Friday, August 31, 2007

It's Not Marvel Vs. DC, It's WAR!

Marvel is not the House of Whiny Bastards.

For a while now, I've endured the slings and arrows thrown at Marvel, saying the characters are whiny and not as heroic as DC characters. And you know what? That's bullshit. It's easy to be a superhero when you're insanely rich, insanely powerful or just don't have any people to worry about at home. Granted, Spider-Man seems to come off whiny when Jeph Loeb has him crying over Captain America or Straczynski has him worrying about his decisions hurting Mary Jane and Aunt May, but there portrayals are an exaggeration of old stories. When Peter complained about not making rent or missing a date, he was making the same complaints we make daily. He wasn't crying just wishing things lightened up a bit.

Just because Marvel heroes deal with more "real world" problems and question whether what they are doing is right doesn't make them less heroic. Being able to do the right thing is something most people don't really think about on a daily basis, but it makes sense for someone who regularly tries to save lives would think about it from time to time. The fact they remain heroes when it would be easier for them to live a normal life just shows their nobility.

I think what really gets to me is that people seem to equate liking Marvel as to appealing to the lowest common denominator, that it's low brow, therefore, open to anyone to like. It makes it seem as though DC is so high-minded and more worthwhile of your time. Like Amazons Attack! or Countdown or Meltzer's Justice League of America.

I was going to sit here for a few hours listing characters who don't follow the DC fans' perception of Marvel heroes, but you know what's better. Read some Marvel books. There are many out there that will blow away all preconceptions, and I will list those.

Zemo: Born Better - I can't stress enough what a good job Fabian Nicieza did on this mini-series. It's like a character study mixed with time travel and mass murder. It doesn't end the way you expect it to and features Tom Grummet's excellent art.

Immortal Iron Fist - Kicks ass.

Punisher (MAX) - Garth Ennis on Punisher is the best work I think he's done. It's violent and provocative, but not as over the top as his Vertigo work, where you are looking for something crazy to happen more than the story to progress.

Thunderbolts - I was fully prepared to hate Warren Ellis on Thunderbolts until he made me cheer on Jack Flag and appreciate how subversive his writing can be.

X-Factor - Peter David's take on Madrox and crew is intriguing, witty and poignant. Each character is fleshed out and thrown into wild situations that keep you coming back every month with anticipation.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man by Peter David - The best depiction of Spider-Man in a good long while.

Annihilation - A space epic with more characterization than many of the characters involved have ever received. Some might say it's Marvel's version of a DC crossover. I say, how can you read Starlord, Quasar or Super Skrull as anything but pure Marvel?

Daredevil - Brubaker has done a brilliant job making his mark on the character, closing out some of Bendis's plotlines while introducing his own. I think what really makes Brubaker's work standout is his ability lay the groundwork for later stories without sacrificing the pace of the current ones.

Fantastic Four - McDuffie is blending in the FF's penchant for traveling to far off places and classic superfighting, at the same time providing a fresh take on the classic team. Also check out Waid and Ringo's run for truly fantastic reading.

She-Hulk - The pure joy of the Marvel Universe.

Cable & Deadpool - I don't care what you have read with these characters before, Nicieza develops them into multifaceted people for which there is no mold. This comic is like no other you have read before and it's a shame that people take one look at the title and dismiss it.

Captain America - This just may be my number one. Brubaker takes what would generally be the last issue of a series and makes it a springboard for four stories centering around Cap's friends and enemies and their eventual collision.

Astonishing X-Men - Whedon and Cassaday's run is everything you loved about the X-Men in the 80's, but with Whedon's knack for dialogue replacing Claremont's knack for overexposition.

Nextwave - Insane, and you will love every page of it.

Uncanny X-Men - His first arc reestablished the X-Men's connection to the Shi'ar Empire and now Brubaker is giving us a new version of the Morlocks and a rejuvenated Professor X.

World War Hulk - Everything you expected and there's still two issues left.

Ms. Marvel - Started slow but now has really hit it's stride and is showing Ms. Marvel as a leading hero in the Marvel U.

Avengers: The Initiative - The frontline of the Superhero Registration and you can already tell the system has some kinks to work out. What's interesting about it is Dan Slott shows both the pros and cons of The Initiative, leaving you wondering if it will actually work or if it will eventually fall apart.

Super-villain Team Up: MODOK's 11 - A heist tale with minor super villains being led by a deceiving engine of destruction and how it goes off the rails.

