guardians_of_the_galaxy_movie_posterWe have safely returned from San Diego Comic-Con 2014, so Amanda and I do a final postmortem of the experience… as we prepare to turn right back around to attend and cover Boston Comic Con next weekend.

We also discuss:

  • The new Guardians of The Galaxy movie and how it is one of Marvel Studios best… while still not being perfect,
  • Guardians of The Galaxy #17, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Nick Bradshaw and Michael Avon Oeming, and
  • Fatale #24, written by Ed Brubaker with art by Sean Phillips!

And now, the legalese:

  • This podcast is recorded live to tape. This might mean more pauses and rough spots than you might be used to in a comics podcast, but it also means that anything can happen.
  • This show contains spoilers. While we try to warn before dropping them, be aware that they might come at any time.
  • Amanda and I use adult, profane language, and therefore this show is not safe for work. Dr. Dre didn’t spend 18 bucks on research and development for you to listen to podcasts on speakers.

As an aside, this episode is our first show as a member of the Comics Podcast Network. It’s a cool site that features nothing but podcasts about comics and comic culture. We’ve found a few killer shows there that we like listening to, and we’re excited to be joining their ranks. Check them out to find other viewpoints about our favorite hobby!

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Enjoy the show, suckers!

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tmp_velvet_1_cover_2013-1460258355When reading the first issue of Velvet, the new spy comic written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Steve Epting, you can almost hear the creators saying, “You know what would be fucking awesome? If Miss Moneypenny was actually the baddest motherfucker who ever walked in or out of M’s office. Now pass that thing over here before it goes out, willya?”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Velvet is a spy comic set back in 1973, when the Cold War was running full blast, men were men, women were secretaries, and spies were dapper motherfuckers with laser wristwatches and cars that turned into submarines.

Which is, of course, utter bullshit. Everybody knows that there’s no such thing as James Bond – hell, even James Bond knows it, based on the relatively gadgetless Daniel Craig version we’ve had for the past few years. At this point, we can be pretty confident that real spies are either faceless geeks sucking up Internet traffic (Hi, NSA!) or large-jugged Russians with crappy Facebook cover identities. And besides: real spies work for real governments, which means hierarchy, bureaucracy and internal politics… and they know that you never fuck around with sharks with frikkin’ lasers when you can just blow your enemy’s head off with a shotgun.

So James Bond sure is fun, but he doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense in the real world if you stop to think about it longer that a minute or two. And Ed Brubaker clearly has stopped to think about it, because Velvet takes the world of James Bond, plugs it somewhat realistically into the real world of 1973, and turns things on their head by making Moneypenny the one that you really need to be concerned about.

And it gives us a meaty mystery: who killed X-14… and just who the hell is Velvet Templeton?

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winter_soldier_14_cover_2013I’ve been reading, and to varying degrees, enjoying, the books of the Marvel Now relaunch (but not a reboot! Because Marvel doesn’t reboot! And there have always been enough readers who give a tinker’s shit about Havok to put him on an Avengers team!), but the more I read, the more I am beginning to believe that we have just come off the back side of one hell of an era of Marvel comics. I mean, look back to, say, Civil War. Since then, and up until the Marvel Now books, we had Spider-Man’s Brand New Day and Dan Slott’s run of stories on that title. We’ve had Bendis’s Avengers and New Avengers arcs. Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man, and Christos Gage’s Avengers Academy. And while not all of the crossover events have been great shakes (everyone gets a hammer? Really?), you gotta admit that Marvel, in general, put out one hell of a run of comics in that period between 2006 and 2011.

And through it all has been Ed Brubaker on the Captain America titles. From the reincarnation of Bucky to the death of Captain America to his rebirth to the launch of Winter Soldier, Brubaker has delivered some damn good action / espionage stories through the years, and have singlehandedly put Captain America on my pull list for the first time, well, ever.

