Review: Star Wars — Darth Vader (Vol. 1)

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Star Wars: Darth VaderVolume 1
by Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larocca, and Edgar Delgado

★★★★½

2015 • 160 pages • Marvel

It’s embarrassing, but I’ll admit it—I wanted to read Star Wars: Darth Vader because I thought Kieron Gillen wrote “Thank the Maker.” If you’re unfamiliar with “Thank the Maker,” it is actually a 2000 Star Wars comic written by Ryder Windham about Darth Vader encountering C-3PO during The Empire Strikes Back. Vader flashes back to rebuilding C-3PO as a child, defending droid rights to his mother as she tells him that creating a droid is a big responsibility. I was so touched by Vader feeling actual pain over how far they’ve traveled from that point in time that I immediately determined to read… Star Wars: Darth Vader.

In my defense, I knew Gillen was writing a Darth Vader title when I saw a few pages of “Thank the Maker,” so the two naturally conflated in my mind.

In a way, though, Star Wars: Darth Vader answers the same question as “Thank the Maker”: how do you square Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker in light of the prequels in a meaningful way? And I don’t mean that in a joking way at all. I’m watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars while I get ready for work in the morning (this is how I watch any and all half-hour programs), and I’ve been very much enjoying how the show tries to balance Anakin’s character and bridge the gap between Jedi hero and Sith villain. He’s heroic, dashing, and loyal, but he’s also possessive, violent, and impulsive.

Kieron Gillen, naturally, has a very good answer to this question, which is Star Wars: Darth Vader. Continue reading

Review: Ms. Marvel — Generation Why (Vol. 2)

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Ms. Marvel: Generation Why
by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt

★★★★☆

2015 (originally published 2014) • 136 pages • Marvel

Ms. Marvel: Generation Why (or issues 6 through 11) finds newly minted Ms. Marvel, Jersey City’s own hometown hero, navigating the usual trials and tribulations of a teenage superhero—hiding her identity to protect her loved ones, interfacing with the larger world of superheroics, and, of course, saving the day. Specifically, saving the day from the Inventor, the strange cockatiel-human hybrid who has been kidnapping teenage runaways for assuredly nefarious purposes.

Generation Why keeps up the same high level of quality seen in Ms. Marvel: No Normal—unsurprisingly, as the only major difference in the creative team is Jacob Wyatt stepping in to illustrate issues 6 and 7. Wyatt plays nicely in the quirkier house style of Ms. Marvel (I especially love the way he draws Kamala’s prominent nose), but Adrian Alphona’s teen indie movie in a bottle style is still the most perfect complement to G. Willow Wilson’s writing.

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Review: Fearless Defenders — Doom Maidens

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Fearless Defenders: Doom Maidens
by Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney

★★★½☆

2013 • 144 pages • Marvel

One of my favorite comic book covers is the piece of art gracing the The Avengers #83, which features several Marvel ladies—Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Medusa, and Black Widow—standing triumphant over the fallen bodies of their male colleagues as an ice cold blonde known only as Valkyrie declares “All right, girls—that finishes off these chauvinist male pigs!” The story within The Avengers #83 is not as gloriously overt as the cover, unfortunately. Valkyrie is soon revealed to have been a false identity created by the Enchantress for extremely petty and dude-centered reasons. (Amora Incantare: the woman who became Dazzler’s main nemesis because she once got an audition Amora totally blew off. The Enchantress, everybody! I love her so.)

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Review: Thor — The Mighty Avenger

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Thor: The Mighty Avenger
by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee

★★★½☆

2013 • 216 pages • Marvel

Thor: The Mighty Avenger was both the first Thor comic I ever bought and the first comic I ever bought sight unseen. Trawling eBay for Harley Quinn material, I found an issue of Joker’s Asylum II, a short anthology series. It’s a wonderful comic—I especially adore how the art allows Harley to be adorable, a little grotesque, and look like an actual human being—but the cost of shipping took me aback. Looking at the other seller’s items, I found the first two issues of Thor: The Mighty Avenger for pretty cheap. “Looks cute,” I reasoned, and added them to my order.

What I got was a delightful all-ages riff on Thor’s origin story, casting Jane Foster as the new Head of the Department of Nordic Antiquities in Bergen, Oklahoma, as well as the whole proceedings in a light, sweet tone. Contrasted against my desperate search for any Harley Quinn material that treated her well and wasn’t too grimdark for my blood, this was just one of many moments that slowly steered me towards Marvel and away from DC.

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Saturday Morning Opinion: This Is All Christopher Nolan’s Fault

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Last Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con:

Marvel Studios starts off their evening presentation in the legendary Hall H with some of their most anticipated films—Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and, of course, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron portion of the panel kicks off with Robert Downey Jr. hurling roses into the audience to the strains of “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.” After the rest of the cast assembles, he welcomes to “the Marvel Family” (his words) Aaron Taylor Johnson, who dances out on stage before hugging Chris Evans, Paul Bettany, James Spader, and Elizabeth Olsen, who Downey gives a white rose.

“This is supposed to happen,” sighs moderator Chris Hardwick, surveying the impressive line-up.

As they answer his light questions, the word family comes up a lot. In fact, the atmosphere is that of a family reunion, with Robert Downey Jr. playing the role of Proud Papa and the audience six thousand cousins. They hoot and holler and cheer at every self-deprecating remark, joke, and reveal. Mark Ruffalo pulls up Chris Hemsworth’s shirt sleeve to reveal his astonishing biceps. Chris Evans and Johnson crack each other up while Jackson fields questions. Olsen’s use of the word “mutant” is oooed at, and someone has to explain to Hardwick the family in-joke that mutants—with the X-Men’s film rights currently in the hands of Fox—are off-limits for Marvel Studios at the moment.

