all_new_captain_america_1_cover_variantThis week we added and installed a ton of new studio equipment for the show… and then used it to spend a few minutes laying in movie sound clips like middle-market Morning Zoo jocks.

Once we got that out of our system (and it is out of our system, we swear), we spent some time discussing the Doctor Who season finale, Death in Heaven. We talk about how the finale resembled a big comic book crossover event, whether the season theme of The Doctor-as-aristocrat really held water, the missed opportunity of Clara insisting that she was The Doctor, and why the English put so much stock in Christmas specials.

This week also brought us the solicitations for the first week of DC’s Convergence event on April 8th, so we go through each of the books and talk about what looks good, what looks great, and what it would take for us to even remotely care about some of the returning pre-New 52 characters (hi, Damian Wayne!).

On the comics front, we discuss:

  • Captain America and The Mighty Avengers, written by Al Ewing with art by Luke Ross,
  • Captain America #1, written by Rick Remender with pencils y Stuart Immonen, and
  • Superior Iron Man #1, written by Tom Taylor with art by Yildiray Cinar!

And now the warnings:

  • This show is recorded live to tape. While that might mean that this is a looser comics podcast than you are normally accustomed to, it also means that anything can happen.
  • This show contains spoilers. While we try to shout out warnings ahead of time, just assume that the spoilers you fear most will be uttered as the punchline to a dirty joke.
  • Speaking of dirty jokes, this show contains adult, profane language, and is not safe for work. Having just bought a crate of recording studio gear, I can state with some authority that headphones are cheap. Get some.

Enjoy the show, suckers!

Hi, my name is Lobo!  I enjoy vegan cuisine, fitness, and long walks on the beach.  I'm looking for someone who shares my affinity for sword collecting and leather clubs.  Could you be my special someone?

Hi, my name is Lobo! I enjoy vegan cuisine, fitness, and long walks on the beach. I’m looking for someone who shares my affinity for sword collecting and leather clubs. Could you be my special someone?

With the cancellation of Vortexx on the CW network, this is the first weekend that has had no Saturday morning cartoons on a major television network. And given that seeing superheroes on TV was a large part of what got Amanda and I into comics in the 1970s, we spend some time reminiscing about our favorite cartoons (as well as live action superheroics like The Adventures of Superman and Shazam!), and digging into how modern kids might find comic books. You know, other than billion-dollar Marvel Studios movies.

It is also a week where several comic characters have new faces behind classic costumes. So we talk about them all:

  • Lobo #1, written by Cullen Bunn with pencils by Reilly Brown,
  • Captain America #25, written by Rick Remender with art by Carlos Pacheco and Stuart Immonen, and
  • Thor #1, written by Jason Aaron with art by Russell Dautermann!

And now the legalese:

  • We record this episode live to tape. While this might mean a looser show than other comics podcasts, it also means that anything can happen. Like learning about a child named Vlad who apparently lives under the bed.
  • We spoil a lot of stuff on this show. While we try to shout out warnings ahead of time, consider yourself warned.
  • We use adult, profane language, and therefore this show is not safe for work. If you don’t have any headphones, ask Lobo. Based on what happened to him in this week’s issue, he’s not using them.

Enjoy the show, suckers!

captain_america_4_cover_2013The unique thing about comic books, at least comic books from the Big Two that are owned by the publisher and have been around for a while (of course, whether those kind of comic books are the best thing for the industry or for readers is a whole different argument) is that writers and artists come and go, while the character remains. This dichotomy brings comic fans one of their favorite things – a continuity across years that can give some characters and titles an epic, historic feeling that supercedes the often simple adventure stories at their core – and one of their least favorite things – a continuity across years that the new douchebag creative team on a book are clearly fucking with with no regard for the character’s epic history and they’ve ruined the character and now I will Tweet a death threat and hello, Officer, no handcuffs are necessary, if you’d just read this issue, you’d see that I was right to threaten to set fire to the writer’s cat, and is that a Taser, and…

…well, you get the point.

The point being that creative teams change, and each new set of people has their own stamp that they want to put on these long-running books. And a lot of times these creators want to pay homage to a particular era from the character, which can be pretty damned varied; keep in mind that, at various times, Spider-Man has been a high school student battling street-level crime, a college student fighting more mid-level threats, an Avenger, a widely-reviled public menace, a member of the Fantastic Four, and a fucking clone… and now he’s Doctor Octopus. So if a writer wants to revisit any particular era, the story could be almost any kind, and if they want to do something new with the character, they’d need to make him a gay cowboy eating pudding or something (and I’m pretty sure if I dug far enough into the Marvel Team-Up back catalogue, I might even find that’s already been done).

