adventure with the same person as the antagonist, but they lacked the continuity to make the tale compelling.

Ah well. Tomorrow, we'll get back to Simonson's run on Avengers, and then I think I might just grab random handfuls of comics and read those. Or perhaps another theme week or two. I just picked up some cool, old Charlton horror comics....

To be continued.

Nov 22, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1001: The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #4, 1988

And back to the Evolutionary War.

Considering Spider-Man has faced the High Evolutionary's forces three times now, this crossover is starting to feel like a Spider-Man story, rather than one that spans the Marvel Universe. But the stories are still only very loosely connected. Spidey himself admits he really has no idea what's going on. I think this is really what sets the crossover apart from others, and it's something I mentioned right at the very beginning of this story - unlike most crossovers, the heroes really have no idea what's going on. No one's discovered a secret cache of plans, no enemies have defected to the good guys' side because they disagree with the High Evolutionary's plan. From this point of view, the crossover is not playing into many of the tropes that we see in contemporary crossovers. Indeed, given the utter lack of awareness and information that the heroes have, I can't see how they'll end up stopping the Evolutionary's manipulations.

I guess we'll find out in tomorrow's Avengers annual, which will lead us nicely back into the last few issues of Walt Simonson's run. I should note that I didn't manage to find one part of this crossover, the West Coast Avengers annual, but I'll keep an eye out for it and fill in the gap when I can.

Today's issue had a couple of interesting points. First, Gwen Stacy is back. When will poor Peter be free of this burden? Well, as it turns out, at the end of this issue. The "clone" turns out to not be a clone, but rather a genetically altered woman, and that alteration is undone and she goes back to whatever life she has out there. Second, we have the Young Gods. This is a super team created way back in 1972 - ostensibly they're people chosen by various gods of Earth to become the next generation of deities. There are, however, some problems. First, though hailing from numerous different nations around the world, most of the characters are coloured Caucasian. A young Polynesian girl and an Indian man are probably the most egregious examples of this whitewashing, and I can only hope that it's a colouring problem from a technical standpoint, rather than a deliberate act. Another problem leapt out at me because I've been teaching Indigenous Literature and culture this week. One of the characters is a young white woman from 19th century Ottawa (misspelled in the comic) who is chosen by a member of the Algonquin pantheon to be a deity. This seems problematic to me, though we might be able to side-step the problem by claiming that the woman was simply the best choice for deification. However, given the horrendous under-representation of Indigenous Peoples in comics, having a settle chosen by an Indigenous god is just not okay.

But enough for now. We'll finish the war tomorrow.

To be continued.

Nov 21, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1000: Superman: Save the Planet #1, October 1998

This comic entered my collection just over 19 years ago this month. On November 4th, 1998, I walked across the road from the hospital I'd been in for the last day and a half and bought myself a couple of comics from the convenience store. Then I walked back and quietly re-entered the room where my exhausted wife and 4-hour old son were sleeping.

I wanted to read something special for my 1000th day, and this comic, though not particularly memorable as a comic, is memorable for when it entered my life.

I have to say I'm a bit amazed that I made it this far. I'm very good at starting projects but my follow-through on them leaves a bit to be desired. I suppose it just took finding the right thing to apply myself to. I have, over the last 1000 days, read some really remarkably bad comics and some really remarkably good ones, and I'm happy for both of those extremes. Some comics are so bad that they are good - it's interesting that it doesn't work the other way around.

The 90s Superman comics were a bit of a shit show, in my humble opinion. You'll see down in the bottom left corner, just above the bar code, a triangle with a number in it. If you wanted to read Superman comics in this era, you had to pay attention to those numbers, because Superman's stories were told through 4 monthly ongoing series that continued from one to another. What this meant was that it was virtually impossible to buy just Action Comics or Superman: Man of Steel, as the next part of whatever story you were reading was going to be in one of the other titles, rather than being continued in the next issue of the same series. Add to this various specials like this one, and you were dropping quite a bit of money just to keep up with the adventures of this one superhero. Not a great idea, as I've noted, but it continued for a very long time, so there must have been a few people who liked it.

The story is okay, as is the art - much as I love Superman, I've never really been into his ongoing series. I think it must be hard to write the adventures of this character on a monthly basis. He seems so much more suited to the big adventures, rather than the little, down to Earth ones that inevitably come with a monthly title. Perhaps, though, I'm not giving the character, or his writers, enough credit. Is it time to jump back into Superman comics? Maybe I'll start with Supergirl first.

So, 1000 days. Thanks to those of you who've managed to keep up with the project for a little while. I'm excited to get to some of the other bits of the collection. 1000 days seems like an awfully long time, until I realize that that is approximately 1/15th of the comics I have to read. To be, as usual, continued.

The Earth-H Files - The Incredible Hulk and "The Green Thumb"

From Omega the Unknown v.1 #6, January 1977

Nov 20, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 999: Web of Spider-Man Annual #4, 1988

I came home from work today and my son pointed at the comic sitting on the table. This comic. He said he'd been intrigued by the cover, and picked it up to have a look. And he then noted that the scene on the cover doesn't, in fact, even close to occur in the comic, and that The Slug, this wild new villain, appears on literally three pages in the whole comic.

Basically, this comic was just an excuse to let Steve Gerber tell one of his trademark weird Man-Thing stories that just happened to guest star Spider-Man. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. This issue comes out at the same time that Gerber has come back for his second go at Man-Thing. There's a serial that ran in the first volume of Marvel Comics Presents, and this story follows it. The nice thing about Man-Thing, when handled right, is that he's basically the background of the story - but because he's such a volatile and nigh-indestructible background, he manages to flavour the story in very specific ways. I love it.

I'll not say too much more about this issue, as I think I have some things I should say about it for my extremely delayed look at Gerber's work that I'm doing for Sequart. Suffice to say, I enjoyed this one more than any of the other annuals in this crossover thus far.

Tomorrow, a break for an auspicious occasion.

To be continued.

Nov 19, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 998: X-Men (, Uncanny) Annual #12, 1988

One thing I love about this era of Marvel is all of the Art Adams annuals we get. But, ye gods, Claremont's dialogue is just terrible. The use of the thought bubble has gone out of vogue in comics these days, and I really think that it was the Claremont X-titles that signaled its death knell. There's just too much. A comic panel is meant to move fairly quickly, especially an action one involving superheroes. So if we have a huge diatribe in thought holding our attention as someone is flying through the air, it makes all of the action seem like it's in slow motion. I'm sure have much more to say about this when I get to reading the voluminous run of Uncanny that sits in the collection.

But, y'know, on the other side of things, there's Art Adams. He's up there for me with Frank Quitely as one of the artists who really grasps the stylized ridiculousness of the superheroic form, but manages to tell compelling stories using it nonetheless. His Jonni Future stuff for Tom Strong's Terrific Tales is beautiful to behold (and self-consciously hyper-sexualized), and the ways he makes these characters move connotes a sort of grace that one expects of mythic figures - even when they're falling over or making fools of themselves!

Story-wise, there's a few more connections to the other annuals in the crossover, but not much. I'm glad to have read the Avengers issues recently in which Terminus destroyed the Savage Land, as this comic made much more sense this time around.

To be continued.