Monday, February 26, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 10: Marvel's Solicitations for May 2007

Hello and welcome to Hoopla! This week we've got a ton of good stuff, including a bunch
of reviews, a look at upcoming projects from Marvel and a few words about DC's recently announced sequel to 52, Countdown.

First, though, I want to let y'all know that Zoetrope is currently working on the Speed Racer Rock Opera. Some songs are better than others, but I highly recommend the The Ballad of Racer X in particular. And you can find it at this link. And yes, I've just created a link.

Yay for me!!!

Anyway, there's lots of interesting solicitations and reviews for this week but the big comic-book news this week is the recent announcement that DC is going to publish another 52-esque series titled Countdown.

Similarities to 52:

Countdown, like 52, will be a weekly series that lasts one year.


52 had Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka as writers. That's one superb writer, two very good, and one used-to-be-great-but-now-merely-okay.

Countdown has Paul Dini doing the overall plot, but scripting by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Adam Beechem, Sean McKeever, and Tony Bedard.

Palmiotti and Gray are consistently okay, in my opinion. Whenever they start a new series, it gets some good press, I pick up a couple of issues and then I think, "Huh. Well, that didn't suck..." and then I don't buy more.

Beechem, I think, is probably the most unpopular writer DC currently has, so he's an interesting choice.

Sean McKeever is good, though not great, but he has stated repeatedly that he's never read any DC comics. He's a Marvel guy, through and through, and the only reason he's moved to DC is because they're offering him more of a headline title than Marvel has (that's my personal take on it... he hasn't said that). So, I'm not convinced that he's the guy to be doing a weekly series that encompasses everything going on in the DC universe.

And then there's Tony Bedard, whose work I mostly know from his incredibly uninspired, mediocre run on Exiles. Again, like Palmiotti and Gray and McKeever, I don't think he's bad, per se. He's not Bruce Jones. But I wouldn't really want to read a series written by any of these guys (as demonstrated by the fact that I'm not, in fact, reading a series by any of them) except Paul Dini.

Paul Dini is just fine. I like him. I'd buy him lunch and feel good about it. But he's 1/5 of the writing staff.

Furthermore, 52 was something that was planned for a long time. A lot of thought went into it. Countdown was an idea they had for some different one-shot specials that they were going to do throughout the year; it didn't become a weekly comic until they saw the huge amount of money they were making off of 52.

Also, two of the primary stars of Countdown are Jimmy Olson and Mary Marvel.

That does not excite me.

And, finally, 52 existed in its own space (a one-year period that the rest of the DC universe had skipped over) while Countdown will be very interactive with the rest of the DC universe, reflecting what's going on in various titles and such. Well, first of all, I find most of DC's regular titles pretty boring, so that's not a plus. More problematic, though, is that their books have been really off-schedule lately. Wonder Woman has come out about 5 times in the past year, the Superman titles are off-schedule, Batman keeps using fill-in stories to cover for late issues, Justice League of America has been running late, etc.

So, if you have a weekly series that's interacting with the rest of the comic-book universe, but those books keep coming out late, you're going to have to keep going back and rewriting parts of Countdown or else wind up with a huge continuity traffic-jam.

Oh, and the final thing that makes me think that Countdown isn't going to be very good is that in every interview I've read, when asked what Countdown is actually about, invariable one of the people being interviewed says, "Sh-t blows up."

Um, okay.

Anyway, that's an awful lot of words just to say that I'm not too excited about Countdown.

Enough of that.

Moving right along, let's get into some of Marvel's more interesting solicitations for May of 2007...


Written by C.B. Cebulski & David Sexton

Art and cover by Ricardo Tercio

In the tradition of X-Men Fairy Tales, Marvel makes its move on melding more modern myths, starting with Spider-Man! Our friendly neighborhood becomes a quaint village and Mary Jane fills the shoes of another famous red-head in this premiere issue as the tale of Little Red Riding Hood is retold with superhero sensibilities! Will Spider-Man be able to save her on her way to Aunt May's house? And just who is our Big Bad Wolf? Find out just how fun fairy tales can be... Marvel style!32 PGS./All Ages ...$2.99

I didn't pick up any of X-Men Fairy Tales and this really isn't my kind of thing, but damn that cover is neat looking. Might be worth picking up just for the art...

Speaking of nice cover art...

I haven't picked up a single issue of Hudlin's Black Panther series. For me, Christopher Priest's series was the definitive version of this character and nothing I've heard about Hudlin's work has really interested me.

But zombies...? I like the zombies. And that's a damn fine cover. So, I guess I'll give it a try...

I thought this next solicitation was worth mentioning because it's the first time an advertisement has persuaded me not to pick up a book that I was planning to buy.

