Bleeding Cool Rumermonger-In-Chief Rich Johnston seems to think that someone high up at Marvel is up for the chop as a result of all the bad press they’ve been getting lately. Now this is clearly one of Johnston’s less-journalistic efforts as he notes that this is based on whispers he’s heard at Comic-Con and the London Film and Comic-Con. Honestly, he’s done better. The reason I’m bringing it up is because if nothing else it’s an eminently plausible bit of rumormongering. You’d think that at least one head would roll because of what’s been going on with the company, and if I had to guess current editor-in-chief Axel Alonso seems like a (regrettably) solid bet. Not only was he involved in the retailer press conference where appeared to express regrets in regards to diversity in Marvel’s titles, but his recent statement that all of this mainstream bad press indicates that the company’s comics are reaching a wider audience before comes off as tone-deaf. I say “regrettably” because after being brought over from DC/Vertigo by Joe Quesada, Alonso has been one of the key factors in Marvel becoming a more writer-driven company. It’d be sad to see him go if he does get the chop, but maybe that’ll just free him to come back to DC and do something cool like get Vertigo back on track.
Yeah… this arrived much, much sooner than I was expecting. It was even part of a Kodansha “Digital First” sale at ComiXology so I was able to pick it up at a discount. As glad as I am that I was able to read vol. 4 of this series, it does cast some shade on the answer I got from the reps at the Kodansha panel at Comic-Con. I doubt that they were trolling me because why pass up the chance to make one of your fans really, really happy by giving them an exact answer to their question. Much more likely is that none of them knew this would be coming out the following Tuesday. Given the volume of titles that Kodansha releases on a monthly basis, I guess that’s understandable. It can’t help but look just the tiniest bit unprofessional on their part, however.
As for the volume itself, it’s another very solid entry in the series. Vol. 4 kicks off the start of the Kanto Tournament which sees the title character and fighting comrade/rival Yudai taking part. The thing is that Yudai is entering the tournament at a disadvantage after Meguru tore a ligament in his right arm during a practice fight in the previous volume. Yudai thinks he has enough skill to compensate, which gives his matches a dramatic edge. Meguru, on the other hand, has to deal with his own lack of skill and strength. The former issue is front-and-center in his fight with an opponent who specializes in boxing and has enough speed to counter everything Meguru’s trained for. Fortunately our protagonist’s ability to think on his feet (and on his back while pinned to the ground) makes the fight a compelling experience right up to the final bell.
Mangaka Hiroki Endo continues to draw a lot of engaging drama from the strategizing before and during the fights as well as the battles themselves. While this means the subsequent tournament fights should be a lot of fun to take in, I have noticed a weakness in his style here. In this title he draws a lot of his male characters with the same facial and body type so it can be hard to tell them apart when the fists and the kicks start flying. It’s an issue that I’m willing to deal with in order to get to the quality action and drama this series has consistently offered.
I must’ve missed this when it came out but one of the covers to “Dark Nights: Metal” #1 had this fittingly badass illustration of the Justice League posed together in a way that made it look like they were throwing the horns. It’s very metal and Greg Capullo deserves major props for having it come off as well as it does. Much to my surprise, it seems that those at DC were not as appreciative of this image and considered it an affront to everything the company stood for. Fortunately for us the “Metal” creative team of Capullo and Scott Snyder have enough clout to say, “No, we’re doing it this way!” thanks to their extraordinarily successful run on “Batman.” Even better is that the buzz is building in their favor thanks to positive reviews and big sales for the two “Dark Days” one-shots leading into the event. For an image that comes off as “Just so crazy it might work” it’s great to see that it already has.
Also, I want to give Capullo another shout-out for having what is easily one of the best line-cap signs ever at this year’s Comic-Con. If you don’t get what song the text on the sign is referring to, then you’re honestly just not metal enough.
Dark Horse had some notable media announcements during Comic-Con this year with three of its titles receiving TV adaptations. One of them, “Flutter” about a shapeshifting girl who turns into a boy to pursue a girl she likes, I haven’t read. Another, “Mind MGMT,” is one I’m very familiar with and kind of surprised to see it receive an adaptation. While it was said to be in development with Tony Scott before he passed away several years back, Matt Kindt’s experimental approach to the series was its main appeal for me. I honestly can’t imagine how they’re going to translate that to television.
The biggest news of all was that “The Umbrella Academy” will be getting a ten-episode Netflix series. While a date has not been specified for its debut, it’s entirely possible that it could come out during the run of the all-new miniseries from creators Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba. Yes, that’s right, after it was originally announced way back in 2009 “The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion” will finally come out next year. It’s honestly been too damn long of a wait for this after how great the first two miniseries were. Better late than never as they say, so long as Way took all this time to make sure he’s written a worthy follow-up.
