Warning: Possible Spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel’s The Avengers, and possibly a few comics. You have been warned.
A full trailer for Marvel and ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series premiered this week. The series – starting fall 2013 – features Agent Phil Coulson of the Marvel movie fame (reprised by actor Clark Gregg) and some younger S.H.I.E.L.D. agents dealing with various super-powered incidents. The series also stars Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, and – at least in one episode – J. August Richards playing a maybe-but-not-confirmed Luke Cage.
From this trailer, we’ve learned two key points of the series in its relation to the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe – the Marvel films made in line with Marvel’s The Avengers.
- Agent Coulson is alive after is questionable fate in Marvel’s The Avengers.
- This series takes place AFTER Marvel’s The Avengers.
I’ve heard the argument lately that Coulson’s rise from the supposed dead has taken the wind from the sails of the series and it’s dramatic potential. The argument is that Coulson’s not-death has rendered real-death meaningless, that all fan-favorite characters have the same immortality as the main titular ones. Sure, Iron Man or Captain America won’t die, but neither will their comrade in arms of lesser fame whose death gives them their final push to beat the bad guy and save the day. If they can’t die, then what about the damsel in distress, or the cute kid sidekick, or even the big bad itself everyone fawns over (looking at you, three-peat Loki).
What dramatic suspense is there when anyone with enough fan following gets a pass from the Grim Reaper?
Maybe I’ve been reading comics for too long (LIES!), but a character returning from death alone isn’t enough to faze me out of the story. We comic fans have gone through this time and time again. Superman, Jean Gray, all the X-Men, Jason Todd, Batman, Captain America, Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, Bart Allen, Norman Osborn, Spider clones, and more than I can count. DC’s 2009-2010 Blackest Night crossover comic and event is a huge joke on the premise of comic book characters returning from the dead.
Some returns from the dead are good, and some aren’t. It all depends on the story. Is it well written? Does the return make sense? Is the emotional impact still valid? If it’s still a good story, and if the original death story maintains its emotional impact, then bring it on.
Admittedly, the premise is a difficult one to pull off, but it can be done. For example, I really enjoy the (currently on Netflix) DC animated film Batman: Under the Red Hood (NOT the original comic version). The return from death is also a premise that shouldn’t be used too often, just as overplaying any story trope can kill that trope’s effectiveness.
Now let’s return to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Coulson. Given some of the suspicious aspects of the character’s ending in Marvel’s The Avengers, and my faith in Whedon’s storytelling, I don’t expect to be disappointed in the explanation of Coulson’s coming to be in this series. As long as it’s written and pull off well enough, I look forward to the everyman Agent Coulson character returning. Plus, I wouldn’t put it past Whedon to bring him back just to kill him again.
In the end though, anything’s better than a Superboy Prime reality punch…
Was there a character whose return from the dead you thought was handled well? Handled poorly? Why?
Are you looking forward to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this fall? Why or why now?
Recommended Viewing: Max Landis’ The Death and Rebirth of Superman
In retrospect, I feel I should have made last week’s column promoting Free Comic Book Day. Maybe even post twice last week. (*gasp*) Unfortunately, that is then and this is now, the week following Free Comic Book Day.
Really quick, what is Free Comic Book Day? The first Saturday in May, participating comic shops across the country and beyond give out specially-created free comic issues to increase awareness for the comic book medium and the shops that sell them. You can learn more from reading Free Comic Book Day’s FAQ, or just listen to Wolverine himself: Hugh Jackman.
I took a good tour of the local Nashville comic shops throughout the day, visiting Rick’s Comic City, The Great Escape Madison, and Comix City Too. While each one celebrated Free Comic Book Day, each one did it in their own way.
Rick’s Comic City, located in a strip mall in the Donelson area of Nashville, made the day a big event. Their free comics were outside on tables in front of the store, thankfully covered from the rainy day by an overhanging roof. RCC attracted several costumers and even local artists, such as Guy Gilchrist of the newspaper comic strip Nancy. The neighboring store in the strip that’s not typically part of RCC housed more merch and the artists who signed and gave drawing lessons. The store even gave out a ticket to exchange for more books for each $10 spent. (I picked up two copies of Iron Man: Extremis, which the third Iron Man film is partially based on.)
