Comic Book Fix: Wondercon News and New Reviews
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 01:34 Written by david golbitz Wednesday, 21 March 2012 11:00
For the first time since it began Wondercon was held last weekend somewhere other than the Bay Area. Originally held in Oakland, Wondercon moved to San Francisco in 2003, but due to ongoing renovations at the Moscone Center, CCI, the convention’s organizers, moved Wondercon south to the supposedly warmer climate of sunny Anaheim. Convention guests and attendees braved the elements during an unseasonably fierce downpour on St. Patrick’s Day to fill the Anaheim Convention Center for what many consider to be one of the better convention experiences in recent memory, leading some to wonder whether the Bay Area has lost its signature convention for good.
But amidst the poor weather and devoted cosplayers, some interesting news was announced over the weekend. The return of a fan-favorite Marvel captain, though perhaps not the one you’re thinking of. And a longtime Vertigo writer is plunging into the deep end of Marvel’s mutant waters writing not one but two ongoing series. And a prominent voice and longtime advocate for creators to embrace digital comics is finally putting his money where his mouth is, selling his vast collection of comic books to help fund his new series of digital comics.
Read on for details on these stories and more, including my reviews of some of last week’s biggest releases, like Brian K. Vaughan’s latest creator-owned series, the spacefaring sci-fi epic, Saga.
In what is perhaps the biggest news of the weekend, noted and award-winning writer Mark Waid unveiled his plans to create and cultivate a line of creator-owned digital comics. As proof of his belief in the future of digital comics, Waid is selling his enormous collection of physical comics to raise money for his digital dreams. He has also provided a sneak peak at what he has up his sleeve with Luther, a 33-page digital comic written by Waid with art by Jeremy Rock, available for free as a PDF file on Waid’s website.
As for his plans for his line of digital comics, Waid said:
“In May, I’m rolling out a digital comics website where material will be going up in weekly or twice-weekly installments. But before that, on April 2, markwaid.com goes live again as a process blog for webcomics and what we’re doing. All throughout April, we’ll be giving sample material away for free, showing what the format can do, and I’ll be doing interviews with pioneers in this field. My own artists will also be there to talk about the projects we’re doing and how we’ll be building them.”
Not everyone is thrilled with Waid’s decision to invest in digital comics, however. The most vocal opponent of digital comics is Phil Boyle, owner of Florida’s Coliseum of Comics. Boyle seemed to take Waid’s announcement personally, berating the writer as “an enemy of everything brick & mortar stores do” and “an enemy of the state of comics,” whatever that means. Boyle has vowed to remove every book Mark Waid has written from his shop, though it seems counterintuitive to stop selling print books in protest of digital books. Boyle would rather cut off his nose to spite his face despite the fact that Waid has never disparaged print comics. Waid merely wants to dip his toes in the digital water and experiment with the format, which doesn’t seem all that threatening, does it? After all, if Mark Waid hates print comics so much, why did IDW introduce him as the writer of an upcoming four-issue Rocketeer miniseries, with art by one of his Daredevil collaborators, Chris Samnee?
Elsewhere at Wondercon, Marvel announced that Captain Marvel is making yet another return, but this time with a slight twist: Carol Danvers, long known as Ms. Marvel, is being promoted to Captain. Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick with art by Dexter Soy, the new Captain Marvel series debuts this summer. Hop on over to Newsarama for an interview with Kelly Sue about Carol’s role in the Marvel universe, the failings of the direct market and the new squee-worthy Captain Marvel uniform designed by Jamie McKelvie.
After returning to the world of the X-Men with his Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha & Omega miniseries, Brian Wood has decided to hang around Marvel’s merry mutants for a while longer. This summer he becomes the first writer to tackle the same characters in both the regular and Ultimate universes as he takes over as the writer of X-Men with issue #30 and Ultimate Comics X-Men with issue #13.
