The Cap #600 Brouhaha

June 18, 2009

So I understand that the big reveal behind “Captain America 600” is that Steve Rogers is coming back as Captain America, with the actual resurrecting taking place in the “Captain America Reborn” mini-series. Marvel caught a lot of heat when they forced retailers to order the “Reborn” mini-series without revealing what it was soliciting, and based on this week’s revelation, they certainly deserve all of it. Their hype machine implied that something was going to be revealed on 6/15/09 that would garner “Cap 600” national media attention, with most people speculating that there would be some announcement as to who would be playing Cap in the upcoming movie. Yeah, there was some talk that it was just going to herald the return of Rogers as Cap, but most people thought to look on this optimistically. Something along the lines of “Come on, Marvel wouldn’t be that stupid.  There has to be more to this than bringing ANOTHER character back from the dead.”

Now would be as good a time as ever to invoke the old adage, “You can’t go broke underestimating the taste of the general public.” Only in this case it’s more like, “You’ll never be disappointed by underestimating the end result of Marvel’s hype machine.”

That said, with Ed Brubaker writing all of this I have little doubt that it won’t be well worth reading. My disappointment over this announcement stems from how little time they’ve given to Bucky as the “New Cap.” Bringing him back from the dead, let alone setting him up to take over Rogers’ legacy was a questionable decision at best, but Brubaker pulled it off without a hitch and made the idea of seeing this rookie superhero (and former brainwashed Soviet assassin) a compelling read. Two and a half years later, it seems that Bucky’s tenure as Cap isn’t going to count for a whole lot of stories. He didn’t assume the mantle until halfway through the “Death of Captain America” arc, and the next volume will showcase his first set of adventures that don’t involve facing off against the Red Skull. Assuming that Rogers returns after “Reborn” (which might take upwards of a year or more, since artist Bryan Hitch hasn’t met a schedule he couldn’t destroy), we’ll get at least one, maybe two more volumes about Bucky’s adventures as Cap.

Bucky will naturally be spun off into his own title after the return, but I’m getting the feeling that we’ll have only scratched the surface of seeing how he handles being Cap and seeing how the rest of the Marvel Universe reacts to him being Cap. The way things are going, I would’ve waited another two and a half years to see what Brubaker and co. would’ve done with the concept. Yet I get the feeling that they’re doing this now so that they’ll have Rogers back as Cap just in time for the movie in 2011. Why they’re doing that when it’s been shown that comic book movies only tend to spur sales of the books they’re directly based on (see “Watchmen,” “300,” “V For Vendetta”) is beyond me. Yes, it did work for the launch of “Invincible Iron Man” last year (… for a month), but I doubt the general populace really cares about what Cap’s doing in his comics these days.

Oh well, as I said above, as long as Brubaker’s writing all this, I’m still on board. I guess I should also admit that it’s interesting to see Marvel cut off a promising idea at the knees; as opposed to beating it into the ground like they’ve been doing with all their other franchises over the years. I’m also glad that this stunt has provided yet another example of why I wait for the trade instead of buying single issues.

What I’ve Been Reading: 6/17/09

June 18, 2009

The usual bit of recent comics news analysis I put here evolved into its own post as I was writing it. You’ll see it up here tomorrow. In the meantime, it’s an all Dark Horse review-fest after the break!

Berserk vol. 29

I could hear the whining of the people who only read this series for the insanely violent fantasy action as I read this, since it’s mainly a character-building volume of setup before the fecal matter hits the fan in the next volume. Personally, I’d be annoyed if it was dull character building, but it was interesting to see Farnesse interact with the family she’s brought nothing but disgrace to since she was a kid and to see Griffith’s forces do more “not evil” things. (There’s a separate post about analyzing that last bit in me, I’m sure of it.) Still, it’s not hard to read this and wonder what the point of this arc is going to be since “Getting to Elfheim” is going to be something that happens because of this arc, even if it’s not the focus of it. My guess is that this is going to give us an in-depth look at the threat the Kushan army poses not just to Guts’ party and the immediate city, but even Griffith’s ambitions as well. Heck, they could even prove to be so big a threat as to have creator Kentaro Miura dangle the possibility of Guts and Griffith teaming up again to take them on. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Overall, I had lots of fun seeing Miura develop the cast and speculating over what’s to come, but I think things will pick up immensely in the next volume.