Pencils and Cover by FRANK CHO
Mighty Avengers versus the next gen Ultron! Ultron has taken over everything by taking over Iron Man! And now she has to face the Sentry unleashed! A battle of the titans Avengers style! Plus, Tigra guest stars. Yes, Tigra. Frank Cho drawing Tigra!! Did you hear us? FRANK CHO DRAWING TIGRA!! Which Avenger is Tigra dating? Prrrrr!!32 PGS./Rated A …$2.99

For those of you who don't know, Frank Cho is famous for doing cheesecake art. And Tigra is a cat-woman. So, there you have it. It's the Marvel event of the 21st century.

I read that thing and I thought, "Why am I going to buy this series?"

And I couldn't think of a single reason. So, I dropped it from my pull list before the first issue's even come out.

It wasn't just the "FRANK CHO IS DRAWING TIGRA!!" or the "Prrrr!!", although those certainly helped. It's the whole thing. She-Ultron has taken over Iron Man and now she has to fight the Sentry.

That doesn't sound interesting. That doesn't sound like something I want to spend three dollars on.

And then there's the added intrigue of finding out which of the Avengers is dating Tigra... AS DRAWN BY FRANK CHO!!!

Oh, it makes me tired just thinking about it.

These next two covers are remarkably ugly. I think they deserve to be recognized for that.

That's all I really have to say about those.

Also worth mentioning is this...

Written by JEFF PARKER
From investigating haunted museums to dealing with lovesick dragon men, no mission is off limits for the original mutant heroes. See some of comics' top cartoonists take on Xavier's five!
48 PGS./Rated A …$3.99

I missed the first several issues of this limited series because it came out before I realized that Jeff Parker is everything that is good in comics, so now I'm waiting for the TPB to come out for those. But this here... this probably won't be in the TPB and look at those artists. Mike Allred??? Paul Smith??? Kevin Nowlan???


Well, there were a couple of other May solicitation things I was going to mention, but I've got CRADD today (Comic-Book Related Attention Deficit Disorder) so I'm going to move on to some reviews...

Try and stop me, if you dare...

The Dark Tower #1
Written by Stephen King

Script by Peter David
Art by Jae Lee

Published by Marvel Comics

Marvel has been promoting the heck out of this thing for some time, due to its being written by Stephen King and all. And if it ends up bringing more people into comics and is therefore good for the comic-book industry, well, so much the better. I wish them the best.

In the interest of full disclosure, however, I should mention that I hate Stephen King's writing. I find his characters to be two-dimensional cliches and his dialogue is pretty lame. And, too, there's the fact that Stephen King decided to remake The Shining because he felt that Kubrick's version didn't quite capture the essence of the book. And, too, he's remade Lars Von Trier's The Kingdom which, if you've ever seen the original, is an act of such hubris that it turned my dislike of Stephen King into downright contempt.

That said, I love Jae Lee's art and will buy pretty much anything he works on.

What a conundrum!

So, I wound up ordering the first two issues and figured I'd see how it goes from there. And, having finally read the first issue, I think I'm going to let it drop after the second issue. As much as I enjoy Jae Lee's art, I just can't stand the whole Stephen King vibe.

For example, rather than develop the characters through their dialogue and actions, he just identifies the cliche that each one corresponds to.

Cuthbert Allgood, son of Robert. His constant stream of jokes and kind nature hide deep complexity and dark turns.

Alain Johns, son of Christopher. Despite his dullish looks, he is clever and sensitive, and has psychic skills called 'the touch.'

The over-narration continues throughout the story, explaining everything to us as we go along.

Remember how I spoke of Alain's having "the touch"? It serves him now, as an image of moments ago leaps at him like a crazed bumbler.

The image leaps at him?

Like a crazed bumbler?

See, that's another thing. His word choices make no sense at all.

But, whatever. I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy this and I wish them well. It's not terrible, by any means, and maybe if I didn't know that it was a Stephen King project, I wouldn't feel so blah about it. But, as things stand, this reads like a book that's been converted into a comic-book--which, in fact, it is. The narration tells us the story and how we're supposed to react to what's happening, rather than showing the reader what's happening and then leaving it to us interpret what we're seeing and to form our own opinions about the various characters and their decisions. Jae Lee's art is very nice, meanwhile, but it's certainly not his most dynamic work.

So, I say "Eh."

And you can quote me on that.

Iron Man: Hypervelocity #2
Written by Adam Warren
Art by Brian Denham
Published by Marvel Comics

One of the the first reviews I did for this run of Hoopla! was of the first issue of this limited series. I didn't like it.

