“I am good at cleaning up psiots. They taste sweet.”
Hey, hey, this is D. C., and I’m excited to throw down on some work this month. First is a strong favorite of mine: Valiant’s Secret Weapons, from the creative team of Eric Heisserer, Raul Allén, and Patricia Martín.
Any info on Secret Weapons?
I came into Secret Weapons knowing absolutely nothing about what came before. Secret Weapons was just one of many books published by Valiant Comics back in the 1990’s. With Valiant Entertainment’s revival (a very good one, I might add), the company has reintroduced many of those old books in various forms.
While the original book had a team of its more iconic characters like Bloodshot, the Eternal Warrior, and X-O Manowar, we now have a hidden set of psiots who were part of Toyo Harada’s Willows program.
Basically, a set of rejects whom Harada deemed had no useful abilities towards his goals.
In the aftermath of the series Harbinger, the psiots are public knowledge, and Harada’s own hardships in Imperium means the Willows have been abandoned. In the meantime, a patchwork creature called Rex-0 (I’m unsure if it is pronounced “Rex-zero,” or “Rex-O”…damn comics) is hunting Harada’s rejects. Why hasn’t been determined.
That’s inconsequential to Harada’s former protege, Livewire, who is trying to rescue the psiots and uncover Rex-0’s benefactor, who may be more sinister than Harada ever was.
I don’t think I’ve ever come across a book that had characters with relatively useless powers, and yet so endearing, funny, dynamic, and interesting all in one.
If you’ve read any of Valiant’s books that feature Livewire (Harbinger or Unity), you would know she is a powerful psiot. Still, she has not been the focus of this book, and thankfully so. But only two issues in, it is Nikki Finch and Owen Cho who shine.
With Owen, we quickly get an idea of his character, his background, and just the hilarity of his abilities. Owen conjures objects, but he has no control of when and what he conjures. Still, Eric Heisserer plans the usefulness of Owen’s uselessness very well in the first two issues. I couldn’t help but be surprised and pleased and how these innocuous items Cho conjured were used to escape danger.
Now…Nikki Finch, the psiot who speaks to birds.
She is a true gem. A skilled gymnast with a tough and courageous attitude, she is hard proof that your abilities alone do not make you a contender. Finch uses her innate and learned skills with finesse, fearlessness, and wonderful abandon. You can’t help but love her character. I feel she has great potential in the Valiant universe, thanks to Heisserer.
As for the art? Raul Allén and Patricia Martín work together well to generate an intriguing tale with Heisserer’s script. The art seems simplistic, but you can’t denigrate even simplistic art that pushes dynamics, emotion, and great physical action. This artistic team excels here.
Valiant’s revival of Secret Weapons leaves nothing to the imagination, and it is only two issues in. There is heart, actions, great characterization, and fantastic introductions given to a slew of characters. Again, Eric Heisserer proves his skill in tackling characters with useless abilities and makes them anything but. The art provided by Raul Allén and Patricia Martín help to weave a great tale that can only make one hopeful not just for the Secret Weapons, but for the future of Valiant.
Pick it up now.
“…once you start doing it, it changes your life forever.”
Wooo…it’s been too long. This is D.C. back to throw down once more (hopefully with more time devoted). Today? Marvel Comics’ The Unstoppable Wasp #7.
Continuing some impressions…
Kay wrote a praiseworthy account of the first few issues of Unstoppable Wasp, and I agree: Jeremy Whitley wrote a pretty interesting take on Nadia, the daughter of Hank Pym and the latest Avenger known as Wasp. It’s a quirky series about a scientific genius trying to start up an organization of young, female scientific geniuses. It really is an endearing and inspirational series for young women.
However, my biggest problem with the first six issues was the art by Elsa Charretier. It’s simply too childish, too amateurish, and too sub-par. Charretier can certainly invoke the quirky and silly theme of this series, but even a book presumably tailored to children can have fantastic art that even adults can laud. It’s too low a quality to bring this series to prominence.