Punisher War Journal - A perfect reintroduction of Punisher into mainstream Marvel. Matt Fraction has placed Punisher into world of super-villains for the first time and let's him go full steam.

Moon Knight - Since his creation, many people have called Moon Knight Marvel's Batman. Charlie Huston has cemented Marc Spector as really an anti-Batman. Moon Knight doesn't solve problems with his brilliant mind, he beats them nearly to death with his fists and loose boards.

Before you decide to spend $2.99 on the latest Countdown tie-in, why not try one of the comics I've listed. I promise you won't be disappointed and will more than likely be trying to find the back issues and trades.

The Marvel Universe is a glorious place and welcomes you.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

In Other Countdown Theories...

...Beardface is being controlled by, was replaced by or is Darkseid.

That's why no one realizes he has control over the Shadow Demons.
And if you haven't read Amazons Attack! #6, I just did you a favor.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

They Need Backup

You know who should be fighting the Sinestro Corps?

These guys:

Think about it. It's already been established that this version of the Crime Syndicate is in the animatter universe, where the Sinestro Corps is based. Now let's say a bunch of dominating psychopaths set up shop in your neck of the woods and could possibly infringe on your own domineering. Would you let it stand? Would you? Or you?

The enemy of your enemy would probably appreciate you helping out on an ass-kicking, so I don't see the Green Lanterns turning away even the CSA's twisted efforts.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Welcome Back

I've been more active than usual this weekend so I haven't had a chance to put together a new Marvel Vs. DC post, yet I can't bring myself to apologize. I was having fun and that's never wrong.
Anyway, after reading Birds of Prey #109, I have only one question:

Why is the Infinity Man killing New Gods?

And I would just like to say(yell) WELCOME BACK!!!!!!!!!! to Rachelle of Living Between Wednesdays. After months of missionary work, bringing rock to underprivileged Canadians, she has returned to blogging. Hey.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Big Monkey Podcast:Good Times

The new podcast is up and I just wanted to say I did a dramatic reading of Victor Volcanum from Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen that exemplifies Silver Age villainy.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Marvel Vs. DC: Who Rules The Seas?

Atlantis. Across two universes, it's the most highly advanced nation on the planet, a submerged society of technology and magic. The people of Atlantis are ruled by a king.
In DC, it's Arthur Curry, Aquaman:
In Marvel, it's Namor McKenzie, the Sub-Mariner:
In The Beginning:
Aquaman was not the king of the seas, nor was he Arthur Curry. He was the son of an unnamed undersea explorer who found the lost(and empty) city of Atlantis. This explorer created a study for himself in an air cavern where he trained his son to survive underwater indefinitely using "a hundred different scientific secrets". Named Aquaman by his father, the son went out into the world using his superhuman strength and ability to talk with sea creatures to fight Nazis and other 1940's threats.
It wasn't until the Silver Age, that the seeds of the current origin of Aquaman started, where he was the son of Tom Curry, a lighthouse keeper who fell in love with Atlanna, an exiled Atlantean. Later it would be changed so that Queen Atlanna* and a sorcerer named Atlan* had a child named Orin, who was deemed to carry the Mark of Kordax(which is apparently blond hair) and was cast into the ocean wilds. Orin was found by Arthur Curry, who named the sea child after himself. Arthur Curry/Orin had the same abilities of the Golden Age Aquaman, mostly, except his communication with sea creatures was now telepathic and he could only stay out of water for an hour at a time or start to weaken.
Aquaman became a prominent superhero and a founding member of the Justice League of America, which he would remain a member for extended periods of time. He had two sidekicks Garth who went by Aqualad and Tula who went by Aquagirl, and married Mera, a water-breathing Queen from another dimension.
Aquaman made a career out of defending the seas against such threats as Black Manta(he of the tacky helmet and delusions of grandeur), the Fisherman, the Scavenger, the Human Flying Fish, and his half-brother(the son of Arthur Curry and a human woman) Orm, the Ocean Master. At first light-hearted, his adventures became decidedly darker after the death of his son, Arthur Jr., by Black Manta. The tragedy created a rift between Aquaman and Mera, as well as between Aquaman and Aqualad, who were forced to fight to death by Black Manta for Arthur Jr.'s life. From then on, Aquaman mostly worked alone fending off threats to his throne and trying to patch up his marriage.
In the nineties, a effort was made to update Aquaman for an audience who mainly made light of him. His hand was eaten by angry piranha and was replaced by a harpoon, then a magical one with many capabilities. Also, Aquaman was now more arrogant than before, quick to posture as though he were prepped to be king from birth, as opposed to finding out when he was an adult.
During Our Worlds At War, Aquaman used Poseidon's(or Neptune's) Trident to fight off an Imperiex drone, while Garth, now going by Tempest and with sorcery training from Atlan, tried to temporarily shunt Atlantis into another dimension to prevent it from destruction. He was believed killed in the fight, but really Aquaman and Atlantis were sent into the past were it caused the original Atlantis to sink. In the past, Aquaman's spirit was trapped in the ocean and the Atlanteans were subjugated by ancient Atlantean wizards. It took the Justice League in the past and present to bring Aquaman and Atlantis back to the present, but magic became the order of the day. Wizards took control of Atlantis, imprisoning Mera in a magical haze and making Aquaman public enemy number one.
Banned from the ocean, Aquaman was chosen by the Lady of the Water to become the Waterbearer and wield a water hand that was connected a mystical life river. It didn't take long before Aquaman took on a more traditional look and returning to combating non-mystical threats. He had to deal with the sinking of San Diego and dealing with the survivors who were given water breathing capability. In this new Sub Diego, Aquaman found a new Aquagirl and had a run-in with Black Manta before he tried raising Sub Diego and returning the people back to their natural state. This changed him drastically, and leaving the Aquaman mantle open to a Arthur Joseph Curry, who is apparently the genetically altered clone of the son of a marine scientist.

