Now Reading: Miracleman

Miracleman, originally called Marvelman, was originally a blatant Captain Marvel/Shazam ripoff, but upon his revival in the early 80s by THE ORIGINAL WRITER, he became one of the earliest examples of a superhero comic trying to be painfully realistic. Miracleman confronts his goofy secret origin, meets his creator, wrestles with his own godliness, and reaches the only natural conclusion that a godlike superbeing could reach, that he and the few others like him should run the world. This occurred a bit before Gruenwald did it in Squadron Supreme, and was of course, with THE ORIGINAL WRITER involved, a great deal more graphic about it.

It’s not the greatest work of THE ORIGINAL WRITER, but it was still a very memorable series while it lasted and under the Comico label, was able to deal with much more mature and dark issues than the other mainstream superhero books were allowed to touch on at the time. Neil Gaiman picked up the title after THE ORIGINAL WRITER left, but the publisher went under right before the last issue of his second arc, The Silver Age, leaving us with arguably the worst case of comic book blue balls in history. Amazingly though, since Marvel picked up the rights and reprinted all the old stuff over the last few years, they have finally made a deal with Gaiman to come back and finish the story, which is supposed to be happening sometime this year. Maybe he’ll even get to do the final arc he had planned, The Dark Age. We shall see.

Anyway, despite the way these modern Marvel reprints are disgustingly overpriced and packed full of filler “extras” pages (literally only 50% or less of each volume is actual story), they remain the best, and realistically the only, way to physically enjoy this essential classic series.

Now Reading: Scalped

Scalped is the magnum opus of big-time comic writer Jason Aaron. Whatever your feelings may be on his mainstream superhero comic work (I’m of a mixed mind myself, loving his Thor, not really liking his Dr. Strange too much), these mature readers books are where he really shines, and Scalped, in particular, is something every comic fan should see, if they’re not too squeamish for it.

It tells the story of a bunch of people on a Native American reservation: some are criminals, some are the people trying to bring the criminals down, some are just everyday people caught in the middle, and all of them are thoroughly, disgustingly entangled in a complex train wreck of bleak misery. It’s certainly not for everyone. My wife often expresses her disgust in great detail when I play her movies and shows like this, where everyone is basically just awful and all they do is try to screw each other over, and she always asks me what I see in such dark, depressing stories where there isn’t really anyone worth rooting for. I’ll tell you the same thing I tell her: I just like dark shit, bro!

Anyway, also see the currently ongoing Southern Bastards for more similarly delightful Jason Aaron bleak-as-fuckery.

Now Reading: Mind MGMT

Mind MGMT, put simply, is Matt Kindt’s tale of a secret organization of people with bizarre mental powers. The main plot is about a group of former members fighting against the Mind MGMT organization, which was formerly a beneficial one, but is now corrupt and evil, but the book also gets into the long history of the organization and its many weird members. As usual with Kindt, the powers these characters have are a lot more varied and unique than the usual telepathy/telekinesis/etc-type abilities you expect when you hear the term “mental powers”. Sure, there’s a little of that too, but mostly there’s a bunch of unconventional powers involving controlling and affecting minds through various mediums like books, music, and art.

This world and its characters are made even more dense by the unusual placement of pieces of side stories around the gutters of the pages and by Kindt’s dreamlike water colored art, which tends to contain a lot of double-imagery and other odd visual subtexts.

My only complaint is the same one I usually have about these kind of self-contained independent comics: the ending feels a bit sudden and condensed compared to all the slow build-up preceding it, a common problem with these kind of niche titles. Still definitely a worthwhile read though.