Enter issue #7, which continues the concludes this arc, focused through the point of view of Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp (who’s currently starring in Mike Duggan’s Uncanny Avengers). Immediately, the art provided by Veronica Fish struck me. It was a swift breath of fresh air. It was simply better in every way. While simple and still encompassing the light nature of The Unstoppable Wasp, Fish’s art also fit the seriousness of Ying’s predicament. It was as if the adult eyes of Van Dyne needed the more adult pencils of Veronica Fish, and it delivered.
Veronica Fish provided strong emotive expressions in all of her characters, even through the masked face of the villain Whirlwind.
After basking in the euphoria of Fish’s art, I realized Jeremy Whitley’s writing likewise excelled. The focus on Janet Van Dyne allows even new readers to understand just who the original Wasp is, what her life is like, how she feels about herself, her critics, and–most importantly–of her stepdaughter Nadia. This issue was simply more mature tone, while maintaining the overall lightness, the comedy, and the dynamic moments (seeing Nadia using her Red Room skills was great). It is a tone that paid off.
The Unstoppable Wasp has been a fairly endearing and well-written series, but issue #7 was the freshness that was needed. Veronica Fish’s more mature art style keeps all the lightness and pleasantry of the series with zero downsides. Whitley’s writing takes a greater turn by setting Janet Van Dyne as the point-of-view character, and even Nadia’s character seems stronger than the childish naivete Whitley has penned her with since the start. Here’s hoping that this pleasant turn continues in the later issues.
“‘Tomorrow’ becomes yesterday.”
Hey, hey. This is D.C. back to throw down on another new series that hit last week, Marvel Comics’ Cable.
Who is this Cable?
Nathan Summers is the son of the X-Men’s (dearly departed) leader, Cyclops, and a clone of Jean Grey. An encounter with Apocalypse forced Nathan to be saved and raised in a dystopic alternate future by the Clan Askani, where he became a hardened warrior named Cable. Cable eventually traveled back to his original timeline, where he lead the New Mutants, X-Force, joined the X-Men, and raised the mutant messiah, Hope.
Marvel’s latest initiative RessurXion includes the third Cable series in the lineup, written by James Robinson and drawn by Carlos Pacheco.
I was hopeful going into this new Cable series, since James Robinson wrote an enchanting Scarlet Witch series just last year. With Pacheco backing him up on art, what could go wrong?
Turns out, plenty. Let’s see…
Plot. What plot? There is nothing good plot-wise. There are references to an individual Cable is hunting throughout time, but what about Cable’s motivations, thoughts? More importantly, what about who Cable is? I have intimate knowledge of Cable, but for the new reader with no experience with the character, this issue does absolutely nothing to get that kind of reader up to speed on who Cable is, what he’s done with his life, where he sees himself (heck, I don’t even know that), and where he is going.
Next to nothing on who he is hunting, why he is hunting him (a “device” is all?), and how he came across this character.
I understand not being given all the answers in the first issue, but this issue gives far too little to be understood. Here, Cable is simply doing. All action, few words, and no depth to his character or his motivations. Here, he is just a man hopping through time, fighting.
Oh, and getting his butt kicked at the end.
If Robinson was going to dredge out another played out version of Cable being a time-hopping tough loner, he could have at least made a more interesting beginning. I’m surprised to say that Robinson’s work here is woefully mediocre.
The only saving grace in this beginning issue is Carlos Pacheco’s art. It’s smooth, modern, and full of beautiful atmosphere and structures that are appropriate for their eras of time. The colors provided by Jesus Aburtov simply dazzle with Pacheco’s art, shimmering and darkening when necessary. These two a quite a pairing.
I can’t call Cable #1 anything but a worthless read and an even more worthless new beginning. I’m disappointed, given how well James Robinson’s Scarlet Witch run turned out. But here, it seems as if Robinson isn’t even trying with the time-hopping mutant. There’s nothing here to help a new reader understand Cable as a character; even a seasoned reader like myself find Robinson’s take seriously lacking.
Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Aburnov’s pencil and color combination is top notch here, but it’s simply not enough in the face of such shallow, mediocre writing. Robinson must invoke the skill he has shown in prior work and step it up.