MPD Psycho vol. 9

Of the two series written by Eiji Otsuka and published by Dark Horse, this is the lesser of them. (The other being “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.”) A big part of the reason for that is while “Kurosagi” is structured episodically, with an over-arching mystery in the background, “MPD Psycho” is structured as an over-arching mystery that takes a lot of episodic digressions. So while you’d expect the focus to be on how Kazuhiko Amamiya’s multiple personalities, the eyeballs with barcodes, and deceased counter-culture figure Lucy Monostone all fit together, Otsuka doesn’t really seem interested in showing you how they do in any great hurry. This leads to the feeling that he’s making this all up as he goes along. Anyhow, in this thicker-than-usual volume we do get a little more of a focus on the over-arching story as terminally uncool detective Sasayama gets involved with a plot that involves killing off people who resemble characters from previous volumes (he even manages to score with a girl along the way). We also get to see Lucy’s nephew Koike face off with Tetora Nishizono to my disappointment as a) I don’t like Tetora or think that he’s that interesting and b) Koike seemed like a pretty interesting character when he was introduced. As ever, what keeps this series from drifting off into “Why am I still reading this?” land is the creativity Otsuka invests in the violence he inflicts on the people in this world he’s created and artist Sho-u Tajima’s ability to pull it all off with style. It’s not for everyone, and even with that caveat I’d still enjoy it more if I had a feeling that Otsuka knows what he’s doing with this, or even WHY people want to recreate Lucy Monostone!

Conan vol. 7: Cimmeria

Collecting the first eight issues of Dark Horse’s relaunch of their “Conan” series as “Conan of Cimmeria.” For new readers, it’s not a bad place to start, but they’ll be better served by starting with the series best volume “Born on the Battlefield” (listen to the podcast I did back in October on that and the rest of DH’s Conan books for more details). This volume breaks from the structure of every previous volume by telling two stories at once: one being of Conan’s return to his homeland and the other being of his grandfather Conacht’s adventures out in the world and his subsequent return home. Though Conacht is a likeable enough character, I read “Conan” for stories about his grandson. Fortunately, actually surprisingly, the dual-narratives don’t wind up distracting from each other and writer Tim Truman seems to know exactly when to switch the focus back to Conan’s story, resulting in a well-paced volume. Of course that’s not all the volume has to offer as it has plenty of the skull-cracking, bone-smashing violence that’s a hallmark of “Conan” and the themes of “civilization vs. barbarism” that have permeated this series are also played up to fine effect here. Though Conan has had many experiences with the scheming and treachery that permeate the “civilized” world, he finds that those same evils are not alien to Cimmerian lands as well. Another strong volume in the series, with some great art from regular artist Tomas Giorello and Richard Corben, and (at last) good coloring from Jose Villarrubia.

The Goon vol. 7: A Place of Heartache and Grief

This isn’t nearly as emo as the title makes it sound. How could it be when it has the title character tying an evil hillbilly midget to a rock and dropping him in a swamp, beating the crap out of a colossal transvestite, and fighting magical transforming buzzard women in the sky. I’d heard that this series was moving into darker, more serious territory; but, it’s making the transition with its warped, twisted comedic sensibilities firmly intact. So even if nothing but bad times are ahead for the Goon and the rest of the cast, we can be sure that all the laughs writer/artist Eric Powell serves up will make the trip not only bearable, but worth it in the end.

Comic Picks #33: Tezuka’s Bricks

June 10, 2009

The bricks in question being "MW," "Apollo's Song," and "Ode to Kirihito," listed in ascending order of excellence.

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What I’ve Been Reading: 6/3/09

June 3, 2009

So Fanime was completely awesome. I went to lots of great panels (three of them involving Carl Horn), events (the masquerade was okay this year, and there was the “Restricted Rock Paper Scissors” game I participated in… and lost), and saw clips from movies that I now have to own (including “The Scorpio Incident” and John Woo’s epic “Red Cliff” ). The only real disappointment I took away from the con was in its selection of manga. While I picked up plenty of good stuff at the dealer’s room (and at the swap meet), the manga vendors there left something to be desired.

In short, it’s gotten to the point where I’d rather not buy manga unless I can get a decent discount on what I’m buying, and while the Comic Cellar (known to me from their perennial spot at Frank and Sons) had most of what I wanted, their only discount was “no tax.” The other vendor that was offering a base 20% off had the ten volumes of “Monster” that I’ve been wanting to pick up, but in order to qualify for greater discounts, you had to buy 14 volumes of stuff. I made it to twelve before I realized I’d have to start picking up stuff I had no interest in.

… I’m only now starting to realize how incredibly self-serving this sounds, so I’ll wrap it up now. The moral of this story (as is turning out to be the case quite often here): www.amazon.com FTW.

My thoughts on what I bought at the con, after the break.