Now Reading: Rachel Rising

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This is a surprisingly dark story from Terry Moore. Seems like every damn person in the town this takes place in is some kind of secret serial killer/abuser/rapist/necrophile/etc. As it turns out later in the story, there is a reason for that, but you’ll have to read it to find that out. This is a typically entertaining Terry Moore story, full of great black and white art and a thoroughly compelling story and cast of characters. The only downside is the same issue Echo had: this story was clearly meant to go on much longer than it did. There’s about 39 issues worth of build up and then everything (almost) is suddenly resolved in a single, final issue and it’s all over before you can even blink. It’s still a worthwhile read, but it sure would be nice to have a more natural conclusion to a Terry Moore story again. Maybe someday…

Now Reading: Black Panther (the Priest run)

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So…Christopher Priest’s Black Panther run. Probably the only time anyone has really given a shit about Black Panther up until recently, at least in my lifetime. This run brought Black Panther up from being a near-forgotten C-list character, to basically being Marvel’s Batman, at least until the next creative teams came around and flushed that all down the toilet.

There’s plenty of action, and comedy, and some impressively complex political and sociological intrigue (maybe a little too complex for the typical mainstream reader in its final days…). This is basically THE Black Panther series to read, of all of them, and I would say the best example of the potential of Christopher Priest’s writing as well.

Things get a little weird in the last book, with the focus suddenly shifting to the “new Black Panther” and the formation of The Crew, a team of oddball Priest characters that would never be heard from again afterwards (as far as I remember), but even that part was still an above average read. Highly recommended to anyone interested in Black Panther or even just Marvel in general.

Now Reading: Marvel Cosmic (1973-2016) Part 1

I suppose it’s debatable what falls under a blanket term like “Marvel Cosmic”. There are many series like Avengers that deal with some pretty cosmic events at times, but when I say it, I just mean the (mostly) strictly cosmic characters and events, most of which are from the same small handful of people and originate from the work of Jim Starlin (and usually involving Thanos somehow…).

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Continue reading “Now Reading: Marvel Cosmic (1973-2016) Part 1”

Now Reading: Dreadstar

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Oh Dreadstar. Probably the best comic book that almost no one has heard of. I suppose I can see why not too many people have read it, since you still can’t get most of the series in any kind of reprint or modern format. Dynamite started doing hardcover reprints way back in 2004 and only ended up doing Volume 1 and a collection of the Metamorphosis Odyssey stories that led up to the Dreadstar ongoing series. Many years later they decided they weren’t selling well enough so canceled the hardcover of volume 2 and decided to start over again with paperback collections, then they released a paperback of the first volume again…and that was 4 years ago. They still insist that volume 2 is coming and push the release date back by 6 months about every 6 months. Exciting.

Anyway…as great as Starlin’s other classic cosmic-themed work is, for me this is his best stuff. It kind of feels like a mash up of everything he wanted to do with Captain Marvel, Warlock, and Thanos, but could never go as far as he wanted due to the censorship standards in superhero books at the time. Sci-fi and occult fantasy meet in the future as a group of rebels take on a sinister religious space empire and things go wrong for just about everyone, in much darker ways than Captain Marvel or Warlock ever saw.

About 2/3 of the way in, Starlin leaves the book in Peter David’s hands, who does a great job of continuing the legacy, though I’ve always been a little bothered by the ending, or basically the complete lack of an ending. When the series found itself canceled, David did what he used to do a lot back in the day and just gave up and turned the last few issues into a really awful joke storyline. I really love the guy’s work, but man I hated when he used to do that at the end of a series. Anyone ever attempting to read this series would be well advised to just skip issues 62-64 and jump right to the Bravura Dreadstar mini series that sort of wraps things up, though I wasn’t all that thrilled with that either. Seemed more like a failed attempt to get a new daughter of Dreadstar series off the ground than a real effort to finish the original story. In fact, maybe you should just stop after 61. I don’t know, that’s up to you.

That said, at least the big main plot that David had started from the first issue of his run got wrapped up before it all went to shit and overall Dreadstar is still an incredibly worthwhile read if you can find it *coughinternetcough*. Supposedly it’s getting turned into a tv show too, but I’ll believe that when I see it. There’s no way a story like this will get anything like the budget it needs to be worthwhile.