“Because now I am proud of you.”
Hey, hey. This is D.C. here. I’m up to my ears in comics (preorders are good, but costly in time-management), but I had a hankerin’ to throw down on Marvel’s Infamous Iron Man.
With all the divisiveness over Riri Williams taking on the role of Ironheart and the erroneous belief that she is Iron Man, we have one Victor Von Doom, a new man from his experiences in Secret Wars, looking to make himself a better man by being Iron Man. With the kind of baggage and history Doom’s had, you can imagine he’s got his work cut out for him.
The first few issues of Infamous Iron Man had me intrigued. There’s something interesting about a reformation story, especially one involving a man like Doctor Doom. How will he succeed? How will he fail? Brian Michael Bendis took Von Doom on a very interesting, yet low-key, start to his journey. Alex Maleev’s art adds a dark, gothic feel to the armored sorcerer.
At least in the beginning.
Throughout the first issues, I was stil unclear as to why exactly Doom is targeting the other scientific villains, many of whom he felt a kinship to, as men who have squandered their talents. I doubt he killed any of them since–as always–a death unseen in comics is a death undone. Is Doom merely capturing them? Who can say? With Bendis’ lack of depth and introspection of Doom, it is hard to tell where he goes.
In Infamous Iron Man #5, Bendis adds a major kink in Doom’s path by reintroducing Cynthia Von Doom, Victor’s not-so dead mother. Why such a big thing is introduced in the middle of a vague redemption story isn’t entirely clear. Kay read this as well, and she felt that Bendis is throwing in too many different elements at once–Doom’s nascent heroism, the circumstances of Cynthia Von Doom’s return, why the events of Doctor Strange don’t seem to affect either Von Doom’s access to magic, the Maker, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s intentions with the conflict in Latveria, Amara Perera’s roles. I fear all this will muddy the overall storyline if too few things are brought in and unresolved.
While Maleev’s art still excels, one thing threw me off during the reunion fight between Doom and his mother: Why are Cynthia’s spells written with Greek letters and hiragana? Did they think that no one would catch that? Looking below on the top panel, and the hiragana don’t seem to mean anything; nor did the Greek letters. Maleev would’ve been better off making up his own glyphs for magical spells…
(However, if anyone can read Japanese, feel free to prove me wrong. Please.)
The big reveal of the Maker (the villainous Reed Richards of Earth-1610) at the end of the issue adds even more questions than perhaps was needed in this series, least of all is his relation to Cynthia Von Doom and his plans against the new Iron Man.
With Infamous Iron Man, I have the same problem I’ve had with Bendis’ other series, Invincible Iron Man. Bendis’ writing is much too sparse when writing Doom. Are we to assume that a man, a thinker, a genius like Victor Von Doom, doesn’t have a million thoughts of his path? That he doesn’t wrestle with his darker impulses, the desires he’s acted upon for some 50 years? Is he supposed to be the relatively quiet type, and we’re supposed to just go along for the ride as if that is sufficient?
I would appreciate knowing more about what’s going on in Doom’s head, especially how he sees himself and those who damn his attempts at heroism at every turn. And while Alex Maleev’s art is superb, it doesn’t suffice when words are lacking. Action can only carry a book so far. Bendis really needs to work on this in the issues to come, or I can’t see myself staying along for Doom’s rise…or his fall.
“This is life-or-death stuff you’re training for…and I’m not messing around.”
Well, into this new year, and the fictional world is still erupting in craziness. Real life, too, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s time to throw down!
First off, picking up from Kay’s praise of the first issue, is Marvel’s Invincible Iron Man #2.
This issue continues the saga of Riri Williams, the newest contender (or pretender, depending on who you talk to) to the legacy of Tony Stark. What Brian Michael Bendis excels at here is telling a simple story. Simply put: Riri undergoes rigorous training with her Tony Stark-based A.I. system.
I was charmed to see a hero who is both intelligent, but understandably incompetent. Riri has no idea how to think on her feet in the heat of battle, but she manages a victory by the seat of her pants. She was inelegant, clumsy, and hardly what one would see as a “badass heroine,” but she got the work done the only way she knew how. Riri obviously has much to her learn,but her potential was made very clear in a very good way.
