Monday, 11 June 2012

Atoll Comics: Round 1.

Or Changes to My Top-Ten Comics

Due to poverty and an urge to buy better comics, I have decided to be super-selective about which superhero comics I read. Harnessing the Awesome Power of Maths, I have determined that I can afford to read 10 ongoing titles. So I get to read 10, and only 10, titles published by either Marvel or DC as well as one trade paperback a week of my choosing.

A complication of this is that I am forced to drop an on-going title if I want to try reading a new on-going title, an act of very tough love. Being financially responsible is the worst.

I will be adding Captain Marvel to my ten comic list and dropping Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers.

Why after the cut:

Why Captain Marvel?

It’s a book about a crack fighter jet pilot who gets superman level powers (limited invulnerability, super strength, flight, and energy projection) from interacting with a powerful alien empire. Over the years this superhero has been an avenger, had problems with alcoholism, and been put in a coma by a mutant terrorist. 

Sounds like a character ripe with potential, right?

Would it be a surprise to learn this character is Carol Danvers, the sometime Ms. Marvel? The blond woman who is usually one of the token lady avengers?

I guess what I am getting at here is that Carol Danvers, the new Captain Marvel, has way more character potential than how she typically gets used.1 As a fan of the character, I’m keen to see some of this potential realized and see Carol have her own good title. Furthermore, I tend to think it behooves Marvel to build up the portfolios of more of their female Avengers characters for migration to other media.

I’m also pretty excited about the creative team. I think the writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick, is fantastically talented and I’ve very much enjoyed her work at Marvel (Rescue One-shot, Sif One-shot, Osborn Limited-Series). I really think DeConnick has earned her shot at an on-going title.2 What I am most excited about though is how perfect DeConnick appears to be for writing Captain Marvel. From what I’ve been able to gather, DeConnick grew up on Air Force bases (where she encountered comics) and therefore has an understanding of Air Force culture. Inferring a bit from the kinds of things DeConnick has posted on her blog, it seems that she has encountered and overcome issues with substance abuse, which is another formative Carol Danvers event. Also, writing Captain Marvel appears to herald DeConnick’s shot at big league writing at Marvel, and making it as a big time superhero has often been a key theme to Carol Danvers. And, although I’m sure DeConnick is probably sick of having this pointed out, she is a strong feminist and a woman and therefore has a pretty good understanding that female characters should have all the agency, strength, and flaws of their male counterparts and that being female, while a character trait, is not a full characterization. Seriously, whoever at Marvel editorial made this happen is a genius.

I’m not super familiar with series artist Dexter Soy, but the preview pages of Captain Marvel look very nice. They have a kinetic, stylized quality that should be a good match for the series.

Why not Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers?

Sometimes I get reminded that there are several people who read comics who are not me and that comics publishing is ultimately a business.3 This frequently manifests itself when a title I really enjoys gets cancelled or terribly altered because the reading habits of the former affects the latter. The transition of Thunderbolts to 
Dark Avengers falls into that category for me.

My dearly departed Thunderbolts was a comic about a ragtag group of supervillains given a chance at redemption that proved comics can be fun without compromising maturity and dramatic tension (which is especially amazing given the thematic temptation to lapse into grit). It has been replaced with Dark Avengers mark II, which focuses on Hulk’s alien son, Clone-Thor, and six-armed-spidermanish guy with the same premise of supervillains given a chance at redemption. This happened for some kind of business reason, presumably for the increased sales of “avengers” titles or in an effort to capitalize on the success of the Avengers film. I’m not super interested in this book’s new starring cast (really, Clone-Thor?), and kind of find this top-down refocusing of the book kind of distasteful.

On the other hand, Jeff Parker and Kevin Walker and the rest of the Thunderbolts team are staying on the Dark Avengers book. They are an extremely talented bunch of creators, which makes me think that the book will still be quite good. I wasn’t initially sold on the premise of Thunderbolts, and it was their execution that made it such a pleasure to read. I wish them, and the new book the best of luck. That said, if I am going to only read ten comic books, is one really going to be about lil’ Hulk, Clone-Thor, and spider-whatever?

No, no it’s not.

If there is any silver lining to this whole thing is that I’ve discovered that Jeff Parker is a great writer and that he has been very prolific in at making independent comics.4  I will assuredly read (and review) more of his comics in the coming months.

This makes my current top ten list:

Captain Marvel
Fantastic Four/FF
The Flash
The Invincible Ironman
Ultimate Spiderman
Winter Soldier
Wonder Woman

1: I’d argue if Carol Danvers (F) was Clark Danvers (M) he would easily be one of the most important characters in Marvel’s line up. I really think Carol Danvers SHOULD be one of Marvel’s marquis characters (I’d suggest that she already IS, but that she just has to have the chance to shine).
2: Not a slight on Kelly Sue DeConnick in the slightest. New writers at Marvel, I’ve noticed, tend to come from elsewhere in the industry (indy books, editor, translating manga scripts, etc…), spend a period of time either co-scripting titles or writing one-shots/limited series, and only then get a shot at writing an on-going title.
3: Especially at Marvel and DC.
4: You can read his sexy-muderers mystery comic Bucko forfree online.

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