Well, Brubaker is already off of Captain America in favor of Rick Remender, but he has remained on Winter Soldier… until now. Brubaker says goodbye to Bucky and Captain America, at least for now, with Winter Soldier #14. And while I had some issues with the early issues of the title (somewhere along the line, we went from Captain America being martyred in the aftermath of Civil War to a filthy Commie monkey with a machine gun), as a swan song for Brubaker’s run in Cap and Bucky’s world, it is true to form, a fitting conclusion for his work with the character… and a reminder that we are in a whole new world with Marvel Now… for good or ill.

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fatale_11_cover_2013Most of the time, there’s only really two reasons that I can give people to pick up Fatale, written by Ed Brubaker with art by Sean Phillips, on an issue-by-issue basis rather than the trades. The first is that, even though up until now the stories in Fatale have been hugely decompressed, and arguably best read in one sitting as in a trade paperback reprint, buying individuals comics helps keep titles going and give you the chance to actually get a trade. But the second is the backmatter: essays by Jess Nevens- the guy who does the annotations for Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volumes – about the pulp horror stories, authors and magazines that form the influence of Fatale.

Yeah, well, forget all that shit, because neither one of them is true about Fatale #11. There is no backmatter in this issue, due to the vagaries of the holiday publishing schedule, and this issue isn’t really part of a long arc. Oh sure, the story features Josephine, the haunted femme fatale who makes men do anything she wants for some as-yet unknown reasons (although that rack probably helps, am I right, fellas? Hello? Is this thing on?), and we get to see Alfred Ravenscroft, the H. P. Lovecraft-inspired author of Elder Gods-style tales who has been a presence throughout the book until now, but for the most part, this issue is a one-and-done about how those two characters meet for the first time. And while it helps to know who these characters in order to fully enjoy the story, for once, it’s not utterly necessary. If you’ve been missing Fatale, this issue is a reasonable place to jump in for short money and get to know Josephine, her power and how she effects people, and some of the underpinnings of the greater story at large.

So if you’ve had any interest in checking out Fatale but haven’t gotten in on the ground floor, this is as good a place to give it a shot as any… but does that mean it’s any good?

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It’s been an eventful week at the big two this week when it comes to high profile creators stepping away. Earlier this week, Rob Liefeld left DC in what could be called “colorful circumstances”… but which most people would call a petulant display of “Fuck you, Mom! You’re not the boss of me!” via Twitter. And while an argument could be made, given similar (albeit lower-keyed) sentiments about post-New 52 practices by DC Editorial have been voiced by creators like John Rozum and Gail Simone, that maybe there is a logic behind a public airing of grievances, all I can say is, that as a guy who recently changed jobs, I find the airing of dirty laundry in public, and the burning of bridges, to be incomprehensible to me. Don’t get me wrong, I did it – once – and it basically guaranteed that I could never work in that particular industry again. But then again, I was never a particular name in that industry, so there was no reason for anyone to try to keep me, despite the fact that, drunken snit or no, at least I never drew tits on Captain America. But I digress.

Turns out Liefeld isn’t the only high profile creator walking away from a high-profile assignment: yesterday, also via Twitter, Winter Soldier and Captain America writer, and Marvel Architect Ed Brubaker, announced that his current tenure at Marvel is drawing to a close:

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EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m just going to spoil the Earth, like Kane from Kung Fu.

Even if Avengers Vs. X-Men goes the way of such other luminary comics crossover events as Contest of ChampionsAtlantis Attacks, or Heroes Reborn, meaning in order to remember it one needs to find it on Wikipedia, it will have accomplished one thing that no other event in Marvel Comics history has accomplished, and which is long, long overdue.

In issue ten, it showed Cyclops getting the everfucking shit kicked out of him while a baldheaded nerd points and laughs, and the he goes running for his Mommy. Well, not exactly, but close enough to make me giggle myself into a halfway decent erection.

Yes, I hate Cyclops just that much.