Building on the highlight of this issue was Bendis’ continued intersection of Riri’s background with her present activities. After the events of last issue, we learn the emotional hardships death has had in both Riri’s and her mother’s lives. I was almost disturbed by Riri’s questioning the doctor regarding both her stepfather and her friend’s deaths, but in a good way. It shows that Riri has depths of her personality we have yet to experience…depths that, at her age, could easily lead her to one side or the other of heroism. Near the flashback’s end, we get a simple television clip that shows Riri’s inspiration. We see what has happened in her past and her present, but Bendis is clearly building the in-between, and just how she comes to her first appearance.
Well done, Bendis.
Artist Stefano Caselli and colorist Marte Garcia continue to work their magic to make a commendable issue on a fledgling hero. The times we see Riri’s face is where Caselli excels at emoting our protagonist. She is both stoic, confused and pained, all at once in the flashback. It works so well.
I have a strong personal opinion that captions can enhance a story in many ways. It may be seen as an archaic and dying practice, but captions can aid in the reader understanding who the character is more than just what we see them do.
I feel that the absence of captions in Bendis’ work was a true detriment this time around. While I enjoyed this issue, I feel that there was a missed opportunity to truly understand Riri when it mattered most: during her training and to intersect her thoughts now with the flashback. We see much of Riri’s actions, but what about her feelings, her thoughts, her rage? For a character no one really knows about, I think she could’ve been cared about even more if Bendis were to dig into his character, to throw out those emotions to the reader.
Like I said, i think it was truly a missed opportunity to elevate an otherwise good story.
Invincible Iron Man #2 continues to pump up Riri at a good pace. Bendis wrote a great and sufficient tale of Riri’s struggles as a hero, only made better by the art by Caselli and Garcia. I do believe that Bendis really dropped the ball at the chance to provide greater depth to Riri, but the story still served to set up both the protagonist’s capabilities and the potential rogues gallery to come. I look forward to what comes next, and what improvements Bendis may bring. And I hope you do, too.
“And sometimes one is simply one.”
Hej hej, all. This is D.C. back from a long hiatus (read: My day job kept me extremely swamped).
Kay and I had spent the last month reading and collecting comics and films. While our eyes viewed many, few stuck out that garnered an extensive review. That has changed in the last couple of weeks, so the first of many throwdowns will be the two-part storyline in Superman, Super Monster.
Is this YOUR Superman?
For many, yes. This may be DC Comics’ New 52/Rebirth era, but this appears to be the pre-Flashpoint era Kal-El, here to fill the void left by the New 52 Superman’s death. With wife Lois Lane and son Jonathan (Superboy), Superman continues to find his place in this unfamiliar world, complicated by the ominous presence of Mr. Oz.
Superman’s saga continues in Superman #12-13, which covered the Super Monster arc, with the review focused on issue #13.
Writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason (who’ve worked together on Green Lantern Corps) write a fast-paced tale that has just about everything: a seemingly-ordinary day for Lois Lane; a fun and satisfying scuffle between Superman and S.H.A.D.E. agent Frankenstein; and an appropriate resolution to a short arc. Even Lois got a small spotlight taking a shot at the arc’s antagonist. Tomasi and Gleason’s inclusion of both Frankenstein and his Bride and their emotional baggage in this arc worked out very well without overstaying their welcome.
The strongest dialogue by Tomasi and Gleason here was rooted in the poetic exchanges between Frankenstein and the Bride, which oozed animosity, love lost, and even a bittersweet and pained longing that is apparent in both characters. It’s complicated and very relatable. The most impactful line was near the end of issue #13, where the dead Frankenstein confesses his very human feelings to his former Bride. Her response and his reaction cuts hard and deep.
Doug Mahnke’s art, aided by bright and vibrant colors (why so many colorists for one issue?), works well for the most part. The emotive responses related to each character went well with the script, even the nuances etched in the dull, dead faces of Frankenstein and the Bride.