In addition to the in-stores-now Alpha & Omega miniseries, Wood also wrote the final arc of Generation X more than 10 years ago when Warren Ellis was given editorial reign over a quartet of low-selling mutant titles, so he is no stranger to the mutant plight. Indeed, Wood’s creator-owned series Demo is very much inspired by some of the themes he wrestled with as writer of Generation X: alienation, paranoia, fear, loneliness, anger, envy. Demo takes mutant powers out of the spandex-clad superhero world and puts them into everyday life to examine how real people would deal with the complexities of their powers. I only hope Wood’s mutant books will have room for the humanity and subtlety his work is known for among all the superheroics.
X-Men will be drawn by David Lopez, while Paco Medina handles the pencils for Ultimate Comics X-Men. Wood’s first issue of each title will be out in June.
Saga #1 (Image), by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Once Ex Machina had run its course, Brian K. Vaughan left the comic book scene for a while. He was working in Hollywood writing scripts for TV shows and movies. But he always had a story in mind that he knew could only be told via the medium of comics: an interplanetary love story set against the backdrop of a galactic war. Think Romeo and Juliet combined with Star Wars, with a little George R.R. Martin for good measure. It’s a high fantasy space opera from one of the most creative minds in the comic book industry.
Saga, one of my most anticipated comics of 2012, opens with Alana giving birth to her daughter, and our narrator, Hazel. It’s a tender moment for Alana and her husband Marko, even if it does take place in a mechanic’s filthy garage. See, Alana and Marko are on the run, each one hunted by their own people for deserting in a time of war. Of course, when the war is perpetual there’s never really a good time to get away. Alana’s people come from Landfall, the largest planet in the galaxy, while Marko comes from Wreath, Landfall’s moon.
“If there was ever a time these two got along, nobody remembers it,” Hazel tells us.
But instead of waging war on their home worlds and risking their mutual destruction, the leaders of Landfall and Wreath decided to outsource the war to other planets in the galaxy, fighting endless proxy battles in their never-ending war. One of those planets is called Cleave. That’s where Alana and Marko met. She was a soldier, he a prisoner, and they fell in love and escaped together. And they’ve been running ever since.
Hot on their heels are ram-horned magic users from Wreath and some sort of synthetic creature with what appears to be a TV set for a head. We don’t know much about them just yet, only that they’re on the side of Landfall and they enjoy kinky sex. On the other side is a bounty hunter called The Will who, along with his talking cat, is hired by a mysterious uni-horned woman named Vez to track and eliminate Alana and Marko, and to bring in their baby, unharmed.
Joining Vaughan on this journey is artist Fiona Staples, whose breathtaking artwork delivers both the grandiosity of an intergalactic struggle and the intimacy of two people becoming parents before our eyes. Staples exquisitely captures the emotions of Vaughan’s script, from the tears in Marko’s eyes as he becomes a father to Alana’s fiery passion as she swears not to cower and hide, and promises to show her daughter the universe. Her artwork is vibrant, detailed and brings to life an exotic world that once only existed in dreams.
Saga promises to deliver a grand, epic story anchored in the humanity of a young family that just wants to be left alone to raise their daughter in peace. I can’t recommend it more highly.
Avengers Assemble #1 (Marvel), by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley
With the big budget blockbuster The Avengers less than two months away, Marvel must have figured it was the perfect time to batter an unsuspecting populace about the head with yet another in an already crowded field of Avengers comics. Joining Avengers, New Avengers, Avengers Academy, Secret Avengers and Dark Avengers comes this utterly superfluous and pointless comic.
Avengers Assemble is ostensibly a team made up of the characters that will be appearing in this year’s Avengers movie (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury), but the comic also takes place in the regular continuity of the Marvel universe, so not only are the movie Avengers here, but so is every other character who has ever been an Avenger, most of whom get no introduction, making for a confusing mess.
In-between the boring, generic fight scenes, we’re introduced to a new group of villains who call themselves the Zodiac, after the astrological signs. Each villain’s power reflects one of the 12 signs and they’re going to destroy the Earth or something. I sort of stopped paying attention to the plot early on. It’s just so pedestrian and run-of-the-mill. Avengers Assemble feels rushed and Mark Bagley’s usually crisp artwork is muddied and dark. There’s no enjoyment in this book, which isn’t really surprising considering the only reason it exists is soulless corporate synergy. Reading a comic like this reminds me why the only Bendis book I read with any regularity these days is Powers.