Namor McKenzie was born to the Atlantean princess Fen and the American captain of the Orcale Leonard McKenzie. Fen went missing from Atlantis and was found by McKenzie while at sea. The two fell in love, but were torn apart when Fen's father Emperor Thakorr sent troops to find Fen. The troops believed Fen was being held captive so they destroyed the Oracle and nearly killed McKenzie bringing Fen back. Back in Atlantis, Fen gave birth a pink-skinned baby boy in the blue-skinned society of Atlantis. He was named Namor, Atlantean for "Avenging Son."
Namor is a mutant, born with small wings on his ankles that gave him flight, superhuman strength, speed and endurance, the ability to copy the abilities of sealife, to communicate telepathically with sealife, and has an extremely long lifespan, seeing as he's not aged much in 60 years. The sealife abilities and lifespan were revealed after the character was revived in the 50's and 60's, but his wings are vintage.
Namor began his adventures as the Sub-Mariner attacking surface dwellers who he felt threatened Atlantis and sealife in general. Eventually, he put aside his anger and joined with the Allies to stop the Axis Powers. He teamed up with Captain America, Bucky, Whizzer, Miss America, the original Human Torch and Toro to form the All-Winners Squad. the retconned continuity, Sub-Mariner joined Cap, Buck, Torch and Toro as the Invaders and formed the All-Winners Squad when the Invaders and the Liberty Legion joined together after World War II. Namor was joined by his cousin Aquaria Nautica Neptunia, a human/Atlantean hybrid mutant like himself, who was nicknamed "Namora("Avenging Daughter" in Atlantean)" for her royal cousin. She fully accepted the name after her father was killed by human treasure hunters.
Namor was injured sometime after the War and drifted around as a derelict named Macin. He was found by the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four who recognized Macin for who he was and helped revive his memories. Shortly thereafter, Namor went to find his people, but they had relocated when the original Atlantis was damaged by nuclear testing. Enraged, Namor attacked the surface world repeatedly, being thwarted by the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, before he found the new Atlantis and abandoned his vengeance. In his travels to find Atlantis, he came upon an Arctic tribe worshipping a man encased in ice, so he took the frozen idol and tossed it into the sea. The frozen man was found by the Avengers and revealed to be Captain America.
In his fights with the Fantastic Four, Namor became infatuated with Susan Storm and tried many times to win her affections. One time he used lost gold to buy a production company and offered the Fantastic Four a movie deal in a rather complicated attempt to get Susan's attentions. He stopped actively trying to woo Susan when she married Reed Richards, but still loves her to this day. He married his cousin Lady Dorma, but she was kidnapped and replaced by Llyra of Lemuria in an effort to take control of Atlantis. The plan was stopped, but Lady Dorma was killed.
Though still king of Atlantis, Namor joined(was forced) the Defenders for a time, before gaining his freedom from the group. After a coup forced Namor out of power, Namor joined the Avengers and met his second wife Marrina, an alien aquatic of the Plodex race. The two founded a society of peaceful Atlanteans, but Marrina's evil side emerged and in a battle with the Avengers, she was thought killed. Actually in a coma, Marrina was nevertheless never reunited with Namor. Namor restored order in Atlantis after Atlantis Attacks, but was presumed deceased. He used the anonymity and more undersea treasures to start Oracle, Inc., which he used to fund environment saving programs. He also reconnected with his "cousin" Namorita, a clone of Namora who was passed off as Namora's daughter due to Atlantean taboo against cloning. Namora was poisoned by Llyra and thought deceased, but was recently discovered to be in suspended animation.
Continuing in his habit of discovering lost heroes, Namor went to K'un L'un where he found Iron Fist who was thought deceased. Namor fought against a sorcerer named Master Khan around this time, losing his memory for a short period before finally defeating him. Namor was killed fighting against another sorcerer named Suma-Ket, but was returned to life by the God Neptune. He returned to power as king of Atlantis and head of Oracle, Inc., but sold off the company to focus on Atlantean matters.
Most recently, Namor helped out the modern incarnation of the Invaders and was one of the members of the Illuminati, a council of prominent superheroes who met to decide major issues such what to do about the threat of the Skrulls and how to deal with the Infinity Gauntlet. e broke with the group when it was decided that Bruce Banner, the Hulk, should be sent into deep space to an uninhabited planet. Namor predicted that Hulk would return, angrier than ever, hell bent on revenge. He was proven right. He backed Captain America in the Civil War, after taking custody of Nitro for killing Namorita. His placing of Atlantean spies in America has him in hot water, since a rogue group of Atlanteans are committing terrorist acts in America.