I hadn’t been very pleased with this Superman series–particularly with regards to Jonathan and the depiction of the Eradicator–but Super Monster was a very good arc.
Some issues I had, though…
Tomasi and Gleason seemed to be confused with regard to the fugitive warlord Kroog. There were repeated alternations between identifying Kroog as male or female. Why? There’s no indication that Kroog is a shapeshifter of nebulous gender. I’m not sure if Tomasi and Gleason were trying to imply the fluid gender, or were confused themselves in the depiction of Kroog.
The Bride’s exchange with Lois was a bit off when it came to explaining the death of hers and Frankenstein’s son. The Bride explicitly stated, with regards to her son:
“We tracked him down in Europe, where he was wreaking death and destruction.”
Yet two panels later, the Bride says:
“…And I killed him before he could kill others.”
Perhaps I’m being a bit pedantic, but…how does one stop one from killing, if he was already wreaking DEATH and destruction already? It’s a small thing, but it was, to me, no less inconsistent.
While the dialogue between Frankenstein and the Bride was emotional and potent, I do feel that Tomasi and Gleason missed a golden opportunity to bring that dialogue back into the the thoughts and actions of Superman and his feelings towards both Lois and Jonathan. There was no introspection on Superman’s part, no thoughts on the meaning of his allies’ relationship, and how fragile and easily breakable his own family is. Without that introspection, even in caption form, the last several panels lack any real impact to me, other than hammering the point that this version of Superman and his family is “perfect” for DC’s Rebirth initiative.
Hammering “perfection” isn’t moving, and really did diminish the full effect I desired.
The Super Monster arc in Superman was a quick, isolated team-up tale that was both effective and exciting. While it didn’t serve a specific “goal” towards the overall events of Rebirth, it was a good filler that reacquainted Superman with more characters.
There was some blips in Tomasi and Gleason’s writing, particularly with regard to antagonist Kroog and the full emotional takeaway of the arc, but it was a satisfying read.
“MAKE. THEM. PAY!”
Welcome again, all. This is D.C. back to throw down on one of the more tongue-in-cheek choices I’ve made during the LA Comic Con this past weekend.
Who is Deathlok?!
In nearly all incarnations, Deathlok was the amalgam of (dead) flesh and metal, proposed to be the ultimate war machine. Deathlok has always been a hero with its biological and technological personae at war with one another in some form. Two of Marvel’s best known incarnations were Luther Manning and Michael Collins. However, many others from both the mainstream and alternate universes have used the moniker Deathlok, which, in my eyes, have added to the complicated history Deathlok. The most recent incarnations were Deathlok Prime from Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force and Henry Hayes.
With my limited experience with Deathlok as a whole (minus Uncanny X-Force–fun run!), I figured now was as good a time as any to learn about him.
Deathlok the Demolisher is a 7-part story under the Marvel Knights imprint, centered around an alternate future where Roxxon Corporation rules, and the world enjoys bloody warfare as a sport. Only the most brutal soldiers get the highest pay and greatest fame.
Charlie Huston wrote an action-packed and somewhat engrossing tale that gave insight our protagonists, the disciplined Luther Manning and the impulsive Mike Travers. Seeing the two characters interact throughout the story was good, if only to see how they can come to terms with one another in this profane culture.
However, the story was bogged down more than once by the incredibly dense dialogue Huston employed. I enjoy real dialogue in my books, and at times Huston wrote with comedic and wild effect. Still, there certainly was too much weighing down the story, especially with regard to Deathlok’s creator.
The tone is what you might expect of a future in which one company rules and dictates entertainment through warfare. It was alarming, cautionary, and rings reminiscent of our own culture now. A page of Mike Traver’s commercials is ridiculous and, in retrospect, a massive jab at advertisement and media as a whole.
I only wish that the profanity were written explicitly, with how often the pound signs were used. But it was a Marvel Knights imprint, and there were rules.