Instead of going the event route, The Great Escape Madison used the opportunity to show off their other merch. In addition to comics, TGEM also sells albums, movies, video games, toys, and collectibles. It’s a nostalgic trip of a store. Its free comics were in the back of the store, not hidden as signs and staff made their location clear. Their placement forced people inside the store to be enticed by their merchandise and take advantage of their 40% discount on used comics and trades. (You know I did.)
The same thing happened at Comix City Too, keeping its comics further back in the store. CCT showcased its table top gaming. In addition to comics, this store prides itself by serving fans of board games, card games, and pen-and-paper RPGs with extensive merchandise selection and regularly-hosted tournaments and game nights. If you’re a Warhammer fan, this is the store for you.
Despite the differences of these three stores – from making Free Comic Book Day an event all its own, using it to showcase a varied selection, or merging it with an already-established gaming event – each of these stores were packed in attendance. I had to wait an entire half an hour in line for the register at RCC, and the other stores had respectable crowds as well. I wish I thought to take some photos of the several friends and other cool people in costumes and show off how popular the day is.
Free Comic Book Day seems here to stay in Nashville’s comic shops, and I hope it was just as successful at your own.
What did you do for Free Comic Book Day?
What books did you pick up?
Beware anyone with scissors, glue, and a spare weekend.
As my fellow comic book fans are aware, we tend to collect a surplus of individual comic issues that we generally don’t care about. Usually because they aren’t that good or we have no interest in reading again. We often end up with a lot of incomplete story arcs and one offs because of this. (More recently, I’m looking at you, Rick Remender’s Captain America, but great work on Uncanny Avengers.)
What do you do with your leftover comics? Do you keep them in a long box, never to see the light of day again? Do you try to sell them, getting mere pennies back on your investment (if you’re lucky).
Over this weekend, inspired by a comic collage coffee table my roommate made with some of our comics, my girlfriend and I made comic collage posters!
What went into these?
- Old IKEA scenery poster boards
- Variety of my comics, admittedly heavy on the Marvel side
- Mod Podge matte waterbase sealer, glue, and finish
- 1″ paint brush
At the end, we turned one of these:
Into one of these:
Improvement? I’d say so. Classy and creative wall decoration? Definitely.
What do you do with your leftover comics?
Have you done any recent craft projects lately? If so, what?
I finally picked up a copy of 2012′s Superman: Earth One over the weekend at a local used media shop called McKay. I had already read through last year’s Batman: Earth One and enjoyed it. I figured with both on my shelf, now’s a good opportunity to discuss them with the blogging world.
In 2010, DC Comics began a new series of ongoing graphic novels called Earth One, which retells and reimagines the beginnings of classic heroes. If you know Marvel’s Ultimate line – started over a decade ago with Ultimate Spider-Man – then you’re familiar with the concept. The first was Superman in 2010, followed by Batman in 2012.
One special thing about these books is that they are published straight to hardcover book form. No monthly single issues. While I wouldn’t want all of my comics switched from monthly releases to yearly bound collections, I think it’s a good release format for several stories such as these.
Stand-alone miniseries like these don’t need a six-issue run when they can go straight to a collected release. If they get canned, at least what’s produced are still complete stories, instead of stopping a monthly title in the middle. Few things are worse in reading than starting a series that ends up canceled halfway through. If they’re a hit, then you make more (Superman: Earth One was a hit and already has a second volume that was also released in 2012).
Plus, only being released every year or two will help the Earth One cannon from becoming too convoluted. On that front, Marvel’s Ultimate line is coming dangerously close to being as crowded as Marvel proper.
To the books at hand though. I’ll start with Superman: Earth One.
