MarvelAllNewAllDifferentIt’s the final day of a long holiday weekend in the United States. We celebrated Independence Day in the ways of our forefathers: by getting drunk, listening to stuff blow up, and spending hours and hours playing Batman: Arkham Knight on our brand new XBox One. So we spend a little time talking about the new game, the new game system, our relationship to gaming, and how, no matter which next generation console you choose, you are now doomed to live with that company’s games until they, or you, die.

But this is a comics show, and there was big comics news this week: Marvel announced a huge chunk of the books that they will be releasing in October to follow the universe-rebooting Secret Wars. It’s up to 45 books, which means we don’t have time to talk about all of them, but we spend a little time with Amazing Spider-Man, The Ultimates, Captain Marvel, Karnak, Old Man Logan, and Doctor Strange. We discuss how we think they’ll work, how Amazing Spider-Man could be the answer to the prayers of both fans and haters of One More Day, and how the creative team behind Doctor Strange has Rob as excited about a comic book as he’s been in years.

We also discuss:

  • Secret Wars #4, written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Esad Ribic,
  • We Stand On Guard #1, written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Steve Skroce,
  • Groot #2, written by Jeff Loveness with art by Brian Kesinger, and:
  • Little AvX Marvel #2, written and drawn by Skottie Young!

And now the disclaimers:

  • We record this show live to tape, with minimal editing. While this might mean a looser comics podcast than you’re used to, it also means that anything can happen. Like learning about Immaculately Manscaped Galactus.
  • This show contains spoilers. While we try to shout out warnings ahead of time, be aware that you will learn which X-Man takes balls to the face in Little AvX Marvel.
  • This show contains adult, profane language, and is therefore not safe for work. You want your boss to know the etymology of the word “crotchal”? Then get some headphones.
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flash_arrow_crossoverThis was a big week for the DC Television Universe (or, based on the television network most of it is on, The DCW). We saw crossovers between Arrow and The Flash, with new trailers released for the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow superteam show with characters from both shows, and Supergirl, which might or might not be part of the same continuity. And as we watched it all, we wondered how DC and Warner Bros. managed to create a continuity-consistent version of the Justice League, under our noses and on television, seemingly without our noticing.

So we discuss what DC has built, how what’s coming can only expand upon it, and how, in its own way, it’s at least as exciting as what Marvel has accomplished with their Cinematic Universe… and how it’s possibly more exciting than what DC is trying to do with their characters in major motion pictures.

We also briefly discuss the previews for DC’s upcoming Bizarro, Doctor Fate and Gotham At Midnight, before diving into:

  • Secret Wars #2, written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Esad Ribic, and:
  • Captain America And The Mighty Avengers, written by Al Ewing with art by Luke Ross!

And, as always, the disclaimers:

  • We record this show live to tape, with minimal editing. While this might mean a looser comics podcast than you are used to, it also means that anything can happen! So listen to find out what 90’s television show is our own personal Vietnam!
  • This show contains spoilers. While we try to shout out warnings ahead of time, assume that we will ruin everything for you.
  • This show contains adult, profane language, and is therefore not safe for work. Unless you want your employer to hear about Doctor Strange and his “little finger,” you’ll want to find some headphones.
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secret_wars_teaser_alex_rossIt is Mother’s Day today, which means a somewhat shorter and truncated show this week. Because when you’re a son or a daughter, you need to honor your mother on Mother’s Day. And it turns out that you need to do that whether you remember she’s visiting that day, or whether they need blind telephone technical support for several hours. Because she’s the woman who gave birth to you, and saying, “But we have a podcast to record!” isn’t a good excuse. Particularly when you don’t want Mom to know that you have a podcast.

So this week, we take advantage of the fact that Convergence is half over to discuss the previews of post-Convergence books, both new and old, that DC has released this week. The books run the gamut from humor to sci-fi to action to apparent political horror, so we talk about Doomed, Red Hood and Arsenal, Starfire, Midnighter, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Omega Men, Detective Comics, Section Eight, and Prez.

But the big deal in this week’s comics was the first issue of Marvel’s Secret Wars, where Jonathan Hickman spits on his hands and takes Marvel the whole Crisis route. However, Secret Wars #1 isn’t Crisis. So we talk about how Hickman has put Marvel through it’s own Kobayashi Maru test, and given us a superhero story where nobody acts like a superhero, everyone seems to act in their own self-interest, and heroes act like they never have before in order to make sure everyone’s in the right place to service the plot. Ultimately, we talk about how this is a story that is very consistent with Hickman’s general style… and how that might not be the best thing for some of these characters.