While the story’s conclusion was more open-ended, it also had a very good finish to who this Deathlok is and what his world was, is, and might be. Perhaps it was because of the dense script, but I found myself lost as to the exact reasons Deathlok was able to cure this malady the disenfranchised anarchists suffered from. Still, it was a decent conclusion for what the story told.
Lan Medina did a great job capturing the overall tone, detail, and attitude of this story. At times, it’s dynamic, other times brutal…and still other times, just vile. It was a very satisfying mixture that meshed well.
Death scenes were utterly brutal and gratuitous–a perfect reflection of this dystopic and chaotic world. Medina really pulled out the stops in both landscape and character design, where the characters all look distinct and have their own personalities thanks to Huston. So much was put into this miniseries that it was amazing Medina’s art did not suffer throughout. More than once a panel caught me so off-guard that I’d exclaim, “Holy shit!”
This is truly art and script complementing one another.
Deathlok the Demolisher is a good book for anyone looking for an introduction to the core character of Deathlok. It is an action-packed and brutal tale of identity and independence. While parts of the story are incredibly heavy in dialogue, Charlie Huston and Lan Medina work a very satisfying graphic tale together.
Hey, all. It’s D.C. here just to throwdown on a discussion. My apologies for no reviews this week, but out-of-town training can keep you from reading as much as you’d want.
With X-O Manowar at an end last week, Valiant Entertainment has lost its flagship title, the book that helped restarted the Valiant Universe.
The question now is: Which new title will pick up the torch? Can a new title stand on the same level as that of X-O Manowar?
It’s my opinion that have a flagship title is great for any publisher. It’s something that helps drive or focus the overall universe or theme of the publisher in some form, if they are trying to create a cohesive universe. For Marvel, it was (supposed to be) Invincible Iron Man–though with the Marvel Now! initiative, that’s now up in the air. I fear Marvel’s seeming lack of focus will be detrimental. DC’s flagship could arguably be Justice League (certainly not Batman–his tone is too divergent for the overall DCU). IDW has Transformers.
With Valiant, the next title in this new phase of the universe seems very much up in the air, even with continuing titles Ninjak and Wrath of the Eternal Warrior. Let’s take a look at our potentials:
1. Faith: Faith might be the quintessential optimistic heroine, bringing hope and innocence to the gray, harsh world of Valiant, she doesn’t quite strike me as a flagship title. I’ve yet to read the first 3 issues I have of this series, but from what Kay told me (she hasn’t warmed up much to the series), this book isn’t expansive enough to help build the world of Valiant in the same manner as X-O Manowar.
2. Harbinger Renegades: This is the closest book I can see that will herald the next phase of the Valiant Universe. The first Harbinger series was great, and now that the spin-off series Imperium ended on a somber note, we need to see how the world still handles the threat of Toyo Harada. Peter Stanchek’s return is sorely needed. And for the Renegades to find themselves, their growth may tie in to the overall growth of Valiant and the rise of new heroes, villains, and organizations. Interestingly enough, the black woman in the background has yet to be revealed, but I can only think it’s Unity’s Livewire. How will she tie in to the group and its overall destiny?
3. Britannia: No way. This miniseries is set so far in the past. But it’s with great hope that the world’s first detective will shed more light in Valiant’s past. Perhaps we’ll see something related to the Vine or the Anni-Padda brothers…or perhaps a later event?
4. Savage: Another 4-part miniseries that we can cut off the headliner list. Savage has been hailed as the Turok series that Valiant has been missing. With crazy and striking art, this mini’s already been stated that the series will integrate into the overall Valiant universe. How that will happen is anyone’s guess. This is probably the book I most look forward to.
5. Generation Zero: I’ve read the first issue of this series, but I have so little to say about the wayward psiot children that debuted in Bloodshot. I’m not sure where this series is supposed to go, or how much of the Valiant universe it’s supposed to unveil, but there were some very interesting twists just in the inaugural issue. If the other children of Generation Zero show up, and if this series keeps up the momentum, I can see some very unsettling facets of the Valiant Universe being revealed to us.