Some people come back from Comic-Con with stories of the long lines they had to stand in so they could get into the panels they wanted to see. Not me, though. I stayed the hell away from Hall H and the other big media panel rooms and only went to comic-focused panels. So not only was I able to get into every panel I wanted to, I didn’t have to wait in any lines for them either. Which… was also just the tiniest bit depressing now that I think about it. Anyhow, what follows below the break is my recap of the panels I attended. Expect lots of Image and Dark Horse creators talking about their titles, what to do when the FBI tries to sting you with child porn, good news about a digital title I read from Kodansha, and no news from Dark Horse manga.
Truly, madly, deeply uneven. Right up to the end.
True story: I started reading this volume the evening it arrived with the intent to find out how the cliffhanger from vol. 8 would be resolved and to finish up the rest of it tomorrow. A couple hours later, I had burned through the entire thing (and did it again before sitting down to write this). So “Vinland Saga” hasn’t lost any of its compulsive readability with vol. 9. The first half is a rivetingly tense hunter’s duel between Thorfinn and newcomer Hild, who has some very personal issues she wants the former raider to answer for. As the battle of wills and skills plays out, mangaka Makoto Yukimura reveals Hild’s past full of equal parts tragedy and invention. Trying to work an extended flashback into an action sequence might seem like it’s a recipe for disaster, but Yukimura makes it work and the payoff is an almost magical moment of forgiveness as the ghosts of the past intervene in the present. This is all followed by journeying through the Baltic where Thorfinn meets up with a beloved (by me at least) former member of the supporting cast and finds himself embroiled in the succession drama of the Jomsvikings.
While the new viking drama plays out well as it continues to test Thorfinn’s resolve, it does represent a potential issue for the series going forward. As compelling a protagonist Thorfinn is at this point, nearly everything in this volume revolves around him to the point of single-mindedness. Even Hild, who is introduced with her own issues, is quickly relegated to a supporting role that involves looking after Thorfinn for plot-specific reasons. There’s also the fact that with this new “War in the Baltic” arc, we’ve had the second consecutive story where our crew has come to a new location and found themselves dealing with the drama of Thorfinn’s past. At this rate “Vinland Saga” might just wind up becoming “The Thorfinn Show” if Yukimura doesn’t remember that he has a vibrant supporting cast with their own desires and dramas to contend with. Even if Thorfinn is its center, “Vinland Saga” has always been a vibrant ensemble drama at its core. I’d hate to see that part of the series done away with as it moves forward.
By all rights this story should have been part of Jason Aaron’s current run on “The Mighty Thor.” I understand why that didn’t happen as it would’ve required the writer to put the ongoing adventures of Jane Foster on hold for five months while we caught up with the Odinson, who we find here to be in a very bad place. After being informed by the Unseen (the Not-Watcher who is the-super-spy-formerly-known-as-Nick Fury) that another Mjolnir has landed in Old Asgardia. The Odinson takes off after it in a flash only to find that Old Asgardia has been stolen away by the Collector who wants to secure the power of the hammer for himself. Now a prisoner of the Collector himself, the Odinson finds himself in a daily struggle to reach the hammer in order to secure his freedom and worthiness. He’d better hurry because a mysterious figure has also pledged to secure the hammer as a tribute to Thanos for his aid in some undoubtedly evil plan.
Aaron probably pads things out with more fighting than he needs to here, even if Oliver Coipel (with Kim Jacinto pitching in here and there) does make it look appropriately weathered and violent. In between the fisticuffs, however, are some pretty important developments. Chief among them being that we finally get to find out what Fury said to Thor to make him unworthy. While it’s questionable that Fury had the authority to pull something like that off, the explanation actually fits well in the context of Aaron’s run. Particularly the bits involving Gorr the God Butcher. One of the more amusing bits from Kieron Gillen’s “Journey Into Mystery” run is imported here and there’s a most surprising hook-up between Thanos and a member of Thor’s Rogues Gallery that makes so much sense that I’m surprised no one had thought to do it before.
As for the matter of the hammer itself, the resolution is something of a cop-out. Even if there is an explanation provided for the Odinson’s actions it still feels like a delaying tactic. Albeit, a delaying tactic with repercussions as the epilogue informs us. So if you’ve been following Aaron’s run on “Thor” and were thinking of skipping this miniseries -- don’t. It’s very important to the ongoing story he’s been telling and full of the humor, heart, and brawn that have made his run so enjoyable.
Have you been waiting for current “Spider-Man” Miles Morales and “Spider-Gwen” Gwen Stacy to strike up some kind of inter-dimensional, quasi-romantic relationship? Then this is the crossover for you! If you’re like me and you haven’t been waiting for this, then the disjointed crossover that is “Sitting in a Tree” will likely only leave you disappointed.
I was hoping for some kind of redemption regarding the “Abe Sapien” ongoing series with this volume. That title wound up being consistently mediocre with an ending that didn’t wrap up much of what had come before. Yet sprinkled throughout the ongoing title’s run were one-off stories featuring work from several different artists both known and unknown to me. Freed from the disappointing confines of the main story, I was expecting that Mike Mignola and Scott Allie (with John Arcudi co-writing a short) would be able to finally tell some compelling stories regarding the title character. That didn’t really wind up being the case here, but at least the art for each story didn’t disappoint.