And now, the disclaimers:

  • We record this show live to tape. While this might mean a looser comics podcast than you are used to, it also means that anything can happen. Like speculation about the musky flavor profile of Dead Guy Whiskey.
  • This show contains spoilers. While we try to shout out warnings ahead of time, just assume that you are going to learn exactly why Reed Richards is a d**k.
  • This show contains adult, profane language, and is therefore not safe for work. Unless you want your employer to learn our new cocktails based on Dead Guy Whiskey, get some headphones.
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batman_89_one_sheetIt’s the 25th anniversary of the release of Batman in theaters, so this week, Amanda and I talk about what it was like being a geek in the years and months leading up to the flick… and whether it holds up now (Hint: in 1989, Batman was a terrible, terrible pervert).

We also talk about:

  • The pilot for The Flash that leaked to the Internet this week,
  • Superman #32, written by Geoff Johns with art by John Romita Jr., and,
  • New Avengers #20, written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Valerio Schiti!

And, the usual disclaimers:

  • This show is recorded live to tape. It means some more pauses and repeated thoughts than you might be used to, but it also means that anything can happen.
  • This show contains spoilers. We try to warn ahead of time, but if you haven’t seen Batman yet, I’m not sure what you want us to tell you.
  • This show contains adult, explicit language, and is not safe for work. It’s 2014; check behind your couch cushions. You’ll find ear buds.
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infinity_1_cover_2013300439282For years, whenever Marvel kicked off a big event comic, they made a point of swearing before God and everybody that the story could be read on its own, without needing to track down a bunch of other comics to understand what’s going on. It was all bullshit, of course; be it Civil War or Secret Invasion or Avengers Vs. X-Men, the second the event kicked off, it crossed into every title Marvel published. Sure, you didn’t need to read those other comics to understand the whole story, provided you were okay with taking certain things you saw on faith. Things like just assuming that, somewhere in the gutters of the main title, D-Man obtained the Infinity Gauntlet while Batroc The Leaper’s big toes were turned to Mrs. Dash Onion Seasoning.

That, however, was the past. Welcome to Infinity, a book not only with a final page consisting of a diagram telling you what other comic books you should be following to get the whole story, but one which, if you haven’t been reading both Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers since launch day, will be difficult to follow from the first page. Which is fine for people like me who have been getting those books all along, but which isn’t exactly welcoming to any poor schmuck who wanders into a comic store after, say, seeing The Wolverine, and saying to himself, “Ooh! That comic has the dude from the credits of The Avengers movie!”

And that wouldn’t be a bad thing if Infinity #1 was character-driven, and gave you compelling people to follow through this unfamiliar scenario. Unfortunately, this book is all about plot and putting pieces into place to eventually blow some shit up. And the characters are simply pushed through this clockwork, normally almost indistinguishable from each other except for the colors of their costumes.

Hell, one of the main heroes of the story is featured in a four-page sequence where he is asleep, for Christ’s sake.

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avengers_11_cover_2013 Avengers #11 has all the components of an interesting, short-term change in direction to keep the book from getting bogged down in giant international and even cosmic events. A one-and-done that still services the longer story Hickman has been spinning out, this issue has several members of the team go undercover in an overseas resort to find out what AIM is up to and discovering that they are getting ready to auction off a superpowered weapon in a particular form. It allows the characters to show some humor, demonstrate how they play off each other when they’re out of costume, and try to deal with an independent nation-state that has diplomatic immunity when the team is not in a position to just use their powers and let loose.

So Avengers #11 really has all the hallmarks of a cool, quirky, one-of-a-kind issue, and that is good after several issues of giant stakes and a lot of bombast. However, it is also bad, because Avengers #11 also bears the hallmarks of Justice League International #16 from August, 1988. Where members of the team go undercover in an overseas resort to find out what Bialya is up to and discovering that they are getting ready to auction off a superpowered weapon in a particular form. And they show humor while demonstrating how they play off each other out of costume. And they try to deal with an independent nation-state. That has diplomatic immunity.

Seriously: there are about a half-dozen obvious parallels between Avengers #11 and Justice League International #16 and #17. And hey: these things happen. There are no new ideas under the sun, and I take it as a given that any similarities between these two books is either a matter of parallel thinking or simple homage, because while I think Hickman’s writing is often clinical and bloodless, I have never seen it be anything but relentlessly original. And I will therefore try to review Avengers #11 on its own merits as much as I can… but that will honestly only go so far. Because the fact of the matter is that my entire experience of reading this book was colored by that feeling of familiarity, to the point where the first thing I did after finishing it was to dig out my Justice League International trades to find the issue to see if my instincts were right (if you’re curious, the issue is in JLI volume three).

So yeah: I’ll try to review Avengers #11 on its own, but it’s gonna be like reminiscing about a high school misadventure with an old buddy over beers: it’s fun to revisit, but it’s not like you can forget living it the first time, when you were young.

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avengers_8_cover_2013Editor’s Note: A White Event creates / alters heralds to spoil this ascension.