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 9

Actually, I didn’t get this at the con, but I picked up the Wednesday before, brought it to the con and got editor/translator Carl Horn to sign it, so I’m counting it. While the last volume had a “business as usual” feel to it, this one feels like a return to form in terms of quirky subject matter, pacing, and density of story. Eight chapters this time around, with two two-part stories, one three-parter, and a one-shot to wrap things up. In these we’re treated to such intriguing concepts as haunted dolls that stalk TV personalities, urban legends that lead the KCDS crew to a dead pervert with a thermoptic camouflage suit, and.a political power broker who could hear the future being pursued from beyond the grave in order to find out who the next head of Japan’s top political party should be. We also get some interesting and surprising background details on embalmer Makino’s past, which is good because she’s too often defined by her job, and the clash of her intelligence with her valley girl speech patterns. Here’s hoping we get something like this for Numata in upcoming volumes. My one complaint is that the ongoing mystery of spirit medium Karatsu’s ghostly guardian seems to have been firmly put on the back burner after the events of vol. 7. It’s nice to see that Kikuchi, the girl with similar powers to him, makes a return appearance here, but I’m looking forward to at least getting a few more details in the next volume.

Bleach vol. 27

In which lots of Arrancars get their asses handed to them, we get to see Kisuke show off how much of a badass he is, and Ichigo, Chad, and Uryu finally team up again. These things are definite pluses, and this volume maintains the style and energy that’s infused the series since day one. What leaves me worried for the future is that after Orihime is kidnapped by the Arrancars in this volume, it looks like we’re headed for a repeat of the “Soul Society” storyarc. The only difference seems to be the much larger, and more powerful cast that’s going to be involved. Would it also be too much to ask mangaka Tite Kubo to have big bad Aizen actually do some WORK in order to enact his plans rather than sit around, delegate, and look menacing? I have faith that Kubo isn’t so lazy or uncreative to simply repeat his past triumphs, so I’m holding out hope that he’ll show off how this arc is going to be different in the next volume. (For those of you who have read ahead and know the answer, feel free to laugh and/or hint cryptically about it in the comments section.)

Paradise Kiss vols. 3-5 and Nana vol. 16

I read all of “ParaKiss” several years ago and bought the first two volumes for half off almost as long ago. I can’t remember the exact reason why I never picked up the rest of the series for myself, but after spotting vols. 3-5 being sold for $2 each at the Fanime swap meet, I knew it was my destiny to buy them (or just extremely random good luck). After re-reading all five volumes, I’ve found that mangaka Ai Yazawa’s story of the turbulent romance between Yukari, a normal high school girl, and George, a rakishly charming student at a fashion school, holds up extremely well. More than anything, it succeeds at taking a subject I have no interest in (fashion) and presenting it in a way that makes it interesting for me. On the other hand, I’ve only read half of “Nana” vol. 16 so far because I just can’t seem to get into the things that are going on in it. I’ll eventually get around to it, but I’m starting to think this series is due for a re-read at some point as well.

Red Colored Elegy by Seiichi Hayama

I haven’t read all of this either, but so far it’s been inspiring me to do a second “Art Manga” podcast focusing on all of the negative connotations that phrase has in my mind,

Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul

Did I mention that they don’t just sell manga, anime and games at the swap meet? I’d heard mixed things about this crossover, so I passed on picking it up when it came out, making a mental note to see if I could find it for half off at Comic-Con. Then I spotted someone selling it at Fanime for $7 (the HC normally retails for $30), and I figured “What the hell.” In all honesty, for that kind of deal a comic would really have to work at being awful in order to make me regret my purchase, and this one doesn’t. While Grant Morrison and Paul Dini are touted as the writers on the cover, the crossover also features Peter Milligan and Fabian Nicieza writing multiple chapters as well, and they’re all not bad. Though everyone involved has done better work elsewhere, there’s a feeling that they all know what they’re getting into (editorially mandated crossover to boost the sales on Batman titles, and bring Ra’s Al Ghul back from the dead) and have as much fun as they can with it. The storyline is simple enough, Ra’s Al Ghul has come back from the dead, but his host body has been poisoned with polonium, so he’s looking for a suitable host body – namely his daughter Talia and Batman’s son Damien. Even with its simplicity, there’s plenty of action to satisfy superhero fans, and lots of amusing details from the writers, including a trio of supervillain supermodels, a mystic map that is split up into some interesting parts, and pretty much anything Alfred does to hold everyone else’s interest. I do wish for two things: that the characters of the White Ghost and the Sensei had been fleshed out more, considering their importance to the story and to Ra’s Al Ghul; and that certain chapters had better art. Most of what’s here is serviceable, or even good (most people don’t like Tony Daniel, but I think he does good work here), but the chapters done by Ryan Benjamin are pretty bad. Not “Larry Stroman in ‘X-Factor’ vol. 7” bad, but bad enough to make me wonder how he got such a high-profile gig in the first place.