6. Bloodshot Reborn: Nah…Bloodshot’s world is far too psychotic and gritty to make the tone of Valiant. Bloodshot Reborn has been a great follow-up to the psiot killer’s first series and The Valiant (and I’d say a little better–pick up the first 3 volumes if you hadn’t), but this chaotic anti-hero strives too hard to be away from the general world. However, with the upcoming event Bloodshot U.S.A., Bloodshot’s place in the Valiant Universe is growing–but is that a good thing? Wait till we see the chaos that will come.
7. Rai: Holy damn, what a good ending to Rai with the event, 4001 A.D. But since this series won’t come back until January, we can rule out this one as a flagship. However, when it returns, it should continue to flagship the future of Valiant now that new heroes (a Loa related to Shadowman, the nonhuman Bloodshot, the War Mother, the geomancer and the Eternal Warrior) have risen to join Rai and the fallen New Japan. If you haven’t read this series or it’s conclusion, 4001 A.D., I strongly suggest you pick up all the books.
8. Divinity III: Stalinverse: This has been one of the more intriguing lines coming out soon. I haven’t read Divinity II yet, but the first book was very captivating. But this one details a warped world that only Ninjak knows to be wrong. As for the titular character…where is he, will he aid or antagonize Ninjak, and how will these events drive the rest of the Valiant Universe when all is said and done?
So, for now….the idea of a Valiant flagship title is uncertain, as is the overall direction of the future going in. Still, these titles all appear exciting in some way. I can only hope that Valiant continues to push the envelope and develop other corners of its still-nascent world.
And I hope you’re looking forward to it, too.
“…And I’m nothing…Nothing but a pretender.”
Hey, all, it’s D.C. to produce after a short hiatus. Work and life got in the way in too many ways, but we’re back to catch up and throw down on all we’ve read.
I am glad that I have branched out my tastes in recent years. It helps train that mental palette to see what’s really of worth out there in the literature and graphic world. Unfortunately, I made a mistake reading Marvel’s only trade of Starbrand and Nightmask:
For those unfamiliar with the characters, Starbrand and Nightmask for characters from one of Marvel Comics’ more popular alternate universe brands, New Universe (and its similar “revival,” newuniversal). They are two of a series of beings that emerge when a planet is on a growth of universal proportions. The White Event producees, among others, a Starbrand–the earth’s planetary defense system, endowed with staggering power–and a Nightmask, which serves as the Starbrand’s guide and conscience.
College student Kevin Conner mistakenly received the Starbrand during Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers run, with the “perfect human” Adam becoming the Nightmask, during a broken White Event. In this cancelled Marvel run, creative team Greg Weisman and Domo Stanton decide to take the cosmically powdered duo to college to connect with humanity.
I was very much on the fence with reading this series on premise alone. Jonathan Hickman’s modern take on these two characters was fantastic. But for Greg Weisman to take them to college to connect with humanity? How often, and for how long, has a premise like that ever worked for characters of such a high power set.
Well, I can see the reason why, but I would have hoped Starbrand and Nightmask would not have to go to college (and those of us who went, know what it’s like) just to connect with humanity. You don’t see Hyperion running off to community college in his solo series to understand humans.
But with most things, I wanted to see if my instincts were wrong, so I bought Volume 1: Eternity’s Children (Attend University).
No. I don’t have any. Really.
If there’s any saving grace here, it is that Greg Weisman mostly kept Nightmask true to his character: the stoic adviser to the Starbrand. That is all.
Writer Greg Weisman. He is another example of a writer who does not research the characters he is chosen to headline. Starbrand and Nightmask were given foundations via Jonathan Hickman. Kevin Conner, from what I read, was a young man barely growing into his role as the broken planetary defense system, an unworthy person granted cosmic power. Still he shows a quiet eagerness to be a team player and grow into his role. He whined a little bit, but when your first power spike causes massive death and destruction of an entire school, how would you carry yourself?
Weisman’s take on Starbrand was both grating and disappointing. Wiesman took this uncertain yet adjusting young man and turned him into a generic character with a distinct millennial streak. Starbrand wasn’t one to use the word “Dude,” especially to address Nightmask, but Wiesman has Kevin using that word so often. It’s like he was trying too hard to be one of the other kids. To that end, he lacked any individuality Hickman brought to Starbrand.