So who wins:
I should start off by saying I'm not one of those people who see Aquaman as a joke. True, he's not my favorite hero, but I could see his place in the DCU and how his powers can be useful in non-water based situations.
That being said, the only time I was really interested in Aquaman's adventures was during the Sub Diego situation, when he was brought back to full-on superhero mode. Before, it seemed to be Aquaman's solo adventures were him fending off usurpers, like all the time. I think there was an issue of the 90's Aquaman where an oil spill had something to do with Kordax or aliens trying to take control of Atlantis. If you wanted Aquaman saving human beings(not to be prejudiced against homo mermanus), you had to read Justice League books. When I found out about the Golden Age Aquaman, I felt kind of gypped for the past couple of decades.
Sub-Mariner, on the other hand, was never meant to be the usual kind of hero. He started off a angry young man, throwing sea slang, and became the arrogant monarch who occasionally worked with the surface dwellers. His appeal is his arrogance and the fact that he has the power to back it up. He was the first anti-hero, the template for every hero who more than likely would choose not to be there. The fact that he was able to keep his personality mostly intact, sans the slang, over the years shows how well he was received with every appearance. No one seemed to feel the need to revamp the character as much as Aquaman was. Aquaman's modern era arrogance seemed to reflect a need to justify Aquaman's place in the Justice League, hell, comics in general.
Sub-Mariner doesn't need jusification and is liked without irony. DC has even tried to have their own Namor, and I don't mean Arthur. He is understandable, preventing the wild characterizations(unless Meltzer starts writing Marvel) that comes from a writer trying to "establish" a character, but at the same time, open in his mentality to work in many situations. Again, without it seeming out of place. It's just kind of bad that DC can't seem to get Aquaman back to his roots without immediately ripping them out from under him.

And dammit, Namor was here first.



*What were they, brother and sister?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Monday, August 13, 2007

MARVEL VS. DC: Best Comeback Kid

In the world of comics, two characters seemed to hold that special place usually reserved for origin devices: permanent death. They were James Buchanan Barnes and Jason Todd, also known as Bucky and Robin II, respectively.

In 2006, these sidekick cautionary tales were brought back to life, flying in the face of readers' acceptance of their continual rest. But whose return was best?
Before we get to their return, let's rundown how they started.
James Buchanan Barnes was an orphaned young man who lied about his age to get into the Army so that he could serve his country and was stationed with Steve Rogers. He stumbled upon Rogers donning his Captain America uniform and was appointed Captain America's sidekick. An accomplished brawler before training, Barnes took to the military training with gusto, making him an excellent counterpart to Cap and a stealth agent able to pull operations Cap couldn't.
Cap and Bucky fought in World War II during most of America's involvement. Sometimes they pulled off missions with Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos and others they operated with the superhuman group, The Invaders. When Cap and the rest of the Invaders were captured by the Red Skull, Bucky assembled the Liberty Legion to rescue them and led that group for awhile, as well as the Kid Commandos, a junior version of the Invaders. Their last mission was infiltrating a stronghold of Baron Zemo, but the duo were tied to a rocket and launched. They freed themselves and redirected the missile, but, as Cap jumped away, Bucky couldn't get away in time and the missile exploded.
Jason Todd was an orphaned young man who lived on the streets of Gotham City. He was found by Batman in the process of stealing the tires off the Batmobile. Seeing something in the kid's chutzpah, the Dark Knight decided to train Todd like he had trained Dick Grayson before. Jason took to the training and became the second Robin.