Superman: Earth One
The book is written by J. Michael Straczynski, of Babylon 5 and Amazing Spider-Man fame, and drawn by Shane Davis. It tells of Clark Kent’s arrival in Metropolis to find what to do with himself, lost and aimless like many other early 20-year-olds. As both he and we find, part of the answer to that journey is to put on the classic blue and reds and become Superman. It’s a good piece to show the human side of the character, to help make Superman relatable. He’s afraid of going public with his abilities, of choosing to be an outcast just as he’s gotten good at fitting in.
I like this characterization of Superman, seeing the more human side of him. Superman is a hard character to crack, because he can do anything the plot calls for. In general, I prefer Clark Kent stories.
We also get reintroduced to the Daily Planet gang – Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and editor-in-chief Perry White. They’re mostly the same as expected, expanding on working at a newspaper in the era of declining print. I always like seeing more of the newspaper side of the Superman story, and this delivers. The book even includes a very ethically-questionable Superman interview by Clark Kent (whoever did he snag that one?) as an extra at the end.
The only knock I’ll give the book is a forgettable villain. Straczynski creates a nemesis names Tyrell from a planet neighboring Superman’s home world of Krypton. His people have been at war with Krypton for years, and here he comes chasing down the last survivor 20 years later. Being from the same solar system, he has almost identical abilities as Superman. Ultimately though, he has no real motive other than being a soldier carrying out his duty, and his defeat hardly feels satisfying. I don’t want this to be taken to mean that Straczynski and crew must pull from the tried and true rogues gallery, or else we’ll get the already-played-out likes of Lex Luthor and Zod. I’m fine with original villains (as Batman proves further down), but they need to work for their respect.
Batman: Earth One
Now, Batman: Earth One, by Geoff Johns and art by Gary Frank. Like the Superman one, this is the beginning of Batman. The Waynes are killed. Little Bruce sees it and swears vengeance. Jump to to the future, annnnnd Batman! Right off the bat (hehe), the first departure from DC proper is the eyes. You can see them through the mask, as opposed to the usual blank white eyelets that obscure the eyes of the man within the mask. It shows that this Batman is more human than the almost-superhuman machine that is the typical DC Comics Batman. He makes mistakes and gets the crap beat out of him, but ultimately, Bruce finds the Batman within himself.
The more intriguing aspect of this book is the Gordon/Bullock relationship. Two detectives who couldn’t be any more different, and not in the ways you’d expect. The culmination of them and eventually Batman in Arkham Asylum is a thrilling scene where Batman starts coming out on top as the hero he will eventually become. The villain in this scene, the original Birthday Boy, is a pretty sadistic sort, as Bullock finds out first hand.
This one’s down side depends on how attached you are to your expectations of the characters. This Bruce Wayne, this Batman, is more naive and vulnerable than even those of other Batman’s beginning tales. Take Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, for example. Bruce Wayne may get knocked around and make mistakes, but he’s still filled with conviction and certainty of his mission. This Bruce Wayne, however, has a steeper learning curve and takes a bit longer to recover when he gets knocked down.
Also a more controversial part of the story where someone kills a bad guy to save Batman may not jive well with some, as it may imply that Batman can’t do what he does without a gun and a death at times.
Overall with both books, despite not being perfect, I recommend them. For new readers, they’re good stand-alone stories, and if you like what’s in them, you should like the mainstay DC Comics titles too. Old readers will enjoy the break from ongoing stories to have a stand-alone tale they don’t have to invest months and months in.
DC thinks both books are worthwhile too. Superman: Earth One already has a second volume that was released in later 2012. Batman gets his sequel later this year. Supposedly, we’re getting Grant Morrison’s version of Wonder Woman: Earth One sometime soon as well. I hope this line continues for a while and lives up to the promise within these first two books.
What comic books would you recommend to fans of Superman or Batman?
On the latest CineGeek Webcast, we discussed Fox’s new effort for a Peanuts film. Peanuts, the comic strip by Charles Schulz, has inspired several memorable holiday specials, endless amounts of merchandise, insurance mascots, references in countless works, and so on. It’s also been running in newspapers every day since Schulz’s retirement and death, without a new strip being produced.