The Secret History of D.B. Cooper #1 (Oni Press), by Brian Churilla
This book is so bizarre I’m not sure what I can say about it that will make any sense. D.B. Cooper jumped out of an airplane somewhere over the state of Washington in 1971 with $200,000 and disappeared. No trace of him was ever found. Churilla’s book purports that Cooper was part of a clandestine CIA experiment involving the human mind, which is appropriate, because this book reads like Churilla was on acid when he wrote it.
We’re quickly introduced to a gun-toting, one-eared talking bear who seems to be Cooper’s guide through a strange phantasmagorical dream that isn’t really a dream, but a form of astral projection. At least, I think that’s what’s going on. Because when Cooper kills a monstrous creature in the dreamworld by slicing its head in half, an upper-level Soviet operative is killed in the Kremlin in the exact same manner, only no one physically touches him.
Churilla’s artwork is as psychedelic as his story, awash in bright colors and distinctive creatures. Despite the otherworldly weirdness of The Secret History of D.B. Cooper, I enjoyed it a great deal. Much like The X-Files or Twin Peaks, the beginning is just that, introducing us to vast conspiracies and mysteries that will only be answered over time. I may be unsure of what’s going on in the first issue, but I liked it. And I’m looking forward to unraveling the mystery in issues to come.
Saucer Country #1 (DC/Vertigo), by Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly
Okay, that’s not quite the plot of Paul Cornell’s piercing, intelligent, highly enjoyable new Vertigo series, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that becomes a plot point later in the series. In this first issue, though, we’re introduced to the divorced Democratic female governor of New Mexico, Arcadia Alvarado, who is on the cusp of announcing her candidacy for president of the United States. The only problem is, she thinks she was abducted by aliens and that the aliens are planning to invade the planet.
In addition to Alvarado, the colorful, distinctive cast is rounded out by her alcoholic ex-husband, her chief of staff and would-be campaign manager, a college professor who only wants to believe and a Republican strategist Alvarado hires to help her win the White House. How all these threads tie together will be fun to watch, as will Cornell’s unique perspective on the American electoral system. When a candidate’s every utterance is parsed by the 24/7 media circus, how will Arcadia’s alien encounter play with the American people once it gets out?
Ryan Kelly, best known for his collaborations with Brian Wood on Local and The New York Four/Five, handles the art duties and he seems a perfect choice. His art is distinctive and clean, and his characters enjoy a range of emotion rarely seen in comics these days. As long as Cornell’s story continues to impress, Saucer Country could help return the Vertigo imprint to its lofty roots.
Top Picks of the Week
- Batman #7 (DC), by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
- Dark Horse Presents #10 (Dark Horse), by Various – Another great anthology of independent talent, including Steve Niles and Evan Dorkin, and this month is the final short story prologue of Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson’s The Massive, the first issue of which will be released in June.
- Heart #4 (Image), by Blair Butler and Kevin Mellon
- Prophet #23 (Image), by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy
- Wonder Woman #7 (DC), by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
(Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Ryan Kelly has difficulty hitting deadlines. This was an incorrect statement due to author error and we regret the misrepresentation.)
- WonderCon 2012: LUTHER – Free Digital Comic from Mark Waid (ifanboy.com)
- ‘Luther’: Mark Waid Goes All In on Digital With His (Free!) Experimental Zombie Comic (comicsalliance.com)
- WonderCon 2012: Mark Waid buys into digital, sells off his comics (herocomplex.latimes.com)
- WonderCon | A round-up of announcements from Friday (robot6.comicbookresources.com)
Tags: abductions, aliens, avengers, avengers assemble, brian churilla, Brian K. Vaughan, Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Wood, captain marvel, carol danvers, Comics, D.B. Cooper, DC, Fiona Staples, Image, Image Comics, Jamie McKelvie, kelly sue deconnick, Mark Bagley, mark waid, Marvel, ms marvel, Oni Press, paul cornell, Reviews, ryan kelly, Saga, saucer country, the secret history of d.b. cooper, ultimate comics x-men, ultimate comics xmen, ultimate x-men, ultimate xmen, Vertigo, wondercon, x-men, xmen