It wasn't long before Jason became rebellious. He would disobey orders, go looking for fights(but not in a crimefighting way) and even may have killed a diplomat's son who attacked a woman. Getting a lead on his birth mother, Jason chose to go it alone and walked right into a set up by the Joker. After beating him mercilessly with a tire iron, the Joker left Jason and his mother in a warehouse with a bomb. Like Bucky, he couldn't get away.
Their Return:
As it turns out, Bucky did not die. Like Cap, he was preserved in the frozen waters, sans his left arm and barely functional, yet still retaining his fighting reflexes. Like Jason Bourne. Found by a Russian sub commander who had an earlier encounter with Cap and Bucky, Bucky was fitted with a cybernetic arm and was conditioned to operate for his new Russian handlers. He was their secret weapon, an assassin who could kill without being caught and received all the training Captain America had.

When not on assignment, Bucky was kept in suspended animation, deemed to likely to bail if given too much freedom. To the intelligence community, he was called "The Winter Soldier" and with the fall of the Soviet Union, he was picked up by Aleksander Lukin, an industrialist with dreams of returning the Soviet Union to glory.
The Red Skull, who transferred his consciousness into Lukin after being shot by the Winter Soldier, tried to have Bucky kill Captain America during a plot to power the Cosmic Cube, but Cap used the Cube to reawaken Bucky's memories instead. Disoriented and dismayed about being used, Bucky dropped out of sight for awhile, but came back into action as an agent of Nick Fury.
At the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, four people went to specially created universe to live in peace while New Earth found it's way. They were Superman and Lois Lane of Earth-2, Alexander Luthor of Earth-S and Superboy of Earth-Prime. Long story short, Luthor and Superboy went round the bend in their loneliness and decided to remake the universe to their liking. Superboy-Prime, as he was called while Kon-El was around, had tremendous power and his repeated attempts to break free of the crystalline walls of their secluded dimension had reality changing effects on the universe.

One change was that Jason Todd didn't die from the injuries sustained from the Joker(Apparently, even though it happened without any cosmic disturbance, his death wasn't supposed to happen and Superboy's punches set it right. Not even in comic logic does that make sense). Only thing was, he returned where his body had been: in his grave. The mad drive to escape his coffin coupled with the untreated injuries left Jason Todd addled and touched in the head. But, like Jason Bourne, he still had all his skills ingrained into his reflexes, so it was easy for some homeless guy to recognize him as Robin and sell that info indirectly to Talia Al Ghul.

Talia placed Jason into a Lazarus Pit and when he emerged, he found the newsclippings Talia had left showing that after Joker had killed Jason, Batman just put him back in Arkham. Jason thought that Batman should have killed Joker, to avenge Jason's death. Jason went back to Gotham and, using an old identity of Joker's, started his own vigilante career. As the Red Hood, Jason severed drug dealers' heads who sold to kids and took down Captain Nazi permanently(not really, but you get the point). He confronted Batman many times, culminating with a three way stand-off between Batman, Red Hood and the Joker.
An inconsequential C-4 explosion and Infinte Crisis later, Jason Todd spent some time as Nightwing before redonning the Red Hood guise. He now is working alongside Donna Troy, the new Atom and New-Earth's Monitor to find Ray Palmer.
Who Wins?
Unless you were around in the 40's to read the original Captain America and Invaders comics or in the 70's for that volume of The Invaders, your impression of Bucky is pretty much that guy who blew up when Cap got frozen. Still, that's better than being the Robin Voted to Die.

As far as methods of resurrection, Superboy-punches are, by far, the lamest reasoning imaginable. It's not the whole restructuring of reality that perplexes you, it's the image of Superboy hitting the "walls" of reality. In Bucky's case, the Cosmic Cube was right there but was not used as the catalyst for his return. He was always alive, just changed into a badass assassin. And really, being killed in a flashback story with the only eyewitness being a guy falling from the sky and probably suffering from a concussion from an explosion is just begging someone to bring him back.
As it is, Jason Todd is the pouty black sheep of the Bat-family and Bucky is the Winter Soldier, a man who gives Iron Man pause.