I’m not against Peanuts still running, but it’s an example of this post’s issue at hand: the staleness of Newspaper comics. This may very well only be a localized issue to me, but for the past 2 1/2 years I’ve been reading my city’s principal daily paper, and the daily comics page has the same comics today as it did 2 1/2 days ago.
Reruns or legacy titles, but for my newspaper, that’s all the comics page is. I’m a superhero comic fan, so I’m no stranger to legacy titles (no matter how often Marvel or DC restart issue numbers). But even I still pick up new titles. I even drop books I loose interest in. I try to expand my comic palate outside of just Avengers titles, and even those undergo creative changes. Most comic readers I know are the same in this, so why don’t newspaper comics cycle content out?
Here’s the questions for YOU, reader: Are newspaper comic strip readers so rigid that they don’t want change? Do syndication contracts papers use force such consistency? Is this lack of effort from newspapers dying out and worrying about other concerns? Or is this just my local newspaper? Is your paper different?
Here we have the extended promotional trailer for DC Comic’s New 52 initiative, where they reboot or create 52 titles in September. I’ve blogged about this before, but I find myself becoming less optimistic that this cheap gimmick will continue the stories I’ve been caring about lately or create anything that actually means something and lasts through the next eventual Crisis.
Does any of this sell you on DC Comics though? Do these trailers or any of the news you’ve heard made you care in the slightest? Is DC seeming to be achieving their goal in attracting a new audience, or do you seeing this falling on its face?
Maybe I’m just bringing my own biases into this, but I don’t see anything in this trailer selling the New 52 initiative. It’s familiar superheroes (mostly familiar with Superman in a tee shirt) beating up people and things. The shorter TV commercial is even less enticing. What’s new? What is the selling point of getting new and fallen-out readers to these books?
New books at #1 isn’t an irregular thing. Marvel essentially did the same thing with The Mighty Thor #1 and Captain America #1, yet these are not restarts or even soft reboots. These are new volumes, picking up at a fresh story for new readers while still embracing everything that has happened even within the previous issue of the last volume.
So why should I care, DC? Especially since you’ve screwed around with the Batman bits I was really digging, such as Dick and Bruce co-existing as Batman and Bruce Batman’s nifty new suit with the Bat signal chest. Why should I care? Why should the new and the old care? And why isn’t THAT in your trailers and commercials?
The real sticking point though is that DC pulls a quote from the New York Times to promote their initiative as being “audacious.” Let’s look at that for a moment.
1) Showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks
2) Showing an impudent lack of respect
Yeah, that fits.
The world was set ablaze earlier this month when DC Comics announced that they would be restarting or debuting 52 titles this September. Finally, with the announcement of Grant Morrison tackling the perennial super hero title Action Comics, the world now knows what books to expect this fall.
Restarts of long-running ongoing titles seem silly to me, simply a cheap marketing gimmick. So do revamps simply for the sake of revamps and for other reason. These first issues may be a good starting point for new readers, but they’ll be inconvenient or annoying interruptions for current ones. Not to mention that restarting a book for new readers is only a temporary fix, as the titles will become convoluted and impenetrable again within a couple of years. Is that really worth screwing up over 900 issues of continuous publishing?
With that said, this whole debacle presents specific opportunities and sadly dropped balls. Here’s what I picked out from my own views. What about you?
And yet again I missed a week. I didn’t actually buy anything last week, so oh well. At least I’ve had my last two twitter spree posts to keep you entertained. But now, it’s all about the comics, and with not getting last week’s books until this week, there are a lot of them. What did you pick up that I should check out?
I finally missed a week. Didn’t even make it to the big 1-0. Oh well. Now I get to put more titles in one post, including this week’s Pick of the Week. Did I miss something these past two weeks? Do you have a book you want to talk about? Talk about it in the comments.