Starting In TheMiddle Of Continuity: Fantastic Four Vs The X-Men and X-Men Days Of Future Present(Claremont/Bogdanove)
I didn't catch on to Buffy The Vampire Slayer until its second season. I don't remember how far along The X-Files was when I started watching it Unitarian Universalistly (which is almost religiously, but with no consequences). In the pre-Australopithecus days when they didn't collect entire seasons of TV shows on DVDs, and it took roughly seven years to download just one fake nude of Brittney Spears, if you wanted to watch an entire series from beginning to end, tough sucken nougat.
The twenty-first century has spoiled nerds' senses of adventure. You can't watch Lost unless you start at Season One Episode One (this is not actually true...start with Episode One of Season Five where the island is jumping in time...from there you can watch any episodes in any order, and the series will make just as much sense). It is considered a crime to not watch every episode of Battlestar Galactica in order (unless you just stop watching entirely after CrossRoads Part 2, and just imagine that the series was canceled due to the writing staff dying of HeadUpAss). How I Met Your Mother is a much more emotionally enriching experience if you watch it chronologically.
I wanted to write an analogy about how TV was maturing like wine, but I don't drink or really know shit about wines (despite managing a wine shop in the late 90s), and Two And A Half Man continues to be made, even though it's written by a lonely squirrel with agoraphobia and no grasp on subtlety, and continues to draw in millions of viewers who can't possibly have ever seen a real TV show before, or perhaps another person, if they find that kind of garbage entertaining.
Sorry, I think I blacked out somewhere in that last paragraph.
The gist of my point is: The twentieth century is all about Continuity Privilege. If you want to get involved in a series be it a TV show, a movie franchise, or a comic storyline, it is not very difficult to procure the first issue/episode and watch it all.
When my friend Oz suggested that I would like Terry Pratchett's Discworld, I went and found a copy of The Colour Of Magic, and decided to read it chronologically, and...well, I didn't like it.
"Don't read it from the beginning, you chronologically obsessed motherfucker. Read Hogfather, which is awesome, and then find books with plots you think you'll like. Christ, man, order is so twentieth fucken century."
And, he was right. Hogfather was fantastic. And I now own every Discworld book. I read them all completely out of order.
This was a big step for me, though. I have a whole webpage devoted to finding order for the modern era of Batman. I am even watching the entire run of Dr. Who from 1963 to whatever century the show will end in. I am obsessed with order. But.
In 1991, I was visiting my grandparents in Maine, and one of the neighbor kids and I took a much needed bike riding break. We ended up at a comic book store. I had never read comics. I knew about Superman, and Batman, etc, but had no experience with them. I flipped through what were probably the recent back issue bins and saw a title called The Fantastic Four with Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ghost Rider, and The Hulk. I was informed that this was a weird line up. My short term friend told me all about how awesome the original FF were, and, on his advice I bought The Fantastic Four vs. The X-Men series.
This is how I fell in love with the B-list X-Men: Rogue (who would go on to be A list), Havoc, Psylocke, Longshot, and Dazzler. Yes, my favorite era of X-Men was led by Magneto, and exists purely because Nightcrawler, Colossus, and the rest were roughed up by the Marauders, who I'd never heard of, but I imagined wore scarvey purple uniforms and fought with swords.
The Fantastic Four vs. The X-Men is the perfect jumping on point for anyone who wants to come in the middle of a continuity. Not only is the X-Mena B-team, the Fantastic Four has She Hulk with them as well as their young son Franklin, making that 4 on their uniforms a little suspect.
Claremont does his 1980s spectacular job of introducing each character and their power. And gives you enough hint of each team's mythos, that you don't need to go back and find out anything about them, unless you absolutely want to. You can find out everything you need about The Thing by his reaction to Reed, and when Rogue kisses him. Magneto is briefly summed up with his encounter with the begrudgingly accepting She-Hulk.
The book is compact storytelling that I love, despite its very mediocre 80s art. It's in no way bad. It's just unremarkable. It's how I picture the X-Men in my head when I'm not giving them much attention.
But the comics affected me so much that, when I got back home to Cape Cod, I looked up the nearest comic book store in the phone book (oh, Internet, I wish I'd known about you then), and went out to buy another series.