The plot was abysmal. To a certain extent, I can understand Starbrand needing to reconnect with his humanity in the wake of exploring his cosmic level powers. Even the premise of this arc was ideal: other cosmic aspects desire to kill Starbrand in order to destroy the earth, so–surprise, surprise–the universe would meet its rightful death.
Now, the problems I have with that premise is this: after Secret Wars, in which we saw the reconstruction of the multiverse, why would there be forces trying to prematurely destroy the universe again, even when the in-story explanation was that the universe’s death was not to be for millennia to come? It just didn’t come to fruition at all.
The activation of a White Event in other parts of the universe was touched on, but it made for a shoddy story. By now we should have some understanding of why White Events occur, but how what happens when two White Event analogs meet? Weisman brings in a Kree Starbrand to answer this question, and this results:
What was that, indeed?
It was another adolescent and ill-defined turn: that the White Event analogs inexplicably desire to mate as a failsafe against one another. Why a failsafe? Why an attraction? What would that serve, and why would the universe risk progeny of galactic proportions as the proper failsafe? What if same-gendered analogs (two male Nightmasks, for example) met up? This “failsafe” was just thrown in there as if it were panacea for the bad storyline already unfolding.
Speaking of ill-defined: the supporting cast was passable (nothing worth noting), but to write off Kevin’s attraction to one girl as having originated from her being the originally-destined Starbrand? How could Nightmask know that just from a conversation with a classmate? How did Nightmask even know the criteria needed to be a Starbrand? Why weren’t we, the readers, given better insight into this before it was just thrown out there as more panacea? More importantly, why is the fact that she was to be Starbrand fitting for her being attracted to the current Starbrand, and vice-versa?
None of this even made half-assed sense.
Now that I’ve exhausted myself on Greg Weisman’s immature writing, let’s discuss artist Domo Stanton.
Just awful. Starbrand may be 20 years old, but why is he drawn as if he’s 13? It was such an eyesore to see such childish, cartoonish art on characters that exude NOTHING resembling childishness. Stanton just made Starbrand foolish by way of his pencils. This sort of art may work for Power Pack, Howard the Duck, or Squirrel Girl, but not for the serious side of the Marvel Universe.
What could’ve been better?
So much, simply put.
For one, Weisman could’ve just written a better premise. To hell with going to college to connect with humanity. Just going to a place where loss of control is almost guaranteed? It sounded like a recipe of disaster to have two cosmically-powered young men going to a place where bad decisions happen. What if Kevin got trashed or emotionally unstable and blew up this school?–granted, he DID get drunk, and it is surprising that he didn’t lose control of his powers at that time.
But to continue…much better scripts would’ve explored the White Event more, what components of the White Event were needed and missing (ie: Justice, Cipher, Spitfire), and what those missing components mean for the ascension of Earth on the scale it was meant to.
Nightmask’s extent of humanity could’ve been explored, as well as his relationship–or lack thereof–with his creator, Ex Nihilo–who, at this point, has not been shown, even though every other major player during the incursion saga returned alive.
Bringing Captain Universe back would have been a good move, too, for allowing Starbrand and Nightmask to explore the entire universe to gain some much needed maturity and perspective on their roles.
Not to mention the art. There needs to be art that benefits the elements and personalities of the characters. You can’t just dab on a cartoonish artist with cosmic-level protectors and pretend that it would work.
Starbrand and Nightmask had all the potential of a great, existential series. However, an adolescent premise, poor understanding, and piss-poor execution by Greg Weisman made this series deserving of cancellation. Too many plot elements were thrown in for no good reason, and it just made for a terrible read. Domo Stanton’s likewise adolescent art retards any aesthetics of the characters developed from Jonathan Hickman’s incursion saga. Together, this creative team made this series an arduous chore to get through (seriously, it took me a week or so to read it).
This was a poor, poor series to read, and I don’t recommend it to anyone. I have hopes that a much more mature writer and much better artist could bring these characters back into focus and to new heights.