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The biggest problem with the first two issues of Avengers Vs. X-Men was, to me, that in order for it to make any sense, the writers needed to make Cyclops into a monomaniacal zealot, vis a vis Hope-as-mutant-savior, so focused, rigid and intractable that he made Timothy McVeigh look like Winston Churchill with a quualude habit.

It is now the third issue, and it appears that the Marvel Architects in charge of this story have found a way to temper our perceptions of Cyclops’s fanatical tendencies: by making Captain America a focused, rigid and intractable monomaniacal zealot.

In short, Avengers Vs. X-Men #3 displays the first real and disappointing cracks in what has been a tight, if sometimes logic-stretching little tale (if you can call an event comic destined to cover all Marvel titles for the next four months “little”): and that is that it attempts to mask Cyclops’s believability-stretching reactionary behavior with similar, yet opposite,  behavior by Cap. And instead of balancing the scales, it shows the Man Behind The Curtain by making two characters do stupid and unbelievable things in the interest of advancing the plot.

With that plot apparently being to make it so Wolverine can fight anybody. Because that shit sells some comics, yo. But we’ll get there in a minute,

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Okay: we’re two issues into Winter Soldier now, and I’m getting a better sense of what Ed Brubaker’s going for here: some old-school, Steranko-style, 60s-S.H.I.E.L.D. sci-fi super spy stuff that doesn’t necessarily need to make any logical, real-world sense beyond a James Bond film with a 200 million dollar budget. All of which takes some of the edge off the fact that what initially appeared to be a modern, Marvel-based espianoge story suddenly spun, by the end of the first issue, into a scene of a screaming gorilla with a machine gun…

…and none of which makes it any easier to see that same gorilla with a jetpack at the beginning of this issue. That Goddamned gorilla is living every dream I’ve had since I was nine years old. By the third issue he’s gonna be throwing the meat to Heather Thomas, and by the fifth that fucker’ll be chucking feces at The New Kids On The Block.

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EDITORS’ NOTE: This review, should you choose to accept it, contains spoilers. If read, the Web site will disavow any knowledge of how we fucked up the book for you. This message will self-destruct in five seconds. Assuming your browser has been hijacked by a virus. Get that looked at.

Dammit.

I was really looking forward to Winter Soldier by Ed Brubaker with Butch Guice on art. This is the team that brought us the aftermath of the Death of Captain America arc back in 2008, which, gimmick death doomed to reboot or not, hooked me into Captain America for the first time since I was a kid. And it kept me hooked in because it was damn good comics: interesting characters with a darker turn than many superhero comics – almost a spy story set in the Marvel Universe, although with 72% fewer Howling Commandos than most Marvel spy stories (Seriously: if a kid hides a porno mag in a Marvel book, you can count on Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan skulking in his closet to pick up the dead drop).

So I was psyched about Winter Soldier, because it put the creative band back together, in a story about a couple of powered-up secret agents working on the fringes of the 616. But ultimately, I found this first issue disappointing. Not enough to give up on it, but for a book produced by A-List talent that promised to live in the shadows, it has two things terribly wrong with it:

  • Butch Guice’s storytelling, and:
  • Gorilla with a machine gun.
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Promo cover for Fatale #1, written by Ed Brubaker with pencils by Sean PhillipsI am probably not the best person in the world to review Ed Brubaker’s and Sean Phillips’s Fatale, because I’ve spent the past several months, on my wretched morning commute, plowing through old crime and detective novels. Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Richard Stark; basically anything with a meaty crime in the middle of it that isn’t a comic book, if only so I dont have to attract a conversation with a comic book fan on a city bus. Have you seen us? We can be… awkward. But I digress.

The point is that someone like me would be the prime audience for Fatale, which if distilled down to its elevator pitch would be: “Philip Marlowe vs. the Cult of Cthulhu and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, provided Brigid’s powers of seduction were somehow supernatural in nature as opposed to the half-decent set of jugs that women need to seduce dudes in real life, by which I mean it’s okay if she only has one.”

So in short, I generally liked this book a lot… but someone like me is supposed to.

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