based on Captain America: The First Avenger
2015 • 8 episodes • ABC
Do I really need to tell you Agent Carter is amazing?
I kind of feel weird reviewing it, to be honest. Part of it is its obvious awesomeness to everyone I come in contact with on a regular day. Part of it is that it feels so long ago. Okay, it’s only been a month, but that’s like a year in fandom time. (I mean, the first blush of Sherlock fandom feels like another decade entirely.) And part of that is because Agent Carter is the closest thing to an original television show I’ve decided to review for the blog, being based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe instead of a specific comic, and that makes me a little nervous. Like everything that makes me nervous, that’s preposterous—it’s not as if I’m reading the Sailor Moon manga to give the anime series greater context…yet.
The Mighty Thor: Volume 2
by Walter Simonson
2013 (originally published 1984) • 238 pages • Marvel Comics
There is something about old school fantasy—sf that was produced between 1977 and 2001 and the attendant/appropriate rock and heavy metal—that fascinates me in a very specific way. It’s this kind of unwarranted nostalgia for something I’ve never experienced, somewhat similar to my love for the eighties. But this is more specific, usually coming with daydreams of reading poorly designed Tolkien paperbacks out on the roof in the summer of 1995. (The flannel shirt tied around the waist of this teenager who never was goes, of course, without saying.) Something about that entire configuration has been setting me on fire lately, and I’ve been trying to tease out why.
Upon reading the second volume of Walter Simonson’s legendary run on The Mighty Thor, I think one factor is just good old-fashioned Norse mythology. Its sweep covers both the fantastic and the mundane, the epic and the low, the bombast and the humanity. And you certainly can’t beat the location. It’s the kernel of fiery truth that many bad Tolkien imitators completely miss, focusing on the trappings and not the heart. (Look, nobody can be the second Tolkien, okay? The degrees required alone would bankrupt you in the United States. We just need to make peace with that and move on.) Simonson not only acutely understands the emotional underpinnings of Norse mythology, he understands where that ties into the unique bombast and mythology of Marvel comics.
The Mighty Thor: Volume 1
2013 (originally published 1983 and 1984) • 232 pages • Marvel Comics
Fandom, as I warbled hoarsely to someone at a fan gathering on Saturday, is generated by the blank spaces in a text. (This is not my theory, but Michael Chabon’s.) It’s the storytelling part of that multipart impulse—to take seemingly disparate events and synthesizing them into a satisfying narrative. Nowadays, this usually occurs in the gift economy of fandom itself, due to the evolution of copyright law, but there are still avenues in copyrighted materials open for fans to make their narratives the narrative. You see this with any text that lasts long enough to eventually pull its creative contributors from a generation that grew up with it. There’s the recently disenfranchised Star Wars expanded universe, and lifelong Doctor Who fan Peter Capaldi is currently at the helm of the TARDIS.
Such is the story of Walter Simonson and his epic five year run on The Mighty Thor. I have only ever heard of this run talked about in hushed, reverent tones, as something that shows the full extent of comics’ unique marriage of text and art. So that makes the more mundane and more interesting story of how Simonson discovered Thor all the more interesting. Having discovered the comic while in college, it dovetailed neatly with his own interest in Norse mythology that his imagination was already at work before he realized it. He ended up writing his own version of events long before he was ever offered the opportunity to write and draw The Mighty Thor. And when that chance came, he was ready, recycling what could be used from that first foray into his new work.
X-Men: Season One
by Dennis Hopeless and Jamie McKelvie
2012 • 136 pages • Marvel Comics
Why aren’t you listening to Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men right now?
I haven’t been this excited for a podcast… well, ever. Being led gently through the saga of the X-Men by a pair of awesome, feminist-minded comic professionals who know their stuff and have great banter is one of the highlights of my week. After those forty-five minutes are up, I’m brimming with recommendations, a greater appreciation for Chris Claremont, and my love for Dazzler.
(Well, my love for Dazzler is eternal, but you get the idea. Lupita Nyong’o for Dazzler 2016!)
Women of Marvel: Volume One
by Stan Lee, Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Linda Fite, Tom DeFalco, Carol Seuling, Steve Gerber, Chris Claremont, Jim Shooter and David Michelinie
For the last three years, the amazing Jess Plummer has been noting what free promotional materials Marvel and DC have sent along to Wiscon, the world’s oldest feminist sf convention. After last year’s pretty decent showing, she was disappointed that Marvel’s offerings this year featured no ladies at all. After all, Marvel has so many interesting female characters and female-led titles these days, from Ms. Marvel to She-Hulk (featuring Kevin Wada’s deliriously delightful covers and Javier Pulido’s willfully and wonderfully grotesque art) to X-Men, which boasts an entire team of lady mutants without bothering to change the title. Why not celebrate that?
X-Men: Days of Future Past
based on “Days of Future Past” by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
While I’m always excited for summer movie season, X-Men: Days of Future Past grabbed my imagination because I couldn’t quite believe it was happening. Every new detail released about the film promised simply too much to fit into one summer blockbuster: a cast of thousands, from both sides of the reboot! Sentinels! Time travel! I had no idea how all of this could even fit into a single film—and, unfortunately, neither did the film.
Captain America: Winter Soldier by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Michael Lark, John Paul Leon and Mike Perkins
A little before The Avengers came out in theaters, I found myself at Oxford Comics in Atlanta. I’d successfully jumped into Journey Into Mystery, thanks to recommendations from the Internet, and was hoping to jump into The Avengers. My source for the Journey Into Mystery had given me the number of a recent certain issue that I could use as an in, but I’d forgotten it. In the corner, I flipped through a few issues, hoping to just chance across it, but didn’t find it. What I did find was a few pages where the Avengers all described Captain America—specifically, some of them had a feeling he was cosmically linked to the American nation-state.