I wanted something specific. Something with both The X-Men, and The Fantastic Four. What I picked up was Walter Simonson's 1990 annual series Days Of Future Present. This is a terrible jumping on point. It has everything people mock when they think comics are dumb: alternate time lines, clones, a thousand different characters. It's total continuity porn. Now that I'm familiar with a great deal of the backstory of all the teams involved (there's some X-Factor and New Mutants thrown in), the story is readable and not at all terrible. But as a kid in 1991, I had no fucken clue what was going on. Who was Forge? And Banshee? Why weren't they in uniforms. And where were Longshot and Dazzler? And why is The Thing a woman? (Even now, in 2011, I have never read another title with Sharyn the She-Thing. that's a project for another day.)
I decided I didn't really like comics, I just happened to find one set of comics I liked.
A week later, one of the dicks in my neighborhood that I temporarily called friend, came over, picked up my Days Of Future Present comics and called them Crap. He told me the new X-Men comics were better. That they were only on number six. So I went back to the store, where I got talked into buying the Muir Island saga issues of the X-books that led up to X-Men #1. And thus I fell in love with comics again for an entire year before I moved on to some other shiny distraction. Probably The Hitchhiker's Guide. And I got more heavily involved with musical theater. And comics faded faded faded out for an entire decade.
At least, that's how I remember it happening.
Written by GAIL SIMONE
Art by ED BENES, ADRIANA MELO and MARIA BENES
In their review of Avengers Prime #2, the iFanboys point out the seamless transitions that Bendis and Davis weave throughout the issue. Critical action and dialog flow from panel to panel, subplot to subplot with a grace most comic writers don't achieve. Simone makes a similar attempt in Birds of Prey #4, with less impressive results. The dialog is choppy, one character will mention a fall, and then another character will be falling in the next panel. It seems really forced.
With the first two issues, I really enjoyed the risks Simone was taking with the characters. Risks she has undone in each successive issue, as she beats us over the head with twist over twist until even M Knight Shyamylan would beg for reprieve.
The highlight of this issue for me, was Ed Benes's art. While I do find some of the panel to panel choppy (which is as much his fault as Simone's), the actual art within the panels are pretty tight. His use of eyes to convery emotions is exaggerated, without seeming manga-esque.
Story: 2 - Average Art: 4 - Very Good
WRITER: VICTOR GISCHLER
ART PACO MEDINA, JUAN FRANCISCO VELASCO, MARTE GRACIA
I will say this about The Curse Of The Vampire storyline in the new eponymous X-Men book, it appears that Gischler really thought out how he wanted to make use of the Marvel vampires. He's not rehashing Claremont's vamp storylines, he's carving out some brand new X-Men vampire territory.
Unfortunately, there are some huge leaps of logic that the characters make to combat the vmpire problem. Giant leaps. Even though I can see where they've landed, I'm not entirely sure I want to follow them.
I've complained quite a bit about how I don't connect with how Fraction voiced many of the characters during his X-run. At least Fraction attempts to use his characters as more than mere plot devices. Instead of using Emma Frost as the heat infused decision making X-leader that she is, Gischler uses her as a pitching machine to float an awkward quote at Cyclops, which he attempts to knock over the fences. Unfortunately, he's in a batting cage, so he just ends up smacking some net.
Story: 2 - Average Art: 3 - Good
WRITER: MARK MILLAR
ART: STEVE DILLON, ANDY LANNING
I'm two for two with reading comics that don't normally contain vampires which are, this month, infested with them. Guess I should read X-Men #2 next to complete the undead hat trick.
Millar has been cranking out these Ultimate Avenger books. He has now written thirteen issues of Ultimate Avengers to Jeph Loeb's four issues of The Ultimates. No wonder he doesn't have time to put out Nemesis (I'm joshing you Mark, please continue to write The Ultimates in a timely fashion and take your sweet me with your wet fart of a creator owned book.)
I haven't absolutely loved Millar's execution of his recent Ultimate arcs, but they've all started well and ended quickly and unawfully. This series is right on pace with bringing in new characters to the Ultimate Universe, while playing off of Millar's previous arcs. In this issue we're introduced to Blade (who cameoed in Ultimate Spidey a ways back) and a brand new Ultimate Daredevil (not that sulky ninja-lover, Matt Murdock). The plot gets going right away, and we're presented with a game changing twist before the issue ends.
Also, Steve Dillon draws some mean vampire superheroes. Anyone want to wager how long it will be before the Ultimate Vampires end up fighting the Marvel Zombies?
