Welcome to the Bin
I’ve been out of the comic book game for a while now, but have wanted to get back into collecting for some time.
When you’ve been away for so long (hint: I dropped off back when Marvel was in the middle of a Civil War and DC was recovering from Infinite Crisis vis a vis 52) how do you know where and when to jump back in? Thankfully a series of recent events have pushed me back in the direction of the comic bins, and I’m finding my way. So with this double-sized post I’m kicking off a new themed column called “From the Bin.” Enjoy.
Blame the Kid
First, I’m raising a comic book nerd. My daughter has a growing interest in comics ever sense she accompanied me to a screening of Thor. She found the trailer via the Flixster iPhone app, and had a dozen questions about the Norse God of Thunder. Eventually this lead to the penultimate question, “Daddy, will you take me to see Thor?” I knew it was a gamble. Branagh was hired on specifically to bring a staged feel to the film, so I knew there would be stretches of dialogue-rich banter between Thor and his paterfamilias. How would she fair during these sequences? In the end, she made it through loving the film and the characters, which has been odd for me because while I certainly enjoyed Thor’s involvement in The Avengers, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Thor books in standalone. The Warriors Three? That’s another story.
Whatever, it got her into the idea of comics, so who’s complaining? Certainly not me.
We took another gamble on X-Men: First Class. I was worried about the violence here, but she really enjoyed it overall. I’d think twice about showing her films like this if she didn’t leave asking the right questions. For example, after Thor she latched onto the problems Thor faced around listening to his father, and learning to be responsible for his actions. In X-Men she totally latched onto the themes of difference and tolerance.
Next up was Captain America, and in between the films I showered her with some comic book influenced content. We scoured the web for classic Kirby covers, especially those with Cap facing off against the Red Skull. I pulled some old comics out of my long boxes to give here. I wanted to get the feel of the pulpy page between her fingers, and even though these were throwaway issues, I made sure to pull ones with Thor and Beast, two characters she seemingly identified with from the films. These were totally garbage issues, so who cares if she thrashed them? In addition to comics, she started asking for Spider Man cartoons. The entire 1967 collection of Spidey cartoons are available on Netflix, so viola!
After Captain America she started asking for more comics, so I decided it was time to get back into collecting. The rules? She has to learn to care for her books.
Picking Our Books
So today we went to a couple comic shops. I love Illusive Arts, so we eventually ended up back over there. She gravitated to Cap, Thor, and Spidey. I helped her find a few age appropriate books, and she tossed in an issue of Megamind for good measure.
I, on the other hand, had far more trouble choosing which books to pull, and where to jump back in. With a slew of broad Avengers titles, where does it make sense to start? Mighty? New? The straight Avengers line or Avengers Academy? Seriously? I wanted to dive back into Brubaker’s Captain America run, pulling back issues to catch up, but then it looks like Cap is rebooting with a new #1 and Brubaker at the helm.
Speaking of reboots, DC is relaunching their entire line in two weeks, so what’s the point in catching up? Might as well wait for the relaunch and pick a few books to follow…right?
After pacing Illusive in indecision for a half hour, I finally spoke up and asked for some pointers, and I think I landed in a good spot. Daredevil has been rebooted with Mark Waid at the helm, so I snagged that. I also grabbed the aforementioned Captain America, and Bendis’ Moon Knight #1. To top it off, I grabbed the second printing of Fear Itself #1 just to get a taste of the latest big Marvel event. Let’s dive into my reviews.
Note: I’m fully aware that the following books are not all new releases. As time goes on I’ll get caught up with newer releases, so bear with me.
Moon Knight #1
Bendis has been talking up a Moon Knight run for what seems like forever now, but apparently 2011 was the magic number for Marc Spector. Earlier this year Bendis and Maleev teamed up to relaunch Moon Knight, and the first issue delivers in several ways. I’ve always been a fan of this creative team — the work they did back on Daredevil never disappointed, and Maleev’s pencils are perfectly suited for Bendis’ grittier urban tales. Here we see a less photo realistic take to the art, and instead we get more of a raw, sketched looking world to play in. It’s a change, but I think it suits the direction the team is taking the characters in. This sketchier look seems to flourish when were drenched in street sequences at night, and becomes more traditional when elements of realism are introduced.