Since taking over Avengers back in December, writer Jonathan Hickman has clearly been pushing toward some kind of huge, extinction-level event that is meant to go down in legend – he all but comes out and says it in his movie trailer-like first issue. And since that time, Hickman has marched Avengers through ever-increasing threats, cosmic and not, moving inexorably to whatever massive event he has in mind. And all that has occurred in the series has been used in subservience of that plot, including little things like consistency of characterization or focus on anybody in particular.

Which means that, in Avengers #8, Hickman has given us an portrayal of The Avengers where Captain America is ignored by several members, three members of the team actively try to kill or demand that someone kill a teenaged boy, and all in all lead with their fists against a confused kid who doesn’t know what’s happened to him and in no way acts as an aggressor until several of The Avengers big guns take a poke at him. All to allow Hickman to put a bunch of power in front the Ex Nihilo guy he introduced back in the first issue.

In short: yeah, I’m pretty close to giving up on Avengers entirely.

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new_avengers_3_cover_2013It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a month since Jonathan Hickman debuted his Marvel Now reboot of New Avengers, to generally good reviews, and, well, this one:

Christ, he thinks he’s making movies. That’s why I wasn’t completely satisfied by Avengers #1, and was actually kinda pissed off by New Avengers #1: they’re not really stories.

Yeah, it didn’t do a hell of a lot for me. Hickman started New Avengers in a way that felt like a movie trailer: a tease of a terrible, world-shattering apocalypse to occur at some point in the future, with a final assembly of heroes to combat this purely theoretical threat in heroic establishing shots with explanatory and expository slogans, followed by a team shot… all without a hell of a lot actually, you know, happening. All it was missing was some deep baritone growling, “In a world…” and an immediately-following commercial for Doritos. It was such a blatant setup for story versus actual story that it actually made me kind of angry.

That, however, was a month ago. This week, we have New Avengers #3, and the Illuminati is actually in a position to face the terrible, world-shattering apocalypse. So now that it’s here, how was it? Well, the downside is that the actual confrontation is, on the scale of action sequences, less the last ten minutes of the Avengers movie and closer to the last time I was shitfaced and tried to get the TV remote to jump to my hand using telekenisis. The good news is that, despite the somewhat anticlimactic action sequence, it features a hell of a lot of damn fine character work. And while there isn’t a lot of action, there is plenty of conflict. Some damned entertaining conflict, as a matter of fact.

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new_avengers_1_cover_2013Christ, he thinks he’s making movies. That’s why I wasn’t completely satisfied by Avengers #1, and was actually kinda pissed off by New Avengers #1: they’re not really stories. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself here.

So let me start with a personal note to Jonathan Hickman: Hi, Jon? There is a difference between an action movie and a comic book. An action flick costs ten bucks and usually lasts between 100 and 140 minutes. A comic book costs just about half as much as a movie, but is 20 to 24 pages, and lasts about 15 minutes, or maybe 20 if you’ve eaten a lot of cheese and let yourself become dehydrated.

A full-screen title card in a movie usually takes maybe 10 seconds, or fifteen if the director is a bombastic prick – about 0.002 percent of a movie, or about 2 cents worth of screen time in a best-case scenario. In a comic? it’s two pages out of 22 – about nine percent of a comic, or about 36 cents worth of the book. And yes: I sat down with a calculator and did the math.

My point is: the big, movie-style title cards you insist on chucking into the first issue of each Avengers book you’ve taken over? Save that shit for the movies. Reading comics is more expensive than going the movies. If you want to write a movie? Call Avi Arad. If you’re writing comics? We’re paying by the page, champ. Don’t waste those pages on your James Cameron fantasies.

Okay, now that my pet peeve is out of the way, we can talk about New Avengers #1.

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Editor’s Note: It was the spark that started the fire — a legend that grew in the telling. Some believe it began the moment Spoilers were rescued from a dying universe…

Before you ask, no, I don’t know who all those people are. The floating chick on the left is an incarnation of Captain Universe (who I remember from Micronauts comics when I was a kid), and if I had to hazard a guess based on the nuclear symbol on the team diagram, the dude on the right apparently flying in an effort to escape the fire pouring out of his ass is Nuke from Squadron Supreme. But there are at least four people on that last page I couldn’t pull out of a lineup if my life depended on it.

So now that we have the fanboy gymnastics out of the way, we can actually talk about Avengers #1.

First of all, there is no doubt that this is no longer Brian Michael Bendis’s Avengers. From the opening pages implying that “Previously in Avengers” was a cataclysm of cosmic creation, followed immediately by the representation of the Avengers lineup by an abstract diagram, this issue is a shot across the bow that this is indeed Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers. And that means that, after years of stories that seemingly always hinged around a bunch of guys shooting the shit around the kitchen table, we are in for something very different.

And that is not a bad thing. At least not yet. But we might get there.

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