Through the magic of pre-ordering, however, I've ended up with the second issue as well. On the plus side, this issue they at least fill in the reader on what the story is about. The first issue was just Iron Man being shot at over and over again, briefly hallucinating a mysterious woman in lingerie, and then finally blowing up and -- ta daa! -- the suit was empty.

This issue, we learn that the reason it was empty was because Tony Start created it to be able to sort of think and then the suit made the cognitive leap and became an independent thinker, nearly killing Stark and then racing off.

Same old, same old.

Then, however, a few pages later we learn that what really happened was that Tony Stark was attacked by someone else, downloaded his consciousness into the new armor, and then someone made it look like the armor had attacked Stark and then run away.

So, I guess that's an interesting twist, but it might have been more effective if it hadn't been explained just a few pages after we were told that the armor was evil. This way, we didn't really get a chance to take in the new status quo (the armor is evil) before it was replaced with another new status quo (the armor is Tony Stark and it's been framed).

Of course, one wonders why Tony Stark/new armor doesn't just tell someone what happened so they'll stop shooting at him. Maybe he can't talk because his body isn't actually in the armor? But then, why doesn't he write it down somewhere. Or stand still, put his hands up, and let them know that he's not the enemy?

Of course, none of it really matters anyway because this story is just dull. The problem isn't the holes in the plot; the problem is that there's nothing interesting going on here. Lots of pseudo-techno jargon as the armor does different stuff and lots of missles being fired and things being blown up, but nothing you can really get too worked up about emotionally.



Well, I'm afraid people are going to start calling me Mr. Grumpy-pants, so here are some quick reviews of a few comics that I'm very much enjoying...

Ultimate Spider-Man #105
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley
Published by Marvel

A very nice epilogue to the Clone Sage. I really wasn't expecting much from this storyline, but I think that it's probably my favorite since the early days of the series. I really like that they didn't undo Aunt May's learning his secret identity, which would have been a cheat, and there have been enough changes to the status quo to sort of freshen up the series. Which, frankly, it needed.

Nice job all around.

The Irredeemable Ant-Man #5
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Phil Hester and Ande Parks
Published by Marvel

This series is rapidly becoming a favorite. I love the first page synopsis provided by the two ants, the battle between the two Ant-Men, Eric's jerkiness with Veronica, and the whole poker-night scene.

Funny, funny stuff!

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #1
by Jeff Smith
Published by DC

Every bit as good as I'd hoped. I particularly loved the panel of the subway train pulling up. What an awesome subway car! And it's both hilarious and morbid that the Wizard's legs are sticking out from under the huge rock that has crushed him.

Jeff Smith (creator of Bone) really took his time on this project; it's been years since it was first announced. I'm glad he did, though. It looks beautiful and the story is a lot of fun.

Yay for Shazam!!!


Digression: I was hoping to have picked up Civil War #7 by now so I could do a review of it and the whole Civil War extravaganza, but I've been sick as a dog lately and getting out to the comic-book store simply wasn't an option.

In fact, I've been quite sick for about two months now, which is a heck of a long time. Everyone kept telling me "Go see a doctor!" but, like most people in this world, I don't really like to go to the doctor. My experience has been that doctors generally have no idea what's wrong with you and can't really afford the time to ask you questions and figure it out, so invariably they diagnose some antibiotics and send you back home.

Anyway, I'd finally missed so many classes and so much work that I pretty much had to go see a doctor, just to show that I was doing everything in my power to get better. So, I went. The doctor spent about ten minutes with me, diagnosed me with walking pneumonia, prescribed antibiotics and sent me home.

I like that it's walking pneumonia, incidentally. When I looked it up on the internet, it turns out that walking pneumonia isn't as bad as regular pneumonia, but I think it sounds much more exotic and awful. Walking Pneumonia sounds like some lurching, zombie-like disease, stalking innocent civilians and infecting them.

Beware... the Walking Pneumonia!!!

Well, the good news is that the antibiotics have actually started kicking in and today I woke up feeling a bazillion times better. The bad part of this, though, is that it means that I'm a big dummy and if I'd just gone to the doctor about two months ago, I could have spared myself all this misery.



Well, that's all we have time for this week... I was going to have a super-special-bonus surprise for you next week, but I think I'm going to save that for when I'm away on Spring Break. Instead, we may have the Civil War review, if I actually make it out to the store. Who the hell knows? Oh, and there are some upcoming comics from Image that I wanted to mention because they look potentially interesting.

And... I don't know. Some other stuff. I just don't what it is yet. I mean, what am I? A psychic? Is that what you think? You want me to just look in my little magic crystal ball and tell you the future?! Well, I can't. So, just... just back off.

Anyway, until then, I hope you have a great week and that the Walking Pneumonia doesn't getcha!

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