All of which brings up to Rick Remender, and his reboot of Captain America following Ed Brubaker’s long run on the title. Brubaker’s reign on the title was categorized by S.H.I.E.L.D.-based espionage stories, and while God knows that he took his share of chances on the title – he killed Cap and brought Bucky back to life, for Christ’s sake – they were generally grounded, somewhat realistic stories with a classic Steranko-era feel. However, that’s not the only kind of Captain America story there is; Cap has a legacy of science fiction-style stories in his history, written and drawn by no less than Jack Kirby and Gene Colan – let’s remember that before MODOK became a comic reader’s punchline, he was created to fuck around with Cap.

Remender has clearly chosen to focus on the science fiction history of Captain America in his initial reboot story, which continues through this weeks issue #4. This is a full-blast sci-fi story, including alternate universes, alien races, spaceships, and one of the classic Captain America sci-fi villains: the Kirby-created Armin Zola. The question is: how does all this weirdness – weirdness supported by various eras in Captain America’s history, mind you – go down immediately following years and years of cold war-style spy stories?

Honestly? It’s going down hard.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If we can’t save the Earth… you can be damn sure we’ll spoil it.

It is never a promising sign when the very first page of a new comic book is so confusing and misleading, it forces you to flip back from the middle of the book to the beginning to understand what the hell is going on.

Welcome to Uncanny Avengers #1, a decent book with some good dialogue that, unfortunately, opens with the storytelling equivalent of a dude putting down his beer, picking up an M-80, shouting “check this out!” and blowing off all his fingers.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Editor’s Note: The Review Force is a cosmic entity capable of causing a planet-wide Spoiler event. 

Usually, when a more minor, lower circulation comic becomes part of a major summer crossover event, it is a book to avoid. Almost invariably books like that are where publishers stick filler while hoping that the crossover’s logo on the cover increases circulation enough to justify the printing costs and stave off cancellation for a couple of months. Everyone knows that an event’s important stuff occurs in the primary title and the related major titles, while the second tier books are where you get “major” revelations running the gamut from, “Some minor character is terrified of the ramifications of this major event!” to “Wow! It turns out I, the reader, don’t give a fuck about any of this shit!”

So imagine my surprise when Secret Avengers # 26, which is precisely the kind of book where you’d stick Captain Cannonfodder and his fear of Phoenix but need to (fatally) redeem some misdeed made in a 1974 issue of The Brave and The Give Us Your Quarter Kid, wound up not only being the scene of one of the more major (yet least hoopla’ed) comic book resurrections of the past several years, but of a reasonable examination of why a Captain Cannonfodder-level character is as minor a player as he is. All with some damned interesting and unconventional art to boot.

First off, despite what I just said, make no mistake: this is, in fact, the first totally unnecessary side story in the Avengers Vs. X-Men event. There is, after all, a reason the crossover is called Avengers Vs. X-Men, and if you are a superhero and you find yourself on an Avengers team, in outer space to stop the Phoenix Force, with no X-Men anywhere in sight? Welcome to the B-plot, pal. Look to your left, and look to your right. One of you is going to die. The other is probably Squirrel Girl.

Rob got into a text exchange today with Crisis On Infinite Midlives contributor Pixiestyx about the size of our weekly pull list. Rob said “addicts…don’t count”. It’s true. We have a filthy comic book habit in this house, between the two of us, that sometimes results in multiple trips to the comic book store. In fact, just yesterday, Rob and I found ourselves early for a get together with some folks at a bar and you know what we did to kill time? Go to that neighborhood’s local comic book store where, despite having dropped about $120 dollars on Wednesday for the week’s take, we dropped another $80 on books. That’s $80 dollars we could have spent at the bar getting shit faced while waiting for people to show up at the get together. We might need an intervention.

With that many books coming into the house, I’ll fully admit that I don’t always get around to reading everything we buy each week. Sometimes I have to, I don’t know, go to work. So I can pay for more comic books and lights to read them by. Secret Avengers, which Rob has reviewed a lot in the past, no seriously, is one of those books. I read a couple issues of the Warren Ellis run and pretty much agreed with Rob that, dialogue-wise, it felt like a Next Wave retread. Now, Rick Remender has taken over writing duties and, with all of the other books to choose from in the pile this week, I decided to pick up the book on a Part Two of an arc already in progress.

Was this a wise use of my time? Short answer: yes.

Alert – Hawkeye is a dick, and other spoilers, ahead!