Kevin Feige screens a clip from the film for the audience. The Avengers, at a party, try to lift Thor’s hammer for a laugh. Captain America manages to shift it slightly, but the party is interrupted by Ultron. Several scenes are glimpsed in brief, shutter-like glimpses. One of these clips finds Black Widow calming down the Hulk in the middle of a battle by pressing their hands together; the last finds Iron Man staring, horrified, at the seemingly dead bodies of his fellow Avengers.

This is all after a signing at Marvel’s booth, where the cast chatted with attendees.


Last Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con:

Warner Brothers starts off their morning presentation in the legendary Hall H with one of their most anticipated films, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

After showing some concept art, Zack Snyder screens some footage from the film. An armored Batman, his eyes glowing white, pulls a tarp off of the Batsignal. The light of the Batsignal reveals Superman above him, rage in his eyes. In fact, his eyes are red with it, his heat vision gearing up to incinerate the Dark Knight. Batman grimly stares him down.

The clip ends there. Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill are trotted out onstage, to the cheers of thousands. Those cheers swell when Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman, join him. They smile, wave, and take a selfie with Chris Hardwick.

They leave without saying a word.


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Review: Marvels

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Marvels
by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross

★★★★½

1994 • 248 pages • Marvel

After my brother went off to college, his room, despite still having all of his stuff in it, was up for grabs. My dad seized upon it as an office without telling anyone or even taking the bed out, while I was finally able to rifle through my brother’s books to my heart’s content. (Madame McBride did not participate in this land grab.) Without my brother to kick me out or stop me from getting my grubby preteen paws on his lovingly curated collection of French comics (direct from the motherland!), I was unstoppable.

And that’s how I, at around the age of nine or ten, discovered the difference between Marvel and DC. I’d only been familiar with DC before, having watched Batman: The Animated Series and the odd episode of The Adventures of Lois and Clark, but I had only the vaguest idea that Spider-Man existed. In my brother’s library, there were two graphic novels from each company, alone among the Asterixes, Tintin, and Largo Winch. DC was represented by Kingdom Come, an epic and fairly dark Elseworlds end game story featuring roughly everyone in the DC universe. Ross was inspired to pitch Kingdom Come to DC because he was just coming off illustrating the only Marvel book in my brother’s collection—Marvels.

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Review: Young Avengers — Style > Substance

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Young Avengers: Style > Substance
by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

★★★★½

2013 • 128 pages • Marvel

Through sheer timing and luck, I have, in my comic book collection, Kieron Gillen’s entire run on Journey Into Mystery in single issues. I don’t mention this as a bragging point; its genius is readily available in trader paperback. I mention this because I really loved getting to follow the story of Kid Loki in weekly installments. In the digital age, it’s very easy to binge on something in days or weeks, so I really value being able to take my time with a series. (I’m doing the same thing right now with Sailor Moon. It’s awesome!) Gillen’s self-contained arc—best described as “a comedy in thirty parts and a tragedy in thirty-one”—is fun, heartwarming, thoughtful, meta, and heartbreaking, all at the same time.

And that’s without Gillen working with long-time collaborator Jamie McKelvie. I don’t mean to imply that Gillen’s writing sparkles less without McKelvie or vice versa, but the narrative and the art walk hand in hand when they’re working together. The two began their working relationship in 2003 at PlayStation Magazine UK on Save Point, a comic about gaming. (This is, to quote John Mulaney, a very old-fashioned sentence. I can practically smell my old GamePro magazines reading it.) Since then, they’ve worked together on Phonogram, the upcoming The Wicked + The Divine, and the short-lived but critically acclaimed and GLAAD Award-winning Young Avengers.

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Review: Hawkeye — My Life as a Weapon

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Javier Pulido

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Last week, instead of airing another episode of the tepid Agents of SHIELD, ABC instead aired Creating the Marvel Universe, a hour-long commercial for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. I say this as someone who whooped at the screen and side-eyed their efforts to pretend Edward Norton was never the Hulk. At the beginning, the talking heads discuss the difficulty of getting Marvel Studios up off the ground, especially since their A-list heroes—the Fantastic Four, Spiderman, and the X-Men—were (and remain!) controlled by other studios. The solution?

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Review: X-Men: First Class — Volume 1

X-Men: First Class — Volume 1 by Jeff Parker, Roger Cruz, Paul Smith, and Kevin Nowlan

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Traditionally, fans of mainstream comics separate DC and Marvel on the basis of realism. As one of my friends once put it to me, the heroes of DC are aspirational, while the heroes of Marvel are relatable. You aspire to being as good, kind, and humble as Clark Kent is, even if he had a fairly normal childhood; you relate to Steve Rogers’ being someone who failed at everything despite having the right intentions, even if he eventually gets the opportunity to succeed because of everything he learned from those failures. In short—Clark Kent is from Smallville. Steve Rogers is from Brooklyn. It’s not a hard and fast rule, obviously, since who you aspire to be and who you identify with is a very personal thing, but it’s a good rule of thumb.

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Review: Daredevil — Volume 1

Daredevil: Volume 1 by Mark Waid, Paolo Manuel Rivera, and Marcos Martin

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I was about twelve when I was exposed to the film version of Daredevil. It came out in 2003, so I must have been about thirteen. We watched it because my dad has the kind of open mind when it comes to films that a director wishes ey could buy. It didn’t make too much of an impression, beyond cementing my brother’s resemblance to Ben Affleck for the family, and that’s been my major impression of Daredevil ever since. Given my previous antipathy towards Marvel, I saw no need to correct it, but something moved me to pick up this while picking over the graphic novels at the library. I’m quite glad I did.

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