Story: 4 - Very Good Art: 4 - Very Good
Written by Angelo DeCesare
Art by Bill Galvan, Jack Morelli and Digikore Studios
After decades of being accused of being out of touch (which is totally unfair, sock hops and soda fountains are just as relevant today as they were in the 50s), Archie has, lately, been trying very hard to connect with the modern reader. Most of their effort seems to be reaching out to minority demographics. Sure, Chuck has been around for forty years now, and there's been Asians and Latinos invading Riverdale for years. But in the past twelve months we've seen Archie introduce its first gay character, and it's first Mormon storyline (right...the future timelines was a metaphor for polygamy, right? right?). Now, at long last, everyone's twelfth-favorite eternal teenager is calling attention to one of the most downtrodden minorities in Western Civilization. Vampires.
Finally really attractive Eastern European looking guys with pale skin and lots of product in their hair have their own character in the Archieverse. There's even a nod to people with unfortunately pronounced canines. And, damn it, it's about time.
While I'm sure some of the die-hard fans, and a few misguided tea partiers will start boycotting this title for its flamboyantly pro-stakebait stance, I look forward to Archie's inevitable crossover with Season Nine of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Who doesn't want to see Joss Whedon write Betty?
In the fangwhile we will have to be content with this first ever (??? I say this never having read any Archie pre-2009) Archie Vampire story. Personally, I can't wait until the vamp suicide bombers show up in issue two (I hear Jubilee turns all sparkly in daylight).
Story: 3 - Good Art: 3 - Good
The final issue of volume #2 of Demo was a vast disappointment for me. Like the first issue of the series, I thought the art was fantastic, but the story just felt flat. Which is such a shame, given how fantastic issues 3-5 were. The story here focuses on the distance between a couple who are "backward magnets". Wood acknowledges that "it's a clumsy analogy". And it is. The story has an inteionally clumsy feel, and never overtly says what "superpowers" the characters have. I imagine they're symbiotic. And that it's supposed to be a metaphor for relationships, in general. It just felt really forced. Which, again, seems to be intentional. The characters relationship is forced, so, I understand making the writing seem cramped, and forced, but it's nothing that I enjoyed reading.
What I love most about Wood/Cloonan's work is how I connect with their characters. And there was never a moment where I cared about these two as a couple, or as individuals.
Cloonan's art was, as usual, fantastic. And I really hope they work on another project in the near future
Story 3, Art 5
Written by J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI, GEOFF JOHNS, GAIL SIMONE, AMANDA CONNER & LOUISE SIMONSON
Art by GEORGE PÉREZ, DON KRAMER, SCOTT KOLINS, AMANDA CONNER, EDUARDO PANSICA, PHIL JIMENEZ, ADAM HUGHES, SHANE DAVIS, GREG HORN, JOCK, FRANCIS MANAPUL, GUILLLEM MARCH, IVAN REIS & NICOLA SCOTT
As a fan of both Gail Simone and George Perez who doesn't read much/isn't very interested in Wonder Woman; as someone who's most recent exposure to WW was in Wednesday Comics, I was worried that maybe it was a DC mandate that they cram as many panels as possible into every page of every issue. The page was so busy with balloons and boxes that I didn't have any desire to read it. And when I did sit down and go through it, I wished I hadn't. It felt very heavy handed. Perhaps because I have no affinty for the characters in the book, I just didn't have any emotional response to the commencement speech or..well..anything in the first story.
Luckily the second story is an Amanda Conner story featuring Cassandra Kain Batgirl and Power Girl. It is expectably awesome. And the only five star story in the book.
The Louise Simon story is a fun 90sesque WW & Superman jaunt.
There is absolutely nothing I like about the Geoff Johns/Scott Kolins story. I usually think those two are the top of their respective crafts, but Kolins art, while penciled really well has a very throwbacky color scheme that looks...chalky. Not blackboard chalky, but street art chalky. It's technically done very well, but I don't like the look of it. And the story is a bland lead in to the first Straczynski Wonder Woman story which is itself...boring. It's WW in a new world (which is the reason for her new costume which appears to be bothering lots of WW fans, but I think looks fine), a new world which is...similar to our own but someone is out go get Wonder Woman, and she needs to find out why from the Oracle!
The story really reads as though Straczynski had a storyline idea, and he just didn't care to read what came before him so he had Johns write a four page story of her going into another dimension, allowing him a clean slate.
There's not enough story here to judge whether or not Straczynski is off to a good start, but it certainly didn't excite me enough to pick up the next issue.