The relaunch begins with what feels like a re-imagining of the Spector origin, but then quickly shifts gears to reveal that it is exactly that. This is one of those unique Bendis flourishes — he plays with the audience in a way few writers do. For example, one would expect a formulaic re-telling of Moon Knight’s origin at the open of a relaunched title, especially when a creative team wishes to take established characters in a new direction. Bendis knows this and delivers on these expectations only to turn the tables on the reader. Spector, once a mercenary left to die, is now a Hollywood producer. His latest work is a re-telling of his own origin as Moon Knight. I suppose the phrase “hiding in plain sight” applies. What does this accomplish? A redefinition of the title character, but without some of the hairier retcon issues this industry typically falls prey to.
Bendis is at his best when weaving smartly interconnected references between plot points, and there are plenty here for fans.
He’s quick to remind us of Moon Knight’s role as an Avenger, setting the stage for Cap and the rest of the team to get involved on the West Coast as needed. Any Bendis critic would immediately jump at the chance to throw stones at this, claiming that Bendis is all too quick to pull these characters into a larger team arc. The formula: Take dated underused character, freshen them up, and toss them into a conspiracy yarn tying them to The Avengers. Continue to play in the comfy confines of that sandbox without stretching your creative muscles.
I get the criticism, although I tend to enjoy his work, but this is one of those cases that proves he’s a smarter writer than critics give him credit for. All the pieces are in place for a genuine Bendis conspiracy mystery right from the onset. Criminals are moving West to avoid the hero rich streets of the East Coast, but exactly which criminals are setting up camp remains unknown. A sly reference to Batman, and the countless fanboy arguments over whether Moon Knight is really just Marvel’s cheap knock off answer to the Dark Knight, and we’re knee deep in the makings of a procedural.
The mood is totally set by Maleev here, anything and everything could happen with the turn of a page, however Bendis is clearly toying with us via several hints dropped in dialogue between thugs. If, like me, you somehow managed to miss this book when released, I’ll refrain from spoilage. But know this, the book pulls a solid yet unexpected hook in the end, and I cannot wait to see how the mystery of the West Coast Kingpin plays out. Read, and then re-read those closing pages. Then flip back to the books opening and feel like the pawn that you are. Yes, its that good, and if this is any indication this book should be an excellent ride.
Captain America #1
Ed Brubaker’s first pass on Captain America was revitalizing. Not only did it do the unthinkable with the Winter Soldier, it pulled from nearly all aspects of Cap’s history. Throughout the first arc I anticipated the appearance of Baron Zemo, and with this series the villain is back to wreak havoc. Ultimately this is right in line with Brubaker’s previous take on the hero. Weaving nostalgia with modern story lines, the book is delicately spun together in a watt that commands your full attention. This is a no-brainer for Cap fans.
Matt Murdock is no stranger to turmoil. When I last left the red devil he was up to his ears in personal grief and public disgrace. His identity compromised, Matt has spent his time contemplating his return. Perhaps the easiest title to jump back into thanks to Mark Waid’s take on the Hell’s Kitchen attorney, I’m happy to find Matt in a new mindset. The opening sequence dives right in as Daredevil takes on The Spot at a mafia wedding and ends up on the front page of the morning paper while locking lips with the bride to be. Not a subtle return to the life.
But here’s where things could get potentially interesting. Matt’s costumed exploits prove problematic in the court room, and after a tip from the DA he sets off to investigate why his client has had such trouble finding a lawyer to defend him. This isn’t a jaw dropping beginning to the series, but it is a solid take on Murdock’s return to the spotlight.
What I did find engrossing was the visual language being toyed with throughout the book. Matt’s encounter with The Spot is engrossing, and the switch from our perspective to Matt’s radar enhanced POV is a refreshing take on the power. The real treat came in the additional bonus story packed in at the end of the book. In this yarn we get an additional peek into the changing dynamic between Matt and his oldest friend, Foggy Nelson.
Matt’s new attitude is a change in direction for the character, and if not totally drastic it is certainly logical. Conflicting personal relationships are bound to arise due to his new carefree attitude, and this simple tale plants those seeds well. Additionally, the art in this bonus story is really amazing. We follow the pair through the streets and subways of Hell’s Kitchen, while seeing subtle hints at the sounds and smells triggering Matt’s actions. The panel layout is as much a character here as the two principles, and it really is a delightful read. I hope we get more of that sort of playful storytelling in the issues to come.
Fear Itself #1
The only thing I fear is a summer event that fails to deliver. It doesn’t appear that Fear Itself is on that track, but with only one issue deep the verdict is still out. That said, this first issue is ripe with excellent conflict between Thor and Odin, the all-father. Rightfully so, as the crux of the villainous build centers around the sins of Odin, and someone else claiming to be the true all-father.
I loved portions of this book, but the taste of the two punch House of M / Civil War is still strong in my mouth. I’m wary of big events coming out of the big M house, so I’m treading lightly here.