In the world of stand-up comedy, one of the biggest nightmares you can have as a comic is for a legend of the medium to show up unannounced to do a guest spot. Entertaining people on your own merits is hard enough without suddenly discovering that one of the best in the business has shown up… and now you have to follow them. It leads some acts to tweak around their own styles to better match the person they have to go up after. It can fuck your own rythyms and take you off your game.

In Secret Avengers #21.1, writer Rick Remender is taking over from Warren Ellis’s title-redefining four-issue run. And while it’s too early to really tell, it feels like Remender might have fallen into that old comedy trap.

Please don’t misunderstand me; this is not a bad book. And it doesn’t feel like any kind of slavish imitation, just that it was influenced and steered by the fact that Remender is being forced to follow a modern legend. When you see lines like, “When you see your yankee doodle deity in his chicken-fried heaven — tell him you died molesting the world!” come out of the mouths of characters not written by Ellis, I can’t help but picture some pimply-faced yeoman comic taking the mike and saying, “Jeff Foxworthy, everyone! Hey, you know when you might be a redneck?”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This review contains spoilers, such as the fact that Venom rides Captain America’s motorcycle. Which you learned from the cover to your left. Damn covers have no regard for spoiler alerts. However, consider yourself warned. 

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a guy walks into a Marvel comic, and he gets confronted by Captain America. Cap tells the guy that he’s out of control and he needs to be brought in, so the guy tells Cap that he’s always respected him and that Cap’s been a big influence on him, and then he punches Cap in the temple, steals some of his shit and gets away clean! Ha! Get it?

Oh, you’ve heard that one? Of course you have. It’s been a staple of Marvel Comics at least since Daredevil: Born Again. So much so that Mark Millar and Matt Fraction hooked it for The Punisher during and just after Civil War. And then Mark Waid took it for Daredevil #2 just three or four months ago. Hell, Daniel Way used it in Deadpool this fucking week. And now Rick Remender’s dusted it off for Venom #10. And considering all these characters wind up kicking Captain America’s ass when he shows up, it’s reaching the point where I’m beginning to think that Captain America’s Kryptonite is simple respect; if Baron Zemo had offered to shake Cap’s hand before shooting off that rocket, this book would take place in the Wunder Universum and everyone would be eating schnitzel right now.

This time around, Cap shows up to shut down the government program that hooked Flash Thompson up with the Venom symbiote. Unfortunately, Cap’s timing leaves a little to be desired, since Thompson is being blackmailed to do crimes as Venom by Jack O’Lantern and Crime-Master – because nothing proves you’re a master criminal like telling everyone you’re a master criminal. Ask Keyser Soze. But I digress.

Last week, DC Comics announced their solicitations for their upcoming releases for February, and there was a… disturbing trend of books with covers that made the heroes’ thighs look like something that would make Johnny Wadd Holmes weep with bitter, envious frustration.

But surely the repeating nature of DC’s offerings was just a coincidence. One would think that Marvel, who just released their own February solicitations, would never fall into the trap of repeating themselves in the space of a single month!

So let’s take a look at what is sure to be the widely varied and diverse offerings that Marvel has for us in February! (Rob: Tone down the pissy sarcasm and show the nice people the books. -Amanda)

Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers about Spider-Island. It has spiders. Also, some other stuff. You have been warned.

Now if you insist upon using a comic story as a parable about a serious issue, Venom #7 is a much better way of doing it. But we’ll get to that.

This issue is a crossover issue to Marvel’s Spider-Island event that I initially picked up for only one reason: issue 7 of any book Rick Remender writes is the point where it stands a solid chance of going gloriously and disastrously off the rails.

Think about his 2008 run on Punisher, which he started in the middle of the Dark Reign event when Norman Osborne had managed to use public opinion and political intrigue to wrest control of SHIELD from Tony Stark even though he was woefully unqualified and The Green Fucking Goblin. While the X-Men remained neutral and the Avengers wrestled with ways to turn the tide of public sentiment away from Osborne even while it turned against themselves, Remender had The Punisher come up with an ingenious and crafty plan to turn Osborne’s fortunes by shooting him in the face.

That was issue 1. By issue 7, Remender had the straight-ahead, no-nonsense Punisher fighting zombies. And thus began a long, slow train wreck that culminated in the Punisher being killed and resurrected as Frankenstein. Reading Remender’s Punisher was like watching a Kardashian try to redefine pi in a room full of cocaine and NBA players: a hot mess I couldn’t take my eyes off of.

So when I saw Venom had reached the critical seventh issue, I wanted in on the ground floor of the implosion… so imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a damn good book, and arguably the best part of the Spider-Island event so far.