Apart from the odd chalkiness on Kollins's art, and the over-panelling of Perez, I thought the art in this book was all over the map. For some reason she has stupid face on Shane Davis's pinup (which is a weird juxtaposition with the first page of Kollins's art, where he gives her the patented Liefeld grimace), and Gillem March, in an attempt to make it look she's quickly lassoing something, instead makes it look like...like something poorly drawn. March seems to excel when characters are posing or standing still. But he has some serious perspective problems, and he sometimes has a difficult time conveying the action to the reader, and that's incredibly apparent in his pinup. Especially when it's followed up by Horn, and then Manapaul, both of whom do spectacular work. There's also fantastic work by Nikola Skott (who I wish would do more WW stuff. I'm glad Lee's on for a while, but Nikola Scott seems made for the Amazon), Jock, and Ivan Reis.
So there's a lot of good in the art, and nothing is purely terrible. Still, it didn't get me amped for diving into Wonder Woman.
Story: 3 - Good Ar: 4 - Very Good
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art by DOUG MAHNKE & CHRISTIAN ALAMY
Near the end of the Blackest Night crossover, the shine started getting scratched off of the Green Lantern books for me. As such, I was using this issue as a barometer for whether or not I wanted to drop the series for a while. And, at the beginning, I was weghing heavily on the side of crossing this book off my list (I've already dropped Green Lantern Corps). Apart from what, I'm guessing, is a dig at Conor's favorite book, JLA: The Rise Of Arsenal (Lobo says "Ya can't swing a dead cat without hittin' someone wearin' a power ring anymore!"), I just wasn't engaged in the main story of this issue at all. It's not the pacing. It's not the dialog. It's not the art. I think I just have Lantern Fatigue. And I have never really enjoyed Lobo, and this issue didn't help win me over to wanting to read about him.
The "coming next issue" panel, however, has me interested in the next issue, and then...and then...and then Johns writes an origin story for Dex-Starr the Red Cat Lantern. And it's brief and fantastic. Davis's art is focused more on the cat than the people, which is perfectly logical, and also quite enjoyable.
Story: 3 Art: 4
Written by PAUL CORNELL
Art by PETE WOODS
Should I be concerned that I, too, have a robo-Lois Lane in my lair to challenge my ideas? Or that I have a place I refer to as a lair? Or that I would really, really, really like an orange power ring?
Not being a big Superman fan, nor caring much for Kryptonian Nightwing and Flamebird, I can't remember the last time I picked up Action Comics, so I can say, without hyperbole, that this is the best issue I've read in years. I find the characters around Superman much more interesting than the all-powerful guy with the big "S" on his shirt, and the occasional mullet. And the Orange Lantern Luthor, Blue Lantern Flash, Red Lantern Mera, and Yellow Lantern Scarecrow tease was my favorite part of The Blackest Night.
I was a bit nervous about where Cornell would go with this story, as it could easily lend itself to silver-agey hand rubbing mwahahahas. But while Cornell does give Luthor the over-reactionary bad guy treatment, his inclusion of Robo-Lois and Spalding as his shoulder demons, giving him cause to rethink his hasty actions, are a great addition to his character.
Pete Woods's art is very similar to Peter Krause. And ever since Irredeemable started, I've wondered how Krause's art would look in the Superman world, so it's nice to seem someone with a similar pen in the Superverse.
Story: 5 ,Art: 4
story by ROBERT KIRKMAN
art by RYAN OTTLEY & FCO PLASCENCA
I feel as though this is another devicive issue of Invincible for Kirkman. When he tried to condense the Invincible War into one issue, I thought it robbed the story of a lot of heart and impact. And I assumed that The Viltrumite War would be as epically long as the buildup and execution of The Blackest Night. Every issue being an hour or so, or spanning a few days of a year long war.
Instead, Kirkman takes Invincible, his father, and Oliver out of the action for several months while the war rages on. We see glimpses of the bonding between Oliver and his father, and a scarce few plot points to the Viltrumite War. But those scarce plot points? Really all I needed. Invincible has been heavy on the action and gore during the last few issues, so I'm satisfied with a little breathing room for Mark to recover from his death fight with Conquest. It also gives us time to get a better appreciation of Allen and Tech Jacket, who have to fight the war in the absence of the semi-Viltrumites and Invincible's dad.
There's not too much to say about Ottley/Rathbun's art. It has been steadily awesome for quite a while now.
Story: 5 ,Art: 5